And after, to be honest.
Nothing beats hearing the person you’re dating and falling in love with say, “I love you” for the very first time. Hearing your new boyfriend or girlfriend say these three magical words can bring you both closer and evoke a beautiful rush of positive feelings, such as warmth and compassion, toward each other.
However, many people say these words in new relationships without giving much thought to what they mean and signify, leaving the delicate balance between the two partners precariously balancing over a whole heap of trouble.
Before getting to the point where you feel you have to declare your love from the highest tower in town, there are three other words that, if spoken to each other regularly and genuinely, go a long way towards establishing healthy communication habits like active listening, transforming your relationship into one that is far more authentically loving.
After all, communication is all about expressing what you think or feel and, in return, really hearing the same from the person you are in conversation with as they speak.
The more connected partners in romantic relationships feel they are with each other, the more generally satisfied they feel, as well.
Such interpersonal depth comes from developing what’s known as “resonance” with one another.
Resonance is defined as “a relationship of mutual understanding or trust and agreement between people,” i.e., partners who each feel understood by the other.
Reflective listening and mirroring is key to establishing resonance between two people. Making sure to do things like repeat words they used back to them, paraphrasing what you believe you heard them say, and maintaining good eye contact are powerful ways to let the person who was speaking know that you are there with them sharing their experience, and that you are resonating with them as well.
And this is where those other three words come in.
“Tell me more.”
To begin, ask your partner to share with you what is bothering them, and really listen to their answer.
Once they finish what they have to say, reflect back what you believe they said and ask them to confirm whether or not you got it right.
“So, what I’m hearing you say is that you feel angry with me for forgetting what you told me earlier? Is that correct?”
If they say no, allow them to clarify and reflect back what you heard until they say you’ve got it.
Next is the big part: letting the other person know you are still interested and authentically want to learn.
“Tell me more.”
When you do this, you invite your partner to go even deeper by telling them it is safe for them to be even more open and vulnerable with you.
A heartfelt and genuine, “Tell me more,” not only helps your partner feel heard, but also affirms to them partner that they are significant to you. As a result, your partner will grow increasingly willing, even at an unconscious level, to share more of themselves with you.
The more your partner feels safe to reveal, the more he or she will trust you.
The more there is trust and acceptance, the more connected you both will be, and this all leads to more joy and feelings of love all around.
Too many partners deal with emotional conversations as something they have to endure and try to get over it too quickly. This does not create the kind of alive, passionate, and open relationship most people crave.
Sticking with the conversation a little longer, practicing active listening, and asking your partner to reveal more about whatever they are experiencing is a powerful way to deepen your connection, even before you say, “I love you” for the very first time.
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: 3 Little Words Your Partner Needs To Hear Before You Say ‘I Love You’.