Keeping love alive and well
November 8, 2014 4:24 PM   Subscribe

What are some of the things you do, and your partner does for you, on a daily basis and perhaps as an occasional surprise that makes you feel loved and helps keep the romantic love in your relationship alive? Anything worthwhile takes some serious effort to maintain and nourish in the long term. I am very much interested in learning about the efforts healthy adults in healthy relationships have made that took their relationship to a higher level of love, maturity and intimacy.

I am less interested in grand gestures of romance such as candlelight dinners, regular dates to fancy restaurants, fancy gifts and perfumes etc etc and much more interested in tender, lovely and intimate gestures on a daily/regular basis that you feel have been crucial in keeping the love in your relationship alive. Additionally, if there are gestures you feel are currently absent but would take your relationship to that level, it would be helpful to know that too. I am particularly interested in hearing from couples who have had a healthy and loving relationship for decades, although all answers are welcome.

As a VERY loose analogy, you could think of this question as seeking the personal relationship version of the answers to this question. The key difference here is that the goal is not to make an impression, it is to genuinely put in the effort with little things that have a huge positive impact on the love in a relationship in the long term.

Thank you!
posted by xm to Human Relations (35 answers total) 157 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My husband always brings me a glass of cold water in the evenings without me asking. I know it's a small thing, but it's a constant reinforcement of love.
posted by heathrowga at 4:25 PM on November 8, 2014 [10 favorites]

Best answer: My husband goes out of his way to make me laugh every day. It took me years to realize this was a deliberate action on his part.
posted by raisingsand at 4:27 PM on November 8, 2014 [20 favorites]

Best answer: My husband empties the dishwasher every morning before work. I hate emptying the dishwasher and he knows this. Every day when I go to tidy up the kids and my breakfast dishes I am reminded of his love for me.
posted by saradarlin at 4:30 PM on November 8, 2014 [13 favorites]

Best answer: One thing I really appreciate is hearing a genuine thank you. We fall into these habits of doing the same chores or doing the same nice things for each other, but taking the time to say thanks never gets old. Be specific too. When you take the time to say, "Thanks for changing the furnace filter." It says, I noticed you did something for us and I appreciate that together, we get things done.
posted by advicepig at 4:31 PM on November 8, 2014 [33 favorites]

Best answer: My husband always, always asks me how my run went, or how my day was, or if I heard about something in the news, etc. He honestly cares about my opinion and loves to engage me in the art of conversation.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:39 PM on November 8, 2014 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I resonated with all answers so far. +1 to advicepig, I totally agree with falling into habits, and taking the time to say "thank you." My husband used to leave me notes all the time in my lunch, especially when I went through a tough time at work. That "tough time" extended to over a year, and he did this every day. He brings me water every night. I bring us ice cream after dinner. He holds my hand, ruffles my hair, squeezes my shoulders. I make an effort to make him laugh whenever the mood strikes. We call each other silly affectionate names. We make it a point to go for walks together, to exercise together when we have time. We simply... make time for each other, to fit each other into the rhythm of our days. Some say that love should be effortless, but I disagree. I believe from what I've experienced that it's a constant, conscious effort - but I do agree that it doesn't feel like work or a chore, because you love the person. What a great question, thank you for asking. Looking forward to reading others' responses.
posted by onecircleaday at 4:42 PM on November 8, 2014 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Husbunny brings in the mail since he parks down by the mailboxes. He always signs an email 'I love you.' When we speak on the phone, even if it's to confirm what he wants from the grocery store, we say, 'I love you.'

He's not exceptionally thoughtful, he's a pampered only child, but the small things really do make a difference.

He also writes me stories and makes me cards. When he gives me a birthday card, he writes in one, and buys one that he leaves blank, so I can send it to someone else. (They're usually really funny and nice.)

We agreed long ago not to spend shit-tons of money on presents on anniversaries or birthdays. So we don't. We buy what we want, when we want it. Often it's just a nice dinner out. Works for us!

