Food

The Easiest Relationship Tip

the easiest relationship tip

My grandfather always did the sweetest thing for my grandmother…

Whenever he ran errands or popped to the grocery store, he’d bring home a chocolate chip cookie for her. He knew she loved them and it was an easy way to make her day.

Since hearing about this ritual, I’ve tried to work it into my own marriage. Now and again, when taking a walk, I’ll bring home something small for Alex that I know he’ll especially like — a pack of malted Whoppers, a bottle of Malbec, or maybe a stick of beef jerky (which is weirdly the way to his heart). And he’ll do the same for me with flowers or chocolate or a hunk of stinky cheese.

In her weekly newsletter, Maybe Baby, Haley Nahman recently wrote about the ways she and her boyfriend keep their cohabitation running smoothly:

We occasionally “turn in” at different times to give each other the chance to go to bed alone (thrilling!); we regularly make time to clean the house together then light candles and put on good music and cook a big dinner; we spend days apart so we have an excuse to text (is this dark? we’re good at texting!); we generally try to contribute equally but not get too hung up on going tit-for-tat; we’re forever each other’s bodega santa (a.k.a. “a member of your household who goes to the bodega for something you need and comes back with a variety of random/unnecessary treats”)…

Bodega santa! I love that so much. It’s such a simple thing to do to brighten your partner’s day, especially during these crazy times.

Thoughts? Would or do you do this?

P.S. 8 things I’ve learned about marriage, and my sister’s awesome dating tip.

  1. Nina says...

    My boyfriend and I usually go shopping together, but when he gets the groceries by himself it is THE BEST because (1) I don’t have to do it (2) he has very little food guilt and will buy all of the snacks I usually deem too expensive or too unhealthy. Not for every week, but every once in a while, it is so so nice :)

  2. S says...

    My boyfriend is notoriously bad at presents for occasions. He doesn’t see the importance of it. He just doesn’t get it – why does this one day matter more? So if I were someone else, maybe I’d be offended or disappointed that I’ll never come home to some elaborately plotted romantic surprise…but! On any random day he brings me back chocolate or cheese or those double chocolate sea salt cookies I adore from the bakery. That is his love language and that is enough – and everything – for me.

  3. R says...

    Aw I love this! My husband and I do this for each other a lot too. He’s always thrilled to receive a jar of something pickled.

    This year, we’re having our first baby around Christmas time, He’s obsessed with Christmas, so he’s pretty bummed that we won’t be able to go to our usual family Christmases out of town. I agreed to let him decorate early this year (usually I have a strict “not until after Thanksgiving” rule), and yesterday I surprised him with a light up ceramic Christmas tree like the old ones my grandmas has, and he was THRILLED. I’m still making him wait until after Halloween to plug it in though :)

  4. Lauren says...

    This post was a joy to read. Thank you for sharing! Your grandfather sounds like a very sweet man.

    I absolutely do this. Sometimes I play ‘Bodega Santa’, particularly if my partner is having a bit of a rough day, or is feeling a bit flat (I live in Melbourne, Australia and just had to google what a ‘Bodega’ is!). I love that I can brighten up his day a little by surprising him with a chocolate bar (a Milky Way), a packet of crisps (Tyrrells brand) or some green Sicilian olives marinated in extra virgin olive oil from our local deli. He also loves it when I just make him a random snack, like hummus, pickles and Gouda cheese on sesame wheat crackers. I must say, he gets equally excited when I wash the bed sheets or clean the house!

    Anyhow, I love that I can make a positive difference to his day with such small acts of kindness. In December, it will be 10 years since we first met. My life has never been the same since that day.

    • Lauren says...

      Something else has just come to mind!

      A good friend of mine and I were talking about morning rituals, and she mentioned that she has a cup of English Breakfast tea with a dash of milk every morning, without fail – and has done for the past 50 years. She grew up in London, and every morning from the age of 11 or so, her Dad would gently wake her up by bringing her a cup of tea and leaving it on her bedside table. She assures me that he did this – every morning, for 10 years! If she were already awake, then often they would chat about how she was, or the day ahead. Her dad is no longer alive, and in the moments that she particularly misses him – she reaches for a cup of tea, the way that he used to make it for her.

      How sweet is that!

    • Sarah Jane says...

      That tea story! So very sweet.

  5. Sarah Jane says...

    Thank you so much for this reminder. It prompted me to buy my wife a gift that I’d been planning to give her for Christmas– a new cookbook by her favorite cookbook author. Not only did she have a neat surprise this morning, now I don’t have to worry about her finding out that the book exists before I give it to her!

  6. M says...

    Would be curious to hear more ideas that don’t involve food. (There have been several recs here, but always want to hear more.)

    I love bringing in treats to work to show my coworkers that I appreciate them, but we have several folks with diabetes who are trying to cut back on sugary treats. How do we show love — particularly to people we don’t share a household with, or aren’t as close to — without unhealthy food?

    • Gilly says...

      I second this! My dad is a recovering alcoholic with diabetes and mobility issues, and as his health has declined it has become harder and harder to think of treats to cheer him up with that don’t involve sugar, alcohol, or getting up off the couch. Stinky cheese is a great idea :)

    • Sara Hummer says...

      Fancy fun (no sugar added) seltzers or a pack of herbal teas for the kitchen are good, shareable treats that are diabetic friendly!

    • Aoife says...

      True! Here are some ideas from my arsenal:
      – a magazine my husband or my dad loves (this is an annual tradition in my family!)
      – a type of tea that’s a bit special or even coffee grinds from a roastery they love
      – fun socks — random but a good opp. for a giggle and an in-joke (hello, sloth print socks!)
      – a curated playlist — think 90s mixtape for the 2020s with the added sweetness of being sent the DropBox/Spotify et al. list
      – ordering + delivering a surprise something that means a lot to a loved one — so far in the pandemic I’ve ordered for delivery: a luxe candle and a sheet mask to a frontline worker girlfriend, face masks and books to my parents, and last week we transferred $$ to friends (who are stranded internationally and can’t work) so they could buy a game on the App Store for our group game night

      I think and have often found that being a creative and thoughtful gift giver is a true skill plus it requires energy of a kind that’s founded in absolute intentionality, consideration and being really detail-oriented as well as observant. Ultimately, we all love on one another in different ways — romantic and platonic!

      Now that I think of it as well, one thing that my mum has always done is written reminders of love: lunchbox messages on a torn snippet of envelope, thank you cards after a weekend together, post cards saying ‘you’re in my thoughts’, and now, texts with pictures of flowers as updates on their garden or a blurry shot every time it’s a full moon. Even just a piece of mail can really make you feel seen and your heart swell immeasurably.

    • m says...

      -My mom is recently diabetic and now I have so much fun getting her sample size fancy lotions or fun chapsticks, etc. in lieu of candy.
      -And my husband doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, so I frequently grab him one of those mystery Lego packs found in the Target check out. Admittedly this started because I wanted one and bought him one as well. Now they litter our book shelves.
      -In terms of office mates – I looove love love a fun pen or pencil [or fun paper clips!] and am always passing some along to coworkers.

  7. Megan Johnson says...

    I just ordered my husband a five-pound bag of his favorite sweet (Albanese gummy bears). They’re hard to find in stores for some reason. I couldn’t help but tell him “I got you a treeeeeat,” which may have killed the surprise but now he’s eagerly anticipating the shipment. How fun! Thanks for the tip :-)

  8. My husband sets up our tea cups and loose leaf tea before going to bed. If he gets up before me, he brings me tea in bed. If I get up before him, it’s all set up and I just have to turn on the kettle.

    On a related note:

    I have a friend who keeps an electric kettle next to her bed and she has tea BEFORE getting up every morning. This is a WORLD ALTERING LIFE HACK!! Thanks Gill!!

    • Em says...

      Your husband sounds like such a sweetie!

  9. AI says...

    My brother is 8 years older than me and when I was little and he was a teenager out with his friends he would always bring me back a treat – a chocolate bar, a can of mountain dew, skittles, etc.
    It spoiled me a bit but it was a tiny way of bonding as he didn’t really play with me.
    We’re proper friends now that we’re older but it’s those tiny treats that made me a treater too! I always bring a tiny tasty treat back for my parents when I’m out so we can enjoy it together at home (especially now that we’re home more often and early every evening!)
    <3

  10. Elle says...

    My mom always brings home special treats when she’s been out doing errands and reading this post made me think more about just how sweet that is. It’s far too easy to overlook thoughtful mom moves when they’re so abundant. Wishing everyone gets a chance to have a parent or partners this sweet.

  11. Michelle says...

    When one of us is out and about, my husband and I will use the “share ETA” feature on our phones to tell the other when we’re on our way home. In those 20 or so minutes, we look around for little ways to surprise the person returning home. Lighting candles, pulling out slippers, making a snack, pouring hot tea – no matter what it is, it’s so fun to come home to a little extra love & warmth!

  12. Michelle says...

    When my husband had to leave for the military, I hid little notes in everything he packed as a pick-me-up. Several months into this long-distance portion of our relationship, he was having a particularly rough day. I told him to take off the back of his cell phone, where the battery was (back in the day when you could do that!) and I can’t tell you the surprise and DELIGHT when he pulled out a little hidden note in there!

