Brené Brown has a "magic sentence" that will change the way you and your partner fight.


Brene Brown was bracing herself for a fight with her husband, Steve Alley, when five words changed everything.

They were on a holiday with her sister’s family and their combined six kids and while everybody else was sleeping, they took the morning to go swimming in Lake Travis, Austin. The situation was by all means, idyllic.

Looking at her husband of 22 years, the bestselling author described it as a perfect moment.

“‘Steve, I feel so connected to you. I’m so glad we’re spending this time together doing this’,” she recalled on her Netflix special, Brene Brown: The Call to Courage.

“And he looks back to me and goes, ‘Yep, waters good’ and keeps swimming.”


Watch the trailer for Netflix’s Brene Brown: The Call to Courage.

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Amazingly, Brown’s first thought was “he is so overwhelmed with love for me. He’s not functioning,” and so she tried again.

“I feel really close to you,” she repeated minutes later.


“‘This is a really special moment. I love doing this with you’. And he looks at me, and goes ‘water’s good’ and he keeps swimming.”

Now she was “pissed off”.

What followed was a scenario most couples will be familiar with.

Fuelled with “nothing but rage and fury” (her words) she swam back to the dock where she reinitiated their fight. She asked him why he was “blowing her off”. He didn’t want to talk about it.

“I don’t want to do this with you,” he said.

In that moment, Brown’s mind went back to her data. She’s spent her career studying shame, vulnerability, courage, and empathy and in 2014, she gave one of the most viewed TED Talks of all time, titled ‘The Power of Vulnerability’. Brown also regularly consults and shares her knowledge with a vast array of people, from world class CEOs, military servicemen and the families of shooting victims.

In other words, she knows her stuff.

“I keep thinking about this sentence that’s been in my research for 15 years,” she told her audience. It’s what she refers to as her “magic sentence”.

It began with five key words and she noticed it reappearing among her most resilient research participants.

“It’s just: ‘the story I’m telling myself’.”



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Date night. GO ASTROS!!!!

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Brown explained the logic behind the simple phrase.

“Our brain, which is wired to protect us above all else, wants a story,” she said.

It’s the same reasoning that sees us rationalise an unexpected situation, or defend the negative behaviour of those we love.

Those stories might be:

  • My relationships don’t work because I’m fundamentally unlovable
  • I’ve always been “unlucky”
  • The universe is against me
  • I’m a fraud, and despite all my achievements, it’s only a matter of time before I get ‘found out’

Going back to her husband, she took a different approach to their impending fight.

“The story I’m making up right now is one of two things just happened,” she told him.

“Either you looked over at me while we were swimming and thought, ‘God… where’s the girl I married 25 years ago? You’re old and you don’t even know how to swim anymore’.

“Or, you looked over at me and thought ‘Jeez man, she does not rock a speedo like she does two decade and two kids ago’.”

For a lot of women, the story they tell themselves revolves around body image.

Words like “ugly”, “fat” and “disgusting” appear in our minds, justifying why bad things happen to us. For Brown, her husband was so revolted my her he didn’t even want to converse in the water.

In actual fact, her husband was fighting off a panic attack – something that had nothing at all to do with her.


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Sunset on a boat in the gulf with Steve listening to @chrisstapleton and @hayescarll = my happy place.

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Had Brown not asked, and gotten to the bottom of what was going on with her husband, their ‘fight’ would have ended very differently.

“For me, that day changed everything in my marriage. For one, I don’t think we’ve had a fight where we don’t say ‘the story I’m telling myself,'” she said.

“Vulnerability is the path back to each other, but we’re so afraid to get on it and we end up hurting each other a lot.

“We want it so bad, but we’re so afraid to let ourselves be seen, and we’re so afraid to see people, but it’s the only way back.”

Have you watched Brené Brown: The Call to Courage on Netflix? What did you think about the special? Tell us in a comment below.