This holiday season, our theme is Simple Pleasures: small wins, solid foundations, appreciation of comfort. Let’s acknowledge our nostalgia for pre-pandemic times and calm our anxieties as we venture (again) into the great indoors. It’s time to focus on making our body home wherever we are.
We all want to feel loved. It’s a natural human desire, and acts of love help us build and maintain our intimate relationships. And we all need to feel some extra TLC from time to time. As we approach the cooler months and head more indoors, we have to get more creative and do what we can to help our partners feel loved and desired. Here some things to consider.
Consider What Your Partner Appreciates Most
One thing to keep in mind is that not everyone experiences, or feels, love and desire in the same way. While we may appreciate any thoughtful gesture from a partner, there are going to be those specific things that really make us feel loved and get us going.
For instance, I’m a dessert person and I LOVE red velvet in whatever form it comes in (and anything chocolate, really). I’m going to feel pretty good if a random red velvet cupcake shows up in my home, no matter its size. But, if I am gifted a bigger one (in this sense, bigger is better) then I’m going to be even happier about that gift. More red velvet for me! That won’t make the mini cupcake any less valuable, though. This is how I often think about love languages and any of the small actions that will be shared here. If you try anything in an effort to show love, then that thoughtfulness counts for a lot. But if you find those specific ways that your partner really feels your love, then that’s likely to put them over the edge, in a really good way.
Finding what works best might be a bit of trial and error, and of course our needs and wants can vary from time to time, so it’s best to simply start with trying. As you learn more about your partner and what makes them tick, your efforts will hold even more potency and power. Thoughtfulness, and a good memory for those things, really can go a long way.
Love is About the Small Acts
Relationship researcher John Gottman, PhD, says that, “Successful long-term relationships are created through small words, small gestures, and small acts.” Instead of focusing on the grand gestures that may only come around everyone once in a while (as lovely and special as those can be), there are some smaller acts that can help you maintain your relationship—especially if you’re not feeling a lot of energy to do the things you may have done previously.
Greeting your partner with a hug or kiss is a simple act of turning towards them, instead of literally turning away or ignoring them.
Be Mindful About Small Household Items
One thing that can be loving is to simply be a bit more mindful as you navigate the space you share with your partner, especially if you live together. Do they hate when the toilet paper is under rather than over? Do you only take out one dish from the dishwasher as you need it (and it drives them up the wall)? If so, take a few extra moments to be mindful about these small, household things. And if you mess up, or forget to do so, simply take a moment to apologize and move forward. Keeping a comfortable and organized living space is especially important as the cooler weather (and COVID restrictions) forces us to spend more time indoors. Those four walls can become pretty suffocating when any little thing is off.
Greet Each Other With Love…Every Time
It seems like these days we’re under more stress than ever. Taking a moment to greet your partner with a hug or kiss when they return home (or when you walk through the door) is a simple act of turning towards them, instead of literally turning away or ignoring them. Make these greetings a part of your daily routine. While small, these moments can be very soothing to our nervous systems and help you and your partner remember the love and care you have for one another.
Plan a Date Night
As a licensed therapist, I often recommend that partners have regular time to just be a couple. Sitting down for a nice meal or taking on a new activity together can be a great, small way to maintain the relationship. But it doesn’t have to be extravagant! Just make a little effort periodically to plan something and encourage your partner to show up and be present so you can create nice memories together. And if you find yourself stuck indoors, simply cooking a meal or creating an indoor picnic can be a cute way to make your home feel a little extra special.
Having a daily wind-down talk, in which you and your partner talk about what stress you may each be carrying, is a great way to show love and care.
Initiate Play Time
If you’re not usually the person who initiates romance or sex, then taking the extra step to get things going is another way to show love. While this may be a touch that leads to kissing, and so on, or something a bit more elaborate, taking time to initiate delivers a clear message that you want to stay connected. You may even want to bring in a novel surprise, such as a new toy, to help add even more excitement.
Be an Active Listener
It’s also helpful to simply offer up a listening ear to your partner—especially if you create space to talk about your days. Having a daily wind-down talk, in which you and your partner talk about what stress you may each be carrying, is a great way to show love and care. Allow space for your partner to talk about what’s going on for them outside of your relationship without immediately offering solutions. Instead, try focusing on being an active listener and asking what, if anything, could be helpful to them. It’s a simple way to show that you care and also a great way to understand what stress load your partner might be carrying as you interact throughout your daily lives.
Say “Thank You”
It almost seems like human nature to forget simple acknowledgments the longer a relationship goes on. Our appreciation for small gestures—a helping hand with the groceries, flowers as a surprise, getting a little love note—can easily be taken for granted. And that often means that our partner feels underappreciated. When you can, simply take a moment to look your partner in the eyes and say “Thank you.” Often, such a simple moment can be the thing that warms our heart and puts our spirit at ease.
As always, it’s important to remember that what works for one person isn’t necessarily going to work for another. However, when you keep thoughtfulness front of mind as you explore ways to show your partner love, you increase the chances that your efforts will be well received. And don’t forget: Even when we’ve been with a partner for a while, moods and needs change so it’s important to be flexible and keep trying what you can to show up in your relationship. Your partner will thank you for it.