February 2001
February 2001

I have recently returned from visiting China. They have an expression that is named "Saving Face" which was explained to us as: Keeping appointments on time, acknowledging even the least important person by eye contact and/or verbal acknowledgement, dressing appropriately for each occasion, i.e. based on the country's mores, escorting a departing visitor all the way to the exit, noticing the handiwork of even routine repairs, returning a courtesy with one, and most importantly maintaining ones composure,i.e., not raving when something goes wrong. Instead one is expected to put the emphasis on what you want done differently, therefore, not judging the person as if they were wrong.

With over a billion population China has had to practice inter-relationships that are effective. We can all learn from "Saving Face". I know I have. What struck me was the respect one shows for mundane details, and towards the most ordinary of people. The general atmosphere of sarcastic verbal remarks and disgusting hand gestures that predominate in this country of only a few million carries over to home life. Too many couples treat each other as if they were worst enemies instead of intimate others.

Here are some suggestions of ways in which one can reverse negative behaviors and substitute novel pleasant ones:

Turning up ones lips as if you are smiling actually changes the chemical composition in your brain and for a few seconds you feel pleasant. Wouldn't you think that the rewards of smiling would be enough to keep people repeating that activity?

We need more humor, even if it is canned jokes from a book or the internet. Anything to keep a lighter mood. The happier we are, the better we will get along with each other.

Why not make sure that you notice, at least, one pleasant or nice thing about your spouse each day? A kiss and hug in the a.m and p.m. would go a long way toward maintaining good relations. Did your spouse work all day?, at outside employment?, housework?, taking care of the children? Did you take note to thank him/her?

Did you do something extra special for your spouse today that you usually don't do?

Do you stop and prioritize whether you are tired, hungry and/or upset at someone other than your spouse, and are, therefore; participating in a knock down drag out verbal fight with the one you love? Take care of what is the problem.
Then there is no need to take it out on each other. Eat if you are hungry. Nap if you are tired. Handle your annoyance with the person who caused it. Let your spouse know what you like and then discuss what needs improving.

Think of how you could direct your spouse in positive language that is not insulting to his/her intelligence. You can do it. Try it.