ERP 322: How To Develop Empowered Love — An Interview with Linda Bloom

By Posted in - Podcast May 31st, 2022 0 Comments

There are a lot of moving parts in relationships, such as your background, having children, career, previous relationships, and so on. So, how can you cultivate a more secure and intimate relationship with your partner? Should you lower your standards and expectations in order to avoid disappointment? Linda Bloom strongly disagrees with this notion. 

In this episode, Linda talks about how she and her husband took their relationship to the next level after a five-year irreconcilable difference gridlock and how they are now helping other couples cultivate an empowered relationship.

Linda Bloom, L.C.S.W., is a psychotherapist and marriage counselor who teaches relationship workshops. She is the co-author of four books including the best-selling 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married (over 100,000 copies sold). She is a regular teacher at Esalen Institute and Kripalu, with over 600 blogs on Psychology Today with over 10 million hits, and over 100 videos on her YouTube channel.

In this Episode

6:45 Linda and her husband’s journey to becoming an empowered couple that inspires other couples.

10:01 What true empowerment entails.

13:42 Limiting beliefs that keep people from gently and consistently co-creating a highly romantic relationship.

18:52 Lowering expectations versus encouraging one another to become their best selves.

22:37 Traits and characteristics of couples who have empowered relationships.

33:16 How to manage differences: the growth mindset.

40:45 Finding psychosocial support.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Break the victim mentality that is keeping you from seeing other ways to improve yourself.
  • Cultivate yourself so that you can inspire your partner to nurture their own unique strength.
  • Help each other become the best versions of yourselves.
  • Learn from your pain and use it to become a stronger, more compassionate, sensitive, and more loving human being.
  • Pay attention without passing judgment on yourself or others.
  • Do not act when emotions are high. Practice the pause before you say or do anything.

Mentioned

Link to 3 free e-books: An End to Arguing, The Ten Biggest Things We’ve Learned Since We Got Married, and Your Guide to Great Sex.

101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples about Lasting Love (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

Happily Ever After…and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

ERP 013: Balancing Intimacy and Autonomy in Relationship

ERP 297: How to Enhance Emotional Intimacy in Your Relationship in Your Relationship – An Interview with Amber Dalsin

ERP 300: How to Set Your Relationship Up for Success

ERP 100: Three Building Blocks For A Conscious Intimate Relationship

Shifting Criticism for Connected Communication

Relationship Map To Happy, Lasting Love

Connect with Linda Bloom

Website: bloomwork.com

Facebook: facebook.com/lindaandcharliebloom

Twitter: twitter.com/bloomwork

YouTube: youtube.com/channel/UCV3lPZs0gRNYCTQ6vgz4Q6Q

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Linda Bloom, thank you for joining us today.

I’m so glad to be with you, Jessica. Thanks for inviting me.

Well, you’re an honored guest. You and your husband have been supporting people, clinicians, and just helping people grasp relationship concepts for many years. I just love having very experienced and renowned teachers and authors on the show, and I know we’re privileged to have your appearance today. So thank you again.

Thank you for your warm acknowledgment of our work.

Yeah. We’re going to be talking about a topic that is very near and dear to my heart, and is related to the name of the show: Empowered Relationship. You and your husband have done so much to help people understand. Before we go into today’s topic, I know this might span and we could probably spend the whole entire show talking about what got you interested in supporting people in the way of relationships. Is there anything you want to say about just how this spoke to you or how you got called into this?

Thank you for asking, Jessica. My husband and I enjoyed 12 years before he became a corporate climbing guy, where we just had ordinary challenges. Then when our three children were quite small, he took a job that was extremely demanding, and it was commonplace for him to work 80 hours a week. He and I had an agreement that we were going to mutually support each other’s careers, because career has always been really important to me, and that we were going to bring up the children together. He was missing in action, and we were in an irreconcilable difference/gridlock for five years. He loved his job, and he felt like this was heaven-sent to him. I was struggling because my career was very much on hold, and I didn’t want to be single parenting my kids. I’m a togetherness person and very family-oriented. 

So out of our trials and tribulations, we stuck it out, we were committed, and we had some beautiful things that bonded us. Once we got through that ordeal and very demanding time, I was telling my story to a lot of the people that we were working with, we were teaching, we were counseling, and they were so grateful to have us tell stories on ourselves. The before and after: how we went from a run of the mill good relationship to one that was a train wreck, and how we put it back together and how we became an empowered couple. So it became our specialty and our gift to our community. 

