Relationship Alive!

Neil Sattin interviews John Gottman, Sue Johnson, Harville Hendrix, Peter Levine, Stan Tatkin, Dick Schwartz, Katherine Woodward Thomas, Diana Richardson, Terry Real, Wendy Maltz - and many others - in his quest to dig deep into all the factors that keep a Relationship Alive and Thriving! Each week Neil brings you an in-depth interview with a relationship expert. Neil is an author and relationship coach who is enthusiastic and passionate about relationships and the nuts and bolts of what makes them last. You can find out more about Neil Sattin and the Relationship Alive podcast at
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Dec 25, 2018

What are some key things you can do to start off the new year in a way the improves your relationships? How can you take action without feeling overwhelmed by all of the things you can work on and improve?

To thank you for joining me on this journey to improve relationships, Chloe and I have a gift for you. Our gift to you this holiday season is the first 4 days of our 21 Days To Deeper Intimacy In Your Relationship course, totally free. 3000 people have taken this course and the first 4 days is our gift to you so you can start making progress in your relationships in 2019. Inside the course, you’ll find tools for diagnosing where you are now and how to improve it.

If you decide you’d like to do the entire 21-day course, you’ll have that option as well. Whether or not you do the remaining 17 days, the first 4 will have a big impact on how you see your relationship, how you see your past relationships, and how to use this in other types of relationships. These relational skills will help you no matter what relationship you apply them to.

To get access to your gift just go to or text “21days” to 33444 and follow the instructions. I am so excited to share this with you and I know it will help you start 2019 right.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Support the podcast (or text “SUPPORT” to 33444)

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Dec 18, 2018

How can what we know about attachment and the power of our emotions, create deeper intimacy and resolve conflicts with your partner? In today’s episode you’re going to learn about a particular kind of conversation that you can have with your partner that can change everything. This week, our guest is Sue Johnson, author of  Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, and the founding director of the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy. In Hold Me Tight, Dr. Johnson shares her groundbreaking and remarkably successful program for creating stronger, more secure relationships and she’s going to share some of her wisdom on that topic with you today.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!

Also, please check out our first three episodes with Sue Johnson – Episode 100: Attraction – How to Sustain It and How to Revive It – with John Gottman and Sue Johnson, Episode 82: How Safety Leads to Better Sex – Sue Johnson, and Episode 27: Breaking Free from Your Patterns of Conflict with Sue Johnson.


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is being sponsored an amazing company with a special offer for you.

Our first sponsor today is Audible. Audible has the largest selection of audiobooks on the planet and now, with Audible Originals, the selection has gotten even better with custom content made for members. As a special offer, Audible wants to give you a free 30 day trial and 1 free audiobook. Go to or text RELATIONSHIP to 500500 to get started.

Our second sponsor is one of my wife Chloe’s favorite online clothing retailers, ModCloth. With the year wrapping up, it’s time to put a bow on 2018 and...think about new outfits, and the new you! Whether you’re still craving cozy sweaters or you’re ready to start stocking up for spring, ModCloth is your go-to. To get 15 percent off your purchase of $100 or more, go to and enter code ALIVE at checkout. This offer is valid for one time use only and expires on March 3rd, 2019.


Check out Sue Johnson's Hold Me Tight Online course

Visit Sue Johnson’s website to learn more about her work.

Pick up your copy of Sue Johnson’s book, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict and shifting the codependent patterns in your relationship

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Your Relationship (ALSO FREE)

Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Julie Henderson.

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out


Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome, to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. We've spoken a lot on this show about attachment, and the way that attachment influences how we operate in our lives and in our relationships. And I wanted to bring back one of the masters of showing us how to use what we know about attachment in relationship to the show, to talk about her new online program, and also to answer some questions from you, because we had some people in the Facebook group chime in with questions for this illustrious guest, who has been with us several times before. Her name is Sue Johnson. You probably know her as the creator of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy or EFT, which is how we'll refer to it in this episode. She was here in Episode 27, talking about how to break free from patterns of conflict. She was here in Episode 82, talking about how creating safety in your relationship leads to better sex. And we had the double hitter in Episode 100, with her and John Gotman, both talking about how to sustain and revive attraction in your relationship.

Neil Sattin: Today, we're going to focus on Hold Me Tight, which is one of Sue's breakthrough books that explains how couples can take this journey, these several conversations that they can have, that lead them into deeper intimacy both in terms of understanding themselves in relationship, also how to work through conflict, forgiveness, sex, you name it, it's there in the book. And this has all been rolled out recently in an online program called Hold Me Tight Online, we're going to talk more about that. Sue also has a book coming out right around the beginning of 2019, on attachment theory in practice. And this is using emotionally focused therapy with individuals and families as well as couples. So, we may touch on that a little bit, and hopefully we'll also get to have Sue back to chat when that book comes out.

Neil Sattin: I think that's enough from me. In the meantime, if you want to download a transcript of this episode, please visit, so that's S-U-E, and then the number three. Or as always, you can text the word Passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions to get the transcript for this episode and our other episodes.

Neil Sattin: Also, if you are interested in the online program that Sue is going to be talking about, you can visit, and that will take you to a page where you can find out more about Sue Johnson's Hold me Tight Online program. Sue, thank you so much for sitting through that long introduction and it's such a pleasure to have you here again with us on Relationship Alive.

Sue Johnson: Oh, it's always nice to be with you.

Neil Sattin: Well, we have a lot to talk about today, and we'll do our best to be succinct. And I also want to encourage you listening that we're not going to go over all the finer points of what we've already talked about, those other episodes are there for you to listen to. But Sue, maybe we could start by just talking about what is emotionally focused therapy, what makes it unique from other ways that people might be used to working with therapists or understanding themselves.

Sue Johnson: Emotionally Focused Therapy, as the title suggests, it basically works from the premise that the most powerful thing in a relationship is the emotional music that's playing. The emotional music is what structures a relationship, it's what organizes a relationship, defines, leads the partners to dance in a particular way with each other. So it's sort of dedicated to the idea that, if you want to understand relationships, and if you want to shape your relationship intentionally, whether to repair it or whether to just simply keep it strong, it's very important to understand the emotion that's going on when you dance with your partner. It's important to be able to deal with that emotion in a way that pulls your partner towards you. It's important to understand the impact you have on your partner. So EFT, really has focused on making emotion the couple's and the therapist's friend, and shown therapists and couples how to understand that emotion, how to deal positively with emotion, and how to use emotion to feel more connected with your partner.

Sue Johnson: And I think the fact that we know how to use emotion, and we honor emotion in our work with couples, is one of the reasons why... The other special thing about EFT, is that we have a fantastic amount of research on outcome. We have over 20 studies, positive outcome studies, which makes us unique in the field of couple therapy. We're the gold standard of research in couples therapy. We do not have a problem with relapse in our research, which is pretty amazing, really. It always surprises me every time we do a study and we find no evidence of relapse, because all the sort of elephant in the room in couples therapy is that even if you can create change with a couple, you see them in a month's time or in six months time and they've kind of relapsed, they've gone back to being distressed. And that's not the case in our therapy.

Sue Johnson: It's unique in that it's based on research, in terms of intervention. We've been doing this for 35 years now. It's unique in the way it deals with the most potent thing in the room, which is emotion. But in the end, the real thing that I think makes EFT different is that it's not based on somebody's idea about what love is or what relationships are all about. It's based on hundreds and hundreds of studies of adult bonding. It's based on a science of love. And so we have a map to what matters in relationships, what goes wrong, and exactly what you have to do to put it right. And that means that the EFT therapist is on target. We expect to create change, we expect our partners to grow, we expect our couples relationships to look not only a little happier, but more secure and be more stable at the end of therapy.

Sue Johnson: Obviously I'm biased here, because I'm talking about my own work. I'm talking about 35 years of research and clinical work. But the truth is that we're the only approach to couple and family therapy that's based on a real science of relationships, and that science is attachment and bonding. And I think also, because of that science, in this model... The model suggests that together we're much more powerful than we are individually, and it values and honors connection between people. And so EFT practitioners and ICEEFT, the International Center for Excellence in EFT, which is our not-for-profit organization; basically, the headquarters are here in Canada. We've created communities all over the world. I think we have about 66 right now, affiliated with us to support therapists and health professionals to learn EFT, to get together and support each other, to help each other grow, to help therapists in those communities contribute to relationship education.

Sue Johnson: We believe in creating community and I think that's something special about EFT. We do that wherever we go. The latest community that looks like it's going to take off is in Iran.

Neil Sattin: Wow.

Sue Johnson: And that's fascinating. Because of course, attachment science is about who we are as human beings. Attachment science applies to all of us, regardless of tribe, religion, political persuasion, race, gender. Attachment science, basically, is based on biology, and it tells us who we are as human beings, what our most basic needs are. So that's a bit of a mouthful, but that's what's special about EFT. [laughter]

Neil Sattin: Right. Sue, I asked you for the short version. Come on.

Sue Johnson: I'm sorry, I'm sorry.


Sue Johnson: Okay, well, that's very hard, Neil. You know how passionate I am about what I do and how successful we are, so how can I... I'm sorry, that's the shortest I can manage, okay?

Neil Sattin: No, that's great. And one thing that I really appreciate about the experience that you offer couples who are going through EFT, is that it literally does bring them along on an experience that allows them to feel each other in a different way. To feel each other's emotions in a different context, and to have that experience of getting through situations that are really tender, or challenging, or triggering and get to the other side in a way that is really constructive for their relationship and for their bonding.

Sue Johnson: Yes. And we're talking about therapy here, but I know that later in the program we're going to talk about Hold Me Tight.

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Sue Johnson: The Hold Me Tight educational program is based on my book Hold Me Tight. And I put that relational program together. There's groups all over the countries, and all these communities run by therapists, or even people who aren't therapists. Pastors, anyone can actually buy the program and run the group, a Hold Me Tight group. And what always blows my mind when I go and do one of these groups, I think the biggest one I've ever done was with 100 couples at a time in San Francisco. And what always blows my mind is, people come up to you in the groups... Usually I do them over a weekend. And they go through the conversations that we teach them in the book. And people come up to you and they say things like, "Well, we just came cause we were curious. We don't even have any real huge issues in our relationship. And I thought that our relationship was pretty good, but this group experience has taken our relationship into places I never even knew existed."

Sue Johnson: I just had one of these beautiful ones last week. This person sent me an email: "We didn't even know that we could have this kind of closeness and this kind of emotional connection. And we feel like it's changed how we'll be with each other in the future, so thank you." And I think what they're talking about is the profound, profound effect of being able to help people move into profound, bonding, conversations. They are the conversations... This is biologically prepared, powerful, experience. These are the conversations that our nervous system is wired to resonate to. These are the conversations that our brain says, "Yes, this is safe, and this is close, and this is what I want and need. This is what gives me the ability to stand up in the world and be strong." And people resonate with them. They are powerful, powerful experiences. And that's why we don't get relapse. Because you're brain... If you know how to have these bonding conversations, you remember them. They're not just something you put aside and say, "Oh, that was interesting but I don't think about it anymore."

Sue Johnson: Your whole nervous system zings with the memory of them. And once you've had these experiences, your brain wants you to go back there. So bonding experiences are... We remember them all our lives. We remember the moments when we were vulnerable and our father turned and held us and said something to us. We remember that all our lives, we hold on to it. We go back to it when we're unhappy and sad. We go back to it with a thrill of joy. These experiences are core to what we need as human beings. So when you help people move into them in therapy or in an educational group, or even online together in the privacy of their own home, there's something very profound about that, and truly growth producing for individuals and for couples about that. And attachment science has shown us how to get there, how to... If we really understand who we are as human beings, of course we can craft powerful, transformative, experiences. Right? And that's the thing that keeps me passionate about this work. I think it keeps... EFT is passionate in general.

Neil Sattin: And I want to take our listeners on this journey, a little bit, today. We'll give them a taste of this kind of experience. But before we do, I'm curious about how do you get when someone isn't along for the ride?


Neil Sattin: And this is often the case in a couple, right? Where one person hears Sue Johnson on Relationship Alive and says, "We gotta find an EFT therapist, or we gotta buy this book Hold Me Tight." Or whatever it is, right? And the other person is maybe just like, "Yeah, I don't buy that therapy stuff." Or, "Sounds really like unhealthy co-dependence." When people come at it with their negative bias about it, or maybe they're just stonewalling and they're shut down to the influence of their partner at this stage in their relationship. How do you help enlist the partner in actually wanting, or hopefully, inviting them to participate in something like this?

Sue Johnson: Oh, well that happens quite a lot. Even when people come for therapy sometimes, they're kind of being dragged there.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Sue Johnson: You can tell they're waiting... They're in the room with their teeth gritted, and they're... [chuckle] They're just wanting to wait for you to stop talking so they can explain how they've got to leave now, that's how you feel. What we do in EFT is what we always do. We start where people are. It's an incredible mistake from an EFT point of view to start telling people to be different. You just become dangerous when you do that, and they'll protect themselves against you. So, we start where we are. And I can give... For an example, I just did a session with an an Inuit couple, and we started with the fact that to sit and talk to somebody like me is definitely not part of Inuit male culture. And we talked about the fact that from his point of view the very best way of dealing with any problem was to go hunting. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Sue Johnson: And I talked about that with him. I didn't explain therapy. That's the wrong channel. He's not interested in getting information from me, he's not even interested in it. So we talked about hunting, and we talked about what that did for him, and how when he hunted he felt competent. And he was out in a bitter environment but he was somehow in charge. And we talked about how strange it was for him to even think about sitting and talking about his emotions with someone like me, or reading the Hold Me Tight book. And as I joined with him, and listened to him, and had him teach me about how he dealt with his emotions, engaged other people, dealt with his needs for closeness, how he dealt with his vulnerability, which is... You can't get out of those things, they are universal, right? Unless you're a lizard or something, you have to be actively engaged with those three things. As we sat and talked about it he became more open. And I said, "Alright, well it sounds like your hunting has saved your life. It sounds like your hunting has really done a lot for you. And I think it's wonderful that you've been able to do that. And you're right, I can't offer you that experience. So would you like to talk to... Are you curious at all? And maybe I can help you feel some of the same kind of sure... "

Sue Johnson: Cause he talked in words like "sureness" and "ground under his feet". He used these images. So I said, "Well, maybe I could help you find some of that sense of sureness and ground under your feet, when you're talking to your lady and you see that she's disappointed with you, which I'm hearing is one of the moments where you decide to go hunting."


Sue Johnson: And I'd listen to him, he'd listen to me. He experienced me as safe. I wasn't telling him how to be. And so he said, "Yes that would be interesting." And he starts to look me in the eye and he starts to look up at me more, and he starts to... He's suddenly engaged. And we begin. We begin with what would he like to change in his relationship and what is happening to him in those moments in the relationship? We begin with his pain, we begin with the dilemmas that he would like a solution to, and we go slowly because in his culture that's the way it works. You speak slowly and you deal with things at a slow pace. I'm sorry, I'm getting interruption here, I forgot to turn off my phone it'll stop in a minute.

Neil Sattin: It's okay.

Sue Johnson: So we go slowly. And gradually he comes, he becomes curious. So you start where people are, you validate their uncertainty, their reluctance. If you think about it just in very human terms, the last thing you want to do if you are uncertain and vulnerable, is to go to talk to some strange professional person about that. You're worried about being shamed, you're worried about them telling you that there is something wrong with you, you're worried about what they are going to tell you about their relationship. You don't feel safe.

Neil Sattin: Right. And of course what's challenging about these conversations when they happen just between partners in a relationship, is that they are so often very quickly triggering conversations.

Sue Johnson: That's right. That's right. The partner hears, "Well, you don't even care enough about our relationship to go and talk to somebody about it, so that just proves what a creep you are." And people get stuck there. But what we are talking about is also another reason why I went to all the trouble to try and create the Hold Me Tight program, educational program. Because I assume that even though couple therapy is becoming a bit more normative, there are a huge number of people who would rather have their feet roasted in an oven than come to couple therapy, right? And they won't come. So I said, "Okay, then maybe they'd come to a group put on by their pastor in their church. Or, maybe they'd come to a group put on in the local hall with 10 other couples." And then it went to, "No, there's a whole bunch of people who won't come to that either." [chuckle] Beause in our culture, we hide our vulnerability or our uncertainty. And so I went, "Okay, well then there is a whole bunch of people, maybe they'd do an online program that's friendly and fun, and they do it in their own homes where they feel safe and private." So then of course that leaves us putting all the energy into creating an online.

Sue Johnson: And I think what we are talking about here is the EFT commitment. Well, I'll just make it personal, my commitment. The commitment in this model, and if you are an attachment theorist, is not just to create a very good model, research it, and teach people about it. Which is big enough. We've been doing that for 35 years. The commitment is that as a psychological approach, that we have something to offer society and that we can help society learn to honor and value relationships, shape better relationships. That's what we're trying to do. So therapy, education. I think the main issue here that we're up against, where the person asked the question, is that our society, our culture, has not seen love relationships as something that are understandable, are shapeable, that you can shape, that you can learn to create, that you can nurture deliberately with intention. We don't talk about love like that. We say you fall in, you fall out. And we've basically had a very narrow mistaken view of romantic love relationships, and I think who we are as human beings. So people, they really don't see... They not only, "I'm not sure a therapist can help or a group can help." They really don't see love as something that you can craft and shape and understand. And we're trying to change that. We're trying to have an impact on that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I think that's one reason why we resonate, you and I, so much is that that's definitely part of my mission and Relationship Alive's mission in the world as well. To affect that transformation. Because that is definitely a big deal, that there are a lot of people who don't quite understand that you can actually adjust things in ways that are actually helpful. Sadly, I think a lot of people have this story that they know of a couple that tried therapy and it just blew up their marriage or that sort of thing. It's just one positive experience at a time, I think, and the way that that ripples out in to the world. That people get the sense of, "Oh actually we know a lot more about how to do this than we did 20 years ago." And that's why we are having this conversation.

Sue Johnson: Right. And that's the message we keep trying to get out there. And you know it is so interesting, the news is always focused on bad news. That's what the news wants to report. But I always say I don't really understand, it's beyond me why at some point, it hasn't been all over the front of the New York Times, that we now have a science of romantic love, of love period. That we now understand it. We have an incredible theory and science about what it's all about, that attachment started off with looking at the bonding between mother and child, and now it's grown. In the last 15 years it's been applied to adult relationships, and it really has so much to say about who we are and what we need to thrive and survive, and how we are relational beings, and how to create good loving relationships. And surely, this is revolutionary. Surely this is at least as important as understanding DNA, I think so.

Neil Sattin: It's at least page two, if not the front page.

Sue Johnson: I think it's the headline. I think it is much more important than us putting all this energy into going in rockets to the stars. Why don't we learn to become powerful, bonded, connected, cooperating human beings on this planet? Maybe we wouldn't need to go to the stars. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I hear ya, I totally hear you there. And this makes me wonder too, because there needs... I want to befriend to that person or persons who decide what goes on the front page of the New York Times. And if I meet that person I'll put in a good word for you, Sue.

Sue Johnson: For sure, okay.

Neil Sattin: And I am thinking that often what brings light on a particular subject is not how amazing it is, although sometimes that is true. But often it's the controversy that accompanies it. And that makes me wonder for you, your own perspective on what I think some people do still perceive as a controversy between attachment theory in relationships and how important it is to understand the science of bonding, and differentiation, and people learning to stand on their own two feet, and taking responsibility for themselves. And the interplay of those things. Yeah. So go ahead.

Sue Johnson: Well, basically I think we in psychology have a huge responsibility here. Because we didn't know enough and so we set those things up. We set up being a strong individual and acknowledging your need for others as dichotomies. We set them up like they're on opposite sides of a long line. Like they're opposites. And of course they're not. That is a mistaken way of looking at it. All the research, and I'm talking about thousands of studies now. All the research since about 1960 points to the fact that the bottomline is the more securely connected to others you are, the more sure you are of yourself, the more... If you like, the more securely connected you are, the more articulated, coherent, and positive, your sense of self is. So, you find out who you are, you differentiate with others, not from others. If you look at the differentiation literature, it almost implies that there is a point in time where you just decide to look in the mirror and define yourself and tell yourself you're great, and that you can self soothe and you can do all this for yourself. This is nonsense, this is not who we are. We never get to that point.

Sue Johnson: And the only people who look in the mirror, and totally define themselves and tell themselves they're wonderful and don't need other people, we call them psychopaths. And they are not particularly known for being wonderful members of society or particularly happy. It's a mistake we made because we didn't have the big picture. We just saw a little foot of the elephant that said that our needs, if they are expressed in negative ways, can get us into trouble. Our needs for others can get us into trouble, And indeed, that's true. But that's what we saw. So in family therapy for example, we focused on issues like enmeshment. And that's so interesting because we don't do that when we work with families in EFT. We focus on how people deal with their anxiety, and we help them move into that anxiety and hold it and regulate it, and be able to express that anxiety in ways that are not cohesive to other people, and not demeaning for themselves. And ways that pull the other people close. And they grow, and the relationships grow. That's what we do and we do it all the time.

Sue Johnson: We don't find enmeshment or co-dependency particularly useful concepts. We just see it that people are stuck being anxious about the safety of their relationships. And when you're anxious, you either get all upset and try to yell and scream and demand and control things, or you tend to shut down and numb out. And neither of them are useful. They don't get you what you need. I think what I'm saying is, it's a much more integrated and rounded out and complete picture of differentiation and individuation and self soothing that you get from taking the whole picture of attachment and bonding in context. It's the little child who knows the mother will come if he calls, who goes out and believes that he can run down the slide, and who manages his distress if he finds that maybe he falls off the slide. He knows that if he calls his mum will come, he's in a safe universe where he feels loved and held, and his mother has come a number of times. So he's learned that distress is manageable and that he can manage it, and that he can call for another. He's internalized that sense of safety in the world. And he will grow up with a stronger sense of self and a stronger ability to go out into the world and take risks.

Sue Johnson: This isn't a theory, there's thousands of studies on this now, this isn't a theory. Securely attached people who know how to trust others and reach for others, and who believe that others will be there for them, consistently have a better self-image, they are more able to take risks, they're more able to face the world, they're more resilient. They're basically, if you like, more differentiated. So this dichotomy is a false one, and it's really about the old theories of human functioning which are kind of in boxes. We've never had the whole picture coming up against the new approach to looking at human beings, which is attachment. And it's really the conflict between the old and the new there, and there doesn't have to be a conflict at all is what I'm saying.

Neil Sattin: Right. I appreciate that. That you've, I think, shown very clearly how they include each other. That one comes with the other. And as soon as you split them apart that's when they start, either one, starts to become a little dysfunctional.

Sue Johnson: I think on emotional level it really isn't about that. I think on an emotional level, it's about the fact that we all know that if we need another, that introduces a level of vulnerability. And I think, and especially in our society, we don't want to talk about that vulnerability. We want to believe that we're invulnerable. And society says you're supposed to be able to soothe yourself, deal with everything, live life at 50 miles an hour, have everything. So we want to believe we're invulnerable. And what attachment really says is, "That's not the way to real strength." Real strength is to understand where you're vulnerable. Understand the essence of your vulnerability, which is also a beautiful thing in human beings. Understand their need for closeness, the way they be able to tune into others, and you're own need for closeness, and accept that vulnerability. And then know how to deal with it positively. That is really strength, not the denial of vulnerability."

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And this makes me think of the Hold Me Tight conversation.

Sue Johnson: Yep.

Neil Sattin: And I love how in our very first conversation where we talked about changing your conflict patterns, we talked a lot about discovering your demon dialogues, and the first three conversations that are part of the overall Hold Me Tight sequence.

Sue Johnson: Yes.

Neil Sattin: But then I'm thinking of the fulcrum, really, of Hold Me Tight sitting in the middle. So could we talk for a moment about what is the, 'the', Hold Me Tight conversation that happens and why is that so important?

Sue Johnson: Well, what happens in a Hold Me Tight conversation is you have already... If you're helping a couple create one, it doesn't matter whether you're doing it in therapy or in an educational group or in an online program. Before you ask people to go into a Hold Me Tight conversation, you have helped them create a certain safety and sense of trust in their relationship. Because you cannot do a Hold Me Tight conversation while you are vigilant for danger, waiting for a negative pattern, like some sort of... Waiting to deal with an attack from your partner, or just waiting for your partner to let you down. When you're on guard, you can't move into a Hold Me Tight conversation. So you have to have a certain sense of safety first, and we've learned to take you there in EFT, and all the various forms of EFT. But once you have that, really what a Hold Me Tight conversation does is it moves people gradually into the three elements that we know are key to a bonding conversation.

Sue Johnson: What defines the safety of a bond in a relationship is how emotionally accessible, responsive, and engaged you are. A-R-E; Accessible, Responsive, and Engaged. And I always relate it to, that the key question in a lot of relationships is, "Are you there for me?" A-R-E. Are you accessible? Are you open? Are you responsive to me? Will you tune into me? Will you move towards me when I call? Am I important enough that you'll tune into me and pay attention to me? Do you care about my needs? Will you engage me? Will you come and meet me on the dance floor? Maybe struggle even if I'm struggling with me? Are you committed to really being with me in a dance, even we are caught in a negative dance? Hold Me Tight conversations really create that emotional openness, that ability to send messages to each other that evoke empathy and caring, help the other person respond, that help us see that vulnerability in our partner and respond with what they need. And help us stay engaged even when that engagement gets hard. And it's really about being able to talk about... In the end, it's a conversation about your fears. And we all have the same fears in relationships, we're all terrified of rejection and abandonment.

Sue Johnson: Those things are wired in, it doesn't say... It's nothing to do with personality strength or anything, it's to do with the fact that we're bonding animals, and abandonment and rejection are danger cues to our mammalian brain. They're life threatening, literally. We're born so vulnerable, when our brain is being formed, we know how to take our next breath, that if we are totally rejected or abandoned and left, we die. We know we're at risk. And we never lose that sense. So this vulnerability is wired in, and we're all afraid of rejection and abandonment, so we have these fears. And how we deal with these fears really has a lot to do with how we end up engaging others. And then it's not... But it's not just about how we deal with our fears, it's about whether we can actually know how, or have had the experience of being able to actually pinpoint our needs for connection, comfort, support, caring. Our needs... Just to share our reality to find out how valid it is. That's such a human need.

Sue Johnson: To be able to share our needs, pinpoint them, and share them in a way that our partner can hear them and pulls our partner close to us. In the end, a bonding conversation is about sharing your vulnerabilities, your fears, and your needs in a way that helps your partner respond and come close. And helps you and them become accessible, responsive, and engaged on an emotional level. And that is the essence of bonding. And powerful conversations that can change the way you see yourself, the way you see other people, the way you experience your world.

Neil Sattin: So this conversation that's about talking about your fears, sharing your needs and your vulnerabilities with your partner. And I love how you... The important thing comes at the end there, which is, in a way that invites your partner closer.

Sue Johnson: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: And I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about what allows that to happen versus... 'Cause I think some people might hear that and think, "Oh god, my partner's already so needy and vulnerable. They're needy all the time. So I want them to be more needy? How's that going to work?"

Sue Johnson: No, it's not about being more needy. It's about being able to hold on to your emotional balance and own your needs, and then ask for them to be met. And that is very different from what most of us see as the norm in relationships. Which is, "I expect my... " For most of us it's like, "I expect my partner... If my partner loves me, my partner already knows my needs." That's a huge myth in relationships. And what we want to do is we want our partner to respond to those needs without us having to actually show that we need. Because in our society we've been taught that showing that you need is somehow shameful or not okay, or it means you're immature, or whatever it means. It means you're not an independent adult, whatever that is. So most of us don't want to show our needs, and we don't quite know how to talk about them. And so then of course we're massively surprised that the message doesn't come across to our partner.


Sue Johnson: It's quite humbling to write these books and do all these training tapes and do all these studies, and then talk to your own partner, or your own children, your own son, and hear yourself doing exactly the same things that we all do, and that couples do. You just hear yourself rather than turning and telling your partner that you are feeling upset by something and you would like to be reassured and comforted, you hear yourself turn and get accusatory or demanding or give advice or start telling your partner they should know better, having been married to you all these years, and read Hold Me Tight a few times.


Sue Johnson: They should know better and they should be more supportive right now. Which of course I'm asking for support in a way where I have a hammer in my hand and so my partner just looks at the hammer and backs off. We get stuck in these dances because we're not tuning into our own emotional music or our partners. We don't make it easy often for our partner to see what we really need, and then when we don't get what we need, we're not very good at keeping our emotional balance and dealing with that. We get very agitated and attack or criticize, or we shut down and numb out. And neither of those things work. It's what a good science does, is it tells you how to look at basic phenomena in the world and understand them and how they work.

Sue Johnson: And attachment science tells us how we work emotionally, and how relationships work. And giving advice to your partner, telling your partner what to do, explaining to your partner that they're somehow inadequate, [laughter] that doesn't work. That might be more comfortable for us than pausing for a minute, taking a breath, getting our emotional balance and saying, "What is happening with me, why am I getting so agitated here?" Then realizing that we are off balance, we're on our back foot, and we need someone to reassure us or just calm us for a moment. And being able to slow things down... And that's a lot of it actually, that emotion is fast and sometimes it's overwhelming for us and we either numb it out or we get carried away with it.

Sue Johnson: Being able to keep your balance and slow things down and say, "Oh, I'm finding that very difficult, getting this letter that is telling me that I'm maybe not going to be considered for this promotion. I was pretending it didn't matter to me but in fact I'm finding it very difficult indeed. And what I really need is to be able to tell my partner somehow I feel kind of small right now because I expected to get an interview immediately, and I expected everyone to be delighted to interview me. And I'm feeling pretty small and I just need some support and reassurance." That's not what occurs to us. We get irritable or... So there's lots of ways not to connect, unfortunately. There's lots. And we do them anyway, even when we sort of know lots of information in our prefrontal cortex, we still get stuck.

Neil Sattin: Right, because that part of our brain is turned off when we're in those moments of distress. And I'm wondering, for you, especially because you so graciously pointed out that you may have moments where you don't act quite by the book, What are your...

Sue Johnson: Of course.

Neil Sattin: What are your best ways, what are your favorite go-tos in your relationship for regrouping when things have gone off the rails a little bit? And I'm looking for your specific ways you bring yourself back into balance, ways you take responsibility for what just happened and corral the interaction back into a more generative space?

Sue Johnson: It's interesting because basically I tune into all the things I've learned in EFT, but I can't... That takes a while. So if you ask me what my fast route out of that is, I'm usually able to see the few minutes of interaction, and I'm able to see the negative pattern, that I'm not actually asking for what I need. I'm usually able to see it. I should be able to do this after watching thousands of couples and all kinds of research studies. And so I'm able to see. My vision expands, if you like, from the little tiny piece of interaction that I just had or my feeling of frustration that I'm feeling. I listen to what I just said to my partner and I'm able to hear it in a broader context or see, " Wait a minute, that doesn't work, this is not the dance I want to be in." So I somehow have to have a sense of that. That I'm somehow getting stuck in some sort of narrow place that isn't going where I want to go, which is to feel safer, sounder, more connected, reassured. Somehow I know I'm going in the wrong direction.

Sue Johnson: And then one way of thinking about that I've been thinking about lately, and I've written about it in my new book that's coming out in January, which is a professional book. Is I change channel. I change channel from just coping with the emotion and somehow putting it out to my partner in a way that I'm just putting it out and I'm not actually thinking about how to really connect with him with that emotion. But I change channel. And usually what that means is, I change into listening to my emotion differently, and being able to stay with the softer feelings. And I think that's what people do in general when they can do these things. They move from somehow lecturing their partner or complaining or pointing out issues or just saying a few things and hoping their partner are going to guess.

Sue Johnson: They move into being able to name their emotions and to say... Or describe them in very simple ways. Like, "I feel small," or, "I feel uncertain right now," or. "for some reason I'm feeling really uncomfortable, maybe even a bit scared, and I don't quite know why." They trust themselves enough, they trust their partner enough, that they can go into those softer feelings. And when they do, when they move into that emotional space, emotion just... It's like the picture evolves. It's like what you're scared of becomes clearer, what you need becomes clearer. And when you turn and change channel into that deeper more open emotion, you give different signals. It's just natural if you stay there. Saying to someone, "For some reason that conversation I had with that person left me feeling really, really, frazzled and uncomfortable, and even a bit scared and I don't know why." That is an invitation to empathy and connection. That's completely different from, "I've had a bad day and you're not helping. I thought you were going to cook supper. And what I hope is underneath all my bad temper, you're going to see that I really need some help and comfort. But unfortunately you don't." [chuckle] "You just see that I'm dangerous and you avoid me." Right?

Neil Sattin: Right. Which is exactly what you don't need in that moment.

Sue Johnson: Yeah. We are not wired to deal with our vulnerability by ourselves. We can do it if we have to, for short periods of time. But we're not wired, and it's not the most efficient and effective way of dealing with our human vulnerabilities. It's not the strongest or best way to deal with our human vulnerabilities. We're wired, we're social bonding animals. We're wired to connect with other people. We're stronger together.

Neil Sattin: What I hear you saying too is that, by changing the channel, you're basically going from the channel that's all about, "I'm having this emotion and I'm expressing it on you." To the channel of, "I'm realizing that I'm having this emotion. And if I wanted to connect with my partner in this moment, and around the fact that this is how I'm feeling, how would I do that?" Which invites maybe a totally different course of action in that moment.

Sue Johnson: Yeah. But I don't think it's as deliberate as you're making it sound here. Usually in the first instance, people are being reactive. They're actually coping with softer emotions by shutting down or being very... Just giving facts. Or getting angry and becoming demanding. They're actually... Those are coping devices, really. The real core emotion underneath is not spoken, and so then the partner doesn't see it and doesn't see the need that that core emotion speaks to. There's a lot of conversation about this too. There's all kinds of conversations in our field about how empathy, and how empathy is a skill and you have to teach empathy skills, you have to train for it, I'm sorry, I don't think so.

Sue Johnson: Empathy is right into us, it's there. What we have to do is understand what blocks it. And the main thing that blocks it is, I can't be empathic to my partner if I'm too busy dealing with my own overwhelming emotions. If most of the glucose going to my brain is dealing with my own discomfort, fear, uncertainty, I don't have any room to tune into my partner's emotions. I don't think we teach empathy, we model empathy, I guess. In Hold Me Tight groups and in the online program, people will see models of couples interacting with empathy and connection, but in the end, it's really about what blocks it, how you put out your message that blocks your partner's natural empathy, or how you can talk to your partner in a way that evokes that empathy. People are naturally empathetic and responsive, so in the EFT we just understand the blocks. And we help people dance in a way that those blocks don't come up or to see beyond those blocks. I guess that sounds a bit abstract but I think it's clear.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I think that's getting at the heart of the question that I asked you a few minutes ago, around how do you have the Hold Me Tight conversation? A conversation where you're able to tell your partner about your vulnerabilities and your fears and your needs, without it coming across as being a demand or being needy, that it comes out of that place of being aware of your feelings and seeking, I think you've said it a couple times now, the softer emotions that are underneath the things that are on the surface.

Sue Johnson: Yes. And I think the other thing about that is, a big part of EFT is it's a lot easier to do that if you grasp those emotions, and you have the normalized and validated, and you don't see those emotions as somehow proof that you are somehow not strong enough. Or that you're somehow not mature enough or that there is something wrong with you. A lot of EFT is validating, honoring, and holding people's emotions. Walking, setting up experiences where they walk into those emotions gradually, and at the same time are safe in that experience because they are given a framework where those emotions are understood, honored, validated. And our society hasn't been very good at that. We don't teach kids in schools about their own emotions or about the impact they have on other kids, and how to have safe conversations. We don't teach that. It's insane, we teach kids trigonometry but we don't teach kids what I just said, and so that's nutty. There are thousands of couples out there in the world.

Sue Johnson: I'm just going to give a talk, public talk, in a few weeks in Toronto in December, called "What Every Couple Needs To Know", at the big Museum in Toronto. And I really believe that this stuff is what every couple needs to know. There are thousands of couples out there who have no way of understanding the dances they're caught in. No way of understanding even their own needs. You say to people, "What do you need?" And they say, "I need her to stop nagging." Or, "I need the conflicts to stop." Or, "I need... " These kinds of... "I need my partner to have more communication skills." These are huge. They don't know how to really go to the core of what they need and what they want. And we have taught people to be ashamed of them. So, a big part of EFT is we help people understand their own emotional lives, their own... The terrain of emotion. And who we are as bonding animals. And when you can accept those needs, when you can accept that we're all human beings who need comfort and security, and life is so huge. We all need to put our hand out in the dark and call, "Are you there?" And have a reassuring hand come and meet ours. And when we can do that, we can deal with the dark. And that's just the human condition.

Neil Sattin: That makes me think too that that must be how EFT approaches couples where one partner or another has a deeper trauma history.

Sue Johnson: Absolutely, that's right. And I think EFT is particularly suited to helping traumatized couples, traumatized individuals. Well, in fact what's interesting is we're talking about Hold Me Tight educational groups, that's only been around for a while. And this is what happens in EFT. Things have sprung up. There's now a Hold Me Tight educational group called, "Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go", for teens and their parents. There's a Hold Me Tight educational group based on the Christian version of the book Hold Me Tight, which is called, "Created For Connection." Which looks at how Christian beliefs fit in with attachment science and the link between those two. There's a Hold Me Tight educational group for in medical settings, which is very interesting. The biggest one we've just done, which we've just got a huge grant for, in Canada, is the Big Heart Institute back in Ottawa has asked us to adapt the program, and I hope one day we'll adapt the online program for this, too. Adapt the program for couples we're dealing with where one person's had a heart attack, because the research says that the best predictor of whether you'll have another heart attack, is not the severity of the first heart attack or even the damage done to the heart, it's the quality of your most intimate relationship.

Sue Johnson: And so the cardiologist actually read this research.


Sue Johnson: And said, "Oh, we're a relational human beings." "Ah, relationships really impact health." "Ah, we better get this crazy lady in and she can adapt her educational program to cardiac patients." So we did that. It's called, "Healing Hearts Together", and the preliminary data on it says it's great, really works. I ran a few of those groups and they blew my mind, they were wonderful. So everybody needs to know this, and the uses of creating this knowledge about what matters in love and how love works and how to repair it and keep it, has infinite, infinite usefulness. Whether it's in therapy, in educational groups, and for sure, we've got to take this stuff online. The Hold Me Tight Online was a huge project. Took us four years and oceans of grief and work. And there was a number of times when I really thought, "What on earth am I doing this for?" But you have to do it. If you feel that we all need this, and that we... This is sort of very basic information for us thriving and surviving. We have to make it accessible for people and so many things are online now.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And having gone through the course online, I can say that it's clear how much effort that you put in and how you tried to address different learning styles and give people lots of different examples, and make it entertaining at times.

Sue Johnson: Yes. [chuckle] We even have cartoons, which at first, when my colleague said, "We need a cartoon couple." I said, "No, no, no, no, no." But yeah, we've got cartoons and we've got music and we've got images, and we've got me giving chats and other experts giving chats, and we've got exercises that we tailor to you. It was a lot of work. But hopefully, the couples... The idea is that it's accessible to everybody, then. What I would like, which is a complete silly dream, but... Oh no, it's actually not a silly dream. What I would like is for our western governments, the government of Canada, for example, to say, "Okay, Sue, we'd like to make the Hold Me Tight Online educational program available to all couples in Canada, or everyone who's just gotten married or something. We'll make it incredibly cheap. Will you help us do that?" And I say, "Of course." And I was just going to tell you that's impossible, and I forgot that actually a much simpler version, not at all the online program we've got now, but a much, much simpler, pared-down version. The government of Finland, has actually just helped my Finnish colleagues make their version of Hold Me Tight Online, a very simple version of it, available to almost all Finnish couples, which blows my mind.

Neil Sattin: Wow.

Sue Johnson: But they've done that because they believe that stable loving relationships and stable loving families, create stable, caring, positive, thriving societies. And of course, they're right about that. That's the way to do it. So. Yeah. Why am I talking about this? I don't know.


Sue Johnson: Hold Me Tight online was a lot of work, but at this point I'm quite proud of it. And I'm glad that you enjoyed it and that you found it very... We wanted to make it fun. We made it for the people who would never dream of coming for therapy or even reading my book or even going to a group. So we thought, "Well then, we better make it fun because these people are used to having fun online." We did our best. I think it's pretty good. It's just like everything we do, we're very pleased with it for about a year and then we find ways that we could have done it better. This is kind of classic. I know that I'm going to feel the same way about my book, my therapy book that is coming out in January, which is EFT For Individuals, Couples, and Families. But it's really a book all about attachment. I know that I'll be pleased for about a week, and then I'll read it, and by next Summer I'll have found all the ways that I could have done it better. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Well, fortunately, that ensures new editions or new books or new versions, and new conversations for the podcast. So I feel totally fine about that, that you're...

Sue Johnson: Do you?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. That you'll be constantly improving. Sue, you've been so generous with your time and wisdom. And I do want to ensure that everyone has the links so that... They will be, of course, available on the page for this episode which is And then you can also, if you're interested in the Hold Me Tight online program, you can visit and that will take you to a page where you can find out more about the program. Sue, I'm wondering if we can... I have just two quick questions for you.

Sue Johnson: Sure.

Neil Sattin: They can be quick or not, it's up to you, But if they're quick it's totally fine. The first was another take on when I asked you what are your favorite ways of coming back when your conversations have gone off the rails, and you brought up changing the channel. Often, because we're such astute observers of our partners, it happens that we notice that our partner is totally triggered about something.

Sue Johnson: Yes.

Neil Sattin: And so I'm wondering, when you notice, "Oh, my husband is... He's triggered right now." What do you like to do in order to help bridge the gap in that moment?

Sue Johnson: That's a nice question. I think the best guide to this is what we naturally do with beings where the vulnerability is not so hidden, I.e. Children and dogs.


Sue Johnson: If you watch people with little kids, or you watch people with dogs, which I find fascinating, okay? They naturally, if they see vulnerability, if you watch them they slow down, they lower their voice, they lean in, they give more attention, they give a focused kind of attention, they might ask a question or they might reach with their hand. You know? It's fascinating to me... Let's just take dogs, if you watch dogs. I remember sitting in a Starbucks, I can't remember why I was doing this, years ago. And watching all the people look on their cellphones, and all the people completely avoid contact, and was thinking, "Goodness, me. This society, we're becoming lonelier and lonelier." And then I sat and watched and there was a line of dogs tied up outside the Starbucks on these posts, right? So they're all sitting there, it's a Saturday morning. So you watch all these people come out with their... They've looked to their phones the whole time, they're carrying things, and they're busy and distracted, and it's a busy street so they've got to stop, right? And they look down, and it was so fascinating to me how many people looked down, and if the dog looked back, particularly if the dog was kind of small and didn't look very happy.


Sue Johnson: These distracted, distant, disconnected people would... I couldn't hear what they were saying, which I think helped actually, because... You would think. I remember watching this man who put his coffee down, and leaned down, and talked to this dog. He was obviously comforting the dog, you know? Like, "Oh you're waiting for your master, you don't want to be here." Then he reached out and patted the dog on the head. He gave the dog more focused, soft, slow, connected attention than he'd given anyone in the Starbucks for whenever, right?

Neil Sattin: Right.

Sue Johnson: So we know how to do it. It's a question of tuning in and giving it. Unfortunately, sometimes we're not very balanced so we'll turn and say, "What the hell's wrong with you?" [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Right, right. That's why I love the way that you put it. Cause I'm so used to saying you see your partner and they're triggered, but I love your articulation of when you see vulnerability. Because that is what you're really seeing in that moment, is your partner in a vulnerable space. And if you know that your partner is the kind of person who, when they're vulnerable, needs space, is there an adjustment that you make to how you would respond to that? Would you just give them space and then revisit? Or is there a way to bring it out that doesn't...

Sue Johnson: No, I'd reach and then give them space.

Neil Sattin: Got it.

Sue Johnson: I'd reach to say, "I'm saying I am accessible, I am here, I see you. But I'm not demanding that you turn to me right now. I see you, and I see that sometimes you need time when you're in this space. So I'm just seeing you and I'm here." That's a very powerful thing to do. Good parenting is that. Good parenting, parents know their kids style. And they do that. They say, I've seen people do it in therapy when they start to really mend their relationship. They say, "Well, I understand this is hard for you to talk about, and I see that and maybe when I was your age I couldn't talk about these things at all, and I just want you to know that I'm going to be here. And I see how hard it is for you and I want to help you. And I'm right here when you want to turn around and talk." This is amazing. This is an amazing invitation, right? And people can do that, they really can. They can offer each other that kind of space and that kind of empathy. I take account of your style of response. But for me to do that, I have to be feeling pretty safe. Otherwise, I'm busy dealing with my emotions about the fact that you don't talk about anything and that leaves me alone. And if I'm stuck there, I'm not going to be able to accommodate you. I have to have my own balance, if I'm dancing, before I can accommodate to you in that way.

Neil Sattin: Right, right. Yeah. And so that brings us full circle to how we take care of ourselves when we recognize that we're in distress and take responsibility for how we're feeling in the moment.

Sue Johnson: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Sue Johnson: And I think a lot of it is, many of us are dealing with relationships which happen very fast in a busy world where there's lots of demands on us. And I think the central issue is that many of us don't even know what's possible. We've never even seen the kind of relationships that we talk about in these programs, and in EFT and therapy, where people can diffuse conflicts, stand together against a negative pattern, find a way to be accessible, responsive and engaged. People haven't even seen it. They've see a bit of it in Hollywood, which is usually infused with sexual infatuation. They've seen little moments of it, which I think is great. Okay? I think that's great. Right? One of the ways movies and books have always civilized us, right? In some ways. But they don't really know how to get there. So, lots of times we're trying to create relationships where we really don't have a model of what's possible at all. And that's why I hope therapists who like EFT will maybe think about running Hold Me Tight groups, will maybe try the online program themselves and tell their clients about it, or tell their communities about it. Because so many of us don't even know what is possible in our relationships.

Sue Johnson: We haven't even seen that these conversations can happen. And when we know that, the world changes. Our sense of what is possible with other people changes. This is a huge thing. Right?

Neil Sattin: It's true. And I've definitely seen that in my own connection as well, as it's evolved through our patterns of conflict and beyond, which has been nice. And your work has definitely been helpful for us as well, so I'm so appreciative of that. Sue, my last question... And you talk about dance a lot, and...

Sue Johnson: Yeah. Well, that's because I dance Tango, that's why.

Neil Sattin: Yes. And I think we've even talked about it on the show before cause my partner, Chloe, and I do dance as well. But I'm wondering, for someone who's listening and they're like, "This all sounds great and amazing and I want to try, and it also sounds a little heavy, a little intense." What do you recommend for people in terms of keeping things light? And are there actual ways that you incorporate lightness and play and fun into how you work with people?

Sue Johnson: Well, sure.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Sue Johnson: Well, I do couples therapy because it's more fun and more interesting than anything else, personally. And when I run Hold Me Tight groups, I think it's fun. I certainly hope our online program's fun or we've completely failed. It doesn't have to be heavy all the time. Learning can be fun, it can be intriguing, fascinating, surprising...

Neil Sattin: But you know, when couples feel like, "Ah, we're so stuck and it's going to take all this work." And there's some truth to that, right? It's going to take some work for them to shift their patterns. And yet, yeah, I think it's more about...

Sue Johnson: Discovery. If you're feeling... I think it all boils down to a sense of safety. My sense is couples come to see me and in the first few sessions it's not fun at all, because they're scared and they're worried. When they start to relax with me and we can play, and we can look at the dances they have, and we can look at how normal they are, and we can play with them and share them, and we can look at how stuck they got, and see how silly it is in some ways. EFT is not always heavy at all. We have a lot of laughter. And people not launch themselves into these huge heavy conversations. They're very gradual, and we make safety as they do it. So, yeah, it's not all heavy. It's you take it at your own speed. And for sure, people find it intriguing.

Sue Johnson: The dropout rate in EFT is really low. In our studies and clinically in practice, the way people report to us, people stay. Sure it's heavy sometimes, but people stay because they're learning so much. And it's an amazing journey, they're learning about themselves, they're learning about their partner. And there's a huge amount of fun in there.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and you're reminding me that some of... Honestly, some of the funniest moments, I think, in my relationship, are when we... After we've recognized a pattern, which is one of the early things that you suggest couples do, is how they identify what are the patterns that they typically end up in patterns of conflict. And then when you're able to see it happening, and you're able to have those moments of like, "Look at us, we're doing that thing, that... "

Sue Johnson: Yes.

Neil Sattin: "We're just doing it again." And it can be hysterical. Chloe and I will be in the middle of it. And we'll just break out laughing, from a place of pretty intense conflict when we have those moments of, "Oh yeah, that's us just doing that thing again."

Sue Johnson: That's right. It's like I can think of a dance analogy. You can be dancing with a partner who you trust a lot. And the partner tries a very tricky move. I can think of one where my teacher who's a fantastic dancer tried a very tricky move. And I sort of got half way through the move, where he was going, and then I got my high heel caught in the hem of my pants.


Sue Johnson: And as we both nearly fell down flat. Okay, we nearly fell. And it was hilariously funny. It wasn't, "Oh, how stupid of me to get my heel caught, or how stupid of you to ask me to do that move." It was just funny, we both recognized, "Look, we were trying to do something where we felt very clever, very intricate." And if we pulled it off, we would have thought, "Oh wow, aren't we incredible?" And it didn't work. And one of the reasons it didn't work was you don't account for thinks like high heels get stuck in pants.


Sue Johnson: And then we both laugh like hell. And it was good. It was funny. It was a shift in perspective.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, well, Sue, thank you so much again for your time with me today. And I know that everyone listening has gotten a lot out of this conversation. Again, If you want the transcript, text the word Passion to the number 33444, or visit if you want more information on the course. Sue, I'm looking forward to your book coming out in January, and checking that out. And that will be a great resource for therapists.

Sue Johnson: Yes. It's called Attachment Theory in Practice. I don't think I said the name. I always forget to say the name.

Neil Sattin: That's totally fine. I think I did say it at the very beginning.

Sue Johnson: Oh I'm sorry.

Neil Sattin: But here we are at the end. So it's good to remind everyone. And I hope that we get a chance to talk to you again sometime soon.

Sue Johnson: Oh I'm sure you will. Nice to talk to you. It's always fun to talk to you Neil.

Neil Sattin: Likewise, Sue.

Sue Johnson: Okay. Take care. Bye-bye.


Dec 10, 2018

We all want to be special, right? Being special, or important, the need to feel significant, is universal. But is it possible that your need to be special is getting in the way of your ability to connect, to give and receive love? Or does your partner value significance more than connection - keeping you from connecting with them? This week we’re going to dive into the paradox, the conflict, between the need for significance and the need for connection - so that you can discover how to have both.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Dec 3, 2018

How can you bring a new level of presence to your relationship? And what if this new level of presence could also help you find a sense of well-being in any moment? And how can you make sure you’re being yourself - instead of trying to be what somebody else wants you to be? This week, our guest is Julie Henderson, author of The Lover Within and Embodying Well-Being, and the creator of Zapchen Somatics. Zapchen is a Tibetan word that suggests something naughty, or improper - and for Julie Henderson it’s a practice of how sometimes things that are unexpectedly simple can have profound results. The practices and principles of Zapchen Somatics are a direct approach to embodying well-being, which Julie refers to as "feeling as good as you spite of everything."

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is being sponsored by two amazing companies with special offers for you. helps you create an original song as a unique gift for any special occasion. You tell them what the occasion is, what emotions you want your song to evoke, what type of song you want, and give them a little bit of your story - and they bring your story to life with a radio-quality song that captures it all. Songfinch is offering you $20 off a personalized “Song from Scratch” if you use the coupon code ALIVE20 at checkout.

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Julie Henderson: Most people don't know how to be present. So, they don't know how to be present in relationship to someone else, so they make something up. They make it... They make some kind of a guess. And then, they do that and see if it has the effect that they want. I would like to say that my... One of my two inside cats has come into the living room and is sniffing the sun, that's nice. So, what it is to be present? Most people are not encouraged to learn how to do that. That's central to everything. So, I would say, notice... Well, notice that you are. That might be a surprise to a lot of people, in fact, just to do that, but it's a huge step for most people to notice that they are, and just to experience how they are, when they are noticing that they are. [chuckle] It's kind of a strange, strange way of talking about things, but it's... Almost everybody is born knowing how to be, but they are often taught from an early age not to be because it bothers their parents.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So...

Julie Henderson: When we are being, frequently, we are loud, if we're kids. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Julie Henderson: So, you were going to say?

Neil Sattin: Well, that was the exact thing. I was going to, hopefully, get you to point out. What are these ways of being that come naturally or innately that we would be conditioned not to do?

Julie Henderson: Well, it varies from person to person. Don't you see? There are... It almost always involves... When we're young, it almost always involves spontaneous movement, spontaneous noise really because often we are being noisy before we know how to talk. And so, when we are both noisy and active, dancing around, or... Yeah, dancing around, often. Young people like to experience being by moving, and lots of times, parents don't like that because it's... Parents are tired, parents don't know how to be themselves anymore because they have to go to work and stuff like that, so they encourage their children not to be loud, not to be moving, not to be having a good time being. That's the main difficulty, I would say. We are taught not to be. Not to be present, certainly. What is it? I'm trying to think how I would say, What do we mean "present"? Noticing, in various ways, what it feels like to be present, what it feels like to notice that we actually are. I don't know, maybe it's old, but it all sounds a little bit who cares, but I find it absolutely necessary.

Julie Henderson: And it's not so hard, except that when we are grownups we have often spent a lot of time learning not to be present, not to notice that we are really this being of presence. And so...

Neil Sattin: Yeah, there are some things that are clicking into place for me. For instance, yeah, when we were young, let's say before we're even verbal, we have very limited ways of communicating with our parents. And if I think about my experience of being a parent, I was recognizing a lot of what seems like discomfort and unease in my children and trying to address it in a way that hopefully brings peace and happiness to them. But what I'm hearing, or what's clicking into place, is that through that process there's inadvertently really... What happens is the ways that our organism innately wants to communicate and express and just kind of deal with being a body, existing in this realm, that we might become either alienated from those ways, or like you were just saying, told that we can't do those things. We can't express, can't make noise, can't be unruly, can't jump around. This is common, I think, for a lot of us to go through that experience.

Julie Henderson: Very, very common, very common.

Neil Sattin: And so then we find ourselves as adults trying to make sense of the world, and trying to make sense of our relationships. But at that point there's a communication system, the communication that emerges from within us, and in many ways we're alienated from that. We're alienated from the messaging that comes from within that tells us about how we are.

Julie Henderson: Yep. We have learned to ignore what's actually true and to come up with something that's acceptable, or we have been taught is acceptable. And then we try to bring that into a relationship with people that we find attractive.

Neil Sattin: Right. No wonder it gets confusing.

Julie Henderson: No wonder it gets very cranky.


Julie Henderson: We try so hard to get it right so that that person will love us, and by and large it really doesn't work.

Neil Sattin: Right. Or it works for a little while, and then it starts to get confused, or there's all this tension and bumps that could happen.

Julie Henderson: Yep.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Julie Henderson: I think eventually there's a... What... A resentment that arises in us spontaneously because we are not being who we are. And we may not even recognize that that is what is going on, but that we are trying to be what somebody else wants us to be, and that's uncomfortable.

Neil Sattin: Right, and I'm getting the sense that when you talk about being who we are, in some respects you're not talking about being... Like being who we are as an expression of your preferences, or your likes and dislikes. It's something on a deeper level than that.

Julie Henderson: Oh yes, yes, yes. One of the things that I have found people take to, even given the invitation and the possibility of trying it out is to, I say... When you say I, where is it coming from in you as a body, is it coming out of your head, is it coming out of your chest, is it coming out of your belly? And I just invite people to notice where that “I” is that they are talking about is located. And very often, very often, especially with Westerners, it's in their head. So then I would say, "Okay, well, if you were to move that voice into your heart, would you say the same thing that you just said, when you were being in your head, in your brain? And often, often they're just really startled that the rest of them, starting with the heart in this particular instance, is not feeling or responding to being the same as we have been taught to do by being located in our head, especially if we went to school a lot.

Neil Sattin: Right. There's a lot of head instruction when you're in school.

Julie Henderson: Yup, yup. I remember for myself, when I first went to. I was at Cal as a freshman, the University of California, Berkeley, and I was sitting in a classroom and suddenly I was noticing that it was not my head that was engaged here, it was my whole body, ideally speaking, but I didn't get that far that suddenly but just noticing that I could be more of myself, so to speak, and that that was very attractive.

Neil Sattin: And was there something particular about that class that created that experience for you?

Julie Henderson: I think it was in English class but I don't remember because what studies stayed with me was that recognition and whatever we were talking about in the class was not it, was not the relevant recognition.

Neil Sattin: First let me just say that I find your work, at least to the extent that I've been exposed to it so far, to be both fascinating and comforting and it's just, for me, like such a curious blend of all these different practices and techniques and ways of looking at experience that even in just my simple introduction to your work, that they've made an impact and in particular, I'm thinking...

Julie Henderson: May I say that's very nice to hear.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, of course. And in particular, I'm thinking right now about one of the first conversations that we had and just to give you listening, a little background, my introduction to Julie was through her book, The Lover Within, which had been given to me by a friend and reached out in a number of different ways to try and connect with you, Julie, and then when we finally connected and started talking about your work, you were like, "Oh there's been so much since then. And let me send you a few things," and you sent me, among other books, which we'll get to in a little while, you sent the Hum Book. And that was where I started actually was by reading your book about humming, and in the time since then I've used humming as a way of bringing myself back to presence, a lot actually. I'm curious if you can...

Julie Henderson: Oh, it's a treat.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, can you talk a little bit about the practice of humming, and also what is it about humming that's so restorative, in your opinion?

Julie Henderson: Well, there are 75 different ways of answering that. [chuckle] One of the... One of the ways would be to say, "When we hum, we are touching our whole body." If we are relaxed enough to let the hum go through the whole body, which most people aren't, to begin with, but eventually. When we are touching our whole body from the inside, and what drives me wild with joy, just to think about it, and to talk about it, is that we are touching... We are touching the cellular presence of being a body, and offering it nourishment, because of the oxygen that goes with the hum, and the encouragement to be a body that goes with that kind of inner contact with ourselves. And it's very relaxing, for one thing. I'm sure you've noticed that.

Neil Sattin: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Julie Henderson: But it is... Yeah? Go ahead.

Neil Sattin: And when you talk about how it... How you're actually touching the cellular structures within you, I just want to give the people listening a sense of what you're talking about. As a visual, you describe someone, I think bowing a violin, and in the presence of a pane of glass with a bunch of sand sprinkled on the glass, and that by making the sound, everything on the glass dances. And then, when the sound stops, it comes to rest in a coherent pattern that comes from the vibration. And so, through humming, we get to send this coherent pattern through our entire body.

