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Relationhip Advice: 10 Magic Words

Just about every night at our house, we read a book called "Say The Magic Words Please" to our young son. The story has lots of magic words, such as "please," "thank you" and "excuse me."

Why am I telling you this?

Well, the other night the book got me to wondering about what the "magic words" might be for couples. You know, all those words and phrases we tend to forget after a few years of marriage.

As a result of my wondering, and a highly scientific poll (I asked my wife, my friends and my clients, in that order), here are a few suggestions:

"I Love You" - Gotta start there. They are such simple little words, yet if left unspoken, they can cause a lot of damage.

When a person begins to believe that they are no longer loved, bad things start to happen fairly quickly.

"Let's try it your way" - It's human nature to want to be right. For some, it's an addiction. Having the grace to say "Let's try it your way" says that you not only value the other person, you think you made a good choice as well.

"Maybe you're right" - A cousin to "Let's try it your way," these words make room for the possibility that there is another valid point of view besides your own.

"How can I show you I love you today?" - What a grand invitation! Imagine what it would feel like to hear that on a regular basis.

"I'm sorry I hurt you" - So necessary yet at times so hard to say.

Remember the '70s movie "Love Story" and its famous theme: "Love is never having to say you're sorry"? That just doesn't work in the real world.

People tend to overlook the fact that in the movie the woman died young before we could see the long-term results of never saying you're sorry.

"Please forgive me" - Usually needs to follow "I'm sorry." Many husbands have told me they feel they should wear a T-shirt that says "I'M SORRY." My question to them (and often to myself) is, "Do you follow it up with 'Please forgive me?' "

Anyone can say "I'm sorry." That's fairly easy. "Please forgive me" does at least three important things:

Acknowledges the hurt.

Requires more vulnerability.

Comes with a commitment not to hurt again, to change.

Other magic words:

Say your vows again. A real marriage, a continual wedding, if you will, needs much more than a one-time recitation of vows. Marriage enrichment experts Joe and Barbara Mills recommend that couples restate their vows at least once a year.

"Would you like to go on a date with me this Saturday night?" When was the last time you asked your partner for a date? We all like to be courted, so call them up and ask them out! How about right now? If you're at home, go to a neighbor's house and call. Just do it. The results can be pretty cool.

"Hi, I just called to say I'm thinking of you." Enough said.

"How am I doing as a spouse and partner?" This one is only for the strong at heart. Most of us never got any hands-on instruction on how to do this marriage thing. We just make it up as we go along.

Having the guts to ask how you are doing lets your partner know at least three things:

The relationship is very important to you.

You are willing to learn.

You are willing to change if needed.

So there we are, a few magic words for a marriage. How might your relationship be if you practiced these magic words, say, one a week for the next 10 weeks?

Jeff Herring is a Relationship Coach, Speaker, and Syndicated Relationship Columnist. Visit for more relationship tips and tools, a free internet newsletter and free e-programs to enrich your relationship

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