In a healthy relationship, people tend to give love and support freely and frequently. They don’t wait for a special occasion to show their appreciation. They genuinely enjoy doing nice things for one another “just because” ― no prompting necessary.
We asked relationship experts to tell us what kinds of things, both big and small, happy couples do for each other without being asked. Here’s what they had to say:
1. They check in with each other.
“Whether it’s a ‘hello’ text or call to ask, ‘How did it go?’ the happiest couples reach out. They call to say, ‘I’m running late,’ or ‘We just landed,’ or ‘Do you need me to stop at the store on my way home?’ The message: I’m thinking of you. The result: A feeling of being connected, being a key part of each other’s lives.” ― Winifred M. Reilly, marriage and family therapist and author of It Takes One to Tango
2. They give each other compliments.
“This doesn’t have to be a lovey-dovey compliment about being the best wife in the world, but even an offhand remark recognizing someone’s contribution, like ‘great dinner!’ Although some couples do well without positive feedback, the majority of people like at least a little bit of verbal recognition for their contribution, and happy couples are free with positive feedback.” ― Samantha Rodman, psychologist and dating coach
3. They surprise each other with a card, just because.
“Giving your partner a card that says ‘Thinking of you’ or ‘Thank you for all you do’ is such a sweet gesture. It will make him or her feel special and it’s a great reminder to you as well of all you have to be grateful for. An added fun touch would be to leave the card somewhere your loved one will happen on it. My husband loves to leave cards for me in the refrigerator. I often leave his cards under his pillow.” ― Susan Pease Gadoua, marriage therapist and the co-author of The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels
4. They act generously, instead of keeping score.
“Generosity is something freely given as a gift, with nothing expected in return. When a relationship feels secure, it is easy to want to offer more than your fair share of tasks or thoughtful gestures to show your love for your partner. Whether moving their clothes to the dryer for them or going on their favorite hike again, highly fulfilled couples tend to maintain great satisfaction from being thoughtful and generous toward their partner rather than scorekeeping.” ― Kari Carroll, couples therapist
5. They speak openly about their thoughts and feelings.
“When partners feel that it’s like pulling teeth to get each other to divulge any thoughts or feelings, a relationship can feel very lonely. Happy couples may not communicate constantly on a deep level, but they do it frequently enough to feel that they really know one another.” ― Samantha Rodman
6. They surprise their partner with their favorite food.
“We all know that food is nurturing and helps people feel connected. But when you go out of your way to bring home a special food you know they will love, it’s a wonderful way to put ‘I love you’ into action. If the favorite food is a meal that you make — rather than, say, a pint of Haagen Dazs — you’ll undoubtedly get even more points.” ― Susan Pease Gadoua
7. Or with a freshly washed car.
“Regardless of whether you do the washing yourself or take the car to a car wash, when your partner sees their squeaky clean wheels on the street or in the driveway, he or she will likely be very grateful.” ― Susan Pease Gadoua
8. They’re in the habit of saying ‘thank you.’
“Despite the mundanity and complacency that can develop within a long-term partnership, a sure way to keep the fire alive and burning brightly is to watch your partner beam when you regularly notice and point out their contributions to your life. People want to be reminded they are of value to you, and secure couples understand that this should be frequent. Although you may assume your love to be understood, in reality, acknowledging your partner’s efforts and contributions consistently builds an even deeper connection.” ― Kari Carroll
9. And ‘I love you.’
“And they do it when it’s unprompted, unsolicited, and unexpected. In many relationships the ‘I love yous’ come more from one partner than the other. Typically one leads and the other follows. Too often I hear the excuse, ‘I don’t want to overuse it.’ In happy relationships, both partners initiate saying it and they mean it when then do.” ― Kurt Smith, therapist who specializes in counseling for men
If your partner doesn’t do all of these things, don’t fret. Relationships are a work in progress, and if you’re not getting what you want out of it, you should ask. You aren’t a mind reader, so you can’t expect your partner to be one either.
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