Julie Henderson: Yes.

Neil Sattin: And experience that, the results of that resonance. How long should someone hum to experience that, do you think?

Julie Henderson: How long do they want to hum?


Neil Sattin: I love it. And is there a quality of the hum that you... So, when people are like, "Well, I've hummed before. I don't think I've experienced what they're talking about." How do you get at that particular kind of humming that has such a deep effect?

Julie Henderson: I would say, be the hum. Mostly, if somebody says, "Well, I hummed and nothing happened," something like that, it's because they weren't there. They weren't there as the hum, for the hum, following the hum, so of course it didn't have the same effect. I think a lot of times it just doesn't occur to somebody to be present in the hum, and as the hum. And you can go... Well, I've got to tell you, the first time I had the good sense to do this that I'm about to say, it was just stunning to me that I could, for example, I could hum in my chest. And then, the hum, if I relaxed a little bit and changed the location of my attention, if I would take my attention into my belly then, for example, then the hum would automatically go there, and down my legs, and into my feet and toes, and so forth. Wherever I placed my attention, that is where the hum will go, and feel good. Feel good.

Julie Henderson: So, one of the things that happens is that if you are humming into your chest, for example, where in your chest? If you have learned about the mediastinum by studying this or that, then if you hum into the mediastinum, the tissues there which we often... When, for example, we feel unloved, if we notice that the tissues in the mediastinum, if they are contracted, automatically we will be feeling unloved because that is the way we have of protecting ourselves from being alone or feeling like everything is too hard, or whatever our practices of that sort are. So, if we locate the mediastinum, that wonderful, wonderful set of, excuse me, set of tissues that surround and support the heart, and a lot of the... A lot of the feelings that we have about how we are arise in the cells that surround, that fill the mediastinum and surround and support the heart. That's a wonderful thing to do, really wonderful.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm reminded of how, at the very beginning of your book, Embodying Wellbeing, there's a foreword from Paul Ekman. And some of you listening may know of Paul Ekman because he studied micro-expressions in the face and your ability to tell what someone is really feeling or thinking by studying their micro-expressions. And then, he further went on to talk about how, if you could reproduce those expressions in the face, you could create emotions. And then, just to give everyone the background here, because I found this so fascinating, Julie ended up being in contact with him. And you can correct me if I'm wrong, Julie, but he studied you in his lab, and was amazed that not only were you able to create different emotional states, seemingly at will, but also you weren't bound by having to change your facial expression or the way you were breathing.

Neil Sattin: There was something you were doing that was allowing you to experience joy, and rage, and sadness, and all of these things, just through how you were... Well, you tell me, because I'm so fascinated and curious to know. [chuckle] What were you doing?

Julie Henderson: Because my body knows how to do that.

Neil Sattin: Yes, great. Great.

Julie Henderson: As I am a body, I already know how to do that. And if you look at that very first part of Embodying Wellbeing, where the basic, basic, basic exercises are, those are things that kids do spontaneously. And if they are not suppressed from doing them, they will grow up with that capacity, inherent in themselves as being a body, and they will be able to do what I can do.

Neil Sattin: And so, let's just talk for a moment about what it means to embody well-being. because we've brought up presence, we've talked about embodying, and I'd like to converge that into what the heck are we actually talking about? Embodied presence, what does that mean?

Julie Henderson: You want to talk about embodied presence, or embodied wellbeing? They're not quite the same. They go together, but it's... It will be helpful if we choose one to begin with.

Neil Sattin: Where's a good place to start?

Julie Henderson: Well, whichever one for whoever is wanting to try it out, whichever one is easy for you. For example, for me, it was easy because both of my parents were actors and they would be preparing for roles and they would be feeling various feelings and stuff, so it was not an uncommon experience for me and I could try things out, I was not suppressed from doing that. Let's see.

Julie Henderson: It all seems so straightforward to me, at the moment. Yeah, either way, well being or presence, it doesn't matter, you start by bringing your attention into your body as sensation and let yourself take in the qualities of those sensations and that will tell you what you are at that time inclined to feel. So if then you want to feel well-being, which is a very nice thing to do, it's sort of like tweaking. What do you want to invite yourself as a body to do so that well-being arises, that would be the question from a grownup point of view. And if you have access to what it has been like for you to be a kid, a child, it's very easy if you have permission from your experience to [chuckle] laugh and to think of something that attracts you, that you like, that you are glad that you know about and let your body sense in to those sensations and, yeah, just enjoy them, just enjoy them.

Neil Sattin: When I think about being in relationship and how much energy goes into trying to solve problems. Then what occurs to me is that the first thing that has to happen in order for you to be trying to solve a problem is you have to imagine that there is a problem and that sense of there being a problem is probably coming from some sense of discomfort within you. And one of the lovely other insights that your book, Embodying Wellbeing, starts with is this idea that you don't have to wait to fix the problem, if there even is a problem, to feel good, to embody well-being.

Neil Sattin: And I'm imagining, because I haven't fully experienced this yet, honestly, but I'm imagining what it could be like for people in relationship to be so aware that they say, "Okay there's a problem right now. First thing I'm going to do is I'm going to hum and then maybe I'm going to laugh and yawn or jiggle my body," and I'm just kind of cherry picking a few of the techniques that you mentioned at the beginning of Embodying Wellbeing. And I'm going to see what that does to my state of being and the way that I feel before we even try to solve anything.

Julie Henderson: Yup.

Neil Sattin: And it's such a profound degree of... Well it's funny, I was about to say control, but that word control feels so like not the right...

Julie Henderson: Try choice.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, there, perfect.

Julie Henderson: Try choice.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so the ability to choose what our experience is in the moment.

Julie Henderson: And to play around with... Suppose you feel like there's something wrong and you don't know what it is exactly, suppose then you choose to do some or one or two or three or four of these things that help us to move towards well-being before you worry about it and see if it's still there.

Neil Sattin: Right and what if it is, what if it is still there?

Julie Henderson: Well, then you may also have more clarity about what it is that you would like to have different.

Neil Sattin: Right. because so often we're just reacting from a place of, "I'm uncomfortable I want to feel better." And the illusion in those moments with a partner especially is that the way to feel better is for you to change, the other person to change.

Julie Henderson: Yeah, "be different for me darling".

Neil Sattin: Right, exactly. Do you have any suggestions for a practice that might be a good invitation for two people to do together, maybe even in a moment of tension between them but maybe even before a moment of tension it could be, they practice it with [chuckle] when there's less at stake or something like that.

Julie Henderson: Well before they decide that they're going to feel bad because they don't like what's happening, that would be nice. There are... Horse lips is perfect and I guess probably most people have long gone past practicing horse lips. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Horse lips?

Julie Henderson: Horse lips.


Julie Henderson: You can do it that way, or you can do it with more relaxed lips, so it's like. It won't do it for me at the moment. I'm getting it wrong.


Julie Henderson: Yeah, there is a way if your lips are really, really relaxed, that they vibrate and flap instead of making the buzzy sound and that's a lot of fun.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, kind of like this?

Julie Henderson: Yep, that's horse lips. Horse lips because horses do that, God bless them. When they are excited or interested or just playful, they will do that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I'm noticing right now that... Well, okay, so it feels silly to have done that. Here we are, we're in an interview and thousands of people are listening to us and...

Julie Henderson: Oh my God.

Neil Sattin: I know, exactly.

Julie Henderson: I didn't do it. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: But it feels like silly and good.

Julie Henderson: Well, it is the beginning of a willingness to move towards well-being even if we were taught not to be silly.

Neil Sattin: Right, that is so funny. Just hearing you say that, it makes me think of those moments when we are abdicating our choice to feel good and in particular those like tense moments with, it could be with our partner, could be sitting in traffic, whatever it is, but those moments when we choose to stew, or choose to be angry or choose to be fearful and I'm saying this right now and I can even hear myself in a different frame of mind being like, "I'm not choosing this," it's like, "It's overtaking me." But yet if in that moment if someone said, "Oh well, just like do horse lips," a favorite one of my wife Chloe and I is to speak in gibberish. But it's like, it can take a serious amount of effort to actually make yourself do that in a tense and triggered moment because there's so much that wants to resist.

Julie Henderson: Well, I tell you what. It is really something worth trying, to say, "I am feeling like I want to be pissed off about something and I'm going to try feeling good first, then I can be as pissed off as I want to be." If I still want to be because if I'm allowing myself to feel well and happy first, then the whole organismic context, the attitude that is held in the cells and all of the ways that we are put together as a body, when we are feeling good as a body, then it's unlikely that we will want to feel pissed off. We may have an objection still, but we don't have to go into a contracted state of being. I mean we can, we always have that choice. It's just that we don't... It's not necessary that we go in that direction.

Neil Sattin: Right. And even then you get to bring the element of choice to how you handle your objection versus just...

Julie Henderson: Absolutely. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Losing choice because you're in a contracted state.

Julie Henderson: Yep.

Neil Sattin: So I can already imagine the next little bit of conflict that comes up between me and Chloe, I'm going to be like, "Just excuse me for a moment," and go into the next room and do some horse lips and laugh and hum and then come back and be like, "All right, let's try this again. Let's have this conversation again."

Julie Henderson: Mm-hmm.

Neil Sattin: Can you talk about the difference between well-being, feeling good in that way, and pleasure? Because I think at least in part, the desire for pleasure and mutual pleasure is another aspect of what brings two bodies together.

Julie Henderson: Yep, often enough, unless they've already been taught not to do that. Then they have to practice letting themselves enjoy being for its own sake rather than some screwy version of getting things right.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So maybe, where would we start with like where's our introduction to pleasure?

Julie Henderson: Well, we're born moving into pleasure by being when we're babies, and then we can do that but some parents are very encouraging of that and then it stays that way, and then we get to... [chuckle] Then we get to learn that we don't always like everything that's happening and we get to practice not liking it. And that's one of the things that kids are very good at, and then parents don't understand why they are choosing to scream and holler.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So if I'm someone who... Like I don't think this is me, honestly, but at the same time I do think it's really important for us as adults to kind of re-learn pleasure so that it's free from the cultural constructs, the ways that we've been taught are the ways we should and shouldn't experience pleasure, and to actually experience it from the inside out. So we're not trying to re-enact something that we think will give us pleasure, but... If this is making sense. So I'm wondering, is there an exercise for you that comes to mind that's about kind of re-awakening this experience? Like a very kind of raw experience of pleasure in our experience in our bodies?

Julie Henderson: Well [chuckle], first be a body. If you isolate yourself in your head, for example, which many people in the West are brought up to do... If you let yourself... Well, I'm trying to think... The easiest thing really is to notice something that you like and let yourself rest in that and feel the bodily sensations of that. And as you do that you will be feeling pleasure.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. It's almost like you're saying experience what it's like to like something.

Julie Henderson: Mm-hmm. Let yourself experience what it's like. Let yourself experience that there is something that you like. Some people feel like that's... Well, some people would say, "Oh that's just the kid thing," or, "I have to have something that I like to like." I think, yeah, if we give ourselves... For example, if you will plant some flowers or if you will plant a tree... I mean, here where I live, I have a house that I thoroughly enjoy having living in and six and a third acres of forest. It would be very difficult for me to feel bad. I'd have to really work at it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So there's something...

Julie Henderson: And I have cats.


Neil Sattin: Yeah. So there's something to knowing yourself that well to know what you, what you like and what you don't.

Julie Henderson: Yeah. And to practice noticing what we like rather more thoroughly than what we don't like. It is important to notice what you don't like, but it's better to notice more often what you do like so that you don't get stuck in not liking.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and that makes me think of your concept of appropriate touch, which is something I'm really curious to hear more about from you because it seems like... When I think about the sexual paradigm that we're all born into, the ways that we learn to experience pleasure with each other. And actually, I don't want to say born into, it's more like, "This is what our culture is created," and we're seeing a lot of this manifest right now in the Me Too movement and recognition that a lot of people are feeling violated in the name of at least one person's pleasure others are feeling super violated and disrespected, and so I'm curious to where this brings a couple so that they can experience each other and awaken pleasure and awaken touch with each other in a way that is appropriate. That's the word that comes to mind for me. So can you talk a little bit about what that means for you, appropriate touch and how that enters the picture?

Julie Henderson: Okay. If I were to talk about it just as me, rather than me in relationship to somebody, I would say it's interesting. I would first ask my body, ask myself as a body if there was some touching that it would like, that I would like and whether that would be, for example, to go outside and lean up against one of the trees or whether it would be asking one of the cats to sit in my lap and purr, or because there's... At the moment there's nobody else living in this house except me. It's just me. Only me.


Julie Henderson: One of the things, one of the things that's very, very helpful. If there are two people that are either confused about how to approach touching each other, or just wanting to be very tender and slow with something. If you sit back to back so that you can feel your heart from behind and you can feel your heart touching the presence of your partner's heart. That's a very, very helpful thing to do. It's very respectful and it's very tender.

Neil Sattin: So okay, I'm going to ask maybe a sort of crass question.

Julie Henderson: Crass on sweetheart.


Neil Sattin: Okay. How do you get from back-to-back to front-to-front?

Julie Henderson: Well, not all at once. [chuckle] Take your time and sit side-to-side. Sit side-to-side on the ground, so that your thighs are contacting each other and hold hands, I would say. I think that would be a lovely thing to do. You can also do that lying down, which is nice. If you do that lying down and then reach across and hold each other's hearts, so if I am lying down with my friend, Tony, and we are side-by-side, the whole side of the body touching each other, and I reach across and put my hand on his heart, and he reaches across and puts his hand on my heart, that's a very full embrace really. And it's easy to maintain for a short time or a longer time, without trying to make it sexy. It can easily become sexual, if both people are wanting to do that, and if they feel safe to do that, but they don't have to do that.

Neil Sattin: And what are the energetics that are going on when this is happening? What are the energetics that are happening within a body and then between bodies?

Julie Henderson: You mean what is, how is the body expressing its experience of what's happening?

Neil Sattin: Sure, and I think this also goes in a little bit to your ideas about what is happening energetically, in those more subtle levels as bodies interact with bodies, and hopefully, present bodies interacting with present bodies.

Julie Henderson: Well, if the body is not being present, there will be very little if any contact actually. If you mean, by energies, if you mean the sensations that arise in and around the body, when it is not... What? When it's not staying inside its skin. If it lets itself move beyond its skin, then what you would be experiencing would be some of its energy. Otherwise, the energy is felt as movement and sensation when it's inside the body.

Neil Sattin: So if I wanted to taste the energy, the beyond the body experience, what... Yeah, how does one approach that?


Julie Henderson: Well, I would say, first feel... Aha, my bird clock is about to say it's noon. Squeak, squeak. First, it would be a question of recognizing, learning to recognize what those, the sensations of the energy, of being that body, and check it out from one place to another. You know like what does it feel like to be your liver, for example. Bring your attention out of your head into your liver, and feel what the sensations of being a liver are, and just go around the whole body and try them out. And then, if you have the background, you can follow the circuitry, the circuitry of that body, which lots of people have been to classes to learn how to do that. And it's not always the case that the teaching includes noticing that those branches of energy movement, they do not stop at the skin.

Julie Henderson: So you can follow the... I'm trying to think a bit. There are many, many of these ways of... Especially the Chinese. They're very good about teaching people to perceive the movement of these channels, and you can follow them from each of the chakras, and each one, each chakra has more or less numbers of first a location within the body, and then these channels that go out from each of the bodies, each of the...

Neil Sattin: The chakras.

Julie Henderson: Yeah, each of the chakras, yeah. And when you follow them, they will come to the edge of the body, and you just don't automatically stop there. You let that channel and the movement of energy through that channel extend beyond the skin. And the more you have practice doing that qi, the more access you have to feeling your awareness and presence beyond the body. And then, not only your own but others.

Neil Sattin: Why would someone want to do this?


Julie Henderson: Well, some people would like to do it because it's fun.

Neil Sattin: Right. Fun and cool, yeah.

Julie Henderson: Yup, and then it's an exploration for many people. They discover that they can do that and then they say, "Well, I wonder what goes with that? If I do that, what will I discover?" There are many, many, many, many things that people discover about being a body that are beyond the body.

Neil Sattin: So that brings me to two questions. Earlier you mentioned something depending on our background. And it's funny to me, in some ways, that I feel like we've done this interview backwards because typically we would have started here, but I would love for you to give our listeners just a sense of your background. Like where does all this work come from for you?

Julie Henderson: Depends on which aspect of it we would like to look at first. I guess the earliest would be that both of my parents were actors, and they were, at least until I was 12, they were frequently preparing for roles. And so I had a lot of support in feeling things and feeling, and I just relaxed about doing things that are a little odd. And that was enhanced when I went to Cal, to the university, because although I started out studying chemistry, I rapidly discovered that what I really wanted to do was to learn to act, so I did that. And after I graduated from the university, I spent a lot of time studying and I learned a lot from that. I'm trying to think... Round about the same time, I met my first Tibetan teacher, and from that time, until just the last few years, the main influence on me was my Tibetans.

Julie Henderson: And, most recently, one of... Well, about a year ago, my closest teacher died. And so, I have spent time being aware of him, completely without restriction on his presence. So, he's been very, very vast, I would say, very vast. And his son, who is still being a body, since I don't have any children, and I was trying to think, I want to try and find a way of preserving this house and land for people to practice in and support themselves with, and I was going to ask my main teacher's son if he would like to have it as a place to come in California when he was not... When he was moving around a lot. And he thought, "Well, here's a nice thing." I was... I did not, and have not for some time, had his telephone number.

Julie Henderson: So, I was saying to myself, "Well, let's see. Who... Cornelia doesn't have his telephone number, but Philip has his telephone number. I will ask Cornelia if I can have Philip's telephone number, so that I can call Philip and ask him if he would give me access to Drukchen's telephone number just long enough for me to ask him this question, and then I would erase it from my mind." And so, as I was formulating that plan in my mind, this Tibetan placed himself in my mind, and it's very straightforward that it actually feels like a physical happening.

Julie Henderson: So, I told him, "I was trying to get your phone number to ask you if you'd like to have access to this place as a refuge when I have died." And he said, "No," very straightforwardly, "No, because I want what you do to have its own lineage. I don't want it to be attached to me. I want it to be what you do and for people to learn from what you do, and not think it's about me." So, I said, "Okay," and that's the plan. I still don't know what I'm going to do with my property, but probably I will live another 10 years, and then, maybe, I will know.

Neil Sattin: Perhaps that will...

Julie Henderson: Is that making any sense?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And perhaps the answer of what you will do, perhaps that will come to you similarly.

Julie Henderson: Oh, yeah. I just know that it's not going to be from him. It might be his son. I mean, his father, who as I say is being great space, I would say. He's being great space. So, maybe it might come out of great space. That's quite possible.

Neil Sattin: And there's something about the Tibetan lineage or your teachers that you mention in your books, that their method of instruction is very experiential.

Julie Henderson: With me, certainly it is. There are... In the Tibetan culture, there are at least several ways of approaching what they teach that are different parts of adjunct lineages. And this one, the ones that they hooked me with, my ones, is very... It's not about something in a book, it's about the direct experience of how they are, and being influenced by how they are.

Neil Sattin: So...

Julie Henderson: They don't teach everybody that way.

Neil Sattin: I see, I see. From my perspective, it feels really important given all the things that we've talked about over this past hour because so many of them sound so simple as a concept and yet you don't really get to experience it until you experience it, until you try and see what it actually does for you, with you.

Julie Henderson: Yeah, that is very true.

Neil Sattin: And the name of your work, you've called Zapchen, and we haven't talked about that at all, this entire time. What does Zapchen mean? Why that word?

Julie Henderson: Well, it is a Tibetan word and it has a number of meanings. It is often a word that is associated with children in Tibetan. So sometimes it means that they're being playful, sometimes it means that they're being naughty, and when it applies to grownups... Let's see, at one time I asked one of my secondary Tibetan teachers, "What's Zapchen? What does it mean really? What does it mean in Tibetan?" And he looked a little startled because actually it turns out it's a naughty word.


Julie Henderson: You wouldn't just go out and say Zapchen, Zapchen because most Tibetans would not use that word, especially proper women. One time I was having a... My teacher and his wife and his son were in San Francisco and spending some time and they were going to be teaching in San Francisco and in Berkeley so that was very nice, and we were having lunch and they were speaking Tibetan. And I don't know squat all, really about Tibetan, it's a very difficult language, but in the middle of the conversation, Drukchen, the son was talking to his mama, and used the word Zapchen and she giggled and he smiled naughtily himself and that was the closest I came until I had the opportunity to talk to this Tibetan monk when I was in Nepal and I said, "If it would be okay, would you tell me what Zapchen means?"

Julie Henderson: And he smiled and looked a little sheepish, and then he said, "Well, if I were a married man and I had to go on a trip away so that my wife was at home, and she went to the... To the... What? To the... To the... " I don't even know... My brain is draining. "To the place where you buy beer and spent time with another man, that would be Zapchen." So that's the only understanding, it's a complicated word.

Neil Sattin: So then I gotta ask, "Why did you... "

Julie Henderson: Ask us.

Neil Sattin: Yes. Why did you choose it for your work?

Julie Henderson: Well, long before the story that I just told you, when I was still living in Australia, I spent time teaching out in the country, and there were some Tibetan monks, but there also was very high, a high Lama who were there and they found out that the name of what I was doing there was Zapchen and they laughed about it and I said, "Well, what is it about it that's funny?" And I still don't know quite the answer to that question but it was clear that it was a naughty word and... I'm trying to think. The very, very, very first time that I decided to use it I really don't know why. I mean, but of course it had to do with my Tibetan teachers but why did I choose that? No, I don't know. I guess I just liked it.

Neil Sattin: It's another part of the mystery, I guess.

Julie Henderson: I guess.


Neil Sattin: Well, Julie, I so appreciate your time and your wisdom and your offerings today, and your work, as I mentioned, is so fascinating and I think so deceptively simple, at least in terms of what we've talked about, I know it gets deeper and more complex and you've been doing what you do for decades and so it would be ludicrous to think that we could distill all of that into an hour long conversation but I so appreciate that you've been willing to show up here and give us a starting point for Zapchen...

Julie Henderson: My pleasure.

Neil Sattin: In your practices. What is the best way for people to find out more about your work, if they are interested in finding out more?

Julie Henderson: Well, they can call me.


Julie Henderson: It depends really on what they want to know. They can read the books. The books are pretty good.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, the books are great.

Julie Henderson: They can find people like your way. There's a woman in Vermont who teaches not just what she has learned from me but from part of that she teaches. There are people in Chicago. There are people in Arizona. And lots of people in Germany and Austria and Australia. I don't know actually what is inherent in your question. You mean, if they would like to learn more or...

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, and I think what we can do is we can have some links on, in the transcript for this conversation, we can make sure that we have links to your website. And I think that's probably a good starting point for a lot of people, and then I know that if you...

Julie Henderson: There are people in Germany who would like to be able to get a copy of the script.

Neil Sattin: Yes, we will ensure that that happens. And for those of you who are listening right now, you can download a copy if you visit, J-U-L-I-E, or you can always text the word Passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions, and that way you can download the transcript to this episode. And, Julie, I'm wondering if, since probably we have a mix of people who are listening to this, we have people who are just being introduced to you, and I know that your students are going to be excited to hear your voice, and I'm wondering if there's just anything that comes up for you, as sort of a final encouragement or offering for everyone who's listening and has been tuning in.

Julie Henderson: I would say it's a very good grounding. It's a very good starting place and the people who have worked with me, let's say 10 years or more become very good teachers and frequently tell me how much they appreciate what they've learned from me and that they can share it with other people in a way that's accessible and helpful. It's just nice to hear.

Neil Sattin: That's great, yeah. And I was speaking earlier with one of your long-time colleagues and students, Laura.

Julie Henderson: Laura.

Neil Sattin: Laura Lund and she mentioned that there are at least probably 500 practitioners worldwide of Zapchen and then if you include the people that they've taught probably thousands of people who have been impacted by your work.

Julie Henderson: That would be nice, that would be nice.

Neil Sattin: Well, I so appreciate your time again today and thank you so much for joining us and maybe we can have you back on one of these days to talk about some more of the finer points, but this definitely feels like an excellent starting place for us in embodying well-being.

Julie Henderson: Right, I think so, I think it is. And if people are interested enough to try it out, I think they would probably then discover that they have questions that they'd like to pursue. And the books are good for that or if they become very interested they could be in touch with me.

Neil Sattin: Great, thank you. We will ensure that they have your information through your website in the show guide.

Julie Henderson: I don't know that anybody goes to that website anymore.

Neil Sattin: I went. [chuckle]

Julie Henderson: Okay. Well, go then do it.

Neil Sattin: But if there's a...

Julie Henderson: It worked for you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, somehow, somehow it did.


Nov 20, 2018

How does your emotional intelligence help you develop a relationship with someone? Is your emotional intelligence something you can improve? And...what are the kinds of things that you should steer away from because they undermine the ways that you’re relating to the people around you, and the one you love? This week, our guest is Jordan Harbinger. Often referred to as “The Larry King of podcasting,” Jordan is a Wall Street lawyer turned interview talk show host, and communications & social dynamics expert. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, Jordan deconstructs the playbooks of the most successful people on earth and shares their strategies, perspectives, and practical insights with the rest of us. In this episode, you’ll learn what emotional intelligence is and how you can improve it to have a positive impact on your relationships. We’ll also dive into how you can improve your self-awareness which is something that can be a challenge for anyone.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is being sponsored by two amazing companies with special offers for you. is the world’s best-selling language learning app makes it easy for you to learn French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Danish – and many more languages. Is there a language you’ve always wanted to learn? Try Babbel for FREE at and use the offer code “ALIVE” to get 50% off your first 3 months.

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Visit Jordan Harbinger’s website to listen to his podcast, The Jordan Harbinger Show.

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Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Jordan Harbinger.

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out


Neil Sattin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of "Relationship Alive". This is your host, Neil Sattin. On today's show, we're going to explore the question of how to relate better with your partner, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your whomever with other people in your life and perhaps, also how you relate better to yourself. And when I talk about relating better, I'm going to distinguish it a little bit from the kinds of things that we typically talk about on the show because we're really talking about, more often than not, establishing emotional safety and how to handle problems and those kinds of things. But I wanted to bring in an expert who can really dive into the topic of: What does it even mean to develop a relationship with someone and what are the kinds of conditions that make that easier so that you're actually more efficient in how you communicate, you're more likely to actually like each other? And on the flip side, what are the kinds of things that you might want to steer away from, that would be undermining the ways that you're relating to the people around you and specifically in your partnership?

Neil Sattin: So, today's guest is... This came about in an unusual way. We actually got chatting on LinkedIn, of all places. I'm hardly ever on LinkedIn, but in the process and just talking about our podcasts, deciding that this person would be a great guest for the show to talk about these things that I just mentioned to you. His name is Jordan Harbinger, and he is formerly the host of the Art of Charm Podcast, which you may have heard of. He now has his own show and it's already gotten over a million downloads in its first month alone, and he is focused on how to develop these skills of relatedness and succeed in your life, in your connections. And I'm really excited to have you here with me today, Jordan. So, welcome to Relationship Alive.

Jordan Harbinger: Hey, thanks for having me on, man. It is weird. I'm never on LinkedIn. I go on once a month to kinda go, "Hey, I'm never on LinkedIn stop sending me messages here." And there you were.

Neil Sattin: And yeah, it was kinda like that, I think. Yeah. I think, in fact, your message to me said, "Hey, if we know each other, connect with me on Facebook," or something like that.

Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah. If we know each other, then you probably should know I'm never going to answer this message if you reply. Yeah, that's pretty much what it was.

Neil Sattin: That's so funny. And yet there we were.

Jordan Harbinger: Yep.

Neil Sattin: So, Jordan, here we are, you're on the heels of getting your new show going. Tell me in a nutshell, what do you like to say is your specialty? When you're helping people out in life, what's your elevator pitch in a sense of how you are helping people achieve more success in their lives?

Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. So for now, what I do on the Jordan Harbinger Show is I study the thoughts, the actions, and habits of brilliant people and ask them interesting questions so that the audience can apply that same wisdom for themselves. So, I steal guests' superpowers and deliver them to the listener.

Neil Sattin: Awesome.

Jordan Harbinger: And so, that's what I do on the show. But what we do at "Advanced Human Dynamics", which is my training company where we teach live events, have products and things like that, where we teach networking rapport, relationship development for professional reasons and things like that. Essentially, that slogan is TBD, I guess you would say but really what we do is we teach emotional intelligence in a systematic way that anyone can learn and understand.

Neil Sattin: Perfect. That may be the title of this episode. And let's dive in there. I watched a video of yours prior to this conversation, and I think a great place to start is this concept of ABG, or to "Always Be Giving". And especially in the context of relationship because a lot of the times when people come to me as a coach, they're in this place of scarcity in their relationship. And when I start suggesting that, well, the way to get to the other side and to actually feel good about your relationship is to start showing up even more brightly, more brilliantly and more, in some respect, selflessly in your relationship. People sometimes look at me cross-eyed like, "Wait a minute. Well, I came here to tell you just how much my partner is failing me." So, let's start maybe with a concept of "Always Be Giving" and where that's come from for you and why it's so important.

Jordan Harbinger: Sure. So, the reason that this is important, I'd love to say, I had this great moment in my life where I realized that this had to happen for me. What really happened was I was pretty good in school when I was a kid and then, I got to college and everybody was smart and I couldn't just rely on that so, I had to outwork everyone. I shifted my competitive advantage to outworking everyone from just being smart enough to teach myself Geometry the day of a test, right? And then when I got to Wall Street as an attorney, everyone was smart and everyone was working 20 hours a day, seven days a week or 16 hours or whatever it was.

Jordan Harbinger: And so I didn't have a competitive advantage. And I started to learn how to build relationships, to try to get to the top of the law game, to become a partner to bring in business. And what I'd realized was schmoozing and handing out business cards and all that stuff. It really didn't work trying to take classes from, no offense to the Dale Carnegie organization, they do great stuff, but trying to learn how to win friends and influence people from a guy in a sweater vest at the YMCA just was very limited. You would take those classes and you'd go, great, you've gotta have a firm handshake and you've gotta have good eye contact, and you gotta use these mnemonic devices to remember that someone's kids played tennis. But at the same time, if somebody doesn't like you and they're not giving your law firm business, it's not because, "Well, you broke eye contact a little too early there, let's give the business to the other guys." It's because they don't freaking like you or they don't trust you.

Jordan Harbinger: So I dedicated myself to figuring out what was going on there, and that's where the principle of ABG came from. 'cause if your ABC, Always be closing, you're trying to close business, you're trying to close... You're trying to match people with a service that you provide. So if I meet you, I go, "What do you do?" And you go, "Oh, I'm a relationship coach," and I go, "Ah I don't need that." And I move on to the next person. Your experience of me is kinda like, "That wasn't so great," and I don't really get any social capital from dealing with you. You don't get anything from me. It's a waste of both of our time. I'm searching for needles in haystacks if I'm trying to generate legal referrals, but if I'm ABG, always be generous or always be giving. This is logistically easier because I'm not trying to match a need that you have with a service I provide. I'm just trying to find out who in my network would be a good connection with you. That opens up all kinds of opportunity. "Oh, you're a relationship coach? Oh man. I have a bunch of friends in that industry."

Jordan Harbinger: "Do you know this person, this person, this person? Oh, what are you looking for in your business? Are you looking for clients like that? Oh, then you should go on some of these podcasts that my friends run, they do these relationship things. Maybe you guys could be a fit." So in that respect, ABG shifts the value proposition in sales terms from your skill, if you're a graphic designer or a lawyer, it shifts it to becoming your network itself. Right. So, everybody I meet, I try to plug into somebody else in my network. I meet a CPA. "Great. I know a bunch of cryptocurrency investors that don't know how to plan for taxes. Let me introduce you." "Are you a relationship coach? Great. I know a bunch of people who could probably use your help. Let me plug you into them." I'm not trying to match it to myself. I'm trying to match it to others. I'm not thinking about what I'm going to get in return. I have no attachment to what I'm going to get in return. So it becomes scalable for me to network with anybody and it becomes something that I don't have to think about because I'm not trying to get something for myself. Does that all make sense?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, absolutely.

Jordan Harbinger: So this wasn't of some kind of spiritual awakening type of deal that I need, that I found. It was never anything like that. It was always something to do with the practicality of the situation. It was always just, hey, this is working. It wasn't because I'm a great, nice guy and I decided I'm just going to be giving. That I'd like to think is the truth. But when I look back, it was surely a matter of practicality. The reason I kept doing it for 11 years, throughout my business was because I was teaching this as a skill and it was a really nice way to live because people go, Jordan's so nice. He keeps doing these valuable things for me in my business. I really like dealing with him. It paid off very quickly later on, but I certainly started for selfish reasons, and I encourage everybody to just try it. You don't have to be this pushover who gets walked on. Just try this from a purely logistical standpoint, it's still going to be a win for you.

Neil Sattin: And where this also for me, connects into what might happen in a romantic partnership, is if you're always focused on what the other person can do for you, then, as you said, that's not scalable. There's a very limited number of interactions that you can have. And I think the way people in relationships often experience that is a slow deadening of their connection because there are only so many possibilities right for how they're going to interact with each other. But as they learn to not only enjoy each other's company but also to really support each other in being big and bright in the world. So creating those connections to others in life for their partner or supporting their partner in how they do that, then that creates a ton more energy and vibrancy, and it does, I think, feedback into the system, that vibrancy and energy becomes something that strengthens your relationship, as opposed to what people often experience which is, "Oh, that threatens me." Which would, I think, be why like in a business setting, someone might not connect two people because they might be like, "Oh, well that's... Then I'm kind of cutting myself out of the equation” and at the risk of being cliche - It's sort of like the scarcity mindset versus the abundance mindset.

Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I appreciate that for sure. And I also... The reason I say try it from a selfish perspective is because I don't want to... I'm always about the abundance mindset, and I'm always about trying things that are good for other people. I realize that's a hard sell, especially if you're in your 20s or even in your 30s, and you're thinking, "No, no, no, you don't understand. I need to get things for myself because I've been too lax with that." Or, "I know I need to help myself first." That's an easier sell for most people, especially guys, I've found. So I go, "Go ahead and try it from a purely selfish perspective and it'll still work as a tactic." But what you'll quickly find is, "Gee, I really like being nice and helping other people because this is really fun." And, "Holy crap does this work!" But also, I look like a great guy and I feel like a great guy. So I'm going to start being good in my relationships with other people and generous in my relationships with other people, all the time because it seems limitless at that point.

Jordan Harbinger: But if you just tell people, "No, no, no, trust me. Turn the other cheek and forgive people, and ABG." They go, "Okay, whatever. I'm broke. You don't understand." Like, "This, I need this. You don't get it." It becomes a problem and you have to sort of fight. You have to sell it like, "No, no, no, no. This is better for your psyche." And people who go, "I don't care about that. I need to win." So try it, you'll still win. You'll win either way.

Neil Sattin: Since you were mentioning the... Trust has come up a couple of times already, I'm curious for you, What do you think are the key components of developing trust with someone, and maybe this is someone new? And then this also again, comes up a lot in relationships where breakdowns happen and you're in a position where you have to rebuild trust with your partner.

Jordan Harbinger: Sure. This is a huge subject. I'm sure you've done 700 hours on this particular topic. But when you're trying to bring trust into a new relationship, it's probably likely... It's likely a lot of the same stuff that you would do in any relationship. But I think any new relationship really... We're evolved to figure out quickly whether or not someone's trustworthy. And this isn't like, "Look at their eyes and if they're looking upward, they're lying and not trustworthy." We really are as humans, sort of evolved to trust certain people implicitly and not trust other people; the outsiders of the tribe implicitly. So the top things that I think you can do are small gestures that show that you do what you say you were going to do if that makes sense.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Jordan Harbinger: So these small gestures that you would want to do. For example, going back on the ABG subject, if I say, "Neil, man, this is really great. I would love to introduce you to a few people." And you go, "Yeah, I would love those introductions." And then I never do it. You're not like, "Jordan's a jerk. He never introduced me to those people. I hate him." But what you are thinking is, "Yeah, I guess he's just one of those guys who is too busy and he forgot." Or, "He offers to do something, but then it doesn't quite materialize. That's fine, whatever. No, I don't hate him or anything." But you don't trust me. You might still like me but you don't really trust me. So we're not going to end up doing business together because if I... Most likely. Because if I decide to do something and I say, "Hey, you know, you and I should create a product." You're thinking, "Yeah, but you also said that you would introduce me to those people and that never happened, so I'll take it with a grain of salt." On the other hand, these very small gestures of, "Hey, I should make these introductions." If I do those the same day that we met, generally, that signals professionalism in a way that is trustworthy. You go, "Wow, okay. He actually just did that. It didn't take a week. I didn't have to remind him. He didn't forget.

Jordan Harbinger: He wrote it down and he did it." Literally, that's unusual. We find that unusual in today's day and age for someone to actually do what they say they're going to do, which the bar is low, for that basic level of trust. And so I say, create an opportunity for yourself, in that you're going to make an introduction, you're going to send somebody a piece of knowledge, an article, a book, something like that. It really, really easily is attainable. You can really generate some trust right off the bat that's easily attainable, I should say. And so what I mean is, create that opportunity, follow through on that opportunity and you'll end up with a slight amount of trust. Now, this isn't going to be like, "Hey, I made those introductions. Can you lend me 10 grand?" But you build it up over time and it's always these little things that count. It's showing up on time, not flaking the morning of the day before. And I know what people are thinking, "Well, those sound more like habits than ways to build trust." I find that people who are untrustworthy, they're not necessarily bad people. Sure, you should distrust some people because they are bad. They will screw you over. But most people are simply irresponsible. It's more of a negligent lack of trust. Does that make sense?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. And I'm just... I'm letting that percolate a little bit 'cause I think that's totally true that, in the end, yeah, it's just kind of people's inability... That trust is really the whole sum of what you experience with a person and their consistency. And their consistency has a lot to do with their integrity and their ability to just follow through on basic commitments, is what it comes right down to.

Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. And I know that that sounds like a dumb technique, but the reason that we don't trust people is, it seems like, "Oh, well, this person cheated on me." Great, yeah, distrust them. That makes sense. Usually though, when we have a casual lack of trust, it's not because of a big lapse. It's literally because of, "Well, yeah, they say they're going to be there at 4:00, but... " And you know people like this, "Yeah, Jim said he's going to be here at 4:00." "No, no, no, no. Let's just go to the restaurant. He can meet us there." "Oh, what? Why?" "Yeah, yeah, Jim's not going to be there at 4:00. Let's just go eat. We'll order some appetizers and some drinks and we'll wait for him to show up," and sure enough Jim rolls in at 5:15, and everyone knows that. And that seems like that's just him. But how many people are making plans with him all the time and relying on him to do what he says? We always have to build in a buffer. I have friends like this in my circle. "Oh yeah, she's not going to be ready on time. Let's just go there. She can meet us there. We wait for her, we're going to be two hours late every time." And we all have people like that in our lives. We tend to go, "Lack of trust is this big giant thing. How do we make up for a lack of trust in a relationship and a friendship and an intimate relationship?" Man, that's not it.

Jordan Harbinger: It's not showing up on time. It's not doing what you say you're going to do. It's offering to do something and then failing. It's changing your mind and not having the guts to tell somebody that you changed your mind, so you just hope they forget. So you fail them in that way. That's how lack of trust starts. It's a set of habits that you have regardless of whether or not you're treating everyone like that, that's really the reason people don't like and trust people I shouldn't even say like and trust. It's a reason people don't trust others, and trust is more important for business. It may be different in personal relationships, but I personally have done plenty of business with people that I don't necessarily like that much, but that I trust. It's the most important thing. I know there are people that aren't going to rip me off that are going to show up on time, that are going to deliver when they say they're going to deliver, but I wouldn't necessarily hang out with them. But there are plenty of people that I hang out with all the time where if they said, "Hey, we should do this business together," I would say, "No offense, but hell no."


Jordan Harbinger: I think we all probably could think of people like that if we had to.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and one other thing that occurs to me too, is how helpful it can be. So if you're sitting here and you're listening to all these things and you're like, well, honestly, a little bit like me, or you're like, "Oh shit, I've done that. I see how I've undermined trust left and right". To be willing to actually show that you are noticing that about yourself, so potentially as a way to repair lapses in trust with your friends and your partner, to be able to say, "Hey, " know I made this commitment and I recognize that I didn't do that." Or, "I recognize that I didn't show up on time when I said I was going to." 'Cause I think one of the things that really is detrimental is when there's this unspoken, like, "Does this person even realize what they're doing? Or maybe it's intentional," that's where you get into that question of, "Is it negligence or is it actual malicious intent?" So much can be clarified by actually connecting around that very thing.

Jordan Harbinger: I agree with you. Yeah, I agree with you 100%, and I think it's something we don't normally think about really.

Neil Sattin: I wonder Jordan, for you, when you look at the big picture of being giving, making connections, how do you suggest someone recognize in themselves the ways that they are doing really well and then the ways that they're falling short so that they could do a self-diagnosis on their ability to show up and be trustworthy and make great connections with people?

Jordan Harbinger: Well, that's a cool question. I haven't put a ton of thought into this, but I'll tell you right now, one of the best ways to get this kind of feedback or to get this kind of assessment done would be to get feedback with other people that will tell you the truth. We don't always have friends like this, but I think that we all have a friend or two like this where we can say, "hey, look, do people think that I show up... What is my reputation like?" And they go "oh everyone loves you men what are you talking about?" "no, no like what is my reputation like, do people trust me, etcetera?" And people go, "yeah, of course, they trust you." So if you have an inkling though of what your flaw might be, I would ask specifically about that. So I would say "I did borrow money from you guys for John's birthday, and it took me like a year to pay everyone back. Does anybody talk about that, think about that?". "Do you talk about that think about that". "Honestly, I'm looking for real honest feedback here", and I've done this in my social circle.

Jordan Harbinger: I know other people in our circles evade honest conversations about this. Sometimes invited by the other party and other times foisted upon them for good reason. It's very important because people will say, "Yeah, honestly, I've thought twice about lending money to you and your girlfriend and in recent past, because it did take me a year to get paid back. I had to ask like 10 times and it just got awkward and I felt like it sort of poisoned friendship a little bit, we're still super tight, still love you guys, but I don't want to go through that again 'cause it was kind of a pain." Oh, okay. Maybe you should work on that. Maybe you don't realize how that's been affecting certain people in your circle. Other people who show if you think you show up late and it's fine, you might want to say, "Hey, I realize I'm always the last one here," and don't do this to the whole group during a party. [chuckle] They're not going to want to answer this at that point. This is like, you're hanging out with your friend on a balcony, relaxing having a beer at the end of the night, or you show up and you're the only person there having coffee with a buddy, or you have a phone call and you go, "Hey man look, I just want some honest feedback."

Jordan Harbinger: You have to frame it that you want honest to goodness feedback, ask one person at a time. Because then you're more likely not to get a group going, "Hey it's Tim's birthday, let's talk about this another time." "Oh, you're good bro, don't worry about it, it's fine. Here have a beer. Change the subject." That's not going to get you legit feedback. You really need to find one or two people that you think are going to give you honest feedback and you need to get them alone. And then you need to ask about the specific things 'cause I would say Neil that you kinda know. Right, if you're going, "I don't get why people to trust me," either you have a massive lack of self-awareness, or you've somehow forgotten about an incident, or maybe there's some other devious stuff going on, but probably not. Probably you know that you're always the last one there because it takes you two hours to get ready and you don't plan ahead.

Jordan Harbinger: Probably you know that you've owed people a thousand dollars for two years and you think they forgot, but they didn't. But they're too polite to say anything and you're just kinda dodging it. You know this stuff, you know it. You know? That becomes problematic. When it's more vague is when you go, "Hey, do you find that I complain too much?" "Oh yeah. Actually, I wasn't going to say anything, but yes, you do. You've been very negative since your break up or your divorce, and we understand it 'cause it's rough, but sometimes it does grate on other people." That's harder to get because you might not even notice.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Jordan Harbinger: But for all this other stuff, man, come on, you know? You know.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. The phrase that's coming to me ironically, is from 12 step, the fearless moral inventory, like actually being willing to just sit down and make a list of all those things where you just know.

Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that's great. I like that. And you do, you just know. "Oh, why didn't I get promoted, this is BS. The other guy just brown nosed the boss". "So have you ever failed on a project?" "No." "Well, what time do you show up for work"? "9:30." "What time does everybody else show up for work?" "8:30." "Okay, so you show up an hour later than everyone else." "What time do you leave?" "5:00." "What time does everyone else leave?" "Five, maybe a little later." "Okay, so you show up late and you leave early?" "Well yeah, but I get my work done. I'm really good at it." "Are you? Who's been the project lead on everything?" "Well, the other guy." "Alright, well, what's going on here?" "Alright, fine." "So is it really 'cause he brown nosed the boss? Or you just not really giving it your all?" You have to be honest with yourself about this. You do know, you know, you at least have a clue.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Jordan Harbinger: No one...

Neil Sattin: This does get tricky, right? Because you get into that zone of self-assessment and people... I forget what the effect is, there's some name for it, but where people always assess themselves better than the world might objectively assess them, or that you don't necessarily know what you don't know and you probably run into this in terms of teaching people emotional intelligence skills where they're like, wow, it finally kinda dawns in them, "Wow I didn't realize that by not taking a moment to actually listen to what someone was telling me and let it affect me in some way that they were feeling like I didn't even hear them." That there are probably core skills or awarenesses that people don't have because they haven't been able to experience the world through that filter, through that lens.

Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I think you're probably right, there's going to be some people that don't know what they don't know, and that could be caused by a lot of different things like if you've got a substance abuse problem, then maybe you're not thinking about the fact that you owed someone $500 for two years. You've got other stuff on your plate. So maybe this will come in handy then. But I think for the average moderately more or less healthy person, there's going to be stuff where you kinda think you're getting away with it, and then you're like, "ah, it's fine. She never complains about this. So it's fine." My wife a couple of weeks ago, asked me, she goes, "What percentage of the housework would you say that you do?" And I went, "Oh, I don't know, 5%?" And she goes, "Really?" And I go, "Yeah, I don't know. Maybe even less." And she goes, "No, I would say you do between five and 10 percent." And I said, "Oh, great." And she goes, "I'm really glad to hear you say that." And I said, "Why?" And she goes, "'Cause I thought you were going to say like 50%" and I said, "No, not a chance."

Jordan Harbinger: She was very pleased to hear that. She didn't say, "You gotta get off your ass and do more." But she was very glad to hear that I didn't think that I was doing exactly the same amount of stuff as she was, 'cause I'm not, and I'm very aware of that. But if she went, "You know, it kinda bothers me that you don't do this and this and this and this," I would have known that I had behavior change coming. And I think a lot of people don't necessarily realize this. I think a lot of people go, "Oh yeah, I pull my own weight around here." And the whole team is kinda like shaking their head going, "What are you talking? Are you serious? You really think that you do the same amount of work on our projects as us. We're just waiting until somebody figures out you don't do squat and you get fired. Are you crazy?"

Jordan Harbinger: You know, you should figure that out on your own or with the help of other people in the team before you have a performance review at work. Or before you have a significant other that goes, "You know what, I am so sick and tired of you freeloading and not paying rent, and having me do all the work and you're playing Xbox when I get home. Who the hell do you think you are?" You know that there's a hint there, and if you don't, you can get a hint by asking. Most people are going to give you that hint. And look, if you ask, and the other person goes, "No, it's totally fine." And then when you break up, she's like, "There are 87 things wrong with you," then they're to share for some of that blame. But at the end of the day who's suffering the consequences, you are. So figure it out.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah this makes me think a little bit too of that strategy that a lot of people use when they're single where you say, identify your ideal partner and then you figure out, "Well, who would I have to be in order to have this amazing partner?" There's an element of that in what we're talking about. It's being willing to look at yourself and say, "Okay, who would I have to be to be in an amazing relationship if my relationship is suffering or if my work life is suffering? Who would I have to be... " Being willing to, sure, look out around because there are probably some examples of that in the people who are doing better at it than you. But also, I think it's a great, great kinda counterpoint to be able to say like, "Oh yeah, if I wanted my partner to trust me, then maybe I would have to call home instead of just being AWOL for three hours after work or something along those lines.

Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I think you're probably right, and I think it's tough to ask yourself that second question, "Who would I need to be?" Because what we find is that we go, "Here's my dream partner. Well, who would I need to be to get this person? Are you kidding me? I'm freakin' phenomenal. [chuckle] I'm already there. I'm authentically me. I'm just want to be myself." And I noticed, this is kinda funny too 'cause you see, I noticed men do this a lot. They go, "If she doesn't like me for me, then screw it." And I go, "Okay, well, you're wearing a jersey with a mustard stain on it. You're a little bit overweight, okay, you're a lot overweight. You clearly don't care at work. You're not really trying to get ahead. And what kind of woman are you looking for? Oh, someone that goes to the gym, takes care of herself, looks really good, gets really done up to go out, impresses all your friends, has an education." So, they have to work their butt off, but you get to be authentically you? [chuckle] That seems fair, right?


Jordan Harbinger: And it's like, "Oh, well, if she doesn't like me for me, then fine. Well, good, she doesn't like you for you. You are not good enough. You do not deserve what you want. No one really says that though, right? That's kind of not cool to be that guy in a friendship or the very many relationship coaches are not going to say, "You really don't deserve what you want," because the client goes, "Screw you. I'm going to hire somebody else." I kind of understand that, but that's not very effective coaching wise. I think a lot of guys especially... And I say this among guys, it's really probably equally shared, but I used to coach guys far more than women, and a lot of guys just don't deserve what they want. [laughter] They really don't. They're not putting in any effort at all, and yet they expect the complete polar inverse when they are going for a member of the opposite sex and... Or even the same sex. There are plenty of same-sex relationships [chuckle] where one party goes, "Well, he just has to like me for me, or she just has to like me for me." And they're putting in absolutely no effort, but expect the other party to do so.

Jordan Harbinger: So you have to work on yourself and become who you need to be to get that person involved with you. You have to have a world that is so welcoming that somebody else wants to be a part of it. You can't just take that for granted, especially if you don't really want to be a part of your world. Think about what kind of person that's going to attract.


Neil Sattin: What do you think is the obstacle for people being willing to put in the effort? Because it does require effort to not just coast, to not just leave the mustard stain on your shirts.

Jordan Harbinger: Some of it self-awareness and the other part is a little bit of fear that I think is healthy. Well, there's healthy and unhealthy fear, of course, as you know. The unhealthy fear is, "Well, shoot. If I try and I dress in clothes that fit and I get rid of the mustard stain, what if I don't know what I'm doing? What if I try to grow and I still get rejected, that's going to signal something about who I am as a person instead of just me being able to say, "Oh, these shallow folks, they're not... They don't like me for me." That's a lot easier and a little bit nicer. The other side of that fear is, "Holy crap. I'm not even sure that I know how to get out of this." So it's easier to rationalize that you don't have to. Does that make sense?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Jordan Harbinger: The side of the fear is, "I don't really know what I'm doing, so I'm just going to say, I should be good enough as I am because I heard that somewhere. Then the other side of that coin is, "What if I do know what to do and I bust my butt and I get coaching from Neil, and I go to the workshops that Jordan has and I create a great network around me and I get a good career, and I still can't get the people in my life that I want, that then signals that I'm inherently not good enough and that's my worst nightmare. It's not a conscious level of thought. Does that make sense?

Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah, yeah, it makes a lot of sense. And yeah, I'm just thinking about someone being in that position and what it would take 'cause at that point, yeah, it does take a lot of willingness and courage to even maybe see that that's what's going on with you. Then, yeah, what do you find can help incentivize someone to take that other step? In other words...

Jordan Harbinger: So...

Neil Sattin: I'm imagining too, there could be a lot of people listening to this episode and who are thinking, "Holy shit, I wish I could just get my partner to take that kind of level of responsibility for themselves." To see that, "Oh yeah. If they started to show up with a little bit more ferocity with their lives, how much better our lives together would be." But they need something that's maybe better than a kick in the ass, although maybe that's what it takes sometimes.

Jordan Harbinger: It does take that sometimes. It really does take... It takes a compassionate kick in the ass if it's a friend or if somebody else in your relationship. So here's how... Here's an example of how not to do this. So I had somebody write me recently and go, "I just got married and my wife is not interested in me anymore". I said, "Wow, that's highly unusual. You're a month after your wedding". What happened was they were both really overweight, and the wife lost 110 pounds for the wedding. Then she started saying, "I'm not interested in you anymore because you're still overweight, and you didn't lose any weight." I'm thinking, "I don't think that that's true. Maybe she's really, really self-centered, and she's really not interested in you and she really thinks that she's outgrown you, but that seems unlikely because you did just get married." So my hunch was she's trying to motivate him by saying, "I'm basically not going to sleep with you until you start getting yourself together because I did it. I know it's possible." I'd like to think that that's her positive intent, but I think it's a really negative way to do that by making your partner feel like crap and undesirable doesn't exactly get them to want to go, "You know what? I'm going to get desirable again by watching what I eat and going to work out all the time.

Jordan Harbinger: Thanks, babe." This is probably how she was raised, and how she was motivated by her parents, which backfired, and caused unhealthy habits on her part, which is probably why she was obese in the first place. Potentially, why she was obese in the first place, so there's this unhealthy negative motivation. I think they both need to work on that. That's how you don't do it, right? The way to do it would be to do it together or if you don't need to lose weight if you're fit, and your partner's not, and you really want to motivate them, to make it easy for them and say, "Look, I want you to be around for a long time. I want to be able to enjoy things with you that are going to take physical prowess, and I want to be able to go hiking on the Great Wall of China. And I want to be able to be around for our grandkids. And I'm going to start making healthy food, and I'm going to make stuff that you like that's healthy. And I want you to go to the gym with me. And I want you to follow this program with me because I care about you." You have to motivate people that way.

Jordan Harbinger: And if they don't want to do it for themselves, they'll probably do it for you as their partner. It's different though when it's a friend. When it's a friend, sometimes all you can do is have the harsh truth because you're not going to say, "Look, I don't want to be friends with you 'cause you're overweight." That's ridiculous. But what you might say is, "Hey, you're not allowed to complain about relationship stuff anymore because the reason you're not attracting the women that you want and the men that you want is because you are not in good shape. And you only go after people that are. They're not going to be interested in you. I'm happy to go to the gym with you. I'm happy to get you on a fitness plan. I'm happy to be your accountability buddy. Text me in the morning. I'll text you in the morning, and make sure that you're eating right, make sure that you're going to the gym," things like that. That's fine. But the reason you're not getting what you want is because you aren't doing what you need to do to become who you need to be to get what you want.

Jordan Harbinger: And sometimes, that's the best thing you can do as a friend because really, you can't punish people more than a certain degree as a friend. Because what are you going to do? Cut them off? "You're not allowed to come over anymore because you're fat." That's completely ridiculous. So you have to do it with love as cheesy as that might sound. But some people will not respond to that. But then you have to say, look, you are not allowed to complain about being unhappy because you're single while you're eating a bag of chicharrones for dinner every night. You're just not allowed. I'm not going to hear it. We have a solution. You don't want the solution. So I'm not going to suffer through this anymore. And I know that that sounds harsh, but a lot of times, that social isolation is all you can do as a friend. But you can't isolate them so much that they don't have you in their life anymore or you won't be able to influence them.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, interesting. 'cause I am. I'm struck by the difference in the different kinds of relationships that exist. And how yeah, a friend like for some people, friend groups come and go. It seems a lot more common for someone to feel like somehow they got stuck for instance in this relationship like, "I'm with this person." Maybe we have two kids together, so now I'm really with this person. And what do I do like “They don't want to change?” I'm changing. I'm trying to grow. I'm trying to do everything that I can to have a great life and to make this great. But they're not motivated at all. And what do I do? And I think with that comes, "I like the feeling of accountability." This is actually something we were just talking about on the show with Cheryl Richardson. She talks a lot about self-care and boundaries. But that question of like, "Look, I don't want to dwell any more on the, 'What's going wrong with us?'" Like, "There are things that we could actually do about this."

Neil Sattin: So either you're willing to do them or some of the harsh reality is maybe we do "isolate ourselves from each other." Maybe we do break up. If we can actually steer this in a good direction or if you have a friend who's consistently complaining, and even with getting that tough love from you, they still don't want to shift. Well, you're probably naturally going to evolve apart anyway, would be my guess.

Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I would agree with that. Yeah, I would agree with that.

Neil Sattin: So I'm wondering for you when you are helping someone come up the curve in terms of their emotional intelligence, do you have a checklist in the back of your head that's like, "Okay, I want to make sure someone has the ability to stay present when they're actually having a conversation with someone. I want to make sure they have the ability to connect with other people and be giving. I want to make sure that they know how to make little commitments and actually follow through on them"? Are there other things along those lines that you think are really the core aspects of what I think we've been talking about this whole time, which is encouraging people to sort of show the fuck up in their lives and to not coast and to really be engaged with the people and the opportunities that are around them?

Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I do have a rough checklist, but I'll tell you that the way that we run things at our Advanced Human Dynamics events are usually... The first few events or first few sessions are kind of about eliciting that checklist, 'cause it does differ from person to person. So some of the things that we do, for example, would be, I might videotape an interaction, with your permission of course. But I might videotape an interaction. It's like, "Oh, okay, you are not present because you're thinking about what to say next 'cause you often you're trying to figure out how to be clever. Alright, we have to fix that because being clever is not as important as being present." Or, "Oh, okay, interesting. You're invading psychological space. That's something that's probably going to cause other people to play defense, which is going to inhibit your ability to connect with them." Or, "Wow, you got really vulnerable really fast in a way that was a little bit uncalibrated for a professional situation that's probably blowing up in your face and causing people to put walls up because they don't want to reciprocate in such a vulnerable fashion."

Jordan Harbinger: And the example here is we had a guy that was saying... Actually a better example... We had a woman that was saying something like, within the first few minutes of meeting people, "I was in an abusive relationship for 10 years, and we have a kid together." And I was like, "Whoa! Hang on, man. That's a good share for something later on. You don't know these people." So it can be problematic. You could be triggering someone else's stuff, you could be coming across as a victim, big time. It's problematic. You're going to run into people's filters and you're going to end up getting screened out. And they go, "Oh, I thought I was just being vulnerable, I thought this was helpful. I just went to some self-help seminar, where they told me to dah dah dah." I'm like, "Okay, that's just not appropriate for every situation."

