Your question gets to the heart of the way that many couples who love each other end up fighting for what feels like no reason. Partners love each other but keep missing the boat when it comes to giving and receiving love in ways that really seem to matter their partner. You are doing the right things but the feedback you get from her says you are close but still somewhat off target in getting your love messages across.
There is a powerful but simple set of concepts that I have found really help couples get out of this cycle of expectation and disappointment. These concepts were developed and elaborated on by Dr. Gary Chapman in a book about how people differ in the ways they express and experience love. These love language styles underlie the many ways in which we try to express love to our partners.
His main book, The Five Love Languages, has made a major impact on couples trying to get along better and on therapists who are trying to help them. We all have our preferred or primary love language and many of us have a strong secondary love language, but these languages differ from person to person. We tend to speak the language we grew up hearing from our parents. This is the language we know and understand. But if we are speaking to a partner whose love language is very different from ours, we may be act from the heart but our message may not be heard. It is in a foreign language to your partner.
The five love languages Dr. Chapman identifies are as follows: 1) words of affirmation; 2) gifts; 3) acts of service; 4) quality time, and 5) touch (including both sexual expression and non-sexual affection). It sounds like you and your partner have different primary love languages. This is not to say that she doesn’t appreciate the helpful and practical things you do for her, but it sounds like what she is longing for are words of affirmation–verbal expressions of love. This may be her primary love language.
Your primary love language is probably different from hers. Perhaps acts of service is your primary language and you give acts of service because this is what would mean the most to you from your partner. Perhaps what makes you feel the most loved are words of affirmation–verbal appreciation for what you are doing to make her life easier, or maybe your language is touch, sexual and non-sexual affection.
If you and your partner can identify your personal love languages and which ones are most important to each of you, it is possible to enhance the feeling of love between you and reduce the feelings of being misunderstood or unloved.
It is very much like learning a second language. The new language may not be natural or intuitive to you and learning it may be difficult at first, but it is worth it. You can greatly enhance the quality of your relationship. I suggest that both of you buy and read (or listen to the audio book) of Dr. Chapman’s “Five Love Languages” and spend some time identifying and talking about your own languages and find out your partner’s preferred languages. You will be surprised at how simple it actually is to reduce conflict in your relationship and begin to feel heard and appreciated by your partner.