In the same way that knowing a few key questions makes it easier to navigate a foreign country ("Où est la toilette, s'il vous plait?"), a few rudimentary phrases can help see you out of a relationship rough patch.
Be honest: Says veteran marriage counselor Randi Gunther, Ph.D.: "In my 40 years of listening to couples, I've noticed that the best communicators use the same words, and I'm always surprised by how few people know them." Practice these if you want your relationship to last longer than the average trip to Paris.
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1. "We're in this together." Says Gunther, "Marriage is full of trials. If your spouse tells you he lost his job, for example, you have less than five seconds to react in a way that bonds you and proves that your relationship is stronger than any difficulties. Let that window pass, and doubts arise."
2. "You're better at this than I am." "It's a huge asset to a relationship if both partners can own up to their weaknesses. If he's better in the kitchen, don't try to manage--step aside and thank him for cooking you something delicious!"
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3. "I'm angry." "People often say they're not angry to avoid arguing, but that only prolongs a situation. Being able to express your emotions precisely and honestly gets you where you need to go faster."
4. "Please tell me what's going on." "This is the best thing you can say to open doors in an argument. It lets your partner know you're present, you're listening, and you want him to talk to you."
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5. Anything you say face-to-face. "We live in an age where people tell computers and iPhones how they feel. Reading I'm sorry you're sad doesn't have the same effect as hearing those words and seeing the empathy. Couples who are actually there for each other, physically and emotionally, are much closer."
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