What would you say are the three most important words in a marriage? “Yes, honey”? Nope. That’s only two. The same for “I do”. “Pick up milk and eggs on the way home from work” is far too many.

So, what are they?

Today during his Wednesday audience, Pope Francis wrapped up his catechesis on the sacraments by speaking about marriage. In his address, he told the crowd – and all of us – that the three most important words in a marriage are, “Please,” “Thank You” and “Sorry”. Okay, that’s actually four, but you get the gist.

“They are three words that must always be said, three words that must be in the home: please, thank you, sorry [permesso, grazie, scusa] — three magical words,” he said.

“Please, so as not to be invasive in the life of the spouse. Please, but what does this seem to you? Please, allow me.

Thank you: to thank one’s spouse: thank you for what you did for me, thank you for this. The beauty of rendering thanks!

And as we all make mistakes, the other word which is a bit difficult to say, but which must be said: sorry.

Please, thank you, sorry. With these three words, with the prayer of the husband for his wife and vice versa, with making peace always before the day ends, the marriage will go forward — the three magical words, prayer and always making peace.”

Most of us probably think about saying “thank you” and “sorry,” at least from time to time. But do we ever think about “please” outside of the times we want our spouse’s consent to buy something extravagant?

Please. Such an easy word to say and with such amazing impact. Please. And still, many (perhaps most) of us don’t bother to say it.

Once the honeymoon’s over, things start to get rather functional. Instead of issuing requests, “Would you please clean up the bathroom when you’re done?” It’s, “Clean up the bathroom.” Instead of, “Would you make an appointment to have phone repairman come out?” It’s, “Call the phone company and make an  appointment.” And the list goes on.

That might be okay when you’re still all sweet and cutesy, but after a while, it not only grates on the nerves, but strains the closeness between husband and wife. Nobody likes to be ordered around.

That’s why please is such a valuable word in a marriage. Please says, “I respect you as a whole person, with your own needs and desires.” Please says, “We are equals and work together as a team.” Please says, “I care how you think and feel.” Not saying please says, “I’m boss and my needs and desires are what counts.”

For all these reasons, please is a simply marvelous word. And that’s why Pope Francis drew attention to it today in his discourse on marriage. He knows that this small word with huge meaning can help foster nuptial love, respect, and unity.

Those are three more words vital to marriage.

If you’d like to read Pope Francis’ full address, you’ll find it here. 

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