I want to quote a person who is near and dear to me, Robert Bly. He says, “Allow your wound to become your gift to your community.” So I feel that that’s what we’ve been doing for the last few decades is telling people our gory stories of distress, and how we made gold out of that.

No kidding! It even sounds as though I don’t hear you speaking to it explicitly, but that what has come from this journey has been that much more transformational.

That’s exactly right. I don’t believe that we would have come as far and that our relationship would be as deep – and that we would have the clarity that we have when we teach, write, and counsel people – without having gone through the things that we did go through. We were in the trenches, and people seem to really like it that we tell the stories on ourselves. It seems to give them hope. They say: “Oh, that couple was so screwed up and look at the beautiful relationship they have now, we can do at least that well.”

Well, I love the playfulness, and I love the humility that you’re speaking to. I also hear the example that you and your husband have been willing to shine and show to your community and broader. I think this is so incredibly important, because as humans, I think we learn from each other. So when we’re exposed to an empowered relationship, that has an impact, whether or not it’s even explicitly taught, or if it’s just being exposed to or even being an example, like seeing an example of. Honestly, I’ll just say, Linda, this prompted my dissertation research. In that I had been taught a lot of personal growth principles, had a master’s in psychology, and I still felt really ill-equipped to negotiate intimacy. I spawned myself in a whole self-study, and I was like: “People need to know this. I don’t think the average person, unless they’re actively self-studying, knows this.” Now I think that has changed in the last decade or so, with all the new science around attachment and research and how many people are teaching relationship principles. But by and large, I feel like relationships are so intimate and can be so private, so these examples are critical to shine the light.

You’re absolutely right, and you’re really bang on when you talk about the longing for models that people have. I’m not putting any blame on the family of origin; their parents often did not model an empowered relationship to them when they were growing up and learning about relationships. God bless them, if they had known better about what empowerment was and how to co-create that, they would have modeled that for the kids when they were growing up. But they didn’t learn it from their families. 

But this new generation that is ambitious about learning and about relationships in their finest form, they have that good work ethic that they have been using for their professions to apply to their romantic life and their family life. So they have the impulse, the motivation, and the desire to feel in control of their life. To learn how to draw boundaries respectfully, to get the communication skills, to feel confident, each member of the couple, in their own personal power, and then to take on the curriculum about how to share power well with another person. Some people can do it really well, they feel that they are an empowered individual. But sharing power with another, stretching into their world, developing the art of empathy so that you can feel with the other person – about what their needs are, what their feelings are, what their goals in life are, where their tender sore spots are, and what their values are – that’s a piece of work. 

I think you’re really bang on when you say, people need models of what that looks like. When they have them, then they say: “Whoa, I know what to be doing! I know what my work is. I know I need to accomplish this, that, or the other thing.” It’s a little different for everybody, but there are some themes that run through all of the empowerment training.

Yes. We’re going to get into these characteristics and traits, and dive into a few of them in more detail. I’m excited about what you’re going to be sharing. I also just want to name that not only are you and your husband showing an example and a model, but you’re also giving a pathway. There’s so much of the development of cultivating intimacy that is part of what we’re all in, in romantic relationships. 

Before we get into the traits and what you have to share with us about the characteristics of an empowered relationship, I feel similarly about what currently exists around the percentage of people that are actually in this empowered relationship phase. Just if I can say really quickly, I think that it’s important to have the model and an example because as you’re saying, people feel that they are exposed to what’s possible and even more. It expands us, but it also gives us that roadmap that I think you and your husband have done such a great job to provide. But can you tell us, where you’re coming from, as far as what you estimate the amount of people that have actually cultivated this development to be in an empowered relationship together?

Yes. Now I don’t have hard research because I’m not affiliated with the university with grants and funding. But I have extensive anecdotal research, because I’ve been in the field for 45 years, so I’ve worked with a lot of couples in my classes and in counseling. I’m guesstimating that 10% of the couples that I have worked with, over the many years, reach the highest level, where they are confident, each of them in themselves, that they have the skill set: negotiation skills, conflict management skills, communication skills. They become champions of repair. They’re great with their boundaries. They really have that depth of emotional intimacy that sets them apart from the good relationships, these are the great ones. 

