How To Say 'I Love You' Without Giving A Gift

Figuring out your partner's love language will let you know what makes them feel loved.
There are lots of ways to communicate love without buying anything.
There are lots of ways to communicate love without buying anything.

The key to a great Valentine’s Day isn’t what you buy. It’s how you feel about the person you’re with. Of course, that can easily get lost in the rush to find the perfect gift and all the pressure to get the holiday “right.” But all that really matters is that you make your partner feel loved in a way that will resonate with them.

A really effective way to do this is to find out your partner’s love language — and, even more importantly, your own. The idea, which comes from a 1992 book by Gary Chapman, is that there are five distinct ways people show and receive love, and we all have them in differing orders and amounts: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, physical touch or receiving gifts. You can take the online quiz to figure out what yours is, and what your partner’s might be.

Once you’re armed with that knowledge, you’re well equipped to figure out how best to show someone you love them. Here are some ideas based on your beloved’s love language.

Words of affirmation

If your partner is someone who loves hearing how you feel, they’re in the majority: words of affirmation is the most common love language. That means they feel most loved when they’re told that they’re appreciated and when you explain in detail what they mean to you.

That doesn’t mean lobbing insincere compliments at them all the time, Gary Chapman, the creator of the love language, previously told HuffPost. It means that when you think about how happy you are, you say it out loud.

Telling someone you love how you feel about them can make them feel really valued, if their love language is words of affirmation.
Telling someone you love how you feel about them can make them feel really valued, if their love language is words of affirmation.

“The important thing is that the words are spoken sincerely as an expression of your love for them ― not an effort to manipulate them to do something for you.”

Little things to do every day: Compliment them on something they do well, tell them what you appreciate about being in a relationship with them, and if you really mean it, then say “I love you” often.

What to do on Valentine’s Day: A love letter might seem weird at first, but it could mean a lot to them. If that’s not your speed, just tell them how you feel. Be detailed, thorough and honest — it will help to write out your thoughts beforehand.

Quality time

Someone who’s into quality time craves the bond that comes from spending uninterrupted time together. This is really a quality-not-quantity thing: it’s not just about hanging out, but about being really engaged when you spend time with one another.

Little things to do every day: Make time for them in a real way, where you know you won’t have any distractions — and for God’s sake, put your phone away when you’re hanging out! Eye contact and active listening are key, too.

Making eye contact is important for someone whose love language is quality time.
Making eye contact is important for someone whose love language is quality time.

What to do on Valentine’s Day: Make an itinerary of things to do together, even if they’re just things to do at home: making breakfast, going on a long walk, watching their favourite movies.

Once the pandemic is over, consider setting up a date night — weekly, biweekly, or whatever makes sense — and getting a date jar, where you each put in date night ideas and choose a random one every time.

Acts of service

If you’re dating or living with or married to someone whose love language is acts of service, little gestures that make them happy or make their life easier will let them know how much you care.

Little things to do every day: It’s going to depend on knowing what they like and dislike. Not a morning person but loves a good fresh brew first thing? Make and bring them coffee in bed. Did they mention a novel they can’t wait to read but don’t have time to go get? Pick them up a copy. Do they seem overloaded with house work and don’t have much time to play with their dogs? Do those dishes so they have more time to play with the pooches.

Does your partner hate shovelling snow? Offer to do it for them.
Does your partner hate shovelling snow? Offer to do it for them.

What to do on Valentine’s Day: Is there a chore they’ve really been dreading, like unclogging a drain or organizing the sock drawer? Or a weekly task they hate, like meal prep or laundry? It might sound distinctly un-sexy, but if you’re able to take something they were dreading off their list, they’ll be grateful. For people with acts of service as their love language, someone willing to unclog a drain when you didn’t absolutely have to is the purest expression of love possible.

If you’d rather avoid the organizing-the-sock-drawer route, spend the time leading up to Valentine’s to find out what really makes them happy. Is there a meal they love but don’t have the time or energy to cook? Doing it for them will mean a lot. Are they missing the luxury of getting their nails done? Offer to do it for them. The real gift is you taking the time to figure out what will make them happiest, and then doing that thing so they don’t have to.

Physical touch

Sure, sex is part of it, but a physical-touch love language is about much more than sex. These are the people who greet everyone with a hug (pre-pandemic), who grab your shoulder when they’re captivated by what you say. Small gestures like that signify that they care, and it’s how they feel cared for, too.

Little things to do every day: Holding hands, tons of cuddling, stroking their hair, standing close together, and lots of hugs and kisses.

For someone whose love language is physical touch, this is an important part of the relationship.
For someone whose love language is physical touch, this is an important part of the relationship.

What to do on Valentine’s Day: A massage is a great place to start. There are tons of online resources that will show you how to give a relaxing, pleasurable rubdown. You can also consider an at-home spa treatment, like a manicure/pedicure or a foot massage.

Another option, if they miss going clubbing or are just really into swing dance: dancing lessons. Again, the internet is your friend here. As long as you’re holding each other tight, you’re good to go.

Gifts

Okay, fine, maybe this isn’t a gift-free guide to Valentine’s Day after all. But gift-giving is actually the least-common love language.

If your partner is in that group, it doesn’t mean they’re materialistic or that they need expensive presents all the time. It just means that they’re moved when you take the time and effort to pick out something thoughtful for them. It’s less about the object than it is about the thought behind it.

Little things to do every day: If they mention something they want, note it down. If you see something small that makes you think of them, consider picking it up.

What to do on Valentine’s Day: Think about what means a lot to them. Maybe you can pick up something that’s reminiscent of your first date, or the first trip you took together. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a tangible object: you could decorate your living room to look like a restaurant or bar they love, or start planning a post-pandemic vacation to the place they most want to travel.

It's not about the gift itself, it's about the thought behind it.
It's not about the gift itself, it's about the thought behind it.

Really understanding someone, and figuring out what makes them feel valued, is the basis of a romantic relationship. But it can also be really hard. Even just starting to think about your love language, and your partner’s, can go a long way in helping you figure out how to make them feel loved.