Expressing affection for your significant other, physically, mentally, and emotionally is essential for the health of your relationship. But as everyone knows, there are times during any courtship where you're more or less able to provide your partner with the TLC they need—and that's okay. However, relationship experts remind couples that affection in a romantic relationship is key to both short- and long-term satisfaction. "For a relationship to be successful it needs four things: time, attention, affection, and sex—and, depending on your language of love, affection could be the most important thing," says Tammy Nelson, Ph.D., couples therapist and the author of "The New Monogamy."
Wondering if you're giving your partner enough TLC? Here are some possible signs that you could be doling out even more.
Your partner is particularly moody.
If your partner is grumpy or tearful, some TLC might be just what they need. "A big hug, rubbing their arm, or just asking if they want to talk can be helpful," says Edelman. "Even if your partner doesn't want to talk, it can help to know you're there and that you care."
Your partner just experienced a loss.
Grieving is hard, but it's often easier when you have someone around to console you. That's what you become when your partner is experiencing a loss—their consoler. Step into this role, whether it's in response to the loss of a friend or family member or a job. "Knowing that they have your support can be a huge comfort at this difficult time," says Edelman. "Even if they seem to be handling it well, they probably could use some TLC."
Your partner is flat-out asking for attention.
"There is a fine balance between learning how to be attending in your relationship and, at the same time, allowing your partner to self-calm or soothe their own emotions," says Lisa Bahar, a marriage and family therapist. "Always respond with a kind of affection that is nurturing and healing, and avoid responding to pouting or anger with affection."
There's a feeling of distance between you.
If you've felt distant from your partner as of late, and maybe even noticed that he or she is disconnecting from you, consider amping up the TLC. Start with communication. "Ask how your partner is feeling and consider some specific solutions if they have some answer," suggests Bahar. Maybe there's something he or she has been meaning to tell you, and inciting conversation about the topic makes it easier for him or her to bring it up. "Keep it small talk, but demonstrate your willingness," adds Bahar.
He or she is looking to their friends to understand them and nurture them.
This could be a red flag for emotional affairs, which is all about wanting affection and TLC, warns Bahar. "Staying late at office, texting, and so forth are all signs that they're turning to relationships that are based on fantasy. That kind of TLC is not sustainable in reality," she says. By reconnecting in person, you'll help strengthen your bond, and they'll rely less on those outside support systems.