Gretchen Rubin says, “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” This is true for relationships. Love is in the small things. In daily acts.
“Consistency is king in relationships,” said Anna Osborn, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist who practices in Sacramento, Calif., and virtually coaches couples across the country. So as great as grand gestures are, it’s the small acts that help our partners to feel seen and significant. Feeling valued is our biggest need in intimate relationships, Osborn said.
Small acts “are ongoing and in the best cases, not in response to a problem. They are open, they are giving, they are loving and thoughtful,” said Christina Steinorth-Powell, MFT, a psychotherapist who specializes in couples counseling in Santa Barbara, Calif.
But it’s easy to forget to prioritize the small stuff and pass over the present moment. Many of us are just so focused on the future, Osborn said.
What can help is to plan for the small stuff. For instance, Osborn suggested having a “no electronics” night once a week; scheduling a movie night; and meeting up once a month for dinner after work.
Below, you’ll find other simple — yet powerful — acts. As Osborn said, “simple acts of love and kindness are the best way to weather any future stress or tension in your relationship.”
Be silly and spontaneous
“Being silly and spontaneous in love encourages our relationship to thrive and grow,” Osborn said. Plus, our brains love novelty, she said.
Osborn shared these examples: Make a big deal out of good news. Take a different route to your favorite restaurant. Order for each other.
Ask if your partner needs anything
When you go into the kitchen or to the grocery store, ask your partner what he or she needs, Steinorth-Powell said. “This simple, little gesture shows that you’re thinking of your partner and you want to take care of him or her.”
Be nice to your partner’s parents
Doing so is “one of the best ways to show your partner you care,” said Steinorth-Powell, who is also author of the book Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships.
She shared these examples: Ask your partner’s parents how they’ve been and if they need any help around the house. Send flowers or cards on their birthdays—instead of your partner just signing your name. Put away your smartphone and really engage with them.
Listen to your partner
Spend one-on-one time with your partner just talking, Steinorth-Powell suggested. Your conversations don’t need to be serious or profound, she explained. For instance, “ask with sincerity how their day was and listen with interest,” Osborn said.
“Doing this three to four times a week can help save the two of you from drifting apart as the years pass,” Steinorth-Powell said.
Disagree — without being mean
Say what you need to say without insulting your partner, calling your partner names or giving your partner the silent treatment. As Steinorth-Powell said, these behaviors have no place in a loving relationship.
When you disagree with your partner, “keep in mind that this is the person you love and ask yourself if you would let anyone else talk to them in the way you’re about to.” If not, rethink your words or actions, she suggested.
It also helps to offer an explanation. Here’s a simple example: Instead of saying, “I hate it when you leave your junk all over the place,” say, “It would be more helpful to me if you could put your stuff away because I’m afraid I’m going to trip on it or bump into it.”
Help with chores
Offer to take care of a chore that your partner hates doing, Osborn recommended. Take care of any tasks that help your partner have one less worry, Steinorth-Powell added. This lets your partner see you as an ally. Plus, your partner feels “less stressed which will also help the good feelings continue to flow in your relationship.”
“Any simple act that creates connection will go a long way in love, especially when it’s done consistently,” Osborn said. This might include everything from telling your partner what you appreciate about him or her, to holding his or her hand as you walk down the street, she said.
Make work more pleasant
For instance, according to Osborn, you can sneak in a handwritten note into your partner’s workbag or pack your partner’s lunch the night before.
Whatever you do, keep in mind that “relationships are living and breathing things and we can’t expect them to survive when we starve them or feed them haphazardly.” Small, consistent acts give your relationship the nourishment it needs.
Helping in the kitchen photo available from Shutterstock