No, not "I love you."
Relationships are tricky.
From early on, we all watched those notorious Disney Princesses dance and sing about finding their one true love, and sighed with longing just wondering when our princes were going to come save us so we could live happily ever after.
Fast-forward to our teenage and young adult years, we devoured all the classic rom-coms equipped with a carton of ice cream and a box of tissues. Sleepless in Seattle, While You Were Sleeping, Batman Forever (was I the only one swooning over Val Kilmer and Nicole Kidman falling in temporary love to the tune of Seal’s Kiss from a Rose?)
In all of our daydreams we created the perfect romance, complete with that phrase we vowed to always tell our partner, even if we want to strangle them for not putting the dishes away correctly for the thousandth time in a row. That’s right: I Love You.
Those three words are not what this post is about.
Sorry to you smug readers out there who thought for sure you knew the answer. Don’t get me wrong, those three words can be extremely powerful when used genuinely. But, they can also easily become a routine, humdrum reaction.
The three words I’m talking about require vulnerability, surrender, and honest, true presence and acknowledgement of your partner. I know, crazy hippie woo-hoo stuff, right?
Drum roll please...
You. Were. Right.
I view those words as the golden idol of relationships. When you use that phrase, a million and five things happen, including:
- You genuinely admit to being sorry. Sure, I’m sorry is a decent enough phrase, but think about it - we’ve been forced to say sorry since before we could even talk. How many little kids have you seen rolling their eyes and mockingly sputtering I’m sorry to their little siblings because of their parents’ insistence. You really think that phrase has much meaning to any of us? More or less, we’re all immune to its clout.
- You acknowledge that you were listening to your partner. In this day and age where our eyes are glued to screens of every shape and sort, we go day in and day out with being truly aware of the people around us. It’s sad but true, don’t try to deny it. By saying you were right, you’re showing that for a moment in time, you were able to peel your vision off your phone at least long enough to recognize something that your partner did. Good job.
- You own that you’re not perfect. This is a crucial thing in any relationship. We all feelright more often than we actually are right. Especially during an argument, it’s really hard to admit to being wrong. By saying these three words, you’re stepping down and empowering your partner to follow their thoughts and heart. That’s something we could all use more of, amiright?
- You keep your own voice. You’re not saying I am wrong or admitting defeat. You’re not rolling over and playing the martyr or the victim. Maybe you’re wrong, but maybe you’re both right. There’s room for interpretation and discussion around that.
So, there you are. The three magic words. Try them on for size. Maybe you’re not ready to apply them to a serious argument quite yet, but start small; Hey, I added cinnamon to my latte this morning. You are right, that’s really yummy! Or, You are right, little Jimmy really likes wiping his boogers on the bathroom wall. Let’s do something about that.
Now go forth and make your relationships awesome. You’re welcome.
This article was originally published at Chelsea Flagg. Reprinted with permission from the author.