Can You Ever Really Make a Woman Feel Special?

A man asks Eli and Josie for help with his fiancée, who says he never makes her feel special.

Originally appeared at She Said He Said

Dear Sexes: Tell me how to make a girl feel special. My fiancée is always saying that I don’t make anything special, but we just moved in together 3 months ago. I do everything for her, but she keeps saying that I don’t do anything special. What can I do?

She Said: First, it’s unlikely that you’re truly so terrible that she doesn’t feel special. But that doesn’t negate the fact that for whatever reason, she doesn’t feel like you value her or think she’s truly special.I think we need to sit and unpack this word “special”. When I hear that, I assume that she thinks you treat her just the same as everyone else in the world. Since you say you do everything for her, I assume that you really don’t treat her the same as you do your mom, your best friend, and your coworkers. But for some reason she’s interpreting the things you’re doing as somehow not good enough.


That must be very frustrating! The thing is, if your girlfriend grew up here in the USA like I did, she may have been raised with the Cinderella story (and many others just like it). Remember in Cinderella how all she wanted was to go to the Ball? At the ball, she would line up with dozens of other girls in ball gowns and wait to see if the Prince would choose her to dance with.

And what would he be choosing her based upon? Certainly her looks, but beyond that, we know that the Prince will see Cinderella and know that she is special. Something about her will make her stand out from the other girls so that he just has to dance with her, and when they dance, she will be able to speak with him and convince him even more of her specialness.

And that’s our dream. To have someone see us, through a crowd, and choose us because we are so special. Perhaps without even knowing us!

I don’t think this is a particularly healthy thing for young girls to be inundated with as kids… I think the notion that our physical looks coupled with our “aura” or other uncontrollable factors are more important than anything else about us causes us to chase an unattainable vapor for most of our lives.

That’s a pretty tough fantasy to have to live with. In real life, we are all special and unspecial on any given day and to any given person. Almost none of us will ever have anyone see us in a sea of 100 women and say, “You! Yes, you. In the yellow v-neck and skirt. You are the one. The only one. My life has changed because of you… Oh, and what’s your name?”

And so we seek that feeling, because we’ve been told it’s proof that we are good enough, or even that we’re better than all the rest. That we’re special in that way that we so badly want to be. The bad news is that in real life, that flutter of “Will he choose me?” or “Am I special enough for him to love me back?” cannot be sustained (if it was ever there).

And so here we sit, in a home with someone we love, who loves us back, and we think, “What now? Who’s going to choose me now?” In your case, you’ve already asked her to marry you, so she knows that no one is ever going to see her from across that room and choose her out of a crowd again.

So that’s the mythology behind many women’s obsession with being special. They don’t realize that every day that you are faithful, loving, respectful and caring toward her, you are choosing her again and again.

However, I think that even if she is a victim of the Cinderella mythology and that is playing a role in her claims that you don’t make her feels special, we should talk about what you can do to make her feel more special.

The best way to do this is to come to her at a time when you’re not fighting about this issue, when she hasn’t brought it up, and when you’re happy. Maybe when you’re having dinner together or taking a walk. Just say, “You know, you’re so incredibly important and special to me. I’m so glad we’re together. I know sometimes you don’t feel like you’re special to me, and I really want you to know how special you truly are, so I’d love to know what it means to you to feel special. What are some examples of times you’ve felt really special?”

Listen with an open heart, do NOT say—not even once!—“I’ve done that!” or “I do that!” or “How can you say I don’t do that?” Just listen. Observe her. Try to understand. Ask her about scenes in movies where she felt like the character was really really loved by his or her partner.

Just listen. See what happens. Then see if you can add some of those types of things into your life. If she likes the idea of being chosen from a crowd, meet her in a restaurant once after work. When you walk in the door, lock eyes on her, smile and keep your gaze at her as you walk through the restaurant. When you get to her, tell her that she took your breath away when you saw her, or something like that (maybe less cheesy!). Then turn your phone off, and keep it off, throughout the dinner and ask her a lot of questions about her life, her day, her thoughts and what things made her laugh that day.

