Love Habits - How tiny acts of love can make or break a relationship

Love Habits: How Tiny Acts of Love Make or Break a Relationship

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.

Love habits are important because, in a recent survey, our Facebook community reported the little things matter the most. Love habits include acts like:

  • 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.

Quote-Love Habits Compound Many Times Over

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!

Contempt and Love Habits

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. 

Quote-happy and stable couples

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!

Love Habits quote 2

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!

Jed Jurchenko

Jed Jurchenko is the husband to an incredible wife, daddy to four amazing girls, and a foster dad to one more. He's served as a children's pastor, marriage and family therapist, psychology professor, award-winning writing coach, and life coach. Jed is the author of 23 books on relationships, parenting, writing, and doing life well. In his free time, you'll find Jed reading, preparing for an upcoming marathon, barbecuing, paddle boarding, and enjoying life with his incredible family. Find out more about Jed's books, coaching, and courses at www.ithrive320.com.

13 thoughts on “Love Habits: How Tiny Acts of Love Make or Break a Relationship”

  1. Jed – This was a great article. I have been married for over 30 years, and I think we have gotten a little rusty on our love habits. I am going to be pondering this post and making some changes. Thank you for sharing with Grace & Truth link-up. I am going to feature your post this Friday. Maree

    1. Hey Maree, thanks for droping by and for the kind words. I’m so glad this was helpful and thank you for picking this as a featured post—what an honor!

      I love your Grace & Truth link-up. Thank you for hosting and the opportunity to share. I’ve neglected my blog for a while. Now that i’m diving back in, it’s awesome to connect to some new writing friends and reconnect with old ones!

    1. Hey Barbara, Thanks for visiting. And I agree 100%. Jenny and I will be celebrating 8 years of marriage in December. We have also found that it’s all too easy to go through the day on autopilot. Do the two of you have any systems or strategies in place to make sure you are breaking out of the daily routine to connect?

      Jenny and I are learning to put these in place and love learning from other couples too!

  2. Wonderful wisdom and fresh insight, Jed. We often forget the stark contrast between small habbits of love and “routine” acts of contempt. How sad when we fall into this trap of habitually speaking death over our marriage. I pray we all focus on creating new habits of love.

  3. Jed, fantastic article! I’ve been married over 30 years and it wasn’t until the last few years that we added many of these love habits. It transformed our marriage! We enjoy them so much we hate to miss them for any reason. I would say we had a “good” marriage before, but now it is more than we imagined. I’m thank to be visiting from the Grace & Truth Link up today!

    1. Thanks, Donna, and congrats on over thirty years of marriage—that is awesome! After 30 years together, is there any advice, in particular, you would offer newly married couples? I always love hearing how others answer this question.

      And thanks for stopping by. Wishing you an incredible weekend!

  4. Great post Jed! Maree’s feature brought me here.
    Time together is always precious as a couple, hubby & I have our together times each day & little acts of love & kindness that are so lovely & purely ours. We have a combined family of 8 that have now grown to 23! Including our 6 daughter’s partners & our grandchildren.
    However, sneaky little foxes can sneak in at times, though rare, so we too confront them & chase them out of the vineyard together.
    You’re most welcome to join me in a cuppa at Tea With Jennifer,
    Blessings,
    Jennifer

    1. Hey Jennifer. Congrats on the growing family. 23, that is awesome! Grandparents are so important. We know because our kiddos love theirs, learn so much from them, and Jenny and I are grateful to have her parents close by.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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