The strongest couples understand the role verbal communication plays in a relationship and how regularly exchanging words of encouragement, validation and empowerment can solidify their bond.
We asked marriage therapists to share the things the happiest couples say constantly to each other (other than “I love you,” of course) that keep their connection strong.
1. “I’m here for you.”
Couples who consistently remind each other that they have each other’s backs are more capable of taking on whatever challenges life throws their way. Maybe one partner is grappling with a mental health issue. Maybe the other’s dealing with a toxic friend, family member or coworker. Whatever the issue, knowing that you have the unconditional support of your partner and someone to rely on is invaluable.
“This means that you are putting your partner’s needs first, and that no matter what they tell you or what they need, you will step up and be present and supportive,” psychologist Samantha Rodman told HuffPost. “When partners are unsure of each other’s willingness to be there for them, relationships can quickly erode.”
2. “Can I help you with that?”
“Carrying in the groceries, making the bed, navigating technology disasters, juggling too many things on your to-do list ― even if there’s no help to be had, it feels good to know someone is there if you need them,” marriage and family therapist Winifred M. Reilly said.
The happiest couples are independent people, but never forget that they are also teammates. If you sense your partner is overwhelmed, step in and ask if there’s anything you can do to lighten their load.
“Sometimes a partner isn’t thinking about asking for help and when a partner offers, it can make a world of difference,” psychologist and sex therapist Shannon Chavez said. “It shows compassion and that you really care and are thinking about your partner’s wellbeing.”
3. “You look amazing.”
Getting regular reminders that your partner is still super attracted to you ― yep, even after all this time ― feels pretty great. You don’t need to shower each other in mushy-gushy compliments all day long (unless you’re into that!), but getting a little comment about how awesome you look in those pants can put some extra pep in your step.
Such compliments suggest “that your partner sees you and notices your looks. You caught their attention,” Chavez said.
4. “I have faith in you.”
When self-doubt creeps in, having someone in your corner who believes in you can provide a much-needed confidence boost. Whether you’ve just been promoted at work and feel overwhelmed by all the shots you have to call or you’re struggling to stick to a healthy eating regimen, receiving words of affirmation from your partner can remind you that you’re capable.
“You can say this in other ways, like, ‘I trust your judgment’ or ‘I know you’ll make the right decision,’” Rodman said. “Either way, telling your partner that you have full confidence in their abilities to navigate their lives and important decisions makes them feel confident and secure in themselves.”
5. “Thank you.”
Couples in the happiest relationships express their gratitude for one another often. They don’t just wait for Valentine’s Day or a birthday to acknowledge all their partner does; rather, they’re in the habit of saying “thank you” for the everyday stuff all year round.
“Little ‘thank yous’ every day can go even further than the most romantic poetry,” marriage and family therapist Spencer Northey said. “Some of my clients have initially thought it might seem mundane or redundant to say ‘thank you’ to their partner for things that are daily expectations in the relationship, such as taking out the trash, taking care of the kids, tidying up, and basic things like that. The reality is that this habit of acknowledging the little things you do for each other and the household maintains a sense of appreciation for each other.”
“Happy couples tell each other what they need rather than expecting that their partner will or should just know.”
6. “I’m sorry.”
Copping to mistakes and admitting that you were wrong requires swallowing your pride, which isn’t always easy to do. But the ability to deliver a sincere apology to your partner can make the difference between a small disagreement and a long-standing conflict in the relationship.
“Acknowledging a mistake and the impact it had on your significant other keeps you connected and moving forward together,” said Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling men. “Without this correction, hurt feelings can fester and build.”
You can’t always say “yes” to your partner — a healthy “no” is an important and wonderful thing. But happy couples adopt a “yes” mindset with each other wherever possible.
Obviously, you don’t want to say “yes” to the weightier things in life ― like deciding whether to have kids ― just to be agreeable. But there’s no harm in indulging your S.O. when it comes to the smaller stuff: what band to see in concert, what movie to watch, which restaurant to dine at, where to vacation, etc.
“‘Yes’ calls for flexibility and generosity, a willingness to sometimes go wholeheartedly with our second choice,” Reilly said. “Not in the mood for sushi? Not a big fan of Hugh Grant movies? A, ‘yes’ on these sorts of things won’t kill you. In my experience, generosity begets generosity. And generosity feels good, both giving and receiving.”
8. “I would like it if...”
You can’t expect your partner to read your mind, no matter how close the two of you are or how many years you’ve been together. Couples in healthy relationships are able to speak their minds and ask for what they want and need from their partner.
“Desires and expectations, unfortunately, too often go unspoken,” Smith said. “Happy couples tell each other what they need rather than expecting that their partner will or should just know. Resentment and anger develop when this isn’t done.”
Couples therapist Kari Carroll emphasized the importance of communicating with your partner in a clear, direct way, even when it seems like you’re being quite blunt.
“Too often we skirt around issues, thinking we are being clear but actually trying not to hurt their feelings,” Carroll said. Being more straightforward — like asking, “Can you do the dishes in the sink before I start dinner?” instead of just complaining under your breath and hoping your partner takes a hint — “helps everyone to be on the same page and avoid resentment and miscommunication,” she added.
9. “I feel...”
Recognizing your own feelings and sharing them with your partner can help you process whatever you’re going through and bring the two of you closer together. It may be easier to express positive emotions like joy, but it’s important to open up about negatives ones, like frustration, sadness and shame, too.
“While this can be an uncomfortable step for many people, especially men, it’s a necessary ingredient for relationship happiness,” Smith said. “A lot of partners withhold sharing negative feelings out of fear of hurting the other. Yet they can hurt them even more by not being honest.”
10. “You’re right.”
Northey says using words that validate your partner’s thoughts, feelings and experiences are like “love glue.”
“Certainly there are times when it is fun and helpful for us to be challenged by our partners to see another perspective, but that only works if there is a foundation of feeling seen, understood and affirmed,” she said.
The happiest couples focus on their partner’s positive qualities, instead of dwelling on their shortcomings.
“Couples who make a habit of turning toward each other by looking for ways in which their partners make sense, have good ideas and are doing the right thing are sure to see the best in each other and find the best in their relationship,” Northey added.
11. “I’m working on myself.”
Couples who have a genuine desire to improve themselves often make the best partners in the long run. Why? Because they’re willing to do some honest self-reflection and the hard work required to actually change their ways.
“Truly, the happiest couples do not ask their partner to take responsibility for all of their needs,” Carroll said. “Rather, they identify things they need to work on and they take it upon themselves to do things like self-soothe, increase distress tolerance and talk to others like a therapist or friends for support on difficult issues arising.”