Relationship maintenance: It's the little things

During the 2012 London Olympics, royals William and Kate were cheering on Great Britain’s men's team sprint win when they were caught on camera in an affectionate embrace.

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  • During the 2012 London Olympics, royals William and Kate were cheering on Great Britain’s men's team sprint win when they were caught on camera in an affectionate embrace. Though usually more reserved in public, William and Kate’s open show of affection was a healthy demonstration of relationship maintenance behaviors. Couples who fail to express their love for each other, in public or in private, generally are in a state of deterioration.

  • Often the little things we do add up and will either help or hinder the health of the bonds between romantic partners. It is important to consistently work on relationships, even when the going seems tough. Here are five simple behaviors to help keep your relationship healthy and happy:

  • 1. Show cherishing behaviors

  • According to Joseph A. DeVito, in his book "The Interpersonal Communication Book," cherishing behaviors are “small gestures you enjoy receiving from your partner (a smile, a wink, a squeeze, a kiss).” These affectionate reminders should be simple, small and given on a day-to-day basis. William and Kate's embrace at the race was a good example because it was meaningful and loving. (You can find a comprehensive idea list of cherishing behaviors by going here and here.)

  • 2. Use Technology

  • Although, some might debate the value of electronic communication in relationships, technology can be used quickly and easily to let your partner know you are thinking of them, and they are important to you. A quick text to ask how the day is going, or a thoughtful post on their Facebook wall, are simple ways to communicate love and affection. Jeff Spiers of Englewood, Colorado said, “I travel a lot, so we communicate in a variety of ways. One of my favorites is when I am in a meeting and (my wife) texts the lyrics of a song we both enjoy. She texts a line or two, and I complete the next line or two in a response. It brings me home mentally.”

  • 3. Share Quality Time

  • Spending time together is an important component in relationship maintenance. Couples who do not spend time together often find their relationship beings to deteriorate. Doing specific things as a couple, such as cleaning house, participating in hobbies, sharing meals, or even grocery shopping together, helps to increase the time you have to communicate and share affection with one another. Cami Wright of Mesa, Arizona said, “With three children all under the age of 5, we try to have a weekly date night where we can spend time with one another to re-connect after a hectic week and enjoy adult conversation.”

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  • 4. Recognize Important Occasions

  • Celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, congratulating each other on both small and significant accomplishments, and recalling good memories made with each other helps to build a sense of unity and togetherness. Nancy Johanson of Albuquerque, New Mexico said, “My husband grew up hating his birthday because of its proximity to Christmas. Because of this, I make an extra effort to celebrate his birthday. The kids and I make him homemade gifts, make his favorite dinner and birthday cake (yellow with chocolate frosting) to show how much we love him. Hopefully we’ve helped him to feel special on his special occasion.”

  • 5. Focus on Self Improvement

  • No matter how many faults your loved one has, ultimately you need to love them as they are. It is not your job to try to change or improve them. Instead, focus on improving yourself and becoming the best partner you can be for them. Keep yourself attractive and fit with regular exercise and a healthy diet. Develop talents, improve your education, or work on your career. Kathya Steadman of Mesa, Arizona said, “A couple of years ago, I started to exercise and eat right to trim down. I even became a fitness instructor. I feel so much better about myself and so much more confident. The fact that I feel healthy and happier about myself has helped me immensely in my relationship with my husband and children. I have a much more positive outlook on life and those good feelings translate into more love and harmony in our home.”

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Rebecca Irvine is the author of Family Home Evening Adventures (Horizon/CFI 2009) and Adventures with the Word of God (Horizon/CFI 2008).

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