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Tony talks more about anxiety, uncertainty, and the brain’s adorable desire to make sense of things that often don’t make sense. He reads a haiku and a poem from the women’s private Facebook group, and then he references “Narcissistic Victim Syndrome” from the article “12 Signs You’ve Experienced Narcissistic Abuse (Plus How to Get Help) by Crystal Raypole https://www.healthline.com/health/narcissistic-victim-syndrome#freezing

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WUTN Episode 69 Transcript

Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 69 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist. And host of the Virtual Couch podcast and the Waking Up to Narcissism Premium Question and Answer podcast, and soon to come Murder On the Couch, therapy meets true crime. And if you want to find out more about any of the podcasts or the Magnetic Marriage workshop, which is a $19, you didn't know what you didn't know about marriage and relationships workshop. It's an hour and a half long. If you go to the show notes, there's a link tree link, it's link.tree/virtualcouch. And there you can sign up for the newsletter and you can find the links to the courses and programs and all the things that are coming up, that would be wonderful. And if you would be so inclined, if you are one who would write a review or subscribe or rate, wherever you listen to podcasts, that is always something that will be appreciated. And I'm trying to do more with clips on the YouTube channel. So if you find the Virtual Couch YouTube channel, subscribing to that would be wonderful as well. 

And I think I mentioned in the past that I'm putting up more reels on Instagram and those are making it up, so if you find it's Tony Overbay underscore LMFT, and a lot of content going up on a pretty much a daily basis over on TikTok. The world of TikTok therapy is pretty fascinating. So let's get to today's topic. We're going to talk about anxiety, but one of the things I want to do first is I just have so many poems now from the women's Facebook group. And I would love if any of the men listening that are poets as well, that would like to express maybe the frustration that they're having, whether it's in their own relationships to emotionally immature or narcissistic women, or if they are poetic and waking up to their own emotional immaturity, please email me at contact@tonyoverbay.com. And I continue to get a few more emails this week from therapists, which is wonderful because I want to do more with that, therapists who are referring people to the podcast. Or a therapist who is also working in the world of emotional immaturity or narcissism and men who are ready to group, then that would be wonderful. So please continue to reach out at contact@tonyoverbay.com. 

So let me start. Well, actually, before I start with a poem, I just want to take you on a little train of thought. I think this will have to do with the topic today. Today, we're going to talk about anxiety. We're going to talk about uncertainty. We're going to talk about the unknown and that plays, I think a much larger role in the world of emotional immaturity and people that are in relationships with emotionally immature people because they are continually trying to manage other people's emotions or manage their own anxiety, which doesn't allow a lot of space or opportunity for people to just be for people to just be and explore and do and figure out what matters to them when they don't even realize how much emotional bandwidth is being spent on trying to manage their emotions, manage other people, but then when you do have people that start to recognize that they are enough, they start to recognize their own worth. They start to recognize that it's okay to tap into what they want to do and how they want to feel. Then I find that people will just start to say, okay, I don't even know what to do next. And I remember a time long ago, I was working with a guy and he loved movies. He loved movies and TV shows. And we were talking about movies and TV shows often because that was, you could tell it was his happy place. And for me, growing up, movies were just, they were an escape. They were a retreat. I just, I loved everything about them. And so he would just give me these in-depth movie reviews as if he were a real Siskel and Ebert. And if you know who they are, then you're probably of my age. If not, I don't know who the normal or who the current movie reviewers are. 

But he would just go in depth about movie reviews. And so when he started to really feel like, okay, I want to figure out who I am, but I don't even know what to do first, you kind of go for a little bit of what seems like the low hanging fruit. And I said, what would that look like if you wrote movie reviews and at the time everybody had a blog, I think the sites were called blogger, I think maybe Google bought that out, but you had a blog. And then he said, well, I don't know. And nobody would listen. Nobody would read it. And I don't know if it would go anywhere. And that's part of the yeah, buts. Yeah, but maybe I would want to, but yeah, but nobody's going to care and I don't know how to promote it and that's not even the point. So if the point is that you start doing instead of ruminating or worrying, then we suggested that this guy just start writing reviews. And so then we just had a, we were kind of having fun, just Googling different review sites. And then he was saying, okay, I wonder if I could pack in the review to just a few lines. Because he was a man of few words, a lot of depth, but few words. And so just joking, I said, what if you did a haiku and you did haiku movie reviews. And then he said he joked and he said, oh, they're probably already being done. And then I really did think to myself, man, in this day and age, and this was years and years ago, I thought he's probably right. So we Googled and sure enough, we found a review site that the reviews were all haikus. So I'm going to read a haiku from the narcissistic women's Facebook group, which is so simple, to the point, but yet beautiful and profound. But before I do that, let me read you a couple of haiku movie reviews. 

So the first one is about Pixar's “Up”. “Love, loss, and regret. All in the first 10 minutes. Better pack Kleenex.” That's it, but boy, it kind of encapsulates everything. There's another one. Haiku from “Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King”. Not only that, but the extended edition. “Couldn't the Eagles simply fly the ring, bear all the way to doom.” That is deep and it is true. I've wondered the same thing. So here is the haiku from the Facebook group. And actually what I should do is it's going to sound like I'm doing this in real time, or I already know this, but I am going to pause and remind people and myself what a haiku consists of. So I Googled what is a haiku and it is a Japanese poem of 17 syllables in three lines of five, seven, and five. Traditionally evoking images of the natural world. And now let me tell you what ADHD looks like. There was a haiku generator and I'm doing everything within my power to not just go play with that because I only have a few minutes before my first client arrives and I would like to lay down some of this content, so I can come back and finish it in the not too distant future. So back to the haiku, the haiku from the women's narcissistic Facebook group. Just simply says, “I was so alone waiting for him to love me, now I love myself.” So I believe that just is so powerful and so simplistic and it fits the five, seven and five lines of syllables. 

If that really resonated with you, and you feel like, man, I don't know how to do a lengthy poem and share the depths of my soul. It's really interesting because I feel like just even taking a look at something like haikus could be something that could raise your emotional baseline and just even starting to do, do what, start to read haikus, learn what they are, start to try to write haikus. It's all better than ruminating and worrying. Let me get to the full poem that I want to read, this is also from the group. “When darkness comes, that comes quietly. It tiptoes inside, slipping through the doorway. Tip tap tip tap, the faint sound of bare feet on the wood floor. It creeps its way in finding a way into every crack and crevice. Slowly, deliberately methodically. It wraps its long twisted gnarled fingers around my neck and I cannot breathe. It claws and tears at my heart, leaving me in agony like a parasite that infects my mind. It controls me. I cannot think. Bewildered and confused. I stagger up the stairs. The hallway mirror startles me. And I see gaping holes in my reflection. Where have I gone? What has become of me? Barely anything recognizable or a value, a stained and tattered t-shirt tossed into the corner of the dirty bathroom floor.” 

I feel like the poetry just so resonates. And I think in the last three or four weeks of the Waking Up to Narcissism podcast, that poetry really has just expressed how people feel this loss of self. And then recognizing that they are no longer, they don't know what it truly feels like to be the person that they were or want to be. And so I feel like this act of poetry truly is this expressing the fact that these people that are in these relationships start to just slowly but surely recognize this, this dying on the inside. And then, this desire or this now opportunity for new growth or rebirth. So today I want to talk about anxiety and I want to talk about uncertainty. And I think that you'll see how these really play into where many people are, especially when they find a podcast like Waking Up to Narcissism or somebody that likes to talk about interacting with emotionally immature people, whether it's a me or a Dr. Romney or a Ross Rosenberg. Whoever it is, Christine Hammond, but at that point, there's a lot of anxiety that has led the person to finally look for more or look for answers. And then the answers come. And here it begins that narcissistic awareness, grief, where the answers can often feel overwhelming and cause even more anxiety because the certainty that people were trying to cling onto or hope for in their, their marriage or in their lives of that, it will get better. And it will eventually look like this and he, or she eventually will get it. 

That's seeking certainty and the brain desperately wants certainty. But then when things aren't playing out the way that we hope that they will, then that uncertainty absolutely will cause just more and more anxiety. And it's so hard at first to try to just say to somebody, hey, let's just accept the fact that things might not be certain because then if we're understanding that they aren't what we thought that they were, now we can just truly be in each moment. And instead of trying to manage anxiety around trying to alleviate anything that will cause additional anxiety or will, that will cause additional pain, then we just accept the fact that there will be moments of anxiety and there will be moments of pain. But then what also comes along with that is the opportunity to have moments of joy, moments of calm, moments of peace. And I did an episode a few weeks ago, I think on the Virtual Couch, just talking about acceptance. And this isn't that acceptance of something like anxiety or acceptance of something like uncertainty. It doesn't just mean that I just given that I just acquiesce and that I am just saying, okay, I give up. But acceptance means to take in. And it's in its entirety without defense. So I'm accepting in the world of acceptance and commitment therapy. There's this principle or this concept that if I am unwilling to have it, I will. Meaning that if I'm unwilling to be anxious, then I will be spending so much emotional calories and bandwidth trying to make sure I am not anxious, that that alone will cause more anxiety. So, if I am unwilling to have uncertainty, then I will have even more because the desire to make sure of things or try to make sense of things or find certainty in every bit of my life is going to cause more anxiety and more uncertainty. 

So I'm going to use, here's where I feel like the, about as creative as I get, I'm going to use this, my muse today, an article from healthline.com, it's medically reviewed by Daniel Wade. Who's a licensed clinical social worker. And written by Crystal Raypole and it is called “12 signs that you've experienced narcissistic abuse, plus how to get help.” The article begins with a definition of narcissistic personality disorder, talking about it being a complex mental health condition. This typically involves a grandiose or inflated sense of self extreme need for admiration and attention among other symptoms. And so this is where I want to jump off the map a tiny bit and talk about, again, I think that narcissistic personality disorder is being talked about a lot, but it's a pretty small percentage of the population. But if we talk about emotional immaturity and start with a place where we are pretty much all emotionally immature in so many different areas, but then those who are seeking help are looking to become more emotionally mature. And that requires a lot of introspection, a lot of self confrontation. And so if you are asking yourself again, if I am the narcissist. If you were literally asking yourself that you're probably asking, because you've been listening and researching and wondering, and doing, and trying to read and discover and find out. 

