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13 Things all happy couples do in their marriages

It’s one thing to shower your spouse with material goods and sweet compliments. But our most subtle gestures and actions are what truly keep us fulfilled and build stronger partnerships.

When couples fight, the real reason is rarely because one person didn’t buy roses for the other or keeps leaving the toilet seat up. As long as there is mutual respect, courtesy and gratitude in a relationship, most spouses can weather any storm.

The little things we do for each other add up big time — and these 13 actions and gestures will always make your spouse appreciate you and vice versa.

1. Admit when you’re wrong.

We’re all deeply flawed. Each one of us is going to screw up — sometimes many, many times in the same married week. The only way we can become better people and partners is if we ‘fess up to our mistakes and learn from them. Our spouses deserve to hear the words “I’m sorry” when they’ve been wronged, and, by doing so, we’re modeling how we want to be treated when we’ve been hurt.

2. Accept your spouse’s mistakes.

The flip side, of course, is that there will be a few times when you daydream about throwing your spouse’s clothes out the bedroom window. He/she may have done something so painfully dumb that you just know you’ll argue all night if you lay side by side in the same bed. But it’s one thing to sleep on the couch for a night and quite another to hold resentment in your heart about the mistake. In order to move on, you have to let it go.

3. Have each other’s back — especially in public.

There may be times when you’re out in public with your spouse and he gets into a heated argument with someone or shares an opinion that you think is utterly ridiculous. Take a cue from Kim Kardashian (think she’s got some experience with this one?) and keep harsh criticism to yourself — at least until you get back in the car and can share your thoughts in private. It’s not that you should never respectfully disagree with your spouse in public, but if you see him headed down a road in which he’s about to be lambasted by other people for his beliefs, have his back. He’s going to need you.

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4. Make coffee if you’re up first.

It takes so little time and effort to put on a pot of coffee, and the good feeling and the rejuvenating aroma is totally worth it. This one gesture will help provide you both with a sweet start to the day.

5. Give a little hand squeeze when you know they need it.

Words don’t always suffice when your loved one is nervous or feeling emotional. You may not know the right thing to say, but that’s OK — your partner isn’t with you because you are his therapist. Sometimes the only response you need to provide is a gentle hand squeeze to remind each other that you’re present for them.

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6. Remember when something big is going on that day.

Your partner’s big meeting at work may not directly affect you, but that doesn’t mean he/she won’t benefit from knowing it’s on your mind as much as it is on his. In order to feel like you’re on each other’s sides in this crazy life, you should both be in tune with why you may be feeling nervous or emotional that day.

7. Give gifts that show thought.

If you’re going to give your partner a gift, make it thoughtful. If you hastily buy each other the same Hallmark card, bouquet of flowers or cologne for each and every special occasion, you are missing the point of giving a token of your appreciation and love that is an actual memento he or she will appreciate.

8. Pick up a bottle of wine and suggest “we” time without prompting.

It’s difficult (and sometimes impossible!) to plan big, romantic dates every week, especially when you have children. But it costs very little to pick up a bottle of wine on your way home from work and suggest you curl up on the couch and binge watch The Americans after you put the kids to bed.

9. Know when your partner needs a few minutes and give him/her that alone time.

Acknowledging that your partner needs alone time just as much as he/she needs you is crucial in a relationship. Don’t take it personally, just give that space and let your partner know you’re there if or when he/she needs to talk things out.

10. Pick up their favorite foods at the grocery store.

It took me far too long to learn that this simple gesture can make up for a lot of other dumb things I do in my relationship. People are serious about their food. If you make your weekly trip to the grocery store and fail to pick up salsa, it could screw up your partner’s Saturday night nacho tradition. Silly? Maybe. But it takes so little effort (since you’re already at the store) to pick up his or her favorite snacks and it will make your partner extremely grateful.

11. Take on a chore they hate, just because they hate it.

Maybe he gets dry heaves when he thinks about cleaning the toilet. Perhaps you have a stronger stomach, but have dreaded washing the dishes since you were a child. The secret to splitting household responsibilities isn’t to necessarily split them equally down the middle, but to make life as easy as possible for you both. If you take on a task your spouse hates, he or she will almost always reciprocate — which makes for a more pleasant living experience all around.

12. Say, “I’m thinking about you.”

Instead of calling or texting with a request, to find out how the children are doing, or to complain about something that happened that day, remind yourself of how you communicated when you first met. Chances are, you didn’t just touch base during the day to ask if your partner could pick up bread from the store. You called because you wanted to hear each other’s voices. Knowing someone is thinking of you for no other reason than because you are wonderful warms the heart every time.

13. Say, “thank you.”

Our spouses don’t owe us anything. We do things for each other because we value our relationship and the other person’s decision — a decision they make each and every day — to be with us. Show gratitude by saying those two simple and sweet words that make us want to continue doing amazing things for each other.

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