Relationships involve their fair share of give and take. If you’re constantly giving without receiving, it can be easy to feel unappreciated or even used by your partner. Learning how to show affection is an important skill in any relationship, whether it be romantic, platonic, or familial.
The relationships we have in our lives are important. They can provide us with love, support, and a sense of belonging.  The support we receive from our relationships can significantly reduce stress, enhance our sense of meaning and purpose in life, and promote our overall physical health and well-being.   So, how do we make sure our relationships are healthy and strong?
You guessed it – by showing affection! Expressing affection is an important way to maintain closeness and intimacy with our loved ones.  It can also communicate our feelings of love, appreciation, and admiration.
You can show affection in many different ways, depending on your relationship and what will make your partner feel loved. This article will give you some tips on how to show affection in a variety of ways.
What is affection?
Affection can be broadly defined as any positive emotion or behavior that is directed toward someone else.  It is a way of expressing our fondness, care, and love for others.
The term was originally derived from the Latin word affectio, which was used to reference “an emotion of the mind” or a “permanent state of feeling.” In 1998, researchers conceptually defined affection as an emotional state of fondness and intense positive regard toward a living or a once-living being. 
As social beings, we have an inherent need for affection love and affection.  This need is usually fulfilled by our close relationships, such as family, friends, and romantic partners. In these relationships, receiving and giving affection is an important way to maintain closeness and intimacy.
Figuring out your partner’s love language can help you have a more meaningful and lasting relationship. This comprehensive guide will show you how.
While some people are more affectionate than others, we all can benefit from expressing more affection in our relationships. Affection can contribute to the formation, maintenance, and quality of our relationships.   
(And as we all know, relationships are a vital part of our lives and can have a significant impact on our happiness, health, and well-being.)
Multiple studies have also supported how our fundamental need for affection can positively impact our personal well-being, satisfaction in romantic relationships, physical health, mental well-being, academic performance, and reduce our risk of and depressive symptoms.      
Clearly, affection is important for our overall well-being and the health of our relationships. So, how can we express more affection in our everyday lives?
10 ways to show affection
A straightforward way to feel close and build intimacy, showing affection is a crucial part of any relationship. By knowing how to express affection, you can communicate your love, appreciation, and admiration for your partner – enhancing the closeness and quality of your relationship.
Affection has often been thought of as a physical display of emotion, such as hugging, kissing, or cuddling. But it can also be expressed in other ways, such as through verbal expressions of love and appreciation, quality time spent together, or thoughtful presents. 
Here are some tips on how to show affection in a variety of ways.
1. Offer your compliments
An easy way to show your affection is to compliment your partner. Let them know what you appreciate about them, whether it’s their sense of humor, their intelligence, or their cooking skills.
Your compliment doesn’t have to be grandiose – even something as simple as, “I love the way you laughed at that joke” can go a long way in making your partner feel loved and appreciated.
Make sure you tailor your compliments to what will make your partner feel good. For example, if they’re struggling with their self-esteem, avoid compliments that focus on their physical appearance and instead opt for ones that highlight their inner qualities. 
2. Give them your undivided attention
In our fast-paced, always-connected world, it’s easy to get caught up in our own lives and neglect the people closest to us. But quality time is one of the most important – and affectionate – things you can give to your partner.
When someone is attentive to you, you’re more likely to feel greater intimacy and closeness in the relationship.  In addition, people are more generous when they perceive that their partner is attentive to them. 
So, the next time you’re with your partner, put away your phone, turn off the TV, and give them your full attention. Listen to what they have to say, ask follow-up questions, and make eye contact. This type of undivided attention will let your partner know that you care about them and are interested in hearing what they have to say.
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3. Express your gratitude
Another way to show affection is to express your gratitude for what your partner does for you. Whether it’s cooking dinner, taking the dog for a walk, or simply being there for you when you need them, let them know that you appreciate their efforts.
A little bit of gratitude can go a long way in making your partner feel loved and appreciated. In one study, participants who expressed more gratitude towards their partner felt more connected to them and were more likely to report higher levels of satisfaction in the relationship. 
Even if your partner does something small, take the time to express your gratitude. For example, you could say, “Thanks for taking out the trash, I really appreciate it.”
4. Touch them affectionately
Physical touch is a powerful way to show your affection. Research has shown that touching – whether it’s hugging, holding hands, or simply sitting close to someone – can increase feelings of being understood, make it easier to resolve conflict, and is associated with relationship and partner satisfaction.  
In addition, touch can release oxytocin, a hormone that’s been linked to bonding, social connection, and trust. 
