ERP 210: How Emotionally Intelligent Men are Key to a Lasting Relationship, an Interview with Kyle Benson [Transcript]

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Hi, thank you for joining today’s podcast episode. Today’s episode is 210, “How emotionally intelligent men are key to a lasting relationship”, an interview with Kyle Benson.

Before we get started I wanna take a moment and ground with you. I’m going to be setting the intention of the Empowered Relationship podcast, and as I do, I wanna invite you to join in that intention with me, or perhaps really check into your own intention, what’s meaningful to you in this moment, as we’re sharing in this time together.

The intention of the Empowered Relationship podcast is for you to feel more prepared, better equipped in navigating the terrain of long-lasting intimacy with your significant other, in the interest of improving the quality of that connection, and also growing yourself. There are many components to this, as are the many topics discussed on this show, again, in the interest of helping you feel supported, and perhaps getting some guidance along this journey. I am in this pursuit with you, I do my very best to practice these principles in my own marriage and relationship.

If you would like access to today’s show notes, you can visit DrJessicaHiggins.com, click on Podcast, and you can find all the episodes there listed there. Today’s episode, again, is 210, “How emotionally intelligent men are key to a lasting relationship”, an interview with Kyle Benson. Let’s get started in today’s interview.

Kyle Benson is an Intentional Intimate Relationship coach providing practical, research-based tools to build long-lasting relationships. Kyle is best known for his compassion and non-judgmental style and his capacity to see the root problem.

 

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Kyle, thank you so much for joining us today.

Kyle Benson: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Yes, and I know you have so many topics that you could address, and one of the areas that we’re gonna be looking at today is emotional intelligence in men, and how that perhaps is a big contributor to a lasting relationship.

Kyle Benson: Yeah, absolutely.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Before we just get started, maybe people who aren’t as acquainted with you, are you open to sharing a little bit about what got you interested in supporting people with relationship and couples?

Kyle Benson: Yeah, I will. It’s interesting, I think a lot of us in this space usually come to this space for ourselves in a way, and that’s definitely true for me… I had been in a relationship where it has lasted a few years, I ended up getting cheated on, and I started to notice that I had a  really anxious attachment. I was pretty insecure about myself. I would [00:03:54.00] things that I wanted to do, trying to please my partner. I wanted to honor what was important to me.

This all kind of came to a head when I was in a relationship… I ended up working a lot, and I developed an auto-immune disease that pretty much covered my body, head to toe, with red spots. And it was pretty much my personal health crisis. I kind of remember thinking about that, and sitting in a chair and going “How on earth did I get here? Where did I go wrong?” And for some reason, my relationships, my romantic relationships came to mind. That was where I had the most anxiety, the most uncertainty, the most fears that I was not lovable… And a lot of pain, too.

So kind of being forced to self-isolate with my illness, and feeling a lot of shame, and not wanting to be seen by other people, as well as to address the change in my life, I started picking up books. So I picked up a book called Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. It talks about attachment theory. And then “What makes love last” by Dr. John Gottman. Those really connected with me, so I started writing about that, I started getting into the research… Really trying to solve the problems for myself.

Then friends ended up noticing that, they read some articles I wrote, those got published on Huffington Post, other places like that… The Gottman Institute started sharing those. I offered to manage their blog, so I got connected with the Gottman Institute.  I ran their blog for about 13 months. The Love Lab opened up again, and now I work as a research assistant at Love Lab, managing research studies and helping couples, decoding their conversations to figure out how positive or negative they are. So I’m a huge researcher in that way… And it’s been a whirlwind of a journey.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: No kidding. I feel like that in of itself — I could dive into so many different aspects. So I guess I’m just curious if you’re open to sharing how is your health now, having addressed some of those anxious tendencies in attachment.

Kyle Benson: Yeah, so right now I’m on immunosuppressant medication, but I have no visible spots of psoriasis, which is pretty remarkable. I mean, if you go to my About page on my website you’ll see how bad it was. I was like that for about four years… So yeah, I feel way better about my health, more connected to my body, and that’s some of the stuff we’ll talk about when we talk about emotional intelligence, using the information our body gives us, and being able to attune to that, and why it’s so important.

