Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard are, let’s just say, known for their candor. The two have been pretty open about the realities of marriage, unorthodox parenting, sobriety, and their unique approach to their marriage. And recently, Bell opened up about a rule they have when they’re about to get into a fight — and though far from reinventing the wheel, the practice is a wonderful exercise in mindfulness for even the most thoughtful couples.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Bell shared the secrets to her long marriage with Shepard that has allowed them to be stronger than ever. For these two the basics — common goals, mutual respect — are important, but they also have an “inner child” rule that helps them navigate communication through the hard parts of adulthood and parenting.
“Understanding that your partner used to be a little person is the best thing you can do,” Bell shared. “Sometimes if we’re ever on the verge of a fight, one of us will say — it’s usually Dax — ‘I feel like 8-year-old Dax right now.’ And I’m able to see him like I see my kids, which is in a very different way and go, ‘Oh yeah, you’re a little person that had trauma and triggers, and it’s not about me,'” she added.
Experts have long said that having good communication skills is important to have a long-term, healthy relationship, and the “inner child rule” Bell and Shepard have might sound like an unusual way to frame arguments or disagreements, but their tactic really boils down to always assuming the best of your partner.
Giving your partner the benefit of the doubt or framing their actions as their “inner child” during difficult discussions or emotions is great relationship advice, Michael Archord, co-founder of Marriage Restoration, previously told Fatherly. Communicating while emotions run high can be challenging, and assuming the best — and remembering who your partner really is — can help you focus on what is really being said.
“For example, the husband makes an off-color comment,” Archold noted. “Instead of becoming immediately angry, the wife puts it in neutral and says to the husband, ‘This is how I took the comment you just made, is that how you meant it?’ This gives the husband a chance to clarify and apologize if needed.”
Bell said that the trust and respect she has for Shepard in their relationship, and vice versa, allows them to keep in mind that they’re on the same team, even if they’re not seeing eye-to-eye. And they’re growing and changing together.
“If I could change my behavior in a way that benefits our relationship, why wouldn’t I do that?” Bell shared.