by Robert Guzzo, co-founder Handcrafted Honey Bee
I am madly in love with my wife.
I am completely, head-over-heels, to-the-moon-and-back in love with her, and have been for nearly a decade. Every time she looks in my eyes and says my name, my heart skips a beat. Every. Time.
I love my wife with all my heart. And it’s really hard work.
Imagine you plant a little sapling in your garden. You water it every day. You feed it fertilizer and nutrients. You pull weeds out from around its base. You wrap its tender bark to protect it from being eaten or injured by the strong sun. Soon, it begins to grow and flourish into a magnificent tree with broad boughs, gorgeous spring blooms, and lush summer foliage.
What would happen if you stopped tending that tree? Depending on how well established its roots had become, it could die or it might continue to live. But even so, it would not flourish and thrive as well as it would with daily care and nourishment.
You might think that the tree is “Love” in this metaphor, but you’d be wrong. The tree is your relationship. Love is the daily care that grows and sustains the relationship.
This is true for any relationship, whether it’s an intimate one between lovers, a deep friendship, or the relationship you have with your parents or children. Some relationships grow roots so deep that they can survive a little neglect, but with attentive regular care, these relationships can be as breathtaking as the most majestic tree, with roots that grow ever deeper and a trunk strong enough to weather the worst storms.
This kind of care doesn’t just happen by itself. It happens with small, intentional steps to make a habit of tending our relationships as consistently as we would tend any living thing that is precious to us. There are so many ways to nourish our relationships, depending on the context and the language of each person’s heart.
Here are four little things you can do every day to connect more deeply on a physical level with the ones you love:
1. Smile More – It’s so easy to get lost in the hard work of life and forget to smile. But nothing cuts through the dull, the ordinary, the everyday like an extraordinary smile meant only for you.
When I first started dating Stacia, her smile was one of the first things that enchanted me. Her expression has warmth. Her smile sparkles, especially when she laughs. And there’s a special smile that she keeps only for me. Every time I see that smile, I fall in love with her a little more. And I get to see it every day.
When you share a smile that belongs only to one special person, you can bet it makes them feel special. It’s like getting flowers “just because”. It’s like a complimentary dessert when it’s not even your birthday. It costs you nothing to make someone you care about feel special. All it takes is making a conscious choice to smile more.
2. Make Eye Contact – They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but so many of us avoid peering through that window when it comes to the people most important to us. And I’m not just talking about making eye contact when you’re talking with someone—although that’s really important. Try making a conscious effort to connect with eye contact when you walk past each other or when that person enters the room.
Making eye contact is a way of saying: “I see you. You exist. You matter to me.” Looking into someone’s eyes, even briefly, renders both people vulnerable and open. It is that shared vulnerability that connects us, those quick glances that reinforce a connected experience with the people that matter most to us.
3. Give a Passing Touch – Physical touch works in such a strange way. The more gentle and light the touch, the more it has the power to move us. So if you’ve never done it before, try this: whenever you pass by someone you love, just reach out and let your hand gently touch them on the back, shoulder or arm. It is a small way to stay fully present to one another even if you’re each engaged in separate activities.
It works when you don’t have anything to say or when you have to concentrate on something important but want to stay connected. It works for a child who is head-down in her phone or for a spouse hard at work on her writing. It is a tangible reminder of the connection you share with each other.
4. Make Physical Contact for Serious Talks – When Stacia and I were first engaged, we went on a retreat called Engaged Encounter. While we there, we received some of the best marriage advice we have ever heard. Hold hands or gently touch a leg or arm for any kind of serious discussions where feelings are at stake.
By staying physically connected while having an argument, or even just a difficult conversation, it helps to reinforce the sense that both of you are in it together to work through the issue. It helps you maintain your full attention on the other person. It also helps remind each of you that there is another real-life person involved in the problem you are facing, with his or her own unique point-of-view.
This isn’t just good advice for married couples. I have used this tip when talking with my sons about important matters. I have even used it when I want my parents to know that I am taking their concerns seriously and that I want to listen to them.
These tips have one thing in common: they each reinforce a sense of connectedness and shared experience between ourselves and the people who matter most in our lives. The daily choices we make become habits that reflect the values we embrace in this world—how do you choose to grow your tree?
There are simple actions that we can take to water and feed our relationships every day, and these are only four examples. I’d love to hear from you about some other ways that you show people that you love them and tend to their hearts. Let me know in the comments!