Improve Your Marriage with 16 Words

Phrases you need to add to your relationship vocabulary

A middle-aged couple sat in a marriage counselor's office. "I don't understand why we waste our time here; our marriage is already over," the woman cried, her husband shifting uneasily in his chair. "My husband, he doesn't love me."

"What are you talking about," the husband said, turning to the counselor, "I don't know why she says things--"

"Because you do not!" she interrupted. "After 15 years, you just do not love me any more." The bickering continued, with the wife claiming her husband no longer loved her and the man continuing to defend himself.

"Do you tell your wife that you love her?" the counselor asked the husband.

"She knows that I love her! I come home every night, don't I?" he answered, "I give her money to buy anything she wants. I agreed to come here to talk, and ah...I, ah..."

"Yes," the counselor interjected, "But do you tell your wife 'I love you'?" The couple looked at each other, the woman shaking her head.

"Well," the husband said, "Why do I have to? Isn't it obvious?"

Obviously, it's not
People need to hear the actual words. In the beginning of our relationships, we send cards describing our love and send flowers when we are sorry. Over time, not only do we forget to give our partners small gifts of affection, but sometimes, we forget to say how we feel. There are sixteen essential words that we must make an effort to say to our loved ones every day or whenever appropriate.

I love you.
Say the words before leaving for work and when you come home. Say "I love you" before hanging up the phone or after a particularly inspiring conversation. Say them just because. Every marriage needs a daily dose of these three important words. And do not worry; saying, "I love you" often is never a bad habit to have. Even if we are upset with our spouse that day, saying "I love you" may help us forgive them.

I am sorry.
"You forgot to buy milk," your spouse complains the second you walk in the door. Say I'm sorry. "You didn't clean my shirt. I have nothing to wear," your partner comments. Say I'm sorry, and try to mean it. We do not help anyone by defending ourselves, only our ego's benefit. And avoid the word "but"! This can kill our apology. To our lover's ears, "I'm sorry but..." translates to "I'm not really sorry, and I am just saying I'm sorry to allow myself to give an excuse."

There are times that our partner's comments are untimely, or perhaps, we feel every other word is a critical remark. In these cases, we should set aside a better time to discuss the problems rationally. Right after our spouse presents his or her problem is not a good time, and we may start an argument unintentionally.

I understand.
How many times has this happened to us: You are sitting at dinner, and in casual conversation, you complain, "Last night, I just did not get enough sleep, I'm so tired lately." And your spouse responds, with good intentions, "I am also tired." Or "Well, that is because you stayed up so late playing on the computer again." How does this make you feel? Not very good!

When our lover comes to us for sympathy, a simple "I understand" can really help. Claiming that we also have the same problem translates as "So what? I feel the same way and I am not complaining!" And advice should only be given when asked.

You are beautiful.
Or cute, handsome, sexy--whichever words are appropriate. When we first start dating, we hand out compliments daily. After awhile, sometimes, we forget. Maybe we assume that our spouse already knows how we feel, or maybe we do not think they need us to tell them. Tell them. Women in particular need to be reminded, especially during pregnancy, after giving birth and on birthdays! Men also need to be told they are attractive, though they may not admit it! A compliment a day improves our intimate lives in ways we can not even imagine. If your spouse is not feeling sexy, why should they want to make love to you?

I need you.
Dr. Evil said it best, "Mini-Me, you complete me." We need to let our spouse know that we not only appreciate them, but we need them. Tell them that we can not imagine our lives with out them. We might remember to mention this on anniversaries or birthdays, but why not let our spouse know every single week? Certainly, we feel that we need our spouse more than once a year! If this is too difficult to say out loud, then send them an email. Write them a note and slip it into their briefcase, lunch box or purse. Just like women need to hear they are still attractive, men particularly need to know their wives depend on them.

Thank you.
Why is it that strangers, the cashier at the supermarket and co-workers receive our thanks every single day, but our spouse rarely hears the words! Thank your spouse for making dinner, washing dishes, and keeping the house clean. Thank your partner for bringing home a paycheck, buying our favorite desert and coming home. Again, if we feel weird saying "Thank you for bringing home a paycheck," or whatever the case may be, write it down! Be romantic and send your spouse an e-card or put a sticky note on the bathroom mirror.

We must add these sixteen very special words to our lives. We may be amazed at how much peace will result from such simple additions to our vocabulary!

Rachel Gurevich is a stay-at-home mother and award winning freelance author. Her articles have appeared both on-line and in print, in publications such as The Writing Parent, NorthWest Baby and Child, and others. Her book is "The's Guide to Becoming a Doula." She's the contributing editor for's Jewish Families page, and the assistant editor for Myria Media Inc.