ERP 364: What Does It Mean To Do “Your Work” In Relationship — Interview With Madhur-Nain Webster

By Posted in - Podcast March 21st, 2023 0 Comments

Relationships can be a beautiful source of joy and growth, but they can also be incredibly challenging. Every person enters into a relationship with their own experiences, beliefs, and patterns of behavior. These can either support or hinder the connection we are trying to build with our partner. To create a healthy and fulfilling relationship, it’s crucial to recognize that we have work to do on ourselves. The question is — what does “your work” within a relationship really mean?

In this episode, we’ll explore actionable steps you can take to cultivate a deeper understanding of yourself and your partner, and create a more harmonious and loving relationship.

Madhur-Nain Webster is a licensed marriage and family therapist, specializing in the integration of eastern and western philosophies for mental health for individuals and couples. Her first book, The Stressless Brain (2018), makes a scientific argument for the positive influence meditation has on the psyche; she is currently working on her second book. In addition to releasing over 60 meditation singles, Madhur-Nain maintains international outreach by appearing on podcasts and holding meditation workshops.

In this Episode

6:33 The importance of transparency and collaboration in couples therapy: Navigating individual and couples work and addressing behavioral change

11:46 Individual therapy: The importance of doing your own work to benefit your relationships.

17:15 A discussion on adjusting lenses and coping mechanisms towards relationship longevity.

22:26 The importance of self-reflection in relationships.

29:03 The Importance of Continuous Personal Growth and Therapy in Building Healthy Self-Esteem and Self-Worth.

34:29 Cultivating the wise self and soul self.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Take responsibility for your own emotions and reactions.
  • Identify and communicate your needs and boundaries clearly.
  • Practice active listening and empathetic communication.
  • Work on your own personal growth and healing.
  • Be willing to compromise and negotiate.
  • Practice forgiveness and let go of resentment.
  • Show appreciation and express gratitude.

Mentioned

Soul-Self & the Emotional Facets of Your Personality (workshop)

The Stressless Brain (book)

Relationship Map To Happy, Lasting Love

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Connect with Madhur-Nain Webster

Websites: madhurnain.com

Facebook: facebook.com/madhurnainwebster

Spotify: open.spotify.com/artist/5wvZFb0E0Ybc4oSdlDSn0h

YouTube: youtube.com/channel/UCOof1-ACJXP9SufPBHbQeQw

Instagram: instagram.com/madhurnain

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

Madhur-Nain, thank you for joining us today.

Thank you for having me here.

Yeah, I so appreciate clinicians that are in the field actively working with clients. You are also providing either information in the way of books or materials, and you do meditations. I know you focus on several areas, and one of the topics we’re going to be diving into is about self-work and doing one’s own individual work. I’m curious, are you open to sharing, for people who don’t know you, just a little context around how you got into focusing on that area as one of your areas?

I have been a therapist for about 22 to 23 years. I actually started off primarily as an individual therapist. Because in the earlier days, if I can say now, in the earlier days, it was easier to get one person into the office. Mental awareness, mental health was not as prevalent and talked about in the mid to late 90s, as it is now. So I started off with individual clients, but I also actually worked with more families back. Because I worked in an agency, and I used to get a lot more family systems or family groupings of clients together. I have really enjoyed working with individuals, because as I’ve mentioned earlier before we started the podcast, even though you might have one person in the room, you actually have their whole system there, through their experiences, through their memory, and through their feelings.

Exactly. So it can be helpful to have the training and hold that in mind when working even with just one individual, correct? 

I was working with a couple. Each of them have their individual therapists, and I was trying to explain to them why I really wanted them to sign a release so I could speak to their individual therapist. Because some of the work that we were doing in couples was getting hijacked by the work they were doing individually. I was like, not that I was one telling them what to do. I just want to be able to so we can all be on the same page to support the system, which is each of them individually and the couple together, which is the relationship. They didn’t want me to talk to their individual therapist, I don’t know what they were worried about. I was going to maybe tattletale on them or something. But it’s interesting that when you’re working with an individual, I work really hard, when they talk about people in their life, I try to ask for a lot of examples. 