    • I love this!

  13. Bec says...

    A few years ago my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I were travelling indefinitely and doing a lot of very long bus trips, say from Argentina to Brazil. At some point he would always manage to sneak a chocolate bar or some other kind of treat into his bag with our other snacks. He’d then pull it out a few hours into the trip and surprise me, 5 hours into a fairly mundane journey. It was the best!

  14. Alba says...

    My husband ALWAYS do that for me (a decor magazine, special cookies, my favourite ice cream…). Since I saw his doing it in such a natutal way I began do it for him and for the rest of the family as well: a big letter book and traditional dessert for my grandma (who doesnt leave home anymore), chocolate for my kid, delicatessen treats for my mum… It makes everyone happy!

  15. Olivia says...

    Bodega Santa! My husband – ran (literally) to target down the street to grab whip cream on my birthday when we discovered the key lime pie we bought didn’t have any on it. Me – hopped in the car to grab cream cheese for bagels & lox on Yom Kippur for him to break fast (I don’t fast) when we discovered ours was moldy.

    These examples immediately came to mind. I will channel them when I’m so annoyed that he is offering solutions to my problems when I just want him to *listen*.

  16. Sabrina says...

    I did that too! Oh holy bodega santa.

  17. Heather says...

    My dad once gave me the marriage advice to try to “surprise and delight” each other. I remember him writing little songs, planning a candlelight dinner at home while a good friend played the cello nearby, and even buying up all the confetti poppers at the dollar store and making the kids hide up in the loft while he danced with my mom in the entryway below. At the designated time, we exploded all of them at the same time so they were showered with confetti!
    I’ve tried to extend this into all my relationships, not just with my husband, but also with my kids and my friends. There’s something about an unexpected tiny gift or experience that says, “I’m thinking about you, even when there’s no reason,” that never fails to bring me closer to people I care about.

    • Katey says...

      Wow. What a wonderful way to live.

    • Anna B says...

      I love this idea of “surprise and delight” feels more essential than ever now that we’re in a pandemic.

  18. Katie P. says...

    I always buy Hot Tamales for my husband, and he always gets me Mike and Ikes. Ah love :)

  19. Sadie says...

    I only go to Costco a couple times a year because I go full Santa mode and buy all the goodies that I love, the ones my boyfriend loves, and some for my roommate. The quantities make it completely out of control and I end up eating snack lunch for weeks to try to make it through all the dips, cheeses, croissants, cookies…it is out of control.

  20. Erin says...

    Growing up, my dad always brought my mom a tiny box of Russell Stover chocolates any time he had to pop in to the drug store in our little town and he always had flowers delivered to her on mine and my brother’s birthdays. Now after having three kids of my own, I definitely see that she deserved flowers every year! ;) The sweetest gestures!

  21. Natalie T. says...

    Bodega Santa is my new favourite term! (Convenience Store Santa doesn’t have the same ring to it even though we don’t call them bodegas in Canada). I do this for my mom. She can’t get out because of COVID so I’ll pick her up a bag of Reese’s PB cups and she’s so appreciative. A little snack that goes a long way. Love this post and that it can be applied to anyone. :)

    • Emie says...

      The Reese’s PB cups shaped like pumpkins for Halloween are addictive but they’re also snack size. They have a different ratio of PB to chocolate. Yummmmm! There are also bat and ghost shaped ones… the ghost are white chocolate. Give them a try if you get a chance.

  22. Kate W says...

    I express my love though considerate library book selections. I love picking out a book I think my husband will like as a “gift,” even if he never finds the time to read it. My kids also appreciate, and rely on, my ability to pick the right books for them.

    • J-Girl says...

      I do this too!

  23. Jo says...

    When my husband and I were first dating he traveled for business quite a bit and I would sometimes leave him post-its with little notes. He still to this day has one I left him that says “Jo loves you Robby” and pulls it out every once in awhile. Even though his love language is definitely physical touch / affection and all he ever wants is for me to rub his back or hold his hand, it warms my heart that he still keeps that silly little note.

    • Erica says...

      My husband and I have always been big post-it note people too. On our 5 year anniversary (wood), he had a crafty friend make a book out of wood and had them wood-burn “Love you more” in his handwriting on the front cover. The book was an album of years and years of post its. I was like 4 months pregnant at the time and I CRIIIIIIIED. He’s really good like that. Now I just stick new post its between the pages for safe keeping :)

  24. N says...

    This story is a little on the reverse, but related: like most, we budget aggressively to afford childcare and save a little. This means meal planning is a must. We choose a few recipes and shop accordingly. But one thing my spouse and I adopted early in our marriage was the ‘impulse purchase’ at the grocery story. Whoever shops gets to bring home something out of the ordinary and fun. Maybe it’s a treat for the shopper, maybe one for the kids, maybe a bottle of wine for the adults with a cool label…it’s different every week! And that’s what makes it so fun.

  25. Ali Smith says...

    When my husband does the grocery shopping he makes a habit of “taking me on a tour” of what he has purchased-making sure to point out all the special treats he got for me (my favorite coffee, those good crackers with the unexpected cheddar, a nice bottle of white wine). He is always excited to show me, and it makes me feel so loved and taken care of.

    • Natasha says...

      My husband takes me on “tours” of his grocery shopping too! We’ve been calling it that since we started living together 22 years ago. I loathe food shopping, and he has such enthusiasm for it.

  26. Nicole says...

    My boyfriend used to work until 10 pm and would get home around 10:45 when I’d already be half asleep. Every night before I went to bed I’d leave a fresh glass of water on his side of the bed for when he’d come in and take his pills before going to sleep.

    • Em says...

      love this Nicole :)

  27. Emily says...

    I buy my husband a bottle of Prilosec. He’s always so appreciative.

  28. I think small acts of love are really the foundation of a loving relationship. I’d much rather get many small gifts (flowers, love notes, a new book) over the course of a year than one enormous one (a luxurious spa day!).

    When my wife and I first started dating I got in the habit of writing her Post-It notes. When I’d sleep over at her place I’d use a Sharpie to jot down something funny or even draw a small doodle and add it to her lunch box. Occasionally I write a few of them at a time and hide them — I put one on the breast pocket of her favorite shirt, in her coat, and underneath her pillow so she’ll find it later that night. I’ve been doing this for 3.5 years now and she is always SO excited to find one. She collects them and “laminates” them with tape, which at first I thought was embarrassing. But I don’t know where she keeps them! It’s a total secret.

  29. Genevieve Martin says...

    Sort of the opposite but sometimes me and my boyfriend sneak ridiculous things like “a dancing goat” or “mini gnome statue” into the middle of the shopping list just to make the other person each laugh when they read it halfway round the shop.

    • Nicki says...

      Everyone in my husband’s family does this!

      The most popular thing to write seems to be “giraffe”. I thought it was a French thing :)

  30. Alexis says...

    My partner is a chef. In the before times, his day off was Monday, and he’d treat himself to a favorite meal for lunch, then pick something up for me to go, then drop it off at my office. Or he’d pick up a treat and drop it off for afternoon tea time.
    During this pandemic, I’m usually in charge of grocery orders and meal planning. But he does go on the longer grocery runs. On the last one, he picked me up some sake and a couple of boxes of those Tiger Sugar brown sugar milk tea popsicles for our kiddo.

  31. My grandfather used to do this. He hated onions but Grandma lived them, so he would present her with one when he’d been running errands. She’d make what she wanted to eat, with the onion of course + serve him his favorite, bacon + eggs.

  32. Ailyn Gomez says...

    My fiancé is great at bringing me spontaneous gifts and I used to be good at it too, but somewhere along the line I stopped. I guess it is easy to lose motivation and/or take people for granted. I need to start doing this again. It is a small way to show someone that you are thinking of them and that they mean a lot to you. Thank you for the reminder!

  33. lauren says...

    Haha, I didn’t realize until someone capitalized ‘Santa’ in the comments that I might be alone in pronouncing this “bodega santa” like it was all Spanish (i.e. a saint). Verily, bodega saints are the holiest saints!

    • Kristen says...

      I love this so much :)

  34. Nicki says...

    I’m incapable of walking out of a gas station after paying for fuel without impulse buying a treat for whoever is in the car with me (or for myself if it’ s just me). For my children I often nostalgically grab a small chocolate bar that I loved as a child (called Duplo, in Germany), or for my husband or friends I might grab donuts, croissants or a special drink that I know they like (like a smoothie for my husband, or a cherry coke for me if I come across one).

    My husband and I are both still working from home quite a bit, and we definitely practice the “two of everything” approach, like making a tea or coffee for the other when making on for yourself. I find this often inspires me to try to make things more special – rather than just grabbing a glass of tap water, the thought of bringing one for my husband means I’ll crack open a bottle of sparkling water, cut a slice of fresh lime and throw in ice cubes.

    Small delights can make a big difference on hard days.

    • Karina says...

      Duplo 😍😍

    • Annie K says...

      This might be an AHA moment for me. I frequently am irritated with my partner for one-upping my offers- I’ll be getting water for myself and will offer and he’ll say “yes please! With ice” or a slice of bread “sure, toasted with butter please!”. Maybe I can find the generosity of spirit just to do the fancy thing first, without asking, and feel good about me, rather than annoyed with him. Maybe. Thank you!