But I think going through this field, doing my own individual therapy, my own coaching, it’s really forced me to connect mostly with myself, and that’s been a very healing journey, which has led to me being more connected with my friends, my family, and most importantly, my romantic partner as well.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Yeah, I love that there’s the personal transformation that you’ve experienced. When we’ve done that inner work, I think we can be of that much better assistance, having gone the journey. I know it’s a forever-evolving journey, but just to have that real wake-up, and to feel it so somatically, and to turn towards it and really endeavor on this… It sounds like it’s a big part of your work in the world.

Kyle Benson: Yeah, it is, and I think that’s what helps build trust with my clients. They will be like “Oh, you’ve been there.” And I notice when they really struggle, sometimes it’s appropriate for me to self-disclose some of the stuff I’ve struggled with… And often, that builds a trust like “Okay, I can lean in and try to experiment with this new way of being, or these difficult feelings”, and often that can lead to some different ways of engaging in relationships, and often more secure connections… So it’s really meaningful in that way.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Absolutely. Thank you for sharing… So for listeners that have been listening to the show for any length of time, they’re familiar with John Gottman, and also the book “Attached”, as I’ve referenced both… But I’m not sure — I mean, I think I’ve talked about Love Labs a little, but would you be able to share, for people who don’t know, what the Love Labs are?

Kyle Benson: Yeah, so back in the 1980s, 1990s John Gottman started observing couples. He partnered with his close friend, Robert Levenson. They had been through a lot of relationships, John and him, and both had failed marriages, and they’re like “We don’t know how these things work.” So they decided to observe couples; so they had couples come in, these couples would get wired up… And I actually have a picture on my website, of me and my partner wired up, with these things on our faces; you have a pulse oximeter for the pulse rate, and that measures your heart rate, it measures physiology, a whole bunch of really cool measurements.

Then you have a conversation about just random things, events in your life that are going on, and then you have a 50-minute conversation about conflict. And during that time, we’re measuring what’s going on inside your bodies, your heart rates, how much that fluctuates… And then we have the couples rate those conversations positive or negative, and then we have trained coders such as myself who will then come in and rate those conversations, too. We combine all that data, and use that to determine how positive or negative the conversation was inside the person, as well as by outside observers. And we use that to inform the direction of the treatment with couples.

But the Love Lab back in the day was just to see if we can find reliable patterns. And what John and Rob Levenson discovered was that when there’s a presence of these four horsemen, which we might talk a little bit about today, when that becomes the habitual way of communicating, the relationship ends up divorcing about 6.7 years later. And then for couples who are emotionally disengaged, who don’t really engage in conflict, but kind of live parallel lives, they end up divorcing about 16 years later.

Another really cool findings he found is that couples who have a stable relationship have five positive interactions to every negative interaction within a conflict conversation. So even happy couples can be critical of each other, they can be defensive at times, but what keeps them on track is that they often supplement that with more positivity things of “Hey, you do this thing right”, “I love you, I care about you”, the use humor… So there’s a lot of really amazing findings that John and his team of researchers back then found, that work on [unintelligible 00:10:44.05]

Dr. Jessica Higgins: It’s one of the reasons I’m so grateful for the work you all are doing up there, because I think having those findings and incorporation the physiology is just so illuminating and helpful to have that research-based data.

So as it relates to emotional intelligence in men, help me with where — I mean, I have my own thoughts about this, but I guess I’m just curious how it fits in the overall picture of what you guys are researching, or how you came about really identifying this topic.

Kyle Benson: Yeah, so we’re not actually researching this currently – this came a lot more from John’s earlier research – but what we kind of notice is men who  are emotionally engaged were able to pick up on the subtle cues of their wives/romantic partner’s emotions had much more stable relationships, because they’re more sensitive to what was going on in their partner’s inner world per se.

The other thing is they had more of an emotion coaching philosophy. So they saw emotions as something that was positive and useful… Whereas someone who is not as emotionally intelligent, and might have been raised in a family culture that dismisses emotion, or even criticized you for emotions – so you grow up with a emotion-dismissing philosophy… So when your partner is sad or angry – difficult emotions that people deal with – because you were raised in a climate that doesn’t support that, you often dismiss or discredit your partner’s emotions. What that does is that causes them to feel isolated, disconnected, unsupported, it prevents trust from being built… So it leads to a whole cascade of negative events that go on.

