• Let your spouse know what you appreciate about him or her. Make a list of things you appreciate about your partner. Focus on character traits (honesty, creativity, etc.) rather than on what he or she does for you. Show your list to your spouse, and ask your spouse to show you his or her list of your own good character traits. Each of you keep your lists in places where you can read them often. Every few months, revise your lists to keep them fresh.

• Strive for connection rather than perfection. Realize that both of you are bound to make mistakes as you strive to communicate better. Give each other permission to do so. Know that you can still connect as long as you make an effort to do so.

Adapted from Love Talk: Speak Each Other's Language Like You Never Have Before, copyright 2004 by Les and Leslie Parrott. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.zondervan.com.

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott are co-directors of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University (SPU), a groundbreaking program dedicated to teaching the basics of good relationships. Les Parrott is a professor of clinical psychology at SPU, and Leslie is a marriage and family therapist at SPU. The Parrotts are authors of the Gold Medallion Award-winning Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, Becoming Soul Mates, Love Is, Relationships, and When Bad Things Happen to Good Marriages. They have been featured on Oprah, CBS This Morning, CNN, and The New York Times. They are also frequent guest speakers and have written for a variety of magazines. The Parrotts are hosts of the national radio broadcast Love Talk. They live in Seattle, Washington, with their two sons.