If you think you need grand gestures to show your spouse love you may be mistaken. In fact, many studies speak to the fact that the secret to long-lasting love are small gestures such as cooking your partner a meal or cleaning up afterwards without him or her asking you to do so.
One of the things that Alana values about Tim is his ability to show love through his actions.
It’s the everyday moments that matter. When I forget to bring in the mail (even when I am the first person home) and Tim says he’s glad to go fetch it and water all of the outdoor plants before dinner, he makes my day. These little things make a difference.
In his book The All or Nothing Marriage, author and professor Eli Finkel says, “The best marriages today are better that the best marriages of earlier eras.” He writes, “Indeed, they are the best marriages that the world has ever known.” Finkel points out that all marriages go through challenging times and small gestures which he calls “lovehacks” can sustain couples and help them ignite passion.
Finkel explains that many easy to implement actions or “lovehacks” aimed at improving your marriage can be done in five minutes or less. For instance, you can write your partner an endearing and charming love note for him or her to see or hold their hand during a conflict.
5 Ways to make small gestures count in your marriage:
1. Look for ways to lower each other’s stress: Problems at work, financial pressures, or family drama can all push a couple apart. Couples who can respond to each other’s stress in a way that is soothing rather than in a way that exacerbates it tend to be able to weather the tenser times. For instance, adding a 15 to 20-minute time to debrief your day when you first arrive home can be comforting to each of you. Listen to your partner and express empathy without offering judgments or solutions. Offer to make your partner a cup of coffee or tea.
·2. Carve out time for daily rituals to do with your partner: Spend at least 20 minutes daily doing things to show love and kindness to your partner. Examine the schedules of family members and determine whether there is a reliable time that you can spend time alone with your partner. Consider eating one meal a day without screen time to enhance communication and/or enjoying a daily walk together.
3.· Use kind and polite words such as please, sorry, and thank you: Would you rather go to bed angry, or would you prefer spooning with your partner after resolving an issue? Studies show that couples who apologize when they’ve hurt their partner’s feelings (even if done so accidentally) and practice forgiveness, have a more successful marriage.
4. Help one another out: This can include helping your significant other make plans, complete tasks, achieve goals or manage their time. These positive actions leads to interdependence, as partners begin to coordinate their behavior to try to bring their long-term bigger goals to fruition.
5. Dream and plan together: look into your future and envision your dreams while staying focused on the present and your time together. Creating a larger context of meaning in life, can help you to avoid focusing on the little stuff that happens and to keep your eyes on the big picture.
According to Dr. John Gottman, the small, intentional moments have more power than isolated, excessive gestures when it comes to creating and sustaining lasting love. Author Liz Higgins, LMFTA, reminds us that Dr. Gottman’s motto is “small things often.”
In other words, it’s important to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and other family events, but just remember to appreciate the little things.
Emotional bids are the bedrock of intimate relationships
In his book The Relationship Cure, Dr. Gottman defines the term “bid” for the exchange of emotional connection in relationships. An example of a bid and response is the simple greeting of “Hi, how was work today?” and a response of, “Great! And how was yours?”
Bids for connection can range from small attempts to connect (“Did you notice that?”) to more profound expressions of vulnerability (“Did you notice that I lost five pounds?”). According to Dr. Gottman, bids are the building blocks of a marriage, and our ability to “turn towards” and accept them is determined by how well we are attuned to our partner.
In simple terms, if you accept bids from your partner, you’ll build emotional connection. On the other hand, consistently missing bids results in disconnection. Liz Higgins writes, “Think of bids as withdrawals and deposits into your relationship’s Emotional Bank Account.”
I never realized the importance of spending time alone with Tim until he went on a business trip last year. We really missed our time together and found out that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
It would be easy for Alana and Tim to neglect time alone together – without their children. Alana and Tim’s three children (all under age twelve) all have demanding after school and weekend activities.
However, Alana and Tim embrace the notion that in order for their marriage to thrive they need to pay attention to each other on a regular basis and turn towards each other’s bids for connection.
Tim honors my time and values me. Since we have three kids we make sure we go out for a quiet dinner or long walk alone at least once a week. We also show our love by the small things we do for each other like leaving each other a love note or a romantic text message.
Most of all, never underestimate the power of intentional time with your partner. Doing fun things together like going for walks, telling jokes, watching funny movies, or anything else that brings you both pleasure, can ignite passion and keep you connected. In order to feel alive in your marriage, you need to put effort into spending quality time together – with an emphasis on small gestures of love!
Follow Terry at movingpastdivorce.com. Her award-winning book “Daughters of Divorce” is available in audio and softcover. You can visit her on Facebook and Twitter.