I wrote on Tuesday about how I believe happiness is created through small actions you take on a regular basis. I started thinking about how this is also true in a more specific way: Happiness in marriage is maintained through small actions done regularly.
One of the common complaints I hear about Valentine's Day (or about this Saturday's "Sweetest Day") is that it's meaningless to have a show of love out of obligation. People say they'd rather get flowers or have a fancy dinner some other day of the year. But how often do these big displays of affection actually happen at other times of the year? And, more importantly, does your marriage actually hinge on whether or not these happen at all?
I don't believe happy marriages are built through large, romantic gestures any more than happiness in your life is created through huge, life-changing events.
A lot of people talk about the "honeymoon period" following your wedding, after which things go downhill. I never expected that to happen to us, but there wasn't much validity to me saying that before we got married.
So now, when we've been married for two years and together for seven, I feel like I can safely say that we never went through a honeymoon/disillusionment period. Part of that had to do with how much we'd talked about before we got married, but I believe there are several little things we do regularly that have kept us just as happy as when we got married, if not more.
(Warning: This may be mushier than you can handle.)
- We text each other loving things during the day. It's pretty standard that every other day, at least, one of us will send the other a text simply saying, "I love you!" or "Thinking about what a great husband/wife you are." It's just a nice reminder that we're on each other's minds when we're apart all day.
- We thank each other for doing everyday things. There are so many tasks that just have to get done during the week, and for the most part we have a division of labor worked out based on our strengths or who has time to do what. But that doesn't mean we can't thank each other for doing them. I try to always thank Mike for doing the laundry every week. He thanks me for taking care of the weird boring things that I like doing, like labeling and dating 100 pictures we just got printed. I thank him for taking out the trash; he thanks me for cleaning out the rats' cage.
- We are considerate to each other. I've often heard it noted that people are much more kind and considerate to strangers than they are to their family members. I won't say Mike and I are stellar at this, but we place a high priority on respect for each other. For example, just last night he asked me if I needed to use the bathroom before he got in there to take a shower. He didn't have to ask, but it was considerate of him to think of me.
- We say "I love you" a ridiculous amount. We say it when we're getting off the phone with each other, when one of us is leaving to go somewhere, or when one of us is going to bed before the other. Those are a given. We also use it as a compliment ("I love you. You are so passionate about this idea."), to tease each other ("I love you. You are such a dork."), and just randomly ("What are you thinking?" "About how much I love you.")
None of these are huge gestures that require a lot of time and effort, but I think these little acts are big reasons that we have such a great, happy marriage. If I could sum up what these everyday actions say, it's essentially this:
- I am thinking of you.
- I appreciate you.
- I care about you.
- I love you.
These four ideas may not manifest themselves in exactly the same way throughout the rest of our lives, but I believe that as long we make an effort to communicate these things (in both words and actions), we will have a strong foundation to our marriage.