Life skills to help us be better in relationships because we’re biological beings we are hardwired for connection and yet then we get in those connections and all of our stuff comes up because right that’s what happened and so it’s not that that’s not gonna happen it’s how do we deal with it how do we help people learn you’re normal you’re normal and this is hard and so let’s help you figure this out [Music] what’s up coronation welcome to another episode of coin for thought today I have Michelle Rae here on the show again and I’m so excited to have her here thank you so much for joining me Michelle for having me again okay so this one’s kind of a doozy I feel like in relationships we go through cycles where we want our partner to change we want our partner to become better people we want our partner to evolve but what’s the difference between helping somebody evolve and wanting them to be someone else good question and if we can come up with the answer to that boy I think we’ll be millionaires um so relationships are so interesting in the fact that we want to be challenged we want someone to meet us where we’re at we want to grow you know relationships are ultimately about healing and growing um and when two people come together um you know you’re bringing all this history all this life experience these differences perhaps together and in those initial stages when we have high levels of dopamine and serotonin we have our love goggles on and those differences we don’t see we actually just kind of see the brain is biologically is wanting us to see this person as a potential mate and as we fall you know deeper in love with this person and as we get to really truly know them as we settle into you know moving through that honeymoon phase we can then start seeing their true selves and sometimes within that we are going to notice things that maybe irk us or frustrate us or irritate us because first and foremost we are all pains in the asses and none of us are low maintenance when we’re in an intimate partnership um and I say that because it’s important to recognize that we’re gonna always have things that irritate us or or frustrate us about partners because that’s just part of being human when we notice that we are picking or irritated by certain things we have to understand what energy that’s coming from is it coming from an energy where we’re generally like I know that you are this person and so what’s getting in the way of you being able to be that fully you know that full person that you know us to be or is it coming from my own insecurities and anxieties that I’m projecting on to my partner yeah and it’s in those cases that that’s an invitation then to really go in what’s happening for me right now that I am having this reaction or I am you know um wanting this from my partner what about relationships where you know do relationships really set themselves up where people notice things later or do people reveal themselves later is is there a balance to that you know because you hear a lot of things where you know say women or men go you know what after we got together for a certain period he changed did he change or did you just start opening your eyes what what’s the difference so again if people do not enter the dating process from a space of truly being themselves then yes that can be the experience and so the whole process of dating is actually getting to know somebody to assess whether this is someone that I want to spend more time with um so I would say that’s the whole process of dating right for some people though they may enter into the dating process very early on being this is who I am because ultimately you’re just delaying the outcome potentially by pretending to be somebody who you’re actually not right right so I always say anything that comes your way is information whether it’s being revealed you know at in the first date or in the sixth date or a year into the relationship and it takes a good year by the way to get to know somebody to truly spend time and get to know somebody but having said that it’s also about what do we do during that period of time in order to see that person in different experiences so that we can actually get to know different parts of them right because again that’s all part of the dating process and of learning about somebody let’s talk about abusive relationships for a second and spaces where um maybe the woman or even if it’s the man right they they’re in a really real relationship that’s abusive they want to be able to change their partner that relationship is already toxic and they’re working through different strategies like it could be um buying them things it could be manipulation but not in like a horrible manipulative way but just trying to get them to kind of see their point of view it could be various other strategies they’re trying to get their partner to love them in a way that they want to be loved and this person is asserting all this negative energy on them and creating this toxic environment of control manipulation whatever the case might be and this person feels like maybe there’s no way out and they have to deal with the cards that they have been dealt with because there’s no way out of this relationship so in terms of that you know how does a person deal with getting out of that relationship being in that relationship how do they really understand that sometimes you can’t really change things what’s that you know what kind of mindset should they be taking on that’s a really big question mm-hmm uh so first of all um in a securely functioning relationship where two people address the relationship and understand that the relationship is a living breathing entity that requires two people to take care of it what you’re describing wouldn’t happen there would be information in the dating phase that would have um demonstrated some red flags some controlling behavior that um depending on the um let’s say the the person who doesn’t have the power and control in the relationship that there may be something familiar about this that didn’t feel like a red flag but nonetheless was um can you give an example of that what’s a red flag but uh a red flag that gets overlooked is something that you know you have a reaction to like that there