I can remember my heart catching in my throat when Eric said these three words. We were at Walmart just a month after I graduated college. As we were leaving the store, a man was playing with his child in a super silly fashion, and I commented, “Having kids makes you do strange things, and having grandkids makes you do super strange things.” His response, “So does love,” might have been a simple, matter-of-fact comment, but I knew it was not. Feelings between us were changing… and can I just say… it was about time!
Later that evening, we talked and officially decided to be more than friends. This outcome was a relief to me as we had been more than friends in my heart for a while. The peaceful, giddy feelings which came in those following days were magnificent. I glowed! Little girls at my church commented on it. It was as if nothing could bring me down. I was on top of the world.
Sometimes I go back there in my mind to remember the joy of our early days. As the years have gone by, we have become far removed from the giggles and butterflies of 2004. And, though I would not trade the comfort and friendship we have developed over the years, I wish we had spent more energy offering each other compliments and reassuring words – words that came so naturally to us in the beginning.
Thankfully, we do not have to throw in the towel, or say, “those days are gone.” Though our giddiness will probably never return to the level it was when our love was new, we can choose to lift each other up verbally from now until God calls us home. It is so easy to be critical, but words of life (Proverbs 18:21) offer encouragement and motivation to our (sometimes) weary hearts.
Whether you are driving down the on ramp to love, or have been together for decades, the phrases below will bless your sweetheart, your relationship, and your life (copy and paste the headings into a simple list to print out and keep next to your bed to read daily to memorize!):
- Thank you! Gratitude is something we can all appreciate. Not only does giving thanks to our significant others make them feel special, but it reminds our hearts to focus on the positive. A grateful heart is not a discontent heart.
- I am sorry. Humility in relationships is invaluable. If anything is going to break up an otherwise well-matched couple, it is selfishness and pride. Even if admitting your mistakes and asking for forgiveness tastes terrible the first dozen times, it will get easier; and, it will show your sweetie that maintaining the relationship is more important to you than being crowned “winner.” (According to Dr. Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas, there are five apology languages. Take this quiz to discover yours!)
- I cherish and adore you. No woman tires of hearing that her man sees her as a treasure. What I respect about you is… is another powerful phrase which men love to hear (and see in your actions).
- What is one way I can make your life easier (or sweeter) today? You can ask this question in various ways to keep it from becoming rote. Whether acts of service is your sweetie’s love language or not, he or she can appreciate your desire to make his or her life more pleasant.
- You make me laugh! After more than a decade of marriage, I can say with complete confidence that finding a spouse who makes you laugh is more important than finding a spouse who is tremendously attractive. There are few things better than laughing hysterically with the one you love.
- We should go to the pet shop and look at puppies! For me, this is a quality use of time. Eric would also consider snuggling with puppies an enjoyable date idea. But, your sweetheart might appreciate a, “Hey, we should check out that new display at the museum,” or, “How about we try that new Thai restaurant?” Think of something he or she enjoys, and make a date out of it!
- Can I get you anything? Are you heading to the store or even just into the kitchen? Get in the habit of thinking of your sweetie whenever you are about to do something for yourself. Whenever Eric takes my dirty dishes to the kitchen or asks, “Do you want some coffee?” it whispers to my heart, “I love you.”
- I am proud of you for ________. It is heart-warming to hear that someone is proud of you – especially your special But, hearing specifics as to why he or she is proud of you is even more satisfying and motivating. Some people need affirmation more often than others. If your sweetheart does not need, or is turned off by, frequent praise, then save this comment for special occasions; and, when you do say it, do so matter-of-factly instead of emotionally.
- Would you like help with that task? Without assuming that your help is needed, we can offer support to each other with this simple question. And whether or not the offer is taken, the recipient of the question at least knows you care and are trying to help them.
- I was bragging about you to my friends tonight! Be careful with this one as some people are more private than others; but, when your VIP does something you appreciate, let your friends and family now about it – occasionally. Nobody wants to endure frequent stories about your honey. However, it is important that your boyfriend or girlfriend know you are proud of your relationship; and, the more often you make positive comments, the less often you will be tempted to gossip about each other’s negative qualities.
- How about you pick the movie tonight? We are, by nature, selfish – we want what we want. Something as simple as sacrificing our desire to watch the movie of our choice communicates love to each other. It is precious to offer your significant other what he or she needs, but laying down your wishes in order to provide what he or she wants takes it to a whole new level.
