January 16, 2018

Why it’s the Little Things that make a Relationship Thrive.

Do you want to know what one of my favorite places in my house is?

It’s my bathroom.

One might find this a bit strange, but let me take a moment to explain.

In my bathroom, there is a corkboard where I keep little notes that the people closest to me have written. I get letters and cards throughout the year, but you have to be at a certain level with me to truly make it to the bathroom corkboard.

It’s an honor reserved for those who I want to have their loving voices with me throughout the day and to boost me up on those days when I need boosting.

In these letters and notes on this corkboard are mainly short messages that remind me that I am loved and cared about. There really are no 10-page letters of heart-dripping vulnerability. Nope, these messages look more like, “I love you. You are beautiful, amazing, courageous, and funny.”

Every morning when I am going through my morning routine, and throughout the day whenever I need to go into the bathroom, I get to look at these messages and occasionally will send off some energetic gratitude to the people who wrote the notes. I tell you this because these small scraps of paper on my wall are big things in my heart. They are little things, but they are, on some days, everything!

No matter what type of relationship we are talking about, it is the little things that can make it or break it. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about children, friends, or lovers; there can be huge moments that can collapse a relationship, but usually, even in these moments, there were “little things” that didn’t get said or done that created the huge collapse moments. Though on the reverse, it’s also the little things that create the big moments of connection and lasting love.

When counseling my client couples, it’s often that one or both partners will complain about the little things that they either desire or miss in the relationship. It’s the good morning kiss, the gentle touches, the time spent together, the sweet love notes, and the focused attention. These, as well as hundreds of other little things, really do become the big things we miss in a relationship.

It’s not uncommon for me to hear the same thing when infidelity has entered a relationship about how the other partner stopped doing the little things that made them feel loved, and so they sought out these little things from someone who was willing to provide them.

The problem is that we often don’t take the time, as the receiver of these gifts, to truly appreciate and also acknowledge them. When we don’t take the time to be grateful and let the other person know their efforts are appreciated, then resentments build, or we’ll find these little efforts disappearing from our lives.

A person feels taken advantage of or unacknowledged for not just their effort, but, at the core of it, for not being seen in their sharing of love. This can become a vicious cycle where both parties end up retreating, and in order to make things different, someone has to step up and stop the stalemate—by starting to do the little things again.

These so-called little things are the elements that not only sustain a relationship, but make it thrive! We, as humans, want to feel cared about, thought of, and like we matter to others in this world. So when another person takes the time to do a little thing, this sends a beautiful message of being seen, of mattering, and being cared for. Who doesn’t want to feel these things!

There are several keys to doing the little things right.

You have to be present enough in the moment to realize when someone is trying to do something special (even if they do it daily) and acknowledge it. This is difficult since so many of us live in our heads, making it easy to pass over someone making us a cup of coffee, giving us a kiss on the head, or sending a quick text. We have to get more present in our lives to not just acknowledge, but also to soak in this beautiful energy that we are being gifted.

Now, we all give and receive love differently, and so it’s important to realize that although one person may really love handwritten notes, another may need physical touch, and so on. So by knowing the other person’s love language, it is easier to both know when someone is providing you with little moments of love and also a way to show those around you that you love and appreciate them. Do they need gifts, words of affirmation, touch, service, or time? Or a mixture of all the above?

If you are the giver and feel like you are not being appreciated, I would ask you prior to jumping on your partner’s back to stop for a minute and see if you aren’t being acknowledged or if you aren’t truly taking it in when they do acknowledge you. It’s common to brush off thank yous in today’s world of wanting to get to the next thing in our day, but then, we are left feeling underappreciated. But the truth may just be that we didn’t take the time to truly take in a compliment. Also, a partner who feels like their appreciation is blown off will also stop appreciating and saying thank you.

We don’t often realize the little things until they are gone, and so in all your relationships, take some time to consider where you are receiving the little things that make relationships stronger, and where you might be falling short with acknowledging them or reciprocating love. Try to remember that although we are focusing on intimate relationships, the same goes for relationships with family, children, friends, and so on.

I know in my personal life that I’ve received grand gestures that have meant a lot to me, where I’ve had evenings of sex, adventure, and play. Moments that are forever ingrained in my memory because of the specialness of the event or gift. However, I’ve also received handwritten notes, small trinkets, a kiss, and especially hugs that have sometimes turned my day around—or, at times, my life around. You never know the impact a “small thing” can really have on someone. A note from a lover, a phone call from a friend, a hug from a child, these are the really precious commodities in our lives that are often taken for granted.

Grand gestures of love can be great, but if they are coming into an already depleted relationship, they are going to fall short. We must nurture our relationships every day. We must show the people we love that we care, and small moments of stepping outside of ourselves is the way to do this.

Be both a giver of little moments, and also a person who receives these moments with grace, presence, and gratitude.




Author: Addison Bell
Image: Wikicommons
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman

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