Tiny acts of love can make or break a relationship. I like to call these simple acts of kindness love habits. Love habits are acts of affection that are so routine they almost occur automatically. In other words, a love habit forms when love, affection, and kindness integrate into the couple’s character and become a part of who they are.
- A soft smile
- A warm embrace
- Laughing together
- Walking hand in hand.
- Evening chats around a fire
- Playing favorite games together
- Enjoying cherished holiday traditions
- Talking about favorite books and movies
- And simply enjoying one another’s presence
Tiny acts of love are long remembered, and love habits are especially powerful because they compound many times over. A sincere compliment may be spoken once, yet, it replays over and over again in our loved one’s mind. This is why the little things truly are big.
The bad news is that tiny acts of love are not the only actions that compound. Contempt multiplies too. And these negative ways couples relate can be powerful enough to turn a good relationship sour.
The bottom line is that love habits and contempt habits will make or break the relationship. I know this both from examining the research and from my own personal experience. In this blog post, we’ll dive into both.
The first way I know that tiny acts of love are powerful is that my marriage to Jenny started with a simple, but mighty, act of kindness. This has since turned into a regular love habit. Here’s how that story goes.
Tiny Acts of Love
I knew I liked Jenny from the moment we met. Although she is absolutely gorgeous and incredibly sweet, it was a simple act of kindness that made the biggest impression. Jenny and I connected through an online dating site. The two of us hadn’t spoken before our first date, which took place at a tiny pizzeria with a fantastic view of San Diego Bay.
I chose this location because it’s one of my all-time favorite places. I figured if the date went poorly, at least I’d get to try out a new restaurant and enjoy the bay. Of course, I had no reason to worry. The evening went far better than anticipated. Jenny’s gentle spirit and warm smile immediately won me over. After dinner, I asked Jenny if she was up for a walk. She said, “Yes,” and my heart skipped a beat.
Unfortunately, I didn’t ask Jenny to bring a jacket. It was late March, and although the weather was warm, the night air cooled quickly after the sun went down. As the two of us strolled along the bay, I noticed my date shiver. I suggested turning around. “No, I’m fine,” Jenny replied. But when I glanced over a second time, I saw goosebumps running up Jenny’s arms. Yet, each time I suggested going back, Jenny insisted that everything was fine.
Months after our engagement Jenny finally admitted she was freezing. But I already knew this–it was obvious! Nevertheless, Jenny’s simple statement, “I’m fine,” was an ongoing reminder that she wanted to spend time with me, more than she wanted to keep warm. It was this small act of kindness that made all of the difference. Jenny’s desire to simply be together is of those amazing love habits that continues this day. And I am grateful for this!
Tiny Acts of Contempt
The opposite of love habits are routine acts of contempt. Just as small acts of kindness lead to lasting joy, contempt sours a relationship. Expert John Gottman refers to contempt as one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Contempt is certainly deadly enough to earn this foreboding title. Contempt is demonstrated through sneers, a roll of the eyes, a harsh tone, and a disgusted look. These actions only escalate a conflict. They also go beyond mere disagreement because they communicate there is something fundamentally wrong with our loved one.
For example, the phrase “I think your wrong” conveys a difference of opinion. But stating, “You’re an idiot if you believe that,” coupled with an eye-roll and sneer, demonstrates genuine disdain. Contempt rarely changes anyone. It does, however, significantly increase the odds that the relationship will self-destruct.
How to Kill Contempt
“Kill” is a strong word, and I use it sparingly. Yet, if there is anything worthy of stamping-out entirely, it is contempt. There is nothing positive about contempt. So don’t let it invade your bond. Even small acts of disdain can wreak havoc in a relationship.
Song of Solomon 2:15 says, “Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming!” Tiny foxes of contempt will ruin the vineyard of love. In relationships, little actions make a big difference. Both tiny slights and small acts of kindness are long remembered. So strive to create more joyful moments than painful ones, drive out little foxes fast, and make ample room for happy times!
One of the east ways to drive out contempt is to integrate regular love habits into your routine. Do you and your loved one have regular times set apart to connect? If so, then the two of you are on the right track. Happy couples connect often. A love habit can be as simple as:
- Enjoying a cup of coffee together each morning.
- Walking together in the evening.
- Calling or texting each other throughout the day.
- Having a devotional time together.
