Rounding the corner in one of the aisles of Home Depot, I pushed the huge cart that would carry our new-found tiles. My wife Christie offered a large grin.

“You found one!” she exclaimed, pointing to the cart. “That ought to work.”

For the smallest moment, I felt good. A big grin, an affirmation of having accomplished a favor she requested, and the joy of sharing a task.

A short time later, at one of our favorite restaurants, we both enjoyed an omelet and read the Sunday paper, sharing stories.

“Pretty simple stuff,” you think? Of course it is. Incredibly simple stuff. Mundane stuff. But, these small points of contact are like pearls strung together to form a lovely necklace. Standing along, a solitary pearl is just that — a solitary pearl. If that pearl is interlaced with negative encounters, that pearl is worth very little. But strung together, these pearls are priceless!

Recently I sat with a couple in counseling who struggled with a lack of points of contact.

“We hardly talk to each other when we’re driving anywhere,” Brad stated stoically. “We don’t have much new to say to each other, so it’s pretty quiet.”

“I usually read when we’re alone with each other,” his wife Jenny said. “There is so much distance between us. I don’t like it,” she continued, “but that’s the way it is.”

“It doesn’t have to be that way,” I said. “Are you both trying to create small points of contact?” Do you know what I mean?”

Both shook their heads ‘no.’ Here are some ways we make contact with our mate throughout our days:

--Smiles of appreciation

--Soft touches as we pass each other

--Words of affirmation

--Words of thanks

--Glances into our mate’s eyes

--Short ‘I love you’ texts

--Quick phone calls to tell our mate we’re thinking of them

Why are these small points of contact so important? Because, our relationship is like a plant that needs constant tending. It doesn’t always take a lot of tending — many times it simply needs small moments of contact. Those knowing glances that say “I care about you.” Those smiles that shout, “You are important to me.”

Most couples neglect these simple gestures to their detriment. They falsely believe:

“I can wait until we’re on vacation to laugh with my mate.”

“I can save my romance for love-making.”

“I don’t have to say nice things to my mate — he knows I love him.”

“Saying nice things is too mushy for me.”

Hopefully you are part of the group that does not endorse these beliefs. You realize that relationships aren’t built alone on honeymoons and weekends away. They are built day-in, day-out on the small gestures that convey a deep sense of connection to your mate. Consider these additional guidelines for maintaining your relationship:

One, understand the power of small points of contact. Realize the power of these small glances. Notice the impact of a smile, a glance or appreciative word. Feel the connection that occurs with these simple acts.

Two, consider your mate every day. Consider the ways your mate would like to be recognized. Would he/ she appreciate words of appreciation? Would he/ she like small touches that say "I’m thinking about you.” As you think about your mate, you’ll be inclined to do something to reflect those thoughts.

Three, do something that says "I’m thinking about you." It’s not enough to think good thoughts about your mate. Do something about it. Reflect to him/her that you have them on your mind. Take action!

Fourth, be receptive to these small points of contact. In addition to giving them, make it a point of receiving them. Smile back when your mate smiles at you. Say "thank you" when your mate offers thanks. Be appreciative of those small points of contact offered by your mate.

Finally, notice the reverberation effect of giving and receiving small points of contact. Have fun with the ‘reverberation effect’ that occurs when these positive emotions are contagious. Enjoy the positive impact of a series of gestures between you and your mate. This is true connection, the simple stuff that  keeps relationships alive and strong.

What are the small points of contact between you and your mate? Which ones do you appreciate the most? Please send your responses to TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com and visit my website at www.TheMarriageRecoveryCenter.com.

Dr. David Hawkins is the director of the Marriage Recover Center where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including 90 Days to a Fantastic MarriageDealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life, and Saying It So He'll Listen. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.

Publication date: March 6, 2012