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The 15 best things to say in relationships (DW#447)

Over the last few weeks, we have been talking about words and phrases that build and rebuild relationships. 

Here are the words and phrases again. Let’s memorize and use them as often as possible. Which are the the most challenging for you? 

1)   How was your day? [DW #432]
2)   How can I help? [DW #433]
3)   Tell me more. [DW #434]
4)   I feel [DW #435]
5) I love it when you [DW #436]
6) Do you remember when we . . . [DW #437]
7)   You have my support [DW #438]
8)   Please and thank you [DW #439]
9)   I disagree [DW #440]
10)  You’re right. [DW #441]
11)  I’d love to get your opinion [DW #442]
12)  Did I get that right? [DW #443]
13)  I love you [DW #444]
14)  I’m sorry [DW #445]
15)  What would you like to see happen? [DW #446]

And with that, we have come to the end of this series of Daily...

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What would you like to see happen? (DW#446)

Continuing with our series on the best things to say in relationships, today’s phrase is a question to use when the other person is telling us what they don’t want.

It is so much easier to talk about what we don’t like and what we don’t want, rather than to make a specific request about what we would like. 

I don’t want us to be late
I don’t want you to leave things lying around
I don’t like it when you don’t tell me your plans 
I don’t want to go a beach holiday again this year

Often we don’t even know that we are doing this. So it can be very helpful to be redirected by our loved ones and asked what we would like to see happen or what we want (as opposed to what we don’t want).

So the next time you hear someone complaining about how bad things are, instead of getting annoyed, try gently redirecting them with a question such as "What would you like to see happen?" or "Please tell me what you would like as opposed...

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I'm sorry (DW#445)

No matter what we know and how much we practice we are likely to mess up with our loved ones. Quite often. And this is why today’s phrase is so important. 

Apologizing for causing hurt and pain to our loved ones is an essential skill in relationships. 

There are so many wrong ways to apologize, as we have talked about before. 

Here is what a good apology contains:

1.   An expression of regret

2.   An acknowledgement of responsibility

3.   A declaration of repentance

4.   An offer of repair

5.   A request for forgiveness


Here is an example:
I am so very sorry that I forgot that there was a family gathering at your cousin’s place. I should have put it on the calendar when you first told me about it. I will make sure to put the other family events on there so that this does not happen again. Would you like me to call him and explain what happened? And maybe we can drop in on them this...

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I love you (DW#444)

Have you ever heard new couples talk on the phone? They often end long phone conversations by saying "I love you" (and then "I love you more  . . ." and on and on . . .) As the relationship progresses, the "I love you" can turn into "Ok, bye", especially if there the relationship is strained or there is unaddressed conflict. 
Expressing love verbally is equally, if not more important, in long term relationships. 

Even if it is a ritual which you engage in without thinking, it is worth considering getting into the habit of saying "I love you" regularly. 
Recent research suggests that saying these three simple words is more than simply expressing your romantic feelings. It actually represents a commitment to future behavior. This implies that when we say I love you, we are not only expressing our present feelings, but we are committing that our actions in their presence and when apart will demonstrate this commitment. 

Saying I love you, then, is a...

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You’re right. (DW#441)

We have been discussing the best words and phrases to say in a close relationship. Last week we explored the importance of speaking up when we disagree with something or see it differently. 

Today’s phrase is the other side of the equation. Saying "you’re right" can be very calming and disarming to a loved one who is trying to get a point across. It can be very tempting to go into defensive mode when a spouse or a family member is expressing a complaint. Stubbornly sticking to our point of view in the face of all evidence, however, can be exhausting, emotionally draining and very damaging to the relationship. So if we can just breathe, calm ourselves in the moment and try to see even a grain of truth in what they are trying to express, we will be richly rewarded. 

Research by Dr. John Gottman has shown that this is particularly challenging for men and men who are able to accept influence from their wives are much happier and are in happier relationships. Of...

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I disagree (DW#440)

This one may seem counter-intuitive but families that have regular disagreements or arguments may be happier and healthier than those that never disagree because the families that express themselves are not keeping their feelings bottled up and brewing resentment inside. 

Keeping the peace by avoiding conflict and not expressing needs and opinions may be an okay short term strategy but it is an awful long term strategy. Unless you are a truly enlightened being, you have things that bother you and things that you need to express that may upset others in the short term but that will be beneficial for your relationship in the long run. Going long periods of time not addressing issues that bother you or others in the family will cause emotional distance, resentment and hurt.

So an important relationship skill is to speak up (respectfully and without blame) when you do disagree with another person.  When people have the emotional safety to speak up and be heard, everyone in the...

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Please and thank you (DW#439)

When we are amongst those who are closest to us, we sometimes begin to take each other for granted. Words such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and other forms of common courtesy that we use with strangers begin to slip away and sometimes disappear altogether.

We sometimes justify this slipping away of common courtesy by saying to ourselves that saying please and thank you should be reserved for favours that go beyond the expected responsibilities towards each other. That we do not need to thank people for ‘doing their job’ especially if they are not doing ‘their job’ up to our expectations.

Here’s the thing: such an attitude is a recipe for relationships going downhill. Even if our family members continue to ‘do their job’, they will be much more likely to do so with happiness and enthusiasm if their efforts are appreciated. As we may have experienced in our own lives, it is challenging to keep showing up as our best...

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You have my support (DW#438)

All of us have areas of life in which we feel insecure and lack courage, and that lack of courage often hinders us from accomplishing the positive things that we would like to do. When we receive support from loved ones in the form of words or actions, we are encouraged to continue pursuing challenging courses of action. 

Having the support of our family members also helps us feel secure in the relationship, builds trust and intimacy and cultivates a deeper connection. 

Support is especially important during times of transition, such as a new job; a developmental change, such as the birth of a child; and grief and loss, such as the death or anniversary of a loved one’s passing.

Being there for a loved one with a compassionate presence and/or with supportive words or actions greatly eases life’s challenges for them and allows us to show our love at times when it really does matter.

What desires or goals have your loved ones expressed recently? Are they going...

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Do you remember when we... (DW#437)

Talking and reminiscing about memorable events in your couple and family history allows you to celebrate how far you have come as a couple and family. How you remember and recall your past reflects how you feel about your present relationship. 

Our time together with our families is more than a collection of dates and events. All couples and families have a story to tell. There is a story about how you met, a story about your first fight, and a story about your wedding day and the birth of your children. 

How couples share what Dr. Gottman calls the "Story of Us" reflects whether their relationship is in the positive or negative perspective. And the positive or negative perspective in turn determines the future health of your relationship. 

In Gottman's studies, couples who had a positive view of their history together were more likely to stay happily together. Happy couples talked about their relationship history in a positive way and filtered the early days through a...

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I love it when you . . . (DW#436)

Sometimes we get into a pattern in close relationships when the only time we tell our loved ones how they are impacting our lives is when they are falling short. 

While complaining certainly has its place, it is very helpful to practice giving information about what pleases us as well. We can begin by noticing what our loved ones are already doing right, and how they are impacting our lives in a positive way. And then sharing it with them. 

Appreciation, as we have said before, really is the secret sauce of relationships. In fact, the more we appreciate what is already happening in a relationship, the more likely it is that we will see more of it. And the happier we all are, the giver and the recipient of appreciation. It makes all the hard work of relationships worth it.

So, let's practice this formula:

I love it when you do x in situation y
I love it when you have the food ready when I come home from work
I love it when you take care of our toddler so I can sleep in on...

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