In his listicle on how to have a successful romantic relationship, Dustin Wax makes a case for the little things as the glue for relationships. Routinize small things and the big thing (happy relationship) will follow. Here’s his list:
Tell the person you love shim, show affection, show appreciation, share yourself, be there for your partner, give gifts, respond gracefully to partner demands and shortcomings, make “me time” a priority, take nothing for granted, and strive for equality.
Ten things to do regularly. Ten things, many of which can become routine, regular parts of your interactions. Ten things, applied consistently to the relationship, that can make the difference between a ho-hum love life and a satisfying one.
How do you routinize behaviors that aren’t part of your life now?
Part of changing behaviors is knowing what you want to accomplish and why. If you work toward making your partner fall in love with you again, you have a powerful motivator to change your own attitudes, actions, and behaviors.
Some say it takes 21 days to make a behavior change permanent. That research has been debunked, but the general principle is still true. Conscientious attention to change sustained over time will make the change permanent. How long will it take? The latest findings are that the time line varies with the kind of change you seek and your commitment to the change. Makes sense, right?
One thing we know is that fear-based behavior change isn’t sustainable. You’re afraid of losing your lover so you promise to make/try to make changes. It won’t last. If it works at all, it will be short-lived change, and you often end up resenting your partner for making the change so hard for you to achieve.
We also know that behavior changes require triggers. Initially, it can seem very mechanical to design and use triggers, but after a while it becomes routine and no longer something you have to purposely plan for.
For example, to show affection and share yourself more, you might write on the calendar “Second Saturday Supper” and you schedule in a once-a-month date night. After a while, this is so satisfying and results in so much more positivity in the relationship, that you find yourself guarding that time together.
Or you might purchase a dozen cards (with messages or not) that you tuck into your calendar, one a week for three months, that will remind you to leave a card for your lover showing appreciation or for saying “I love you and I’m thinking of you”. Having those card-triggers reminds you to make a tiny effort toward relationship care.
Routines? Not so bad, right? With the goal of a happy, healthy, growing relationship, it’s worth the effort.