“A smile is the universal welcome.” Dr. T.P. Chia
Do you agree?
Think about the last time a smiling stranger caught your eye.
What did you do? Very few people return a smile with a frown. A smile does seem to welcome you momentarily into a little slice of their warmth and their world.
The very act of smiling lightens your mood and lifts your spirit.
“Even forcing a fake smile can legitimately reduce stress and lower your heart rate,” adds Dr. Sivan Finkel, a cosmetic dentist at NYC’s The Dental Parlour.
In this same article, Nicole Spector notes, “there are plenty more studies out there to make you smile (or at least, serve as a reference for why you should). Researchers at the University of Kansas published findings that smiling helps reduce the body’s response to stress and lower heart rate in tense situations; another study linked smiling to lower blood pressure, while yet another suggests that smiling leads to longevity.”
Do you think the improved health is all based on chemistry and physiology or is there something else behind those smiles?
How often do you smile at your spouse?
Is there a whole-lotta-smiling going on at your house? If your husband had to choose an emoji to show your usual expression when you see him at the end of the day, which one would he choose?
I believe your different smiles tell a story about your marriage over time.
The Giddy Smile
When you first met your spouse, smiling came easy, didn’t it? You know the kind—bright, quick, toothy, full of laughter and joy. They didn’t even have to be in the room—you’d think about the other person, and a smile broke out.
Think about how you felt during this time.
- Full of Anticipation
- Brimming with good anxiety
Thus, the giddy smile. ? I bet your friends and family asked why you smiled so much. “Hey, what’s with that smile?” And, secretly, you knew the reason even if you weren’t ready to divulge it yet.
The Confident Smile
Further down the relationship road, the giddy smile becomes a confident smile. This smile comes less spontaneously but comes from knowing you are loved, chosen, and treasured. You confidently walk through your days feeling valued by your spouse. Life is good, comfortable, and enriching.
Those early days and years of marriage and that confident smile inspire us to tackle some obstacles we might not have just a few months previously. Life feels grander, more expansive, and like anything is possible. With your spouse at your side, you believe you can tackle whatever comes.
The Good Christian Wife Smile
Ah, this smile sneaks up on you. Your confidence moves you into new phases of marriage, employment, and probably parenthood. But, you believe you can handle anything together. You’ve been doing well to this point.
Suddenly, #adulting gets more strenuous. The decisions flying at you at the speed of light weigh heavy. No longer just the two of you, there are little ones that need attention, and they don’t care how tired you may be in that moment. You plaster on a smile. Children are a blessing from the Lord, for sure, but at 3:00 a.m.?
Fortunately, you still smile because life is good, most of the time.
But, then your reality shifts. Your marriage faces new, unexpected challenges as you move into more years together. Your spouse’s idiosyncrasies that so endeared him to you, irritate. Let’s call a spade a spade.
“Why can’t he put his dirty clothes in the hamper?”
“All I do is cook, clean, and take care of babies. I can’t remember the last time I had a long, hot shower.”
“We never talk anymore or dream together.”
“Sex? What sex? By the time the kids settle down, one of us is too tired, sometimes both of us.”
Yes, you smile. But it’s not that natural smile you used to give. Today it feels forced, like a half-smile to be nice, nothing more. You’d love to give that big giddy grin if life was like it used to be.
Still, you go through the motions like a good Christian wife is supposed to and paste on the smile. But, you wonder if you’ll ever have time for yourself again. And, if you get to that point, will you recognize yourself? Life won’t always be this way, right?
The Wounded Smile
When secrets build in a marriage, the smiles weaken. When secrets remain hidden too long, others begin to notice how the two of you respond to one another. Free and easy smiles morph into smirks, half-grins, and even grimaces.
Instead of a free-flowing conversation, stilted remarks and caustic barbs fill the air between you. Until that secret is revealed, suspicions grow, marinate, and wound you both. Enter the wounded smile. That smile that says I’m limping along, but I know I should be thankful. It could be worse, right? You suspect there is a secret lurking in your marriage, but you fear uncovering it. Will it be as bad as you think? What will it cost me? Will it hurt worse?
Sometimes the spontaneous, giddy smile begins springing to your face for a man other than your spouse—a witty co-worker, the complimentary delivery man, your handsome neighbor, an old flame online. If you find that happening, stop. Wipe THAT smile off your face and pay attention to this warning sign. Your marriage could face serious trouble faster than you realize.
If you are a spouse of someone whose secret involves addiction, the wounded smile may be all you can muster. You fear speaking the truth will destroy you and your marriage. Frankly, you wonder if you’ll survive. This wounded smile never reaches your eyes. It is polite, fake, and soul-sucking.
The Authentic Smile
It is spontaneous, honest, reaches the eyes, and engulfs those around you. People with this smile attract others. This smile is the ultimate one.
I think about Joanna Gaines’ smile. A hard-working wife, mother of five, and entrepreneur. Joanna describes her life as busy, hectic, and lots of hard work. Being spouses AND business partners is tough. If you’ve watched any episodes of “Fixer Upper,” her joy is contagious. She knows whose she is and why she does what she does. We find that attractive above all else.
Today, simply smile.
Choose a giddy smile because God loves you and knows you completely.
Smile because your life is complicated—your spouse, your kids, your finances. Some people have none of those.
Smile at your spouse.
Smile at yourself.
Evaluate your smiles.
What are your smiles communicating about your feelings at this moment?
A marriage that survives the secrets, troubles, and challenges builds authenticity between you and your spouse.
Though we desire comfort, we don’t grow during good times. We mature in faith, love, smiling, and trust with our spouse when we struggle together. It’s in those difficulties we learn that authentic love accepts the messy along with the mushy. The wounded smiles go along with the giddy ones.
“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” William Arthur Ward
Be honest about your smile.
Check-in with your cheeks and share what you discover with your spouse or a wise friend. Where are you on the smile spectrum today? Where would you like to be?
Father God, thank you for creating us with the ability to smile. Your word says you rejoice over me with singing. May my mouth respond to the truth of your delight in me. Help me identify more opportunities to smile in my life right now and to share with others when I can’t seem to muster a half-hearted grin. Thank you for giving us smiles—for my spouse, my children, my family, my pastor, my neighbors, the teachers, the mother of a crying child, and a stranger.
If you need help, please reach out. I promise to listen without judgment and help you take the next step.