Get ready for another fast-moving, hard-hitting show with Dr. Wendy Walsh! Dr. Wendy is back for a third appearance to break down all the reasons why healing attachment wounds is integral to a healthy and successful relationship, and as always, brings her fresh and spicy perspective to the table as we discuss all things related to dating and relationships.
In this episode, we confront the possibility that you (and all of us) are replaying a story of relationship dysfunction, get to the bottom of where this repetitive dysfunction is stemming from, and learn a practical, step-by-step approach for healing the root of these issues.
Some key takeaways from this conversation with Dr. Wendy:
- Relationships are less about luck than they are about skill: “It’s not about finding the right mate, it’s becoming the right mate.”
- A solid couple that lasts a long time is based on three things:
1.) Sociology (what the dating apps look for; what somebody looks like on paper)
2.) Biology (whether your pheromones are a good match)
3.) Psychology (mainly relating to early life attachments)
- The most vulnerable period of a person’s life are ages 0-3. This is because you are pre-verbal, so you can’t process events, especially painful events, like a story. This is why this time is so critical for development.
- You can absolutely change your attachment style in life, and a huge part of that is choosing a partner that does not feel familiar.
- A relationship is an “exchange of care.”
- “Our unconscious processes in our early life experiences shape our personality and dominate our behavior through the lifespan.”
- “Someone who has a secure attachment style can give and receive care equally.”
- Dr. Wendy has a favorite metaphor for personal growth: “You’re walking down the street, you don’t see a hole, and you fall in that hole. That’s the level that most people are operating at. But when you decide, I’m going to make a change and I’m going to grow and understand. So then, Stage Two is, you’re walking down the street, and now, you see the hole! And you fall in it. Stage Three is when you walk down the street, you see that hole, and you very carefully use your mind to step around that hole. And Stage Four? You take a different street. And that’s how attachment injuries and so many other physiological injuries get healed.”
Catch up with Dr. Wendy’s podcast, Mating Matters, here, and if you missed her first two appearances on the podcast, click here for the first show, Evolutionary Psychology Applied To Modern Love, and here for the second show on Successful Long-Term Relationships, Gratitude, Positive Attitudes, Healthy Parenting, The Future of Humanity, and Matters of Mating.
Brad introduces Dr. Wendy who talks about how the injuries from early childhood influence your choice of partners. [01:35]
Four relationship attributes are physical attraction, emotional regulation, empathy, and impulse control. [04:38]
Why don’t dating apps include negatives along with the positives? [06:04]
What is the chemical process of attraction? [07:31]
If your own psychological attachment styles are not a good match, you’re going to have problems. [09:38]
Women place far less emphasis on looks because they’re more tuned to go for intelligence, which is often showcased through humor. [10:27]
What is attachment theory? We form kind of a blueprint for love based on the kind of attachment we had with our primary caregivers. [12:34]
What works is: See it. Realize it. Understand it and process it from your emotional brain. [16:13]
The one common denominator in a relationship and is you! [21:35]
We subconsciously seek a person representing our loving experience from childhood. [22:12]
Some people say therapy is reparenting. [24:02]
Your parent-child relationships can be a do-over for you, the parent. [26:34]
What is the difference between somebody with a secure attachment and somebody who’s avoidant and just physically there? [27:43]
In long-term relationships, couples therapy is important because everyone is constantly growing and changing and you need to learn to accommodate. [32:35]
In an emotionally fused relationship, it is not about time spent, it’s about mental energy space. [37:12]
When questioning, if this is too much work, the best thing to do is to go to personal therapy and learn your part of the interaction. [38:21]
You could have unrealistic expectations about being a perfect person or an expectation of what love is. [39:50]
Kids are little sponges. They know what’s going on. [41:35]
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Get Over Yourself Podcast
Hey listeners, it’s my great pleasure to welcome back to the show for the third time Dr. Wendy Walsh host of the Mating Matters podcast on iHeart radio. She has been cranking out wonderful content over there and also on her Facebook page, all about relationships from the lens of evolutionary psychology, which has her area of expertise and training. And she does it in such a lively spicy way. You’re going to love the previous shows. If you haven’t listened, go back and check it out. And then this one where we’re going to talk about the possibility that you are replaying a story over and over of relationship dysfunction, whether it’s short-term relationships that don’t work out or in a long-term relationship, it doesn’t matter, but it could be very likely related to flawed childhood programming. Oh, mercy.
