Daily actions and habits can gift your relationship with both stability and growth. A couple of years into my marriage, I heard an excellent homily from a priest that suggested three key phrases you can say to your spouse every day. I was surprised at how much these words improved my relationship and hope they will help you too.
1. “I love you” – said with intentionality. At some point, we can begin to absentmindedly say “I love you” to our partner. We have said it so many times since that first “special” time that it risks losing its meaning. When you tell your spouse “I love you,” remember that you are expressing your complete, faithful, unconditional love: “I love all of you. I love the best of you and even the parts of you driving me a little crazy right now.”
2. “Thank you for…” Thank your partner for what he has done to show love to you today: let him know you see him. Thank him for washing the dishes or for sending you a nice text in the middle of the day. Thank him for his smile that lifted your spirits. He may not be gifting you with big gestures every day, but you will likely find that you are most thankful for the little things. Gratitude will help you be less bothered by those things that may be driving you a little crazy right now.
3. “I’m sorry for…” We are all imperfect people and (most of us) are making mistakes daily. Did you use a harsh tone of voice with your partner earlier? Were you feeling lazy and started scrolling through Instagram instead of helping clean up after dinner? This reflection isn’t designed to encourage you to beat yourself up for your failings (don’t do it!) but rather to help you build patience with your partner on his growth journey. You’ll be more patient with that thing that’s been driving you crazy (“how does he keep leaving trash just outside the trashcan?!”) when you remember you’re still very much a work in progress too.
Bonus: When necessary, add in an “I forgive you.” Often, when I tell my husband “I’m sorry,” he will quietly nod or say “it’s okay.” I can usually tell when I’ve done something that was really hurtful when he replies with an, “I forgive you.” Over time, I’ve learned to not feel shame for causing a major hurt, but instead be grateful that I took the time make note of my failings before I let it fester in our relationship.
Finally, I end with a word of caution. Don’t let this activity become something you force on your partner. When I first heard this homily, I immediately adapted it into my nightly routine. In the beginning, I would get frustrated when my husband didn’t reply with the same. (He most often would reply with “Goodnight.”) I slowly realized that I was looking at things the wrong way – this daily activity was something that was important for me. Looking back, God had gifted me with these three expressions in a time I was being especially impatient with husband and losing perspective. When I said these things out loud, it helped me improve myself and my relationship. Over time, I was able to incorporate the expressions more naturally throughout the day; it became easier for me to be grateful or repentant in the moment. Likewise, my husband has learned how to incorporate these expressions in his own way, one that doesn’t feel forced for him.
Let these expressions become a part of your sexual union - you can say them aloud or think them to yourself: "I love you, I'm sorry for not always being my best, but I'm grateful you forgive me anyway."