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Talk Your Way Into the New Year

10 Best Things to Say to Your Partner

Goal setting, reflection and new beginnings are typical occurrences as one year ends and another begins. Resolutions, self-promises and high resolve are the order of the day as people strive to improve important areas of their lives.

A time associated with new beginnings, New Year's Eve might just be the perfect time for you and your partner to examine your communication style. Look over the following list of the 10 best things you can say to your partner. Decide which ones you will use and when. Add them to your list of resolutions, and commit to making this your best year ever as a couple.

1. "If I were picking again today, I'd still choose you."

Every spouse needs to hear these words on occasion. They are affirming, nurturing and appreciative. They are an intimate expression of love and caring that can generate warm feelings in both hearts.

"If I were picking again today, I'd still choose you," meets the needs of both parties. It helps the receiver feel valued and cherished. Simultaneously, it reminds the sender that indeed every day is a choice and that this day she still chooses the partner she picked many days, many months or many years ago.

Use this sentence only if you know it to be true. It is not to be used for manipulation, to get sex, to make up or to make yourself look good. If you don't mean it, don't say it.

If you can't say this phrase and mean it, ask yourself these questions: Am I sure that I'm where I want to be? How come I'm still in this relationship? What do I have to do, what changes need to be made, what thoughts, attitudes and feelings need to change in order for me to be able to use this sentence and mean it?

2. "What's your opinion?"

Asking, "What's your opinion?" communicates that you want to see the situation through your partner's eyes. You're delivering the message: I'm interested in you. I want to hear your ideas, thoughts and opinions.

"What's your opinion?" can serve two purposes. One is to elicit information from your partner that will help you arrive at a mutually agreeable decision about an area of concern to you both. The other is to open a dialogue that will help you think through the process of a personal decision and reach your own conclusion. Either way, "What's your opinion?" helps your partner feel valued, loved and appreciated.

3. "I noticed . . ."

"I noticed" is a five-second shot of self-esteem. It says to your partner, I see you. You will not be invisible here.

Everyone likes to be noticed. You like to be noticed. Your partner likes to be noticed. I don't need to be noticed, you may be thinking. If so, pay attention to your reaction the next time you enter the room and your partner continues to read the paper without even looking up at you. Think about how you feel when you suggest an idea at a committee meeting and no one responds to it. If you're like most people, you begin to feel invisible, unimportant, undervalued.

To notice your partner is to affirm his or her existence and importance in your life. It acknowledges their presence and communicates that they are valued and appreciated.

4. "Would you do me a favor?"

Many people want to be needed. They are willing to do for others. Yet they aren't always sure exactly what to do or what is appropriate. That's where "Will you do me a favor?" comes in. When you ask your partner, "Will you do me a favor?" you give direction to his or her desire to be of service, to demonstrate love, to help out.

You are not being an imposition when you ask for help. On the contrary, you are giving your partner a gift. You are gifting her with an opportunity to contribute, to feel valuable, to return the help that you have given in the past.

5. "Would you like a back rub?"

"Would you like a back rub?" is an offer to give your partner pleasure. It flows from two important and related beliefs. One belief is that giving pleasure to another builds intimacy. Connectedness and feelings of closeness grow as one person provides pleasure to the other. The second belief is that giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin. As we give pleasure, we get pleasure in return: the pleasure of giving, the pleasure of pleasing, the pleasure of seeing the beloved enjoying the receiving.

This type of pleasuring carries no demands. An hour or two of massage and sensual touch is not intended to lead to sexual intercourse. It is important to have no hidden expectations or agenda. The motivation is simply to have your partner feel good.

6. "Let's do something weird."

"Let's do something weird" is a Couple Talk phrase that can add fun and adventure to your relationship – one that will remind you and your partner that a relationship can be more than problem-solving, conflict resolution and struggle. It invites your partner to join you in discovering new and adventuresome ways to have fun together. It initiates grown-up play.

"Let's do something weird" is about giving yourself permission to do something unusual with your partner. It is a request to be the opposite of how we usually are: serious, thoughtful, guarded and mature. Brainstorming unusual, fun ideas together could lead to exploring change.

