It doesn’t always take a major overhaul for relationships to improve. And even a little improvement can create lasting momentum for growing stronger, healthier relationships.

Marriage experts John and Julie Gottman have discovered how doing small things often can have a dramatic, positive effect overtime on a couple’s relationship. Couples who practice small, meaningful, thoughtful gestures toward one another, deal with conflict well as it arises, and show each other love in little ways are on a path toward more intimate and satisfying relationships. Here are a few of Gottman’s research-based tips for couples.

Partings and the 6-Second Kiss

Take a couple of minutes before parting each day to talk about what each of you will likely experience or be doing that day. Try to learn at least one thing about your spouse’s life, what they will be up against or trying to accomplish. And here’s the most important part: send your spouse on their way with a kiss that lasts at least six seconds. This little “6 Second Kiss” exercise, of course, says you will miss your husband or wife, and you can’t wait for them to come home. Give your partner those 2 minutes and 6 seconds each morning before work.

Show Admiration & Appreciation

It’s not enough to think loving thoughts toward your spouse. We must say out loud what we think or feel about them and what we appreciate or admire about their character or skills. These frequent expressions of admiration and appreciation build a solid, loving foundation for marriage.

Here are a few examples: Share something you like about your spouse’s personality and an actual incident that illustrates this characteristic. You might catch your partner being silly and playful with the children, making them laugh. You could say, “I simply love watching you play with the kids. You were so good with Zoey when she was struggling to hit the ball. You made it fun and gave her confidence. You’re a great dad.” Catch your partner in the act of doing something “right” and thank them for it. Send a text, email or call your spouse during the day to let them know you are thinking of them. Leave a small love note in your partner’s car, purse, or wallet so they’ll find it later.

Show Affection through Touch

For a lot of couples, this came easy in the earlier stages of the relationship, but showing playful attention and affection needs to be part of every couple’s relationship. Holding hands, hugging spontaneously, and making sure to kiss or touch one another at partings, reunions, and before going to bed are very meaningful ways of saying I love you. Practice those lingering kisses whenever possible. And don’t be afraid to practice meaningful touch in front of your children. You may not have had good modeling from your parents but you can model how to show appropriate affection to your kids.

Date Nights and Love Maps

I believe when most couples think about date nights, they think of the hassles that these often require, especially when children are involved.  There are the questions: Who’s going to watch the kids? Where will we go? What will we do? How much will it cost? and so on. However, the bottom line is that husbands and wives need regular, special times together for play and relaxation. They also need to update what the Gottmans refer to as Love Maps. Love Maps is learning more about each other’s thoughts, hopes, and dreams. An occasional date night might involve talking about things that open the heart. You might ask each other: What would be your idea of a great getaway? How do you envision spending your time in retirement? If you could change anything about your life, what would it be? Date nights should be “no conflict zones.”  This is a time for you to focus on each other. If conflicts should arise, simply table them and agree when you plan to revisit any issues that need addressing. Then, get back to being friends and learning more about each other. 

Little things in marriage can go a long way toward building the kind of relationship you will cherish. I hope those of us who are married see our marriage as worth investing time, prayer, energy, thought, and action to build something that will last and bless the next generation. Your marriage matters.

We offer counseling and classes at Christ’s Church that address the various challenges and needs of couples. The above information was gleaned from The Gottman Institute and their research with couples spanning decades. These small things are not complicated, but they require us to be intentional about our most important relationships. If you would like help building a better marriage with these and other tools, please reach out to learn more about our counseling resources and marriage classes.

Contact Dennis

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Share this Post:

Recent Posts

Have questions or need prayer? Contact us.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.