Other than words, Ways to Say “I Love You”

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“My partner should just know I love them.  I’m with them, aren’t I?” In my private practice with couples, that is a sentence that I often hear.  But unfortunately, it’s not that simple. It can come to a surprise that we actually need to demonstrate to our partner that we love them, no matter how long you have been together. We are all susceptible to misinterpreting our partner’s actions (or lack thereof), giving it a story (I must not matter enough to them), and responding accordingly (I will keep a safe distance). Especially when arguments can seemingly originate from “something silly”, there might be something deeper in question.

How do you show your partner that you love them?

Do I matter to you?  

Do you really love me?

In one couple I know, partner A cooks dinner for partner B every night.  Partner B says, “I appreciate that my partner cooks me dinner.  It’s real nice, but it doesn’t make me feel loved or valued.  I actually feel loved when my partner tells me what he appreciates about me – qualities he sees in me that he admires, etc.  That is when my heart is filled and I feel his love.”

I often hear couple say, “I do so much for you, but it’s never good enough!”  If you ever hear those words, it’s possible that you are giving to your partner, but you are not scratching them right where they itch.  Remember that we often give what we want to get! For example, maybe you love receiving gifts from your partner – so naturally, you come home with flowers, chocolates, etc. for your partner.  While they are probably very appreciated, it doesn’t say “I love you” to everyone.  It may not be their “Love Language” – according to Gary Chapman.

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He says, there are 5 main ways that a person feels loved:

  • Acts of service – Making the bed, picking up dry cleaning, cooking – things to make your life easier.
  • Physical touch – Hugging, kissing, holding hands, hand on your knee, etc.
  • Quality time – Sitting together, alone, talking. What constitutes “quality time” is often different for different people, so be sure to clarify for your partner.
  • Gifts – Being thoughtful around birthdays, anniversaries, buying clothes or other items for your partner.
  • Verbal – Telling your partner what you appreciate about them.  Again, remember to clarify. Some people like being told that you appreciate how they look, others like hearing what they do, and others love hearing what you appreciate about who they are inside.

You should always know the answer to “what can I do, dear partner, to make you feel most loved and valued by me?”

If you don’t know the definite answer to that question, ask your partner pronto!  Be prepared to deliver daily to your partner and watch your relationship grow closer.

Michelle Wangler Joy, MFT, has been with The Couples Institute in Menlo Park, CA, since 2002, and currently a therapist on staff. Michelle helps couples reach their goals using latest advancements in differentiation and neuroscience, which ranks among one of the leading applications in psychotherapy. In addition to her private practice, Michelle offers Weekend Workshops for couples, and also leads Marriage Prep 101 Classes for Engaged, Newly Married, or Seriously Dating couples with her husband, Dan Joy. She teaches advanced classes to therapists and is a local and national speaker for professional associations on how to help more couples. You can also reach to her at abc michellejoymft.com
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