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Susie Pettit on Navigating a Narcissistic Relationship - From Rock Bottom to Midlife Warrior

Posted by tonyoverbay

Susie Pettit is a Podcast Host (Love Your Life Show), the founder of Strength: Mind and Body, and a Mindfullness-Based Cognitive Life Coach. Susie has made a career helping women "live lives that feel as good on the inside as they look on the outside." But before finding her calling in helping others, she spent more than half her life living a life she did not love, as a people pleaser and a codependent perfectionist. Susie shares her story of growing up in a narcissistic home only to find herself in an emotionally, and financially abusive marriage, trying desperately to do whatever she could to keep peace in her home, her life, and in the lives of her children. Susie's story finds her hitting rock bottom, only to use her experiences to turn her into the "Midlife Warrior" she is today. You can find out more about Susie at http://smbwell.com/tony

Go to http://tonyoverbay.com/workshop to sign up for Tony's "Magnetize Your Marriage" virtual workshop. The cost is only $19, and you'll learn the top 3 things you can do NOW to create a Magnetic Marriage. 

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.

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Transcript

Tony: Okay, Susie Pettit, round two or three. What would we call this one? It's all been, let's call it two. 

Susie: It's on me. Ok. 

Tony: It's all part of one. You've been smiling the whole way. 

Susie: It’s all going exactly as planned.  

Tony: Absolutely. That's the case. So, welcome to the Virtual Couch, as well as probably the Waking Up to Narcissism podcast as well. So thanks for joining me. 

Susie: Great. Thank you for having me. It’s exciting.

Tony: Yeah. I loved being on your podcast, and I just felt like, boy, we, I don't know, that felt like 10 minutes and I felt like we could have talked all day, and I think at that point we said, okay, let's continue this over on mine. So, yeah. So here we are and I'm looking forward to this. I would love to maybe, if you're open to it, just tell my listeners who you are and a little bit about you because there's a couple of really fascinating things about where you are and more. So why don't you lay that story out. So Susie, take us on your train of thought. 

Susie: Okay. Well, my name is Susie Pettit and I am currently a 51 year old successful life coach for moms of teens, and I help women you know, really learn habits. I'm very into brain science and how our brain likes habits and ease and help women lay habits and create habits to live a life they love. Now the backstory of that is because I lived a life I did not love for many, many years. I grew up in a family. I was one of three daughters. I was the oldest and I grew up with a dad who, from my very earliest memories I remember him saying, you should have been a boy, and I wanted a boy. And even my third sister is named Jill, and he said, that's because I could never get my Bill. So I grew up in a very male dominated house. With a, you know, really we were tiptoeing around my dad the whole time. So that's where this might fit into your Waking Up to Narcissism podcast. 

Tony: And Susie, I feel like this is one of those situations where if somebody hasn't experienced that, I would imagine if somebody was saying, well, I'm sure that he was joking, you know, or I'm sure that he didn't really mean it, but I mean, that was your everyday experience. 

Susie: Well, and the tricky part is, is that when we're dealing with people who are narcissists or emotionally immature, they might say it in a joking way. Like, oh, I'm just joking, or, yeah. Or you know, one of the things, one of my memories, so, a lot of growing up with my dad was to be a woman, you needed to look a certain way. You needed to be a certain way or else, since you weren't a man and you're already starting back a step. Like if you weren't this perfect little image of a woman, then there you go. And, just thinking of jokes, one of the things my dad used to say is he used to be very controlling around food, and I can remember that when we were quote unquote allowed a treat, he would get two donuts and he would have one donut, and then the other donut, he would split in quarters. And he would give one to my mom and one quarter to me and my other two sisters and he would, you know, he would say like a moment on your lips, forever on your hips. And he'd just sort of be smiling in that like, you know, oh here you go. And here I am, I get to have the whole donut because I'm a man. So there's a lot of that joking. When people hear this for sure, you know, they may think, okay, well, you know, people have said this to me too, but the cumulative effect of years of this then led me into a marriage where I had a very similar relationship, where I was constantly looking for external approval and external approval and validation of is this okay? Can I, it's funny, I didn't even play on this today, Tony, but I'm wearing a button down shirt and my first husband said I could never wear button down shirts, that it was slutty and women don't wear those. And so I like now I wear button down shirts like all the time because I'm like, check me out. But it's, it is, I have come from a lot of programming and wounding. 

Tony: Yeah. So, that shirt example is such a good one as well, because in that moment, because that's how you grew up and that's what you were hearing in the marriage. I mean, did you question that at first or did you just feel like this is the way the world works? I do need to check in and see if this is okay?