is there is a felt sense of dis-ease with something um and it doesn’t get addressed or if it does get addressed how the person who was doing the behavior is defensive or um not engaging in a way of hey let’s figure this out um that is concerning yes um somebody who finds himself in what you described as being stuck um there’s a level of complexity that that I don’t think we can address in a larger context because there’s many layers to that um it’s not up to the person who is being abused to change the person who is demonstrating or behaving in the abusive way that in and of itself is part of that dynamic because there is nothing first of all there is nothing that the person who is being abused has done to justify the abusive behavior right and so therefore but therefore because you know there’s a survival instinct of I need to try and behave this way to appease this person what is part of the abuse cycle is there is nothing that the abused person can do to stop the other person’s behavior other than getting away in some way but they and that is part of the internal struggle um in an abusive relationship is that the person who is being victimized feels somehow that they are responsible for what is going on when in fact they aren’t and so they turn themselves often inside out as a pretzel trying to appease the person to try and keep calm to you know depending on what the abuse is and how it’s manifesting um trying to create a sense of calm and peace and minimize the impact that becomes much more complicated as well if there are children involved and then that becomes a child protection concern right right so as you can see very layered and and and really complex in terms of like uh quantity or you know what what is fighting too often what is you know what is fighting too often like there’s some people that say you know are we are we fighting a lot no we’re not fighting a lot what is what is a lot I don’t think you can quantify necessarily I guess first fighting a lot if there is more conflict than there is harmony right so you know again let’s be curious about that but conflict in and of itself isn’t the problem it’s generally how people choose to deal with differences of opinion or ideas or feelings because we can disagree without being disagreeable and often if people know how to communicate which let’s face it most of us don’t because we’re raised by imperfect people and relationship skills are generally something that we don’t learn or we learn through the process of the families that we grow up in again not right or wrong good or bad but that’s usually where we are getting our information and so um if we don’t know how to deal with conflict in a way that actually promotes and invites intimacy deeper intimacy then people use that as a as a space where they may act out you don’t understand me I can’t explain myself properly um and so I may get uncomfortable within myself and then just kind of say things to um either create some distance or an opportunity to stop the fighting because I don’t know how to deal with it in a different way do you think anger brings out truth when people are angry do you think that the truth is unleashed do you think that there is a freedom in anger that where people can really say what they’re really supposed to say uh what they really want to say what they really truly feel without that inhibition I know I think that so anger just like joy or sadness or hurt or grief is a feeling it’s not a negative feeling or a positive feeling it’s a feeling but what can happen is it’s how people choose to behave in response to feeling angry I think that people can say things in anger that may have some some streams of um of honesty and truth to them but that in this surge of anger I feel I’m gonna say something in a way that’s coming from my primitive responses to my my sense of threat so if I am feeling afraid on some level if I am feeling that I am something is happening in this dynamic that doesn’t feel okay for me and that I need to protect myself right then I may behave in a way that is a hundred percent gonna make sure that that happens so it’s it’s I don’t believe that it is simple enough to say that people say truth when they’re angry people say things when they’re angry that are being informed from a space of fear or threat and because our brains are more wired for war than they are for love and that’s just left over from evolution our biological response to our perception of threat is that we may act out we may do things that create that sense of safety you’re dangerous and I just need to do something right now that’s going to help let’s talk about bringing trauma into a new relationship when you’ve come from a relationship that was traumatic and you have red flags uh in your new relationship that that might not actually exist but it’s because you’re seeing that because of that trauma that you haven’t dealt with right so first I would say if somebody knows that they have trauma and they want to be engaged in a relationship from a healthy perspective then certainly doing some individual work around addressing that trauma and how it may be getting in the way of how we show up relationally is really important because unresolved trauma is going to impact relationships and often in a way that um is coming from that space of self-protection that isn’t about wanting to be difficult or reactive or damaging in any way it’s just unresolved trauma that needs some space to be worked through and healed if possible to change one’s perspective when they are in relationship what makes us as people want to control situations or control people around us in a relationship um generally in my experience it’s the need to feel safe and secure right so the need to control so for for instance with um anxiety and that’s a big kind of word and a big category um but when one feels anxious one is looking for ways to manage that anxiety and often a way to manage other anxieties to try and control the outcome to try and control the environment to try and control every possible potential scenario so that I can regulate my dis-ease that I have that’s coming about and then when that so but that’s really hard to do right because right most people it’s exhausting really exhausting first