Grand gestures of love can bring surprise and joy to your partner, but the little things in relationships may consistently strengthen your bond and increase emotional security.
Would you prefer having your partner gift you a new car or show you one small act of affection and thoughtfulness daily?
For many people, daily affirmations and acts of love and caring mean more than a singular, grand gesture.
The little things in relationships can be constant reminders that your partner thinks of you and cares about you.
Small acts count because they can help:
- reduce uncertainty
- provide a sense of emotional security
- solidify the bond between two people
- increase empathy
- reduce the chance of growing apart
In subtle ways, the little things, more than the grand gestures, can strengthen your relationship and make love last.
Why are the little things so important to your relationship health?
Research supports how important the little things in relationships are to enduring love — and well-being, in general.
A 2013 survey of more than 5,000 people found that small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness were more important than generic love gestures, like receiving a box of chocolate.
In a 2020 study, researchers found that having everyday experiences of love were linked to higher levels of psychological well-being, feelings of purpose, and optimism. The more expressions of love a person received on a daily basis, the better sense of well-being they had in general.
“Gestures of all sizes can convey many messages such as: ‘You are important to me’, ‘I see you’, ‘I appreciate you’, and ‘Your needs and wants have not gone unnoticed,’” says Mason.
Every couple is different, and each person may value different gestures or efforts. Understanding this “love language” can be the first step to implementing the little things in your relationship.
Being intentional about everyday demonstrations may reflect that you and your partner are persistently choosing love.
Here are a few “little things” and small gestures that may count:
Gratitude is a grand gesture that can be expressed in little daily acts of love.
Many partners split household responsibilities, but often certain tasks fall to the same person.
Folding the laundry, for example, may be something your partner typically takes on. By doing the laundry yourself, you’re letting your partner know through actions that you acknowledge and appreciate them always doing that chore.
Samantha Saunders, a licensed professional counselor from Washington, D.C., explains that these small gestures can be ways of expressing gratitude. Gratitude may keep love and appreciation alive in your relationship.
Fulfilling needs and wants
“Being observant of what the other needs and wants and giving in ways that speak to those needs and wants can strengthen all relationships,” says Shar’ron Mason, a licensed marriage and family therapist from Indianapolis.
She gives the example of making breakfast for your partner who likes to go for a morning run and doesn’t always have time to eat.
By fixing breakfast, you’re using a gesture to communicate to your partner that you pay attention to their needs and that you care about those needs being met.
Another example might be bringing your partner coffee or tea during the day because you know they enjoy a mid-day pick-me-up but may not have the time to do it themselves.
Cuddling on the couch, holding hands, or engaging in a hug on greeting or departure can show your partner you enjoy their closeness and that physically being near them is joyful for you.
An empirical research paper exploring three studies on the importance of touch in romantic relationships found that it was associated with greater well-being. This was the case even for people with attachment avoidance who valued distance and autonomy.
Physical closeness may help you nurture all types of intimacy, not only physical. Intimacy may lead you both to feel close and secure with one another.
Setting aside time to check in with your partner about how their day is going can demonstrate you’re interested in what your partner has going on, and that because it’s important to them, it’s important to you.
“Making yourself available to your partner to share their day, stressors, and wins can also be a relationship strengthening gesture,” adds Mason.
Remembering things your partner has told you in conversation is also a little thing that may count to them. Asking them about the project they’re working on, the health status of an ill friend, or the problem they need to solve at work may mean a lot to your partner.
Encouragement and support
The little things in relationships don’t have to be all action and no words.
Verbal affirmations of gratitude, celebration, and encouragement are also ways to show your partner you’re rooting for them, supporting them, and want to see them succeed.
“Sending an encouraging message to your partner who may need a little extra support can be helpful and meaningful,” says Mason.
To add the element of surprise, you can hide a sticky note with an “I love you” or “I believe in you” message for your partner.
Writing a gratitude letter or getting them a card on any given day may also brighten their day and bring you together.
Research says that learning to do the little things in a relationship can help strengthen your bond and take the uncertainty out of a partnership. Small gestures increase empathy, intimacy, and a sense of security and well-being.
Fulfilling wants and needs, engaging in meaningful conversation, showing everyday acts of kindness, and expressing appreciation can all be done in small ways, every day.