I find it heartbreaking that it’s only 10% of the population. It may even be less than that, I’m being generous with my 10%. Because it is available to people. This is not rocket science! Finding out what your work is, developing a personal growth orientation, making the contract with your partner that you’re going to use everything that relationship flushes up to be an opportunity to learn more, and any conflict that you have is a growth experience waiting to happen. It is available, but people have so many limiting beliefs. Like, it can’t happen in my relationship because my partner is limited or I’m limited, and I come from a dysfunctional background. There’s all kinds of limiting beliefs. 

My husband and I wrote a book called Happily Ever After…and 39 Other Myths about Love, to try to break up the mythology about all the good men are taken, and all the good women are taken, and it’s too late to bring it up now, and if you really love me you can read my mind. There are so many limiting beliefs that handicap people and hobble them from gently, slowly, consistently determining to go into the higher realms. 

So what if it takes you years, do we have anything better to do with our time than get these skills? Because this is where we get the biggest bang for our buck in the happiness and well being department. All the positive psychology people say the same thing about that. 

“It’s the depth and breadth of our closest relationships that bring happiness to us.”

We’re going to be in a relationship anyway. So if we can put these skill sets and effort and intention into that co-creating, then what’s available, and what you’re really encouraging people to look at, is the breadth and the depth of how profoundly positive that is and worth the effort. But we’re going to be putting effort in anyway, we might as well be a little more skillful about it. I get that it’s easy to talk about intellectually, and I will just raise my hand here and say: “Oh my gosh, I have those trembling moments where the last thing I want to do is reveal the vulnerable thing that I’m ashamed of or not proud of, and it’s yet the very thing that turns me towards this deeper level of intimacy and my own growth and all of it.” So thank you for just acknowledging that this is available to us. Also, that in our current collective consciousness, we might not see or experience this as much as it could be, because many of us are not actually in it or haven’t cultivated it.

Exactly, we need to lift up our expectations. Some people who do therapy are working with their clients to lower their expectations, so that they won’t be so disappointed. I find my work, when I’m teaching and counseling people, is to prompt them to allow their imagination to be big, to hold a gold standard, to vision possibilities, to imagine that they’re enough; they have enough intelligence. There’s different kinds of intelligence: intellectual intelligence, or emotional intelligence. Intellectual intelligence is pretty fixed, but emotional intelligence can keep going up and up and up. If people really have that personal growth orientation, where they know that they can become more emotionally intelligent by practicing the skills, then they’ll want to buy the books, read the books, and implement what they learn in the books. They will want to listen to the Audible books and the YouTube presentations and the podcasts. 

They’ll start to look around in their life to see who has, in their estimation, a great relationship, and they pick and choose like making a collage. “I love that this couple holds hands when they walk, and they are not afraid to kiss in public. You know, they’re so affectionate! I want to institute that in my life. I see this couple, and even though they’re a little rough about the way they talk with each other, they have the value of honesty as a foundation in their relationship. I want that too.” Then you start making a collage out of the people that you see, read about, hear about, take a workshop from, or you see in your own family or your friendship network. You say: “I want that too, and I want to be the stand for it. I can cultivate that way of being and inspire my partner to also cultivate their signature strengths and use them, and to strengthen each of our weak suits, so we can become stronger in those areas.” 

“What a good deal that is when you make that kind of contract with your partner, that you’re going to support each other to become who you can be in your best selves!”

Yes, and I want to just underscore that one of the things that I’m hearing you speak to is that this isn’t a one-size-fit-all. That with two unique individuals and their relationship together, there’s a unique expression, and that there’s an ever-evolving becoming and development and evolution that’s at play. You used the word curriculum, and I loved that so much. Because with some of these principles, you’re saying if we can adopt a growth mindset, these skills can be learned. It’s not that you have it or you don’t, or it’s innate, or we’re destined to fail or be successful in a relationship. These things are things that we can learn and implement and grow in ourselves in that curriculum, and the vision and what we imagine and what the collage of what we want to experience in relationship, we can continue to put our unique fingerprint on and continue to blossom and grow. Is that right?

