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‘S.T.O.’ Is the Mantra That Just Might Divorce-Proof Your Marriage

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Every morning, like clockwork, I make the bed. It’s part of my a.m. routine, quite frankly, because I love the appearance of it, and it helps me feel organized all day long. It’s the whole: If you do nothing else today, at least you made the bed! But the other morning, when I headed upstairs to get the job done, a surprise: My spouse made the bed for me. My heart swelled.

That’s the very concept behind S.T.O. (which stands for Small Things Often), a mantra developed by the Gottman Institute that carries a lot of weight when it comes to divorce-proofing your marriage.

Per the Gottman Institute—which recently launched a new podcast on the topic—it’s the small gestures in a relationship that add up to long-term success. When my husband made the bed that morning before I could get to it, it wasn’t about checking off a chore. It was him taking a minute to notice a routine that I care about and take it on himself. (Ahem, small things often.)

The good news is that there are so many ways to do small things often and preserve the long-term strength of your partnership. For example, saying “thank you” for daily occurrences you might take for granted (making dinner, taking out the trash, handling school pickup), a kiss hello and goodbye or quite simply a conversation where you ask about their day.

Sure, you could hire a babysitter and plan a night on the town, but according to Gottman, that’s just gravy. Doing small things often “builds a stronger foundation of fondness and admiration—imbuing more moments with meaning and love.”

On a recent episode of the podcast, they offer another way to think about the concept: Imagine you and your partner have an emotional bank account where regular withdrawals and deposits are made. But instead of money, you’re aiming to fill your account with emotional connections. “Any time you turn towards and acknowledge [your partner], cha-ching! You’ve made a deposit. Any time you turn away or ignore [them], you’ve made a withdrawal.” Too many withdrawals can lead to emotional bankruptcy (and possibly, divorce).

So back to the bed-making: As you run through your day, try to counter the busy-ness by making S.T.O. your mantra. It’s low-effort but comes with big relationship rewards.

How to Make Your Relationship Better: 12 Tiny Things You Can Do Today