Susie: Yeah. I think what I don't want to skip over is the massive toll that many of us have, whether we had an upbringing like mine or not, where I do believe my dad was doing the best he could but whether we had that upbringing or not, the toll that it takes in getting the message that we don't know what's right for us and we need to look externally from ourselves for what is right, and that is not just me being raised with a narcissistic father. That is a lot of people raised in this society, whether you're a boy or a girl. Just this idea, you know, when we're talking about emotions, like, oh no, you're not, like, don't be sad about that. Or it can be to lesser degrees. Mine is obviously at one end of the spectrum. But having grown up in that household where I was absolutely programmed to think that I did not know what was right for me. That a quarter of a donut was the best thing. And that I am lucky that my dad isn't mad at me, that I'm, you know, playing my music too loud or something. When I was with a husband who said these same things, I was like, okay, okay, let's get in line, Susie. And I very much was looking back at what I think many of us define as a people pleaser. When he told me, and maybe he just told me twice, like, don't wear a button down shirt. It's not like that was a conversation we had every moment of our 26 years together but that's all I needed because I was so in, you know, as we know from narcissism, I was so in this lack of self-confidence in my own self regard, that I was like, okay, so if I can get his vote of approval by not wearing a button down, there you go. And the button down shirt is just one example. I mean, there was, I was not allowed to talk to certain people, and I say this, and yet he wasn't holding me down, I could have gone out of the house and talked to someone or bought a self-help book, or it was just more the emotional turmoil and backlash from that.

Tony: Well, I feel like that, that part, again, if anybody hasn't been in that situation, it does sound so easy to say, were you being held down? But there was so much, I can only imagine there was so much more to that as well and I do feel like when you're talking about that need for external validation or the people pleasing, tell me if this resonates because I think a lot of times when people stay, and I guess I'm just jumping right into the deep end as well, but when people stay in relationships, let's say for example for the kids because we hear that so often, and I feel like it's hard to say this to somebody that's trying their best, and they might be in this rough relationship, but I feel like often they are in essence teaching their kids, hey, here's how we manage dad's emotions, or here's how we manage mom's emotions. Almost like, this is all I know and so I'm going to teach that to my kid. And then what does it do? Then that's what they feel like that is what you do in a relationship, rather than, oh, I'm allowed to have my own feelings and emotion. 

Susie: 100%. That's what I was taught as a kid. But it was, it was this, be careful. It was that walking on eggshells, you know? Oh, dad's had a tough day at work. So you know, when you get home on your best behavior, like I can influence his mood. I was taught very much that my behavior could be responsible for an adult's emotions, which we know it's their thoughts that are creating their feelings and yet, you know, I just tiptoed around so much. Don't play the music too loud, you know, and don't talk about your tough, so I was taught at a young age that my behavior could impact some, not even could, but like did, did impact some, you know, like he absolutely handed over his emotional control to me. And then when I moved into a more mature relationship, that absolutely was the case for me in marriage too. So your point to, you know, staying in this for the kids, what was another little factor in my life is that really was a turning point for me is I had a friend, a dear friend, who we were living sort of parallel lives. Like I had three kids, she had two kids. We would go to playgroups every week and we would complain about our husbands and our life and our you know, whatever. And then we'd get all our energy out and complain to each other, and then we'd go out in our lives, live the same life, like rinse, repeat, come back the next week. That woman was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer and within several years passed, and it was a massive wake up call for me because she never got that chance to sort of look and be like, what kind of legacy am I leaving for my kids and for me that really was the moment where I feel like there was a part of me that just woke up, like, I came out of a trance. I speak of it in a recent podcast episode I just did where I felt like I woke up and saw this model that I was setting for my kids, which was very similar to the model that my family of origin that I had been raised in. And I actually, there was one day I was in a store called Marshalls, which I think people are familiar with. And there was a sign that said, “dysfunction stops here”. And I now have that in my house. And that is, I just drew a line in the sand. And I just, I knew from that moment forward, there was something that clicked in me that was you know, hold on. Like, yes, my kids matter so much to me and what am I modeling for them? And so that was a question I asked myself, is this a marriage that I would want for my three sons? And my answer was a big old, hell no. And so from that, I started to shift the marriage and I, you know, tried to do what I could do.

Tony: What'd you do? What do you remember about doing? Because I feel like you're so spot on. And I feel like the thing that's difficult in the women's Facebook group that I have or that sort of thing is, that I feel bad saying that when you start to stand up for yourself or know that it's okay for you to have thoughts, feelings, and emotions, that it's almost unfortunate that if you're doing it right, you're going to get more buttons pushed. So did that happen for you?

