Healthy lives for young people
Relationships

Kindness

You may think that relationships are made and broken over the big stuff, such as coping together in a crisis or managing conflict. In fact, the Enduring Love? research project showed that the key to lasting relationships is everyday acts of kindness, such as making a cup of tea.

What does my partner do to make me feel appreciated? Makes me tea! No really, it’s the little things.

Enduring Love? interviewee

Being appreciated and valued by a partner are the main things that make people feel good about their relationship. These things also help relationships to weather the storms when things get tough. 

It’s worth spending five minutes thinking about what you and your partner do for each other that makes you feel appreciated. You might be surprised by how it’s the everyday things, that are really important and make you feel valued.

The top 5 ways to show you care

Brits are famous for their love of tea which may explain why a cuppa came to symbolise thoughtful gestures but when theEnduring Love? research team looked for example from around the world, they found similar examples everywhere.

For example, in Japan, a thoughtful gesture was packing an intricate lunchbox; in Canada it was warming up the car on a winter’s morning, while in Germany it was going out in the rain to buy bread rolls.

So if you’re not tea drinkers – don’t worry! There are many ways to show you care about someone and appreciate them being in your life. A thoughtful gift can be as simple as picking up their favourite snack and a kind gesture can be sending a text when you know they’re having a tricky day. 

But what all these examples demonstrate is that showing someone you appreciate them doesn’t have to involve expensive gifts or grand gestures.

Enduring Love? (which involved over 5,000 people worldwide) found that the top five ways people make their partners feel appreciated and valued are:

  1. Thoughtful gifts and kind gestures
  2. Saying ‘thank you’ and noticing their accomplishments
  3. Sharing household chores and/or childcare
  4. Talking – and listening 
  5. Being affectionate, such as frequent cuddles (which doesn’t have to be about sex)

The key is to think about what you appreciate and what your partner appreciates. These may not be the same things, so talk together about the simple everyday things you can do for each other that will also show you care.

The ‘magic ratio’

It’s not just about performing everyday acts of kindness, but appreciating them too. The psychologist John Gottman observed that people in happy, lasting relationships had a higher ratio of kind comments to harsh ones, compared with those people in unhappy relationships.

Based on his research, Gottman noted that it didn’t matter how fiery or calm the relationship was. What mattered was that the moments of valuing each other far outweighed the moments of niggling at each other.

In fact, Gottman came up with the theory of the ‘magic ratio’. Relationships that lasted over time had five times as many appreciative interactions, such as saying thank you or noticing when your partner has done the washing up, as they did critical ones, such as complaining that your partner never does the washing up.

It’s worth spending five minutes thinking about the magic ratio in relation to your own relationship. How close are you to saying five times more positive things as negative ones?

Give and take: the love languages

Many people feel most appreciated when they are thanked or told ‘I love you’. Others feel loved when their partner has done the chores. What’s important to remember is that different people prefer to be shown love in different ways. 

This idea is behind relationship author Gary Chapman’s five ‘love languages’. These are:

  1. Gifts and gestures
  2. Words or gratitude, love and appreciation
  3. Acts of service, such as doing chores
  4. Spending quality time together
  5. Touch and physical affection

You’ll notice that these five languages are very similar to the top five ways people feel appreciated in their relationships. 

Love language test

Here’s a little test you can do with your partner to work out your love language. Number the examples given above from 1-5 in order of how important they are for you to receive (1 = most important, 5 = least important). 

You don’t have to stop at five – you can add others that are important to you, such as your partner showing interest in a favourite hobby or saying the right thing when you’re sad. Which ones make you feel most loved and appreciated? 

Now do the exercise again, this time numbering the same things in order of which ones you feel most comfortable doing for your partner (1 = most comfortable, 5 = least comfortable).

You may find that there are differences in the way you prefer to give love and in the way you prefer to receive it. But that is fine. It just means that communicating with each other about these differences and finding compromises that make you both happy.

Why ‘thank you’ is important

Those two words – thank you – are as important in relationships as ‘I love you’. They show your partner has noticed what you have done for them. And we all like to be thanked in turn for what we have done – however small that thing may be.

What’s behind saying thank you is gratitude. And we know that happiness is linked to feeling gratitude, both for ourselves and in our relationships. To get the gratitude habit, try listing three things you feel grateful for at the end of each day or download a gratitude app and use it daily.

Being praised on a task well done or complimented on looking good are also important reminders that your partner values and respects you. 

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