What happened to the value of courtesy in marriage?

As a differentiating value, Courtesy means:

 polite behavior; or gracious good manners

As parents, we hope we taught our kids to be polite, and we’re pleasantly surprised when we receive a gracious action from a complete stranger. Courtesy – polite behavior adds up to a pleasant experience.

But what’s happening to the exchange of common courtesy in marriage?

Most married couples experienced the power and joy of courtesy from their partner when they dated and (hopefully) during the early years of marriage. Imagine those “courting” days…

  • He held the restaurant door open, as she entered.
  • She said ‘thank you.’ with a smile.
  • He held her chair as she sat down at the table.
  • They both waited for the food to arrive before starting to eat.
  • He discretely used his napkin.
  • They both asked questions and listened intently to understand more about each other.

Then, with the magic of time, something happened and those little courtesies began to disappear… Sometimes we excuse the disappearance of courtesy to the ease of marriage – the ease of familiarity with each other. Yes, it’s a wonderful luxury to be at ease with your spouse. However, there’s a difference between being at ease, and not valuing each other. 

Marriage counselors see first hand when the value of courtesy is gone. Author Dr. Gary Chapman makes an insightful statement about courtesy in his book Love as a Way of Life: Seven Keys to Transforming Every Aspect of Your Life

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“Just as leaks in a dam reflect the potential of larger problems, giving up on courtesy in marriage reflects the bigger issue of not valuing each other. The consequences of forgetting ‘small’ actions remind us of how big those actions were in the first place.”

When courtesy has gone by the wayside, can it be brought back?

The value of courtesy can be resurrected – there are things both a husband and wife can do together to restore that spark called courtesy!

Bring Back Courtesy in Marriage

Courtesy is adaptable and it’s near-invisible.

Through small courtesies you show your spouse you value her/him.

Here are 30 ideas for small courtesies to build up your marriage:

  • hold an umbrella over you both
  • open the car door for her
  • smell nice for each other with a hint of perfume/cologne
  • help with carrying packages/bags
  • use a tissue and throw it in the garbage
  • fix him a cup of coffee/tea
  • toast an extra bagel & prepare it just for her
  • listen when he/she talks
  • greet her/him at the door when they come home
  • clear your extra stuff off of the bathroom counter
  • hang up her/his coat
  • cough into your hand – not the air
  • wash his/her car’s windshield
  • carry the plates to the sink after supper
  • respond pleasantly (even when you’re a bit miffed)
  • share
  • acknowledge something good about your spouse
  • say “thank you”
  • cover your mouth with your hand when you yawn
  • ask what his/her preference is in a situation (don’t assume)
  • affirm your spouse’s actions in a sticky social spot
  • pass the food to him/her
  • refill his/her glass
  • modulate your voice and enunciate so you’ll be heard
  • introduce your spouse when you’re meeting others
  • smile at him/her
  • offer your wife your arm when you’re walking (be a support)
  • walk on the street side of the sidewalk to protect your lady
  • set the table with lit candles, just because you can…
  • notice when he/she is running low on an item and purchase more
  • gentle your touch – slow down

Courtesies demonstrate a positive regard for each other.

Can you add to the list? Are there other ways you show your spouse courtesy?

courtesy in marriage

Love as a Way of Life: Seven Keys to Transforming Every Aspect of Your Life