It’s the Little Things…

I was watching the movie Juno yesterday and it reminded me of something I was talking about with a guy I know who’s in the throws of falling in love. He was asking me what I have learned about relationships from talking to so many women. What makes love last? How do you keep the euphoria alive?  I told him I had learned many things but thing that stuck out was that perhaps it’s the small things you do for your partner that make more of a lasting impression than the grand gestures. From mouths of 40-somethings:

You can make a big impact on the relationship by doing the smallest things and attending to the things they think are important.  Giving them a special treat that they don’t expect. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to be thoughtful. A Snickers bar hidden the freezer for when he has a bad day or is working hard.  It should be two ways – they should do it for you too. You just have to pay attention to what they want. It’s about selflessness, intuitiveness and generosity. Selflessness is not martyrdom. You have to say, “I’d love to go to the gym this morning but I know that you really want to do x”.  So that morning you just have to bite your tongue and take your lump. And then he does that for me too. — 45, married, mom, home renovator

“If you’re well aware of what your spouse needs and wants and you’re willing to do it…you can avoid that disenfranchisement.  I don’t mean that it has to be such a difficult task. You’re not constantly working at it. If you just really understand what you both want and need, it makes for a lot more peace, happiness and overall enjoyment. My husband has certain things that he needs to do that make him feel good and be a better person. He needs to work out. He does that as much as he possibly can. His #1 commitment is to the kids and me. But I know what he needs. If he needs to get up at 6 in the morning and go running, I’m like ‘Fabulous! Go running. Just bring me a cup of coffee when you get back.’” — 40-something, wife, mom

My friend was thinking about this and said, “Oh my god, that reminds me, I want to find some chocolate covered Altoids. She loves those things.  Later as I was watching Juno and there’s a scene when the main character realizes she actually loves the guy who got her pregnant. She fills his mailbox with tic tacs, his favorite thing, to surprise him.  It made me laugh. It’s really the simplest things. Another 40-something said to me that the key was to Remember who you are, why you fell in love with each other and work at it a little each day to make it seem like the first day.”

That’s just it. So many people react to this quote saying they don’t want to work at it each day. But it’s really just remembering those small things they love and don’t stop doing them — or making a similar small gesture every now and then. Taking a moment each day to do something that makes you remember how easy it was to think about the other person in the first days. It’s not so hard to keep making that effort.  It’s a touchstone – something that can help you remember why you fell in love with them. Someone may say, “maybe it’s the fact that you don’t stop making those efforts that means it is love.”  But I think not. It’s so easy to forget those things in the daily grind. We get caught up in the routine and work and life and take things for granted. We get selfish and get into that “what did you do for me today” scorekeeping mentality. It’s the people who don’t let that happen that seem the happiest. It’s not letting yourself forget, it’s being aware. Giving just a little bit can give back a long time.

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