Marriage and relationships require give and take on both sides. But what if you feel like you’re giving a lot more than your partner is—or vice versa? How do you get past the conflict and competition aspects of a relationship and reach a place where you can experience a balanced, more fulfilled relationship? Check out this week’s episode where I talk to Nate Klemp, author and marriage anthropologist, who has some great things to say.
Navigating money fears in relationships can be a big source of conflict, but finance guru Garrett Gunderson has tons of knowledge to help.
As with anything in life, balance is key. In this week’s episode, Garrett and I talk about finding that balance and following a path of growth by learning from your past. Mindset is a great place to start, and Garrett shows how balancing your mindset can affect every area of your life, including your finances.
As a man, I can fully relate when I hear from other men that they’re not sure what their partner wants when it comes to showing love.
It’s common for a man to get accustomed to showing he loves and cares for his partner in ways that are within his comfort zone.
For example, I have a habit of doing things around the house—chores, little tasks, taking the kids places. I’m a helper and I enjoy fixing things.
I feel like my wife probably feels cared about if I’m taking care of some of these things for her. That way, there’s less she has to worry about.
But these kinds of things aren’t a replacement for telling her I love her—or even better, showing her. There are tons of ways to demonstrate you care for your partner, and it’s a good idea to open your mind to them.
No matter where you are on the gender spectrum, this can apply. For today’s purposes, I’m going to approach it from my position as a heteronormative man with a female wife.
The Heart Connection
Women—and partners in general—crave the heart connection. Oftentimes, men have difficulty learning to love from the heart.
As men, we can get defensive and feel like we’re being criticized. That’s because it can be tough for us to get in touch with that emotional part of ourselves.
Our right brain is often the weaker muscle. We aren’t dominated by the side of empathy and nurturing like most women are.
That doesn’t mean we can’t exercise that side of our brains, though. It just takes a little more work for us.
For that reason, we as men have to dig a little deeper into ourselves.
We have to think about what our partner might want. I encourage you to get creative.
Gifts Are Nice, But Put Some Effort into It
Flowers and gifts are good things to give your partner, but those really don’t take too much thought.
When you dig toward your inner self, why not come up with the most creative idea you can?
Go for the less obvious things. Chocolates and teddy bears are something anyone can do.
Paint her a picture. Write her a poem or a love letter. Sing or play her a song. Build her something or even do the dishes or laundry for her.
Yeah, whatever you set out to do might feel out of your comfort zone at first. But think about how much your partner will appreciate it.
Besides, think about it from your partner’s point of view. Wouldn’t you be happy for them to show you love in a way that makes you feel cared for?
Love from the Heart
Of course, I’m not saying not to tell your partner how much you love them. That’s a given and this is over and above the standard things.
Loving from the heart is more about demonstrating you care.
When you’re looking for your most genuine, authentic way to express your care—that’s the one that will make your partner feel loved.
Not only does it show you care, but it shows a piece of who you are—a deeper part that allows her to feel a stronger connection to you and your true self.
Activate the Right Brain
So when you’re ready to dig deeper into yourself and show your partner your love, that’s where the mindset shift comes in.
Access your creative side…get that right brain moving faster…and show that heartfelt side of yourself. Think about the way your demonstrated love will be received and look forward to the joy you’ll bring your partner.
Not only will your partner appreciate it and your relationship will grow, but you’ll find yourself growing as an individual, too.
If you’re a parent, you already know what a huge change a baby brings into your life.
Like me, you might find yourself feeling triggered unexpectedly and you can’t get to the bottom of it. You feel things you may not have felt since childhood and it can be difficult to deal with them.
You’ll also find that both you and your partner change individually once you have a baby. You might not even feel like you’re the same person you used to be.
These changes are natural and to be expected, but if you and your partner aren’t prepared for them, it can be a problem for your relationship as well as for the parent-child relationship.
In this week’s episode, I discuss this and a bunch more with Kara Hoppe and Dr. Stan Tatkin. Their new book, Baby Bomb, helps parents maintain their partnership while creating a secure functioning environment for their child.
