How to Show Someone You Love Them, According to a Relationship Expert

There are so many ways to express your affection.
person showing love to their partner with a kiss on the forehead
Photo: kupicoo | Getty Images
Naoimh O'Hare - The Knot Associate Commerce Editor
by
Naoimh O'Hare
Naoimh O'Hare - The Knot Associate Commerce Editor
Naoimh O'Hare
Associate Commerce Editor
  • Naoimh writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in shoppable roundups from gift guides to wedding fashion
  • Before working on editorial content, Naoimh wrote storefront descriptions for some of The Knot Worldwide's many wedding vendors
  • Naoimh studied creative writing at the National University of Ireland, Galway
Updated Sep 28, 2022

Figuring out how to show someone you love them might sound like something that should come naturally. But, because we are all different and we've all learned to experience love in different ways, it's not quite as simple as saying "I love you" (though that's certainly important too). "Loving words are most meaningful when followed by loving actions," says Suma Karandikar, certified Gottman relationship therapist at Thrive Postpartum, Couples and Family Therapy.

Of course, knowing which actions your partner will appreciate might take a little trial and error. That's why the best place to begin is by having a meaningful conversation with them. Below, we're sharing lots of thoughtful ways to show affection, as well as how to figure out which actions will make your partner feel most loved.

1. Start with words.

Before we get to the actions, words are an important starting point. "Taking the time to understand how your partner feels love can be a game changer in a relationship," says Karandikar. One of the easiest ways to do that is by having a conversation about it. Take the time to sit down and ask your partner how they are used to being loved and how they like to feel loved. Ultimately, how you show affection to your partner should reflect their experience and preferences. If you're feeling a little bit stuck when it comes to striking up the conversation, try using prompts. (Psst, we've come up with over 70 great conversation starters for couples.)

2. Learn their love language.

Talking is a great way of finding out how to show love in a way that resonates with your other half. But, if you're finding the conversation difficult for any reason or your S.O. isn't completely sure about their preferences, try another approach. "A great way to determine how to make your partner feel loved is by taking the Love Languages quiz, developed by relationship expert Gary Chapman," says Karandikar. Being aware of your love languages can impact your relationship in a big way. "By understanding your partner's love language, you can then express affection according to how your partner best receives it," the relationship therapist explains.

3. Anticipate their needs.

Sometimes, the best way to show someone how much you love them has nothing to do with intimacy or big romantic gestures. Prioritizing your S.O.'s needs is a surefire way to let them know you care and it'll more than likely make their day easier. The key is to anticipate what your partner will need before they need it. For example, if you know they didn't sleep well last night, getting up 10 minutes earlier to make them coffee or a nice breakfast will help energize them for the day and take some of the stress off their plate. It'll go down especially well if their love language is "acts of service."

Close-up of couple holding hands in embrace
Photo: Westend61 | Getty Images

4. Practice simple acts of kindness.

We're quick to show kindness to strangers by holding a door open or giving up a seat on the bus, but what about the people we know and love? If you're wondering how to show someone you love them without words, small acts of kindness are an essential ingredient. Something as simple as pulling a chair out for them at dinner, picking up their favorite candy bar at the gas station, or offering them a cup of tea when making your own will bring an extra dose of affection to their day. The best part? Weaving these things into your daily routine won't take much additional effort, but they'll show your partner that you're always thinking of them.

5. Be an active listener.

How to show someone you love them without saying it? Don't say anything. We don't mean giving your other half the cold shoulder and not talking to them at all, but instead of chiming in with your own thoughts and opinions, practice just listening to what they have to say. "How you listen to your partner can make a huge difference in communicating love and affection," says Karandikar. "Undivided attention while you are talking to your partner communicates the message that they are the priority," she explains.

6. Take an interest in their interests.

Showing curiosity about the things your partner cares about will let them know you're genuinely interested in their life (and not just how they fit into yours). That doesn't necessarily mean spending a fortune on new gear to go horseback riding or kayaking with them—though they'd probably be delighted to have you join in. All you really need to do is ask them questions about it. Bonus points if you gain enough knowledge of their favorite hobby to buy a related birthday or holiday gift. Little things like that will immediately show your S.O. how well you know them.

