We are wired for emotional connection, said Jazmin Moral, LCSW-C, a psychotherapist who specializes in working with couples in Rockville, Md. “Love is our foremost and most basic need — from the cradle to the grave.”
We feel loved in a romantic relationship when we’re truly seen, heard and understood by our partner, Moral said.
We feel loved when our partner is consistently kind, thoughtful and respectful toward us, said Christina Steinorth-Powell, MFT, a psychotherapist who specializes in couples counseling in Santa Barbara, Calif.
We feel loved when our partners are accessible, responsive and emotionally engaged with us, Moral said. (This concept of accessibility, responsiveness and engagement is part of emotionally focused therapy.)
In this piece, psychotherapist Jonathan Sandberg defines accessibility as “I can find you; you are available to me”; responsiveness as “when you approach me, I respond with emotional attentiveness”; and engagement as “when you are accessible and sincerely try to respond to my needs, we connect.”
Below are ideas on how you can make your partner feel more loved and valued.
1. Create rituals.
Rituals help couples build their connection and remind partners how important they are to each other, Moral said.
For instance, consider how you say good morning to each other, greet each other on a daily basis, and come together in the evening, she said. Even something as simple as a hug can go a long way. Twenty-second hugs release the feel-good hormone dopamine and bonding hormone oxytocin and reduce cortisol levels, Moral said.
“Evening rituals could be sharing a meal and catching up on the day, reading together, watching a TV show that you are both excited about, taking a bath together, setting time aside to be affectionate or intimate with each other.”
2. Be specific about your love.
“Autopilot ‘I love yous’ aren’t the same as telling your partner why you love them,” said Steinorth-Powell, also author of the book Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships. For instance, in the morning, her husband tells her: “I’m happy to be awake and have another day with you.” Steinorth-Powell regularly tells him “you’re the best thing in my life.”
3. Consider their preferences.
“Consideration goes a long way toward the longevity of any relationship,” said Steinorth-Powell. Little gestures, she said, convey thoughtfulness to your partner.
For instance, her husband doesn’t like clutter around the house. As an author, she tends to accumulate many magazines and papers. Instead of having multiple piles throughout the house, Steinorth-Powell keeps a small pile on her desk.
4. Learn from your mistakes.
Avoid repeating the behaviors that have caused problems in the past, Steinorth-Powell said. Repeating behaviors that are hurtful to your partner sends the message that you don’t care about how they feel, she said.
She shared this example: A wife has a tendency to speak for her husband, often finishing his sentences. This makes him feel like he’s never heard, and he knows he can speak for himself. He tells his wife how he feels.
“In a healthy relationship, the wife will make an effort to stop speaking for her partner because she values his feelings.”
However, if she continues with this behavior, she’s basically communicating with her actions that his feelings aren’t important to her, Steinorth-Powell said.
5. Act loving even when you don’t feel it.
“If you’re having a bad day, are stressed, not feeling well or whatever is causing you distress, try as hard as you can to act loving toward your partner because your partner will always, always, always remember how you make them feel,” said Steinorth-Powell.
This can include simply hugging your partner, sitting next to them, or holding their hand as you’re watching TV, she said.
“It will let your partner know that what is going on with you has nothing to do with them, while letting them know that you love and value them.”