The partner seems a little distant–how could the coldness creep in? You’re still in love, right?! Like a garden blooming with multiple delights, a relationship needs daily tending or the weeds and bugs and bad drainage will slowly choke the life out of the carrots, peas, and watermelons.
Of course, the grand gesture can be good for a relationship: a trip to Tahiti, an all-night bender at the bars you frequented ten years ago, a new car in the driveway with a bow on top. But, back to the garden, if you only weed once a month, a lot of the water and nutrients that should have gone to your plants has gone to the weeds, and sooner or later, the weeds will win.
Better to take a little time every day to pull the weeds and keep the garden fresh.
1. Touch each other.
Not the “I want to have sex now” touch, but the “Hey, I like you and want to touch you” brush against the butt, kiss on the cheek, hand hold, hair stroke, neck kiss, hug, gentle nudge, gentle punch in the shoulder, touch toes while falling asleep, scoot close on the couch touch.
2. Admire something physical.
My, you look strong today! I really like your hair; the new color catches the light. You have the prettiest eyes. Your exercise routine is really shaping your ass nicely! That suit makes you look hot. You smell pretty.
Make eye contact when your partner talks and respond, at least a little, to what is important, what is at the center of his or her day.
Ask “How was your day?” and then be attentive so you can ask a question or two.
Bring home a newspaper article, funny anecdote, news clip, website, joke, picture from a newspaper, odd rock, old coin, or flower you picked from the neighbors rose bush that looks like Gandhi just to say, “I found this interesting and knew you would, too.”
6. Admit when you’re wrong.
“You’re right, those pants were too light for fishing.” The small gift of making your partner feel good about his or her judgments is invaluable. Of course, apologizing after a big dust-up is valuable, but recognizing your partner’s virtues in a small way every day pays bigger dividends–you won’t have as many big brouhahas. “I’m sorry I used all the toothpaste. I should have gotten some yesterday” or “I forgot you didn’t like beef patties–I’ll run to the store for some ground beef.”
7. Create rituals.
Every night before bed, mad or not, make for each other a “roses are red” rhyme: “roses are red, your feet are blue, I’ll get us a blanket, so you won’t get the flu.” Each Saturday, take the dog for a walk together before you start the day. Find a restaurant that you enjoy and make a date every other week on the same night. Create a special fist-bump that means I Love You that you perform before leaving for work every day. Make your own rites and ablutions that have meaning for you.
8. Generate surprise–once in a while.
Surprises are great!–except all the time. Very few people would like to stay on a roller coaster all day. But we don’t want to wait in line all day, either. Every once in a while for no reason (expected days of surprise don’t count: birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s day), bring home dinner, flash movie tickets you bought earlier, open a bottle of wine on a Wednesday, present some new lingerie, clean your partner’s car.
9. Chore play.
In a recent poll, many women (and I know a few men, too) said seeing their partner performing chores created intense arousal, nearly an erotic charge like foreplay. Take a few minutes to put the dishes away without being asked, vacuum, pick up the laundry, dust the blinds–perform nearly any task that will take you fifteen minutes but generate an hour of satisfaction for your partner who now doesn’t have to do the task, doesn’t have to think about doing the task, and is grateful for you assuming responsibility.
10. Keep criticism to yourself.
Sometimes silence is the best answer. No one enjoys a nag, not a driving nag, a cleaning nag, a clothes nag, a work nag, nap nag, golf nag….When you feel like criticizing your partner, finding fault, or otherwise making a comment that even in a small way is picky, ask yourself first: is my comment helpful? necessary? building up my relationship? In the time it’s taken you to ask the questions, probably the impulse to share your judgment has passed, and you can just let it go. Nothing ruins relationship more quickly than nit-picking criticism. Stick with compliments! Your first greeting should always be praise and welcome. Swallow the unnecessary criticism.
A good gardener tends the field every day in small, targeted ways–a little water here, pull a weed there, re-shape the dirt around the root over there. And a good gardener, like a good partner, enjoys the bounty every day for many years–fresh flowers, crisp vegetables, tantalizing fruits: a cornucopia of pleasures from a few minutes of each day spent keeping the rows straight and the soil rich.