’Tis the season for weddings—and, therefore, anniversaries.
I myself was a June bride, and this month, my husband and I are celebrating eight years. From the beginning of our marriage, we have followed the tradition of giving gifts made of specific materials to inspire greater creativity and thoughtfulness. For example, for our first anniversary (paper), I gave him the final ring of my 537-link paper chain that I made to count down to our wedding, and he gave me a pocket-size reprint of my favorite illuminated manuscript. For our sixth (candy/iron), we visited an old-fashioned candy store and then went home to watch Iron Man. This year, it’s bronze/pottery, and I can’t tell you what I’m giving him because it’s a surprise.
But, as important as it is for us to celebrate our anniversary with care, my husband and I also look at that special day as an opportunity to check in and evaluate how effectively we’ve been showing our love for one another over the past year: Did we adequately heal after that last fight? Have we grown in our appreciation and understanding of one another? Were our romantic gestures well-received?
After checking in last year, we realized that we needed to build in some cuddle time each morning. Physical touch is my husband’s love language, but neither of us can sleep if we’re touching at all. The thing is, the only chance I have at being a human (and therefore a loving and present wife) is by waking with my alarm (not four snoozes later). So to kill two calling birds with one stone, we began reaching out for one another at the sound of our alarm. That way, our very first thought is for the other. Also, rising is way easier with the loving encouragement of our spouse.
This seems like a little thing, but it really is a big deal. In fact, Dr. John Gottman, famed researcher, therapist, and founder of the Gottman Institute, has observed married couples for more than thirty-five years. He has found that in 80 percent of marriages, the success or failure of the marriage will depend not on a major event but on the cumulative effect of small events. We all need to focus a bit more on small, tender expressions—not just on our anniversary but every single day. At some point between dawn and dusk, we should take the time and the care to perform acts of love that bridge the gap in our always busy, too often parallel lives.
Here are some little things we can do at different intervals to cherish each other all year long.
01. Make coffee for one. My husband always makes it to the kitchen before I do each morning, and though he’s not a coffee drinker, he makes some for me so that it’s fresh and ready by the time I join him. This never fails to make me feel nourished and cherished, and it lightens my burden in the morning.
02. Put some love into lunch. After I attend to the kids’ breakfasts and lunches, I pack my husband’s lunch with careful attention paid to the details—toasting the bread, balancing flavors, etc. Later on when he opens his nice navy blue steel box (his birthday present this year), he likewise feels nourished and cherished. He sometimes texts me “GREAT SANDWICH!” with that heart-kissing emoji in the middle of the day.
03. Have “harmony time.” Harmony time is when my husband and I put Planet Earth on for the kids for twenty minutes and use that alone time to talk and sometimes have a drink before dinner. It’s a small thing, but it gives us the quality time we need every day.
04. Swap emails. One friend and her husband swap funny GIFs or interesting articles during the day. This functions as a quick “thinking of you” moment and gives them something to discuss at the end of the day.
Every few months.
01. Dance. One of our favorite things to do together is dance. We danced the Brahms waltz at our wedding reception, and an hour later my husband was break dancing in tails while I cheered him on. We jump at the chance to go to weddings because we know it will mean dancing again. Because these opportunities can be few and far between, we’ve begun creating our own dance parties, such as on my thirtieth birthday and in honor of my husband’s doctoral graduation. You, too, can make this happen. Suggest dancing to some friends who have a big wood floor somewhere in their house, and offer to make a playlist.
02. Tag team his to-do list. It may be a quick and dirty item on his list of things to do, but somehow it just never gets done, and we all know how this can weigh on a person. One friend suggests that you take the initiative to help your husband check things off. This could mean picking up his dry cleaning or taking all the kids to the park for the afternoon so he can finally pay those bills and sign up for that gym membership. It may be a little thing for you, but it will feel like a heroic act of love for your spouse.
03. Write a love note. When we are caught up in the daily grind, it’s easy to forget to stop and tell your hubby how lucky you are to have him. For one friend whose husband’s love language is words of affirmation, leaving a little affectionate note for her husband when he comes home is one way she assures that he feels loved.
01. Go on an anniversary adventure. My husband and I always attach our anniversary gifts to an outing. This time of year is especially great for visiting gardens, parks, and other outdoor delights. Find a place to explore together. Make a memory beyond just going out to eat. Any extra effort you put into breaking up the usual routine will make the day feel as special and celebratory as it truly is.
02. Reminisce with old friends. Once a year, a friend of mine makes a point to see friends whom she and her husband knew when they were dating or first married. This is a great way to take a walk down memory lane as well as keep up with cherished friendships.
03. Read a long novel together. Finding the time to read a book for fun is difficult, but if you make it a date night—spread throughout a couple months once a year—it can become a reality. One friend and her husband tackle one novel a year and enjoy the time it allows them to spend together.
04. Get inspired. Keep in mind that these little gestures of love are prerequisites to a happy anniversary. With that theme in mind, I’d like to recommend to all you married couples who are celebrating an anniversary this season to give each other a little silk/steel as inspired by the beautiful, award-winning short film Head Over Heels. Ten minutes spent on this poignant story could spare you ten years of feeling out of touch.
Enjoy your special day, all you brides of yore!