5 min read
We often go through moments, experiencing the ups and downs of life, forgetting to pause to discuss what happened and what we can do differently. These discussions, or debriefs are check-ins where the intention is to hold the space for what goes unspoken: the emotional roller coasters, the internal monologues, the missed connections, the appreciation. Pro tip: Always start with appreciation.
Debriefs help to identify the underlying subtexts of all experiences; they are a way to talk about what’s happening or has recently happened and look at the situation from the perspective of what you feel, what was missed, and what I need you to know.
For us, debriefing was an organic process of curiosity and inquisitiveness – a way to better understand why the other did something or behaved a certain way when the “event” or the experience was happening. The very first-time Ansh and I debriefed an event – it was in New Hampshire, after an excruciating 12 hours of uncertainty that involved a failed teepee camping experience in the snow and a flat tire at 4 AM. In the early hours of the morning, and in the warmth of a diner (and several cups of coffee), Ansh and I discussed what went wrong, what his intention with the trip was, what we should do now – and most importantly, how are we feeling: as individuals, and about us.
When this incident went down, we had only been dating for a couple of weeks. A new relationship doesn’t always have the right tools to survive something so challenging – to survive and come out on the other side feeling stronger and closer together. Explicitly talking about what was happening as it happened, turned out to be a gift. It gave us a chance to access the inside knowledge that even though things were “falling apart” – it isn’t what “I wished for when planning this experience”. Debriefing helped us get past the instant judgemental thoughts of “can I trust this person?” “do they know what they are doing?” “am I safe with them?” It gave us a chance to be vulnerable and honest about what we were feeling and what we desired.
We didn’t know it then, but in that diner, Ansh and I started one of the most important traditions that we still use to strengthen our relationship today. Today our debriefs are called reflections – and this tradition is something that we exercise often and especially after every event or experience we go through together. Road trip over the weekend -> reflection on the way home; parents visiting -> reflection after they leave (and sometimes even every night as a way to reset our emotional barometer).
The frequency of our reflections varies depending on the need. Sometimes it’s after an event, sometimes it’s during, and sometimes it’s at the end of the year as we are looking back. While figuring out the frequency that is right for your relationship is important, it’s important to first develop a tradition of checking in with each other often.
What can you do?
- Establish a check-in routine (you can choose to do your debriefs after a big trip, weekly, or at the end of the year)
- Set a plan (while it isn’t necessary to have scripted questions, some can find it helpful to create a more specific routine)
- Practice as needed
Debriefing is an essential Love Vitamin for Relationships. It gives you a chance to say thank you to each other for specific moments that were big, but perhaps at that moment, you couldn’t express why or what it meant to have your partner’s support. It enables you to tackle patterns before they have a chance to build up in unproductive ways. Practiced over time, debriefing lets you create stronger shared memories and a stronger foundation in your relationship.