10 things good partners say to each other
Says veteran marriage counselor Randi Gunther, Ph.D.: "In my 40 years of listening to couples, I've noticed that the best communicators use the same words, and I'm always surprised by how few people know them." Practice these if you want your relationship to last longer than the average trip to Paris.
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It's not just what you say, but also how you say it
"INFLECTION IS CRITICAL!" Gunther stresses. "You can say anything at all, and if you change the inflection, it is completely different. It can have a completely different sub-message. It can completely undo it. Inflection can get people in trouble all the time."
'We're in this together'
Says Gunther, "Marriage is full of trials. If your spouse tells you he lost his job, for example, you have less than five seconds to react in a way that bonds you and proves that your relationship is stronger than any difficulties. Let that window pass, and doubts arise."
'You're better at this than I am'
"It's a huge asset to a relationship if both partners can own up to their weaknesses. If he's better in the kitchen, don't try to manage -- step aside and thank him for cooking you something delicious!"
"People often say they're not angry to avoid arguing, but that only prolongs a situation. Being able to express your emotions precisely and honestly gets you where you need to go faster."
Video: The ins and outs of arguing
'Please tell me what's going on'
"This is the best thing you can say to open doors in an argument. It lets your partner know you're present, you're listening, and you want him to talk to you."
Anything you say face-to-face
"We live in an age where people tell computers and iPhones how they feel. Reading I'm sorry you're sad doesn't have the same effect as hearing those words and seeing the empathy. Couples who are actually there for each other, physically and emotionally, are much closer."
'Give me a few moments to calm down, and I'll be able to listen better'
"Whenever any interaction between two people who care for each other begins to get louder, faster, or more painful, it is always better to ask for a cool-down period. In that period of quiet, both partners can focus on what they value in each other, and how they'd like to feel when the interaction is over."
'Thank you for always reminding me that I'm important to you'
"In many relationships, positive comments are thought, but it's the negative ones that get expressed. It only takes a moment—and a few negative words—to hurt someone, but it will take much longer to do damage control. It also only takes a moment to tell a partner something you love about him or her, and there won't be any need for damage control."
'No matter how angry I get, my heart still loves you so much'
"When outbursts occur, they are usually egocentric and don't take into consideration the feelings of the person on the other end. It is only when things settle that a partner may realize what he or she has done to hurt the other. The willingness to immediately show remorse for that damage can go a long way toward rapid repair."