of all that’s just a level of resource right that the individual’s using but secondly most things are out of our control most things are unpredictable most things there’s a level of uncertainty like hello we’re living in a pandemic you know where there is a low level hum of uncertainty that we are chronically and constantly in right now and that’s going to create a low level of anxiety or a high level anxiety for lots of people um but what anxiety does is anxiety lives in the future it’s not in the moment so this is all we have is in this moment what do I need in this moment to manage not five minutes from now or five hours from now or five days from now but in this moment what do I need and we often are resourcing we’re often putting it outside of ourselves as something other than us outsourcing it in some way to manage what actually we actually need to do for ourselves during covid you know relationships have really taken a nosedive and is it do you feel like it’s because those relationships didn’t have foundations good foundations to begin with or do you feel like covet forced these relationships these individuals in these relationships to really self-reflect to really observe you know themselves and take a good hard look in the mirror to be able to ask questions like am I happy uh is this relationship going anywhere that I wanted to go is this person someone that I actually love oh deep questions I think it’s I think it’s all of those things right I think that covid I think that having a shared threat um that we all were learning about at the same rate at the same time that none of us have ever you know faced before naturally again because that brain is more wired for war than it is for love is like oh my god what is happening there was so much uncertainty and so much unpredictability that threat is going to you know shrink people like in terms of this is what I can control I can’t control any of that and so some people were are asking those really important questions about the quality of their relationships those are questions by the way that really people should be hopefully reflecting on and asking always in terms of taking the temperature of the relationship you’re in but a secure functioning relationship that’s based on true mutuality respect fairness sensitivity um justice you know that is a quality of a relationship whereby one should not feel um that they’re not able to be themselves in one is not reflecting on how happy or unhappy I am because it in a secure functioning relationship both partners are creating a culture where they talk about they debrief there’s they’re transparent they have agreements in place that creates and fosters a culture of safety and security between the people who are in it let’s talk about the other side where there’s denial there is the refusal to control there is the lack of engagement um and how that sort of disrupts a unit or the other partners that um yeah say more about that like what if two people in the relationship are you know they need to both be engaged and one person just wants to walk away they want to disengage from conversation they are uh conflict avoidant avoidant uh how do you how do you uh work through that how do you bring that partner in to be able to have those conversations how do you from as a person who likes to avoid avoid those kinds of conversations loves to walk away finds peace with that how do you then come to a space where you can listen you’re engaging now in this healthy way with your partner well first of all so if that was a couple that was in my office um it’s first of all learning about those two people right so what informs and we all have again we all have a biological response to fear and threat which is going to be fight flight freeze or fawn okay and that’s hardwired in there um and so what I would do with a couple who was in my office where one person was more avoidant and one person was more pursuant is learning about what informs for that individual who is more avoidant where’s that coming from and generally speaking people don’t love to walk away it’s usually because they don’t know how to manage themselves in you know staying in their window of tolerance in the face of their partner if their partner is unhappy with them or upset about something and so we need to create what does that mean what does that mean you know what does that mean that they don’t uh trust themselves or understand themselves in that one we all have a window of tolerance right so our arousal level which has nothing to do with sex but everything to do with our mood we all have kind of our natural arousal level and there are circumstances where we get out of our window of tolerance where we become dysregulated um in conflict in in concern when somebody is upset with us when something has happened that can take us out of our window of tolerance and when we’re out of our window of tolerance we are going to see some primitive behaviors potentially right and those primitive behaviors often can be younger parts of ourselves can often be maybe not nearly as rational or relational as we like to think we are when we’re in a regulated state and so this happens in relationships right because again remember I said there is nothing more difficult than being in an intimate relationship with a significant partner because it’s a primary attachment which means that there is going to be opportunity for us to be dysregulated often right and so knowing how to work with each other’s nervous systems and work with each other’s arousal level and work with each other’s attachment style and work with each other’s personalities is part of how a couple can become safe and secure because they’re not going to be different people but they need to learn how to read each other they need to learn how to co-regulate they need to know how to still be friendly even when they’re upset they need to know how to do this in a way that is relationally focused I can be upset with you but it’s not okay for me to be harmful intentionally just because I’m upset and so knowing and teaching couples how to be relational in this exquisitely sensitive area is part of a couple having a skill set to know how to deal with conflict without being harmful or hurtful how do you