Recently, on a cross-country flight, my husband and I were seated on opposite sides of the aisle. Several times, he leaned toward me to ask, "Would you like a bite of my sandwich?" "Can I get you some water?" Once he offered to share the last bite of his cookie. A while later, he reached over and put his hand my arm, just to say, "Hi."
At the end of the flight the woman next to me said, "Your husband really loves you. I can tell."
And she's right. He does.
As couples, we express love through our everyday actions -- our gestures of kindness, our generosity, our attention, our touch.
We say, "Drive safely." "Take an umbrella." We kiss each other goodnight.
And our spouse hears,"I love you," in a way that touches more deeply than words.
We all have our favorite ways to show love. Here are some of mine:
1. Do the stuff neither of you wants to do. Someone has to call the plumber, resolve the mystery charge on the credit card, figure out what in the refrigerator is making that smell. Go ahead. Be the one.
2. Cut your partner some slack. We all forget things, lose things, or screw things up. Why rub it in?
3. Flirt. You're never too old or married too long to make it clear that the two of you have still got it going on.
4. Be patient. Like it or not, sometimes you just have to wait. Skip the eye roll or foot tapping that says, what took you so long? Take a few deep breaths. Relax.
5. Pay attention. As in full-on and undivided. Not every minute of every day, but show up when it counts.
6. Clean up, above and beyond the call of duty. Not your dirty cup? Who cares?
7. Keep two feet in, especially when things are difficult. Commitment is about staying with your challenges long enough to make things better.
8. Let down your guard. Vulnerability and intimacy are one and the same.
9. Receive and acknowledge your partner's acts of love. The happiest couples are those who notice and respond when their partner reaches out. A thanks or a smile is all that it takes.
10. Stop a fight in its tracks. One of the most loving things you can do is stay calm when your spouse is getting worked-up.
11. Look for the humor in those less-than-endearing behaviors. What's not to love about someone who second guesses the GPS?
12. Leave enough gas in the car, enough hot water for a shower, enough milk for coffee.
13. Make dinner. You don't have to be Julia Child. Simple is fine. Just give it your best shot.
14. Hug back. Kiss back. Smile.
15. Give your partner some space. Space to watch the ballgame in peace. Space to go for a run, call a friend, or curl up with a book.
16. Be willing to sleep with the window open a little more than you like.
17. Be willing to sleep with the window closed a little more than you like.
18. Stay in touch. You're busy. I'm busy. No one is too busy to text xoxo.
19. Your spouse wants to go back to graduate school, eat more fruits and vegetables, train for a marathon. Your response: that's great!
20. Be the first one to reach out after a fight. Don't think for a minute that the first person to give ground is admitting fault. Marriage isn't a game of chicken. It takes courage and kindness to yield.
21. Choose -- at least once in a while -- not to elbow your snoring spouse. Chances are you'll eventually snore, too.
22. Make your relationship a priority. Marriage doesn't stay sweet all on its own, year after year. Have a date night, a weekend getaway, keep work hours within bounds. And for goodness sake, when you're together, turn off your phone.
23. Think your spouse deserves a standing ovation? Tell someone how talented, smart, loving, gracious she is. How patient he is with the kids. How he makes the world's best pie crust. Make sure he overhears you.
24. Do what it takes to stay healthy and sane.
25. Keep in mind that life is short. Don't waste time holding grudges or focusing on petty upsets that, in the big picture, mean nothing. Focus, instead, on the ways that your marriage is loving and good.
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