    • Em says...

      “two of everything”– yes! I tend to operate this way, but my ex did not. even if we were doing an activity together, like watching a movie, he would get up and grab a snack and beer for himself only!! think it was a symptom of a larger problem. anyway, I hope I’ll find someone who can appreciate and share in those small delights with me :)

  35. Julia says...

    The COJ comments section is my favorite corner of the internet. We haven’t been going out much so we find ways to surprise each other we treats we make ourselves. My husband brews a lot of kombucha, so he will waltz into the office every now and then and ask “Booooch?” in a british accent. It fills me with joy every time.

  36. Angeline says...

    Oh my gosh, my husband is the best at this — he’ll often pick up things he knows I like but won’t buy for myself, like jars of Nutella, Haagen Dazs ice cream, etc. On his most recent grocery run he texted me a pic of a luscious lemon cake in a cafe window display and asked if I’d like one. Then he came home with not one but two slices! Other times he’ll return bearing apple crumble coz he knows that’s my fave. Plus he knows I’m an incredibly picky eater (and an indecisive Libra to boot!) yet he takes the time and trouble to get to know my preferences — itself the sweetest gesture.

    Actually he’s been doing this since we were dating, and is generous to a fault — if I stopped to admire something in a shop display window on our dates, he would quietly take note and next thing I knew it would magically appear as a gift! I’m talking about expensive party dresses (he asked my bestie for my size), jewellery, etc, It got so I had to stop myself from admiring anything in front of him! Ironically he’s harder to buy little gifts for because he doesn’t have a sweet tooth and his one major passion in life is the English football team Tottenham Hotspur, but being as we don’t live in London (or even Europe!) it’s harder to order anything from them online that he doesn’t already have. I still try with other things, though — I’ll bring him back a Starbucks Frappuccino or some cider, or mooncakes 🥮 when they’re in season, or cute little Lego sets, especially if they’re Christmas themed.

  37. april says...

    I ask my husband for a surprise or a treat when he goes to grocery, drug, or convenience store. It’s just fun to see what he comes back with-sometimes it’s gummy bears, sometimes it’s a single Rocher. Just a pick-me-up. And I do the same for him. Keeps the sweetness going. :)

  38. Emily says...

    Oh, timely post! I feel like my husband and I are in such a rut- nothing horrible just stress at work, schooling kids, Covid fatigue, etc. Doing these types of things has gone out the window as we’ve just been kinda hanging on trying not to be too cranky with each other. Good reminder for me to step back and think of something thoughtful I can do for him.

    • Sam says...

      I was just thinking the same thing! We moved in together right before COVID started, so we didn’t realize we’d be spending *all* our time together right away. The small gestures and notes that we regularly did prior to moving in together have gotten a little lost in the just coping-day-to-day, and this is a great reminder to keep that small mindfulness going even during the rough times!

  39. Laura S says...

    The COJ reader comments just might be my favorite thing about the internet, ever.

    • Savannah says...

      Every night after work (I manage a winery tasting room) I sit at my desk with a glass of wine and read reader comments. Its one of my absolute favorite things to do, and I often click posts because I know the comments will be lovely to read!

    • Chelsey says...

      100 % agree. I also click certain posts and head straight to the comments.

    • Olivia May says...

      Literally was sitting here smiling at how fun it is reading these when bam…! This comment made it even better.

  40. Jessica says...

    My spouse and I do this, too. Whenever one of us is going somewhere, the other will say, “bring me back a little treat?” Sometimes it’s candy, sometimes it’s a pack of baseball cards, sometimes it’s a beautiful pebble. I cherish them all.

  41. Abbey says...

    My wonderful boyfriend always does this for me when he makes a grocery run to make sure I know he’s always thinking of me. It’s such a sweet and thoughtful gesture. Sometimes it’s reese’s pieces, flowers, some sort of coconut treat, or Starbucks. My favorite though is when he finds random things on the discount table. Once he came back with an avocado slicer! He is forever my bodega Santa.

  42. S says...

    My mum is obsessed with of all things pens – ball points, gel, coloured, glittery they don’t have to be fancy. Every supermarket run or random stop at small grocery means my dad will pick one or more up for her and she’s over the moon every single time!

  43. Jordan says...

    There have been many a weekend morning when my husband and I find ourselves craving a big delicious breakfast but lack necessary ingredients (i.e. bacon), resulting in him making a quick trip to the grocery store at 7:30am. Without fail, he always waltzes in stating “craziest thing, they were giving out FREE donuts at the store–but the box was half eaten!” as he places down the box (of which he has already consumed his half). Always leaving chocolate glazed for moi.

    • Rachel N says...

      Ha! My husband and I do something so similar. Often one of us will come home with Doritos or something else frivolous and say “The craziest thing happened, the clerk just THREW this in the bag! I don’t know HOW it got there!”

  44. a.n. says...

    my husband and i do this, too! i have a major sweet tooth, specifically for chocolate. one of his favorite memories of me is when he was out and about and brought me home a HUGE kit kat. not only king size but maybe a triple king size. i ate like half of it and said “look at me and my willpower, i’m not even gonna eat the whole thing!” and he was like, oh my god of course you’re not going to eat the whole thing, i thought this would last you like a week. i was over here impressed with myself for my dedication to set aside my treat.

  45. G. says...

    This is such a sweet way of feeling seen by someone who loves you.

    I highly encourage doing this for good friends who are single or who live alone. Friends need love too– especially if they don’t have a clear daily source of that love. If they live nearby, drop a favorite candy bar or a used book you think they’ love off at their house while you’re on your daily walk or way home from an errand. If they live farther away, send a short little note of affirmation in the mail. I’ve been doing this more for friends lately (but I could definitely do it even more), and it really helps to increase a sense of closeness and feeling of belonging. And as someone who is single and lives alone, I know from experience just how buoying it is to know a friend thought of you during their day.

    • Emily L says...

      Agree! During the beginning of the pandemic when no one was going ANYWHERE I sent Vermont Maple Syrup to my friends who lived alone as a pick me up.

    • Tess says...

      Agreed! Love this point. Friends need love too!

    • Maria says...

      Thank you for writing this, G. :) it is wonderful to read through the comments here at CoJ, but so often I end up sniffling or even crying, hoping that one day maybe I will also be the one writing about “my boyfriend” or “hubby” this or that. But it is possible to also as a single person be on the receiving end of these kind of small lovely gestures, even if they’re not from a significant other. And as a single person myself, I want to show people around me some unexpected kindness, sooo… personally I’m all for sending cards and writing letters :) or just bringing small gifts when visiting friends or fam. Oh gosh, this comment is so all over the place, sorry. But yeah, remember the singles around you too! <3

  46. Elise says...

    Weirdly, I’m not crazy for gifts (giving or receiving) but I live for words of affirmation which was pointed out to me in the 5 Languages of Love – They are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. I think it’s so interesting in understanding relationship struggles or why some relationships work so well – do we understand our partner’s language? Do they understand ours?

    • Emily L says...

      Learning the Love Languages was a game changer for my relationship.

    • Laura says...

      Agreed! When we were dating, I noticed that he was always rubbing my leg or touching my back. And, for someone who isn’t naturally a touchy person and who works with small children, I was often annoyed because I was touched out by the end of the day. But then we took the love languages quiz and I was like, oh! Your love language is touch. I get it now :) So now I try to initiate hugs and back rubs even if I’m not really into it.

    • Amy says...

      I thought of this right away; my husband is totally not a gifts person and while he might appreciate some little treat from the store occasionally, generally he’d prefer it if I just cuddled him on the couch for a few minutes when I got back instead – and that’s from a guy with a sweet tooth!

    • Elise says...

      Laura’s comment made me laugh, learning a new language is tough! And yes kids with their PB&J fingers and grabbiness kind of ruin that whole language for a lot of us haha.

  47. Alice says...

    We do this! I’m going to give an ENORMOUSLY BRITISH example here but bear with me:
    We have a small Tesco (supermarket) just around the corner from us. We’ll quite often realise in the middle of the day that we’ve not got something we really need- i.e. we’re running low on teabags, or we don’t have milk, or we need some bread, etc- and one of us will then pop to the shop to pick it up. Almost without fail, whoever goes will pick something up for the other- I tend to get a Flump (a very long marshmallow) for my boyfriend, and he’ll often get a Freddo (a small frog made out of Cadbury’s chocolate) for me. It’s GREAT and I love it, but we literally only do this when we go to that shop. Weird!

    • Genevieve Martin says...

      Hehe, swap you another ENORMOUSLY BRITISH shop story. My boyfriend goes into every co-op we ever pass to check if they have the cheddar and pickle mini Melton mobray pork pies, they are only stocked about 30% of the time so it’s kind of a thrill. If I ever saw them without him I would of course bring them back. (I guess we didn’t do this for a while when there were queues and discouragement from unnecessary trips!)

