Other than his tendency to be completely oblivious while he watches TV (he’d call it an “ability” … but pot-a-to, pot-ah-to), my husband is a pretty awesome guy. I appreciate him, and I’m sure he appreciates me, too. It wasn’t always this way, though.
We’ve been together since we were kids – I was literally still a teenager when we tied the knot – and in our twenty years as a couple, there have been plenty of rough patches. Like, entire years of rough patches. Like the “why am I still here” kinds of rough patches. But I suppose it’s to be expected when you essentially grow up together (and probably even when you don’t).
Our relationship has been a two-decades-long experiment in what solves problems and what doesn’t. We’ve definitely had some fails, but the biggest win – maybe the most subtle, but definitely the most impactful – has been asking myself one question every day in regards to my husband:
What can I do to make my partner’s day better?
You guys, this is a magic question, I swear. And the answer doesn’t have to be something elaborate, like “arrange for a sitter and meet him at the door naked with a glass of champagne” (but, hey, maybe if it’s our anniversary or something).
It can, and should, be the simplest thing. Like making him a cup of coffee before he leaves for work. Writing him a quick note and tucking it in his coat pocket. Warming up the car before he leaves on a cold day. Checking something mundane off his to-do list, making a phone call to the gas company or something, anything that’ll free up a few minutes of his jam-packed schedule and absolve him of a little bit of hassle. (And I’m saying “him” here, because I happen to be married to a dude, but it absolutely goes both ways.)
It’s not a difficult or time-consuming thing — to subtly your show appreciation and support for your partner — and yet it’s so amazingly effective. Because while it may seem simple, actions really do speak louder than words. These small-but-meaningful gestures say, “I care about your happiness. I want to do what I can to make you smile, and to make your life easier.”
I’ve found that in turn, my efforts are reciprocated. My husband starts a fire in the fireplace on winter mornings before he leaves for work at the crack of dawn, so it’ll be warm when I come downstairs. Or he takes over dinner duties when I text him that I’ve had a busy day.
We can say “I love you” all we want, but demonstrating it, even via the littlest measures, holds so much more weight.
Sometimes we get so lost in our own focus that we overlook others’ needs – especially our spouses, since they’re self-sufficient and we’re not in the habit of taking care of them the same way we do our kids. But temporarily shifting our focus to helping someone we love, without being asked, is valuable. There’s power in showing them that you see them, you notice everything they’re doing, you know what would help them lighten their load, and you’re glad to do it because you care.
Consistency is key – the small gestures may go unnoticed for a while – but your actions will definitely make an overall difference if you commit to asking yourself this question every day. It’s like cultivating a garden: done in small, hardly-noticeable steps, but producing beautiful results over time. For both, a little effort goes a long, long way.