And those are not traits or characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder. So there may be some emotional immaturity on the way to maturity. But definitely not, not narcissistic personality disorder at that point. She says that common types of narcissistic manipulation include triangulation, which is somebody who is trying to pull someone else, a third person, into your conflict. And that is trying to reinforce their own opinion or their position. And this can happen in so many different ways. Once you're aware of triangulation. One of the examples that I will often give is somebody coming into my office and saying that they were talking with their friends, they were talking with a coworker, they were talking with their doctor at, and their doctor even agrees that their wife should change her behavior, or, you know, was talking to my doctor about my wife and even the doctor thinks that my wife should get on antidepressants. And I remember that one in particular, that was a very real scenario. And at the time I didn't stop and say this. And in hindsight, I wish I would have, but if you just break that one down, so, okay. So you, the person in this situation, the more emotionally immature narcissist was the male. So he then goes to his doctor who in this day and age, it takes a little while to get an appointment for a doctor. You're probably going to have five or 10 minutes to lay out. And then in those five or 10 minutes with your doctor, you laid out a scenario so, so perfectly that then your doctor, who does not know your wife, was able to diagnose your wife with depression or major depressive disorder, including which medications that your wife should take. So triangulation just makes no sense whatsoever. And that was one of those things as a therapist, that the more that I was working with clients over the years, and couples where that was one of the situations where that was just not the way that we normally work in couples therapy where someone's coming in and saying, yeah, I was talking to your sister. I was talking to your brother. I was talking to my friends at work and it was all about, I was talking to them about you. And I mean, they agree that you should get help. You should change. And that's just not the way an emotionally mature person interacts. 

Actually, talking about the narcissistic manipulative tactic of gaslighting, someone trying to gaslight you tries to get you to doubt your own perspective and reality often by twisting facts or insisting things you remember that didn't actually happen. Hoovering, we don't talk about this one very often on the podcast. And I would like to give this one a little more attention. But this tactic involves attempts to reconnect or pull you back into a toxic or abusive relationship. So in hoovering, the emotionally immature and narcissistic person, they feel so uncomfortable because they have lost. Even if it's temporarily that ability to manipulate you, because if you've just had enough, you've shut down. You've started to withdraw or retreat, then the hoovering will just be just hanging around and just wanting to get you to engage, trying anything. And this is where I'm trying to push the positive buttons if they can't even to try to get you to think, okay. He gets it. This one feels a little bit better. The silent treatment. This is one that I think is more common than we know. And in the world of emotionally mature relationships, I'm sure there can be some time that people need to step back and get their bearings, but then they come back because they have the tools to communicate effectively. And the silent treatment and especially in the, some examples that are given in my women's Facebook group, where the guys in those scenarios can go days, days without communicating with their spouse. 

So this behavior becomes manipulation. When somebody purposely ignores you to control you or to make you feel isolated. So then at some point the discomfort becomes so intense that then the more emotionally mature person finally will just say, okay, I apologize because I don't like the way this feels, but unfortunately to the more emotionally immature or narcissistic person that can, the more palpable you can feel that tension. It's almost as if they are gathering more power. And so that when you do finally go and apologize as the more emotionally kind person, pathologically kind person, then it gives you a sense of relief, but then it also gives them more power and they now have more data that says the longer I hold out, then I will eventually get my way. Scapegoating parents who use narcissistic manipulation may place all the blame on one child that they designate as a scapegoat. And in the world of narcissistic family systems, you'll start to see that there's typically a scapegoat and there's typically a golden child and you may even have different golden children depending on what the scenario is. But typically there's just one scapegoat and that can be really difficult. And because that scapegoat then is the one that is more than not trying to show up and be the best version of themselves that they can be in hopes that it will change the dynamic in the family. But if they've already been deemed the scapegoat by the emotionally immature parent, and then passive aggression, indirect blame shifting, sabotage, sarcasm can all point to covert narcissistic manipulation. And those passive aggressive ways that people interact with one another can really be the point where people will sometimes say, and of course, if you are in a emotionally or viewer in a physically abusive relationship, then by all means there's absolutely no reason to put up with that at all. And please seek help. Safety, a safety plan. A domestic violence shelter, whatever you can do. But passive aggression can be that emotional abuse. 

And you'll hear people often say that at times they almost wish that their partner would hit them because then they would at least know, okay, this is what this is because the passive aggression or covert narcissistic manipulation can just be part of it just helped you, you lose your soul, you lose your sense of self because the words can just be so cutting and the things that are really important to you, the narcissist will then criticize and attack you for. You know, you're a horrible parent. You never show up for me. You don't do enough for the family and those things that will just hurt because they truly don't see you, but they know that those are the things that will get you to react. But she goes on to say that these tactics will confuse you. They can make you question your sense of reality. They damage your self esteem. So Crystal brings up a term that I haven't used on the podcast. It's narcissistic victim syndrome. And he said, it's a term that collectively describes the specific and often severe effects of narcissistic manipulation. So while it isn't a recognized mental health condition, many experts acknowledge narcissistic abuse can have a serious, long lasting impact on mental health, which it can. It absolutely will rob you of your sense of self. 

And she said keep in mind that abuse and narcissism aren't always related to diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder and don't automatically translate to abusive behavior. Many people who engage in abuse don't have narcissistic personality disorder, but regardless of mental health diagnosis never excuses abusive behavior. She said that people choose to abuse and manipulate others. And it's possible to live with traits of narcissism or any personality disorder without becoming abusive. And I think that what can be really difficult in that scenario is if somebody is opening up about their own emotional immaturity, and then they hear a phrase or a sentence like that, where it's people who choose to abuse and manipulate others that is true by definition. It's true. And it can feel really difficult for somebody that has extreme emotional immaturity, bordering on narcissistic traits and tendencies or personality disorders. When in those moments they feel as if they do not have a choice. But that is often because they weren't modeled the correct behavior. Or they weren't modeled a healthier coping mechanisms or ways to communicate or ways to self-soothe or self-regulate or self-control. And so when they feel this deep wounding or they feel this deep abandonment issue, then instead of being able to sit with that discomfort and self confront, then that's where often they will abuse to try to get somebody back into that in measurement or that codependency. And so then, you know, again I'm not trying to split hairs here, but I feel like I do have people that are listening to the Waking Up to Narcissism podcasts that are starting to do a little self confrontation. And so if you feel, if you almost feel offended when you hear that, well, I'm not choosing to abuse or manipulate. I'm just now starting to understand or wake up. 

Well, I'm grateful that that's the place that you're at. But that's even more of a reason to try to go find help from somebody that knows a little bit more about emotional immaturity or narcissistic personality disorder or any of those narcissistic traits and tendencies. Because, yeah, it might be something where before, you know, if you're in this amygdala hijack state because of this deep fear of abandonment. But then that's the area to self confront. That's the area to sit with that discomfort. And then and really you can grow from there. So she said with that in mind here, 12 signs that might suggest you've experienced narcissistic abuse. The first is that they seem so perfect. At first narcissistic abuse tends to follow a clear pattern though. This pattern might look a little different depending on the type of the relationship. Research from 2019 suggests that in a romantic relationship, this abuse typically begins slowly after you've fallen hard and fast, we call that one the love bombing. She said, it's no wonder you fell during the love bombing phase, they seem loving and kind and generous. They made you feel special and adored with gushy compliments, affectionate displays. And expensive gifts. And I often add that in that love bombing phase, this is where the person is, in essence, trying to consciously or subconsciously become the person that you hope that they are, because then they like that dopamine dump of this connection as well. 

And I give those examples of, if you say, I like whatever, I like country music. And if they are not country music fans, rather than being where they are stepping into their true self and saying, yeah, I'm not a big fan, but tell me what you like about it. It's like, I love country music, but then because in their mind they think, oh, I really liked the feeling that I'm getting right now with this person. And if they like country music, then I'm sure I'll grow to like it. But if that's something that they don't really enjoy. Then they're right out of the gate. They're being insincere or they're or they're not being willing to confront and say, hey, it's okay for me to have a different opinion or a different thought. And so it can be as simple as a different music taste or a different type of food or movie that you like. And the person is unable to express an opinion that they feel like someone else might disagree with. She said the early stage might've felt so intense and overwhelming that you never stopped to consider whether they might be too fantastic. Then slowly these other manipulative tactics begin to replace the gifts and declarations of love. And narcissistic parents might also offer love or adoration, praise, and financial support. Until you do something to displease them and then lose their favor. And then they too often turn to those tactics, like the silent treatment and gaslighting. 

Next, she says that people doubt that the abuse took place. Narcissistic manipulation and abuse are often so subtle that in public, these behaviors might be so well disguised that others hear or see the same behaviors. And they failed to recognize them as abuse. This is where we come up with the death by a thousand cuts episode. She said you might not even fully understand what's happening. You only know that you feel confused or upset or even guilty for your “mistakes”. And even in the scenario of parenting, a narcissistic parent might gently say, are you sure you want to eat dessert? Or they might turn a broken dish into a joke at your expense, man, you're so clumsy. You just can't help yourself, can you? And they laugh with everybody in the room while patting your shoulder to make the insult seem well intentioned. And she said that you would hope that friends and loved ones believe you, but unfortunately it doesn't always happen. Your loved ones might not doubt your belief that you are abused, but they might question your perception of the events and assure you. You might've just misunderstood those things. I'm sure that they never meant to hurt you. And that's where we get back into that world of the Switzerland friends, well, at least it wasn't this bad or I'm sure you're not remembering everything correctly. And this doubt that people instill can be harmful. Because not only does it dismantle your faith and your loved ones, but it can also lead you to wonder whether the abuse took place at all. 

