Relationships take a lot of hard work. And if both people don’t put forth consistent effort, the relationship will falter, if not die completely.
This doesn’t have to be you. You want to make sure you keep your significant other around for quite some time.
So, let’s look at the four phrases you’ll need in your script to accomplish that very goal.
Phrase #1: “What do you think?”
Everyone loves to have their opinion valued, or at the very least, acknowledged. By asking your partner for their opinion, you’re telling him or her that you care about what they think. And, doesn’t it make you feel good when someone truly wants to know how you feel about a certain situation, event or idea?
Sometimes we get caught up in ourselves. We only think about situations or events from our own point of view and fail to realize that there are other valid opinions that exist. While you don’t have to agree with what someone else believes, you can still be open and objective to other ways of thinking.
If you vocalize your opinion about a certain matter, follow-up by asking your partner what they think. He or she may have a different point of view that you never considered because they’ve had life experiences that may lead them to a different conclusion.
Asking someone their opinion is the ultimate form of respect. It says that they’re important to you and you care enough to take the time to find out their thoughts on a topic. Respecting and valuing your partner will go a long way in creating a solid foundation for a lasting relationship.
Phrase #2: “I want to understand.”
When you’re in a relationship, you may get mad at your partner for repeatedly doing something that upsets or irritates you. For example, if your husband always leaves less than a tablespoon of milk in the container and puts it back in the fridge, you may feel your blood begin to boil. Or, if your wife constantly uses tools from the garage and fails to put them back in the place they belong so that you can find them when you need them, you may start to simmer inside.
When things like this happen, it’s easy to take it personally. You convince yourself that the other person is doing the action solely for the reason of getting under your skin. And, sometimes maybe it’s true. But, most often it’s not. It’s simply a matter of them not making it a priority. Or, maybe they truly don’t realize how much it bothers you.
What’s the key to getting past these types of situations? It’s not nagging or complaining or getting little jabs in to try to change the other person. You can never change someone else. The most you can do is change yourself.
Wait. Am I telling you that you have to change yourself when it’s the other person committing the offensive behavior? Yes and no. Before you get mad and quit reading, hear me out.
What I’m saying is you may have to change your approach. Remember phrase number one? You want your partner to feel respected and valued, right? Yelling or nagging is not going to accomplish that goal. But trying to understand them will.
When your partner has left the bathroom light on for the two-hundredth time, instead of getting mad, ask for clarification. You can say, “I’m feeling myself getting upset and I’m trying to understand.” Give them an opportunity to explain.
Maybe he or she tries to remember but is having a hard time making it a habit. Or, maybe they’re distracted by something else going on. If you have a clearer understanding of where they’re coming from, you’re less likely to take the whole situation personally which automatically reduces the anger factor.
After you fully understand their side, then you can explain your position. Like in the example above, you may point out how having the light on when no one is in there impacts the electric bill and how you’re trying to watch your finances so that you can have more fun together doing things you enjoy. Letting them know why it upsets you helps them understand why it’s such a big deal in your eyes.
Of course, approaching them at the right time is key. If you try to have a talk like this during their favorite sports program or right when they walk in the door after a long day at work, you’ll probably be met with not-so-good results.
And make sure you’re non-accusatory. You aren’t having this conversation to point out what they are doing wrong. You’re doing it to give yourself an opportunity to understand them and for them to understand you. That is the key to communication, isn’t it?
Phrase #3: “I’m sorry.”
We all make mistakes and hurt the ones we love at some point, whether intentional or not. It’s human nature. If and when we do, sometimes these two words are the hardest to get out of our mouths. Either you may not know how to say it, or don’t think you should have to.
Let’s address the first scenario.
You may not know how to say you’re sorry if you accidently run over your spouse’s cat or accidentally drop their great-grandmother’s plate on the floor, shattering it to pieces. You know that you hurt them, and you didn’t intend to, but what’s happened has happened and you feel badly about it. So, to avoid the awkwardness, you may decide to just say nothing at all.
When you’re in an intimate relationship with someone, sometimes saying nothing is more hurtful than saying something that may or may not come out just right. The other person may take your lack of statement as an indicator that you don’t love them or respect them enough to acknowledge that your actions have hurt them.
If you want to let your loved one know that you’re sorry but don’t know what to say, then say that. Say, “I’m sorry that I hurt you. I feel horrible but I just don’t know what to say.” That at least tells your partner that you acknowledge their hurt and that you want to make amends, but aren’t sure how.
Their response will tell you what you need to do to start moving past the situation. They may tell you that being sorry is enough, or maybe they’ll explain how they feel which allows you the opportunity to explore whether there is anything additional they need from you.
Admitting you don’t know how to make them feel better is one thing, but what happens when you don’t feel like you should have to say you’re sorry? Maybe you feel justified for something you did so you don’t feel like your actions require an apology.
Here’s the key to being sorry, you may not necessarily be sorry for what you did, but you can still be sorry that the one you love has been hurt by your actions. So, saying you’re sorry isn’t necessarily an admission of guilt or wrong-doing, it’s just acknowledgement that you’ve hurt someone else’s feelings and you feel bad about it.
Phrase #4: “I love you.”
Wanting to be loved is a basic human need. It starts when you’re an infant, and seek love from your parents, and carries with you throughout life as you crave the love and affection of the one person destined to make your life complete.
When you’re in a relationship with someone and you feel their love, it helps you through the rough times. It’s the knowledge that they have your back and will be there for you good, bad or indifferent.
“I love you” can be verbal or non-verbal. If you and your partner are verbal, it may mean saying that you love each other whenever it pops into your mind and you feel like expressing your emotions. Or, maybe you make sure you say these three words before bed at night or every time you end a phone conversation.
Every person is different. Some say it a lot, some hardly at all. The key is finding what works for your particular relationship.
If your partner doesn’t say it a lot, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t love you. It may just mean that they’re more of a non-verbal communicator. They like to use actions instead of words. They may show their love for you by making sure your coffee is ready in the morning or by running your clothes to the dry cleaner so you don’t have to.
Love is the most precious gift you can give, and receive. If you give it a warm, nurturing environment, it is sure to flourish and bloom into something that is completely amazing.
By taking the time to show your partner that you respect their opinion, desire to understand them, acknowledging if you’ve hurt them and letting them know that you love them through thick and thin, you’ll create a solid relationship.
Of course, there are no guarantees in life, but if you cherish your relationship and want to see it grow over the course of time, then you have to tend to it. Like a garden needs water and fertilizer, a loving relationship needs respect, love and consideration. Treat your relationship like that and you will have a plentiful harvest to get you through all the seasons.