Physical touch doesn’t have to be sexual, you can simply touch your partner in a non-sexual way to show your affection. For example, you could give them a hug, hold their hand, or give them a back rub. These nonsexual touches will let your partner know that you care about them and can be just as effective in showing your affection as sexual touch. 
5. Do something special for them
A thoughtful gesture can go a long way in showing your partner how much you care about them. Does your partner take their coffee with cream and sugar? Make them a cup in the morning. Do they love going for walks? Plan a romantic picnic dinner for the two of you. 
Thoughtful gestures don’t have to be grand or expensive, but they should be tailored to what your partner would appreciate. Something as simple as taking care of a chore they hate or making them their favorite food can show your partner that you’re thinking about them and want to make their life a little easier. 
6. Say “I love you”
Of course, one of the most classic – and effective – ways to show your affection is to say “I love you.” These three little words can mean so much, especially when they’re coupled with genuine affection.
Saying “I love you” is a way of expressing your emotions and can be just as important – if not more important (for other people) – than physical touch.  Especially if your partner’s love language is words of affirmation, telling them that you love them can be the best way to show your affection.
So, don’t be afraid to say “I love you” to your partner. Whether you say it in a card, over the phone, or in person, these three words can make a big impact on your relationship.
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7. Give them a thoughtful present
Another way to show your affection is to give your partner a present. Gift-giving has long been part of social relationships and can be a thoughtful way to show people how much you care about them. 
When picking out a present, try to choose something that your partner would really appreciate. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be something that they would find thoughtful and practical. For example, you could give them a book that they’ve been wanting to read or a new coffee mug to use at work. You could also give them a gift card to their favorite restaurant or store.
Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that your partner would appreciate and that shows how much you care about them.
8. Remember the little things
It’s the little things that often make the biggest difference in a relationship. While grand gestures are nice, it’s the day-to-day care and attention that really show your partner how much you love them.
Does your partner like to sleep in on the weekends? Make them breakfast in bed. Do they need to run some errands after work? Offer to do them for them. Small gestures like these can show your partner that you’re thinking about them and that you want to make their life a little easier.
9. Provide support
When your partner is going through a tough time, it’s important to be there for them. Showing your support can be a great way to show your affection and can make a big difference in their life.
Social support - or its perceived availability - has been linked to a variety of outcomes, including improved physical and psychological health.  So, if your partner is going through a tough time, make sure to be there for them. You could provide practical support, like helping them with a project or running an errand for them. Or you could simply lend a listening ear and be there for them emotionally.
There are many ways to show support, but one of the most important things is to simply be there for your partner. Let them know that you’re available if they need to talk or need help with anything.
10. Check in with your partner
Finally, one of the best ways to show your affection is to simply ask your partner how they’re doing. Checking in with your partner shows that you care about them and want to know what’s going on in their life.
You don’t need to have a long conversation, but simply asking them how their day was or how they’re doing can show that you’re thinking about them. This is especially important if your partner is going through a tough time. Asking how they’re doing shows that you care about them and want to know how they’re coping.
These are just a few ways to show your affection. No matter how you choose to show it, remember that it’s the thought that counts. So, take a moment to think about what would mean the most to your partner and go from there. Whatever you do, make sure it comes from a place of love and care. Your partner will appreciate it - and your relationship will be all the better for it.
FAQ about how to show affection
1. How can I be more affectionate?
Ultimately, the answer to this question will depend on your relationship and what works for you and your partner. However, there are a few general tips that may be helpful.
One of the ways you could be more affectionate to your partner is by being responsive to them. This means creating an environment in your relationship where your partner feels validated, cared for, and understood. 
When your partner feels seen and heard, they’ll be more likely to feel loved and secure in the relationship - which can lead to more affectionate behaviors. 
Another way to be more affectionate is to simply relay to your partner how much you appreciate them. This can be done verbally, through notes or text messages, or even through small gestures like cooking them dinner or giving them a massage.
Knowing your partner’s love language - or the way they prefer to give and receive love - can also be helpful.  Love languages are different for everyone, so what works for one person may not work for another.
Finally, remember that affection isn’t just about what you do - it’s also about how you make your partner feel. So, even if you’re not the most physically affectionate person, you can still make your partner feel loved and cared for.
2. How do guys show physical affection?
There are many ways that guys can show physical affection. It has always been thought that there are differences in how men and women show affection, but this may be due to society’s preconditioned notions about gender roles.  Men, in particular, are conditioned to be independent, assertive, group-oriented, and less expressive about their emotions than women. 
In reality, everyone expresses affection differently and there is no one right way to do it. Some guys may express their affection through physical touch, while others may do it through acts of service or words of affirmation.