Susie: 100%. Yeah, 100% with everyone in my original circle, you know, like my mom, my dad, my sisters, my mother-in-law, like everyone who was, who mattered to me absolutely did turn on me. And it is something that I spoke about in that episode, it's SMBwell.com/230. But I speak of how you know, something I heard in that period of time when my friend passed and I was like, oh, something's gotta change, Susie. I heard about the idea of what happens to crabs in a bucket. Have you heard of this?

Tony: Oh, a little bit, but please talk to this. 

Susie: I love it, so when you have crabs in a bucket, so imagine I'm a crab in a bucket and my mom is a crab in them by my dad and my husband and my, we're all in that bucket and we're all sort of living maybe in a like, and we know maybe that our end is soon because we're in this bucket. Like, why are we in a bucket? So we're in the bucket and if one of those crabs tries to get out of that uncomfortable situation and crawls up the other crabs instead of helping it or maybe thinking it can get out and help, they try to pull that crab down and they'll pull it down. They will not give up until they have pulled that crab down and torn that crab to shreds. That's what crabs will do. And so for me, I just was like, I'm that crab in the bucket and I need to get out. And so when I saw my parents, my parents did many things. My parents were incredibly, and still are incredibly wealthy, and said that they would support my husband's legal team. My sister turned over emails that I had written to her at different times, before we sort of had texts. And I would say, I had such a bad parenting moment. God today was really hard. She turned those over to my husband's lawyers to use against me in court showing that I was an inept mother. You know, just the root. I had some premarital earnings that I was, we were married in 1996 before, you know, electronic files. And there was one piece of paper that showed that it was in my maiden name, not my married name. And I needed that paper to give me that earning. And my dad on a video with me and he was with my sister, shredded that document. So $480,000. $480,000. Went to my ex, not a penny of the like, it wasn't split then because of the state I was living in, in America, Virginia, still at the time that I was divorced in 2014, you are the property of your husband. He got every penny, which rendered me essentially bankrupt. And I had, you know, little money for a legal team knowing that my dad also had massive money for my husband's legal team. So I spent a year in the basement of our unfinished house, the marital house where my kids were still living. I told them I had a bad back. Mom's sleeping downstairs. Because if I had left, the state could say that I was abandoning my children and I would've given up rights to see my three darling boys. And if I left with them, which two of them were begging me to do, they would've said I kidnapped them and I could have ended up in prison. So, I mean, those crabs are for real, Tony.

Tony: They really are Susie and it's so crazy because I say, probably on every one of the Waking Up to Narcissism podcasts of that, and we can't try to make sense of the nonsense, but yet I find myself wanting to ask you, you know, boy, why, why did your dad do that?

Susie: Oh, I get it. So my in-laws were in on that too, which I get more details too in that podcast episode. But yeah, all of them, I, you know, I call them sort of the four headed dragon, like my mother-in-law, father-in-law, dad, and mom. If they believed that what I was doing was possible, which was saying that this marriage is not okay for me, like if you think of my mom living with my father for however many years they were married and then when I went to my parents and said, you know, I am thinking of ending this, and they said, oh hell no. They were like, you cannot. If I was showing them a different way of living, they would have to address it. Maybe that could have been possible for them. And that is not something, they would rather close it off and fight against me. I mean, my mother said it would be easier if I had died like my friend. I don't know what they like, it's an interesting thing. I can see where they are coming from. 

And it is, I guess another helpful story that I, I really like stories and I know that you do too. But one thing that has really helped me, and I don't know where I think I heard it from Tara Brock, so it might be a Buddhist story, but of a dog at a tree, and I think of my parents as a dog by this tree. And so you're walking through the forest and you see this dog by the tree and you go to pet the dog and the dog bites you and you're like, whoa, what's going on? And then you, when you back up, you see the dog is caught in this massive, extensive, awful trap. And there is nothing that you, as the person can do to get that dog out of the trap, like you cannot get it out. All I can do with my parents or that dog is decide whether I'm going to go back and keep getting my hand bit because and so it's that like the biting of the hand. So I heard that story first from Tara and that was so helpful. I thought, okay, my parents like they are not doing this to me. This is their wounding, their past, this harmful piece that's, you know, that is there. And that has brought me a lot of freedom. When I met with a coach, I was telling her my whole story and I was very much in the victim mindset and yeah, well, woe is me, look at all this and she just, she's like stop, Susie, stop. And I was like, whoop, I need to talk more about this. And I can still remember where I was sitting and the sunlight coming in, and she said, what if you had the exact parents you needed to have to become the woman you are today? And with that I was like, I'm the one, the dysfunction stops here. This is over. My boys are going to have a different future. We are not continuing this down the line. A lot of fear, a lot of terror . 