I don't nag or make negative statements. If I want him to remember to do something, I say, "remember to do X." Most people say, "don't forget, " which are two negative words. Positive is always better.

He appreciates what I do for him, I appreciate what he does for me.

Sometimes I just say, "I'm so glad we're married." Because I am.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:48 PM on November 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: My boyfriend and I tell each other nice things all the time (we're sort of grossly affectionate and we've been together for over 4 years) but nothing feels better than him telling me he's proud of me (and I think it goes both ways). I love him and of course I think he's cute/attractive/sweet/wonderful, but I try to make a point of telling him how proud I am of how great he is at or how hard he's working on things that he cares about that are entirely outside of our relationship.
posted by MadamM at 4:50 PM on November 8, 2014

Best answer: Mrs yoga & I have always thanked whoever bought the meal. Even 14+ years later.
posted by yoga at 4:56 PM on November 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: My husband is scarily hard to wake up & goes through a weird half concious transitional phase first. The first words he says no matter why or what time I wake him up are "I love you". He rarely remembers saying it. Not sure if it counts as it's partly subconscious.

On a more concious note, I always leave milk, juice etc out when I go to the fridge, as I am easily distracted. If he sees it first, he always puts it away for me without a word of complaint.
posted by wwax at 5:06 PM on November 8, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: My husband makes me coffee every morning. He wakes up hours before I do, and when he hears me get up, he starts a fresh pot of coffee. I have never asked him to do it, and every morning when I go downstairs I fall in love with him all over again.

When we're sitting near each other, I rub his wrist/s. He just loves getting them rubbed, he's like a cat. A cat made of wrists. So I rub them and he luuuuuvvvvsss it. It's free and easy and it makes him happy.
posted by the webmistress at 6:06 PM on November 8, 2014 [15 favorites]

Best answer: My wife folds my pajamas and puts them on the bed for me every night. It's like being at a hotel!

We have a small collection of silly trinkets that we'll move around the house to surprise each other. We have these little animal-shaped erasers that we put in each other's bags or drinking glass or whatever. It's cute to find them and to hide them for each other.
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:18 PM on November 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not a morning person. He has to be up long before me. When I wake up in the morning, the coffee is ready and waiting.

I hate to drive. He routinely offers to drive me places because he "needs to finish listening to that podcast/book on tape." Right, suuuuure you do.

He listens to me. Really, really carefully. If I let slip some complaint (e.g. headache; lost book), he'll ask me about it later. "Still have that headache?" "Did you manage to find that book you were looking for?" This consideration is so touching.

When I screw up, he tells me not to be so hard on myself. I am always a harsher critic of myself than he is. The numerous times he has helped me to see myself in a kinder, gentler light -- every one of them is a miracle to me, demonstrating so clearly his generosity, kindness, and love. But for him, there's nothing so miraculous in it. He's just helping me see myself the way he sees me. And that, to me, is the most wondrous thing of all.
posted by artemisia at 6:53 PM on November 8, 2014 [29 favorites]

Best answer: He is super-attuned to my moods, and often knows I am depressed before I do. I don' know if that's a conscious action or just his superpower, though.

More mundanely, we do our chores. Honestly, so much love can be expressed by not failing to do the laundry, or wash the dishes, or change the cat litter when it's your turn. And not bitching about it either. And thanking the other person for doing their bit.

We both tend to look up at some point in the month and say, "oh my god, we have got to go somewhere just us two, I miss you!" Because otherwise all our conversations turn into trading to-do lists.

Always being open to cuddling requests.

Touching each other several times a day; kiss or shoulder squeeze, or a hug. That habit keeps you both in tune.
posted by emjaybee at 8:29 PM on November 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Hubby rarely if ever criticizes what I do. Ever. He is usually focused on the positive and that really helps.
posted by jellyjam at 8:53 PM on November 8, 2014 [10 favorites]

Best answer: My husband turns on my side of the heated mattress pad when I'm brushing my teeth before bed so that it's warm for me when I get in, and he reads to me to help me fall asleep.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:05 PM on November 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: He's partially-retired but still works 3-4 mornings per week. I work swing. Unless he has to be up super early, he always waits up until I'm home.