  48. Kay says...

    Presents are my love language and I like to give as well as receive. Every time I shop I buy my husband a treat, usually some kind of dark chocolate, It is something I have done for years. He occasionally picks me up something when out on a dog walk and pitmans the world to me. I am also the person that buys cards and small gifts for people ‘just because’, if I see something just right then I will get it. I think we all need cheering up or some extra love occasionally. This is such a happy post, thank you. x

  49. Kaitlyn says...

    My husband and I have both been working from home since our UK lockdown in March. I often worked from home before so have an office with a desktop screen I connect my laptop to with wireless keyboard and mouse too, but there’s no space for both of us in the office. So we now take turns plugging our laptop in and we each have our own keyboard / mouse that live in a drawer when we’re not using the desktop. My keyboard is always connected by Bluetooth and sometimes when I’m working on my laptop in the room next door my husband hits the space bar on my keyboard and writes a sweet note in the search bar on my laptop! It’s so silly and little, but so sweet to see it pop up when I’m working!

  50. Amy says...

    I’ve been in long distance relationships for the past few years, and I’ve actually been a “bodega santa” to myself! When I write my grocery lists, I always add “Something Fun” to the list, so that I remember to pick up a treat for myself each week :)

  51. S says...

    Tony’s chocolate!! What a lovely surprise to see! I’m so happy that our Dutch treat is ‘making it’ outside of our little country! Although, it was always handy to bring them as gifts when travelling, so now I have to think of something new… the purple wrapper (toffee & pretzel in dark chocolate) is the best! But I think the orange wrapper (salted caramel) is most popular here and I regularly bring one home from errands as a treat for my husband. Tony’s also have creative/strange flavor combos that might be fun for your boys.

    • Kim says...

      My kids are obsessed with Tony’s!

    • E says...

      Oh man, the white chocolate with poprocks is extremely delicious. I know it’s probably designed for kiddos, but I am in my 30s and love it!

  52. jules says...

    I’ve been giving my husband LOTS of time to play the piano to de-stress at night while I pick up home slack. He hadn’t played since he discovered partying as a teen, but we got one for our 5-year old to take lessons. My other “gift” is singing along sometimes to help him keep time, even though I’m not a good singer even by karaoke standards. I felt really self-conscious at first. Several nights a week, I’ve been belting out “Your Song,” “November Rain,” now “Jump.” It is not always pretty but it’s oddly stress-relieving and fun. Now our son is joining in. Hearing him sing “This Year” by the Mountain Goats was both hilarious and unnerving.

  53. Marie says...

    I am saving this post for another rainy day when I need reminders of all the sweet small things people do for each other. The tiny things add up, they really do. Thanks for sharing all of these stories, all, this made me smile after a long and especially quarantine-bluesy day!

    And- my husband hates peanut butter cups and Cadbury eggs but always grabs them for me and hides them in the cupboard. Best surprises.

    • Laura says...

      Hates peanut butter cups and Cadbury eggs!? I cannot relate :)

  54. Reba says...

    My husband and I totally do this! When we lived in NYC, he would stop by this bakery near Grand Central and bring me back a cream cheese brownie every couple of weeks on his way home from work. Now that we live in Chicago, he’ll still bring back a snack he knows I’ll like, a ‘sorpresa’ as he refers to them, from his runs to Target or the grocery store (we’re woefully short on bodegas here). It’s such a small but meaningful gesture.

  55. Caitlin says...

    I buy my husband jars of mustard every once in a while. Probably a few times a year. I truly hate mustard, the smell of it makes me feel nauseated. But I love him so much. It’s my little gesture to say I see you, I love you.

    • Katalin says...

      My ex-boyfriend always brought me a pint of Ben & Jerry’s whenever he knew I had a hard day, because he knew it’s something I’d never spend money on for myself. And I tried to make every meal special, because he is sucgmh a foodie. He set the bar really high :)

  56. Caitlin says...

    Oh I love this and all of the comments! I have to share what my husband recently did. I work part time (also am in grad school!) But work quite a bit for part time and have a large caseload, larger than my ft coworkers! I put in so much time and heart into my job. So I got a little bummed the other day when everyone excited told me how our company put together care packages for all of the ft employees (everyone forgets I’m not ft! I really work so hard!). Anyways, I was telling my husband I was a little bummed, mostly because I love free things, but also because of feeling undervalued. The next day when I came home from work, there was a basket on the table filled with my favorite snacks, fun highlighters and notebooks, and a little sloth planter for my new office when I graduate. He put together my own personalized care package. I tear up just thinking about it. There’s this person in the world, who I admire so much, who never wants me to feel undervalued and wants me to know I’m loved. I really lucked out.

    • Laura says...

      That is the sweetest!

    • E says...

      SO sweet and I’m v annoyed that only FT people got the care packages … kinda rude IMO.

  57. Little Miss says...

    i am not very good at receiving gifts since my nearest always feel i am not easily satisfied.
    and im really bad at picking presents too.
    but my niche is finding the perfect everyday surprises…ill suddenly come home with buratta and tomatoes so dinner will be canceled.or ill come home really late with marons glacé because we need to realise christmas IS coming!
    my sis is also really good at this…ill often find a glass of water with ice on my bedside because she knows its one of my favourite things on this earth!

  58. Amy says...

    I’ve got a winner of a partner who surprises me with thoughtful actions just often enough. But, what’s really inspired me during Shelter In Place came from one rough, emotional evening. My teenage son was a wreck one night from feeling miserable about missing college life and fears of Covid, but also ware that he has every advantage: a safe home, loving family, great friends. And, I’ve been feeling blue, too. So, we both started treating our friends and family to little gifts – dropping a pumpkin off to a friend who’s mobile challenged and forgot to add it to her grocery order, making dinner for his girlfriend’s family or sending notes through the mail. Nothing very big but cheers us up and makes other people smile, too. Sounds corny but it works.

    • Caitlin says...

      Amy,
      This really does work. I realized that I’m in a place (privilege), where I can spend an extra 40$ once in a while and it won’t hurt. So I bought 40$ worth of diapers and wipes on my last grocery trip and dropped them off at our YWCA. I never regret acts of kindness. I’ve also noticed that sending notes in the mail does wonders for my grandpa’s mood- just a tip for anyone with an older loved one in your life!

    • Helga Thomsen says...

      That is so sweet. You’ve inspired me.

  59. Autumn says...

    This entire comment thread is so heartwarming. @Janet – your advice is breathtaking and lovely.

    Since the pandemic hit, I’ve been making my husband a bag of lunch and snacks so he can go to his studio safely and not have to get takeout. He likes the same sandwich every day, and one day I slipped in an extra ingredient, pesto. He texted me that day (he normally never texts during the workday) to say “honey the sandwich was extra delicious today”.

  60. K says...

    omg even as you were describing the fun surprise treats i thought of haley’s bodega santa!

    om, my SO would bring free treats from work (pre-covid) and they were always a novel surprise, it might have been an avocado or some yummy cream filled cookie.

    our groceries usually consist of only staples like plain yogurt, eggs, spinach, so it’s always a treat when one of us surprises the other with a carton of ready-made bitterballen or soup dumplings from the frozen section!

  61. Nina says...

    My husband and I live very frugally but we occasionally battle over slightly different values – I will happily drop silly dollars on “fancy healthy” groceries because I figure what’s the point of living frugally if you can’t spend the money you’ve saved on things that truly improve your quality of life? My husband does not share my love of pretentious health foods and will raise objections to the cost. The day before my birthday last year, he brought home a grocery bag filled with chia seeds, cacao nibs, coconut yoghurt, berries, kombucha etc etc – things he termed “Nina groceries.” It was really sweet.

    Another one of my favourite birthday gifts he ever gave me was a reusable coffee cup that he’d filled with dark chocolate-covered dates. He hates dates but he knows I love them.

    • Tess says...

      I love this. My husband bought me a nice set of fancy new sheets for my birthday last year- he knows how much I love having fresh, fancy sheets even though he says they are no different then the cheap ones. It was such a “you know me” moment, it brought tears to my eyes!

  62. Ashley says...

    My husband always puts diet cokes in the fridge. I am the worst about putting new ones in and I never have to think about it! He doesn’t drink them so I know they’re just for me. I feel loved and known with every can.

    • Amy says...

      This is really sweet, Ashley

  63. Jess says...

    So…is anyone going to tell us whose arm that is in the photo or do we have to guess?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Hahaha it’s Alex!

    • Neela says...

      Nice hands! And that chocolate is the best- especially the salted caramel, nomnom

  64. Rachel says...

    On our 3rd date, I mentioned to my now boyfriend that I loved reading the Fearless Flyer from Trader Joe’s and that on my last trip, it had fallen out of my bag. He stopped at one that week and brought me a copy on our next date. It was so meaningful and thoughtful. I told my mom and she said that’s when she knew he was a keeper.

  65. cg says...

    A few things popped into my head when I read this. The first is a story of when we were newly married, maybe not even a year into it. I was working as a freelance artist and designer, making handmade wedding invitations, etc. I was using a lot of glue, specialty papers, blades, and we were young and not making a lot of money. My husband came home one day with his hand behind his back and said he got me something special. I immediately chastised him for wasting money on flowers that would die within the week and that while I value his sentiment, we could hardly afford to spend money on something that wouldn’t last more than a few days. He brought his hand out and it was a bundle of glue sticks!! He knew I used it a lot to make the handmade cards and albums, and saw it was on sale, and thought of me. It was really one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever gotten.

