What Seahorses Can Teach Us About Relationships

Dr. Gottman, marriage and relationship researcher, has a phrase he frequently uses in his couples counseling sessions. He encourages the idea of “small things often.” This means it’s not the big gestures that make a successful relationship. Rather, it’s actually all the small things you do on a daily basis that contribute to a happy marriage, such as paying attention to your partner when he needs it, giving him a compliment, or noticing when he needs extra support.

Seahorses have this idea down pat. Most species of seahorses studied in the wild appear to remain faithful to one partner, forming pair bonds throughout a breeding season and perhaps even over multiple seasons. Pair bonds reinforce their relationship with a daily greeting–they dance together every morning before they part ways. This morning ritual is the perfect example of “small things often.”

You can practice “small things often” by leaving a note thanking your husband for making coffee and wishing him a nice day at work. Or you can send a quick text expressing appreciation for picking groceries up after a long day at work. It can be as simple as letting your partner know what you admire about him. Giving a compliment goes a long way–64 percent of unhappy couples struggle with putting each other down, while only 8 percent of happy couples have that issue, according to a survey by Ron Deal, author of The Smart Stepfamily Marriage.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time on your partner, but you do need to make a conscious effort to set aside time for him every day. (For ideas on how to maximize quality time, click HERE.) As you start putting this practice into place, you’ll probably notice that your partner reciprocates by thanking you for what you do on a daily basis, giving you a compliment, or showing that he cares by leaving a note for you. Who knows, maybe you’ll even decide to start the morning with a dance!