When my parents celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary I remember marveling at the idea that two people could be together for that long. Given their less than peaceful relationship, I wondered if it was even worth the effort.
It turns out it just may be. In July, my wife and I celebrated our 21st anniversary. Contrary to what I expected, the time has literally flown by. We’re happy; our life together is easy. More than that, it’s still fun, interesting and exciting.
SMALL THINGS MAKE A RELATIONSHIP
Somewhat counter-intuitively, it’s the little things that made our relationship rock solid. Those seemingly insignificant gestures are the ones that really matter. They say: you can rely on me, no matter what.
It’s worth noting that the big things (trust, respect, etc.) are just as important. It’s not a case of either/or. You can’t ace the small stuff and have an affair, for example. If you want your relationship to thrive you need to focus on both in equal measure.
Of course, anyone who’s been married for a long time will know: it’s not always easy to keep the spark alive. Helpfully, researchers recently surveyed more that 950 couples to learn what works for them.
According to their findings, these are the romantic gestures that satisfied couples most valued. Depending on your partner’s love language, some of these may resonate more than others. Give them a try and see what happens.
1. They Laugh at One Another’s Jokes
We all like to think we’re funny, but humor is so often subjective. Laughing at your partner’s jokes is a great way of showing how much they mean to you. If you genuinely find them funny, that’s great. But if they’re only mildly amusing, laugh anyway.
That said, it is important that you share a similar sense of humor. According to one study, your relationship’s success depends on it. (My parents both had excellent senses of humor, yet they didn’t find each other funny.)
2. They Smile at Each Other
There’s more to smiling than meets the eye. British researchers found that a single smile is equivalent in its effect to 2000 bars of chocolate. No wonder happy couples say smiling at one another is one of the things they value in their relationship.
It’s easy to take your partner for granted when you’ve been together for a while. Do your best to avoid falling into that trap. One way is to smile at them often. Invariably, it will elicit a smile in return. And then you’ll both be happier.
3. They Eat Together
There’s something about sharing a meal with someone that brings you closer. Even more so if you make your spouse’s favorite meal or buy their favorite food. Not always defaulting to what you like shows you care more about your partner than you do your taste buds.
You don’t always have to go this route, but every once in a while is nice. Particularly if it’s a special occasion, like their birthday or your anniversary. Eating together is also a great way to connect, so be sure to make those times device-free.
4. They Console One Another
Sometimes, all we need is a shoulder to lean on and someone to say, “Hey, I see you’re having a tough time and I’m here for you.”
It might not even be that big of a deal, maybe you had an argument with a colleague or whatever. It’s still comforting to have your feelings acknowledged.
5. They Pay Attention to One Another
With our world the way it is nowadays, our attention is invariably split over a number of things at once. This isn’t healthy anyway, but it’s especially detrimental over the long-term if you’re not fully present in conversations with your spouse.
Nobody likes feeling like they don’t mean enough to warrant someone’s full attention. Besides, you stand a very real chance of missing out on important information when you don’t fully engage.
6. They Pull Their Weight around the House
Divvying up the chores is super important when you’re in a relationship. Arguments are unavoidable, but there’s no point fighting about unnecessary stuff. Making an effort around the house (washing dishes, doing laundry, fixing stuff, etc.) without being askedshows you care.
7. They Remember the Things That Matter
When your partner tells you something about themselves, take the time to remember. Maybe you don’t have a great memory when it comes to the mundane, but don’t let that be your excuse for the important stuff. Whether your spouse says they’re afraid of heights, get motion sickness or hate avocados, commit it to memory.
8. They Tell Each Other They Look Good
It’s so important to take the time to tell one another you look good. Knowing your partner still finds you sexy, even though you’ve been together a while, can be a real confidence boost. Often, we think these things but don’t say them. Make a point of verbalizing your thoughts.
A happy relationship is different for everyone. But here’s what I know for sure: if you find the right person and put in the effort, you’ll have the time of your life. I know I am.