The one thing I like about books is that you can learn from someone else’s successes and failures. Here, I wanted to hear what Richard and his partner Kristine had to say about maintaining and improving a relationship.

Don’t sweat the small stuff in love builds off of Richard Carlson’s bestsellers “don’t sweat the small stuff” and explores love. There are 90+ tips based on Richard and Kristine’s relationship that has helped them be close to one another. Here are the tips that surprised me the most:

Turn up the heat

There are two ways to heat a house. One way is to look at the cracks in the home. Fix the windows that are not triple-paned. See if there are spots in the walls without enough insulation. Fill in the cracks in doors and other exits to the outside. The other way is to turn up the heat, which will heat the house even with all the distinct cracks and cold spots in the home.

You can do the same thing in a relationship. One way is to fix the ‘cracks’ in the home. You look at your relationship with your partner and you try to fix all the things that are wrong. Your partner’s tendency to leave the toilet seat up. Or to leave clothing on the ground. Or to make a mess in the kitchen without cleaning after themselves. The other way is to turn up the heat. Be even more loving, kind and patient. Yes, there are going to be ‘cracks’ in any relationship, but the point is to be patient and kind, anyway.

Whose quirk is this anyway?

In the mornings, Kristine likes taking a shower. She grabs a fresh towel, puts it in the bathroom, and before she can take a shower, her husband (Richard) takes a shower first. He uses the fresh towel and then when it’s Kristine’s turn to shower, she has a wet towel to dry herself off. At first, this bothered her. Kristine grabbed the towel for herself, not her husband. And she resented her husband was using her fresh towel first. But later, she realized this was quirk she had. She could just as easily grab two fresh towels.

Before you get mad at your partner for something small they have done, ask yourself if this is a quirk you have. Maybe you don’t like your partner leaving things on the floor. Or you like a clean kitchen countertop. Is this your quirk? And if so, is there something you can do to make it easier on yourself?

Set a good example

Richard shares the story of a wife who wanted her husband to read. Despite buying books and gently nudging her husband to read, her husband did not read. So instead of trying to persuade and convince her husband to read, the wife took the time to read and share what she learned with her husband. In this way, she set a good example for her husband, and her husband started building a reading habit.

I find this is the case with friends and family; you can’t convince them to do something, but you can change yourself. You can set a good example that has a better chance of convincing someone than using logic, emotions, or your words alone.

Don’t put your partner on the spot

Have you ever been in this situation? You and your partner are home. The phone rings and it’s your partner’s friend. Your partner catches up with their friend and because the conversation is so lively, their friend invites you and your partner out for dinner that night. Your partner says they would love to go and then pauses to look over at you. You’ve been listening to the conversation, and while you don’t want to go because you already have evening plans, you know that your partner’s friend is on the phone so they put you on the spot. You can’t really decline because you don’t have a good reason to decline, so you accept.

Instead of putting your partner on the spot, tell your friend this: “I would love to go! But let me check with my partner to see if they have plans already and I can get back to you.” Don’t ask your partner to make a decision they don’t want to on the spot.

Reflect on all the things you don’t do

I am constantly amazed at how my refrigerator seems to empty itself of old food. At the end of every week, when I see what’s in the fridge, nothing is rotting, molding or otherwise decaying in the fridge that shouldn’t be there. Of course, this isn’t happening by magic – my partner is throwing out old food all the time.

Before you argue with your partner about the things that you do (chores, taking care of the kids, house repairs, etc.), think about all the things you don’t do that magically get done. Your partner is doing those things, and yes, your partner isn’t lazy. The lawn doesn’t get mowed by itself every month. The laundry doesn’t magically clean and fold itself in your closet every few weeks. The snow doesn’t shovel itself off the driveway after a big snowstorm. Food does not magically appear on the table. Dishes are not magically cleaned and put away into the cupboards.

Don’t let your children come between you

One tip that came from the book was something my partner had told me too. Kids are going to take up time in your life. Sometimes, it’s all you can do to get time for yourselves in the relationship. But prioritize your marriage you must. Because when you grow gray and old, your kids are not going to be there with you every day. It’s your partner. And your kids, seeing how you prioritize your relationship with each other, will know how important it is to find someone loving and supportive, like how their parents found each other.