What exactly are the little things?

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by kattebelletje

This past week, the Significant Other and I had the opportunity to spend time in the company of a couple who’s been married for 55 years.

In the course of our conversation, I was able to ask what most people want to know when they meet people who’ve been married for that amount of time: What has kept you together for so long?

The wife informed us that the answer was simple: “It was the little things.”

The little what?

Never having been much of a romantic, I found her answer to be too abstract for my taste but having just met the couple prevented me from insisting, “What exactly are the little things?”

And so in the days that followed, I pondered what keeps me in my actual relationship.

However, I discounted the logical reasons like commitment, affection, respect, admiration, and the compulsory good sense of humor.

Instead, I strived to focus on the “littler” things.

The problem was, I had no idea what those littler things were.

Intent on discovering what they were, I set out to observe and document any action that would contribute to this definition.

I was surprised to learn that in fact, there are many little things the Significant Other does that up until now, have not been considered pivotal to holding our relationship together.

Perhaps the reason for my lack of awareness has been succumbing to frustration and disappointment when my “larger” expectations haven’t been met.

For example, if I ask him to install a lamp that’s been sitting in its original box for the past six months and he doesn’t do it, I conclude that he’s refusing to do something that would make me happy.

However, arriving at this conclusion prevents me from seeing other “little” ways that demonstrate how committed he is or how much he cares for me.

In the days that transpired, I was able to “catch” the Significant Other doing the following things: (of course he was unaware that his behavior was being scrutinized)

~He woke up and realizing my arm was laying halfway across his part of the bed, instead of simply moving it so he could get out, he turned and twisted his body like a contortionist until he was able to ease himself out of bed.
(I should explain that he sleeps on the side of the bed that is close to the wall and the only way out is through my side.)

~He brought me candy from my favorite candy store without me requesting he do so.

~He went to a work party where they served an Indonesian layer cake called “spekkoek,” which he knows I love, and brought home a piece.

~He heard me tell Roxy that I hoped we’d see a bumble bee, and the next day he came home with a ring shaped like one.

~He made coffee and brought it to me upstairs.

~He unexpectedly gave me a neck and shoulder massage.

And so, ladies, after taking note of these little gestures, I’ve concluded they qualify as the “littler” things that add to a relationship’s sense of well being.

Furthermore, I now realize that at times I’ve been guilty of not giving them the attention or importance they merit.

Thankfully, this exercise has allowed me to understand that these actions are motivated by affection, commitment, and caring.

Even better, I’ve been able to identify them without having been married for 55 years.

Do you think the “little” things matter in a long term relationship?

If so, what little thing have you caught your partner, spouse or boyfriend doing for you lately?

(By the way, the photo in this post features “spekkoek.”)


33 thoughts on “What exactly are the little things?

  1. Bella, I love the way you describe your confusing about what’s little. It’s thought provoking, and you’re right about it coming down to the definition. It sounds like you’ve had a positive shift in perspective. Good for you! And yes, bringing me coffee in bed earns really big points.

    1. June, yes, I humbly admit to having a shift in perspective. After all, the poor Significant Other has to catch a break sometime! :) And yes, we most definitely deserve coffee in bed!

  2. Good point, Bella, what *are* the small things? For me, what’s most important is a *willingness* to participate in things big and small. *Big* is really just long links of small things…

    1. Cathy, “Big is really just long links of small things..” I love it! I couldn’t have said it better myself! And I also agree that a willingness to participate in all sorts of thing gets awarded good points. Some men are too conditional when it comes to being active participants. Thanks for adding that to the mix! :)

    2. Hi Cathy –

      Don’t u think it’s all about recognizing those small things and identifying how special they are…i.e…maybe a hug from a child, and cherishing that throughout the day and not just for 5 minutes? Or, maybe pulling your car into a parking space up front in a crowded Walmart parking lot on a rainy day! A ton of wonderful little things happen to us each day which I fail to identify. Like Bella, I am a work-in-progress also and I am striving towards seeing each little blessing as they occur. Have a wonderful Wednesday evening. :)

    1. Hi Kenya –

      I agree. Noticing that the small things on route to the bigger picture will make that big thing taste so much better. Goal-setting and goal-attainment, all take a series of little milestones in order to reach the top (the goal). Nice! :)

    2. Kenya, I’m honored. Thank you so much! I’m really happy you’re enjoying the blog! And you’re right, it really is a treat when you can get him to do things you’ve asked him to do! :) I call that, bonus points! hee hee!

  3. Hi Bella –

    Hey, I really like reading your blog and love your site layout also! ^5

    How sweet and true is the wife’s comment about all the little things in life kept them together for over a half-century? Sometimes, people are striving for big things in life, and fail or forget to cherish the little things (moments, experiences) that matter the most. That couple is a great example of how to appreciate what they have, and not what they don’t have. Super post and Kudos to you. Have a nice Wednesday evening. :)

    1. Charlie, hello and welcome! How I love having a man’s perspective! I wholeheartedly agree with you–the small things are what matter the most at the end of the day. Enjoy your evening and do visit us again! :)

  4. Bella,
    What a wonderful thought provoking post. I realized in reading it, that I too, have not noticed the small things in my marriage for a long time. This post was so relevant to me, that I forwarded it on to my husband, along with a thank you for doing all the “small” things that get disregarded. He replied with love and kisses, and praise for your writing. Thank you for reminding me that we are the sum of all our parts and actions, big & small.