If you’re unsure how a certain guy in your life expresses affection, ask him! He’ll be more than happy to let you know what makes him feel loved and appreciated.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that everyone expresses affection differently. So, don’t worry if you don’t fit into society’s preconceived notions about how men and women should act. Just be yourself and show your affection in a way that feels natural and genuine to you.
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3. Why do I struggle showing affection?
There are many reasons why someone might struggle to show affection. In some cases, it may be due to a lack of experience or knowledge. If you grew up in a family where affection wasn’t openly expressed, you may not have learned how to express it yourself.
In other cases, it may also be because of your attachment style, or the way you tend to relate to others in close relationships.  If you have an anxious or avoidant attachment style, you may find it harder to be affectionate because you tend to either worry about being rejected or you feel uncomfortable getting too close to others.
If you’re struggling to show affection, it may be helpful to talk to a therapist or counselor who can help you explore the reasons why and provide guidance on how to overcome them.
Remember, showing affection is a skill that can be learned, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t come naturally at first. With a little effort, you can learn how to express your affection in a way that feels comfortable and genuine for you.
4. What are signs of affection?
Depending on the person, signs of affection can vary. But there are some common behaviors that typically indicate someone is feeling affectionate towards another person.
Some common signs of affection include.
- Making eye contact
- Standing or sitting close to someone
- Touching someone lightly on the arm or shoulder
- Giving someone a hug
- Saying kind things about someone
- Listening attentively to someone
- Doing favors for someone
- Spending time with someone
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, and everyone expresses affection differently. But if you’re wondering whether someone is feeling affectionate towards you, these are some common behaviors to look out for.
The best relationship books to help you survive and thrive
Whether single or in a relationship, it can be tough to navigate the waters of love. These books offer advice and guidance from experts and real-life couples alike, giving you the tools you need to make your relationship work. These books will surely provide some valuable insights if you are looking for a way to spice up your love life or simply learn how to better communicate with your partner.
- Love: The Psychology of Attraction: A Practical Guide to Successful Dating and a Happy Relationship
- Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Navigating Life and Love in the Modern Age
- The Power of Four Bases for Relationships: Can You Hit a Home Run in a Relationship?
- Communication and Relationship: A Guide to Deeper Connection, Trust and Intimacy to Improve Communication and Strengthen Your Bond as a Couple
- Couple's Bucket List: 101 Fun, Engaging Dating Ideas
- ↑ Hagerty, B. M., Williams, R. A., Coyne, J. C., & Early, M. R. (1996). Sense of belonging and indicators of social and psychological functioning. Archives of psychiatric nursing, 10(4), 235–244. doi.org
- ↑ Cohen, S. (2004). Social relationships and health. American psychologist, 59(8), 676.
- ↑ Uchino, B. N. (2004). Social support and physical health: Understanding the health consequences of relationships. Yale university press.
- ↑ Gonzaga, G. C., Keltner, D., Londahl, E. A., & Smith, M. D. (2001). Love and the commitment problem in romantic relations and friendship. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 247-262. doi.org
- ↑ affection. (n.d.). In The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. www.merriam-webster.com
- ↑ Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation. 1995. Abstract][Google Scholar], 497-529.
- ↑ Owen, W. F. (1987). The verbal expression of love by women and men as a critical communication event in personal relationships. Women's Studies in Communication, 10, 15-24.
- ↑ Bell, R. A., & Healey, J. G. (1992). Idiomatic communication and interpersonal solidarity in friends' relational cultures. Human Communication Research, 18(3), 307–335. doi.org
- ↑ Floyd, K., & Morman, M. T. (2000). Affection received from fathers as a predictor of men's affection with their own sons: Tests of the modeling and compensation hypotheses. Communication Monographs, 67(4), 347–361. doi.org
- ↑ Downs, V. C., & Javidi, M. (1990). Linking communication motives to loneliness in the lives of older adults: An empirical test of interpersonal needs and gratifications. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 18(1), 32-48.
- ↑ Floyd, K., & Morman, M. T. (2003). Human affection exchange: II. Affectionate communication in father-son relationships. The Journal of Social Psychology, 143(5), 599-612.
- ↑ Komisaruk, B. R., & Whipple, B. (1989). Love as sensory stimulation: Physiological consequences of its deprivation and expression. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 23, 927–944.
- ↑ Downs, V. C., & Javidi, M. (1990). Linking communication motives to loneliness in the lives of older adults: An empirical test of interpersonal needs and gratifications. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 18, 32–48.
- ↑ Steward, A. L., & Lupfer, M. (1987). Touching as healing: The effect of touch on students’ perceptions and performance. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 17, 800–809.