New Speaker (02:32):
We’ve talked about this in other shows as well. Uh, my breather show, uh, talking about Bruce Lipton’s work Biology of Belief and boy, this is something that we all really deserve to pay attention to and awaken to the possibility that what Dr. Wendy talks about is attachment theory or attachment injuries from early childhood are being played out in your choice of partners and how you interact in, relationships. This is coming from, uh, new research from the Einstein school of medicine that early in life attachment not only influences our romantic attachments, the way that we interact in relationships, but also our overall health. And so if you had a high stress childhood with a lot of fight or flight activation, you are going to play out the same way in your relationships because you’re trying to replay the story and fix it this time. And this leads to a kind of banging your head against the wall, making the same mistake. So Wendy’s going to talk us through, uh, a practical step-by-step approach for how to heal. And there’s three main ways which, uh, first is going to therapy and having that stable and consistent connection to a therapist and independent point of view, who does a good job., of course,,
Also having a stable and loving partner who is there for you and loves you unconditionally, even when you spin out into whatever behavior patterns, uh, that are, uh, flawed or dysfunctional or coming from flawed subconscious programming. And then finally, uh, being a parent yourself has that wonderful gift where you get to replay the story with such high stakes involved, because you want to be a good parent and perhaps apply things that you’ve learned, things that you’ve overcome, uh, to be the best that you can be. So, Dr. Wendy Walsh on a fast moving, hard hitting show, covering all kinds of topics, relationships, parenting, personal growth. Enjoy Dr. Wendy Walsh, one of our favorite podcast guests of all time with lingering insights to discuss and work through, especially with my childhood buddies. So I know they’re going to being listening to this show.
Weren’t working out relationship dynamics. We have some fun, fresh things to talk about. Uh, but you know, one place I want to start is this insight that you gave us on another show about four winning relationship attributes. This might’ve come from Mating Matters. That might’ve come from one of our shows. Uh, but everyone should go listen to Matting Matters. of course. Uh, but you had them one through four: physical attraction, emotional regulation, empathy, and impulse control. And if you have those four, you’re going to, you’re going to rock and roll and, and go off into the sunset/
And those are all skills that can be learned, by the way. It’s not like you’re that’s right.
Let me, let me reflect again. We can learn all those. Oh, Oh my gosh. It doesn’t say height or anything of the sort.
These are far more about skill than luck. And it’s not about finding the right mate. It’s becoming the right mate.
Well, what part of that is, um, what part of that is important to, to start from a good, a good pairing?
What do you mean?
Well, I mean, you know, you want it, everyone says you want to find the right mate and you go onto the that’s. What the, um, the online dating is all about is trying to pair and work through these computer algorithms and, and put someone who has like interests and values and political alignments. But you’re saying those are, um, those are things you could, you could work through if they’re not a so-called perfect match?
Well, I like to think that, you know, a good, solid couple that lasts a long time is based on three things. Sociology. That’s what the dating apps look for, right? How somebody looks on paper. Biology, whether your pheromones are a good match, whether you’re physically, the cues tweak you. And psychology, and that all has to do with your early life attachment stuff. And if we had a perfect world, it would be this. I had this idea recently because years ago I was looking for an apartment in Italy and the Italians do this thing. I don’t know if it’s by law or custom, that whenever they give the attributes of a particular in a real estate listing of a particular apartment, they also have to give the downside and list a couple of things, the negatives about this apartment. So that they’re very honest and balanced, right?
And so it might say something like the patio can feel cold in the mornings with no sun, or it might say a small amount of traffic noise from the autostrada can filter up in the afternoons, or they will say stuff. And I thought to myself, why don’t dating apps do that? Why don’t people say, here are my two pluses. Here are my two negatives, because really the truth is you’re never going to find, and you shouldn’t hope to find a perfect person. You should just find somebody who’s crazy is a good compliment to your crazy. That’s all, that’s all we’re looking for. And then it’s about skills.
Uh, what about that, uh, biology aspect, which you talk about the pheromones, and we’re not going to be, uh, attracted to our first cousin because we can sort of sense that this is not a, uh, it just doesn’t happen. So how does that chemical process work and what is a, what isn’t attractive match?
Funny. You said that because I have a new episode of Mating Matters coming out in two weeks called Genetic Sexual Attraction. And it’s about, they’ve actually learned that very close relatives, brothers and sisters, if they’re not raised together, if they’re separated at birth, if they’re farmed out to adoption or whatever, and they meet each other, they actually find themselves very attracted to each other. It’s about being raised together. That starts to create that kind of reverse sexual imprinting. But let me explain it. So, um, one of the things we know is that when you mate with somebody, your genes combined to reproduce stronger offspring, and most of the genes get selected from one parent or another. You might take long legs from one blue eyes, from another curly hair, from another except immune systems. The genes around immune systems actually combine to create a superhuman.
