When was the last time you retweeted your partner’s corny jokes? Gave them a surprise gift—naughty or nice? It might seem small, but in relationships, it’s the little things that bond us together. “Actions really do speak louder than words and many people consider a loving gesture to be as valuable as hearing ‘I love you’,” says Jacqui Gabb, the co-author of the “Enduring Love?” study. “Grand romantic gestures, although appreciated, don’t nurture a relationship as much as bringing your partner a cup of tea in bed or watching TV together.”
Ready to subtly sweep your partner of his or her feet? “The easiest way: find out your partner’s love language. Your other half most likely gives you love the way he or she likes to receive it,” says Jennifer Seip, an Individual, Couple, and Sex Therapist. She also recommends discovering your own love language and jotting down the things that your partner does that make you swoon.
“You may have a primary love language, one or two that you gravitate toward the most, but that just means you should work on the other ones,” adds John Kim, a licensed therapist and the co-founder of JRNI. Here are 6 small ways to speak fluent love, not broken.
Words of Affirmation
If your love language is words of affirmation, kind, encouraging, and positive comments can refuel your love tank. While hearing the phrase, “I love you,” is important, hearing the reasons behind that love cranks up your love-o-meter. Insults will leave you with emotional bullet holes that aren’t easily forgotten.
Make a list of 10 reasons why you love your significant other. Write each one on a separate sticky note and hide them around the house. “I’ll put one on my husband’s steering wheel before work or a lipstick kiss on a sticky note over his sink in the bathroom—my little ways of showing him how much he means to me,” says Stephanie Pass, The Tiptoe Fairy. “A few years ago, Nate gave me a hand-painted jar full of love notes. I still haven’t gotten completely to the bottom of the jar yet.”
If your love language is quality time, then conversations and activities—with your cell phone tucked away, your fork and knife down, and your household chores on standby—are your romantic bread and butter. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen will thrust you into a romantic rut.
When it comes to exercise, the magic number might be two—as in your partner plus you. “Some of the strongest relationships I’ve seen are those with people who exercise together,” says Shane Allen, a certified personal trainer and sports nutritionist. “Common goals and shared routines are what help make a relationship, as well as our bodies, stronger.” Hit a health club with free babysitting services like Blast Fitness, World Gym, or the YMCA. Rock climbing, AcroYoga, boxing, and weightlifting are workouts with romance built in.
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism. In the vernacular of receiving gifts, nothing says, “I love you,” like the thoughtfulness and effort behind the bow. Whether the gift is small and thrifty or grand and expensive, it shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring it to you. Missed birthdays, anniversaries, and hasty, thoughtless gifts will poison Cupid’s arrows.
Create a mixtape.It’s one of the most personal, intimate, and romantic gestures you can do for someone you love. While records and cassettes have been dug out of the dustbin of history, a digital playlist allows you to continually add songs that show how you feel toward each other.
Acts of Service
Can scrub-a-dub-dubbing dishes in gawky, rubber gloves really be an expression of love? If you’re a part of the “hate to do the dishes” club, you betcha. If you’re fluent in this love language, you understand taking the burden off your partner’s shoulders speaks volumes. The words he or she most want to hear are “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for your lover will cause your wires to cross.
Make date night a weekly event even if you can’t afford a babysitter.“A date night…conveys to the couple is that they are creating a unique and special space for one another,” says Matt Garrett of Relationships Australia. It doesn’t have to be a full-on, three-course meal with the violinist in the background and a dozen roses. You might, say, fill your couple’s bucket list, watch the sunrise, or play a game of strip scrabble.
“Of all the love languages, touch is the most primal,” says Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages. “It supersedes language and symbolic gestures.” If you speak this love language, you get your jollies—not surprisingly—from skinship. From hot-and-heavy, foot-popping kisses to lingering handshakes, touch is the bedrock that’ll make your bed rock. Physical abuse and neglect will cause your relationship to splinter.
Even if you’re not a touchy-feely person, you can still celebrate with high fives and fist bumps. “If we’re proud of each other, find something funny, both think the same thing at the same time, think about how much we love each other, or even if we argue and get bored of fighting, it’s ‘boom, fist bump time’,” says Emma W. “It’s…a little sign of what a great team we are and shows that he’s my buddy and teammate forever.”
Supercharge your relationship by giving your partner a regular neck, back, foot, or full body massages. “My husband [Dennis] and I have been massaging each other for ten years now—giving [a muscle-melting] massage is something we do as a treat for the other or when we feel like our marriage needs some extra loving,” says Emma Merkas, the co-founder of Melt: Massage For Couples.