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15 Ways to Show Love & Affection

It is not uncommon for couples to have one partner who desires more affection. I have been working with a couple where the wife has asked for more physical affection.

It seems straightforward and simple, but sometimes it really isn’t.

Not only did her husband want more guidance on what type of physical affection she wanted, but he also needed help understanding why that was so important to her.

In his mind, he believed their sex life was great (which the wife agreed with) and felt there was plenty of affection. However, the wife wanted something different.

She wanted smaller things like more hand-holding, cuddling, or just “out of the norm” physical touch. For her, that helped her feel loved and build intimacy with him.

Everyone has ways they would like to receive affection and love. Most people are familiar with the five love languages: physical affection, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of service, and quality time.

They can help label what each person’s needs are. Too often, I have one partner feeling upset because they believe they are meeting their partner’s needs, but their partner “does not see it.”

The reality is this: we tend to show love how we would prefer to receive love.

If you highly value quality time, you are likely very good a giving your significant other your time. The problem might be your partner needs physical affection.

Knowing how each other feels loved can create a roadmap to loving your partner the way they need to be loved rather than the way you need to be loved.

You can show affection and love in a variety of ways! It is important to ask your partner what they like and get creative with your own ideas.

You can try or use these suggestions to help get some ideas flowing for your specific partner.

1. Try More Simple Acts of Physical Affection

Couple Holding Hands
Even something as simple as holding hands can help your partner feel admired, appreciated, safe, and secure.

These can include acts like hand-holding, back rubs, hands on the knee, hugs, cuddling, etc. Sexual intimacy, of course, falls under the category of physical touch, but it is very different.

Smaller acts of physical affection build intimacy in different ways. While sex can allow people to feel loved, those other actions can help someone feel admired, appreciated, safe, and secure.

It does not have to take much. It could be walking by them while they are working on something and kissing them on top of the head or putting a hand on their knee while watching a movie.

In those moments, it will help them feel wanted and desired. It will help them feel loved by you.

2. Don’t Be Afraid of PDA

Before you panic, I am NOT saying to go find yourself a bench in a public park and go at it in front of everyone. There are definitely more appropriate ways to show affection in public.

Just like the previous point, it can be tiny and even subtle things.

It can include holding hands while shopping, putting an arm around their shoulders as you walk, giving a peck on the cheek when you meet up for dinner, etc.

It may seem small or even foreign to you, but it can be a nice gesture for your partner.

You may be a rockstar behind closed doors about showing physical affection. However, showing small, appropriate public displays of affection can bring a great deal of security.

It can send them messages like, “I like being with you, and I am happy to be with you, and I want people to see that.” These messages allow your partner to feel loved and secure in your relationship.

3. Engage in Playful or Flirty Banter

Man Tickling Woman
Physical affection doesn’t always have to be sweet and serious! Try tickling, play wrestling, and pillow fights if you’re looking for something a little more lighthearted.

You can be joking around about something and give them a playful nudge or a little shove. It can be squeezing them on their side because they are ticklish (which, for some of you, might sound like your worst nightmare).

Really the point being made here is to be aware of opportunities to initiate physical contact, particularly when you are being playful with each other.

That physical touch in those moments creates a flirtier atmosphere.

Affection does not always have to be sweet and serious. It can be fun and silly. Look for those moments when you are being playful to pepper in some physical contact. It can feel very reassuring to your partner.

4. Tell Them How You Feel About Them

Again, this might seem SO simple, but sometimes it is easy to forget, especially as you get more comfortable in the relationship.

In our family, we like to randomly tell each other we like each other. It has gotten to the point where out of nowhere, our four-year-old will say something like, “Hey mommy, I like you.”

It feels good to hear that someone cares about you. Some people really need that reminder of how you feel about them.

It does not have to be excessive, but it can even just include a simple text that says, “I like you, and I am thankful for you.” It shows your partner you were thinking about them, and you truly care for them.

5. Tell Them What You Appreciate About Them

Writing Romantic Love Note
Consider writing an old-fashioned love letter detailing what you admire about your partner and why.

It can be one thing to tell someone you like them. When you tell someone you appreciate them and why it can be even more meaningful.

Telling someone why you appreciate them takes more intentional thought. Think about the last meaningful birthday card you got from someone.

Did it just say “Happy Birthday”?

Chances are, it had more written in it that made you feel special and loved. When you express your appreciation on a deeper level, it shows more intentionality that can leave your partner feeling loved by you.

6. Write Simple Texts or Notes Reminding Them You Love Them

Notice the theme of a lot of these ideas is simplicity. Grand romantic gestures are great but not necessarily sustainable every day. The little things can make a huge difference.

Notes or random messages can mean a lot to people. It shows you were thinking about them, you went out of your way to share it with them, and you wanted to share it to make them feel good.

Again, it helps them feel loved and appreciated when you go out of your way to remind them you care.

