How Do I Make My Relationship Stronger? 11 Gestures That Will Have A Big Impact On Your Partner
What is the secret to relationship success? The reality is, it's not an exact science. Every relationship is different, so what works for one couple may not work for you. Regardless of your circumstances, experts say one of the best ways to ensure your relationship lasts is to make small things count.
"The small things are important in relationships because they make up the majority of a relationship — the details, the little moments, the day-to-day experiences, and the choices we make as we move through our partnership together," licensed marriage and family therapist, Lisa Olivera, tells Bustle. These are the things that fill in the gaps between anniversary gifts and the vacations that you take together.
That's why Olivera says these small things tend to have more of a lasting effect on the overall wellbeing of a relationship. "Small gestures create big impacts because they provide consistent reminders of the values, care, and support each partner brings to a relationship," she says. "They remind us that we aren’t alone and that we’re seen, heard, and understood."
In fact, a study conducted by relationship expert, Dr. John Gottman found that it really was the little things that made a relationship successful. Couples who responded to each other's bids for affection and connection more often were much more likely to stay together than those who did it less often. These were couples who cuddled with each other when one partner asked to or responded to each other's attempts at conversation no matter what.
So here are some seemingly small things you can do for your partner that will have a big impact on your relationship in the long-run.
1. Make Your Hello And Goodbyes Meaningful
"When we are dating, we often do small things for each other and somehow the longer we go, the less we do," relationship therapist Nancy Ryan, M. A., LMFT, tells Bustle. But in doing so, it can have a way of diminishing the connection you have with each other. One very simple way to keep your relationship alive is to make your "hello" and "goodbye" important every single day. "Embrace your partner, wish them a good day, and make that connection," Ryan says. "Rather than giving them a 'See ya' and walk out the door, make an effort to remind each other that they matter and they are important to you."
2. Show Them How Much Your Appreciate Them
Studies have found showing gratitude may be the key to a happy long-term relationship. "As a gratitude expert, one of the most important and easily overlooked things that we can do for our partner is to show gratitude," author Julie Boyer tells Bustle. When you're in a long-term relationship, it's easy to take your partner for granted and get in a comfortable routine. You may even forget to thank your partner for choosing to be there for you each and every day. "When we take the time to express our gratitude for the every day things that our [partner does] for us, it can go a long way," Boyer says. "Give them a hug or kiss, and let them know how much you appreciate them doing this for you every day. This seems so simple however it works wonders and really helps your partner to feel appreciated."
3. Offer To Help
Whether it’s with making dinner or making a decision, Olivera says offering to help reminds your partner that you are on the same team and that they aren’t alone. "It signals to your partner that you care and that you're invested in your partnership," she says.
4. Compliment Them
If you want to make your partner feel wanted, loved, and appreciated, verbalize that. Don't be afraid to give them compliments no matter how long you've been together. As Olivera says, "These can be big or small, but compliments and verbal affirmations are reminders of what you see, admire, and appreciate about your partner." Compliments let your partner know that you notice them, which can mean a lot, especially during stressful times.
5. Do Random Acts Of Kindness
Doing small random acts of kindness for your partner often is really important in a healthy relationship, psychotherapist Emily Mendez, M.S. EdS, tells Bustle. You can make your partner a cup of coffee in the morning or bring home their favorite takeout meal. These small acts of kindness are ways to show your partner that you appreciate them in your life. As Mendez says, "The small things you do for your partner frequently is much more important than a large grand gesture once a year because these things remind your partner that you are thinking of them."
6. Be A Good Listener
Being a good, active listener is another small thing you can do for your partner that will have a big impact in the long-run. In fact, it's a good habit to get into early on in your relationship. "When we listen to understand instead of to respond, we create space for our partner to feel truly heard and seen," Olivera says. Listening allows your partner to know that you are there for them, and that what they’re feeling is valid. As she says, it also enhances connection and intimacy between partners, which strengthens the relationship overall.
7. Give Them Your Undivided Attention
Often times, giving your partner your full attention is easier said than done. But when your partner is sharing something with you, give them your full attention. "Put down your phone, pause Netflix, close your computer and basically pause whatever it is you're doing, relationship expert Jennifer Koza, MSW, tells Bustle. "This demonstrates that you're paying attention and you're tuned into your partner." If you're in the middle of something and can't stop for whatever reason, Koza suggests acknowledging their attempt to talk and offer up a time later. For instance, you can say, "I can tell you're talking about something important and I want to give you my full attention. Is it cool if I take five minutes to finish up this e-mail first?" According to her, this not only shows your partner that you care, but that you support and value them.
8. Respond To Texts Or Calls In A Timely Fashion
Communication and finding ways to connect is important if you want your relationship to last. That's why Lesli Doares, couples consultant and coach, tells Bustle that responding to your partner's calls, texts, or other forms of communication in a timely fashion will have a big impact on your relationship in the long-run. "Big gestures can be great but if that’s all you do, your partner may not feel important or they might question what’s behind them if the small stuff isn’t also happening," she says. What good is fancy date night if your partner can't take two seconds in their day to respond to a quick text? "The small things show you are thinking about the relationship and your partner on a daily basis," Doares says.
9. Follow Through With The Things You Say You'll Do
Did you offer to do the dishes? Book the flights for your next trip? Or maybe even pick up some groceries? If you did, make sure you actually do it. "One of the most simple and basic things you can do is follow through on what you say you're going to do," Koza says. Oftentimes people agree to do something right away without really processing it enough in order to put it on their to-do list. When that happens, it can leave their partner feeling disappointed or thinking you're unreliable. "Following through and doing what you say you're going to not only demonstrates respect but builds trust," Koza says. "Both are keys to any lasting relationship."
10. Substitute The Word "But" For "And" During Arguments
"It may not seem like a lot, yet substituting the word 'but' for 'and' during arguments can make you a better partner and communicator," Koza says. According to her, the word "but" dismisses everything that came before it (i.e. "I hear what you're saying, but I'm still mad"). Instead, using the word "and" creates space for what your partner is saying and what you are saying to be true at the same time (i.e. "I hear what you're saying and I'm still mad"). Sure, you're basically saying the same thing, but using "and" validates your partner's point of view. As Koza says, this validation technique helps to create trust and a solid foundation for your relationship because everyone likes to feel seen and heard.
11. Learn Your Partner's Love Language
If you really want to know the best way you can personally make your partner feel loved and appreciated, learn their love language. Figure out how they like to receive love and affection. "When you understand how your partner prefers to be shown love and how they prefer to show love, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the things you can do to remind them of how much they mean to you," Olivera says.
Although fancy weekend getaways and grand gestures are the things that make it on social media, the little things that don't are what true relationship goals are made of. If you make it a point to be thoughtful, consistent, and kind to each other, your relationship can last a lifetime.