Recently, on a cross country flight, my husband and I were seated on opposite sides of the aisle. Several times, he leaned my way to ask, Would you like a bit of my sandwich? Can I get you some water? Once he offered to share the last bite of his cookie. A while later, he reached over and touched my arm, just to say, “Hi.”
At the end of the flight the woman next to me said, “Your husband really loves you. I can tell.”
And she’s right. He does.
As couples, we express love through our everyday actions — our gestures of kindness, our generosity, our attention, our touch.
We say, “Drive safely.” “Take an umbrella.” We kiss each other goodnight.
And our spouse hears,”I love you,” in a way that touches more deeply than words.
We all have our favorite ways to show love. Here are some of mine:
1. Do the stuff neither of you wants to do. Someone has to call the plumber, resolve the mystery charge on the credit card, figure out what in the refrigerator is making that smell. Go ahead. Be the one.
2. Cut your partner some slack. We all forget things, lose things, or screw things up. Why rub it in?
3. Flirt. You’re never too old or married too long to make it clear that the two of you have still got it going on.
4. Be patient. Like it or not, sometimes you just have to wait. Skip the eye roll or foot tapping that says, what took you so long? Take a few deep breaths. Relax.
5. Pay attention. As in full-on and undivided. Not every minute of every day, but show up when it counts.
6. Clean up, above and beyond the call of duty. Not your dirty cup? Who cares?
7. Keep two feet in, especially when things are difficult. Commitment is about staying with your challenges long enough to make things better.
8. Let down your guard. Vulnerability and intimacy are one and the same.
9. Receive and acknowledge your partner’s acts of love. The happiest couples are those who notice and respond when their partner reaches out. A thanks or a smile is all that it takes.
10. Stop a fight in its tracks. One of the most loving things you can do is stay calm when your spouse is getting worked-up.
11. Look for the humor in those less-than-endearing behaviors. What’s not to love about someone who second guesses the GPS?
12. Leave enough gas in the car, enough hot water for a shower, enough milk for coffee.
13. Make dinner. You don’t have to be Julia Child. Simple is fine. Just give it your best shot.
14. Hug back. Kiss back. Smile.
15. Give your partner some space. Space to watch the ballgame in peace. Space to go for a run, call a friend, or curl up with a book.
16. Be willing to sleep with the window open a little more than you like.
17. Be willing to sleep with the window closed a little more than you like.
18. Stay in touch. You’re busy. I’m busy. No one is too busy to text xoxo.
19. Your spouse wants to go back to graduate school, eat more fruits and vegetables, train for a marathon. Your response: that’s great!
20. Be the first one to reach out after a fight. Don’t think for a minute that the first person to give ground is admitting fault. Marriage isn’t a game of chicken. It takes courage and kindness to yield.
21. Choose — at least once in a while — not to elbow your snoring spouse. Chances are you’ll eventually snore, too.
22. Make your relationship a priority. Marriage doesn’t stay sweet all on its own, year after year. Have a date night, a weekend getaway, keep work hours within bounds. And for goodness sake, when you’re together, turn off your phone.
23. Think your spouse deserves a standing ovation? Tell someone how talented, smart, loving, gracious she is. How patient he is with the kids. How he makes the world’s best pie crust. Make sure he overhears you.
24. Do what it takes to stay healthy and sane.
25. Keep in mind that life is short. Don’t waste time holding grudges or focusing on petty upsets that, in the big picture, mean nothing. Focus, instead, on the ways that your marriage is loving and good.
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I love #6
Thanks! Not the easiest one on the list.
My favorite too!
I mean to reply to Leila but the comment went to Winifred. It’s okay as it allows me to add a few more words. Last night my husband had dinner in a small restaurant, our first night as a couple without children full time at home. We are excited but also anxious to be just the two of us. As we ate, we kept reminding each others of anecdotes about the kids but also about our future together. The young waitress told us that she hoped to remain as engaged as we were with her husband. They had been married for less than two years. She said she had noticed how much we laughed and seemed to be so relaxed. “Do you have a recipe?” she asked.
