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We have heard the nursery rhyme from early childhood: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” As well-meaning as this sounds, this brave statement is simply untrue. Yes, sticks and stones can break bones; and the wrong word at the wrong time can break the soul. But then, words also have the power to heal and to affirm another. In the intimacy of marriage, words have great power for good or harm.

Let’s look at some simple words that when spoken between husband and wife can nurture the relationship, energize passion, and help avoid potholes of miss-understanding.

Be free with these words:

I love you.

No other words are more affirming and powerful that the simple phrase, “I love you!” Verbalizing our love for each other draws us together. Lovers easily do this in the early stages of a relationship. As time passes, we can easily fall into the trap of taking each other, and our love, for granted. But at every stage of life, we need to hear, “I love you.” This need to love and to be loved is at the heart of our humanity. Of all human connections, it is in the intimacy of marriage that this need is most fully met.

I am sorry.

Years ago a mushy novel was made into an intensely popular movie. Love Story, loosely based on one of the characters struggle with leukemia, was successful as a book as well as a movie starring Ryan O’Neil and Ali McGraw. Love Story is most famous for these words, “Love means never having to say you are sorry.” Unfortunately, this earnest statement is dead wrong. When we love someone, we will need to say, “I’m sorry” often. No one is perfect. We will mess up. We will intentionally or inadvertently, hurt each other. For our relationship to move forward, we will need to say, “I’m sorry.”

I was wrong.

Oh, these words are so hard to say, yet so important. As we said above, each of us at one time or another have done something that offended or hurt our mate. When we are wrong, we should admit it quickly and emphatically. Being willing to confess our mistakes whether intentional, or inadvertent, or careless, clears the relational playing field allowing us to move on.

I am proud of you.

Praise, recognition, acceptance by our mate is a powerful encouragement to us and a glue that binds us even tighter together. Such praise is even more powerful when given in the presence of others. Husbands especially crave this from their wives. But wives also need recognition for their efforts whether it is in a career or in the day to day work of being a wife and mother.

I need you.

We all need to be needed. We feel devalued when our mate seems too self-sufficient, apparently not needing us. A husband is secretly affirmed when his wife says, “I need you to help me open this can, or put in this light bulb, or hold this for me.” A wife is thrilled when her husband says “I need you to help me look my best for this appointment.” Our hearts are warmed, whether man or woman, when our mates, requests, “I need a hug.” The ultimate expression of need is for our mate to look us in the eye and request, “I need you to pray for me today.”

Thank you.

Like a dusting of powdered surgar on a fresh pastry, an attitude of gratitude makes love and intimacy irresistible. An attitude of gratitude gives color and intensity to our relationship .

There is no magic in these words. They work because using them reminds us why we are together—because we love each other.