The words "I love you" are powerful ones. When you and your partner are pulled in different directions -- jobs, kids, friends, family, meetings -- sometimes a quick "love ya" is all either of you can manage at the end of the day.
But it's crucial to also show your love, says Beverly Palmer, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California, Dominguez Hills. Actions reinforce the words, backing up your feelings and making your relationship stronger. "There's evidence behind it -- actions really do speak louder than words," she says. These simple strategies send your message loud and clear:
1. Respond to a need"The best way of expressing love is by anticipating a need of your partner's and fulfilling it," says Palmer. This shows that you listen to him and that his well-being and happiness is important to you. The key is to pay attention. For example, if your mate is stressed about work, make an effort to take on some of his personal or household chores for a while. Has he been putting off an errand? Run it for him. Don't underestimate the power of an occasional thoughtful gesture.
2. Share a laugh"All relationships have times of conflict and difficulty," says Palmer. Encouraging laughter ensures there's some positivity to outweigh the negativity. "That's what creates a sustainable love relationship." Send your mate an email when something funny happens or your kid says something outrageous. Or search YouTube for a blast-from-the-past commercial or funny video clip to email or post on his Facebook page.
3. Be full of surprisesAn unexpected gift or gesture says "You're special," says Palmer. "It shows that you think of him and feel connected to him even when you're not together." If you happen to find something that relates to a topic or activity of interest to your mate, bring it home. Love letters also make great surprises.
4. Make eye contact"Looking into each other's eyes signals you are deeply connected," says Palmer. Most busy couples, however, manage only quick glances. You needn't spend hours or even minutes gazing at each other. Take advantage of opportunities for eye contact that last longer than a few seconds. If you have a dinner date, lock eyes during your conversation. Face each other as you chat in bed before falling asleep. Even when surrounded by others, seek out your partner's eyes and make a quick connection.
5. Spend time togetherIt sounds obvious, but quality time is better than saying "I love you" a thousand times. Once in a while, suggest an activity that incorporates one of your partner's interests, even if it doesn't coincide with your own. The unselfish act shows that you cherish different sides of him.
6. Hug, hold hands and cuddlePhysically connecting with someone is the most natural way to express love. But after several years together, non-sexual touching often falls by the wayside, says Palmer. Revive it whenever you are together: pick up and squeeze his hand, or place your hand on his back. Sit close. Give him a hug goodbye and hello. And instead of sitting in separate chairs, cuddle up on the couch together once in a while.
"Women aren't the only ones who want romance. Both genders want and need it," says Palmer. And by showing your love with these gestures, chances are your partner will start reciprocating in kind.