My husband looked at me and shook his head as I just did the same, so we laughed. “You must have a secret,” said the young woman.
“NO!” we said, laughing again. She laughed and said that she got hope just watching us. As for us we were just happy that our couple was some kind of example!
Yes, being happy is a great example, secret or not!
There are so many unhappy couples that people, especially those who haven’t been married all that long, can worry that they’re going to end up being miserable. As if it’s inevitable.
Thanks goodness, it isn’t!
Talk some more.
Keep talking. Don’t shut the other one out. Talk softly but be courageous in saying what needs to be said, even if it’s hard.
Especially when it’s hard.
Keep trying to reach out.
I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for adding this to this list!
Be willing to sit and watch tv in bed while scratching/rubbing/massaging your spouse’s head/ears so he can fall asleep
Hmmm. Very nice.
I’ll add that to my list!
When we can’t do these things, let go and love each other anyway. Thanks, all great suggestions and some hard to do sometimes!
Most days if I do even two or three of these things they have a big impact. It feels good to give and it feel good to see my husband respond to my giving.
And, yes, many of these are challenging. My goal here was to go beyond listing things like give your spouse a cupcake. (Not to disparage cupcakes, mind you.) ☺️
Lest we forget:
Touching, specifically sexual touch, can be so profoundly meaningful words are useless.
*Make the coffee together every afternoon
*You cook, I clean
*Take the ice cream bowls to the sink in the middle of the show
*Pet their leg when you’re reading in bed
*Pile your hands on top of each other on the gear shift in the car as you drive
*Wait happily, not patiently, at garage sales / the mall / Harbor Freight / the bookstore
*Cuddle up behind them at night and hold hands
*Warm up their side of the bed in the winter
*Get up first and walk the dog quietly
All of there are lovely. I could have written 101 Ways, or a thousand.
I must admit the limits of my love end at warming his side of the bed. 🙂
Heartwarming, Winifred! I’ve posted these on FB and I’m sending your website to my niece, who’s getting married in October! Thank you!
Be flexible. I had this morning carefully planned, when my husband phoned from work to say he had forgotten his wallet. So I set my plans aside, took the wallet to him. (I know he would do the same for me.) The good part was that we had lunch together.
Yep. Going out of your way for each other always has a payoff. Occasionally it includes lunch! 🙂
Reblogged this on deliberatingdave and commented:
I love this list. A good marriage requires work, and a good marriage is WORTH IT!
I need some advice because I’ve been searching for answers all night and still cant decide whether my marriage is destined for the divorce heap or not…
All of those things mentioned are things that I do but I get nothing even close in return. My husband has become grumpy and controlling to the point that I am now seriously depressed.
The sadness I feel is almost unbearable and I’ve tried to tell him this but he just says he’s sorry and expects me to move on. But I cant and now I resent him.
We are both 35, no kids and been together 13 years, Married for 2. I still love him but I cant keep living in a marriage where I feel unappreciated, unloved and looked down upon. Please offer advice if you have any?
Much appreciated, Mrs. K.
Your situation sounds hard.
Have you considered finding a couples therapist in your area? You can ask your husband to go and if he won’t, you can go yourself.
Sometimes a grumpy, controlling person is an unhappy, depressed person, or a very stressed person. If that’s the case, he needs to get help with that.
I never think any marriage is “destined” for divorce. I do think that many couples get stuck and need help. My latest post talks some about this. You also might want to check out an earlier post called 9 Crucial Questions to Ask Before Calling a Divirce Attorney. It’s more about last ditch efforts to save a marriage than divorce.
Number 10 and 20 are sometimes the most challenging, but truly so important to avoid lasting hurt and frustration. Couples who “argue” or “fight” well can take on any tough situation. Thank you for such great content. A wonderful tool for building a healthy relationship (even at six months in I want to make sure I build a strong foundation for the future). Look forward to future posts.