Elena, 48, and Jason, 52, have been married fifteen years and came to counseling to improve their communication and to stop bickering. Like many couples who I counsel, I asked them both what worked in their marriage and what areas need to be “worked on.”
Elena put it like this, “I know Jason works hard and is a good provider but he doesn’t pay enough attention to me. I think he takes me for granted and I feel lonely.”
Jason responded, “Elena is right. We love each other and have a strong family with our two boys, but we don’t pay enough attention to each other.”
After gathering more information from Elena and Jason, I gave them a homework assignment of each doing a small gesture every day to show love and appreciation for each other. I explained that these are not big things (like giving each other a gift). Instead, I recommended that they do small gestures, like making a cup of coffee, or offering to run an errand.
In fact, many studies speak to the fact that the secret to long-lasting love are small gestures. 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.
5 Ways to Make Small Gestures Count in Your Marriage:
- Listen and offer support. 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 exacerbating tend to be able to weather the tenser times. Listen to your partner and express empathy without offering judgments or solutions.
- Be your partner’s best friend. If your partner needs help with a project or chore, let them know you are in their corner. This can include helping your partner run errands, complete tasks, do laundry, or prepare a meal.
- Show Your Love Through Actions. The Penn State University research team found that actions matter the most when it comes to expressing love. “We found that behavioral actions—rather than purely verbal expressions—triggered more consensus as indicators of love.” For instance, making the bed in the morning may be more important than giving your partner a compliment. Remember that actions often speak louder than words.
- Increase physical affection. According to author Dr. Kory Floyd, physical contact releases oxytocin (the bonding hormone), can improve our mood (for days) and can help you stay calm. Holding hands, hugging, touching, and making out can reduce your stress hormones (cortisol) and increase your sense of relationship satisfaction.
- Plan on honoring a daily ritual to do with your partner: Spend at least 20 minutes daily doing things together, like going for a walk or taking about your vision for the future.
Most of all, never take your partner for granted. 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 close. In order to keep you marriage fresh and positive, do at least one small gesture every day to help improve your partner’s day!
I would love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments at movingpastdivorce.com. To find out more about my research, order my book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy Long-Lasting Relationship.
My book “The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around” was published by Sounds True in the February of 2020.