    Second thing, whenever we have something to eat, say we’re each having an orange, or an apple. The food item will get split in half (or thirds, if our daughter wants any), and we will each get a section. This way, if one tastes awesome but the other isn’t so great, we all get a little of each.

    • b says...

      A bundle of glue sticks – that’s the best. Very You’ve Got Mail of him a la bouquet of sharpened pencils.

  66. Lindsey says...

    I come from a family that is super into celebrating birthdays and my husband does not. Early on in our relationship we had lots of fights about this, since the way we were raised really influenced our expectations of a “good birthday.” I’ll never forget a fight we had where he was so confused by why I was hurt, and exclaimed in such bewilderment “why can I not celebrate you every day instead of just one day a year?” That is the moment I realized this man was someone who loved me. And now every unnamed day he brings home flowers, chocolate or a love letter makes me feel so knowingly loved and celebrated.

  67. Sarah says...

    We do this, too! My husband loves racecar magazines and m&ms, and I love vinegar potato chips and sunny flowers. It’s always such a cute little gesture to show we’re thinking of one another.

    My other favorite thing is when he opens a new bag of coffee beans, he always stops what he’s doing to find me and let me take a big whiff of the delicious coffee scent. I adore the look on his face when he watches me lean forward- like a kid opening a present.

    • Laura Bretheim says...

      My husband does the coffee bean thing too! Thanks for helping me remember to appreciate it as special ☺️

    • Anna says...

      I call that fresh coffee grounds smell ‘a new day’ or a do-over!

    • Sarah says...

      @laura you’re welcome! This entire thread helped me to think more appreciatively about my husband.

      We once were on a date in DC and he surprised me by taking me to a coffee roaster shop so I could stand there and breathe in the scent. Such a good guy.

    • Sarah, I love this so much and I’m so happy to think that your husband does this for you. I mean, just to KNOW this coffee bean whiff thing is happening in the world on the regular makes me feel like there is HOPE FOR HUMANITY. (Weird, I know, but I found your story so touching. Really loved it. Thank you!)

  68. Liz says...

    Different context, but the tone of this reminds me of when I was tagged in a picture on social media and worried about how I looked…my brother, who was next to me at the time, turned to me and said, “They know how you look.” I thought that was such a powerful thing and have thought about that every time I haven’t liked a photo I’ve been tagged in ever since.

  69. Erin says...

    I grew up watching my grandpa bring my grandma glasses of ice water “with just a little bit of ice, the way you like it, dear.” Happy memories! Thanks for the reminder.

    • C says...

      <3 <3 <3

    • Sharon says...

      Yes, this is more my style! My husband and I are not really into “gifts”. We both hate the idea of wasting money on crap, and he comes from a family that does this to the extreme. So our every day love language is little favors around the house. My husband loves to go to the grocery for me (this is NICE). He gets all the specifics, never complains about having a hard time finding anything. That is my key to a gift. You cannot complain about how hard it is!

  70. AE says...

    When my husband and I first started dating, I realized how much he loved Sour Patch kids so I’d bring him a new box every time I visited. He eventually claimed it was plot to make him chubby- but was very disappointed when stopped bringing them. Now that we are married, I still randomly bring back things he loves (new flavors or ginger kombucha! Sour candy! Chocolate chip cookies!) my love language is (receiving) gifts but I also really enjoy giving them :)

  71. Polyana says...

    my partner and i used to go grocery shopping together. it was almost always like a date of sorts – we’d go out for lunch first, and then plan a nice dinner using what was purchase… and almost always, one of us would bring something off the list to the cart – like when a kid sneaks what they want into the cart without the parent seeing until they get to checkout!

    now with the pandemic, we’re taking turns going to the store, and have made it a habit to bring each other treats – usually something we know the other wouldn’t dare ask to add to the list, but would make them happy. i’ll get him his favorite packet of peanuts or a nice beer, and he gets me a bar of dark chocolate, or – like alex does for you – some yummy cheese and a baguette – it’s always a new surprise. i almost don’t want to go back to grocery shopping together! :-)

    • Katrin says...

      This post made me realize why my marriage is over – I was always doing stuff like this for my husband, waiting and hoping for him to reply with thoughtful, caring gestures or words of his own. And it wasn’t just the love language – he’s just not that good at loving and caring.

    • Michaela says...

      @Katrin — sending you a hug. Wishing you the best with whatever your next chapter holds for you. I hope it includes a bodega santa.

  72. My partner works at Trader Joe’s and is always showing up with fun new snacks for us to try. I love it – so sweet. And we have been known to buy each other flowers. I love reading about everyone’s sweet gestures!

  73. Heidi says...

    My husband likes to surprise me with my favorite treat Dark chocolate covered pretzels from Trader Joes! He usually does this if he notices I’m having a difficult or emotional week and it always cheers me up.

  74. Madeleine says...

    We did a taste tests of dark chocolate bars this summer and Tony’s was one of the winners!

    • Florencia says...

      We recently did the same, so fun! Number one winner for me was Coracao, second was Hu.

  75. hali says...

    My husband brought home HOT PINK carnations a few weeks ago from Trader Joes. He said “because they’re not the style of flowers you usually pick out for yourself but they’re super cheery and you needed some cheer this week.”

    I actually do like carnations but am pretty picky about them, especially in fall, I’d only grab them if they’re more neutral-toned variegated variety… so at first the HOT PINK on our kitchen table surrounded by piles of apples and black pillar candles for halloween just felt kind of insane to look at. But the next day and every day since (they’re still going strong!!) I think about how sweet it was that he wanted something cheery for me and that he knew I’d never pick them out for myself.

    The flower pick up was a part of our newly instated “who ever does the grocery shopping for the week is obliged to look for fun surprises at the store” policy. Because browsing grocery stores used to bring me such calm joy and i missed the fun seasonal trader joes discoveries when we became so focused on getting in and getting out as fast as possible! Now when he’s the one who goes he does such a good job at finding random things that it’s fun to help unpack the groceries!

  76. Kate says...

    Sounds like a sweet way to speak the Love Language of gifts :)

    As someone who was recently brutally dumped, I could really use some heartache advice from CupofJo and readers. I’ve already read through all the past articles I could find! I don’t mind the focus on relationships as it seems most contributors are happily co-habitating but as someone who is not I could use some advice from the ladies of this site, to maybe feel less alone right now…

    Just a thought.

    • Elizabeth says...

      Give yourself time and space to grieve the breakup. I feel like there is so much pressure to adopt a positive mantra, throw on some empowering tunes and go for a run – that’s all great, but if you’re not ready for it, it feels even worse. I think it’s ok to take some time to mourn the loss of the relationship whether that means journaling, listening to mopey music, watching tearjerkers – whatever you need. Sending support your way because you *will* get through it – on your own timetable.

    • A says...

      I’m so sorry to hear youre going through a hard time :( i think you just need to remember that this too shall pass. so cliche i know, but it’s the truth. as someone who has been brutally dumped many, many, many…..many times in her life, the truth is that eventually they just stop being important. you don’t notice it right away but then you look up! and poof. gone.

      find a new hobby they never would have done with you. watch all the tv shows they would have hated! also, have fun!

    • Abbe says...

      Kate, I’m not sure if I have any good advice but just wanted to say break ups SUCK. I don’t know you but based on your sweet comment and the fact that you’re a reader of this site, I’d say chances are you are an amazing person who 100% did not deserve to be brutally dumped. Sending you lots of positive vibes. <3

    • Kristian says...

      I am so sorry to hear that a relationship ended for you in a such a way that felt brutal and made you feel alone! That sucks. Not sure if it remotely would help, but I know I got through a bad break up by making future plans for things I wanted from life that the other person didn’t…. which is of course complicated by covid and the uncertainty of everything but- I hope you are able to find ways to feel less alone.

    • Janet says...

      Hello Kate,
      I am sending you love and good vibes. You will get over this, but you won’t even know; it will just kind of sneak up on you, like how when you’re up at 6 a.m. you feel alone and mysterious but all of a sudden it’s 8:45 a.m., what happened? Anyway.

      Buying *things* will not solve your problems. BUT treating yourself to an absurdly fancy meal and going to see theater (when safe to do so, splurge on a solo ticket to see something that would be tough to go with someone else to…but by then you might be in love and complaining about how hard it is to get two tickets together), and paying for lessons to do whatever insane nonsense you like (like a dialect coach to help you nail that cockney accent you want to use on the credit card company) and massages and whatever else is a generous gesture to yourself will definitely solve your problems. Fix something in your house that you have been putting off, like pants that need mending or cleaning up the junk drawer. This will signal to you that you are not stuck, that you have a lot of say in what’s next.

      People always say blah blah blah don’t be self absorbed, go volunteer, etc. You gotta put on your own oxygen mask first. THEN volunteer or just help someone who crosses your path and who needs your help (you’ll know). Don’t expect anyone else to be as sad as you about this because frankly, they don’t think the person who dumped you was that great if they would do such a trash thing. When you’re ready, ask someone who is dear to you what they really thought about so and so, and boy, you are going to hear about how he smelled like he had been fumigated with Axe body spray or how she abused dry shampoo and her hair smelled like a damn superfund site.