She said, maybe you did read too much into their words, or just imagined that look on their face. And this is where it's so difficult because I want you to start to trust your gut. And operate from a place of, here is my memory. This is what happened. Crystal talks about the other sign of this narcissistic victim abuse that they've started a smear campaign. She said people with narcissistic traits often need to maintain their image of perfection in order to keep earning admiration from others. And to do this, they may try and make you look bad. And once you begin pointing out problems or questioning their behavior, then they may lash out by openly directing the rage toward you with insults and threats. Or here we go back into triangulation involving others and criticizing you by telling stories to your loved ones that twist the facts about your harmful or your unstable behavior, the narcissist tries to discredit you and even worse when you then act or react angrily, because who wouldn't, if you're being accused of these things that you know, to be false or you believe are false, then they use your response, your getting frustrated or upset the backup there lies. She said people with narcissism often have a knack for charming others, that persona that they showed you in the beginning, that everybody else still gets to see on a day-to-day basis. So then they can often win support from your loved ones who haven't seen through that facade by insisting that they only have your best interests at heart. And then when you try explaining the abuse, then your loved ones might side with them. She said that part of this narcissistic victim abuse makes you feel isolated. She said, if your loved ones don't understand, you'll likely feel pretty alone, which only increases your vulnerability to further narcissistic manipulation, because then the person that's abusing you may pull you back in with kindness or even apologies or pretend the abuse never happened. 

And there's that cycle, that continued cycle of abuse. So hoovering, as it's often called, tends to work better when you lack support, you're more likely to doubt your perception of the abuse when you can't talk with anybody about it. So if your loved ones reach out to tell you that you've made a mistake and they encourage you to give the abusive partner another chance, then you might end up doing so to simply regain your closeness with your family and friends. Because one of the most difficult things is that person that continues to go back into the trauma bond is that they may not have those skills from the factory to stand on their own. And we are again, while I love the phrase where we're designed to deal with emotion in concert with another human, but it's another emotionally mature human being, not someone that's going to take advantage of or manipulate you and the things that you hope to connect on. She talks about one of the signs that you freeze up. People respond to abuse and other trauma in so many different ways that you might attempt to confront the abuse of a person, which is the fight. Or escape the situation, which is flight. And if these methods don't work, you may feel unable to use them and you might respond over time, especially by freezing or fawning. And that freeze response usually happens when you feel helpless. And it often involves almost this feeling of disassociation because you're trying to emotionally distance yourself, but from the abuse and often you don't feel like you can even leave. 

That freeze response, you may just be battening down the hatches internally and waiting for this emotional storm to end. And so when you distance yourself from the abuse, it will help decrease its intensity, in essence, effectively numbing some of that pain and distress that you experience. She goes on to talk about freezing can have some benefits in certain situations, but it doesn't help when you can escape from danger. But if you believe there's no way out of the relationship, then you might remain in it. And perhaps even to respond by fawning, which is working to keep your partner happy. So we get that fight or flight. We've got the freeze, then we have the fawn, the fawning is where it's, so, yeah, you're right. Just to try to get that out of that, that uncomfortable moment. Here's the stuff that I start seeing as a therapist, she talks about one of the results of this narcissistic victim abuse. As you have trouble making decisions, she sets a pattern of devaluation and criticism can leave you with very little self-esteem and confidence. This narcissistic manipulation often involves frequent implications that you make bad decisions and you can't do anything right. And aren't you glad that you have that narcissist in your life? 

So an abusive partner may call you stupid or ignorant outright, or often with a falsely affectionate tone, honey, you're just so dumb. How will you manage without my help? I don't even know how you'd make it through a day. And over time, you might start absorbing these insults and attaching them to your perception. And then constantly second, guess yourself as a result. And unfortunately I see that in my office so often. Where people even say, I don't know. I didn't even know if I'm making any sense. I don't know if I'm right. I don't know what the right thing to do is because his gaslighting tactics can also make you doubt your decision making abilities. So if somebody is manipulating you into believing that you imagined things that actually took place, you might continue doubting your perception of events. And then this uncertainty can affect your ability to make decisions well into the future. And I want you to, even if you're doing this on the inside, start recognizing how you feel, what you think. And we want to get to this place where you eventually, we'll start trusting your gut. We want to operate from that place of trusting your gut and emotionally healthy and mature relationships. That's where we start. I may have my opinion, but my wife is certainly going to have her opinion. And I want to say, tell me more. What's that like, because we're in this together. It's this edification one plus one is three. Not, the person is right. Therefore the other one must be wrong. She said one of the other traits of this narcissistic victim abuse is you always feel like you've done something wrong. This key characteristic of narcissism is difficulty taking responsibility for any negative actions or harmful behaviors. 

If your partner literally doesn't say, I'm sorry. He hasn't said I'm sorry. Or that's the one of the narcissistic apologies of, okay, fine. I guess I'm sorry, but then you are going to feel like you're the one that has done things wrong. And so often the pathologically kind person will then apologize in hopes that they are modeling behavior to their spouse of saying, you know what I am sorry about what I said or how I showed up and hoping that the, even a spouse at that point will say, you know what, I'm sorry to, but not okay. Good. I'm glad you are acknowledging that. So these abusive partners typically find some way to cast blame on you. And they might accomplish this through the seat. And she gives a couple of examples often by insisting that they said something that you have no recollection of, or getting so angry that you end up soothing them by apologizing and agreeing that you were wrong. And so often again, this is just to get out of the discomfort of the moment. Unfortunately, a narcissist can just be so fascinating that they can either sit with this incredible discomfort of things like the silent treatment. Until then you finally break. Or they can't sit with a millisecond of discomfort and that's where they have to then get angry or take the complete victim stance. 

She said, say you suspect that your spouse or your narcissistic partners cheat on you and you explain the concerning behaviors that you've noticed and ask if something's going on. A partner using narcissistic manipulation might respond with extreme anger. They may respond with accusations of their own, redirect the blame saying that these things that are intended to hurt and belittle you. So that then the focus is off of them. So these barrages of rage can leave you feeling helpless and dependent and grateful that they're willing to remain with somebody who makes so many mistakes. So then even after leaving the relationship, you might carry forward the belief that you can't do anything right. That when things go wrong or in other areas of your life, that you might start to blame yourself for causing those problems. I appreciate that. She was so brought up that one of the traits of this narcissistic victim of abuse is you have unexplained physical symptoms, and we talk so much about “The Body Keeps the Score”, Bessel van der Kolk’s amazing book. But you'll find that when people are starting to just lose themselves, that they will often have a lot of aches, a lot of pains, a lot of things, everything from fibromyalgia, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, backaches, neck aches, hypertension. You name it, there are so many things. Is chronic fatigue, or why am I drawing a blank on migraines? There we go. But she says that abuse can trigger anxious and nervous feelings that sometimes lead to physical symptoms. You might notice appetite changes, upset, stomach or nausea. Stomach pain and other gastrointestinal distress, muscle aches and pains, insomnia fatigue. And then she said using alcohol and other substances can sometimes seem like a helpful way to manage these symptoms, especially insomnia. So then as a result, you end up consuming more than you'd like in an effort to manage these unwanted feelings of physical distress. 

And I have this co-occurring situation where you are. I mean, I've worked with people that are drinking heavily. They're turning to smoking pot. They're doing these things to just try to tune out of life. Because they just feel so off. So imbalanced. Which leads to another form of, another symptom of narcissistic abuse as you feel restless and unsettled because she said it's so unpredictable. You may not know whether they're going to criticize you or surprise you with a gift. And if you don't want some, if you don't really feel like there's consistency or know what someone will do or say at any given moment, you may start to develop a lot of tension from needing to regularly prepare yourself to face conflict. And there's almost this just insane tension. And then there's this feeling of relief, but over time, that relief when they're, when they aren't being mean. It starts to just become this flat affect or this feeling of what's called this Anna Donya, she said, worries about the constant stream of criticism and how to best handle the abusive behaviors that you're beginning to recognize constantly leave you on edge and you may not even know how to relax anymore. Since you might not feel safe, letting your guard down. And I think that's one of the difficult things is people start having trouble with things like sleep and sleep is where you reset those cortisol levels in the brain. And so even if you're just having these fits and spurts of sleep off and on, and then you're hitting the next day and your brain hasn't fully had a chance to recuperate and to flush out the, you know, the bad things from the day before. 

Then it's as if your baseline of cortisol or this stress hormone, the stress drug in your brain is operating from a higher baseline. So then you may just snap or respond. It's the, you have a very small runway until you're at that place where you just feel like you are going to lose your mind. So she said you don't recognize yourself when facing abuse. Many people eventually adjust their self identity to accommodate the abusive partner. So she said, say your partner insists that when you go out with your friends, you're telling me that you don't love me. You'd rather see them instead. She has, of course you love him. So you stopped going out with your friends. Next, you give up your hobbies. You skip after work happy hour with coworkers, eventually you cancel your weekly visit with your sister. You spend time doing what your partner wants to do. So that they really will feel like you do care. So then she says these changes often lead to a loss of your sense of self, which can leave you feeling lost and empty. And you might have a hard time enjoying life and losing sight of your sense and your purpose. And that's the situation where in healthy relationships, people both are enjoying a vibrant version of life. And then we are coming together. And with curiosity, we're having shared experiences and it's all part of the maturation process. That of course we're gonna have relationships with other people that are healthy, that are empowering, that are emboldening, that are helping us raise our own emotional baseline. 

