I’ll admit – I’m a layperson when it comes to relationships.
The longest relationship I have ever been a part of was in high school, and since I am only 20 years old, I am not the most qualified person when it comes to discussing how to build lasting relationships. Regardless, I will attempt to do so anyways. One night, my boyfriend was up late at the library studying and accidentally missed the last bus home. Since I was still awake, I offered to drive him home without hesitation.
At first, he refused, not wanting to come across as a burden to me, but I made my offer nonnegotiable. It was not a burden to me at all; in fact, I genuinely wanted to drive him to assure he made it home safely. As I dropped him off, he yelled, “I owe you”, as he shut the car door, which struck me as bizarre. In no way did I feel like he owed me anything. That is when it hit me. The little things are what being in a relationship is all about. I do not like sounding cliché, but clichés are cliché for a reason.
You can repeatedly express feelings toward someone but it will never be as meaningful as showing them. Doing little, everyday things build and strengthen relationships. Gary Chapman, a renowned relationship counselor, believes there are five different love languages – or ways that make people feel loved. One of these ‘languages’ is referred to as “acts of service”, which refers to simply helping the other person out.
This saying does not imply kind words or physical intimacy is not important, because they are as well, but a relationship is about giving. One of the reasons I was so surprised that my boyfriend thought I owed him was because he has already done so much for me. If anything, I still owed him. One night, he set his alarm five minutes prior to my alarm so that he could make me a cup of coffee in the morning. When the alarm went off the next morning he jumped out of bed (and believe me, he is not a morning person) and started brewing the pot.
Then, on his way to the kitchen, he threw one of his sweatshirts into the dryer to warm it up, because he knows I get very cold in the morning. These small acts meant so much me because I did not expect them. Having expectations is a set-up for disappointment. However, when you do not have any expectations, or feel as if your partner should do something for you, you will always feel grateful.
I know my boyfriend was not expecting anything in return, which made it even more endearing. I hear people say all the time that successful relationships take work; I disagree. You should not consider helping someone you care about as “work”. Do relationships take effort? Absolutely, but that is not the same as work. When you do something nice for another person, you should gain as much, if not more, satisfaction as the recipient. This is applicable beyond romantic relationships as well.
When you perform an altruistic, unexpected act of kindness for another person, they will likely remember how you made them feel and be willing to reciprocate the kindness. Not because they feel obligated to, but because they want to. Doing one small thing a day for someone you care about can have a ripple effect, which I believe can make the world a better place.