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Change one word and you’ll change your relationship.

“We should go out with friends this weekend,” says Ash. 

River, who was looking forward to a fun-filled-weekend with Ash, suddenly bristles. River feels his heels dig in and resentment builds in his chest. You’re not the boss of me, he thinks, but he says nothing, afraid of making Ash upset.

It’s obvious to Ash there will be no drinks with friends because River buries his head in his phone. 

“Nevermind,” says Ash, “I’ll go by myself.”

Relationship communication is tricky because your fears leak out in words and body language. Saying “should” is a protective move we all make when we feel vulnerable. Understand where you feel vulnerable and “should” won’t creep into your language and sabotage your desires.


“Should” is a protective move 

the dream of relationship communicationAsh loves her husband and dreams of drinks and laughter and stealing a knowing glance across the table. 

It’s because she wants that intimacy so badly that makes her vulnerable. And afraid.  

the fear about relationship communicationTo diminish the feeling of vulnerability, instead of inviting River,  she makes a statement, “We should…” Ash hopes this statement gives her the distance and protective cover she seeks. 

That’s not how relationship communication works though, and the irony is that River feels shoved and alienated.


Should = a relationship shove

try to banish the word should from your vocabularyCan you feel what “should” does to your emotions? Where do you feel it in your body? 

  • You should come with me out for drinks this Friday.
  • You should save more money.
  • You should initiate sex more often.

River feels that “should” in his heels which dig in to brace against the authority of Ash. He feels “should” in his chest, which tightens.

No one wants to be told what to do, especially when it comes to love. Make sure you’re communicating in a way that invites intimacy into your relationship.

Your body's response to the word "should" is to back away

The Royal We is disrespectful

OK. You’re gonna soften your tone. You don’t want to shove, so you include yourself in the “should:”

  • We should go out with friends this weekend.
  • We should get a save more money.
  • We should have more sex.

“Should” is still polluting your relationship communication. It’s disrespectful to make a collective decision. Besides, if you want to invite intimacy into your relationship, it’s best to offer an honest invitation.


Change “should” to “would” to improve communication

“Would you…” is an invitation. “You should…” is a shove. Use the “would you…” invitation in your relationship communication.

  • Would you like to join me and my friends Friday night for drinks?
  • Would you have a conversation with me about saving money?
  • Would you kiss me?

Can you feel how your body responds differently to these requests? Where do you feel it in your body?

Good communication begins with respect. You show your spouse respect when you invite them into your world. “Would you…” is an invitation to come closer. Whereas “You should” or “We should” shoves your spouse away.  

Try this:

Notice when you say “should.” 

Replace “should” with “would” to invite instead of shove.

Replace “should” with “would” and watch your relationship become more tender.

If you’re wondering how “should” impacts you, watch this video about rules in school and it will remind you how emotionally loaded that “should” word is. We all feel like we’re back in elementary school when we hear the word “should”.

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