- I am not going anywhere. This is a phrase to be sober-mindedly used only in marriage. And be careful to only use this phrase if you mean it. Refrain from making this promise before you are fully committed to a lifetime with your sweetie. In college, a boyfriend once told me, “If you leave me, I’m coming with you. You’re stuck with me,” and it freaked me out. I did not feel loved… I felt… a bit frightened! Hearing that same comment from Eric after almost twelve years of marriage is a comfort and not a threat! ~smile~
- I believe in you. You’ve got this. No matter how confident we may be, life can get us down. Having our sweetheart in our corner reminding us that we can conquer our dreams – that we have the stuff – is motivating and comforting.
- I thought of you today when I was _______. Periodically let your VIP know when he or she crosses your mind at work, running errands, or just hanging around the house. It is nice to know your significant other is thinking of you fondly throughout the day – especially after years of marriage.
- You look so beautiful/handsome! Such compliments tend to flow more readily from newly dating and newlywed mouths, but over time couples tend to grow unintentionally lazy on this score. When Eric tells me I look nice, it startles me a little because I do not expect it; but, it does wonders for my heart. It is more appropriate for a man to compliment a single woman’s appearance than for the same man to offer a married woman such a flattering remark – unless he is much older and regarded as a grandfatherly influence. So, gentlemen, once you are married, remember that if your lovely bride does not hear, “You are beautiful!” from you, she is probably not going to hear it from any man (and it’s something she will thrive on hearing).
- I want you to have the last piece. As silly as it may sound, giving Eric part of my food when we eat out is one way I say, “I love you.” It warms my heart tremendously, especially since I know he loves variety. And, when he eats the last of the kettle corn or enjoys the last cookie in the bag, I am usually happy. It seems like I should be annoyed, but it does my heart good. I guess I am my grandmother’s granddaughter after all. ~smile~
- See how much I love you (SHMILY)! SHMILY is a fun acronym to write on note cards and leave in random places for your loved one to find. And, if you would rather, you can leave your man a SHMIRY (See how much I respect you) note – and add a sentence detailing one of the reasons you respect him. What man would not love finding that in his wallet, on his dashboard, or taped to the TV remote?
- Pillow fight!!!!!!!!!! It is so much fun to be silly with your special someone. Eric and I are no strangers to weird accents, silly conversations, and tickle fights. These moments keep life light and make the serious stuff seem less overwhelming.
- I forgive you. What is tough about this simple sentence is that, at times, you will have to utter it even if your sweetheart does not apologize. Any well-functioning, God-honoring relationship has to include forgiveness – even when the offending party does not request it. Hearing Eric gently say, “I forgive you” is like a balm to my heart. It reconstructs our damaged connection.
- Having you in my life is a pleasure. Depending on your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse’s personality, you can tweak this to make it more or less sappy. ~smile~ The longer couples are together, the less common it is for them to reassure each other. Consider the ways he or she makes your life better – more joyful and peaceful – and then tell your sweetie how he or she is a blessing to you.
It does not cost us a dime to give verbal gifts to our sweethearts on a regular basis. Praise and affirmation flow out of some more readily than others, but like with any new task, it gets easier the more you do it.
How Can I Hurt My Husband in the Most Painful Way Possible?
Eric enjoys telling the following story:
“I hate my husband,” the extremely disgruntled wife told Gary Chapman. “I want to not only leave him, but I want to destroy him when I do.” Her counselor, being the insightful man he was, suggested she go home and dote on her husband, shower him with respect, and pour out buckets of appreciation. “After you spend months showering him with love… then leave him. That will destroy him.”
A couple years later, Chapman ran into his client, and asked her, “So, did you ever leave your husband?” Somewhat shocked and appalled, she replied, “Leave him? Our marriage is the best it has ever been! Why would I leave him?!?”
What changed in her marriage? She changed. And, even though I am sure they both had room for improvement, it had to start with one of them. Even though her motives were impure at first, her constant adoration and serving changed his heart – and hers.
We have so much power to effect change in our relationships, and that change can start with what we say. Once we get into the habit of speaking life, our actions will follow. Our actions follow our beliefs, and we will eventually believe what we allow ourselves to hear.
Speak kindness. Hear kindness. Believe what you hear. Act as though you love each other. Before you know it, you absolutely will.
Do you regularly speak affirming phrases to your sweetheart?