Start with the Little Things.

I came across a quote by Peter Capaldi today. I’ve seen it before, but it always sticks with me. It was a quote from an interview, one of several, where he talks about his wife. It always gives me a feeling that all is right with the world when I see or hear him talk about his wife. It is proof that romance is in fact still alive and kicking, and that there are still people who find that everlasting love, the one that I every now and then think might just be a myth.

And it’s all because of the little things. While I’m sure there’s more to the story, one of my favorite Peter Capaldi quotes is in response to a question about someone doing something nice for him.

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She made him breakfast, and he married her! From the sounds of it, he might very well have been hungover, but she came over, opened the blinds, cooked him breakfast, and because of the care and concern that one act showed, he chose to make her his wife.

That has to be only a small part of the story, but the fact that he chooses to tell it in that way is very telling. It emphasizes how important the small acts of kindness are in building a relationship.

We’ve talked about the love languages before. A lot! Particularly because in my own journeys, the Boy didn’t understand how to express love. Probably because he didn’t love me, didn’t really even think of me fondly even, especially towards the end… Probably even very early on in the relationship based on the evidence, but that is why he is gone for good… for real this time. He doesn’t want to have anything to do with me, and I don’t particularly want to have anything to do with him.

So let’s move on.

Where was I?

Oh yes, we’ve talked about love languages before, and I put a lot of emphasis on the Words of Affirmation, because it means so very much to me, but there are five different love languages, and they can be combined in different ways to really help get the point across that you care about someone.

I’m not even talking romantic love. Just that you care.

In the beginning of a relationship, yes there is that attraction (or there should be) that drives you wild for one another. You can’t wait to see the other person, just being near them makes you horny excited. The sound of their voice, or their face popping up on your phone for a text, or happening across a fragrance that smells like them should be enough to make your world spin.

But that can fade. If it doesn’t, you’ve obviously caught yourself a winner, and don’t let them go… assuming the feeling is mutual.

A big part of my problem with the Boy was that it never was mutual, but because he would get obviously aroused in my presence, I often thought that he still felt something for me. I missed all the cues that he didn’t.

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So how do you catapult that initial attraction or lust into a lasting relationship? It’s the little things that show you care.

Here’s where love languages become a big help. Although, if you really think about it, they’re pretty common sense: if you want to show someone that you care, it makes sense to do it in a way that they value, and you can observe how they show their feelings to get an idea of what it is that they value.

I go back to examples from the Boy because I’ve got the most data from that relationship, not because I’m still concerned about it (believe me, the new guy, the Bartender, he’s got my brain working overtime!). So with the Boy, our relationship began in text and chat, and so words were the most obvious way to show caring. This worked well for me because Words of Affirmation is one of my love languages.

It also meant that when he decided we were moving too fast and he completely removed the words altogether, that it crushed me.

But there were other ways that, in the beginning, he showed he cared. Like once, as a form of apology, he took my newspaper (I really love Sudoku) and he wrote on it telling me that he was “going to screw this up,” but that he was sorry. It meant a lot. It combined the words (which were important to me) and an action (which I’ve since learned is probably his love language). It’s not quite the same as helping out with grading papers, or something which is a much bigger gesture as far as “Acts of Service” is concerned, but it was a visible, tangible thing that showed he was legitimately sorry for having hurt me.

It was the only visible, tangible, legitimate apology he’s ever given. I am not counting the one from Christmas before last. That one was not legitimate. But we aren’t here to discuss that.

So, what other little things can there be?

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Words are important. And easy. It takes just a few seconds to text someone good morning. Add words like “beautiful,” “handsome,” “sexy,” or a pet name of some sort and you’ve made someone’s day in less than a minute. Minimal effort, maximum effect.

Or a little “Just thinking about you,” text works well, too, although too much too soon seems to be scary. I think it’s sweet, but I’ve scared off quite a few potential partners by coming on too strong. My mother reminded me just yesterday that I needed to let the Bartender be the aggressor this time, because I do really, really like him. If you come on too strong, the other person might ghost, so yeah, watch out with the “thinking about you,” stuff. Best to stick with “good morning.”

At least in the beginning…

Actions are good, too. It doesn’t have to be anything really big, either. Showing someone that you’ve heard what they’ve said and have thus changed a little something can make a big impact. It can be as small as changing your choice of air freshener because it annoys your partner. I’m particularly sensitive to cinnamon, but for some reason it is one of, if not the most popular air freshener fragrances. If a man removed a cinnamon air freshener because it bothered my nose, that would mean a lot.

Again, that example comes up because the Boy decided to get different fragrances for around his apartment, and the cinnamon one meant I didn’t sleep one night, but he chose NOT to remove the fragrance. I had to get up and figure out how to unplug it or limit the smell. I think I ended up spilling it or making a mess somehow. It didn’t end well, whatever happened. It was one of the first times I realized that my feelings didn’t matter because he specifically told me that it was his house, so he wasn’t changing it.

Who would have thought that something as small as air freshener could say so much about the longevity of a relationship? actsofservice.jpg

It really is all about the little things.

The Bartender and the Married Guy before him are masters of touch. Even Superman knew the importance of touch and holding hands. Superman would hold my hand while he was driving, and our very first real date (not the pre-date, or even the after New Year’s breakfast), he wrapped his arm around me while we walked in, and held my hand during the movie.