Tony: How many, how many years were you into the recovery or the separation when you had that moment? I'm curious. 

Susie: That was while I was still living in the house. So, I think to your point with the women in the Facebook group and people, when they're starting to see, yeah, you know, whether they're in that extreme narcissist relationship or whether they're listening on your other podcast, the Virtual Couch, and they're just sort of in an uncomfortable period. It's just, you just need to take that next right step. So for me, I didn't go from this, like all of these are sort of like little step posts to where I am now. I didn't go from that basement to living to right now I'm in Australia in a dream location with a man who's totally supportive and lets me wear anything I want. And eat as many donuts as I wanna eat. I didn't go from there to here, but it was more these little steps. You know, first I would, I talked my first husband into therapy, and then we got fired from that therapist when we moved to the next one. You know, and we just, so it's taking whatever step seems doable for you in the moment. Maybe it's just buying a self-help book. Maybe it's, I started, the reason why I podcast now is because I started with podcasts. That was something that my ex would not see me doing so I could do it. And it was sort of this, like, if he found out, he would've been raging mad, but I could do it in a safe way. So I always encourage people to just take that next step. Another big piece of that is your Facebook group to get that support because when you are doing things differently, like I was doing, you might be surrounded by crabs also. And, so saying like, anything, say it's not a massive marriage that you're trying to get out of, but just a boundary you're trying to set with, you know, your mother-in-law who's always dropping by unexpected and it's really infuriating. You know, so say you're trying to set that boundary like, hey mom, could you send me a text before you come over. You're going to feel physically uncomfortable if you've been raised in an environment where you need to.

Tony: Because you're, you're asking for your needs, right? And you want someone to say, okay, versus, I mean, even if they're not going to say, okay.

Susie: They’re not. You need podcasts like ours that are like, they're not going to say it. Like, you what, for 12 years, you've let your mother come by. You know, without any sort of, so why now would she be like, oh, okay, great idea. So, we need that sort of, the guidance of podcasts , and knowledge. But then we also need the support of a group to remind us you're not doing anything wrong. We want to have the like Tony or the Susie or the other women in there that are like, oh honey, I get it. That's hard. 

Tony: Well, and I appreciate you saying that too because I feel like it's when people get out and then they feel liberated and they want to share that story and I almost feel like you've got so many in that group. For example, there are people that are just starting to, I mean, they're still scared to even log into Facebook at this point and worried that somebody's going to see or read or whatever and I feel like that person can all of a sudden hear, man, now you know I got out and I did this, and now I'm in this happy relationship. And it can just feel overwhelming even to I don't know if I can get there, you know, it's so easy. 

Susie: Oh for sure. That's why it has to be that next little step. Like maybe it's just listening to a podcast or maybe it's, I would get a book from the library, but that was a little risky because then you could see it. So I actually just found, it’s so funny because I did move across, I moved internationally and so a lot of my stuff I had to get rid of. But I just found a book that I had had from back when I was married and it's, I can't get it now with my headphones, but I have duct tape over the cover of it, like white duct tape so that you can't see the type. I think it's, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers, but you can't see it. So, just whatever, like I've been scared, whoever's been scared, but we need to take that little step that seems okay. 

Tony: Is that a library book, Susie? I mean, do you have a very late fee on that?

Susie: No, that's not a library book. But I'm sure, I mean, everything was controlled in my life. Finances, I'm sure it was a used book I got somewhere where I could sneak like maybe a dollar and change.

Tony: No, it's totally, but I like what you're saying that next little step because we did a group call a few weeks ago and I was talking about self-care and I realized even when people hear self-care, they think, okay, I need to go run a marathon. But it can be to dream. It can be to think. It can be to hope. I mean it can happen internally. 

Susie: Without anyone knowing. And so that's a very good point because a lot of what I do are habits and we're recording this around the new year when people, you know, maybe sedentary people are like, I'm gonna go to the gym every day. And I'm like, let's not go that big. That's like saying, you know, you haven't spoken up to your husband of 19 years, and you're like, let's go to therapy. Like, that's, that's too big a jump. So it's this, you know, when I'm working with people, I'm like, well, what's the minimum thing that you could do? Could you walk for one minute a day? One minute a day? And they're like, that's not big enough. But it's actually, it is. I actually have a client who last year said she was gonna walk for five minutes a day every day. She walked for five minutes, and then she added five minutes every month. So by the end of the year, how much is she walking? An hour a day. Yeah. And she's, but because she started small it is that, we have to start small. 

