Understanding and nurturing affection in a relationship is extremely important if you want to build a solid, lifelong partnership with someone. Many people think affection or intimacy boils down to physical touch or sex alone, however, this is not the case. There are many different ways to demonstrate affection.
In this article, we will have a look at 22 different ways of showing affection. Healthy relationships all rely on some level of connection and intimacy in order for them to flourish. Learning how both you and your partner show and want to receive affection will help the two of you connect on a deeper level and give you a greater understanding of each other.
If you feel like there’s no longer any affection in your relationship, these 22 ways of showing affection can also help you both rebuild intimacy and reconnect with each other.
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Affection shows your partner that you love and care for them, strengthens the bond between the two of you, and helps build a strong foundation on which you can build a lifelong partnership.
It’s important to note that affection comes in various forms, from physical intimacy to effective communication. Learning to give and receive affection in various ways is extremely important – not only will this make you feel happy, heard, and cared for, it’ll do the same for your partner and solidify the bond between the two of you.
Biologically speaking, humans need physical and emotional connections with others in order to survive and thrive.
“Social connection can help boost your mood and manage your emotions. Through the years, we’ve thrived as a species by connecting with others… It’s this human connection that has advanced our world from gathering and hunting for our food to shopping for it in grocery stores.” 1
Furthermore, affection may help mitigate conflict and tension, build one’s self-esteem, give one a sense of security, and lead to a happier, healthier life overall.
It’s important to note that affection means different things to different people. Just because you want to be shown affection in one way, doesn’t mean your partner enjoys being shown it in the same way.
Moreover, your own emotional wants and desires might change. In one relationship you might want to be shown physical affection and in the next, words of affirmation might be more important to you. This is normal and to be expected as you grow, evolve, learn more about yourself, and form relationships with different people.
A lack of intimacy and affection in a relationship points to serious issues. It can cause self-esteem and security doubts, cause partners to feel isolated and disconnected from each other, push partners to look for affection and validation elsewhere, build hostile and toxic home environments, and even lead to breakups and divorces.
Without intimacy and affection in a romantic relationship, partners are more like friends than lovers. That being said, these issues can be worked on and love and affection can be rekindled. Not all hope is lost.
Listening is a critically important factor in any relationship. All too often people think that being a good communicator means you’re able to articulate what you’re feeling effectively, completely ignoring the fact that listening attentively is as, if not more, important.
So, the next time your partner speaks, take the time to give them your full, undivided attention. Really listen to what they have to say. If you aren’t a good listener, there are many ways you can improve this skill, including the following:
There’s nothing better than being brought a hot cup of coffee in bed when you just wake up, coming home to a home-cooked meal after a long day, or realizing your partner’s taken care of some of the things on your to-do list, without having to ask, to help you out.
Acts of service is one of the 5 love languages and it’s been described as doing chores or activities for your partner that makes life easier or more enjoyable for them.
So, the next time you want to show your partner just how much you care, do a small favor for them and watch to see how grateful they are – no doubt seeing their face will make you want to do another favor ASAP.
Words of affirmation is a love language that relies on speech to show affection and adoration. Kind words are a free and easy way to lift anyone’s spirit in a matter of seconds.
Make sure to show empathy to your partner through words, express your appreciation for them, tell them you love them, voice out what it is you like about them, remind them of their strengths, send them kind and thoughtful notes or text messages, and compliment them.
Life gets busy, work and children become demanding, and before you know it, months have passed by and you haven’t been on a romantic date with your partner. Planning romantic dates on a regular basis is a way to make your partner feel loved and desired.
There are an endless variety of fun and exciting date ideas, including:
There’s something special about receiving thoughtful gifts at random… Not only does it show your partner was thinking of you when you weren’t around, but it also shows that you mean a lot to them. There’s also something special about receiving a physical item that you can keep forever, remembering a specific moment in time with your loved one.
One of the easiest ways to show affection in a relationship is by telling your partner how much you love them and why you love them. If verbalizing this is difficult in the beginning, you can start out by writing a love letter for them to read.
Sometimes, hearing the words “I love you” can instantly transform your day, make you feel safe, or comfort you.
Regardless of how busy life gets, it’s important to remember to prioritize your partner and set aside quality, one-on-one time with them. Make sure the time you set aside for your partner is free of distractions (including technology, screaming kids, and chores).
Prioritizing your partner can mean anything from having coffee together in the morning before work to scheduling weekly date nights, cooking dinner together, calling them in the evenings to check-in, or having one-on-one time regularly.
Remember, everyone is busy but it’s essential to prioritize things and people that are important to you.
Strange as this might sound, respecting someone’s privacy, even in an intimate relationship, is an important thing to remember. Respecting someone’s privacy shows you care about them, respect their boundaries, and trust them.
Things like scrolling through your partner’s phone, barging in on them unannounced, and logging into their social media accounts without them knowing are all invasions of privacy and breaches of trust. This sort of behavior can be incredibly damaging to a relationship.