I put the coffee together and set the timer every night. He brings me coffee in bed almost every morning.

When we accompany each other on our errands, e.g., the fabric store or the motorcycle shop, we say "Take your time." and mean it.

Often when he's on his way home he texts "I'm stopping for lunch, want anything?" When I'm on my way home I text "need anything on my way home?"

I have found lots of Post-It Notes in various places saying "Love you - Mr. Beti"

I went to work without my (non-essential) laptop cable a few weeks ago. He drove my 39-mile each way commute in rush hour traffic to bring it to me.

I just looked over and he was cutting his toenails and then filing them and his feet smooth "so I don't poke you in the middle of the night". (That's true love, baby!)

I really try to avoid comparing him to my ex but one of the things I truly appreciate is this: I'm an introvert and when my ex and I would go to a gathering, he'd go to see other people and I'd be left to my own devices and have a lousy time. My beloved husband will go to a gathering because he wants to be at the gathering with me.
posted by Beti at 9:43 PM on November 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: My husband always does the dishes after I've cooked dinner, even when he's fall-down-tired after a 12 hour shift. He knows dishes are the bane of my existence and even if I tell him to leave them, he will still get everything cleaned up so that we go to bed with a clean kitchen.

He also will draw a bath for me when I'm tired but haven't slowed down enough to take care of myself. I hear the water running and the bubbles are bubbling and he tells me, "Lock the door so the kids won't come in and enjoy your sanctuary." I love that he will run interference and give me that alone time.
posted by sealee at 10:25 PM on November 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: My husband makes me coffee every morning. He grinds the beans himself and takes great pride in his coffee-making skills. On weekends he'll let me sleep in and he'll make pancakes from scratch with our two daughters. I'll wander downstairs in my jammies and breakfast and coffee will be all ready -- we're talking good coffee and whole-wheat pancakes with real maple syrup. Because one daughter likes bacon and the other likes sausage, he'll prepare those as well.

I don't get to see him much because he works 50-60 hours a week and then works on his MBA on the weekends and in the evening . . . but I treasure our mornings together.

He's also committed to showing up for parent-teacher conferences and school events. When I got sick just in time for the preschool pumpkin patch field trip he went instead and didn't complain, even though he had to take a day off of work and rearrange his schedule.

He humors me on my obscure interests. I can drag him to a gem and mineral show or take him to the lantern festival at the botanical gardens, even if he's not into those things. If we're driving around together and the car needs gas, he'll always hop out to pump it and he'll clean the windows too. Sometimes I wonder how I was lucky enough to end up with him, especially since I met him when I was 18.
posted by Ostara at 10:48 PM on November 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: We read out loud to each other, mostly at night but sometimes during the day or on car trips. All kinds of books (Donald E. Westlake, Dickens, Austen, P.G. Wodehouse, history books on subjects of joint interest). It's given us a huge shared background of ideas and stories and catchphrases, and it's really fun.

Everything Ruthless Bunny says, except we don't say "I love you" much. But we laugh together so much, we save stuff to share and laugh, and listen to each other's rants politely at the very least.

It's gotten incrementally easier every year. I used to say "This isn't working!" I still do, but at 34 years and counting, I've got less and less ground to stand on. .... and we laugh.
posted by kestralwing at 11:43 PM on November 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: epic buttsnuggle fests every night
posted by Jacqueline at 12:08 AM on November 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: One of the things that makes me think "winner, winner, chicken dinner" about my SO is he warms up my car in the (way too) early morning hours so that it is nice and warm by the time I leave.
posted by youdontmakefriendswithsalad at 4:59 AM on November 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "What did you like today?" is the #1 thing my husband and I do ever day that keeps us communicating and expressing gratitude for each other and all the things we do.

