DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF IN RELATIONSHIPS.
Recently, looking at an invitation card to a function celebrating the 50th marriage anniversary of a couple, a question came to mind. What could be the secret of such a long relationship when in any other relationship, there are a lot more marital arguments over a wink rather than a mink!!
For me also, on a personal level, sometimes, I am really surprised as to how I have managed to stay with my wife for the past 25 years! Two different people, with different opinions living under the same roof daily for 50 years together is nothing short of an achievement.
In the day to day life, it is not the big things, but the small differences that rule the day. These small differences, multiplied over time, convert automatically into big problems and impacts the relationship over time. Just like wine, the older the relationship, the more mature it gets.
The impact of small stuff on the relationship:
Take the case of Mohan & Meena, who have been hitched through an inter-caste love marriage and are complete strangers from two different worlds, two different cultures, and two different religious principles.
Mohan comes from an orthodox Hindu cultural family, whereas Meena hails from an orthodox god-fearing Christian family. They both met while at work and got hitched. There was initial resistance from both families but ultimately gave in looking at the couple’s insistence to take responsibility for making the relationship work.
The individual habits and attitudes of both partners are poles apart. Mohan is an early riser by habit, who prefers to exercise every morning and prepare his own breakfast before going to work.
On the other hand, Meena is a late riser and wakes up much later after Mohan has left. Mohan plans out his next day’s schedule in advance to make sure that his wife’s sleep is not disturbed when he wakes up early in the morning.
Before going to bed, he hangs out his next day’s clothing in the bathroom and goes about his daily routine noiselessly so that Meena’s sleep is not disturbed.
Meena sees a neatly wiped dry bathroom floor, a dry toilet seat neatly pulled up, the wet towel and the night clothes neatly tucked away in the laundry bucket and her toothbrush and toothpaste pulled out for her on the bathroom sink when she wakes up.
Acknowledging Mohan’s genuine efforts while brushing her teeth, makes Meena smile and think “How thoughtful of him”. “I wish I could be like him”.
Going to the kitchen, Meena finds the morning milk already heated up, and the ingredients for her morning tea laid out on the kitchen platform. All that she has to do is to boil the tea leaves and enjoy her hot cup of tea. By the time she finishes her breakfast, it is time for the maid to arrive.
Meena reciprocates this small but thoughtful gesture from Mohan in the form of a hot and tasty lunch delivered to Mohan's office. Mohan relishes the healthy homemade food that keeps him in good health.
Though Meena is not an expert on vegetarian cooking by any standards, she makes it a point to cook Mohan’s favourite vegetarian dishes by learning new recipes online. Her personal choice of foods is non-vegetarian.
Evening comes and she waits eagerly, keeping her eyes on the door, waiting for Mohan to come home. Evenings are spent at the dinner table, enjoying dinner together, and discussing each other’s day, no matter how late it is in the evening.
Holding hands, the couple spends time after dinner, walking in the building compound during summer or on the sofa, or during winter and the rainy season, cozily snuggled together, watching each other's favourite shows on the idiot box. Generally, it is Meena’s choice that Mohan goes along with, as his personal choice is limited to sports and current affairs.
The day ends with a good night kiss and the partners snuggle together and go to sleep, no matter even if they have had an argument. The couple is admired as an ideal couple at parties & social events.
Weekends are the maid’s days off, as both partners want to sleep late and do not want to be disturbed. Both of them wake up late, helping each other with the household chores, enjoying a hot shower or sensuous massage together, watching romantic movies lying naked in each other’s arms, followed by an occasional lunch or a romantic movie cum candlelight dinner.
Long weekends are a blessing in disguise for Mohan as it gives him the time to unwind in Meena's arms without any disturbance. The couple head to their favourite weekend resort to unwind, the itinerary planned well in advance by Meena to avoid disappointment after considering Mohan's busy work schedule.
Having been married for 3 years, they are still bonding their relationship and have mutually agreed not to start a family as they want to settle down financially in life first.
Are the small things dangerous enough to kill a relationship?
Rohan and Reena had an arranged marriage around a year and a half back and are already on their way to separation because of their individual habits and attitudes.
Reena is the first to wake up as she has to prepare her breakfast and her lunch and also get ready to go to work. Rohan wakes up a little later as he sleeps late because of his work schedule.