Jordan Harbinger: And most people know, things like that so I'm giving you extreme examples. However, it's not uncommon for somebody to be a close-talker and invade psychological space. It's not uncommon for someone to be a little bit too touchy-feely. Maybe they even come from a different culture, where that's okay, but it doesn't make sense in a professional American context. Or maybe someone isn't showcasing any vulnerability, maybe they're doing this thing where they're trying to take up a lot of space because they read on some message board that alpha men take up space, so they're spreading out and other people are like, how rude is this guy? He's taking up three seats and I'm standing. But he's thinking, I'm alpha right now!

Jordan Harbinger: So I have these checklists that say things like, are you trying to broadcast a specific image? If so, is that image appropriate for the context? And if not, can we try to do this in another way by consciously or forming new habits? And sometimes it's a matter of going, hey, you don't have to be "alpha", you just look like a douche. And they go, oh, thank God I took a coaching class last year and I've been struggling with this forever because I feel like such a turd. And you go, yeah you shouldn't do this, it's not helping you and they go, oh, thank God. 'Cause their other coach or their other boot camp or their other whatchamacallit is some book they read, told them they have to do this or they're going to get walked on.

Jordan Harbinger: And you've probably seen guys like this and we see them on the internet, where they... The catchphrase of some of these guys is like, I don't give a fuck. And it's like, no, no, no. You give so many fucks that you don't even know who you are anymore, that's... I don't give a fuck, I'll do whatever I want. No, no, no. You're doing what this other group of guys tells you that you should want because you're giving all of the fucks. You have no fucks left.


Jordan Harbinger: You're being programmed by other people and it's still not working, and people still don't like you. So you're trying to reject them, but really, you've already been rejected, so it's not helping. How do you feel? And then a lot of times those guys go, "Lonely!" It's like, "Well, yeah, of course, because your only friends are weirdos on Reddit, that tell you to take up space and to not care about other people. How do you think they're working out in life?" So I try to elicit those checklists from men and women that come through the program because people really have their own individual hang-ups and they really wear... We really wear them on our sleeve as humans.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, there's something in what you're saying that where I find myself getting even kind of sad thinking about all of the, well for lack of a better word, propaganda that's out there about games to play, ways to get other people interested in you. And I feel like there's a pretty big distinction between what we've been talking about, which is really more about being in your integrity and in your authenticity, versus let's say having the checklist of, "Okay, I got a... " For the typical advice for a guy, "I gotta take up space, be the alpha guy, show them that I know how to lead, etcetera, etcetera," where they get lost in... And it's the same, especially the gendered stuff. If you want to be a woman who gets a guy, all that stuff. I think it robs people a lot of the magic that really happens when they're willing to just show up and be who they are and notice, like, "Oh, even though I think this person is really attractive, there's actually nothing there between us, so why would I want to like somehow game them into being interested in me because in the end, we don't really have anything. Whereas by being present, I get to sense, 'Oh, but there are all these other people that I really do relate to and we actually create magic when we're interacting with each other.'"

Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I think that getting help in this space is tough because it requires a certain level of self-awareness, and it requires a desire to generate even more self-awareness, which can be really scary, especially if we perceive that we might be lacking in some area. It's really uncomfortable. And then I mean this in a bad way, it's uncomfortable to go, "Oh my gosh, I know there are problems and I'm going to ask someone else, possibly pay them to toss... Just rip the blanket off and look at what's underneath," and that's really scary. So I think that we, especially guys, but men and women both, have a problem moving forward in this area. So I just want to close with the idea that this is in many ways about momentum. Once you find a weakness and you're able to correct or fix or start working on it, in my opinion, Neil, it really becomes almost addictive because you go, "Holy crap, that wasn't as hard as I thought. It didn't feel terrible and it feels really good to have this under wraps, and now I can finally attack all these other little things." And it becomes really fun to become who you need to be. So I don't want to scare people away from it because I honestly really do feel like it becomes healthy and it becomes addictive in a good way to work on yourself. It's just scary beforehand. Almost exclusively, it's just scary beforehand.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, those are great. Great piece of advice there. Jordan, I really appreciate your time today and I'm wondering, do you have a moment for one more question?

Jordan Harbinger: I do.

Neil Sattin: Great. Before we got on the call, we were talking about some of the upheaval that's been going on in your life, for lack of a better word. And if it's okay for me to ask you a personal question, I'm curious to know, 'cause you're married and in a time that's created... Where there's been a lot of stress, and those can sometimes be when we're at our worst in our partnerships, I'm wondering what's been helpful for you and your wife to stay connected with everything changing around you?

Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, you know what's funny? I work with my wife, so this might be unique to our situation, but all of this turmoil of relaunching the Jordan Harbinger show and Advanced Team and Dynamics and everything, all of a sudden after leaving The Art of Charm suddenly has actually brought us closer together. And I think one of the keys is being really aware when I'm negative because I tend to, when I get negative, get a little bit bummed out and/or take it out on whoever's near me. That's a very human thing to do. But I have to be really careful about that because I'm not doing this in the office during a stressful time, and then coming home and keeping it separate from the family. I work with my wife, so I gotta be really careful not to be like, I'm going to explode about this thing and then go, oh, I feel better, but meanwhile, everybody else is like, I don't. So, I've had to become really conscious of that. I've had to do, I guess you would say, I've really actually almost ironically had to focus on self care because when I'm going to the gym, when I'm getting sun, when I'm walking outside, when I'm connecting with friends, I don't have to just rely on my wife for emotional support, which can be exhausting for her and I'm actually able to support her too. Does that make sense?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, absolutely.

Jordan Harbinger: So a lot of people go, oh, I gotta make sure I'm taking care of my family and I agree that you do. But one of the best ways to do that is making sure that you have the capacity for it and the way that you do that is through self-care. And a lot of people, when they hit hard times myself included, we don't do self-care, we stop going to the gym, we start eating a bunch of crap, we drink more or whatever it is because it's an emergency. We're in emergency mode. Fight or flight, anxiety, not sleeping. That stuff diminishes your capacity to take care of those around you as well as yourself. And that's when things start to break down. It's like, "I'm doing everything I can for this other person." It's like, "Well, you are, but what you can do is 10% of what you should be doing because you're a freaking mess."

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah.

Jordan Harbinger: So that's what I've been working on.

Neil Sattin: Makes perfect sense. And I think that's another place where it can be so challenging for people to be willing to prioritize that and to maybe do it in a way so that the people around them understand what's going on. If you were completely absent and your wife was like, "Where are you going? Why aren't you here?" Then that might be a different story. "Oh, I was just taking care of myself. I went to the movies, got myself a smoothie. Did you want one too?" You know, might be different.

Jordan Harbinger: It's been really fun man. I appreciate the opportunity.

Neil Sattin: Yeah Jordan, thank you so much for being here with us on Relationship Alive and for me, it's been a bit of a stretch having you here only because typically I've got people on like John Gottman and Sue Johnson who are writing books about relationships, and that's what frames our conversations. And so I appreciate your willingness to get on and just go for it and see what we could come up with your vast expertise in those relational dynamics and to see what we could make practical for our listeners here. So thank you so much.

Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, thank you, man. I appreciate the opportunity.

Neil Sattin: And if you are interested in finding out more about Jordan Harbinger, you can visit You can check out the Jordan Harbinger show, and his company, Advanced Human Dynamics, is developing online courses and events that you can visit, right?

Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, we actually have a course up now. It's free, and it's about networking and relationship development. It's very systematic. It's all about not feeling like a smarmy business card slinger, and generating professional and personal relationships in a way that's scalable, fun doesn't take three hours a day, doesn't involve you being a fake weirdo on the internet, etcetera. And that's all at Advanced Human Dynamics. You just click level one in the corner, and I'll teach you all the secrets.

Neil Sattin: Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Jordan. Great to have you here.

Jordan Harbinger: Thanks, Neil.

Nov 13, 2018

Have you ever found yourself making assumptions about how your partner will take care of you or show up for you? Do you assume they’ll do certain things that make your life easier even though they haven’t actually agreed to do that? Have you ever felt resentful toward your partner for not following through on what you assumed they would do for you? If so, you’re not alone! In today’s episode, we’ll discover how these assumptions can lead to resentment and learned helplessness. We’re going to dive into some specific actions you can take to prevent this from happening in your relationship.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive - this is your host Neil Sattin. When you make assumptions about how you and your partner will show up for each other in your relationship, that can ultimately erode the goodwill and generosity in your relationship. And, on top of that, it can undermine your own ability to feel safe in your own skin. So this week we’re going to talk about how to make the implicit explicit - so that the way that you and your partner collaborate in each other’s lives actually adds energy to both of you - instead of ultimately stealing your fire. It’s an important topic so get ready to dive deep.

But first - are you finding Relationship Alive to be helpful in your life? If so, please consider a donation to help support what we do. To choose something that feels right for you, please visit or text the word SUPPORT to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. And this week, I want to offer sincere gratitude to Danielle, Denise, Kelee, Kent, Abe, Sarah, Renee, Micheila, Ruthana - thank you all so much for your generous contributions to help us keep the lights on here at Relationship Alive headquarters.

This episode is also brought to you by Green Chef. For 50 dollars off your first box of Green Chef go to And I’ll tell you a little bit more about them later in the show.

So let’s move on. When you first get into a relationship, it can feel almost magical the way that everything lines up. Those falling in love feelings often also lead to incredible generosity - we’re inspired to show up for our beloveds for so many reasons, not the least of which is how good it feels to offer them something and see the happiness that comes as a result. Back in episode 102, Jeff Zeig talked about the phenomenon called “TOPIAH” - taking pleasure in another’s happiness - which is central to that falling in love state of being.

And when this is happening it can feel like you have been brought together in order to complement each other, make each other’s lives easier, etc. What’s the point of being in a relationship, if not to share joy, and make each other’s life easier? Otherwise, why would we tolerate all the challenges of relationship?

So I’m not going to get down on the way that happens. On the other hand, what tends to happen is that the overwhelming generosity that can mark the beginning of a relationship leads to ways that we take each other for granted. And this is a huge double-edged sword that can slice right into your happiness together and take you down if you’re not careful. Let me explain…

Why is it a double-edged sword? Because on the one side of the blade are the assumptions that we start making about our partner. Assumptions about how they will take care of us, show up for us, make life happier and easier, etc. The problem isn’t that they’re doing all those things - the problem is the assumption, the expectations, that can then lead to resentment. In the ways where you once showed up willingly, out of generosity, you might now find yourself feeling taken for granted and wondering if your partner gets how much you do for them.

Don’t worry, in a moment I’m going to give you a way to steer clear of that problem - but you might remember that I said it was a double-edged sword - so what’s the other problem?

The other side of the blade is the ways in which we learn to rely on our partner and how that can sometimes get in the way of our realizing our own capabilities. It’s a form of learned helplessness - not the kind that’s linked to trauma or recurring pain - though of course, that can *also* happen in relationships - I’m talking about how we come to rely on our partners and then when they for some reason can’t show up in the way that we’ve come to rely on them, it actually triggers our fear - instead of inspiring us to be capable.

Here’s an example. These are the kinds of things that you come to see more clearly when you have to be apart from your partner for any length of time - as you start to realize all the ways that they contribute to your life, or the household, or your wellbeing. Like imagine that your partner leaves for a week, and you suddenly realize that there are no groceries in the fridge, or gas in the car, or dinner on the table when you get home from work. Sometimes when that happens, instead of diving into our own capability - like going to the grocery store, gassing up the car, and cooking a nice dinner - and doing all of those things OURSELVES - we go into a fear response from NOT being taken care of in the ways that we’re used to. So there we are in our trigger - not only not getting our needs met, but feeling fight/flight/freeze in reaction to a partner who simply went out of town on business (or for whatever reason).

And that can ALSO lead to resentment. We can resent our partners for leaving us to fend for ourselves, or we can resent them for making us confront our own little ways of being helpless, or we can actually resent ourselves for having given so much power away to our partners in the first place. It’s a habit that we’ve acquired - letting our partner do things for us, and coming to rely on them for that.

Quick side note on that - often when you move through the triggered place, you can find an enormous blessing in HAVING that space, so that you can feel what you’re truly capable of.

And what’s ironic about this situation? It’s usually true for BOTH partners. In other words, it’s rare that one of you is doing all the assuming, and the other one of you is doing all the work. The reality is usually that both of you give in your own ways, and both of you can feel taken for granted. This is a dynamic that we actually talked about back in our episode with Betty Martin, in episode 162, talking about the Wheel of Consent. Now in that episode, we talked about how it impacts the way that we touch or receive touch from our partners, but the underlying premise is the same as you come to understand the dynamics of giving and receiving.

But I’ll let you listen to that episode to get that part of what I’m talking about. What we’re focused on here is the danger that making assumptions brings to your relationship. And I’m going to show you what to do about it. We’ll solve all your assumption problems with a simple exercise or two - in just a moment.

However, this is the time in the show when I get to tell you about this week’s sponsors. And they both have cool deals for you, so you can try them out - at a discount - and experience what they’re cooking up for you.

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Now let’s get back into the conversation about how to keep your assumptions from eroding your relationship.

As I hinted at the very beginning, the antidote to the toxic effect of assuming on your relationship is to make the implicit explicit - in other words, to get really clear on the dynamic that’s happening in your relationship and to turn assumptions into agreements.

You may have heard me talk about agreements before on Relationship Alive, as they are a key part of creating the container of your relationship. So far we’ve talked about them in broad strokes, though - they represent the things that you and your partner agree NOT to do - you know, things like spending large sums of money without talking to each other about it first, or your agreements around monogamy - these are important things to be really clear about with your partner. We’ve also talked about the things that you agree TO do - things like commitment to supporting each other’s growth or sharing appreciations with each other each night. These are just a couple of small examples.

The problem with assumptions is that they represent agreements that you haven’t actually agreed to. They often have the same degree of expectations that come with an actual agreement - but the problem is that you and your partner don’t actually know exactly that the agreement exists. Let’s take something simple as an example.

Let’s say that every night your beloved gets home from work 30 minutes earlier than you do. And every night they get home, take the dog out, and then start cooking dinner. So you walk in the door, and the dog comes over to you, tail wagging, and you fall on the floor to give your dog a tummy rub, while your partner is there, standing over the stove, whipping up something tasty. Only instead of being really happy to see you, for some reason your partner is standing there looking really serious as they saute the onions, and you already have that sinking feeling that there’s something going on that you’re going to have to talk about later.

Now, let’s just state the obvious - you should always greet your partner before you start rubbing the dog’s belly. If your dog is getting more affection and attention than your partner is, then you’re in trouble. Trust me. In fact, maybe I’ll devote an episode to just that. Moving right along…

And, now let’s even take this situation a step further. Let’s imagine that it’s this way night after night. Except for one night you get home, and your partner is in the living room, kicking back and reading a book. And as you walk in the door and the dog rushes over to greet you they say “great, can you take the dog out?” - and then you realize that they have already cooked and eaten an early dinner - without you. In that moment are you feeling, maybe, just a little bit...resentful?

I’m pretty sure that the answer here would be “yes”. And why is that? Why was your partner stewing over something when you came home to their cooking, and why are you now stewing because it’s suddenly on you to take the dog out and figure out dinner?

In this hypothetical situation that I know none of you has experienced...did you and your partner ever create an agreement about who was going to take the dog out and start dinner?

Now, of course, it’s possible that you might have a stale agreement, something that you made long ago and which no longer is working for one, or both, of you. It’s worth revisiting your agreements every so often. But in order to do that, you’re going to have to know what your agreements are.

So, let’s get there - together. As you may be guessing right now, you are going to actually have to communicate with your partner to figure this out. But before you take that step, let’s get more clear on what your assumptions are.

The best way to do this is to keep track. Have you ever used a time-tracking app to figure out how you spend your time when you’re on your computer? That can be really useful data to have, so that after a week or two you get to see when and how you’re the most productive (and, correspondingly, when and how you waste time). It’s useful - and occasionally scary.

So for the next week what I’d like you to do is to keep track of all of the ways in which you are relying on your partner. The challenge is going to be remembering to do this throughout your way to approach it is to have a little pocket notebook that you carry with you so that you can note things down as they happen. Or you can, of course, keep track in your smartphone. The key here is, first, to remember to be paying attention throughout your day - and then to actually write it down or note it.

It’s tempting here to think “OK, I’m going to just notice it as it happens” - and to take the shortcut and NOT write anything down, or actually keep track of anything. Unless you have a superhuman memory, do NOT do this. Write it down, or record it somehow. This is important, first so that you don’t miss anything! And second, so that as you review your notes at the end of the week, you’ll have a sense of just how vast the number of assumptions is.

Now there may be some things that jump out at you right away as you hear me talking about this. You can go ahead and write those things down. Maybe it’s the “who makes the meals” scenario? Maybe it’s the who does the laundry or the grocery shopping? Maybe it’s that you trust your partner to text you back within 5 minutes when you’ve texted them, and if any more time goes by you start to get anxious?

The big question here is: what are all the ways that I rely on my partner? And what are all the ways that they’re relying on me?

And...after a week of that goes get to look over your findings. There will probably be some things on your list that you already knew about - and hopefully, there will also be some surprises on your list. See if you can get a sense of what led to a particular thing becoming just a way of being - how did it work its way onto your assumption list? That’s helpful to know - at a 1000 foot view you can often see the ways that these patterns start - which is a great way of seeing your own part in things.

Now the next step is going to be to communicate with your partner about what you discovered. I’ll give you a framework for that in a moment. As you might expect, the WAY that you talk about it will have a huge impact. For some important pointers, make sure that you check out my free Relationship Communication guide. If you’ve already downloaded it, then you might want to revisit it just for a reminder - and if you haven’t gotten it yet, you can grab it at - or by texting the word RELATE to the number 33444 and following the instructions.

So let’s talk about how to approach this conversation with your partner. Maybe you’re lucky and you’re already listening to Relationship Alive together - and doing this research together. So if that’s the case then you simply want to schedule a time to talk about what you discovered. If you’re doing this on your own, then the first step is to ask your beloved if there’s a time when you can sit down to talk about some important things you’ve been noticing. Don’t just spring this on your partner!

And even if you have a long list of ways that your partner is making assumptions about you, I wouldn’t bring that up just yet - if your partner asks you what you want to talk about, just say that you’ve been noticing some ways that you take them for granted, and you were hoping to be able to sit down, chat with them, and get some clarity about it. Maybe even express your gratitude - you know, that kind of thing.

When the appointed time arrives, then, yes - you want to set the stage by talking about how you have noticed all these ways in which you’ve been taking your partner for granted or making assumptions that things are a certain way. If you have lots of examples to choose from in your observations, you might choose the one that seems the least triggering to your partner - in other words, start with something easy. Not necessarily a hot-button issue right away.

Then you might say something like…”I’ve been operating as if this is an agreement that we have made, to do things this way. But we never really did, did we? Or maybe we did, but that was a long time ago, and I’m not sure that it necessarily makes sense anymore.”

Each step along the way you want to check in with your partner to see if what you’re saying is making sense to them. Do they get it, what you’re saying? Do they agree? Can they lend any insight into what you’ve already noticed?

If you’re starting with ways that you’ve been taking them for granted, then it will be easier to inspire their collaboration in the conversation. One thing to pay attention to here is your own level of activation, of being triggered. If your partner is TOO eager to point out the assumptions that you’ve been making, then you could find yourself feeling like you’re being attacked. Do your best here to find your balance on your own, to take responsibility for your own emotional state. As much as possible you want to keep operating from your prefrontal cortex - in other words, the non-triggered part of your brain that knows how to problem-solve, stay curious, and be creative.

So - what’s the ultimate goal here? The goal is to bring up the assumptions that you’ve been making  and then to ask your partner if there’s an agreement that you can actually make, together, about each particular thing. It’s as simple as that. Some possible ways to frame that include: “In this situation, would you like to <and then insert the thing>”. Or “What would make that ok for you? What would make that feel like something you actually want to do?” or “how can I help you so that you’re not doing it on your own?” or “What would be a meaningful way - to you - that I could show my appreciation?” Or “Is there some way that I could contribute that would make a difference to you?”

You may also discover that some of these ways that you’ve come to rely on your partner actually are obstacles to your own feeling fulfilled, actualized, and capable in your own life. So rather than your go-to being trying to get your partner’s buy-in to just keep doing things that way - but with an agreement - I invite you to first consider how you can show up to at least be an equal partner in what’s happening. Or perhaps you want to take full responsibility for making this thing happen for you - rather than relying on your partner at all. This could be about your reclaiming that part of yourself, or it could also be about ways to give even more to the relationship.

I leave it to you to feel through the situation for what feels best to you and your partner. But definitely, spend time entertaining the different possibilities - instead of immediately rushing to the first solution that jumps out at you.

Bear in mind too that even if your partner says that they are more than happy to do whatever it is that they’ve been doing, by at least getting it out in the open you can ensure that you’re both completely in integrity about it. And you can also discuss how to safely bring it up if the agreement STOPS being ok with either one of you. Having a way to bring the topic up without anyone getting triggered or resentful - in other words, revisiting your agreements on a regular basis and having that be just built into the structure of your relationship will help you keep things healthy and minimize resentment in the time ahead of you.

Oh, by the way, in case you were wondering about how to address all those ways that you feel like your partner might be taking you for granted...again remember that it’s best to start with an offering - which in this case is you taking responsibility for all the assumptions that you’ve been making.

Next you might ask your partner something like this: “Would you be willing to talk about some other places where I think we could use a more explicit agreement between us?” And if the answer is “Yes” - then you’re on the right track. Instead of framing this part of the conversation as ways that you’re being “taken for granted” - you might instead say something like “Here is a place where our agreement isn’t quite clear…” And rather than focusing on the assumption - in other words, rather than saying something like “it seems like you assume I’m going to make dinner every night” you might say something like “I find that most nights I’m making dinner. And I’m doing it by myself. And while I do enjoy making dinner, what I really miss is the opportunity for us to work together to make choices about what we’re going to eat. So I find that lately I’ve been getting lonely and maybe even a little sad, instead of feeling inspired to cook for both of us. Would you be willing to talk about ways that we could change that up a bit?”

You might be surprised to find that your partner will actually show up with some creative solutions - especially if they’re not being blamed.

OK - I think that’s enough to get you going in the right direction. If you’re on Facebook and haven’t joined us in the Relationship Alive Community yet, please come find us there. You can get support from the more than 2300 Relationship Alive listeners who are creating a safe space to talk about relationships. And in the meantime, if you know someone who could benefit from hearing this episode, please feel free to send the link along - it’s I look forward to being with you next week - take care until then!



Nov 6, 2018

Have you ever felt compelled to jump into a new relationship a little too quickly? Is it possible that you’re actually addicted to love and relationships? How would you know? This week, our guest is Sherry Gaba, best-selling author of The Marriage and Relationship Junkie and The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery. Sherry is a Psychotherapist, Life Coach, and Certified Recovery Coach specializing in individual, couples, family, and group psychotherapy - and she is also the editor of Recovery Today magazine. In this episode, you’ll learn what it means to be addicted to love and relationships and where it comes from. We’ll also dive into how you can tell if you’re addicted to love and relationships and what you can do to start on your path toward healthier relationships and connection.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is being sponsored by two amazing companies with special offers for you.

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Neil Sattin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. We're here to talk about relationships and yet what brings us into a relationship? Why are we there in the first place? So many of us enter relationships for awesome reasons, sometimes it's less than awesome reasons, and sometimes it's a combination of the two. You feel some magnetic spark with a person, but at the same time, maybe they support you in ways that aren't necessarily healthy for you, or you get trapped in some dynamic that doesn't really make for the best relationship possible. And then you might feel like, "Oh, okay, this relationship ended," and you're ready to go into another relationship, maybe even a little too quickly. And it wouldn't be that uncommon for you to wonder, "Is there something about this? Am I actually addicted to being in relationships? Am I addicted to love? Is there something... What is it that's compelling me to do this?" And I think it's interesting to tease apart what it is that might compel us in an unhealthy way, to enter into a relationship with others, and what's healthy about it? 'Cause when we're talking about addiction, there are positive addictions, as well as negative addictions. So how do you find the balance, and how do you figure out you where you land in terms of your approach to the relationship?

Neil Sattin: So we're going to tackle this question about whether or not you might possibly be addicted to love and relationship, how to know and what to do about it. And in order to have that conversation, I have with me today, yet another esteemed guest, her name is Sherry Gaba, and she's a therapist who is also the author of "The Marriage and Relationship Junkie." A book that is available on Amazon, and talks all about this question of how do you find your own path to health in terms of how you relate to others? And of course, that's a conversation we're having all the time here on Relationship Alive because hey, I'm just... I recognize that just like you, there's work to be done. And so, we're going to dive deep into this question around addiction and obsession around love and see if we can come out the other side with some answers. As always, we will have a detailed transcript of today's episode and to download that, all you have to do is visit, and you spell that, G-A-B-A, as in Sherry Gaba, our guest for today. Or you can always text the word, "passion" to the number 33444, follow the instructions and I will send you a link where you can download the transcript for this episode. Alright, I think that's all I have to cover today at this moment. Let's dive in. Sherry Gaba, so great to have you here with us on Relationship Alive.

Sherry Gaba: What a fantastic introduction, thank you, Neil, that was amazing, and I love what you're doing in the world and loving just getting to know you, I love your energy and I'm just grateful to have this platform today to talk about this really important subject.

Neil Sattin: Great, well we're off to a good start then.

Sherry Gaba: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: So it is a complicated question whether we're drawn into relating with another person for the right reasons or the wrong reasons. Maybe you can help us start to tease that apart, how do we know if the reason that we're seeking out someone else is something that ultimately is going to support our health and growth, and thriving in the world?

Sherry Gaba: Well, let's look at addiction in general, if you look at the broader sense of addiction, and love addiction and relationship romance addiction is our subject today. If you look at the broader definition of addiction is when your life is out of control and it's becoming unmanageable and underneath that, you're making choices based on emptiness a feeling of lack, a feeling of not wanting to be alone, that would be a love addiction, feeling like the world is just a really scary place almost terror that, "If I'm not in a relationship, if I'm not connected or hooked up to somebody, then I'm going to "dies," literally. And so, love addiction is really under the umbrella of addiction.

Sherry Gaba: It's a process addiction, it's a lifestyle addiction, so think about binge eating, or sex addiction, or being addicted to exercise or internet addiction or gaming, or shopping or spending, those are all lifestyle addictions. So, you're becoming addicted to a mood-altering activity, in other words, your brain really lights up when you're hooking up with whatever it is that you're needing to hook up with, whether it's the food or the love, or the sex or whatever your addiction is. So the relationship for a love addict is the only person's identity. And then if a breakup occurs, the addictive lover is longing for the attachment and the pleasurable feelings of that lost relationship. So just like the drug addict may be withdrawing from his or her drug needing that "fix," the love addict is needing that fix of attachment.

Sherry Gaba: And underneath all of us, all of us as human beings we all want to attach, we all want to bond, we all want to connect. But when it becomes unhealthy, and we start making really bad choices around that, then we're stepping into love addiction. For instance, you step into a relationship 'cause you're afraid of being alone like I mentioned earlier, or you're afraid of the unknown, or you get into a relationship where you're trying to change them or fix them and not accepting them for who they are. Needing someone to make you feel whole, because like I mentioned earlier, you feel empty if you're not in a relationship. Looking for others for affirmation and self-worth and for validation rather than already having that within yourself. Being terrorized of abandonment, having those withdrawal symptoms that I mentioned earlier that if a relationship ends, you are in complete withdrawal. And then really giving up who we are out of the fear that we might lose someone or someone may not approve of us. So, if any of those things sound familiar, you may be dealing with love addiction.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I'm reminded of when Helen Fisher was on the show, she has this viewpoint that in some respects, all love is addiction and that's why when we break up, we go through symptoms and pain that's very similar to what any addict would go through when they are in withdrawal from their partner. But I like the distinction that you're making around how... And this is I think, why love can be a positive or a negative addiction, because you could be addicted to love with someone who's really good for you, and where you actually really support each other and there's a lot that's beneficial going on, or you can be addicted to love with someone where you're just fueling the dopamine rush.

Sherry Gaba: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: And I think that is... Go ahead.

Sherry Gaba: Well, if you're feeling the dopamine rush, it probably isn't you're addicted to a healthy relationship. Because yes, in the beginning, there's that fantasy, there's that attachment, there's that goo-goo ga-ga feeling. Sure, that can happen, but healthy relationships really move into a more mature growing state of being. I'm not saying you can't have that goo-goo ga-ga come up at times, but I think if you're constantly in that state, I think then it becomes more obsessive and then it becomes more unhealthy. I can't speak to all relationships, but I think healthier relationships change, they morph into other things, they morph into healthier love, they morph into other things like respect and nurturing, and it isn't just fueled by that, "Oh my god," goo-goo ga-ga feeling, you know what I'm saying?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, if we look at the addiction cycle, and we had Alex Katehakis on the show to talk a little bit also about sex addiction. That what we're really doing, the reason we show up predictive behaviors, and you mentioned this a moment ago, is to help us with our own feelings of dysregulation and discomfort, we turn to the thing that gives us that pleasurable sensation for comfort. And I think you're right, all relationships are going to do that at first to some extent. And as I was preparing for our conversations today, it just occurred to me like, Oh, right, so if you're in a relationship, like most relationships where after a certain period of time, the dopamine energy starts to fade a little bit, and you haven't necessarily figured out how to build health into your relationship, and those healthy bonding behaviors foster lots of oxytocin which is another, a pair bonding hormone, then you're going to be missing the effects of the dopamine, not because there's something wrong with your partnership necessarily, but because you tune back into what's wrong with you, and those feelings of discomfort. And so then you have to chase the dopamine whether it's escalating the drama or ditching someone for someone new so that you can get that because you're not equipped at that moment to actually deal with your own dysregulation and discomfort.

Sherry Gaba: Right. Well, you're addicted to the high, so to speak. You're addicted to the romance, you're addicted to the newness factor. I am a love addict, the best time for me is that first falling in love, that's the part where I'm just... That's where I'm most comfortable, that's my go-to. The problem with that is, you're picking from a place of need versus a place of healthful being. In other words, you're picking from a place of emptiness, you're picking a place of, "This person's going to fill up this need that I have, that I don't feel whole already, that I need somebody else to fill me up to feel good about myself." And hopefully, we can lead into a conversation about early trauma because that is a huge piece to this subject.

Sherry Gaba: And often I'll share my own story because I think people underestimate what early trauma does and why that is a huge piece in the love addict behavior or the need for that high, that initial high. We're always chasing that early high, we often say with addicts, they're chasing that first high, that first crack experience or that first alcoholic experience, whatever, heroin experience. Well, the love addict is chasing that first high of falling in love, that's where everything... That is it, this is utopia, this is where it all is, and unfortunately, it isn't sustaining and when it does change, hopefully, it'll change into something healthy, but for the love addict, it generally does not turn into that something healthy. And usually, what they... The love addict picks people that aren't healthy for them. That's another piece to this, is that love addicts tend to be attracted to love avoidance, they're attracted to people that are unavailable, they might be attracted to people that are abusive and they don't care because they want that high no matter what, and they're picking what they know rather than what's good for them.

Neil Sattin: Right. Right, so if you're in a relationship, what are some of the signs that you might see happening in your relationship if you've veered into addictive territory?

Sherry Gaba: Well, I think if you're putting up with abuse, of course, you may be with a narcissist. I think we talked about this a little bit earlier, but over-adapting to what others want, losing yourself in the process, having no boundaries, always saying yes when really, “no” is not even in your vocabulary. This terror, this fear of letting go, fear of the unknown, so you stay because it's better than what might be out there. At least you know what you're getting here, even if it's unhealthy. You're always trying to fix and change your partner. That person is what makes you feel whole and complete, you're absolutely empty, you're in the ethers of emptiness without that person or in relationship, and then that person is all that you are in terms of, you're seeking their affirmation, their validation, their acknowledgment, all your self-worth is based on being with that person. You're petrified of abandonment. You might have some of those withdrawal symptoms when they're not around, you only are comfortable when they're in your space, but if they're off to work or off with other... Doing other things, you feel completely lost, and you give up who you are out of fear that they may not want you. You give up who you are, you lose parts of yourself to be with this person.

Neil Sattin: Got it. So I'm feeling a pretty... I'm doing the diagnosis here on myself even and thinking about how even relationships in the past that have started out healthy, they can veer into this territory if you're not careful.

Sherry Gaba: Sure. And then we're talking maybe more about a codependent relationship. And I hate throwing out words like codependent or even a love addiction word, because people... It becomes very cliche, because what you said earlier in the call, and I really picked up on that was that some of these things you have with your relationship but they're healthy. And in other words, you love that person, you respect that person, and sure, that person on some level maybe completes you on some level. But the question is if that relationship wasn't there would you be okay? Sure, you might be sad and you would grieve, and you would miss that person terribly, but would you be completely lost? I think of my own mother, my father passed away and they had a 60-year romance. And when my father died, and again, this is part of grief as well, but it was a little more pathological than that. My mother picked up the first man that looked at her. And he's a very bad man. She picked somebody that really is a predator per se, and he knew exactly what he was doing. And she's in a relationship with... In a very unhealthy relationship with someone that's completely taking advantage of her, because she is petrified of being without somebody. She just can't even function. And so that's when we're really getting into territory that's dangerous.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Sherry Gaba: Because you're actually being taken advantage of. And that's a whole other conversation, there is a whole world out there, there's... Just in LA alone, there are probably 10,000 predators out there picking women that just will believe anything that they hear, just so they can couple up and partner up and bond with somebody.

Neil Sattin: Let's...

Sherry Gaba: I use that example because you never know, you could have a listener right now, a call that's in a situation like that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, I'm glad that you brought it up. And yeah, what it makes me curious about, I picked up on the sense of not being okay if you were to be alone. And because I think that it's so important to have that sense of okay-ness, that brings with it so much freedom to really see your relationship clearly, to see your part in the relationship clearly. So if we were to take a listener on a step or two down the road, toward... Like, if they're looking at themselves right now and saying, "Wow, yeah, I'm not sure I would be okay if this fell apart." There may be some practical considerations to that, maybe their livelihood is dependent on their partner or something like that. But I think you're talking about, even more, the existential sense of like, "No, my life might fall apart if I weren't with this person or... " How does someone go about starting to restore that sense of inner safety, so that they can bring that to the relationship?

Sherry Gaba: Well, maybe that... This is a good time to talk about early trauma because if we grew up in a situation where our parents were really unavailable, maybe they were addicts, alcoholics themselves, maybe there was a divorce, maybe were raised by a single parent and they were busy working and you felt invisible because your needs weren't being met, maybe you were in a situation where you were almost parenting your parent. Maybe you were abandoned by a parent. There's this panic that sets in. And then what happens is, you're looking for anything outside yourself to fill up that pain and that panic, and you'll cling to anything and anyone. You're craving for something else to make you feel whole. So the question is, if you're already in a relationship, what draws you to this person? Is it because this person adds to your life? You feel like it brings joy to the joy that you already are as a person? Did you already feel whole as a person? Were you ever successfully single and just loving life as a single person? Or your whole basis was, "I need to attach to someone because without attaching to someone, I am lost. I'm like that child that didn't have a parent that was available to me."

Sherry Gaba: Do you feel like you're not enough without that relationship? Do you feel enough anyway? Yeah, do you feel good enough even without a relationship? Are you unconsciously attempting to satisfy that developmental hungry, so that hungry ghost that people talk about, Buddhists talk about, are you trying to satisfy that? Or does that person, again, add to your sense of being, and sense of self, or are they just completing what you are not?

Sherry Gaba: And are you always looking outside yourself to fix yourself, your fear, your pain, your discomfort? Or do you have that safety within yourself to... That's a great word, are you able to self-regulate yourself? Are you able to be alone at any time? I don't know if that answers your question, Neil, I think it's so great that we're diving into the fact that if you're already in a relationship, do you have these things? And I don't want people to freak out and think, "Oh my God, I'm a love addict, and I'm in a relationship, I better get out because I gotta find myself." No, no, no, no, it's not about that. But I think there are ways to start creating... And see, do you have early trauma? Were you abandoned? And then if you were, how to start healing from that. For me, my trauma was so early, it's unbelievable, I was in an incubator for two and a half months. So I started out in the world unregulated. I started out not having that early bonding with my mother, she didn't hold me for two and a half months, and then even when I came home, she went to work right away, so she was unavailable. And I didn't get what I needed, and so I was always looking for something outside of me to fill me up. I was always looking for that "breast," so to speak.

Sherry Gaba: That's kind of a metaphor, but it's... I was always looking for something else to completely... 'Cause I felt complete, I didn't get that mirroring, I didn't get that bonding, I didn't get that security, that safety. So those are some things to think about, what was your early childhood like? Did you go through any of the things that I mentioned earlier? And if you did, how do you work on those issues? For me, I got into therapy with someone that does what's called somatic experiencing, and now, I'm a practitioner of that, and it's getting back into your body and being able to be okay within yourself, instead of always running away from yourself. Always thinking something else can complete you when everything you have is right there within you.

Neil Sattin: Great, and yes, we've had Peter Levine on the show actually, to talk about somatic experiencing.

Sherry Gaba: Oh fast, you've had some amazing guest.

Neil Sattin: Fortunately yeah, I'm so happy that he was willing to chat and I do believe that that, in particular, is such a powerful modality for healing early traumas. And what I love about it because it's based on your sensation, you don't necessarily have to know what it was. It goes by this theory that the trauma is just stored in there and so you're giving your body a chance to process things that are stuck, that it should have processed through whenever the trauma, and it could be a "big-T" trauma or "little-T" trauma, whenever that occurred. So there's nothing abnormal about you or anyone with having something that might be stuck within you that just needs to be healed.

Sherry Gaba: I love that. I want people to know that there is nothing wrong with you. There might have been something that happened to you as you said, a big trauma, or little trauma, and let's discharge that energy that's been built up so that we can get unblocked so that we can bring in health and wholeness. So that you can feel complete just within yourself, so you don't have to seek outside yourself to feel good. The truth of the matter is just being on this call right now, is the first step because people are going to become aware like, "Oh, this is interesting, let's get curious about this." And then from there, make a decision to change, learning to stop looking for external solutions for problems that can be solved within.

Sherry Gaba: Really explore their personal fears, and really get out of the denial, that's a huge piece with addiction. Addiction is the only disease that says, "I don't have a problem." So really, open yourself up to, "Yeah, there might be something here." And really examine those early suppressed traumas that might have occurred early on in life that we just talked about. Maybe go ahead and listen to your Peter Levine interview, so you can understand trauma a little bit better. Start self-parenting yourself. Really look... I sometimes suggest to people, "Find a photo of you when you were a child and stick that photo right next to your bed, and just start loving that inner child that maybe didn't get what they needed." Become really a loving, forgiving and compassionate person to yourself.

Sherry Gaba: You didn't just wake up one day and go, "Oh, I want to be a love addict. I want to feel pain all the time. I want to feel like I have to be... " You have to completely or I feel like nothing. No, that isn't what you... You didn't cause anything, it's just from your experiences in your history, this is what happened, that energy never got completed, as you said. And just use the pain to grow and prepare for a healthy relationship or the relationship that you're already in, and just really begin to trust in yourself and to let go of what no longer is serving you and find a really great therapist, find a really great coach but somebody that really understands perhaps, trauma work. I don't know if coaches really do trauma work, some may, but you want to make sure they understand the trauma piece. Maybe, find a sex and love addicts anonymous meeting. There's so much support out there to begin working on these issues.

Neil Sattin: Right. And in your book, "The Marriage and Relationship Junkie" you do offer some great tools for people who are looking to rebuild, and you don't have to be alone in order to go through them. So I'm glad that you qualified that earlier on, where you said, "If you're in a relationship, you don't have to panic and abandon just to find yourself."

Sherry Gaba: Right.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Sherry Gaba: Exactly. And you know what you said too earlier, it's such a great feeling, and I think you said it, I think you used the word, extreme. I divorced my... I've had multiple marriages, multi-relationships, I divorced my ex-husband, he was an alcoholic and he couldn't get sober, and I really gave it my best. And I was lost when that relationship ended because it was a very codependent, obsessive relationship, but once I healed and I started doing things for myself, I joined a great 12-Step Program, I took up canoeing. I started really finding myself, I was able to then hopefully pick somebody else that was much better for me because I knew that no matter what, I could be on my own. And I have to be honest, I never felt that way before. I had never been able to really be alone successfully and be happy, and I truly was happy and single. And that brings me to another topic which would be as changing your verbiage around it, instead of saying to yourself, "Oh, I can't be alone. Oh my God, I can't be alone." It's like, "I can be single." Doesn't that sound a lot better? "I can be single" rather than, "I can't be alone"?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so much better and it just makes me think of how very few of us truly are alone, ever. I suppose that is true for some people but if you're listening to this podcast, you're here with me, at this moment. And odds are that there are other people in your life who care about you and who want to support you, and not see you in pain and not see you suffering.

Sherry Gaba: Right, exactly. We all want to bond, we all want to connect. The opposite of addiction is connection, but the point of this call is really healthy connection. That's the point of your podcast, healthy relationships. And so that's... But it's not about stigmatizing you if you are in a codependent relationship. How great that you're on this call and now you can start changing things up a little bit and loosen up that codependent relationship, find other things in your life that help you feel good about yourself. And if you have that trauma, really start working on that trauma 'cause that's really where it all begins. I do some coaching, I'm a psychotherapist, but I can't tell you how many times I'll have a coaching client and they're just stuck. And that stuck-ness... They paid for every class, they listened to all of the podcasts, they bought all the books, but there's something inside of them that's stuck. And so to me, it really begins with moving that trauma out of your body, so that you can have a purposeful life and a meaningful relationship.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So a couple of things, first, let's just regroup, and I want to mention to you listening, I've mentioned a couple of other episodes, if you want to check out the Peter Levine episode, he's been on a couple times, but you definitely want to hear episode 29, which was the first one that he was on, to talk specifically about trauma and healing trauma. The other episode he was on, he was talking more about building resilience which is also important, but not as relevant to what we're talking about here. Also, the episode with Alex Katehakis, talking about addiction and what's involved in our neurobiology of addiction and how to heal that. That is episode 116. So I just wanted you to have those so you can listen to them later. And Sherry, I'm really curious because so many of the tools that you offer in "The Marriage and Relationship Junkie" are very practical, and I hear you as a strong voice of support for someone getting help, and I'm always talking about that here on the show. That there are some things where it's just easier if you're not trying to do it by yourself or trying to wing it, or reading a book and trying to put it into practice. That being said, I would love to offer our listeners something really powerful here that they could do or they could try on their own, that would give them a taste of the kind of healing that we're talking about, a taste of the personal empowerment and freedom that we're talking about.

Neil Sattin: And so I'm wondering if just speaking those words, if there's anything that comes to mind for you that we could offer our listeners as a way to get started, to jump-start the process, whether they're single or in relationship or if you have a different idea for both, then that's good too 'cause there are plenty of single people who are also listening to the show. I hear from you, but all the time to learn so that when you're in your next relationship, you're prepared, and I so appreciate that. I wish I had had a show like this, honestly to listen to way back when...

Sherry Gaba: Well, I think in the beginning, is just to see if you have this issue, is to maybe take my quiz, if you go to, I have a love addiction quiz. And that's just a first step in seeing if you are a love addict. I also have a quiz at on whether or not you're codependent. Because you can be codependent and not be a love addict. A codependent may be someone who's always trying to fix, control everything outside themselves, addicted to controlling people, places, and things. But a love addict is a little bit more specific, and that is that you are addicted to love, relationship, romance and feel empty if you're not in a relationship or with somebody. So that's a great place to start, is to take those quizzes, and see if it applies. I have some free ebooks that go along with those quizzes. My book is almost like a workbook, every chapter has questions for you to answer, to journal on. It's really... It's years and years of personal and professional experience in a book.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I found that it was really a great synthesis of lots of different modalities, and you talk about inner child work which you mentioned a few moments ago, you talk about healing trauma, you talk about taking proactive steps in your own life so that you're building your own strength and presence in the world.

Sherry Gaba: And even talking about the law of attraction, on how to attract somebody in a healthy way. Because energetically, we attract what we are. I'm sure you've had conversations with people related to positive psychology or law of attraction, and the truth of the matter is energetically, we're going to attract exactly where we are in our life. When you're in a healthy place, you're going to attract healthy, when you're not, you're going to attract not healthy.

Neil Sattin: Right. I would love it, and I'm putting you on the spot here, so I'm admitting, freely admitting that there's maybe a little bit of pressure here, but I'm curious, yeah, if I've listened to this conversation and thought, "Yep, that's me. Like I don't need to take the quiz, I know it's me, and oh my God, with what Sherry just said about attracting what is within, is what we attract without, now I'm really screwed." What can we do to help someone experience a shift even around that? How do you experience that shift in who you are, let's say... What's coming to me is like who you are energetically and what you want to be in the world, in such a way that you can feel what it's like to see the world with different glasses on?

Sherry Gaba: That's a very broad question. I don't even know how to answer that because I think it's a process, I don't think there's an instant fix.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, of course not.

Sherry Gaba: I think the only thing I can say is the fact that they're on this call and they're hearing things that feel like that could be me when they're actually moving out of denial and that's the first step. I suppose, what I would say is, the first step is waking up to the truth. Waking up to the truth and "Oh my God, this... I realize that I am not complete unless I'm coupled up." And just knowing that is the first step. And then the next step is to... As you said, you can read a book that doesn't always do the magic. I'd love for people to pick up my book and dive deeper into even my story to see if they can relate and all the exercises. But hiring somebody like yourself who does relationship coaching or maybe working with someone like me who dives more into love addiction piece, I'm not sure exactly what you're asking. You definitely put me on the spot.

Neil Sattin: Okay. Well, I feel like this will take form, this will take shape, so I'm not worried.

Sherry Gaba: Yeah, one thing I could do with everybody right now, which might be a way to metaphorically move to the other side in the moment, is I can do some positive affirmations right now on the call. And then, we know that positive affirmations change the wiring within your brain, and if you keep doing it it's going to keep changing the wiring in your brain of how you see things from negative to positive. So I'm going to say some affirmations maybe Neil you can repeat after me and everybody listening, and this might answer your question of, what would that feel like if we were in the middle of that transition from emptiness to wholeness? Does that... What do you think? Okay. Okay. So repeat after me, I'm a lovable and valuable person.

Neil Sattin: I am a lovable and valuable person.

Sherry Gaba: I am deserving of a healthy partner.

Neil Sattin: I am deserving of a healthy partner.

Sherry Gaba: Who is capable of loving, respecting and honoring me as a person.

Neil Sattin: A healthy partner who is capable of loving, honoring and respecting me as a person.

Sherry Gaba: Withdrawal will not last forever.

Neil Sattin: Withdrawal will not last forever.

Sherry Gaba: My needs and wants are important.

Neil Sattin: My needs and wants are important.

Sherry Gaba: All my experiences contribute to my growth.

Neil Sattin: All my experiences contribute to my growth.

Sherry Gaba: I am learning to let go of dependencies on others.

Neil Sattin: I'm learning to let go of dependencies on others.

Sherry Gaba: And relying on myself for happiness.

Neil Sattin: And relying on myself for happiness.

Sherry Gaba: I walk away from toxic people.

Neil Sattin: I walk away from toxic People.

Sherry Gaba: I create my own truth in love.

Neil Sattin: I create my own truth in love.

Sherry Gaba: And that's that. And so maybe there is a little energetic shift that people might be experiencing right now. Again, I'm not about instant fixes but this is a beginning point, this is a starting point, and that's really all we have is a starting point and then we transit, we grow from there.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, one thing that I really love about that exercise and the practice of positive affirmation, yes, there's the way that it reinforces a different neuro pathway within us and a different energetic pathway in terms of what we project into the world around us.

Sherry Gaba: Yes.

Neil Sattin: On top of that, I feel like I got to recognize, "Oh these are the places where there's a little bit of dissonance within me, like when I say it, I can't say it with 100% conviction. And so if that's true, that I'm not able to say it with 100% conviction, then to me that indicates a place where there's some work to be done.

Sherry Gaba: Yeah, that's so true, because for the law of attraction to work or to attract what it is that you desire, you have to be congruent with what you're saying and believing and what you're actually doing on the outside. So, that's exactly true. There is a dissonance, if you're feeling any kind of like, "Oh, that's not completely true," then there's a really good chance that how you're acting in the world, how you're behaving in the world or being in the world is not a match to how you really feel. You need to work on that a little bit because the congruency is what allows you to attract either the healthy relationship that you desire or the one that you're in.

Neil Sattin: Right. This reminds me a little bit of what might be the next step in this process. It's not the next step necessarily, but a lot of times with my clients, there can be this moment where you realize like, "Oh." For instance let's say, this wasn't true for me in this moment, but it has been true in the past, where I might say, "Oh, I'm worthy of being loved and I'm lovable." And I think I've even shared with my audience in a past episode, a time when that actually didn't really feel true for me. And so when that's not entirely true for you, the choices that you make are totally different than if you are to... If you recognize, "Oh, there was a little bit of a hitch when I said that statement out loud," or it could have been one of the other things that Sherry just offered you, then you can ask yourself, "Well, if I did think that I was lovable and worthy of love, how does that act? How would I act in the world from that perspective?" You get to try on that lens...

Sherry Gaba: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Once you've identified where it's missing, You can be like, "Well, if I were that what would the world look like?"

Sherry Gaba: And even more important is to make friends with that intuition that you know to be true. In other words, don't run away from what you know to be true, because then you're stepping into that denial lens again, is where, "Oh, I feel this, and I know it's not right but I don't care, I'm just going to close my eyes." And my whole mission in life is to keep people awake to their truth. So not to be afraid of the truth, the truth doesn't mean you have to break up with your partner this minute, it doesn't mean that you have to spend the rest of your life soul searching, it doesn't mean that you have to go get a divorce, it doesn't mean that you have to get off that dating app, it just means you need to just become aware and to stay in truth. And as long as you do that, the transformation is possible.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I take a really strong stand for the process that we go through as individuals and the effect that that can have on our partnerships. So lest do you think that if you're in a dysfunctional relationship, the whole point of this show isn't that it's perfect, the point is, it probably isn't perfect. And so you get to take steps that help you transform you and thus transform the whole dynamic.

Sherry Gaba: Yeah, and not be afraid, let go of that fear, just welcome up the chance to transform. Welcome up that the exactly that life is messy and as long as you stay away and you're willing to grow... We're all growing, we're all changing, we're all making better choices, hopefully, learning from our mistakes but it's not about beating ourselves up, it's about having the great compassion of humanity that we are, that we're just humans doing the best that we can. That was one of the points of writing the book, "The marriage and Relationship Junkie" was that I really wanted to eradicate the stigma around someone like myself who's been married multiple times, who's had multiple relationships instead of walking around thinking "I'm a failure," or those that read my book think that they're a failure because they just couldn't get it right, is to just have an understanding of where that began and how can I change that the trajectory of the future?

Sherry Gaba: So that I, maybe, do things in a different way and make different choices, 'cause life is filled with choices. And to own up to those choices, not to beat yourself up because of those choices, because there was a reason you made those choices. My choices were already paved for me when I was born two and a half months early, there was nothing I was going to be able to do about that. I had separation anxiety, I had abandonment issues, and that was going to be... Those feelings were going to be based on the decisions that I made in relationships.

Neil Sattin: Right, and they were nobody's fault.

Sherry Gaba: Nobody's fault. So we're not victims, we're just people that come from different histories, different experiences, and there's a reason why we are. I did one podcast with a woman who's been married six times, she had no idea, she started hysterically crying on the call. She was the host, because she goes, "Oh my God, you have labeled what I've always known, but didn't know what to call it, that's me." And it's like, "Okay, that's me? Okay great. So let's get curious about that." Doesn't mean we have to divorce our sixth husband, it just means, "Am I in a healthy relationship? Did I make a good choice and what can I do to heal all of that that brought me here today?"

Neil Sattin: Right. They say the sixth time is a charm for a reason, right?

Sherry Gaba: I think it's the third one.


Neil Sattin: I'm just kidding.

Sherry Gaba: Oh, okay. [laughter] My attitude is, do until you do it right, I don't think I ever... I won't say never, I'm not really interested at this point in my life, getting married again, but I certainly... I'm enjoying a healthy relationship, and I think that anything's possible. Anything's possible.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so one important thing that I'd like to chat about before we go, because I think one of the hesitations that people have around labeling and use that word a moment ago, labeling themselves as an addict, is the stigma that comes with it, the sense of, "Oh, this is inescapable, if I admit that I'm an addict then... " You hear the talk about a cliche like, "Once an addict, always an addict." And I'm curious for you, what's the truth in that versus that there is a true path for healing and... 'Cause I like that sense that the truth will set you free. If you're willing to look at your patterns, then that gives you a whole lot of power to make different kinds of choices for yourself and to heal the dysfunctional ways that you're looking for connection and regulation in your life and create positive ways of doing that.

Sherry Gaba: Well, I think if you are a love addict per se, let's say, I'm not going to address substance abuse 'cause that might be a different... That goes a different way. That's a whole other topic, but if you feel that you might be a love addict, and you feel like you've had early trauma, I highly, highly recommend getting the support you need around that finding a really great somatic experiencing practitioner, reading up on Peter Levine's work, maybe even getting EMDR, that's another modality. I think that really healing that early trauma is important because, without that, I don't think you can make choices that are going to be in your best interest 'cause you haven't healed what is already inside of you that needs to be discharged in order to bring positivity back into your life. That work was the greatest work that I ever did in my life, join a sex and love addicts anonymous meeting, do that work, so you can bring healthy love into your life. I can't emphasize that enough because once I did that work, my whole life changed. Am I still a love addict? I guess is what you're asking, yes, I have to always be mindful for the rest of my life about love addict codependent behaviors. If I start getting obsessive, if I start just focusing on the person I'm with, start giving up my friendships, there's a...

Sherry Gaba: I have to be continually vigilant at those things. And what I'm here to say is, once you do that work of trauma and self-regulation, you're less apt to become codependent again or making someone else your whole life, because you don't need to do that anymore because everything that you know and feel is within you, you feel whole already, so there's no need to be attached to just that one person, but I still have to be vigilant about it. Does that make sense?

Neil Sattin: Absolutely, and the question, it's kind of a rhetorical question that comes up, is like, "Why wouldn't you want to be vigilant about those things?" I would want to know, first thing, if I'm starting to sacrifice my friendships and disappear into my relationship, I would want to know that, at any point in time, addict or not.

Sherry Gaba: A few are an example of raw and real. You actually have a boyfriend and he's going to be going away for a couple of weeks, and that early piece of trauma comes up and goes. "This feels a little bit scary," like, "Oh, am I being abandoned?" And then I just... But because I've done the work, I can sit with that and I can be with it, and notice it and feel it and discharge it instead of becoming needy and obsessive and go into fear, "He's going to leave me," all of those things that I would have done in the past. Instead, I can just be the curious observer of the feelings and the thoughts and I can let it go. And that's a real example.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Sherry Gaba: That I'm still that baby that was born two and a half months early, but I have tools and ways to deal with those feelings that might come up rather than act out on them.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, that's great, that's great. And I'm reminded too that it clicked into place for me actually, when you were describing that, which is that I think probably, part of that, the dopamine rush that we were talking about earlier and that pleasure, it actually is creating the illusion of safety. And I think it's been theorized, maybe John Gorman was even talking about this, that if we didn't feel that temporary love blindness at the beginning, we might never get into a relationship anyway. You almost need that to jump-start you into connection. But that being said, there are so much healthier ways of developing safety, and you were just talking about that inner safety and then there are also, of course, the healthy ways of developing safety in your relationship so that when your partner goes away for two weeks, there's true safety there. So you can counterbalance your inner safety with, "And we've created a container that actually I can rely on and I trust."

Sherry Gaba: Exactly, a container within and maybe a container in the relationship. But certainly, that container within is vital, or you're going to do behaviors that... You're going to start doing all those obsessive behaviors, those needy behaviors that are not going to help the relationship.

Neil Sattin: Right, they're crucial, crucial stuff. Well, Sherry Gaba, thank you so much for being here with us today, what a far-ranging conversation we've had. And of course, I feel like we could talk longer, but I want to respect your time. Your book, "The Marriage and Relationship Junkie" is a great read full of very practical stuff for you if you're thinking that this is something you identify with on some level and there's a path towards recovery in the book, so I highly recommend that. Sherry, you mentioned your website, and it's S-H-E-R-R-Y. I guess we should clarify that. We'll have links to all of this in the transcript for the show, which as a reminder, you can get if you visit, G-A-B-A, or text the word "passion" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. Sherry, I really appreciate your time today.

Sherry Gaba: Oh my God, I love... This is probably one of the best interviews I've had. You truly know your subject, and you've obviously done a lot of homework and work on yourself and your relationship and I'm really grateful for your platform and for giving me this opportunity today, thank you so, so much.

Neil Sattin: You are so welcome.


Oct 31, 2018

When is it time to start over with someone new? Isn't your next relationship going to be better, simply because you've learned what to look for in a new partner? If you're considering ending your current relationship, how do you know you're making the right decision? Do you think you've tried it all to make things work? How do you know if you've truly "tried everything"? In today's episode, we'll explore how to make these important decisions, so that whatever you choose you can do it confidently. And like you might expect, the answer to those questions isn't quite as obvious as you might think.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. And thank you for joining me here, today, on episode 165. I hope that you took some time to listen to last week’s episode, with Guy Finley, on how you can dissolve conflict in your relationship, and learn the lessons that you’re meant to learn. Of course it’s all important or it wouldn’t be here on the show - but you’ll see why, in a moment, last week’s episode is particularly relevant.

So - I got a great question recently. It went something like this:

Dear Neil - I’m confused. Every time I hear of someone in a happier, better, more fulfilling relationship - it’s always their SECOND marriage. Are first marriages that aren’t working out just doomed to failure? Is the only way to get an exceptional relationship, where you’re thriving, to ditch the first person and find someone new? What’s missing in first relationships that people are getting in second relationships?

Like I said, a great question. I mean, here I am - right? Divorced. Happy in my second marriage. And I think that’s the danger, right? Of thinking that second marriages are amazing - they allow us to undo all of the mistakes that we made in marriage #1. Or if you’re not married, but in a relationship, when you’re having a tough time, or thinking that you’re going to just have to suffer in an unfulfilling situation, the allure of finding another person that will be better is right there, staring you in the face.

It’s an interesting twist on the age-old question of “Should I stay or should I go?” If people are so much happier during the next go-around, then what’s the point of sticking it out with this person?

So, I want to shine a little perspective on this - and give you some ways to think about your situation, and what the right thing to do is.

My first instinct here was to just bring up the statistic that while 50% or so of first marriages end in divorce - the number of second marriages that end in divorce is actually 60% - and 70% for third marriages! So while it’s tempting to see someone a year or two or three into a new relationship and think about how lucky they are - bear in mind that the chances are even worse for them that they’ll stay together. It’s possible that you’re seeing them early enough in their relationship that everything SEEMS to be better. All the nuisances of their old relationship aren’t here, because they managed to pick someone who didn’t have any of the dissatisfying traits that caused them to break up. But often it just takes a little time, and then the cracks in the perfection start to appear.

