If you relied on movies and TV to teach you about love, you’d think it’s all about men making swoony declarations like Lloyd Dobler with his boom box in Say Anything or Andrew Lincoln in Love, Actually, holding those cue cards.
But in real life, love’s not really like that, is it?
In real life, love is knowing a person’s face, learning how their eyes flash when they’re happy, how they like to be touched when they’re sad or happy or turned on, and how to get through conflict together.
It also means knowing what makes that person feel loved, and wanting to do that for them.
Relationship coach James M. Sama wrote a fun list for guys about little things women like in a big way, and how to make women happy.
Well, I say the same goes for guys. Regardless of whether you’re married or newly committed, if you’ve got a good man to love, he deserves to feel that way, too.
Here are 7 seemingly minor sweet things to do for your boyfriend or husband that make men feel loved:
1. Compliment him.
Where did we get the notion that only women like to be told they look good, smell good, are hot, smart, or sexy?
All my life I had the idea that guys were more secure about their looks than women are. Guys are supposed to not care about things like what clothes they wear or whether their new haircut looks good, right?
Well, that’s BS! I’ve never met a guy who didn’t care at all whether the person he loved thought he was attractive. So let him know when you see him and just get that oh my gosh you are so hot tingle.
It’s easy: Tell him the good stuff when it occurs to you. Tell him he looks hot when he wears that old beat-up tee shirt. Let him know how much you love smelling his neck when you hug.
2. Tell him you appreciate what he does for you and your family.
If your partner works outside the home, let him know that you appreciate what he does. Even if he loves his job, I guarantee you there are days when he thinks about throwing in the towel or yelling at his boss, or just hiding away in his office all day. But he doesn’t do it. Part of the reason might be you, and your family.
Breadwinning is an incredible responsibility for any person, and society emphasizes this even more so for men. Their earning ability, sadly, is often attached to their value in our society. As crappy as that may be, it’s only made worse when we don’t recognize the pressure men are under and their effort.
If your partner is working at home with the kids, he’s also sacrificing for your family.
As much as he probably loves being the at-home parent, and finds immense joy in it, all parents have times when they, too, want to throw in the towel (or diaper), yell at the boss (the baby?), or hide in a corner. But they don’t! They’re in there, elbow-deep in something yucky, and caring for the kids all day long.
It’s easy: Tell him that you know how hard it can be to do what he does. Tell him you appreciate it and that you see his commitment. It’s not about the money—yours or his—it’s about acknowledging something that society usually takes for granted.
3. Make time for things to get hot in the bedroom.
The best intimacy feels transcendent, mutual, connected, steamy, and dreamy—so keep it sacred and intense for both of you. Making him feel like you really crave him, and him reciprocating, will probably make both your lives happier.
Nobody ever owes it to their partner, but cultivating desire is a good thing in a healthy relationship. If it’s challenging to get into the mood when you’re at home, try for a night in a hotel room.
If that’s out of your budget, a tent in the woods can be really fun, too. Even at home you can talk about fantasies or look at sexy photos together, like the diverse set in Dr. Timaree’s NSFW library, if that works for you.
Or take some boudoir photos of yourself. Don’t feel up for showing your whole body or getting too racy? Try taking close-ups of a sexy but not-so-obvious body part. Your bra strap on your shoulder, the top of your undies peeking out from your jeans at the hip. There are lots of ideas out there for inspiration.
It’s easy: Nurture your desire for him. Choose to fantasize about him, about a time you were together, about that favorite part of his body that you love so much. Then heap all that desire upon him when you have the next opportunity to be together, alone.
4. Be supportive of his alone time.
I’ll be honest, this one was the hardest for me. I don’t know why, but when Ivan and I were first together, I resented how much time he spent surfing or riding his mountain bike. We were both working, we didn’t see each other a whole lot, and I felt like I was cast aside.
That was a lot of pressure to put on my husband, and not very fair. We eventually learned how to schedule our alone time—and I took advantage of him being so supportive of my need to work out, write or just read a book in bed.
Unless he’s so absorbed in his alone time that you disappear from his priorities, your separateness is a good thing! If you’re worried about how long he’ll be gone, just set a time when he’ll be back and make plans together for later. Being apart can give you more to talk about, and when his alone time is used for exercise or meditation, he’ll probably be happier and healthier for having done it.
It’s easy: Smile when he says he’s off to do the things that make him happy on his own. Give him a kiss. He’ll feel seen, heard, and supported.
5. Put down your phone.
I’m as guilty as everyone else on this. There’s always one more email, one more text from a friend, another work emergency popping up. But you need to set that phone down and see the man in front of you.
When I get stuck in this cycle I try to take a deep breath and consider the worst thing that could happen if I ignored whatever is buzzing at me. If it’s a true emergency, of course, he understands, but most things can wait.
Often when I put down my phone I see him there, and really look at his face. I see the man that I love, the man I met so many years ago, and I think about how absurd it is that I’m not engaging with him.
Make a deal with your partner—if you have to pick up your phone for something urgent, let the other know what it is in just a few words.
“The server is down,” or “The sitter is calling,” are justifiable reasons to step away for a moment, but let him know why you’re doing it and that you’ll be back.
It’s easy: Be in the moment when you’re with the person you love. Try not to let it slip by while you stare at a screen.
6. When you get something for yourself, get something for him, too.
I admit, I lifted this one straight from the pen of James Sama, but it’s powerful advice and so easy to do!
Picking up a coffee? Grab him one! Making a cup of tea? Offer to make him one, too.
I learned this lesson a long time ago: If I’m ever at a surf shop, I bring Ivan home a present.
I’m usually there picking up something for the kids, but I always grab a tee-shirt, or a cap, or even just a new lip balm or tube of sunscreen for my husband.
It’s not about the money spent, it’s about the fact that I’m saying to him, “I know you love surf shops, and I thought of you when I was there.”
It’s easy: It only takes a second to say, “Can I get you one?” and the effect ripples out infinitely.
7. Look him in the eyes.
You don’t have to stare longingly at one another like you used to with your 9th-grade boyfriend at the roller rink. Just take a moment to connect, eye-to-eye, and share looks with one another.
If you listened to stereotypes about what guys like, you wouldn’t think a soul-gazing connection would be on his list of good things, but I dare you to try it. Look him in the eye with a smile or a playful expression, and hold his gaze for three seconds.
It’s a flirting technique that works for single people because it makes the other person feel like the only one in the room. He may be your boyfriend or husband now, but he still deserves to feel special.
It’s easy: Catch his eye. Smile. Repeat.
One key to a lasting relationship is to give your partner a million happy little moments with you, and he should do the same in return.
After all, studies show that a happy marriage seems to come down to how much kindness exists between the partners.
It’s not always easy to do some of these items, even though I tried to make it seem like it is. Sometimes they require us to be vulnerable in a way we’re not used to. I get it, I’ve been there, sometimes I’m still there. But I think it’s worth it to give it a shot.
And ask him about his list of little things that make him happy — I bet you’re already doing a lot of them.
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Joanna Schroeder is a feminist writer and media critic whose writing has appeared on sites like the New York Times, Time, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, BuzzFeed, Babble, Everyday Feminism, Vox, and more. Follow her on Twitter for more.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.