How to show love in practical ways
When couples have sailed the love boat through the honeymoon phase and out the other side, it’s quite easy to forget about the small loving gestures that used to be automatic. But research has shown us that these loving and affectionate gestures can help couples resolve conflicts and improve relationship quality – which is what this site is all about.
What you’re about to see is a list of some of the best ways to communicate love and affection - these came from a study where 4,000+ people shared the gestures that mattered to them the most. Then we’ll explain WHY they work. It’s not a check-list for you, but we do recommend that you look through and have a crack at some of them.
Perhaps even print it off, mark down the ones you like, and see how you get on.
Send a text for no other reason than to say you’re thinking of your partner, or share something specific with them (like an article, a thread, or a GIF).
Because the study showed that ‘touching base’ can be just as important and meaningful a way to show appreciation as long heart-to-heart conversations.
Say “thank you” for something you ordinarily wouldn’t. Maybe even something commonplace, like making you dinner.
The study showed us that saying “thank you” was the most valued gesture. That sense of being appreciated and valued is something that many of us need – even if we’re not expressing it. It’s instant, it’s gratifying, and it requires no translation – yet it can be overlooked.
Write a love note and leave it somewhere for them to find (it doesn’t need to be a masterpiece).
Written forms of appreciation were popular in the study, and nobody cared about whether the words were neatly printed on a fancy personalised card or just jotted on a crumpled scrap of paper. The sentiment matters so much more than the presentation.
Run a bath for your partner when they get in from work (maybe have the bath together).
The gestures that gain the most appreciation are usually the silent ones – not the ones that shout “Hey, I did this really romantic thing for you, mwah!” Running a bath is a good one that shows you’ve anticipated their arrival, and you want them to feel comforted as they walk through the door.
Put the toothpaste on the toothbrush for them
In the study, it was revealed that partners doing “everyday routine tasks” like this were considered the most kind and considerate. Preparing their toothbrush is also subtle and shows that you’re thinking of your partner – even while brushing your teeth.
Next time you’re choosing a film, suggest something you know they want to watch.
This is another one of those quiet sacrifices that makes a partner feel like they’re being put first. Choosing a film you know they will like (in spite of your own preference) reflects an element of intimate knowledge – meaning the gesture will almost certainly be well-received.
Bring them a cup of tea in bed
This is one of the all-time favourites. It silently conveys that you want their day to begin well. It helps them push through the haze of those first few waking minutes with something warm, comforting, and - most importantly – caffeinated. A cup of tea (or a cuppa if you prefer, how very British!) featured as the fourth highest form of appreciation and expression of love by women with children in this study. Interestingly, a cup of tea all by itself even won out over breakfast in bed, so hold the bacon.
Do the chore you know your partner hates most (e.g. vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom).
Doing a chore that your partner hates shows a certain sacrifice on your part, but it also contributes towards the smooth running of a household – and this was noted as a big deal for all participants.
Take over a task that they’re doing, just to give them a break.
During the study, women in particular said they really valued getting some time to themselves. Taking a task off your partner’s hands not only gives them a break, but also shows your appreciation by acknowledging that they deserve that break.
Tell them you love them and that you’re attracted to them.
Actually saying those three little words might seem a little monotonous but, for many people, it’s important to keep being told. Participants noted that the meaning and sincerity of the sentiment mattered a great deal, as well as demonstrations that reinforce that sentiment.
Massage their shoulders when they get stressed
Massages and foot rubs are selfless and intimate. It’s also worth remembering that when we touch someone, we are automatically being touched back (Gabb, 2011), so both parties are engaging in the moment. Giving a massage without being asked is a tacit acknowledgment on your part that you’re appreciative of their hard work and effort.
Sit with your partner, look them in the eye, and ask them how their day was – then do nothing but listen.
Feeling listened to can make people feel cared for and supported – especially men. In the study, fathers noted it as being their second favourite way of being shown appreciation. Even if they’re not saying anything particularly relevant to you, don’t glaze over. Just respond and ask questions.
Greet your partner with a kiss when you see them.
The key phrase here is ‘regular, intimate contact’. Although a daily routine like kissing your partner might seem mundane or even old-fashioned, the importance of regular intimate physical gestures was explicitly noted in the study.
Also, it’s just nice when you’re partner is happy to see you. Humans can learn from our canine friends on this one – dogs are always excited to see you return, even if you only left for five minutes to hang up the washing. You may not have a tail to wag, but a meaningful kiss hello can go a long way.
Now, let’s practice…
Hopefully, you’ve now got an idea of some small, intimate gestures to try. We recommend that you stick with them (even if it’s just one or two) and put them into action as soon as you can. It’s very easy for these things to be forgotten when life takes over, so it’s helpful to set clear, specific goals for yourself about what you can do and when you can do it.
It may be best to start with one or two things that you want to try this very evening, like: “When I go home tonight, I’m going to avoid distractions and really listen to them”. Or you could set yourself a simple ongoing commitment, like: “When I get home from work/college/wherever every day, I’m going to greet my partner with a kiss before I do anything else”. Or even, “If I’m the first person to wake up in the morning, I’ll make them a tea or a coffee”.
You might begin to see improvements in your relationship just by repeating some of these actions. By sticking to your plan, your intentions become practices, then practices become habits, and soon you’ll find it all comes a lot more naturally.
Of course, you don’t need to stick to the gestures and actions that we’ve listed here. Every couple is different, and by taking the time to notice what each other really appreciate, your gestures will become personalised and specific. Stay consistent and shake it up every now and again by introducing new actions.