Affection is important for a healthy relationship to thrive. Showing affection to your partner helps them feel loved and cared for, whether you’re in the early stages of dating or have been in a romantic relationship for years.
We all show affection in different ways, and while some of us might have a hard time showing affection, it’s an important skill to have in your relationship repertoire.
Making an effort to show affection — and keeping an eye out for signs it's being overlooked — can benefit your physical and mental health as well as your romantic connection.
Keep reading to learn more about why affection is so important in a romantic relationship, and the different ways to show affection.
At its core, affection shows your partner you love and care about them. Whether it’s physical or verbal, being affectionate with your significant partner can do wonders for your relationship's well-being.
There are not only emotional benefits to showing affection. Research suggests that physical contact is good for our health: touch is linked to higher oxytocin (dubbed the “love hormone”), and lower blood pressure, and it can help with sleep and stress.
Some research also found that couples who showed affection during a disagreement had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Physical affection is strongly associated with relationship satisfaction, and research suggests that being touched by your partner not only brings you closer but can also make you feel validated and understood.
Physical touch is one of the main signs of affection in a relationship. This can take many forms, such as holding hands, cuddling, and kissing. The level of affection you and your loved one feel comfortable with will depend on your personality and the stage and type of your relationship.
Showing affection in a way that works for your relationship will make your partner feel appreciated and secure. The important thing is to make affection a part of your daily life. Grand gestures can be great, but the little things go a long way.
Physical affection isn’t the only way to make your partner feel loved, though. Affection is also shown through words and actions. Making time for each other, communicating well, and taking an active interest in your partner are all ways to show affection and improve relationship satisfaction. Cute pet names, private jokes, shared hobbies, and showing gratitude for one another are great ways to build affection with your partner.
Many things can get in the way of expressing affection, from the stresses of daily life to more deep-rooted insecurities.
If one or both partners becomes especially busy with work or other pressures, they may become distracted and less interested in physical intimacy and closeness. Making time for a date night or shared activity, even one as simple as trying a new recipe together can rekindle that affection.
Different expectations and boundaries can also cause issues related to affection. What one partner perceives as a lack of affection could feel completely healthy to the other. Our understanding of relationships and loving behavior can be influenced by our background, family dynamics, and even previous relationship experience. Talk to your significant other about how they show and feel affection. Communication is key to understanding what you both need from a romantic relationship.
Issues such as low self-esteem, insecurity, and mental health struggles can also impact our ability to show and receive affection. This can become a vicious circle, with a lack of affection impacting self-esteem even further.
If mental health concerns are affecting romantic relationships, speaking to a professional could help. Individual or couples therapy can provide insight into problems with physical intimacy or other types of affection.
Learning each other’s love languages — how you prefer to give and receive affection — with your significant other can help understand the signs of affection they are showing you, and how they are interpreting yours.
Maybe you show love through acts of service, but your partner responds best to words of affirmation. Understanding these needs, and aiming to meet them in your daily life, can help guide your affectionate behavior.
The best way to show physical affection will vary from person to person and relationship to relationship. Some people love grand displays of affection; others prefer a spontaneous hug while they’re doing their chores.
Ask your loved one what kind of physical touch they enjoy, and when. Whether it’s through brief gestures or more involved physical contact like massages, non-sexual physical intimacy is an important part of keeping a romantic spark and emotional bond alive.
Along with physical affection, quality time with your partner can make them feel loved and secure. This could be by arranging a vacation, an elaborate surprise, or a more low-key date night at home. Even watching TV together can be a great way to build your bond.
Taking time to listen to your partner is another simple but powerful way to show their importance to you. Ask them about their day, and give them your undivided attention when they respond. Modern daily life is full of stresses and distractions, but taking every opportunity for affectionate behavior is vital to keeping your romantic relationship strong.