      Sending you love. I expect to see you in the comments in a little while under a post called “Formerly Lonely People Laugh At Their Most Shameful Solo Meals”, being goo-goo over your just-recently-serious-but-it’s-obvi-forever sweetheart and writing a comment like “here’s OUR roast chicken recipe, in case you need it”. I just know it. Love is looking for you, now that you aren’t occupied by that lame-o.

      xox.

    • E says...

      Kate, I don’t have advice or wisdom for you, but I just want to send you support and say you’re not alone.

    • Lillian says...

      I’m so sorry! My only advice is that after a particularly bad breakup, I realized (after many spontaneous sobbing sessions) that I mostly was grieving the idea of companionship. How am I going to find someone else that I will connect with? Or someone to squeeze my back how I like? Will I ever get close enough to someone where we can just communicate with a glance? Who else will get our inside jokes? But most of these are just from being with anyone after a long time, not necessarily anything specific from that person that I would miss. Also, be open to all people. “The one” might be someone you would never have given a chance 10 yrs ago.

    • Angie MacRae says...

      We have all been there and it truly sucks. Ani Diffranco’s album Dilate is a good one if you need someone to sing you through it.
      I used to tell myself until i believed it that I dodged a bullet. No one needs a partner with poor taste in women.

    • ac says...

      @Janet’s advice should be framed for us all and is highly relevant for romantic partners, friends, jobs, etc.

    • cg says...

      I have no advice to offer that you probably haven’t already heard or know. All I can offer is to say that I’m sorry the hurt is so bad, but know that you are more than what another person could ever give you or tell you you are. You have within you the light and the love that is yours and yours alone, no one can take that away from you. When you believe in your light, and your love, you shine the brightest. When you shine the brightest, you can not be ignored.

      Take care.

    • Erin says...

      Hi Kate, I’m sorry. Breakups are awful. My advice is to find time to do the things that make you feel most like yourself — talking with good friends, eating your favorite thing for dinner, re-reading or re-watching a book or TV show you’ve always loved.

      Also, I echo Elizabeth’s advice to give yourself some space to just be sad. One of the things I struggled most with during my last breakup was that I had a lot of hopes I’d really invested into the relationship. Separately from grieving the loss of the actual person, I had to grieve the loss of some of those abstract future things I’d always been hoping for. They’ll never happen the way I had pictured. That felt really hard.

      One other thing … we aren’t all in relationships around here. And we think you matter just as much whether you have a significant other or not!

    • Dawn G. says...

      Kate, heartache is intense & difficult. Sending you positive thoughts. As you move forward, take care of yourself. Choose moments that bring you joy. Take time to return to your hobbies and other friendships- relationships. Take walks if you can.

      Go through your hard time & acknowledge your feelings. Choose one person that you could share your thoughts-emotions with. Learn from this relationship. You will be stronger and wiser.

      Believe in your path, journey & dreams. Write them down. Keep believing in Love, Joy & Peace!

    • Ana D says...

      I’m sorry, Kate. Heartbreak is truly painful. Scientific studies have found that occasional low doses of over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can take the edge off heartbreak when things are really bad. (Not a doctor, so ask Dr. Google before taking any medical advice.)

      You’re doing the right things in a time that’s just going to feel wrong and be wrong for an unknown duration. You’re asking for help, and you’re speaking your truth in this space, even if nowhere else. That’s huge. You deserve care and support all the time, and especially in the wake of your romantic relationship ending in a painful way.

      There’s a memoir I read on repeat while my first marriage disintegrated before my eyes. It’s “Happens Every Day” by Isabel Gillies. That helped me so much. Seeing someone else put words to the earthshattering pain of losing love and trust gave me language when all I had was hurt and disbelief. Putting words to it, and seeing myself in her stories – that was powerful. I hope you find similar supports as you continue feeling and living through this ongoing painful experience moment by moment.

    • S says...

      Doing things that connect you to yourself/make you feel yourself really helped me, but my oldest friend gave me the best advice! She suggested writing down all the situations or thoughts that can come up and derail me (bumping into my ex unexpectedly, someone bringing them up unknowingly, specific feelings…) and then write down how I want to respond and what I will do or can do to help myself in that moment. It was SO helpful for when those events or feelings occurred – it was like I had rehearsed them and I knew what to do and how to protect myself. Also, if I was feeling low I could just look at my list of things to help myself with that feeling and pick something that felt right, no having to think about it. I recently helped my dad with this after finding himself alone, after 45 years. I hope you find some comfort in these tough times… silver lining of COVID breakup, you’re unlikely to bump into your ex at a social event for now? This will all pass and you will be happy again.

    • Christina M. says...

      I’ve been through a couple of brutal break-ups and they suck! One book (from over 10 years ago) that helped so much was “It’s Called a Break-Up Cause it’s Broken” by Greg Behrendt – the SATC writer who’s famous for “He’s just not that into you” It’s so funny and there’s so much great advice.

      Hang in there. Focus on you and keep yourself busy! That’s always my best advice. I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but you’ll get through this, with a lot more wisdom and confidence under your belt.
      Hugs.

    • Caitlin says...

      Janet for president ::sobbing emoji::

      Wishing you the best, Kate. My only advice is to be as kind to yourself as you would be to your dearest friend if they were going through what you are going through.

    • Val says...

      1) Go for a walk or a run outside
      2) Connect with friends
      3) Eat a nice meal
      4) Watch an entertaining show or movie
      5) Read a good book
      6) At-home spa/facial
      7) Enroll in a class to learn a new skill
      8) Sleep

      Take it slow and invest in yourself :-)

    • Kristen says...

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this right now, Kate. It probably feels like the pain will never end. One time I was going through a particularly bad breakup and sat next to a lovely lady on a flight who was kind enough to let me tell her about my breakup through sobs. In the end, she looked at me seriously and said, “When your heart is breaking, you think the sun will never set the same, but it does.” Which, I suppose, is just another way of saying time heals all. You will get through this, but be gentle with yourself in the process. If you enjoy journaling, you may find some joy in writing out what a gorgeously happy life would look like to you in the future, single or companioned. Sending you all the love!

    • jane says...

      Rent the movie Orlando with Tilda Swinton. The scene where she/he has to accept a breakup was so helpful for understanding why it’s important to just let it go.

    • Sadie says...

      Good sleep is essential to healing, if you can’t get to sleep try an Advil PM.

    • Hi Kate,
      I’m so sorry you are in the terribly hard and raw season. When I went through a brutal, sudden and unexpected divorce, I found encouragement in How to Survive the Loss of a Love (by Peter McWilliams, Harold H. Bloomfield Melba Colgrove). It has very short 2-page chapters and was manageable reading, even in my early foggy state. A friend gave it to me as soon as she heard. Also, starting-over stories like Under the Tuscan Sun and Happens Every Day helped. I watched Under the Tuscan Sun twice in 24 hours one time. Wishing you strength for the journey to the other side of this. It gets better.

    • Em says...

      So sorry Kate. Here’s one thing I did after my painful breakup last year that was weirdly comforting… I opened up some text threads with close friends and scrolled wayyyy back to conversations we had before my relationship even started. Reminded me that I had a vibrant life before him, and will have a vibrant life after him, too! Hugs.

  77. Sara says...

    Love this idea!

  78. AT says...

    Am I the only one who read “bodega santa” in Spanish — holy bodega? I was like, well we do revere our bodegas here in NYC…so I guess that’s appropriate. Now I realize you’re talking about the fat man in a red suit Santa.
    Anyway, the amount of chocolate I buy for my husband at Trader Joe’s on a weekly basis is frankly embarrassing. He’s a runner with a sweet tooth and an insanely fast metabolism though, so more power (and chocolate) to him.

    • Laura says...

      Same! I read it as “sahnta” not Santa!

    • Rebecca says...

      I thought the same thing until I read your comment – glad I scrolled down! I was thinking “well I guess good treats can be saving grace!”

    • SD says...

      Nope, I totally read it that way too at first! ;)

    • Breamons says...

      O Santa bodega – deliver us from hunger, bless us with sweet and savory snacks. Have the flavor of Taquis we love. Amen.

    • Cheryl says...

      Santo also means saint! Which would definitely describe someone who returned from a grocery run with delicious, unnecessary treats.

    • Mary says...

      I did too!

    • M says...

      Lol, didn’t even realize my mistake but yes. And it made perfect sense to me! (O santa bodega, gracias por sus bendiciones y dame hoy una galleta de chocolate 😂)

  79. Sasha L says...

    Yesterday I made brownies. We had watched the British baking show on Friday and one of the challenges was brownies and my husband said “oh great! Now I want brownies!’
    He didn’t know I was making them and was completely delighted. Sweet to make him happy, + I love brownies too.

    • hali says...

      We watched gbbo on friday and craved brownies too!! That’s the sweetest!! (also, why could none of them bake a decent brownie? – it’s a brownie!!!)

    • E says...

      We had coincidentally made brownies the day before watching that episode! I think one of the contestants was right when she said they all overthought it – if one of them had just made a regular brownie, they’d have won that challenge handily

    • Roberta says...

      Speaking as a Londoner, I think the reason they didn’t do so well is because Brits don’t really make brownies (it’s not really in our cultural baking repertoire)….certainly I don’t – I think I’ve tried them twice and each time they were a disaster (I’m a good baker, I promise!). I think they’re more of an American bake? I mean, you can buy them in cafes etc but you’d not really expect to see them at, say, a school bake sale…perhaps that’s why?