The Bartender similarly made sure that we were touching at every moment during our first date the other day (which was beyond perfect, by the way). Similar to Superman, he made sure to hold my hand during the movie. And when I took my hand back because I was very tempted to let it go wandering, he leaned over and kissed me and asked where my hand went.

We did a lot of kissing, and kissing is important…

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Those are extreme examples, and specific to the Attraction stage, which we’re trying to extend into a serious relationship, so what sorts of touching can you do that’s not that extreme? It could be as simple as being out in a large group and a quick squeeze of the hand under the table, or placing your hand on someone’s leg; patting someone on the shoulder if they’re seated and you walk behind them, or a quick peck on the cheek when no one is watching.

Again, it’s a small thing that can mean a lot to a person.

My favorite will always be that feeling of a man coming up behind me when I’m not expecting it, or especially if I’m upset, and hugging me from behind, nuzzling my neck. Once, only once did the Boy do that, and while the rest of my world was falling apart, being able to lean back into him and know that in that moment I was safe meant the world to me. That feeling was what I fought for, and I should have realized it was a fluke with him.

The Bartender, on the other hand, had me lean into him while we were seated, and he rubbed my shoulders, and just touched me while listening to Enigma and telling me about his life before he moved to Texas. It was magical!

But then again, I really do appreciate touch.

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The last two are the Receiving of Gifts and spending Quality Time together. These are inherently bigger than just small things, and the ways in which you… I don’t want to say diminish them, but make them smaller (which is technically the definition of diminish) tends to put them in some of the other categories.

Or at least in my mind they do. It may be because, to me, Quality Time is about the combination of the amount of time and the amount of interaction during that time, while Gifts are only important if they are spoken of first, so to me they fall into Acts of Service or Words of Affirmation somehow.

So, in order to shorten Quality Time, you have to incorporate it with an Act of Service. For instance, you’re on the same side of town as your lover, who’s at work. Stopping by to surprise them for lunch (by bringing it with you or picking them up to take them to lunch) is a form of Quality Time, but also an Act of Service. Or sitting with them while they are working on a project, even if there are hardly any words spoken, could be quality time, though to me, it’s more effective if either you’re helping (Acts of Service) or touching (Physical Touch). To me, what makes this Quality Time example truly valid is that it is a non-verbal expression of support, placing the needs of your partner above your own needs.

The Boy and I used to spend time together a lot, in the beginning, but because we weren’t really to that phase yet where we could truly be comfortable together, just existing in each other’s space, it was confusing to me. It felt like he wanted to spend quality time with me, but only ever spent time with me, there was no quality to it because there was no interaction. It fulfilled his need, but not mine, and because I cared, I went with it, though it made me mildly uncomfortable, the longer it went on, especially when my attempts to interact were discounted and he told me they made him uncomfortable, or made him think I wanted something more than he did.

We were so incompatible…

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Gifts are generally a big deal, but I think they can be seen as a small thing if they aren’t expensive, or if it shows that you were thinking about the other person.

We’ve spoken a lot about gifts and about the importance of the sentimental value of a gift. If you go on a business trip, and happen across a picture that reminds you of your significant other and you bring it home as a present, that has a lot of sentimental value. It shows that you were thinking of the other person while you were away. Or, if you’re SO has been looking for a particular (insert difficult to find item here), and you find one somewhere while you’re running your errands, getting it and giving it to them for no reason whatsoever is very romantic.

But they don’t have to be expensive. Remember, the Boy promised me a mixed CD of music he thought I’d enjoy. It never materialized, but I’ve spoken about it on here so much because it would have meant so much to me if it had actually materialized. It shows genuine concern about me as a person. Genuine care about creating shared memories. And would have cost next to nothing.

The two gifts I’ve received from him were:

1) A flask for my birthday, which is wholly impractical and does not in the least fit my personality, and is, at this very moment, sitting on a shelf gathering dust.

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2) His favorite book, that he bought at the airport because I had asked him to bring me back a gift that had a great story behind why he got it. This one was nice, it was an author I liked, although it is definitely not one of my favorites by that author, and it was an attempt to share himself with me, and I do like books, so it was a good effort. Not quite what I had in mind, but a good effort nonetheless. The main reason I find myself not excited about the memory is because he told me on the phone that he didn’t get me anything but he was at the airport and looking to remedy that mistake. And somehow, because it was his favorite book, and an afterthought while at the airport, it says that he still wasn’t thinking about me at all, but it was all about him.

Gifts are obviously complicated…

A simple gift that I received from my best friend was simply a jar (actually a film canister, but there are few who would know what that is these days) full of sand from a beach I’d never been to. She knows that in my soul I’m a beach girl, and very spiritual, often following the old ways, so dirt from where the earth meets the water is a very powerful, very thoughtful gift.

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The ex who proposed on Valentine’s Day so many, many years ago spent a fortune on gifts, but the one that meant the most was a bottle of my favorite (cheap) wine waiting on the bed, a bed covered in rose petals that we enjoyed after drinking chai lattes in our formal wear and playing checkers.

Quality Time and a Gift that showed he knew me, that was what got him a “Yes” to the proposal. A shame it didn’t work out in the long run, but that one night his heart was in the right place.

The point is that even though it seems difficult, you can take any of the five love languages and use them in small ways to show that you care. It requires you to actually know the person that you are showing affection to, because the important thing is that whatever you do is relevant to them, not just all about you. Put them first, and whatever you do will come across in huge ways!

Sometimes the small stuff can have a big impact. Remember that.

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3 thoughts on “Start with the Little Things.

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