teach that in session like so this is literally I do most of my um work from the pact model which is the psychobiological approach to couples therapy and in that um it actually is really about teaching couples giving couples the skills to know how to who I’m in relationship with having each other’s owner’s manual and it’s you know people often come into therapy thinking I just you know we need to work on our communication right who doesn’t say that and yet it’s you know when couples fight about money sex kids mass you know work um but rarely is that what it’s about it’s usually that we don’t really understand what happens for ourselves and then certainly our partner when we are getting out of our window of tolerance when we are getting upset and what we often do because we’re self-referential because again that brain is more wired for war than it is for love in those moments that we feel that our partner is not getting us we might get defensive and we kind of go into that more primitive I need to protect myself kind of thing and behavior and we can often push our partner away in those moments and see them as the enemy as opposed to I don’t understand what’s happening right now but I really want to can we slow this down and really help us to figure out what’s going on for one another it’s very in vivo in vivo meaning when people are in my office this is like we literally slow things down and it’s moment by moment on what’s happening for each partner to help them understand themselves and the person that they’re in relationship with and when you have that understanding um you’re not necessarily going to be as reactive because wow I know what’s happening for you and I know maybe that that was reflective of how you were responded to when you were younger and so because I have this understanding now I am going to use that information to be friendly and not threatening as much as possible as much as I can consciously be aware of in this moment so that we can deal with whatever it is that’s coming up that’s brilliant I feel like you know people should be learning how to do this 100 from the gap this should be something that’s taught in school absolutely and leadership skills and it’s not exactly just like finances and taught in school right yes yes exactly like life skills to help us be better in relationships because we’re biological beings we are hardwired for connection and yet then we get in those connections and all of our stuff comes up because right that’s what happens and so it’s not that that’s not gonna happen it’s how do we deal with it how do we help people learn you’re normal you’re normal and this is hard and so let’s help you figure this out right in a way that keeps you together in a way that um has you focused on the relationship and taking care of the relationship because the relationship is a living breathing entity that requires care but we again in this kind of western culture of self-orientation you know kind of see it’s my perspective or my needs getting met as opposed to what is the relationship need how do we take care of the relationship because when partners do that they actually get taken care of too when is a good time to break up when is a good time to stop having these conversations and let him walk away or walk away yourself or you know essentially call it quits and be able to accept that this relationship wasn’t really meant to be I think that when the relationship is no longer serving healing and growth for both partners um and again we’re referring to a more traditional kind of monogamous heterosexual or homosexual dynamic here um but in a two-person system as opposed to polyamorous um that when it’s no longer serving healing and growth and despite conversations there is not sustainable um sustainable change in that we are both behaving in a way that is taking care of this relationship and we are both behaving in a way that we recognize that this relationship is the most important thing because we live in a society that tells us that you get married you get married for life in that if you don’t get married for life then there’s something wrong with you and that’s a failure and in my experience um that is not true again because I believe that relationships about healing and growth when that container is no longer serving that um then that’s completed that’s not a failure but it’s hard because oftentimes partners don’t want to deal with reality and the reality being that maybe we not we aren’t meant to be together anymore because maybe one of us um we don’t have you know a shared value system or maybe we don’t have the same principles around you know the beliefs around a relationship and again it’s not right or wrong good or bad people are not you know bad people because the relationship is no longer serving one or both of them and that’s often what’s hard is that it takes one person to end a relationship it takes two people to work on it and so none of us want to be left um and that in and of itself is going to create lots of challenging complex feelings even if the relate we know that the relationship is not in our best interest anymore because breaking up and detaching is hard yes now tell me about this vibrator that that’s on your neck you’re wearing you’re wearing a vibrator necklace yes that that you can turn on yes and and has different functions yes yeah yes so um this is a vespa and I first learned about it I follow um dr um emily morrow’s um sex with emily okay and I learned this um from her and her belief and you know many uh women who are sexual educators believe that vibrators and women’s access to pleasure um should be just that accessible and beautiful and so um she worked in conjunction with the company that they created these beautiful pieces of um artwork that are functional too but it’s a beautiful necklace that you’re wearing with a blazer and you know you could be working in an office yes right yes you could go to the bathroom to pee and then uh scratch that itch [Laughter] I guess it’s the idea but I mean we also have to be about awareness of appropriateness and timing well it is so there’s no sound to it I mean there is a sound it’s a gentle it’s a gentle it’s a gentle there’s a gentle and you might be able to hear it on the mic okay