And our spouses are saying, tell me more, what's that like? What are you learning? And then how can we create meaning or shared experience together? She said that you have trouble setting boundaries. This is such a big one. So someone engaging in narcissistic abuse often has little respect for boundaries. And so when you try to set or enforce limits, they might challenge them. Completely ignore them, or even give the silent treatment until you do what they want. Eventually you might give up on your boundaries. And once you end a relationship or you get distanced from a narcissistic parent, for example, you promise yourself that you will not answer their calls and texts, or you won't see them at all. But if they know that they can eventually wear you down though, then they may or may not let you go easily. Instead, they'll keep calling they'll texts in hopes of getting you to set aside those boundaries again, because it's like saying a boundary, unfortunately in the world of narcissism is a challenge. It's almost as if you are handing the narcissist some food here, here you go. Here's my boundary. And as you can just run right through it or devour it, then it gives them more power of, okay see, you don't even understand yourself because you try to hold these adorable little boundaries, but I know best. 

And so if you've experienced that narcissistic abuse, you might also have trouble setting healthy boundaries in your relationships with others. And here's kind of wrapping things up. We get back to that concept around anxiety. As that she said that this narcissistic abuse can lead to these symptoms of anxiety and depression. That anxiety and depression commonly developed as a result of this narcissistic abuse. So the significant stress that you face can trigger these persistent feelings of worry, nervousness and fear. Especially when you never know what to expect from the behavior of the emotionally abusive, the emotionally immature. You might feel hopeless. You might feel worthless. You might lose interest in things that used to bring you joy. And you have a hard time seeing a hopeful outcome for the future. And I would just want to say in that moment that your, you know, your brain again, is this don't get killed device and it's trying to just manage and it's trying to manage relationships and situations. And so when you start to notice that you are losing just any joy in your life. I don't believe that it is your brain saying, okay, let's shut it all down. But your brain wants to live. And so it is, it is telling you, okay, I'm trying to use anxiety for good. I'm trying to make you aware. And if that isn't working, then let's, they may turn your brain to a little bit of depression and say, okay, let's, let's sit this one out because you going in there is not making you feel better going in there, meaning interacting with this emotionally abusive person. 

And at some point, I think your body, your brain is trying to tell you, hey, do something help me out here? I feel like even the manifestations of pain from these emotional situations when the body then takes that emotional pain. And then almost as if it transfigured it to physical pain is saying okay, you're not dealing with the emotional pain. Maybe if I give you this physical pain, then you'll, you'll take care of it. You'll address it. Because your body doesn't want you to be emotionally abused. It doesn't want you to shut down. It wants you to live. And once you find your sense of self, your sense of purpose and so that you can just be, be in the world and just enjoy and just let your light so shine and lift others around you and all those wonderful things. So if you find that you are overly anxious, trying to predict what can happen next, or if you find that you are depressed and just continually wanting to sit this one out, then I really believe that that is your body saying, hey this is hard and I want you to do something to take care of yourself. 

She said it's also common to have a lot of confusion over what caused them to change so abruptly, especially if you don't know much about narcissism and manipulation. This is part of those popcorn moments where if the narcissist can then find whatever button works, if all of a sudden they pushed you too far, you withdraw and then they come back and love bomb. Well, whatever works. If that doesn't work now, they may even go with the pull, push new buttons. Now go back to the you're a horrible person or I know you're an unfit father or mother. And so it's a continual battle to find the right buttons to get you back into enmeshment. She said you might even shoulder the blame for the abuse, perhaps believing their accusations, that you must not care about them enough or blame yourself for falling. For their deception in the first place, but either can add to feelings of worthlessness and further diminish your self esteem. So, what do you do? How do you find help? Any kind of abuse can take a real toll on your mental and physical health. In her article, Crystal said if your loved ones still doubt you or tell you to just move on, you may feel unheard and unsupported. A lot of the basis around the entire Waking Up to Narcissism podcast is that when you start feeling these things, hearing these things that when you talk to somebody and if they are not being a Switzerland friend, they may just say, well just get out right now. But I know it's not that easy. And you still, for most of the time, want to determine, okay, but is it me that's one of the number one questions I get, but is it me? And what would it look like if I change. 

She said, if your loved ones again, still doubt you, or just tell you to move on. You feel unheard and unsupported. That can make it really hard to trust people again, leaving you feeling isolated and alone. So, whether you're just beginning to notice the first signs of narcissistic manipulation are still trying to make sense of an abusive relationship that you maybe even already left. Then therapy can really help you begin healing. And she said, therapy offers a safe place to learn coping strategies to manage mental health symptoms. Practice setting healthy boundaries, explore ways to rebuild your sense of self. But it's really important to find a therapist who specializes in abuse, recovery. Because that can validate your experience. It can help you understand that you aren't at fault. And offer support through these early stages of recovery. So it's important to get help and there you can get emergency support 24 hours a day, seven days a week from the national domestic violence hotline. There you can text a love is. L O V E I S to 8 6 6 3 3 1 9 4 7 4. You can call 1 807 9 9 7 2 3 3. This is again, the national domestic violence hotline. 

Or they even have an online chat available. But one of the most important things that you can do is start to find help in that might even be just a phase of you starting to listen to more podcasts and watch more YouTube videos and read more books. And that is being you're on the path of awareness of a light enlightenment. You didn't know what you didn't know. And now you're starting to learn. You're starting to learn more about what is happening in your life, but it's still gonna be really hard to do anything about it. And just know that that's a really difficult place to be, but it's a real normal place to be. And eventually you're going to have more of a path of knowing what to do and you'll do it more than you don't. And eventually you're going to become, you're going to become this person that now is aware, is helping yourself, helping others, which is eventually going to help your family, your kids, those around you. And boy, I see you and I know that it's hard to be on this path or this journey. 

But just know that I'm glad you're on the path and I'm not just going to drop the old, well, at least you're on the path because that might feel invalidating, but I'm grateful that you're on the path. So reach out if you have additional questions, comments. Share this with somebody if you think that'll help. You can contact me at contact@tonyoverbay.com or through a verite, whatever the various social media platforms are as well. And, hang in there. I, again, I see you. I know the work you're doing and I'll see you next week on Waking Up to Narcissism. 

Tony shares and responds to the article “The 10 Best Predictors of a Bad Romantic Relationship” by Seth Gillihan, PhD https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/think-act-be/202301/the-10-best-predictors-of-a-bad-romantic-relationship Tony also references the article “Attachment Woes Between Anxious and Avoidant Partners,” by Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/toxic-relationships/202008/attachment-woes-between-anxious-and-avoidant-partners And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel to see a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast “Murder on the Couch,” where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here https://youtu.be/-RkRq8SrQy0

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.

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ

Transcript 

Tony: Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 357 of the Virtual Couch. I'm your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified Mindful habit coach, writer, speaker, husband, father of four, and creator of the Path Back, an online pornography recovery program that is helping people become the very best versions of themselves. And please reach out to me through my website if you are interested in a coupon code, which is going on through the month of January to get a discount on the Path Back course. And the Path Back course is amazing and the Path Back group call that happens weekly is even better. Maybe not even better, but it goes along perfectly with the Path Back. 

Just do me a favor, go sign up for my newsletter at tonyoverbay.com. Just plain and simple. You're gonna hear more about The Magnetic Marriage Course. The Magnetic Marriage Podcast. Two, actually three new podcasts getting ready to drop. A Waking Up to Narcissism q and a. And actually my goodness, if you don't listen to the Waking Up to Narcissism podcast in general, again, do me a favor and listen to last week's episode with Ashley Boyson. It was the most downloaded episode that I've done on Waking Up to Narcissism within a 48 hour period because Ashley is incredible and inspiring, her story is unbelievable. There are literally several true crime podcasts and TV shows about her case. The title of the Waking Up to Narcissism episode is “Ashley Boyson on Surviving Betrayal, Narcissism, and Murder.” And she also has courses, online courses, for infidelity survivors, for parents navigating parenting a hurting child through trauma and grief. And she is about to release an eating disorder course for parents and kids that are struggling with eating disorders along with her daughter. And if you use the coupon code, “virtualcouch”, all one word, you get 40% off of her courses. But the other podcasts, here we go, Murder on the Couch, a true crime meets therapy and psychology. I'm doing that one with one of my daughters, Sydney, and if you go to the Virtual Couch YouTube channel right now, and while you're there, if you can hit subscribe, that would be awesome. There's a 90 second clip from the recording of that podcast I think will give you the vibe, the energy of that podcast. I mean, we talk about really difficult subjects, so I'm already giving a heads up to Virtual Couch listeners that it is a True Crime podcast. I still try to be myself and Sydney is amazing and funny and just that's something that she's very interested in and fascinated by. And I just love the banter. I love the relationship that she and I have. We've recorded a half a dozen episodes already and we're recording more, but if you go to the YouTube channel, find that 90 second clip on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel, and please subscribe and get ready. It's coming out very, very soon. We've got all the artwork and the music and those sort of things that are being put together right now. 

But let's get to today's episode. So I love when listeners send me articles and ask for my opinion, and I won't, I won't use what I like to refer to as narcissistic math and say, this happens hundreds of times a day. No, it doesn't happen all the time, but it happens more and more, and I really do enjoy when I can almost give a cold read or look at an article that somebody sends me more like a reaction podcast. So that is the goal today. I was sent an article by somebody that I really appreciate, and I don't know why I assumed it was an older one, but I'm looking at the date now. It's only a week old. So this first came out on January 10th, 2023, so it's perfect. But it is titled “The 10 Best Predictors of a Bad Romantic Relationship”. And this is by Seth Godden. Seth is a licensed psychologist. He has his PhD. So Dr. Seth or Dr. Godden wrote this for psychologytoday.com. So I am gonna read these 10 predictors and I want to give my honest opinion. And I'm gonna put my marriage therapist hat on, step into my healthy ego, all those wonderful things. Admit that I am confident in many things when it comes to couple's therapy and couple's relationships. And with that admission also comes the understanding that of course, that means that I don't know what I don't know, and this will be my opinion. So if you hear these things and think, okay, this must be the way of relationships, then again, this is just my opinion. This will be as if I was, I guess, asked about these 10 things, let's say in a live interview. So I think you get the point. So let's go. Here we go. The 10 best predictors of a bad romantic relationship.

