This show introduces you gently to the concept that we will be talking about healthy, loving relationships from time to time on the Get Over Yourself podcast.
Having been deeply immersed in the worlds of elite endurance sports, fitness/athletic training, diet, nutrition, weight loss and such for decades, I’m aware that peak performers often make the mistake of fixating on the logistics of healthy food choices and workout patterns, and ignore the big picture reality that lifestyle choices and circumstances have a profound impact on our physical health. If you have toxic relationship dynamics in home, social or work situations, if you are not prioritizing sleep, or if you are addicted to technology, your interval times and perfect food diary pie charts ain’t no big thing. We must adopt a holistic perspective for our health and fitness goals (that’s why I like Debbie Potts’s WHOLE Athlete podcast.) Relationships are a huge piece of the puzzle!
In this Breather episode, I offer up some of my favorite relationship tips from experts like John Gottman, Harville Hendricks, and Esther Perel. This stuff has been compiled thoughtfully from great books and podcasts for your listening pleasure and hopefully relationship breakthroughs. In future shows, my wise, clever, thoughtful, and mysterious girlfriend Mia Moore will join me in the studio to talk about healthy relationship dynamics with an actual couple–fun times await!
For now, get your notepad for a handful of absolutely awesome and unforgettable tips. When in conflict, call to mind the acronym WAIT: “Why Am I Talking?!” It’s important to understand Gottman’s profound assertion that at all times in relationship interactions, you are either operating as a team or not as a team. There is no gray area. Even if the issue is, “hey, you’re kinda being a jerk right now,” this issue can be addressed and solved as a team (e.g., “let’s discuss what’s bugging you and work through it”.) Gottman also asserts that the start of a conversation (whether pleasant or contentious) predicts the direction the conversation ends up 95% of the time. Gottman mentions that his decades of studying couples reveals that healthy partnerships have a 20:1 ratio of positive comments to negative comments in everyday communication, and even during times of conflict they preserve a 5:1 ratio!
Harville Hendricks says to establish a “zero negativity policy” to avoid raising people’s defenses. His most important relationship attributes are: Safety (to communicate your truth), Zero negativity, and dispensing Chronic Affirmations. Helen Fisher says successful long-term relationships show empathy, emotional control, and overlook negative attributes to emphasize the positive. Esther Perel says treat your partner like you would a top client: you have to woo them initially, and continue to treat them beautifully, because you know they can bail at any time. Don’t take partner for granted any more than you would a client. Great stuff, but often hard to embody in real life when you are too busy and too stressed. A UCLA study of DIWK (Double Income With Kids) reveals busy couples talk for only 35 minutes per week—and then mostly about logistics instead of levity or intimate conversations.
When you are in a conflict situation, use the acronym WAIT. (Why Am I Talking?) [00:00:26]
John Gottman states: In a relationship, you are either a team or you are not a team. There is no in between. A conversation starting point can predict the direction that it is headed. [00:01:20]
The ratio of positive to negative comments during a conflict is 5 to 1 and during everyday normal conversation the ratio is 20 to 1. [00:03:02]
Harvelle Hendricks suggests you establish a “zero negative policy” when you are in conflict. It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. Does your relationship include safety, zero negativity, and chronic affirmations? [00:03:47]
Helen Fisher says the traits of successful relationships are empathy, emotional control, overlooking the negative, and focusing on the positive attributes. [00:04:54]
Study from UCLA showed busy couples talk only 35 minutes per week! [00:05:34]
If your life stress level is high, then your relationship stress level is going to be high. [00:06:28]
Esther Perel, not without controversy, talks about keeping the polarity going in a relationship. [00:07:04]
Christopher Ryan says humans are not wired for monogamy, but we have a strong desire to conform to society. [00:07:36]
In today’s world we have more choice than ever before in how we choose to live. [00:09:17]
Treat your partner like you would a good client. You have to woo them in the first place and then you know they could leave any time so you continue to treat them with the highest standard at all times. [00:11:01]
Helen Fisher: She is a anthropologist who studies gender differences and the evolution of human emotions.
John Gottman: Gottman’s “Four Horsemen” Predict Divorce: Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling
Harville Hendricks: He is the author of “Getting the Love You Want” and “Keeping the Love you Find”.
Esther Perel: She is recognized as one of today’s most insightful and original voices on modern relationships.
