The 9 Small Gestures Most Appreciated in Relationships, According to Experts
We’re hardly going to be the first people to suggest to you that small but thoughtful gestures are an important element of any loving romantic relationship. As early as elementary school, you’re taught that random acts of kindness are meaningful, and those acts are just as significant once you’re a decade away from the playground and in the presence of the person you love. But when the options feel limitless, it can be kind of overwhelming to actually consider how to implement them regularly in your own relationship. Fortunately, there’s data available that points to some trends. According to a study from Superdrug Online Doctor, for example, both men and women rank “laughs at my jokes,” “smiles at me often or randomly,” and “buys me food I like” in the top three small things they most value in a relationship. To dig deeper, we sought insight from relationship experts.
1. Ask when something feels off. “If you’re worried that your partner isn’t feeling loved or appreciated, don’t let it pass,” encourages author and psychotherapist Dr. Tina B. Tessina — AKA Dr. Romance. You probably know your significant other better than, well, pretty much anyone, so any cues that you’re picking up that they’re less than pleased with a situation are probably right on track. Leaning into that moment (even if it means a tough conversation!) will demonstrate to them that you understand those cues and respect their feelings.
2. Affirm your partner’s work. It’s great to earn positive feedback from your boss or colleagues, but it’s meaningful on a whole new level to hear that your S.O. appreciates how you apply yourself to your career. Let bae know that you see how hard they work, and try to articulate the specific elements of that job that make you most proud. “It shows you are engaged in their life, their purpose, their investment — and that you care!” licensed professional counselor Laura Luckie Finch tells us. “Affirmations and validations can be empowering for people.”
3. “You first!” When there’s one cookie left on the plate or a limited number of hours left in the evening to exercise control over the TV remote, it’s easy to look out for your own interests first. Hey, we get it! Still, taking a pause before you grab what seems like it should be yours and considering whether it’s something that your S.O. would enjoy more is a small gesture that can go a long way. Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Wyatt Fisher, who leads couples’ retreats in Texas, suggests this is a great way to let your special someone know that you prioritize their needs.
4. Make a coffee run. Save your S.O. a trip to their coffee spot of choice and show up — totally unannounced! — with their favorite beverage. “It’s about doing something for your partner that you know they enjoy,” registered marriage and family therapist intern Michael Bouciquot tells us. A gesture like this is “most appreciated because it shows how one partner is thinking of the other.” (It doesn’t hurt that it accelerates the morning caffeine process.)
5. Bring up good memories. Too often, we take for granted the amazing times we’ve shared with our nearest and dearest… And how special is it when you can take a moment for a little sentimentality? Dr. Tessina recommends initiating a little walk down memory lane with your partner: “Reminding yourselves of your solid history together is a way to increase your bond.” Next time you’re on a long car trip, casually mention that amazing dinner date you went on three years ago, or reminisce over the breakfast table on a random Wednesday on the qualities that first drew you to your S.O. Just think of all the warm and fuzzy feelings you’ll inspire!
6. Put down the phone. Is there any problem in today’s world that can’t be solved with less screen time? Sigh. Sometimes, it really seems like the answer is a big, fat no. Resisting the urge to idly scroll is quite possibly the key to giving your partner the undivided attention they crave (and deserve). Your S.O. will appreciate this gesture all the more if they know that being on your device is your comfort zone! As licensed professional counselor Angel Hoodye explains, “When you make the genuine effort to be present with your partner, it lets them know you are there for them.”
7. Steal a chore. Housework is pretty essential, though it’s not something that most of us enjoy. Surprising your partner by taking one of their standard tasks off their plate for the day or week — without asking or telling them about it beforehand — can feel like a big deal to the person on the receiving end of the gesture. “Division of unpaid labor is a contentious issue in modern relationships, so try to alleviate their stress once in a while by helping them cross one item off the list,” suggests Astroglide resident sexologist Dr. Jess O’Reilly. Even better, if bae has fewer things to accomplish after they get home, it also frees up time for you to spend together.
8. Give a hug. It sounds pretty basic, but be honest — in the rush of daily life, how often do you think to give the person you love most a spontaneous squeeze? It’s easy to write off this kind of contact as inconsequential, but a comforting touch can mean a lot. “This kind of gesture strengthens your connection and enriches your relationship,” Hoodye tells us. “Holding hands or a firm squeeze in a quick instant can be a way of saying, ‘I recognize you are here with me.'”
9. Brag to your friends. Obviously, other people’s opinions of you, your S.O., or your relationship shouldn’t be the sole influence on the way you live your lives, but it doesn’t hurt to be open with your pals about how fantastic your partner is… and to let your S.O. hear it! Dr. Tessina notes that this kind of couple-y humble brag will stick with them for a long time.
Tweet us which small gestures and random acts of kindness do you most enjoy from your S.O. @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)