And so the way you detect that somebody has a disparate, a different immune system than yours. Meaning their ancestors were exposed to a host of diseases in their past that they are now immune to, um, is through pheromones. And so what we will say in our just conscious surface-y life is, Oh my God, we had the best sex with that person. They smelled delicious. And in fact, that is an indicator they’re sent their pheromones an indicator that their immune system is different from ours. So you can’t figure out that on a dating app, right. Unless they figure out how to put smell into it. And then the other piece of biology is that our visual cues are again formed early in life. As our sexuality gets formed, there’s all kinds of triggers and memories that we have. Oh, that’s arousing, that’s attractive. That’s cool. And so, you know, dating apps do that okay.
With all the pictures, right? So they try to work on the visual cues and they work on the sociology, the, you know, uh, the diet, are you a vegan or a paleo? Are you political? Are you right or left the, um, uh, zip codes, education level, all that kind of stuff, which are important for, you know, what our relationships, they’re a bridge between tribes. And if your tribes are just so different, you’re going to really have a hard time maintaining that bridge. So that’s one of the things that sociology pieces, but I’m a big believer that at the end of the day, even if a mate looks great on paper and even if they smell delicious and they look amazing, if your own psychological attachment styles are not a good match, you’re going to have problems. So that’s my big area is attachment theory.
Let’s get into that deeply because I know you’ve been, we’ve been talking offline about some of the new insights there. Uh, but as far as that physical attraction, is that necessarily going to be identified or not identified right away, or can someone, all of a sudden become, uh, attractive on the fifth date when you were just about to call it off and then things clicked further down the line?
What an excellent question. So research has shown within about three minutes. Women know if they’re going to have sex with somebody or not. But is it visual because I really believe sexuality is in our heads. And it’s an energetic thing. It’s energy. You know, women place far less emphasis on looks than men do, right? Because men love youth and beauty. It’s an indicator of fertility. It’s in your reptilian brain, their old anthropological brain, even if you’re a 40 year old man looking for a peer, a 40 year old woman, you’re going to pick the youngest cutest 40 year old woman because it sort of echoes something old in the past. Like maybe she’s fertile, not that you’re consciously thinking this. You just think they’re hot, but women place far less emphasis on looks because they’re more tuned to go for intelligence, which is often showcased through humor.
You can’t be funny unless you’re smart. And, um, and they, because that’s more to survival strategies for them and their offspring, right? If you’ve, um, you know, had a harsh winter back in our anthropological past, you’d better be smart enough to figure out another olive grove to go pick from or another field to go hunting. And in today, if the stock market crashes, uh, is he smart enough to figure out another way to make money? Right? So when I say women know, in the first three minutes, if they want to have sex with a man, it’s not always visual, it’s sometimes just this energetic thing. And sometimes that energy is about them showcasing their attachment style, which may or may not be a good thing in other words.
Okay. So let’s say, so let me just do a quick little brief attachment theory overview for you. so your listeners know what we’re talking about. So famous dude, pediatrician, psych psychotherapist, John Bowlby, back in England in the early 1930s, forties and fifties came up with this theory called attachment theory. That before him, it was thought that babies only loved their mothers because their mothers fed them. Right now we know because of Harry Harlow’s disturbing baby monkey studies, and (you can find them on YouTube and cry,)uh, where he would put a baby monkey in a cage with a scary looking wire mother with a nipple on her giving milk and another cuddly, soft lovey, a stuffed animal kind of mommy. And they would see how much time he spent eating and how much time he spent getting warmth and cuddling. And these baby monkeys would almost starve themselves to death, to stay away from the wire crazy monkey. And so now we’ve learned that love is really about care.
It’s about someone being attentive to your needs and early in life. In fact, in the first year when our brain triples in size, we form kind of a blueprint for love based on the kind of attachment we had with our primary caregivers. And then we take that out into our adult romantic lives, safely tucked in our unconscious, and we try to find a partner that will tweak that. That will feel familiar to us. So the good news is if you had a secure attachment with your parents, that they were loving and attentive to your needs and not overly punitive, and, um, took care of your needs, especially early in life, you grew up to kind of trust the world and trust the people in it, then you’ll seek out partners who bring that feeling. But if you are raised with the kind of parents that, you know, maybe your parents suffered from alcoholism or addiction or mental health issues or workaholism. And so you suffered neglect, or God forbid, abuse or criticism, you will actually go out and look for partners that will make you feel that way, because that’s familiar to you.
Are you talking throughout childhood? Like, let’s say our first 10 years, not just the first year when the brain’s developing a lot, but uh
It continues. right? The vulnerable period is zero to three because you’re pre-verbal and you can’t process it as a story. Like, Oh, well, my mom was drunk. She didn’t mean to hit me. She still loves me when you’re two, you just feel the pain and go love must be painful. Cause that’s my lifeline. That’s my umbilical cord. So, uh, the early life stuff is a very vulnerable, critical time in development, but yeah, it impacts all the way through. So the big question is, of course, can we change our attachment style? And absolutely we can. It’s about choosing a partner who doesn’t feel familiar. So I’m going to jump back to what I said. Sometimes when a woman on the first three minutes of a date finds a guy very, very attractive. If she comes, has an insecure attachment style, maybe a lot of anxiety around attachment and he happens to be very kind of avoidant.
