What makes you feel the most loved? For me, it's a little bit of quality hang time. It's when someone actually listens to what I have to say, and then — get this — remembers it. It's when someone I care about goes out of their way to do something they know I'm going to appreciate. The problem here is, everybody's answer to this question is so different, so figuring out how to make your partner feel loved can sometimes be a trickier process than it sounds like. Maybe your partner is like me and enjoys quality time and thoughtful gestures. Or maybe your partner doesn't care about that stuff at all! Maybe your partner feels more loved through receiving gifts and compliments.
Well, lucky for you, a recent study found that figuring out how to make your partner feel loved is actually really simple. What's so simple about it? Well, according to the study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Americans actually agree, for the most part, on what exactly makes them feel loved and appreciated. In order to conduct their study, the researchers had 495 American adults go through 60 different scenarios and explain whether or not they would feel loved in that particular situation. The scenarios ranged from blatantly romantic gestures to neutral activities to blatantly rude and unromantic actions. What they found was pretty interesting.
What makes people feel loved?
If your bank account is feeling a little tight and you don't think you can swing a last-minute trip to Paris for your partner this weekend, don't fret! It turns out most people actually appreciate the "small, non-romantic gestures" more than classically grand romantic gestures.
"Our results show that people do agree, and the top scenarios that came back weren't necessarily romantic," explains Saeidah Heshmati, a postdoctoral research scholar who is working with Zita Oravecz in Penn State's College of Health and Human Development. "So it is possible for people to feel loved in simple, everyday scenarios. It doesn't have to be over-the-top gestures."
Another good tip? Remember that actions speak louder than words. For example, Heshmati found that most people preferred physical manifestations of love to someone just saying it verbally.
"We found that behavioral actions — rather than purely verbal expressions — triggered more consensus as indicators of love. For example, more people agreed that a child snuggling with them was more loving than someone simply saying, 'I love you,'" Heshmati said. "You might think they would score on the same level, but people were more in agreement about loving actions, where there's more authenticity perhaps, instead of a person just saying something."
What doesn't make people feel loved?
While you may be texting your boyfriend 45 times a day, asking for real-time updates on what he's doing, where he's going, and who he's with because you love him and are genuinely interested, the study found that this sort of controlling behavior is more off-putting than anything else.
"In American culture, it seems that controlling or possessive behaviors are the ones people do not feel loved by," Heshmati said. "If someone wants to know where you are at all times, or acts controlling, those actions are not loving to us."
However, if your partner isn't from America, you might want to cut them some slack. Heshmati explains that, in other cultures, the same types of controlling behaviors can actually be interpreted as loving.
Yes, these findings were super helpful, but they don't mean that you suddenly know everything there is to know about what makes your partner, in particular, feel loved. Maybe those neutral gestures mean nothing to your partner in a romantic sense. Maybe your partner actually appreciates slightly controlling behavior. (Though, it should never veer on the side of toxic.) There's only one way for you to find out exactly what your partner wants: Talk to them about it. Ask them what they'd like you to do and — groundbreaking solution — do it.
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