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The Power of Small Caring Behaviors

Magic at Midlife: Your Relationship Roadmap for Romance After 40

Jennifer Y. Levy-Peck, PhD and Charles Peck | Nov 17, 2014, 6 a.m.
Northwest authors Jennifer Y. Levy-Peck, PhD, a psychologist, and her husband Charles Peck are write a weekly column on midlife relationships. They are working on a new book, "Magic at Midlife: Your Relationship Roadmap for Romance After 40."

How can you show your love for your partner in ways that really matter? Grand gestures are lovely, but not practical on a daily basis. You may be surprised to realize how powerful small signs of caring can be.

Many therapists suggest that couples rebuild their relationships with daily, small caring behaviors. Why wait until your relationship is in trouble? Demonstrating your feelings in simple but meaningful ways can enhance positive feelings between you and your partner.

We are usually very good at this in the early stages of a love affair. We think about our partners constantly, and wonder how we can please them. Depending on your romantic style, you may have written love notes, sent texts, bought flowers, cooked favorite foods, or simply greeted your sweetheart with loving enthusiasm after even the shortest time apart. Are you still doing those things? Remember how good they made you feel and how your love blossomed in the warmth of caring?

If you need some inspiration, borrow a method from therapist Richard Stuart, who developed the "caring days" technique for couples he treated. He asked each person to write a list of 18 small, positive behaviors that their partner could perform to show caring, and then to do 5 of the behaviors from their partner's list each day. Some examples of these behaviors might be to set up the coffee pot for the next day, to turn on the porch light when your partner is coming home late, to bring home a small surprise when you go shopping, to give a foot rub, to give a compliment, or to send a loving text some time during the day. Remember that a smile or a hug counts as a caring behavior. Say "I love you" while looking into your partner's eyes, as you did the very first time you said those words.

When you decide to show your love through caring behaviors, focus on what might increase your partner's happiness. This is usually a good thing for both of you! It's important to approach this exercise from the standpoint of giving rather than receiving. If you get irritated because your partner isn't giving you what you would like, you defeat the purpose. Concentrate on the pleasure you get from giving to your partner, and notice how that improves the overall tone of your relationship. Simply paying closer attention to your partner's likes and dislikes will increase the loving feeling between the two of you in a generally healthy relationship.

As you increase your demonstrations of caring, you tap into your most loving self. Make a commitment to do this even when you are feeling a bit irritated or frustrated with your partner. Your caring behavior might be to simply do a routine chore with graciousness and good humor rather than annoyance. It's never too late in life to build your ability to show how much you care about the one you love. Give it a try!

Northwest authors Jennifer Y. Levy-Peck, PhD, a psychologist, and her husband Charles Peck are write a weekly column on midlife relationships. They are working on a new book, "Magic at Midlife: Your Relationship Roadmap for Romance After 40."

Previous Magic at Midlife Columns:

Accepting Your Aging Body

The Perils of Gift-Giving

Telling Your Love Story

Older Hearts Break, Too

Reimagining Your Life Together

Memory Loss and the Midlife Couple

When One of You Retires

Money - One Pot or Separate Accounts?

Falling in Love Later in Life

To Marry or Not?

Conversations About Death for Midlife Couples

The Couple That Laughs Together, Stays Together

Vacation Time! Leave Your Baggage at Home

Your Place or Mine? Moving In Together

How to Help Your Partner Calm Down

Creating Shared Goals

Having the “Senior Safer Sex” Conversation

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