Then, uh, she actually gets aroused by the fact that it’s triggering her old structures of love blueprint,
Right? So conclude is not a good thing.
Not a good thing.
They can’t help it.
Yeah. Sometimes people stay in very long, very unhappy relationships, Brad. That’s, what’s heartbreaking.
And now let’s turn to how this impacts our physical health. Because what the new research, I was watching a video recently out of the Albert Einstein School of Medicine where they have a sort of attachment learning program where they bring fragile families in. The adult parents may have been abused themselves and they bring them in with their babies and teach them how to love essentially. And they take saliva samples before and after all these lab visits and they, they can actually see attachment because what happens is when a child has an insecure attachment style, when they may fear their caregiver, when they may not be able to depend on their caregiver and just check out, then they, um, they actually, their cortisol levels go up because rather than having quiet learning time, that babies are supposed to be having in a warm arms, exploring the world, feeling safe, insecure of their body is always on alert for danger starting at a very young age..
And research has shown that this early life inflammation is almost overactive fight or flight response continues for their whole life and has increases in heart disease, diabetes, stroke, et cetera. And by just healing attachment injuries, we can improve our health. We talk about these adults who end up in these painful, but long relationships. They’re also hurting their physical health. And there’s real evidence. Now there’s real evidence to support this.
Yeah. Besides just the anecdotal evidence that you look like crap and you’re haggard and tired all the time. Cause you’re in a dysfunctional relationship. I wonder, Wendy, if there’s, um, is there pushback both in, uh, academia as well as like a layman’s opinion where you could say, Oh, that’s nonsense. Get over it? Whatever happened to yourself and childhood, uh, grow up and, and um, you know, don’t don’t attribute anything.
No, I mean, what is a relationship? It is an exchange of care. And if it is a good intimate, emotionally intimate relationship, it is two babies taking care of each other. That’s why, when people fall in love, they call each other baby, Hey baby, how are you? Because they’re basically making an unconscious deal. You’ll be my mommy. I’ll be your daddy. And so the point is our unconscious processes and our early life experiences shape our personality and dominate our behavior through the lifespan. “Get over it” doesn’t work. What does work is: See it, realize it, understand it, process it from your emotional brain, through your prefrontal cortex and change your behavior. I have to tell you my favorite metaphor for personal growth is this. And we can use the example of maybe an attachment injury, like always picking the wrong mate.
So you’re walking down the street, you don’t see a hole and you fall in that hole. That’s the level that most people are operating at. But then you decide I’m going to make a change and I’m going to grow and understand. So then stage two is you walk down the street and now you see the hole and you fall in it. Stage three is when you walk down the street, you see that hole and you very carefully use your mind to step around that hole. And stage four, you take a different street. And that’s how attachment injuries nd so many other psychological injuries get healed, right? You start by dating hurtful, bad boys or hurtful bad girls. And you’re not even aware that you’re the one doing the choosing. You could say it’s all their fault. I just, there’s so many bad people. Or I hear people, blame cities all the time. Oh, the problems, Los Angeles, the problems, New York, the problems, your choices, let’s be clear.
So then you go to therapy and you talk about your early childhood. And you’re like, Oh my goodness, my parents hurt me. And then you see the next hot person. And you’re like, Oh yeah, this is going to be a problem. I can see still hookup with them. Right? And then you get hurt again. And now you’re like, Oh, that’s how it is. And then the next time you see the playboy or the playgirl roll in. And you’re like, I’ve been here. I’m going to not give you my number. I’m going to walk away early. That is growth for me. And finally, you’re on the dating app or you’re in a bar and you look over and you see the actual nice, good secure person. And your brain does not say ewww! They’re too nice. I hear people say that all the time. Oh, they’re too nice. What does that mean? You’re supposed to have a nice person in a relationship. It means you want to be hurt a little bit.
Oh yeah. That sounds like a red flag. Huh?
So you’ll turn to that securely attached person and notice them for the first time in your life. And go, huh? That’s what goodness feels like.
So we are seeking unconsciously to repeat the, uh, imperfect love or abandonment or whatever occurred in childhood?
Right. Because we’re trying to fix it this time around and we think we can fix it by choosing the same object. And we think we can change them. Look, you know, I wrote dating books when I’m in my youth all about, you know, how to fix them. It’s not about fixing them. You know, there’s one common denominator in every relationship you’ve ever had. That’s you.