From time to time, thank your partner for everything they do for you and your relationship. Simply saying thank you can go a really long way in making people feel good and motivated to keep doing nice things.2
Oftentimes, when life gets busy, we overlook everything our partners do for us, from raising kids and keeping the house neat and tidy to earning an income.
If you’re looking for ways to reignite the passion in your relationship, finding a common interest that both of you can partake in together is a great way to begin rebuilding a healthy relationship.
Some things you might want to do together include joining sports clubs, book clubs, or wine clubs, attending classes together, or going for walks and hikes together.
Finding shared interests that you can both enjoy will increase relationship satisfaction while keeping both you and your partner happy and stimulated.
When people think of affection in a relationship the first thing that generally comes to mind is physical affection. Physical affection is usually the main differentiator between an intimate, romantic relationship and a friendship.
In my experience, when I’ve spoken to men about which of the 5 love languages they consider the most important, most of them choose physical touch.
There are many different ways you can show your partner physical affection, from holding hands to cuddling, hugging, gentle caresses, kissing, and sex.
“Study after study has found that couples who touch each other more tend to be happier. From backrubs to gentle caresses to hand-holding to hugging, the more intimate contact couples have with one another, the more satisfied they tend to be with their relationships.” 3
A great way to show your partner affection is by checking in with them from time to time and finding out how they really are. Ask them if their needs are being met physically, mentally, and emotionally and, if not, try and understand if there’s any way you can be more affectionate.
When checking in with your partner, make sure you’re attentive to what they’re saying.
Accepting someone into your life as well as around your friends and family is a way of showing affection and love. If you don’t fully accept someone into your life, they may feel unseen, even hidden. There are various ways you can demonstrate acceptance, including:
Security means different things to different people, however, it’s important that your partner feels physically and emotionally safe around you, trusts you, feels they can confide in you and share their feelings with you, and feels secure in the relationship.
Feeling secure will improve a person’s well-being and their self-esteem.
Building trust in a relationship involves open and honest communication, sticking to your promises, respecting each other’s boundaries, keeping your partner’s secrets, being non-judgemental towards your partner, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, and being prepared to be vulnerable with each other.
Another way of showing love and affection is by supporting your partner in their hopes, dreams, and goals. Also, remembering that the two of you are a team, and moving forward in this way, in everything you do, is one of the best ways to show support.
Find time in your busy day, in and amongst work, children, and errands, to just talk to your partner. Have light-hearted chats and just catch up. Life can sometimes be difficult and overwhelming so finding time just to have a chat, as you would with a friend, can be one of the best ways to bond.
Compromise is an essential part of any happy, healthy, long-lasting relationship. Being willing to occasionally compromise your wants and needs shows your partner that you’re willing to prioritize them and they’re important to you.
True compromise includes everything from what movie you choose to watch to which cities you choose to live in, how many children you decide on having, and what weekend activities you get involved in.
A really easy, fun way to bring affection back into your love life is by sending your partner sweet, thoughtful texts throughout the day. These sorts of small gestures go a long way and show your partner that you’re thinking about them throughout the day.
One of the kindest things you can do for your partner is to pick up the slack when they’re stressed out. Life can get really busy and sometimes you just don’t have enough time to get to the grocery store, do the laundry, clean the house, or cook a nutritious meal.
So, if you see your partner struggling to get through it all, help them out. They are sure to appreciate this more than you can imagine.
When your partner comes back from a long day at the office, take time to ask about their day and listen intently. Get rid of all distractions, focus on what they’re saying, and ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation flowing.
If your partner looks nice, tell them. If they’ve cooked a delicious meal, compliment them and thank them. If you’re proud of them, or like the way they did their hair that day, or appreciate them, let them know. These small gestures are so important, yet easily forgotten in a relationship.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. What works for one relationship might not work for another. It’s simply important that both parties feel seen and loved and that their needs are being met. If you feel like your relationship is lacking affection, it’s important to communicate that with your partner so that the two of you find a healthy way forward.
There are many different factors that can lead to a lack of affection, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, feeling unseen or unheard, disrespect, stress, and feelings of loneliness and isolation, just to mention a few. Another possible reason for a lack of affection is that one, or both, parties are no longer in love yet don’t know how to go about ending the relationship.
While showing affection in a long-distance relationship is markedly more difficult than when you’re in close proximity to your partner, it’s still very possible. As mentioned above, relationship intimacy doesn’t always need to be physical in nature, you can show your partner affection, despite the distance, in the following ways:
- Scheduling phone calls or video calls with them
- Sending them sweet notes or texts throughout the day
- Sending them photos of your day
- Compile a couples playlist of songs that you can both listen to
There are many relationships that do last without affection. The more important question to consider here is: how happy are those relationships despite the lack of affection? And, many would agree, probably not very happy. For a romantic relationship to be a happy and healthy one, there needs to be some level of intimacy. Both parties need to feel loved and desired.
There are many different ways in which you can show your partner love and affection. Using the methods mentioned above are sure to bring the two of you closer together and strengthen your bond. Even if you feel like there’s been little to no affection in your love life of late, you can turn things around by introducing these steps back into your relationship.