How to Show Your Partner You Love Them

How to Show Your Partner You Love Them

Simple, inexpensive, yet effective ways to connect

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What are some great ways to say ?I love you?, without using those specific words?

Though candle-lit dinners and flowers may automatically spring to mind, relationship experts believe that small, day-to-day shows of affection may actually be more impactful.

Expressions of love don?t have to be ?grand, over-the-top gestures?, says Saeideh Heshmati, postdoctoral research scholar at Penn State University?s College of Health and Human Development.

Similarly, Ellie Lisitsa, staff writer at The Gottman Institute, explains that although moonlit walks, picnics, soft music, and drives in the country may sound very romantic, research suggests ?none of these things alone will make your love life better if you are not first connected emotionally.?

Read on to find out more about simple, inexpensive, yet effective ways to connect, based on advice from psychologists and relationship experts.

Table of Contents1. What makes people feel loved?2. Find out your partner’s “love language”, and act on it3. Use the “small things often” method4. Celebrate your partner’s wins with them

1. What makes people feel loved?

In 2017, Heshmati led a study that showed ?it?s possible for people to feel loved in simple, everyday scenarios.?

The actions most consistently judged as loving signals weren?t ostentatious or dramatic. Top loving gestures included spending quality time with someone, and showing compassion in difficult times.

In the study, published in Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Heshmati and her team supplied almost 500 Americans with approximately 60 different hypothetical scenarios.

Examples included:

  • being cuddled
  • being confided in
  • spending quality time with someone
  • receiving a gift (for example: flowers, or a card)
  • receiving a compliment
  • being shown compassion in difficult times

Participants then had to judge whether or not that situation would make most people feel loved.


The actions most consistently judged as loving signals weren?t ostentatious or dramatic. Top loving gestures included spending quality time with someone, and showing compassion in difficult times.

Heshmati explains that in general, people may find behavioral actions to be stronger indicators of love ? perhaps because these are interpreted as more authentic than words alone.

Individual ?love needs? still vary

Of course, what makes a specific individual feel most profoundly loved will always vary from person to person. For this reason, Heshmati suggests it?s unwise to enter into a relationship assuming that both you and your partner interpret the same actions as particularly loving.

Instead, it?s better to communicate openly about what makes you feel loved. Being curious about your partner?s preferences will help bring you more in tune with one another?s needs.

The idea of ?love languages?, introduced in a famous book by marriage counselor Gary Chapman, is one well-known framework for conceptualizing individual differences in ?love needs?. ?Love languages? will be the focus of the next section.

2. Find out your partner?s ?love language?, and act on it

We all have a primary, or preferred, ?love language?. When somebody communicates with us in that particular ?language?, we feel most loved.

Chapman worked as a marriage counselor for thirty years. His experiences led him to conclude that ?there are basically five emotional love languages ? five ways that people speak and understand emotional love.?

In his book The 5 Love Languages, he suggests that love can be expressed through the following:

  1. Words of affirmation (verbal compliments)
  2. Spending quality time with your partner
  3. Giving gifts
  4. Performing acts of service (helpful, considerate deeds)
  5. Physical touch

According to Chapman, we all have a primary, or preferred, ?love language?. When somebody communicates with us in that particular ?language?, we feel most loved.

However, it?s not enough to know what our own ?love language? is. In order to communicate love effectively to a partner, we must be willing to identify and speak their primary ?love language?, too.

Identifying each other?s primary ?love language?

Chapman suggests reflecting on the following three questions.

By answering them as separate individuals, you and your partner can each determine your own primary ?love languages?.

1. What does your partner do, or fail to do, that hurts you most deeply? The opposite of what hurts you most is probably your primary love language.

2. What have you most often requested of your partner? The thing you have most often requested is likely the thing that would make you feel most loved.

3. In what way do you regularly express love to your partner? Your method of expressing love may be an indication that that would also make you feel loved.

If you?re still not sure what your primary ?love language? is, there?s also a quiz you can take on Chapman?s website which will give you a more definitive idea.

Once your partner has confirmed their primary ?love language?, you can work on actively communicating love to them in the way they understand it best.

In case you?re stuck for ideas, Chapman?s book offers many suggestions. For example:

If your partner?s ?love language? is words of affirmation:

  • Write a letter to your partner, expressing in words how much they mean to you. If a letter feels too overwhelming, Chapman advises writing just a paragraph or a sentence.
  • To build up your partner?s self-esteem even more, praise them in the presence of their parents or friends.

If your partner?s ?love language? is quality time:

  • Ask your partner for a list of five enjoyable activities that they would like to do with you. Over the next five months, set aside time to do one of these activities together per month.
  • If there is an activity which your partner enjoys, but you have little knowledge of, set a date to do it with them. Make an effort to broaden your horizons, and ask questions to help you learn more about your partner?s interest.