So Dr. Seth said, “Few things affect your long-term happiness like the quality of your romantic relationship. It can affect your mental health, your physical health, and even how long you live. It's fair to say that your relationship's quality can be a matter of life or death.” And then he has a link, he says, “A review of 43 studies found that 10 variables consistently predict relationship quality. The first set of predictors were about the relationship itself.” And what I thought was really interesting is I did follow the link to the review of 43 studies and it is a really cool article, that is, I think it says, “Machine Learning” is what it says. Here we go. “Machine learning uncovers the most robust self-report predictors of relationship quality across 43 longitudinal couple studies.”

So these studies, there are 43 of them, and I couldn't even begin to tell you all the names of the people that put these studies together because it literally is 43 relationship studies. And then machine learning then uncovered the main points or concepts of what the predictors of the relationship quality was. And so it's really neat to see. I'll include the link to that article that does the machine learning of the 43 longitudinal couple studies in there as well. But number one, the first set of predictors, again about the relationship itself. Number one, a partner who seems uncommitted. So this is a predictor about a bad romantic relationship. So a partner who seems uncommitted. “Knowing your partner is in it for the long haul provides a sense of safety and stability. Your relationship suffers when you worry that they have one foot out the door.” So, man, let me jump right in here. So here's why I'm excited to talk about these concepts today because that sounds amazing, that if we could turn to our partner, especially if we're having trouble and just say, hey, I just need to know that you are all in. Then that would calm our anxiety and then we feel like, hey, I'm willing to do the work. So again, so while I agree with this wholeheartedly remembering that these are the 10 variables that consistently show up in this review of 43 different studies, but I believe that what this speaks to is our brain's desire for certainty and I think that so often if we do not have certainty, then we feel like whatever that task is, well, it might not be worth undertaking.

So we may feel anxious, we may feel like, I don't know if I want to commit to this relationship, if my spouse is not willing to commit as well, which sounds fair. But people are in different places in the relationship. When people even come into therapy, I remember early in my therapy career, I would think, okay, I got two people, two willing people here, and they're ready to go. But often when things get to the point where people want to go into therapy, unfortunately I wish people would go in much sooner. One person is very frustrated. The other person may not even feel like there's anything wrong, or the other person may feel like this thing is already past this expiration date and I don't even know what to do. So when we are wanting this certainty, that would be perfect. But in reality, we don't always have that certainty and we have to have the courage to move forward regardless. What I see in my office, I think often, is that a spouse, again, wants to know that their partner's all in and willing to work on their relationship before they commit to that relationship. And I almost find this to be somewhat of a game of, I'll call it relationship chicken. Where the couple can then start to even argue, well, what does it mean to be committed? Does that mean that we will live under the same roof? Does that mean that we'll go to counseling? Does that mean that we will go on date nights? Does that mean that we will be honest or that we'll hold back on some of the things that may be difficult to talk about? Does that just simply mean, hey, I'm not leaving. So even the concepts around certainty or to know that our partner is all, can then start to be a discussion in itself that will cause the relationship to feel unsafe.

So this is where I feel like unfortunately life is full of uncertainty and not to go dark or grim, but how often do we learn about somebody who maybe passed away suddenly? As a matter of fact, I was thinking about this. My wife and I were driving somewhere this weekend and we saw, oh, we were driving home from a basketball game and we saw a billboard that was paying tribute to Lisa Marie Presley. So then immediately we started Googling and found that she had passed away. And if I'm correct, I believe she passed away from a cardiac event. And so then we even looked at what the difference was between that and a heart attack, but she was my wife and I's age. And so that stuff starts to feel just real. And so life is uncertain. And unfortunately we can't always get the certainty that we so desire. So I think what is difficult is in reality, you only have control over the things that you have control over. As a matter of fact, let's add that to the mix. So we've got uncertainty and we've got a lack of control. And so often when we feel anxious, this is the way we want somebody else to manage our anxiety. We want them to tell us, no, I'm in it and I'm willing to work on it. And that will make us feel, whew, okay, I'm feeling better, so now I can work on it, but in reality, I would love for you to work on it because you deserve a healthy relationship.

Now in reality, if you work on the relationship, it is gonna change the dynamic of the relationship and that's the part where it will even feel scarier to look over across the room and see if your partner is not working equally as hard. Because all of a sudden we might have some really difficult conversations or things that we're gonna be confronted with of am I willing to go back into this unhealthy relationship or this pattern of just living? Or are we both going to try to dig deep and then create an even better relationship? And unfortunately, there isn't any certainty that comes along with that, and that does feel scary, and that's part of being a human. And so do you have the ability to do the work that you know is necessary in your relationship or on yourself, even if your partner equally isn’t yoked or in the same place because I would highly encourage you to do that. And so what that can look like in my office is let's say that somebody looks over and says, hey, I need to know that you're in before I commit to this. Then I might try to help the other person frame that I understand and I can understand that would be hard if you feel like I'm not. And right now, I really want to look at what it looks like to just be here, and be in this room and what are the tools that we don't know, that we don't even know that we have?

And so let's just start to slow things down and then just see where do we even go from here? What does the rest of the day look like? I can't give you the certainty that I'm in it for the next five years, and that does feel scary. So that one's hard. So again, that number one factor of a set of predictors about a bad romantic relationship is a partner who seems uncommitted. So if you can provide your partner with a little bit of certainty, that certainly would not be a bad thing. But maybe that certainty is gonna be, hey, I'm willing to continue to come to counseling, or I'm willing to look at some articles and we can talk about these things. But right now, that might be all that somebody can offer in the relationship and yeah, that's scary. And you as the person who maybe wants more certainty, you absolutely have the right to say, well, I need more than that. And so then I'm not sure if I'm willing to put myself out there right now with a lack of certainty. So, that's where I would really recommend that you go see a couple's therapist, a couple's coach, somebody that can really help you work through that.

So number two is a lack of appreciation for one's partner. Dr. Seth says, “In healthy relationships, the partners feel lucky to be with each other. So when appreciation is low, the relationship suffers.” Man, okay, so let me go on a train of thought. I feel like this is something I've just been thinking about a lot lately, and that is this concept of what are you looking for in your relationship because it's the expectation effect. What seek ye, you will find what you're looking for. Now, I'm gonna throw an asterisk here because it's difficult for me not to go off on tangents about emotional immaturity, narcissistic relationships, emotional abuse, these sort of things. So, that is probably over on the Waking Up to Narcissism podcast, or I can even touch on it a little bit on a podcast like this one today. But we're kind of gonna put a little rule out and say that we're not talking about an extreme personality disorder or incredible emotional immaturity. We're not talking about that right now. So we're talking about when somebody starts to just feel a disconnect in the relationship, what are they looking for?

I'll have clients often have a list put together where they'll say, okay, but let me just pull out this list, and let me help you understand Mr. Therapist some of the ways that she is not showing up in the relationship. And so then they have these things and it might be, once a day, it might be every few days. And so then the expectation effect or what seek ye, or what are you looking for? The person is finding those areas where somebody is coming up short because we're human beings and we are gonna come up short because we're imperfect. And do we have those tools to be able to communicate, not to communicate, to say, hey, I want you to change this. But the tools to be able to communicate and say, hey, when you do that, it's hard for me because here's how I feel. So again, it's not about trying to tell the other person, here's what I don't like about you, here's what I don't like about your behavior. To me as a marriage therapist, nails on a chalkboard, because people are allowed to have their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. But then what we wanna do is be able to have mature adult conversations around, tell me more about, or, take me on your train of thought or help me understand when you do a certain thing. Because when you do that, here's what that maybe triggers in me. And so this is where we're designed to deal with a motion in concert with another human being.

So if somebody continually just gets angry and frustrated and then they come in and they are yelling about work. Then if you just become in sheer terror when your spouse starts yelling about work, then that's something that is absolutely okay for you to not be okay with. But if you're just saying, hey, I need you to not do that anymore because that makes me really, really frustrated, then that is a form of control. Which sounds crazy, right? Because it feels like one should be able to say, hey, don't yell about your work. You know, it makes me not feel safe. I still want us to be able to have that conversation. But it would start with, hey, sounds like you're frustrated with work. Help me understand. Take me on your train of thought. 

Here's where I'm gonna drop into my four pillars. Here we go. So pillar one, let's say that this scenario is the husband comes home and he is just angry and frustrated from work. And every day that he comes home, he slams that door. And so all of a sudden the wife is starting to feel like I don't even like him to come home because I don't know if he's gonna come in and be happy. I don't know if he's gonna come in, but primarily he's gonna come in and be really angry about his day at work, and he's gonna be frustrated and he's gonna feel like he wants to quit, which is gonna make me feel unsafe because I don't feel like he's taking into consideration our finances. So you can see how there can be so many of these variables, these unknowns, this lack of certainty. But if he comes home and he's angry and frustrated about work, and if she drops into the four pillar framework, pillar one. I'm gonna assume good intentions, or there's a reason why he's doing what he's doing. That he, again, doesn't wake up in the morning, thinks I'm gonna spend the whole day at work. I'm probably not gonna reach out to my wife much. And then when I come home, oh, I'm gonna slam that door and I'm gonna tell her I can't do this anymore and I don't care about her feelings. No, that's not what's happening. So that assuming of good intentions, and again, we're not talking about that if there's legitimate abuse here, emotional abuse, physical abuse, spiritual abuse, or financial abuse.

