Small Things Do Count
Lily and Tim came to see us because they felt something was missing in their relationship. Overall, they had a good marriage. They both knew they would be there for each other when things were really rough. If Tim had a big project due at work, Lily didn't grumble when he came home late. When Lily broke her leg, Tim slept over-night at the hospital to be with her. When she went home, he did the grocery shopping and cooked all the meals. Lily and Tim really came through for each other. When times were hard, they knew they could count on each other.
But then they told us that something felt wrong. In between disasters, Lily and Tim would get so preoccupied with their own daily concerns that they would go for weeks without having a good conversation. They often didn't even have dinner together. Somehow their marriage seemed to be stale. Lily once commented to Tim that she noticed that, when things were going well in their lives, she felt more distant from him and didn't know why. She told him she even missed the difficult times because she felt so close to him then.
We told them they needed to use that understanding to take action. We pointed out that they should take the thoughtfulness they showed each other when things were rough and use it when things were going well. They needed to realize that the caring they were capable of showing during difficult times was as important during good times. Their marriage would instantly be stronger for it. Lily and Tom needed to expand on the strengths they already had in their marriage.
Do One Nice Thing Each Day
The advice we suggested for Lily and Tim—and a sure-fire way to keep the spark in your relationship—is to do one nice thing each day for your spouse. It's not enough to think about your spouse just when it happens to be convenient or when adversity demands it. And even if you do think about your spouse every single day, how is he or she supposed to know that? Actions speak much louder than words. By getting in the habit of doing something special daily, you will keep your relationship fresh!
You might argue that you don't have time to do a nice thing every day for your spouse. But there are so many things you can do that take very little time and make a good relationship great. Once you build this giving habit into your relationship, you'll be amazed at how good both of you will feel.
Don't think that if you do something nice for someone, it's enough for a whole month. The truth is that you shouldn't let one day go by without doing an act of kindness for the most important person in your life.
What Kind of Things Can I Do?
There are many wonderful things you can do for your spouse. It doesn't matter whether they are small things that only take a minute or particularly special things that take a lot of planning. You might do one of your spouse's chores, like taking out the garbage or doing the weekly grocery shopping. You might leave a note in his pocket or call him at work in the middle of the afternoon to let him know how much you love him. You could turn on her favorite music so that it's playing when she gets home from work. You might take his clothes to the dry cleaners or buy his favorite ice cream. You could do something more traditional like order flowers or prepare a special meal. Maybe even make a special breakfast. Or do something silly like put toothpaste on her toothbrush ahead of time. The sky is the limit!
The important thing is to try not to let a single day go by without doing one nice thing for your spouse. It doesn't have to be elaborate or romantic, but it does have to be done regularly. You'll be surprised at how quickly your relationship will change for the better.
Making three lists can help you accomplish this goal. The first list should include small things you can do (these are easy, like pouring his coffee or picking up her dry cleaning), the second one should include medium-size things you can do (buying a birthday present for his mother or making dinner for her boss), and the third one should include the really big things (these things are really a stretch for you—maybe inviting his parents to come for an extended visit). Refer to the list regularly (put it in your personal organizer, if you use one) and make sure you do one of the things on the first list every day, those on the second list maybe once a week, and those on the third list at least once a year.
More on: Marriage and Divorce
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Marriage © 2001 by Hilary Rich and Helaina Laks Kravitz, M.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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