Tony: Yeah. And I love this. I really do. And I also like having people hear success stories and that and what was that like for your kids too? I'm curious when you got out of the relationship, what, I mean, what were those conversations like? You said that one of your sons wanted you to leave early on. Is that the case? 

Susie: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think if I had looked back to me when I made the ultimate decision to leave and move forward with the divorce, because my self-confidence was so low that to say to do it for Susie was too far elite. But I saw myself doing it for my kids because my oldest son was entering preteen and teen years and there was a lot of conflict in parenting and how, you know, it sort of that my way is the right way authoritative. Which is why I now help parents of teens because we need to parent that age differently than we did the zero to 10 year olds. I mean, it is, my background is a master's of education. And it was interesting. I had a master's of education and then became the stay-at-home mom and then suddenly, you know, so there's this conflict in parenting. And that was the impetus for me to say, okay, enough. Like it stops here, and that started probably before my friend passed, that I would have the courage to speak up to my ex if it had things to do with parenting. Okay. And then, When that ball sort of started getting rolling, which it was not something that he was open to at all, but when that started to get rolling, it was continuing to return to my kids. Now, my kids now so much of my job is to recognize that they have a father and there is nothing I can do that can, like, I can't out mother their father, I can be the best mother I'm gonna be. And they are always going to have that father. And so I can help them, you know, we role play sort of how to speak up for yourself or how to say, okay, you know, I don't have that thought dad, or, but they're, I have three sons and they are still very much in the dance of figuring this out. They're 18, 20, and 24. I think I just did that wrong.

Tony: Well, and Susie, what I like, what I appreciate about that too is I think one of the things when I talk about co-parenting with a narcissist or an incredibly emotionally immature person, again, back to the, if somebody hasn't had that experience, it sounds like, this is not fair or you're throwing dad under the bus. But I love what you're saying about how we have to learn to validate the kids' emotions because I don't know if you made a lot of excuses for him, as you were growing up with the kids and I give this example often of somebody that the dad was really late to pick the daughter up from high school. The mom's sitting in the car and the dad's often, probably always late. And then this lady said that when her daughter got frustrated, you know, she said, I wanted to say, oh, I'm sure he cares, or I'm sure he's just running late. But she finally felt like, man, I'm not validating her experience. And said, man, what is that like? And it's frustrating. And then she shared, yeah, I get frustrated too. And it was a really powerful moment for her. And she said , she was coming in asking me did I do the wrong thing? You know, did I throw him under the bus? But I feel like we have to validate our kids' experience versus.

Susie: So that, I think it's very important. And I started to do that when I was still married to my first husband. If I look at what I used to do, I'd triangulate. So the kids would have, you know, maybe they'd wanna go to a skiing outing or something and they'd say I need to ask dad, but can you ask dad? Because they know that dad is probably, and so I would get involved in that triangle and I would ask dad and then, you know, and that what I have done is I've flattened that triangle because we know triangles are not great. So I started by, you know, like, you ask, you can do it. Let's role play. Let's think of how you can ask dad and then if dad said something like, no or yes, or you know what, no. Usually I would say, I'm really sorry. That's hard. There you go. I wouldn't, I would really try to step back from the advice. One of my favorite parenting tools I call sucks and handle, or stinks and handle. So it's like, all that stinks, how are you gonna handle it? And sometimes, the stink or the sucks part is where we are validating. And sometimes we need to stay there a little longer, so it's like, oh, I'm really sorry that he said no and I'm really sorry that that happened. How does that feel? Like, what are you thinking? And then maybe like a day passes, what are you gonna do about it? But that helps me stay away from throwing my ex under the bus. I used to throw him under the bus more when I was in the divorce and the contention because I was in a very angry place towards him. But I really was like, this is not fair to my kids, because this is the only dad they have. So they don't, they need to come to their awareness of who their dad is without me trying to sort of throw dirt on it.

Tony: And again, I appreciate your honesty because I feel like, you know, again you're bubbly, you're successful, you're in a happy relationship, you can feel that energy. And so I do feel like sometimes people think, oh man, well, when I try it's really difficult when I interact with the narcissist. 

Susie: Well, I'm glad that you said that because I do wanna say that co-parenting is, I don't co-parent with him. I parallel parent.

