While it’s true that actions might speak louder than words, there’s no denying the power of communication. After all, emails, Gchats and texts only go so far to convey our feelings and hardly ever accurately express our tone and context. Strong verbal communication skills are the most straightforward way to articulate our thoughts and needs, and also make the other person certain that we hear and understand theirs.
“Communication over time can truly make or break a relationship, learning how to communicate to the person you love is essential in promoting loving feeling towards each other,” Dawn Michael, Ph.D., certified sexuality counselor, clinical sexologist and author says.
Here are the most important things to say to your partner each day to improve your relationship, according to experts.
‘I’ve got your back’
Whether it’s going to a social networking event or holiday party where your partner knows few people and feels uncertain, or going to a family event where there’s been some strain between your mother and your beloved, or whether it’s to show a united parenting front for your kids, this sentence will strengthen your relationship. “It makes your partner feel supported and shows him or her that you’re a team, which is crucial,” Claudia Six, Ph.D., sexologist, relationship coach and author of Erotic Integrity: How to Be True to Yourself Sexually, says.
‘Are you feeling okay?’
If your partner comes home from work and barely speaks to you, you might want to snap at them or interrogate them about their moodiness. But this is an assumption you’ve created, based on your partner’s behavior, and it does not necessarily mean that they’re acting this way to make you feel bad. Instead, try, “I noticed you haven’t said much since you arrived home. Are you feeling okay?” “This is a phenomenal way to make an observation about your partner, without emotion, instead of making an assumption that can automatically put someone on the defensive,” Celeste Holbrook, Ph.D, sexual health consultant, says. “It could very well be that he had some things occupying his mind and was unusually quiet, but not necessarily in a bad mood, so this approach opens the door for communication without unnecessary assumption.”
‘It would be really helpful if you could…’
Tell your partner what simple thing they could be doing that would make a big difference to you in your relationship, and then ask what you could be doing in return. Owning your feelings is important for the relationship to truly thrive. When you’re able to verbalize your emotions, you become vulnerable and allow your partner to understand what you’re experiencing, without them feeling threatened.
For example, instead of yelling, “Why don’t you ever do the dishes!?” try, “I feel like the work I do to keep the house clean is disrespected because the dishes were still dirty when I got home.” This expresses your needs, helps to resolve them, but it also lets your partner know that their needs are just as important to you, and that you’re just as willing to change to have a strong relationship.
‘How was your day?’
Ask your partner how their day was, and genuinely listen and care. Too often we focus on our day, on what happened to us, what was wrong with us. But our partner has things going on as well, and there are many times they have no one to express them too. “I think this is the most important question you can ask your partner because it gives you an accurate weather report about their state of mind, if they’re feeling empowered or beleaguered at work, inspired or stunted in their personal or creative expression, if they’re happy or not,” Dr. Six says. “Whether your partner stays at home or goes out to work, I recommend that this conversation happen daily.”
And remember to give each other your undivided attention and make eye contact—don’t multi-task. Respect your partner and focus on them. It might only take 15 minutes, but it’s 15 minutes that will go a long way to supporting your relationship and shows that you care and are interested.
It’s a simple word, but for many people, saying no to their partners is very difficult. We don’t want to let them down, but yet sometimes their requests aren’t feasible. Practice saying no, or at least “not right now,” so that you don’t disappoint your partner when you can’t follow through with his or her request. There will be ample opportunity for you to say yes, and it will feel so good when you can, knowing that you have made room in your mind, agenda or calendar for fully committing to the request.
‘I see where you’re coming from.’
Let your partner know that you hear and understand what they’re saying, and why they think and feel the way that they do. “This is a verbal recognition of your partner’s feelings,” Dr. Holbrook explains. “Even if you disagree, discovering their perspective can be helpful in finding solutions together.” “I see where you are coming from” will help your partner feel heard and validated, even if you don’t have the same ideas about the situation. This is essential, as it makes them feel truly heard, and that although you may not agree, you care about what they have to say.
Every relationship needs this phrase in order to survive, Dr. Holbrook says. Apologizing, even when you don’t want to, is vital for the relationship to grow and mature. “A sincere apology, one that doesn’t have a ‘but’ at the end of it, is not an act of submission, but rather a powerful and humble act of commitment that’s sure to build the bond between you two even stronger.” People make mistakes all the time—it’s human—but if you do make a mistake and it causes hurt to your partner then apologize for it.
‘I appreciate you.’
Each day, tell your partner one random thing that you appreciate about them. “Too often you see partners grow to resent each other or drift apart because they do not feel appreciated,” Nikki Martinez, a Chicago-based psychologist, says. “No matter how small or out of the box, your partner will be closer to you and never question your appreciation of them, which strengthens the relationship.” This phrase reaches beyond “I love you,” because it gets specific about something your partner intentionally does. Being specific about the things you love builds your partner up in very constructive ways and let’s them know that you not only love them, but see their actions with intention and notice what they do.
These two simple words go a seriously long way when it comes to relationships of all kinds. Appreciation never goes out of style or gets unnoticed, and the more we appreciate, the more we’ll get from our partners to appreciate them for. “Thanking your partner once in the moment, and once again in an unrelated moment, conveys that you’re appreciative, that you’re still thinking about what he or she did or gave you,” Dr. Six explains. “Don’t pass up an opportunity to thank your beloved, for buying you a cup of coffee, picking a great hike or movie, for listening, for making dinner—every time, yes!—for taking you to Hawaii, etc.”
‘I love you.’
Whether it’s when you leave the house, to defuse a fight with a cranky partner or in the middle of sex, you can’t go wrong with “I love you”. Everybody likes to hear it and it’s a key reminder of why you’re together. “Expressing sexual desire with no pressure can be an effective way to initiate sex with no pressure,” Dr. Six says. Too often couples avoid affectionate touch because they don’t want to seem like the only time they touch their mate is for sex, or because they’re afraid that if they express affection their beloved will automatically assume they want sex and then they’ll feel obligated to follow through on something they may not be into. So inviting your partner to be sensual together with no strings—and it really has to be no strings (otherwise they’ll know and it’ll backfire)—is a way to get closer…and possibly get it on.