And when that happens you get to find out if this “second marriage” - or newer, better relationship, is truly going to stand the test of time.  Actually, it’s often not right when that happens, but much later - because often we’ll wait months and months - years, even - before we decide that things have gotten bad enough that it’s time to leave. John Gottman’s statistic comes to mind, that it takes the average couple 6 years PAST when they should have gotten help to actually get help. Now I’m not sure if the Gottmans know exactly why that is - but at least part of that could be not wanting to believe that yet again another relationship is on its way towards destruction. Not being willing to see it until it’s too late. Or nearly so.

One place where you can potentially benefit from a new partner has to do with the selection process. There is that element, right?, of being on the lookout for specific traits in a new partner - top of the list that comes to mind for me is that a new partner with a growth mindset, and the ability to commit, might help improve your odds in relationship #2. This is of course if you also have a growth mindset and the ability to commit! In a moment, we’ll explore how you can dive a little deeper around this in your current relationship, before you decide that the grass is truly greener.

I will say that this whole journey has been REALLY interesting for me. There have actually been many times when I’ve wondered if I knew then what I know now, if my first marriage would have ended the way that it did. It’s tough to say - and because I respect the privacy of my ex, I’m not going to spend much time speculating about that right now. And, if we’re going to be completely honest here, my journey with Chloe has been part of what’s helped me learn all that I’ve learned. And, of course, it helps to be doing all the research for Relationship Alive, and having the conversations that I’m having, and working with clients from all over the world. It all fits together for me in a way that has helped me have a very different outlook on what’s possible.

Now am I saying that you need to start a podcast in order to get this all figured out? No. Am I saying that you need to get into a new relationship in order to figure out how to make it work with your current partner? No. I’m just trying to give you some perspective on where I’m coming from - but remember that my whole goal here is for you to be able to leverage my learning - so that you can leapfrog ahead in terms of what’s possible for you in your life, and in relationship. There’s enough heavy lifting for you to do in simply learning how to truly show up, and be courageous, and be vulnerable - all of that.

OK - let’s dive back in. We were talking about whether or not you should quit your current relationship to start up again with someone new. And I was trying to inspire, within you, a sense of what else might be possible. What I’d like to do, in this moment, is to give you hope. I realize that might not be the best thing. If you’re convinced that your current relationship is horrible, and that your current partner is NOT the right one for you, then hope might be the last thing you want or need.

You may not know this, but one of my first big hits, back when I was doing more blogging, was an article that I wrote about how to know when to leave a relationship. That article still gets a lot of traffic - at the time, I ended up doing a lot of coaching sessions with people who were commenting on it, or writing to me after reading it. And many times it would seem like the person really just was having trouble making the choice to leave - but they really wanted to leave - and so when I would hear about their situation, and, in the end, give them some ideas - what I thought were “empowering” ideas - to make things better, they would just come back around to the leaving. The escape from pain is a powerful thing.

This is perhaps the moment for the obligatory warning - if you are in a truly abusive relationship, then get out and get help. If you’re not sure if your relationship is abusive, then seek counseling, call a hotline, do something to try and get an objective opinion. And if you’ve determined that it is - get some space and safety for yourself and any children that might be involved. And from that place of having some space - and hopefully some sanity along with it - you can figure out if there’s any safe path to re-entry, after you’ve given some thought to whether or not there’s any reason to re-enter.

That all being said - when you’re in a relationship that has been going downhill for awhile, whether it’s been a long, slow decline - or a rapid descent - things can be pretty bad. You can be at each other all the time. Everything can feel like you’re on the verge of a fight. You can say mean things to each other. Without the skills to change the dynamics in a relationship that’s reached this point, there’s not a lot of hope. However, with some skills, and changing some communication patterns, it’s possible that you can actually make a big shift in the dynamic.

What it comes down to, here, are a few important questions:

  1. How important is it to you to try to see things through to a place of renewed connection, and growth? In order to shift things, it’s going to take some effort. And you might have to do things that make you uncomfortable. You might have to learn to quiet the parts within you that are just saying “run” - or saying “fight back”. This kind of effort requires your determination - so if you only kinda maybe sorta want it, that might make it challenging. Especially when you have to face your own shit.
  2. I know, I know - you feel like you’ve tried everything. Everyone always feels like they’ve tried everything. And everything may or may not be true. The question is, how much have you tried that’s actually different? A stretch from what you normally do? We get where we are because of what we normally do - generally our lives are simply the result of our habits of being. So truly trying “everything” would mean being able to look back and see exactly which habits of yours you’ve taken responsibility for - in other words, the way that you’ve contributed to the dynamic in your relationship - and you would also see the ways that you’ve directly changed those habits into something else. And you’ve measured the results.
  3. Are you willing to see the world through your partner’s eyes? What is their experience of you truly like? Can you see how the way that they act actually makes sense when you see and experience the world the way that they do? What does that change about how you approach them and interact with them?

Typically, it is helpful to choose a period of time during which you take the question of leaving off the table for yourself. This will definitely provoke the parts of you who want to leave (or who have already checked themselves out of the relationship) and you’ll probably have your hands at least partly full with trying to help those parts of you chill out about your renewed commitment to the relationship. But the only way that you’re going to truly find out what’s possible is to stop your threats of leaving and escape from jeopardizing either the safety of the relationship for your partner, or your willingness to make different, sometimes difficult, choices to act differently. Act differently, get different results.

At some point you might need to ask yourself the question to assess whether or not your partner is willing to change. If things have really come to a head, then this might also be the time to demand - ok, politely insist - that your partner get some help with you - either coaching, or a counselor, or a retreat, or a course - you get the picture. It’s best if you can involve them, somehow, in the process of actually seeing the dynamic of your relationship for what it is - ie. something that’s not quite working right - and to see the benefit of owning their own part in it - just like YOU’RE doing, right?

If you can get your partner to come to the table, then that will help you shift course more quickly. Because you can find ways to collaborate - after all, in most situations it’s in BOTH of your best interests to be working together on the project of improving your relationship. More joy and connection for everyone that way! But if they don’t come to the table right away, don’t despair - as you’ve heard many times on this show, there are all kinds of ways that you can create change and shifts within yourself and in the way that you show up in your relationship. And this, will in turn, create change in your relationship.

When you’ve been with someone, then you’re actually in some ways at an advantage. Do you know them well enough to know what motivates them? What would motivate your partner to want to come to the table? What would be their biggest complaint about you? What is their biggest desire? How can you show your partner that they matter to you in a way that will make a difference to them? Are there ways that you have been ignoring problems that they’ve been trying to bring up with you? Are there ways that you could show them the connection between what they want in your relationship and what you want?

What are some other questions that would help you access what you’ve learned in all of your time with this person? Do you like how I did that? I asked you a question to help you generate more questions!

Finally, let’s revisit the question of a timeline. As you might recall, I was mentioned taking “leaving” off the table. By the way, this is true whether or not you’re the one who’s thinking about leaving. If your partner is thinking about leaving, you can still make the decision one way or another that YOU will be committed to the relationship, to seeing what changes you can effect on your own or in collaboration. It can sometimes be surprising to see just how many ways that we are not fully embodying our commitment to the relationship - even when we think that we’re a solid “yes” we could still have exits and escape routes all over the place. Especially when there’s pain going on your relationship - those are the times that’s most challenging to stay present. And, again, it’s the ability to stay present during those times that will help you face whatever is truly happening, and be in a position to do something about it.

When you get to the end of the time limit that you’ve set for yourself, it’s time to reassess. How are things going? Have they gotten better? Are there cracks of light showing in the darkness? And what steps have you taken during that time? Did you make definite changes in your behavior? In your outlook? Did you get help? What worked, and what didn’t? It’s just as important to keep track of the attempts that went nowhere as it is to keep track of your successes and build on them.

In an ideal world, if you truly decide that it’s time to part ways, then my sincere hope is that you and your partner can come to that decision together, and figure out ways to part that allow you to stay kind to each other. It’s not always possible, but it certainly makes parting a whole lot easier - not only on the two of you, but also to the others impacted by your decisions. The rest of your family, your extended family, friends, and community. But as you’ll see, there’s actually plenty of time for you to experiment before you get to that point. And along the way you’ll learn a lot, grow a lot, and - if you decide to try again with someone else - you’ll truly have new ground to cover, vs. having to learn the lessons that you SHOULD have learned in this relationship. See - it’s a win-win.

Oct 26, 2018

They say that love can conquer all - but how do you really tap into “the power of love” to resolve conflicts in your relationship? On top of that, how do you learn what you need to learn so that you don’t keep repeating the same fights over and over again in your relationship? This week, our guest is Guy Finley, author of the new book Relationship Magic: Waking Up Together and the international bestseller The Secret of Letting Go. Along with getting juicy tidbits of Guy’s wisdom in a deep dive, we’re also going to walk through the process of transformation, so you can experience for yourself how to make the shift from conflict to love as you listen.  

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is being sponsored by two amazing companies, with special offers for you. offers feminine hygiene products that are made with 100% natural and organic ingredients - so you don’t have to wonder what’s going into them (! They are offering you 40% off any subscription if you visit and use the code “ALIVE” at checkout. is the world's best-selling language learning app - making it easy for you to learn French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Danish - and many more languages. Is there a language you've always wanted to learn? Try Babbel for FREE at and discover how easy it can be.


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FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict…

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Neil Sattin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. On this show, we've talked a lot about what happens when you get triggered and what to do and what not to do, and we've talked about it from this perspective of like, a neurobiological perspective, and we've touched a little bit on the perspective of trying to find love in those moments. What would love do when you're in the middle of, let's say, a conflict with your partner? But what if the power of love allowed you to dissolve conflict with your partner? And what if it not only allowed you to dissolve conflict, but it allowed you to truly learn the lessons that are there for you to learn so that you can get past the kind of pattern of arguing, and tension, and resentment that's so easy to foster in a relationship? And that's the strangest thing, right? Because it's love that brings us together and yet somehow we find ourselves there with this person who's the apple of our eye, when they are just annoying us to no end. Sometimes it's the very things that drew us to that person that then drive us crazy.

Neil Sattin: So, there's some purpose behind all of that. And today's guest is going to help not only reveal the purpose behind all of that, but help us work a little magic in order to transform it. His name is Guy Finley, and you may be familiar with him, he's the author of The Secret of Letting Go and his new book, Relationship Magic: Waking Up Together is all about what I've just been talking about, how to wake up and dissolve the conflict, the resentments, the things that seem to keep you connected and yet painfully separate from your partner. The book is new and if you want to find out about Relationship Magic, the book itself, you should visit We're going to dive in and we're going to talk about all of that. And of course, there will always be links available to you in the detailed transcript of today's episode, which you can download if you visit as in Relationship Magic. Or you can always text the word Passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. I think that's enough from me right now. So, Guy Finley, thank you so much for joining us today on Relationship Alive.

Guy Finley: Thanks Neil, I'm glad to be with you.

Neil Sattin: Well, it's such a treat. And one of the funny things that I was thinking as I was reading Relationship Magic was how much I wished that I had had like say two more weeks to just sit there after reading the book, and really let it all digest and percolate. So a lot of the questions that you're probably going to get from me are really raw from my experience of having been in the book and I'm still waiting for some of that magic to occur, but I feel like I'm on the cusp of its potential, and so I'm really excited to have you here to chat about your book and this idea that love and pain are these forces that can't coexist really, and yet so often we find ourselves stuck in pain with our partner. Why do you think that's so?

Guy Finley: First, your reaction to the book is perfect in a way in that if you ever go to a concert or if you are a seeker of some kind and read something about love or principles, and the moment you hear that music or feel that idea you're like, My favorite image. We had a Rottweiler, and every once in a while I would say something to her to try to communicate something and she would start tilting her head left and right, knowing that she was hearing something that she didn't understand, but that she wanted to which indicates that there's a corresponding part, in this instance, in all of us when we read or hear something that resonates in such a way that indicates, "Boy, there's something much deeper here that I'm getting immediately and I want to know what it is." And then that waiting period or the re-reading period, a time of contemplation is the way in which we communicate, actually commune with that higher part of us that already understands what we are now wanting to know.

Guy Finley: And so, I just wanted to corroborate that, Neil, so that everyone can understand those moments, not just in hopefully reading this book with the principles that it presents, so that we have a little way to realize that something in us is listening and if we learn to listen even a little more carefully, we can start to understand what that part of us that's pulled to that moment wants to understand. Now to tie that in with the last part of the question, it isn't that pain and love can't coexist, it's that they have a relationship that we don't understand and until we can begin to realize within ourselves why it is that someone we love can be so incredibly exasperating will blame them for the pain instead of understanding why that moment has appeared the way it has in our relationship. And that's principally what my book is about.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. You're speaking right to me and I'm remembering the part in the book where you talk about how the principle is there, let's call it the love principle, it's already there illuminating your experience, that that points to its existence as if you were... You need the sun in order to see your shadow and it's like, "Well, the sun is shining right there behind you." So you know it's there.

Guy Finley: I love that you have pulled out of the, at least, in part out of the book. One of my favorite sections that I thought might be difficult to grasp, but I had to put it in there. Listen, yes, as hard as it is to understand, and we can continue with a metaphor, we sit here, I'm sitting here in southern Oregon, you're in Portland and it's a beautiful sunny day, it's about 70 degrees outside and we look out and see the trees or the wildlife that I'm looking at and we see the objects, but we don't see the light that actually reveals them. We don't see the light that actually reveals them, we don't actually see light other than those moments where we might look at a sunset but even then, we don't see light, and we don't see the fact that light isn't the static affair, that light is a steady stream of waves and particles from that glorious orb that we are sustained by, and it never stops raining down on us; in one sense, making everything that's visible, visible and at the same time giving life to everything that's revealed by it. See, I think love is like that.

Guy Finley: I think we stand in it, we're related to everything through it, we're connected because of it, and yet we don't know anything about it other than to say, "I love you," when somebody does what we like, or pleases us, or we have that moment of sentimentality, which isn't too different from sometimes saying, "I love milk shakes," or "I love pizza." I know, and it is, it's humorous in a way. Actually, if one has a proper detachment to our present level of consciousness, it's all pretty funny. But it's sad in a way because with the same ease that we can say, "God, I love you. My love, you are my heart, thank you for being you." And then two minutes later because he or she looks at us askew, there's no remembrance at all, that the moment before we were joined by something that now seems to have disappeared, obliterated by a flash of a negative reaction, and we don't understand the negative reaction and because we don't and take the feeling of it as being viable and real, meaning that it confirms that something's wrong with our partner, we lose touch with the fact that love never separates, love never alienates, and certainly love never has an enemy.

Guy Finley: So these are the things that we want to examine but not just intellectually, moment to moment, heartbeat by heartbeat, in the throes of those moments as you said at the start, where the reaction is ruling us and ruining everything and all we can do later is say, "I'm sorry, this book is for people who want to get past saying I'm sorry."

Neil Sattin: Right, right. And I'm thinking of this thing that happened the other night, that was such a clear example of the difference between how love acts, let's say through me and when I'm in a negative place, and when that negative energy comes through me. So my wife Chloe and I, we'd had a great day, a fantastic day, and we were wrapping up and in fact, we had put a little bit of energy into resetting our kitchen which is something we've wanted to do nightly for years now. And finally, we're on it, so every night, even if we're exhausted, we're in there just making sure the dishes are clean, counters clean, like it's all good. So we went through that whole thing this one night, a few nights ago, and then maybe I took the dog out. I'm not sure I'm remembering the exact sequence of events, but it's not important. What is important is that I came in and Chloe picked up this little corner of a wrapper that had been left on the table and she asked me where does this go? And I looked at her and what I could have done is just said, "Oops, I guess I missed something." 'Cause we're on the same team in trying to reset the kitchen, and honestly, just those little corners of wrappers, if they're not thrown in the trash, they do add up, you start finding 'em all over the place, especially when you had a couple kids to the mix. They seemed to have a knack for leaving corners of wrappers everywhere.

Neil Sattin: So anyway, I took it from her and I had to laugh at myself after reading your book because the very next thing I did wasn't just throw that away and give her a big hug and laugh about it. What I do was, I saw that there was a wrapper from a stick of butter that had been left on the counter.

Guy Finley: Oh, god.

Neil Sattin: And that wasn't my doing, of course. That was Chloe's doing and so what did I do but I grabbed the wrapper on my way to the trash and I said, "I guess I'll throw this in the trash too."

Guy Finley: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: And for us, we live this stuff so we're typically very tuned into when we're triggered, and calling a stop to things, and getting back into balance, and at the same time there we were. And it's something that we've actually been talking a lot lately is feeling like there's something new for us to discover here around the ways that those little resentments have found their way into the nooks and crannies of our coexistence to drive us crazy.

Guy Finley: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: And so I read in your book about this tendency of a negative when one of you is in a negative space to meet it with negative energy and just how ridiculous it is to think that that's going to actually lead to anything positive. And I just laughed at myself thinking about that incident and that didn't end up being a big blowup between me and Chloe. I think we're long past the big blowup stage of anything like that, but at the same time I was like, "Oh, yeah, there's something else here for me to learn."

Guy Finley: This is such a perfect story 'cause you'd have to be physically dead not to relate and understand the example, the way in which couples partners or the way in which the standing in line at the supermarket, and somebody makes a comment, or the cashier's going at the speed of molasses. And something slips out of the mouth that seems to be justified because the individual has said or is doing something that has produced pain in us. So let's go through this. I don't know if you got to the section of the book, Neil.

Neil Sattin: Oh, yeah, I read the whole thing.

Guy Finley: There's actually a story in the book that is the long hand explanation of what happened and we'll look at it together. So first, when... And everybody look, everybody, we have to understand, we are in no way or means judging ourselves or others, there's far too much of that. You can't judge and learn, it's impossible. In this life, whether we realize it or not, is a school for our higher education particularly that love provides, if we're willing to take the curriculum, which this book is about and what Neil and I are speaking about. So Neil, if and when out of your mouth comes the, we'll call it the initial contact. Your wife made the first contact that evening bringing up a wrapper that was out of place. Pretty small thing. But if and when we do that, and point something out to our partner about where they miss the mark in some way, is it because we're happy and content in that moment? Or is there some kind of pain in us that prompts us to point a finger so that there's something to blame for our pain?

Neil Sattin: Right. Where we are pointing the finger so that we can blame for the pain.

Guy Finley: That's right because something has suddenly stirred in us a certain kind of resistance or pain that we did not know was in us the moment before. For instance, I'm just going to walk through it when Chloe points out the wrapper, she wasn't initially negative about the wrapper, but when the wrapper appeared, meaning she saw it, something in her in pain wanted to find a way to reconcile itself because in essence, the wrapper became the reason for the pain. Following me?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Guy Finley: But the wrapper isn't the reason for the pain in Chloe, the pain is brought in to the present moment in Chloe and in all of us in an unconscious nature, a body of experience whose residue never reconciled or healed sits there like strange objects in a closet until something bumps one of them and then out comes this comment or this action. Now, she didn't know. And then that pain looks at you and finds an object to blame, she points the finger at you and throws the grenade, passive-aggressive comment meant to point to you, look what you've done, you've missed the mark. And then what happens when Chloe's pain pushes on Neil? Was Neil in pain the moment before that? No, I had a good night, we were doing pretty good. But all of a sudden, I'm nuclear, but I don't want to go nuclear. I know that's not right. So, my mind, now in pain, blaming the pain on Chloe looks around and finds the butter and then it throws the bomb back. The point being that the moment of pain is not Chloe's pain and not your pain, it is our pain, it is a pain that goes into the moment before us that we don't know is there and that becomes this continuation of a string of conflict and resentments that feed each other in a pattern that never goes away, because the unseen instigator, the real cause of that conflict lies unseen in our consciousness.

Guy Finley: Now if we can understand that much and let me stop and ask you, are we on the same page? Can we see this together?

Neil Sattin: We're definitely on the same page and where my mind is going with this is to that concept of the debt that we owe each other and how we carry that with us as part of the burden of that pain.

Guy Finley: Yes, yes, it's intimately connected to that without our knowing it, which is the point of our existence in one respect 'cause when we started we said, "Well, how can pain and love be in an actual relationship?" Without our knowing it, living concealed in all of us, not just as a result of growing up with the parents we had, our experiences in high school and college, not the relationships that gave us a broken heart, not those individual instances, but sort of a composite conditioned consciousness. We live, Neil, with a kind of unseen expectation. It's built into our present level where, again, as example, I'll speak about my wife, I know you would say the same of Chloe. I've been with my wife for nearly 40 years. I remember when we first met, it was all roses. We couldn't talk enough about stuff, we had those conversations that go for hours on the phone.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Guy Finley: The sex was divine and intimate, the time together was precious, everything that was quirky about her was my greatest delight, everything that I did somehow had no problems in it at all. My idiosyncrasies were fascinating. This is the beginning of love because we're drawn to each other as the result of, she revealing in me things I don't know about myself that are delightful. I love the way I feel when I'm busy loving what my wife reveals to me about myself. She loves what I reveal in her to her about herself and there is a magnetic power. Everybody understands that, but part of that relationship and part of that magnetics includes the fact that gradually, the things that we were so enamored with, for what she could show me about myself starts to change. The thrill is gone, BB King used to say. And now the little things that were never a problem start to have a little edge to them. And here is the point: Why do I love the things my wife shows me about my nature that I feel are positive and good and accept as being a part of myself and on the other hand when she shows me things about myself, I don't see it as being about myself, I see as being about her?

Guy Finley: When we can answer that question with honesty and responsibility, we begin to recognize that, yes, when it comes to love our partner is a mirror that shows us the most positive, empowering, and beautiful things that the human heart can hold. Love makes that possible, but it is also a fact that love makes it possible for that same human being and their same idiosyncrasies to show us what is concealed in us that is limiting our love, so that until we are present to what has been concealed in us by the actions of our partner and accept the revelation of that moment as an invitation to let go of and die to those parts of ourselves we will continue to have the fights, blaming, later resenting without ever realizing we are caught in a loop that is actually a kind of system that this present nature with all of this residue that's been carried over insists on repeating it, literally reincarnates itself at the cost of a new and higher kind of love.

Neil Sattin: Okay, so there's so much there in everything that you just said. What's that?

Guy Finley: I say let's take it apart.

Neil Sattin: Let's do it. And maybe a vehicle for that would be the wrapper.

Guy Finley: Sure.

Neil Sattin: So for one thing, what I'm hearing from you is that the love and the mirror of relationship makes it possible for me to see all these things reflected back at me that I think are glorious.

Guy Finley: Right.

Neil Sattin: And however it also allows me to have reflected back at me the ways that I fall short.

Guy Finley: Not reflected back at me, reflected as being an unknown part of me. I don't know that I have pain when I'm holding my wife's hand and we're having a glass of wine, but if she said, "You've had two glasses, that's enough." What happens?

Neil Sattin: Right. The collapse.

Guy Finley: Boom!

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Guy Finley: She didn't produce the conflict, she revealed within me is this sensitivity about too many wines. Don't eat that piece of bread. You're really going to have more butter? Why are you driving that way? Do you know where you are. I mean, all of these little questions that you call triggers are actually revelations that we have within us parts of us that we don't know. And to the point here, does love... Let's see, how shall I start this? When I want to lash back and we don't have to Pollyanna it, in fact, she said something that hurt me, I'm throwing the grenade back. Would love throw a grenade?

Neil Sattin: No.

Guy Finley: This is so important, listeners, please. And we're not idealizing love, I'm not making it some religious or iconic image. I'm just saying that you and I, if we're a human being know that there is a love that cannot hurt anything, that would not harm anything, that love is the love that we and each and every one of us live in and through and buy at all times without knowing it. These moments in passing time with our partner allow us to see and then begin to use consciously the very thing that ordinarily we mechanically do I.e. Neil throws back the butter comment. Now, if love would not harm anyone, and I know that love would not do that, is it really I, is it my truest nature that launches the attack back? Or is pain responding to pain? And this is important, is the pain of something in me, maybe when I was a kid I was teased, maybe my parents called me on the rug for things that they were in pain over and didn't know what to do with and abused me psychologically so that the smallest question of my character by anyone else produces instantaneous conflict? You're not going to disrespect me.

Guy Finley: Now, we all know these parts live in us, and if they are there and they are acting in our stead, we have to recognize that something has been stirred and has stepped up and out of our mouth that feels like us because it's part of our past but that cannot be who we are in reality or at least who we know we ought to be, and therefore, we have to do something that this book is all about. We have to recognize that love would not make anyone suffer. Another way of putting it. Why is my suffering in that moment more important than your suffering? Why is what I am suffering over if I love you, why would I want to add 1 ounce of more suffering to your life?

Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah, this is something that I found really profound in, if you can recognize that... And this was what you wrote about, that if you can recognize that the pain in your partner is what probably produced that comment in the first place, like if you saw a defenseless creature in pain you would show up to try and help that defenseless creature, you wouldn't kick it in the head, right?

Guy Finley: And you wouldn't even know if it tries to bite you, that it couldn't do anything else.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Guy Finley: You would know it. And knowing that, which is, see, look, my new book is the culmination of 40 years of writing and speaking. It brings about a very simple point that if we're willing to receive it, it makes change possible in the moment, not as an intellectual exercise by which we hope going into appointed moment we won't punish somebody. And certainly not afterwards as a retrospective event where I blame myself or think I could have done better, what I call a reflective event. I understand that in me is a pain I didn't know was in me. It was concealed until you said what you did. Now I'm going to pick up the tab, I'm going to do the one thing I've never done in my whole life with someone who has said the cruel comment or done something that upsets me, I'm going to live with my own pain. I'm not going to blame you for it, I'm not going to point it out to you, I'm going to in effect go quiet inwardly in that moment so that rather than listening to voices that then become my mouth speaking what causes others to suffer, I'm going to listen to my own voices, how they want to leap out, how they want to have an enemy, someone to make feel bad for the bad way they made me feel. And in that patience, which is a keyword. You know the original, the ancient meaning of the word patience, Neil?

Neil Sattin: No.

Guy Finley: To suffer myself.

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Guy Finley: I think that's the most beautiful thing in the world, because you see, if I can in the moment, my wife throws the... Did that wrapper, did that just manifest itself on the counter? And we can all hear the tone, we know what sarcasm is. Right?

Neil Sattin: Right.

Guy Finley: It's instantaneous and bang! Like that, comes up, this pain I didn't know was there.

Neil Sattin: And to be fair to Chloe, she actually was very light and almost joking about it, like it wasn't even sarcastic, it was light and yet it did hit me that strongly.

Guy Finley: Yeah, but see, if there wasn't pain behind it, would she call it out or just pick it up?

Neil Sattin: Right. She would have just picked it up.

Guy Finley: I mean obviously, and I'm not, again, there's no condemnation in this. All of humanity, all of us live in this level of consciousness that doesn't know what to do with its pain. So to the point, here I am, and in that split second if I can bear myself, meaning bear what has been revealed in me by the comment, the sarcastic, intended or not, comment in that split second something had happened that is the true magic. And here it is, I don't return unkindness for unkindness. And when I don't return unkindness for unkindness, my wife, Chloe, whoever it may be, is left holding the bomb they threw. In fact, they're shocked because the part of them that pronounced that cruel or otherwise sarcastic comment suddenly has nothing to validate its pain because now, Neil, Guy is not returning pain for pain, and the pattern has a chance to collapse on the spot so that the whole thing is revealed in that heartbeat when one of us as a partner agrees to bear the responsibility of the pain that's been driving the pattern.

Guy Finley: Boy, we're talking about hard work and lots of missteps but man, can I tell you after 40 years the beauty of this because now my wife, my husband, my partner has space to see themselves as they are, instead of mechanically blaming me for their pain because of what they say I am. They get to meet their own limitation, which is this unconscious negative reaction instead of it being validated by my unconscious reaction to their commentary. It's a game changer in the truest sense of what love has always intended for us to do and be with each other, which is to work as polishing stones so that what comes out of the moment is shinier, truer, better, a more pure reflection of what love intends for us and by the way why it brought us together to that end.

Neil Sattin: Okay, so there are two things jumping out at me right now.

Guy Finley: Yes.

Neil Sattin: One of them is, I would love to distinguish what we're talking about from maybe the flip side pattern that can happen in a relationship where there's never conflict, and yet it's not a system that's fostering love. In fact, it fosters resentment because things aren't being surfaced. So that's the first part. And then...

Guy Finley: They're being surfaced, Neil.

Neil Sattin: Go ahead.

Neil Sattin: They're just being ignored.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, great.

Guy Finley: Yeah, that's a very important distinction because what you just said is the slow motion death, not of love, the slow motion death of the possibility of two people awakening through and with each other, to a higher order of their own being that love makes possible. So, example...

Neil Sattin: Now, I wish I had read the book before the wrapper moment happened because I'm hoping that we can also paint a picture and maybe that's what you're about to do with this example of how that unfolding might take place. You used strong language earlier, which was like, we want those parts to die, the parts of us. And I'm curious to know what that actually... What that looks like, what that experience is like, and what that might have been like in the kitchen that night with me and Chloe.

Guy Finley: Alright, so here I am, I'll play Neil, okay.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

Guy Finley: And everybody can play Neil, at least as far as we're able to follow this. My wife drops the bomb. Doesn't look like a bomb, and in fact, she's trying to make it not look like a bomb, but it's a bomb, and suddenly I have a reaction. Now for the longest time I can't begin to encourage the listeners to understand this. We don't know that we're combustible. Were you thinking Neil, prior to that? You're in this contented state, you're working together, getting the kitchen set, having a nice dialogue, working together as men and women should, as partner should. Does Neil know there's something combustible in him?

Neil Sattin: No, and in fact this is why I love the shift that I feel like your book is creating in me. Because not only did I not know it was there but because I combusted and immediately my thought was, I want to blame her. If she knew how to act in a situation like this, then that... Exactly. So that's the pattern that I personally want to see end in myself.

Guy Finley: Yes, exactly. So you said you have children.

Neil Sattin: I do. Yeah.

Guy Finley: How old are they?

Neil Sattin: They are nine and eleven.

Guy Finley: That's perfect. Okay, so let's say just for grins I don't know what it would be, maybe you're out with one of them and maybe it's... You hand them a fishing rod, and say, "This is how you cast the lure, you throw them a football and they can't catch it 'cause their hands aren't big enough. Would you get angry at your child for not being able to catch a football that you throw at them?

Neil Sattin: No, of course not.

Guy Finley: No that would be ludicrous, why? Because the child has limitations. I'm not going to blame my child, for the fact that it can't hold on to a football yet or thumb the reel when it cast the lure.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Guy Finley: It doesn't have the capacity to do it yet. But when we blame our partner for producing this discontentment in us, for being the seed of this conflict, are we not in essence saying, You know what, you have this limitation, Chloe. You could have been like this, and if you've been like that then you would fulfill my expectation, and it would be no more pain. Yes?

Neil Sattin: Right, yeah, exactly.

Guy Finley: So we see the person who is producing in a sense, this moment of disturbance. We see the problem as being their limitation. They're not meeting our expectation, we don't know that we walk around expecting that our husband or wife, or partner be at all times, everything that we have written a list for them to be. What would happen if, this won't happen directly, but one day you'll see it, everyone will who will work with these ideas. My partner says something to me, the little offhanded comment, and then instead of, as I usually do, responding with resistance mechanically, a tit for tat. I was able to, have literally appear in my hand this list that says, "The 444 things that no one is ever supposed to say to me." Well, we laugh at it 'cause it sounds silly, yet with God as my witness, that's what we have living in our nature.

Neil Sattin: Right, right, yeah.

Guy Finley: So then I start to realize, hold on a second, the limitation isn't my wife's it's mine. 'Cause I only know how to respond by letting this list tell me how people are supposed to be and this isn't even my list, it got made over time. It was produced by a host of painful circumstances that I never was able to figure out. So all I could do was think about them, in other words, now formulate them, get them into something I could live with and then I think that gets buried and goes away, but those moments don't go away. They live as objects of thought, literally formations in our psychology that when the proper circumstances appear, much as a seed sprouts when the nourishment it needs happens, up comes this list and the item on it and then by God, I know I'm right and you're wrong.

Guy Finley: We're saying, "Can we understand now that within us lives this lower unconscious unloving nature, and that when stimulated by circumstance, it's going to do the only thing it knows to do 'cause if we can know that this is what Christ called Metanoia, this new knowledge, a new understanding that allows us, literally the translation of the word repent, to turn around in the moment and see what we're actually looking at instead of what something in us wants to point to for our pain. "Cause if we can do that, Neil, then we can begin to understand our tendency, and then we take our awareness of that tendency into that moment with us and then we begin to wake up. We begin to let the moments that beat us up, become the moments that make us better, because we're agreeing to see our own limitations, what Love is showing us is keeping us from being truly loving.

Neil Sattin: So when I notice that I am in a moment and experiencing pain and in fairness to Chloe, it could have just as easily been me saying... Having something to complain about...

Guy Finley: Of course, of course.

Neil Sattin: To start it all off. So when I notice, okay, I'm experiencing pain and I want to fix something right now, what... what do I do... I'm right there in that moment.

Guy Finley: I know, I can hear you, man. Look, you said the... Exactly the... "And I want to fix something." I'm going to fix Chloe. Chloe is going to fix me. And nothing gets fixed other than a growing body of resentment from conditions never resolved consciously through love. So here's how it gets fixed. I stop trying to fix my partner and I stop trying to fix myself. Instead, and this is an exercise 'cause we're getting to that point where we need something where we can get our hands on a practical set of actions. You might want to write it down, listeners. I call it stop, drop and endure. Neil's ahead of me. Stop, drop and endure. All right, I know my proclivity, all my wife has to do is say, "You know that shirt's a little tight on you. Really, you're having another helping? Why don't we drive out to the winery in Jacksonville instead of go to the place locally?

Guy Finley: Any one of a thousand things can be innocent as the day is long and maybe not even intended as you indicated to be a cutting remark because she may be just asleep psychologically, just saying what comes to her mind. But it's already interwoven. So here's the reaction, bang. So what's the first thing, Neil? Bang, come to a stop. What does it mean come to a stop? It means I know because I have been interested enough to think about it, to contemplate it, then my tendency when my wife or partner says whatever they do, is that I have a thousand tender spots. Let's use this another way, I have a dozen places in me that have never healed. They never healed. The way that my former girlfriend, husband, wife let me know that she's leaving me, it never healed. All I could do was hate my partner, regret my situation, despise myself for not being good enough to keep or to hold in place whatever it was.

Guy Finley: These places have never healed. And all of this unhealed, psychologically divided mind and heart goes forward in time with me. Then I have a new partner. She says, whatever it is, and the sore spot is stimulated. Come to a stop. I know it's there, and I'm going to absolutely stop. Now, what does it mean, stop? That's the next word, drop. When I come to a stop, the intention is to see everything in me that wants to keep moving. I want to see and hear these thoughts and feelings without being mechanically identified with them and what they are trying to do as they want to fix the moment. I'm not going to fix the moment. Physician heal thyself. Instead, I'm going to drop every last one of those thoughts that come in and that want to point to my wife, my partner that moment as being the source of my pain. And if I can come to a stop and sit there and drop all of these thoughts and feelings, I'll begin to notice something extraordinary.

Guy Finley: They won't let me drop them. My intention is to be the observer, the conscious witness of what love is inviting me to see, that's been concealed in me. And something doesn't want me to see anything other than who's to blame for the pain. Hold on a moment, what is that about? I say I want to heal. I say I want to be a loving partner, but now I realize there is a flood loosed in me that wants to free itself, by putting someone else into a cage. Stop, drop. Now you tell me what endure means, Neil. It means I'm going to suffer myself.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. I'm feeling the waiting, basically.

Guy Finley: Yes, yes. For as long... Listen to this, 'cause it answers an earlier question of yours. I'm going to suffer myself, meaning I'm going to sit and observe these thoughts and feelings instead of identify with them. I'm going to suffer myself patiently for as long as it takes for me to finally see what love has brought this moment about for, and what is it brought it about for? For me to see that there's no love in that nature. That is not who I am, and that is not who I am going to manifest. I will not incarnate what has passed and its pain and its false plans to fix things, instead I'm going to incarnate what love is asking me to incarnate in that moment, which is the revelation that the me that came into this moment, that has been revealed by it, is no longer necessary. And that Neil, is what it really means to die to ourselves because love makes it possible.

Neil Sattin: Don't hate me.

Guy Finley: Oh no.

Neil Sattin: What happens next? 'Cause I'm imagining this, and in fact, the sense that I feel is actually a whole lot of grief. That's the first thing that comes up for me, is like seeing all of that, all of that pain and all of the ways that I would want to lash out and recognizing that that's not love, and...

Guy Finley: Yeah, isn't that extraordinary? And by the way, that's... At a certain level of development, which I'm glad to speak with you as you're experiencing this. Isn't it phenomenal that when I hear about what it means to love my neighbor as myself, that no greater love does a husband have than laying down his life for his wife, or vice versa, whoever the partner may be. And that my response to that part of me that can hear that, but doesn't... Is grief. What would grieve for the loss of something that only wants to produce the continuation of pattern? Yeah, isn't that beautiful, Neil? Man, this is what... Whether it not... Anybody here with us listening, it doesn't matter to me. I'm... Obviously, I want everybody to hear this, but what a marvelous point of connection for you and I, to unfold something so that I can actually suspect for the first time, maybe good God, there is something in me that's grieving over not having a good reason to be mad.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and as I'm really tuning in, I think some of it also is a sense of shame that...

Guy Finley: I get it. Yes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Shame that that's what I've done or where I would want to go, or... Yeah.

Guy Finley: Yes, yes. I'm greatly enjoying the conversation. Look, everybody write this down, please. There is no such thing as a bad fact about yourself, there is no such thing as a bad fact about yourself. Facts are friends, but we have a nature conditioned over time, that's more interested in appearance than it is in being. Being is the moment-to-moment expression. Love is the moment-to-moment relationship between facts. So as we grow to understand these things and begin to have some of these wonderful exchanges and experiences, whether it's just first with our minds, and then with our hearts, it doesn't matter 'cause we can start to understand. We are the last section for the book, we are in training. You don't punish someone who's in training unless you don't know you're in training. So when we get this and start realizing, God I can see... You know what, I can feel it in the deepest part of myself.

Guy Finley: Not only have I missed the mark, I didn't even know what it was. Then everything's explained in that moment, because... And now to answer your question again, what happens next? This is my favorite part. Can a pattern go on if any part of the pattern is changed in the truest sense of it?

Neil Sattin: It seems that it would be different from that point forward.

Guy Finley: It cannot go on. It's even... Physics states it this way, "Change the observer and the observed changes." That's some theory or another that the observer changes what is observed by him, or her. So here I am, and let's just say for the sake of argument that I catch what we've been talking about in the middle of that moment. Maybe I'm on the freeway and here comes somebody barreling up behind me or someone cuts me off or someone passes me in the fast lane, and then drives slow to punish me. In that moment, can I see that the condition has not created the pain, but it's revealing a part of me that is sure that it has expectation and a list that this isn't supposed to be this way and therefore wants to respond with unkindness. If I can just see that much and even think... Wait a minute... This is the moment I've been waiting for. In that split second I am no longer the man or the woman I was, leading up to that moment. Because something... A bit of light, bit of love has come in to interrupt the pattern.

Guy Finley: Maybe I go on and lose my temper. Maybe I say the passive aggressive remark. Maybe I stew, but the fact is, now I'm more aware of what has happened after the event than I was before. Because I realize the repercussion is actually the continuation of this unconscious nature that I was unable to not express in that moment. And here is the final word, at least as far as this question. If I change, my partner has to change. If I'm not the same, they have to see where they're being the same and have a chance to step out of that space. As I change, I give my partner the space they need to change. So in those relationships where nothing is said and all is this sort of horrible compromise building into a ball of resentment that ultimately boils over. One little change produces the possibility of a greater change. It's the most wonderful thing in the world that love makes possible. But it always begins with us, not with our partner, not with what we act out toward them, but what we see in ourselves and then accept as our responsibility to be present enough to to witness that a change can take place in us first.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned that because I think that would probably be the natural question that many of you listening would have, which is like, "Well, something like how much of being treated this way am I supposed to tolerate? How much stopping, dropping, and enduring am I supposed to do in this situation?

Guy Finley: Exactly. And there's, again, there's a whole section in the book about that too. You're not on this planet to let anybody abuse you. In fact, any abusive relationship that we stay in is because we're enabling it, we have a part of ourself that would actually rather live with someone to resent than to be on our own and not know who we are through that resentment. The only thing that troubles us about other people, Neil, in the end is what we want from them. And when we start to understand that most of what we want from others is a way in which we can keep these debts running, then we want to pay the tab. And if someone continues to abuse us, and I mean if anybody abuses you physically and you say, "That's that. Don't do that again or I'm gone," and then you're not gone, it's your fault. "I know, well, I have kids and I've gotta know what'll happen to me." Do not stay with people who abuse you, period. They will never change until you change. It's the only hope that abusive person has 'cause they don't know, good God, do you think a parent would deliberately abuse a child if the parent knew for a split second the child wasn't responsible for the pain they're in, that's producing that horrid outcome?

Guy Finley: We are complicit in relationships where pain keeps itself alive because we use it to prove the other person's responsible. So, no abuse of relationship continually. No. But neither do we sit and live with a mind that says, "You know, she keeps bringing up that I shouldn't have that second glass of wine, she's abusing me." No, she may have a point. Then it's up to you to discover that, use those moments and become a different kind of person, which might include by the way, not wanting the intoxicating cup.

Neil Sattin: Right. While I'm stopping, dropping, and enduring what might I communicate to my partner? Is there anything that you think is helpful?

Guy Finley: I'm glad you asked that. Yes, you do not say, "Listen, I'm enduring you

Guy Finley: This is not meant religiously, but it's all part of this beautiful golden thread that winds through our life and relationships. Christ said, when you go in the closet, when you pray go in the closet, do not let anybody know you're praying. Same thing, Buddha, all the great saints, prophets, all spoke of the same thing. If I'm going to change, I can't announce it because the change hasn't taken place yet, I'm agreeing to go through it and if I point out to my wife or partner, "Look, I'm going through this change because of you," I've just thrown the passive-aggressive comment out, haven't I? So I have to learn what it means to be silent and I might just say, "You know what, let me if you want, if we have to have a way to deal with it, look, I'm just not going to take part in an argument, I'm just not going to do it. And you may not think that what you said was hurtful, but it hurt me but I don't want to hurt you back. So for now, I'm just going to put this down. You do with it what you want to do, but I'm done with the fight." And if you really mean it, not because you have an image of yourself as someone who wants to be like that, but who agrees to put down the fighting nature, you will see in yourself and you'll be shocked at what happens to your partner if you actually say to them, "Do you want to go on with this, that's your business. I'm done with it."

Guy Finley: And listen to this, Neil, 'cause you even said it, when you said suddenly I feel grief while hearing these ideas, your partner when you say to them, "I'm not going to continue this negativity," they're going to say, "What's wrong? You don't love me?" And you're actually doing what you're doing for the sake of love, and you know it, but they can't see it yet. Can you sense some of that, Neil?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Well, one thing that I think is the gift here is, in some respects it takes that pain and it depersonalizes it so that I could see in a moment like that, and hopefully before those moments happen, being able to talk to your partner and say, "Wow, you know, I just read this book by Guy Finley," or, "I just heard this podcast episode and I'm seeing how like pain exists in me, in us waiting for an opportunity to like spring."

Guy Finley: I love it, Neil. I love it.

Neil Sattin: So in a moment like that, being able to say, "Whoa! The pain in me just reared its head," and almost like, "This isn't about you. I just need to step back from this for a moment." And there's something in me, Guy, that wants more around the enduring like, I'm going to stay here, I'm going to endure, I don't know what happens at that point.

Guy Finley: Yeah. You know what? You can't know. You can only be.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Guy Finley: See, I want to know 'cause I want to be safe, I want to feel secure, spiritual, intelligent, loving on top of it. That's where all the pain has come from, that nature that wants to know going in how things should be, or that already knows how things should be going in. That's where the conflict is. See, here this will help maybe, Neil.

Neil Sattin: Great.

Guy Finley: 'Cause this book actually, I swear to God, this book came out of an experience that I had when I first fell in love, which I'm almost 70. So what was that? Fifty-three years ago, I fell in love and I already, I'd been on the path. My spiritual life started around the age of 6, that's another story. But I didn't understand much of it, but I was with my partner and I said to her, "You know what?" I said, "Let's agree, you and I, that love is more important than any of the personal issues that want to pull us apart." I'm not even sure what I'm saying. I said these words, and yet I know that we'll have disagreements. "Let's agree that when we have a disagreement, love is going to be more important than what wants to pull us apart. Can we do that?" And of course she said yes and I said yes, but we weren't mature enough to even understand. I didn't understand what I was talking about, 53 years later I understand.

Guy Finley: That you can say to Chloe, listen, I'm having some revelations, I'm seeing new stuff and I never want to hurt you as long as I live, I never want to hurt you, and I know you love me and I know you never want to hurt me. So let's agree right now that we're never going to hurt each other. And then because I also know, as I'm sure you do, that while our aim is lofty, we live from a nature that isn't going to be able to live up yet to what love is prescribing as our partnership and the way it grows. So instead of them blaming each other when we can't live out our agreement, we will step back both of us and see the parts of ourselves unable to keep the contract we have with love, then we're not going to blame each other and we're not even going to blame ourselves. We're going to be different people because we see on one hand, where we're compromised and because of the revelation of the compromise itself will know what we can and can't do next time. Yes?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I'm soaking all that in. You can't see my head nodding but I'm just reveling in those words, yeah.

Guy Finley: This is so important, God help us. Look, anything that's right, bright and true in this world, no human being is the sponsor of. We are the instruments of what is right, bright and true including love. When we understand that an instrument can be played by something that serves its own interests and that its interests don't serve love, then we stand in a place where we can start to recognize this is an ill wind that's starting to blow through me and by God, I'm not going to share it with my partner, I'm going to let it buffet me so I can die to it. And then we have something real to work with.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I think we might have to... So for those of you at home who are listening to this, my wish for you is that you're able to experiment with what we're talking about. And of course, there are more nuances that Guy writes about in the book, Relationship Magic. And please send us your feedback, Or, there's a Relationship Alive community on Facebook, tell us about your experiences. I could envision a follow up at some point, Guy, where we talk about what happened after. What happened after we endured?

Guy Finley: Yeah, you know what, ordinarily I do so many interviews, but I would... If you want to follow up, it's done.

Neil Sattin: Great. Great, well, we will keep in touch about that.

Guy Finley: Alright.

Neil Sattin: In the meantime, it is such a pleasure to have you here and an honor to be able to talk with you about this book that's the hot off the presses, and yet the culmination of 40 years or more, 53 years of experience, Relationship Magic: Waking Up Together. You can visit, and if you order the book, you can go there and you can instantly get an audio version of the book. Are you reading that, Guy?

Guy Finley: I'm sorry, say that again.

Neil Sattin: Are you the person who's reading the audio book that people will get?

Guy Finley: Yes, yes. Yes, I've... It is I.

Neil Sattin: Great. So you can get the audio book and I saw that there are a bunch of other bonuses that you can get. So a lot of special gifts for purchasing the Relationship Magic book, and you can also visit where you can read more about Guy and his work. What's the name of your center again, Guy?

Guy Finley: I live in southern Oregon, and I teach at Life of Learning Foundation three times, four times a week, open to everyone. People come from all around the world, and there's a body of 50 or a hundred students who actually live in the area now, and a $3 donation at the door, no one's turned away, nothing to join. Just a group of men and women just like Neil and myself who want to understand a little bit more about how love works.

Neil Sattin: Well, I appreciate you illuminating a little bit more of the journey for me and for us here on Relationship Alive today, so thank you so much, Guy. And just as a reminder, if you want to download the transcript, you can visit We'll also have all the links that I mentioned or you can text the word Passion to the number 33444, and follow the instructions. Such a pleasure to have you with us here today, Guy.

Guy Finley: Thanks, Neil. It was just a really good conversation.

Oct 18, 2018

One of the hallmarks of a healthy relationship is the level of generosity that’s taking place in it. Today we’re going to uncover one of the biggest obstacles to fostering generosity in your relationships -’s probably not what you think! After today's episode, you'll have new ways to amplify the love and generosity - not only in your primary relationship, but in ALL your relationships. Are there places where you're holding back? Not after today's episode!

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is being sponsored by

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Oct 12, 2018

Would you like to open up your ability to experience pleasure? And to not only increase your capacity for pleasure, but to also ensure that everything you do is consensual? In today’s episode, Betty Martin, the creator of the Wheel of Consent, explains the four different dimensions of touching (and being touched) - and how to expand erotic energy in a consent-based context. You’ll learn how to experience these flavors of touch in new ways, and how to ask for consent in ways that still keep things deeply connected, and passionate. While getting consent is important in all of your relationships - you’ll discover how to foster consent with your partner in ways that help you uncover exactly what each of you wants in any given moment - and unlock the keys to pleasure no matter what kind of touch you’re experiencing.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is being sponsored by is a super-convenient way to keep yourself stocked with contact lenses. They offer all major brands, and an easy way to renew your contact lens prescription. And they’re offering you $20 off your first order to give them a try! Just visit and use the coupon code “ALIVE20” at checkout for $20 off, and enjoy the easy way to replenish your supply of contact lenses.


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Neil Sattin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. In today's culture, we're talking a lot about how to truly get consent, and it's an interesting conversation because generally, I don't know about you, but I want to ensure that when I'm getting involved with someone and particularly with my partner, that when we are doing anything but particularly when we're intimate with each other, that we're doing things that we both want to be doing, that consent is there, and yet the way that we've learned culturally, how to engage in being intimate with other people, isn't really about consent. It's kind of about trying to go as far as you can and then letting someone's boundary or lack thereof stop you and it doesn't work so well as we've seen, especially recently with all of the "Me Too" revelations about just how many people are abusing their power and discovering that they've abused their powers.

Neil Sattin: Some people know this consciously and other people, it's a revelation. So, I want to create a context for you where you don't have to wonder, where you know that when you're there with someone, they're right there with you. And at the same time, we want to build consent in a way that actually enhances erotic energy and polarity and passion where it's not something that kills the spark in the energy between you and your partner. So, that's what we're going to talk about today and I'm really excited for today's guest. Her name is Betty Martin and I found out about her when a friend of mine sent her videos on "the Wheel of Consent" my way and I watched them and they were a revelation.

Neil Sattin: So, I'm bringing the revelation here to you today with Betty Martin, who's a former chiropractor and now she's a sex and intimacy coach who has worked with clients, and is also primarily training other practitioners, both people who work hands on like chiropractors, massage therapists, and also people who are just therapists and counselors and coaches; how to bring "the Wheel of Consent" into their practice and use it with their clients, and also become more aware of how they are interacting with their clients in ways that are generative and beneficial for everyone. As always, we will have a detailed transcript of today's episode. If you want to get it, all you have to do is visit or you can text the word "Passion" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions and we'll send you a link where you can download that transcript. I think that's it. Betty Martin, thank you so much for joining us here today on Relationship Alive.

Betty Martin: You are welcome, thanks for inviting me.

Neil Sattin: It's my pleasure to have you here, and I know a lot more about pleasure now that I've...


Neil Sattin: Ran through your videos, and I do want to say you're in the process of writing a book. Is it still tentatively titled "Learning to Touch?"

Betty Martin: No, that's a great question. Book titles tend to change as they get written.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Betty Martin: But it's tentatively titled "The Direction of the Gift, Understanding the Wheel of Consent."

Neil Sattin: Oh, I like that... Well, I was...

Betty Martin: Or it may be "The Wheel of Consent, Understanding The Direction of the Gift," either way. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: "The Direction of the Gift"... And you'll know what we're talking about in just a moment. I was hungry, hungry for the book, but at the same time Betty you have so generously put all these videos on your website, that walk people through the process of exploring the Wheel of Consent. It was so helpful for me. So I encourage you listening once you've heard this conversation, you can go back and fill in the gaps somewhat with the videos and then Betty when your book comes out, we will devour it here. I'm sure.

Betty Martin: Thank you.

Neil Sattin: So let's start with maybe a broad question, which is... What is consent and when you look at the Wheel of Consent and of course, we're going to describe the wheel in a moment. What's its contribution to this conversation about what consent even is?

Betty Martin: That's a great question. Consent in the dictionary, is agreeing to something and it implies that it's something that somebody else wants. So, I can consent to you touching me in some way, or I can consent to touching you in some way, or doing something for you. So it implies that there's something that somebody else wants that we are agreeing to and that's why you say, get consent or give consent. When I give consent, it means I'm agreeing to something that you want. However, I would like to expand that definition and the public conversation on consent these days is so rich that I imagine that definition is already expanding, but I would like to expand that definition to be more of an agreement.

Betty Martin: What is it that we are agreeing to? And an agreement isn't something you give someone, it's something that you arrive at together. So will you scratch my back, honey? Sure. Scratch, scratch, scratch. Now, we have an agreement, so that's consent or may I feel up your back? Sure, okay, now we have consent. We have an agreement. So, that's how I'd like to expand the idea of consent. And there's also people talking and particularly around sexual interaction, there's people talking about informed consent, enthusiastic consent, changeable consent. They're talking about the importance of not just having permission but are both people equally delighted and engaged, and I think that's the direction that we want to go.

Betty Martin: It's not... Well, as you were describing, it's not... Well, what can I get away with this. It's, is the other person equally delighted and engaged. So, the Wheel of Consent in particular has a pretty specific contribution and that is that there's a difference between who is doing, who's got their hands on who and who it's for. So, I could be touching you for your benefit the way you want, I could also be touching you for my benefit, the way I want. And the difference between those is significant and the Wheel of Consent recognizes that difference which I'll explain after a while. But it recognizes that difference and says that part of consent is whose hands are going where. But another very important part of consent is, who is it actually for?

Betty Martin: So that's the particular contribution that the Wheel of Consent brings to the conversation about consent. It's not that consent is a good thing, you already know that, and that's very clear and it's not that you ought not to touch people without an agreement, everybody knows that. So, the contribution of the wheel is that, who it's for... Ideally is part of the agreement, because it makes a difference.

Neil Sattin: Right. That was one thing that probably won't surprise you, that really... My eyes were opened to you, just in terms of how you teased apart those two separate dynamics suddenly opened me up. And especially as we get into talking about the difference between the giving-receiving dynamic and the taking-allowing dynamic and where people tend to find themselves. I can't wait to dive into more deeply because there was just so much there.

Betty Martin: That was the ahas... Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah, and I appreciate, I think I heard you during the intro, kind of chuckling about that way that it's so bizarre, but it's almost like we're taught, whether it's intentionally or not, that the way to get consent is to basically keep violating people's boundaries and...


Betty Martin: Until they smack you one.

Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah or they freeze up...

Betty Martin: So they give up.

Neil Sattin: And they... Exactly, yeah.

Neil Sattin: I'm curious, just because I mentioned it in the intro, what are your thoughts on people's fears that obtaining that agreement that we're talking about that, that's somehow going to actually kill the erotic energy between two people that if there isn't that kind of edgy risk happening [chuckle] that somehow the passion is going to just vanish. [chuckle]

Betty Martin: Oh yeah, well basically, I'd say grew up because... So, erotic tension and charge can be created by polarity, of course. And, one may get really turned on by the polarity of the idea of... Oh, I'm going to take this thing from this person, whether they want to give it to me or not. And that's understandable, but it doesn't substitute for actually communicating that, that's what you want to do and getting this person's agreement. But I think mostly the reason people think, it kills the mood... Is because they don't know how... And because, yeah, I just say grow up, you're grown up and you don't actually want to do something to someone who doesn't want it done to them, and so you need to learn how to ask.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Betty Martin: And there are a lot of people teaching fun ways to ask, but I think it also can be that you assume that in order to have an agreement, we have to make a detailed plan. Like, Okay, I'm going to put my hand here, and then you're going to put your hand here, and then you're going to put your mouth here, and then we're going to roll over and then we're going to do this. That's not... That is not required, that's not what agreement means although it could, if that's what was helpful for you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, well, I think we'll be able to even pull that apart more as we go into a conversation about the Wheel of Consent and those moments for... Where and how agreements happen that might become more obvious for us.

Betty Martin: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Okay. So, Wheel of Consent, Wheel of Consent. We keep mentioning it and as I was thinking about our conversation, I was... Part of me was like, "How are we going to do this without a whiteboard?


Neil Sattin: So people really get it. So I think that if you watch Betty's videos, you'll see it. And I may do a little drawing as we're talking and then kind of post the drawing on, in the show notes of the conversation too, but I'm...

Betty Martin: There's also a... There's a free download on my website that has a diagram of it.

Neil Sattin: Great, great, so we'll have links to all of that.

Betty Martin: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: And in the meantime, let's... Where is a good place to start. You already mentioned this question of, maybe the two axises of...

Betty Martin: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: And, I'm imagining maybe for people at home or in your car, you have a circle and you have one axis that goes up and down and one that goes back and forth across your typical XY axis.

Betty Martin: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Let's start there and you already named each of those but...

Betty Martin: Yeah. Well, actually, I want to back up and start with where it came from, because I think having some context makes the model, make more sense.

Neil Sattin: Great.

Betty Martin: And that is that years ago, a couple of decades ago, I was at a workshop by The Body Electric School and it was called Power Surrender and Intimacy and it was about using the play tools of power and surrender and exploring that. So, BDSM kinds of things, and just other ways to play with the experience of power in erotic settings. And one of the games that we played there was called the Three-Minute game, and it consisted of two questions. And you take turns, you're playing with another person, you take turns asking each other. These two questions and the two questions were, "What do you want me to do to you for three minutes? And the other question is, what do you want to do to me for three minutes? And it was a lot of fun. I took it home and I put it to work with my clients, but I wasn't teaching power, I was teaching touch. So I narrowed the question somewhat.

Betty Martin: So now the question is, how do you want me to touch you, for three minutes and how do you want to touch me for three minutes? And of course, you can have longer terms in that. So, basically the question is how do you want me to touch you, and how do you want to touch me? And what surprised me was how difficult it was for people because for one thing, you're asking someone what they want, and there are always times we don't know what we want and many of us have never been asked how we want to be touched, so we have no clue where to start and almost no one has been asked, how do you want to touch me? For some people, it just didn't even make sense at all, it was like, "What do you mean how I want to touch you, I want to touch you however you want." But that's nice, but that's not the question, the question is, how do you want to touch me? That's for you, that's for your enjoyment. So those two questions asked by two different people, create four rounds of touching.