Christopher Ryan: Author of “Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What it Means for Modern Relationships”
“A conversation starting point can predict the direction that it is headed.” – Gottman
“Treat your partner like you would a good client. You have to woo them in the first place and then you know they could leave any time so you continue to treat them with the highest standard at all times.” – Perel
Gottman research reveals that healthy couples have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative comments, even in conflict.
“You are either a team or not a team” – Dr. John Gottman
“3 important relationship attributes: Safety, zero negativity, chronic affirmations” – Dr. Harville Hendricks
LISTEN:Download Episode MP3
Welcome to the Get Over Yourself Podcast. This is Brad Kearns.
“Don’t take relationships for granted. Realize that tomorrow they can leave anytime, there’s no guarantee. So, you treat them at the highest standard all the time.”
Hi, welcome to another breather show. How bout we discuss some relationship advice tidbits? That I’ve called from excellent books, podcasts, and real people succeeding and having positive winning relationships. And one of them came from, I believe, from the relationship Jujitsu Podcast. And they were talking about when you’re in a conflict situation, remember to use the acronym WAIT, which stands for Why Am I Talking?
Oh my gosh, that’s great. I mean, think about the power of listening and really carefully listening, especially when you’re in a conflict. And how that conflict might resolve so much more quickly if you just sit back and listen and let the person be heard and seek to understand everything they’re saying, rather than formulating a preemptive response or a defensive response. So, when you get into conflict of any kind, call to mind that easy-to-remember acronym of WAIT.
Oh, how about John Gottman? Number one relationship expert, author of many bestselling books, with his wife. Great article that you can search for on Google in the … I believe was published in the New York Times about his long history, predicting relationship success and also relationship demise with his four horsemen of the apocalypse.
But one of the things he says is that as a relationship, you’re either a team or you’re not a team. There’s no in between. You’re either handling something as a team or you’re in conflict. And handling things as a team might even include, “Hey, you’re being a real selfish jerk right now. So, let’s get to the bottom of what’s bothering you and solve this as a team.” So, everything can be handled as a team. And Gottman says that 95% of the time, a conversation starting point can predict the direction that it’s headed. You’re going to either be a team or not a team, oftentimes based on the starting point.
How about an example from me? Someone walks in the door and they’re late, and the partner says, “Where the fuck were you?” Pissed off. First response, and that person comes back with a defensive comment about how they were running around town, looking for the right size belt that you asked them to buy or whatever. Instead of the first comment walking through the door could be, “Oh my gosh, I’m glad you’re home. I was so worried about you. Where were you? What was keeping you?”
So, huge difference in the starting point of the conversation from that anger, emotional drama starting point to the point of concern and kindness and openness to hearing what happened, right? Gottman also continues to observe things like the ratio of positive to negative comments during a conflict. A healthy partnership, of course has conflicts, but the ratio of positive to negative comments during the conflict is 5:1. Five positive comments to every negative comment even during conflict. And during normal, everyday life, the ratio of positive to negative comments in a healthy partnership is 20:1.
Whoa! Reflect on that. Maybe see where you stand on that scale and especially when you get into conflict, if you find kind supportive things to say, maybe the items of contention will be better received and better negotiated, right?
Another insight from Harville Hendrix, longtime relationship expert – been on a lot of podcasts. He suggests that you establish a zero negativity policy when you’re in conflict. Otherwise, defenses will go up, because it might be a difficult conversation to begin with. He says, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. You can bring up issues. You’re allowed to bring up issues, but just say them gently in a respectful tone of voice, making eye contact instead of feeling entitled with just a straight out complaint.
Here’s his three most important attributes for a healthy relationship. Number one is safety. You have a safe place to communicate and speak your truth. Number two is zero negativity like you just mentioned. And number three is chronic affirmations.
So, just like Gottman says, where you’re going for this 20:1 positive to negative comments, 5:1 even when you’re in conflict, and Harville Hendrix backing that up, saying that it’s important to have chronic affirmations in a relationship. That everything’s good, everything’s well, all that fun stuff.
Helen Fisher, author of many great relationship books, including Why Him? Why Her? She says, “Traits of successful long-term romantic love relationships for 20 plus years. These are the people that have been together for a long time and still going strong. Here are their traits; empathy, emotional control, overlooking the negative, focusing on the positive attributes.
A little add in from Gottman on this topic – successful long-term romantic love relationships make small bids for emotional connection throughout the day. Little things do add up. Here’s the challenge or here’s the problem. This is from a UCLA study observing DIWK couples. That stands for Double Income With Kids. So, the busy, hectic folks that are running around all day trying to survive and probably not much time for quality time.