But if he comes in and she's saying, okay, man, that would be hard if he feels like he does not want to continue in his job, pillar one. And then if he's saying I can't do it anymore and then pillar two, my pillar two is I would love to help her not put out the fixing your judgment vibe. I would love for her not to say, I don't believe you. That's ridiculous. Or you can't do that. So pillar two, and why I like this example I'm giving is pillar two, she could even say, hey, look, you can do really hard things. You're an ultramarathon runner. You know, or you deal with a lot of pain, or, I see you lift weights and you can, you're so strong and you can pull through very difficult things. What she is telling him is, you're wrong. So let me kind of step back there. If he says, I can't do this anymore, her saying, yeah, you can, you do hard things. Sounds motivational, sounds amazing. But in reality it's saying, no, you're wrong. I don't believe you. And that doesn't make us feel heard or understood.

So that's where I drop into my pillar three, questions. Questions before comments. So the questions would be, man, tell me what that feels like. Why do you feel like you can't do this anymore? Take me on your train of thought. Help me understand, because we wanna be heard. We wanna be understood. And then that pillar four is her then leaning in, being present, not going into a victim mentality. And after she has assumed good intentions or understands there's a reason why he's expressing himself the way he is, pillar two, she's not gonna say, are you kidding me? Do you know what that's gonna do for me? How are we supposed to live? How are we supposed to pay our mortgage? But instead, just that pillar two is more of a mindset where she's just gonna note that maybe she doesn't agree, and then pillar three, she's gonna drop in and ask questions before making comments. Help me understand. I really want to know because that would be really difficult if this person I care about goes to work every day, can't stand it, comes home, feels so frustrated, feels like the day was a waste, feels like they just want to go to bed and just get the day done with, man, that would be hard. And here comes empathy. But then pillar four is that then I don't want her also to go into a victim mindset and say, okay, well I guess I can't say. You know, I guess, I'm just supposed to smile and give him a hug and, you know, probably he wants to be intimate. Is that what I'm supposed to do?

No, we're gonna get to her being heard and understood as well. So that pillar four is almost just maintaining presence. Just being, just being there. And then at that point, this is where I would love for everybody to be on the same page with the four pillars, honestly, is at that point, he feels heard and understood, and now she knows that she is gonna now be able to express herself. And he's gonna drop into that same framework, assuming good intentions, can't tell her she's wrong, and he's gonna ask her questions and he's gonna stay present. So in that scenario, she might say, that is hard, and I appreciate you sharing that. And, I can't imagine how hard that is and I see you, I'm here for you, but man, that's hard for me because I worry, you know, I worry about our finances. I worry about that feeling of financial safety. I worry about you. I worry about if you, you know, maybe he turns to unhealthy coping mechanisms. She worries about his eating. She worries about his drinking. She worries about him just tuning out in front of the tv or on his phone. So she worries. I worry, I feel, I hope. And those are, those are absolutely okay statements. I was going on this tangent of lack of appreciation for one's partner. You know, what are you looking for in the relationship because you'll find it. So if you are finding a disgruntled partner over and over, then you can easily say, yeah, and then again, here's where he did the thing where he was really upset. So are we looking for the positive aspects in our relationship or are we looking for those negative aspects in the relationship?

I'll blast through this so fast. I actually brought this up in a Sunday school class of all places over the weekend, but that is the expectation effect and the concept around maze bright and maze dull rats. If you have heard me say this, then hang in, I'll make it quick. But the study in essence was, let's just say there were a group of rats. Let's just for the simplicity's sake of numbers, let's say they were 20 and one group of people were given 10 rats and they were told these are these maze bright rats. They've been genetically engineered from before they were even born to go through mazes just incredibly fast. And then the other group were given these 10 other rats and they were told they're just rats. That's all that they are. And then they were given, I don't know, a few days to train these rats to go through mazes. And now cue the music montage, the Rocky scene, and you've got the group that has the maze bright rats. These genetically engineered amazing rats and they are sitting there at the end of the maze and they're cheering the rats on and they're petting the rats and they're giving the rats little rat massages. And they probably got them little tracksuits. And these rats, they are just, they are eating it up and the people are just saying, we feel so lucky. We got these maze bright rats. Over on the other side of the room, you've got the people with the maze dull rats thinking, why'd I get these dud rats? Look at them just sitting there. Just fighting and not moving along the maze and, when's the big race and we can just get this over with. I feel so humiliated. 

And then the day of the big race comes and the maze bright rats, sure enough, go through the maze, I think it was 2.1 times faster than the maze dull rats. And that's when the researcher said, surprise, that was just 20 random, they're just rats. There is no such thing as a genetically engineered maze bright rat. So what is the moral of that story? The expectation effect. What was the expectation that the groups put into their test subjects? Their rats. So I often like to then say, do you view your spouse as a maze bright? Or do you view them as maze dull or do you view your kid as a maze bright kid or a maze dull kid? Or better yet, how do you view yourself? Do you view yourself as maze bright or maze dull because you're going to find those things that you look for.

Number three, again, the number three indicator of a predictor of a bad romantic relationship. Low sexual satisfaction. So what Dr. Seth says, “When your sex life suffers, your relationship quality is likely to suffer as well. Apparently, the quality of sex may be more important than the quantity as the frequency of sex was less consistently linked to relationship quality.” And boy, I could do a whole podcast on this, but let me just refer quickly to the information I've shared a couple of times on podcast and it was from a training that I had gone to with a Dr. Kevin Skinner, who I know he's one of the founders, or fathers of the betrayal trauma and has written books, has done a tremendous amount of research. And I did about 18 months of betrayal trauma training with Dr. Skinner. And during that time, he gave this almost throwaway data that then I'd followed up with him about later. And I just thought it was phenomenal. And in essence, he talks about these levels of intimacy. And so when we meet, and this is my interpretation of that data, that information. That when we meet, in essence, we just get together because we find each other physically attractive and sure that is a wonderful thing and that helps. But then underneath that physical intimacy or physical attraction, there are these levels of intimacy. And down on the bottom we've got psychological intimacy. We've got honesty, loyalty, and trust. We've got commitment, up from that, we've got verbal intimacy. Can we just talk? We talk for days. We just feel so connected. And then when we have that psychological intimacy, that verbal intimacy, up from that is emotional intimacy. So when we have a connection to these two base layers or levels, then we can step into this emotional intimacy and we feel safe enough to start to really open up about our emotions and we really start to feel more connected with each other. And above that, I believe it was cognitive and intellectual intimacy where we can be in two different ballparks with regard to one, I sometimes say one person can have their PhD, the other, their GED, but because we're connected psychologically and verbally and emotionally, then it doesn't matter, cognitive or intellectually because we are connected and of that is spiritual intimacy.

We can have two completely different belief systems, but at the top of that intimacy ladder, so to speak, is physical intimacy. And when that is the byproduct of all those other layers of intimacy, then you really feel connected. And I feel like going back to this low sexual satisfaction, that is what I believe leads to more of that quality of sex. And it's not about the frequency. Now when you feel connected in all those levels, then they're sure there'll be time for the quickies, those sort of things. But you'll also have this opportunity to connect and have the quality of sex that it will be something that people just haven't really known. And if you've had one of those days where you really do feel connected with your spouse, you've spent a lot of time together, you've talked about a lot of things that aren't just about scheduling or the kids or finance. And you just start to really appreciate your spouse and you spend time with your spouse and you feel like we're connected verbally. We've opened up emotionally. That is where sometimes you just feel like you just want to just wanna hold their hand. You just wanna hug them. You just wanna touch them and cuddle with them. And that is where somebody starts to just feel this absolute deep connection. Now, there are some gender stereotypes here that come out and they are pretty common. And I will say that in my office, typically I do find the male is the higher desire partner. The female is the lower desire partner and that can result in an unhealthy relationship pattern. Where oftentimes in those scenarios, I find that the guy will say, well, if we had more sex, I'd be happy, then I'd be willing to talk. And the wife, in essence is saying, if we talk more, then I'd feel more connected and I'd be willing to have sex. 

And so again, I could do another podcast on that, might be one for another day, but I feel like that's one that might need help. Sorting those things out with a licensed professional because I can't say enough about as a marriage therapist and now worked with, I don't know, 12, 1300 couples that you've worked with these situations and had these conversations enough that you really can help people talk about things that are uncomfortable to talk about. So that low sexual satisfaction really is something that is so common in relationships because I feel like there will be times where people are more sexually equally yoked than others. And when there is an imbalance, the ability to talk about that is gonna be just very, very important. I turn to a book called Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships by David Schnarch. And boy, he has a lot of really difficult but great, kind of self confronting quotes and comments in this book, Passionate Marriage. And I went on Good Reads, to find a few of them, and I can't really even find one to do justice the way that if you can take care of things, if you can learn to self confront and so many of the podcasts I've talked about over the years, if you can learn that, we go into relationships as codependent and enmeshed, but we're trying to become more interdependent and it's okay to have our own thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and that we don't need our partner to continually validate us. So we need to learn how to self validate, self-sooth, to be able to stand in this healthy ego and to know that there are various things that are important to me, that matter to me because they do and at some point, as I become more emotionally mature, I don't need my partner. To validate every experience I have, because if I'm doing that, I like to say that my partner, there's probably an overwhelming chance that they're not gonna say the things exactly that I want them to, to make me feel better about myself. And now I get to say they must not care about me and what's wrong with me. When in reality, as you start to learn the things that really matter to you, step in alignment with your core values and your sense of purpose, and not continually look for others to tell you that they agree or that's the right way to go, then that is a whole new level of feeling confident.

And that confidence is what can lead to this concept around differentiation or again, differentiation is where one partner ends and the other begins. And in between there's this gap of just invalidation. And so learning to be differentiated is an incredibly emotionally mature process where you can still maintain a relationship with somebody that you care about even while having different opinions and not feeling like they are there to only validate you or to knock you down. And when we start looking in the world of emotional immaturity, there's those concepts around whole object relations. And where, you know, we need to be able to see both good and bad in someone. We need to be able to hold that whole frame together so somebody can absolutely say something that can cause us to feel frustrated, but we still love. It's not an all or nothing, it's not a black or white thing. So that comes into play here as well because when we feel anxious or we feel like the relationship is not in a good place, and it can be because we're unwilling to take a look at how we are showing up in the relationship, how we self confront, then oftentimes that's where we want our partner to just have sex with us, calm my anxiety, help me understand.