Tony: Parallel parent. Talk about that, Susie. I realize I mentioned that I think in one episode a while ago, and it was brought up in, actually in a session earlier today and I thought to myself, oh I need to talk about that more. So talk about parallel parenting. 

Susie: Because co-parenting, I wanted to do. Like the optimist in me and the self-help guru. I'm like, oh, this would be, and that possibly is the best path for children when they're not in a sort of contentious, or the relationship that me and my ex were in. But parallel parenting is absolutely, you are not co-anything. You are parallel. So the rules he has at his house are his rules. And mom has rules at my, you know, so like my kids plug their cell phones in downstairs, not in their room. Well dad lets us. I get it. Different rules, different houses, you know, and also we do not coordinate on discipline, because that was something that we couldn't absolutely coordinate on when we were in, you know, a marriage. So, it is like we don't do anything. And then I needed to have very strong boundaries with him so that he's not, he does not call. Unless, and I got very descriptive, unless there's a hospital involved. Like it's because an emergency wasn't enough. So an emergency could be like you didn't respond to the teachers. It's like that's not an emergency. So you can call me if there's a hospital involved and otherwise it is an email. There are no texts unless again, it's something urgent and needs a response within 24 days. I've gotten a little more lenient with that as we've moved out from, you know, the relationship, but that's also because I held that boundary strong and he got used to not being able to just ping me once.

Tony: Well talk about that too, Susie. So if you are saying, okay, only the phone call, if this under this scenario, then when he would text and what didn't fall under that, what would you do? Would you just ignore or would you respond back with that?

Susie: I needed to ignore, I put his text on silent because even the, as people you know in this sort of relationship will understand even seeing. It would trigger my nervous system. And so I needed to put it on silent, so I didn't even, like, somehow you could do it on our phones and I figured it out. And I'm not a tech guru, so it doesn't come up on the main, you know, you don't need the notification, what it looks like on the thing is like a number, I'll see number two and I'm like, oh, okay, that's him. And then I need to use my constraint and my willpower to, and I would set an internal boundary of saying in the early days, I would say, I'm only gonna check these at 4:00 PM or something. Actually for me it was more, I would only check these at 9:00 AM because 4:00 PM was right before the kids came home from school and I knew if I checked them I was probably gonna be in an agitated state. So I would wanna check them at 9:00 AM and have the whole day to manage whatever my emotions were gonna send my way and oftentimes I would really try not to reply or I would reply on email. Now email. I don't have any notifications. And then email. I have a podcast episode on my favorite narcissist tools. But, you know, one of them is, BIFF, brief, informative, formal, and firm. So when I'm writing an email, I'm trying to get out of my old pattern, which is to over explain. And so I'm just like firm, formal, informative it. There is none of that. Another tool that really helped me with him in terms of parenting and moving on was thinking of him. I would say to myself, I'm like, he's just another man, like to stop thinking of him as a father or like adding this sort of weight and expectation to how he should be acting or what he should be doing. Because whenever I was “shoulding” on him, I was getting into emotional drama. So like, he should be interested in that, you know, son B has a play tomorrow. It's like he's just another man. Like let's just, let's let him do him. Are you interested that son B has a play tomorrow? And let him act the way he's gonna act, which in my caring mind was like, oh, that's gonna harm my kids. But I'm like, but that is, he's the dad. In the same way my parents are the parents. I need to become the woman I am. He's the dad. My boys need to become the amazing human beings they're gonna become. And so they need that experience of maybe someone talking back to them or being more emotionally immature to learn tools so that they don't enter into, you know, a 26 year relationship with their own narcissist. 

Tony: Well, I like the way you put that because I feel like that is where then they can learn, and this is where I feel like , if it's unhealthy and emotionally abusive, and your scenario, you get out. Kids, any kid, doesn't matter how old, gets their sense of self from external validation. And that comes primarily, it can be from the parent. And if the parent is continually spending emotional calories and energy trying to manage the emotions of the narcissist, then they, that is how their, that the kids get validation by also managing, you know, the emotions of the narcissist and then when you're in your best version of you that's where I explain to parents. Now you get to validate them in an incredibly healthy way and be there for them. And tell me more. And it's not always trying to manage the emotions of the emotionally immature. Because that, and I've never thought of it until you just said it that way, because now maybe they learn, oh, I'm not gonna open up emotionally to somebody that's unsafe, or I'm gonna learn to have a surface relationship for somebody and we'll talk about sports and we'll talk about the weather, and if I want this relationship, then it may be based off of that. And then I can trust my own intuition on who I really can't open up with. 