And remember that if you’re communicating, and you’re non-defensively trying to help her get this need met, and she still feels un-special, this may be an issue within her that needs resolving.

He Said: I can tell you how to make a girl feel special, but I can’t (definitively) tell you how to make YOUR girl (fiance) feel special.  Special means very different things to different people. But don’t stop reading just yet, I’ve still got some good advice for you.

For starters, don’t beat yourself up over your girlfriend’s claim that you don’t do anything special for her. It’s clear you care, so you’ll find a way to work this out, and we’re here to do our part.

You said you just recently moved in together, right? Now you’ll be spending more time together, (or at the very least seeing each other more consistently) right?  But, because of these changes, in a way you’ll have to work harder at making each other feel special.

Now that you’re roommates, you don’t HAVE to make a date to see each other. But that doesn’t mean you can stop going all out to make your girlfriend feel special. Now, more than ever, you’ll have to try harder to make your fiance feel appreciated.

So what does special mean to your fiancée? Maybe it means you planning a weekend getaway with her. Perhaps it means you making a romantic dinner for her.  Or writing a a love poem for her. Or even something as simple as cleaning the house/apartment for from head to toe. Or treating her to a spa day. Will any of those ideas make YOUR fiancée feel special and loved? It’s hard to say for sure, but that’s where dialogue and conversation come into play.

You need to sit down together, and ask your fiancée what makes her feel special. The important thing here is to discuss this, and express your love and concern for her happiness. Whatever you do, be a good listener, (and observer) so you can give her what she wants (whether she asks for it directly or not).

You’re already getting an A for effort (or at least a B+), so stick with it. You can ace this test yet!

Do you have a question for Eli and Josie? Ask it here – anonymously!



Image of man giving woman a flower courtesy of Shutterstock


About She Said He Said

Eli and Josie, friends since college, realized how lucky they were to have one another—an honest friend of the opposite sex who tells it like it is. They wanted to share that with the world and so was born.


  1. FlyingKal says:

    Following various links made me find this: ‘10 Honest Thoughts On Being Loved By A Skinny Boy’ – Rachel Wiley.
    And I thought it fitting to this discussion about making someone feel special.
    I think I can understand on an intellectual level what’s going on inside the writer’s head.
    However,relate for someone who’s never been loved in that unconditional way, it’s hard to really relate in an emotional way.

  2. I think if someone is trying to figure out what makes “women” feel special, they are missing the point. Because the only thing you have to figure out is what makes your woman feel special and all you have to do is open the lines of communication. And she in turn should be returning the favor. When two people choose to be together they are declaring each other special. But I agree that it has little to do with grand gestures and more to do with genuine care and attention. Any man or woman who has grandiose expectations of others making them feel special, is really only having an indulgent love affair with the self.

  3. I’d like to point out that sometimes feeling special is as much about what you *don’t* do as what you do. Commercials make it seem like it’s all about money or grand displays. That’s just corporations selling their products. A husband can buy his wife beautiful diamonds and the rarest roses, but if he’s he’s staring at other women and making her feel unnattractive, who cares? He probably *is* doing everything he can and what he thinks is right, but maybe he’s doing something on the side that makes her feel like she’s not special to him. Sure there are women who value the commercial stuff and expensive gifts, but many, many don’t. It’s all about simply knowing what makes her happy. Little gestures to make her feel more comfortable. And she should do the same for you.

  4. my boyfriend isnt a romantic but he does little things sometimes that I love. Like sometimes I’ll sit down next to him on the couch but with a little space between us and he’ll say “get over here, you” and put him arm around me. Or he’ll call me “kiddo” or act worried about me. I don’t care about expensive gifts or flowers. I feel special when he brings up something I talked about in the past and asks me how things sre working out (he listened! and remembered!) 🙂

  5. Why in the world would you counsel these fools to stay together…
    He doesn’t make her feel special because they don’t work…
    Move on now and find someone who makes you feel special, there is no future in a relationship that one has to work this hard on now…
    Buy a house, have kids, get sick & this thing they have will turn toxic under the stress….