What Is Secure Functioning?
Secure functioning refers to the relationship balance in a newly formed triad—you, your partner, and your baby. When you experience secure functioning, it allows you to provide a safe and secure relational environment.
When you’re in a secure functioning relationship, you and your partner have a shared vision and are invested for the long term. You’re on the same page in both your relationship and your parenting practice, and you’re a solid team ready to protect each other.
This safe and secure environment is the foundation you build your relationship on—so that not only will your child grow up in a safe place, but your relationship will flourish even after the child is no longer in your care.
When you’re united in your partnership and you create that safe, healthy space for all three of you, you understand that you can accomplish so much more. And if you’re not fully invested, you rob yourself of the security and safety you would otherwise experience.
The Needs of Three
When a baby enters the picture, it’s easy for a parent—especially a mother—to lose herself in taking care of the baby. She can easily find herself too exhausted to attend to her partner’s needs, and her own needs often come last.
Besides, she’s using her body in many ways to care for the baby, which can leave very little for the partnership.
This is where the needs element comes into the partnership.
First, each partner has to be able to communicate their needs clearly. If your partner isn’t aware of your need, how can they help you?
Second, you both have to be vulnerable. You won’t be able to communicate your own needs if you’re not vulnerable with yourself (so you can acknowledge the needs) and your partner (so you can express them).
Once you’ve acknowledged and expressed your needs, it gives your partner the opportunity to help regulate them for you—and vice versa. It’s important to create expectations so that each partner knows where the gaps are and how to fill them.
Behaviors Can Be Learned
The good thing about secure functioning in this scenario is that it can be learned. It doesn’t matter your attachment style or your partner’s—you both can learn the behaviors necessary for a secure functioning relationship.
As in any relationship, with or without a child, it’s vital to learn how to work on problems together. If you’re a part of a team, you will never win if you’re fighting amongst yourselves, right?
But roles can be defined and redefined until you find what works for you. You don’t need to worry about what others are doing or what’s traditionally done.
You can set your goals and expectations together as a couple, distribute tasks and responsibilities the way you both feel is fair and equitable, and relax into the system that works for you.
While I’m a firm believer that we are all deeply spiritual beings, we’re also humans—mammals—with emotional reactions.
We can work on our own mental and spiritual development, and that is a great thing. In fact, it’s something I highly recommend.
But—in a relationship, there are still going to be times those human reactions take over, and that’s normal. It’s not something we can ever shut off.
So how do we learn to integrate our personal spiritual growth into a relationship with another person—another human with their own emotions, reactions, and experiences—especially if we are at different stages of growth?
Trigger, Retreat, Repeat
It’s not necessarily an unhealthy thing to retreat when you’re triggered in a relationship. Let’s say you go off alone and meditate, self-reflect, and do what you need to do to calm yourself.
Maybe your partner does the same thing. Then, when you come back together, things feel better and the issue isn’t as prevalent anymore—or maybe it feels like it’s resolved.
The problem is, you may have dealt with the discomfort you felt and processed it individually, but you haven’t truly resolved the issue together as a partnership.
And so, you’ll probably find that issue coming up again, and this process will keep you stuck as a couple. It’s not sustainable long term.
It’s great to work on your spiritual growth and maturity, but how do you bring those together and mature as a unit, as a team?
Getting Stuck vs. Moving Forward
Part of spiritual growth is learning to be with your discomfort—recognizing it, accepting it, but teaching yourself that it’s not a problem. It’s pretty liberating once you reach that point of being okay with yourself and your human experience.
It’s important to do that in a relationship, too—to reach the point, together, of being uncomfortable and vulnerable but being okay with it.
That’s what will help your relational development and maturity as a couple, and it’s what will keep you from getting and staying stuck. Because if you don’t get to that point, you’ll only be able to go so far with that person and you’ll reach your relational ceiling.
We’re each going to have our own developmental gaps in our lives that have carried over from childhood or other adult relationships. But bringing your gaps together and being with them as a couple will give you the opportunity to fill them and to grow as a partnership. It may get somewhat complicated and uncomfortable, but you’ll soon find it’s freeing once gaps are filled and discomfort is accepted.
