When I titled my most recent book 101 Simple Ways to Show Your Husband You Love Him, I got a lot of pushback from women.
“Everything I do shows him I love him. I take care of our kids, I work, I take care of the house. I need him to show me how much he loves me.”
And I get it. I really do. We get to a point where we wonder if anything we do has any impact on our marriage. But the reason I believe in the power of simple yet specific acts of service to improve a marriage is that service is the easiest way to communicate not only that you love your man but that you respect him as well.
According to The Gottman Institute, fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance. When we act in loving and respectful ways, it not only shows our husband that we love him, but it also changes the fiber of our marriage.
So here are ten ways to say “I love you” to your spouse through specific actions.
1. Give Specific Encouragement
When I say, “You’re a great husband!” that compliment often flies right past my guy. When I tell him, “I loved how you handled that phone call with our bank: respectful, but firm,” it means much more because I pulled out exactly what I noticed that makes me proud of him.
2. Brag in Front of Loved Ones
If your mate is a fun-loving, expressive personality, you can start bragging, then stop and say, “Honey, why don’t you tell the whole story?” Your spouse will love the chance to take center stage.
For a detail-oriented analytic, keep your brag subtle. Brag quietly to a small group of trusted friends or family members. If your partner protests (which most analytics do), just let the topic drop.
For a productive, driven spouse, sharing a testimonial from someone whose life he impacted is an especially effective brag.
And if your partner has a peaceful, amiable personality, bragging about how he brings people together and creates harmony will be music to his ears.
3. Practice “Present Love”
Each of us longs to be accepted just as we are. Does that mean your mate is perfect? Not by a long shot. But it does mean that we speak what I like to call “present love.” That’s not, “I love you. I just wish you would show up on time.” It’s simply saying, “I love you,” period. Add nothing. Make no footnotes. Just say, “I love you.”
4. Serve in a Way That Will Stand Out
I bet you serve your spouse in dozens of little ways every day that have just become the norm for the two of you. You give reminders about a dentist appointment or pick up the milk at the store. You replace the toothbrush head, and you pray for your partner.
But what about doing something small that will stand out? Does your spouse have a favorite pair of running shoes that need repair? Why not do it for him? Or pick up his favorite custard éclair from the bakery, even though you can’t stand it.
Everyday service is the most effective way we can show true love. But stand-out service reminds your mate that he is worthy of a little something extra.
5. Drop a Memory into the Conversation
Saying “Remember when . . .” is a great invitation to stroll down memory lane together. Fondly revisiting the past tells your partner that you’re glad you are married and would make the same choice all over again in a heartbeat.
But when you share a memory, make sure it’s one that’s a favorite for your spouse too. Nothing spoils the mood quite like saying, “Remember when we took the kids to Disneyland?” only to hear, “How can I ever forget? It was the worst day of my life.”
6. Ask About the Day, and Pray Specifically About It
I’ve been guilty of asking my husband how his day was, only to realize that I want him to hurry up so I can talk to him about my day. But when I ask with the specific intention of then praying for him, I listen more attentively, care more deeply, and follow up more deliberately. I’m amazed at how much more connected my husband and I are just my listening with the purpose of praying.
7. Choose to View Quirks as Endearing, Not Annoying
Does your spouse leave coffee cups on the roof of the car or put car keys in the freezer? Or tell bad puns or break out in rhymes? What about his offering a “courtesy laugh” when he doesn’t think you’re funny, but you do?
Whatever your mate’s particular constellation of quirks may be, you get to choose how you will respond to them. Will you react with annoyance, or will you choose to find them endearing? When you respond to your spouse’s foibles with fondness, you send a powerful message of safety and security.
8. Say Yes
Obviously, you can’t automatically agree with everything your spouse says or suggests. However, listen to yourself for a few days to see if you’re stuck in auto-contradict mode.
“No, you don’t understand where I’m coming from.”
“No, I’d have to get dressed in order to go out.”
“No, it’s more of an aqua than a turquoise.”
If your default communication setting has gotten flipped to “No,” be intentional about switching it back to “Yes” as much as possible.
“Yes, I see your point.”
“Yes, I’d love to go with you.”
“Yes, that’s a great idea.”
9. Turn Complaints into Compliments
Is your spouse “too talkative” or “a great storyteller”? Do you see your mate as “picky” or “conscientious”? Do you think “controlling” when maybe he’s really “commanding”? Is your partner “lazy” or just “laid-back”?
Often, it depends on whether you’re on a mission to complain or compliment. When you feel the urge to complain, ask yourself this question: How can I move from focusing on weaknesses to seeing strengths?
10. Express Appreciation Specifically and Aloud
It’s easy to assume your partner already knows of your appreciation. But here’s the deal: All spouses still long to hear it said—often and in detail.
Appreciation is not as easy as we might expect to put into words. Your deepest feelings for your mate are housed in the nonverbal part of your brain, so it takes a real effort to verbalize what you appreciate about him and why. Here are two steps that can help:
Step 1: Pick a quality you appreciate and that you know your spouse also values (for example, strong, loyal, hard-working, committed, generous, and so on).
Step 2: Use that quality to fill in this template with a specific, recent example: “I noticed how you [specific action]. I appreciate how [specific quality] you are to [me, our family, God].”
Our specific service of love changes not just our spouses; it changes ourselves. When we practice service, we learn to love more deeply and fully, without the need for acknowledgement. Change your capacity to serve, and you will change your marriage.
Kathi Lipp is the author of several books, including 101 Simple Ways to Show Your Husband You Love Him, from which this article was adapted. She and her husband have four children and live in California. You can find her online at KathiLipp.com.
Copyright © 2016 by the author and Today’s Christian Woman