I bet if I asked you what you had for breakfast this morning, you'd have a concrete answer. (Even if the answer is "Black coffee" or "Didn't have time.")

But how about if I ask you to recall something arguably more important than a single morning meal? Let's see how you fare:

In what specific way did you make your partner feel important today? Hmmm?

You didn't think of it? Okay, one missed opportunity might not be a big deal. How did you make your significant other feel special yesterday? What's that? You were too busy. I totally understand--when the work day ends, you have to juggle the kids' itineraries: soccer, music lessons, math tutor. Not to mention putting food on the table. Gotcha.

So reach back into the recesses of your memory. What did you do to openly communicate how important your partner or spouse is to you last week? Last month?

I'm sure you get my point. But it's a point that needs stating anyway, since it applies to each and every one of us:

Your marriage or relationship needs continual nurturing in order to remain healthy.

Gardening is an apropos analogy: consistent care (watering, weeding and pruning) is needed for your garden to flourish. Can you imagine what your rose garden would look like after ignoring it for several weeks?

Formula for Love and Intimacy

One of the most effective ways to keep love alive and deepen intimacy is to find ways to make your spouse or partner feel cared for and important.

You and your partner + messages of appreciation = Lasting Love

Here's the best part: you can make your partner feel important in as little time as it takes to comb your hair.

Typically, when we talk to our mates, we tend to focus on the things that have to be done. ( "Are you picking Tobey up from karate, or am I?" "Did you mail the mortgage payment?") And in general, we also naturally tend to point out things that need fixing. ( "Waiter, I asked for the hollandaise on the side…my eggs are drowning in it.") But how often do we take the tiny amount of time to regularly articulate the things that work?

All to often, when things are running smoothly, we begin to neglect what works in our marriages or relationships. The cost of this neglect: you and your partner begin to feel unappreciated, emotional intimacy between you dwindles, sex becomes rote and mechanical. People often rationalize that it isn't so bad living in a chronic state of disconnection from their loved one (after all, most of the couples you know don't seem happy either). Some look to people outside of the relationship to make them feel special and appreciated. It shouldn't be this way. And it doesn't have to.

Change patterns of love-neglect

Keep this simple. In fact, the simpler the better. The goal is to be consistent and make it last. (And most people, no matter how busy, can wedge simple, easy tasks into their routines.) Start with small, loving and supportive statements. Here are few areas to focus on in your marriage or relationship:

Messages of appreciation:

Any sentiment that communicates thanks and gratitude fall into this category:

Make it a habit to say "Thank you" more often, even when you partner or spouse does the little things that s/he has done a million times before (poured you the first cup of morning coffee, fed the dog, took out the trash…even if you had to ask). Make sure your partner hears your thanks. (In other words, don't mutter it or say it under your breath. Be generous with your verbalized gratitude.)

Beyond "Thank you," try to add statements like:

"You're such a giving person";
"That was so thoughtful of you";
"That really helped me";
"I appreciate what you did for me";
"You're such a hard worker";
"You're the best thing that ever happened to me";
"That was kind of you."

As you grow more accustomed to pointing out the positive things, you'll naturally see places where these types of statements will fit. And of course your partner will be more motivated to continue to do whatever it was that earned your warm appreciation. So you shape a wonderfully reciprocal situation when you tell him/her you appreciate something.

Here are some other ideas for statements you can use in other situations:

Messages of love and interest:

"I love you"; "I missed you"; "I can't wait to see you"; "You make me so happy"; "I love spending time with you"; "I look forward to spending time with you"; "I'm thinking of you"; "I love that about you"; "How was your day?"; "I'd love to hear about it"; "How would you like to celebrate?"

Messages of support and commitment:

"We're in this together"; "What can I do to help?"; "Don't worry, I'll take care of it"; "That took a lot of courage"; "I'm so proud of you"; "You did a great job"; "I'm sending you good-luck vibes"; "I'm here for you"; "Tell me what you need."

Gestures of love and support :

Actions often speak louder than words. So in addition to regularly sending your partner verbal messages of appreciation to make him/her feel special, take the necessary action steps to make this happen in other ways. And remember: big gestures aren't necessary. A relationship benefits from regular, consistent, smaller gestures, not large-but-rare ones.

A kiss; a hug; holding hands; touching one another; a smile; a loving glance; a wink; a wave; a thumbs-up; a high-five; making him laugh or smile; making her coffee; bringing home his favorite food; a loving note, e-mail, text message, or voice message; a gift; a pleasant surprise; helping out more; being present; being playful; planning for fun…

These lists are by no means exhaustive. Start with them and practice with your partner. It's important to feel the truth behind each statement of love you send. If you parrot statements you truly don't believe, your insincerity will come through. Your goal is to touch your partner's heart, and to do that you have to be in tune with your own heart first.

Feeling loved and appreciated go hand-in-hand. Love and emotional intimacy are nurtured by messages and actions that make you and your partner feel special. While this tends to flow naturally when couples are first dating, years into the relationship it often takes reminders and consistent effort to stay on top of this vital part of your relationship.

To discover other ways to create a deeper, more intimate relationship visit http://StrengthenYourRelationship.com/ and sign up for Dr. Nicastro’s free Relationship Toolbox Newsletter.

As a bonus, you will receive the popular free reports: "The four mindsets that can topple your relationship" and "Relationship self-defense: Control the way you argue…before your arguments control you."

Author's Bio: 

Richard Nicastro, Ph.D. is a psychologist and relationship coach who is passionate about helping couples protect the sanctuary of their relationship. Rich and his wife Lucia founded LifeTalk Coaching, an internet-based coaching business that helps couples strengthen their relationships.

Additional Resources covering Intimacy can be found at:

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Richard Nicastro, the Official Guide To Intimacy