The Little Things That Make a Big Difference-Caring Days

caring day behavior

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

In my last article I talked about how we respond to one another’s bids. Do we turn toward, away, or against? As we learn to turn towards our partners, we’re putting deposits into their love accounts. Closely related is an idea called “Caring Days” which is a way to build friendship by restoring feelings of love and goodwill in your relationship.

The concept was originally developed by a psychologist by the name of Richard Stuart in his book Helping Couples Change: A Social Learning Approach to Marital Therapy. It is a strategy to help you feel more loved and more loving through simple and specific acts of kindness. These are little things that make a big difference.

Examples of acts of kindness include a call in the middle of the day, a quick text expressing appreciation, helping out with an unpleasant chore, bringing home flowers, leaving a note on a mirror, sitting side-by-side on the couch holding hands, giving a backrub and so on. None of these are big things. But all of them say, “I am thinking about you and want to honor you through a simple kindness.”

An Example

Dr. Harvel Hendrix, author of the best-selling book, Getting the Love You Want, tells a story of using this technique with a couple who were alienated and on the verge of divorce. The husband had witnessed his wife’s flirtatious behavior over many years and concluded that it was just a matter of time before she’d have an affair. She reported that this wasn’t her intent. She was doing whatever she could to penetrate her husband’s defenses and get him to be more interested in her, but to no avail. If she tried to talk about it, he’d get upset and zoom off to safety in his Audi sedan.

Dr. Hendrix had them recount how they treated each other when they first met, going on bike rides, calling each other two or three times a day and leaving work to take in a movie together. He challenged them to treat each other as they did when they were courting. At first, the couple was very hesitant but decided to give it a try, given the fact that they were paying big bucks to try and improve their relationship.

A Change of Feelings

The first time the husband tried a caring behavior something happened in him. He stopped at a store and bought a bouquet of daisies and card for his wife. He signed the card “I love you.” He later reported that at the moment he handed the daisies and card to his wife he was surprised to notice that he really did care for her, something he’d not felt in a long time. His wife read the card and tears came to her eyes. It had been so long since he told her that he loved her.

Well, this was just the first act. The couple began doing lots of things to show kindness to each other. She cooked him a pot roast and potato pancakes, his favorite dinner. He curled up in bed next to her instead of turning his back. She knit a sweater vest for him. These acts of kindness brought the two of them together again and saved their marriage. It isn’t that they went back and rehashed their history of complaints and everything that had gone on in their relationship. It was like starting anew by kindling feelings of affection through acts of daily kindness.

Caring Days Instructions

Doing caring days is not difficult. All it takes is some desire and willingness to be more thoughtful of your partner. Here are the steps:

  1. Identify specific behaviors that your spouse could do that would please you and indicate that he or she is thinking about you. These behaviors could be things that your partner is already doing, things he or she has done in the past, or things you would like but he or she has never done. (Make sure that none of the items on your list is controversial, sexual, or would be difficult for your partner to do.)
  2. Once you have each written your lists, exchange them. Read your partner’s lists aloud to one another and ask questions for clarification.
  3. Put an X by any items that you would not be willing to do at this time.
  4. Make a commitment to do at least two of the remaining behaviors each day for the next month.
  5. As you notice your partner do any item on your list, acknowledge them with an appreciative comment.
  6. Continue to add items to your list as they come to your awareness. Share these with your partner.

Note: Doing these behaviors can’t be done in a tit for tat kind of way. Keep your focus on doing behaviors that you know will please your partner and allow your partner to do the same for you without trying to keep score.

Consequences for Your Relationship

I have found that caring behaviors can have a profound impact on your relationship. They work because they cause your brain to perceive your partner as someone who cares and nurtures you or as someone deserving of your care. Positive transactions bring affection and love rather than hurt, opening the door for greater intimacy.

Caring behaviors also work because they overcome the belief that your partner should read your mind. By writing down what you like and sharing them with your partner, you are taking responsibility and communicating your needs openly rather than thinking that your partner should know what you want.

So let me encourage you to give this a try. You can do the exercise together if you read and talk about the idea together. If not, you can still do it by making up a list of behaviors you believe would show love and care for your partner. Then begin doing these on a regular basis. It’s likely that your partner will notice. In either case, it is a powerful way to increase the love and goodwill in your relationship.

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