There are many ways to show you love someone beyond just saying the words “I love you.” Literally. There are different love languages. It’s a whole concept that fits relatively neatly into the five love languages (as developed by Gary Chapman). They are:
Personally, every time I think about love languages, I think about Carly Rae Jepsen’s lyric from her song “The Sound:” “I don’t need the words, I want the sound.” Because love is not just something someone tells you. It’s something you can feel because of how they show you.
Whether you’re looking for different ways to tell your friends, your partner(s), or family that you love them in creative ways, there are so many out there. We spoke with people about how they express love without saying the words, enveloping the people they care about in acts that make them feel prioritized and supported.
Give a gift so personal, it’ll be hard to feel unloved
Nylah, 27, Colorado
“During the pandemic, my friends sent me all these beautiful letters to congratulate me on selling my first book. I cried when I was reading them, they were so sweet, and it made being away from my friends not feel as devastating. Plus, I had this tangible thing I could keep forever.
“And then, I got the idea to just keep sending people letters. It’s been really good for my mental health because often I get to just immerse myself in writing a sweet note to a friend, or even to a stranger. I joined Rachel Syme’s Penpalpalooza, for example, and it helps my creativity.
“I get really fancy stationary and put polaroids and sometimes dried flowers or stickers inside the letters. One of my friends actually just bought me a wax seal set. He said, he knew I’d love it because I’ve been writing so many letters in quarantine. And when I get letters back from my friends, it’s the best feeling. I keep them all, and sometimes I just go back and look at them when I’m feeling down. It makes you feel a lot less alone when you can hold the proof that people love you in your hands.”
Remind them you’re on the same wavelength through an act of service
Ruth, 25, New York
“I have been with my partner for more than 4 years now and one of the things I appreciate the most about our relationship is the way we’ve learned what makes the other person happy. Sometimes, it’s buying an extra pint of their favorite ice cream and putting it in the freezer as a surprise.
“As time passes, we’ve also learned to predict what might make them happy as a surprise, or before they even know it themselves. This means dropping off some empanadas or other treats after an exhausting day, queuing up a song the other person loves before they come in. Bonus points if you’d never listen to it on your own.
“I have a chronic illness, and often when I’m feeling down and gross and unlovable, he will come over and make me fresh ginger tea.”
Let them know they’re on your mind
AJ, 22, London
“I’ve baked cookies for friends and sent them in the post, usually with a few small gifts and a written note to let them know that I’m thinking of them and that I want them to have some nice things. I like making personalized playlists for my friends. And I like buying my friends nice food because for me, food isn’t just fuel, but something joyful, and I want my friends to experience that too.
“Essentially, I do things so that my loved ones know they’re on my mind, and to remind them they’re deserving of nice things.”
Amplify your care with a tender touch
Shannon, 24, New York
“Since my love language is touch, I’m so into physical affection to show care and love with my family, friends, and partner. I also try to listen and show that I’m listening. I’ll make a mental note of something my girlfriend says is bothering her, or something she likes or needs, and act accordingly. If she mentions she’s sore, I’ll offer a massage. She sent me a picture of a plant she thought was pretty months ago. So, I got it for her as an anniversary gift in December. Things like that are how I tell her I love her (in addition to saying the words about 50 times a day!)”
Make time to collaborate and create
Payton, 17, Pennsylvania
“Quality time is love. My partner and I have been dating for around 2 years now, which is amazing. But sometimes it’s difficult to find different ways to show him that I love him. Still, with time, I found that one of my favorite activities is to cook or bake anything with my partner. It can be anything from macaroons to a microwave mug cake — as long as there’s a collaborative environment. I feel strongly that food connects people. And even between the small little bickering of measuring an ingredient, I feel as though I am showing my love. Sometimes, these small activities mean more than going to an expensive restaurant.
“Aside from that, personally, I think love can be shown in a myriad of ways, even when you’re not with your partner. I show love by actively engaging in a conversation with my partner (and I do the same with family members and friends). That can even be done over text or FaceTime. The small act of paying attention and making eye contact shows that you love that person and are truly interested in what they have to say.”
Understand that everyone in your life has a different way of receiving love
Dani, 26, Massachusetts
“I haven’t seen my mami (mom) in person for a year because I moved to Boston, and then COVID-19 hit. I FaceTime her every day to let her know that I care about her, and that I’m thinking of her. If I don’t call her for more than 2 days in a row, she’ll text me and say, ‘Are you mad at me?’ ‘What’s going on?’ So, I have to be sure I call.
“For my sister, who I also haven’t seen in a year, I buy her delivery takeout food because I know sometimes she gets depressed and doesn’t want to cook for herself. I offer to buy her random things here and there, like a Nintendo Switch game.
“For my girlfriend, I like to get her things at the store that make us happy despite COVID-19… like a bottle of coke or sour s’ghetti at CVS. Sometimes we split a two pack of Reese’s or Twix. These are coveted treats for us and always are a surprise. We both do it for each other, it’s a small thing, but it goes a long way on those days.
“I like to show most of my friends I care by sending them memes or talking to them about something pop culture, FaceTiming when possible, things like that.”
Learn how to verbalize your love language
Elliott, 35, Tennessee
“I’m a firm believer in the five love languages. Words of affirmation, which is the category that saying ‘I love you’ would fall under, is actually pretty low on my list. I’ve had so many people in my life give the occasional ‘I love you’ and then bounce or use that as the bare minimum and do nothing else that I need more.
“The highest one for me is acts of service. Here are some ways that can look for me. ‘I noticed your car was acting iffy, so I took it to the shop for you’ or ‘Since you had a rough day at work, I went ahead and made dinner’ or ‘I know it’s your turn to do dishes, but I went ahead and did them, so you could have more time for video games tonight.’ It’s less about doing work for a person and more about noticing details of their life and loving them enough to want to make life easier for them.
“Another high one for me is gifts. That one gets a bad rap because people think gifts have to be sort of cash cows I-want-it-all things. But honestly, for me, it means a lot just to get a keychain from a business trip or my favorite candy bar while he’s out running errands. It’s another thing where it’s concrete proof people are noticing who you are.”