What really determines the course of a relationship is not necessarily the big things, like how we handle anniversaries, as it is the little things, like the tone of voice you use to each other, or whether you look up when the other walks into the room. Think about it: how often have you spent the whole day mildly ticked off at your husband for something little that he did? It wasn’t huge, but that one little thing has coloured how you judge all other interactions with your husband that day. If that little thing hadn’t happened, you likely would have been much more forgiving, much more generous, much more loving.

The little stuff matters, because it’s through the lens of the little stuff that we judge our spouse on a day to day basis. Now obviously we should be able to let little things go, but that’s not how we work! And I’m not talking about the rightness or wrongness of this state of affairs; I simply mean that it is what it is.

And so if that’s the case, why don’t we go out of our way to care for those little things? If we took care of them, likely the big things would take care of themselves.

Let me share with you one little thing that you can do that can colour how you and your husband interact throughout the night: consider how you’re going to say hello.

Sounds pretty little, doesn’t it? But what’s the scenario when you and your husband meet at the end of a long day? Let’s look at this from two different perspectives:

You’re at Home; He Walks in the Door

Welcome to my world! The way this scenario used to unfold was something like this:

After a long day of homeschooling and errands, I finally am able to get on the computer around 4:30 to get some actual work done. Dinner’s in the crockpot (I managed to throw that in while we talked about history earlier), and now I have some time to myself. I am trying to make the most of it by typing like crazy and writing like crazy until dinner is ready.

Keith walks in around 5:45. I’m in the middle of a good writing streak. He says “Hi, honey.” I look up briefly and say, “Hi, I’ll just be a moment.”

Another half hour goes by until I just have to stop to get the food on the table. But I’m not ready to stop yet because I was being really productive. So I’m grumpy. Family concerns are eating into the only work time I have. In exasperation I stow away the computer and yell for the kids to set the table. I find Keith in his office, finishing up some work. And I tell him he better get moving or dinner’s going to get cold.

Now, I’m not particularly proud of this, but for years that’s what his arrival home looked like. Not exactly welcoming, is it? Honestly, I wonder sometimes why he wanted to come home at all.

I have since woken up to my hubby’s need to feel appreciated, and have reworked our routine. Here’s how:

1. Be available when he comes home.

Realize that 5:45 is one of the most important times of day. Arrange to be non-stressed at that time! Have dinner well underway. Redo your daily schedule so that you’re not in the middle of something. In my case, this meant arranging to work from 10-12 in the morning, and setting up the kids to do some work on their own.

2. Greet him

It sounds basic, but how many of us really do this? We may yell, “Hi, honey!”, but do we go to the door and give him a kiss? Do we give him the impression that we were actually waiting for him, anticipating him?

Now, when he comes home, I try to get off of my chair or leave the room I’m in and give him a hug. I want him to know that I’ve been thinking of him!

3. Prepare yourself

I even put on lipstick. Honestly! So often we dress up to see other people, but never to see our own spouse. So now, when I’m about to see him, I make it a point to put on earrings, a little bit of lipstick, and run a brush through my hair.

4. Give him space

Maybe he needs to unwind for half an hour after he gets home. Give him that time! If you’re exhausted with the kids, don’t consider this his time to take over. Don’t greet him at the door, toddlers in hand, ready to hand them off.

Instead, talk to him and reach an agreement that when he gets home, he gets half an hour to himself. But in return, after dinner, you get an hour to do a craft, or watch a movie, or read a book, or take a bubble bath. You get your time, too!

When You’re the One Arriving Home

In many families, he’s not the one walking through the door with her to greet him. Maybe you’re the one coming home after a long day, or after a part-time shift at night. You’re tired. You want to relax. What do you do?

1. Greet your husband before you greet your children

Your children are likely to get so excited to see you coming in the door! Make sure your husband gets a hold of you first. Show your kids that he’s #1!

2. Take some time to decompress before you come home

If you need some downtime, take some time before you come home. It may sound selfish, but the children are unlikely to leave you alone when you come home, and he’s going to need your help, too. So consider going for a fifteen minute walk after your shift. Or maybe grabbing a coffee and reading a chapter of your book. Get in the headspace where you leave work behind and you’re ready to go home.

Maybe you think this is hypocritical, because I’m saying that we should give husbands downtime, but not demand the same for ourselves! I’m just being practical, though. Kids tend to hang on to mom more than they hang on to dad, so even if he wanted to give you downtime, it’s likely to be difficult. Besides that, if he doesn’t want to give it to you, you don’t want to get into a fight about it. Better to take it on your own!

3. Ask others about their days

Don’t launch into complaints about how your day went; take a minute to ask how your hubby’s day went, too.

These are relatively little things, but imagine how much they could change how we relate to each other! If we went out of our way to show our husbands that we thought they were the most important person in the world. Imagine if we showed them that we wanted them to be happy to come home; that we cared about what they thought.

If you’re going through a hard time in your marriage, try it. Often these little switches of relatively little things can give your marriage a whole new perspective. And if he doesn’t notice right away, don’t give up. Keep at it. Change takes time, but as you start to change in the little things, you’ll often find the big things taking care of themselves!

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