I began dating my husband even before I began high school. We had celebrated our tenth anniversary and made our first cross-country move before we said “I do.”
With our seventh wedding anniversary recently behind us and our eighteenth dating anniversary right around the corner, I began to ponder the secret to such a long-lasting relationship. For us, a huge part of it has been learning to say “I love you” without ever opening our mouths.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a word person—the kind of person that thinks the card is equally important to the gift. Yet many of us are not “word” people, and learning how the people in your life express love—and hope to have it returned—is hugely important to both relationship success and happiness. Here are eight ways to say “I love you” without words.
1. Make contact—eye contact that is. Looking the person you love in the eyes says so much—without actually saying anything. How often do you take the time to stare into your partner’s eyes? It’s not just something newly infatuated people should do. Looking people in the eyes allows them to see what’s in yours too, and there’s almost nothing more wonderful than being gazed at adoringly. So take time to really look at the people you love.
2. Be practical. Some people show their love by changing your oil or cooking your favorite meal. Taking care of those closest to us is a basic way to say “I love you.” It expresses concern for your daily well-being—and if that isn’t love, then I don’t know what is.
3. Spend time together. My husband and I realized long ago that we fight when we don’t spend enough time together. I understand that not every couple is like this, but I personally think spending quality time together is critical to the success of a relationship. Even if that together time is simply sitting down to dinner or spending 30 minutes reading together on the sofa before bed, make sure to make time for the ones you love.
4. Get physical. Hugging, kissing, cuddling—these are all easy ways to show someone you love them. Some people respond more to physical affection than anything else, and part of the joy of the human experience is being in a relationship and getting to experience that closeness with another person. Sometimes those little tender touches are all it takes to say “I love you” without words.
5. Give a little. Little presents for no reason are so special. I’m not talking about spending a lot of money either. It’s those small, thoughtful gifts that show you’re really listening to your partner that count.
6. Do you hear what I hear? Miscommunication is, unfortunately, also a part of the human experience. Take the time to really listen to what your partner is saying—and make sure you understand them. Sometimes our thoughts don’t come out the way that we want them to. Learning to communicate effectively with the people you love is hugely rewarding.
7. Flip side. I often say that our best and worst qualities are the flip side of the same coin. So you’re passionate and temperamental? You’re reliable and stubborn? Don’t use your partner’s flaws against them if you can help it. Sure, the best relationships encourage us to be our best selves, but at the same time knowing someone so well that you know them inside and out and for better or for worse is so special. After all, if anyone deserves some slack, isn’t it the people you love the most? Which brings us to…
8. Be kind. How do you treat someone you’ve just met for the first time and how do you treat the people you love and see every day? I’m personally guilty of easily having a sharp tongue or snotty tone of voice. Keeping this in check and treating the people you love the way they deserve to be treated—with kindness—is perhaps the best way to guarantee relationship bliss.
Relationships take time and effort, but almost nothing worth having comes easily. Saying “I love you” is definitely important. However, I think that actions do speak louder than words. Show the people you love the most in this world that you care, and when those three little words do come out, they’ll mean even more.