Marriage can bring out the best in people or the worst in people. The same marriage can do either. When marriage isn’t bringing out the best in people their communication tends to either be negative or nonexistent. When it’s bringing out the best, the couple communicates conversationally.

Cooperative Communication

When it comes to having a vibrant relationship, conversation is the key. Cooperative, conversational communication is the grease that reduces friction in relationships. Yet using cooperative communication can be a challenge for couples — especially after years of a marriage bringing out the worst in them.

Here is an idea about how to simply get that started; or if your marriage is already decent, this idea will help make it even more rich and fulfilling.

I’ve noticed over years of couples counseling how common it is for people to admit they have positive thoughts about their partners that they tend keep to themselves. People think thoughts that could strengthen their relationship but they fall short from saying them. That observation is the root of this idea: Use your words. You can think it, and that is great, but if you don’t say it then your partner isn’t impacted. Words are the key. Lots of words. Good words. Positive, encouraging words. Not just thinking them but saying them.

Think about it. You look across the kitchen at your partner and you think they look great. It’s a nice feeling. Thinking it makes you feel good. You get an internal benefit out of noticing your partner looks great. But if the moment ends there the relationship doesn’t get a benefit. For whatever reason, it’s common for partners to not communicate when they have a positive thought. I could wax on about why people might hesitate but the truth is, at least for the couples I see, they tend to keep those positive thoughts to themselves.

Say the Positive things You are Already Thinking

I can think of nothing more important to suggest couples start doing than to increase positive interactions. Increasing positive interactions will increase positive feelings in the relationship, increase one’s sense of confidence in being a partner, increase the feeling of being able to count on each other, and smooth out some of the weirdness the couple has gotten used to. And it’s as simple as saying the positive things you are already thinking.

Whenever you have a positive or supportive thought about your partner, say it out loud. Challenge yourself to do this. You might be afraid that it will feel weird but don’t think about it that way. Don’t let a little bit of embarrassment or fear of vulnerability stop you. This, after all, is your partner.

Here is a list of thoughts you might already know you have:

  • Wow, you look great.
  • Thanks so much for taking care of things for us.
  • Thanks for working so hard.
  • I really love it when you laugh like that.
  • You’re so funny.
  • You are so smart.
  • I appreciate how I can count on you.
  • You make me happy.
  • I love hanging out with you.
  • I don’t know what I would do without you.
  • I missed you.
  • I’m missing you.
  • Can’t wait to see you.
  • I’m so proud of you.
  • You are wonderful.
  • Thanks for being you.
  • Thanks for being mine.

This is only a short list. You will probably notice many more positive and supportive thoughts of your own once you start paying attention.

Now start saying them. All of them. Every time. You can’t overdo it. There’s just no way. If your partner notices and asks what’s gotten into you, simply tell them you’ve decided to say out loud whenever you think a positive thought about them. Now think about what happens to the relationship if they decide to do it too!

As this practice begins to feel more natural to you, and even becomes more like a habit, you will undoubtedly notice positive effects in your relationship. You can expect to feel closer and more emotionally intimate with your partner. There will be a sense that you can really count on each other. You will feel calmer in the relationship and cooperative conversational communication will be the easy next step. There is no reason to not start doing this and certainly no reason to ever stop. Saying the positive things you’re already thinking will get you closer to the relationship you’ve always wanted.

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