The everyday — filled with its supposedly inconsequential interactions and circumstances — is actually quite consequential when it comes to romantic relationships.
That’s because relationships are cumulative, said Nikki Massey-Hastings, Psy.D, a psychotherapist who specializes in couples. “Each seemingly insignificant daily interaction with one’s partner builds upon the interactions from yesterday, last week, and last year… for better or worse.”
A couple with a history of loving interactions and success solving daily problems is more likely to have a securely attached relationship, Massey-Hastings said.
And that’s a great thing. Couples with a secure attachment are able to rely on each other, turn to each other for comfort and traverse potentially tough times, she noted.
In other words, positive daily interactions create buffers against future challenges.
Take parenting, for instance. One of Massey-Hastings’s clients told her: “We finally had dinner and watched a movie last night for the first time since we brought the baby home. At the end of our night, we smiled at each other and said ‘see you in 3 months! Miss you.’”
This couple was able to joke about their situation because they had years of wonderful interactions and success dealing with mundane problems like decorating their bedroom and deeply emotional ones like figuring out treatments for their autistic son, she said.
Silvina Irwin, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist who also works with couples, described relationships as “living bonds.” According to Irwin, “without regular tending and attention, [the relationship] will wither and suffer.”
But you might be worried that working on your relationship is another time-consuming task to heap on an already overflowing pile of responsibilities. However, as Irwin said, “tending to your relationship can be woven into the fabric of your everyday life with a little extra thought and intention.”
Below, she and Massey-Hastings share five suggestions for enhancing your relationship every day.
1. Create connection-boosting rituals.
“Create a meaningful way to connect that meets both partners’ needs for connection that you can count on each day,” Massey-Hastings said. For instance, when she was just beginning her career, she and her husband would eat dinner together almost every night.
But then her schedule changed, and that was no longer possible. “One week of this shift and we were both in tears — we didn’t realize how much that ritual structured our time to connect,” she said. So they revised their routine. Today, they have a snack when she gets home.
“Eating together and talking about the day, for couples and for families, is a very powerful ritual of connection,” she said.
Rituals don’t need to be elaborate, either. It could be something as simple as rubbing each other’s feet every night, which Massey-Hastings and her husband also do. It’s a minute but meaningful ritual they look forward to, she said.
If you have kids, you can create rituals after they’re in bed. For instance, Massey-Hastings works with a couple who cuddles in bed for 30 minutes after putting their child to bed.
2. Be affectionate when you say hello or goodbye.
“A time that lends itself naturally to acknowledging your bond is around moments of separation and reunions,” said Irwin, who also leads workshops for couples. She suggested asking yourself: “Do I hug and kiss my partner when we greet each other or say goodbye? How about in the evening when we say goodnight?”
If you’ve been together for a long time, you might not. But this can contribute to “couples feeling more like roommates than lovers,” she said. Whether it’s a hug, kiss or touch, daily physical attention can greatly enhance your relationship.
3. Let your partner know they’re on your mind.
Send your partner a text, leave a loving note or give them a quick call during the day, Irwin said. As she noted, these seemingly small gestures communicate an important message: “You matter to me.” “This can be especially meaningful when folks work long hours or experience prolonged periods of separation,” she said.
4. Acknowledge how much your partner means to you.
Let your partner know the things they do or say that are meaningful to you, Irwin said. Maybe your partner gives you a massage every night or cracks a joke after you’ve had a tough day at work. Maybe they make you coffee every morning or always wash the dishes after you cook dinner.
“[This] shows that you aren’t taking your partner for granted, and lets them know that they make a difference in your life,” she said. “A wonderful positive spiral that can ensue when we take a moment to point out the way we appreciate our partner,” she added.
5. Check in with each other.
“Make it an intention to slow down, make eye contact, sit near each other, touch one another and check in,” Irwin said. Even just asking your partner “How are you?” is a beautiful way to bond.
“These conversations bring a significant point of connection in couples’ sometimes-busy, seemingly parallel lives. It’s saying to each other ‘In our crazy lives, the person I want to talk with at the end of the day is you!’” she said.
Relationships certainly take work. But nourishing your partnership every day isn’t painstaking. Instead, it gives you the opportunity to build your bond. Plus, helping your relationship blossom on a daily basis helps you cope better as a couple with the inevitable challenges of life.