Betty Martin: In one round, I'm touching you the way you want, in another round, I'm touching you, the way I want, and so I can get to see what that difference is. And in one round, you're touching me the way I want, and then the final round, you're touching me, the way you want. And, again, I get to feel the difference between those two. So the Wheel of Consent simply draws out on those axes that you're describing, draws out, in two of those examples, I'm doing. And in two of them, I'm being done to. And in two of them, it's for me and in two of them it's for you, and those two cross and so you have four quadrants.

Betty Martin: I'm doing what I want, I'm doing what you want, you're doing what I want, you're doing what you want. So the Wheel of Consent is really simply a diagram of what happens when two people ask each other, those two questions. That's all it is, it's really simple, and it distinguishes who is doing from who it's for. And if you... There's a free download on my website that you can download it and draw it out and all that, and each of those quadrants has a name. But the important thing to know is that, who is doing is not always the same as who it's for.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and yeah, that's a great distinction and I love how you integrated that into what we know about how we experience pleasure, and you mentioned that like, "Well I just want to do whatever you want and how so many people have this indirect experience of their own pleasure that their only access to their own pleasure is through someone else's pleasure.

Neil Sattin: And... Yeah, so maybe we could just take a moment too and talk about the first lesson that you offer on your site, and why that's so important and I think you even talk about how introducing that transformed people's experience of the three minute game.

Betty Martin: Yeah, yeah, yeah. When I begin doing this with clients and I would ask them, "How do you want to touch me for example?" And it may be, "I want to feel your arm" or something and I would try to coach them in touching for their own pleasure, feel the shape, feel the warmth, feel the texture of the skin, feel the shape of it. Like focus on what you are noticing with your hands, and what you're enjoying directly from the touch itself, not from what effect it has on me, but from how it feels in your own hands. And I found that that was surprisingly difficult for people. And one day I had a client for whom that was extremely difficult, he just could not pull himself away from trying to produce some effect on me and I reached over there was, it happened to be a river stone sitting on the counter and I thought, to myself, "Okay, buddy let's see what happens if there's nobody to give to."

Betty Martin: And I handed him this river stone, I didn't say that out loud but I was thinking that, handed him this stone, and I said, "So see what you can feel this for your own enjoyment." And he couldn't do that either, he just could not connect with his hands, and that was a big aha for me of that, it's not that he was having trouble feeling a person, he was having trouble feeling anything with his hands. And so after that I began to do that experiment with people of... Okay, feel it, this object. And then it'll sort of wake up, the ability of your hands to experience sensation as pleasure. And then you transfer that over into feeling a person, a body. And these sessions were clothed. So we're using only mainly hands and arms, and so, I gradually learned that, "Oh, that just doesn't apply to everybody who has trouble. It applies to everybody." And so I began offering this little exercise to everybody. And like you said, it's on the website, and it still amazes me how transformative it often is for people to... You just lean back in your chair, or your seat, and you take something into your lap, some inanimate object, a pen, or a shell, or a hairbrush and you just feel it.

Betty Martin: What does it feel like? Where are the bumps? Where is it smooth, where is it sharp? And if you feel it slowly enough, and that's the, that's the key right there, is moving your hands really slowly, you'll start to notice that, "oh, oh this is quite interesting. It's bumpy over here, oh, it's smooth over here, and oh, this is kind of pleasant." And then pretty soon you notice that, "oh, it's, it's pleasurable." And then you start to, instead of feeling the object for its characteristics, pretty soon you're using the object as a way to experience pleasure in your hands so it kind of shifts from your focus on the object, shifts so your focus is on your hands, and what feels pleasant to your hands. And then pretty soon you're just using the shell as an object to pleasure yourself, and that is, it takes a little, it takes a few minutes to click for most people, many people it takes 10 or 20 minutes or 30 minutes. For some people it's extremely difficult. And I've had people that I've sent home, and said five minutes a day for six weeks, and then come back because what we're doing is we're getting this brain cell to talk to this other brain cell, and if they haven't talked in quite a while it can be difficult.

Betty Martin: And the surprising thing is that very often there's an emotional response to those brain cells starting to talk to each other because what you're really playing with here is what's your relationship to your skin? It's really, really a fundamental piece. Are you able to notice sensation in your skin and are you able to experience that as pleasure? And when you do very often feelings will come up. Embarrassment, shame, guilt. It's interesting what will come up. Grief is very common, as well as delight, and surprise, and oh my gosh, I didn't know I could feel this much, and this is wonderful. There is quite a range of feelings that come up and they're showing you your relationship to pleasure, and your relationship to your skin because there's no other person involved. You're not giving somebody pleasure, no one's giving you pleasure, no one's doing anything to you. No, there's no one you can blame if it doesn't feel good, like it's just you and your skin. And so that turned out to be a really fundamental piece that I had no idea was there until I stumbled on it.

Neil Sattin: And you mentioned, which is so important just that awareness that your hands have such a high concentration of nerve endings.

Betty Martin: Yes.

Neil Sattin: It's like second only to what your mouth and your genitals basically.

Betty Martin: Yeah. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: So there's a huge capacity for receiving pleasure when you get past what we usually do with our hands, which is more as a way of manipulating things or...

Betty Martin: Yeah. Work. Work. Work.

Neil Sattin: Right. Or you get that the sensation like, oh, that's sharp, that's wet, that's cold, those sorts of things, but you're not actually allowing that sensation to expand into actual pleasure.

Betty Martin: Yeah, yeah, so what this does is, then when your hands are awake, and your hands are able to take in pleasure of sensation, then when you touch a person, then you're able to touch a person for your own pleasure because your hands know how to experience pleasure. So you can run your hand down their back or their leg or something, and you feel the shapes, you feel the textures, you feel the warmth, you feel the contour, and it's very enjoyable just right there in your hands. And then it becomes possible to touch someone for your own enjoyment. Which is one of the quadrants, it's how do you want to touch me? Well, may I feel your legs? Oh yeah, sure. How do you want to touch me? Can I play with your hair? Yeah, sure, but don't pull it. How do you want to touch me? Can I feel up your back? Yeah, but I'm going to keep my shirt on, okay. So it's then you can use your hands to feel a person actually you're feeling somebody up is what you're doing and you're getting consent for it first. So the consent is not just having my hands on your back, it's having your hands on my back for my pleasure, which is very different from having my hands on your back, to give you a back massage.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Betty Martin: So that's where the distinction comes in, and it turns out to be very rich.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and okay, so first, let's step back for just a minute, 'cause there is one comment that you made very quickly, but when I heard it, originally, it felt so important to me which when you were describing how to use an inanimate object, how to just feel it with your hands and to feel the pleasure in your hands, you mentioned leaning back. And so I'm wondering if you can talk for a moment about the importance of leaning back and not efforting when it comes to experiencing pleasure?

Betty Martin: Yeah, boy, that's a good one. I'm not sure why, but I just noticed it in doing this with hundreds of people that when you lean back and take this object into your lap that it makes available to you an experience of being attentive to the pleasure. That doesn't happen, it just doesn't click if you're leaning forward, or turned to the side or holding the object up in the air, I'm assuming that it's because you have the muscles like your trunk engaged and that wakes up a different part of your brain. I'm not real sure, but I just know that I've seen it with hundreds of people. And if you were an ambulance driver, and you came up on an accident and you had to reach through the twisted up glass in order to take somebody's pulse, you could take in that data with your hands, no problem. But if you are sort of contorting yourself or holding yourself forward or turned around, you're not going to be able to relax into the sensation of it very easily. And what we're looking for is for the sensation to become pleasurable.

Neil Sattin: Right. And as the sensation becomes pleasurable, it can build and build. I think you say it recruits more and more...

Betty Martin: Yup.

Neil Sattin: Brain activity.

Betty Martin: Yes.

Neil Sattin: To support the pleasure.

Betty Martin: Yes, and that does happen. You put your attention on something, you actually recruit more and more brain cells in attending to that thing and we're talking about sensation. So you attend to your sensation more and more brain cells are going to be recruited to attend to it. So it has this feeling... The feeling of it is that it sort of fills up, fills you up, fills up the space, the world drops away is the feeling of it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Betty Martin: And the sensation becomes very large.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and so that seems so important to me because so many couples who are having issues around their intimacy, they... One or the other of them or maybe both gets trapped in the sense of like, "Oh well, I should... This should feel good to me and so I'm going to somehow make it feel good" or...

Betty Martin: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: "I should want this for my partner" or... And so that level of efforting is so different than relaxing into sensation. And you used the term "Following the pleasure" and trusting where that pleasure is going to take you.

Betty Martin: Yeah, and one thing that happens... So I call what we're describing here the ability to attend to the sensation and experience it as pleasure, I'm calling that the direct root of pleasure. It just comes in, the nerve endings in your hands are stimulated, it goes right up your spine cord into your brain, ping! Lights up your pleasure center, it's a direct route. There's also the indirect route which is, I do something to you, and you smile and then your smile lights me up. So, it's like throwing out a boomerang. I've gotta catch something in order to experience pleasure. And that's what I call the indirect route. So the indirect route depends on you responding in some way that I like or I don't have anything. If the direct route is closed and I have to get you excited in order for me to enjoy it, now, I'm depending on you and I'm depending on you responding in the way that I want you to respond or I have nothing. And this is where... This is a problem because now I'm not really giving to you, I'm using you to get the response that I want to see, so that I can feel good about myself, and so that I can have some pleasure. This is a problem.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Betty Martin: Yeah. And we've probably all been there, I've been there, I've been on both ends of it and I don't recommend it. But it's where many people are stuck because they don't really know what else to do.

Neil Sattin: Right. And this is why each of the quadrants in the Wheel of Consent is so important. You talk about how important it is to experience each one on its own. That if you're in the gray zone between like, "Oh, I'm giving to you for my pleasure, but I'm actually waiting for you to receive something in order to actually get pleasure." Well, now you're not really experiencing either of those things.

Betty Martin: Yes, that's right, yeah. Yeah, one thing the quadrants showed me after a while was that in order to experience each of them, you have to take them apart. So when I'm touching you, for me it needs to be 100% for me. I'm still within consent and I'm abiding by whatever limits you've said, and I'm respecting your limits. I'm not just doing any darn thing I want to do. I've asked you, "May I do this?" And you've said, "Yes" and we've negotiated limits. But, it's 100% for me, I'm not trying to get a response out of you. And I'm not trying to please you. So there's that quadrant, and then the other quadrant, I'm doing it and it's 100% for you. Again, I'm abiding by my limits, I'm respecting my limits while I'm available to do this but I'm not available to do that. And you are also respecting my limits, but it's 100% for you.

Betty Martin: It's not about me. It's not about what I want to do, it's about what you want me to do. And so the distinction between those two when you can take them apart and you can be completely in one or completely in the other, that's when they get really, really rich. And that's where you had your big ahas. That's where you had your challenges. That's where you see... Oh, this is what I was doing that I wasn't very clean about, or... Oh my gosh, this is what has been locked away and now it's free, and opened up, or lots of lots of insights come when you can take the quadrants apart and experience them one at a time. And that's what the wheel is. It's really, it's a practice in taking, receiving and giving apart. So you're doing one of them at a time. It's not the way I would want to live my entire love life. Certainly it's a practice in... Can I completely receive? It's all about me. Or can I completely give. And it's all about them. And can I tell the difference? And when I can tell the difference, then they both become very rich. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned that because that was a question for me around like in the end when you tease them apart through the practice, then you're able to dance between them. I imagine.

Betty Martin: Yes, yeah, yeah.

Neil Sattin: So, yeah. One thing that jumped out at me, did you have something to say there?

Betty Martin: Well, I was just going to say, everyone thinks they're jump... They are dancing in between them and doing them all at once, but really they're not doing any of them. Until you can take them apart, you can't do any of them.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, great.

Betty Martin: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Great. So let's go a little bit deeper, I want to start if it's okay with... So we talked about a moment ago, giving which is... I'm touching you and I'm touching you the way you want to be touched like I'm touching you for you. I'm the giver, and...

Betty Martin: Oh thank you.

Neil Sattin: You're welcome.


Neil Sattin: And on the opposite quadrant from that is the receiver, the person who's being done to, and they are receiving the pleasure. And I think you do mention too that pleasure is like... It's not the sole province of one or two quadrants. Like no matter where you are here...

Betty Martin: That's right.

Neil Sattin: You can be feeling pleasure, you can be feeling pleasure, as a giver. But the idea is that if you're giving... So, I'm touching you to, the way you want to be touched, and then you are just receiving that touch, receiving touch the ways you want to be touched, and you mentioned that a lot of couples get stuck there in that part of the wheel. It's like their only access point to touching each other is giving and receiving in that way.

Betty Martin: Yeah, well, I think we need to back up and define receive and give.

Neil Sattin: Great.

Betty Martin: Because if you're looking up the diagram, you'll see this, but receive and give have a couple of different meanings. Receive, for example, one meaning is that something comes towards me and arrives at me, so, I can receive a package in the mail, I can receive a pass at the 20 yard line, I can receive a massage, but I can also receive a punch in the jaw, and a branch falling on my head. So that meaning of receive means something is done to me. It doesn't mean that I want it. You can receive unwanted touch, right? So that definition of receive means something's done to me, doesn't mean I want it or not, just is not applicable there.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Betty Martin: The other meaning of receive means it's a gift for me and it's something that I do want. But the trouble now is that... Well, maybe what I want is to be touched, which is what you were describing, touch me the way I want. Or maybe what I want is to be allowed to touch you in the way that I want. So this definition of receive doesn't indicate who is doing, it indicates who it's for. So when you are allowing me to touch you the way I want and feel you up the way I want, now you are giving me the gift. I'm receiving the gift, but I'm the one who's doing. So have I got your brains all tangled up? Yeah. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Hopefully not, but you just filled in the fourth quadrant of the diagram for me.

Betty Martin: Yeah, yeah, so receive and give. I'm using in a very particular way here, and I realize it's not the way that everybody uses it, I'm using it, to mean, not who's doing, I'm using it to me who it's for. And this does fill in the other two quadrants, this is the quadrant of I'm doing what I want to do to you, and you're allowing me to do that, so the action's going from me to you. But the gift is going from you to me, you are giving me this gift of access to your body for me to enjoy the way I want to enjoy it.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Betty Martin: That's why the two axes on the diagram, one is who's doing and who's being done to, the other is, who's giving and who's receiving, or who is it for? Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, and...

Betty Martin: People just trip over it and that's fine. And I realize it's not the way everybody uses the word and in the workshops that I teach and when I work with clients, people would trip over it for a while, and that's okay. It'll come around.

Neil Sattin: And when you make the distinction and this is great that each of these quadrants also has a shadow side, and so you draw the circle and it's like everything that happens within that circle, those are the things that you're in agreement about that you're consenting to. I want to touch you this way and I'm explicit about that, and you agree, you allow me, and that could be that you want me to, or it could be that you're willing to let me touch you that way. And that outside of the circle, those are the things where these things happen, but where you don't have consent.

Betty Martin: That's right.

Neil Sattin: And that each of these quadrants has sort of a shadow expression. So in, I think, in the taking allowing that we were just describing. So, taking being, I'm touching you the way I want to touch you, and allowing being I'll let you do that. Well, it's the obvious where that leads when you don't have consent.

Betty Martin: Yes, well, it may be obvious and it may not... Because if you expand the view of this dynamic beyond my hands on you, then you realize that... Well, the shadow of, for example, the take allow dynamic, the shadow is groping or using or assault, rape, murder, and war. And the shadow of it also is dropping bombs on civilian populations, well any populations in order to get their oil from the land in there, from under their sand, or to go into a country and prop up a petty dictator so that we can get cheap bananas. That is part of the shadow of the taking quadrant. I'm taking action that I want to take, but I haven't asked you, if it's okay with you. I'm reaching out to get something that I want, but you haven't given me consent.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Betty Martin: So the shadow of the taking quadrant in particular is really ugly. And our whole culture's built on it.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Betty Martin: We stole the land. I'm in America, I don't know where you are, but we stole the land and we killed all the people, a bunch of the people. And that's a shadow of the taking quadrant, if ever there was one. So that's where I actually get passion about this stuff is that it will improve your sex life. Great, but I don't actually care. I'm sorry.


Neil Sattin: Betty, this is what we're here to talk about.

Betty Martin: What I'm really interested in is how does it make you more aware of where you are in consent and where you are out of consent? That's what really excites me because that translates into our lives in the world, and as it happens, it seems to happen anyway, that when we experience something somatically in our bodies right here in our homes, with our partners, and we learned that we have a choice about what happens to us, we learned that there are things that we want to do that we need permission for, we learn these things in a very tangible, physical way, and then they become real to us, and then we see where they... How they apply in the rest of our lives.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Betty Martin: We start to see, "Oh this is where I've been a doormat. I didn't notice that until now. Now I see it, or this is where I have been taken advantage of people. Oh, I didn't see it before now. Now I see it, this is where I've been giving, giving, giving way more than I really felt good about. Oh, I didn't see it before. Well, now I see it. So these are all... This is what excites me about the wheel actually.

Neil Sattin: Right. So you were just basically naming some of that shadow dysfunction in the other quadrants as well.

Betty Martin: Yeah, yeah. The shadow of the allow quadrant is the doormat, the going along with everything, the putting up with everything, the victim, the actual victim not like victim mentality, but you get held up at gunpoint on the street, that's your victim. You know...

Neil Sattin: Right. And in particular, one of the places where this lit up for me and I'm so curious to hear your thoughts on this, is that on the show we've talked a bunch about overcoming trauma and how many people have experienced the trauma around the sexual circuit. So that's the shadow of this taking allowing is. That's where people experience that trauma. And yet they're there, on the wheel. It's not like, okay, well, taking and allowing are bad, they're just bad when they are happening without consent.

Betty Martin: Right.

Neil Sattin: And so I'm curious from your perspective, what I see, happening, and maybe you see this differently is that when people disown the taking and allowing dynamic then that's one time, one place where they get stuck, in giving and receiving. And I'm wondering particularly with people who have experienced the more distorted parts of taking and allowing, how do you encourage them to experience taking and allowing in a way that's based around consent and that's safe? And I'm speculating here from hearing your work, that it's actually really important for them to re-own that in a healthy functional way. So maybe you could talk about, if you agree like, why that's important to do and then maybe how someone who's stuck in one place could find a comfortable way back to taking and allowing that actually serves them and doesn't retraumatize them.

Betty Martin: Yeah. That's a great question. Yes, I think every person needs access to all four quadrants, because each of them is an inherent part of being a human to take action for our own benefit, that's part of being human, that's the taking quadrant. And to do so within consent, that's integrity and maturity, and we need to be able to do that. A life in which you cannot take action for your own benefit, is going to be pretty problematic. Yeah? Taking action for someone else's benefit, this is the serving quadrant, this is doing what someone else wants you to do. We all need to be able to access that ability to serve others, of course we do, and we need to learn to do it in a way that respects our own limits and boundaries.

Betty Martin: So those are basic human abilities that we all need. We all need to learn how to allow others to do things for themselves, even if they affect us and learn how to set limits that affect us. I'm willing to allow you to do this, but I'm not willing to allow you to do that. That's a basic human skill that we all need. And the fourth quadrant, accepting where you're doing what I want, to receive the benefit of other people's actions, that's something that we all do, and we need to do it in a way that has integrity and clarity and respects other people's boundaries.

Betty Martin: So they're all inherent to being a human being, and we need access to all of them, and when we don't have access to them, we figure out some kind of workaround, but it's often problematic. The trauma piece I think is really important too, because we have all been touched against our will, every one of us, and it happened before we could talk. Even in the very best, if you had perfect parents, you still got your nappy's changed and your teeth brushed, and you got picked up out of oncoming traffic, like you were touched in ways that you did not want. And because it's pre-verbal, we come out of it with this, our body's kind of believing that, well touch is just something that happens that I can't stop, and I just have to make the best of it somehow, that the touch itself is not changeable, I have to change myself to be okay with it somehow.

Betty Martin: And for some of us, this happened in a reasonable way and it was gentle and it's okay. And for some of us, it was horrible and traumatic. And most of us are in between there somewhere, but we've all been touched against our will. And so what I've come to appreciate through playing this game, and working with clients over a dozen years is that, what we need to recover and reclaim is our ability to have a choice about how we are touched. Our ability to have a choice about how we are touched and that is... There's a huge range in that. So there's a huge range in our comfort with being touched, and you... As we're talking about the take-allow dynamic in wanting to recover that, and for someone who's been touched a lot against their will, or traumatically against their will, when you ask them, "Well, how is... May I feel your this or that?" It's terrifying, because they don't quite know that they have a choice about it.

Betty Martin: And I've seen this working with clients a lot where they just like, "Oh I get to have a choice about that. Gosh, that never occurred to me." So what I actually suggest is that you start with, "How do you want me to touch you?" And so you are directing exactly where my hands go, moment by moment by moment, until you learn that you really do, that you really are in charge of how you're touched. So for someone who's had traumatic experiences, this is the place to start, that you get to decide if and when and how I touch you, and you get to decide moment by moment by moment, so that there's no opportunity for you to go into the going along with, putting up with freezing and so forth. And that turns out to be very, very empowering and is life-changing for many people.

Neil Sattin: Right and that could still happen in the context of, if your partner is in the taking role, then they could say, "May I touch your hand?" that's one that we use. So they're expressing that, "I want to touch your hand for my own pleasure." And you could still set the limits...

Betty Martin: You could still choose, yes.

Neil Sattin: And direct exactly how they're able to touch your hand?

Betty Martin: Yeah. Right.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Betty Martin: Right, yeah.

Neil Sattin: One little note on that too, you were... You talk about the principles that each quadrant embodies, with the... If I get these wrong, feel free to correct me, but I believe that with the giving quadrant, this is where I'm giving you what you want for you, that that's generosity.

Betty Martin: That's the serving quadrant.

Neil Sattin: The serving quadrant, great.

Betty Martin: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: And then...

Betty Martin: Yeah, a lot of people call that giving, but allowing is also a form of giving.

Neil Sattin: Great.

Betty Martin: So that's why I call it serving.

Neil Sattin: I like that.

Betty Martin: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Thank you. The taking quadrant is integrity, you mentioned that it's about knowing what you want and being okay with asking, with acting.

Betty Martin: Yup.

Neil Sattin: In your own interest. The receiving, now there's... What's...

Betty Martin: Accepting.

Neil Sattin: Accepting thank you. So the accepting quadrant, which is... Right, because you're receiving the gift that's being given or served upon you, [chuckle] I guess.

Betty Martin: Yeah. You're being touched the way you want.

Neil Sattin: Yes. [chuckle] So that would be gratitude.

Betty Martin: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Accepting those gifts. And just a reminder that when we were talking about the taking quadrant, that you are receiving there too, you're receiving...

Betty Martin: That's right.

Neil Sattin: The gift of someone allowing you to touch them.

Betty Martin: Yes.

Neil Sattin: And now when we get into the allowing quadrant, if I'm remembering right, the principle there is surrender?

Betty Martin: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, what's so important about surrender and learning to access that?

Betty Martin: Well, it's very fun, for one thing. And the other thing is when you... As you learn to take responsibility for your own limits, and this is something that we're all learning, there's no one who's totally got it, like everybody is on a learning journey here, that to the degree that I learn to say, "Yes, you can do this to me, but you cannot do this to me." Then I become trustworthy to myself. Oh, then I can trust myself, and then I can relax and allow you to play with me however you want. But that is based on me gaining the skills to set a limit, or to say no, or to say stop, or to say I've changed my mind, or to say ouch I need to move over here, or I need to turn over, or... To the degree that I am able to speak up for myself, to that degree I can enjoy surrendering to you because that means I'm no longer micromanaging what happens. I can relax into you taking your pleasure with me, but it depends on me being able to speak up for myself.

Betty Martin: The idea, there's this idea that, "Oh well, you should be able to surrender more," and that's a terrible idea, because what that means is, and what that implies is, you should be able to ignore yourself and go along with any old thing that I want to do, and that is not true, that's the opposite. That as I learn to speak up for myself, then I will naturally and easily surrender, and it'll be joy, because I can trust that if I need to I will speak up. And again, that's a lifelong journey that we're all on.

Neil Sattin: Right, and that's about creating a context, in this situation that we're talking about, creating a context with your partner, where you're in your creating agreement, it's where we started. And so part of that agreement is you being able to establish the limits within which you're comfortable...

Betty Martin: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Surrendering.

Betty Martin: Yes. Yeah, the question is not... Well, why can't I surrender to this thing? The question to ask yourself is, within what particular limits would it be fun to surrender? And there are some limits and you wait until you notice what they are. Oh, I'm happy to surrender if I'm assured that I'm going to keep my clothes on, for example, or I'm happy to surrender my hand and my arm, you do whatever you want, or I'm happy to surrender my little finger for three minutes. There is some limit within which surrender is easy, and that's what you want to find, and because then that's where you learn to trust yourself, and then as you trust yourself, your limits will gradually expand naturally, because you trust yourself to speak up as you need to. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Now we've spent a lot of time on taking and allowing. I think because that's, they both represent distinctions that aren't familiar to a lot of people, myself included. So I'm glad that we spent a lot of time there, and before we go, I'm wondering if we can just turn our attention briefly to the giving, or the serving and accepting dynamic.

Betty Martin: Sure.

Neil Sattin: 'Cause I don't want to neglect their importance.

Betty Martin: They're also really good. [chuckle] Yeah, the accepting, which means I'm being touched the way I want. Because of what I mentioned a few minutes ago that we've all been touched against our will, and our tendency will be to try to go along with whatever is being done to us and think that we should like it better. This is probably the biggest challenge in the accepting quadrant is, "Well they're touching me this way, so therefore I should like it and I should be okay with it, and if I don't like it, there's something wrong with me." That's backwards. Instead of changing ourselves to suit what's happening, you change what's happening to suit ourselves. So part of the... Often times, the hardest part of the accepting quadrant is asking for what you want, asking for how you want to be touched. Because it's vulnerable, of course it is, and we don't always know. So then we have to just wait a while until we do know, and that can be awkward, and I do have compassion for that.

Betty Martin: But there is no substitute to waiting till you notice what you want and then asking for it, because then you have the opportunity to receive it, and then you notice that it actually is for you. And instead of sort of putting up with whatever is going on, or whatever it is that's happening. That's probably the hardest part of the accepting quadrant. And then the enjoyment of it, if you have asked for what you want, the enjoyment of it is pretty automatic. If you're not enjoying it, then don't try to change your enjoyment of it, change what it is that is happening. So the question to ask is not, "Why aren't I enjoying this more?" The question to ask is, "Well, what is it that I actually do want?" So that's the question of the accepting quadrant.

Betty Martin: In the serving quadrant, the hardest part... You might think that the thing to do in serving is to get all sorts of good strokes and techniques down, but what's actually the most important part of the serving quadrant is finding out what the accepting partner actually wants, and that's a whole art form of waiting and being, creating space for them and not pushing them, and not making suggestions, and just asking them what they want and then just shut up and wait until they tell ya. But it's so easy in serving to think, "Well I have this cool thing I know how to do, so I'm going to do it." And they show it on the video, it looked pretty cool, but that's not really it, it's finding out what they actually want. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Right, yeah. Wow, if only we could just eliminate so many of those videos that seem to suggest what people want. [chuckle] It can be so inaccurate.

Betty Martin: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well they were accurate for some person at some moment, but you're a different person, and it's a different moment.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Betty Martin: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. One thing that stood out really big for me was that you mentioned that a lot of... Most people assume that they're on the giving side of the wheel.

Betty Martin: Yeah. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Which translates into someone either maybe always feeling like they're serving and someone always feeling like they're allowing.

Betty Martin: Yeah. Yeah, when we are on the giving half of the wheel, this is serving and allowing as you said, we are... The nature of giving is that we set aside what we would prefer in order to go with what our partner prefers, at the same time we're responsible for our boundaries and limits. So as soon as you set aside what you prefer, you're going to feel like you're giving. And so if you are constantly setting aside what you want, you're going to think you're giving all the time and you kind of are, except that no one has actually asked for that thing, or you haven't asked them if they wanted it. So what typically happens in a heterosexual couple is that the man feels like he's in the serving quadrant because he's doing all the work and he's doing all the stuff that he saw on the video, and by golly, it's supposed to be for her, and I hope she likes it. Yeah, so he feels like he's serving. And the woman feels like she's allowing because, "Well, he's doing all the stuff, I guess he wants to do it, didn't ask me what I wanted, and I guess he likes doing it so I'm going to let him do it." So he's in serving, she's in allowing. Who's receiving there? Nobody. When I do this in a room full of people, almost everybody nods their heads, they recognize it because...

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Betty Martin: And I've been there, I've been on both sides of that equation, I think we all have. I think we have to be able to kind of laugh at ourselves of,"How do we get here?" But that's one of the things that happens when you don't get up the courage to talk about what it is that you actually enjoy, and most people recommend that you have this conversation before you get to the bedroom, that you, in the heat of the moment, it's much harder to communicate. Of course it is. It's much more helpful to have these conversations before you ever get to the bedroom.

Neil Sattin: Right. With the caveat that once you're in the bedroom you can still set a limit that you... [chuckle]

Betty Martin: Yes, absolutely, absolutely, yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, wow.

Betty Martin: Yeah. Then I would just reiterate again that the two questions, the three-minute game, the Wheel of Consent are a practice, it's something that you come back to again and again, and you see how clear can I be about who this is for? It's not necessarily how you want to live your whole life, but it will illuminate other aspects of how you live your life. It's a practice in, "Can I just receive or can I just give, and can I tell the difference, and can I be clear about it, and what happens when I do that?" So it's a practice.

Neil Sattin: And what I love about this as a practice is, I think it creates a really easy-to-follow path to relearning what you do want.

Betty Martin: Yes.

Neil Sattin: And and to relearning your partner and what they want, that's so much of what we're struggling against in relationship, is just like the patterning that...

Betty Martin: Yes.

Neil Sattin: How we've done it time and again with other people, et cetera.

Betty Martin: Right, right.

Neil Sattin: And yeah, so the way that this opens us up to more presence, more of, "What can happen in this moment, what is actually true in this moment?"

Betty Martin: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: And then that's where the art of intimacy happens, is you learn these new structures, these new ways of interacting, and then it becomes how you... It's just part of your language at that point. And you can get creative and write poetry.

Betty Martin: Yeah, exactly.


Neil Sattin: Well, Betty, one thing...

Betty Martin: Yeah, I think that the great thing too is that when you take turns asking each other those questions, you start to notice that, "Oh, what I want now is different than what I wanted yesterday, what I want now is different than what I wanted five minutes ago." And that's pretty important thing to notice.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Betty Martin: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I love that and I'm just... So many people feel pressed for time. I think, obviously, if you could do the true three-minute game, where you got three minutes, then three minutes, then three minutes, and three minutes, so it's actually more like a 12-minute game I guess.

Betty Martin: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: I mean, who doesn't have 15 minutes in their day? Come on.

Betty Martin: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: You could do that...

Betty Martin: Exactly. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: You each have a round and then there's a bonus round.

Betty Martin: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: But even if you only had one minute each and you just sat at the table, that's possible.

Betty Martin: Yeah, exactly, exactly.

Neil Sattin: One thing that I thought as I was going through your work was, "Oh my God, I wish I could do a whole series with you," [chuckle] but the beauty is your series is there on your website, so if this is piqued your interest, I definitely encourage you to check out Betty's website, She has everything spelled out, different lessons you can follow right along, there's plenty of material there for you. And Betty, looking forward to your book coming out, when it does, I will make sure to let everyone know, so that they can pick it up.

Betty Martin: Thank you.

Neil Sattin: And I'm just so appreciative of the work that you're doing in the world and how you're helping us have this conversation in a way that that leads us somewhere different, and the impact that that's going to have not only on our relationships, but on those larger world dynamics, feels really powerful to me.

Betty Martin: Thank you. Thanks for having me. It's a pleasure to talk to you.

Neil Sattin: Thank you.

Oct 5, 2018

How do you build trust in your relationship? There’s a crucial element to creating trust, and it has nothing to do with your partner. It has everything to do with you! Most importantly, there are some ways that you might actually be undermining the trust in your relationship - without even knowing it. In today’s episode, you’ll learn two important questions to ask yourself that can reveal hidden obstacles to trust, and you’ll have a sense of how to make the shift so that you can get out of your own way when it comes to building the trust in your relationship. This episode is short and sweet - but it will give you a sense of exactly where you might need to do a little growing to uplevel your connection.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Check out Episode 55 - Defeating Emotional Blackmail and Manipulation with Susan Forward

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Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE)

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Sep 26, 2018

How do you apply ancient Buddhist wisdom to your relationship in a way that helps you connect with your partner? How do you build the intimacy even if you're not feeling the love? One day, as Susan Piver was experiencing what felt like an unsolvable problem in her relationship, she heard a voice say “Begin at the beginning - the four noble truths”. And much like the four noble truths of the Buddha, which identify the cause of suffering (and the cure), Susan Piver’s new book The Four Noble Truths of Love: Buddhist Wisdom for Modern Relationships can help you identify not only why relationships can be challenging - but also what to do about it. Along the way, you’ll also learn some powerful strategies for getting centered, finding your own sense of balance, and building the strength and resilience of your relationship - despite all the complexities.

Also, please check out our first episode with Susan Piver: Episode 8 - How to Tackle the Hard Questions

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode has a cool new sponsor with a special offer for you - is a USDA certified organic company, with a wide variety of meal plans to make having healthier food easy and convenient for you. And they’re offering you $50 off your first box to give them a try! Just visit and use the coupon code “ALIVE” at checkout for $50 off, and enjoy the delicious recipes and fresh ingredients that GreenChef sends your way.


Check out Susan Piver’s website

Read Susan Piver’s new book, The Four Noble Truths of Love

(or check out her bestselling book to foster conversation with your partner, The Hard Questions)

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict…

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE) Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Susan Piver.

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out


Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host Neil Sattin. On this show we are focused time and time again about how to have amazing relationships. And this begs the question, "What makes for an amazing relationship?" And of course, part of that, in fact a big part of that, is the intention that you set. I'm not saying that you rigidly hold to an agenda of what you think your relationship should be, but more that you create a vision with your partner for what you want. And at the same time, if that vision doesn't include some flexibility, some resilience, the ability to work with whatever your relationship brings to you, then you might be in for a really hard time.

Neil Sattin: And some aspect of that hard time is probably part of the game. And that is all what we are going to talk about today. We are having a return visit from one of the guests who was here at the very beginning of the Relationship Alive podcast, when it was just a vision more or less that I had. Her name is Susan Piver. And you may recall her from Episode Eight, talking about how to tackle the hard questions. And that's referring to her New York Times bestselling book, "The Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say I Do". And as you might recall from that, I love questions, they're at the heart of curiosity and which is such an important element in having a successful relationship. But there's more. And thankfully, Susan Piver has been writing about it. In fact, she also is an accomplished and practising Buddhist meditator and mindfulness practitioner and mindfulness teacher and instructor.

Neil Sattin: And her latest book, 'The Four Noble Truths of Love', is all about Buddhist wisdom for your relationship. And it contains some unconventional truths that will actually probably be really enlightening for you and for many of you, perhaps even very reassuring in terms of your own experience of relationship. And once you shine your vision and your light on the truth of what is happening, then it gives you a lot of power to work with it. And that's what Susan Piver's latest book is all about. So if you're interested in hearing the first episode that I mentioned, you can visit She was the first Susan that we spoke to, so she got to lay claim to the name "Susan" forever for the Relationship Alive podcast. And if you want to download a transcript of this episode, you can visit, the number "2," or you can text the word "passion" to the number 3-3-4-4-4 and follow the instructions. So I think that's it. Without further ado, Susan Piver, thank you so much for being here with us today on Relationship Alive.

Susan Piver: I am so glad to be here, Neil. Thank you so much for asking me.

Neil Sattin: You're most welcome. Yeah, it's great to have you here. And I particularly love your take on relationship, and I have to admit that when I first heard the title of your latest book, 'The Four Noble Truths of Love', I was prepared for something that was a little high-minded or philosophical, and I wasn't prepared for it to be so gritty, the way the book actually is. And so I really appreciate that, your ability to bring some philosophical concepts in a way that's really grounded in what our experience in love can be.

Susan Piver: Yeah, I appreciate that. I'm glad. Thank you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I would say what inspired you, but... And maybe you could talk a little bit about that for people who don't know much about Buddhism and why did you write these 'Four Noble Truths of Love'? What led you to distill it that way?

Susan Piver: Yeah, sure, I'm happy to. Well, I was in a place in my marriage... This was, I don't know, some time ago, where I could not get along with my husband. As you know, you're married.

Neil Sattin: Yep.

Susan Piver: The relationships go through these crazy phases where you feel close and you feel passionate and you feel connected and held, and then one day something happens and you feel distant and unhappy. And we were in a particular cycle that was very unpleasant. We weren't screaming at each other, we weren't furious, nobody had done anything "wrong", we just could not get along. Everything one person said or did hurt the other person or made them angry. And it was bizarre. Even the most simplest questions like, "What do you wanna have for dinner?", could make us have an argument. It felt insane and we didn't know why, and it went on for weeks, and months.

Susan Piver: One day I was sitting at my desk, just crying basically, because I did not know how to fix this problem and we had tried talking to each other and not talking to each other, and going to a marriage counselor, and we tried all sorts of things. And I realized as I was sitting at my desk, "I do not know how to fix this, I don't even know where to begin." And a voice said to me or I had a thought, I don't know what it was, but it said, "Begin at the beginning. At the beginning are four noble truths." So this meant something to me as a long time Buddhist practitioner, because the four noble truths, the first teachings that the Buddha gave upon attaining enlightenment, are like the core of the entire Buddhist path to this day. So I'm like, "Oh, four noble truths. Yes, I know what they are, but how would they apply to my relationship?" The four noble truths of Buddhism are the first truth is, life is suffering. And I know that sounds terrible, I don't think the Buddha meant life sucks. It meant something more like life is unsatisfying. Meaning, you think, "Well, if I have this job or this relationship or this amount of money or this accomplishment, I will be safe, I will be free from suffering, I will be happy."

Susan Piver: And yeah, those things are great and they will make you happy for a time, but they will not exempt you from the suffering of being human, that's a bummer. [chuckle] And the second noble truth is called, the cause of suffering. The cause of suffering is called grasping, which basically means pretending like the first noble truth is not true and trying nonetheless to create stable ground for yourself and trying to hold on to the things you think will make you happy, and push away the things that you think will make you unhappy. While that is a very sensible approach to life, it's still not gonna create the kind of stability that we hope for. And the third noble truth is called the cessation of suffering, which means something like, now that you know the cause, you also know the cure. If the cause is grasping, stop grasping, which obviously is not that simple but there's some insight there. You stop grasping.

Susan Piver: And the fourth noble truth is called the eightfold path, Buddhism is full of numbers, as I'm sure you know. And the eightfold path are the eight steps that you could take that would eliminate grasping, and therefore exempt you from suffering. And the eightfold path are things like right view, and so on. So okay, I thought, "Well, that's cool. What does this have to do with my love life though?" And so I just started noodling around with these four truths which basically, as I say, follow a sequence, there's a statement of the truth, the cause of the truth, the cure for the suffering, and then the steps you can take to put that cure into play. So when it came to love, what I came up with is the first noble truth of love is that relationships never stabilize, they are uncomfortable.

Neil Sattin: Dun dun dun.

Susan Piver: [chuckle] Why didn't anyone ever tell us this? Sorry. It never stabilizes. You can be in a period, like we were talking about earlier, where everything's great, and then that disappears and a different phase arises, they're like weather fronts. And the discomfort of relationships is present at every point in the relationship arc. If you are going on a blind date, you don't even know the person. It's already very uncomfortable 'cause you think, " Oh, what if they don't like me?" or, "What if they do like me?" or, "What if I start recreating all my relationship problems before dessert?", and it's just uncomfortable. And then if you fall in love, of course, it's fantastic. But it's also uncomfortable in its own way, because it's so intense, so fraught. And you think, "What did that look mean? And maybe I shouldn't have worn those pants," or every moment is very heightened, which is heavenly, like I say, but it's also uncomfortable. And then in a longterm relationship, the discomfort morphs into something called irritation. There just is this perpetual, maybe not constant, but this relatively constant irritation of living with another person. No matter how much you like each other and love each other, it gives rise to this kind of, you're rubbing against each other in an uncomfortable way, because for various reasons.

Susan Piver: I don't know what the real reason is, but anyone who's been in a relationship for more than a year will say, "Yeah, I don't like the way they do this and they don't like the way I do that," and there's tiny things, but they cause irritation. So that's the first noble truth. The relationships don't stabilize and they are uncomfortable.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and that was for me, just reading that, I felt this big yes within me. Like of course, and in so much of the grasping on to this idea that a perfect relationship is always smiles, is never suffering, is perfect parenting, is we're always amazing lovers together, that's just a recipe for disappointment over and over again. And also for, I think, a lot of us to feel like, "If that's what you subscribe to, well, wow, I must be doing really horribly."

Susan Piver: [chuckle] Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Or it's what drives people apart, because they think, "Well, we're not having that ideal thing. So there must be some fatal flaw to this particular connection."

Susan Piver: Yep, and to add to that confusion is sometimes there is a fatal flaw. And it's not always easy to tell the difference, but for the lion's share of what we experience in what I would call ordinary relationship problems, which can range from anything from, "You're always late, and that really makes me mad," to, "Oh, you didn't tell me that you were contemplating gender reassignment surgery." That's a big deal, big, big deal. But none of those things are indications of harm, I would say, although they may be painful. Intentional harm. So I just wanna make clear that I exempt from this whole view, relationship problems that are rooted in abuse of any kind or addiction. Those are different kinds of problems, a different arena, and these things don't apply. But otherwise, yeah, we think... When most of us say we're looking for love, we don't really mean that. It's something that I've noticed in myself and others. We're not looking for love, we're looking for safety, we're looking for someone who will help us make a cocoon where we can retreat when it's a little dramatic, or overly traumatized. But we're looking for someone who will help us escape sorrow and make us feel whole, and healed, and hopefully the person you're in love with will do those things for you.

Susan Piver: But it's not that simple. So there's actually nothing less safe than love. And when we try to make it safe, it becomes something else. Not love exactly, but yeah. So I felt relief too when I realized that, by the way, like, "Oh yeah, there are things that are wrong in this relationship, but we're not doing anything wrong in the sense that this is, this was a bad choice.

Neil Sattin: Right right. And I really like that you make that distinction, that in a relationship where you're experiencing abuse or one or both of you is plagued by addiction, that changes the rules a bit, in terms of what one should do, I think to get help and what's acceptable in a relationship.

Susan Piver: I agree.

Neil Sattin: And this question around safety, this was actually... I'm so glad that you brought this up right now, because this was actually one of the things that I felt myself... That was a little edgy for me. And the reason why being, not because I think that relationships are safe, in fact I think that the act of being so vulnerable automatically exposes you to being the potential to be harmed by your partner. And so much of what we have to do is learn how to embrace that vulnerability without succumbing to the fear that your partner is actually out to get you, which is what that kind of vigilance can feel like, right?

Susan Piver: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: But on the flip side, there's so much important material and juice there in relationship for couples who are paying attention to the safety, the safety of their, the container of their relationship, actually helping each other stay out of a primal brain-triggered state as much as possible, not that you'll never get there. This is my own personal view. So, I'm curious for you, how do you reconcile that between... Well, there is some safety to the container that we want to be conscious of and actually contributing to, and then there's this statement of yours that lands right in that, which is that love isn't safe.

Susan Piver: Well that's a great question. It's a really good question. And I would say the answer has something to do with trust. Obviously the opposite of safe is untrustworthy, unsafe. So I'm just gonna share with you a little anecdote from my own life. When my husband, my now husband and I first got involved, he was going through a very difficult divorce, and I didn't know how it was gonna work out for us. It really could just as easily have gone in any direction because it was just a very, very tumultuous time in his life. And friends would say to me, "This is a danger side, or this is a red flag or whatever." Yeah, but at no point to this very day, have I ever doubted how he felt about me, or what his intentions were toward me.

Susan Piver: So even though it could have just as easily have gone completely off the rails, and it was very unsafe, I did not distrust him. And to this day, I can't explain why, but there was just this instinct. This guy is on my side, and neither of us knows how it's gonna play out. But I don't doubt, I don't doubt who he is and what he feels. So that... Without that, almost nothing could have happened. Without that, it's very, very hard to allow for even the slightest vulnerability, and I would say, nor should you allow for it, because that foundational trust, which feels different to different people and is based on different things, it can't be described or there's no... It's not formulaic. But without that, for me, I would have, it would have been a very bad, very bad experience. So does that make sense?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I appreciate that you're making the distinction that it had what you needed to feel, at a foundational level, you could trust this person.

Susan Piver: I knew he loved me.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. And yet you also go on to describe, in your book, times where you're convinced that you hate him and he hates you and that's part of the cycle, right? That we can experience?

Susan Piver: Yes it is.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I think that at the beginning of a relationship, part of... Whether it's the divine purpose or the genetic purpose of all those neurochemicals that go through our bodies, is to make us trust the other person before we really should on some level, you know?

Susan Piver: Interesting.

Neil Sattin: That it puts us in a state where we're willing to be a little bit more vulnerable. So it gets us, and I'm just thinking off the top of my head now, but maybe it gets us into proximity in a way that allows for true intimacy. Now we're getting in maybe into the spiritual component of why this all might happen, but it's that proximity that allows the true intimacy to blossom.

Susan Piver: Interesting. That's very interesting.

Neil Sattin: Well, we heard it here first.


Susan Piver: Yes we did.

Neil Sattin: So there's... So if relationships are never stable, then let's go to the second truth that you wrote about in your book.

Susan Piver: Okay. The second truth is the cause of the problem which, oversimplified, is thinking that they should be stable and comfortable actually makes them unstable and uncomfortable. So imagine if you just sort of gave up the idea that it's gonna be comfortable, it's going to be... Someday we're gonna hit the relationship lotto number and we're gonna fix this problem, we're gonna solve this issue, or we're gonna create this thing that we don't have that we need, and once we get all these things in a row, we're gonna go into some relationship evenness that will not change. And aiming toward that, driving toward that vision of what this relationship should be, I, in my own relationship, actually is a cause of a lot of discomfort.

Susan Piver: I'm not saying that we shouldn't try to solve our problems. We have lots of problems and we're trying to solve them all the time and constantly adjusting, and tweaking, and reviewing, and working, and losing the thread and regaining the thread with the issues that are in our relationship. So I'm not saying that you just should stop doing that, but if you think, "Well, we're gonna tweak this thing and then it's gonna be perfect, and I'm gonna get everything I need and so will the other person. And unless that happens, it's not good." A lot of pain between two people. So the second noble truth is, "Thinking it should be stable adds to the instability."

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I've read that and I was like, "Wow, that is so brilliant." That it's that expectation that really adds all this, like an extra layer of anxiety and fuel to the fire of whatever... Whatever is happening in that moment. So if what's... If something comes up that makes you really uncomfortable and rather than being able to be present for it, you have all this, "It shouldn't be this way. Oh no, something is wrong." If those are the kinds of things that are coming up, then it actually removes you, it removes you from being able to respond and then, at the same time, it adds all this intensity to whatever is come up.

Susan Piver: Agreed. Agreed. And the brilliance is in the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, in this sense, because the first noble truth, as you remember, is, "Life the suffering." Second noble truth is, "The cause of suffering is grasping." So it's very interesting. It doesn't say, "The suffering is the suffering."


Neil Sattin: Right.

Susan Piver: It says, "Grasping is the suffering." So in other words, suffering is part of the deal. We're all gonna have losses, we're all gonna have problems, we're all gonna gain things, and lose things and that is unavoidable. But in the Buddhist view, that is not considered the real suffering. Although of course it is, but the real suffering is what we add on top of it, which, in this case, is called grasping. So mapped over to relationships, yes, there are going to be problems. You're going to like each other, you're not going to like each other, there's going to be desires, there's gonna be disconnection. That's gonna happen, that's what we saw... That's part of the relationship mandala. But thinking it shouldn't be that way, actually causes more pain than the pain points themselves.

Neil Sattin: I'm just laughing on some level, because while we're having this conversation, I'm noticing that we've had a little bit of Internet difficulty, and I don't think it's bad enough that... I think everyone listening is getting everything you're saying, and I'm glad, because it's really important. And I'm noticing that I think the local airport changed the flight patterns, so there are airplanes flying overhead now. The next door neighbor's dog is barking, and within me is the potential for all this grasping, like, "Oh, it shouldn't, it shouldn't be this way. I should be in a soundproofed hermetic chamber with a big fibre optic tube connecting you and me directly so that there are no hitches."


Neil Sattin: So while we're talking, I myself am embracing this practice of like, "Okay, this is what is, this is what's happening right now." Here in...

Susan Piver: Wow.

Neil Sattin: In the podcast.

Susan Piver: That's interesting, that's very interesting. That's a perfect illustration. It's a perfect illustration. And sometimes in Buddhism that's called the suffering of suffering, the suffering of succotash.


Susan Piver: There's suffering and then there's the suffering of suffering. So in relationships, there's the discomfort and then, which is natural, and then there's the discomfort of the discomfort, which is optional.

Neil Sattin: Right, right, yeah, and when you're talking about that too, I think you talk a lot in your book about projections and this has come up on the show before, this notion of what's within you that you wish were happening or that you think is happening, versus what actually is happening and how much those projections are getting in the way of the is-ness of what is actually happening right there in front of you.

Susan Piver: Yeah, it's very hard to see. It's very hard to see. We're all looking through a particular lens.

Neil Sattin: So like the Buddhist noble truths lay out this very logical argument about why life is so hard and how to deal with it. I know, I totally oversimplified that.


Susan Piver: No, that was good, I think that was accurate.


Neil Sattin: But here we are, we are on this path through the relationship Noble Truths, and we've got, relationships are never gonna be stable. Trying to make them stable is why you're having such a hard time. And then this is where it really gets beautiful is, I think, I mean it's been beautiful all along, Susan, but with the third Truth, which is what we bring... So take it away, Susan.


Susan Piver: Yeah, and I appreciate that and I agree, this is where... 'Cause I think the first two sound like, "Okay, it's a problem, deal with it." The third one is... Actually can be quite beautiful. So the third noble truth of love is that meeting the instability together is love or loving. So, in other words, rather than trying to get it to stabilize, and this is what you need to do to make it stable, and this is what I need to do to make it stable, and I don't wanna do that and you should do this instead and all of that. Conversations that must be had but, nonetheless, if instead of looking at each other as the source of the problem and the solution, I would say a great partner is one who will instead turn to stand shoulder to shoulder with you, to look out at the arc of the ride that you are on together now.

Susan Piver: Usually, like I say, we look at each other. You did this, I did that. But this... And good, you should do that. But this part says, "Well, you could also notice what's happening right now in your relationship, together, meaning... And open to it." Meaning now, oh, we love each other, this is great. Now, we don't really like each other, I don't know why. Now you really like me and I'm not that interested in you. And now we can get along and now we can't get along. Someone who will be like... I picture it as someone that's on a roller coaster ride with you. And you're not trying to flat straighten out the ride, you're just dipping and diving together and staying seated together. To me, that is a great partner. Just someone who will be on the ride with you. I don't mean that in a cavalier way, I mean literally join you in this incredible ride and be on it together. Whatever's happening, whether you're going uphill or downhill.

Neil Sattin: Right, being willing to say, "Here we are."

Susan Piver: Yeah, exactly.

Neil Sattin: And there's a lot of power in that, in that willingness to just be. And you talk about this too. I'm curious, maybe we can bring that in now, is the power of honesty, being honest about what is. But, and this veers us into the fourth noble truth, which is about the path and how honesty is used. And maybe we could talk about how that's part of the path and how that weaves into where we're going from here.

Susan Piver: Sure, yeah, thank you. So the fourth noble truth says, "Here's how you could possibly do these things, potentially do these things." And I looked at the three basic cycles of teachings within Buddhism and what they suggest, in terms of creating a spiritual path, and mapped them over to what they would mean to me, 'cause all of this is what it means to me and then I'm sharing it so it's useful to others. How would I map those into my relationship? So, they're basically four qualities. The first two belong to the first cycle. Then the third and fourth belong to the second and third cycles, sorry to be confusing. And the first quality that is... These first two qualities create the foundation for a relationship. And just like anything, a house, or spiritual path, or a piece of art, if you don't have a foundation, you're not getting anywhere. You have to have the foundation for your relationship, for your house, for your whatever it is you're doing. And the qualities that create a foundation, meaning if you don't have them, you're not gonna be able to build anything, are first, honesty.

Susan Piver: So that doesn't mean saying what you think the moment you think it. That's silly. It means first knowing the truth yourself about who you are and what you feel. And that doesn't mean you have to know yourself perfectly and always be completely clear about how you feel. But it means knowing when you are clear and knowing when you are not. Knowing when you know the truth and knowing when you don't and then adapting your behavior to that truth. So if you can't be honest, or you're with someone who can't be honest, not because they're a liar necessarily, although some people are, but because they don't know how to tell the truth, it's gonna be very hard to have a relationship. You could have a great time. You could have an awesome love affair, but it would be hard to make a relationship, I think. And the second quality that is foundational, it sounds funny, I think, is called good manners. And I don't mean knowing which fork to use particularly, but...

Neil Sattin: But that is so important.

Susan Piver: Knowing which fork to use?

Neil Sattin: Yes.


Susan Piver: Well, if it's important to you, then it is important, Neil. And in addition, it's important to... Good manners are very profound. They're predicated on awareness that there's actually another person present.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Susan Piver: And taking an interest in what they think and what they feel and what they need. Not that you have to supply it, but... Oh, this is what they're experiencing now. How could I help? How could I know when I can't help and back away? How can I notice where they are in their inner life and just recognize it? So, if you're with someone who is not aware that you're there, and therefore cannot have good manners, well then obviously there's very little you can do in terms of a relationship. So honesty and good manners, I would say, are foundational. And then the third quality here is just simply called openness, or openheartedness, and this refers also to the part, the cycle in the Buddhist teachings. First you create your foundation by being disciplined and keeping things simple and so on, and then your heart naturally opens to others.

Susan Piver: And this is the part in the Buddhist cycle where you think, "Oh, I'm not the only person here on earth, there are others. And I could actually begin to look at them as having equal importance to myself, if not greater, from time to time." It's radical, quite radical. And in a relationship, what it means is that you actually look at the other person as having at least equal importance to yourself in the relationship. I have to say, I found that quite shocking. I thought my relationship was about me, and sometimes I was like, "Oh well, now I guess it's about him." Neither of those... Sometimes both of those are true, but really it's about us thinking about us, not to the exclusion of you or me, but can I look at this person as having equal status in this relationship? It sounds like a silly question, but it's surprising how infrequently we act as if that was true.

Susan Piver: And then the fourth step here is called letting go or going beyond, and what it means in this context is looking at everything that happens between the two of you, good, bad, and ugly, not as a way to create more love or an opportunity to create more love, 'cause sometimes there is more love and sometimes there isn't, but as an opportunity to deepen intimacy. And this, when I realized it, was very, very heartening to me, because I knew, even before we got married, I cannot commit to loving this person. Sometimes, I will feel love, and sometimes I won't. But what I can commit to is to deepen intimacy and to look at everything that happens between us. Not, again, as a way to have more love, but to have more intimacy, to know each other better. And I have found that there's nothing that you cannot feed into the intimacy machine, because love, like I say, comes and goes, but intimacy has no end. You never get to a point where you're like, "Oh yeah, we know each other perfectly. There's no... Nothing more to reveal or know." There's always more. And so, that is an honest commitment. "I vow to deepen intimacy" is a more true vow, I think, than, "I vow to love." So I found that really inspiring. [laughter]

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, it's so, it's so expensive. And I think in terms of, especially if you're feeling like your relationship has gotten stale or boring, a more conventional approach to that might be to try to add some novelty, right? So like make things spicier.

Susan Piver: Right.

Neil Sattin: What I hear you saying is that, that my... Yeah, all the gears are turning right now. That that stagnation could be from not really turning towards your partner and from not actually meeting the person, the full human who is right there in front of you with their own set of needs, desires, etcetera, and that through leaning in with each other and creating more intimacy even in those moments, even in those moments where the love may not fully be there, or you might have the caring, but not the fire, or it could be any number of permutations of how you feel towards the person, but that the willingness to turn in and be present with what is happening creates intimacy that ultimately creates more, creates more. And more vibrancy, maybe is the word that I'm looking for.

Susan Piver: Yeah, I would say the vibrancy is always possible, but it creates problems for me, or I would think, to look at boredom as a problem that needs to be solved. We all prefer a relationship that's exciting and dynamic to one that is dull, obviously. And maybe it is dull for some reason that you should investigate. Absolutely, and do that investigation, but it's also possible to just be bored together. What is it like when we're bored together? Let's, let's... Can we do that? Can we be side by side in this bored, boring place? I know that doesn't sound like fun, but there's something very, at the same time, intimate about being where you are together. In fact, there is no other definition of intimacy, I don't think, than just being where you actually are together. And again, I know that this doesn't sound like fun.


Susan Piver: And this is not three ways to keep it awesome, this is not that book.


Susan Piver: If you have ever been on a retreat, for example, where there's silence, you find that at first it's intimidating or, "Oh, it's gonna be lonely or sad or whatever," but after a while you find that it is so intimate to just not talk, but to be with other people. It's bizarre. All of these projections, drop away and you just are together. So, excuse me, the idea that you could be with someone to whom you have nothing to say right now, but just be there, it's very intimate. It's strange. I remember after being on my first silent retreat thinking to myself somewhere in the middle of it, "What were all those words I used to say? [chuckle] Why did I need to say that?" Anything, because just being together without a particular agenda is really, really deep and rich.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, an experience that I've had that's along those lines, I have done a silent retreat, but we also, my wife and I are a part of this practice that we do called Infinity Practice. And every year we have a retreat, and one of the things that we do is we do a form of muscle testing before we speak. So that nothing that you say is something that you haven't tested strong. Like that it's generative to actually say this thing.

Susan Piver: Wow.

Neil Sattin: So that's been another little twist on that is just feeling how much we use words idly versus when are we actually... When are we saying something that actually contributes to the life around us?

Susan Piver: That's so interesting. What is it called? Infinity what?

Neil Sattin: Well, we've been studying with a teacher in actually out in the Northampton area. Infinity Healing Practice. It's something that she created. And I've talked about it a little bit here on the show. I think we're five years into our training with this person.

Susan Piver: That sounds great.

Neil Sattin: It's sort of a blend of Shamanist practices and neural science and acupressure, and it's got a lot of different components to it.

Susan Piver: Cool.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. But we actually use muscle testing all the time in our relationship, when we're trying to make choices about things, or what we're gonna do, or what we're gonna eat, or who's gonna massage the other person, things like that.


