Small Acts, Big Love

Small selfless acts between spouses aren’t just nice — they also are necessary. Experts say when acts of kindness and caregiving disappear, it is an indication the relationship needs help. And when you are compassionate to your partner, it increases your own happiness at least as much as the other person’s.

Harry T. Reis, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, identified ways couples can show ‘compassionate’ love to improve a relationship:

• Put your partner’s goals first. Giving your husband the last cupcake is easy. Spending your vacation — again — with his family is hard.

• Try to understand your partner’s thoughts and feelings. Not sure what’s going on? Ask.

• Accept, don’t judge. Don’t like your spouse’s relatives, or his taste in clothes or TV shows? Zip it.

• Be open to your partner’s requests. Everyone is busy. If she asks for something, assume it’s important.

• Modify your plans for your spouse’s sake. Does she need a night off from parenting, or a few hours to finish a work project? Accommodate and earn relationship goodwill.

• Do something special for your partner. Flowers are nice, but so is making the bed.

• Express tenderness and caring. Not everyone likes public displays of affection. But you can make a nice cup of tea.

• Show respect and admiration. Celebrate successes, even little ones. Did your spouse handle a touchy situation well, or make you laugh? Point it out.

• Show you value your partner. Two words: Thank you.