That’s exactly right. It is tailor-made, specifically for each individual and each couple; there is no one-size-fits-all. Some people have the mythology in their mind that the people in this 10% who have these great co-creative and  highly romantic partnerships,  with this deep intimate connection and so forth, that they just lucked into them. I wanted to dispel that myth, and so did my husband, Charlie. So we interviewed the happiest couples that we could find, that’s in book number two: Secrets of Great Marriages, and they’re so creative. They’re 27 couples of the 50 that we interviewed, and we narrowed it down to the 27 not because they were the happiest, but because they illustrated the points that we want to make. They are on their growing edge. They are hungry learners. They dedicated themselves to holding a high standard, and learning what it would require of each of them and their cooperative reciprocal agreement with each other to attain that standard of excellence. They’re all different, and we let them say their secrets of success in their own words. 

These were not newlyweds who were still walking on the pink cloud; they had been together for an average of 31 years. We particularly went after the veterans, and they all had had some ordeals in their partnerships which took them to their knees and humbled them. Some people got turned out of their jobs. They had a high-paying job, and they got downsized from their company because you can buy the younger workers cheaper. They were competent in what they were doing, but they had gotten so many step raises that they wanted to get rid of them. It shook the marriage down to the core. One of the families had a child who developed cancer. In one of the couples, she had a very serious disease. We had one couple that invested everything they had in business that went bust and they were homeless, and their kid and their dog had to move into a friend’s home for a while till they could get back on their feet. 

So these couples didn’t lock into these great relationships, they earned their way in. I think they’re an inspiration for the couples who are struggling, who may be tempted to get hopeless and resigned, maybe leave the relationship, or what is even worse, stay in it but hold their expectations way down and just stand it. These couples show how they did it, through that dogged determination and not being helpless victims, but being proactive and responsible about finding the way through the dark time until they came into the light. All of them told us, stronger than before the breach.

So it wasn’t that life circumstances just provided them this beautiful pathway to continue to evolve their relationship. They weathered some significant storms, and through that, what they were able to experience together and that togetherness, but having done the nitty gritty, really hard ‘rubber meets the road’ work.

That’s exactly right. That gives them confidence that their relationship is sturdy, that it can endure, and that it can probably last a lifetime. No guarantees, we don’t want to rest on our laurels. Even though we’ve created the bomb shelter that is going to protect us, we still need to be vigilant and alert. But you do come through the challenges that life offers you, the small ones, like just a difference of opinion, a broken agreement, an argument. The small ones, those are an opportunity to learn and grow. The big ones – like this guy that was downsized out of his job, and the couple that invested everything in the business, and the family that had medical problems with their child, or one of the women had a very serious disease – all of these can be grist for the mill, that old phrase about that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. We learn to be resilient. We learn to have deeper compassion for ourselves and our partner, and other people, when we go through these tough lessons. 

I don’t want to just emphasize the tough lessons; some of the lessons are just joyful, some of the lessons are exuberant, some of the lessons are just like, you can get high and want to dance and sing for joy. 

“If we are going to have some darkness come into our lives, we might as well use that. Because if there’s anything I hate, it’s meaningless suffering. If we have to go through any suffering, we want to make meaning from it; become stronger, more compassionate, more empathic, and a more sensitive, loving human being from it.”

Yes, it sounds as though you’re saying relationships can ask us. It can give us the mirroring or the circumstances that can ask us to either dig really deep or expand our capacity for more love and excitement and passion and intimacy. So there’s such a range here that through life experiences, if we show up and lean in and do the work, that we can grow ourselves individually, and we can also grow our relationship. 

Well, Linda, I want to pivot towards these empowered relationship traits and characteristics and get some insight from you. So you’ve listed a few already; you’ve listed communication skills, negotiation skills, conflict management skills, which I’m pretty sure many people have heard about. You also were talking about champions of repair, which I love that phrasing. The statement in and of itself just brings the intention of like, we want to be in repair and we want to be supporting that experience together. You talk about a high level of trust, and also the ability to set boundaries, do one’s own work, and really be attentive to self-care as well as supporting the care of the other, and also a generosity of spirit. Now that’s a lot to cover. I’m curious out of all of those, is there a couple that you really want to highlight in today’s conversation?

