Every morning while JB gets ready for work, I head to the kitchen where I start the coffee while I’m making his lunch. Once he’s out the door, I pour my first cup of coffee and begin my own day in earnest. This is a core part of my morning routine, and no, I haven’t gotten stuck in a time warp from the 1950’s. This is a conscious choice I’ve made in support of nourishing my most important of relationships.
Trust me when I tell you that I’ve heard all the arguments against this sacred part of my morning. I’ve heard the snide comments that I’m “spoiling” him. I’ve seen the eye rolls when he mentions this part of our day to his sisters. I know that women have fought hard to get out of the kitchen and away from being seen as nothing more than “the little woman.”
The opinions of all those outside my relationship don’t matter because what I know for a fact is that little acts of nurturing matter in the big scheme of things when it comes to relationships.
Research by the UK Department of Education on quality and happiness in relationships backs up my intuition. Results of their research of more than 4,000 couples found that everyday acts of love can lead to a happier, healthier and stronger relationship, even more than big gestures like romantic getaways and expensive jewelry. They called these small acts “love nuggets”.
One thing that really bothers me about modern-day couplehood is the way people in committed relationships see each other as YOU vs. ME. Well, I guess it isn’t just modern day relationships, but I see it more often thanks to social media. What I mean is that people seem to keep score, with good deeds rewarded and acts deemed as “bad” getting punished in some way. It’s almost as if people have been taught that if one person does something deemed extra, there must be a quid pro quo of equal or grander acts.
And let me say that folks can be downright stingy with their love.
One of the most common areas this plays out in intimate relationships is in the bedroom with the use of sex as a reward and withholding sex as punishment. I’m sure you already guess that I think that’s one of the worst things you can do for your relationship. Assuming you are in a monogamous relationship: Why would you choose to bring marriage politics to the one act reserved just for the two of you?
This pitting of people against each other does nothing to foster intimacy, nor does one partner meting out reward or punishment strengthen the bonds of affection.
When partners become adversaries, it destroys intimacy and trust.
My first marriage was one of reward and punishment. If I didn’t do exactly as my husband wished, he could go days (or weeks) without even speaking to me. (This is called stonewalling, by the way). After disentangling myself from that (along with lots of therapy and coaching), I made the decision that if I couldn’t be in a healthy relationship, I’d rather be alone.
And my view of healthy committed relationships involves a couple being on the same team.
There is no way that any two people living together can agree on everything all the time. There will always be moments of conflict or disagreement. But, in my book, each person chooses to be all-in and commits to working through whatever arises.
This is why little things matter.
When your partner makes you so mad you could spit nails, it’s easier to deal with your anger when you recall the times he’s fixed you that cup of tea when you were feeling stressed, or jumped in and done the dishes when dinner is over. Though keeping score is unhealthy, each one of us can’t help but have a love bank. All parties to the relationship have to make more deposits than withdrawals, so to speak.
As you might imagine, many of my coaching sessions touch on a client’s relationship to love interests. My prepping of lunch each morning is just one of the examples of my own love nuggets, but there are others, too. Whenever I share this – or any other example – of the little things I do to make his life easier and am met with an incredulous “WHY would you do that?” I counter with “why wouldn’t I?”
In what way is it good for me to not act in a loving and supportive way? Why wouldn’t I choose to spoil the man I love? What value is there in me not sprinkling the life of a person who loves me unconditionally with lots of love nuggets?
Look, I know that everyone has a full plate of responsibilities. And yeah, making lunch for your partner takes time. And yep, I am well aware of the fact that we’re talking about adults here. JB is perfectly capable of making his own darned lunch, but my choice to do it is a way I can send him off each morning feeling loved.
And let’s be honest here: doing little things to make HIS life easier makes ME happier. There is joy is kindness. There is a sense of pride in acts of caring. Small gestures of affection remind me that I am an active contributor to the overall health of our relationship. Those love nuggets I generously sprinkle in his life return to me tenfold in my own sense of satisfaction in my daily life.
What I’ve learned the most from this approach to intimate relationships is that the choice to nurture my partner nourishes my own soul.
Though I’m thinking mostly about my partnership with JB, this is a concept that can apply to all of our relationships. The relationships with our children and other family members. Our relationships with friends and colleagues.As I often have to remind myself, we are always in a state of choice. We can choose a loving act or not. We can choose to be stingy, too. But where does being stingy get us in any of our relationships?
So, let me ask you to ponder this when it comes to relationships:
- What possible advantage is there to being stingy with your love and affection?
- What cost is there to your relationship if you are withholding nurturing?
- What value is there is withholding affection?
- What is the reasoning behind a choice to use sex as a reward or punishment?
- Why wouldn’t you show the person you’ve chosen to love and cherish that you care?
- What does generosity cost you?
- If you play games so that you “win” in your relationship, what are you also losing?
- How can small acts of kindness nurture your relationship?
- In what ways can love nuggets help you create a daily life you love?
- How might choosing to see doing little things for your partner make you happier?
- What tiny gestures can you make to ensure your loved one has an easier day?
- How might you be sabotaging your relationship by keeping score?
- What seemingly small tasks does your partner do for YOU that makes you feel loved?
- Can you ponder the ways you’ll be happier when acting from a space of love?