Their day begins with arguments over the wet toilet seat and a wet bathroom floor. Rohan hates a wet bathroom floor when he wakes up. He is a perfectionist who likes to see things in a neat and orderly manner.
Having got into an argument the first in the morning, Reena is pissed off and prepares breakfast with a grumpy attitude and both of them leave for work with a sullen face.
They carry their sullen faces to the car where Rohan drops Reena to her place of work. Rohan does not carry a lunch box as his work keeps him out of his office most of the time. Therefore he prefers to have lunch outside.
After a stressful day at work, a cold, stale dinner or a packaged dinner box lying on the table greets Rohan because Reena is too lazy to cook or even get up from the sofa to warm up the food.
It is well past bedtime and Rohan and Reena have an argument about the high volume on the television set that is disturbing him. The loud volume of the idiot box is too disturbing but Reena keeps ignoring him. Ultimately, not wanting to spoil his mood any further, he takes his blanket and pillow and heads off to the guest room in order to sleep.
The first and last thought that crosses Rohan’s mind every night is “Why does she have to be so inconsiderate in our relationship? Am I not important to her?”
On weekends Rohan prefers to spend time with his friends at the pub rather than with Reena, and Reena on the other hand, at kitty parties with her friends. They are hardly seen at home together during weekends.
The couple just hate long weekends where they end up in arguments or sulking faces even if they are able to spend some time together. They just cannot get along together and are considering a divorce, accusing each other of infidelity.
Do small things make such a difference in a relationship?
There is no such thing as a small thing that is unimportant to be left out in a relationship. Every single issue can have a positive and a negative impact, every single gesture carries some weight.
The marital world provides a constant stream of “small stuff that makes a big difference”, and this small stuff accumulates into larger problems over time.
A supply of positive small stuff helps a couple feel loved and builds an attitude of caring and intimacy over a long period of time. With the changing social demographics and social values, most couples view their relationship with a “grand gesture” approach.
Married life starts with expensive destination weddings, exotic honeymoons, expensive gifts, lavish dinners, and the like. What is missing is the filler of the small stuff in in-between time which is not considered important at all.
In reality, most of the working relationship is taking place in small, minute doses of the small stuff once the honeymoon period is over and the couples settle down in their daily grind. The compounding effect of the small stuff is not felt till the time that the honeymoon period is over
Classic examples of small stuff which make a big difference include helping each other make the bed, putting wet towels and clothes in the bucket instead of the bed, keeping the bathroom dry, pulling up the toilet seat and keeping it dry after use, etc.
These small but inconsequential gestures have a disproportionately large effect on the day-to-day experience of love and intimacy in regard to marriage.
Each of these small positive gestures carries a message for your partner, “I Love You And Care For You”, every day rather than the expensive dinners, gifts, or vacations that are occasional in nature.
Become an “expert” at managing the small stuff in your relationships and you wouldn’t have to worry about your happiness in the long term. Small stuff problems require small solutions that don’t cost at all, yet the returns are tremendous.
A kind gesture, a tight hug, a smile, a brief conversation, a simple compromise, an apology, a loving touch or a good night kiss don’t cost anything except time and commitment.
As long as these small things have been accumulating on a daily basis, small stuff shouldn’t be hard to manage. A relationship is like a two-way street and takes effort from both partners. In a situation where one partner puts in all the work and the other takes it for granted does not work for long.
Statistics of divorced couples show that most divorces happen because of constant dissatisfaction between the partners over small minute things daily rather than the bigger things in life. This dissatisfaction in the long term takes the form of extra-marital affairs and the like which leads to a loss of trust.
Maintaining a relationship over a period of time is like maintaining a garden which requires nurturing in the form of soil, water, sunlight, and most important of all weeding. Weeds in a relationship are the small stuff, which if left unattended destroys the relationship.
Small gestures like an occasional surprise gift or hugs and kisses are the nutrients and hot sex is the topping on the cake that bears the fruits in the form of children and strengthens the roots of the relationship and supports the relationship as it turns older.
All these things are necessary for a strong relationship starting with the small stuff in life. However inconsequential it may seem, it has the strength to shake the foundations of the strongest of relationships.
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