If I had to just pick one, it’d be doing your own work. Because sometimes people are a little confused about what does that mean? It is the umbrella that is the general guiding principle over all the others. So if you take it upon yourself to be mindful, awake, aware, heads up, paying attention, without being judgmental of self and others, that is incredible work to do! Then every interaction that you have with other people, you’re looking through eyes of, what is it that I’m here to learn? If you’re having a joyful moment, learn to live in appreciation and gratitude for the beauty that is our life. If you’re having a moment of affection – for your child, for your parents, for your sibling, for your partner – you note that and you don’t just rush into the next moment necessarily. You might take the time to write them a note and stick it in a book, or stick it in their lunchbox before you send the child off to school. 

“That you slow down the pace of your life enough to be paying attention to the exquisite moment where life is going on, and really showing up in the relationship.”

It deepens our experience of being and embodying this world, and it tends to deepen the relationship itself when we are soulfully connected with each other. When we’re not just human doings, but we’re human beings, in touch with our feelings, sharing our inner life with each other, taking the time to nourish the relationship. 

I often tell people, think of the relationship as a living being like a new baby in the family. Because it’s a tender image to think about the magic of a new baby, how innocent they are, how the whole world is ahead of them, how we want to nurture the baby and feed the baby and clean the baby up and not let the baby sit in the dirty diaper. If they start to take their relationship at that level, with that care and tenderness, they will take care of it. So they won’t be brusque and use a harsh tone of voice, their conflict management skills will go up. They won’t fight to be right, they will want to share power and to learn from each other. 

So people have to start tuning into that question, what is my work and am I dedicated to doing my own work? I want to go to bed at night, at the end of the day, feeling confident and competent that I did my work today. I don’t mean professional work that earns income, I mean our personal work. So that’s what I invite people to look at: what is your work, what’s your growing edge? What have you developed – your courage to break up the tough subjects, for instance – what would that mean in your life, and what would that cause in terms of development and the evolution and the empowerment of your partnership? When people start thinking that way, incredible things begin to bloom then. But it’s a shift in the mindset to being very highly responsible.

Thank you, Linda. I was so already on this track with you. Because as you were describing, so often, in that second stage of relationship, developmental stages of relationship, that power struggle, I would bargain 80% of people get stuck there. Either they cut off certain topics like you’re talking about, we don’t go there, and they just restrict their range together as a couple. Or perhaps they fight and fight and fight and then eventually break up, or something else happens that just makes that not available to continue to develop. So many people get stuck in that power struggle. 

I think one of the major things is exactly what you’re speaking to, that can really block us from developing, is perhaps pointing the finger or feeling like the external circumstances are problematic, and that we’re feeling victimized, like you’re talking about, or feeling like if you would only do X. Or perhaps we’re even blaming ourselves and really caught in that turmoil of feeling not good enough and not enough. It’s just incredibly painful. It just doesn’t offer a lot of accessible, like you’re talking about, the curriculum for growing. It’s just this vicious loop. 

So when you were talking earlier about what’s available and this transformation, I’m like, that growth mindset is not to be underestimated or couldn’t be emphasized enough, and part of just the important pillar of that is this responsibility. I’ve been in this work for so long too, and I’ve been practicing these principles and teaching them and coaching. I can feel the natural human impulse that when my husband and I have a tough interaction, or there’s something I feel pained by, obviously I want to look at the circumstances of that and point to it, and I possibly want attention for it. But my husband, that’s a difficult thing for him to decode all of that. I think it’s a very difficult thing to do when your partner is pointing at you to say: “Oh, you’re actually wanting attention, or you’re hurting, there’s an underneath here that I want to get to know more.” I do think that’s possible. But if we’re stuck in this reactive, blame, blame, blame, it’s so difficult to access all of the things that you’re talking about in the skill sets of cultivating relationships.

You’re telling it like it is, girl! It’s one of the harder things that we’re challenged to learn, how to manage differences well. So when we teach, my husband and I, we always say this. 

“Differences are inevitable, but conflict is optional. That turns people on their heads sometimes, and they don’t realize that there is a choice there.”

It’s hard in the moment when we’re emotionally flooded with feelings, to even think straight. To even remember that I don’t have to be so triggered, I don’t have to be so overwhelmed with my feelings that I’m not thinking straight. I do have a choice to breathe and take a little pause and settle myself down. It’s only my reptilian brain that’s working right now and that doesn’t see very many creative options. If I’m so triggered, I must calm myself down before I say anything or do anything, because I’m liable to say or do something I’ll be sorry for afterward. It will not be my best self. 

If we can just practice enough times – it might take a thousand repetitions so well – that we pause to reflect and we calm ourselves down, so our heart rate isn’t so high, our pulse rate isn’t so high, our blood pressure isn’t up in the higher decibels. Then when we’re calmer, we can reengage our neocortex, that part of the brain that really sees a lot of options. That’s when we can make a choice; we’re not a reaction machine then, we’ve come back to being a human being. A wise, emotionally intelligent human being who sees: “Oh well, he just snapped at me right now, I must’ve touched a sore spot. Or maybe he’s overtired, or he’s over-hungry, or he’s stressed about something at work.” We can find our compassion and empathy and forgive in the moment, so that we don’t make things worse by being reactive, like saying you’re doing it again, and go to the blame game. 

“We’re always telling people to go on a blame fast. Then when you can come back to being a responsible person, often you can smooth things out and have an in-depth conversation about what the hell just happened there, because we were veering off the road, and then you can get back on the road.”

Those can be the most fruitful discussions about “That place is still so sore with me about people not being able to be trustworthy, I’m still in recovery from that. When you forgot, it hit that sore place in me about your word is not good. I am stopping to think about it now, and mostly your word is good. So what was going on there that you broke the agreement about whatever the agreement was?” Those are fruitful discussions where people learn and grow. It deepens the bond, and it gives them the sense of: “I can count on myself, I can count on you, and our relationship is sturdy and it’s good for the long haul.”

Oh, my goodness. So it actually sounds as if doing your own work and getting into regulation – when one notices the reactivity or the impulse to blame and slows down, gets the nervous system in more of that relaxed and parasympathetic place – then we can access and be in practice and utilize these other skills. It’s almost like this makes all of the skills possible. If I can go back one moment, when you were talking about being attuned to the moments in life, I can just say when I’m hurting or when I’m in pain, it’s harder to do that. Or even if one has experienced trauma in their background, that window of being able to be present isn’t as expansive. 

So when you’re practicing and inviting people into this noticing and attunement, we have better contact with ourselves and we have better contact of being able to look at: is there some opportunity for healing there, is there opportunity for looking at some of those places that are activated? You’re saying it gives us the ability to be in gratitude, be in acknowledgement and appreciation in relationships. So I just also wanted to underscore that doing the work and the attunement to self and life, that development and that expansion is huge too.

It’s huge, and it’s too much to expect of one person to do it or even two. That we need support; we need our psychosocial support. We may not have it from our own blood family, then we have to go on a search to find our family of choice, and to find our friendship networks: women’s group, men’s group, couple’s group, wise elders in our tribe, the happily married couples in our friendship network. To learn from them. People are usually flattered when they’re sought out and you tell them, “I’ve been noticing your relationship, you laugh and giggle a lot, and you touch and you’re so affectionate, and you seem to have a lot of ease. Would you please tell me your secrets to success?”

We live in a culture that really worships the individual. I’m blessed to be able to teach in other cultures outside of the United States, I’m so grateful to be able to do that. Not everybody has this worship of the individual, they realize that family and community is so important. I’ve taught in South America, I’ve taught in Europe, I’ve taught in Asia, I’ve taught in places where they know that you really do need other people to goose you and support you along the path. If you have a disappointment or trauma in your life, to help you to get back up and get in the game again. 

So I think part of doing our work is to recognize that it’s one of the biggest challenges that we ever take on in our life, to grow ourselves into who we can be. Of course we’re going to need mentors. We may need professional paid people, but there’s also our peers who are interested in personal growth, who are on the path. If we ask them, would you be in a women’s group with me, would you be in a women’s book group with me or a women’s support group with me? I wish that for all my clients, that they were in a men’s group and women’s group and a couple’s groups, so that they can talk openly and practice revealing rather than concealing, pressing rather than repressing, opening up rather than playing it close to the vest and being closed. Because we need a lot of practice, not just with our partner. If we’re blessed to have a partner who’s on that path, that’s so wonderful to have a living guru with us to help us along. But we need people outside of that. 

“Part of doing our work is to not let the couple relationships get so small that our life narrows down.”

