It’s the second-best thing you can say to your partner (or child) after “I love you.” Perhaps even the first.

Because “I love you” is a broad, vague message. It can mean all sorts of things, such as, I love the way you make me feel. I love what you do for me. I love that you allow me to do this or that. I love that you are a warm body that keeps me away from my loneliness or emptiness. I love that you give me and the children a comfortable life. I love that you prop me up, etc.

Hopefully, I love you means I see you. All of you. And, in knowing you, I embrace, accept and cherish you in all your perfect imperfections. 

But sadly, such is not often the case. “I love you” can be very fair weathered, only as it remains convenient and good for me.

“That makes sense” is more specific. And therefore, love in action. To say it, and mean it, you must put in some work. Therefore, it’s not a passive nor lazy person’s form of love. You must put yourself aside, stretch your comfort zone and expand your reality to make space to understand another’s perspective from their vantage point. You are showing a willingness to hear, understand and validate.

Often folks are reluctant to show such love because they think that understanding and validation are equivalent to agreement. Nope, this is not true. In a healthy relationship, everyone gets a voice, even if they cannot always have their way. In being willing to hear your partner’s perspective, you are showing respect for your teammate’s full participation. It makes sense to them, even if you do not agree with it. They deserve such attention.

Another reason folks are hesitant to understand and validate their partner’s reality is that they are not aware that they did not marry themselves. You laugh, but such is often the case. The fact that one is left to spend the better part of one’s life trying to get to know, understand, validate, and negotiate with a stranger is what partnership is all about. And we are never done with this awesome task. Each of us brings an infinite onion to the relationship. It is our job to embrace the lifelong education of getting to know ourselves and our partner as different than us.

So, go ahead. You can try this one at home. Next time you find yourself reactive and self-protective, take a moment and seek to understand and validate your partner’s reality. “It makes sense to me” might land you on new and better ground.