President Barack Obama didn't have to say much about his marriage to his wife, Michelle Obama, in his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination on Sept. 6 in Charlotte, N.C., because she did it all for him. Her widely touted speech two days earlier delivered a public love letter likened to none in the history of presidential conventions.
In her testimonial, she said, "Today, I love my husband even more than I did four years ago ... even more than I did 23 years ago, when we first met."
She also used a magic word that seals a healthy relationship, according to hundreds of surveys: trust.
"I love that we can trust Barack to do what he says he's going to do, even when it's hard -- especially when it's hard," she said.
The first lady also praised "unconditional love" from her parents, just as Romney did the week before. The use of this professional term so soon after Romney's use of the same made me wonder whether she or her speechwriters knew the positive psychological impact that allusion would have.
With such a testimonial, Obama didn't need to say as much directly about his wife and marriage as Romney did. He needed only to open his speech with a solid affirmation of love that therapists recommend to all couples: Turn to your partner directly and say how you feel.
"Michelle, I love you so much," Obama said, looking directly at his wife in the front row.
The three simple, magic words -- "I love you" -- are what so many women desperately want to hear their man say directly to them. Those are also the three magic words so many men and women fear saying, or forget to say after years of being together.
His words were made even more powerful -- worth a score more than "10" so I gave it a "12" -- by adding the words "so much," and by using the partner's name, as Obama did, saying, "Michelle, I love you so much."
Obama scored higher than Romney in his opening remarks by addressing his wife first, instead of first pointing out the positive qualities of his running mate.
Continuing his avowal to his wife and letting us all in on it, the president continued, "A few nights ago, everyone was reminded just what a lucky man I am."
Such recognition is a partner's dream. It added "7" more points to his score.
As therapists advise, bump up your appreciation with using additional simple, but magic, words: how lucky you are. The more you let everyone know how lucky you are to have your partner, the more she glows from being so adored and valued.
Everyone likes to be acknowledged and praised for what they contribute to a relationship and that they provide valued support in their partner's life.
The president did that deftly, saying, "[It] wasn't about me. It was about you," and adding, "You're the reason a young man in Colorado who never thought he'd be able to afford his dream of earning a medical degree is about to get that chance. You made that possible. You're the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she's ever called home; why selfless soldiers won't be kicked out of the military because of who they are or who they love."
The passage earns a "7" for evoking imagery of reaching dreams, being home, loving whom you choose. It pulls at heartstrings.
In saying, "I'm hopeful because of you," the president expressed a kind of dependence that is healthy in a relationship.
Couples crave knowing that they're needed and like being asked to help. Obama's appeal was even more direct when he said, "Help me recruit 100,000 math and science teachers in the next 10 years, and improve early childhood education."
His expression of need was worth a score of "6."
The partnership Romney described in his parents' marriage, Obama extended to us.
"I'm proud of what we've accomplished together," he said, drawing us in. His reassuring us that, "We will pull each other up," earned him another score of "6." Being given credit and being reassured of being part of a team in success intensifies a bond.
Commitment and Destiny
Other words and phrases that stand out in the president's speech, even buried within more political points, evoke allusions to healthy relationships -- words like "commitment" and phrases like "our destinies are bound together."
Commitment is essential in love, and feeling tied by forces stronger than yourselves intensifies the bond. Each one earns a score of "3 1/2" (which would be more, if elaborated), for a total of "7."
Perhaps one of the most risky, yet also essential, aspects of a healthy relationship is admitting your own inadequacies or failings, and how you've let the other person down. It takes great courage and Obama showed it -- earning score of "10" -- when he said in his speech, "You can be disappointed with me," and "I'm far more mindful of my own failings."
Quoting President Lincoln, he said, "I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go."
Such admissions are essential for any partner to agree to move forward in a relationship -- affirming the relevance of "forward" as the president's reelection campaign theme.
"We will learn from our mistakes," he said.
Apologies have to happen before a betrayed partner can regain trust and agree to give the transgressor another chance -- like Obama is asking the American public to do, in the face of broken promises and disappointment in his performance.