- like youdontmakefriendswithsalad, my husband clears the snow off my car in the winter and warms up my car so that it is toasty for me when I leave for work.
- we never part ways without saying "I love you". Kinda morbid maybe, but bad things happen all the time and I never want my last words to him be "don't forget to buy milk" or worse.
- He makes me bacon every single morning. As I type he is in the kitchen making me bacon
- I acknowledge and thank him for the million things he does for me, things that are sort of automatic for him maybe but still result in my life being better/easier. Stuff like the bacon, snow removal, that he mows the lawn and keeps our yard looking awesome, reminding me to take my pills every day, etc. I do this so that he knows how much I appreciate him, and to let him know that I see how much he does and that it isn't going unnoticed.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:51 AM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Mrs. SS and I often communicate by reference to our shared past. We also have various word usages that are unique to ourselves.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:04 AM on November 9, 2014

Best answer: Like others have posted, my SO genuinely listens to me, even when I just off-hand mention something. And then he'll ask me about it later. He does the dishes because he knows I hate them. We take turns making dinner. We thank each other for the little things, such as, "thanks for making dinner babe." When he buys me presents, he gets me things he knows I want (because of his listening skills) or things that make me feel sexy and desired. His gifts are usually not expensive but they are extremely thoughtful. I try to do the same. He's open to new experiences with me, and we make a point to try new things together as often as we can. We touch each other often, and usually "I love you" is the last thing we say to each other before we part. We cuddle a lot, and we make a point to share or take an interest in each others hobbies. He also genuinely values my opinion and I value his.
posted by FireFountain at 6:47 AM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not currently in a relationship, but here are some things from a couple of past relationships:

- one boyfriend had foot troubles, so frequently when lounging on the sofa I'd massage his feet
- taking his dog out in the morning so he could stay in bed a little longer
- making a nice lunch to take to work
- Saturday mornings were always pancakes or French toast + watching a show we both loved on the laptop
- one time I was sick, and my then-bf had to be on a plane a few days later, so I told him to stay away from the biohazard. He agreed. An hour or so later he showed up with ginger ale and cuddles
- I completely lost it once when a boyfriend paused a movie we were watching, looked at me, and just said "you're the best, you know" and pressed play again
- if we weren't physically together, every night a quick phone call or a text to say goodnight to each other right before bed
- kissing the back of my neck while I'm at the stove cooking something, always with some comment about how delicious it smells
- showing up to meet me after work at 2 am every night and whisking me home
- nonsexual physical affection: holding hands, little touches, cuddles
- one ex absolutely loved loved loved olives, so I always made sure I had olives in the kitchen

- He makes me bacon every single morning. As I type he is in the kitchen making me bacon

Reader, I married him. Bacon is love.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:29 AM on November 9, 2014

Best answer: After I read The 5 Love Languages and realized that mine differ from my husbands, I make a concerted effort to make small gestures in his languages. For example, one of his is physical touch, so I make a point of making casual physical contact although that's not my norm.
posted by mchorn at 11:32 AM on November 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: One time we were visiting my folks for the holidays and that is guaranteed drama (usual family dysfunction, and there's already the stress of flying 1,000 miles during a winter holiday, eating up precious time off work just getting to and from and the shit that is TSA flying), but it blindsided us even more than normal when my sister BLEW THE FUCK UP to the point of even engaging my poor unsuspecting husband. Not only does he not complain about the travel and the guaranteed shit show that happens every time, this particular time was so bad I literally just ran out of the house, sobbing in the middle of winter in an icy garage, and he was right there with me, saying nothing because he knew there was nothing to say, and just held me as I sobbed against him, very protective and gentle. And he was up for anything I wanted/needed to do--once that involved getting up at the buttcrack of dawn to tear out of the house with barely a word (that time it was my dad who exploded, the night before, which later he blamed on the heat) and drive the 16 hours home nonstop (!), and this time it meant supporting me when I said we should just stay at a hotel. He never gives me advice or judges me about all that, just offers unconditional love and support and understanding. He knows I have so many skeletons in my closet and he lets me know on the regular he knows all that, loves me, and is proud of me.

He tries to make me laugh every day, because he knows I'm a serious, sad person by default. He knows how to.