"Let's do something weird" can be the beginning of an interesting dialogue. A playful discussion could challenge you to use the same Couple Talk communication skills you'd need if you were discussing a much more serious issue.

7. "Let's make a plan."

"Let's create an adventurous vacation."

"How about if we design the way we would like the new room to look?"

"Let's develop a plan for dealing with this child."

Planning is one activity in which healthy couples engage. They invest time in exploring each other's desires, interests and goals. They create a plan together and reach consensus. They make their plan concrete, verbalize it and often put it in writing.

Sometimes the planning takes on the flavor of problem solving: How can we arrange your mother's visit to meet everyone's needs? Other times it merely focuses on alternatives: "What are some possibilities here? Let's make a list."

Goal setting can be the focal point of productive planning: What goal shall we create for our use of this Couple Talk material? The planning conversation could concentrate on dreams or fantasies: What would our dream house look like? or Where do we want to be 10 years from now?

8. "Let's check it out inside."

"Let's check it out inside" is a Couple Talk phrase that helps us remember to look within for answers. Each of us has a wise part within, an intuitive part that knows what is best for us. This inner knowing is invaluable when life presents us with problems whose answers aren't in the back of the book.

This is not a request to spent time thinking or analyzing. This is an invitation to get out of your heads and into your hearts.

This inner knowing has been called by a variety of names. We've heard it referred to as "inner knowing," "gut-level feeling," "conscience," "intuition," "talking to God" and "the wise part within." What you choose to call it is not as important as learning how and when to use it.

"Let's check it out inside" is a statement of self-trust. It's an admission that there is much more to wisdom than merely logic. It's a decision to consider all the data when making a decision – data that comes from the inside as well as the outside.

9. "What can we learn from this?"

Mistakes and misunderstandings happen in every relationship. They are a fact of life. Sometimes the infractions are minor. Other times the mistakes are so big the results are tragic. Regardless of their intensity and impact, mistakes happen for a reason. They occur so we can learn lessons, so we can grow and move on with our lives, wiser and better able to handle what comes our way.

"What can we learn from this?" is pivotal Couple Talk in the wake of a mistake or misunderstanding. It prompts a pivotal turn away from dwelling on the mistake and moves a couple in the direction of learning from it. Often a lesson comes disguised as a mistake or misunderstanding.

Asking "What can we learn from this?" puts an end to finding fault and judging one another. It puts you and your partner on the same side, facing the problem together, focusing your energy on moving forward. It helps you search for lessons rather than for someone to blame.

Use your mistakes to your own advantage. Be willing to learn and grow from them. Turn your mistakes and misunderstandings into learning opportunities by asking, "What can we learn from this?"

10. "What would love do now?"

When making an important decision, couples consider a variety of criteria. Will we regret this later? How much money will it cost us? Will we get anything back? Will it be worth our time and effort? Will this commit us to anything else? Will it affect our lifestyle? Will we win or lose? Will we look good? What will we have to give up? What impact will this have on our time? How badly do we want to do this? Will this be something that will bring pleasure? Will we get any recognition?

Couples whose main purpose in being a couple is to help and support each other in growing spiritually often ask a different question than those posed above. When faced with a dilemma and unsure about what to do, they find it useful to ask, "What would love do now?"

There is no question more important to the spiritual development of you and your partner than "What would love do now?" If your reason for being together is to accumulate a healthy retirement portfolio, climb the corporate ladder, build fame and recognition or hold on to what you have, then this question need not be part of your Couple Talk. If, on the other hand, Spirit is your goal, the most meaningful, relevant, helpful question you can ask in any situation is, "What would love do now?"

"What would love do now?" does not have to be used exclusively for heavy-duty issues like tough love and nursing home decisions. It can be used to determine how you and your partner budget your money or choose whom to invite to a party. You can use it to help decide if you should join a church committee, take dance lessons together or give this article to a friend.

Your choice of words and style of communication are critical to the level of intimacy, connectedness and trust you create with your partner. The way you talk to your partner, what you say and how you say what you say all impact the degree of respect and caring that is present. Why not resolve this year to regularly examine the ways you talk to your partner?

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