We surveyed over 5000 people to find out what made their relationships work. We found that small everyday things were the most important for bonding people together and sustaining their love for each other. It was little messages rather than grand romantic gestures, words of thanks rather than declarations of love, and gentle hugs rather than swinging from the chandeliers that really mattered.
People found it particularly important to show each other kindness, and to be grateful to each other for that kindness, and for everything else that they brought to the relationship. Here are some top tips from our research for bringing more kindness and gratitude into your own relationships.
● What kind of everyday caring gestures do you and your partner like from each other? For many of our participants it was being brought a cup of tea at the beginning or end of the day. For you it might be something else. Whatever it is for you, try building it in more to your everyday life.
● Which chores does your partner hate, or find boring? Which do you? Can you remember to do them for each other, and to thank each other for doing so?
● A lot of people like little signs that they’ve been on their partner’s mind during the day. Is that something you’d each appreciate? If so you might try dropping them a quick message to show you’ve remembered something that’s going on for them, sending a picture that reminded you of them, leaving them a post-it note, or picking up a little ‘I-saw-this-and-thought-of-you’ gift.
● What are the happiest memories in your relationship? Or the little rituals or jokes that are unique to you? Can you do something to remind each other of those? For example, one of the people in our research brought his partner the first rose from his garden every year, another bought her a soft toy guinea pig because she couldn’t have a real one in their rented flat.
● What things do you enjoy together that are kind to both of you? It might be curling up in front of the TV, ordering take-out when you’re tired, or having a dance together in the living room. Can you make a little time for that?
● Could you make a point of noticing everything your partner does for you during the week and thanking them for it, trying to tune back into things you might have come to take for granted?
● At the end of each day you might try thinking of things that you’re grateful for that happened during that day - including things about each other - and sharing them together.
● What specific things about your partner are you thankful for? Remind yourself about the things that drew you to them when you met, and the things that you appreciate about them now. Let them know what those things are.
● Can you let other people in your life know how much you appreciate your partner and why? People often love it if their partner makes it clear to kids, friends, or colleagues that they feel fortunate to have somebody so great in their life.
● Chat with your partner about the ways in which you both feel most appreciated and loved. It might be different things for each of you. Some prefer gifts, others like to be told. Some like physical contact, others prefer practical help. Some want public declarations, others appreciate carving out time together. Think about whether you can each give your partner love and appreciation in the ways that they like best.