It's also a great idea to look for alternative activities that you can easily do together. For example, if they're into water sports maybe you start by going to the beach or the pool for a relaxing swim. Or if it's photography they're obsessed with, volunteer to be their subject for the afternoon so they can practice shooting portraits. Showing someone you love them with actions can be really fun!

7. Surprise them with a gift.

Surprise gifts—big or small—can be a simple way of showing love to your partner. It's an especially fitting action if their love language is "receiving gifts." Don't just think of classics like flowers and chocolates. When it comes to "just because" gifts, the key is to choose something that reflects your other half's unique personality and interests. If they're always fully caffeinated, a coffee mug personalized with their name or initials is a thoughtful present. Or, instead of a regular bouquet of flowers, choose a bunch with their birth flower as the star of the show. There are so many ways to express affection through gifting.

Cute LGBTQ+ couple smiling at each other showing love
Photo: MoMo Productions | Getty Images

8. Make a habit of connecting.

"Another way to keep affection in a relationship flowing is to plan what the renowned psychologists Drs. John and Julie Gottman called Rituals of Connection," says Karandikar. The idea is that small, daily acts of love contribute to a stronger bond between you and your other half. "The Gottmans found that successful couples have predictable intentional repeated behaviors between them," Karandikar explains. "For example, hugging and kissing before leaving for the day, calling each other at lunch, and planning date nights every Friday." Once these affectionate actions develop into habits, you'll be well on your way to making your partner feel loved, appreciated and secure in your relationship.

9. Get to know the people they love.

If there's anything you should take from this list, it's that there's no one way to express affection for your partner. Figuring out how to prove your love to someone really is an individual process. If your other half very much values the other connections in their life (think: friends and family members), making an effort to forge your own connections with these people will go a long way. Taking the time to get to know their nearest and dearest sends a clear message of how much your spouse matters to you.

10. Celebrate their wins.

When you really love someone, their happiest moments become your happiest moments. One of the biggest actions you can take to show your partner you love them is to take joy in their successes. Celebrate your significant other's wins as if they're your own, whether it's a well-deserved promotion at work, a new personal best at the gym or even just a free cappuccino on their loyalty card. Remember, you're their number one supporter!

11. Practice intimacy in different ways.

Intimacy plays a big role when it comes to showing someone you're in love with them, and that doesn't just include intimacy in the bedroom. Explore other ways of getting close to your partner to see which forms of intimacy make them feel most comfortable and loved. Karandikar suggests meaningful eye contact. "Gazing into each other's eyes allows the release of oxytocin, the bonding hormone," she says. This is the same feel-good chemical released by physical intimacy, like kissing and cuddling. Still in doubt about whether it'll make your S.O. feel loved? It's also known as the "love hormone."

Cute couple standing close together and smiling expressing affection
Photo: MoMo Productions | Getty Images

12. Value their opinions.

In order to show your partner you love them, you also need to show that you respect them. Coming to your S.O. for advice or a second opinion demonstrates that you value their input and ideas. It's a clear sign that you respect them as an individual, and taking their thoughts on board will help them feel valued and appreciated in your relationship. Of course, you don't have to agree or go along with everything they say, but you should seriously consider their advice. Let them know that there's always room for their insight when you're making decisions.

13. Send them love notes.

Wondering how to show someone you love them over text? Use technology to your advantage to craft a modern-day love note. Sending your other half heartfelt reminders that you love them is a pretty straightforward way of expressing affection. While sweet, spontaneous text messages are probably the simplest way to incorporate love notes into your routine, you're free to go old-school if you want to. Hiding cute handwritten notes around your home or stuffing them into your partner's bag before they head out to work is extra-romantic.

14. Show your gratitude.

Finally, as you're figuring out the best ways to show that special someone you care about them, don't forget to say "thank you." Expressing love isn't just about telling your partner you love them. It's equally important to let them know you're grateful for them. When someone is always there for you, it can be easy to build up the expectation that they'll always be there no matter what. Make sure you don't take the most important person in your life for granted by remembering to express gratitude. There are lots of different ways to show you're grateful, from buying a cute thank-you gift to simply saying "thanks for making me smile today."

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