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“What people tend to do is when they’re sharing about their life, they’re really sharing their interpretation of everything, which is biased.”

Yes, agreed. For someone who does do couples’ work or does the family work, likely when they’re working with an individual, will have that awareness as they’re working with the individual, as you’re speaking to, to might ask for those examples. Or what did this person say or do when you did X, Y, and Z? Or how did that look? Or what’s the dynamic? Also, it can be very tricky for an individual person who’s listening that maybe doesn’t have the fuller picture. It could take an angle that, as you’re saying, might not actually support the couple’s work, or might sabotage some of that progress. So I love that you’re bringing a fuller perspective around how it’s all related, and that if we can have more transparency there perhaps or even more acknowledgement, and working together, that it can assist in the progress.

Yeah, and with some of the couples I work with, I will see them each individually. It’s not unethical or illegal. It’s taught in traditional psychotherapy to not do that, and I have found from just years of working with people that sometimes I know the whole system, and I keep things confidential to each session. Yet, I want to tell the couples, when I see you together, my client is your marriage or your relationship, not each of you individually. Then when I see them individually, my client is the individual, and I’m always keeping in my mind the unit of the two of them. The thing is that sometimes I can really move the needle individually a lot quicker than I can with them together, especially when I do a little bit of confrontational work. So it’s really a tricky balance to know when to do it in the couple’s session and when to do it individually. Because sometimes it’s really good to do it in a couple’s session. But then I have a rule with my couples, that anything I say cannot be used as collateral in an argument outside of therapy; you will hurt the work we’re doing.

Absolutely, and perhaps weaponizing is another word for that. That when someone’s really getting vulnerable and revealing certain parts, to then use that in an argument, it’s really painful.

It is. “Well, you know, Bob, Madhur-Nain said that you’re controlling too.” It’s like, no, no, no, that is not going to be helpful. That’s not going to win your case, you’re going to hurt the work we’re doing together.

Right. Likely, you’re confronting behavior, not the person and the essence of who they are. So it’s the strategy or the move that they make, that you’re really looking out. Okay, tell us more about that, what’s going on here, where did this come from, those type of things. Is that right?

Yes. It’s interesting when I hear you say that, because there’s moments when I’m working with couples, that I have to teach them the difference between requesting a behavioral change and not throwing a character attack at your partner. Big difference, but they often don’t see the difference. Like, “They’re just so insensitive, and they’re always insensitive, and I can never rely on them.” Then they go on and on. I say, “Whoa, wait, stop! This sounds so horrible. Why are you with this person?” Oh, but I love them. Okay, well, what behaviors would change that would make the person not be, in your eyes, self-centered or unavailable or unreliable? But people really love to tell you their opinion.

So true. So directing them towards specific behavior, and also pointing out perhaps dissonance, that there’s such a love and commitment, and yet there’s such complaint, and some ownership there around how are you participating, and you’re choosing in on this, and let’s look at this a little bit. How does this fit with the individual work, as we’re looking at that topic and your interest there?

Yeah. This has come up in my couples’ work, and then I’ll come into the individuals, is when I’ve worked with a lot of couples, and it is people who’ve been dating, premarital therapy, and even people who have been together for 20 or 30 years, I go over a concept called Deal Breakers. One of the things that has shown up quite frequently over the years, more recently than not, is a deal breaker for me is if my partner does not do their own work. So that segues into the idea of individual therapy, which is the idea of really looking at how do I grow, learn about myself, face some of my neuroses, learn to do my own inner work as I work with somebody, and then I can learn how to do that inner work outside of therapy? Because this benefits the relationship. 

Does it ever? 

Yeah. Well, the thing is, is that sometimes I will get people who will come to therapy, and they’ll say, my partner won’t come. It tends to be women who come, and the men don’t, but it’s not always. I say to them, it doesn’t matter. If you do the work, your relationship will change. I do this thing. I hold up a pen in front of them. Kind of a big note taker. So I hold up my pen, and I say, “The pen here is your relationship, and then you’re hanging here and your partner’s hanging here, and you’re connected to the relationship, which is symbolized from the pen.” Then I move the pen to an angle, and I say to the client, “When you change, the relationship structure changes, the energy changes, your behaviors change. Your partner has to change. That they will even change without knowing they’re changing.” So it says benefit the relationship, even if just one person goes to therapy.

