Affection is crucial in any healthy relationship, and we all show it a little differently. Some of us show it through physical touch while spending quality time with others. For others, expressing affection looks like cooking your partner’s favorite meal or buying them a thoughtful gift.
In this article, we will offer some advice on how to show affection. First, let us discover why affection is so important for healthy relationships.
Why Is Affection So Important?
Humans have a deep need for affection. This need exists in infants. Whether or not they get that need met and how they get it met determines an awful lot about that child’s perception of life and the world they live in as they grow up.
Our need for love and affection does not stop when we get older. We all need to experience the joy and deep sense of belonging and worthiness that comes with receiving affection from someone we love and who loves us. It helps to develop more self-confidence, feel safe and loved, and help us deal with negative emotions when life inevitably gets tough from time to time. Genuine displays of affection have also been found to reduce stress and blood pressure in the receiver!
How to Show Affection in Practical Ways
1. Understand Your Partner’s Love Language
Love languages are how we show and express our love for each other. They usually come from how we learned to give and receive and love as children. The love languages include; physical affection, words of affirmation, buying gifts, quality time, acts of service. If you do not understand or recognize your partner’s love language, you might mistakenly think that they do not love you. You might hold an idea of expressing love and only be communicable through your specific love language, but that puts a communication barrier between you and your partner.
2. Be a Good Listener
Above all other efforts to show love and affection, listening is key. It might not have the same immediate gratification as physical touch or an act of service, but it goes a lot deeper—it lets the other person know you are there.
Paying attention to someone lets them know that you care about them to be fully present—listen to what they have to say with eye contact, curiosity, compassion, and genuine interest. Any relationship expert would say that listening is one of the cornerstones for a strong relationship.
To let them know you are listening:
- Maintain eye contact.
- Look at the person when they are speaking.
- Imagine what it is like to be that person, speaking from that vulnerable place from which they are talking.
- When they finish speaking, do not just jump to a quick reply.
- Take a moment to think about what they said, and give a heartfelt and compassionate response.
Ask your partner how they want to be shown affection. Do they feel love and appreciation through physical contact? Do they prefer love through acts of kindness and service? Or do they feel loved when receiving gifts? Discover their love language, and you will know how to communicate your love to them effectively.
You do not have to read your partner’s mind, and if someone is expecting you to, they are setting themselves to failure. Sometimes to know your partner’s love language, the only thing you need to do is ask.
However, not everyone knows their love language. If your partnership is strong, you two can work together to help each other figure things out—try different things, check with each other regularly to see what works and what does not, and always be honest.
4. Break the Routine
It is nice to surprise your partner now and again. If you two live together or have a family of your own, then things can quickly get a little monotonous. A routine is great for keeping things running smoothly, but it can get boring, even though you and your partner love each other very much.
You can show your partner how much you care about your relationship with them by planning a surprise getaway, even if only for a night. A surprise can break the routine and add more excitement to your life. This is a simple way of showing affection to your partner. It shows that you thought ahead and considered their feelings and needs.
5. Show Affection with Touch
People respond to touch differently, so we cannot say that physical contact is always the best way to show affection. Hopefully, you already know your partner well enough to know how they feel about physical touch, but if not, do not be afraid to ask. Knowing how they feel about it will let you know how to move forward. Understand that people often have different feelings about physical touch in private versus in public, so you should check with your partner.
If touch is welcome, it can be a powerful way of showing affection. Some of us make too close a connection with physical contact and sex. It does not have to be sexual, and, in fact, the more you can establish a level of nonsexual physical touch with your partner, the more space you have to explore displays of affection. Still, that does not mean you should not go for a kiss. Kissing is a great way to bring people closer emotionally, and when done right, it is a powerful way to show affection.
Touching your partner on their arm, giving them a back rub, holding hands, or cuddling up with them on the couch are great ways to use physical touch as a means of showing affection. Understand that while sex can be a way to show love and affection, some people can feel used or not seen when physical touch always leads to sex. You want your partner to know that you are comfortable keeping physical contact in a nonsexual way.
6. Use Your Words
Affection does not have to be confined to the bedroom. You can let your partner know how much they mean to you, how they make you feel all warm and fuzzy and blissfully happy, by telling them. It might seem cheesy at first, especially if you are not used to expressing your affection in words, but that may make it all the sweeter for your partner to hear.
Even if you feel awkward doing it, telling your partner out loud how much they mean to you or how you are so deeply and madly in love with them is going to be amazing for them to hear. They might even get awkward and make a joke about it.
That is fine if you do not want to focus on how much you love them but compliment them for being who they are—offer kind, deep compliments. Appearance-based compliments are nice, but appearances fade. It is much wiser and more effective to compliment your partner on their personality, on the little things they do each day that they do not give a second thought to but that you notice, and that makes you remember how much you love and care about them.
7. Know How to Receive Affection
You can give your partner all the affection in the world, but it is just as important to know how to receive it. If you openly provide them with the affection they need but get shy when they offer it back to you, they do not experience the joy of giving and meeting your love language.
Think about how it feels when you make your partner feel happy by complimenting them, doing something nice for them, or using touch and intimacy to connect. It feels amazing, right? Even though they are the recipient, you can feel the pleasure of being the giver of such a compliment.
This is why it is important to know how to give affection and receive it at the same time. If you do not let your partner play the role of a giver, they might eventually feel like the relationship is an imbalance that may lead to closing off the affection, which neither of you wants to happen.
We all show affection differently. Some of us prefer physical touch over kind words and patience and attentiveness over grandiose expressions of love. There is no right or wrong when it comes to how we prefer to receive affection.
So, if you are wondering how you can best show affection, love, and care to your partner, the best approach is to ask them how they feel about it. It is great to try different things, but you eliminate a lot of the guesswork if you ask with genuine interest and curiosity. As mentioned above, asking is also a sign that you care. It shows your partner that you are willing to be vulnerable for the sake of learning more about them and that you want to show them more affection, but you are not sure how.
On a final note, if you have been trying to show your partner affection for a while now but you are having some trouble, either you struggle to show it, or your partner cannot seem to receive it, it may be wise to speak to a licensed psychologist or licensed marriage and family therapist. Affection is essential for healthy relationships, so it is best to seek support when affection is missing in your relationship.