- Se'Lena Wingfield, Ph.D.
Changing Your Inner Narrative Can Improve Your Marriage
What is an inner narrative? Your inner narrative is also known as self-talk or inner-dialogue. Being mindful of your inner narrative can help you explore and strengthen self-compassionate and compassion for others. "Self-compassion involves kindness, acceptance, empathy and motivation to act...(Viou & Georgaca, 2021)."
Why is your inner narrative important to your marriage? Our behavior towards people is often based on what we think about them and sometimes what we think about them is that they do not like us. The thought that someone doesn’t like us can lead to us feeling bad about ourselves and angry at them (that is called projection). Being angry at them (for no known reason to them) can lead them to have a negative inner narrative that makes them feel bad about themselves and angry at you. This is common in relationships, that’s why it is often said that communication is the key to a good relationship.
Determine your trust level. "Trust between couples is a prerequisite for stable and satisfactory romantic relationships" (Kleinert et al., 2020). But first you must be honest with yourself about whether or not you can you trust your spouse enough share your inner narrative (e.g., insecurities) with him/her? Can s/he trust you enough to share their inner narrative with you? If so, this can be extremely helpful in getting your marriage on the right track. However, if your trust level is low, meaning that you know based on past experiences that your spouse will use that information against you later or ridicule you about your viewpoint (or vice versa), sharing one’s inner narrative would not be helpful. It could add to any problems you may already have. Help each other create a new healthy narrative.
If you and your spouse would like to work together to improve your marriage by creating healthy narratives, you can do this by sharing with your spouse the positive things you see and feel about their appearance or contribution to the household and marriage. For instance, maybe you didn't realize it but you find out (through communication) that your spouse doesn’t feel like you find her/him attractive, but the truth (emphasis on truth) is that you enjoy being with her/him so much that you are excited about it. That new information could give them a new, healthy, and accurate narrative. A positive and accurate inner narrative can improve how we feel about ourselves. And the knowledge that our spouse thinks positively of us and values us can have a positive impact on how we treat our spouse.
Use this tip wisely because if you are intentionally disingenuous about your feelings or have a narcissistic partner, sharing your vulnerabilities could lead to irreversible harm to your relationship. In a nutshell, be intentional about showing them that you value them using kind and truthful words and deeds.
References: Kleinert, T., Schiller, B., Fischbacher, U., Grigutsch, L.-A., Koranyi, N., Rothermund, K., & Heinrichs, M. (2020). The Trust Game for Couples (TGC): A new standardized paradigm to assess trust in romantic relationships. PLoS ONE, 15(3), e0230776. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0230776
Viou, M., & Georgaca, E. (2021). “Enriching our inner dialogue”: An activity to explore compassionate voices. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 34(2), 207–217. https://doi.org/10.1080/10720537.2020.1717150