February is FINALLY here! After a long, freezing January filled with coughs and colds, I think we are all ready for what February brings! And for me, it wouldn’t be February without Valentine’s Day. Although many people don't love the holiday for a myriad of reasons, I've always been a big fan. Chocolate boxes and bouquets of roses aside, it's just a really great time to focus more deeply on our relationships and contemplate ways we can be better at showing love for our partners every single day.
Relationships can be tricky. They can bring us so much joy, peace, and safety. But they can also bring anxiety, frustration, and sadness at times. And although we'd all love to stay in the honeymoon phase indefinitely, it's a fact that as life goes on, and we face changes with work, growing families, health issues, etc., we can start to feel like that love is fading.
It’s easy, in all the complexities that life throws our way, to forget about all those little things that remind our partner that we are thinking of them, that we care, and that we love them. Unfortunately, those things are essential for building marriages and relationships that last.
This has been on my mind a lot in the past few months. My husband and I have a very happy marriage in general, and we don’t fight very often, which I’m beyond grateful for. But in the past few years, our relationship has been unintentionally placed on the backburner as we have had to deal with a lot of life stressors. From my husband’s intense grad program, to welcoming a new baby and struggling to figure out my own health challenges, there have been moments where I’ve wondered if our love was as strong as the day we got married.
But as I’ve reflected on how we continue to make it through, I’ve started to recognize that we both try to do little things each day to show the other person how much we care. To outsiders, these things may seem inconsequential or unimportant, but they’re truly the things that, piece by piece, can build a strong and lasting marriage. As psychologist John Gottman has said, "Successful long-term relationships are created through small words, small gestures, and small acts." This is a truth I've found to be especially true in my own marriage.
So whether you’re trying to relight that spark in your relationship or just want to make it a little brighter, here are some things you can do each day to make that happen!
What's Your Partner's Love Language?
One of my favorite gifts I received at our wedding was the book The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman. In this book, Dr. Chapman talks about how many relationships fail because people feel as though their love is fading, or more commonly stated, that they’re falling out of love. And why does this happen? Although there are infinite reasons why this may occur, a big cause is that one or both partners don’t feel loved, plain and simple!
That's why the first step in showing your spouse you care is to figure out how your partner feels loved! And surprisingly enough, the way one person feels loved is not necessarily how others experience it. This is where Dr. Chapman’s love languages come in.
Simply put, there are 5 different ways individuals experience and feel loved:
Acts of service
Receiving and giving of gifts
Words of affirmation
By figuring out which of these categories helps your spouse feel most loved, you can invest time in the things that will make the most difference for them.
If you don't know your partner's love language (or even your own), you can take this online quiz! This is a great activity to work through together. It may also be worth it to read through the book together and discuss the chapters or passages that resonate the most with you!
Keep in mind that most people will have more than one love language. In fact, most of us will feel loved if someone does any of these things for us. So feel free to branch out and do a little bit of each. Just don’t neglect your partner’s primary love language. Because, again, that’s the way your partner feels the most love.
Once you know your partner's love language, here are some specific examples of little things you can do to show your spouse you care!
Acts of Service
Acts of service are all about lessening the burden on another. It means noticing when they have an unfulfilled need, or a task they need completed, and doing it for them so they can feel greater peace and lessened anxiety.
There are thousands of ways you can serve your spouse if this is their love language. But it can be as simple as noticing what needs to be done that’s normally on their list of responsibilities, or doing something kind that they may not even know they need.
For example, our basement is always freezing cold. And with the -20 degree weather today, the basement was extra frigid. I was busy working, and my husband went out of his way to grab the space heater and turn it on for me because he thought I might be cold.
It’s simple things like this that show you are genuinely thinking of your partner and care about their comfort.
