Based on resecent studies, Finley says something as basic as intentionally practicing kindness can be key to keeping couple relationships strong through the stresses of extreme or chronic adversity.
"Kindness can be thought of as something you're naturally good at or not. However, like many aspects of resilience, kindness is probably better thought of like a muscle. It may be weak or strong to start with, but it can also be strengthened with exercise. The other thing about kindness is that it is very often reciprocal: demonstrating kindness to someone leads to a kind response. Kindness can be practiced through small acts, like doing something nice for someone. But it can also be practiced in response to disappointment, or in the middle of conflict with a family member."
Finley says that one way to practice kindness during conflict is "to be generous about how you interpret your partner's intentions after they have disappointed you." For example, remembering that most errors in judgment are not signs of flawed character or relationship failure, but rather accidental, can be one way of being generous about your partner's intentions. Finley observes that generosity may make the difference between saying, "You always let me down; you're so selfish" and "I'm frustrated that you're late again."
To read more from Finley's blog series on Family Resilience and to find other tools for resilience from the Headington Institute, visit their website.