Yeah. There’s one, one flaw in all your failed relationships. Yeah.
Speaker 2 (22:10):
It’s you, you picked them.
And so the other person, uh, you, you were talking about the female meeting the male, but of course we can go in both directions. What does the, what’s the other person, uh, representing when you’re you, you want the, um, the males attracted to the, the hot female who is temperamental and emotional and you’re going into a firestorm once again, but you’re blinded by their physical beauty or what have you, how does that imprint to our, our childhood programming?
Well, likely that was the angry mother, right? So the guy who had the absolutely smothering dominating single mother who made her eldest son almost become her husband. Uh, that guy grows up to be so emotionally avoidant. He figures out how to obtain sex. He says what he needs to do on a date to obtain sex. But as soon as it gets too emotional or too close, he’s out of there, or he goes into his own compartment and doesn’t call for a while. And so that’s him believing that he’s going to be all engulfed and smothered. And so on the other hand, there might he’s most attracted to the anxious girl because that reminds him of the mother. Who’s trying to engulf him. And the anxious girl is texting and calling and texting, calling, or getting angry. When he finally calls back and says, Oh my God, it’s been two days since you called it. You figured out how to dial a phone. Right? And all of a sudden it’s echoes of his angry and engulfing. When we talk about gender, we have to remember it’s all genders. Gender identity doesn’t really have anything to do with attachment. There’s some research to show that men tend to fall slightly more often in the avoidant category of women’s slightly more often in the anxious, but it can be flipped and even same-sex relationships or any genders attachment style knows no sex or gender.
So I guess if we might all agree, all of us listening, agree that we want to work through this stuff and not be that guy or that gal who, you know, repeats these, um, these mistakes or the, these behavior patterns that don’t bring us joy and fulfillment and long-term happiness. Um, and gee, I guess probably not all of us even have good, um, memory recall from the first seven years of life. So where do we go to, uh, uncover some of these subconscious drives that are still with us?
Well, interestingly enough, the best work of therapy, isn’t always the memory retrieval. It’s the consistency of the therapeutic frame. The therapeutic frame is, you know, we meet at this time every week we meet for 50 minutes. I’ll hold the time I’ll hold the frame. I’ll make sure this is a therapist talking, but I have boundaries and not put my own shit into the room. It’s about really about you. A good therapist works in what we call the transference. So when some, some client imagines that the therapist is being mean, then that therapist could ask them to explore where they thought that feeling comes from, et cetera. But at the end of the day, the thing that heals is the relationship. It’s the consistency. Some people say therapy is reparenting right. And it is that consistency that rewires the brain. There are a couple other relationships, according to research that can heal attachment injuries.
One, if you’re lucky enough, whether you’re a more avoidant or more anxious or more disorganized in your attachment style, if, because somebody has a great resume on paper. You know, they have the right job, eat the right food, have the right politics. And they physically look attractive. If I’m lucky enough to stumble on them and they happen to have a secure attachment style, then that they will give you the consistency. You need to hear them. So in other words, assume there’s this straight and narrow and secure, solid human being in a relationship when the crazy person spins out with all his or her drama and comes and goes, the secure person goes, knock yourself out, babe. You’re cute. When you do that, I’m right here. It’s okay. And eventually they’ll calm down. Uh, and so the avoidant one, who’s running away all the time. Wait, they’re not chasing me.
I’m running. And the secure person is just right there. Oh, I don’t have to run so far. And so that’s one other one. And the third relationship, according to research that can heal attachment injuries is the parent child relationship. You know, becoming a parent as a do-over for us in our attachment style. If we read all the great psychology of child attachment and practice things that our parents did not practice that as a parent soothing a baby, you know, don’t worry, daddy’s always here. Don’t worry. Daddy’s going to come home from work. Do you want to keep, uh, daddy’s picture beside you. Your daddy’s always going to be here as the parent is saying those words, guess whose brain is also hearing themselves. So they echo the good parent in an adult can rewire their own brain.
Right. Because there’s so much that the stakes are so high for the parent. It’s not, it’s not all about you and your selfish needs anymore, or
Yeah, but they accidentally self console as they’re talking to their child. Right? Yeah.
Wow. It seems like that, uh, picture of the, the stable partner and the, uh, the, the unstable one who struggles and, uh, keeps bumping up against this, this rock of a solid love and support and unconditional, unconditional love. It seems like, uh, that that’s out there happening, or people think it’s happening that maybe it’s not really, and maybe there’s some passive aggressive parts to the person who thinks they’re stable. And, and th th the, the, the straight one in the relationship and they’re dealing with, uh, another high drama incident or something.