Yeah. I’m curious on an aside. I’ve referenced this many times that sometimes there’s an adjustment period that somebody might, let’s say, Partner A will be seeing or observing change in Partner B, but might still see them through an old lens. Sometimes there’s a transition phase, or that they might need a little time to adjust or adapt. What do you think about that, that sometimes it won’t be immediate? Because sometimes people are looking for that immediate result or benefit from taking that risk, and it’s not always evident immediately. What do you think?

That’s true. I think it can be that if negative behaviors happen for a long time, and then it changes, the partner may not trust that this is a permanent change. They may be gun shy, no pun intended. Be in this kind of like, “Oh, I don’t know, you’ve said you’ve changed before.” That’s when I tell the individuals, if it’s the individual in my office, you’re not changing for your partner, you’re changing for yourself. Because if this relationship ends, you’re going to still have this issue.

Oh, I love that. That’s changing the motivation from “I’m doing this for my partner” to “I’m doing this because it’s in my best interest and sets our relationship up for having a better dynamic, which I’m in service of. But I’m not depending on my partner’s response to continue to motivate me.” Is that right?

Yeah, well, that becomes a control issue. It’s almost a passive way to control your partner. “Well, you’re not really supporting me, and you don’t believe me that I’ve changed.” It’s like, now you’re creating a new problem.

Or that I won’t continue to do this, because you’re not giving me the result that I’m looking for.

As I’ve heard a client say to me before, years ago, “What does he want, slabs for crumbs?” So part of it is coming and working with individual. There’s a really important piece I say to them often. You could change dramatically, and your partner may still leave. It’s really why are you doing the work? 

Then the ownership, maybe even. 

Well, part of it is you tie in, like if they have children, how are your relationships with your children? Or if they run a company or work for a company or a small business. 

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“Relationships are everywhere, we can’t get away from it. So sometimes, something that’s a chronic, if it’s low self-esteem, or if it’s addiction behavior, or if it’s trauma responses and having a thin skin, this is going to show up in all areas of your life.”

So when I’m working with an individual, and I’m a really, really big goal-setter. So within the first three sessions, we have a list of goals. So I’m not really a chatty kind of therapist, I’m more of like, “When you’re done working with me, what do you want to see changed in in your life?” I write down the goals, and I’m always coming back. Then when we’ve hit the goals, I’ll say, “You’ve hit all your goals. You want to take a break? You want to come less often?” So we’re always working on what that is, and it holds them accountable, because it’s their goals. I don’t come up with them, they bring up.

Yes. Well, I want to come back to just a couple of things that you’re saying, because this is so important when we look at the longevity of relationship. I mean, what you just said now, it’s not even just the intimate relationship. It’s bringing into light and perspective, and really bringing some honesty perhaps. Like, let’s really look at this. If we’re looking at this, let’s really look at this, how is this showing up in this area and that area, and can we have a real assessment of that, so that someone can see, and perhaps be a little bit more bought into the personal work and the benefit of that? Because one thing that I’m also hearing you say in the ownership, and this is true in my work, that if someone is willing to take the risk, the experience of taking that emotional risk, even before getting their partner’s response, that’s probably what they want most is a positive response from their partner. However, if we slow that down, just even whatever is being sent over or communicated to their significant other, that is the emotional risk or whatever behavior that they’re doing differently, usually, it will feel good. They’ll feel the difference internally, and that is motivating. I feel so much relief, or it feels so refreshing, or it feels so empowering, or it feels so real, and to be able to be in that space is very reinforcing in and of itself.

Yeah, it is. 

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“In some ways, productive, healthy therapy, psychotherapy is uniting the experiences of your life with the feelings and how you process things. Part of going to therapy is helping to readjust the lenses that we look at life through.”

I have this whole concept around lenses that all of our experiences in our youth create different lenses. Sometimes we could be walking around wearing seven pair of glasses; they all are your prescription, but they’re seven pairs. I’ve actually tried that before because I wear glasses, and you can see nothing through seven pairs of lenses. That’s what happens. 

