Published 2/22/2020

Things to Say Before It's Too Late
Winnis Chiang

Last week, James and I spent a quiet Valentine's Day. After all, with so much bad news in the world, being alive together is God's blessings and grace.

As a pastor's wife and a licensed marriage and family therapist, I often hear people say, "we are an old couple" even though they are not that old at all. Seriously, when young parents feel that there is nothing left to say other than the trivialities of life such as: "Can you go to the dry cleaner? ... Have you pulled the garbage can out?" What is the implication?

Life is short. Why not say something true, good and beautiful while you have the chance to build a warm and loving relationship?

Deeper communication requires deliberate changes, including a willingness to reveal one's vulnerability. But isn't it worth taking a risk for your happiness and relationships? After all, your spouse is your life-long partner, and will be with you all your life. At least that was your original intent for your marriage, wasn't it?

Always remember that your body language and tone of voice are often more important than what you say. Of course, actions may speak louder than words. However, don’t let the Chinese culture and saying such as "Love is to be treasured in the heart but not expressed with your mouth" block you from expressing your love and care verbally. Please try to practice the following phrases that could change the atmosphere of your home:

"Thank you for... " Everyone likes to be acknowledged and appreciated for what they do. Thank your partner for more than just what you asked him/her to do. For example, you might thank him or her for being a great parent, for always making time for the children.

"Would you please... " Expecting your partner to read your mind is expecting the impossible. Say what you want and need. When you articulate your wishes clearly, resentments don't have time to build up, and you can also work together to find win-win solutions.

"How do you feel about..." Ask, and then listen to your partner's response, withholding judgment or any need to change or fix the feelings.

"I feel... " State your feelings and tell the truth. Notice the difference between "I think" and "I feel" statements. Learn to use different feeling words (e.g. disappointed, hurt, frustrated, worried, appreciative, excited, etc.).

"I'm sorry... " Admit your mistakes and apologize for them. You may feel vulnerable, but your honesty is likely to inspire the same in the other person and open the door for closer connection.

"I forgive you..." Accepting apologies for mistakes your partner makes is a way of letting go of resentments, and that frees you both.

"I appreciate your... " Shine the light on your partner's qualities. You'll create an arena of goodwill that shines back on you.

"What I hear you saying... " Listen, really listen, and let your partner know he/she has been heard.

"I agree with you because... " Validating your partner's point of view and perspective helps him/her feel heard and understood.

"What have you been reading recently?" Open up communication on an intellectual level and you may feel the warmth of common views -- or sparks of difference—that drew you together in the first place.

"Where do you see yourself in five years?" Listen to your partner's vision, and then share your own. The question may inspire a new, shared plan or uncover the need to build a bridge between your dreams.

"I love you... " Find your own variations on these three little words; you can't say them too often. Don't be shy or afraid to express your love! Never use "I love you more than I can say" as an excuse!

Every day is our Valentine's Day when James and I walk, talk, read the Bible and pray together. Since our time on this earth is limited, we love to share life around the Word of God, and we hope that you will also seize the opportunity to express your love to those around you.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

Please feel free to visit my website for additional resources.

Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications

Winnis Chiang

Winnis Chiang, LMFT and founder of, is passionate about helping Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking parents to get along with, enjoy, and positively influence their American born children.