I think your question is, what’s the difference between somebody with a secure attachment and somebody who’s avoidant and just physically there, right? So somebody who has a secure attachment style can give and receive care equally. Now we know there are people out there who can be the givers all day long, and can’t really take care. There are those that are the takers that can’t give care. A secure attachment style person can give and care and receive care. They can express their emotional needs very clearly without shame. That’s different from being needy. When we say needy, it’s usually somebody with an anxious attachment style, right. That their needs are so overwhelming. That one person can’t possibly satisfy them. But somebody with a secure attachment style can both be strong and confident and vulnerable and authentic, right. And avoidant person is just kind of, I’m physically here. That should be good enough for you. I’m not actually going to open up. Right? And so the secure person, as they open up and become more vulnerable and authentic, they’re modeling it for the partner who needs to learn these skills back to learning skills. It’s all learned behavior.
Uh, it seems like there’s quite a few occasions of being stuck on the, the giving side and nailing that, uh, part of the relationship, but not being authentic and vulnerable, not expressing your own needs, uh, things of that nature.
It’s like, you have to take turns, leaning on each other’s shoulders, right? And it may not look fair in any given month. Somebody may somebody’s needs may be greater in a given month or whatever, but a good healthy relationship has two authentic people in it. Of course, the real challenging times come when both people are faced with some life crises at the same time, and they’re both vulnerable and they both need care. However, even in one’s distress, let’s say one of them has lost a job or is in a very stressful job. Sometimes giving to the partner and caring for your partner is an act of sublimation that helps you care for yourself too. So we have to remember that adult romance, you know, we’re wired to bond as a species, and whether you argue about, should it be lifelong, and should we be monogamous?
And, you know, the poly community and world the truth is for most of human evolution, we have had pair bonds that were mostly monogamous. That lasted until kids got out of the nest. What we didn’t have is choosing one mate early in life and staying with that mate till death. Well, we did have that, but when we had that death was pretty imminent. So because of our very long life expectancies that even the most monogamous of humans may find themselves having two or three long stints of monogamy with some mate selection in between. We call that dating. But at the end of the day, we are wired to bond because we are many, one minds. We do better having two minds in a relationship. Everything, our health is better. Our mental health is better. Our financial life is better. And so while I don’t preach some patriarchy inspired shape of male, female, gender roles and commitment, and even marriage, I do think there are so many mental and physical health benefits of being able to show yourself to somebody in an intimate way to be real. You know, I’ve always heard the saying therapy doesn’t make you happy. Therapy makes you real. And you would hope in your love relationship that you could be your authentic self.
Hmm. I think that’s a real challenge when you have, um, a succession of unsatisfactory exchanges, right? So maybe the person’s trying to be honest and vulnerable early out of the gate, if they’re just dating or maybe they’re, you know, way, many years into it. And, uh, you get the eye rolling and all those, uh, horrible relationship, uh, destructive, destructive behaviors. And then you kind of wither away from even trying
Well, again, if you get rejected for being real, then if you’re in a new relationship, you’ve chosen the wrong partner, chosen a partner who is basically saying to you, um, or basically reminding you of something else that happened in your life being rejected for being you. If you’re in a long-term relationship and you say, you know what, I’m tired of living like this. I want us to be more real. I want us to be closer and, you know, relationships change across the lifespan. But I mean, they, the people in them are constantly growing. I really believe I’m a big proponent of couples therapy for long-term commitment because, um, everybody’s changing and growing and you have to accommodate the changes in the partner as well. But, you know, I also suggest going to couples therapy where you have a referee and they’re a coach. Right. And so that when you do say something vulnerable and the partner says something sarcastic, you don’t have to be the one to say it. You’ve got somebody in there going, Hey, that might’ve been a little hurtful. How did that feel to you when he, or she said that? Right. So, and that’s how we learn to connect,
Right. And I guess if a therapy doesn’t go well after 12 sessions, a couples therapy, I’m thinking of, that’s probably an indication if you can’t even be productive and civil there, um, you’re not going to have a good chance in real life.
Well, I do also before I ever promote, well, throw in the towel, I do want to remind people that we put a lot of pressure on our relationship partners to be the entire village for us nowadays, right? Not so long ago, we had neighbors and cousins and parents, and, um, all kinds of people to confide in emotionally. And in fact, women it’s been shown, have a much more greater social network and emotional support system than men. Men are particularly bad at putting all their emotional eggs in one basket. So, um, you know, we have to also look at our relationship and say, what else is it to us? Is it, uh, something that is, um, a good exchange of care in other areas, whether it’s financial care, domestic responsibility care, childbearing care, um, financial, whatever, sexual, whatever, but maybe this emotional piece is not there. Now, the question is, how lonely do you feel in your relationship? And can you get your emotional needs met somewhere else? Not in a relationship that’s going to threaten your primary relationship, but a good friend, a therapist. Are there other ways and places for you to be authentic while you keep the ship going? If there are kids in the nest and families connected to it, all, these are really tough decisions.
