— Getty/Cecilie_Arcurs

If you were to conduct an on-the-street survey aiming to discover what people either want from a relationship or most cherish in the relationship they have, some of the top statements will most likely be: “I want a partner who makes me feel valued.” “What do I love about my spouse? They really make me feel valued.”

Now, what constitutes this emotional value can vary wildly between people, and deducing how your partner prefers to be appreciated can be a process. But actively engaging in it is one of the cornerstones of any healthy relationship, according to Dr. Ryan Warner, a clinical psychologist and mental health expert. “To truly make your partner feel valued,” he says, “focus on understanding their individual preferences and showing appreciation for their unique qualities.”

It’s this emphasis on individuality that can really make your partner feel seen and, by extension, valued. After all, who doesn’t want their own idiosyncrasies and special attributes to be picked up on, especially by the person they’re sharing their life with? It’s also important to extend this appreciation to your partner’s goals for the future—few things make someone feel more valued than knowing that their partner is tuned in not only to their self-image, but their idea of who they’d like to become.

To truly make your partner feel valued, focus on understanding their individual preferences and showing appreciation for their unique qualities.

But how does this work in practice? Making someone feel valued should involve a multifaceted approach, according to Dr. Warner — a combination of both adhering to broad principles for your relationship as well as offering small, surprising gestures. The bedrock values at play are active listening and empathy, alongside open and honest communication. Without these baseline qualities, which can be reinforced in every interaction, a relationship is unlikely to flourish into one where both partners feel that the other is taking them seriously.

Where your good intentions may go astray in the process of demonstrating active listening is when you appear to only understand your partner’s emotions in the context of your own.

“Rather than accepting your partner’s emotions and supporting them, partners may often fall into the trap of giving advice or bringing their own anxiety into the conversation,” says clinical psychologist and founder of Therapy Lab Dr. Chandler Chang. “It helps to remember that your partner is a grown-up and can handle their life without your intervention.”

If your partner is dealing with a challenge, Chang advises that you should keep your stress and anxiety to yourself. “It helps to be a cheerleader, not the coach,” she says. Avoiding the advice and anxiety trap will also help prevent your partner from feeling that you only respect their priorities when they align perfectly with your own.

One frequent misstep is taking the relationship for granted [and] assuming that love alone is enough.

Next, you’ll want to find ways to go above and beyond for your partner. This doesn’t mean becoming extravagant or finding complicated ways to impress them. Simplicity can just as well be your friend here. There’s a reason roses and chocolates became a cliché, after all: they work.

“Quality time together, shared activities, and affectionate gestures further underscore your commitment,” says Dr. Warner.

Also crucial is to keep expressions of affection and appreciation regular and without fanfare — and you don’t want to wait until these gestures are conspicuously absent from your relationship. You may try and convince yourself that they’ll have more impact that way, but if you want your partner to feel that they’re worth a night out, a night in, or a desperately needed night off for no reason at all? Then hey: give them one for no reason at all.

This can also be a way for you to demonstrate active listening without calling too much attention to it or patting yourself on the back. If they offhandedly mention a burgeoning interest in, say, the migratory patterns of local birds, and a month later you come home with a documentary on this specific subject from the library? Bingo. Who wouldn’t feel valued then?

Ultimately it’s the consistency and sincerity of these small gestures that solidify your partner’s sense of value in the relationship.

This kind of effort will help you avoid another major pitfall in relationships that can make your partner feel undervalued: apathy.

“One frequent misstep is taking the relationship for granted [and] assuming that love alone is enough,” says Dr. Warner. This can more often than not lead to one neglecting the bedrock principles we discussed earlier, resulting in feelings of neglect. “Being overly critical or judgmental, dismissing their concerns, or trying to change them can also harm the sense of being valued,” he adds. All of the many ways you can prioritize your needs over those of your partner will take a toll on the relationship in time.

Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all playbook to making your partner feel valued. The trick is to actively look for opportunities for engagement that have a specific relationship to your partner’s life, as well as the life you share. These opportunities can come from anywhere, even popping up in the most casual and quotidian of daily routines.

Dr. Chang suggests sharing a story from your day or simply a fun fact you learned. “It’s nice to reveal what’s on your mind and can create emotional connection and trust,” she says, adding that saying “thank you” often and with sincerity is also important. So, too is attention: “When in conversation, try to put your phone face down or away from you so there’s no question that you’re paying attention,” sharing a reminder many need to hear.

No, your partner most likely doesn’t need the moon on a string in order to feel like they’re an important part of your world; they simply need you to show up for them day-to-day. “Ultimately,” says Dr. Warner, “it’s the consistency and sincerity of these small gestures that solidify your partner’s sense of value in the relationship.”