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How to Make Your Partner Feel Special: What to Say to Build Emotional Intimacy

“Here’s what I love about you…”

Have you ever longed to hear your partner open up about feeling touched or moved in being with you? Do you sometimes wonder what your loved one’s experience is like at certain moments?

You may feel the urge to tell your partner how much he or she matters — and how much your relationship means to you. But so often, we hold back from speaking from the heart. Maybe we’re afraid of fumbling with the words, or looking silly.

We crave emotional intimacy. But sharing what we really feel, think, and fear about our relationship — the idea is terrifying to so many of us. How do you put words on your most tender feelings for your partner?

What if your partner doesn’t get you? What if your partner laughs, changes the subject, or dismisses you?

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Why We Fear Rejection

The comedy show, Master of None, dramatizes our great fear of rejection. Dev, an aspiring actor, dreams of being with Francesca, a beautiful brunette he fantasizes about.

In Dev’s dream (spoiler alert!), she’s apologizing for acting weird, because, “I’m leaving soon…. I’m really going to miss you…. I feel sad because I don’t want to leave you.” She steps toward him, and as Dev moves to kiss her, she recoils.

In a flash her tenderness turns to scorn. She laughs, “Oh my God, you do have feelings for me! Oh no! Ha ha ha!” The dream morphs into a nightmare as she rips Dev’s beating heart from his chest and shreds it in a wood chipper.

While this scene is a surreal fantasy, it points out an important truth. Our fears of a lover’s rejection are real. They’re deep. They’re big. And they often stop us from saying what our partner needs to hear for the relationship to feel whole, rich, and strong.

The Need to Build Emotional Intimacy is Human

We fear rejection because intimacy is so vital to our survival. Love is not a luxury. To thrive, we need to know we are accepted, wanted, and feel we belong with someone who cares — someone we care for and want to be with in return.

Intimacy — emotional connection — only happens when we share the deeper parts of ourselves. I see many couples who are struggling because they feel disconnected. They’re together but lonely.

It takes courage to speak from the heart. It takes bravery and effort to put feelings into words. It takes dedication from both partners to make the relationship a safe place for emotions and vulnerability to emerge.

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How to Make Your Partner Feel Loved and Wanted

Here are some sample phrases to build emotional connection you can try and adapt for yourself. They’re like templates to help you explore speaking from the heart.

There’s no one perfect way to build emotional intimacy. But if you’d like some ideas to work with, here are some tender expressions to try.

When a loved one does you a favor, goes the extra mile, or helps you out:

  • Go beyond “Thank you.” Share some of your deeper feelings about it.
  • “When you [did X], I felt so taken care of.”
  • “It feels good to know you’re looking out for me”

When a partner does something you know is hard for him or her:

  • I love it when you… [fill in the blank] because…
  • “I love it when you go to the gym with me. It means you’re taking care of yourself and we’ll be together longer.”
  • “I love it when you walk with me. Because it means we can spend more time together.”
  • “I’m so glad you’re doing this. It means a lot to me that you want to stay healthy for us.”

When your partner puts effort into something for you both to enjoy, like cooking or a home improvement:

  • Go beyond “That was good.” or “That looks nice.”
  • Be curious. Get the story about your loved one’s creativity or effort.
  • “I really love this meal. Where did you get the idea?”
  • “The new paint looks wonderful. You put in a ton of time on it! How did you find the energy after working all week?”

Build on Everyday Moments, Simple Pleasures, Quirks

Intimacy comes about by sharing what’s unique to you. It’s built when you see and respond warmly to each other’s deeper emotions, what you’re thinking and feeling, and your quirks. Making your inner world visible and clear for your partner gives emotional connection a chance to happen.

Happy couples build a habit of sharing themselves through life’s ordinary moments. They share bigger thank-yous for bigger rescues — coming to change a flat tire, or making the extra round trip to the airport when your flight is cancelled. But big gestures aren’t required for couples to find happiness together. Bonding in little moments matters just as much, if not more.

You can connect meaningfully over simple pleasures. Couples build connection by being present to celebrate everyday happy moments — the dog romping, the children playing, the garden in bloom. Show your delight in your partner and in your world together. You can do this by catching each other’s eye, sharing a smile, a touch, or expressions and words.

Think about the things you appreciate about your partner that others are not likely to see. Let your partner know how special that is.

My husband is very funny in private. He rarely jokes so freely with others. But when it’s just the two of us, he’s hilarious. He makes me laugh every day. Sharing laughter is one way to show how much I enjoy seeing this side of him. But I also will give him a hug and a kiss and tell him I appreciate how funny he is.

Pain is the Impetus for Connection, Not the Enemy of Emotional Intimacy

We can end up feeling shortchanged in life if we miss out on ways to share the emotional world inside.

Partners need to know they are loved and wanted. To feel connected, we need to let each other know about our life experiences, and how we are dealing with them.

Opening up takes work and courage. Being vulnerable is key to savoring life’s richer moments. When you can see and accept each other deeply, you create a loving safe haven together.

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