    • Genevieve Martin says...

      I dunno Roberta I think they are a very standard thing to bake and give (more common than making a whole cake for example). Grew up in Bournemouth. Was totally baffled by how badly they did haha. Guess different groups have different habits though :)

  80. Lauren says...

    Yes! And it’s almost always a Tony’s Bar : ) Fancy enough to feel like a special treat but not too expensive that’s become a little ritual of ours. Our favorite is the caramel sea salt flavor and we always end up reconnecting over it at the end of a long day.

  81. Molly says...

    I’m pregnant with our first baby, and my husband has sweetly volunteered to do all the grocery shopping. Every time he goes to Trader Joe’s, he picks me up a bouquet of flowers, a fun gourd to decorate with, or a new snack to try. It’s so kind of him, and not traditionally in his nature–he’s typically the kind of person who sticks exactly to the list he’s written out. I asked him about this, and he told me that he actually writes “a fun surprise” on his list, because he loves how happy it makes me. My heart swells just thinking about it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh my gosh, tears!

    • Emily says...

      Find one of his lists with this on it and stash it away somewhere for when you need a good reminder. What a sweet thing.

    • Alexa says...

      oh my heart, “fun surprise” ~ i weep! my husband is typically like this, too…sticks to the list…so the moments of spontaneity and abundance mean so especially much!

      thinking of you as you and your baby grow together ~ i write from the 5 am nursing of my one week old :)

    • OM says...

      This is so sweet!

  82. Cynthia says...

    Last summer, my husband bought me a bag of marshmallows so I could toast marshmallows at the campground. I was totally surprised. I just bought peanut butter cups because they’re his favorite candy. We do little things like this frequently.

    • Ashley says...

      Cynthia put those two together! S’mores with Reese’s are the best!

  83. Love this so much. My family is very much like this (my Dad and Mom both love sending random small gifts just because they saw something at the store that made them think of me) but my spouse isn’t; he was just not raised in a family culture that was at all spontaneous when it came to little things like this. I’ve even outright asked him to bring me home a treat from a Trader Joe’s run, and because he doesn’t eat sugar and doesn’t understand the magical healing properties of chocolate, he usually brings me trail mix. I have to laugh when he does that!

    That being said, he is the most nurturing person I have ever met. I’m 37 weeks pregnant and he is forever making sure my water is filled, does the bulk of the cooking/cleaning/laundry, and offers endless back rubs and shoulder massages. I can tell from the way he treats me that he’s going to be a super involved and doting Dad and can’t wait to see him grow into that role.

  84. Calla says...

    I had an ex who would do this for me with weird baking ingredients I had a hard time getting ahold of. He’d often come back with clotted cream or barley malt syrup. Always made my day

  85. Ceridwen says...

    This is the best! I love it. This year I started ordering flowers for my husband at random times or buy him a book. I love the idea of bodega Santa – I guess Australian version is minbar Santa or IGA Santa. So good and fun and thoughtful. My dad does the same for my mum all the time – he gets her a packet of fruit tingles or some creamy soda or a chocolate bar. So sweet but I hadn’t really thought about it until this post that it is his act of love toward her. She is at end of life stage now with cancer; these simple things he does for her everyday and the way he makes her breakfast (stands her toast up together so it cools the way she likes it) is magic and loving.

    • Sasha L says...

      This is so beautiful. Big hugs to you and your mom. I hope she is ok today.

  86. Meghan says...

    I literally just got back from a bodega run where I picked up my husband’s favorite, a Martinelli’s. He works long hours so it’s currently chilling in the fridge until his return home. :) It goes without saying that we’re both mentally exhausted by the end of the day, and these small gestures have become so important. “I know the world seem’s like it’s ending, but I love you, I’m thinking of you, oh and btw, here’s an apple juice.” lol

  87. Sarah says...

    My husband and I do this too! Snacks are our love language. As he’s working from home, I‘ll drop off some fresh banana bread to his desk in the guest room, or a little dish of cheez-it’s, or something I think he might like, and he’ll often stash a surprise pint of ice cream or snack after grocery store runs.

    As a total aside, has CoJ done an article on ways to meet people/make friends during the pandemic? We just moved to a new city during all this, and I’m really struggling to meet people when I can’t join a gym or really network. I’d love to hear what this wonderful group of folks has to say!

    • Allie says...

      When I moved into a new neighborhood I joined the website Nextdoor. It certainly has its flaws, but I like that it easily connects you with people who live near you. I made a new friend by asking if anyone wanted to join me on a socially-distanced walk. Walking with her has been the highlight of my weekends!

    • Aoife says...

      I love this!
      And, Sarah, if you’re in Ireland, would totally love to be friends! To be honest, I feel you completely on struggling making new friends/connecting with new people — on this end, we moved countries at the start of 2020 and due to life admin, when we finally got to March and could ‘start life’ here, the country went into lockdown and it’s never really properly resumed in the way with social points etc.

      CoJ, is there a way to connect readers in different cities, regions and countries of the world? My gut tells me that members of this lovely community would get along!

    • Amber J says...

      Would love a CoJ post about this, too!

    • Judi says...

      Me too! We are Brooklynites now in Springfield, MO (honk if you see a license plate that reads “EXPAT”) and we’d love to connect with even more people than we’ve already found here.

    • Sarah says...

      Me, too, here in Washington DC!

    • KJ says...

      THIS. I’m in Denver if anyone wants to connect :)

  88. E Louise says...

    Love the sweet little tips, thank you for this.

    I would be eternally grateful to hear stories or read an article on help with really tough relationship moments. My partner and I within the last year transitioned form blissfully in love to a never ender cycle of very upsetting arguments that never feel fully resolved. This often makes me feel completely alone and so unsure of what to do next or how to make things better.

    I suppose I’d just love to be seen or feel a community around this.
    Thanks for everything you do friends.

    • Maryn says...

      I see you, E. Louise ❤️❤️❤️

    • Heather says...

      You are seen and not alone! I’ve been there.
      The thing that saved my relationship during a particularly rough patch was going to relationship counseling. It helped us really see the ways we were struggling with communicating, how we got trapped in that never-ending cycle of arguments that just simmer under the surface, and bring up deep issues both of us had buried. Most of all it helped us remember that we really do love and care about each other and that we’re both on the same team, and agree that we wanted to work through the challenges we were feeling stuck in. Hard work but so, so worth it. Periodically we talk about going back and haven’t done it yet but I imagine we will.
      We found a therapist who we both thought looked like a good fit and who would take our insurance on Psychology Today (www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists – you can filter by the type of therapy/therapist/insurance type, and it looks like most therapists are doing virtual visits).

    • Christina says...

      I see you E Louise ❤️

    • Jenica says...

      Would highly recommend the strategies from the book Non Violent Communication. So grateful to learn these skills which have taken my marriage from endless arguments to truly hearing and understanding each other.

    • E says...

      Sending you love, E Louise! That’s a tough place to be. I highly recommend the book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” by John Gottman and Nan Silver. It’s for everyone, not just married couples, and contains some really helpful information about how to communicate in healthy ways. It’s based on the idea that the argument itself isn’t usually the problem, but it’s the way that the fight unfolds that can be so painful.

      I also second Heather’s recommendation to go to relationship counseling. <3

    • jdp says...

      we were there two years ago, and we are now together firmly even in pandemic courtesy some of the kindest couples therapy ever devised. now we know what to do if we get there again — and when that dark, awful place is really the end, or worth clawing back from. because some times you just don’t know…and you need help with all of it. GOOD LUCK. xoxoxoxo

    • Hilary says...

      Oh E Louise – that’s so hard AND so common. You’re definitely not alone.

      My husband and I have been through those seasons, too. We just hit 7 years of marriage and a full decade together and there are so many ups and downs along the way. I’m a certified coach and I’ve learned so, so much through my journey of both becoming a coach and being coached that maybe some of this will help?! Take what does, leave the rest :)

      – Embrace/accept the fact that everything in life – including relationships – has cycles and seasons. Seasons where you are more of a giver, more of a taker, where one of you makes more money, is more busy or stressed, is accelerating your career, is sick or needs more. But everything eventually ends. Even in this hellhole that is 2020, though that is hard to believe.

      – Embrace/accept the fact that every person and every relationship has “gravity problems.” In design, a gravity problem is something that is immutable and we cannot change, no matter what we do. For instance, my husband is an introvert and a slow processor. I’m an extrovert who tends to make rash decisions. We can each try harder to meet the other person where they are, but essentially, that’s our wiring and it’s not going to change. My husband’s family is (and has always been) a source of contention for us. How we talk about them and handle them has gotten better over time, but they won’t change. It’s helpful to know and name the gravity in your relationship so you can decide if those are ok with you, if you can design your life and relationship around them, or if you need to move on.

      – Finally, seek help! Therapist, counselor, coach. Therapy has a 360 orientation (aka, you delve into the past) whereas coaching has a present-forward orientation, so we spend a lot of time building resonance and wants for the future. Both are useful and can help. But you’re not alone and you don’t have to figure it out alone either.

      Sending hugs!

