February, the month of love! The time of the year when greeting card companies, florists, and jewelry stores convince us that we must spend a fortune and make ridiculously grand and over-the-top gestures in order to show our true affection and devotion to those we love. The message conveyed by our consumer society is: Go big!While celebrating Valentine’s Day can be a fun way to do a little something special and recognize the significant person in your life, (and I suggest you do so) genuine love has little to do with a date on the calendar. It’s more about what goes on in your relationship the other 364 days of the year.
For our purposes here, we will focus on marriage relationships. Those of you in the rose-colored-glasses world of dating can take note for future reference. When most relationships start out, it’s a new, fresh, and exciting time and we are constantly looking for ways to please our mate. As married life continues, the bills, responsibilities, and stresses start to pile up. We’re fortunate if we remember and can afford to do anything for the pressure-filled obligatory days of Christmas, anniversary, birthday and Valentine’s Day. But what if the magnitude of your spouse’s love for you isn’t measured by what they do on these special occasions? What if it’s not about grand, expensive, and extravagant expressions? What if it’s about the little things? Truth is, in relationships, sometimes it’s the little things arethe big things. Let me explain.
We have before us, two scenarios:
Relationship A: Husband and Wife go through their days pretty involved in their routines. Get up, shuffle through the morning, deal with kids, jobs, house chores, bills, errands, in-laws, cranky neighbors, car problems, dinner time, flop into bed after watching the late show and start all over again.
As the saying goes: rinse and repeat. They’re both focused at the tasks at hand and what they need to do next. All the things Ineed to do. There’s nary a word spoken nor action taken that acknowledges their beloved. No texts, no calls, no acts of love, help or consideration. After all, each one thinks or yells in frustration, “I don’t have the time! Can’t you see I’m busy taking care of all of this for you?!” All they can do is manage to get through the day. Their connection and affection dwindle over time and they don’t feel much love or gratitude from or toward one another. The relationship is surviving—barely—and they feel as if there isn’t time, money or energy to put into making it better. Oh, they wish they had the ability to do the big things like go on vacation alone, to spend romantic weekends celebrating the special occasions together. But alas, the budget and busy days prohibit it, so they slide further down the slope of disconnect and disillusion.
Relationship B: Husband and Wife go through their days pretty involved in their routines. There is always so much to do with jobs, social obligations, homework or extracurricular activities with the kids, laundry, balancing budgets and checkbooks, extended family obligations and the list goes on and on. Days can blur into each other as they run the hamster wheel of life. But, while they are both focused on their long lists of tasks at hand, they also know that the few seconds it takes to speak a word or offer an action of acknowledgement to their beloved is important, and it won’t cause the world to come crashing down nor will it keep them from accomplishing the necessary duties of the day. Wife says, “Good morning,” and gives Husband a squeeze as she rolls out of bed to start packing lunches. Husband takes the few seconds it requires to fill Wife’s coffee mug and bring it to her in the bathroom while she’s getting herself or kids ready for the day. Wife sends Husband a text: Hey, headed to Target. Is there anything you need?Husband leaves Wife a voicemail: Sorry! Running late. Stuck in traffic. Love you. Be home as soon as I can. Don’t hold supper for me.Husband and Wife exchange quick summaries of their day while brushing their teeth before flopping into bed and saying goodnight to one another.
While they are busy, they work at keeping connection and consideration in their relationship. They, too, wish they had the time, energy and financial resources to travel on a second honeymoon or sneak away for an anniversary weekend, but they don’t rely on those maybe-it-will-happen-one-daykind of occasions to keep their marriage going. They aren’t sliding down the slope of disillusion like the other couple because they choose to pay attention and give one another the littlethings.
You see, it is the little things, that when given, really are the big things that help to glue a marriage together and make each person feel loved and valued. And when these little things are missing, they can become the big things of bitterness, anger, resentment and contempt… and these are the things tear a marriage asunder. I know husbands and/or wives who can’t (or won’t)be bothered to greet their spouse with a civil good morning, helloor good night.They won’t apprise the other of their schedule or change of plans. Heaven forbid, they go a few seconds out of their way to ask, “Is there anything you need while I’m out?”Such. LITTLE. Things. Really?! Will it kill you to fill up a second bowl of ice cream for your mate on your trip to the kitchen? Ten extra seconds to scoop it out and carry back into the living room while you watch TV is too much for you?
If you really want to improve your marriage and show your spouse that you love him/her, stop thinking it takes some gargantuan move and start thinking little. Small. Tiny. Simple. Your spouse really isn’t looking for the impossible from you. What can you do today that actually requires little to no time, effort or energy, but will speak volumes in terms of acknowledgement, kindness and consideration? Maybe it’s lowering the toilet seat when you’re done, or replacing the roll of toilet paper. Perhaps it’s remembering it’s garbage day, saying thank you, making eye contact and smiling, or putting your hand on his or her shoulder as you walk by. See? SIMPLE!
For those of you who can and want to go all out and spend $200 on flowers, dress to the nines and drop a pretty penny on a fancy dinner out or overnight in a swanky hotel for Valentine’s Day, I say, go for it.But remember, it’s not what you do one night of the year that demonstrates your love, rather, it’s really about the little, itty bitty things you do the other 364 days—or in 2020 it’s Leap Year, so you get an extra day to show your spouse that they truly are cherished and beloved.