And then once my anxiety's calm, now I'm willing to talk. But we just put our anxiety over onto our partner and said, hey, can you manage my anxiety. And then I'm willing to show up. But what that often looks like for the other partner is, hey, when I'm feeling happy, I would really like to celebrate with sex. And if I'm sad or down, then if we could have sex, that would help me feel better and nothing helps get me out of a funk or even if I'm feeling physically under the weather, a cold, like sex. And so then in these situations, I will look over at the spouse hearing this and I'll say, what are you hearing? And they'll say, well, that ultimately I'm in charge of his happiness. And that if I am not there whenever he needs me to be there in this way with intimacy then now it's my fault. And that's a lot of pressure to put on your spouse. So that needs to be something that you need to learn to confront in yourself.

Here is a quote that I wasn't gonna read from Passionate Marriage but he says, “When we stand up and confront ourselves in ways our parents have not, a desire for justice makes it harder to forgive them in some ways. However, the increased differentiation this endeavor provides allows one to better self-soothe to validate one's own experience, thereby unhooking the need for confession from one's parent. And at this point, forgiveness becomes an act of self-caring and a deliberate decision to get on with one's life.” So why do I mention that in this scenario we weren't talking about parents, but too often the reason I feel unsafe or the reason I feel unseen or unloved or unheard is because I didn't necessarily feel that connection from a parent. And so now all of a sudden I need somebody to validate me and to tell me it's okay, and I'm looking right across the room and that's my spouse. And if I'm really just going into a place where I just need to feel better in that moment, oftentimes, and I will assume that then well, sex, that'll do it. And then that will calm my anxiety and then I'm willing to show up and be better. But that's still putting that on your partner. It's okay if you've done your own work and self confronted and recognize that it's okay to ask for things in a relationship in a marriage when it's done in a healthy way, not when it’s done in a manipulative way or in a way that’s asking somebody else to manage your emotions or manage your anxiety. But the quote that I was gonna read in this scenario was, Shnarch has a great quote where he said, “When we think of people giving up on their marriage, divorce usually comes to mind. But many people who give up on their marriage or themselves or their partner, don't leave. They stay in the comfort cycle until their marriage presents the inevitable dilemma, venture into the growth cycle, or face divorce, loss of integrity or living death. Validating and soothing each other has its place in a marriage, but not when you're dependent upon it, you get stuck in the comfort cycle because neither of you has the strength or motivation to break out. That's when the other side of the process comes in holding onto. Self confrontation and self soothing.”

So in this scenario, again, where we're talking about lower sexual satisfaction and when your sex life suffers and your relationship quality is likely to suffer, at that point, that is where I think people often start to feel like, okay, my relationship is completely out of whack and I don't know if it will get back into alignment or it won't be healthy again. And so it's easier to start with the intimacy or the sexual component, and I'm saying easier for people to start to blame. But I feel like often that's the byproduct of people that don't feel connected and they aren't able to communicate effectively, and talk about their hopes and dreams and feel safe. And so then they will often just go to, well, here's a physical act that signifies that we're okay. We need to be okay to have a better relationship with that physical act. 

Number four, he says, “A partner who seems dissatisfied. It's a great feeling to know that your partner is happy in the relationship. When they seem unhappy, it can introduce all kinds of questions,” And here we go again, “uncertainty about the health and future of your connection.” So remembering this is one of the best predictors of a bad romantic relationship. So that one is, if one of the partners seems dissatisfied. So it goes back to that concept around certainty. So I feel like this is where we just need the tools to communicate and we all do want to feel heard and understood and seen in a relationship. And I know that that's not the end all be all. As a matter of fact, I monitor a couple of different groups where people are talking about the concepts around differentiation and self confrontation, interdependence, cleaning up their lives, and the way that they are showing up in a relationship. And I am all for that. But oftentimes, even people when they are talking about what solution works best to save a relationship, they may say, look, you can only take care of what you can take care of, which is absolutely true. But I feel like we also need a vehicle to communicate more effectively. And that is my four pillars of a connected conversation based off of the work of Sue Johnson, and emotionally focused therapy. So when people just say, okay, you know what? I just need to show up and be the best version of me. Absolutely. That is a wonderful, amazing thing. And that is the goal. And I feel like having a way to communicate with your partner is essential. It is something that we do not learn from the factory. And so if you are over there being the best version of yourself and then just saying, okay, I'm showing up as my best self. If they are not, then I don't know what to do with this relationship. Then I feel like we're missing a huge component of communication. So if your partner, you know, a partner who seems dissatisfied, then I feel like that is an opportunity to start to understand why.

And that's hard because we gotta step out of our own ego and it's gonna make us feel uncomfortable. We may feel attacked and judged. The number five predictor that is of a bad relationship, a bad romantic relationship is high conflict. Dr. Seth says, “I don't know anybody who enjoys getting into fights with their partner and a lot of conflict can quickly sap the joy from a relationship.” So if you are in a relationship where there is often high conflict, I do believe, and this was last week's episode, “The Body Keeps the Score”. That over time your body just falls into a pattern and it says, this is what we do. So even if somebody says, how was your day? You may say, well, where are you going with that? What do you mean? When in reality the person is maybe trying to show up differently and saying, I really want to know about your day. And if the spouse says, why, so you can tell me that I'm lazy or that I don't do enough, or that you do more than me. And you can see where we fall into these relationship patterns over time. And then when we don't have the tools to be able to break the cycle of that relationship pattern, well we start to feel hopeless or we start to feel stuck. And that can be really, really difficult. So in that scenario, if there is a problem where we continually go to high conflict, go seek help because what can be really difficult is if one in the relationship is starting to change the dynamic and saying, I don't want this high conflict anymore. What they're also doing is stepping out of the role that they have found themselves in, in the relationship. And so oftentimes, even when one person is trying to work on the relationship by making themselves show up differently, the other partner will feel in an odd way, almost unsafe because they don't know what the angle is of their partner. So they may push even more buttons and try to pull that partner back down into the muck because that's all they know at this point. So that can absolutely take the help of a third party. Number six, an unresponsive partner. “A responsive partner seems to get you and respect your thoughts and feelings even when they don't agree with you. It feels bad when your partner doesn't seem to understand or respect you.” An unresponsive partner, and it is hard. I really love being able to go through this article because every one of these, I wanna say there's a reason why, you know, there's a reason why there's high conflict because we didn't have the tools to communicate well. There's a reason why a partner seems dissatisfied because they didn't feel safe or have the tools to communicate their needs. There's a reason why there's low sexual satisfaction in a relationship, and it goes back to not being able to communicate effectively what your relationship with sex was like growing up, what your expectations were in the relationship, where things possibly went off track.

There's a reason why this one, an unresponsive partner. There's a reason why no one wakes up and just decides to be unresponsive. It's something that happens gradually over time, and if a partner feels very unresponsive in the relationship, it's because eventually their body keeps the score, their body is telling them, what's the point? If I express myself, then I'm probably just gonna be told I'm wrong, or I'm gonna be talked out of what my opinion or my feeling is. So I'm gonna slowly but surely grow to be somewhat unresponsive. So when I read this, and Dr. Seth pulls this data from these 43 different studies, a responsive partner seems to get you and respect your thoughts and feelings even when they don't agree with you. Boy, that is the goal because it is absolutely okay to have your own thoughts and your own feelings, and we do not have to agree on everything. And if you are sitting in your relationship thinking, well, no she agrees with me all the time, and we're on the same page with everything. Then I would love for you to do a little self confrontation and step back and say, okay, but are you, are you hearing her? And are you willing to tolerate that discomfort that may come with disagreement? And this would be an amazing way to check in, although unfortunately when I work out, I go back to the world of emotional immaturity and I have had people in my office where if I'm starting to have this conversation, if somebody mentions something that they're unhappy with and the other spouse says, no, we've talked about that. You and I are in agreement that we're gonna do this for the rest of our lives, then I just want that person to hear themselves say that. If this person is in my office now saying, but I don't agree with that. That's where I'll have the partner say, well, why haven't you ever said that? Well, it's because they don't feel like they can say that.

So if you're hearing this and you feel like your partner's somewhat unresponsive, now's the wonderful opportunity to do some self confrontation and say, do I create a safe enough environment for my spouse to be able to express their opinion? And it doesn't matter if you're at year 50 or year two, now is an opportunity to unhook from those unhealthy patterns and learn that it is absolutely okay to have two different opinions.

As a matter of fact, that's even better because if the two of you are in alignment all the time, you're basically just asking for this person to go along with you and just validate everything that you're feeling, you're thinking, and there's no polarity there, there's no excitement or joy, but we're so afraid that if our partner has another opinion, that for some reason that's gonna equate them leaving the relationship. No, we are two different people that came together with completely different experiences and yeah, we were emotionally immature at the beginning, so we probably did say, I agree with everything. Because that feels good. We feel wanted, we feel loved, but then life happens and we graduate school and we have kids, and we move and we get jobs and we go through financial difficulties and we have to make decisions and people in our lives, they leave and they die, and then the springs up more things. And so we are of course gonna have completely different experiences than our spouse. And so in a healthy relationship, we're able to talk about our experiences. And our partner is gonna stay present with us and say, tell me more about that. What's that like? And then we may say, well, what are you feeling right now? And that's where the real growth occurs. That we happen to be two people that are going through this life. And what a joy, what an amazing opportunity to be going through life together. Because now we can have two different perspectives. And that's the real goal of differentiation is where I can have this relationship with somebody that is completely different than me and they can have their opinion and I can even listen to it because I like this person and I care about this person.

