One of the top 5 regrets of the dying is “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” Given that we never know when our life is going to come to an end, it’s a really good idea to not only express our feelings, but by doing that, keep our relationships up to date and healthy.

Easier said than done, I know! But here are three pointers to help with this task. Even using one of these suggestions, once a week, will begin to create more open-heartedness in your relationship, and go a long way towards not having regrets near the end of your life.

Appreciation

Appreciation is something from which both giver and receiver benefit. When we appreciate something or someone, we recognize its full worth, and that is what is so meaningful. Bring this into your relationship by being willing to state overtly what you appreciate about your partner.

Start by simply saying “I appreciate you because…and then state something you really value about your partner. Or leave them a note where you know they will find it.

I once visited the bathroom of a friend’s house. Up on the mirror was a Post It note with a statement of appreciation. She and her husband had agreed to do this as a reminder to not take each other for granted.

By focusing on one thing about each other they really appreciated, every day, they reminded themselves why they had fallen in love in the first place, and what was still keeping them together.

It’s really difficult to appreciate someone without also having an open heart, and feeling open-hearted is necessary for a full and satisfying relationship. That also means one in which there are few, if any, regrets.

Use ‘I’ Statements

We often say things like, “You just think money grows on trees,” “You’re always on your phone, you never listen to me,” or “You’re such a slob, you just expect me to clean up after you all the time.” These might sound very familiar, or maybe you don’t say them yourself, but you know others who do.

The problem with these statements is that they all begin with an accusatory ‘you,’ and those to whom they are directed will almost always begin to feel defensive, resentful and definitely not open-hearted. That’s because the statement, in the way it is worded, is easily perceived as an attack.

Using an ‘I’ statement, however, can still get your message across, but in a way that makes it much more likely to be heard.

For instance, you could say: “When you spend money on extra things, I feel anxious and worry,” “When you keep your phone out at dinner, or answer it, I feel unappreciated and unimportant,” and “When you don’t do your share of the housework, I feel overwhelmed and unappreciated.”

Using an ‘I’ statement means you are taking responsibility for your own feelings, you are expressing them consciously and with care, and you are still being assertive, but not in such a hostile and aggressive manner.

‘I’ statements also allow for interaction and discussion, thereby keeping the channels of communication open.

Asking a Scary Question

My late husband and I used to ask each other a question that could be quite scary, depending on when it was asked. The question was:

“Do you feel loved by me?”

This is a much more unusual approach than the familiar way of expressing your feelings by saying “I love you.” Not that there is anything wrong at all with saying “I love you,” but asking whether the other person feels loved by you is quite different.

For a start, you have to be willing to hear an honest answer. If yes, you might want to know how they feel loved. If the answer is no, you might want to know why that is, too. Either way, it can lead to an honest discussion, which, of course, is why it can sometimes be a bit scary!

I noticed that when I was the one asking, I really had to be willing to hear a ‘no,’ and then to be open to hearing the reasons why not. If I was being asked the question, I had to respond just as honestly.

Every single time, this question helped us feel closer, more intimate and more involved with each other.

How do you express your love for your partner? Do you have any unusual ways you express your feelings in your relationships? Have you tried any of the above? If so, what worked or didn’t work? Share below and let us know!
Jane Duncan RogersJane Duncan Rogers runs Before I Go Solutions, a not-for-profit organization that helps people design and create their end of life plans. An award-winning coach, she is author of Gifted by Grief: A True Story of Cancer, Loss and Rebirth, and Before I Go: Practical Questions to Ask and Answer Before You Die. Find out how well prepared you are for your own end of life by taking her free quiz.

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