Having a significant other is great. Having great friends is also fabulous. In short, having people that love you is like drinking hot chocolate and watching Friends reruns. You feel all warm and toasty inside and can probably feel your heart lurching forward and growing three sizes.
Affirmations of love are the best things since sliced bread, but the really surprising fact remains that they don't even need to cost a penny. You don't even need to spend hours planning!
At its crux, the words 'I love you' remind us that we are both capable of loving another person and that we are ourselves loved. It's like killing two emotionally distressed birds with one cupid's arrow. Okay, the metaphor got a little tangled, but you get my drift.
To be honest, these gestures don't even need to be romantic – often, filial or platonic friendships are just as intimate and life-affirming. Don't be afraid to let your homies know how much they mean to you, too!
(For Beginners in Love) Some quick compliments:
These are easily squeezed into the conversation and can really make your partner's day! Remember to mix in the classics with the more rogue, intimate (even bizarre) compliments!
1. I love you, by the way.
Be careful not to blindside them too much, but a casual declaration of your affection cannot be overstated. It shows you're comfortable with your emotions and ready to commit and make the first move towards emotional symbiosis.
2. You look really great today.
3. I love your hair/shoes/jacket.
While we won't always compliment our loved ones' physical attributes, we shouldn't shy away from them entirely. It's nice to feel good and have people notice!
4. Your smile could probably light up a city block.
5. I would do stupid things to hear you laugh.
6. I love us/I love our dynamic.
This one doesn't seem as important as the big ILY on its own. However, this pairing of unified language and the explicit appreciation of your relationship together is extremely important. Your loved one can then feel both powerful and desirable in a relationship and alone.
7. You remind me of Spring.
8. You have something of a world-ending singing-voice.
9. I could listen to you talk for days.
10. Have I ever told you how much it meant to me that you (insert nuanced memory).
11. My parents would love you.
This shows an intention to take the next step in the relationship and introduce your family to your special person. Also, this language anticipates a future together in general terms. It's always nice to be featured in people's longer-term plans.
(For Intermediates in Love) Some affectionate sentiments:
For these sections, it may well be that you've already exchanged 'I love you's with your best pal, but you want to mix things up a bit. Here, you need a touch more effort, but the pay-out is still immense.
Basically, the rule of thumb is you would love it. They probably will too'. Even if you diverge in tastes with your partner, you can use these as a stepping-off point.
12. Leave post it notes.
Leave compliments around the house if you're gone
13. Do the dishes.
And clean the flat if you know they've had a long day
14. Schedule a date night.
And cook their favourite meal and spring for a bottle of the good stuff!
15. Bring some chocolates or something sweet home from work.
Just for the hell of it
16. Tag them in a Facebook meme.
Thirty tiny Labrador puppies clambering over each other. Warning, they might die of cuteness.
17. Suggest cooking or baking a new recipe for the first time.
Bonus points for if it's a family recipe or has traditional roots. You're destined for a very sweet time even if it tastes rubbish!
18. Buy plants!
This is like buying flowers - but better. While flowers last for a week and look pretty, if you plant a new fern or laurel bush, you're in it for the long haul. You can also research the symbolic meaning of the plant so that your expression of love can extend beyond 'Roses to say sorry.' Sorry guys, I know you mean well, but we're well past that!
19. Swap books that you love, or buy a new book that you think they will love.
Leave it on their nightstand and don't make a huge deal out of it. This shows you making an effort and wanting to share hobbies. You can tell so much about a person by their bookshelf. Maybe even suggest going in together to buy a bookshelf!
20. Help them assemble IKEA furniture.
It's not one for the fainthearted, but if you can survive it, you're golden. Just kick those four nails that you didn't use under the bed and hope they weren't important. As long as your relationship is stable, the nightstand doesn't need to be.
21. Get them a new glasses case when you recognise theirs is unalterably in tatters – or equivalent.
Here, you must be mindful that the tattered glasses case might still have symbolic value to the person. Use common sense, but the principle of anticipating their needs shows how important you are to them.
22. Send a postcard to their house just for the sake of it.
Write something magical on the back, or just copy up a naff poem or your favourite quote. I guarantee it's going straight on their pin-board.
23. Facetime them just when you want a chat.
Texting is so last century, and it's always nice to know someone misses your face.
(For those Advanced in Love) Some heartfelt gestures:
We are in surprise territory for established couples that know enough of each other's tendencies but still have scope for change. This is where it's worth checking that they do actually like surprises! It's not fun for anyone planning a huge public party for a very reserved person, so do reflect on whether they want it. Sometimes I project what I would like done for me in what I do for others and it can be counterintuitive.
24. Surprise them with a trip to their hometown for Christmas when you're sensing they're homesick.
You'll get bonus points with the parents and you will likely get taken on an invigorating walk after being fed to within an inch of your life. It's a win-win situation.
25. Buy them a new winter jacket or a beanbag for their living room.
A slightly bigger present or gesture than the glasses case, but the difference is huge. This means you're invested in the infrastructure of their home and every time they collapse into the beanbag, they will think of you.
26. Take them on a country walk to a fancy estate and have high tea.
It's specific and probably relies on a manor house nearby, but this sophisticated excuse to get the fancy digs on and treat yourself is so important. It shows that you can be mature and prioritize a fun activity just as much as less formal cinema or shopping trips.
27. Give them a drawer in your house.
Or the modern-day equivalent. Once it starts, you won't want to stop leaving your things in each other's houses. The toothbrush spirals into shoes and coats, and soon enough, you have a spare coffee press in their cabinet. There's no going back from moving your caffeine choice in. There just isn't.
(For Experts in Love) Some long-term Plans:
These aren't for fledgling relationships. I am just putting that out there. These are for people in committed relationships that might even be gearing up for another big four-word phrase in the near future.
28. Getting a puppy together.
Other animals are available. This is one to play close to the heart because I am certainly not going to suggest that you get a communal puppy if you aren't in it for the long haul. Maybe even adopt an older dog if you aren't sure, but this is a great way for committed adults to demonstrate their willingness to start a family and establish roots and responsibility for a third party.
29. Get matching tattoos.
Okay, I can hear the disapproval from miles away. I know it's a risk if you break up, but I'm not necessarily suggesting getting each others' names emblazoned across your foreheads. However, having something small or symbolic or the subject of a shared joke can feel extremely intimate and unifying. You have something of them on your person with you at all times. Maybe save this one for after marriage.
30. Get married.
(Or civil partnership, or commit to each other forever if monogamy is your thing). Obviously.
This list isn't exhaustive, and when in doubt, use your instincts.