3 Communication Practices That Have Strengthened Our Marriage

Marriage is hard. It’s a constant exercise in personal growth and development. There are different phases and each require a unique set of tools. The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far, is the importance of clear and kind communication.  I’m a huge Brene Brown fan and she’s taught my husband and I three communication practices that have transformed our marriage for the better.

Three Communication Practices That Have Strengthened Our Marriage

Looping Back

We all get stressed out. When we are under stress it is hard to consciously respond vs. impulsively react. This happens, because our body goes into protection mode and starts fighting the stress.
According to Burnout, the Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, stressors are what activate the stress response in your body. They can be anything you see, hear, smell, touch, taste, or imagine could do you harm. Stress is the neurological and physiological shift that happens in your body when you encounter one of these threats. Epinephrine acts instantly to push blood into your muscles, glucocorticoids keep you going and endorphines help you ignore how uncomfortable all of this is.
When we respond from this place, it’s often not in the way we would if we weren’t under stress. This can cause feelings of guilt, regret and sadness (among others). To address this, there’s always the opportunity to loop back. What does that look like?
When the stress cycle has been complete and emotions are low and cognition is high you can ask your partner if they’re open to a conversation to address the exchange you had earlier. Asking permission is a critical part of this process, because they may not be ready to communicate yet. It’s imperative that both parties have had a chance to process and are ready to discuss.

Looping back gives you both the opportunity to go back to the exchange that didn’t serve you, apologize and communicate in the way you wish you had from the beginning.


The Story I’m Telling Myself

We are all incredible story tellers. Often the stories we tell ourselves are just that, stories, rooted in zero truth. To explain my point let me share one of mine with you.

Tara’s Story:

Nick, my husband was working in Boston and I asked him to pick up dinner at one of our favorite spots. I outlined my order and anxiously waited for him to arrive back home for us to eat. When we opened everything up, we realized my order was incorrect and his was perfect. The disappointment and anger took over. Thoughts like, he didn’t listen to what I wanted and he doesn’t care about me entered my mind.
Thankfully, we have language to help us work through this. I quickly transitioned into story telling mode and was able to communicate. “Nick, the story I’m telling myself is that you did not pay attention to the order information that I sent over to you and because of that, I am stuck eating a meal that I did not want. This is leading to thoughts like, you actively choose not to listen to me and therefore my needs don’t matter to you.” These thoughts may sound drastic and they are, but we are human and this is often where our minds take us.

The Real Story:

He then had the chance to respond to my story. He apologized and explained to me that he did in fact place the order I had outlined, but the restaurant had unfortunately packed it incorrectly. When he went to pick up the order there wasn’t any parking so he had to double park with his hazard lights on and rush to grab it. This did not give him time to double check the order, like he normally would.
After hearing this, I was able to completely re-write the story I was telling myself.

The new story was rooted in truth vs. assumption. 

We were both able to enjoy dinner together, despite the incorrect order. We practice this all of the time.

What do you envision this experience looking like?

This communication practice stems from the different visions we found ourselves having about each weekend. We were creating our own weekend vision separately, without communicating expectations to each other and then becoming frustrated when we weren’t aligned.
To fix this, on Tuesday of each week we check in with each other. This is also when we have our weekly Fair Play check-in. During this conversation we ask each other, “What do you envision this weekend looking like?” We each get the opportunity to share our vision and then discuss how it can play out in a way where both of our expectations are met.

There’s often compromise that needs to take place and that’s okay because we build the plan together. It feels fair and we approach it unified.

This not only helps strengthen our relationship, but also helps us create boundaries to protect our family, values and time. Another awesome question to ask your partner is, how can I support you? To learn more check out the article, Five Little Words We Should Always be Asking our Partners
We learned all three of these communication practices from the work of Brene Brown. She suggests everyone to adopt them in a way that feels authentic to their life and values. I encourage you to do the same!