Relationships Are Difficult
The fact is, it’s a difficult thing learning how to be in a relationship with another human.
It takes a lot of capacity and practical experience, because it’s not inherent in us to be able to integrate all the aspects of another person into ourselves and our way of living. That’s especially true if we haven’t learned to be with and take responsibility for our own experience.
Besides, no one is immune to the need to work on themselves.
We all have areas we have disowned and experience developmental deficits. We each need to work on reclaiming what we’ve disowned and heal individually while collaborating for stronger development and maturity.
We’re Always Stronger Together
Relationships can be especially difficult when one person has done more work on themselves than the other. That person is probably pretty good at pointing out issues in their partner, and it can come across as superior, as though we’ve transcended the issue.
The partner typically does one of two things there: they either buy into it and feel they’re “not spiritual enough,” or they feel criticized and get defensive.
It’s important to remember that challenges are always vital to growth. When we collaborate, we build healthier, stronger relationships as we grow and mature together. We can become much deeper and more complex human beings through relationship growth than we can on our own.
Is there such thing as a positive connotation to the words “power” and “pleasure?”
The word “power” is often thought of in the context of men asserting power over women. At the same time, “pleasure” can be thought of as selfish and frivolous or unnecessary—or it can be associated with unhealthy things.
But like everything, there’s a good and a bad side to each. Feeling empowered—believing in yourself—is a positive thing and is something to strive for, both individually and in relationships. Pleasure, as an enemy to pain, is also something you want to experience.
Coach, podcast host, and author Shana James focuses her expertise on men and the issues they face in relationships. She discusses how it’s possible for power and pleasure to overlap—and why men especially should stop pressuring themselves.
It’s Okay to Feel Empowered and to Feel Pleasure.
There are lots of ways to feel empowered, for both men and women. In a good context, feeling empowered can mean knowing yourself in order to access your pleasure.
Often, women are stressed and have a tough time experiencing pleasure—and men can get so focused on making women happy, they lose their own pleasure.
Pleasure can encompass several areas as well—it doesn’t just have to be sexual. If you think about all the things that increase dopamine, the list can get pretty long. In fact, pleasure can be something relaxing, like reading a book, sitting on the beach, or painting a picture.
But it’s important to distinguish between healthy pleasure and pleasure that isn’t good for you.
Know Yourself to Know What’s Good for You.
Culture and society teach us a lot of “shoulds” as we grow up. A lot of the time, we are programmed to do what someone else thinks is right for us—and we may not even know what we truly want.
If we don’t know what we want, we can’t experience true pleasure. Sure, it’s easy (especially for men) to look for a quick hit of pleasure and relief from stress, like sugary foods or porn provide. But that won’t satiate in the long run.
It takes a clear mind to think about whether something is truly beneficial for us—whether it will serve our highest good. And in order to do this, we must know ourselves and be okay with who we are…rather than who we think someone else wants us to be.
Be in Tune with Yourself.
You can’t experience pleasure when you aren’t in tune with your body, and that goes for both men and women. While women have a hard time feeling pleasure if maybe the laundry isn’t put away or the dishes are dirty, it’s important to know that about yourself and communicate it to your partner.
Empowerment Can Come Through Pleasure.
Most men have a hard time accessing their pleasure when they’re focusing on creating pleasure for their partner. We get so focused on “getting it right” and what will make her happy that we lose touch with ourselves in the process.
Men inherently want to know in advance whether something will work or will make their partner happy—and that’s exhausting! Communicate…ask your partner questions. It’s okay to have these conversations.
As long as you’re setting out to prove your worth, fix a situation, or do things perfectly, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Allow yourself to make mistakes…be vulnerable. Once you do that, you’ll increase pleasure for your partner AND yourself.
Be Okay with Imperfection.
You can’t be everything for your partner—and the same is true in reverse. Once you both recognize this truth, your relationship itself will be empowered. And that place of empowerment gives your relationship strength and puts you both in a place to experience pleasure as well.