And what can I gain from this person? I might be able to take in some of that data that is part of their life experience and that might help me through difficult times and we're there and we're in it together. Okay, there are three more. Dr. Seth said the remaining predictors of relationship quality were what each partner brought to the relationship. So those first seven were ones that were predictors were about the relationship itself, so I'll buzz through these three quickly. Number seven, individual factors. Dissatisfaction with life. If you are somebody who is unhappy, feeling unhappy, down, depressed in life right now, then it makes sense that you're gonna see your romantic relationship in more of a negative light as well. So do individual work. If you are overwhelmed with anxiety or depression, or uncertainty or fear the future. Then that might be something that you can work on to get your emotional baseline high so that you can bring that into the relationship. Because if your emotional baseline is low and you are unhappy in general, then it is hard to show up and be in a relationship. And we may want our partner to carry the load more, which, you know, there are gonna be times where, again, we aren't equally yoked, but we have to be able to communicate that. And if that isn't something that you've been able to communicate throughout your relationship and now you find yourself just so flat and down and apathetic that you don't even want to participate, then go get help. Please, because you deserve to be happy, period. And then a happy you is able to show up more in a relationship. And then get even more. It's that one plus one equals three concept. So again, that was number seven, dissatisfaction with life. Number eight, Dr. Seth says, depression, so, and he says on a related note, people who are depressed tend to report a lower quality relationship, and part of this association can be that bad relationships contribute to depression. So it is a little bit a chicken and the egg. So if you feel, again, dissatisfaction with life, if you feel depressed, and actually let me jump down to number nine. He talks about negative affect, other negative emotions like a lot of anger or irritability are linked to worse relationship quality. So as with depression, as with dissatisfaction,  a bad relationship in turn can contribute to negative emotions so they can feed upon each other. So if you feel like you can't even show up for your relationship, then get help. Get individual help. I know I'm pro therapy, but it's because I'm a therapist and because at this point, I still remember being a new therapist in my early thirties after doing a decade in the computer software industry. And I was one of those people that wondered, ehh therapy, you know, isn't necessary. And I remember being about five years into the profession and going to a Christmas party and somebody saying, yeah, I don't know about therapy, and I remember the years before I would've defended it. Well, studies say, and I've found, and at that point it's like, oh, bless your heart. Therapy is amazing and it changes lives and amazing people go to therapy and the stigma behind therapy has changed. Thank goodness. I love when people talk about when they see their therapist or they talk about their therapist. And as a therapist, that relationship, that dynamic, I mean, what an honor to be able to share these intimate details with people and to go in the minds of people where they've never let somebody in before. And to watch how validating that can be when somebody that is a captain of industry or a well-respected member of a community and they come into your office and they open up about things and you're able to say, man, tell me more. What's that like? And to watch almost the relief just wash over somebody's face as they realize that it's okay to just have thoughts and feelings and emotions because we all do and they are all over the map and they're because of the way that we were brought up or the things that we've been exposed to or see.

And so when we just let those things rattle around in our head, they don't work out to the, and we live happily ever after story. Oh no. They end up with the what's wrong with me story. And sometimes when we're able to just communicate that to somebody else, it's liberating. It just is absolutely liberating to get these things off of your chest and to have somebody who knows what to do with that. And instead of saying, well, you should do this, or, why didn't you do this? Or do you realize how that would affect somebody else? No. Thank you for sharing. You're a human being, man, I can't imagine how hard that must be. And so now tell me more. Tell me what your, what's the next step? Where do you want to go? I'm right here with you. And how powerful that is. Number 10 is, and I love it and I'm getting close to doing a little bit of a deep dive on the different attachment styles, but he said that attachment styles both anxious and avoidant attachment styles are highly predictive of poor relationship quality.

A person with an anxious attachment often worries that their partner will leave them and those with avoidant attachment are careful not to let their partners get too close. And just one quick note too is he says, “It's interesting to note that demographic variables like race and gender and religious affiliation tended not to matter for relationship quality, and the same was true for objective characteristics of the relationship, such as having children versus being child free. Interestingly, living together or apart and dating or being married. So those are different things that turn out to not be as big of a factor as one thought. I will end and wrap up just a little bit on attachment. I dug up an article that I referred to, I think I did an episode a while back called something like “The Dance of the Anxious and Attached”, anxious and avoidant attachment, and this is from Darlene Lancer and it's from Psychology Today as well. And I just think this is fascinating. I'm gonna read for a little bit and then we'll wrap this thing up, but she says, “The relationship duet is the dance of intimacy that all couples do. One partner moves and the other backs up. Partners may reverse roles, but always maintain a certain space between them. So the unspoken agreement is that the pursuer chases the distancer forever, but they never catch up. And that the distancer keeps running but never really gets away and they're negotiating the emotional space between them.” And so she talks about how we all have needs for both autonomy and intimacy, independence and dependence, but we also simultaneously fear both being abandoned, which is acted out by the pursuer and being too close, which is acted out by the distancer. So we have this dilemma when it comes to intimacy. So how can we be close enough to feel secure and safe? Like the person's not gonna leave without feeling threatened by too much closeness where we're gonna feel overwhelmed.”

She said, “The less room there is to navigate this distance, the more difficult the relationship.” There may be less anxiety and therefore less demand on the relationship to accommodate  this narrow comfort zone. But here's the part I really wanted to read. I got two paragraphs, origins. I love a good origin story. So Darlene says, “Attachment theory has determined that the pursuer has an anxious attachment style and that the emotionally unavailable partner has an avoidance style. Research suggests that these styles and intimacy problems originate in the relationship between the mother and the infant. Babies and toddlers are dependent on their mother's empathy in regard for their needs and emotions in order to sense their selves or to feel whole. So to an infant or a toddler, physical or emotional abandonment, whether through neglect or illness or divorce or death,” and I would add in there, or just life. We don't know what we don't know, “threatens its existence because of its dependency on the mother for validation and development of wholeness. So later as an adult, feeling this separation and intimate relationships, its experience as a painful reminder of this earlier loss. But we don't even know that that's where it's coming from.” And then Darlene says, “If the mother is ill or depressed, or lacks wholeness and self esteem, then there are no boundaries between her and her child. Rather than responding to her child, she projects and she sees her child as only an extension of herself as an object to meet her own needs and feelings. She can't value her child as a separate self. The child's boundaries are violated and its autonomy, feelings, thoughts, and her body are disrespected. So consequently, the child does not develop a healthy sense of self, and instead he or she discovers that love and approval come with meeting the mother's needs and tunes into the mother's responses and expectations. So this also leads to shame and codependency. So the child will learn to please and perform or rebel, but in any case, gradually tunes out its own thoughts and needs and feelings.” And I should have jumped in earlier and we're talking about attachment theory and we're talking about the relationship with mother and infant, but absolutely, dad plays a huge role as well. Daddy issues, anybody? So, I don't want a mother to be hearing this and think this is all on me. Because, no, it's both. It's the relationship with the parent, the parent child relationship. But in this scenario, so again, where she's saying, when somebody then feels a shame and codependency that they learn to please, perform, or rebel, but basically gradually tune out their own thoughts and needs and feelings. So then later intimacy may threaten the adult sense of autonomy or identity, or he or she may feel invaded or engulfed or controlled or shamed or rejected. And here's what's fascinating is a person may feel both abandoned if his or her feelings and needs are not being responded to, but at the same time now all of a sudden engulfed by the needs of his or her partner. So in codependent relationships where there aren't two separate whole people coming, true intimacy is impossible because the fear of non-existence and dissolution are so strong. So we learn these defenses as kids in order to feel safe. So she goes on to say that as adults, these behaviors create problems and result in miscommunication.

For instance, if you repress your anger to ensure that there's closeness there because you worry that if I get angry, then I'm gonna push my partner away. Then you stand a good chance of alienating your partner because you're unaware that you may be expressing your anger indirectly. By withdrawal, by silent treatment. You know, if you ignore your partner in order to create distance, then you inadvertently devalue him. And that creates a whole other problem. So, I'm gonna wrap it up, but that is my reaction to this article of “The 10 best Predictors of a Bad Romantic Relationship”. Seth does go on in the article, and again,  I'll link to it. He does say how to improve your relationship. And I'm not just saying, you know, the same old things, but he does say, cultivating and appreciation for your partner, paying more attention, look at them as if you were looking at them for the first time. Look at opportunities to express gratitude. He says, work on bedroom techniques. Do research on how you both wanna show up sexually, be willing to tell your partner your needs. But I would add, not from a manipulative standpoint, but from a, hey, check this out. You know, make the relationship better for your partner. Look for small ways to make their life easier. Do a chore for them. Offer a listening ear. Set your phone down. Knowing that they're happy will increase your own satisfaction with the relationship , and for yourself. Find joy in life. Look for ways to find more rewards everyday. People that keep gratitude journals, there's some good data studies that say that that is a really helpful process and try to look for unique things each and every day. Because what will end up happening is you're looking throughout the day for the things that you can be grateful for. And I love that he says, treat your depression. Follow a self-guided book. Use an evidence-based app. Go to therapy, talk with your doctor about medication. Your relationship will likely improve when you find ways to boost your mood. And go to therapy. Invest time and money in working with a professional, either alone or as a couple. Both approaches are eventually gonna lead to, they can lead to a happier relationship. 

So thank you so much for spending the time here today. If you have questions, comments, anything that you feel would be helpful to add, comment on the post will go up on Facebook or Instagram and you can also contact me through my website. If you have questions or anything else that I can address, I love a good question and answer episode, and I'm gonna do more of those over on my Instagram account. I'm gonna do some live question and answers, so please get those questions in. You can submit those through the website. And I just, I appreciate all the support and I look forward to seeing you next time on the Virtual Couch.

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