7. Get Them a Gift You Know They Really Want

Woman Ecstatic About Gift From Man
Remember how excited you were when you received the toy you really wanted as a child? Try to recreate that feeling and experience for your partner!

People who like to receive gifts probably get judged more critically than the other love languages because wanting gifts seem superficial. In reality, it feels nice to receive something from someone.

How many adults have you heard tell a story from when they were kids about a birthday or holiday where they did not get the one thing they really asked for?

Getting something you really wanted from someone can make a person feel loved and valued.

8. Get Them Something Small

On the other end of the gift spectrum, small things can be just as great for a person.

Maybe you drop by their work to bring them coffee, or you buy their favorite snack from the store to have at home.

Gift-giving does not have to be expensive or excessive all the time. They can be tiny gestures that show your significant other you love them and were thinking about them.

It can also show them you really know them by the amount of thought and attention you put into the smaller gifts.

9. Put Some Thought Into Their Gifts

Gift receivers are not going to turn down a nice gift, but they also are not just superficial people. There are gifts you can get someone without spending a dime, but rather spend more time.

Making a playlist of music they love or you think they might love can really show you know someone well. You can bake them cookies for when they have had a tough week at work.

Looking for a quick win when it comes to showing love and affection? Why not make them a playlist, get them flowers, put together a survival kit for when you leave town, etc.?

There are a variety of ways you can give to someone while spending little to no money. The important part is to illustrate you put thought into it, making those on the receiving end feel very loved and appreciated.

10. Do the Chore They Hate Doing the Most

Washing Dishes and Helping with Chores as an Act of Service
If their love language is acts of service, consider taking over some of their chores – particularly when they’re extra stressed or overloaded.

People who feel loved through acts of service appreciate it immensely when someone does something for them.

Imagine if you do the chore they hate the most! They will feel extreme gratitude for having that chore taken off their plate.

If your partner hates doing the dishes, it would mean a great deal to them if you took on that chore for them. It can make them feel seen because they will know you did that to make them happy.

They will feel very appreciative towards you and very loved by you.

11. Help Them Manage Their Stress

This is a big one for individuals who love acts of service. These actions can be small ones, but they can say a lot if you were to complete them.

It can be a chore they normally do or part of their routine. Find those things you can do to make life, at that moment, a little easier for them.

It might be vacuuming for them when they had not been able to get to it yet.

It might be putting their lunch together the night before because that is what they normally do.

It could even be cleaning the kitchen by yourself while they put the kids to bed instead of waiting.

Those little actions can show the person you are paying attention to what they do and what they need. It reminds them you care about their stress and want to make life easier for them when you can.

12. Help Them Check Something Off Their to-Do List

Checking Off To Do List
Your partner will feel a ton of relief if you complete a “low priority” task that has been nagging their mind for weeks or months.

Most people have some sort of to-do list. It ranges from things that need to get done on a particular day to things that need to get done at some point in time.

Especially for the latter, it can be difficult to set aside time for those things when you have a lot going on. People who appreciate acts of service do NOT mind someone stepping in to complete tasks for them.

For example, maybe they have talked for a while about pulling weeds and trimming hedges in the yard but have been unable to get to that task.

By doing something on their to-do list, it shows their needs and desires are important to you.

13. Go on a Date Together

Plan out an intentional time to go out together. Couples often have quality time, but it is easy for it to become part of the routine, which is where complacency can enter.

Eating dinner together and watching TV at the end of the day is nice. However, individuals who value quality time enjoy dates and planned events.

It shows initiative and intention, which can help someone feel like you want to spend time with them.

14. Do an Activity Together

Couple Completing Puzzle
Think about the hobbies you both used to enjoy before becoming a couple. See if you can plan an activity that will be fun for both of you.

Planning out an activity can be a strong bonding experience.

Whether it is playing a game together, going on a hike, or putting together a puzzle, setting aside time to experience something with your partner can help them feel loved by you.

Those shared experiences can build intimacy, and again, allow your partner to feel wanted.

15. Make Sure Your Time Together is Uninterrupted

I am referring to time with no phones, no kids, and no distractions.

You can still experience quality time with all of that present. However, it is common to look over at a couple at a restaurant and see them both on their phones.

Family time is great, but the kids are the priority. Setting aside time that will not be interrupted is important.

It may not happen frequently, but a person who values quality time will appreciate time with you where distractions are minimal. It can leave them feeling valued and loved when they feel they have your full attention.

Wrapping Up Ways to Show Love and Affection

It is invaluable to understand what your partner wants and needs when it comes to showing love and affection.

It is easy to show love and affection in the ways we would like to receive it. It takes more awareness, more intention, and more thought to show it how our partner desires it.

Understanding their love language can give you the roadmap you need to show them how much you care about them in a meaningful way.

Photo of author

Michelle Overman, LMFT

Michelle is licensed by the state of Texas as a Marriage and Family Therapist. Over her time in the field, she has helped couples understand the inhibiting patterns within their relationships and overcome those difficulties by creating more connection and vulnerability.

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