In fact, this study revealed that these couples talk for 35 minutes per week total. And that most of this time is taken up with discussions of logistics. “What are you going to get at the store? What time do you pick up the kids from soccer?” Rather than that true intimacy and bonding and talking about fun, nurturing topics and items of leisure, entertainment, humorous, that kind of stuff. So, making that time in the busy life to go and honor those tremendous insights from the relationship experts. Whoa! It’s a big challenge.
Another profound insight that I got from a therapist was that if your life stress level is high, then your relationship stress level is going to be high. It’s very difficult, if not impossible to sustain a winning relationship if you’re stressed out and harried in your own busy personal life. So, managing that stress level and imagining that hand going up, you know, above your head. “My stress level’s up to here,” that’s where your relationship stress is going to be until you can somehow bring that stress down to give yourself a fighting chance at relating well to others.
I like Esther Perel, she’s one of the best. She’s all over YouTube. Kind of a controversial figure with some of her contentions about relationships and keeping that polarity going, where you’re not joined at the hip all day long and you’re not each other’s best friend and confidant and all things to all people. You have to have a little bit of separation and relationship dynamic tension to keep things fresh and sharp. Interesting.
Not sure what I think about all that, including Christopher Ryan’s commentary in his very popular book; Sex at Dawn. Where he argues that humans, biologically speaking, anthropologically speaking, are not in fact wired for monogamy. They’re wired to seek numerous partners in order to reproduce. It’s that reproductive drive in both males and females. Females are boosted evolutionary speaking by seeking multiple partners and generally maximizing their opportunities to have healthy, productive offspring.
We’ve known all along that males are known for wanting to dominate their environment and plant their seeds in as many opportunities as possible for reproductive success and proliferation of the human species. So, Ryan’s argument that deep down genetically, these drives are built into our DNA and everything we do in modern society to promote monogamy or to contain our primal human urges is in conflict with our genetics.
Interesting stuff, and it’s certainly scientifically valid, the arguments that he’s making and the genetic support for that. And then we also have a strong desire to conform to society and you know, pursue these significant benefits that we get psychological, emotional benefits from being in winning partnerships and forming the nuclear family and all that great stuff.
So, those drives are all circulating around. I don’t know which one’s more important than the other. I also respect the idea that today in modern life, we have more choice than ever before. So, you can choose to live whatever life you want. If you’re a female, you don’t have to get married by 28 or be kicked to the curb as an old maid and relegated to the guest room in your parents’ house and making them toast every morning for the rest of your life. And now, we have all kinds of interesting alternative stuff going on.
The Great Olympic athlete, Bruce Jenner transforming into a female and just advancing culture accordingly to what’s possible and best wishes to her for happiness, obviously. Bruce Jenner was struggling throughout his life with that dilemma. And it’s great to have that brought out into the forefront so everyone can reflect upon it. I’m listening to Aubrey Marcus talk about his open relationship and it’s been so judged for forever.
Now it’s like, hey, look, people have choices, people can do what they want. You don’t have to judge them. You can if you want, but we have more freedom and open mindedness to create the exact life that we want. Including a boring old, monogamous existence in the suburbs that gives you that happiness and peace of mind. And you don’t have to misinterpret the commentary in Christopher Ryan’s book that you’re supposed to go out there and roam around and find as many sexual partners as possible. So, he always has to make that distinction whenever he’s talking about his book. That he’s just observing the genetics and the anthropology, rather than making a lifestyle recommendation.
Okay, we got that straight and I brought up Esther Perel because she has a great quote back on that winning relationship topic. And she says, “Treat your partner like you would a good client. You have to woo them in the first place, and then, you know that they can leave anytime. So, you continue to treat them with the highest standard at all times. The same is true for relationships.” So, she says that you want to adopt that same mindset. Don’t take relationships for granted. Realize that tomorrow they can leave anytime, there’s no guarantee. So, you treat them at the highest standard all the time.
Oh my gosh, we are so familiar in the workplace how to suck up to the important client or the customer or the customer is always right and all that stuff. And a lot of times, we suffer through that in the name of preserving our job. But to have those same behavior patterns and deliver them with more authenticity and love in an actual relationship, where you’re choosing in rather than grumbling as you go take care of the customer that tips poorly every time with a big smile and a performance that’s not really what you’re really thinking, it’s a great thought that you can bring those things into a partnership and a treat your partner like your top client.
That should be enough good stuff to breathe on. Thank you so much for listening. This is Brad Kearns, talk to you soon.
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