“When a person stays in a constant state of giving, they are at their best.” Believe it or not, that quote comes from Flea, the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Of course, the philosophy behind it is well known—kindness and generosity to others feels good and makes us good. That kind of altruism is what prompts people to volunteer in soup kitchens and at homeless shelters and give to the needy. But according to psychologist and researcher John Gottman, kindness and generosity are also the two most important qualities for successful relationships.
What Does Kindness and Generosity Look Like in a Relationship?
It’s easy to picture what kindness and generosity look like when visited upon strangers. However, it might be harder to envision what that entails in a relationship. Does it involve giving your significant other spare change and a clean pair of socks when they look cold? Not exactly. Sociologists at the University of Virginia say it has nothing to do with money or possessions, but instead how emotionally engaged we are with our significant others.
This is what kindness and generosity look like in a strong relationship:
One of the most important aspects of kindness and generosity is offering forgiveness. Holding onto a grudge, or “keeping score” of the wrongs done upon you by your partner can lead to feelings of resentment and distrust. Offering forgiveness encourages peace and establishes feelings of trust and comfort.
Letting your partner know when you’re proud of them is crucial for a healthy relationship. We all want to be praised for the work that we do, and especially for our successes. Encouragement and celebration reminds us that what we are doing matters.
Thinking About How You Can Make Your Partner Happy
There are numerous ways that we can put our partner before ourselves and act in a way that we know will make them happy. From making dinner for our partner when they’ve had a rough day to running them lunch when they’re at work,
Giving Without the Expectation of Receiving
If we buy a gift or do a favor for our partner, it is selfish to expect them to return the favor. Successful relationships work when one does good for another with no other reward than happiness.
Listening to our Partners and Acting Upon Their Requests
Everyone likes to be listened to. We like it even more when our partner acts upon our requests. Acting upon our partner’s wishes is the best way to let them know that we are listening and caring about what they say.
We Benefit from Being Generous Too
Kindness and generosity are linked to happiness. In fact, research from the University of Zurich suggests that those who are habitually generous may have long-term well-being and happiness. Those who are generous may also show physical health benefits. A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health suggests that kind and generous people live longer, are protected from the negative impacts of stress, are more optimistic and have lower blood pressure. Kind and generous individuals are also more successful romantically.
What Both Sides Need in Any Relationship
Of course, kindness and generosity aren’t just good for romantic relationships. Any strong relationship requires both ends knowing that they are valued, noticed, appreciated, respected, loved and desired. If you aren’t fulfilled in any of these areas in any of your relationships, maybe you need to evaluate how your partner makes you feel and decide if they are a true friend.
Kindness and generosity are not the physical possessions you give or an expectation of what you think you deserve for committing a good deed. Kind and generous people give for the betterment of others. If you are looking to strengthen your relationships, being a little kinder and more generous could be the solution. Besides, if the Red Hot Chili Peppers believe it, you know it’s solid wisdom.