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Because family life matters

Small things are a big deal in marriage

It’s easy to think that a ‘romantic gesture’ must be something large and unexpected. Something perhaps like a young man did when he wanted to propose. He spent an afternoon arranging rocks on a deserted beach and, as the sun set over the ocean, he took his girlfriend to the top of the dunes and told her to look down. There, written across the sand, were the words, “Will you marry me?”

When we hear stories about grand gestures like that we may think how romantic they are and it’s true, grand, romantic gestures are wonderful – however, the small things of everyday life are equally important and show that you really care.

Unexpected acts of kindness

Giving unexpected act of kindness – a hug when our spouse has had a bad day, baking their favourite cake for their birthday, taking them breakfast in bed – shows them how valued and special to us they are, and how much we love them. So, think about:

  • making a cup of tea for your partner while they’re sorting through the household paperwork,
  • doing a quick hoover while they’re out,
  • sending them an encouraging text if you know they’re having a difficult day,
  • recording their favourite TV programme if you know they’re going to be in late.
  • Doing things like this speak louder than words for many people and shows our husband or wife how much we care.
  • Think before you speak
  • The ‘small things’ really matter in how we speak to each other.

    The ‘small things’ really matter in how we speak to each other. For some people, words are the way they express love best. While they appreciate a kind act, or a surprise gift, they may also need to hear gentle and kind words, which affirm them and show you love them.

    Some self-analysis can be helpful. When we talk to our partner, do we let them finish what they are saying or do we interrupt them? Do we pay attention or ‘drift off’ while they tell us about their day? Do we use kind ‘pet names’ or slightly unkind ones? Are our words kind or sarcastic? Do we moan and nag? Do we criticise or affirm them in front of others?

    Someone once said: “If you keep cutting your husband down to size you will end up with a very small husband.” The same, of course, is true the other way round. Make it a daily habit to speak words of affirmation and appreciation to each other.

    Consistency counts. If we are unkind to each other in our everyday conversations, the nice words we say on special occasions are undermined. We may reach a point where our partner doesn’t us when we say something nice to them because they are so used to being put down. When we do this we are laying the groundwork for our relationship to break down.

    Dirty socks

    ‘It’s the last straw’ is a common phrase used to describe the one small thing that has ‘pushed someone over the edge’. A small comment, thing forgotten or inconsiderate act can prompt a big argument, or even a situation where one partner walks out.

    Often the big arguments are about a lot of small things that have added up – a forgotten anniversary, being late, dirty socks left on the floor, and so on. If not dealt with, we can let the irritations caused by these small things build up over time until they become a focal point for much more serious feelings such as being taken for granted or ignored.

    The simple truth is that it’s the small things that build the foundations of our relationship. And the good news is that we can start small today.

    Personal examples of ‘small things’ that show love and care

    • “Recently I came home from work tired and grumpy. My husband took off my coat, gave me a hug, then sent me to sit on the sofa while he made me a cup of tea. He sat with me, listened to my grumblings, and encouraged me. Simple strategy, but it really changed my mood!”
    • “When I am working late my wife comes into the room occasionally and just touches my shoulder. It’s just nice to know I haven’t been forgotten and it reminds me that no matter how much I get overwhelmed with work, she loves and cares for me.”
    • “My wife loves frogs. I found a pack of postcards with different pictures of frogs and used them to write little thank you notes to her. She stuck them all up on the wardrobe in our room. They’re still there, three years later!”
    • “I often show love to my husband by leaving him to play a computer game for 30 minutes without interruptions. It sounds silly, but he really appreciates that I recognise his need for chill-out time.”
    • “My husband is doing an Open University course in his spare time. One night before he started working I put some candles around his desk so he had a nice relaxing atmosphere to work in and he really appreciated it.”
    • “My wife hates using the phone, so I offer to make phone calls – a doctor’s appointment, for example – for her.”