One of the things we know from the research is that when a partner is emotionally dismissive, it creates this ongoing cycle where a problem will occur, conflicts will occur, they’ll dismiss those initial things, and then events after events occur without them ever being processed or really repaired. So it just leads to negativity compounding over time, and it kind of ruins the relationship in that way. Does that make sense?

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Yeah, so you’re talking about some of the indicators perhaps for emotional intelligence are to be able to read cues, and perhaps even facial expressions, or be able to attune to their significant other’s emotion, and then also to be having a positive frame around emotions, and that they are valuable, versus blocking them, cutting them off, suppressing them, dismissing them… And then thirdly,  over time, just looking at the long-term effect of having this backlog of unresolved, unrepaired injury, and how that’s really damaging to the bond.

Kyle Benson: Exactly, yeah. And I think one of the biggest things we can summarize is that emotionally intelligent partners often turn towards difficult emotions in their partners and themselves. When their partner is angry, they will ask about what’s going on. If their partner is sad, they’ll check in. They move towards those emotions, even if it feels really difficult, even if it’s overwhelming a little bit for them, they turn towards it… Whereas other times they’re just turning away, and avoiding it, or trying to pretend it isn’t there; and that’s a huge metric we use to determine how successful a couple is in moving the relationship forward, and really being emotionally connected and emotionally supported, which is very important.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Which sounds like it really connects with the attachment research.

Kyle Benson: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s having that person who can help you move through these emotions, and really connect with them, and having that secure base, where when the world’s not safe, you can go to that person and kind of vent, or feel  safe and connected, and regulate your nervous system…

There’s a whole bunch of nerdy things we can talk about, but I think it’s just this feeling of home. It’s like “Oh my gosh, I walk in the door and I can vent to you, and tell you about how annoying Dave, who broke the printer three times again today, and how Stacy was complaining about this at work, and I just can’t stand it…” To be able to let those emotions be present, without your partner saying “Well, it sounds like you had a tough day at work. I am busy, leave me alone.” There is a very big difference between coming to a home where your partner is like “Oh, tell me what happened. Oh, my goodness. That must have been hard” or “Yeah… Gosh, that’s annoying.” Really connecting and using those moments to turn towards each other, whereas some  other partners walk in the door and they start venting and their partner is like “Well, you should just be positive. We have so much to be grateful for”, and it really dismisses those difficult emotions that are really longing to be seen from an attachment frame.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: And also, conversely, when we haven’t had that positive experience in the past, don’t have a positive frame around these difficult emotions, or have no roadmap around how this can be healing in the end, it’s hard to confront.

Kyle Benson: Oh, yeah. It feels dangerous. The person who might be more attachment-avoidant, when these difficult emotions come up, their coping response that they’ve learned, adapted to from their childhood and upbringing, and other relationships, is to avoid that stuff. Get away from it. It’s not safe to feel that stuff, because their family culture – and many clients I’ve worked with – their parents attacked them for that, or dismissed them, or they didn’t get attention and connection, so they’ve learned really quickly to avoid that stuff, and try to be positive all the time, because that led to more connection. So it’s really hard in their romantic relationship, when they seek for connection and their partner is seeking for connection through these negative emotions, and wanting that support, and the partner starts dismissing, and we kind of have this mismatch, that really leads to a lot of escalating conflicts and feelings that — that partners will say “You’re just not there for me. You don’t care about me, I’m not important to you”, which really comes down to emotions – how do we deal with that? Does that make sense?

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Yes… And if we can bring in the gender aspect – and I know we’re gonna be speaking in stereotypical terms here, but there’s a layer, and I don’t know if it’s a cultural layer, or evolutionary layer, or both, but how are you identifying men as being more of a component into lasting relationships as it relates to emotional intelligence?

Kyle Benson: Yeah, so I think there’s some interesting research. We’ll talk about the research in relationships and then we’ll broaden out to cultural stuff and influences. So what we know from the research, particularly from John Gottman’s research, is that — his research shows that 80% of the time complaints in relationship are brought up by the female partner. The female partner turns towards and wants to work on things, use that as an opportunity to build and improve the relationship. If we go to attachment research, men are often more avoidant, more distant, more isolated, more disconnected, and kind of dismissive of emotions.

