Falling in love is one of the best feelings in the world. Sharing years of your life with a partner who truly loves you back and takes you just as you are makes each day a little more special. Just knowing you have someone to talk to when you are stressed, someone who will laugh at your bad jokes, and someone who will hold your hand just because they like being close to you is a pretty great privilege, right?
But we’re only human, and life can get pretty crazy. In other words, it’s possible that a lot of us get lazy in our relationships. While it’s a relief getting to the point where you are comfortable with another person, it’s also easy to forget to tell or show them how much you love having them around.
In addition to those three little words we all like to hear—”I love you,” in case you need a reminder—we have some ways you can show a partner how much you love them. For the times when actions speak louder than words, sometimes a small gesture makes a big difference and can help to make every day feel like Valentine’s Day. And if you don’t have a partner, keep these ideas on hand in case you’ll need them in the future.
1. Plan out a date night
If you think back to the time when you and your partner were falling in love, chances are you spent every moment possible together. When you weren’t side by side, you were probably texting or Snapchatting, and when neither of those was happening, time passed so slowly, right?
Things change as everyday life sets in and schedules fill up, which is why date night is a must. A little time carved out just for the two of you not only lets you take a break from the daily grind, but also becomes the much needed time for you to build your romance instead of leaving it in the dust.
“It doesn’t have to be a full-on, three-course meal with the violinist in the background and a dozen roses,” Matt Garrett of Relationships Australia said. “The most important message a date night conveys is that they are creating a special space for one another. If we don’t make this time, feelings of being taken for granted can easily come up.”
2. A meaningful surprise
Similarly to date night, a surprise doesn’t have to be big to reinforce the love in a relationship. It probably doesn’t hurt, but the most important thing is paying attention to what your partner is into. Maybe they’re into big surprises that require blocking days out of their calendar to go on an adventure. Maybe they love it when you show up with a tub of ice cream for movie night. Or maybe they like a small kiss when they weren’t expecting it.
Whichever it is—large or small—a surprise can show your appreciation. It says to your partner that you were thinking of them enough to do something special and unexpected.
3. Keep porn out of the picture
In case you haven’t read our resources, porn and relationships don’t mix, no matter what some magazines may say. While porn is said to improve your sex life, we have good reasons to believe it will do the exact opposite based on the research that’s out there right now.
For example, research has found that after viewing porn, people reported less satisfaction with their intimate partner, particularly in regards to their sexual performance, physical appearance, and sexual curiosity.
By giving up porn you will not only see your partner clearly again, appreciate them more, but also think of how much extra time you will have to spend with them instead of on your computer. Now who has any excuse to miss date night?
4. Cuddle and actually connect
In this awesome TED Talk by Ran Gavrieli, he talks about how he imagined a relationship before he watched porn. He saw it in terms of sensuality and mutuality. But in porn, he saw sex that involved no hands 80-90 percent of the time—meaning no touching, caressing, or kissing.
Similarly, when activist Richie Hardcore talks to students about the types of behavior they see in porn, he asks if anyone sees hugging. They laugh and say no.
Now that we know porn negatively affects sexual tastes, it’s also pretty clear it’s not interested in a key part of any relationship—real intimacy, not just penetration. One of the best ways to show your partner you love them is by doing what porn never will: hold them, hug them, and show that you see them as a whole person and not just a sexual object.
5. Pay attention to them
This is a no-brainer, right? Who is going to stick around, trying to love a partner who won’t give them the time of day? But maybe there is a more subtle idea you are guilty of.
According to relationship coach Katherine Jane, a common mistake is assuming your partner will always remain the same, and by default not listening as closely to understand their world, what they are thinking and feeling.
“They won’t stay the same, just as we won’t. Paying attention to each other allows the relationship to grow, improves intimacy, and keeps the ‘distance’ which often develops in long-term relationships at bay.”
This seems basic, but give it a try: look at them and listen to them when they speak. Put your phone face down or out of sight, and be mentally present when they need to talk. Ditch porn or screens in general and give that time and attention back to someone who can really love you back.
You know your partner best, but remember they are allowed to change. Invest the time to learn the ways they feel loved and show it.