- ↑ Oliver, J. M., Raftery, M., Reeb, A., & Delaney, P. (1993). Perceptions of parentoffspring relationships as functions of depression in offspring: Affectionless control, negative bias, and depressive realism. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 8, 405–424.
- ↑ Floyd, K. (2006). Communicating affection: Interpersonal behavior and social context. Cambridge University Press.
- ↑ Floyd, K., & Morman, M. T. (1998). The measurement of affectionate communication. Communication Quarterly, 46, 144–162.
- ↑ Floyd, K., & Morman, M. T. (1998). The measurement of affectionate communication. Communication Quarterly, 46, 144–162.
- ↑ Umberson, D., & Montez, J. K. (2010). Social relationships and health: a flashpoint for health policy. Journal of health and social behavior, 51 Suppl(Suppl), S54–S66. doi.org
- ↑ Chapman, G. (2015, January 1). The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts (Reprint). Northfield Publishing.
- ↑ Marigold, D. C., Holmes, J. G., & Ross, M. (2007). More than words: reframing compliments from romantic partners fosters security in low self-esteem individuals. Journal of personality and social psychology, 92(2), 232–248. doi.org
- ↑ Ohtsubo, Y., & Tamada, S. (2016). Social attention promotes partner intimacy. Letters on Evolutionary Behavioral Science, 7, 21–24. doi.org
- ↑ Ohtsubo, Y., & Yamaguchi, C. (2017). People Are More Generous to a Partner Who Pays Attention to Them. Evolutionary psychology : an international journal of evolutionary approaches to psychology and behavior, 15(1), 1474704916687310. doi.org
- ↑ Park, Y., Impett, E. A., MacDonald, G., & Lemay, E. P. (2019). Saying thank you: Partners' expressions of gratitude protect relationship satisfaction and commitment from the harmful effects of attachment insecurity. Journal of personality and social psychology, 117(4), 773–806. doi.org
- ↑ FLAHERTY, L. M. (1999) Communication expectations, feeling understood, and relationship development. Dissertation Abstracts International, 60( 1 -A), 0020.
- ↑ GULLEDGE, A. K., GULLEDGE, M. H., & STAHMANN, R. F. (2003) Romantic physical affection types and relationship satisfaction. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 31, 233-242.
- ↑ Proskurnina, E. V., Sokolova, S. V., & Portnova, G. V. (2021). Touch-induced emotional comfort results in an increase in the salivary antioxidant potential: A correlational study. Psychophysiology, 58(9), e13854. doi.org
- ↑ Gulledge, A. K., Stahmann, R. F., & Wilson, C. M. (2004). Seven types of nonsexual romantic physical affection among Brigham young university students. Psychological reports, 95(2), 609–614. doi.org
- ↑ Harasymchuk, C., Walker, D. L., Muise, A., & Impett, E. A. (2021). Planning date nights that promote closeness: The roles of relationship goals and self-expansion. Journal of social and personal relationships, 38(5), 1692–1709. doi.org
- ↑ Mostova, O., Stolarski, M., & Matthews, G. (2022). I love the way you love me: Responding to partner's love language preferences boosts satisfaction in romantic heterosexual couples. PloS one, 17(6), e0269429. doi.org
- ↑ Floyd, K., & Morman, M. T. (2000b). Reacting to the verbal expression of affection in same-sex interaction. Southern Journal of Communication, 65, 287–299.
- ↑ Mauss, M. (2002). The gift: The form and reason for exchange in archaic societies. routledge.
- ↑ Uchino, B. N., Cacioppo, J. T., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K. (1996). The relationship between social support and physiological processes: a review with emphasis on underlying mechanisms and implications for health. Psychological bulletin, 119(3), 488.
- ↑ Noller, P., & Feeney, J. A. (2013). Close relationships: Functions, forms and processes. Psychology Press.
- ↑ Canevello, A., & Crocker, J. (2010). Creating good relationships: responsiveness, relationship quality, and interpersonal goals. Journal of personality and social psychology, 99(1), 78–106. doi.org
- ↑ Chapman, G. D. (1992, January 31). The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate (4th ed.). Northfield.
- ↑ Rudman, L. A., & Glick, P. (2008). The social psychology of gender: How power and intimacy shape gender relations. New York, NY: Guilford.
- ↑ Spence, J. T., & Buckner, C. E. (2000). Instrumental and expressive traits, trait stereotypes, and sexist attitudes: What do they signify? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 24, 44-62.
- ↑ Feist, J., Feist, G., & Roberts, T. (2017). Theories of Personality (9th ed.). McGraw Hill.