Susan Piver: That's an awesome idea. I'm gonna try that. I think that sounds great. My husband will really roll his eyes and laugh at me. I don't care. It will be... I think he would actually end up enjoying it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it's handy and fun. It also has a little, not that this is intentional or by design, but it makes it all feel kinda like a game, and you realize also that some of it is kind of arbitrary. Some of the things that we take so seriously, "Well, I massaged you last night, now I'm gonna message you again?" That you can go like, "Well yeah, that's what I'm gonna do. For some reason that's generative. So I guess it's my turn to give again."

Susan Piver: That's awesome.

Neil Sattin: And that reminds me too of one thing that you speak about that's so important. First I'm thinking about overall, how relationship is a practice. And then you also mention the act of loving and giving love, and how that's an element that you find is missing from a lot of the popular culture about how to get love or how to preserve the love in a relationship.

Susan Piver: Yeah, it's interesting. If you look at the self help books about relationships. I've noticed this when I wrote my very first book, "The hard questions", that you mentioned earlier, 'cause I was like looking for books, like, "How do you do this whole being married thing?", and I noticed that all, I'll say 100%, although I'm sure there's some exceptions, but 100% of the books that I found were about how to get love. How to get someone to love you, how to get love to return to you, how to get more love, and none of them were about how to give love, unless it was in the service of getting love. So that always surprised me. Like why, why? Because for a variety of reasons, but one of them is loving as we talked about earlier, it's so vulnerable, and everybody feels powerless because you kind of are. However, there is one way to take the seat of power in relationships. I don't mean of domination, obviously, of just feeling empowered, and that is as a lover. That's a very empowered place. I'm going to love, I'm going to be a lover. I'm going to give love." It doesn't mean to the exclusion of getting love, or I'm putting myself second, it just means my focus is going to be on "What can I give?".

Susan Piver: And then also, "What can I get?", 'cause you don't wanna be stupid. But if you just even bring in the question, "What can I give?", it changes things because the predominant question for most of us, myself included, is "What can I get? What will I get if I do this?" But when you shift it to just at least also ask, "What can I give?", I find I have a rush of confidence and empowerment that I don't feel when I'm asking, "What can I get"?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, and I think that you refer to this toward the end of the book in a question maybe from someone from your Facebook group. I think you took a bunch of questions and answered them and talked about that, like how one might discern when their giving is a little lopsided, and they're actually in an unhealthy situation, versus learning more about your own power to give, to be loving, to show up that way in life. And this might be a great time to talk about the power of mindfulness and meditation, 'cause there are some great practical things. This is something that, again, I love about your book, it's very readable for one thing, and you lay out the arguments, the relationships never stabilize, expecting them to be stable is the problem, meeting the instability together is what love is, and there's a path through to liberation. So we've covered all those things, but then at the core is a need to, I think, get clear and to be receptive and to be as open to this thing that we've mentioned several times over the course of this conversation, to what actually is, to being present, even if you're being present to the boredom, as you mentioned earlier. That seems like it would be impossible without learning mindfulness.

Susan Piver: It would be for me.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Susan Piver: It would, but there are people for whom it's not impossible. But I'd say it's rare. But yeah, if you don't know how to work with your mind, then it's very, very confusing. Of course, I'm not saying you have to know how to do it perfectly, at least I hope not because I certainly don't.


Neil Sattin: Now we're gonna have to write "The Four Noble Truths of Meditation".


Susan Piver: Right, right, right. Meditation is actually about placement of attention. So if I say to you, I don't know, "Don't look at your foot, left foot, but place your attention on your left foot," something sort of goes to your left foot. And if I say, "Now, place your attention on your right earlobe," which you can't look at, "But just move that attention to your right earlobe and just notice it," that's all mindfulness is. Something moves between those two points between your ear and that something is your awareness, your attention. And all that happens in meditation is you are practicing working with that, placement of attention. In case of what I teach, and the most common object of attention is your breath. You're not practicing placing attention on breath so you can be great at placing attention on breath, because there's not much utility in that skill, but you're practicing with the breath so that when you talk to a human being you can place your attention on them, because you have learned how to place your attention on what is happening. Because the breath is always in the present, you can't breathe in the past or the future. So, if your attention is on the breath, you could make the argument that your attention is in the present.

Susan Piver: And then when someone's talking to you or you're trying to make a decision about what job to take or who you are, you can actually place your attention on the thing that you want to contemplate. It sounds so simple, and it is, but it is not easy, and for most of us, our attention remains on what we hope and what we fear. So we don't actually... It's hard to hear the person who's talking to us outside of that lens of, "Will this be good for me or will this be bad for me?" And those are important questions, and you should not release those questions, but first, can you actually hear what's being said to you? And so as... If you train in mindfulness in some way, whatever way makes sense to you, the likelihood that you will be able to answer "yes" is greatly increased, I would say. Although my husband doesn't practice meditation, and never has, but he's good at paying attention. So he's one of those people.

Neil Sattin: Maybe he is, and maybe he's gotten a little through osmosis.

Susan Piver: No, no, no, no. [laughter] He's much better at this kind of thing than me. He's much better, he is. He's much better, much more relational than I am, and I've learned a lot from him. He's good at relationships. I have to write books about them 'cause I'm not good at them.


Neil Sattin: I'll get him on the show next time, I guess.

Susan Piver: That would be awesome.


Neil Sattin: Well, Susan, again, I so appreciate your visiting us here on the podcast, and I think your book, 'The Four Noble Truths of Love', is a perfect... I don't know why the word antidote comes, I don't want it to be an antidote, but it goes really well, it's a good, it's a good... No, it's not a seasoning 'cause it stands on its own. All these metaphors are failing me right now, but when you hold it next to a book, like let's say, 'Getting the Love You Want', which is like a classic, and it came to mind immediately when you said so many books are about getting love, because this book is actually really helpful, and there's a lot in it about how to give, in particular, how to give your attention in how you communicate with your partner. And so, props to Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt. At the same time on the flip side of it, I think there's so much richness in what you're adding to the conversation about really expanding your view of what this whole relationship thing is all about, and how to find yourself in it so that you don't lose yourself there.

Susan Piver: I really appreciate that, and yeah, learning how to get, receive love, and learning how to give love, seems that one without the other would be not so great. So it's good that there are ways to explore both.

Neil Sattin: Well, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that at the end of your book there are some great... You talk about establishing a meditation practice, and we talked about that a little bit a moment ago with placing attention on the breath. And I like how you talk about just getting in the habit of it is so important. Five minutes a day is better than nothing, and better than 30 minutes once a month, so that you're developing that muscle, that habit. And then you also offer some other things. So when you pick up Susan's book, which I hope you will, there's a great addition to loving kindness meditation, that we've talked about a little bit on the show but you had some extra bonus ways to do that that I really love. And also a way to practice conversation, that's again really helpful and centering, and can bring some of this practice to how you relate with your partner. So, I love those practical additions at the end of your book.

Susan Piver: Thank you.

Neil Sattin: And I would love for you to let our listeners know how they can find out more about you and your work and what you're doing right now. And I know you have a lot of offerings for everyone.

Susan Piver: I appreciate that. Yeah, my website's, just my name, P-I-V-E-R, is a way to keep track of where I'm teaching, and it's also, if you're interested in learning meditation, a place for you to sign up for the open heart project, which is my online community. It's free and I send out a guided 10-minute meditation instructional video every week on Mondays. And if you wanna learn to meditate or re-establish your practice, I heartily invite you to check it out. But my website is the best place to find these things.

Neil Sattin: Great, and we will have links to all of that in the transcript for the show. And as a reminder, if you want to download the detailed transcripts just visit, that's the number "2". Or you can text the word "passion" to the number 3-3-4-4-4 and follow the instructions. Although I'm tempted to have them text the word "boredom".


Susan Piver: That's what it is. That's so funny.

Neil Sattin: But don't do that, don't text. Well I don't know, maybe I'll see if that word's available, if it is, I'll make something cool, and if it's not I take no responsibility for whatever happens if you text the word "boredom" to that number.

Susan Piver: That is so funny.

Neil Sattin: And in the meantime, Susan, I hope to have you on again. I just so appreciate the depth and richness that you bring to the conversation about relationship, and taking one's seat in the middle of it.

Susan Piver: Well, I appreciate that. It's a pleasure to talk with you, and congratulations on your podcast. It's really bringing great conversations to light, and I'm just happy that you're making these kinds of insights and view points available to others. Thank you for doing this.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it's my pleasure. I'm glad. I'm glad that I can be on this end, bringing everything to people, so it feels good. Thank you for saying that, I appreciate it.


Sep 21, 2018

What’s realistic to expect in terms of things improving between you and your partner? When you're trying to change something in yourself? Or when you're hoping your partner will change? Once you've identified a place where you want things to be different (or see those things all around you), you can sometimes feel an overwhelming sense of urgency. How will all this get done? Can't it all just be fixed - NOW? This week we're going to continue the process we started in Episode 157, where we took stock of our relationship - identifying the things we want to celebrate and also the things that we'd like to improve. Today you'll discover a simple process that will help you relax, prioritize, and know exactly what the next right thing to do is in terms of improving the way things are.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Sep 12, 2018

Do you ever feel like there’s a barrier between what you know about how to have a good relationship, and what you actually do? How do you take what we know about the science of relationships, combine it with the wisdom of our hearts and our quest for deeper meaning, and integrate it into something practical? Today we’re going to get practical, integrated, and Integral with a return visit from Keith Witt, whose new book Loving Completely: A Five Star Practice for Creating Great Relationships was just released. Keith Witt has conducted more than 55,000 (!!) therapy sessions, and is also often featured on Jeff Salzman’s The Daily Evolver podcast. He is truly gifted at taking the “big picture” and making it useful for a daily lives. Loving Completely is a manual for how to not only set a higher standard for what’s possible in your relationship, but you also get simple steps that get you there.

Also, please check out our first two episodes with Keith Witt - Episode 80: Bring Your Shadow into the Light and Episode 13: Resolve Conflict and Create Intimacy through Attunement.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. We're trying to change culture with this show and I am so appreciative as always of your being here with me to evolve what is actually possible for us in terms of our relationships, and we know more about how to relate with other people than we've ever known before. We know more about the science. We know more about our spirit and how that factors in. We know more about the power of mindfulness. We know more about how our hearts interact with other hearts. It's all taking shape in a way that's very unique, and what we are trying to do here is to not only talk about it, but make it so practical for you so that you can put this stuff into use in your relationship. And so you can talk to other people and say, "Hey, like you're having a hard time, you know, check out this episode on Relationship Alive where you will get your problem solved or see a light at the end of this dark tunnel," that, let's face it, sometimes we're in a dark tunnel in our relationship, it's part of what happens.

Neil Sattin: So, I'm overjoyed today to have a returning guest, someone who has been on the show twice, and he's here today to talk about and celebrate really the release of his latest book called Loving Completely. I'm talking about Dr. Keith Witt, who you may know through his appearances on The Daily Evolver or you may have heard him here on Relationship Alive. He was here in Episode 80 where we were talking about shadow and he was also here way back in Episode 13 talking about Attunement and how important that is. So he is back on the show. And we will have a detailed transcript of this episode. If you want to get that, just visit as in Loving Completely or you can as always text the word Passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions and we'll send you a link where you can download this transcript, and all our other transcripts and show guides.

Neil Sattin: So today, we're going to talk about what it means to love completely, and how that's maybe different than your standard kind of relationship and why it actually helps you deepen and deepen what's possible for you in partnership. I think that's all I have to say for the moment. Keith Witt, it is such a treat as always to have you back here on Relationship Alive.

Keith Witt: Great to be with you, Neil.

Neil Sattin: So, let's just start there. Loving completely. Now, I know that some of the book is based on a course that you did in the integral world called Loving Completely. Why loving completely? What was the inspiration for you for that title versus just like, How to Have a Kickass Relationship?


Keith Witt: That's not a bad title. [chuckle] I've been doing therapy and writing and teaching for 44 years and I have studied dozens of brilliant people. And most people, most researchers, their understanding comes from how they came to establish mastery in their areas of psychotherapy or of understanding. Esther Perel, for instance, worked a lot with couples where people were unfaithful, and so she is oriented according to how sexuality ebbs and flows and manifests and affects relationships in her work. Stan Tatkin came from attachment theory and interpersonal neurobiology and his system is heavily oriented in that direction. John Gottman is a pure social scientist. I mean, the way that he found his wife was he went on 50 dates in 60 days and she was the outlier whom he married. He did it like a science experiment. And so his approach is social science. He uses social science to find what works and doesn't work and so on.

Keith Witt: So, everybody comes from their orientation and they're all right. But in Integral Psychology, we say that everybody gets to be right, but nobody gets to be right all the time. And so, most of us who work with couples and individuals have found that people are wildly unique, and people have different languages and understandings that help them love better. And so I was interested in an orienting system, where you could start with basic principles and practices and they could lead you in the direction that you were most open to in terms of helping you grow and transform in your ability to be intimate with the different parts of yourself and be effectively intimate with other people and especially with your chosen partner in a long-term lover relationship.

Keith Witt: And so that motivated me. That was a challenge. How do you get oriented in that fashion? And so out of that came the Loving Completely Course and then out of that course came, I wanted to expand the ideas and present a deeper dive into a lot of the constructs and so I wrote the Loving Completely book, which is gonna come out soon, and that's what oriented me in terms of and inspired me in terms of writing this book.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I like that picture of completeness, not only in terms of what it inspires me to think about and how I conduct my relationship, the process of my relationship, but also the willingness to look across the spectrum of what's available to help you that you don't have to be confined just because so and so says that their thing works 85% of the time. If it doesn't work for you, you're not screwed like there are other options for you that might be effective for you. And so there's that completeness of like, "Oh, the whole world is available for me to actually help me get this. Get this right."

Keith Witt: Yes, and we live in an age where there's a cornucopia of great knowledge available to us and especially around intimacy and around relationships. And so let me explain. I'm gonna talk mostly about a committed intimate relationship like a marriage, a long-term love affair, and so on, though these principles apply to lots of relationships, parental relationships, sibling relationship, friend relationships, and so on. But a relationship of marriage is basically a friendship, a love affair, a capacity to notice and repair injuries and ruptures, and a mutual commitment to each other's evolution. If those four components are attended to on a daily basis, couples tend to do well. If one of those lapses in some fashion, suffering occurs and suffering in relationship tends to spiral into separation. And this is one of the reasons why half the marriages end in divorce.

Keith Witt: And so that's a great picture of a good relationship, but how do we do that? How do we establish that? And just like any area of mastery, what you do is you pick a goal, you get ignited. I wanna have great relationships. You find data and information and master coaching in the world, and then you break it up into chunks and you do focus practice on those chunks and with a growth mindset of effort and progress is what matters. We're not trying to get anywhere, we're just trying to have effort and progress. You gradually can establish mastery in this area of loving, loving another person, helping another person love you and... Go on.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And so a couple of things are coming up for me right now. One is, we're talking here, we're on a show where we are focused about, we're coming from a growth mindset. And I can't tell you how many times I read something or I have this conversation with you or someone like you and I have that light bulb moment of like, "Oh right, this is how I've been seeing it, and I could be open to a different perspective here and that actually might serve me a lot better." So let's just start with maybe the hardest question which a lot of people who listen to the show are gonna be asking which is like, "Alright, you said growth mindset. And now, I just know that this ain't happening because my partner, like that's the problem, they don't have a growth mindset, and they're fixed and they're shut down. And I'm trying, I'm trying, I'm trying." I know, in the 65,000 or more sessions you've done with people, you've come up against this with couples and I'm curious to know how you help inspire both people in a moment like this.

Keith Witt: A human super power is our ability to receive caring influence. That is a super power. And it's more difficult than it sounds. Receiving caring influence means that you allow yourself to change how you think and what you do in response to someone else trying to help. Now, when people get threatened, when people feel insecure, when they feel unsafe, their nervous systems get more rigid. Your slower thinking frontal cortex gets inhibited and your faster thinking brainstem takes charge. And one of the ways to take charge is it resists receiving influence. And so if you have a partner that is resisting receiving influence, it probably means that in a particular level they feel unsafe.

Keith Witt: And so when someone comes in or a couple comes in, part of my job is to help that first person feel safe. And generally the way that I help people feel safe is through compassionate understanding. I know that at the core of everyone, there is a little interface between them and spirit. Patricia Albere in the evolutionary collective calls that the origin point, in the traditions she called that out man's soul, that kind of thing. That's how I identify people. And so, my job is to connect with that spot in them and then help them feel understood by me. And as we go into that understanding, we find a place where they feel threatened, where they resist influence. And the place where you resist influence and you feel threatened is also the place where you're yearning for something, you're yearning for love, you're yearning for security, you're yearning for passion, you're yearning to be known deeply.

Keith Witt: And as I help someone feel safe and as I help them understand their yearning, we can begin to open up a little bit to how those yearnings can be met in their relationship. They can be met by their partner, and I can help their partner help this other person feel safe. By the very act of coming to a therapist, people have gone to an environment where they've acknowledged, "We can't help each other feel safe enough to change, we need somebody else to provide a little bit more safety." And so that's a central part of what therapists do. Now, does that work all the time? Nothing works all the time. Does it work a lot? Yeah, it does. And if your partner seems impenetrable, then what you wanna do is you wanna say, "Well, look, let's get some help. Let's find somebody that you trust and let's get them to help us love each other better. Let's get them to help us be more connected."

Keith Witt: And you take a stand for that. And if your partner can't do it, you go get help and then that person helps you encourage your partner to get help. And so that's how it goes. Usually that ends up with both people getting into therapy, but not always. And frankly, it's just a bad sign. If somebody is having problems and refuses therapy, that predicts marital dissolution pretty reliably in a lot of cases, and that's just the way it works. If you take a rigid position, particularly in the 21st century with your partner, and refuse to work on things that are disturbing to them, that will separate you and those separations get worse, they don't get better. So those are the ruptures and repairs that are so important. They need to be repaired. And they're repaired when we're making that condition better, when we're working at loving each other better.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And this, I think, is so important because it's tempting, especially as you read a lot of, let's just say, self-help books about relationship which you might be doing if there are some issues going on or you might be doing even if you're like, "I just wanna know how to do this better," and kudos to you if that's what you're doing. Keith's book is great for that. It can be tempting to think like, "Okay, well, I'm gonna go into this with my partner like a therapist would. Like now I'm armed with all this new knowledge and I'm gonna bring it into my relationship."

Neil Sattin: And to some level, I think that is helpful, but what I'm hearing from you that I think is so key for people to get is that the real gem that happens in a good therapy, in a good therapeutic setting, is creating that safety and being seen without judgment, being seen with compassion, and from that everything else can grow. I would think that it's rare that someone comes in, and you're not just instructing them, right? I mean I sure don't. In my coaching practice, we're not saying, "You're doing this wrong, you're doing relationship wrong, so let me just tell you how to do it right, and then you're all set, you're then free to go."

Keith Witt: Yeah. Well, that would be great [chuckle] if it worked. You know, when I wrote a book on Integral Psychotherapy called Waking Up and in that I said what an integral psychotherapist does is relate, teach, inspire, confront, interpret, and direct and relating is first. If someone is open to learning a new perspective, they're open to receiving influence, in other words they get influenced to change what they think and do. A lot of therapy is just getting 80% of therapy is getting to the point where someone feels safe enough to be willing to do that. And, yes, we don't do that with our partners. I have two kids, they're grown 33 and 30, and wife, and I don't give them any input unless they ask specifically for it. And the reason why I've done that is because I realized as our family was developing that I didn't have a contract with them, like I did with my clients, and that actually interfered with our relationship if I offered input that wasn't requested or welcomed.

Keith Witt: And so I'm way more conservative when it comes to my opinions or my observations with my own family. Why? Because I'm not there primarily to enlighten them or to help them, I'm there to support the intersubjectivity of our relationships. I'm there to support our love for each other. And supporting our love for each other means having this relationship on a psychological spiritual level, we're experiencing ourselves as having equal power, equal credibility, equal say in the important aspects of our life around money, sex, parenting, time, that kind of stuff. And then all that stuff needs to be negotiated in a dialectic. And the dialectic is two people looking for deeper truth, respecting each other, open to each other, as influence, and acknowledging their individual rights. And that's called a growth hierarchy.

Keith Witt: It's a power hierarchy but it doesn't look like a power hierarchy because when people are going back and forth in that environment, you're not noticing how one person has a little more credibility, a little more power than the other person does because there's a flow back and forth in the integral cosmology, that's called the second tier. That's a particular kind of relating. Now, when people get threatened, they go into dominator hierarchies. You stop receiving influence and you're trying to bully the other person or convince the other person or submit even to the other person. That dominator hierarchy can get something done, but it contaminates a relationship. And an awful lot of work, whether therapist know it or not, when they're working with couples is noticing that shift in the dominator hierarchies, and then interrupting it and encouraging couples to go back into growth hierarchies where they're looking for deeper truth, more open to influence, being respectful, allowing each other individual rights.

Keith Witt: And just that, just paying attention. And that can transform your whole relational universe. Particularly, you can transform a universe relating to other people because once you start noticing those things you see growth hierarchies and dominator hierarchies everywhere. And if you have a moral sense of standing for growth hierarchies, that means that whenever you're around you wanna generate them. And if there's a dominator hierarchy happening, you wanna start working to shift that into a growth hierarchy. Nowhere is that more important than in your end of the relationship.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and this is something that comes up a lot actually in our Facebook group and just because we're here. I'm curious of your perspective on this. A lot of my listeners have actually been married and gotten divorced, and now they're working on their next big love, let's say. And so, of course, that introduces all kinds of other dynamics with former partners, their new partners, and that's a situation that's ripe for power struggles and dominator hierarchies to emerge. So, I'm curious like if you're a growth-oriented person and you're just getting hammered by a dominator, what's a good pathway through to navigate through that, that you might offer someone?

Keith Witt: Well, first of all, that is the... Particularly for educated people in this country, generally they go through at least two major intimate relationships, sometimes more. I was a hippie back in the '60s and '70s, so I had a three-year relationship where we didn't get married but essentially it was the first marriage. So that's very common. And when there's children and in-laws, you are bringing other people in and other responsibilities. Stan Tatkin says, calls it The Rule of Thirds. And he makes a point that I agree with. Yes, there's a lot of added complexity that comes when people have a second or third serious relationship, but that is simplified if you recognize the primacy of the intimate bond. The primacy, there's a reason that they call it a primary relationship, and that primary relationship is we wanna maintain this container in integrity, we wanna have this container be as clean and as pure and as beautiful as possible, and that means our friendship, our love affair, our capacity to heal injuries, and our commitment to mutual evolution comes first. And then everything else gets organized around that.

Keith Witt: What that does is it gets you oriented in terms of other demands, say there's an ex-spouse that is aggressive, this happens sometimes. Or punitive, people get angry after a separation, and often separations are expensive, and they're difficult, and people are more egocentric and distressed cells will come out and then they don't have much contact with each other, which makes it easier to objectify each other and see each other in negative black and white terms. Well, that's not good for anybody. It's particularly not good for children. Children of the divorce who have parents who are acrimonious with each other do worse. They have more symptoms and they have more problems. And so you don't wanna encourage that. You wanna discourage that. How do you do that?

Keith Witt: Well, there's two of general ways of dealing with other people. There's what you and I are doing now, which is relating. Relating is we're just telling our truth, we're respecting each other, we got individual rights, and we're both open to caring influence. You tell me something that's a better idea than something I got. I'll change my idea and change how I think in what I do. That's relating and relating is a superior way of being. But say, somebody can't relate. Well, then you handle them. And how do you handle them? You handle them so that they can't successfully dominate in a dominator hierarchy and you make it easier for them to relate. For instance, you set boundaries. So this happens all the time, when one ex-spouse wants special privileges and comes to feel entitled to it because the other person just tries to say yes rather than thinks in a larger sense about what's gonna make this a more coherent relationship.

Keith Witt: So then what you do is you start setting boundaries around whatever the dissolution agreement was. You don't say yes unnecessarily. And if someone is acting in a disrespectful fashion, you disengage. You set a boundary. Okay. So over time, this influences the other person to be more respectful. It's very much like parenting a child. And it's similar because when people are in defensive states, basically they've regressed to child ego states. And so you don't have to be... You can be respectful, but you need to be firm. I'm respectful of my four-year-old who doesn't wanna get in the car and go to the dentist, but I am firm. You're gonna have to get in the car and go to the dentist and that's all there's to it. So, respectfully, get in the car, we're going to the dentist.


Neil Sattin: You spoke in Loving Completely. And I wanna dive more into the meat of the matter here momentarily. You spoke about your commitment to more and more interacting with the world from a place of loving kindness and compassion.

Keith Witt: Yes.

Neil Sattin: And even then, you mentioned that there are some relationships and connections that you've had to let go of.

Keith Witt: Yes.

Neil Sattin: And I'm curious for you, what does that barometer like in terms of you knowing like, "Okay, I guess I've done all I can do here," versus like, "You know what? I'm gonna keep trying. I have faith in this particular container that it will ultimately yield to the power of a growth mindset and relating.

Keith Witt: Well, first of all, it of course depends on the nature of the relationship. You know, loving-kindness is a practice. And we can all do it now because it's a wonderful practice to get yourself into a place where you are available to engage in a mature and healthy activity, and here's how you do it. You imagine some other person. So I'm imagining you right now and then I am reaching out from my heart, to your heart, and in my mind, I'm saying to myself from my heart to your heart, "May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you have an easeful life." And as I do that, I am changing my state. Now, if I do that with... If you're my lover and I do that when we are in conflict, my defensive state, because I'm in, we are in conflict, all communication is complimentary, we're probably both in defensive states that are self-amplifying which is by defensive states we are so dangerous as couples. What I'm doing is I am now shifting into another state of consciousness where instead of allowing my nervous system to relate to you as an unsafe person, that I am objectifying to a certain extent.

Keith Witt: Now, I'm relating to you as someone I care about and that shifts my state. Now, as I do that, if we're around each other and you can see into my eyes, or hear my voice, your state begins to shift out of defensive state into a state of healthy response to the present moment. And so loving-kindness meditation is a wonderful practice to learn how to do when you're stressed because it shifts your state into an area where you have access to your frontal lobes, you have access to your deep wisdom and you're regulating your defensive states into your more mature and more powerful states of conscious awareness and compassionate understanding.

Keith Witt: And I encourage everybody who's listening to do it at this moment. Imagine somebody, you can imagine me if you want, I'd take all the loving-kindness that the... [chuckle] people could give, your heart to that person's heart. And in your mind, say, "May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you have an easeful life." And see how it feels. Interestingly, when people did this meditation, they had anti-inflammatory genes activated in their bodies and antiviral genes activated in their bodies that this meditation made their immune systems more robust, by shifting the myelinazation patterns of their genetic expression. That's how powerful this is.

Neil Sattin: Well, well, and... Yeah, I'm just struck by that like we talk about our anger being inflamed and how interesting that anti-inflammatory actions take place when we go into a place of loving-kindness like that.

Keith Witt: It's amazing.

Neil Sattin: And I'm thinking too about my own experience with Chloe and we're doing really well together. Not that we haven't had our challenges and despite doing really, really well together when something happens and one of us goes to that defensive state and we both end up there even... I guess what I'm saying is, even in the best of relationships, and you talk about this with Becky as well, it can be such a challenge, such an effort to even utter within, oh, you know, much less saying it out loud to your partner, if you happen to be in their presence. But within like, "May you be safe, may you be loved." I think if you're thinking back to a time when you had an argument with your partner, you'll get what I'm talking about that, it's like the last thing you wanna do.

Keith Witt: That's right.

Neil Sattin: And yet it has so much power if you can somehow do it.

Keith Witt: Yeah. What helps me with this is understanding that those defensive states that you enter when you're mad at each other, those were evolutionary milestones for the human species. And most of our brain is designed to relate with other people and there's a lot of good evidence that one of the reasons that brain size expanded about two million, three million years ago is because the level of complexity in human groups went up, and we needed to have more brain power to be able to relate with each other. And in those primitive tribes, there were social organizations just like there are in primate groups and that meant when there was a problem that couldn't be resolved cooperatively people went into dominance displays because the dominance hierarchies are what maintained the social fabric.

Keith Witt: And what they would do, they were programmed to do genetically is to raise their emotional intensity to intimidate the other person into taking an inferior place or the dominance hierarchy or to have you submit in a way that would happen before physical violence could take place, which would maintain the integrity of the social structure and protect people from hurting each other because evolutionarily speaking, the biggest threat to humans, for the last couple of million years, have been other humans.

Keith Witt: Now, what modern consciousness is brought to bear is way more powerful ways of dealing with conflict, way more sophisticated ways. And so when those defensive states are activated if I know that if I can engage in collaborative, two men in problem solving with this person, what that does is it opens up a possibility for this moment to enhance our personal evolution, this moment to make our love deeper, to support our friendship and our love affair. If I know that, if I can just have the faintest memory of that, then I can start working at soothing myself and soothing you and inviting you into that process to create that container of that dialectic. That container of mutual respect and individual rights and looking for a deeper truth and receiving influence. And when we do that a hundred times or a thousand times and discover how well it works, how it creates these miracles of consciousness, then what we've done is we've taken those primitive impulses and we've included and transcended them in the more sophisticated influences.

Keith Witt: And you know in our last talk, I talked about how what we're actually doing is growing our shadow selves. We're growing our unconscious. Our unconscious becomes more complex and it regulates outside of our awareness so that it gets easier and easier to reach for these better states. Now, every once in a while, we get triggered usually from a trauma memory and bam, here comes the defensive state, it happens in 60 milliseconds. We have amplified our numb emotions, distorted perspective, destructive impulses, and diminish capacities for empathy and self-reflection like that. But if you can learn to self-observe that, what you end up doing is instead of trusting all that stuff, trusting that distorted perspective, trusting those destructive impulses, going along with that lack of self-reflection and empathy and say, "No, no, I'm actually in a disadvantage state now I need to reach for something that is more powerful," like compassionate understanding that provides the impetus interiorly to do that for yourself. And then when you are doing that for yourself, you're non-verbally and verbally encouraging your partner to do the same.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Keith Witt: And this...

Neil Sattin: May I offer just a quick example of that?

Keith Witt: Sure.

Neil Sattin: So just the other night, I was with Chloe and we were talking about something, she was going to cover for me for something, and she made a comment like, "This is actually the last thing I wanna do, it sounds horrible to me, but I'm gonna do it but it sounds horrible." And I immediately went into like, she's being negative about this thing and I don't even want you to do it anyway, if it's gonna be horrible for you. So we started spiraling down this place and it was kinda late at night, so we weren't in our... There's not a lot of will power left at the...

Keith Witt: That's right. Oh no.

Neil Sattin: At the end of the day to actually steer yourself back. But fortunately I'd been reading your book and so I turned to her and I said, "Help me, help me help you, what I'm hearing you say that this is horrible. And it sounds like hell and I don't know what you need from me right now, what I can see is that I'm just going into this place where I am polarizing or where I somehow wanna change you or change your experience, but I clearly that's not working 'cause you're just getting more and more angry at me, and I'm getting more angry at you. Like what do you need?" And you know, to prove your point, Keith and this was just so hilarious to me in the moment, she looked at me and her eyes were big and wide, and she just said, "I need your compassion. I need you to understand that, yes, of course, I'm gonna do this for you, I love you, and it's not... It wouldn't be my first choice to do this thing and I just need you to hear me and to acknowledge me and to be compassionate."

Neil Sattin: So that was the first thing that was like, "Oh okay, right." And so, of course, I'm thinking like I know this and of course I know this, like I've... 'cause we've done this a million times, but here we were in this space of conflict. And so then I started thinking, like, "Well, I know that the key right now is to be compassionate and I've even done it before, but right now, I can't for some reason, I really can't." And so I asked myself like, "Why, why can't I be compassionate right now?" And I had this huge realization about my own earlier experiences with being confronted with, I had an idea about something and just to keep it somewhat vague like let's say a family member would have shit on my idea or say like, "No Like that. We're not gonna do that."

Neil Sattin: And so for me, I had to develop a pretty strong defense to that kind of what I perceived as negative energy, or a negative attack, and so my choice was never to meet that with compassion. I didn't... No one instructed me on how to do that as a kid, so I was just like kind of shoring myself up and figuring like, "Okay, how do I turn a negative into a positive, how do I... " It's like I had Martin Seligman in my back pocket like...

Keith Witt: There you go.

Neil Sattin: And which was good for me, in some level, but in this situation with Chloe, there was no like saying, "Hey, let's turn those lemons into lemonade." Like that wasn't what she needed in that moment. And as soon as I realized that and I shared that with her, "Oh wow, I'm realizing that you need compassion, and I can't do it and it's because I just have this defense against being... Like I've never learned how to be compassionate, what I've learned how to do is to try to look on the bright side or try to make things not as bad. And for us, it was this huge moment of understanding that just softened everything and next thing you knew, we were singing to each other and making peace with each other instead of making war.

Keith Witt: Well, I just love that story. You know what? When a couple comes in with the story like that, there's part of me that goes, "Mm-hmm. My work here is done." [laughter] You notice what you did, you went into vulnerability as power which you can do with her because she is a sophisticated enough partner to see that and to be moved by it and then you went into the real issue. The real issue is us, our container. And to go there, I have to go essentially into my trauma history to find out why I had this reaction, that's more rigid than I'm used to. It's more amplified than I'm used to. And yes, that it always comes from previous learning, often it comes from a family of origin. And when you understand that the problem right now was a solution, it's often a brilliant solution 40 years ago, but now it's not adequate because I'm in a relationship where I can actually go into deeper love from this place, which was not available then, I'd rather go into deeper love.

Keith Witt: And that's what you guys did and you were focusing on the real issue, which is we need to... There is a rupture in our container, in our intersubjective container, we need to heal that. And we know that we've healed it when we feel that sense of loving connection. When you're repairing, yes, you wanna validate the other person and, yes, the other person wants to feel understood. And you wanna feel understood. And you wanna take a little bit of action to solve the problem. Those are all important parts of repair. Yeah, you wanna accept that that's not gonna solve the whole problem but it will solve a piece of it but at the very end of it, there needs to be loving connection. If you don't have that loving connection, you haven't repaired it yet. And you only know that when you both feel it at the same time and everybody who has done that, which is almost all of us, knows what that feels like. And that needs to be the standard. That is always the standard to get back to love.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. There's this little song. I don't know who the source of it is but Chloe learned it recently and it's become our latest practice at the end of conflict. Not that conflict's happening all the time, but just as a reminder and a recognition of having gotten back to love. And can I sing it? Can I share?

Keith Witt: Oh please, I was gonna ask you to sing it. Sing it.

Neil Sattin: So it goes like this. "I behold you beautiful one. I behold you child of the Earth and sun. Let my love wash over you. Let my love watch over you." That's it.

Keith Witt: That's beautiful.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So for us that... And actually I find myself when I'm still stewing I can sing that to her in my mind. And that also helps like, "Okay, I'm coming back now." I can remember that the whole reason we're here is because we love each other and because our love is ever deepening and we've had that experience. So that also helps me come back to the table and get back to love with her.

Keith Witt: When you sing that song inside you, when you're with her, you're doing loving-kindness meditation.

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Keith Witt: That's another form of loving-kindness meditation.

Neil Sattin: Yes, exactly. So, Keith, let's shift gears just a little bit because I wanna give you a chance to paint the picture. You created a beautiful scaffolding around which Loving Completely is built and you call it The Five Star Practice. And there are these five questions that people can ask themselves about themselves and about their partner to help direct their attention to the elements that create an amazing thriving relationship. And you talk about how it came up in a conversation with your kids around like what to look for in a good partner and how that has become this lens through which you can... These questions have become a lens through which you can look at any relationship and see what's going well, what's not, where you might need to adjust your habits. And so could we go through those five star questions?

Keith Witt: Sure.

Neil Sattin: So people get a sense of what we're talking about.

Keith Witt: Yes. The genesis of this was in a conversation with my two teenage kids in the kitchen, of them asking, How do I choose somebody? And anybody who's done therapy realizes that at certain points in your life you open up and something comes through, you become a channel. And so those five questions came out. And as a scientist, I'm always a little uncomfortable with stuff like that because, yes, we can see it as an unconscious download, but it always feels like you're connected to something larger. And the interesting thing about that is that they really haven't changed that much over the years. It's been 15 years or so. And they've been cross-validated again, and again, and again, and again with neuroscience and social science and so on. And so I'll tell you the five questions but I'll tell you the reason for the questions and I'll tell you the foundation of the questions.

Keith Witt: The foundation is compassionate self and other observation. Loving-kindness meditation does that, attunement, paying attention with acceptance and caring intent to what you're sensing, feeling, thinking, judging, and wanting. Paying attention with acceptance and caring intent, what your partner might be sensing, feeling, thinking, judging, and wanting. That's the foundation, compassionate self and other observation. Now, if you can establish that, and however way you do it, if you ask yourself these questions, you're basically, when you ask yourself a question, you're opening up to your unconscious.

Keith Witt: So the questions are first, is there erotic polarity between me and this other person? Is there a spark between their feminine and my masculine? Because when we are looking for a partner, or when we were maintaining a relationship, part of that is the love affair. That love affair is a big deal, and that love affair is based on a spark between two poles, between the masculine in one person and the feminine in the other. Now we have energetic polarities between ourselves and everything and everybody. You have an energetic polarity when you look at a sunset, or when you're telling your daughter good night, I love you. But you have a certain kind of erotic polarity, has a sexual feel, between you as a masculine or feminine person and another person as a masculine and feminine person, and we're adjusting those all the time.

Keith Witt: And so that's one question, Is there a spark of erotic polarity between me and this other person? The second question is, Does this person maintain their physical and psychological health? Doesn't mean they have to be super healthy, it just means they're responsible for their physical and psychological health, and if there's a problem they'll take care of it. Third question is, If I'm in a relationship with this person or if I am and there's conflict, would they be able and willing to do what it takes to get back to love? We've been talking about repair, you and I, and that's a central skill in intimate relationships. A fourth question is, Would this person show up appropriately for a child or a family member? Appropriately is not co-dependently, appropriately is there's a lot of things that are appropriate, but will they show up in a healthy fashion for a child or a family member? And the fifth one is, Does this person have something larger than themselves, something sacred that they're committed to? And do they feel a sense of respect, even admiration, or would they feel that for what's sacred to me?

Keith Witt: So those are a lot of questions but if you pay attention to those five dimensions about other people, after a while they become like new sense organs and you just notice these things. You'll pull up to somebody... You're sitting down next to somebody in a restaurant, you look over and you go, "I bet that person would be a good parent." Or you see somebody, you go, "Hmm, I feel a spark of erotic polarity with this person." Or you look at that person, you go, "I don't think that person maintains their physical health very well." Or they do. They become things that you notice like people's clothes and eye color. And if you notice them about other people, it makes it easier to notice them about yourself. And these are not absolute questions. In relationships, we go moment to moment to moment to moment. And so they're dimensions that keep shifting. I can be engaged in a healthy behavior in one moment, and then all of a sudden I'm reaching for the doughnut and I'm engaging in an unhealthy behavior. And now what am I gonna do about that?

Keith Witt: Am I gonna adjust towards health or am I going to eat the doughnut then eat another doughnut? If I do that as a habit, then I'm not maintaining my physical health, for instance. And in relationships, we're always kind of adjusting... When I was talking earlier about being in growth power hierarchies, and then adjusting from dominator hierarchies to growth hierarchies, that's attending on a moment to moment, and these five dimensions are ways of adjusting. Am I showing up appropriately for my son? Am I expressing admiration and respect for what my wife finds deeply meaningful? And if I'm evaluating a partner, does this person do these things? And if the answer to even one of these is no, then there's gonna be problems. That doesn't mean you don't get in a relationship, but what it does mean is you have a conversation about it.

Keith Witt: And if you can ask yourself these questions about yourself and other people, what that does is it opens you up to have these be continua that you can discuss, they make them talkaboutable in relationship. And one of the big problems that couples have is they have one set of agreements on top that they usually hear in their marriage vows, and a whole different set of agreements below the surface that never get discussed until a problem comes up. You know, a great one is, I promise to be faithful for you. That's a public agreement. And then, the private one, unless I have an opportunity to have great sex with somebody else and I have this conviction that you'll never find out about it.

Neil Sattin: [chuckle] Right.

Keith Witt: Yeah. Well. If that agreement, if that private agreement is examined by me and discussed with you, I'm less vulnerable to have that happen. Number one predictor of affairs is opportunity and people have an opportunity and they're not prepared because these things have not been talkaboutable with another person. That's one of the reasons I have two or three chapters on affairs and what to do about affairs in Loving Completely. Even if you never had an affair or if your partner has never had an affair, it's useful to understand the dynamics of affairs because those dynamics affect everybody, and if we're aware of those dynamics, awareness regulates. And so being more woken up and more aware helps prepare us. Now, this is my bias, my bias is I like to understand everything, that's why I like Integral Studies. Integral Theory is a meta-theory that has a lot of theories inside it.

Keith Witt: And other people don't particularly like to grow in that fashion. But if there's one approach that speaks to you around any of these, okay, you can just dive into that approach. But you don't dive into the approach unless you realize it's something that needs attention. And asking yourself these questions about yourself and your partner and having them be modes of discourse between you and your partner, if some problem does happen in intersubjectivity, if there is a problem in your friendship, your love affair, your ability to receive influence or support of each other's personal evolution and collective evolution, it's more likely to come out and now you have a language to discuss it and to resolve it, and you have a growth mindset to make it better. And you have an orientation, we wanna turn this into deeper love and compassionate understanding of each other. And that's what creates the great relationships.

Neil Sattin: Right. I love hearing someone saying, "Oh, I just started seeing this person and we decided to start going to therapy together so that we were getting support." Or, "I just got together... " Actually I just had this happen with someone who said, "I just started this relationship... " And they had actually purchased the course that Chloe and I put together called Thriving intimacy.

Keith Witt: Great.

Neil Sattin: For a previous relationship, and they said, "We're starting off doing the course together." And I love hearing that because not only are they skill building, but yeah, they're creating that common dialogue of common vocabulary, a way to talk about things. And I think one of the biggest challenges is especially around those things that are scary like someone for instance saying, "I don't know if I have what it takes to be faithful." Wow, what a scary conversation to have with your partner. So any framework that you have that gives you the ability to talk about that and to keep each other safe in that conversation is so powerful and important for helping you strengthen rather than repeatingly shying away from those kinds of topics.

Keith Witt: Yes. And it's hard to talk about difficult things. You get easily threatened. And those defensive states show up. And if you're not aware, if you can't see those defensive states, then you tend to have those downward spirals that you talked about. But if you're aware of them, and you adjust back into those dialectics, those states of healthy response in the ways we've been discussing, then you can sustain the conversations. People, if they have a bad time, will tend to avoid the conversation. There's one study that showed if a guy initiated sex with his partner and she said no once, there was a certain number of guys that never initiated again. That one negative experience was enough to close down that conversation.

Neil Sattin: Wow.

Keith Witt: That's really a bad thing in intimacy. You want your intimacy to be marked by more and more things being talkaboutable, not less and less, not fewer and fewer things.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I love that. Talkaboutable. I think I'm gonna start using that. That...

Keith Witt: There you go.

Neil Sattin: Phrase. Yeah, it's a good one.

Keith Witt: My gift to you.

Neil Sattin: Thank you, thank you. One last thing, and we could talk about this forever. Obviously, I think every time you've been on the show we've spoken for quite a while and there's so much to digest here, and I do encourage you to, if you haven't heard the first two episodes that Keith and I did together, definitely go check them out. Episode 13, Episode 80. And there's so much in your book. I'm really excited for it to be out because it encapsulates so much. And as you mentioned, there are a couple of chapters on affairs. As I read through it, I was like holy mackerel. There's a couple of chapters on just about everything. Which isn't to say that it's this long slog of a read, you're actually a very entertaining and engaging writer, which I really appreciate.

Keith Witt: Thank you.

Neil Sattin: But there's a lot here for you to get that different growth oriented integrally informed perspective on all these different facets of relationship. What I'm curious about, from your perspective, Keith, is this is something that we've been touching on. And we touched on it in the dimension of... And I even had my own confession here. Yeah, I know I'm supposed to get compassionate right now, but I can't fucking do it. [chuckle] There's so much that we are learning about how to have better relationships and yet it requires us to change what we habitually do. It requires us to not just hear it and be like, "Yeah, that's awesome." And maybe to not even just tell our partner about it, but it requires us to actually shift the way that we behave and to follow through on that over and over again, especially because sometimes the initial shift doesn't yield the results that we are hoping for.

Neil Sattin: So it's like, you gotta stick with it. You talk in the book about mastery, and that initial like you learn a lot and then you have this plateau and it takes a lot of effort to get through that plateau to the place where you have another growth spike. So I'm curious, if I'm listening to the show and saying, "Alright, this stuff sounds great, it sounds really great. In fact, it's amazing." What do I do to remember it tomorrow so that I actually can put this thing into practice tomorrow?

Keith Witt: First of all, do the loving-kindness meditation a lot. The more irritated I am with somebody, the more of a positive impact on me the loving-kindness meditation has. And so that's kind of the first place I go when I get pissed off at somebody and I gotta tell you, I've been doing it quite a lot the last year and a half in that state. And the other thing is to ask those five questions, ask them all the time, not just with your partner but with everybody. Ask... Notice them in yourself. Am I... How am I doing with these five questions? And just to get information. Just to have... Do it from a perspective of compassionate understanding. I wanna understand, and by asking those questions your unconscious will give you answers. And as that happens, you're strengthening that perception, that perceptual capacity to notice these things and to be interested in these things and to be able to discuss these things.

Keith Witt: Now, why is this super important? None of us exist independent of everybody else. So we have our history and we have all the cultures that we were in, embedded in our personalities and in our relationships. An American culture has, over the last hundred years, has gradually been waking up. Psychotherapy and psychology has influenced it to some extent. And in the 21st century, more and more psychotherapists are recognizing that psychotherapy is not primarily about identifying psychopathology and treating it like an infection. Psychotherapy is about supporting people's development, relationally, individually, it's about supporting people's personal evolution, supporting people being healthy and happy, and having coherent lives and growing.

Keith Witt: And then along the way, there's blocks and problems that are natural functions of being human beings. And that those are difficult. The human nervous system, once it establishes a defensive pattern, doesn't want to give it up. That pattern has to be included and transcended in a more complex pattern and that requires conscious effort on our part. And ideally, these things would be taught from birth onward, but they're not. So what we do is we start whenever we start and learn things and do our best to implement them. And receiving influence from carrying other people is a super power as I said in the beginning. And particularly from our partner. Now hostile influence is not caring influence. If somebody wants to dominate me, and I'm influenced to submit, that doesn't do us any good relationally, okay?

Keith Witt: But someone influencing me when I'm being pissed off, inviting me into a growth hierarchy with them, inviting me into mutual understanding, and if I can receive that influence and do it, then we've taken our relationship at that moment to a greater level of complexity. Like you and Chloe did in the example that you gave. Okay, we wanna do that, we wanna get better at that throughout our lifetime, and we want to teach our children how to do it. And with our partner, we wanna help our partner do it and generally insist on partners who are willing to grow with us. They don't have to be as deep as we are in any developmental line, but if they're willing to grow in any of the significant lines of development, the psychosocial, the sexual, the moral line, and so on, we can continue to get more loving and more complex and human development goes in the direction of more compassion, more deeper understanding, deeper consciousness.

Keith Witt: And with couples, it goes to having a more and more special intersubjectivity. And that intersubjectivity is beautiful and powerful and really the most powerful and delicate relationship that's ever existed is a modern marriage where people can maintain this container, this friendship and love affair and repair of injuries and support each other's evolution. It's the developmental driver. As you begin to do that with someone, you value it, you get a little bit protective of it. It's easier to not let outside influences screw it up and it's easier to adjust when you have primitive incursions from your trauma history or from your early learning.

Neil Sattin: I have a question. How do you... Can you give me an example of this is the moment to exercise my power to receive caring influence? And I know I sort of offered one with Chloe, but I'm curious how would that... When does that typically arise for a couple so that they're like, "Oh this is the perfect time. Caring influence is available for me. Let me receive." How would I identify that.

Keith Witt: Great example. You're having a conversation with your partner. I've had this happen with Becky many times. She'll say something. I don't know. She'll make a comment about taking care of somebody. She errs on the side of co-dependence occasionally. And I'll go, "Cheese." Just like that. Really? You're gonna take care of that person? Now you can hear the contempt in my voice, right? Now at that point, if I'm looking at her, I see a wave of pain go across her face. And she'll... These days, she'll say, "Geez, that was kind of a nasty tone." Now, 40 years ago, I would have said, "Well, yeah, yeah, well, you're thinking of doing a really stupid thing. That's why I used a nasty tone." Okay, well, I learned from bitter experience that that really wasn't a very good response to that. That was a stupid response 'cause it just made things worse.

Keith Witt: So what I'll do is go, "Yeah, she's right." And I'll go, "I'm sorry. I know if I think it's a bad idea I use the dismissive tone, and I apologize. I am worried that you're gonna do something that will hurt you, that might not be appropriate to do, and so I got contemptuous, I apologize." I received influence. I changed what I thought and how I did.

Neil Sattin: Got it.

Keith Witt: Now she, on the other hand, was not caught up in the fact that I used a contemptuous tone 30 seconds earlier. She could have been. She could have said, "Well, you said that. And used that nasty tone. Screw you." "Well, I'm sorry I used a nasty tone." "It's too late." People will say that, it's too late. Well, it needs to not be too late. If your partner is doing their best to shift. And so all Becky will do is go, "Thanks, I appreciate it, and I'll do my best to not be codependent with this person." She'll receive influence from me then. Okay? It's is as simple as that. If you just do it on the level of tones. Is my tone communicating respect and care? If it's not, I'm sorry. By definition, I'm sorry. It's not like, "Oh yeah, I'm sorry, unless you deserve it."

Keith Witt: No, nobody deserves a contemptuous tone. I'm a martial artist. I studied karate and lots of other martial arts for decades. You know, the only time that you do violence to another person is in a street fight, and then you do it respectfully. The other person really could care less whether you're being respectful when you're breaking their arm, but you know that you're doing it respectfully. Every other situation, setting boundaries, we talked about earlier, telling somebody you need to stop doing that 'cause that's hurting. All of that can be done respectfully. That's the standard. And once we embrace that standard, which is basically a nonviolent standard, it's not a passive standard, it's a nonviolent standard. It organizes us whenever we have a little bit of violence of tone or deed or thought or so on, to say, "Yeah, that was violent, I apologize." And that... Noticing that in itself, and then making that adjustment changes everything.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, and following on the question before I'm listening and I'm saying, "Okay, I want, I need to remember to do that tomorrow, I need to remember to do that tomorrow." Like on this core level of recognizing, okay, I have a habit of not doing that and I realize we probably don't have time right now to go into a whole conversation about how to change habits, but what would be the first step that someone could take to ensure that, okay, I'm not gonna just do tomorrow what I habitually do. I'm gonna maintain my awareness of some other options that exist for me.

Keith Witt: Almost any contemplative practice helps. There's a real interesting study that was done on psychotherapists. Psychotherapists who did contemplative practice, which is any kind of meditation that focused on compassionate inner awareness, they had higher empathy scores. But when they stopped doing their practice, their empathy scores went down.

Neil Sattin: Wow.

Keith Witt: So having some mindful practice, and those five questions if you're asking them about yourself is a mindful practice. Paying attention with acceptance and caring intent, what you're feeling, thinking, judging, wanting, sensing, is a mindfulness practice. Doing that mindfulness practice and being able to recognize when you shift into violence, when you shift into diminishing another person. Or when you're feeling that sense of attunement where the sky is the limit. You and I are going back and forth in that intersubjectivity that we all love so much, that seekers love so much with other seekers, where we're looking for deeper truth together and both of us are kind of alert to what's gonna emerge between us. There's a palpable difference between those two moods of discourse. Once that becomes visible to you, it becomes way easier to regulate it. And what is visible to you as a couple? Now you've changed. That's a developmental milestone when that's visible for a couple.

Keith Witt: And they both feel a sense of responsibility to maintain the positive intersubjectivity, and to make adjustments with the negative intersubjectivity. So there's the answer, attunement, contemplative practice, and noticing the difference between those two states. And recognizing it's my responsibility to adjust from the negative state to the positive state. Just like you did with Chloe. I have a problem. What's my responsibility? My responsibility with her now is to lead with my vulnerability. I really don't know what to do. You're upset. I'm kind of conflicted. I don't know what to do. That vulnerable response was the most powerful response you could give in that moment. It invited her to understand and to offer her own vulnerability and out of that you guys came to a greater level of complexity with each other.

Neil Sattin: Perfect, yeah. Well, Keith, thank you so much as always for being here with us to chat about relationships and your experience combined with all the research you've done. I really enjoy our ability to enter that highly attuned intersubjective space together and hopefully it's enjoyable for you listening as well 'cause you can tell. I think we both get kind of excited about it.

Keith Witt: Yeah. It's really fun. It's really fun talking with you, Neil.

Neil Sattin: Awesome.

Keith Witt: Just gotta say, this is really... This is really a good time.


Neil Sattin: Good, awesome. Well, then, we know we'll have another opportunity for sure, in the future. In the meantime, if you are interested in finding out more about Keith's work, do check out his new book, Coming Out, Loving Completely. He has many other books that are all great that I recommend for sure. Keith, what's your website? What's the best way for people to find out more about what's happening with you?

Keith Witt: Just go on my website, There's lots of free lectures and lots of blogs. If you sign up, which is free, you get a free copy of my book, Attuned Family, and I'll send you free content from some of the classes that I teach, or the lectures that I've done. And there's also lectures for sale and classes for sale on my website. So, yeah, go to my website, check it out.

Neil Sattin: Awesome. And...

Keith Witt: Take something for you.

Neil Sattin: And we will have, as I mentioned at the beginning, a detailed transcript available for you if you visit, as in Loving Completely or text the word PASSION to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. Keith Witt, such a pleasure to have you back here and thanks so much for all of your wisdom and knowledge today.

Keith Witt: Thank you for having me.

Sep 6, 2018

Do you ever feel like you'll never quite reach your ideal in your relationship? And does it bring you down? How do you take stock of how things are going in a way that helps you not only improve things, but also identify what your strengths are - what needs celebrating? On today's episode, you'll learn a simple process for assessing things in your relationship - and how to celebrate the things that are celebration-worthy. And you'll uncover a way to hold your ideal vision without it becoming something that teases you by being continually out of reach. How do you hold your ideal, while celebrating along the way? That's what's up in this week's episode of Relationship Alive - which also happens to mark the 3 YEAR ANNIVERSARY of the podcast.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Aug 29, 2018

Do you suspect that you someone you love might be a narcissist? Or have you been told that you might be a narcissist? What can you do to bring a narcissist (or your own narcissistic tendencies) back into balance? What is the difference between healthy self-esteem and narcissism? Today we’re talking to Dr. Craig Malkin, author of Rethinking Narcissism: The Secret to Recognizing and Coping with Narcissists, and one of the world’s leading experts on how to heal when narcissism impacts you. Our conversation will teach you how to recognize true narcissism and what do do about it. You’ll also learn why a certain amount of narcissism is good for you and your relationship. And if you’re on the opposite end of the scale, an “echoist” in relationship with a narcissist, you’ll discover how to safely reclaim your own voice, without necessarily blowing up your connection.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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First are the folks at Through a unique online quiz, they help you figure out exactly what vitamins and herbal supplements you need to achieve your optimal health. They use high-quality ingredients, and can save you as much as 20% over comparable store-bought brands. On top of all that, they are offering you 25% OFF your first month if you visit and use the coupon code “ALIVE” at checkout.


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Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host Neil Sattin. This has come up a lot lately where you hear people talking about one of the most pernicious epidemics to affect society and relationships - it's the epidemic of narcissism and the reason why I call it an epidemic is not because I came up with that, it's because it's been labeled an epidemic with a lot of fear attached to it that perhaps the way that our society is, the way we've been raising children, the way that we are on social media, that that has fostered a whole generation of narcissists and perhaps because we've become more actively seeking help when we're in trouble, then it's easier to see what's going on around us and see perhaps if those people around us are affected by narcissism because it has a profound impact on us.

Neil Sattin: That being said, the way that we've looked at it has been pretty black and white. In that black and white view of what narcissism is, there hasn't been a lot of room to actually know what kind of things you can change, what's actually healthy and what isn't.

Neil Sattin: If narcissism is this inflated sense of self, do you want to not have a sense of self? How does that even work? Are there places where narcissism is actually good for you or for your relationship or for the world? These are the kinds of questions that we are going to be addressing today with our esteemed guest, Dr. Craig Malkin.

Neil Sattin: He's the author of the internationally acclaimed book, Rethinking Narcissism: The Secret to Recognizing and Coping with Narcissists. Dr. Malkin is a clinical psychologist and he's a lecturer at Harvard Medical School. He's been featured on NPR and Fox. He's covering the whole spectrum there.

Neil Sattin: You might also get a sense that this is a particularly relevant conversation for today's world. I'm super excited to have Craig Malkin here with us today. I just want to let you know that as always, we will have a detailed transcript available for today's episode which you can get if you visit and if you don't know how to spell that, feel free to Google it.

Neil Sattin: No one is going to make you feel bad about that. or you can always text the word passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. I think that's all the details, let's get on with the conversation. Craig Malkin, I'm so excited to have you with us here today on Relationship Alive.

Craig Malkin: Oh, thanks so much for having me Neil.

Neil Sattin: I was feeling this hint of irony as I was ... Because every episode I start with, I tell people, "If you want to just text the word passion to the number 33444, you can get a transcript." As I was saying the word passion, I was reminded of how in your book you talk about the link between narcissism and passion and how much perhaps we owe to degrees of narcissism in our world.

Neil Sattin: Obviously, it's expressed really malevolently at times and other times, it's so beneficial to our world. What do you ... This is maybe a really tough place to start, but I'm curious for your take on that. What's required and why is there this link between narcissism and passion?

Neil Sattin: After all, that's often what draws us into relationships with narcissists is that heightened feeling of passion and intensity that we experience with them.

Craig Malkin: It is a tough place to start, but it's an important place to start. Really what you're asking about is what we have come to call a healthy narcissism. We'll get into more detail about this, but briefly, 50 or 60 years of research demonstrates that the average happy, healthy person around the world, this is cross-cultural research mind you including China, the average happy healthy person doesn't view themselves as average. They view themselves as exceptional or unique to some extent.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Craig Malkin: Yeah, they see themselves through slightly rose-colored glasses. This is what we think of as healthy narcissism. In the research I did with my colleagues, the research that others have done because at this point there are four measures that tap into healthy narcissism.

Craig Malkin: Also called moderate self-enhancement. I want to make a point here, this is not self-esteem. Narcissism and self-esteem are not the equivalent. Even healthy narcissism and self-esteem are not equivalent because healthy narcissism is tilted slightly towards the positive.