- Setting a regular rhythm of learning about each other’s day.
- Praying together before meals.
- Talking about everything—from the serious to the mundane.
- Scheduling a weekly date night.
- Practicing gratitude or working though a gratitude journal as a couple.
- Serving at church together.
- Enjoying desert by the fire on those cold winter days.
Couples who have small love habits interspersed throughout their day will find it difficult to have longstanding arguments. When a happily connected relationship is the norm, an extended rift in the bond just feels weird. When arguments do occur, both partners are eager to reconnect.
How We Break Out of Contempt With Love Habits
Shortly after Jenny and I married, Jenny initiated an ingenious love habit. We’re a blended family, and we started our life together with two amazing girls (my daughter’s and Jenny’s bonus kids). From the very beginning, Jenny decided that after the children went to bed, the remaining hours were our time. There would be no work, separate projects, or hiding out alone.
After all, the two of us married because we want to be together. So reserving this time just for us made perfect sense. The years past—we’ll celebrate our eights anniversary later this year—and the love habit solidified. Sometimes the two of us will play a game, share a dessert, or sit by the fire. But most often, we crash in front of the television, utterly exhausted, and binge-watch the latest Netflix show.
This simple love habit made practicing Ephesians 4:26 much easier. This passage of Scripture says, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Although lingering disputes are a rarity in our home, if there is any resentment, this “us time” brings it to light. Jenny and I have found that both of us are eager to reconnect by the time evening rolls around.
Staying disconnected once the children are asleep is nearly impossible when connected is the norm. Simply stated, neither of us knows what to do without the other. Ending the day with a connection habit is powerful! It works for us, and we believe this simple love habit will draw you and your partner closer together too!
Love Habits vs. Small Acts of Contemp
According to John Gottman, the magic ratio for a happy and stable relationship is 5/1. Happy and stable couples have five positive interactions for every negative one. This is why love habits are so important. Contempt is powerful and not easily undone. Couples who integrate tiny acts of love into their day are far more likely to meet this vital 5/1 ratio.
Love Habits are a Rare Commodity
Sadly, love habits are a rare commodity these days. Recently, a friend shared how he stopped by the grocery store to pick up flowers for his wife—just because. The young clerk at the register looked at the flowers and then looked at my friend. “Mr., what did you do?” he inquired, with a sly smile.
The implication was that my friend must be “in the doghouse.” It’s a sad day when a guy only buys flowers for the woman he loves to mend their broken bond. In happy relationships, kind acts are the norm. You’ll know you’re doing a good job of integrating love habits into your bond when the two of you are so connected that other people think it’s strange!
So, how many tiny acts of love can you integrate into your day?
How to Create Love Habits
Creating new love habits is easy. It can be as simple as diving into one of our 51 love-bank filling strategies. A list of creative conversation starters is another excellent place to begin. Entrepreneurial-minded couples may want to start with our list of questions about money, budgeting, and finances.
The exact way the two of you connect isn’t important. As long as the two of you are drawing closer together, you are absolutely doing things right. Jenny and I define intimacy as into-me-see. It’s the ability to peer into our loved ones’ inner world. Of course, into-me-see can lead to intimacy as our mind, emotions, and physical body are interconnected.
A regular habit of into-me-see is powerful. Jenny and I went through several conversation starter books before wee marred as a way of drawing closer. Then, we wrote a few conversation starter books of our own.
Jenny and I had so much fun going through this guided connection process that we wanted to add to the joy. We did this coming up with our own questions for couples. Today, love habits of connection are a regular part of our routine.
Hopefully, our story and the ideas in this post have helped you see that tiny acts of love make a big difference and encourage you to strengthen your own couple’s love habits.
Diving Deeper Into Love Habits
Would you like to dive deeper? Fantastic! Let’s connect, one-on-one. You can use this link to set up a personalized coaching call. The goal of this call is to help you generate some quick wins and see if coaching is right for you. Or, we can connect through a simple, text-based habit coaching platform on coach.me. Both of these options are an excellent way to dive deeper and take your love habits to the next level.
Continuing the Love Habits Conversation
So how are you practicing tiny acts of love? Do you have any regular love habits in your relationship, and what love habits would you add to this list.? Finally, how do you and your loved one and drive the small foxes out of your bond?
I look forward to continuing the conversation in the comments below!