When I meet with couples, we often explore what’s changed or what’s missing in their relationship or marriage. It’s not uncommon that both in the couple look a little perplexed, shrug their shoulders and say, “I don’t know…it’s the little things.”
It’s the Little Things.
Are the little things that important? Relationship researchers would say so. John and Julie Gottman discovered that it takes 5 positive or connecting interactions to balance our 1 difficult or negatively perceived incident. Even in the midst of conflict, the couples with the highest relationship satisfaction add little bids for connection as part of the process. So, the little things really do deposit money in your relationship bank account.
When we’re early in our dating relationships, we often do those little things. As time passes, commitment deepens, and stressors mount, it can be really easy to stop attending to those little things. If it seems like your relational bank account is running low or perhaps you’re overdrawing your account, attending to the little things can be a good way to begin investing.
5 Little Things You Can Do to Increase Your Relationship Bank Account
1. Hello and Goodbye
Pay attention to how you say hello and goodbye every day. Imagine taking just a few moments in the morning and at the end of the day to really connect with one another. Pausing and looking in one another’s eyes when you say, “Have a good day.”
2. The 6 Second Kiss
You could also add a 6-second kiss. The Gottmans suggest that a 6-second kiss transforms a peck on the cheek to an intimate connection.
3. Gratitude and Appreciation
Seek to cultivate gratitude. Intentionally look for times, places, and behaviors that you appreciate your partner. Notice these moments and offer your appreciation. Find one moment a day to say “thank you for…”
4. The TNT (The Nicest Thing You Did for Me Today)
Take one week to practice the TNT or The nicest thing you did for me today…”WARNING if you try this strategy. Sometimes it can be really easy to start the TNT with an expectation of getting a specific response. If that happens, invite the part of you that is offering a TNT with strings attached to take a step back. The TNT is meant to be a free offering to your partner given from a place of love both for your partner, and your relationship.
5. The 10 Minute Check-In
Plan 10 minutes a day to check-in with your partner. This time is meant to be spent really listening to your partner about what is happening in them and with them. This strategy helps builds what the Gottmans’ call a couple’s “love map.” A love map is a fancy way of inviting couples to slow down and connect about their longings, hopes, fears, and frustrations. It is a time to put the to-do list about home aside, and really tune in with one another.
These small investments can help you build your relationship bank account. If you would like help exploring ways that you can invest in your relationship, contact me for a complimentary consultation.
Gottman, John. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work. Harmony.