Craig Malkin: What turns out in this research is that people see themselves through these slightly rose-colored glasses, feel happier, they're able to persist in the face of failure, they're able to maintain big dreams. There's that sense of passion where that comes in and they may even live longer because there's some tie in between moderate or healthy self-enhancement and health measures.

Craig Malkin: What we're finding is it's just that ability to maintain a little bit again those slightly rose-colored glasses just enough to be happy, healthy, maintain some intense engagement in your ambitions or your visions for yourself and others that can provide a fuel.

Craig Malkin: If we get too focused on other people to the exclusion of ourselves, then we lose some of that passion. That is to some extent that passion and engagement comes from being able to let other's needs and feelings fade from huge or small enough to keep you going, but not so long that you become deeply self-involved. That's a good way to think about healthy narcissism or moderate self-enhancement.

Neil Sattin: Right. You can be present and you can even be internal, but you don't lose connection.

Craig Malkin: Precisely. Another way to think about this is secure attachment that is our ability to feel like when we're sad, scared, lonely, blue, we can safely turn to others, one special person or even people like a group and depend on them for mutual caring and comfort and support that we're safe to some extent in their hands.

Craig Malkin: Secure attachment in the research is tied very closely to this healthy narcissism. What's fascinating is people who are securely attached don't become so driven by that drive to feel special that they lose sight of other people's needs and feelings or even behave in a hurtful fashion.

Craig Malkin: It's like secure attachment both brings out those rose-colored glasses for ourselves and others. I go into great deal in rethinking narcissism is about this. It both brings out those rose-colored glasses and it also keeps us tethered so that we don't tip into dangerous territory where we are so addicted to that experience of feeling special that we go out of our way to get it including hurting other people.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I loved how ... It was interesting that you mentioned in your book that there was this study done that one of the most ... One of the strongest indicators for longevity and happiness in a relationship was a couple's ability to see each other as better than they actually are. There's this healthy relational narcissism as well.

Craig Malkin: Right. Those rose-colored glasses that people lined up developing. Again, closely related to our ability to safely depend on others to securely love. They extent to our partners. There is this large scale study of 40,000 people you're referring to what's sometimes called the pickle study I think because of the variables that were identified to be strongly related.

Craig Malkin: One of them was PI, positive illusions, that was the strongest. Way more than self-esteem or what you might think of it was a winning personality. It was one or both partners seeing their partner as better than they were by objective measures. That sounds odd, but there's lots of objective measures like intelligence.

Craig Malkin: There was a recent replication of this study where happy healthy people viewed themselves as ... I think it was a funny number, 80% of people in this large scale study over 2,000 believe themselves to have above average intelligence which of course statistically is impossible.

Craig Malkin: What we're talking about is just again, slightly tilted towards a positive and it turns out that's helpful. It's like the roots, there's a place for it in healthy relationships. I make a distinction between extreme or addictive or pathological narcissism and the playing with positive illusions is that really what we're talking about is being special to a partner as opposed to special for the world or for others which is performative. We feel like the gleam in their eye, they feel like the gleam in ours. That's a very loving, secure relationship.

Neil Sattin:  It reminds me of a time when a friend of mine who had just gotten out of a challenging relationship. It happened upon a book about narcissism and in reading this book, she had this huge revelation that, "Oh my goodness, so many of my problems in this relationship were that I was with a narcissist."

Neil Sattin: While it was great that that gave her some relief to know that, what I noticed was that I started noticing lots of people labeling others as narcissists. For me, that's caused me to wonder, "Are there really that many narcissists out there? Are they all as bad as all that? Or is there this spectrum of what people actually ... What we can expect people to act like and behave like."

Neil Sattin: Some of those things being really problematic and other things being something that you could actually work with. That's why your book on rethinking narcissism was such a relief for me because it really addresses that head on. I'm wondering if you could talk for a moment about what is this spectrum of narcissism and where can people land on it and where is it workable and where is it not?

Craig Malkin: Absolutely. Happy to talk about the spectrum. The first thing I should say though is the way I described the spectrum is not the way it has often been described in the past although a lot of people are adopting my version of it because it's more inclusive, it helps explain all types of narcissism and it explains some other problems that we can get into.

Craig Malkin: The way it's usually viewed as is think of narcissism as this pernicious, obnoxious, arrogant, self-involved personality trait and you start with a little bit of it that's pretty bad and then you go all the way up to the extreme where it's disordered and there's many, many problems.

Craig Malkin: It starts out as bad and there's more bad, but as we already covered, the problem with that view is for a long time really since the inception of the concept of narcissism, we have this idea of healthy narcissism, there's plenty of evidence for it.

Craig Malkin: Again, think of it as having slightly rose-colored glasses for yourself, at least feeling exceptionally unique compared to seven billion people on the planet even if privately. The problem is that there's all ... That's only associated with positive measures of self-esteem, of capacity for relationships and our study for empathy.

Craig Malkin: If you look at people who have zero narcissism and I'll introduce my term for that in a moment, that's a problem as well. It's really where people lack any healthy narcissism or healthy self-enhancement or they self-enhanced too much where it become disordered.

Craig Malkin: We want to think of imagine a spectrum at zero. If there are problems at zero, imagine a spectrum at 10. There are problems at 10, this is where people are so ... If you think of narcissism as this pervasive universal tendency, the drive to feel special, these people at 10 or so addicted to it, they turn away from love, relationships, truth.

Craig Malkin: Again, lie, steal, cheat, do whatever it takes to get their high. They soothe themselves by feeling special. Then in the center is where we find the moderate self enhancement or what I've called healthy narcissism. As soon as you start viewing the spectrum that way, a lot of things become clear including the fact that we also know people can be extremely high in trait narcissism without being disordered.

Craig Malkin: Think of some narcissists as someone who's dependent on her addicted to feeling special if they become so addicted that they have diagnosable problems, that's when they have narcissistic personality disorder, but not all narcissists are diagnosable with a disorder of some kind.

Craig Malkin: I think I want to address your question in pieces, that's really the first piece, helping people understand that there's a spectrum and that we can lie along any point within that spectrum and if people are interested or who are listening in where they fall, actually my colleagues and I developed a measure for the narcissism spectrum scale.

Craig Malkin: I have a brief version of it on my website that you can access just by going to the or and click on the test tab. If you have trouble spelling narcissism, in fairness I often did early on, but now I've spelled it so much that it's second nature, but you can also get to it through my website.

Craig Malkin: You can take it and I'll give you feedback and test results. You can see where you fall in the narcissism spectrum as I've described it.

Neil Sattin: I took the test and fortunately, it was such a relief to me to find out that I'm not way up at the top of the spectrum though I had a feeling I probably wouldn't be, but you take those tests and you're like, "I really hope that this doesn't reveal something that everyone else around me has known for quite some time and I'm going to discover right now."

Neil Sattin: I was slightly above the average number though because you have the test in the book so that was the diversion of the test that I took. It was interesting for me to see that and to see fortunately I think, I was pretty good in the healthy narcissism category.

Neil Sattin: It made sense to me of my experience and then even when I thought about, "Okay, I was a little above average in the ... I guess it's the extreme narcissism category, that actually helped me make sense too of some moments especially when you quantify it as this is an addiction to feeling special." When I think about certain times in my life, when let's say that was compromised, my feeling special are important.

Neil Sattin: Now that makes a lot more sense from the perspective of, "Oh, there I am. A couple points above average in the narcissism test that you offered."

Craig Malkin: But not above the cut-offs in the book you're saying or it gives you the cut-offs for a score where this relates to where you want to keep an eye on how to keep yourself in a healthy range? Are you saying that ...

Neil Sattin: No. For example, you said if you scored 27 or below, stay where you are on your spectrum estimate. Then you said if you scored 35 to 41, move yourself up a notch. I actually scored a 29. I was in the gray zone between the 27 or below and then the next one that you described the 35 to 41.

Craig Malkin: I see. Okay. Yeah, that's more or less the same of course because all of those, the ranges I described, this will help anybody who reads my book too, you really want to look at those specific cut-offs because that difference of a couple of points isn't really, it's not statistically significant if I'm understanding what you're saying.

Neil Sattin: Got it. Yeah.

Craig Malkin: I would have to ... It's been a while since I looked at the cut-offs myself, but as long as you are below that next cut-off, you're just in that first range even if it's a couple of points above.

Neil Sattin: Oh phew.

Craig Malkin: Okay.

Neil Sattin: I recommend that you take a test. Do you think someone could actually accurately fill it out for another person if they were trying to figure out what was going on with someone else in their life or is that really not an accurate thing to do?

Craig Malkin: I think you can fill it out. A lot of times, these self-report measures are used that way where a partner fills it out. It changes the nature of the test. I will say that we have not tested the narcissism spectrum scale by asking partners to fill it out, but here's what you should know about the answer to that question is it turns out that we're actually really good at picking up.

Craig Malkin: At least when it comes to a very specific type of narcissism. We haven't talked about the types yet. Along that spectrum, there were going to be lots of different ways to feel special and that's what explains the different types. When it comes to more outgoing, charismatic, manipulative, arrogant, chest-thumping narcissists.

Craig Malkin: As I say, the narcissist ... I often say the narcissists we all know and loathe. Everybody recognizes that type and it turns out in the research that if we see somebody like that on social media or we have interactions with them in person or we just observe in any other context that when we rate them on narcissism, our ratings are pretty accurate compared to when that person fills out self-report or is assessed clinically where it turns out we're pretty good at spotting that more outgoing kind of narcissism.

Craig Malkin: When it comes to filling out the test for somebody, if you're with a partner or a friend and you're wondering about them and the vain preening, primping, loud version of narcissists, you're filling out of that questionnaire is going to bring-

PART 1 OF 3 ENDS [00:25:04]

Craig Malkin: Filling out of that questionnaire is kind of gonna bring you pretty close to an accurate picture.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah and let's talk a little bit about some of the more subtle versions that someone might kind of experience but not entirely be aware that that's what's going on.

Craig Malkin: So important. Yeah, I often start conversations about narcissism and narcissist just as we did ... this is sort of the opening of Rethinking Narcissism, my book, I explain narcissism's not a diagnosis, we've talked about that. Neither is narcissist, the only diagnosis is Narcissistic Personality Disorder and when most of us think of narcissist or narcissism, we do tend to think of that vain, preening, primping, boastful, bragger. The problem is, it's really a caricature of a stereotype. The reality is that not all narcissists care about looks or fame or money and some can be extremely quiet.

Craig Malkin: So, if you get too focused on those features or those traits, you missed signs of difficulty or trouble that have nothing to do with vanity or greed. So, very simply, if you think of narcissism as a drive to feel special, narcissists as people who are addicted to or dependent on it and the level of disorder they're severely addicted. Many ways to feel exceptionally unique compared to the other seven billion people on the planet. So, we've talked about the obvious, it's often called or overt, I prefer Extroverted Narcissism as the term, I think it's more precise. And they tend to agree with statements like, "I find it easy to manipulate others and I think I'm pretty special." Things along those lines. And they answer them in the extreme.

Craig Malkin: So, these are people who might feel special because they accumulate lots of wealth or they accumulate fame. Again, they're really out there. But there's other kinds of ways of feeling special. Like you can feel like the most misunderstood person in the room. Introverted Narcissists don't particularly care about fame or money most of the time. They agree with statements like, "I feel I'm temperamentally different from most people. I have problems no one else seems to understand." Sometimes they think of themselves as an undiscovered genius. If people only knew me, they would see. And there's yet a third, I'm sure there's gonna be more as we continue to research called, Communal Narcissist. These are people who agree with statements like, "I'm the most helpful person I know and one day the world will know me for the good deeds I've done." So obviously, this is someone that doesn't care about vanity or greed. So, if you just think of it, this is really about becoming too reliant on feeling exceptionally unique compared to other people, you can now start to imagine it doesn't have to be for positive reasons.

Craig Malkin: I mean, you can meet someone who feels like they're the ugliest person in the room and they're deeply invested in that and that's their way of feeling exceptionally unique.

Neil Sattin: Yeah and this might be a good time to talk about something that's so important because lest we focus too much on the label or even why, like this desire to feel special, let's go maybe deeper to why would someone have this desire to feel special? Apart from the fact that we all have it and this is something that I've addressed on the show before but that's, I think, one of our universal needs. To feel loved, to feel special, to feel certainty, to feel ... it's just, it's in there, in the mix and yet, you talk about this and I think it's so important when we start the conversation about how you actually reach someone who might be up somewhere other than healthy on the narcissism spectrum, which is what's underlying that need to feel special and maybe that will help us find some compassion and connection for people who are struggling with this issue.

Craig Malkin: Absolutely, I mean, I work with people in my practice, I have both with couples and individually worked with people who are so extreme in the trait that they do have Narcissistic Personality Disorder and even that, there's sort of a range of where you can feel some hope. We have to enter the conversation, first of all, by recognizing that before we even think about, "Can I reach this person?" You have to think about safety. That is not if it were the case that everybody who was narcissistic was abusive and dangerous to be around, we would have that as part of the diagnosis. It's not part of the diagnosis.

Craig Malkin: The reason is that there are plenty of people who either are narcissistic or even have Narcissistic Personality Disorder who aren't abusive but I always like to refocus people's attention, if you're thinking about, "Can I reach this person?" You want to think about what I talk about is the three stop signs in rethinking narcissism first and that first is, abuse. Emotional and physical abuse. If you have a partner who calls you names, who puts you down, who relentlessly demeaning, dismissive, that's emotional abuse. If they are physically aggressive, it's not really crucial to figure out why they're abusive, people get distracted by that. People can become abusive because they have an addiction that's fueling it, they can be abusive because they have tension over some other problem like gambling and they can become abusive because they're extremely narcissistic. But if you see abuse, you want to address that. It's not on you as a partner to end abuse, it's on somebody who's being abusive. So if you see that, a reason I call it a stop sign is that until the abuse has ended, you can't be safe in the relationship trying to reach your partner in different ways or trying to make changes. This is such a part of my training as a therapist and a couples therapist that if we see, if we hear signs of abuse, I'll typically meet with a couple one on one so I can ask them about their safety in the relationship so, I can get a sense of just how safe they are. If you see signs of abuse, you really can't even work together as a couple until that's ended.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Craig Malkin: So you want to get help figuring out next steps. If you see denial, whether the problem is a partner who has a substance abuse problem, or gambling, or extreme narcissism, it can't change. It's not gonna change until that person is willing to at least say, "I think there's something wrong that I need to work on, I need to get some help." And the third stop sign is psychopathy, that's a pattern of remorseless lies and manipulation. Not all people who are extremely narcissistic are psychopathic but people who are psychopathic, actually, their neurology is different. They don't just have empathy blocks as we see, where that drive to feel special gets in the way of thinking about other people's needs and feelings when somebody is narcissistic. People who are psychopathic actually may not be able to experience empathy in the same way. So, if you see those three stop signs, you want to get help thinking about next steps. We were really talking about if you don't see those stop signs, if somebody's in the milder range where they might have Narcissistic Personality Disorder but none of those other signs, this is where you might be able to reach them.

Neil Sattin: Yeah okay, and what are some of those ... what are things that you might notice where you'd think, "Oh okay, this isn't the extremely vain chest thumping narcissist or preening narcissist but this is one of the more subtle kinds." What are some of the warning signs that you might notice where you'd be like, "Oh, this could be what's going on with this person?"

Craig Malkin: It's a great question because one of the reasons I wrote Rethinking Narcissism is to also direct people to more reliable signs of difficulty or even danger and when you think about extreme narcissism, even in the milder range say when it doesn't tip into disorder as an attempt to manage attachment insecurity. Once again, attachment insecurity is when you're feeling sad, scared, lonely, this is a person who for whatever reason has come to mistrust, not feel trust that they can turn to somebody for comfort or care in mutually supportive ways so, they see themselves of feeling special instead. As soon as somebody does that, I think of it as kind of doing an end run around healthy vulnerability.

Craig Malkin: They loathe to be vulnerable in any way because that means you have to be open to being in somebody else's hands. That's part of what attachment security is about. So there are predictable ways of doing that. One of the most common that I see is what I call, playing emotional hot potato. You want to think of this like playing hot potato only with feelings of insecurity. An example I often use is I had a woman I saw whose husband would stand over her shoulder while she was applying for jobs and say, "Are you sure you want to do that one? Maybe that one's out of your reach or they're out of your league." So, he wasn't really sure what he was doing in his life, he felt in a really unsure place himself but rather than turn to her with that and look for some kind of soothing instead, he made himself feel like he was in the know by casting doubt on her certainty about herself and what she was doing.

Craig Malkin: Think of that as I don't want to feel insecure, here you take those feelings so, the person says and does things to stir those up. That's a way of bypassing any of those feelings of vulnerability and doing it in a way that makes that in that case, the husband felt like, again, he was special, he had some special knowledge, he didn't even know about the job market she was looking at, that's how extreme it was. But you can see, that's not overt abuse but it does undermine somebody's confidence. So, that's one example that can come out very early on and it's not so severe that it's obvious like the other things people talk about.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that reminds me of a couple of the other warning signs that you mention because they surprised me, honestly, I was like, "Oh yeah, I've experienced that and I see how it could be what you're talking about." And those two that I'm thinking about, they seem a little connected. One is placing other people on a pedestal and then there's that like twinning phenomenon like, "We're exactly like each other and isn't that amazing?"

Craig Malkin: Yeah, this is again, it cuts if you have to rely on feeling special, instead of depending on people for sense of feeling good about yourself or soothing, it means always bypassing those vulnerable experiences so, putting people on pedestals, again, I mention this study, it's worth going back to and rethinking narcissism, the study of 40,000 couples, where one or both partners viewed each other as better than they actually were, smarter, warmer, funnier and objective measures. It was just like, "No, you're about average or below." But the partner thought otherwise, that's putting people on a pedestal and it seems to be a part of normal love relationships and it actually keeps people together. But if it becomes so rigid that you feel like you're being cemented to a pedestal, like you can do no wrong, it's not okay for you to make mistakes, now that's a sign that this person is struggling with subtle or maybe even extreme narcissism because what they're doing is they're trying to avoid feeling vulnerable. If they've convinced themselves that you're so special like you're a God or an idol, you're perfect, perfect people don't disappoint.

Craig Malkin: You can never let them down and if somebody is so narcissistically driven that they're afraid to be vulnerable, then if there's no disappointment, then there's no vulnerability and they can feel safe from that experience, they never have to fear feeling that at all. The problem is, of course, that it's not a real relationship, disappointment is part of relationships, working that through is part of a secure, loving relationship and working it through in healthy ways and inevitably, we get knocked off the pedestal, often in anger. Because it's not a sudden realization, "Oh my gosh, not just that you're not perfect," but it's this sense of that the anger is partially, "and I don't want to be around you because I might be vulnerable."

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Craig Malkin: So, that's the pushing off the pedestal. And then why people engage in the twin fantasy where if somebody's narcissistic that you're close to, they focus on everything that's the same between the two of you, "Oh, we love the same movies, we love the same books," some of that is fun, again, some of it has roots in something normal where it's a special relationship to be a twin, one mind in two bodies. But you can see, if it becomes insistent, then it's about, again, bypassing doing an end run around an experience where, "Oh my gosh, you mean you don't see things the same as me?" Because that can be kind of a letdown, you're not on the same page. And that requires being open to feeling vulnerable about the fact that, "Oh my God, you mean this person isn't always gonna agree with me?" And being able to work that out instead of feeling like you never have to fear that the two of you are ever gonna disagree on anything.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Craig Malkin: So you never have to face it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah what this reminds me of is, well, for one, I think you're right, that some of these things are part of healthy relating, particularly in the beginning stages when we've got that oxytocin and dopamine coursing through our veins with our new beloved and that to me, just suddenly I had this light bulb flash where I was like, "Oh, that's why people who have narcissistic qualities do get into relationships." I mean, it makes sense on the level of that's one great way to feel special but these two in particular, the pedestal and the twinning, that's something that actually does bring you together and being on the receiving end of that like knowing, "Wow, it feels great to be put on a pedestal for a little while," and it feels great to have someone being like, "Oh, we're so much alike," it kind of reinforces your own sense of specialness, right?

Neil Sattin: So to me, that explains why narcissists actually do end up in relationships. But then what we know about relationship development and we actually just had Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson on the show talking about this is that you have to go through that place where you're no longer in symbiosis with your partner to get to the healthier horizon of having a good mix between being differentiated and being securely attached and so, that's where the problem, it sounds like, of narcissism really emerges because you're trying to do something natural in a relationship, which is to be different from each other and then the system that really needs those things that reinforce specialness can't take it.

Craig Malkin: That's exactly right, that's exactly right. I forget where I read this years ago but this can all be summarized as no conflict, no closeness. Very early on in a relationship, it is normal to idealize each other, that honeymoon stage, yes, when the oxytocin is flowing and that it's fun and it's wonderful. These early warning signs can appear in ... we all engage in them sometimes and again, a certain amount of it is healthy and normal, it's when you see it rigidly and frequently and across the board that you have to start worrying and wondering how much can this person handle the normal experience of, "We are different people." And that means that I might not always see things the same way and can that be anything but catastrophic and dangerous? Can we still remain connected? That differentiation you're talking about. We're two separate people but we are securely attached and if there's this rigid insistence on always feeling special in the relationship or that twin ship effect where we're always the same, then you can never progress beyond that. And you never really learn is this person capable of negotiating needs and seeing me as a separate, complete, whole other person that they can still be close to?

Neil Sattin: Right, right. And that reminds me of the warning sign you mentioned of someone trying to kind of control you. But it's not necessarily overt control, it's this stealthy, behind the scenes, because then you never have to meet each other in vulnerability to actually have a conversation about something as simple as where we're gonna go for dinner or something bigger like are we gonna move to Tanzania together?

Craig Malkin: Exactly.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Craig Malkin: Yeah so, stealth control comes about. Again, you can see the common thread throughout these, if somebody's so narcissistic that they can't handle any feelings of vulnerability, sadness, feelings of rejection or disappointed, they're all normal and if they can't handle that, then it's gonna be very hard for them to directly ask for what they want to engage you in a conversation about, "I would like to do this." So the more narcissistic someone is, the more likely they are, sometimes in subtle ways, to go around that all together through what I call, stealth control, by arranging events to get their needs met. And the classic example I provide of this ... I think I even talk about this in Rethinking Narcissism is the ... I was working with somebody whose partner would come in at the last minute, say with concert tickets or something really fun and sweep them off their feet and they didn't really have time to plan and it was fun, of course, and exciting, you can just imagine the thrill of this surprise but anytime she wanted to go somewhere like check out a new restaurant or go to this movie, his answer was, "Well, I'm bored or I'm too tired or I'm bored with Chinese food," or whatever. There was always some reason not to do it.

Craig Malkin: And she slowly realized that she was sort of orbiting his preferences organized around what he liked to do without his even asking. It's like a slow, subtle attrition of your will. It doesn't become a part of the conversation, they're just doing what this other person wants.

Neil Sattin: Right and that, I think, almost brings us to the opposite end of that narcissism spectrum, right? Where the co-partner that's most appropriate for a narcissist is someone who more and more erodes who they are and what they want and that's kind of the only way it can work. And I'm putting work in quotes because it's obviously not really working.

Craig Malkin: Absolutely. So yeah, the nice segue to one of the most important contributions that I worked on in Rethinking Narcissism that people find so helpful, especially people in relationships with somebody who's narcissistic is this idea of echoism. We talked about healthy narcissism. In Rethinking Narcissism, I introduce the term, echoism, you want to think of these as people who lack any self-enhancement, they rarely or never feel special, usually they've had experiences that lead them to fear that they might become a burden. Growing up, say they had a fragile parent who was depressed or rageful so, they worried about having too much of an impact or too much effect on that parent so, people who develop echoism agree with statements like, "I'm afraid of becoming a burden and I'm at a loss when people ask me what I want or what I need." And you can see, the reason I came up with this term is that in the original myth of Narcissus, Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection due to a curse. Echo was a nymph who fell in love with Narcissus and she was cursed to have no voice of her own, she repeated the last few words that she heard, that was all she could do.

Craig Malkin: And people who struggle with echoism, like Echo, tend to fall into relationships with extremely narcissistic friends and partners or at least they have trouble recognizing it and pulling themselves out because they're already afraid of seeming narcissistic in any way so, they become adept at echoing the needs and feelings of others so, it makes for yes, a match, not a happy one for either partner sometimes but people can get very stuck when they struggle with echoism and they wind up finding a partner who's more in the extreme range of narcissism.

Neil Sattin: Right, yeah. I thought that was so beautiful how you brought that in and that is such an important part of the myth as is recognizing that echo just fades away to nothingness where that's all that's left is her voice and repeating and so, I really appreciate the dynamic there that you illustrate and also to me, I was like, "Oh right," and that is probably one reason why just thinking back to my friend, when she got out of that relationship, she felt this huge reclaiming.

Neil Sattin: She felt this huge reclaiming of who she was that had been undermined, and I realize that I'm talking about a friend who's a woman, but there are narcissists who are women, too, and men who find themselves in this role. So it's not a gendered thing, right?

Craig Malkin: No, it's not gender, and what's interesting is I think we might find a slight gender difference, just a note on the research on traits. We tend to think of men when we think of narcissism and extreme narcissism, in particular, and while men outnumber women in extreme range, they only slightly outnumber them. The rates aren't that high to begin with, and men outnumber women 2:1 when it comes narcissistic personality disorder. But when we're just talking about the subtle range, somebody who qualifies as above average in narcissism enough to be called a narcissist, there's only slightly more men than women. I think we'll find the same with echoism. Just because echoism is really about attuned to other's needs and feelings often at the expense of your own, in general, on average, women are more socialized, focused on relationships and caring, and others that what we found, and I think this speaks to your point, is we didn't find a gender difference in echoism, so far.

Neil Sattin: Interesting.

Craig Malkin: So it might be slight and we haven't picked it up yet.

Neil Sattin: There are two important things that I want to make sure that we cover before we end. One of them is … The one that we're going to cover second is talking about what you do, because I think that's a really important part of your book and you go into it in detail. I love how you talk about being in relationship with narcissist, but also like how to do it in your family, how to cope and strategize at the workplace. So there's a huge scope in your book that we're not going to be able to get to here. We're going to focus on the relational component. But before we do that, I want to know, like, if you are listening to this and you're hearing all these words and you're like, "Holy mackerel, like that might be me. I might be kind of veering into the narcissistic end of the spectrum." For one thing, like I don't want you to feel horrible. I want to celebrate that you're hearing this and thinking like, "Oh my God, that could be me." It's probably worth taking that test that Craig was mentioning earlier. But, Craig, what could you offer someone who's sitting here, listening to us and thinking, "Wow, that actually might be me. I might be doing that in my relationships. What do I do?"

Craig Malkin: I can offer hope to people who are listening and identify with the experience of extreme narcissism, because as long as you have that awareness, I mean a big part for me of change and growths and healing is really compassionate self-awareness. I really try to help people get to that pace. If you're, at least, aware, "Okay, this might be me," we already know from the research that what keeps people, as I said earlier, tethered to the center, that is where they might have just moderate self-enhancement is secure attachment. We know from the research that extremely narcissistic people aren't securely attached.

Craig Malkin: So to the extent that you can start to become comfortable with normal vulnerable feelings owning them in yourself when you're sad, scared, lonely, testing out in relationships, sharing those feelings directly and trusting that people actually care even if you don't nail it at work, even if you don't make tons of money, even if you're not an undiscovered genius, that people still care about what you're feeling. So working with therapists who are trained, I think what we're learning is based on … I'm going to throw a fancy phrase out … communal activation. It's an area of research that shows that, especially in this subtle range, or the milder range of narcissism, that people who struggle in that way, they're not missing empathy, it's blocked. It's blocked by this drive to feel special.

Craig Malkin: There are therapies, I practice these forms, that are rooted in attachment research, again, helping people relate in ways when they are feeling vulnerable, that they can trust they can depend on others. Therapies like schema therapy, accelerated experiential dynamic therapy or AEDP, EFT for couples, Dr. Sue Johnson's model. All of these therapies are helping people learn how to relate in securely attached ways. If you can do that, you're not going to rely on feeling special. You're not going to tip into the extreme because to the extent that you can truly depend on people on healthy emotionally mutual ways, you won't be addicted to feeling special.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. This reminds me a lot about Alex Katehakis' work. She was on the show back in Episode 116, and she was talking about how the pathways of addiction get created and she describes how, when you're young and your attachment bonds aren't necessarily being fostered the way they ought to, how it becomes really easy to find shortcuts to feeling better rather than what you learn in a securely attached environment, which is that, "Oh, if I get connected to someone and feel safe and vulnerable and open, that's another way." It's a more sophisticated way of feeling better. It's not quite the easy pathway that then can get hooked into any kind of addictive behavior, where you get quick rushes of dopamine to the system and that helps you deal with your discomfort.

Neil Sattin: So, I'm thinking about that, and, yeah, how powerful it is that while relationships can bring out the dysfunction, there's so much potential in relationship if you have that awareness to lean in and either create or reinforce that other pathway of how you deal with your discomfort and your disregulation by regulating with each other.

Craig Malkin: That's absolutely right, co-regulation, regulating with each other. We heal and experience deep healing in relationships when we experience the person that we're with in a way that we maybe didn't experience growing up as someone that we're safe in their hands and they experience us in the same way. That changes us. This is what we're learning from this research, and yes, when people have had an experience where they don't have that basic sense of trust where they're insecurely attached, they turn to all kinds of substitutes. Drugs are one; gambling, pornography, and an addictive drive to feel special, self-soothing in that way.

Craig Malkin: Again, I want to come back to this, this is a central idea when we're thinking narcissism. Speaking to anybody who's listening who thinks they're struggling with extreme narcissism or somebody who has a partner when they're not seeing those three stop signs, that learning how to relate in a securely attached way is the answer to the extent that you can rely on people, love and depend on them, you will not rely on feeling special. What we're doing is replacing feeling special for the world or for others with feeling special to a partner or even a group of people, if it's a religious group that you're a part of, where you feel special in their eyes.

Neil Sattin: Got it, yeah, because that kind of connection actually reinforces an intimacy, reinforces a specialness that's not quite so fragile.

Craig Malkin: That's exactly right. It's more lasting. Those addictive replacements are addictive because they're controllable. One of the reasons people turn to say alcohol or other drugs or narcissism to soothe themselves if precisely because unlike people, you can buy and sell money. With narcissism, to some extent, you can control your looks by dressing really nicely and making yourself up as best you can. Even the research, it turns out that people who pride themselves on their looks narcissistically, they engage in something called effective adornment; that is, they're really good at putting selves together but it turns out they're no more attractive than the average person when they're not allowed to do that. So these are controllable ways of feeling special.

Neil Sattin: Now, let's just … I love the hope here because that's, I think, one of the unfortunate things about earlier approaches to narcissism is by lumping everyone together. I think it didn't give people a lot of hope that someone could change or that a situation like that where you've involved in with someone who has narcissistic tendencies, that there's any hope for change.

Neil Sattin: So let's assume that we're not seeing those stop signs that you mentioned of abuse, denial, psychopathy, and what might I do if I'm saying, "Okay, this is my partner. I want to know that I have given it my all before I leave because I don't see being with the narcissist forever, like that doesn't sound my idea of happiness, but I'm inspired by Craig Malkin's view that there is hope here and change is possible. So what could I do to help try to bring my narcissist back into the healthy zone?

Craig Malkin: Such an important question. Yeah, I know, there is hope. Anybody who wants to change can change and I firmly believe that if they're willing to do the work. We can invite people to a healthier range where they can meet us in mutually, satisfying, caring ways. I go over all of the research and rethinking narcissism, I mentioned earlier communal activation. I think of this as lighting up areas of the brain devoted to relationships and caring and connection that we're born with this. Human beings are social creatures. It's part of how we survive. This is the attached-

Neil Sattin: Right, I even talked about how, when you're using the pronouns like "we" and "us," that that is activating those parts of the brain.

Craig Malkin: Yeah. There's over a dozen, I mentioned in my book, but there's even more now, just simple things like using communal language: we, our, us; flashing images of a mother holding an infant; of a teacher helping a student; of asking somebody who test as narcissistic, who actually scores on a test as a narcissist or maybe not disorder, maybe they are, but they're in the extreme enough that they test high and you can ask them to put themselves in the shoes of an abuse survivor that they're watching, for example, in a video and it's called empathic induction. They'll actually show a reduction in our narcissistic traits. It is like it's reactivating the attachment system.

Craig Malkin: Again, we are social creatures. We're meant to survive by being with people so we have this … Attachment system is part of our evolutionary survival. It's early experiences that interfere with its full expression. So if somebody is in the subtle range, I wanted to offer very simple ways of tapping into that communal activation, lighting up that area of the brain by inviting secure attachment experience. So I describe what I call empathy prompts. This is what you can try.

Craig Malkin: There are two parts to an empathy prompt. The first part, part one, is to voice the importance of the relationship. This is where you're reminding the person that they're special to you. In some way, shape or form, this is attachment language. Then you voice your vulnerable feelings. We tend, when we're feeling disconnected in relationships, sometimes we go to anger. Sometimes we shut down and move away, instead of saying what we're feeling underneath, which is "I'm sad and I'm lonely. I'm afraid. I'm worried," whatever it is. That's the vulnerable piece. An example would be I would often coach a client to say something like, "You are my husband and my best friend, and you'll always be important to me. That's why I feel so sad when you give me the silent treatment. It's like I am losing the person that I love the most."

Craig Malkin: So that would be an empathy prompt. You're reminding the person of their special relationship with you and the place that you hold in each other's lives, and then you're sharing the impact that they're having on you. Most people, if they're capable of empathy, they'll melt when they hear statements like this. It really is an invitation to hear what you're feeling on the inside. Another example, I'll go back to the husband who's looking over the woman's shoulder, commenting, "Oh, isn't that out of your league?" or when she's applying for jobs, I might help her say something like, "Your opinion means the world to me. You're my husband. I look up to you. When you suggest I only apply to easy jobs, I'm afraid you don't think that much of me, like I'm not that important in your eyes."

Craig Malkin: So these are examples of empathy prompts. If you do not see shifts with these, I even say in the book, like within the three weeks, don't hold out a whole lot of hope because then you might be dealing with a more extreme situation. Certainly, don't hold out hope if you don't seek out a couple's therapy where people would help changing the nature of the relationship between the two of you to a more securely attached one.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so you're looking for that melting or that person like actually having some understanding and maybe even taking some responsibility for how their actions have affected you.

Craig Malkin: Absolutely. You want to hear things like affirming statements like, "I love you, too, and I don't you to feel sad" or "How long have you felt sad like this?" or "I'm sorry. I never want you to feel like a failure," apologizing even, right? Validating, "I know my sarcasm hurts you," and you want to look for signs that this person is not shifting. You're doing your part. This is as much as anybody. I'm not ever going to ask somebody to be like a therapist to their partner. These are ways that we should talk to our partners anyway, based on the research.

Craig Malkin: So I want to make that point. I often say, if it doesn't work with somebody who's not narcissistic, it's not going to work with someone who's narcissistic. These are things that are just known to help invite a more securely attached way of relating. If you get responses like, "Why are you saying this to me?" defensive, attacking, or "I get busy, that's all. What's the problem?" or "What about what I've been going through?" sort of hijacking the conversation. Or worse, blaming you: "You're just too sensitive." Those are really, really bad signs because if you lead with how important that person is to you and follow-up with, "That's why I feel sad" or "That's why I feel afraid," you should see signs of empathy.

Neil Sattin: Got it, yeah. Is there any way to tell someone, "I think you might be kind of a narcissist," in a way that's ever generative or helpful in a relationship?

Craig Malkin: I don't recommend it because, for the same reason I approached both individual in couple's therapy where the focus should be on what your experience is and sharing that with the person that you're trying to remain close to. If you're describing their behavior, if you're labeling them, again, if it doesn't work with somebody who's not narcissistic, it's not going to work with somebody who is. So as soon as you say here is what's wrong with you, even if you try to do it in the most loving way, it immediately puts people on the defensive. They're far less likely to be open to hearing what you have to say. It's better to simply share that when they criticize you or raise their voice or question your choices, that it leaves you feeling like they don't … leaves me feeling like you don't think much of me. You want to talk about the impact it has on you, the specific behaviors. Let's leave the diagnosis and the labeling to whoever they go to for help.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, and if you find yourself going to therapy, it sounds like that'd be a great idea to get help and support in a situation like this. If your therapist is open to influence and they haven't already read Craig's book, Rethinking Narcissism, you might want to just kind of surreptitiously pass it off to them so they have a chance to read it.

Craig Malkin: I have clients who have come to me because their partner gave them my book. Over the years, I probably had, in the last couple of years, I've probably had, at least, five, I would say, come to me because their partners said, "I think you should read this book," and then they come see me.

Neil Sattin: Wow. Well, that must be profound to see that your book is having that kind of impact as well where people are willing to come forward like that.

Craig Malkin: Yeah. I feel honored and grateful that it's having that kind of impact and I find it very moving when somebody calls me up on the phone, and that's happened too, and says, "I read your book. I felt like I'm lost through all my life and I've left some wreckage in my relationships, but I really want to change this and your book gave me hope." I get calls like that, too.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, awesome. Well, I do want to mention that you brought up Sue Johnson as someone whose couples work you recommend to help people build attachment in a secure attached relationship. She's been on the show a couple of times, so you can listen to Sue Johnson in Episode 27 and in Episode 82. Actually, she was also on an Episode 100, but those two that I just mentioned are probably the most relevant for this conversation that we've been having today.

Neil Sattin: Meanwhile, Craig, I'm so appreciative of your time and the vast wisdom that you have on this particular topic. I know that I feel hopeful, not only from having read your book, but also being able to hear it from you as well, that this is something that we can shift in our world, that it doesn't have to be an epidemic; that it can be something that ultimately helps us find more pathways to connection and feeling special in sustainable ways, because there's nothing wrong, I think, with feeling special. It's just doing it in a way that actually brings us closer.

Craig Malkin: That's exactly right. No, I'm so glad. I'm glad I can offer some hope, and that is truly the way I see it. Really, the image I want to leave everybody with is think of attachment security as a tether and it keeps us rooted in a healthy place while they were trying to make sure we don't become too tipped into narcissism or too tipped into echoism. So, yeah, no, I don't believe for all kinds of reasons that we're in danger of being taken over by some narcissism epidemic. I am encouraged by the efforts I see to educate people about emotions, about attachment, about managing and recognizing emotions. As soon as you do that, you are already moving into an area where you're not going to tip into either of these extremes.

Neil Sattin: Great. Well, if you are looking to find out more information about Craig Malkin, you can visit, it's Definitely pick up his book, Rethinking Narcissism, and we will, of course, have links to all those things and to the narcissism test in the transcript, which you can get, again, if you visit, I think, is what I said. Or, you can just text the word "Passion" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. Craig Malkin, thank you so much for being here with us today.

Craig Malkin: Thank you so much for having me, Neil. It's been a lot of fun. 


Aug 22, 2018

You know those things in your relationship that you don't talk about? Over time, they will drain the energy, passion, and vitality from your connection. In today's episode, I'll walk you through the process of how (and why) to communicate about the things that you avoid - to give you the best chance of finally resolving those things and moving on. You can tackle something big first, or you can start with something smaller and build on your success. Either way, my goal for you is to be able to collaborate with your partner on getting through the challenging conversations - so that you can have more energy for connection and growing your relationship.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


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Aug 14, 2018

If you’re in a same-sex relationship, do the rules change? Or are there universal principles of relationship that foster intimacy and passion no matter what kind of relationship you’re in? Today’s guest is Rick Miller, author of Mindfulness Tools for Gay Men in Therapy and Unwrapped: Integrative Therapy with Gay Men. Rick Miller has also been featured at the Couples Conference, and is on the faculty for Esther Perel’s Sessions Live 2018. Rick and I chat about the unique challenges faced by same-sex couples, particularly gay men in relationship. How do you address the uniqueness, while at the same time staying true to what we know about what works in relationships? In this far-ranging conversation, we cover the particulars as well as what we can all learn from how to have a successful same-sex relationship.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Check out Rick Miller’s website

Read Rick Miller’s books: Mindfulness Tools for Gay Men in Therapy and Unwrapped: Integrative Therapy with Gay Men

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Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. We've had so many relationship experts on this show, and there have been times where we've talked about the principles of relationship and whether they apply or not to everyone, and particularly to same-sex relationships, are there these universal rules of relationships that apply? And up until now, the best answers we've come up with have been things like, "Well, yes, of course." But it's not necessarily based on any empirical evidence, or just a statement that's... And of course, these things apply to same-sex couples as well, you just have to make a few adjustments, that sort of thing. So, you hear that enough times and if you're me, you start to wonder, "Well, what is different?" I think it's important that we know, both for you, if you're listening and you are in a same-sex relationship, and I think there's something for all of us to learn as we learn about each other in this world, in this project that is so important, of just understanding other humans, and how we operate and recognizing that we don't all think about the world in the exact same way, and we don't all have the same kinds of experiences.

Neil Sattin: So today's conversation is meant to be helpful on so many levels, and I hope that it is. We have an esteemed guest with us today, his name is Rick Miller, and he is a clinical social worker from the Boston area, who I found out about when I was chatting with Jeff Zeig about this topic, and you may remember Jeff Zeig, he was on the show back in Episode 102 and in Episode 114. We were chatting about, "Well, who would be an awesome person to have on the show to chat about this?" And he mentioned Rick, who among having presented at the couple's conference on this topic of gay male relationships, he's the author of, Unwrapped: Integrative Therapy with Gay Men: The Gift of Presence, which is a book primarily for therapists, and then another book, Mindfulness Tools for Gay Men in Therapy. Both books are amazing in helping you really wrap your brain, and I think that's kind of ironic, right? 'Cause we're talking about unwrapping. But it helps you wrap your brain around just how different this experience can be, and also where the similarities lie.

Neil Sattin: So, I'm really excited to have Rick with us today to talk about gay male relationships. We will as always, have a detailed transcript of today's episode, which you can get if you visit, as in Rick Miller, M-I-L-L-E-R. Or you can always text the word, "Passion" to the number, 33-444 and follow the instructions to download your transcript. I think those are all the details, so let's dive in. Rick Miller, it's such a pleasure to have you with us here today on Relationship Alive.

Rick Miller: Thank you for the great introduction!

Neil Sattin: You’re welcome! So Rick, perhaps a good place to start is this question of where we all might share principles of how to have an amazing relationship in common. Then from there, we'll go into the places where we diverge. What do you see as the principles that hold true, no matter who you are in trying to have a successful relationship?

Rick Miller: I do believe that there are universal principles that are a part of every intimate relationship, and some of them include vulnerability, self-expression, expression of intimacy and sexuality, dealing with conflict, dealing with trust, dealing with betrayal, so many things like that. I think what's unusual for male couples is that they were raised as boys and as men. So the development of the gay male is different from a man and a woman who end up being together.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and it also, from reading your book, Unwrapped, I was struck by not only are gay men raised as men, but then there's also this underlying dichotomy or tension between being raised as a man and what it's like to grow up gay in a world that doesn't fully support people who are gay.

Rick Miller: Yes. So I have a lot to say about you're pointing this out. First, and most important is that for the majority of gay boys growing up, they know that they're different, they feel different, they feel ashamed of being different, on some level they're attuned, probably unconsciously attuned to their parents and their society, aware that they're not the child that their parents want them to be. So by the time they reach adulthood, they've learned to constrict themselves and they've become masters at hiding. So, what do you do in an intimate relationship when you've been accustomed to being so hidden all these years? And then suddenly it's expected that you'd be communicative, open, unguarded, and all that stuff.

Neil Sattin: Right. Where those are really the essential ingredients in staying connected when things get challenging?

Rick Miller: Yes, yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it's a great question. One thing, one nuance that I really appreciated that you brought up in your book was that it comes even literally down to how I might feel in my body and distancing myself from that. So that even that might be a challenge to overcome, this feeling at home and at peace in my physical experience.

Rick Miller: Absolutely. One of the points in the book, and a lot of the work that I do, and the trainings that I do is that gay men and gay boys dissociate from their bodies because their bodies are dangerous to them, partially because of the conflict of growing up gay and feeling disenfranchised and shutting that off, or partially because many gay boys are not good at athletics, and they don't trust that their coordination will get them where they want.

Neil Sattin: So there's this need to build trust with your body?

Rick Miller: And so many people don't even recognize this tension that I'm describing, and I do a lot of hypnosis with my clients, which is a really fascinating process and a part of what it includes is relaxing, going inside, noticing what's taking place inside the body and creating space for openness, warmth, and resourcefulness. Frequently, what comes out for many gay men is that they've been tightening themselves and hiding themselves and dissociating themselves without even realizing that they've been doing it because it's their automatic go-to place for day to day life.

Neil Sattin: So listening right now, how would I know? How would I know if that is part of my normal state of being, and I wasn't even aware that that was happening for me?

Rick Miller: Well, the easiest way to know is simply to take a moment and put your attention inside of yourself in your body and notice what is your breathing like? How are you holding yourself in this very moment? Are you tightening up a particular part or a particular place of your body? What are your neck and shoulders like in this very moment? Even as I'm asking you these questions, what are you noticing? So if you'd like to be the guinea pig, perhaps you can answer these based on your own observations.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, well, I'm happy to be a guinea pig, and what I was noticing was just as you were talking, that there was a smile developing on my face.

Rick Miller: Nice.

Neil Sattin: And at the same time, I always feel a little... It's a combination of nervousness and excitement as these conversations get underway. I was feeling that like an unevenness to my breathing as opposed to just like a regular, smooth breathing. Yeah.

Rick Miller: So one of the lucky things is that our cameras are not connected to each other, so I can't make any observations or have you here. So I'm gonna go at face value with what you're saying. I like the openness that you have, that a smile can come to your face. And if I were sitting across from you, I might point out little things that I'm seeing, and ask you to make slight adjustments, and all that kind of thing. It's exciting. What's interesting about really being attentive to the body is that there are so many answers that we have available inside of us that many of us don't even pay attention to.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and it's coming to me really clearly right now and just so you know, and you listening know this, this is not planned, but I just became suddenly aware of how when I was reading your books and getting prepared for this conversation what it was like to grow up in this world, and I'm a product of the mid to late '70s and the '80s, I was born in '74, now I'm truly dating myself here and recognizing in relation to this dialogue, what my experience was, which is, I would not say that I'm gay and yet at the same time, I did experience a lot of, I think more things that might be considered more feminine and more connection to emotions. I'm realizing now just how much the fear of being labeled a certain way impacted me in terms of being fully in my expression of who I am. I wouldn't say that's the case for me now, but I think what came up for me was even a little bit of grief in recognizing like, "Oh, yeah, this was actually an obstacle for me in truly connecting with myself and with the people around me because I was afraid, afraid of being labeled."

Rick Miller: I totally appreciate your openness in talking about this, and I think the experience of feeling different or even being noticed as being different is universal for people, but everyone has their own reason why. You strike me as a male who is sensitive and able to be open. That, especially back then in the '70s was perceived as possibly being gay. Fortunately, we live in a time now where being an expressive man is no longer a curse of being gay. It's allowed, it's encouraged. I'm very interested in the whole topic of masculinity in general, and what straight men can learn from gay men and what gay men can learn from straight men and how gender can be so fluid at this point in time.

Neil Sattin: Absolutely.

Rick Miller: Times are exciting and things are changing. The problem is, is that many gay boys who grew up in the era that you're referring to, or gay boys growing up now who live in very conservative areas still have the same difficulties that I grew up with and that you grew up with.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. And even in parts of the country that are more liberal, I wouldn't say that, it's not like homophobia has been eliminated or discrimination, or just even people's maybe unconscious but still expressed biases around same-sex relationships in society.

Rick Miller: Well, I'm glad to hear you say it because I do a lot of training, and frequently people come up to me and say, "The world is so much better. Why are you doing these workshops? Gay men don't have to worry anymore. Everything is fine." On one hand, I guess many gay boys or gay men don't have to worry about being killed or being abused, but it's still an issue. People are still struggling and my premise, as you know, is that people are struggling without even realizing how much they're struggling. That's my job as a psychotherapist when I work with people, but it's also my job as an educator to let people know that deep down, there are still parts of the self that are vulnerable and protective.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so that brings us back to where we were, which was this inner inquiry and experience of our bodies and how that would show up if we were shutting down or having ways in which we are hiding our experience.

Rick Miller: So sometimes it's a physical sensation that people are aware of. Sometimes it's a thought that comes up in the mind, or sometimes it's an image, our ability to use imagery is pretty profound. There are moments where things just pop into our awareness and we may not understand why or what it means, but if we dig a little bit deeper, we can usually make sense out of these things.

Neil Sattin: There's something that I love about hypnosis, among many things, and one is the way that it gives our inner world permission to communicate with the outer world. So there's something about that inviting that you just mentioned that is I think is so powerful. It's the willingness to just be open and then to experience what comes your way as a message and what does that message tell you.

Rick Miller: Well, what a beautiful way of describing hypnosis. Given that so many people are afraid of what's gonna happen and what they'll end up doing. Excuse me, it's pollen season in New England. So, the way that you described hypnosis was so non-threatening and so inviting, so I love that. As I do hypnosis with gay men, again, the constriction that has been part of their lives suddenly transforms itself into a beautiful openness and a self-reliance that is incredibly magical just to see.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So I would love for you to share with our audience why you've been using hypnosis as a therapeutic tool, and in particular the tension between like why using hypnosis is so helpful? And on the flip side, why someone might resist wanting the experience that hypnosis is giving them?

Rick Miller: Sure. I forgot the first question. The first question...

Neil Sattin: Yeah, the first question is, what is it about hypnosis that you've found to be so valuable in working with clients?

Rick Miller: So I've always done guided meditation and guided imagery, and I never got formal training in it, and yet I was doing it with my clients and amazing things were happening. So when I decided to get more formal training, it was based on some of my friends that loved hypnosis, that I ended up pursuing it. What I realized as soon as I started doing it is that it's something that we all know how to do, and it's something that we do in our day to day lives over and over and over again without realizing it. For example, when we hear an old song on the radio and we immediately begin to have flashbacks about where we were, how we felt, who we were with, what our lives were like, that's one example. Another example of being hypnotized by ourselves is a scent. So today is a spring day and I can smell the pollen and I can smell that beautiful spring afternoon, and suddenly I have memories of being a child late in May as it was getting warmer outside, and I'm flooded with amazing memories. So that's another example of being hypnotized. So when I work with people in hypnosis, I'm helping them achieve a state inside of themselves, or to shift a state away from unpleasantness into comfort, or pleasantness or resourcefulness.

Neil Sattin: And how does that makes such a huge difference particularly for gay men who are dealing with maybe this problem that we were talking about initially, which is around dissociation from their physical experience?

Rick Miller: I think in general, anyone who is open to trying these things will love hypnosis, whether you're a gay man or not a gay man, but given how limited our experiences has been as gay men to be able to go inside and recognize that enjoyment is there, is revolutionary. The other generalization about gay men being men is that many gay men are type A, over achievers, and have compensated for feeling inadequate by overdoing things in the work setting or in academic settings and of course, the price that we pay to do that is not always paying attention to what's happening inside. So having the opportunity to slow down to connect with oneself is a pretty important gift, and it's overlooked way more than it ought to be.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And you talk about that in terms of hypnosis and Milton Erickson and his viewpoint that all of his clients had the resources within them to do whatever shifting was necessary in their lives.

Rick Miller: Correct.

Neil Sattin: It also reminds me a lot, and I think you talk about parts work as well. It reminds me of Dick Schwartz in Internal Family Systems. Again, all about enlisting our inner resources to come online so that we don't feel like we're deficient in some way.

Rick Miller: So, let me say a little bit about parts work.

Neil Sattin: Please.

Rick Miller: Which is, inside of us are all these different parts. We're so busy living our lives trying to either be our best self, or trying to ward off parts of ourselves that are unformed or more primitive and the harder we try to push something away inside of us, the more it comes out in a way that we don't want it to. So in doing parts work, what we do is we welcome all parts of ourselves that exist inside. And as a psychotherapist, what I do is I work with people to have them bring these parts forward to allow each part to have an equal voice, the part of yourself that does greater work, the part of yourself that feels like an awkward adolescent, the part of yourself that feels like a five year old who's naughty because you know that you're different from other boys and I'll ask each part to recognize what they need or what they experience, and with this is a sense of integration and from this, there's a sense of well-being and mental health that is absolutely necessary.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I love it. Let's bring that now, imagining that we've miraculously totally resourced ourselves [chuckle] in the past 15 or 20 minutes, and let's bring it to the question of relationships. We started out with identifying some of the universal principles underlying relationships, the ability to be vulnerable, to be courageous, to be who you are, to repair in conflict. What have you noticed that's particular to relationships between men that is different, or that makes their particular situation challenging in a way that a heterosexual couple might not experience?

Rick Miller: So the first image that comes to mind is, "How many gay male couples have arrived at my psychotherapy office sitting on opposite ends of the couch?" Of course, any couple can do that, but there's a particular way in which men can kinda shrink in and hope to disappear, which of course doesn't happen in a couple's therapy office and the ability to be tender and vulnerable and to listen carefully and closely as opposed to providing quick and instant solutions is something that a lot of men struggle with. The other thing is that men, as I said, are not experts at allowing vulnerabilities to come to the surface. So when you're in a male couple with two men who are fighting vulnerabilities, it's hard to know what to do when one or both are either feeling conflict or feeling scared. Another common issue that comes up a lot is that men frequently are lacking role models about how to be tender and intimate and loving towards their partners, and having growing up in a world of masculinity, it's not considered cool to do those things. But then suddenly when you're in an adult relationship, it's one of the necessary ingredients for a relationship to flourish.

Neil Sattin: Now you also talked about the impact of the mythology of gay culture, and as I was reading about that I was thinking about, "Yeah, that must be so challenging to on the one hand be part of this larger culture that looks at you one way, but then to have this idealized version of what it means to be a gay man that you also might not fully resonate with, but it at least gives you a place to go."

Rick Miller: Well, there's a lot of pressure to be a certain kind of gay man and what's interesting is that before we had the internet or phone apps, being gay perhaps was more regional. That we were informed by where we lived and how people did things where we lived. Now, it's a worldwide experience and gay men are looking at other gay men all over the world and the pressure to be young, to look a certain way, to be professionally successful is what is driving many men in their desires to be successful. The problem with that is that many men are very successful in a variety of ways, but they don't feel like they measure up to this gay-male standard. It's a lot of pressure and frequently men will buy into this without even recognizing that it's what they do.

Rick Miller: So when I do trainings, frequently people will raise their hands and say, "Well I have many gay male clients that live outside of the city, and they live in rural areas, and they don't buy into what you're talking about." and I'll come back and challenge them by saying, "Do they go online? What are they looking at? What are the pornography sites that they're looking at? What are the websites that they're going to as gay men were they being informed about what their life ought to be like as a gay man?" I make the comparison of how women will look at fashion magazines regardless of age, regardless of their size, and then experience this uncomfortable feeling inside of themselves based on not meeting those standards.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and how do you help a couple who were maybe one or both members of the couple is struggling with that issue? How do you help them support each other in finding who they really are in the midst of all of that?

Rick Miller: Well, one of the things is to verbalize what I just said to you about noticing how some of the pressure to be a certain way is coming from outside of themselves, and that they're internalizing that without even realizing it. So one of the gifts of being a couples therapist is that I get to help people shift their focus inward, and to be the person that they really are, and accept who they really are, rather than trying to be a stereotype of who someone is supposed to be. The other thing that I do, which is part of the same process as going inside, is helping people to identify what they want, what they need, what they expect from their partner, and to also learn how to give parts of themselves that they didn't know they could do or didn't allow themselves to do because it wasn't considered masculine.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, one thing that you mentioned, I think, in maybe the presentation that you gave for the Couples Conference that I can totally relate to, because I happen to think that just about everyone could use a bit of a sexual re-education. This idea that there's a discovery of what it really means to us as individuals to be healthy, to be sexual to... What gives us pleasure, what doesn't. And to really be able to explore that enough that we can take a strong stand for who we are in that, as opposed to just buying into some prescription that's been handed us.

Rick Miller: Part of the prescription that's been handed to gay men is that there are certain ways that we're supposed to be sexual and that we're all supposed to have open relationships and that every gay male cheats on his partner and that belief system reinforces something that may not necessarily be okay. If a gay male couple chooses to have an open relationship, that's their prerogative, but it needs to be done very carefully with a lot of questions and communication.

Rick Miller: The other aspects of sexuality that's very important with individuals and also with couples, is by being aware of sensory experiences. So here we are, going back in inward again, listening to the body. Each body, each person has their own preferences that feel good to them. Instead of having the norm of gay sex, have sex that you as an individual enjoy. What are the ways that you enjoy being touched? Where do you like being touched? How do you experience that? How do you like to give to each other, and what does your body tell you in these circumstances? Erection issues are common for all men and gay men tend to think that other gay men don't have erection issues. That's not true, but no one is talking about it because it's not a standard that's very cool to talk about. The harder you try to be sexual and pull off a great sexual act, the least likely you'll be able to be to have a great erection. It's like sleeping at night time. If you have sleep anxiety and you're trying to focus on sleeping well, you're gonna stay awake out of anxiety.

Neil Sattin: Do you have... 'Cause with what you were just talking about, and I think in this ideal world, we would be able to just be... Well, for lack of a better word, be innocent with each other and have that exploration. To me, the big word that leaped out when I was having that thought, was shame, and how shame becomes an obstacle to being a willing explorer.

Rick Miller: Yes. Yep, so shame, of course is a central experience for growing up gay. It's the backbone of one's being, and so as an adult, how do you rate yourself of something that's been embedded inside of you all this time? And so part of your approach in just being and finding comfort is a great way of working with shame and healing shame. So that's the good news about being in a relationship, is that the closeness and the tenderness that can be achieved is going to erode away these layers of shame. I also had an image of how men treat their animals, which is that they're able to speak in a high tone of voice. They're able to be very gentle, they're able to cuddle with them. Frequently partners will say, "If you treated me like you treated the dog, I would be so happy." and clearly, it's a less conflictual relationship. It's all about pure love, and for many men, they're not worried about being masculine with their dog. If only they could do the same with their partners, maybe they wouldn't need me.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, that's a really interesting thought that brings me in so many different directions. [chuckle] Yeah, I'm curious about one thing in particular that... And I'm just wondering if you can shed some light on this, because as you've described it, one of the key possibilities for someone growing up gay is this sense that, "There's something not quite right about me," or, "a shame about who I am," and I think in 'Unwrapped', you described a client who was struggling with this question of choosing a relationship simply based on someone accepting them and what it feels like to actually be with another gay man and be like, "Wow, it's actually okay to be gay," versus taking it to the next level where someone isn't just accepting you, they actually want what you want and you truly have a symbiotic relationship. Is this a common problem in gay relationships where someone might kind of settle because they finally at least feel accepted even if they're not really getting the relationship that they want?