Susie: Which is really hard. And yet, like my definition of suffering is resisting what is, like resisting reality. And so, for me, many years I suffered because I thought my dad should be a certain way. And should, I shouldn't say things that he says. But when I accepted that this is the man I have as my dad, I lost a lot of that suffering. So with my children, when I think of them, and I would say that my ex can be emotionally abusive. So when I think of them in that situation, my heart breaks. And I am like, I am not gonna be there to buffer or be that triangle anymore, and to hide from them what is with their father. Like they are now, you know, 18 and over, I do need to say that if the option had been there for me to get more custody, it would've been, but I had my father throw away, so I couldn't, you know, my hands were tied. So one thought that I had that may help your listeners that maybe are in a similar situation that you know, no matter what, like often we have some custody sharing. I would think that in the past I was married and the kids were in this environment a hundred percent of the time. And so then when we split, they're with me 50% of the time. And so then I like to think that at least 50% of the time, I am validating their emotions. I am pouring love on them. I am letting them know that no matter what they do, you know, all of that, and I'm doing that from a much less scared, more whole place, because I'm no longer in this environment and I can't control this, which is unfortunate. I mean, and that's where I need to get back to sort of my more universal belief that they have the exact, I am not God. I don't know why they're having this experience, but I need to believe that they are having this exact experience to become the amazing humans they're gonna become. And I do have the underlying belief that the universe supports me and my boys that things work out for us. I'm in frigging Australia living by the beach. Like I have so much evidence. My boys are thriving. You know, I mean, everyone has ups and downs. Sure. And yet I like to focus on the gain instead of the gap, like, yes, they still are around this man, I can't remove him as the father from their life. You know? And yet I have the gain that I have a new man in their life, you know, their stepfather, who can pour love on them. I have, I am showing a new model of marriage. I am showing a new model of validation and, and self-care.

Tony: As a better version of you. Hey, Susie, can you tell the story about how you met your current husband because that's what I loved when I was on your episode. Is that one you tell out in the open? 

Susie: Yeah, it’s so fun. So speaking of habits, in 2015, for my birthday in October, I decided that I was gonna start meditating every day. I wanted to do it every day. I had heard from so many experts like you that like, okay, meditation's good. So I said I was gonna meditate for one minute a day. And that's what I committed to. I have, and now here it is, 2023 and I have been meditating every day. So that works, warriors. But so meditating one minute a day, and the app I chose to meditate on was Insight Timer. Which is a, they have a free edition and I got on the free edition. And so I would just meditate with that. So I would do my one minute a day, and then at times at night when I'm going through this turmoil of, you know, parallel parenting and all that, I would try a sleep meditation. And so one day in February I did a sleep meditation. I still remember it was Bethany Webster or something and I wrote a review on it that said like, great meditation. And then a couple days later, it was February, I looked at the review and there was a comment to my review on her review that said, Hey Susie, you know, if you liked this meditation, you might like this one. And it said, Paul from Wollongong. And I was like, okay. So I just replied back. Thanks, anyhow, we started a conversation, this Paul from Wollongong, who at the time I'm in Arlington, Virginia. I was like what kind of name did he make up? Like who is, I thought it was like some security measure. I'm like, yeah, you just make up like the name of a Paul from Wal, like, yes. Now, meanwhile my middle son is at the University of Wollongong, so it's so funny. Wollongong is a place, but, so we started going back and forth on the reviews, chatting, and then he, you know, and at some point I was, Hey, are you over the age of 18? We were like, let's move to WhatsApp. So I think that I possibly wanna go back, slide that meditation because I imagine we did wonders for her algorithm cause there were 40 different responses back and forth, but we just started talking on WhatsApp and sending videos and that was February 10th was when that first review was done. And then, I, you know, I really had changed the way I lived my life. That losing all that money again. Horrible. Yet also a really big wake up call for me, one of the best things that happened because I was such a saver and such a like, I must put this away for a rainy day and then it's gone and I'm like, okay, so what was that for? And so then I really thought, if that hadn't happened to me, I don't think there's any way I would've, which I did in June of 2016, chose to fly to Australia. I was like, well, what? See what's happened? Let's jump in with both feet. Like my word of the year for 2016 was joy. And I like to align my actions with joy. And so I just flew over and my friends were very concerned. They were like, Susie, he's gonna cut you into tiny pieces and send you back. I remember one of my best friends, I was in the airport getting ready to fly out of Dull International in Virginia and she said, well at least send me his address. And then I looked and I was, the only address I had, Tony was a PO Box, they do that a lot in Australia. But like, I don’t know, things work out for me. I am not a, this sounds like I'm an irresponsible woman. I'm very thorough and I, you know, I had been videoing and talking to him.