If your partner?s ?love language? is receiving gifts:

  • Keep a ?gift idea notebook.? Whenever you hear your partner express a liking for something, listen carefully and write down what they liked. When it?s time to select a gift, you?ll have plenty of ideas!

(Bear in mind that gifts don?t have to be expensive. It really is the thought that counts!)

  • Look up ideas for arts and crafts. Try making something with your own hands to present to your partner as a token of love.

If your partner?s ?love language? is acts of service:

  • Ask your partner regularly: ?If I could do one special act of service this week, what would you request?? If possible, fulfill their wish!
  • Go out of your way to do something helpful but unexpected, like washing your partner?s car. Then leave a note that reads: ?For (partner?s name), with love,? and sign your name.

If your partner?s ?love language? is physical touch

  • If you normally meet your partner at the door when they arrive home, meet them one step earlier than usual ? for example, in the street, or in the driveway. Greet them with an extra big hug!
  • When your partner is sitting down, walk up behind them and give them a soothing, five-minute shoulder massage.

3. Use the ?small things often? method

?Small things often? means taking small moments out of your day to do extra nice things or be extra nice to your partner.

Speaking your partner?s ?love language? shouldn?t be a one-off act. Chapman says communicating regularly in that ?language? helps keep your partner?s ?emotional love tank? topped up.

Similarly, psychologist and relationship expert John Gottman is a firm advocate of the ?small things often? principle. Essentially, it entails performing small actions every day that will strengthen your bond, a little bit at a time.

?Small things often? means ?taking small moments out of your day to do extra nice things or be extra nice to your partner,? explains Amity Kramer, contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. For example: ?if your partner loves a clean kitchen, you take an extra minute to organize and wipe down the counter.?

Your commitment to regular generosity won?t go unrewarded, for ?kindness makes each partner feel cared for, validated, and loved?, writes Emily Esfahani Smith, international speaker and author of The Power of Meaning.

She suggests thinking of kindness as a muscle that you have to exercise to keep in shape; it grows stronger with consistent use. In the same way, putting regular effort into daily acts of kindness for your partner will help your relationship blossom over time.

4. Celebrate your partner?s wins with them

People feel closer to romantic partners who regularly respond to positive events in a supportive manner. The shared love a couple experience in that moment can be drawn on again in the future.

Most people recognize the importance of supporting your partner through tough times. Interestingly, research suggests the way you respond to your partner when things are going well for them may have an even more powerful impact on your relationship quality.

Esfahani Smith says if a couple are unable to connect over each other?s good news, that?s a telltale warning sign. In contrast, couples who share in one another?s joys have been found to be more likely to stay together.

Let?s say your partner tells you excitedly about the promotion they just got at work. Psychologists have noticed there are typically four ways you can respond:

1. Passive destructive response

This essentially means you ignore the good news. You might even answer with something completely unrelated, like: ?Hey, have you seen my T-shirt??

2. Passive constructive response

In this case, you acknowledge the good news, but in a half-hearted way which suggests you?re only semi-interested. For example, you might say: ?Cool!? while continuing to scroll through Instagram.

3. Active destructive response

With this kind of response, you dampen your partner?s joy instead of sharing it: ?Do you really think you can handle that role? I mean? You?re not exactly cut out for it.?

4. Active constructive response

In this case, you stop what you?re doing and engage in a positive, wholehearted manner: ?That?s so exciting! I?m really happy for you, honey ? I knew you could do it! When do you start in your new role??

Of all these approaches, active constructive responding is the healthiest for your relationship. It?s associated with higher relationship quality and increased intimacy between partners.

Research shows that people feel closer to romantic partners who regularly respond to positive events in a supportive manner. The shared love the couple experience in that moment can be drawn on again in the future.

Heshmati says that ?whether we feel loved or not plays an important role in how we feel from day to day.? Feeling loved is a crucial aspect of a healthy, functioning relationship. Yet it?s easy to forget that what makes you feel loved isn?t necessarily what makes your partner feel loved, too.

Indeed, for this very reason, life coach Barrie Davenport dedicates a whole section of her book 201 Relationship Questions to conversation starters intended to get couples chatting about what specifically helps them feel loved.

While the precise acts that make an individual feel loved will vary from person to person, identifying your partner?s ?love language?, following the ?small things often? rule, and celebrating your loved one?s wins are actionable first steps toward showing more love in your relationship.

What makes you feel most loved? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments!

If you found this interesting, you might also like:

How to Apologize Sincerely to Someone You Love

As well as 5 ?love languages?, there are 5 ?apology languages?

What are ?Love Maps?, and Why Do They Matter?

How to stay emotionally connected as a couple


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