by Sarah Johnson
This morning I saw a post on Facebook about the four habits of happy couples:
1. They don’t leave without saying goodbye to each other,
2. They talk face to face every day,
3. They say “I love you,”
4. They surprise each other (in a good way) now and then.
Is a great relationship really that simple? Definitely not. But all four habits send the same important message – “I value you and our relationship.” That part is simple, and it’s a message that shouldn’t be reserved for romantic relationships.
As a mother, spouse and full-time employee, I know how busy families can be. We dash out the door, we run from commitment to commitment, we do laundry and pay bills and take care of the many mundane things that quickly fill an average day; finding time to show our appreciation for each other can feel challenging.
The trick is to think smaller. One of my favorite quotations that relates to family comes from author Robert Brault: “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
Small moments that happen throughout the day – a good morning hug, a sincere compliment, helping without being asked, a quick note tucked into a lunch box – those are the simple little ways we say, “I value you and our relationship.”
Whether it was intentional or not, I think there’s also a good reason that “they surprise each other now and then” is number four on the happy couples list. Everyone loves a special gesture every once in a while from their special people. When my husband came home with grocery store daisies recently, I felt loved and understood (he knows I love flowers, but he also knows me well enough to bring home daisies instead of spending a lot on a fancy bouquet!).
But most of us can’t afford to buy each other gifts all the time. Even if we could, it would start to feel like an empty gesture without the simple demonstrations of appreciation that cost nothing and can happen many times a day.
One of my favorite memories from when my daughter was a young child is of her morning greeting. For several years, starting when she moved from a crib to a bed, she began her day by toddling from her room to my side of the bed. She would quietly put her arm around my neck, kiss my cheek, and whisper, “Good morning Mama.”
Her small, loving gesture, so simple that a three-year-old was able to make it a part of her daily routine, still improves my mood instantly when I think about it ten years later. In our family we say goodbye with a hug or a kiss every morning, we eat at least one meal together every day, and we never go a day without saying I love you at least once. Some flowers now and then are really nice, too.
We are a happy family. Maybe in some ways, it really is that simple.