Really, if we look at our cultural dynamics, men are very often taught to not acknowledge emotions that are difficult – sadness, fear – but we’re taught really to express anger. That’s really the only difficult emotion we’re taught to show. And even growing up as a kid, I was called a sissy, or a girl, shaming me for having feelings that were very human. So you kind of grow up learning that feeling those emotions, expressing those emotions is wrong; it’s not something you as a boy or a man should do. You cut off from that part of yourself, so it makes it really tough to feel connected to your partner when your own part is really cut off and fragmented as well.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: And I imagine, as you mentioned, coping strategies that men who resonate in this description have learned ways to clamp down or suppress their own emotional world… So when their partner is turning towards them with their difficult emotion, it’s probably so overwhelming.

Kyle Benson: Yeah, it’s very overwhelming, and it’s tough to feel that stuff, especially when you’ve had a lifetime being taught not to feel that stuff. And I think that’s one of the things that’s really challenging in therapy for these guys – pushing them to slow down, feel what’s going on in their bodies; everything below the neck [unintelligible 00:19:38.09] and it’s hard to sit with that stuff, because sitting with that stuff in the past was threatening. It was a sign that they were doing something wrong, it was a sign of possible rejection, of possible pain, possible isolation, of humiliation… So it makes a lot of sense that men in our social climate would grow up in this way without having that.

I actually recently wrote about the Coronavirus. If we think about how this social isolation is happening, how we’re distancing… If we were to put that in a sense of emotions – “Hey, we’re gonna cut off from some of these emotions to protect ourselves”, now when this virus eventually goes away and we have a treatment for it, the world can kind of go back to how it was a little bit before [unintelligible 00:20:28.08] do some of those things, and life will change. But imagine if we continue to operate as if the virus was around, even though the queues are out there. We never opened the restaurants, we didn’t open the gyms anymore – that’s kind of what happens to these men who have a difficult time with emotions; at one point they learn that these emotions are more dangerous than safe, but they never felt safe enough to tap back into them and go back out into the world with all of these emotions that they have. Does that make sense?

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Absolutely. I often find myself when I’m working with a couple and this is feeling present, I will be describing just — there’s a learning curve here, and perhaps stereotypically he hasn’t had as much practice or support, because you’re saying all of these negative messages…

Just the other night my husband and I were sharing memories about the past, and he was talking about a movie that touched him so deeply when he was young. And he was crying, but he said “I played it off like I felt I was ill, because it didn’t feel okay to be crying.” So there’s a lot of these negative messages, and yet conversely, I think women — I think there’s more acceptance (again, stereotypically), and also there’s a lot of support, in the way that perhaps we’re late and there’s a lot more interpersonal sharing going on… So not only are men getting negative messages, but women are often supported and given space to share emotion.

Kyle Benson: Yeah, and we even look at men in movies. Look at James Bond – very isolated, very disconnected, and his relationships are very superficial. But he is idolizing our culture. That tells us something. The superhero is often someone who ends up having to fight out of things alone, really kind of stand up for himself. There’s not usually a lot of support. And I think that is very telling for how as a culture we’re raising boys and men to be… And it is true. I often have much more closer relationships with my female friends than I do with my male friends, unless they’ve gone through therapy or done other things and they are much more open and in touch and into those feelings and those connections.

Growing up, we didn’t talk about feeling sad. You got broken up with someone? Okay, let’s go play a video game. You had a difficult experience in your life? Okay, let’s go shoot hoops, or something like that.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Exactly.

Kyle Benson: It’s very like “Let’s not talk about it.” Whereas one of the things you’re noticing on the playground – if one girl gets hurt while playing jump rope or playing soccer or basketball or whatever they’re doing, the girls will stop the game and go and check in with her emotionally. Who would have thought, right?

You see that boys do that – boy gets injured, they’ll bring the ball over to him and say “Okay, let’s keep playing.” It’s very like “Let’s get back to the game.”

Dr. Jessica Higgins: They start making jokes, or… Yeah.

Kyle Benson: “You’re a sissy”, and then the kid walks off crying, and gets shamed… And you know, then he learns the lesson that these difficult emotions are not safe to share. You can’t feel these.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Yes… So I’m curious what you find in helping men that are contemplating the positive benefit of turning towards emotion. I mean, it’s a little bit of a sales pitch, because they don’t know; it’s not based on anything they’ve experienced… And I will say, there’s so many times I’m also talking to women (stereotypically), that the capacity is there; it’s just there’s a bit of a bridge that we’re trying to build.

I was hiking the other day with my friend, and I don’t talk about anything content-related with my clients, but I’ve found myself saying out loud, “I’m so impressed with these men showing up for their wives, and being able to access emotion and be present.” It’s so profound when they’re in the learning curve and they’re getting it, and they do have capacity, it’s just that sometimes learning is not always easy.

So the question is, what are you finding to help men who maybe have had this negative association with emotion, helping them pivot and start to approach emotion, and what do you find helpful there?

Kyle Benson: So I really like to start with them. A lot of times I’ll do a Gottman emotion philosophy interview, and we’ll just talk about how emotions would show up in their family, how they would show up as a child. When they were sad, who would they go to? Essentially, kind of mapping out their attachment when it comes to emotion, and the messages they got from that. What happened when their mom was sad? What happened when their data was sad?

Often you hear the guy say “I think I saw my dad cry once, but that was when I found him in the garage by himself.” Okay, what’s that message? How does that live in your body?”

Initially, I start with an intellectual thing to kind of open them up emotionally, and then really start to get them to work on expressing that stuff, and I use a little bit more EFT kind of attunement where I’m connecting with them and going “Oh my gosh, that sounds like sadness. What’s that like in your body?” And really kind of connecting with them and creating space for them to sit in those emotions and feel them, rather than dismiss them.

And even when they start to dismiss them, kind of going “Oh, it seems like it’s really tough to sit with this. Tell me how that feels in your body.” Really getting them to experience how quickly they minimize or dismiss that stuff, and building that capacity to sit with what goes on inside of them. As I build that capacity with them, then I also allow their partner to come in and kind of build that capacity, and letting them learn how to attune to their partner’s emotions, to validate… It’s really beautiful. And one of the things we find is as the withdrawer, the guy who is more avoidant kind of  starts to engage a little bit more, the partner who typically – this might be the female in stereotypical researchers [unintelligible 00:26:54.16] will actually get softer. Because often one of the very common problems that you know of as well is pursue a distance pattern that couples get in, where the pursuer will get really critical and be very judgmental and attacking, and the withdrawer will just distance, distance, distance.

So as the withdrawer gets closer and more connected, the pursuer also over time will soften and get more gentle, and actually with the right help will really connect to each other in that way.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Yes, I appreciate the work that you’re doing, and I have seen this also. So many times I will just hear men come in to work, the therapeutic space, and say “I don’t have emotions”, just really claim outright “I don’t feel, I don’t have emotions”, and then kind of doing something similar to what you’re describing – I’m a big fan of the EFT and Susan Johnson’s work as well… And just helping them access and just seeing how it’s so — they and their partner is like “Oh my god, I had no idea…” And you’re right, the softening, when their spouse gets tearful and starts connecting…

Kyle Benson: It’s the gift of what we get when we are able to witness that. It’s such a joy to see that transformation and that new shift in themselves… Because that’s really — they’re taking a choice to step into something that’s unfamiliar, that’s scary, and particularly for men who have been in the military, they’re taught not to engage with emotions [unintelligible 00:28:30.13]

So we don’t touch emotions, we don’t wanna engage it, but when they start to touch into that in their relationship and we create that safer space, it’s really beautiful for when they come in connection with their partners, and their partner is like “I had no idea he had all these emotions.” Just like  you said, the other partner is often shocked, like “Wow, this person isn’t a brick wall? This person has a heart? I had no idea.” That’s because it was never shown to them, and now as they start to get to see that, it’s like this veil comes up, and the mask kind of comes off their partner, and they start to see each other a lot better.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: So for a listener who is perhaps identifying — I do have a fair amount of male listeners, and I love that… And also perhaps a woman that’s in a relationship with a man in a heterosexual relationship, and they’re kind of recognizing “Oh, perhaps he  hasn’t had this background where it’s been safe”, what would you recommend? Would it be something like an inventory like that you’re describing, that they would do with themselves, like journaling? As a listener that’s just even contemplating “Oh, I could probably benefit from learning some emotional intelligence”, is there anything you would recommend?

Kyle Benson: Yeah, I would — I mean, if you’re doing this by yourself, I would recommend thinking about the different emotions that come up, like sadness, anger, fear, disgust, shame, some of these things (even joy) that come up, that are present, that are all human emotions that everyone feels… And kind of thinking through your childhood and the family climate, the emotional climate that you grew up in. What was that environment like? When you expressed sadness, what would you do? When you expressed joy, how would that be expressed? How was pride shown in your family culture? What about when someone was angry, what did that look like?

Then thinking about who you would go to, and also other siblings, who they might go to… And you’ll start to get a little bit of a blueprint of how you grew up emotionally, and kind of the messages you got. That’s one of the important things, as “Oh, I learned that sadness was not okay. That as a boy and a man, if you feel sadness, you’re weak, and dad is gonna yell at you and shame you for that… So don’t feel sadness. And that’s the rule I created.” Well, that’s a starting point to start to go “Okay, how does this rule impact my relationship? If I’m sad, what do I do? Do I isolate, go work in the shop? Do I never tell my partner?” And just starting to get a frame of how we operate with those emotions now is gonna be a great place to start.

Then from there, if you’re open to it, you start to go “Okay, let me experiment with different ways of being with this emotion”, and you start to create a little bit more safety around feeling this stuff, and then you start to see “Okay, let me see if I can risk expressing sadness to my partner. How do they respond if I do that?”

So it’s really a playful experimentation around that if you’re doing this independently. If you’re doing it with your partner, it’ll be a lot easier for them to support you with that.

One of the exercises that I have couples do that I really like is called the Stress-reducing Conversation, where one partner just vents about whatever is going on emotionally for them, and then the other partner just listens and attunes. That can be a really helpful exercise to validate and make it okay to feel that stuff. The problem I have with men, they often say “I have nothing to complain about. I have nothing to vent about.” And again, that goes back into “Well, you were taught very early on not to worry about things. To let things slide off your back per se.”

And what I want you to focus on is, you know, really even the little things that might irritate you or bug you, I want you to try and remember those, and I want you to try to speak to those a little bit more, talk about the emotions that are coming up with that. That can start to be a gateway into exploring this stuff a little bit more deeply. And then obviously, if you’re struggling with that, look  at hiring a professional who can really help you connect with those emotions, and with your partner, too.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Thank you for that. If you’d be willing to share that article, I’d love to share it with people. And I’m curious, do you find that — I don’t know if you work with people that struggle with anger management, but I have found sometimes this is so related…

Kyle Benson: Yeah, anger can be an emotion that particularly — like I said, men really express that anger, and I see a lot of men who go “Oh, I’ve gotta go to anger management stuff.” And it’s very helpful to do that; I would highly recommend men who often have explosive anger or range, and sometimes break things, I would highly recommend exploring some anger management group programs, or things like that.

What happens in those programs is men are able to start to tap into what’s underneath that anger. What’s all the stuff that’s been bottled up inside, that is exploding in this anger. Sometimes we’ll find sadness, sometimes we’ll find traumas they’ve been through, memories of their parents neglecting them, and anger that’s been buried for so long, that they haven’t been able to access because it was too dangerous… So as  you kind of go through this, you start to see that the anger is a cover-up of the more softer feelings, and the more vulnerability. It’s this protective shield that they put on to not show the world what’s really going on inside.

So it can be really helpful to really start to — once there is a little bit more control with anger, to really explore deeply what’s going on within there… And often I find, particularly with those types of clients, having someone help guide you, a therapist, is gonna be the most powerful thing for you, because they will really help you tap into and explore what happens in your emotional world before you explode, when you explode, and start to get you more language emotionally to connect with yourself, and then express that stuff in different ways, before that rage and anger comes bursting out of your body.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Absolutely. Thank you for sharing your perspective. And the last question – I’m not sure if you’ll have thoughts around this, but I have felt that over the last ten years, particularly with the information that’s so readily available, that there is a shift in consciousness, and I think men are really responding to a lot of this material… What do you recommend, if men are seeking to have these deeper conversations with other men, or just to have more support? Are you seeing anything emerge around that?

Kyle Benson: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been a part of men’s groups before; I went through the ManKind Project, and there’s an initiation, and then you get to do circling with men… And it’s a beautiful thing, because it’s so counter to how I was raised to be with other men. You get to see feelings, you get to see other men cry, and you get to kind of embrace them emotionally with that. And going through those experiences with other men, it’s like “Oh, my goodness. I now have permission to access that part in myself.” I think that’s what’s so beautiful about that.

Maybe you can put some men’s groups in the references of this podcast, but I think the ManKind Project – I really admire the work they’re doing there… And I think finding other men who are going through this will be very powerful, even if you’re doing couples therapy, even if you’re trying to improve these things with your relationship. That’s actually one of the things I recommend that all my male clients do, is to explore that as well.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Nice. Yeah, I’ve found that if I’m traveling and I’m in a different culture and I’m seeing how men are relating to each other, I’m like “Oh, this is so healing… Seeing men express affection with one another…” So I think I have recommended the ManKind Project, and I hadn’t met anybody that had gone through it, so it’s nice to hear your endorsement around that.

Well, Kyle, how do people get in touch with what you’re up to and what you’re offering?

Kyle Benson: Yeah, I think the best way to get in touch with me is just go to my website, KyleBenson.net. There’s about 150 articles there that you can browse, and there’s some resources around conflict, around emotional connection, around intimacy, that will kind of help you with the stuff we talked about today, about exploring what goes on for you, what goes on between you and your partner, and ways you can start to make shifts that will help you feel more connected and close with one another.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Nice. And do you work with people remotely?

Kyle Benson: I do. So I do coaching remotely. Right now I have a waitlist, so I’m kind of recommending people and connecting them with an EFT therapist or other coaches, or a certified Gottman therapist, which are models that I both understand pretty well and trust. So that’s what I’ve been doing a lot. So if you do wanna reach out and work with me, I can offer some recommendations, but right now I’m not taking on anyone new.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Gotcha. Well, I think I’ve found you through some of your articles and I was appreciating your perspective, so thank you for showing up today and being a voice for this very important topic.

Kyle Benson: Yeah, thank you for having me. I think it’s a really important conversation, particularly for me right now… There’s such an opportunity for us to move back into being wholehearted; really being all of who we are as human beings. To be emotional, and confident, and masculine in that way. I think there is a huge opportunity to redefine masculinity, redefine what it means to be a man in this world. I think any listener who is listening – you have that power to explore that, and there are some amazing resources, like the ManKind Project, my blog, listening to this podcast, there’s lovely books out there… This is a huge thing that if men can really kind of align to become more emotional, I think we’re gonna have a profound shift societally, in our intimate relationships, in children… I think it has the power to be hugely transformative even if just one listener from this starts to tap into that.

Dr. Jessica Higgins: Agreed.

 

I hope you have enjoyed today’s interview, again, with Kyle Benson. If you would like access to any of the links mentioned, again, I wanna encourage you to visit the show notes. Those notes can be found on your podcast player, they can also be found on my website, DrJessicaHiggins.com, click on Podcast, and you can find today’s episode there. Again, episode 210, “How emotionally intelligent men are key to a lasting relationship”, an interview with Kyle Benson.

Another resource that you can find on today’s show notes is a guide, “Shifting criticism into connected communication.” So often when couples are having difficulty connecting, and perhaps some of these things that were discussed in today’s episode are operating, and on surface level we might not know the deeper emotional world that’s happening for our significant other, and it’s easy to try to fill in the blank… And when we’re unhappy or their behavior threatens us – perhaps our partner is shutting down, or isn’t offering a lot of information, perhaps we will wonder “Do they even care? Are they engaged?” When we feel that wonder or worry or concern, sometimes a way to get our partner engaged is perhaps to use criticism… And I don’t think we’re intending to be critical, but by taking issue with somebody’s behavior, it can sound critical.

Unfortunately, when somebody hears criticism, the response is often defensiveness. And then this gets us off and running in a very disconnect pattern. We’re not really connecting, we’re not attuning to each other, and it tends to really erode at the bond over time.

So I encourage you, if  you’ve noticed criticism in your relationship, to access this free support guide – again, “How to shift criticism into connected communication.” This can be found on today’s show notes, which can be found on my website, DrJessicaHiggins.com, click on Podcast and find today’s episode, 210, and you’ll find all of those links mentioned.

Until next time, I hope you take great care.

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Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication.

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching