Let’s face it, the holiday season can be challenging. Between visiting families of origin you might have stressful relationships with and the constant pressure, it can be exhausting. It’s probably tiring for your partner, too, whether you’re still in the wedding planning process, enjoying newlywed bliss or have been married for many years. What if you spent some extra time showing them how grateful you are this season? It’s simpler than you think and will make you both feel warm and happy.

Write them a letter.

With technology, written letters have become a thing of the past for many of us. And who doesn’t miss getting a letter, whether it’s handwritten or typed? Take the time to write your partner a letter—it helps if you tell them some reasons you love and appreciate them in it, but mainly it can be about anything. My partner, Macey, gave me a book of twelve letters as a holiday present and I look forward to reading them every month. Share your thoughts, offer a conversation starter and tell them about a passion project you’ve been meaning to start.  Invite them to write you a letter in return.

Offer to do some of their least favorite chores.

Everyone’s love language is different, but even if your partner prefers back massages or thoughtful gifts, nothing says I love you like taking on their least favorite task. Maybe they hate driving long distances, so you offer to take on the four-hour trip you’ve got planned next week. If they loathe cleaning the bathroom, you can let them know it’s on you this time. Cook dinner (or order out) for an entire week if they hate doing it. When Macey’s run down, I take on some of the more annoying phone calls we have to make, since she makes calls all day at work. Get creative with this one, because it won’t go unnoticed.

Queer Maryland state park wedding with matching wedding date tattoos, Equally Wed
Photo via Queer Maryland state park wedding

Plan an entire day that’s just about them.

Everyone loves to feel special every once in a while. I remember when I was feeling sad once, Macey planned a whole day around my favorite things. We ate sushi, watched nerdy movies and took a walk together outside. Ask your partner what they’d like to do or if they’d prefer it, surprise them!

Make time to share what you’re grateful for.

If you make sharing your appreciation and gratitude a habit, it’ll come naturally. Not everything you’re grateful for has to do with your partner, but they’ll be happy you shared with them (and they’ll feel seriously awesome about anything you say about them). Here’s the thing—you need to give them time to say what they’re grateful for, too, and really listen. This goes beyond just waiting for your turn to talk or listening to how their day was so you can get on with things. Actually engage, turn off any devices and focus your attention on what they’re saying. I’ve got a daily gratitude jar, but I also like to ask Macey what she’s looking forward to these days.

We spoke to the couple behind that epic Harry Potter proposal two brides J.K. Rowling Draco Malfoy wizard scavenger hunt Slytherin books from Muggle to Mrs.
Photo via We spoke to the couple behind that epic Harry Potter proposal

Make time for the crap, too.

And show up with empathy. Truly showing up for your partner means being there for the crap. In addition to sharing what you’re grateful for, you should also be able to talk about the less-amazing parts of your lives. And you need to do it without judgment. Don’t offer unsolicited advice, tell your partner what you would do in their situation, talk over them or make assumptions. Listen, empathize and sit with them in their discomfort and pain, even when it’s honestly really hard (like if they’re going through health challenges or just lost someone they love). Macey and I carve out time to do this, where we’re able to share how we’re feeling and invite the other person to sit with us.

Show up for your partner.

And if you’re not sure how to do that, this list is a really great resource on where to start (that also applies to friends and family). Do something just because it makes them happy. Ask them how their day was. Buy or make them their favorite lunch. Send them a selfie while they’re at work or school just to say you miss them. My favorite way that Macey shows up for me is when she hugs me from behind and makes time to talk about everything and nothing with me. I’m a sensitive person, so there’s often a lot on my mind that I won’t bring up unless I’m intentionally brought into a conversation. I show up for her by planning romantic dates, giving her time to relax as an introvert and showering her with more books than she can possibly read.

If you make a regular habit of showing your partner you’re grateful—and getting their feedback on what makes them feel loved and appreciated, so you can do that—your relationship will thrive, and you’ll both be happier. Relationships work best when both partners do some emotional labor and check in to see how the other is feeling and if they need any support. Simple acts go a long way, so don’t underestimate the power of a spa day or an evening watching their favorite movie.