I love that old John Mayer song “Say What You Need to Say”. It’s so simple, yet true. Why is it that we often hold back from really saying all the things we need to say until something bad happens or we think we may never see the person again? This holds true in many marriages.
The longer we are married, the less we tend to freely and properly communicate. In order to keep our marriages strong, we should really be doing the opposite; whether we feel like it or not. Here are 4 simple phrases that we can say to our spouse regularly to make (or keep) our marriages strong:
1. I’m sorry; Please forgive me.
It amazes me how powerful these five words can be, and yet, we are often reluctant about saying them to our spouse at times. Whether we are trying to prove that we are right or we think our spouse should be able to read our minds, it’s wrong. A heartfelt apology goes a long way in healing relationships. When we make a mistake (which we all do), we need to be quick to say we’re sorry and seek forgiveness. When we do this simple act, we humble ourselves before our spouse and soften his or her heart towards us. The act of offering a sincere apology frees us from the guilt and shame that can often take hold in our hearts and minds. It clears the air and keeps respect and honesty at the forefront of our marriages.
2. I forgive you.
This is probably even harder than saying “I’m sorry” at times. My husband, Dave Willis, is an amazing pastor and author, and he explains forgiveness in a way that has helped me to understand it so much better. He says,
“Forgiveness can’t be earned; It can only be given. Trust, however, cannot be given; It can only be earned. Therefore, we must forgive quickly, yet trust slowly”
We must forgive quickly, especially in our marriages, because unforgiveness can take hold like a parasite in our hearts. Eventually, we become a host to debilitating resentment.
When we forgive, we are not telling our spouse that his/her offense was okay or that it didn’t hurt us deeply. We are simply saying, “I choose to love you through this, and I am willing to slowly trust you once again. I am not holding this offense against you any longer.”
As Christians, we understand we have been forgiven of our sins due to the ultimate sacrifice God made for us by sending His one and only Son, Jesus, to the cross to pay for our sins…just so we can have a relationship with him and freedom from the shackles of sin and shame. If God is willing to forgive me for the many sins I have committed and will commit in my life, I must be willing to forgive my husband, even when it is extremely difficult. If not, the unforgiveness will not only poison our relationship, but it can and will destroy me.
3. I love you.
For some married couples, “I love you” is something you tell each other multiple times a day. For others, it is something that we assume our spouse already knows. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had much success with making assumptions in my marriage. I can’t help but think of my high school AP Psychology teacher, Mr. Bates, when I think about assumptions. He regularly and candidly shared a nugget of wisdom with our junior class, and the one that stuck for me had to do with assumptions. Mr. Bates said, “When you “assume” something, you only make an A-S-S out of Y-O-U and M-E”. I remember being completely shocked my his candor because I had never heard a teacher say the “A-word” in class, but, nevertheless, he had a point. We often make complete and total fools of ourselves when we make assumptions.
Your spouse needs to be reminded that you love him/her on a regular basis. Many of us have no problem telling our kids how much we love them, but our spouse needs that reassurance just as much. Dave and I say “I love you” every time we talk on the phone, text, or head out the door. Repetitious, maybe? Do I ever get tired of saying it or hearing it? No way. I love Dave so much. I honestly don’t think I can tell him enough.
4. I am for you.
We might assume (there’s that word again) that our spouse knows we are cheering him/her on in their endeavors just because we are married, but that isn’t always the case. Yes, our actions speak loudly, but it is always nice to receive a kind word from our spouse. There have been many times when I doubted my own abilities, and Dave’s words of encouragement gave me the boost I needed to push through. Our words are so powerful. I want to be sure that Dave knows I am his biggest fan and cheerleader. It may sound cheesy, but it’s true. I see a huge difference in his demeanor when he knows he has my complete and total support. Why would I want to withhold that from him? I want to bring out the best in my husband, and he desires to bring out the very best in me. As spouses, lets always be quick to remind one another that we are for each other; not against each other. We are one. When win together; We lose together.
Being married is no easy task, but speaking life into our marriages with these simple phrases is something we CAN do to keep our marriages strong.
For more information and ideas on how to build a stronger marriage, check out our latest book, “The Marriage Minute”, clicking here.