Many times, people try too hard to keep their romantic relationships going strong. They may focus on wowing the other person with a big purchase or think that maintaining a closeness involves daily detailed “how are we doing?” conversations. While big-ticket gifts and long talks can be exciting and may certainly boost aspects of a relationship, it’s necessary to pull yourself back and take stock of the fact that ultimately, it’s the small-scale actions that develop and maintain a strong relationship connection.
Small gestures of kindness, thoughtful words, and meaningful touches are all part of this equation. So vital are these little things that studies have even been conducted to illustrate their importance. For example, the journal Personal Relationships published noting that expressions of gratitude vastly increase relationship satisfaction. Even the day after such small gestures, people from the study still reported positive feelings towards their partner. This lingering sense of joy demonstrates the importance of paying attention to the other person and engaging in small actions that are big on the caring and love scale.
Skip the fancy gifts—think of smaller, more meaningful gestures
Dr. Johan Olers, the lead author of the aforementioned study, says that such actions need not be grandiose undertakings. Simply driving a few extra miles to get your partner’s favorite coffee drink, taking the children out to provide a spouse with alone time, or whipping up a nice, celebratory meal when significant other experiences good news are all powerful ways of deepening relationships. Such displays of attention convey a strong relationship sense of care that transcends a costly gift or predictable actions.
However, if gift-giving is something you can’t resist, just be sure to forego outrageous purchases and make your gestures personal. Expressing love shouldn’t mean coming close to taking out a second mortgage. Instead, relationship experts suggest noting what your partner has mentioned in the past and then surprising them with it. For example, you might give them a new book that just hit stores or buy tickets to a movie they’ve been itching to see.
On an even smaller scale, consider coming home some evening with your partner’s favorite foods from that sushi restaurant they’re always mentioning. You could even give them a creative homemade gift like a bunch of handwritten notes in a small box. These notes might include phrases such as “I’m proud of you for what you’ve gone through lately” and “Keep this as a reminder that this Friday will be date night—I have a new restaurant in mind!” Even surprises like taping notes that say “I love you” or “Good luck with today’s presentation” to the medicine cabinet or refrigerator door can illustrate the extent of your appreciation.
The power of listening and showing interest
Sometimes, stepping outside of your own interests and paying attention to the other person’s is essential. This isn’t to say that if your spouse is a hardcore racecar fan then you need to attend every event and know every score. Instead, asking questions about the cars or a particular race conveys that you care about the other person’s happiness; simply inquiring about their interests and listening is a caring gesture. Joking about it or rolling your eyes is probably just as insulting to them as it would be for you if the situation were reversed and you received blatant disrespect about the things that excite you.
Showing respect in little ways can bolster a strong relationship. Going back to the basics we were taught as youngsters come into play here; simple words like “thank you” and “please” (along with genuine compliments) go a long way. They show that you’re not taking aspects of the strong relationship for granted and that you truly notice—and appreciate—what your partner provides.
Don’t forget to have fun
Finally, it’s important to have fun together! In today’s busy world, it can be too easy to get wrapped up in talk of news, work, and bills. Childish as it may sound, experts say that acting silly together is a small but important way to keep a strong relationship intact.
They maintain that humor helps people express themselves and can offer reminders of the quirky, lighthearted qualities that drew them together in the first place. So, go ahead—make strange faces back and forth, or suddenly instigate a goofy dance in the living room.
In sum, by playful and hone in on the little things. Continually making small but thoughtful gestures is a surefire way to keep your strong relationship.