Our society is enthralled with the idea of the grand romantic gesture. Can you really blame us? We read about them in books and see them in movies—the over-the-top displays of true love that are so swoon-worthy that we want nothing more than to experience them first-hand in our own lives. While showing your love for someone in a romantic way—be it surprising them with a giant bouquet of flowers just because or popping the question at the foot of the Eiffel Tower—is certainly wonderful, relationship experts say that the real acts of love are the ones we show every day. Unlike the grandiose kind, these small, natural gestures are the glue that holds a relationship together.
Here, the pros reveal which romantic gestures actually matter the most and—spoiler alert—filling your house with dozens of long-stemmed roses didn't make the list.
This is one testament of true love that you'll hear repeated time and time again. Why? Because communication is the one thing that holds two people together. "The more vulnerable we allow ourselves to be with someone we love—not only through talking, but also by reading body language, facial cues, and all of those additional messages—the more they understand us," says Fran Walfish, Psy.D., a couple and family psychotherapist. "Once clear communication is established and developed, the two willing partners feel more comfortable being romantic, loving, and sexy."
Doling Out Compliments
When you spend so much time with your S.O. it can feel like your life together is on repeat. But don't let the small sentiments go unspoken. "Simply telling your partner that he or she looks great is such a big deal," says April Masini, relationship and etiquette expert. "You'd be surprised how many people don't do this—and regret it when they no longer have the chance."
Prioritizing Date Night
Even if it's just a night on the couch watching Netflix, telling your partner that you want to spend romantic, uninterrupted time together, one-on-one strengthens the romantic bond you two share. "Even when your schedules don't seem to allow it, try to set aside the time to make a reservation, put together a romantic picnic, or buy tickets to a movie. Get dressed up and make your partner feel like a million bucks because they're your date for the evening," says Masini.
Giving Little Gifts
Whether it's a bouquet of flowers or a single rose, both men and women love gifts, especially when they're a surprise, Masini explains. "Have a surprise gift delivered to your partner's office and reap the double benefit of making your partner feel loved and appreciated and giving them the opportunity to show off to their office-mates," she says. "Feeling proud of their relationship makes them feel good about you."
Showing Some PDA
You might not be the mushy-gushy type—and that's perfectly fine—but showing affection even around other people makes your partner feel loved, cherished, and protected. It doesn't have to be an all-out PDA session—just holding hands, wrapping arms around waists, or declaring your love are all good examples, Masini says. "It shows the world that you don't care who sees, you're in the moment with your partner. And this gesture isn't lost on your love—showing romance with PDA is a way to use small gestures to keep your romantic relationship going strong."
Life can be too serious, but finding ways to see the humor even in stressful situations is healthy. It not only eases up the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, in your body, but laughing together is also a way for you two to connect. "Laughter can be especially effective if your timing is perfect and you inject a 'funny bone' teaser to relieve the tension of a conflict," says Dr. Walfish.
Taking on a Few Household Chores
Even if these chores are not your own, but on the list of to-dos your partner signed up for, helping out in more ways than you've been asked means a great deal to your S.O. "This can turn into a mutually reciprocated activity," says Colleen Mullen, Psy.D., L.M.F.T., founder of Coaching Through Chaos. "Some couples take turns picking one night a week to do this for the other partner so that one gets more time to relax after a long day."