Having had my share of long-term relationships — and even short-term — I feel I know what has worked, so to speak, in terms of the little things that make your partner happy. Whether it was gestures my S.O. made, or things I did for him, it often did come down to the tiny things.
A long time ago, before I even understood what epitomizes true love, I’d see it all around me: my grandpa saving my grandma the last piece of coffee cake; my friend picking out green Skittles because his boyfriend hated them; and a relative taking care of her sick husband — spoon-feeding him, helping him exercise, the whole shabang. My grandma was my best example. Every time I’d come home to Chicago from L.A., she’d fill the house with things I loved — my favorite pecan rolls and soup from a local Polish deli — and also do things such as let me use her car. She said doing these things made her happy.
“Create good will,” Tina B. Tessina, P.h.D., (aka "Dr. Romance") psychotherapist and author of Love Styles: How To Celebrate Your Differences, tells Bustle. “Every kind or unkind word, every gesture of support or criticism, every honest or dishonest interaction between you, and every gesture of affection or coldness are stored in your memory. Store up good feelings, forgiveness, support, honesty, appreciation, caring and affection, and sexual and emotional intimacy to build up a backlog of good will, affection and warm memories. Store up coldness, criticism, ingratitude, dishonesty, demands, and dissatisfaction; and you'll have a reservoir of resentment and disdain.”
Below, I compiled a list of things that significant others do that make you even happier. I do believe the way to one’s heart is in the details. In my other life, I work in television as a script coordinator, which means everything from proofreading scripts to providing input on storylines and paying attention to the minutia (Did this character have a brother in another episode? Does that line sound like her?). IRL, too, details are everything. Thoughtfulness and the element of surprise are key, I think, as is doing things because it makes you happy to — you don’t feel forced or looking to be rewarded for your good behavior. Of course, all these things are a two-way street, if you're doing any of these things, you're making an effort toward your partner's happiness, too
1. They Spend A Few Extra Minutes Getting It Right
Your S.O. may know you love coffee, but if they remember the brand — especially if you never even told them, but they happened to see it in your kitchen — all the better when you wake up at their house to your favorite beverage.
2. They Make (Or Order) Your Favorite Dinner Even Though They Hate It
I had a vegetarian boyfriend once (which was challenging for my carnivorous self) and he was a heavy-duty vegetarian: separate silverware for meat-lovers and, if I ate meat, he’d want me to brush my teeth before kissing him. (Everyone has their thing.) So when he surprised me with a homemade steak-and-potatoes dinner one night, I was super impressed. (He made himself a lovely potatoes-and-potatoes dinner.) Another guy friend made sushi for his date one night… homemade! (Major points for that!) It doesn’t take much, everyone — just listen to someone’s likes (overt and subtle) and then follow-through on them.
3. They Bring You Airborne
On one of my first dates with someone who would become a long-term boyfriend, I had a cold and told him it was up to him if he still wanted to meet. He said he had a good immune system and that our date was still on. When he picked me up, he handed me a red cup — you know, the kind from a frat party. It was full of an orange drink. He wants me to drink before we even go out?! He must have sensed my confusion, because then he said, “It’s Airborne. Since you’re not feeling well.” So sweet! That was my first sign that he was “in.”
4. They Wash Your Car (Just Because)
They notice that you haven’t gotten your car washed in a while (who has the time?!), so they wash it when you’re not looking. By hand. And wax it, too. (OK, maybe not wax it, but you get the idea.)
5. They Buy You One-Ply Toilet Paper And Our Favorite Soap
She knows you prefer one-ply toilet paper (while she prefers two-ply), so she makes sure her bathroom is covered for whatever your bottom desires. Same goes for soap. I tend to prefer liquid soap to hand soap and had a lemon one I loved at my house. My boyfriend had bar soap at his. But, a few dates later, I saw my fave lemon soap in his bathroom. How thoughtful!
6. They Listen
When having a conversation with you, they’ll cite something that we brought up the other day. There’s a difference between politely nodding and seemingly listening versus actively listening and commenting on what you're saying.
7. They Ask About Your Friends And Family
When you confide to your partner about your loved ones (aside from them), they listen so much that, a few days later, they ask how Courtney’s doing since she moved or how Mike is doing at his new job. That's true caring.
8. They Remember Significant Days
I don’t mean they remember it in the buy-us-a-store-bought-card-and-gas-station-flowers-with-cellophane kind of way, but in the they-genuinely-remembered-and-prepped-days-in-advance-for-it-kind-of-way. Maybe they decorated your car or made reservations and your all-time favorite restaurant. And they aren't just amazing at birthdays — but anniversaries and other days that are important to you, too, like when you started a new job.
9. They Know Romance Is Not Dead
Sure, when they first met you, they wooed you with flowers and sweet handwritten notes (or emojis), but just because you’re now exclusively dating, it doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten how to be romantic. After all, they don't need to spend any money — they just need to be thoughtful.
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