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Turns out, a bouquet of flowers or even a weekend getaway can’t touch your partner’s heart as much as a few simple words. That’s because, our experts say, words have the ability to communicate what a gift simply can’t. And because of that, whipping out a few carefully chosen words has the power to instantly change your relationship for the better.
“Words are the only real way to know what someone else is thinking and feeling,” explains Lesli Doares, marriage coach and author of Blueprint For A Lasting Marriage. Because while we can make assumptions based on facial expression or body language or even a gift, “words are really the only way to know for sure,” she says. “They are the way we express our own thoughts and feelings so they are both powerful connectors and ways that we can feel separated.”
Not only are our words proof of our affections, but as Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of 5 Simple Steps To Take Your Marriage From Good To Great, points out, “words that are positive in nature are powerful because they express affirmation and validation. We all have the need to be wanted and to be noticed in our relationships, and we don’t want to be taken for granted.”
See More: The Best Ways to Talk to Your Spouse
The most powerful words you can say to your partner, our experts agree, are those that express optimism and positivity. Think: compliments, asking questions about your partner, and words of understanding or comfort. “A general positive attitude rubs off on our partners,” Orbuch explains. “We all want to be around positive people because it’s contagious. And in a relationship, a positive attitude propels us forward.”
Anything that affirms your partner — words that show he or she is important and valuable to you, and that you care about his or her happiness and the longevity of your marriage — is also key to say on the regular, Orbuch says. “It doesn’t take much, but these words should be said often,” she says. “You can say, ‘I see you, I notice you, you’re special, and I care about you.’ That is what affirmation is all about. We all want it and need it from our spouses.”
Need specific examples of what you can say to instantly improve your relationship? Here, our experts give four phrases you can whip out whenever you need them.
1. Thank you. These two little words “show that you noticed and appreciated something your partner did,” explains Doares.
2. I’m sorry. They may not be the easiest words to say, but if you need to apologize, these words “acknowledge that your partner is in pain and you care that he or she is hurting,” Doares says.
3. I love you. Don’t say it because you have to. If you say it when you truly feel it, “it lets them know that they matter to you,” says Doares.
4. Yes, I will do that. Says Doares, “Saying yes as often as possible keeps the relationship weighted in the positive.” That’s because, she explains, it take three or more “yesses” to balance any “no” you give. “Saying yes also honors a request, which makes your partner feel heard and supported,” she says.
And feel free to say, “I’m so happy to be married to you,” “thank you for being you,” “I would still choose you if I had to do it all over again,” and “I love you more now that I did when we met,” whenever the mood strikes, Orbuch adds.