"The regret of my life is that I have not said ‘I love you’ often enough." ~ Yoko Ono
It’s a scary thought isn’t it? The possibility that your most treasured relationships might whither away and die.
Yet most of us take the most important people in our lives for granted. We mistakenly think that our relationships with our spouses, our children, and other close family and friends will simply take care of themselves.
But deep down inside you know the converse is true...
These relationships demand the most energy and effort in order to make them grow and thrive. And you’ve seen too many examples of the pain and agony people experience when their closest relationships go awry.
Stephen Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, uses the powerful metaphor of the "Emotional Bank Account" to describe how trust can be built up in a relationship. Some words and actions result in a deposit into the account while others result in a withdrawal.
Unfortunately, too many people don’t realize when they’ve overdrawn their accounts until it’s too late.
If you want to build up a large reserve of goodwill and trust in your close relationships, here are 7 things that your loved ones need to hear you say often:
1. I love you.
How many times have you heard this "She knows that I love her" or "He doesn’t want to hear me say that every day."
But our feelings follow our actions (not the other way around). Saying "I love you" often helps us to maintain our feelings of love toward that person and helps them feel affirmed in your love for them.
This is why it is so important to say these three most important words -- even if you don’t feel particularly loving toward the person at the moment. By saying these words rain or shine, you’re expressing the fact that your commitment to them goes far beyond any particular disagreement or bad day.
Try a guided meditation to rekindle your love with your husband or to reconnect with your wife -- it is a subtle way to reconnect on a very deep level
2. I’m sorry.
We all do or say things that we regret. And the more time you spend with someone, the more opportunities you have to make mistakes. In the words of Karen Armstrong, "nearly every day there is something to forgive."
When you have wronged someone you love, don’t assume things will take care of themselves. Don’t assume that a half-hearted apology will work. Apologize quickly and sincerely. Eliminate the phrases "I’m sorry if…." or "I’m sorry but…"
Take full responsibility for your actions. You’ll eliminate the withdrawal you initially made and you’ll have enough credits left over to increase the balance in your account. A sincere apology is one of the most effective reset buttons in any relationship.
3. I understand how you feel.
One of our greatest needs is to be heard. Misunderstands often occur when we fail to compassionately listen to the other person’s point of view.
Empathy is one of the most powerful ways to connect with those we love. When you say "I understand how you feel," you’re expressing your ability to put yourself in their shoes. And even if you do it imperfectly, your sincere efforts will be appreciated.
Your loved ones will know they can trust you to truly listen to them in a world where good listeners are increasingly hard to find.
4. I believe in you.
We all need a confidence boost from time to time. And sometimes we can feel like we’re alone or that our efforts amount to nothing.
Saying these words from you means that you truly care about the success of those you love. They’ll know that you have their back even when it feels like the universe is against them.
It will strengthen your bonds of love and goodwill.
5. I’m scared.
It can be hard to admit when we’re afraid to those we love. You may think the most important thing at that moment is to show strength and resolve.
While that can be beneficial, it’s also important to be vulnerable and let our defenses down. When you trust someone enough to share your fears, anxieties, and worries, you deepen the bonds of friendship and love.
Sure it’s a risk to be vulnerable. There’s always the possibility of being betrayed, even by those close to you. But it’s more likely that your Emotional Bank Account will grow.
Anne Lamott once said "'No' is a complete sentence."
It may seem counterintuitive that your loved ones need to hear you say "no" more often. But think about the number of relationships that have gone south because of poor boundaries.
Our loved ones need to know that we are just as limited as they are. That we cannot do everything, or be everything. And that pretending otherwise only harms relationships.
They’ll see that you value the relationship enough to say "no" with love and compassion. They’ll learn to respect your boundaries and appreciate the fact that you’ll respect theirs too.
7. Thank you.
How often do we fail to say "thank you" to a loved one because we take their goodwill for granted?
Saying "thank you" often affirms the person rather than valuing them based on what they can do for you.
These two simple words said sincerely can express our appreciation for the people we love. They express gratitude for their unconditional love and loyalty.
Next time you encounter your loved one, greet them with these words: "Thank you for who you are."
Take Your Relationships to the Next Level.
If you’re ready to grow rock-solid relationships, now is the time to start putting these sentences into practice.
Memorize them. Say them every single day.
Why? Because your relationships matter more than anything else.
So delight in the ones that put a spring in your step or causes a smile when you think of them. Say these seven things every day to let them know how much they mean to you.
Over the long-term, you’ll form bonds that will be practically unbreakable.
Cylon is a spiritual chaplain, musician, devoted husband, and busy dad of six. He blogs about practical spiritual tips for living well at Spiritual Living For Busy People - sign up and get his free guide 20 Little Tricks To Instantly Improve Your Mood Even If You Feel Like Punching Something (or Someone).