Tony: I would say right now, uh, Susie blinked twice if you're, if you're unsafe. Right. There we go. No, yeah, exactly. I'm safe. You're fine and that, no, I love that story because I will even have people that will say, I don't know how to meet somebody. I've tried the apps. I've tried whatever. And I even feel like I know that one is, I mean, I don't know if there's a lot of other people that met on the review page of Insight Timer, but I mean, just, just being and doing, just continuing to be and doing it.

Susie: I have a lot of people that I coach through divorce and with divorce and that's, so first of all, the thought that I can't find someone is a thought. And if we're thinking that thought, that's gonna create sort of our results. So let's think, I wonder how I can find it to just shift that thought around a little. I like thinking about dates and sometimes I have my clients make a chart of a hundred, and I'm like, so go on a hundred first dates, after you've done a hundred first dates, then maybe we can entertain that thought that you can't find anyone. But go and apps work. Everything works. Like Bumble works. Tinder, like all these things work. You can, like what we look for, we will find, we will find examples of like, look it, I've been on three dates and they haven't worked. That's focusing on the gap, focus on the gain. You can find, Susie met someone random. I need to add to that because it's so ironic. I had started dating again after my divorce and I had just broken up with someone who lived, I lived in Arlington and if anyone knows the Virginia area, he lived in Reston, which was like, 30 minutes away. And my excuse for breaking up with him is that he lived too far away. Then I go to the other side of the world.

Tony: That is funny though, because that, I mean the yeah, buts.

Susie: And that’s what I thought, like I thought, right. But it is, it's just examining our thoughts. I like having clients just do what they love. A lot of what you talk about, like turning back to yourself, learn about yourself, love yourself, go meditate. You might meet someone there. And again, with relationships, they're not here to complete us. They're not here to fill a gap like I was taught growing up that I am a woman, and being a girl is a subpar way of living. So you need a man to make you whole. We need to be whole. And then once we're whole, they augment us. They absolutely shine up. Like my husband helps me shine my light out now, but he doesn't make me, me. 

Tony: And I feel like that's the message that is so hard to convey to somebody early or young. And I feel like that's where most people just don't know what they don't know. And so when, when right, when they wake up to this emotional immaturity or narcissism, I mean that is that opportunity to then test and see, okay, maybe did we both not have the tools, but all you can be responsible for is in how you start to wake up to that and how you show up. And I appreciate the way you started this today by saying it will change the dynamic in a relationship. And then are we looking at crabs or, I don't know. Something that would help lift somebody outta of the bucket. 

Susie: And just like not spending too much time on regret. Like I couldn't absolutely sit here. One of my favorite exercises is like replaying my past and telling the doomsday and I could sit here and talk about like, why did I marry this man? Like what is going and how did this happen and what was, and sort of the self blame part. And I just think there is no point. And I like to retell my past and I had an amazing, you know, I had a father who supported travel and there's so many ways to tell our stories and to just make sure that the story you're telling is helpful for you. So when we look back and maybe we're waking up that we're in a narcissistic relationship. That is hard. That is awful. But we don't want to add to that, what I call it like, that sort of awfulness is clean pain. I say we often add in dirty pain. Let's not add the dirty pain that you should have known better. You shouldn't have, like you're exactly where you're meant to be. You're having the exact experience you're meant to have at the exact time you're meant to have it. 

Tony: I love it. Hey, where can people find you? So you've got a podcast and where else? 

Susie: Yeah, I have a podcast. I put together a page, smbwell.com/tony. Which will bring people to my podcast roadmap, which has really the foundations of a lot of the work that I do. Or just any platform, the Love Your Life show, Susie Pettit. 

Tony: No, I'll promote that. And because I mean, your energy's fantastic. And then, what I really appreciate about somebody that's been in your situation is I can say these things and I can be confident of the way to help people, but I really do feel like somebody that's lived it and come through it, that I just believe you can help people, I don't know, get through it however many percent faster because you really do know. 

Susie: I get it. And the parenting and just the nervous system response, I do get it. So also, connect with me on Instagram, SMB.Wellness because yeah, I answer my own DM’s and I know you're on there too, Tony and I love it. And I would love to support anyone. I love people. 

Tony: We're gonna have you back on, so thanks so much for coming on. All right, thanks Susie.

Susie: Okay. Take care. I love the work you're doing. 

Tony: Thanks so much. You too. All right. Bye. Bye-Bye.

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