One of my favorite all-time movies (and plays) was Cyrano de Bergerac, the story of a romantic poet who, embarrassed by his large nose, romances his true love by proxy. My take-away from the story was not so much about guys with big noses, but more about how some men just know the right things to say. And here are eight of those right things to say that, as far as I'm concerned, I can't hear enough now that I'm post 50.
1) "I'm glad you called."
We are a family that tracks our movements by phone. When one family member departs a location, we call another to say we've done so. Every day when I leave the office, I call my husband and tell him I'm in the car. I like that he says back "I'm glad you called." It suggests that he thinks about my safety, my well-being, and if the cell signal doesn't crap out, how my day at work went. Our kids have heard him say it often enough that they now say it too. No, I don't feel this endangers my independence, belittles my status as an adult. I also don't feel it encroaches on any freedoms I have. I like that there is someone out there who wants to know that my plane landed safely, who will worry if I don't arrive at my destination. My husband, a guy whose four obsessions are the Cubs, our family, where to buy the cheapest gasoline, and traffic conditions, has of late taken to forwarding me text alerts about freeway congestion. I actually like that too.
2) "Thanks for doing that."
The pleasure of being thanked can't be overstated. It means you aren't taking things for granted, that you noticed the effort. I'm pretty much willing to move a mountain for you if you let me know afterward that you recognized and valued my effort. I like being thanked for making dinner, for changing my plans so I could do something you needed done, helping you with whatever you needed help with.
3) "I appreciate you."
Appreciating and thanking may be first cousins, but they aren't identical twins. Appreciation is less task-specific. It comes when I'm not expecting it. Coming home to a bouquet of "just because" flowers with no occasion attached is appreciation.
4) "Let me help."
Women of my generation are used to doing things ourselves. Accepting help isn't always something that comes easily for us. I love when someone breaks through my "I got this, no worries" exterior and just grabs the damn groceries from my arms. One of the nicest things my husband did for me recently was take over planning a vacation last June. I had spent entire evenings online getting more and more confused by deals and websites. He finally just said, "Let me help." Marriage is a partnership and for the most part, the division of tasks is set in cement pretty early on. But there's no rule that says once in a while you can't cross out of the "I cook, he cleans up" mentality and just offer to help. There are days when the three words I most want to hear aren't "I love you," but rather "Let me help."
5) "I love you."
If you need to be told that people want to hear you say "I love you," you are spending too much time reading online lists like this one and perhaps need to see a relationship counselor. Everyone wants to be loved. I know I am loved and I know there are many ways to show me I am loved. I like this way the best.
6) "You look nice."
There isn't a soul among us who doesn't occasionally want to be told we are attractive. "You look good," has a nuanced sexual overtone, so that works too. "You look great!" will bring a smile to my face. "You're looking hot" will bring an embarrassed grin (and please say it anyway).
7) "I missed you."
Separations make the heart grow fonder. They are especially beneficial when you've been spending too much time under the same roof together and just need a break. The funniest time this line was ever delivered was on about the 20th hour of a cross-country car trip. We had stopped for gas and I went in to use the restroom in the adjacent fast food restaurant. Yes, I was a bit pokey, not being particularly anxious to perform another stint in the driver's seat and feeling every muscle in my lower back aching. So when I returned, my husband deadpanned that he had "missed" me. It was hysterically funny at the time; you've heard of road giddiness, right?
8) "I'll drive."
This one is music to my ears. It says to me that you will shoulder the responsibility of things for awhile. I like it said when we are in an actual car, but I also like it said when we are planning a vacation, deciding who has to take the lead on math homework, figuring out the week's meal plan and grocery list. "I'll drive" says you are stepping up to the plate.