Uh, maybe taking better care of yourself too. So you come back to the home, uh, happier, fitter, healthier things that are going to, you know, indirectly, greatly boost your relationship, quitting, quitting, that lousy, miserable job that you’re, uh, you know, no fun to be around all the time. That kind of thing.
I think we talked about this the last time I was on your podcast, but you know, relationships are a Venn diagram, right? There are two circles overlapping. And if the circles are too close over top of each other, you get a fused relationship where nobody can remember who’s problem is whose if they’re two autonomous and separate, then there’s no intimacy. So you do want to always keep a good chunk of your circle, your self, your sense of self, your autonomy growing, so that you have something to bring back into the relationship. You want to come home with. Good news about something, you did something exciting so that you always continue to inspire each other as you watch each other grow, but then you also have this shared core of overlapping love and emotional intimacy. That’s the overlapping part of the Venn diagram.
I guess that’s the thing that’s going to be constantly changing throughout life. So you constantly have to work on those circles. I’ve never heard the term, um, fused relationships. So I see, like, it seems like a lot of couples work together these days, you know, in the bakery on the baking show or they’re, uh, they’re flipping homes together on TV, or what have you, um, does that seem to be more common where you’re isolating from the community and now the relationship is fusing more and more?
Well, let me say something about having an emotionally fused relationship. You can be working all day long with somebody and living with them and be emotionally distant. You can be 3000 miles away from your mate, your ex, and still be fused. They can still trigger you. Right. So you got to remember, it’s not about time spent. It’s about mental energy space.
Yeah. Good distinction. Yeah. Uh, so if someone is going along in a relationship, whether short-term, or long-term, uh, it’s less than 10 out of 10, and they’re straddling these lines, wondering Wendy Walsh says that you can make relationships work by applying skills and learning new skills and overcoming your attachment injuries. And then, uh, the other side of the coin might be, Hey, is this too much work with this person who might not be, uh, an ideal match or whatever you want to call it from that other camp and other rooting section over there, how do you kind of juggle those two disparate variables?
You go to personal therapy. You spend some time working out what’s going on, you know, you’ll know when you’re not, when you know. Right? Um, and so being in the process of deciding whether to stay or whether to go is part of the work of personal growth. You know, relationships are a gymnasium for our minds. You can’t grow by sitting on the side of a mountain meditating. Sorry. Oh, you meditators, that’s avoiding. Right? And so you have to be in it. You have to be pushing on that weight machine, tearing down the muscle fiber. In this case, pushing your psychological boundaries, figuring out what piece is you, what piece is them. How you can get your needs fulfilled one way or another. But I really think we choose every single partner because they are there to help us grow. Now, growth can be painful. And part of the growth might be being able to walk away when you’re ready, because there’s some people that may have an anxious attachment style that will cling onto anything, no matter how painful it is. And for them, it’s about getting rid of a toxic relationship. And then there are other people learning to be satisfied in a good enough relationship. So there’s no one right answer, but we’re on a lifelong journey to learn about ourselves.
So learning to be satisfied in a good enough relationship, if you have, I guess I’m thinking of a serial story telling where the person’s had a succession of relationships lasting two years, and then, uh, they fell apart and then a new one came along and it lasted one or two or three years. And so the, you see this recurring pattern where maybe it’s yeah, maybe, uh, they, they have, uh, uh, an ideal that’s not realistic or something.
Exactly. They could either have an unrealistic idea, like there’s some perfect person or an unrealistic idea about love. Like, well, if it’s love, I should be happy all the time. We should never have a fight. Well, guess what? In order to have intimacy, you got to have some conflict because the road to intimacy is paid with ruptures, followed by repairs. And it is during the repair process where people become vulnerable and say, I’m sorry, and I forgive you where you really get to see their authentic self. So if you don’t have the ruptures, you can’t get the repairs. So,
So if you, if you’ve never had ruptures in childhood, like if you had this, a classic example of today’s smothering parent, where the kid is the, uh, the prince of the planet or the queen, and they can do no wrong. Uh, and they’re, you know, the Apple of, uh, the parent’s eye all the time. And they’re protected from real struggle and failure throughout their little journey. And then they, uh, the parents pay a bribe and they get into the good college is that can be paired perhaps with unrealistic relationship expectations.