Rick Miller: You're touching so many things that I could go in about 10 directions on [chuckle] but I think, again, the norms of the gay male sub-culture are such that gay men frequently are seeking out beauty over other qualities. The prize of a gay male is being with someone who turns heads and beauty is only skin deep, and what else is there? So in an ideal world, we don't just look for a partner who looks great on the outside. We look for a partner who complements us, who challenges us, who brings us tension and joy. One of the things I love about relationships is that there's an expectation that it's all smooth and hunky-dory and hearts and roses, when in fact, the truth about intimate relationships is that they're challenging, they're difficult, and there's a certain edginess that comes with this that's truly intimate, truly exciting, and keeps a certain freshness going. So this is much more about the insides of who we really are rather than how we appear on the outside or how people view us from the outside. I always say that every couple has their own particular hell that they keep secret from the rest of the world because they fear that if other people know, they're gonna blow the cover. But there is no such thing as a relationship that doesn't have this.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and for someone who at one point relished the fact that they were accepted, but now is recognizing, "Oh, this isn't really a relationship where I'm being fully met, but I don't have hope that I could find what I'm looking for in another partner." How do you create a light of optimism there for those people?

Rick Miller: Basically, I will reassure them that the Hell that they're experiencing is normal. [laughter] So I have a timeline that I frequently tell people, which is that the first four months of any intimate relationship, not just men, is a time of such excitement and a time of great projection. During these moments, the rest of the world goes away when we're together and the other person is fulfilling all that has been unfulfilled, and it's so dreamy and it's so magical and obviously, there's a strong intimate and sexual component during this period of time. And around eight months or so, people really begin to see each other for who they really are, and this includes warts and all. So as people become more real, the challenges present themselves more and more regularly and frequently between this and about two years couples think that because this is happening, there's something wrong and a majority of people end the relationship because it isn't perfect when in fact, this is exactly what needs to happen.

Rick Miller: And when couples experience this, separating out their love and respect for their partner, along with what their hopes and expectations were, and experiencing disappointment, knowing that this is part of what the big picture is about, it enables people to move forward and really accept who they are, who their partner is, and what their couplehood is about. And that is what true intimacy really is. And so, again, going back to male couples, a part of this recipe is also in accepting our own limitations based on how we feel inside of ourselves, how we were raised, what was expected of us as men, and how to give a soft, intimate loving part of ourselves to another person when we haven't really been taught how to do it. If we use our mothers as our role model, then we're losing our masculinity. If we use our fathers as our role model, then we may have a struggle with how to be soft in these certain ways.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that makes me think about the pull between the importance of attachment in relationship and creating safety and then the ways that we handle a lack of variety or things being maybe too safe in our relationships. Maybe this is a tension inherent in that stereotype that you mentioned. The stereotype that there are a lot of gay relationships where people have multiple partners or poly or open, and how that must be creating some tension and polarity with what's required to create a secure bond between two people.

Rick Miller: It's so fascinating to me that frequently gay couples come into my office and say, "I think we need to open up our relationship." And I'll say, "Why is that?" And they'll say, "Because we're having a horrible time with each other." Since when would opening up a relationship be the solution to a struggle that has nothing to do with the outside role that has everything to do with the two people working on these vulnerabilities? So I frequently try to slow people down and to allow their focus to be between the two of them and themselves long before running out and making life a little bit more complicated. In terms of thinking about attachment, what we expect and need from our partners is for them to have our back. Our partners become a safe haven in the world. Our partners become a representation of our parents, or they even become a representation of the ideal parent that we never had. So as our partners tolerate us and love us and care for us, they're compensating for things that we didn't get when we were younger. And frequently, partners, men and women, need to be taught how to do this in a context of couples therapy or in the context of educating themselves in order to be more fully available.

Neil Sattin: And when you say learning about how to do this, are you talking about really being aware that that is part of maybe the unspoken expectation in relationship and then deciding how you're gonna respond to that? Or will you be that ideal parent as much as possible? Or will you shine a light on that dynamic and try to dismantle it so that neither of you is putting that expectation on each other?

Rick Miller: No. I will shine a light on that dynamic saying that this is what it is, this is what a truly intimate relationship is, and that each person in the world that's in an intimate relationship has some challenges with how to be a parent figure to your partner, 'cause that's not how we go into it. So how do you learn how to do that and know what to do? And so that's what I mean, is that we all have to learn how to nourish and nurture other people, especially our partners.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And what are your thoughts on how that creates... And I love this, we keep uncovering these little places of tension in relationship. Because as we show up more like a parental figure for our partners with unconditional love, unconditional support, not judging them, helping them through hard times, it sounds really great. At the same time, we potentially create a schism that makes problems with sexual polarity 'cause...

Rick Miller: Sexual polarity and all other kinds of polarity.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Rick Miller: First starting with a sexual polarity, how do you feel sexual toward someone that you've exposed so much of yourself to, and still keep things hot? And again, going back to sensations and sensory awareness is that sometimes what feels good sexually is a physical sensation, and people don't always pay enough attention to that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I wonder, are you familiar with Marnia Robinson's work?

Rick Miller: No, I'm not.

Neil Sattin: Okay. She was on the show, actually back in Episode 5, so a long time ago. She wrote a book called, Cupid's Poisoned Arrow, that's all about the biochemical effects of orgasms. And in particular, her whole thesis is based on this idea that if you have an orgasm, you're flooding your system with dopamine, and you're also creating this process by which you become desensitized to that dopamine and to your partner. So as we're talking about this and what keeps sexuality alive, it reminds me of her work because her whole thing is about how do you explore sexuality without orgasm in order to keep the sexuality alive and to keep the sexual chemistry going, as opposed to just repeatedly flooding your system with dopamine to the point where you're habituated to your partner and need to seek another person in order to get excited.

Rick Miller: So if you talk about gay men, gay men learn to be sexual as men, and of course, men's motive during sex is to have an orgasm. And frequently men have orgasms very quickly. So the suggestion that Marnia is discussing and that you're talking about, is something that I frequently assign to couples for homework. And it's very, very hard for people to actually do this, which is to spend a lot of time taking turns with each other and exploring each other's bodies without focusing on orgasm and without having an orgasm, so that they can really learn to identify other great feelings, how to give to each other, how to receive, how to instruct each other and to learn about what else feels good inside the body.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and there's so much to learn there because I think for so many of us, men in particular, orgasms are a great way to dissociate from life and our pain and our shame and whatever stress we're feeling in the moment. So if that has become your gateway to sexuality, then you really do have to learn something new in order to give up the temporary relief and release that orgasms give you from something that we've been talking about for this whole hour is the question of shame and how that affects how we show up.

Rick Miller: I think one of the joys that can happen for couples, and I'm thinking about this a little bit more detailed as you've been discussing this, is how good it feels to be with a partner and to help him be able to have an orgasm and if both of your minds approach sex from a similar vantage point, then it's a sense of power and conquering that two people experience with the help of each other. That's a pretty amazing feeling and even if it doesn't last that long, it's a great metaphor for success in a relationship.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. How would you suggest someone when they're in a sexual situation with their partner and they notice shame coming up and starting to get in the way, their own sense of thinking that something going on with their body is gross or unacceptable? How would you suggest someone work with that in the moment with their partner?

Rick Miller: By exactly what you were just talking about and what Marnia talks about, which is to de-emphasize orgasm. I also ask people to not worry about whether they have an erection. Frequently, what happens is that as men feel vulnerable, either about how they feel physically about themselves, or how they're performing as a partner in comparison to how people are supposed to be performing, they lose their erection. And then, as they begin to lose their erection, just like the sleep thing, they worry about it and then their partner may get frustrated and then the mind takes over and they're gone. So really, what I have people do first and foremost is slow themselves down. It's okay if you lose an erection, it's okay to keep doing what you're doing, keep exploring the sensations and take a break if you need, and worry less, enjoy more, be in the present, allow expectations to drift further and further away 'cause they only get in the way.

Neil Sattin: I am so appreciative that you brought this up because another person whose work I so respect and admire, her name's Diana Richardson, you may have heard of her, she does a lot of work around Tantra. And her version of Tantra, she also calls it "slow sex", is all about just that, how you slow things down. One of the things that she talks about that I think is actually really missing from the common dialogue about what you do when you have problems maintaining an erection is this concept of, she calls it "soft entry." It's not the most glamorous term in the world, [chuckle] but it's this idea... Well, it's not an idea, it's a practice of if you don't have an erection, you can still get lubricated, and with the assistance of your partner, you can still actually be inside your partner even if you're not hard.

Rick Miller: That's great.

Neil Sattin: So you're overcoming this barrier and I'm making those finger quotes in the air around the word "barrier," you can overcome the barrier to intercourse by simply using some lubrication, some patience, and really gentle movement to actually penetrate your partner and to rest there.

Rick Miller: And what a difference that makes to not have to rush so quickly and how freeing it can be. I don't know the statistics, but what percentage of people then experience erections as a result of allowing themselves to softly enter and be relaxed?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I wish I had the statistic on that. But...

Rick Miller: Good one.

Neil Sattin: I gotta think that it's a lot. It's a lot because what you end up giving yourself is that time and relaxation and the presence that you need to ignite that part of your system.

Rick Miller: Can I shift gears for a moment?

Neil Sattin: Please.

Rick Miller: Because I'm thinking of a specific couple that I work with, where one of the guys frequently would lose his erection because he felt as though he wasn't being as good or as strong of a partner as he ought to be and through some exploration in my office, what was clear was that expectations were driving their sex life and it was getting in the way. Part of being more real included talking about sex more, but also sharing fantasies. It was hard for them to do that because it was considered naughty for them to be talking about these fantasies and ironically, gay men love porn. So instead of keeping it out of the relationship, why not bring it in and share the enthusiasm about it to help things along? So this particular couple started talking more about their fantasies and sharing the visual images of the pornography that they really liked, and their sex life transformed itself really quickly because they were no longer keeping a part of themself a secret from their partner. Instead, they were bringing it back home and it worked beautifully.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I love that and that sounds like a very healthy, strategic use of that kind of pornographic stimulation to bring a couple together.

Rick Miller: It was great.

Neil Sattin: I'm wondering though when you brought that up, it also made me think about... You used the word "expectations," their expectations of each other, and the ways that this is true across the spectrum now, especially because of the prevalence of pornography.

Rick Miller: Yes.

Neil Sattin: The way that people think they're supposed to be when they're being sexual.

Rick Miller: That's right.

Neil Sattin: And I'm wondering how you encourage people to abandon the scripts that aren't serving them?

Rick Miller: Good point. Everything goes back in a circle to listening to your body and the pornography industry is thriving, and people are pursuing it and losing fact of their own humanity as they're doing so. I'm saying that not as a moral judgement, but more as a mind-body clinician who wants people to function highly and successfully inside of themselves. Again, it all comes back to the body. I'm constantly slowing people down, asking people to notice what they enjoy, what turns them on, what their fantasies are, and to use pornography as a help or as an aid for themselves, rather than as a way of being in the world. And incidentally, another thing that's happening is that many men have an unrealistic view of what their penis should look like, because they compare their penis to pornography who frequently hire men who are very well endowed. These days, men are barely naked in front of each other, locker rooms are more segregated and separated, and men don't have an opportunity to see other men's dicks to realize that there isn't a problem there where they think it's their own problem that they feel ashamed about.

Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah, yeah. And even if you are seeing dicks, you're probably not seeing erect dicks, so...

Rick Miller: Right.

Neil Sattin: That's another place where you wouldn't necessarily know where you stack up against the average that's out there.

Rick Miller: It's kind of incredible how much private shame people are living with and not doing much about it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and that makes me wonder in your book Unwrapped, you offer, for therapists reading that book, scripts to help them guide their clients through trance experiences, to give them that sense of safety and being alive in their bodies. Obviously, we can't do a hypnotic induction right here for the show. I'm wondering though, if you have some hints around language that partners could use with each other in a intimate situation, let's say, in the bedroom, language that they could use to help invite each other into that experience of being alive with each other, being present, or let's start there and then I'll maybe add on to that.

Rick Miller: Yeah, so I think language is actually too limiting, because what I'm imagining as you were describing this is a shared moment together where there's plenty of time, where maybe soft music is playing, where there's no rush, and the experience to enjoy is what feels good. And sometimes it isn't through words that we can convey to our partners what it is that feels good. We can take our hand and move our partner's hand, or we can move our body in such a way that communicates what feels good. So I guess I would use the word language in a very broad metaphorical way, which is to expand the language that we experience sensations, and experience, and expand the ways in which we communicate our pleasure in these sensations, so that our partners can enjoy what it is that we're enjoying, being perfectly clear to convey that we're enjoying it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so that's perfect. I love that notion of expanding language and expanding the ways that we're communicating in those moments. How about... And it makes perfect sense too, in the context of, that you said, I loved the soft music and I was kind of painting the picture for myself there.

Rick Miller: Yes. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Too bad my wife is out in California right now.

Neil Sattin: And, but what about... Because now we're coming back to shame, I don't wanna end on shame, so but what I do wanna do is, there's gonna be this dynamic where if you're being really present with your partner in sex, then you're either gonna maybe have moments of shame that you might recognize in yourself, or as the partner you might perceive that something is going on with your partner, that your partner's experiencing shame. What, again, we'll use the word language but broadening it to mean how would you communicate in a situation where you notice that your partner is in shame about something?

Rick Miller: So this is when language really does come in handy. Frequently, what I suggest to people is if they don't need to focus on being sexual, don't worry about ending the act and ending in orgasm. Let it be. Let it be fine. Sometimes sex is great. Sometimes it isn't great. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't work. So with language what I suggest is when things are a little bit more neutral and a little more okay, to have a simple basic conversation about what it is that one is noticing, either in themselves, or observing in their partner and just converse about what it is that's coming up. And so, again, we've gone full circle to how we started today, which is to be able to talk openly and honestly about what experiences are taking place and what partners are noticing in themselves and in each other.

Neil Sattin: And is there something that you've seen as you work with clients around issues of shame, as like a common theme and for some reason, I don't know why this is coming up for me, but it's this question of something about my body that I don't necessarily like, as to why those things stick with us? Because intuitively, that doesn't make any sense. It's our bodies, they're... We were gifted these amazing vehicles for living in the world. Yet, sometimes they betray us, like you lose your erection when you wish it were there, or you fart at the wrong moment, or whatever it is, or your gut's a little flabbier than you wish it were. Do you see some commonalities around what makes those thoughts about ourselves sticky? And what the path is to letting them go?

Rick Miller: Yep. So first, about shame, what I frequently do will generalize the experience of shame as a gay man and remind people that this is a common universal experience. It isn't just you, this is what most gay boys have experienced and internalized while growing up. So, that's at the baseline, and then in the here and now in terms of body image or sexuality, again, focusing on sensation rather than images of perfection, figuring out why it is that people are experiencing a sense of self-consciousness and shame. I love doing this with couples. I ask them, "When your partner gains five pounds how do you feel differently about him? And how do you feel differently about your sex life?" And, for the most part, what happens is that people don't care. Partners don't care.

Rick Miller: At a certain point in the relationship it isn't necessarily the abs that are creating great sex, it's the connection, it's the way in which people communicate with each other, it's the way in which people give to each other, the way in which they're attuned to each other and they enjoy these sensations. That's what sex is, and that's what makes it nice. In all long-term relationships, beauty dies down in a certain way and being with the same partner has a certain level of predictability. So, regardless of how hot one is, or how one is perceived at the beginning of a relationship, over time that hotness shifts and changes into a much truer kind of intimacy. So again, we go back to expressing what feels good, aiming towards pleasing oneself and pleasing each other, and enjoying the moment for the moment, and enjoying the moment in the moment.

Neil Sattin: I love it. I love it. Rick, thank you so much for all of your thoughts, and...

Rick Miller: Absolutely.

Neil Sattin: And I think as we've been dancing, we are really weaving the sense of where there's overlap and where there isn't, and I feel like we've just covered such valuable terrain in today's conversation.

Rick Miller: Thank you, we could go on for hours, I'm sure.

Neil Sattin: We absolutely could, but in lieu of doing that, I would love for you to share what you're working on, how can people find you. Of course, we will have links to all of your stuff in the transcript and show notes, but I'd love for people to hear from you directly.

Rick Miller: Absolutely. So my website is, B-I-Z, I'm working on a great project and maybe it's about how gay men learn to be intimate in the first place called, Gay Sons and Mothers. So it's I'm also on Instagram. I have a Facebook page, Rick Miller Psychotherapy+. I have a blog on Psychology Today called, Unwrapped. Where else can I be found? I think those are the main ones.

Neil Sattin: Great. Great. And you're obviously in private practice, so people can see you.

Rick Miller: That's right.

Neil Sattin: And then you're also involved in doing trainings for therapists as well?

Rick Miller: Yep, I do a lot of mental health conferences all over about working with gay men.

Neil Sattin: Great, and I think you mentioned that you have some coming up, the Brief Therapy Conference and the International Society of Hypnosis. So there're a couple ways, but you probably have your events listed on your website as well.

Rick Miller: I do, and I welcome any questions and any emails from people, so give me a holler.

Neil Sattin: Awesome. Well, Rick, thank you so much for your time again today. If you are interested in downloading a transcript, you can visit, M-I-L-L-E-R. You can text to the word "passion" to the number 33444 and follow the instructions, which will also help you download the transcript, and we'll have links to Rick's site and all the ways that you can get in touch with him and to learn more about his work. Other than that, thank you so much for being here on the show with us today Rick.

Rick Miller: Thank you very much. Take care.

Neil Sattin: You too.

Aug 9, 2018

Are you someone who blames yourself when things go wrong? Or do you tend to blame other people? Even though we might think of blame as a negative thing, in today's episode I'm going to show you how to use your blame (whether it's self-directed or pointed at others) to truly learn and grow when things don't turn out quite as you're expecting. This 4-step process will transform your experience of blame, so that it becomes a way to deepen your connection with yourself and others.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode has two exciting sponsors. Please visit them to take advantage of their offers and show appreciation for their support of the Relationship Alive podcast! creates delicious teas that help you detox, relax, stay focused, and maintain a healthy weight. Their teas are tasty, beautiful to watch as they steep, and effective. And...they're offering 25% off for you if you use the coupon code "RELATIONSHIP" at checkout - at

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Aug 1, 2018

As your relationship changes, are things getting better and better? Or have you gotten stuck along the way? If you get stuck - how do you get unstuck? And no matter what happens, how do you foster a sense of collaboration, of being on the “same team” with your partner? Today’s guests, Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson, have charted the course of how relationships develop - in fact, they created the “Developmental Model” for working with couples. Along with practical experience from having helped many couples, Ellyn and Peter are among the leaders in the field of training couples therapists to become more effective. Their book for therapists, In Quest of the Mythical Mate: A Developmental Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment in Couples Therapy is a classic that has stood the test of time - unlike many other books and theories that have come and gone. Today you’ll learn how to figure out where you’re stuck in your relationship, and how to be on the same team as you steer things back in a healthier direction.

Also, please check out our first episode with Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson - Relationship Alive Episode 24: Why We Lie (and How to Get Back to the Truth)

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode has a cool new sponsor with a special offer for you - helps you create an original song as a unique gift for any special occasion. You tell them what the occasion is, what emotions you want your song to evoke, what type of song you want, and give them a little bit of your story - and they bring your story to life with a radio-quality song that captures it all. Songfinch is offering you $20 off a personalized “Song from Scratch” if you use the coupon code ALIVE20 at checkout.


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FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict…

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE) Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson.

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Neil Sattin: Thank you so much for being with us here today on Relationship Alive.

Pete Pearson: It's good to be here, Neil.

Ellyn Bader: Yeah, really happy to be with you again, Neil.

Neil Sattin: Awesome. Yes. It's been a while since episode 24, which was when we last spoke, when we're now in the 150s here. So ...

Pete Pearson: Oh my goodness.

Neil Sattin: I know, I know. So Pete, we were just talking, and we were talking about the ... Before we started officially, we were talking about this question about what people do when they get triggered, and you said, "That's not the most important question for people to be asking." And so I'm curious, from your perspective, what is the most important question that people should be asking?

Pete Pearson: See, here's what's interesting, Neil. In just about every couple that we see, a couple will get an insight into where they're stuck, how they're stuck, and why they're stuck. And the next question almost inevitably is, "Well, what do we do about it?" And that's an understandable question. And I used to think, "Oh, they're asking me for advice. I'll give them advice about what to do right now." And then they will leave, they will practice what I just expressed, they will come back, and they will be on bending knee thanking me for my wisdom, intelligence, smarts, etc.

Pete Pearson: What I discovered is, and they say, "God you're so wonderful, what other advice do you have? And we're gonna tell all our friends about you, because you're so smart. " Well what I discovered was, it didn't happen that often. But yet they asked, "What do we do about it?" And then I discovered, the what do we do about it is a good question, but it's a premature question. Really the question that comes before is, "How motivated are you to do something about it?" See, it takes a strong motivation, a bigger picture that pulls us forward, and that bigger picture, that stronger motivation is what allows us to unhook from those triggers. And if the motivation is puny, then no matter what I say that could be effective, will not be applied.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, we had David Burns on the show, and he was talking about how surprised he often is that when it gets right down to it, a lot of couples that he's worked with, actually aren't willing to change. Even though they are coming to couples' therapy, they would prefer being stuck where they are, versus whatever's required to change the direction.

Pete Pearson: Well I think that's true for one part of them. Here's what I mean. And I think the dilemma of change was summed up brilliantly by James Baldwin, the playwright and writer, when he said, "Nothing is more desirable than to be relieved of our affliction." And that's the motivation that brings couples into therapy. "Nothing is more desirable than to be relieved of our affliction, and nothing is more terrifying than to be divested of our crutch." And that I interpreted as, "nothing is more terrifying than to be divested of our coping mechanisms. Our self-protections."

Pete Pearson: So couples are in a terrible bind. They want to be relieved of their affliction, yes, and it's terrifying to be divested of their coping mechanisms.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and you speak also in your work about the importance of both people recognizing that there's something in it for them, whatever it is they're experiencing. I'm thinking right now of the example you give of people, and we'll explain this a little bit more as we go, but people who are in a symbiotic and practicing relationship. Where one of them is working to be more independent from the other, and the other one is like, "No, come back here. Be with me." And it creates all of this tension and conflict and it's easy for the practicing partner to overlook the fact that they actually benefit a lot from that symbiotic welcome home, that they get from their partner, even though it's confounding them in their quest for independence.

Pete Pearson: Ellen, you want to speak to that?

Ellyn Bader: Yeah, but I'm not sure what the question is. I can speak about that type of couple, but Neil, did you have a question there?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, good point. So the question in there, I think it was more of an observation that this is a situation where people are invested in the problem, or invested in the crutch as Pete was talking about. Maybe the question is, what are some strategies you have for helping people become aware of their role or of the crutch that they have in the moment, even if they think, for instance, that something is all about their partner's problem?

Ellyn Bader: So I think what you're asking is, first of all, at least to me it's like, how does a person take a look at what they're doing that's getting in their own way, and can you get some acknowledgement that a particular thing somebody is doing, is actually getting in their own way of being able to realize the dreams that brought them together or being able to accomplish something they want to accomplish. So there's the question of, "Okay, what are some things you do to help somebody realize it?" So that's one piece. Then the second piece is what Pete was talking about, is "Can you lay out what it's going to take to change it, and then increase motivation? Or is there motivation to actually do the work or put in the effort." And then certainly you want the couple to be able to collaborate and work together on that process of change, so that they are reinforcing each other as they go through what is challenging and difficult for them to do.

Ellyn Bader: So when you can get all three of those things really solidly in place, you're gonna have a couple that's motivated and working with you in the therapy process. When any one of those things, is missing, you're gonna have a much harder time, and therapists often report having sessions that are repetitive and seem to go nowhere and the couple comes in week after week with the same fight or the same dynamic. So I think you have to look at all three of those, and make sure that you've got them all in place.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, where do you feel would be a great place to start? I mean, what's popping into my mind immediately, is your concept of developing a strong future focus for a couple, based on where they are developmentally?

Pete Pearson: See, that's an important place when we start to figure out the steps for change. But to get people to own their part, I find now is, what I do in the first 10 or 15 minutes of the first session, is to have people own their part. But I do it in a rather indirect way. It's like it's traditional for most therapists, when a couple comes in for the first session to ask, "Why are you here," or "How can I help?" And at that point most couples launch of barrage of cross complaints about, "Well, I'm here because my partner is insensitive. They're a slob. They're not affectionate. They're not responsible. They don't follow through." Etc., etc. And so they trade blames.

Pete Pearson: And then after a few minutes, everybody in the room is feeling miserable, I know that because I've been there so many times. And then I found there's a much better way to get to the bottom of what they struggle with without any blame at all. And I will say to them, "It's typical for most therapists to ask when we start the first meeting, is to say, 'why are you here?'" I say, "I don't want to do that, because it just ends up everybody blaming everybody. So what I'd like to do is ask you guys a diagnostic question, and it lets me know how well you've been listening to each other. Which also lets me know how hard you're gonna have to work in here. So Joe, tell me what do you think are Sue's major complaints about you are? And Sue, what do you think Joe's major complaints about you are? And it doesn't matter who goes first, because you both get a chance to express that."

Pete Pearson: And at that point, Joe will say, "Well Sue will say that I'm too preoccupied with my devices. I don't spend enough time with the family. I don't call if I'm gonna be home for work. I just, and I want affection without being nice during the day or the evening, and ..." And then I'll say, "Oh, man, those sound really good, Joe. What else?" And he says, "Well, I think she thinks I'm not very careful with money." Well I'll say "Dynamite. Those are good. Joe, how confident are you on a scale of one to ten that Sue's gonna say you nailed it?" Joe'll say, "Well about a seven or eight." And then I'll say, "What those complaints you just mentioned, is there some legitimacy to her complaints?" And he'll say, "Well, yeah." But I don't go into detail.

Pete Pearson: See at that point, and then I'll say, "So Sue, how good has been doing?" "Well he's been listening, and frankly, I think he's listened better than I thought. I'd give him about a seven or eight on that or maybe even a nine." "Sue, do you have any appreciation for Joe, listening so well to you? Now why hasn't he done anything is why you guys are here. But is there a part of you that appreciates that at least he's been listening?" And she'll say, "Well yeah." "Well tell him." "Joe I didn't know you listened so well. Thank you for listening."

Pete Pearson: So instead of being defensive, now they're collaborating and giving each other compliments, and each of them, when they do that, have just laid out what the problems are by owning their stuff instead of having their partner do it for them. Almost nobody Neil, nobody wants to meet somebody and within 10 minutes start being ripped by their spouse about all their flaws and faults. All that does is create shame, embarrassment and guilt. But doing it this way, people claim their stuff for themselves, I don't have to work as hard, I get to understand the problems, and the atmosphere in the room is a whole lot better.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I can see how that would get things started off on the right foot. Both with giving you a sense of what's going on for them, and how well they listen, and also, the degree to which they're able to see their part or take responsibility for at least what they think their partner is complaining about with them.

Pete Pearson: Exactly. And that can only be done in the first 20 minutes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. That's perfect. I'm curious. Do you still ... You talk about the paper exercise in your book, The Inquest of the Mythical Mate. Do you still do that exercise with couples?

Ellyn Bader: Actually, you're right where I was gonna go. Because that exercise is an absolutely fabulous exercise. In five minutes a therapist can see and then can help feedback to the couple where they break down. It's an exercise that's designed to help you and couples ... And a concept the we talk a lot about is the concept of differentiation. And basically, the way the exercise goes is the therapist hands the couple a piece of paper and asks them to hold it between them, and gives them up to five minutes to decide who gets to hold the paper without ripping or tearing it. They can do it verbally, they can do it non-verbally, they can do it anyway they like, but at the end of five minutes, decide who has the paper.

Ellyn Bader: And then you get to sit back as the therapist, you get to sit back and watch for five minutes, and then in watching, you're going to be giving the couple feedback about how they do. And the exercise, I can give you a few highlights right now. It's a very wonderfully sophisticated exercise for getting to leverage stuck places in couples' relationships. But I mean, you're looking for whether people self-define. Whether they avoid conflict. Whether they're able to go into the conflict. Whether they have skills to negotiate and move a conflict forward.

Ellyn Bader: And so when you can talk to a couple about, "Hey, here's what I saw. Does this make sense? Here's what I think each of you did that was positive and great and effective, and here's where I think you're stuck, or here's where I see you getting stalled. And usually what you see in terms of how couples are getting stalled in that exercise, are similar to what they do at home, that prevents them from solving problems or sets them up to be angry at each other. And it's a very not-threatening, very sort of collaborative process that you can get into with couples when you do that exercise with them.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and what I loved about reading your book, was not only the recognition that I had about, "Oh, okay. Yeah. I recognize having been in a relationship that was stuck in this place or that place," and let's, before we go too much further, we'll define them so that people know what we're talking about. But I also love

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Neil Sattin: how, I think it's easy to, let's say, someone here says, "Well, I'm going to try that with my partner. Let's grab this paper and see if we can figure it out." And then for some reason they can't or they have a huge eruption or at an impasse to feel like, "Wow, we must be really horrible as a couple because we couldn't even do this paper exercise right."

Neil Sattin: But what I love is that it just is simply a way of getting insight into where you are, but that each place where you might be stuck simply represents a place where you need to grow and growing past that place gives you a pathway to a new level of intimacy and being able to handle conflict better and being able to stand really strongly in who you are while still enjoying intimacy with your partner.

Ellyn Bader: Oh, absolutely and one of the things that I think is so valuable about it is that it's easy when you're in the midst of it with your partner and you're like going home after work and you're having fights or you're not getting along well on weekends or you're fighting over disciplining the kids. It's easy to think you have a whole lot of problems, but when you can find the leveraged place, the place that repeats, and you learn how to do that differently, then you start doing it differently in all the different areas that you have conflict. So you don't actually always have to go back and solve every single problem that you think that you have if you change the process of how you talk and the process of how you approach things that are stressful.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. That makes perfect sense. How much do you feel like awareness, before we dive into it, briefly, of the developmental model, how much do you think that awareness is helpful for a couple to be able to see, like, "Okay, this is the span of how couples develop looks like and this is where we're at." Is that enlightening or confining? From a couple's perspective versus the therapist's perspective.

Ellyn Bader: I can tell you what the therapists in my online training program report. And so, I have therapists who work with me, basically, who are in countries all over the world and many of them report that their clients feel relieved when they see the process. We have little brochures that we use and that a lot of therapists give to their clients which layout the stages and sometimes they'll send a couple home to look at it and figure out where they are. Sometimes they'll just talk about it. But when couples can see, hey, there is kind of a normal progression that a lot of relationships go through and either we're right on track, which is sometimes the case, or hey, we got stuck here and this is what our challenge is so that we can move forward. And what we always say is, when couples get unstuck, then they can get back into their own developmental process. They don't need a therapist all the way through their whole development.

Neil Sattin: Right. So, would you be willing, or I could do this too, but because I don't want to put you on the spot completely, but to give sort of the two to three minute overview of, what are we talking about, the developmental stages that a couple goes through?

Ellyn Bader: Pete, do you want to do it or do you want me to do it?

Pete Pearson: Go ahead, Ellyn.

Ellyn Bader: Okay. So, the quick version is, two people meet, they fall in love. In the ideal world, everything is beautiful, wonderful. They have that incredible falling in love period, which I sometimes call a period of temporary psychosis. But it's a period in which there's bonding and attachment and not everybody starts that way, but a lot of couples do. And then it's normal by about two years into the relationship, sometimes a little sooner, sometimes a little longer, but it's very, very normal to hit a period of disillusionment when the partner is taken off that pedestal and instead of being seen as wonderful, all of a sudden the flaws start to show up and that disillusionment period is normal.

Ellyn Bader: And then what people have to contend with is, how do we work out who are you and who am I given that we not only have parts of ourselves in each other that we love, but parts of each other that we find sometimes disgusting or we don't really want to be around or we don't like and that's all normal. But what's hard for couples is to learn how to manage those differences effectively instead of ineffectively. When they handle it ineffectively, they start to blame, accuse, or withdraw and then they get into some negative patterns.

Ellyn Bader: So the second stage of relationship is the stage of differentiation. It's a stage in which partners do learn how to come to terms with their differences. When that goes well, actually people are able to have a lot more independence than they had in the first two stages because there's a base of connection and a base of, hey, we know to solve things. We solve them well. And then they can be out in the world more. They can be doing more independent things, enjoying other things that they're bringing back to help nourish the relationship, and so there's often a period in which that can go on for many, many years in which each partner is developing their own self-esteem apart from how the relationship is fairing.

Ellyn Bader: And then at some point often there's a period of reconnection or of returning to the relationship as a source of greater nurturance and often couples at this time tend to focus more on their sexual relationship or on different aspects of intimacy when they're reconnecting. And many couples who get through all of this end up wanting to create something together and so we even talk about a last stage being a synergistic stage. A stage in which one plus one is really greater than two and they support each other in ways or goals or projects that are meaningful to both of them. So that's a very quick version of sometimes what I teach in a whole morning.

Neil Sattin: That was great. And I'm thinking back to how you mentioned that you're working a lot with entrepreneurial couples these days and I'm curious to know how you draw distinction between couples who are working together from a synergistic place that one plus one is more than two, versus couples who are coming at that from a more enmeshed place where they're not ... It's about just not being able to be without each other.

Pete Pearson: I guess, that gave me, what a great question. If couples want to start working together and they haven't been able to work out yet how to manage their differences or their disillusionments, boy, are they in for a wild ride. If you think about all the different areas of interdependence that couples have when they're not even working together, where they have areas of interdependency, our family and friends and finances and fitness and food and fidelity and faith and man, there are a lot of F words in an interdependent relationship.

Pete Pearson: And each one of those areas require a set of negotiation problem solving skills and working together. And then you add all those areas of interdependency with all the areas of interdependency at work, when they're working together. What could possibly go wrong? So, the problems just are geometric when you work with your partner, your spouse, and yet, more and more couples are working together. There's a lot of entrepreneurs out there on the internet or doing franchise operations and their spouse is involved and that just really doubles the opportunity to collide. It also doubles the opportunity to synergize your strengths and abilities.

Pete Pearson: So, it really, the push and pull is enormous to deal with the differences and it's ... Sometimes I will say, I will ask couples, "Would you want to be married to a personality clone of yourself?" Most couples say no. And I'll say, "Well, why is that?" And the category it's generally falling to, "Well, if I'm married to a clone of myself ... If I married a clone, it would be like World War 3." Or, "If I married a clone of myself, it'd be really interesting, but nothing would get accomplished." And as one woman said, "I would have all my problems times two."

Pete Pearson: And so the good news is, they're smart enough to know that differences can enhance a relationship, but the same differences can also corrode a relationship, but we want to marry somebody who is different. And that's the good news and the bad news.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I'm just thinking too about how time, being such a limiting resource in many respects with everything that people are trying to accomplish in today's world and so I could see that providing incentive for people to want to work together as a way to actually maybe be able to spend more time together.

Pete Pearson: Right.

Neil Sattin: And yet, from what you're saying, I also gather, like, wow, it is so important in that case to be able to identify, oh, here we are not handling conflict very productively and here are all the signs of that. Whether it's increased resentment or increased ... Just increased conflict that gets explosive versus actually resolving. And that comes from what you were talking about, right Ellyn? That sense of, have you differentiated effectively enough so that you can stand in who you are, but actually meet the other person as a whole person unto themselves and have a collaborative way of being on the same team as you navigate those places where you're not in alignment.

Ellyn Bader: Yeah. One of the things, Neil, that I find really interesting, as I said, I've started doing some more work with entrepreneurs and their spouses and particularly, I love working with the couples who are fairly new to going into business together because one of the things that they know they have a ton at stake because if they don't make it, their business is going to have problems or have to be split up as well as their marriages or their committed partnerships. And so they actually have, in some cases, a much higher motivation to get it right at the beginning, and also sometimes it's easier for people to get the concept that in business, our roles and responsibilities need to be really clearly defined.

Ellyn Bader: And that's also true on the home front with a lot of couples, but couples don't tend to think about it that way, they tend to think about it as, well, if our relationship is good, everything will just go smoothly and we can move back and forth smoothly.

Neil Sattin: Right. It all just works itself out.

Ellyn Bader: Exactly. And so they know-

Pete Pearson: That's the hope.

Ellyn Bader: Right. That's the hope and the belief that it should be easy. But yet, when you have clearly defined roles, it mitigates a lot of conflict.

Ellyn Bader: Here comes our gardener making some noise I'm sorry to say.

Neil Sattin: I can hear it, but it's so faint in the background and you're coming through so loud and clear that as long as you're able to concentrate, then I think we're good.

Ellyn Bader: Okay.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So, I love that. So, one potential option if you're having trouble motivating to actually change is to start a business together.

Ellyn Bader: Well, except if your relationship is a mess, it's not a great time to start a business together.

Pete Pearson: You'll have all your problems times two.

Neil Sattin: Just kidding. But it does bring us back to that question of how you get people to buy-in. To like ... Okay, this is actually going to require something of me to create change in our relationship.

Ellyn Bader: Yeah, and most people who have worked in the workplace understand that there are different roles and responsibilities that come with a job and they've been in jobs where they've had people on a team who are doing different aspects of the work. And so they've had that experience and it makes logical sense. But then when they go home and they think, there's just two of us, they don't think about saying, okay, who's responsible for organizing childcare? Who's responsible for our finances or is somebody paying the bills and somebody else doing the investments? Who's responsible for cooking dinner on Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or does somebody always cook and somebody always clean up? And they get into patterns, but often it's not really clearly delineated.

Neil Sattin: Right. So, is there a process that, if I'm listening to this and thinking, "Oh, you know, some of those things we haven't actually figured out," or "I wonder if we've differentiated effectively?" How could I diagnose myself or our relationship to know if that's happened or not?

Pete Pearson: Well, the easy way to know that it's happened, Neil, is, what does my partner do that annoys me? And when you start from a place of, what does my partner do that annoys me in what area of stuff around the house, I would bet that it's because you haven't clearly delineated and agreed upon the roles and responsibilities of that area. Couples kind of normally fall into those patterns in kind of like happenstance, but there's a lot of slippage and a lot of boundary confusion or unclarity about who is really responsible for what and who gets the deciding vote in that area. And that's when our annoyances almost always come from expectations, "My partner's not meeting my expectations." So, the annoyances have to do with expectations of partners that haven't been clarified very well or agreed upon.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Or assumptions that you're making.

Pete Pearson: Assumptions, yes.

Neil Sattin: So, I'm curious for couples who say, think, "Well, generally it works out okay, but when we try to have that conversation, it doesn't go so well, like either ... That could be an explosive argument, or it could be I just always have to give in, because we can't have that conversation. What are some ways that you offer couples to help them have that conversation in a way that's more generative, and you talk about ... I think you talk about fighting fairly or conflict ... I can't remember the exact phrase that you use, but agreements around how you have conflict.

Ellyn Bader: Well, before we even go there, let's say that when couples are trying to negotiate, they make some mistakes. One of the big mistakes that people make is caving in too quickly and they don't realize that when they hit that place of tension, that's actually the place where it's important to stay with it a while longer and figure something out and not see that tension as something bad, but see that tension as where their growth edge actually is.

Ellyn Bader: And so, it's a long story, and we won't go into all the details, but Pete and I talk about many years ago, when we ran workshops together, how we reached a point of conflict, and where we each wanted something very different and it took a full year to sort it out and a full year of actually having to work with the tension, until we came to something that worked for both of us and enabled us to keep working together, because otherwise we would've had too much conflict and not been able to continue working together, running workshops together. People think they should get through stuff faster sometimes than is actually possible.

Ellyn Bader: The process of getting through it is a process where both you get to know yourself better, and you get to know your partner better, if you can stay curious about why something matters to your partner, stay curious about why is it so important to you, learning how to ask really good questions, learning how not to cave too fast. There's many different capacities that are involved in successfully differentiating and successfully managing conflict that get strengthened. The emotional muscle gets built as couples go through that together.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, so I could almost see, like for instance, if you sense that your partner is just caving in, because you've hit that point of tension, to have the willingness to say, “No, I don't want to just get my way here. Let's figure out a way to have this conversation, as long as is required.”

Ellyn Bader: Right, right, and you know, people who tend to be very active and assertive often end up with partners who are a bit more passive than they, themselves, are and for a while it may work to let the more passive person just cave in, but then, over time, instead of having clear roles and responsibilities, what you actually have is the active person doing way, way, way, way more, and the other person doing less, and resentment building. You need to be able to stop that caving in process early.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, what's ... Maybe we could talk briefly about a structure that could be helpful for people, when they realize they're at this place, a point of tension that's where they tend to get stuck. What might-

Pete Pearson: Hey, I have an ... Ellyn, I have an idea. Neil, if we could post somewhere, where your listeners could go to and get a four-page document called, “Super Negotiation for Couples.”

Neil Sattin: Love it.

Pete Pearson: It's a really step-by-step process for how to negotiate and how to avoid the two big problems of negotiation, which is either caving in too quickly or pushing yourself too hard to get what you want, at the expense of the other. I can give you a link where your listeners could go and get that document.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that would be great, if it's easy. We can always post it in the transcript of the show, as well.

Pete Pearson: That would be great, but very quickly, and then we'll send you the link, and it could be posted in the transcript. It's, and then in the blog, it's Super Negotiation for Couples,, and the blog is “Super Negotiation for Couples.” It's four pages, which is really good, a step-by-step process to lead you through what can be negotiated, and, interestingly enough, what cannot be negotiated, and even more importantly, how to prepare ahead of time to make an effective negotiation.

Neil Sattin: Great. I can already envision enlisting Chloe and doing it experimentally and recording ourselves for the podcast-

Pete Pearson: Oh, cool! Yeah.

Neil Sattin: So that you can hear us live going into negotiating or not, something really sensitive for us.

Pete Pearson: Oh, that would be interesting.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, totally. I appreciate your sharing that link, and we will definitely have a direct link to that in the transcript and show notes, as well.

Pete Pearson: Terrific.

Neil Sattin: I guess that saves us from having to go through the whole thing here.

Pete Pearson: Right.

Neil Sattin: One thing that I want to touch on is when people get into relationship and, Ellyn, you mentioned, very often, not always, but very often there's that initial falling in love or that feeling of merging, or we're the same, or we're meant for each other. This is perfect. Then the disillusionment happens, where you start realizing the person isn't perfect. Yet, towards the end of the developmental process, when you're actually in that place of synergy, I don't think you're going to feel like you're the same again, but you will feel an intense level of intimacy and closeness that, in some ways, is at least a variation on the theme of that kind of intimacy that you experience at the very start of your relationship.

Neil Sattin: I want to bring this up, because I feel like, so often, the struggle for people is wanting to hang onto what they experienced at the very beginning out of fear of moving like that, in the differentiation process, they're going to lose each other. How do you keep people connected, while they're differentiating?

Ellyn Bader: First of all, one of the ways that I explain this, and I think it's a visual that people really get, is you know the disco balls that have mirrors all around them?

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Ellyn Bader: I keep a disco ball in my office. What I say is a disco ball represents each person, and all the mirrors on the ball are different facets of yourself. When you two met and fell in love, the disco ball mirrors that were facing each other or were setting each other off, and you were falling in love, and all the brain chemicals got going, are those places where you really felt like you were the same, like you were meant for each other, like everything was just perfect.

Ellyn Bader: Well, because everybody has so many different facets of themselves, it's inevitable that those balls are going to spin. There's going to be a period in which the ones that are facing each other are actually the ones where you don't get along so well, or you're not the same, and where you have growth that needs to take place, in order to keep the connection. Over time, the balls are going to continue to spin, and you will learn things that will deepen your connection and, actually, the kind of intimacy that most couples experience when they get to the other side of that is a kind of intimacy that feels more real and more grounded than that super-exciting, temporary psychosis that went on at the beginning.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I mean the disco ball isn't terribly effective when it stays in one place. It needs to spin for-

Ellyn Bader: Exactly.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, it makes a ton of sense.

Ellyn Bader: Now, and a relationship needs juice. It needs energy, and some of that energy comes from the differences, as well as from the similarities.

Neil Sattin: I suggest that you, at home, you pick your favorite disco tune, and you can hum it to yourself when you're in a moment of uncertainty about the direction that you're headed. I'm already getting it might be the night fever, we know how to go it.

Pete Pearson: Cool.

Neil Sattin: There's that reassurance that you're headed towards that place, and yet it can feel really scary to give, to grant, freedom, or to take freedom, let's say, to take that independence. Is there a specific way that you encourage people to do that, to enter into that required process, but to maintain an awareness of the other person's heart and how they're affecting them, but not in a way that leads to codependence?

Pete Pearson: That question, Neil, brings us full circle back to where we started. Instead of saying, “Here's how you do it,” or, “Here's the way to do it,” it's like, “What is your motivation for doing it? What are the advantages for put ... Why would you put forth the effort? Why would you take the emotional risk? Why would you take the sustained effort to bring that about?” Then we can talk about how to do it, but let's first talk about the "why" you would be willing to do it. It's the why that gives us the motivation to do the work.

Ellyn Bader: Pete, I think of some of the stuff that you've been doing lately around couples as a team also is part of an answer to Neil's question.

Pete Pearson: Totally, because we first have to identify where we get stuck, where the pain is. That's easy for couples to do.

Pete Pearson: “Here's where I get triggered. When my partner does X, this is what happens, and I get triggered.”

Pete Pearson: I say, “Great, let's look at what you feel/think when you get triggered.”

Pete Pearson: They go, “Oh, that's easy to do.”

Pete Pearson: Now I will say, “Let's shift, because we have to shift from where you are in that emotional brain, that lizard brain reflex, that self-protection, and let's talk about how you aspire to be instead. If you come from your higher self, your transformative self, you're better self, what would that look like? Instead of responding from a defensive, blaming, accusatory, withdrawing place, what would be a better way of responding?”

Pete Pearson: Most of the time, people can say, “Well, I'd be better if I was calmer, if I was curious, if I was a little more compassionate, if I was a better listener.”

Pete Pearson: Then here's, I say, the key question, which is, “Why would you be willing to make the effort to go to that future focus, that forward focus? Why would you be willing to do that?”  Then, that gets us to all the benefits for change. People only change for three reasons: to avoid a greater pain, for the benefits involved or the rewards involved, and to live more within our integrity about how we aspire to be. We talk about why they would be willing to make the effort.

Pete Pearson: Then, I'll say, "When you get stuck, when you get triggered, I want you to clasp your hands together and squeeze. That will, first of all, distract you from being looping in that emotional, lizard brain response. Then, think about how you would aspire to be, and why you would change and be that way. When your partner sees you clasping your hands, that's a signal to your partner that you are struggling to change your response and come from your better self. Then your partner will say to you, 'Oh, thank you. I appreciate your willingness to try to avoid going into that old place and do something different. I really appreciate that. What can I do to help that? What can I say or what can I do right now that would be helpful?'"  I say, "When you guys do that, now you're working together as a team."

Neil Sattin: Perfect, and that being the whole goal is recognizing that, even as you progress through these stages of togetherness leading into greater independence, leading back to greater interdependence, that you're on the same team with each other.

Pete Pearson: Yes.

Neil Sattin: You're not out to get each other. You've got each other's back, and you can help each other through that process.

Pete Pearson: Exactly.

Neil Sattin: Well, Pete Pearson and Ellyn Bader, it's been a treat to have you on the show again, just like the first time around. I wish I had read your book, In Quest of the Mythical Mate, years ago, but I'm so thrilled that I read it now. I would say it's required reading for any couples therapist out there. You're doing a lot of work, training couples therapists, as well as work helping lay people just do better in relationships, through your work at The Couples Institute.

Neil Sattin: Thank you, again, for being with us here today. I'll make sure we have links to your website, so people can find your work. I just want to say how grateful I am for the work you're doing in the world, and for your willingness to come and share it with us here on Relationship Alive. We could talk more, and hopefully, we'll get that chance again sometimes soon.

Pete Pearson: Thank you, Neil, so much, for what you're doing to bring the message to the people out there.

Neil Sattin: My pleasure.

Ellyn Bader: Yes, thank you, Neil. It's always a pleasure talking with you, and I also will mention that I'm going to be doing a free online workshop between August 13th and 25th, so if any of your listeners want to participate in that, I can send you a link for that, as well.

Neil Sattin: That would be great, and I can actually send that out to my mailing list, as well, so that people can find out about it that way.

Ellyn Bader: That would be fantastic.

Pete Pearson: Thank you, Neil.

Ellyn Bader: Yeah, that would be great.

Neil Sattin: Absolutely. Well, we'll be in touch about that, and always great to talk to you guys. Take care.

Ellyn Bader: You, too.

Pete Pearson: Bye-bye, Neil.

Ellyn Bader: Bye.


Jul 25, 2018

You know all those ways that you've learned to cope over the years? The little things that you do that distract you from feeling uncomfortable, or bored, or stressed? While some coping strategies are positive for you, others rob you of the chance to actually either deal with what's there, or to fully experience the moment - to be present. Developing your ability to be present, to dive into the moment without distracting yourself, is the key to keeping things connected and energized with your partner. Today you're going to learn how to identify your coping strategies, decide whether they're serving you or not, and how to transform your habits of distraction and coping into new, positive habits.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode has two exciting sponsors. Please visit them to take advantage of their offers and show appreciation for their support of the Relationship Alive podcast!

RxBars are one of our favorite snacks. They're healthy, high in protein, and made with simple ingredients that you can pronounce. Plus, they're really tasty, without any added sugar, gluten, soy, or dairy. RxBars are offering 25% off your first order, if you visit and use the coupon code "ALIVE".

This week is also being sponsored by is a service that sends healthy, delicious, plant-based and gluten-free foods to you, each week. They're easy to prepare (either ready-to-eat or ready in less than 10 MINUTES). And - special shoutout to their cookie dough - which you can eat raw (or bake for a healthy dessert). This is by far the best prepared food delivery service that we've experienced. And you can get $25 off your first TWO orders if you use the coupon code "ALIVE" at checkout - at



I want to know you better! Take the quick, anonymous, Relationship Alive survey

FREE Guide to Neil's Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE)

Support the podcast (or text "SUPPORT" to 33444)

Amazing intro and outtro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters


Jul 19, 2018

What’s the best way to overcome conflict in your relationship? How does it change based on your attachment style? And can you use what we know about our biology, and our memory, to keep a relationship from getting past the point of no return? In today’s episode, we’re blessed with a return visit from Stan Tatkin. Along with training couples therapists and conducting workshops for couples all over the world, Stan is the author of Wired for Love, Wired for Dating, and the recent audio program from SoundsTrue - RelationshipRx: Insights and Practices to Overcome Chronic Fighting and Return to Love. Stan’s work blends Attachment Theory with Interpersonal Neurobiology, helping couples leverage science to succeed in long term relationships. It’s always a treat to have him here on the show, and our conversation today will give you fresh insights into how to fight, how to repair, and how to transform conflict into something that helps you and your partner grow closer together.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it! Also, see below for links to our other episodes with Stan Tatkin.


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode has two amazing sponsors. Each has put together a special offer for you as a Relationship Alive listener. Please visit them to take advantage of their offer and show appreciation for their support of the Relationship Alive podcast!

First are the folks at Through a unique online quiz, they help you figure out exactly what vitamins and herbal supplements you need to achieve your optimal health. They use high-quality ingredients, and can save you as much as 20% over comparable store-bought brands. On top of all that, they are offering you 25% OFF your first month if you visit and use the coupon code “ALIVE” at checkout.

This week is also being sponsored by is a service that sends healthy, delicious, plant-based and gluten-free foods to you, each week. They're easy to prepare (either ready-to-eat or ready in less than 10 MINUTES). And - special shoutout to their cookie dough - which you can eat raw (or bake for a healthy dessert). This is by far the best prepared food delivery service that we've experienced. And you can get $25 off your first TWO orders if you use the coupon code "ALIVE" at checkout - at


Check out Stan Tatkin's website

Listen to Stan Tatkin’s new release, RelationshipRx, offered through SoundsTrue.

Read Stan Tatkin’s books

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide - perfect help for handling conflict...

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE) Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Stan Tatkin.

Here are links to our other episodes with Stan Tatkin (prior to this one):

Episode 19: Recipe for a Secure, Healthy Relationship

Episode 50: Wired for Dating and Love - Psychobiology

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out


Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin, and we are coming to you in full Technicolor today, which is a first for Relationship Alive, not a first for our illustrious and lovely guest, Stan Tatkin, who's back on the show. He was here in episode 19 way back when we started, talking about a recipe for a secure and healthy relationship. He was also here talking about his book Wired For Dating and Love and talking about psychobiology, which we'll address a little bit in today's episode, back in episode 50. And you can listen to either of those episodes by visiting or We'll make this one, so you can download. We'll have a transcript for this episode and any related links that we talk about over the course of our conversation.

Neil Sattin: So we're here to talk about a couple of things like when we dive in to the work as a couple and that work involves how you maintain your connection, how you maintain your safety, while at the same time keeping things exciting, but not too exciting because you're collapsing into fights and distress. It's a balancing act and it requires a level of skill that we are just now really coming to grips with, like what skills are required when it comes to relational excellence in long term relationships. And Stan is one of today's leading experts in how to navigate that well. And one thing that I loved, Stan, in listening to your recent recording that you did for Sounds True called Relationship Rx, which is all about overcoming chronic fights in a relationship, I love that you were right upfront by saying, "Hey, if you're in a real relationship, you're gonna be dealing with this. I deal with this." I deal with this with my wife, with my children. And so there's not this halo that somehow because we're relationship experts that we're not affected by things like getting triggered and getting knocked off balance and having to come back and repair. I'm excited to have you here to get real about this art of how we stay safe and secure and there are also a few specific questions that I have for you along the way that have come in from listeners to the Relationship Alive podcast.

Stan Tatkin: Sure.

Neil Sattin: It's a pleasure to have you back, so thanks for joining me today.

Stan Tatkin: Thank you, Neil. It's good to be back.

Neil Sattin: Awesome. Awesome. I would like to just... Let's just have a nutshell summary of psychobiology. What do you mean by that since your approach is a psychobiological approach to couple's therapy, which is the PACT that we see behind you here for those of you who are watching.

Stan Tatkin: Well, think of it as study of the brain and the body. We could say it's psycho-neurobiology or neurobiology, but psychobiology is basically taking a developmental approach to the human primate lifespan and in particular pair bonding with and between humans. This is basically a capacity model, meaning we're looking at social-emotional development from even in utero. But postnatally, we're looking at the networking of these structures and the function of these structures that allow us to be effective human beings with each other, particularly when it comes to attraction and when it comes to distress. Those are the two areas that encompasses the burden placed on people who are and are not socially-emotionally intelligent.

Neil Sattin: Right, so this question of how we as organisms, like what generates attraction in us on a physiological level as well as a psychological level and then also how do we manage the problem states that come up.

Stan Tatkin: Yes.

Neil Sattin: On a physiological and psychological level.

Stan Tatkin: Yes. And a lot of what we see between human beings is psychological to be sure, but not in the traditional sense. A lot of what happens between people is involving automatic systems that are recognition based and not thought based. They're recognition based because we're fundamentally memory. That's how we operate. Everything we do is based on memory. There is, on balance, very little that we do that requires the kind of cognition, predicting, rotating objects in three dimensions in our head, planning. All of these things contingent kinds of processing. We don't do that at any given time during the day, very much compared to how much we are automated and how much we are using these very lightning-fast recognition systems. And so we're talking here about the human condition, not about individuals, per se.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I loved in Relationship Rx where you talked about how when we first meet someone, we experience them, it's this amazing novel, new thing, a new person in our lives. But that very quickly, you use the phrase, "we automate them", we push them back into the rote memory that allows us to just function automatically with that person.

Stan Tatkin: Yes, nature has built in energy conserving functions in our brain and in our body. If we didn't have these, we wouldn't survive, we wouldn't be here. So we can only perceive so much, hear so much, feel, taste, smell so much. We only have so many neurons for those things. And because there's so much sensory motor information that we have to process at every moment, the brain has to gate or limit that information. And especially limit the amount of information that floats up to consciousness or awareness. So most of the time we are doing things on a level where we're not being told, we don't get permission or give permission to some of the things that we do by these primitive areas that are recognition memory based that allow us to go through the day and do the many, many things that we do and still conserve energy. So, this is not a bug, it's a feature. But in relationships it can also be a bug.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, right, exactly. Because then you could be stuck in painful memories of what's happened either in your relationship or the things that happened long ago that your relationship evokes, right?

Stan Tatkin: Well, yes. In the love relationship in particular, a relationship I think of as the hardest one on the planet. The reason it's so difficult is...

Interested in reading the transcript for the rest of this episode with Stan Tatkin? 

Visit to download the full transcript of this episode!

Jul 11, 2018

Should you get back together with your ex? How do you know if it's a good idea? And, once you've decided that it's a good idea, how do you get back together with the best chance of succeeding? Let's face it - things didn't work out the first time around. What can you do to prevent history from repeating itself? In today's episode, I'll give you the exact questions to ask (yourself, AND your ex) that will help you figure out whether or not it's a good idea. And then we'll cover what to do to increase your chances of getting it right this time around. Along the way, you'll learn great questions to ask yourself before you enter into ANY new relationship - or how to create a structure to support the relationship that you're currently in.

If you have a free moment, please take the Relationship Alive listener survey!


Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are - thank you!), this week's episode is sponsored by Please visit them to take advantage of their offer and show appreciation for their support of the Relationship Alive podcast! is a service that sends healthy, delicious, plant-based and gluten-free foods to you, each week. They're easy to prepare (either ready-to-eat or ready in less than 10 MINUTES). And - special shoutout to their cookie dough - which you can eat raw (or bake for a healthy dessert). This is by far the best prepared food delivery service that we've experienced. And you can get $25 off your first TWO orders if you use the coupon code "ALIVE" at checkout - at


Join the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook

FREE Guide to Neil's Top 3 Relationship Communication Secrets

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE)

Support the podcast (or text "SUPPORT" to 33444)

Amazing intro and outtro music provided courtesy of The Railsplitters 

Jun 28, 2018

What's stopping you from having the kind of connection with others that you want? Whether you're in a relationship and feeling stuck with your partner, or single and wondering how to connect with someone amazing - today's episode is for you. You're going to learn a simple way to shift how you interact with others that will open you up to a much more alive, dynamic, exciting way to connect. You'll also know how to recognize when it's time to make a boundary and NOT connect. 

And, as always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you.

Join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!



Top 3 Secrets of Great Communication in Relationship (FREE)

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (FREE)

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out

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