  6. Oh my God! The ‘Princess’ syndrom! Run brother, run! Run far,run fast, face it, you will NEVER make this woman happy. No matter how hard you try. So run and don’t look back!

  7. Why do some people assume that this woman is a spoiled brat or suffering from Cinderella syndrome? The rest of the advice is rather sound, but while the advice is good both He and She miss the point a little with their suggestions; they’re telling him to just keep shooting until he seems to hit the target. We need to use more strategy than that, he needs to understand the root of why the things he’s attempting to do either make or don’t make his fiancee feel special (i.e. loved.)

    My guess is that this guy is just not speaking her ‘language’ when it comes to ‘feeling special.’ He’s working hard to do what HE THINKS will make her feel special (this is typically what either makes him feel special or mimicking what he has seen on TV.). Is he buying her gifts when she really wants him to turn of the tv and give her an hour of undivided attention? Is he running around the house doing chores when she really wants to hear him tell her how proud he is of her?

    Chances are he was doing the right thing before, otherwise she wouldn’t be his fiancee now. It may not be enough to just sit down with his fiancee and say “What makes you feel special” because 1) She may not consciously know what makes her feel special and 2) she probably feels like she’s already telling him for a while now and that he’s just not listening to her; there’s probably other clues like “We never go and do things together anymore,” or “sometimes I just can’t read what’s on your mind.” That’s her telling him what he wants.

    He needs to:
    1. Take a look at a book called The Five Love Languages; good book. It talks about the different ways that people feel loved: Words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gifts, and physical touch.
    2. When he starts this conversation he needs a strategy, a way to distinguish the TYPES of actions that make her feel loved not just a specific action or two. A good question to ask is “What did I do before that made you feel loved that I’m not doing now?” This is better than asking a general “What makes you feel special?” because now she is more likely to give concrete examples. The book will help him with this conversation.

    • Good thoughts, and good additions to the advice in the article!

      It doesn’t help that there’s so much marketing spin around Products that will “make her feel special” (diamonds, flowers, etc.) so women and men have this idea that showing love = spending money, when really even the smallest gesture can do it.

      I never realized how much I love holding hands with my husband until I noticed we had stopped doing it all the time (and I mean all the time, like from the car to the door of the grocery store). I did my part to get us back in the habit!

      Other little things I’ve noticed – if he’s sitting on the couch with plenty of room on either side of him, and I choose to sit in the easy chair instead, he pouts a little. So that showed me it makes him feel special, and loved, when I sit next to him on the couch. And it’s not like I was intentionally avoiding sitting on the couch with him, there was no thought going into my decision to sit in the chair instead, it was just sort of random. Now I know I can make a deliberate choice that will make him feel special.

  8. I know a lot of women who expect men to be mind readers as in “of course they must know what is special to me because he’s my boyfriend etc.”

    I agree that different women find different things special. She needs to communicate exactly what she means by special. I hate when I’m made a spectacle of publicly. So someone showing up and do some public display of affection or caring would not make me feel special. It would make me feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. But other women may like that. I had a boyfriend once that I lived with and I remember feeling so special when he would warm up my car in the morning on super cold days. Or when he did the oil or other repairs on it. It was a tiny act of caring about me and my wellbeing in my death trap of a car.

    I had another boyfriend who went to comicon one year and remembered I was collecting (at that time) a specific set of figurines and brought back a couple of those toys for me (after he sold all his vintage transformers). I wasn’t expecting it but felt like a queen because he remembered some random and really specific thing about me.

    Special doesn’t have to be huge necessarily. Talk to her about what she likes.

  9. So women are being raised to be entitled little princesses? That’s a great way to cause a huge amount of problems for them, and also the people that want to date them. How special do they have to be? I hope they realize the princess fairytales usually involve her being extremely beautiful and rare as hell, and princesses are what, 0.0001% of the population or less? They’re fantasy.