No. Um, kids know the difference. In fact, they’re smart
People, kids are smart,
They’re little sponges. So sometimes when parents spoil a kid or tell them they’re too great, it actually lowers self-esteem. It goes, yeah, my art project wasn’t that great. Or I can’t believe they called the teacher to complain about that. I really was a bully on the playing field. How come, you know, like, so they don’t know what to believe and what to trust. So it can really impact their sense of self sometimes in a really negative way. You know, the, the thought is if you spoil a child, they will grow up to be a narcissist that they believe they’re perfect. It’s actually the opposite is that they, they have self-loathing underneath. Um,
Isn’t that a narcissist? Anyway,?
They may, they may either just exhibit, you know, um, insecurity, or they may build an external personality of narcissism and some kind of public personalities as I’m great. And I’m wonderful as compensation for their feelings of loathing. You can go all kinds of ways, but I want to say this very clearly for anybody who’s a parent out there. You cannot spoil a child under the age of two. You start to put the boundaries on when it comes to safety, when they’re running around and they’re going to run into traffic, right? And then you create logical consequences. So you give nothing but love and attention and glory. And then around the age of two, you start with the boundaries, but not punishing, more explaining. Well, here’s why we have this rule because we love you so much. We do not want you out after dark. And here’s why. And so, and then you pay attention to the cues that the child is growing older and ready for some, uh, autonomy. And you tell them you trust them. And that creates a self-confident human whose parents trusted them to make good decisions because the parents taught them good decisions, not beat it into them. That’s parents making the decisions, not the kid.
Are you, uh, increasing your scope of trust each passing year?
Yeah. And eventually they transfer those feelings of attachment to their peer groups during adolescence. That’s why adolescent girls all wear the same jeans have the same sneakers. Go, Oh, that’s embarrassing. Oh, that’s awkward because they have to match their peer group. Or is there think of their peer group as a stepping stone from family of origin, attachment to peers, and then eventually to romantic attachments. They’re just transferring attachment figures.
So how do you spoil a kid over the age of two?
Well, just as you were saying is you, you say yes to everything and you become the snowplow parent and the child has no boundaries. And they feel very unsafe with that. Kids like to have structure and boundaries. It’s like, if you’re in a car where the brakes are out and you’re going 60 miles an hour, would you rather run into a brick wall, a half mile of feathers, or a nice slow gravel incline, like a truck runoff. Right. And so there’s the brick wall parents that are punitive and they say, no. And then the kids have too much boundaries and that hurts too. Or the jellyfish parents who say whatever. And then that hurts too. But then the good flexible backbone parents say, okay, um, we have these logical consequences, but if you can convince me that this rule needs to be changed, use your mind and let’s negotiate it. Then the child has a sense of efficacy and autonomy
Love it. Wow. We’re, we’re all over the map on this show. Fantastic.
I love to parenting.
The most lengthy notes ever. Yeah.
And I have to go, Actually, I think we had an hour and I’ve got to get.
I appreciate your time. It’s, it’s always great to catch up. Um, tell us about Mating Matters. I want everyone to go listen to that great show.
So we have just launched season two. Uh, we have hit 20,000 downloads a week, so we’re very proud of that. It is a podcast that uses evolutionary psychology to explore our most intimate relationships and indeed all human behavior. So, um, things like, uh, we look at how pornography is actually a kind of evolutionary track that makes the brain think it’s mating, but it’s not. Uh, and then, um, we talk about polyamory. We talk about what is love, what is the science of love? Uh, we talk about why we evolved to have things like mean girls, Golddiggers and sluts and female to female competition. That actually goes back deep in our evolutionary past. We also talk about testosterone and why we have good guys, why we have, uh, and then we have cads. We have cads and dads. We have the widest range. We have the widest range of paternal investment in offspring, by males of any primate out there and why that is why we evolved to have it that way.
Uh, so it really just answers the question why, and I interviewed scientists, amazing scientists working in the field as well as real people who tell their stories of relationships that brings the science to life. So just today, we’re releasing a new one. Uh, well, I can’t say today because it’s going to air on another day. Uh, but, uh, shall I say recently we aired an episode called Precocious Puberty. Why the age of sexual maturation has been going down in decades and decades and decades. And now a fully 10% of American girls are getting their first period under the age of 10 when clearly they’re not ready for motherhood, but yet their body is why is that? And people talk about hormones in our food and our sexualized media. There are many pieces to it, but a certain evolutionary psychologist weighs in with a fascinating theory. So the episode of Mating Matters is called Precocious Puberty,
Dr. Wendy Walsh, killing it. Thank you for that great show description. I invite listeners to go subscribe to that show. I love it every week. And, uh, I’m glad to have you back on the show. Have a great day.
Thank you for listening to the show. We would love your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. And we would also love if you could leave a rating and a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts, I know it’s a hassle. You have to go to desktop iTunes, click on the tab that says ratings and reviews, and then click to rate the show anywhere from five to five stars. And it really helps spread the word so more people can find the show and get over themselves because they need to thanks for doing it.