Acts of Service for Your Partner:
- Pick up or organize the kids' toys
- Put away childrens’ books at the end of the day
- Wash the dishes
- Wash or fold the laundry
- Make dinner
- Prep the kids lunches in the morning
- Make them breakfast in bed
- Pick up groceries
- Scrape the ice off their car before work
- Fill up their water bottle when it’s empty
- Grab them a blanket when it’s cold
- Clean their car out for them
- Get up with the kids so they can sleep in
- Give the kids a bath
- Change an extra diaper (or two)
Gifts may seem pretty straightforward. But it can definitely be a challenge to know what you can do if your spouse is a fan of gifts. If your partner’s love language is gifts, you don’t have to go out and buy them something every single day. Nor do you need to go out and drop $100 every time you do buy them a gift. And who said you even need to spend money to give a gift? There are plenty of things you can make at home that will bring them joy!
Again, it’s the simple, small things that matter!
Simple Gifts for Your Partner:
- Bring home a bouquet of flowers
- Bring their favorite treat home
- Give them a gift card to their favorite store
- Buy them some fun new socks, a cozy blanket, or new robe to relax in
- Bring home takeout from their favorite restaurant (this can be an act of service AND a gift all in one!)
- Pick up a book they’d enjoy from a book store or the library
- For her: Pick out a meaningful necklace
- Give them TIME for some self-care (whether that’s to read a book, get a pedicure/haircut, take a bath, etc.)
- Make them a playlist of songs that makes you think of them and put it on their phone
- Build a shelf for their favorite books
- Make a photo album of your favorite pictures together
- Paint them a picture
- Write them a song (if you're musical) and play it for them
- Leave a treat in their car for work
Need more gift ideas but on a budget? Check out our Valentine's blog from last year with lots of budget-friendly ideas!
When thinking of physical touch, many people's first thought will immediately go to sex. But physical touch can be as simple as a hand hold during grocery shopping or a goodnight kiss before bed. These are often the simplest of things, things that were always present in early relationships, but often become forgotten as relationships progress.
I found that really focusing on these things, no matter how simple, can bring a lot of love and life back to any relationship.
Ways to Show Physical Affection for your Partner:
- Hold hands in public
- Goodnight and good morning kisses every single day
- Put your arm around them
- Give longer, more genuine hugs throughout the day
- Rub their feet when watching tv together
- Back rubs
- Go sit by them on the couch after work
- Sit next to them when out at a restaurant
- Take a couple’s yoga or ballroom dance class together
- Put your hand on their leg or hold hands when driving in the car
With all the responsibilities and distractions we have, it can be a real challenge to give others genuine quality time. Especially with phones that are always buzzing, notifying us of appointments to get to, to-do lists to be tended to, or even social media updates that "need" to be checked.
But finding time to unplug and focus solely on your partner, especially if it's their love language, can be one of the GREATEST ways to get to know your spouse more deeply. And what better way to strengthen a relationship is there than that?!
Ways to Spend Quality Time with Your Partner:
- Watch your partner’s favorite movie or TV show with them
- Go on a walk together
- Go for a long drive in the car
- Go stargazing
- Play a board game
- Do a puzzle
- Play a game to get to know one another more deeply, like “would you rather”
- Fill out a love story journal together
- Make a photo album together
- Visit a new restaurant
- Go on a tandem bike ride
- Read a book together
- Go to a painting or ceramics painting studio
- Take a weekly cooking class together
Words of Affirmation
Words of affirmation is a very common love language. Everybody loves to be told they’re appreciated, loved and valued. It’s so easy in any relationship to become complacent and to not give the verbal praise your partner deserves.
How many of us feel like our efforts as mothers and as fathers go unnoticed? It’s easy to expect things of others when the things they do are routine and happen on a consistent basis, like getting up with the kids, taking them to school, making dinner, going to work, or countless other things. But do you ever stop to think of when the last time was you went out of your way to thank or praise them for these otherwise mundane things?
Ways to Share Words of Affirmation to Your Partner:
- Write them a thank you card
- Make a list of things you love about them from A to Z and leave it on their bed
- Leave post it notes around the house for them to find throughout the day with words of encouragement
- Post about them on social media
- Send them a text while you’re at work/while they’re at work to show you’re thinking of them
- Compliment them often ("You look so nice today!" "I love your new haircut!")
- Mention how well they did on a recent work or home improvement project
It’s easy to feel like we need to be doing big monumental things in life to be successful, whether that be success in parenting, a job, or our relationships. But it’s almost always the little things, added together, that will cause the biggest difference in your or someone else’s life.