Be kind to your spouse. Not a single person in the entire world would marry if he thought his partner would not treat him with kindness. Kindness is the fertile soil in which affection grows. Kindness is the foundation upon which a strong and healthy family is built.

The Torah teaches that the world was built with kindness, and that kindness is rewarded in this world and the next. Kindness is kindness, whether donating a million dollars to a school or opening your door to a stranger in need. Opportunities for kindness are available 24/7 and the reward is immediate. What a wonderful Mitzvah!

Marriage is a voluntary institution; a married individual must continually choose to stay with his or her partner. This is the reality of relationships whether we agree with it or not. When kindness is abundant within the relationship, the choice to stay together is easy. Kindness ensures peace in the home.

Showing kindness to your spouse is fundamental to marriage. Without kindness, your relationship will sour, G‑d forbid. Fortunately, it's easy to be kind. Here are some examples of everyday opportunities:

  • Say "good morning."
  • Ask how he or she slept.
  • Make something for him or her to eat.
  • Help find something your spouse misplaced.
  • Check with your spouse to make sure they have everything they need for the day (money, food, information, etc.).
  • Call during the day to say hello.
  • Run an errand at the store.
  • Listen and comfort your spouse if he or she is upset.
  • Help your spouse with his or her tasks at home.
  • Speak gently and respectfully.
  • Do favors.
  • Spend time together before going to sleep.

There are many more ways - planned and unplanned - to behave kindly toward your partner and he or she toward you. The more you do, the closer and healthier your family will be.

On the other hand, a kindness deficiency is the source of marital conflicts and the cause of most divorces. Anger, selfish or irresponsible behavior, and criticism, push away kindness and lead to relationship breakdown. The fact that the perpetrator of this hostility feels justified makes no difference. Little by little, lack of kindness chips away at the very foundation of the relationship and everyone in the family suffers.

Think back to the time when you and your spouse were courting. When your husband or wife was only your date, how did he or she treat you? Certainly with kindness. I know this because otherwise you would have run the other way; you would have ended your contact immediately, never wanting to see him or her again.

You only married your partner believing that the kindness you were shown during the dating period, your courtship, would last forever. And for a fortunate few, this actually turns out to be true. Sadly, for far too many people, kindness slips away and the relationship becomes a painful struggle. But it needn't be that way. You can easily be kinder to your partner. Make a decision to be kinder and begin behaving that way.

Being kind is actually very simple. The difficulty is starting and not stopping. But if you do, you will have a wonderful marriage with the benefits far outweighing the effort. When you are kind to your spouse, and he or she to you, both of you will reap many rewards. Kindness will guarantee happiness.

Kindness is remembered. Each act of kindness toward your spouse creates a relationship credit. These credits are saved like dollars in a bank account. When you hurt your partner's feelings—intentionally or unintentionally—these relationship credits can be used to reestablish harmony. They stand as advocates mitigating your partner's hurt feelings, negative judgments, or thoughts to retaliate. The more credits you have, the easier it is to get beyond relationship mistakes.

Research has shown that it takes, on average, five positive interactions to eliminate one negative one. Thus, the more relationship credits you have, the more relationship mistakes you can survive. For example, if you say "good morning" daily, but forget one day, either your spouse won't notice or will casually mention it. However, if you never say "good morning," your spouse will likely conclude you don't care about him or her.

Jerry and Susan were clients of mine (details changed to protect privacy). Once Jerry and Susan had extinguished their anger, they were ready to work in a positive way on their relationship. I instructed: "Make a list of kind behaviors that your partner has done in the past, is currently doing and could do in the future, that would make you feel loved and cared for." When they had finished making their lists, they took turns discussing what they had written. Then I told them to exchange lists. Jerry had Susan's list and Susan had Jerry's. I suggested they pick two acts of kindness from their partner's list each day and do them. I explained that these were gifts, given without any conditions. They went home. The next time I saw Jerry and Susan in my office they were both beaming and happy. They didn't look like the old Jerry and Susan I had met six weeks prior. "What happened?" I asked. "Simple," Susan answered. "I did what was on Jerry's list, and he did what was on mine."

Kindness is contagious. Being kind to your spouse creates goodwill and cooperation. When you are kind, your partner is far more likely to be kind to you. Emotional closeness, appreciation, and love will grow stronger and stronger with each act of kindness you and your partner show each other. You don't need to go to therapy to increase your marital acts of kindness. You know yourself what you can do to make your husband or wife happy.

Kindness is essential to a happy marriage. If you are not prepared to be kind to your spouse, you are writing yourself a prescription for a failed relationship. You cannot replace kindness with money, good looks, a big house, or exotic trips. Kindness is an attitude that manifests itself in all situations. Being "married" means behaving with kindness—it's just that basic. There are no substitutes for kindness. There is a saying, "What goes around, comes around." When you give kindness, you get kindness. Kindness is something you can't give away—it always comes back.

Have a sweet life; behave kindly toward your partner.