How to increase connection in your relationship by doing the little things.ngs.
January 8, 2023 | BY DR KATIE STIRLING
Imagine your relationship is like a car. We need fuel for our car to work effectively, the same applies to your relationship. You need fuel in your relationship tank for your relationship to run smoothly. When our relationship tank is low, resentment can build. You may become frustrated more easily, you might feel disconnected or you might find feelings of loneliness emerge. When your tank is empty you could shift into negative sentiment override and find yourself focussing on all the negative aspects of your relationship. So it's important want to make sure you fuel connection and keep your relationship tank on the full side.
Your relationship tank can empty because:
1. You are not putting in enough fuel and/or
2. You are using too much fuel
Put simply, you need to make deposits into your relationship so when you hit a rough patch or your relationship is impacted by external stressors, than you have reserves to draw on.
This article focus on the first part of maintaining fuel in our relationship tank - how we fuel connection in our relationship by doing the little things. Sometimes we make the mistake of waiting for the big moments, such as anniversaries or birthdays to show our partner how we feel. Likewise, we might get caught over thinking it or assuming we need big grand gestures to invest in our relationship, when in fact it’s the little things that have the greatest impact on relationships.
It’s the little things that have the greatest impact on relationships
When couples in my therapy rooms reflect on what has brought most joy in their relationships, they often talk about the little things. They mention everyday moments - a conversation in the early hours of the morning, their partner bringing them a cup of tea in bed, watching a beautiful sunrise together on the beach, or dreaming big together. It’s these everyday little moments of connection that fuel their relationship.
It’s important to acknowledge that disconnection affects all relationships, even when your relationship is going well. The stress of day-to-day life, the inevitable challenges of loving a person who is different from you, and working through conflict all adds up.
As Dr. Sue Johnson says: “Love is a constant process of tuning in, connecting, missing and misreading cues, disconnecting, repairing and finding deeper connection. It’s a dance of meeting and parting and finding each other again. Minute-to-minute and day-to-day.”
Do I have to put in an as much fuel as I take out?
In his research with couples, Dr John Gottman identified that for relationships to stay in positive perspective we need 20 positive interactions for 1 negative. So in fact, we actually need to put in a lot more in than we take out.
It sounds like a lot right? Yet, when we realise there are a lot of little things we can do it’s easily achieved.
Some examples of little things you can do in your relationship include:
- Saying please and thank you
- Giving a compliment
- Expressing appreciation
- Listening to your partner
- Showing physical affection
- Showing interest in your partner’s experiences
- Giving your partner your undivided attention
What can we do as a couple to make sure we are doing the little things?
One of the exercises I do with couples in couples therapy is to make a jar of little things. Grab 2 jars or containers, a pen, and some paper and sit down with your partner. Tear your paper into lots of little pieces and then on each piece write one little thing you would enjoy your partner doing to fill your bank account.
Then fold the little pieces of paper and put them in the jar or container. Everyday grab one piece of paper out of the jar and do that little thing for your partner. You could do it every day for the next month.
Investing in your relationship by doing the little things always is a great way to future proof your relationship.