Let’s say your mom was just really busy raising a household with many children, or running a business and had two kids, and then the partner was traveling a lot, the father or the partner. That child, their experience was feeling alone and not seen. So that alone and not seen are two lenses. Then let’s say one of their siblings really acted out and had lots of issues. So now they become the forgotten child, there’s a third lens. Now let’s say, they have these great friends, they go to middle school, and they just get shunned. Something changes, middle school is harsh. Now they have a fourth lens of, no one likes me. So now it’s all unconscious, but these are these lenses. 

The way I tell people, it’s like, we need to go to the optometrist and say, is it A or is it B, is it D or is it F? For us, it’s like, is it loneliness or is it self-hatred, or is it nothing ever works out for me? So I help the individual look at, these are lenses, they are only true if you believe them to be true. That then can actually help them then look at their partnerships differently. Because they go, wait a minute, is this actually true?

I don’t know if you would agree with this. But it feels as if when one experienced that particular lens, likely they had a strategy or a coping mechanism to deal with that. Thus, they have certain moves in how they relate to others with those glasses on. So often in couples’ dynamics, it’s almost as if their moves are triggering each other, and they’re not actually talking about the deeper glasses of what’s going on. So I think what you’re doing with the individual work, because I think most of the time, that is beneath the field of awareness; they’re more aware of their secondary emotion. Like you said, they’re pointing their finger and maybe character attacking, or if my partner would be X, Y, and Z, then I would feel better. So this whole bringing the attention and the focus around like, let’s look at what you’re experiencing, what the beliefs are, or the injury or pain or trauma or attachment longing, and let’s look at that and hold space for that. Do you have any thoughts around that?

100%. When clients come to us, they’re hurting. They’re coming for a reason. They’re not coming just because they don’t have someone else to talk to. They want you or whomever they’re working with, to say what’s wrong and how to fix it. Sometimes old therapy can be like, it’s like Friday; you lay on the couch, you talk about your dreams, you talk about what’s wrong. The doctor says, “Great, thanks. See you next week.” “Thanks, doc. Bye.” That’s it. That was old therapy. Now people are basically saying, “I’m hurting, and here’s all the reasons, why or ways, how I am. Help me. Help me change, help me fix it.” The pieces is that there’s a combination of building self-esteem so that they can handle the feedback of looking at it in reflection.

Yes, thank you for saying that. Because when you were speaking earlier about the value of doing one’s work, and if one is not in alignment with that, that that could be a deal breaker. I’m just so grateful that before dating my now husband, I had had an upset more than one, but one devastating upset relationally that spawned me into deep diving into the relational world and understanding the principles. So I really got that I wanted someone I could grow with. But it wasn’t somebody. It was like, you want somebody that’s going to do their individual work, and this is backed by research, and here’s all the reasons why. So the fact that you’re bringing it so explicitly into conversation, I think is so wise. 

Also, I’ll raise my hand here, that even with that value and us being both committed to that. So what I’m raising my hand to is, I’ll say, in partnership, we have a front row seat to our partner and their beingness, and it’s a unique position. Probably no other place in our life are we going to have someone be so witness to us in all areas. So they have the capacity to hold a mirror. Now how clear that mirror is, to your point? It’s like, is this a loving mirror that’s really holding wonder around, “Hmm, tell me more about this?” Or is it the “You’re triggering me and what you’re doing is hurting. You’re triggering me and what is what and who is who.”

That is one of my biggest pet peeves right now with pop psychology of social media self-help people. No offense to those listening, but that’s one of my biggest pet peeves is, “I feel hurt and you have to listen to me, and let me tell you how hurt I am, and I have a right to be.” It just makes my skin crawl. Because that is not helpful, that’s not relational. It’s very individualistic, which individual therapy is not individualistic. 

Because of what we were just talking. 

Yeah, exactly. So part of it is like, healthy self-esteem is knowing when to pause and listen and ask. “Hmm, I seem to be a little triggered by what this person is saying to me. I wonder if there’s any truth to it, and let me stop and reflect.” If we get defensive, then that to me shows there is something inside of you that’s going: “Oh, shit, they got me.”

Or if your heart is racing, or you’re shutting down, these are all those fears. Partly what I’m hearing you say is almost like, the virtue of being in relationship your partner now is required, or there’s some obligation, that they are then to listen to whatever you have going on. That’s very different than what I’m hearing you start to speak to, around the slowing down. One of the places that I like to come from is, in my own work, and then when I’m guiding and assisting, is really to stay in one’s lane, so to speak, or their side, around: “Here’s where I go in my mind. Here’s the interpretation that I have. Here’s my association with that. Here’s what it reminds me of.” So I can share about where I go emotionally, I can share where I go in my mind when X, Y, and Z happens. So there’s a little bit more reveal. But it’s still the permission or the invitation, does my partner want to engage in this? They have a sense of whether or not they want to do that, or when they want to do that. 

Yes. I have a saying in my waiting room that says “How you treat me is your karma. How I react is mine.” 

I love that. 

Really, that is 101 in families and relationships. Also, to move to couples’ work just for a second. When I’m working with a couple, I sometimes will literally do individual work. I put my hands up and I say, I’m working with you right now. I look to the other person I say, “Put up your boundaries. If what they’re saying rings true, you soften your boundaries and hold that space.” If you’re like, that’s not true, you put up your boundaries and you stay in compassion to see them for them. I get their permission to do this work with their partner. 

I’ll be working with individuals, and sometimes they’ll say something, and I can see the reaction on their partner. I’ll be like, wait, boundaries! I’ll look and it’s like, “I can’t shoot, don’t do that.” They’re like, I’m okay, I’m okay. Then I’ll work with the individual within the couple, and then at the end, I will say to them, once they do their work, if I do somatic work, or if we do communication work, opening up and breaking down. I will then say to the person, what is the one thing you want your partner to understand about this, one very specific thing? I put a little box in front of the screen, or in front of them when I’m in-person. What’s the one thing? Because people tend to bring 10 things or three things, and the person is going to pick up what they want to pick up. Then you’re like, “Well, that’s not what I wanted you to, you’re not listening to me.” So there is that piece of like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! You are responsible for you.” Sometimes we’ve got to do it as an individual because they’re so reactive, the person can’t hold the boundary. So then sometimes doing the individual work for a couple of sessions really, really creates a change, because then I can come back and the person can communicate in the way, and then we switch and I’m doing it with the other person.

Well, and then the partner doesn’t have to be along for the whole ride to get that distilled what the learning is there.

Yeah. If your partner is very similar to one of your parents, and they act that way, then they’re just like, trigger, trigger, trigger.

Yeah, exactly. At the same time, I guess in your position or my position, we’re gauging the regulation of the system, and can this person have boundaries, in your language, and be able to hold to see differently? Or maybe see what’s more on the inside, maybe in my language? But that there’s more happening that isn’t always revealed, and that what they want to share, what you’re helping them access, that can be a change agent. But sometimes, getting there can be a little bit of a journey. 

I was saying I wanted to raise my hand because I would say, I don’t know if it was like five years ago, I’m a proponent. I mean, I’ve been doing my work. Even when I got into it, I had a Master’s program in psychology, I had an undergrad in psychology and I was going into a Ph. D program. The first year, they were like, you’re going to be doing your work, and then you’re going to be doing more therapy. I’m like, I’ve got this, I’ve been doing my work for so long. But it was like turbo, and I was like: Oh my gosh! So all that to say, I’m very much committed to my work. But I remember my husband showing some blind spots to me and recommending that I engage in therapy again. I was like, oh! It’s been really profound, and I’ve gotten so much out of it. I don’t know that I would have done it, had he not really held the mirror there or really been in wonder with me around it. This is just so critical for us to be on the path.

Yeah. I mean, what I tell people is, we are never in a position in our living life to not have to do the work. Once you’re there, it’s your last breath. I’m not saying that in a dark, sinister way. Maybe things between the relationship become more harmonious, the disharmony is less. But you’re still going to have disharmony, it’s just part of life. Then all of a sudden, your kids start having children, and then now they’re parents, and now there’s a new set of dynamics, maybe there’s in-laws, or your grown adult child has their partner who you don’t click with. There’s always going to be something. Or maybe it’s health. 