Of course, in the infatuation stage, we just want to cocoon with the other person. But we have to leave the Garden of Eden at some point. The individuation stage is really important to learn how to do the beautiful dance of love and freedom, where we come close, we’re very intimate, we merge, we blend, we’re close: sexually, body, spirit, mind, all of that. Then we let go and we become our separate individual people. We may have friends that our partner doesn’t like. We may have interest in activities that don’t float our partner’s boat. But we are individuated enough that we don’t glom onto each other. We haven’t made security and predictability our highest value, so that adventure and venturing out and risking is also a part of our relationship. 

For some people, that is really daunting! They just hold on to the tried and true, and sometimes they lose the benefit of their relationship. Either they end up separating and divorcing, or else they stay in a relationship that’s really stale, because they’re bored; they haven’t got passion in other areas of their life and with other people in their life. So the individuation for many people is a big challenge, and that’s part of doing our work.

Oh my goodness, I’m so honored for your voice on this and I feel so moved and touched by just the voice of elders, community, mentors, friends and this collective that we can access. Often, I think in the field of couples, it somehow doesn’t get voiced enough. I think sometimes people walk away feeling like I have to do this alone, and that doing my own work has to be so solo. I’m really hearing you round this out in a beautiful way. Also just speaking to when we can have a secure ground, that gives us this solid foundation to launch from. That both are important, intimacy and connectedness, and also the independence and the ability to feel that sense of individuation that you’re speaking to. There’s such wisdom in what you’re sharing, Linda, thank you

It’s nice to be gotten, and I can tell you’re really on the wavelength with me.

Well, and I know that you are going to be offering more material around this specific topic for people that are on your newsletter. How can people get connected with what you’re doing and what you’re offering, and also get on your newsletter? 

Well, they can remember my name, Linda Bloom, or they can remember the name of our organization, which is Bloomwork. Not plural, singular. If you go to Bloomworks, it takes you to a plant nursery. If they can remember that and go to my website, there are three free ebooks, and they have 10 chapters in them each. One of them is about having splendid sexual experience. One of them is the 10 most important things that my husband and I have learned since we got married. One of them is an excerpt from our book that’s going to come out in October, called An End to Arguing, and it’s about managing conflict really well. So we feel like we’re a couple of recovered hotheads and this is one of our gifts to our community, that we used to argue so unskillfully, and we’ve learned to be quite adept in how we handle our differences. We have so many differences, but we’ve made something of them and really learned from each other and learned how to respect the differences. 

So I want people to go to my website because we’ve got a free store. For the people who are lovers of words, we have recommended readings on a number of different topics, relationships being the heftiest bibliography. There are links to over 600 blogs on Psychology Today, and we really are happy that we got 10 million hits. Not very many bloggers who blog on Psychology Today get that big following, so we’re really happy about that. We have over 100 videos on our YouTube channel. So there’s all kinds of things that my husband and I are leaving as our legacy about relationships, to try to help the newer couples and save them some trouble.

No kidding. I’ll make sure to have these links on today’s show notes: your YouTube channel, the Bloomwork.com and all that’s available there for your freebies, and accessing the links to Psychology Today, as well as all the other content on your website and recommended reading. To also ask for people who want to go deeper, do you guys do retreats and workshops?

Yes, we teach at Esalen Institute in Big Sur and California; we’ve been teaching there about 30 years now. We teach at Kripalu for those listeners who might be on the East Coast, it’s up in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. If they get on our mailing list, when a class is coming up, because we’re getting back to teaching live again now, I’m so happy. We were teaching virtually during the pandemic, and it’s so wonderful to be with the students in-person. So we do that, and we do counseling by Zoom, phone, and in-person. We have a specialty that we offer that we call an intensive. Because sometimes people fly in from out of state and they spend a whole day with us or sometimes two days, and they’ve done the one hour a week couples counseling method and it’s too slow and frustrating for them, and they want to buy in bulk and really get down to the roots of the issues. So we’re available for intensives.

Wonderful! Well again, I’ll make sure to have these links on today’s show notes. Linda, thank you again for sharing your heart, your wisdom, and your insight with us here today.

Thank you, Jessica, for the work that you do in the world. Because people really need to know more about how to co-create an empowered relationship.

Signing Off

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching