How kind are you being to yourself? How kind are you being with the people that you love?

The answer says an awful lot about your life, your needs, and what isn’t working.

Why?

Because as soon as kindness takes a hike, it’s time for massive change. Over and over again, this has proven to be true in my own life (and it’s backed by science).

If I catch myself being unkind in how I think about my body or my work, I know something is woefully out of balance and needs attention. Perhaps I’ve been comparing myself to someone else or reading too many fashion magazines. Maybe I wasn’t able to do something I really wanted to do because I’m too out of shape or maybe some anonymous jerk made a comment that stung. Whatever the reason, if self-kindness is hard to come by, immediate action is needed.

If I turn to criticism, cruelty, or sarcasm in my relationships rather than kindness, it’s a big red flag that a need is going unmet or I’ve checked out in some way.

Looking back at past relationships, it’s rather obvious when kindness stopped being the default behavior and when other less-nurturing behaviors set in like resentment, frustration, doubt, or exasperation. Patience suddenly became dangerously thin, and it seemed as if everything my partner was doing was for the sole purpose of annoying me.

That’s usually the moment the relationship goes from being a source of renewal and support to one that is careening towards catastrophe and pain.

Don’t believe me? Check this out, from an Atlantic article about John Gottman and his Love Lab:

“Research independent from [the Gottman’s] has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved … There’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.”

Kindness is one of the most important predictors of relationship happiness and personal satisfaction.

When was the last time you caught yourself being unbelievably kind towards yourself? When your thoughts were full of nurturing thoughts and genuine admiration of self?

How much kindness are you offering in your intimate relationships? If it’s not very much, then it’s time to step back and figure out what changes need to happen in order for you to find your way back to generosity of thought and action. Otherwise, you’ll just end up hating each other.

Kindness translates to your sexual experience, as well.

If you and your lover are swimming in kindness, your sexual experiences will probably feel incredibly safe. Within that sense of safety, you’ll be more likely to ask for what you want, to withhold judgment when your lover shares feedback or fantasies, and it will be a lot easier to experience pleasure with all of you being so open.

It’s incredibly easy to fall into the habit of ignoring our loved ones, which is the same as taking them for granted. Just because they’ve been tolerating the tension for 20 months or 20 years, doesn’t mean they always will.

And the same goes for you.

One of the reasons I ended a relationship in my mid-20’s was because I felt like nothing I said or did would be met with genuine interest. To be ignored is not an act of kindness. To go through the motions, is also not an act of kindness. I was tired of the bickering and feeling unimportant, and so we both turned to criticism, contempt, and passive-aggressive jabs.

Another sign that kindness isn’t present? Feeling like you’re broken or like something is wrong with you. If you’re constantly being asked why you don’t want more sex or if your partner badgers you about your eating habits, that can feel unsafe at a profound level.

Kindness is accepting someone for who they are and inviting their experiences in, as-is. Kindness is offering someone the benefit of the doubt before anything else when they make a mistake or fail in some way.

Kindness is lifting each other up as a team instead of being combatants with a winner and a loser.

Click to tweet that statement!

Kindness has become a core behavior that I work to cultivate in my life.

Whenever I catch myself thinking something unkind about myself or my partner, I know it’s time to take a step back and find out where I’ve been silencing myself…because it’s almost always a case of my not asking for what I need or neglecting myself in some way.

So, I’m curious. How much kindness are in the thoughts you have, the words you say, and the behaviors you exhibit with your sweetheart? Same question but towards yourself?