When was the last time you said that you appreciate your husband?

I don’t mean things like saying “I love you.” You may be doing that all day, every day, or you may wait for special occasions to utter the L word. Lea Rose Emery, in writing for Bustle.com, says it depends. “I looked around into how often couples say the L word, and instead of being all over the map, there were definitely two major camps— people who say it all the time and people who hardly say it all. Neither is wrong, neither is right. But for the people that say it, they really, really say it.” However, saying “I love you” doesn’t necessarily mean “I appreciate you.”

Jeremy Nicholson, a psychologist who writes for Psychology Today, reveals that “Saying ‘I love you’ on a regular basis is not always indicative of relationship status. A better indicator is how the partners actually treat and care for each other. Without loving behaviors backing it up, saying ‘I love you’ is just an empty expression.” And that’s where appreciation comes in.

A study reported in Scientific American’s December 2009 article, “The Happy Couple: Secrets to a Long Marriage,” indicates that gratitude acts like a booster for romantic relationships, and the more often appreciation is expressed, the less likely the couple is apt to break up.

Okay, so I missed National Husband Appreciation Day (it was April 21).

But how about deciding to make some changes that will let your partner know that not only do you love him (or her), but you appreciate her (or him), too? Here are 10 easy ways to make appreciation something you’ll do because you notice the gift you have in your husband.

1. Thank your husband.

Yes, maybe it’s his job to help with household chores. But don’t take his work for granted just because you also do household chores. Appreciate your husband because he cares enough to help you.

2. Express your thanks creatively.

When you tell your husband “thank you,” after awhile it can lose its meaning. Think of more creative ways to say it, like: “I appreciate it when you…”, “I’m grateful for…”, “It means a lot to me when you…”, etc.

3. Even negative circumstances have positive aspects

When he calls and says, “Honey, I have to work late tonight” do you complain? Show your husband some appreciation for the positive—he called! And then thank him for his hard work, too.

4. Say thank you for the small things, too

Your husband doesn’t have to make your life easier by helping you around the house. It’s a choice (or should be). Saying thank you for the things he does all the time lets him know that you notice even the small things.

5. Public praise is a great way to appreciate your husband

Perhaps you say thank you at home, but neglect to make your appreciation known in public. (Or maybe you thank in public but ignore the effort at home!) Saying publicly that you are grateful to your husband can have a huge impact on your relationship, both publicly and privately.

6. The big things need praise, too

When was the last time you thanked your husband for being a great dad? Or because he works for an awful boss and still comes home in a great mood?

7. Appreciate your husband for contributing to your success

Whether it’s work, education, parenting, spiritual growth, or work in the community, your husband has impacted your success. Be sure to tell him that achieving your goals is partly his success, too.

8. Say thank you with a gift

Extravagance isn’t necessary. It really is the thought that counts, something he would love but wouldn’t buy for himself is a great way to say thanks. Maybe something representing his favorite sport, or a book you know he’s been wanting to read, or time out with his buddies. A dinner date or a gift card to his favorite store works, too.

9. Jump the gun when he needs help

Don’t wait for your husband to ask you to do something for him. Anticipate the need and offer before hw mentions it. He could use some time away from the kids, and he could use a nap. Offer to let him do the things that he leaves unsaid.

10. Date your husband

Your husband needs to know that not only do you love him, but you like him, too. Ask him out on a date, even if life seems too busy. Make dating your husband a priority, and have a real conversation when you go out. Enjoy both dinner and discussion.

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