    The fact he comes home to you every night and wants you should be special enough, if it isn’t then make it special together. Special to me is those men n women who sit by their partners side at the hospital freaking out hoping they’re ok, the ones that hurt because their partner is sad or injured, the ones that just wanna make life feel good for them, who work hard to try have a stable home, family, etc. Being the princess at a ball in a pretty dress isn’t special, if you want to feel special go dancing in a nice outfit with your partner. Our culture doesn’t really do the whole introduction to society stuff much anymore, or the ball/dance, hopefully women realize this and have adjusted their specialness meter.

  10. I think one of the sweetest things my then BF (now husband) did for me when we started going out was to bring in two 5″ x 7″ enlarged black and white photos that he shot and developed himself…and gave them to me in class in front of my girlfriends…I was so touched!

  11. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    What strikes me about the women frequently portrayed here is that they’re nightmares to please. Not just the make me feel special woman, but all the others in various articles here. A good relationship should feel effortless to both parties. I’ve had at least three long term ones like this– and could not do one of the bending over backward ones cited on this or many other threads. It’s like the 60s-70s never happened, and that women are picky creatures likely to decamp at the drop of a hat. Like the 1950s Doris Day types. Please tell me that stuff isn’t back. Most people here say that they’re feminists, but don’t really seem to have any of the 70s feminists’ values. I’ve always had great long-term relationships with women who seem to enjoy conversation, outings, more or less the simple life. If it doesn’t feel really natural, don’t go there.

    • Actually a good relationship should feel like it’s worth all the work you put into it, not ‘effortless.’

      • It’s mostly about grandiose moments of romantism that are expected from the man, just to show she’s special enough. Like Jumbotron demands in marriage in a stadium, or having planes write something in the sky.

        That’s just stupid stuff to expect it. And this IS bratty to expect it, too.

        Expect small things in everyday occurrence, don’t dismiss everything that wouldn’t go on a chick flick as “not good enough”.

      • @Donna:
        Actually a good relationship should feel like it’s worth all the work you put into it, not ‘effortless.’

        That’s the Catch 22, isn’t it?
        A good way towards the “effortless” feeling, is that all the work you put into it actually feels that it’s worth it, because it’s appreciated. (Or vice versa, if you know what I mean?)
        If you never get appreciated, never get the feeling that what you do is good enough, you’ll get into “NOT worth it!”-territory very fast.

      • Donna wrote: Actually a good relationship should feel like it’s worth all the work you put into it, not ‘effortless.’

        thank you, Donna: i was about to add that very statement — and saw your comment. Perfect.

  12. I think the approach here is to figure out something inherently unique about her, and surprise her with a sweet gesture. This can be as simple as knowing she loves pumpkin muffins and bringing one to her at work or something as simple as that. Make a genuine effort in the kind of way that does not seem to involve an ulterior motive on your part to steer things towards sex, as often women can suspect we’re being nice just to get laid. Mostly we’re being nice because we like them and want to show that, but because we’re men, the thought immediately goes to suspecting our kindness is some kind of put-on show intended to serve our own desires.

  13. wellokaythen says:

    Once again I’m doing my part to find the slightest thing wrong with the advice given here, and once again I’m failing. The wisdom is very good here – talk to her, ask her what she means, what she wants, find a way to work out something you both can benefit from.

    I would also add that ultimately, after you talk about it and try a bunch of new approaches and keep communicating and take it on as a team, at the end of the day no one can totally control the way someone else feels. I’m sure there are things you could do that would help her feel special, but after all is said and done, you cannot actually MAKE her feel special. That’s an unrealistic expectation on both of you. Contrary to the romantic Cinderella fairy tale, it is not a partner’s solo job to MAKE the other person happy. I think she has some homework to do as well. She may have some expectations that she needs to modify.

    The fact that you just moved in together may be the key thing here. Often, when people move in together, one or both start to get comfortable and start taking the other for granted. It’s common to be less spontaneous, less romantic, have sex less often, treat each other more like roommates than lovers, etc. It’s somewhat unavoidable, but you should both be aware that it’s a pretty common thing, and it doesn’t mean that your relationship is drying up, just that there’s a new adjustment to make.


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