So these stressors can actually put pressure on us. If we’re not doing the work, it can then amplify and intensify so much so that these stressors or complications can be overwhelming if we’re not turning towards some of this work. 

Yeah, for sure. I think that there’s multiple ways to do the work, you don’t have to do always the same. It might be you spend a couple of years really self-educating, and you’re reading books, and you’re learning a lot. Then you find something happens, and now you’re going to go talk to someone, or you’re doing more workshop stuff. Or that maybe another time, you’re creating a new entity, if it’s a new business or a new hobby, which also then forces you to grow and learn. 

“It’s not always about mental growth. It’s spiritual, intellectual, physical, relational, intellectual. They are all facets of growth, and we can’t do them all at once.”

No, we can’t. So you’re giving some examples. Because I have had clients, it tends to be more male-identified clients, that are like, “The work, the work, what does that mean?” So you’re giving some examples, and it sounds like you’re referring to work as in development, or growing oneself in different lines or aspects of themselves. Is that right?

Yes. Again, there’s an important factor or belief system that we always want to work on, which is healthy self-esteem and healthy self-worth. Because when we don’t have healthy self-worth and healthy self-esteem, when something comes up that’s maybe quite triggering. I know triggering is a big word these days. But something comes up that brings something up inside of us, if we’re not doing the self-esteem and self-worth work, we’re more likely to go into toxic shame, what I call toxic shame, which is: “Oh my God, I’m so bad for doing this, why does this always happen to me?” We can get stuck there for a while. Rather than: “Okay, this just happened. This is uncomfortable, but I’m going to ask for help. Or I’m going to go for a run, or I’m going to sign up for that workshop I saw for the weekend, or I’m going to do some journaling and sift through what’s coming up. This is really uncomfortable, but I know I can get through this. Or I know I’m a good person even though I said that or did that.” That is huge. If not, we can get really stuck or go down a rabbit hole is what I call it.

Yes. I was even thinking, these thought trains that we get stuck on, and that could be like a shame train that you just get sucked into and on this ride that is really detrimental. Some of the ways that you’re suggesting to work with that toxic shame, it’s almost like supporting a supportive voice that maybe someone never had. Is that right? 

Yeah, and that’s where the healthy self-esteem and healthy self-worth comes out of the work that we do. It comes out of really strengthening the identity of the wise self, the wise adult. Then I also believe that every person has the wise adult when we have done enough work. I mean, some people don’t live in the wise adult. They live in a very reactive adult self, which is usually being hijacked constantly by inner younger parts of who we are, lenses. Each one of us are born with an entity, which I call the soul self.

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“Each of us are born with a uniqueness that’s just us, and when we do the work to cultivate that uniqueness, it becomes a really strong asset. I call them the two bookends of the soul self and the wise self, which is the mature you, and the part of you that came into this world with.”

Because I have two sons, they’ve been raised relatively similar. Yes, it’s first child, second child, and all those dynamics. They could not be more different. So as a parent, it’s my job to help each of them cultivate the uniqueness of themselves, which I think is the soul self, and we all have it. Another way to think about it is your inner light, and some is really dim and some is really bright. But you can increase the brightness when you do the work, when you work on yourself.

Nice, I love that. So a professional in a supportive role, like a therapist or coach, can assist someone in cultivating more strength in the wise adult or wise self. Also, that wise adult and also supportive outside people can support nurturing the soul self too. 

Yeah, because there’s uniqueness to people. I was one client I’ve worked with off and on for years, who had just a very, very, very difficult childhood; foster, addiction, family situations. There’s a certain uniqueness to this person, and when you work with someone, you’re able to say, this is who I see, and then help them connect to it. I’m not making it up, it’s right in front of my face. It’s like helping them come home to their essence. I know it gets kind of woo-woo. But it’s like helping them come home to themselves to then strengthen that, to be able to face the diversities of life, even those lenses that we’ve created. That helps us get to our wise adult self.

Okay, so I don’t want to lose you without asking this question. So for people, I hear the voice of listeners right now that are like, what if my partner is shut down and is afraid or doesn’t want to do the work or won’t turn towards this? Like, what would you be suggesting? 

Well, it depends. There’s two things. One is, we are only responsible for ourselves. If an individual has been doing a lot of work and their partner won’t, then I would invite that individual to go to their therapist or coach and talk about the concept of relationship reconciling. What are you getting from the relationship versus what you’re not getting? Is what you’re not getting, can you mourn the loss of that because of what you’re getting? Maybe you need to get off and let go of trying to change your partner, because you’re choosing to stay, and you mourn. I tell people, this can happen on a healthy way once or twice a year, your whole entire relationship. Now, once in a while, we might do relationship reconciling of: “Okay, this is what I’m getting. I’m getting seven great things. and then I’m getting these two really big thorns.” Maybe it’s addiction, I’ll use a somewhat easy big one. You might find they’re not doing the work, they’re not willing to get sober, I’ve tried everything, then you might have to choose to leave. 

That is that piece of saying, we can’t control the partner. Sometimes it’s that piece of, this is where the healthy self-esteem and self-worth comes in, is being able to sit with “I’m a good person, they’re a good person, and they’re not willing to look at X, whatever that X is, that situation. As much as I love them, I don’t want to be in it.” It’s that piece, and what people tend to do is, every time they’re upset and have a big fight, they’ll say I can’t do this anymore, but yet they stay. So it’s a little bit more complicated of a bigger conversation than like, just go do your work and it’s fine. Because maybe the healthiest thing is to leave. Again, it’s individual basis, and it’s a personal choice.

Right. I appreciate you just acknowledging that it’s not formulaic, or there’s no real good recipe for this to help people who might be in this situation. Sometimes it means, to your point, accepting, taking that pressure off, but really being in the experience of growth and the benefit of the growth, and sometimes that modeling. Not so much like I’m modeling, in that parental parent-child dynamic. But like, I’m modeling for you partner to get on board here. That there’s a living and you’re not growing and the benefit of that, that it can naturally, even without that pressure over like, I need you to do this with me, it just can start to create some distance or separation. That somebody is like, okay, I need to look at this perhaps. So I think there’s a bunch of different versions around how this can look. But what I hear you speaking to is, we can’t control our partner, and we can be really responsible for what is important, really be clear about our decision-making around what we’re willing to do and what we’re not willing to do, and how we negotiate that. We might have some options around getting our needs met, and grief is often involved when our partner isn’t showing up in the way that we hope.

Yes. Sometimes it’s also, in individual work, is being able to look at why am I so attached to the story of my partner changing or doing the work. I’ll share a little personal story. My older son is in college, he’s 20. I love sending packages in the mail. He’s in an apartment, so they ding him, let him know the package is there. So I’ll be a little transparent here for a second, to show an example of how we can get attached to controlling. It’s quite subtle. So I text him, did you get my package? It had his new driver’s license and some granola bars he likes. Oh, no, I haven’t gotten it yet. So a few days later, I paid extra for it to get there. I said, “Oh, hi, did you get my package?” No response from him. Then a few days later, I sat and I remember driving, and I could feel this urgency of wanting like, “Why can’t he just tell me that he got it or not? Or why isn’t he even getting the package? Maybe I shouldn’t send that package.” This is my lenses coming in. It’s such a simple, benign topic. But this can happen in an extreme. 

I remember saying to myself, “Madhur-Nain, it really does not matter if he checks that package or not. Look at how you’re creating a story of this need. Yes, you could text him one more time just to ask, but that can come across as controlling.” But I just want to check, or it’s important. If you’ve said it once, you’ve said it twice. unless someone’s bleeding or something’s breaking, it’s learning to let go. It’s a really simple benign example. Just to show, even as a therapist myself, I have to keep doing the work, and I’m able to hold myself like, “Wait a minute, Madhur-Nain, your texting him more than twice about this is obnoxious.” I’m not beating myself up, I’m just going, “Stop! He’s going to get it, and he doesn’t have to tell you. It’d be nice if he told you he got it. But is it really a deal breaker?” Is it something to get upset about and be like, why don’t you care about what I’m doing for you, and we’re paying? I’ve heard this from parents. We pay for college, and they’re being disrespectful. Out of what, because they didn’t text about a package? So that’s just an example to show what our minds can do and how subtle the control can be. 

Oh, it’s huge. Just to recognize and have the awareness of that activation and the intensity of it, and how you’re putting that into perspective. Sure, at some point, could it be a conversation in a more regulated way to say, would you be willing? Or it feels like a good adequate thing to let me know, and if I send you something I liked, that that’s not maybe a conversation. You can ask, but at the same time, they might not do it. Just the level of what you’re describing and how activated we can get about these things in the attempt to control. So I really appreciate that voice. 

Yeah. Part of it is, for me, I’m able to look at, is it really about him not responding, or is it about feeling appreciated and when in my life did I not feel appreciated, or my parents didn’t really see me? Oh, there we go. I’m projecting my hurt from my parents onto my son. You’re like, “Hello, part! Hello, you don’t need to do that.”

Oh okay, you are giving us so many great things to think about. Is there anything else that you want to say about the importance of doing work and how it impacts relationship? 

Yeah. I think that, and this is a plug to any life coach who has good certification and psychotherapists and mental health workers. 

Free Side view astonished diverse males in casual summer clothes standing with photo camera in verdant forest and looking up in surprise Stock Photo

“I think if everyone went every quarter for a couple of sessions for the rest of their life, there would be a lot less issues in the world. I think that it’s like a tune-up on your car, like you get your oil changed every three months.”

Think of it as an oil change. If you do that, you’re not necessarily having to go in crisis. You’re going because you’re getting in front of it, and when it happens, you’re like, “Oh, I can handle this.”

I would endorse that. I will sign and promote, because I agree. It’s like any area of importance, and we’re learning to evolve, like we get support, and how do we not do that? Some of these are critical areas of relationship and well-being and all of it, and you talk about the ripple effect, the impact on our children or who comes into relationship and generations to come. This has huge implications. 

We don’t have time, but there is research that shows how doing our work does change our brain structure, which does impact our cells and our response, and it impacts future generations. There’s a book called It Didn’t Start With You. It’s quite good, and it talks about how we pass our trauma through our DNA.

Yes. I will say, I feel so much more integrated, so much more coherent. I feel so much more access to things that I wouldn’t have had access to had I not done the work that I am committed to doing personally. So thank you for bringing voice to this. How do people get in touch with you and what you’re teaching and offering?

Yes. So they can go to my website, which is MadhurNain.com. I have over 60 meditation singles on there. I have a workshop currently happening called The Soul Self, which is all about the two bookends and all the seven facets in between of our personality and how it’s developed. That will happen again, and I have a second and third book coming. My first book is called The Stressless Brain, and I have the second edition coming out in about a month-ish. So I’m really proud of that. Social media is, I’m on Instagram, which is MadhurNain.

Do you want to spell Madhur-Nain for your website?

Sure, it’s MadhurNain.com.

That’s on social media, as well as your website?

Yes, Spotify, Apple, YouTube.

Nice, and these are all your meditations? 

Yeah. 

Oh, my goodness! I will hope that maybe we can talk after we stop the recording here. Because I know a lot of people like to have something that they can turn to in a heated moment, that helps them turn towards themselves, have a little guidance. I think this meditation practice is exactly what people look for in these moments. It can be a self-esteem moment, a shame moment. It could be also relational trigger intensity moment, anger. 

Okay, great. Then just really quickly, as far as your workshop, is that in-person or online?

It’s online. Right now, it’s happening this month in February. I’m hoping to have it as a self-paced on my website coming soon, and I will have it again in the fall. So it’s online, I’m really proud of it. It really talks about all the lenses and our personality traits, and how they are created from our childhood, and how you can change it so you can change your personality. 

Nice. The third book, are you able to say what the topic is?

It’s about disappointment.

Okay. So people can follow you or get on your email list, and be in the loop about when that goes live. Thank you again for what you’re doing and your contributing and the way of supporting people in their growth.

Thank you so much for having me on your podcast. I’ve enjoyed our conversation.

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Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching