Those Things You Do
by Joni E. Prince, Ph.D.
Isn’t it lovely to see a couple strolling arm in arm down a street, playfully talking, laughing and clearly in love? Most relationships start out that way. What happened? More importantly, how to get it back?
An effective antidote to complacency between couples are caring gestures. Often when I see a couple in therapy with serious problems I recognize that before we can dig deeply into the issues they face, there needs to be some salve on the wounds. They need to remember why they liked each other so much in the first place...
Caring gestures are a formal way for each individual in the couple to simply make a list of 10 to 15 things which makes him/her feel loved or cared for when done by the other. The only rules I establish are that they can’t include any “hot button topics” (and each couple has different ones), some acts should cost nothing, and some need to take very little time. It needs to be easy to do one or two of these each and every day.
To define "hot button topics" further, one good example is when one partner is frugal and the other lists "buy me a Prada purse." Another example would be if sex has become a major point of conflict, either partner listing sexual acts as a caring gesture (though it certainly is one under better conditions).
Great examples are giving a foot rub, leaving a sweet note for the other to find, buying one flower on the way home, saying “you look beautiful tonight” on a good night, preparing a favorite meal or making reservations at a meaningful restaurant. After making the list of 10 (minimum) things which would feel like caring gestures as received by you, then exchange the list with your partner and get competititve!