Do you make it a habit to show your partner love and appreciation each day? Small gestures of love can make a powerful impact on relationships. Dr. John Gottman discusses in his book “The Seven Principles in Making Marriage Work” that couples who regularly engage in small gestures of love and affection are more likely to report higher levels of relationship satisfaction and happiness. Whether romantic or thoughtful, small gestures have the potential to transform a relationship. 

Why are small gestures so powerful? 

When we express affection, appreciation, and love to our partner through small gestures, we create a sense of closeness and emotional intimacy. This emotional connection is crucial for a healthy relationship, as it helps create a sense of safety and security that allows both partners to feel seen, heard, and understood. Even within our premarital program, Prepare & Enrich, we ensure couples learn that small gestures are a great way to build an emotional connection.

Small gestures may also help to insulate your connection during conflict and maintain happiness within the relationship. When we take the time to actively listen to our partner, empathize with their perspective, and show interest in their life and hobbies, we create an environment of mutual respect and understanding. This intentional interest can reduce defensiveness and conflict, as both partners feel heard and valued.

How can small gestures improve my relationship? 

Small gestures lay the foundation for two fundamental feelings: fondness and admiration. Dr. Gottman’s research states that fondness and admiration are two of the most critical elements in a rewarding romance. When you focus on strengthening these emotions, you can also contribute to positive sentiment override (PSO) — which encourages more joy within your partnership.

Positive sentiment override means that positive thoughts about your relationship and each other primarily override negative feelings. PSO also helps you and your partner effectively problem solve during conflict, make more repair attempts, and generally see your partner in a more positive light. Finding and implementing a positive relationship perspective certainly comes with work — small gestures of love are a great place to start. 

9 small gestures that can strengthen your relationship

Big romantic gestures seem obvious and are often easier to identify. It’s the smaller things that may be harder to pinpoint. So, what are some small gestures that can strengthen your relationship? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Compliment each other daily. Go beyond the norm and remind your partner of their unique qualities. They can be general: “I love how easily you make me laugh,” or specific, “Our children are so lucky to have you help them with their reading homework given your love of books.” 
  2. Make time for meaningful conversations. Rather than discuss the day’s list of tasks, ask open-ended questions about how your partner experienced their day. For example, “Taking on that additional responsibility sounds like a lot. What is that like for you?”
  3. Schedule a date night. Try something different and have some fun (i.e. learn to play pickleball, take a cooking class, ride scooters around town, sign up for a club together).
  4. Take breaks from technology. Ask your partner if they’d like to go for a walk or play a game together. Enjoy a short period of tech-free time.
  5. Give small surprises or gifts. Do things for each other that you know would brighten their day. This can be as simple as making your partner their favorite breakfast or taking their car through the car wash. 
  6. Ask your partner a different question every week about their childhood. For example: What was your most memorable birthday? What was your very first concert? Who was your favorite relative growing up and why?
  7. Hide little notes or send text messages that remind your partner of your love, affection, or appreciation. An “I love you” sticky note can go a long way! 
  8. Physical touch and intimacy. Lean against your partner while binging a show or hold your partner’s hand while walking into the grocery store.
  9. Take an interest in your partner’s hobbies to show them you care. If your partner loves golf, ask to ride with them in the cart on a pretty day. If your partner belongs to a book club, read the same book for one month and discuss.

Putting small gestures into practice

Sometimes the hardest part of making a change is the very first step. Consider thinking of a few ideas and make a plan to try one a day or week. Have a conversation with your partner and let them know you want to work on improving small acts of love. Keep the focus on you and how you would like to show up differently. Small gestures can significantly impact the quality of your romantic relationship. By prioritizing quality time, expressing affection and appreciation, and being mindful and attentive, you can strengthen your emotional connection, reduce conflict and tension, and maintain the passion and spark in your relationship. 

Is it tough to express or receive loving gestures? 

Sometimes a relationship needs extra support. Schedule an appointment today if you want help incorporating more loving gestures, big or small, into your relationship. Our therapists are available if you live in Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Texas. We offer virtual and in-person sessions. Contact us to get started. 

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