Before we go to sleep at night, he often turns to me and says "I can't wait to see you tomorrow!" or beams at me and says he loves looking at my face.

He doesn't drink at all (no background reason, just not interested), but he knows I love the little local bar 5 minutes down the street from us and goes with me some evenings and we just shoot the shit. The bartender always seems puzzled and amazed he's willing to sit there not drinking and talk with me while I do. We've had some of our best conversations this way--recently because of what's going on with internet awareness of street harassment I opened up and just told him every little shitty thing that had ever happened to me in that vein and he really listened and it was amazing.

His favorite thing to do is tell me we're not doing gift exchange for event X, but then gets me something thoughtful anyway. Because he knows I stress about it.

He is super excited to teach me guitar because he thinks I have cool ideas and wants me to have as many tools as possible at my disposal to bring them to fruition. He doesn't have to tell me he thinks I'm smart and interesting, it's in how he behaves.

Silly texts when we're apart, and the usual "he knows I hate doing X so sometimes I wake up to find him doing it for me no questions asked", and the "I'm coming home, do you want anything?" and "I know you like meandering in that one humongous ethnic foods emporium 35 minutes away, take your time" stuff.
posted by ifjuly at 12:31 PM on November 9, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, and we dance regularly, whether music's playing or not, in our apartment. Like he just left for work but right before he did we slow danced a bit in the living room. Keeping physical touch up--not just sexual, that basic "skin to skin creates comfort" sort--daily is a biggie, it turns out.
posted by ifjuly at 12:54 PM on November 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The last words my wife hears every night are "I love you forever," and the first words she hears every morning are "good morning sunshine."

It's nothing, but I never skip it.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:18 PM on November 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

Best answer: He always signs an email 'I love you.' When we speak on the phone, even if it's to confirm what he wants from the grocery store, we say, 'I love you.'

We do this. It works really well.
posted by Slap Factory at 5:05 PM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: we show that we're supportive of each other, both privately and with friends. we joke around a lot, but always to try to make each other laugh, rather than getting in digs at the other person's expense. it makes me feel like we have each other's backs.
posted by eseuss at 9:15 AM on November 10, 2014

Best answer: I put a character based on my wife into every story or novel I write. She's usually just a background character, but she's always there somewhere.
posted by starbreaker at 12:00 PM on November 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Laughter. I believe that in any relationship, laughter is KEY.

When me and my other half have been going through a difficult time and we still manage to make eachother laugh, that to me is one of life's most precious and rewarding gifts. It's our way of making sure that "everything's okay" after the big blow out, however, if the jokes do not work and the laughter is absent, then him and I know that it's going to take a lot more than that.

My other half isn't big on words, whereas I am, so I ensure that at least once a month or a week or whenever I feel I want to declare my feelings for him, I make sure that I send him a lovely message thanking him for everything he does and remind him of how happy I am in this relationship, together, with him and I united. We had a "blip" where things had gotten rough and we hadn't seen eachother for a few days and we'd been arguing, so when I did see him, I bought him his favourite sweets and hot chocolate just as my way of adoration.

My boyfriend, on the other hand, does small things for me, such as brings me breakfast in bed, or let's me have the more comfortable pillows out of his bed (we don't live together) when I stay over. But by far, my favourite thing in the world that he does is text me every day when he's up for work saying "Good morning Beautiful." and always wishes that I have a good day at work or if it's a weekend with whatever I'm doing.

It's about quality, not quantity my friend. There are some people out there (male or female) who believe that buying gifts for their other half is the way to their heart, whereas, my other half could make me a bacon sandwich or cook me a mean dinner and it would mean the world to me. Don't get me wrong, as a woman it's amazing to be treated like a queen, but I only feel you should ever be treated like a queen, if you treat your other half like a king.
posted by Black_Thirteen at 1:46 PM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To everyone who answered: a big, warm thank you for sharing your sweet, personal and lovely gestures and stories with strangers! :)
posted by xm at 7:56 PM on November 13, 2014

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