After 25 years of partnership with my husband, I realize that one of the things that keep us together —lovingly together, is what I call “the little extra step.” For instance, yesterday when our alarm went off at an ungodly hour, I got up in the dark to go make the coffee. My husband, from his barely awake state sweetly said, “Good morning” from the bed. While that doesn’t seem like much, compared to total silence, it said a lot. It was “the extra step” to connection. That “good morning” really said, “I am with you.”
This morning, when the same routine began and he didn’t really wake up with the alarm, I took the extra step to walk back over to the bed and kiss him good morning. That kiss also really said, “I’m with you.” Love and kindness is a beautiful thing to wake up to and counter balances the rudeness of the alarm.
Usually, when I tell people that I get up at 4:30 am, make my husband coffee, a sack lunch, and walk him out to the car to kiss him good-bye, I am asked, “Why? Why do you get up when you don’t have to go to work at that time?” My answer is always, “If I don’t get up when he gets up, share a cup of coffee, have a morning connection, and a conversation while he commutes to work, we won’t see each other again until the end of the day. This morning ritual is the extra step that keeps us communicating, connecting and calibrating in the midst of two very busy lives.”
The extra step is doing that thing you might just as easily skip. It may be helping your partner with something, offering a compliment, sending a loving text, email or phone call for no reason, sending a picture of something beautiful just to say “I’m with you” even when you are physically not.
The extra step may be making love when you don’t feel like it, snuggling on the couch instead of sitting on “your side” or simply reaching out with a loving touch while making a meal or doing the dishes.
The extra step may be saying something kind when you could just as easily say nothing at all. The extra step is taking the opportunity to tell your sweetheart (or sibling, or parent, or child) that they look beautiful or handsome, that you are proud of them, that they did a good job, or that they matter to you. The extra step may be putting a note in the lunch sack, or using Post-its to put loving messages around the house.
My favorite “extra steps” are sharing something beautiful in nature. Admiring a rainbow, watching the sunset, or dragging the other outside to gaze at the stars.
The extra step does not have to be limited to your love relationships. You can take the extra step at work to bring coffee to the person who sits next to you, or to say hello to the staff person whose name you do not know. The extra step may be leaving an extra dollar for your waitress—one you won’t miss but she will cherish.
Here is the tricky part. The extra step cannot be done as a manipulation or it will backfire. By this I mean, you cannot say, “I love you” solely to hear “I love you, too” in return. Love shared for personal gain is not love: it is neediness. The extra step won’t “count” if it is done to get acknowledgement or to try to control the other person. The extra step is a spontaneous decision to do something kind. It is taking the slightly less simple route to go out of your way with your words, gestures, actions and thoughts. The extra step is being mindful, with pure intentions, of the other person and how you might make their day better.
The mindfulness required to see opportunities to “take the extra step” will rewire you to look for what you are grateful for and for how you can be a kinder person. This, alone, will make your day better, as well.
People are suffering from disconnection, loneliness and fear. “The extra step” may well be the cure.