    • nadine says...

      Thank you E Louise for asking, and for everyone’s answer.
      Love this community

    • E Louise says...

      This community gives me hope for this planet.
      An endless thanks to all of you for your compassion, even to complete strangers.

  89. Brigette says...

    My boyfriend is a winemaker and has spent the last three weeks working seven days a week, normally 5:00am-9:00pm. So I have volunteered to do all the chores for both of us during harvest (meal prep, laundry, buy his deodorant etc.) This schedule also means that I have been spending a lot of time alone. Last week there was a knock on my door and there was the local florist with the most beautiful arrangement for me. The card was simple “Thank you for your patience and for caring for me. I couldn’t do this without you.” So sweet and so simple but made me feel so noticed and valued. Those moments, especially now, are what it’s all about.

  90. Lucy says...

    I love this! Since Covid, my fiance and I both work from home, and we always share a long hug at the end of our work days. It immediately relaxes me, and helps me transition from “work mode” to “home mode” – and has made me feel that much closer to be soon-to-be-husband!

  91. Laura says...

    I’d love suggestions for how to give each other space during the pandemic! We’ve both been working from home, and coffee shops/ restaurants are closed in our area so going to work somewhere is out. I also don’t drive so can’t even go to the grocery store solo. I’ve been trying to take more walks but our neighborhood isn’t great and it’s about to get cold. Tips??

    • Abesha1 says...

      Laura,

      I have 2 kids. Every day my husband would sense the nap silence at 3pm and emerge from his home office into the middle of my one quiet hour…. I finally, very nicely said, 3-4 PM, Please. I love you, but I’m simply not available during that hour.
      And he did. He’s a keeper 🥰

    • em says...

      We have a small, open floorplan house and I feel like there’s nowhere to go to get away sometimes! Our bedroom is really the only place to go but its small and it’s just a bed, no room for a chair or desk or anything. I’ve been turning the bedroom into a cozy hide-out and I go in there most nights for an hour or two and shut the door to have some alone-time, while my husband works or watches TV in the living room. I set up a little meditation corner in the bedroom with a cushion on the floor and candles, etc. I also bought upgraded the lighting in the bedroom with dimmable bulbs and a pretty lamp, so that I can lay in bed to read or listen to a podcast and it feels cozy. I also do youtube yoga classes in there with the yoga mat rolled out near the foot of the bed.

    • HM says...

      I’m an introvert, and have always worked from home with my two young kids. While I love having my whole family home with me, here’s how I carve out alone time while my husband is also home:
      1. Daily quiet time for my kids. I get focused work done during this time. My brain benefits from the quiet, and my kids benefit from playing independently.
      2. One night a week, I just do my own thing. A bath, a walk, reading or watching TV in bed, etc. At first I felt bad about it, but it feels restorative.
      3. For the past several years, I have turned laundry into a ritual: I wash all the laundry on Saturday morning, then during quiet time I sit in my bed and fold it all while watching a comforting movie (usually Father of the Bride or You’ve Got Mail). It feels so indulgent, but I’m also being productive!

    • Kamina says...

      Some things that work for me and my husband (living in a small 4-room apartment)

      1. We refer to “alone time” as “Michael time” and “Nina time” (our names) because it’s not about wanting to be away from the other person, it’s about needing time with ourselves. This helps us not to feel bothered when the other person wants space, and gives us language for talking about each other’s needs (he’ll say to me, do you want to hang out or do you need Nina time?)

      2. We have agreed-upon times for alone time and together time. For example, apart from a kiss good morning, we never interact in the morning before the work day starts. He sits in his arm chair and reads a book while drinking his coffee, and I sit at a high stool at our kitchen counter to eat my breakfast. Sometimes if I want to be close I’ll go sit in the living room near him, but we do not speak! Since we know this is the deal, we don’t have to negotiate or feel badly about it. On the other hand, evenings after dinner (when my husband is not working) are always together time unless one of us has previously requested otherwise.

      3. Often we take turns to work while the other one has alone time. My husband works on his computer until about 10pm on Monday and Tuesday nights, so I use the time to do “personal chores” (like straighten my hair or clean out my closet) or text my friends or watch a TV show he doesn’t like. Similarly I might say to him “I’m going to clean the house this morning, if you want to help you can do XYZ, otherwise why don’t you just keep out of the way in the bedroom and have some Michael time?”

      4. Noise-cancelling headphones! We both have TV shows and podcasts we enjoy individually, and we will put on our headphones as a clear signal to the other person that we aren’t up for interacting right now. I will often listen to a podcast while doing stuff around the house and before I put on my headphones I’ll say to him “I’m going into my podcast now,” meaning that I won’t be able to hear him if he talks to me, and he knows to only interrupt if it’s something that can’t wait.

      I also have a magic ritual of locking the bathroom door, lighting a candle and having a hot shower in the near-dark while listening to a favourite podcast. It’s a ritually that personally helps me to decompress and gives me that feeling of having a space for myself; you could come up with one of your own!

      Something fantastic that I took away from marriage counselling a few years ago is that there will ALWAYS be one person in the relationship who wants more space than the other one, and one who wants to be closer. It’s very rare for you to be perfectly matched, so instead of thinking it’s a problem in your relationship, see it as a normal challenge that you need to negotiate lovingly together. <3

  92. Stacey says...

    When we were first married, my husband loved how delighted I was when he brought home flowers for me, but he quickly realized that I was even MORE delighted when he brought me dessert. Ever since then, at least once a week (pre-Covid), he’ll bring home some kind of dessert for me. Work party with too many cupcakes? Great, more for my wife! Walked past the best cookie shop in the area on his lunch break? Time to buy a surprise for Stacey! Is it possible for your love language to be food? Because mine is.

    • K says...

      Mine too! My husband would always try to snag leftover food from work for me! (Good food) So much so that his co-workers would look at leftovers and say, “…for your wife??” Ah how I miss potlucks and sharing food with others (outside your household) during these times! Especially during the holidays.

  93. Kay says...

    Yes! My husband routinely surprises me with Vietnamese iced coffee with extra condensed milk when he goes out. In return I surprise him with his favorite drink, a taro milkshake. It always makes my day.

    • E says...

      Um, your relationship wins an award for being thoughtful *and* having excellent taste in beverages. :)

  94. Marisa says...

    This is SO timely!! I went to the store a little while ago and and got some ginger snaps for my husband along with the other groceries I bought. They are on the kitchen island right now waiting for him to get home. :)

  95. Kat says...

    My husband and I do this regularly. I picked him up a pack of the new Sharpie pens last week because he loves pens. And he brought me home a cookies and cream bar and a bag of beef jerky! He knows what I love! 🤣 I especially love when he surprises me with an iced latte! It takes minimal effort but makes such an impact I believe!

  96. Allison says...

    There’s nothing better than opening the freezer on Friday to see an unexpected pint of Jeni’s ice cream, that wasn’t on the grocery list, but was picked up just because your partner knows it’s been a tough week.

    • Diana says...

      Jeni’s is a sign of love in our family as well! I am heading to Whole Foods to pick up a pint after work today for my husband, who has had quite the day.

  97. Christina says...

    Whenever I make myself ANY type of snack, I just make two of them and bring one to my husband. Here is a cup of tea, a clementine, a bowl of ice cream… whatever. He seriously looks SO delighted when I hand him food he didn’t ask for, it cracks me up!!

    • Kat says...

      That’s such a great idea!! Stealing this.

    • JR says...

      OMG yes, this. Especially as we both work from home ! I always make two of everything and drop off at my husband’s desk. I told him that the adorable surprised, cant-believe-my-luck, are-you-a-gourmet-chef face he makes is mostly why I keep doing it. (And usually the snack is like, a graham cracker & peanut butter sandwich, so no, not gourmet in the least.)

  98. Allie says...

    Taking his car to the grocery store and filling up the tank while I’m there. Gets me the biggest smile every time.

  99. Julie says...

    My wife’s love language is words of affirmation. This is not something that comes naturally to me, so I ordered a few sets mini notes from E. Frances Paper and write her a brief note of appreciation, something I like/love about her etc. once a week. I have fun leaving it somewhere for her to find–like on the bathroom mirror or tucked in her current book.

    • Em says...

      I can so relate, Julie. My top love language is words of affirmation and it does not come naturally to my boyfriend, but he’s left sticky notes on the bathroom mirrors, in the refrigerator, in my car, at my desk, and in my suitcase when I’m traveling alone. Some have been taped and re-taped in the same place for nearly a decade, each one a daily reminder that not only did he have the thought that he loved me, but made a special effort to communicate that to me. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  100. Samantha says...

    Back in the old days when we went places during the day, I would frequently discover that my boyfriend snuck a chocolate bar into my lunch box.
    He LOVES ice cream, so i will pick up a pint and just put it in the freezer and say nothing. always very fun when he finds it! :)

  101. Michelle says...

    I’ve loved the ritual of packing each other’s lunches. It’s the same amount of work as just packing your own but it’s still a way to serve each other. Plus you get to see what funny things your spouse treats you with!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so sweet, Michelle! I love that.

    • Pamela says...

      That’s so cute.

    • Rachael says...

      What a lovely routine – it turns something that, to me, feels like a chore, into an act of love