We all have different views about the meaning and appropriate usage of the phrase “I love you” but generally in relationships we can use it as a catch-all for the way we may feel about our partners. Often, more specificity is needed in our relationships for our partners to truly feel loved. Here are a few phrases and sentiments that can broaden and deepen feelings of love within your relationship.
I Respect You
We all want to feel as though our partners accept and approve of the person that we are and of the way we move through the world. Of course, there will be things that irritate us or that we don’t agree with but generally solid partnerships are built on a respect for who the other person is. Did you see a way your partner navigated a social situation with a particular grace or did you see him or her put a great deal of focus and hard work into a certain project? Tell them. Let your partner know the qualities that you value about them as often as you can. This can also help create a softer landing when bringing things up that are bothering you.
I Appreciate You or Thank You
When we are deep into the groove of our day to day lives and focused on our jobs, children, friends, families, we can often forget to stop and notice for a moment the little things our partners do for us. These things may not necessarily be exactly what we need or what we would do for them but taking time to notice these things and express your appreciation not only is essential for connection and harmony within a partnership but also is likely to increase these behaviors and perhaps prompt additional ones.
I Want to Try to Understand
Often we are upset by something that our partners may not be able to understand. When on the receiving end of that upset in a relationship, we can easily become defensive in these moments and subtly or not so subtly begin to make our “counter argument.” Instead of doing this immediately as a first reaction, try starting from a place of curiosity about what might be happening for your partner and approaching with a desire to understand- “I love you so I want to try to understand what might be making you upset so we can figure out what to do.” This approach is likely to lead to more beneficial and productive outcomes in conflicts.
- Liz Hayman, MFT, is a relationship and individual therapist in San Francisco, CA