but different levels of um like different options okay yes just like a regular vibrator you might be able to hear it on the mic but you actually can’t like actually I’m sitting pretty close to you and you can’t actually hear it hear it yes so you could totally take it into a bathroom stallion experience self-pleasure in that moment well like where would you be able to have accessible private pleasure for yourself yeah if not in a bathroom like you know in public in public but again where we go we go so you know it is with us wherever we may want to experience that this is the tease [Laughter] I could get off at any time right here right I need nobody but myself great sense of power in that right not sure to be your measure right and seeking things from a state of sensuality well thank you so much for coming on the show and talking to me about this any last words any last words for people who are control freaks in relationships who are control peaks in relationships I think really just I’d really encourage not a sound bite but just really encourage people who find themselves to be anxious in that regards to be curious with themselves and maybe dive deeper around trying to understand what’s informing that and where it’s coming from and also like the effects it’s having on people on people around you and I think something you you brought up where um while we were talking as you said um how it’s really important for two people to prioritize the relationship and I think like you know aside from this topic there’s so many things that that advice really applies in so many different areas especially when it comes to like say family and uh having family sort of poke their nose in your relationship and that’s a topic in itself but um you know that that’s really really really strong decent good advice right when you when you marry somebody or you get into any sort of relationship with that person uh you have to prioritize that person absolutely and because if you don’t again being we minded is very different than being I minded right and so if you have two individuals who have these individual parallel existences as opposed to we are we and we’re working towards a shared vision you’re going to have uh intersections of power struggles because we’re not on the same page around how we see this relationship and what we’re doing here and so that can create massive conflict and people don’t understand it do you think therapy everybody should kind of go to therapy yes I do I think that everybody can benefit um from individual and couple therapy to your point we don’t learn about skills right relationship skills growing up and yet relational self-awareness is not an innate um skill that we have the ability to reflect on how am I impacting on other people how are you experiencing me in this moment um those are not skills necessarily that people have and yet they’re essential when we are being relational right and so a hundred percent I believe that everybody should go for therapy um unfortunately it’s not necessarily accessible or affordable to everybody and I think that everyone in particular with couples therapy is again there is still well with individual therapy people there seems to be a great understanding and there seems to be more awareness and less stigma with couples therapy there is still I will say in my experience with the couples that come in um very few I’d say less than 10 come in from a place of strength and we just kind of want to you know be better most people are coming in with a concern or an issue um that has been there and has been present for a long period of time yeah it’s couples therapy is often the last straw right oh my goodness and often times couples are coming in five to seven years late meaning that they have created they’ve been living kind of in this state um maybe unconsciously that has eroded away um at the sense of safety and security in their relationship and so that’s the state that they’re starting at and there’s often a lot of anger and dis-ease um and guardedness and defensiveness and that you know you know itself makes it really difficult and yet 100 they’re there and let’s hope that they can they can see that they’re on the same page here well my parents were together for 33 years they they broke up at that 33-year mark but it was like a few months before they broke up that they went to therapy they went to therapy 33 years 33 years right and there were so many issues that were unresolved in that time and if therapy was really the last straw you know in that sense maybe like you know couples come to see me and the shared vision may be about working on the relationship with a shared vision be about learning how to consciously uncouple in a way that is respectful and loving and um you know uh wanting to honor what we’ve had um but that it’s no longer serving us right and the problem is that um 33 years or five years is you know we have to be able to recognize that this isn’t serving us anymore whatever this was and learn to look forward and either end the relationship in a way that takes care of both of us or let’s do things differently and that’s hard right it’s like learning a new language right right imagine doing that in adulthood how difficult that is and just trying to see your partner in a different way yes trying to rewrite your relationship trying to essentially take an eraser to all that time um because she cannot do negativistic in nature right yeah so it can make it really difficult yeah relationships are hard yeah and that’s why you know from the get-go you want to be having those conversations about do we have a shared vision do we see relationships from the same perspective and it’s okay if we don’t by the way that doesn’t mean anything other than okay maybe we’re not going to do life together and and again that’s part of dating is learning and assessing who you are spending time with to see if you can build something together and want to build something together thank you so much for coming on the show thank you guys so much for watching if you guys would like to hear more about Michelle and what she does check out her website down below and don’t forget to like subscribe and hit that notification bell for more episodes to come see you bye you