Need a surefire way to make your partner’s day? Forget the flowers and home-cooked meal, and instead offer a compliment. As studies have found—and nearly everyone who’s had a bad day can confirm—a heartfelt expression of appreciation has power, capable of everything from boosting self-esteem to helping to strengthen and nourish relationships (compliments are just one of these 10 little habits of super-connected couples).
Of course, experts are quick to point out that not all praise is created equal. A meaningful compliment is genuine, timely, positive, and specific—calling out qualities that make the person unique, such as the way their eyes sparkle when they laugh or how they crack themselves up while telling a joke. No need to overthink it, though. “When you want to compliment a partner, just try and empathize and really figure out what they want to hear and why,” advises relationship expert April Masini. Try these 9 types of compliments to make your partner’s day. (And prepare for your own compliments to come in when lose up to 25 pounds in 2 months—and look more radiant than ever—with Prevention’s new Younger In 8 Weeks plan!)
“Compliments serve as deposits in a couple’s emotional savings account, so that you have a foundation to draw on when tough times or conflicts arise,” explains Jean Fitzpatrick, LP, a relationship therapist in New York City. “They also have a profound effect on the complimenter. As you get into the habit of complimenting your partner, you grow increasingly aware of what makes them special. You avoid taking them for granted.”
“You did a good job.”
- Your partner may love when you rave about his broad shoulders or her dimples, but don’t forget to speak up when you’re bowled away by their talents or accomplishments. “I really like when my husband compliments me on a project I’ve worked on, like the closet system and how nicely it turned out,” says Stacy G. “I like that because it makes me realize that he recognizes how much time and effort I put into it.” (You won’t want to miss these 5 secrets for a happy relationship from a couple who met 84 years ago.)
- “I love when my fiancé tells me that I’m funny. I think I’m pretty funny, but it’s nice to hear I’m not the only one who thinks so!” says Brittany C.
- Sure, complimenting your partner’s appearance may feel a little clichéd, but it can be a major mood booster, especially if your kind words are sincere and specific (here are 8 more tricks to banish a gloomy mood in 60 seconds or less). “My husband will tell me how beautiful I look first thing in the morning, and it gives me a boost to start my day,” says Maria P.
- People love knowing that their partner notices their acts of kindness and generosity. In fact, Christabel J. says her most cherished compliment is when her husband says she has a good heart. “I can sometimes underestimate myself, and hearing him say that makes me feel like I’m doing something good,” she says. “Also, my mom has a good heart, so it’s nice to see that I inherited that from her.” (Try these 3 simple ways to be a whole lot more empathetic.)
- Never underestimate the importance of showing gratitude. “Words of appreciation grow side-by-side with compliments,” Fitzgerald points out. “Just as you notice special or unique qualities of your partner, be sure to thank them for particular actions you notice, even if they’re everyday chores like taking out the garbage. The idea is to be sure your partner feels noticed, that they matter to you.”
“You’re a great lover.”
- Doreen S. likes when her husband asks her for a “playdate.” “After two kids, it’s good to know he still wants to ‘play’ with me,” she says. (If you’re looking to shake your “playdates” up, see what happened when one woman tried out a couples vibrator with her husband.)
- She’s hardly alone. In fact, praising your partner’s bedroom techniques isn’t just great for foreplay, it’s also a good way to nurture intimacy and strengthen your bond, Masini says. “Be genuine,” she says. “Think about what your partner wants to hear—or doesn’t want to hear. Be creative and step outside your comfort zone.”
- Getting a shout-out about their intelligence is a surefire way to bring a smile to your partner’s face, especially if they think you’re pretty smart, too. “The compliment I love to hear the most is, ‘Yeah, that’s a great point,’ when we’re talking about someone’s emotions or reason for doing or saying something,” says Ben M. “My wife is such a well-regarded psychologist, so when she says I make a great point, I feel really good.”
- Katie R. agrees, “Probably the best compliments I get from my boyfriend are about being smart. He’s one of the smartest people I know, so it means a lot coming from him.”
“You’re special to me.”
- Being reminded that you mean the world to your partner is one compliment that never gets old. “I love when my fiancée tells me that her time with me is worthwhile,” says Phil J. “It makes me feel like she values our time together more than anything.” (Take a look at these 10 things happy couples do every day to keep their love strong.)
- Donna B. adores it when her wife “tells me that I complete her, that she loves me with all of her heart, that I make her laugh hard, and that I’m the ‘strangest’ person in the world, but she wouldn’t change a thing about me.”
“You’re an incredible parent.”
- Raising a child is rewarding, but it can also be unbelievably tough. (And it’s not like your child is regularly praising your parenting style!) Next time your partner goes into super-parent mode, be sure to call it out. “It means a lot when my husband tells me I’m doing an amazing job raising our daughter,” says Melissa G. “It may sound strange, but right now he’s working all the time to support us. It’s a big change for me, so it feels good knowing I’m doing a good job taking care of our child.”