    1. Georgia, I am deeply moved by your comment. Would you thank your husband for me? I’m tickled pink that my humble words would in fact spur you to take action! How absolutely wonderful! I’m glad that you’ve recognized his efforts and that he’s been so sweet to you in return. You’ve got a good man by your side, Georgia girl! :)

  5. Lovely post. The bee ring got to me. My husband has never been one for grand gestures but each day is filled with so many of these “little things.” We’ll be married 20 years this Fall and (I know it sounds trite) it all still seems fresh.

    1. Tracey, it does’t sound trite at all, it sounds sweet! Twenty years is a long time so your hubby must be doing something right! :)

  6. Neither my wife nor I are great romantics. We don’t write poetry. We don’t have a song. We don’t get mushy. But we do a lot of little things for each other, and it’s important to pay special attention to these and remember them when one of us is frustrated with the other and puts too much emphasis on one negative.

    1. This is the best relationship advice I’ve heard in a long time! It’s my long-term goal to do exactly that and hopefully, many catastrophes will be averted! :)

  7. I have been in a relationship for twelve and a half years. My reflection: It’s not always about the little things. Sometimes it’s more about a person’s flaws that we find adorable than the persons qualities. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate his qualities and I think it’s very important, even vital for a couple. But finding someone with the “good” flaws, I mean, those that don’t get on your nerves, is pretty hard for any human being. And this, you can only discover after many years in a relationship!

    1. Lady, you are my hero! I have yet to discover a flaw in the Significant Other that I find good! hee hee! :) You are indeed a lucky lady to have found such a gem in your man! Hold on tight! :)

  8. I usually work long hours and get home after dark. When my husband gets home, he always turns on the porch light for me. I’ve never asked him to, he just does it. It’s so nice to come home from work, see that light on, and know that he was thinking about me. That is a little thing he does that means a lot to me…..I should go tell him!

    1. Cara, that is beautiful! If someone turned on the porch light for me, I wouldn’t be nearly tripping to my death all the time! haha! :) I do hope you tell him!

  9. Oh Bella, I love this post. Jay and I will be married 10 years this summer and he is still my favorite person on the planet. Too many little things to count! Thanks for reminding us that love is to be appreciated in all it’s forms, everyday.

    1. Heidi, you’re another one of the lucky ones to have found a keeper! Ten years…oh my goodness! That’s a decade! Doesn’t it sound like longer when you say a decade? :) You deserve the best so I’m glad you have Jay!

  10. Love this post, Bella! It did get me thinking. I often wish my husband would bring me more flowers and chocolates, but on the other hand, he is my webmeister, solving each and every one of my never-ending computer problems. Now that’s love.

    1. Jann, that is most defintely love! I’m the one who has to act as “techie” in this house, and trust me when I tell you it’s nerve wracking. And hey, I’ll take a webmeister over a flowers and chocolate man any day! I’m happy you like the post!

  11. Just becoz your spouse doesn’t love you the way you want him or her to , doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t love you at all and this post is such a beautiful example of this ..that instead of mulling over the ‘ have – not’s ‘ , if we just be grateful for the little and littler things that they do for us – the world is indeed a happier place :))
    P.S – Any husband who makes tea / coffee and gives unexpected massages def wins brownie points – not to mention is a keeper *_*

  12. Bella, this is such a sweet post. Earlier this morning I was at a Starbucks, and an elderly couple came in and sat at the table next to mine. They skyped with their kid for a little bit, googling over their (what I will assume to be) cute grandchildren, and then realizing that the background noise was too loud to carry on their conversation, turned their laptop off. The woman then went to the counter and ordered herself and her husband some drinks and a pastry to split. After she sat down, she and her husband proceeded to converse for a long time (30 minutes or so) about tarps, lunch meat, wi-fi connections, floors, flowers, the short conversation they had with their son… At first I was mortified because I (being married 4 years) I cannot envision myself having those sorts of conversations with my husband, especially drawn out for that long. And then I realized that perhaps it’s those things that really kept them together for that long a time. They looked like they really cherished each other’s companies no matter what the topic of conversation. After thinking about it a big, I can only hope that my husband and I find that much joy later on in life :)

    I guess what I was trying to say was yes, I do believe it’s the little things that count. :)

    1. Laura, I loved, loved reading about the elderly couple you encountered! Girl, you’ve got a blog post here! Use it! The Significant Other oftentimes have long winded conversations. Actually, they’re more one sided, but his body is still in the seat! hee hee! I truly hope you and your hubs will find the same joy you witnessed in the Starbucks couple!

  13. Great post. YOu are lucky you have such wonderful little things to appreciate. I am married now for 26 years and the advice you got is dead on. It is the everyday things that you do to support each other and your family, the understanding or ability to finish sentences before they are completely out… little things – AND a commitment to each other that when those doozy fights come, you are still committed to each other and your family and you work out those large and small kinks along the way.

    May we all have at least 55 years together!


    1. Hear, hear, Meryl! I totally support your sentiment. I agree that the little things and a sense of commitment is what will allow us to “work out the large and small kinks.” If not for those, how else would relationships survive, right? :)

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