The Power of the Small

The door opens, and there she is, fresh-faced, beautifully dressed, and smiling in the morning sunlight.

I return a smile of my own, and step into her embrace.

For the past several years, my partner and I have made it a ritual of greeting to hug each other every time we meet. We always have, and we always will.

Late that night, after a full and satisfying day together, we stand at her doorstep, ready (but not quite willing) to part ways for another week.

She gives me another smile, still as captivating as the first smile of the day she gave me twelve hours ago. “I love you”, she says. And I say, “I love you too.”

For the past several years, we’ve made it a habit to verbally express our love just before we part ways for the day. We always have.

And we always will.

Why the small things matter more

The greeting hug. The parting words. Hand-holding. Neck and back massages. We have decided to place a great deal of importance on these simple gestures, and we perform them frequently — as regularly as clockwork, in fact. After seven years together, we recognize the power of these small actions — that they are often more powerful than large gestures, in terms of keeping the romance alive.

But why is this the case?

Because small, frequent gestures are the reliable day-to-day glue that will keep the relationship always in working order. More than the practical effect of the action itself, what will really make your partner happy is evidence that you were thinking about them.

Through these small frequent actions, I am saying to my partner:

  • You are often on my mind.
  • To me, you are not just “set it and forget it”. I want to show you my love consistently.
  • You are worth the constant tending that it takes to maintain a lasting relationship.

Of course, this does not mean that the occasional large gesture is worthless. Large gestures can create surges in happiness for the recipient, as well as add much-needed variety to the relationship. But if you are looking for a simple and easy way to keep the love alive on a day-to-day basis, the small gestures will carry you far.

Harnessing the power of the small

Knowing this, how can we harness the power of small, frequent gestures to improve our own relationships? Here are a few ideas:

  • Compliment your partner’s physical appearance. The best way to do this is to be specific, and observant to details. We can do better than saying, “Nice shirt!” Try, “I love the blue of your blouse. It’s like the blue of a summer morning. Just looking at you makes me feel happier!”
  • Express appreciation every time your partner does something for you. Again, be specific and observant. Let your partner know that you are aware of the trouble they went through in order to help you. For example: “Anna, I really appreciate your going to the store to pick up that milk for me. I know it was a little out of your way, and yet you still did it. Thank you for that.”
  • Make a sincere effort to listen to your partner during conversation. Do not underestimate the awesome power that this can have in improving your relationship. In a frantic, fast-paced world where nobody seems to have time or patience for anyone else, giving your partner your full attention is a rare and precious gift indeed. Consider these tips:
    • As they are speaking to you, remove any distraction that might prevent you from giving your full attention. Put down the phone; turn away from the computer (these things will still be there later today — I promise).
    • Turn your body towards your partner. Present a visual sign that you are focusing totally on them, right here, right now.
    • You can also experiment with providing an audio sign that you are listening. As they speak, you can occasionally give a soft verbal sound like “ahh”, “mm-hm”, or the like. Some people may appreciate this; some may find it distracting. Experiment.
    • Use eye contact — soft and steady, not too harsh. However, you probably shouldn’t maintain unbroken eye contact 100% of the time. Move your eyes occasionally, but come back frequently to eye contact.
    • Resist the urge to respond in real-time to every phrase or sentence they say. Let them get into the flow of talking, without interruption.
    • Finally, as your partner finishes speaking, give them a short summary of what they talked about, plus one or two responses you may have. For example: “Wow, Anna, it sounds like you had a crazy day at work today. I couldn’t believe it when they asked you to do that overtime work at the last second. That seems unfair to you.” This short summary will prove to your partner that you have been listening to them this entire time, instead of letting your attention wander as they talk.

Do not underestimate the power of small, frequent gestures in holding your relationships together. Use these tips and knowledge daily, along with the occasional large gesture or surprise, and watch your relationship stand the test of time.

Your turn

Now that you are more aware of the power of the small, what small, frequent, and meaningful gestures will you display in your own relationships — romantic or otherwise? Let us know in the comments below.

[To leave a comment, please use the “Leave a Comment” link just below the title of this post.]

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