Too often couples forget about the importance of the little things. We can get so wrapped up in our lives that we think things are okay as long as we’re not fighting. Although I wish this were true—it’s not. Great relationships require a lot of positives, not just the absence of negatives.
Relationship guru John Gottman talks about the importance of couples having positive relationship reserves to draw from when things are tough. Building relational reserves is like having a relationship savings account that both partners make deposits into daily. Think of this relationship account like an emergency fund. The way couples build up these reserves is by doing loving, cherishing acts. Think of each compliment, hug, supportive word, etc. as a deposit. The more loving the act we do, the greater the deposit we make.
When things aren’t going well, we need to know that there’s a good chance they will get better and we’ll survive the struggle. If couples have minimal positive interactions day to day and often have neutral or negative interactions, there’s no reason to think things will be okay. Below are 25 ways to be cherishing and build up your relationship reserves. I call these tender sprinkles.
• Greet your partner when you come home by saying hello and asking them how their day was.
• Say goodbye, when you leave, with a hug or kiss.
• Give a compliment whenever possible.
• Listen to their stories as if you care.
• Share your stories.
• Notice the ways they help and thank them directly.
• Help with chores you don’t usually help with.
• Smile at your partner as if you’re happy to see them.
• Call them before a tough meeting/event and let them know you’re thinking about them.
• Text them a loving message.
• Hold their hand.
• Touch their shoulder as you walk by.
• Randomly tell them you’re glad they’re in your life.
• Tell them you love them.
• Bring home a small gift.
• Put a little note on their bathroom mirror that says, “You ROCK!”
• If they handle the children well—tell them so.
• Laugh with them, not at them.
• Go out on a date.
• Surprise them by doing something they like to do, but to which you typically say no.
• Give them a shoulder rub without expecting the same in return.
• Say something nice about them in a group when they’re present.
• Give them time to themselves without resentment—tell them to go enjoy the day while you watch the kids.
• Shut off all technology whenever possible and give them your undivided attention.
• Periodically tell them three things you love about them and why.
Making deposits into our relationship bank accounts is not hard work and nor is it necessarily time-consuming. Making deposits just requires us to pay attention and to be the partner we wish to have. When you add these tender sprinkles to your relationship, it’s like taking out insurance on your relationship. It’s well worth the effort and can potentially save you a lot of future misery.
CHALLENGE: Commit to building up your relationship reserves by choosing some items from the list above, or making up your own, and incorporating them into your relationship. If you have other ideas please share! Let us know what happens.