The 5 Words That Will Literally Save Your Marriage, According To Brené Brown

Here's how to really understand your partner and your relationship.

couple looking at each other photoK-jp/ Shutterstock

It's difficult to communicate with almost everybody, but it's especially difficult, to be honest, transparent, and vulnerable with our significant others. 

A conversation can be full of miscommunication, misunderstanding, and misinterpretations. 

But if we aren't honest, open, and totally present with our partners, how can we hope that our relationships will continue and be strong?

In a Business Insider article, author and public speaker Brené Brown reveals her share of misunderstandings, and of projecting feelings and motives onto other people that just aren't there.


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In Brown's book, Rising Strong, she talks about an easy life hack that can help anybody in a relationship be better understood.

The five secret words? "The story I'm making up."

"If I could give men and women in relationships, and leaders and parents, one hack, I would give them, 'the story I'm making up,'" Brown said.

"Basically, you're telling the other person your reading of the situation, and simultaneously admitting that you know it can't be 100 percent accurate."

These 5 simple words can diffuse a tense situation, or be an honest way to tell the person you're talking to exactly where your head is. It helps to check the narrative in your head. 


It's a lifesaver for a few reasons. Brown says it's honest, it's transparent, and it's vulnerable. And no one knows more about the power of vulnerability than Brené Brown, as her Ted Talk had over 21 million views.

When you say, "The story I'm making up," Brown says that it expresses "I want you to see me and understand me and hear me, and knowing what you really mean is more important to me than being right or self-protecting."

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Brown gives an example from her book of how to use "the story I'm making up."

After a harrowing day, where nothing had been simple or easy, Brown's husband opened their refrigerator and sighed.


"We have no groceries. Not even lunch meat."

Brown replied, "I'm doing the best I can. You can shop, too."

"I know," he said in a measured voice. "I do it every week. What's going on?"

Brown was cognizant enough to know exactly what was going on: she'd turned his comment into a story about how she was a disorganized, unreliable partner and mother.

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She apologized and started her next sentence with "The story I'm making up is that you were blaming me for not having groceries, that I was screwing up."

Her husband replied, "No, I was going to shop yesterday but I didn't have time. I'm not blaming you; I'm hungry."


Brown's unconscious shame story made her feel that she was failing and that her husband was blaming her when in actuality he just needed some food.

By taking a chance and telling "the story I'm making up," both Brown and her husband were able to let go of their inner narratives about the situation and actually see one's another perspective and vulnerability.

These five little words can cut through your own self-protective walls and actually help you get on the same page with your partner.

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Christine Schoenwald is a writer, performer, and frequent contributor to YourTango. She's had articles featured in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Bustle, Medium, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Woman's Day, among many others.