Brad Robinson is an Affair Recovery Expert | Episode 13

Brad Robinson is an Affair Recovery Expert | Episode 13

Were you a child of divorce? Do you struggle to make your relationships last? How can you heal your own demons?

In this podcast episode, Billy and Brandy Eldridge talk to Brad Robinson about what makes relationships last.

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Meet Brad Robinson

Brad Robinson is an Affair Recovery Expert: Episode 13

Brad Robinson became a marriage and couples therapist over a decade ago because he was tired of seeing friends and family suffer the misery of bad relationships that sometimes ended in a bitter divorce.

As a child of divorce due to infidelity, he made it his life’s mission to help couples heal so they could be the parents and the people they really want to be.

Today he is an international marriage and affair recovery expert. Brad is a featured TEDx speaker and highlighted in various publications such as ABC, NBC, CBS, and the New York Post.

Visit Brad’s website and listen to the podcast here.

In This Podcast

Summary

  • Who you should marry
  • The lighthouse and the harbor
  • Healing demons
  • The building blocks to a healthy relationship
  • Initiators and hesitators

Who you should marry

Brad eventually figured out a way of figuring out who you should marry, or at least consider marrying. You ask them one simple question…Who did you go to when you were little? So, whose lap did you crawl into when you were sad, afraid, or hurt? This simple question can have a profound answer…”I had my mom/I had my dad”, and the person can give you clear stories.

This is not that they necessarily had a trauma-free childhood but they had somebody who showed healthy modeling of how to be a lighthouse, a harbor, and how to really be emotionally supportive and attuned. This is the type of person who will probably be healthier to be in a relationship with. If the person tells you they don’t remember or just give you a “mom or dad” answer with no specifics, then if you choose to go into this relationship just know that there is going to be a lot of growth that has to occur in order for you to have a healthy relationship.

The lighthouse and the harbor

We’re all dealing with the same problems but people who have a love that lasts, deal with those problems differently. They are there for each other as a lighthouse and as a harbor. They are in tune with each other and are sensitive, supportive, and available to each other.

  • Lighthouse – Operate as a receiving function. I know there are storms out there, monsters at the bottom of the ocean, waves trying to knock you over. There’s fog and sometimes you just can’t see your way. I’m going to shine my light for you and be available. And I’m going to have hot cocoa ready for you and I’m going to have dry blankets and warm clothes for you when you come in. I want to hear your latest adventure, I want you to talk to me about it. To be able to receive that from somebody… you feel loved, that’s really where feelings of love come from. It is not just receiving though… being able to give that to someone also makes you feel loved.
  • Harbor – This is where we support each other in each other’s dreams, goals, and aspirations. We operate as a harbor where we help that person launch, and we’re still supportive, we’re there, and we’re available as needed.

Healing demons

Part of it is learning what the right steps and skills are and another part is healing from your own demons. When someone goes through a divorce, at a minimum it shortens their lifespan by 5-7 years. So if a child goes through a divorce and then goes through it again as an adult, their lifespan is going to be cut 10-14 years. Nobody talks about that. These wounds have to be dealt with. There are outward signs of how traumatic divorce is for a child e.g. sleepless nights, bedwetting, developing fears/phobias, and social awkwardness. But, there are also inward signs of how the stress impacts their bodies and how the nervous system starts to attack itself.

These signs show up later in life in the form of severe health issues and being more likely to be overweight or get cancer. They are not necessarily engaged in riskier behaviors, but their bodies still think that they are in fight or flight so is still secreting these hormones. It still believes that there is danger there so the hormones don’t shut off properly until people deal with their own demons. The earlier a child can get into therapy, the better the outcomes will be. You can’t leave them be, they have to deal with their trauma on the inside as it does manifest.

The building blocks to a healthy relationship

In relationships, we have interactions with each other and if we feel like our needs aren’t being met or we feel like we’re being ignored, we start to get a little selfish and resentful because we’re feeling hurt.

When we respond or react to this it’s going to be intense and it’s probably not going to have good reception. In response cycles, there is an initiator and a hesitator. They both feel stepped on and they both feel that they can’t depend on each other emotionally. When we start to feel like our needs aren’t being met, we start to have negative beliefs about each other and that’s when people start saying that their partner is a narcissist, selfish, etc. The way to get out of this is really simple: be the lighthouse and harbor.

Initiators and hesitators

The initiator (the one who generally wants closeness and brings up issues to work on and doesn’t mind conflict) if they’re anticipating rejection, what they tend to do is they actually come on stronger. If they’re anticipating rejection, they will come on hotter, stronger, but when they do that, they’re actually creating their own little self-fulfilling prophecy. They don’t want to get rejected, they don’t want to be abandoned, but they think you’re going to do it anyway.

The hesitator (the one who typically doesn’t like conflict and feels inadequate) often just hears where they’re falling short e.g. they are a failure, they’re a bad parent, they’re not a good partner, etc. So, they withdraw, they bottle up what they’re feeling emotionally and they really struggle with inadequacy. This then causes the initiator to feel like their partner has just turned a blind eye and it has confirmed that they’re not loved and they don’t matter.

Watch Brad’s TedTalk

Books mentioned in this episode

Are you ready to find the freedom to be yourself as a beta male? Do you want permission and tools to be your best beta? Are you ready to join the revolution to find strength as a beta? If you want to be comfortable in your skin and be the most authentic beta male, then our free beta revolution course is for you. Sign up for free.

Useful links:

Meet Billy Eldridge

billy-eldridge

Meet Billy, the resident beta male. For Billy, this is a place to hang out with other beta males and the people who love them. We’re redefining what beta males look like in the world. I have learned to embrace my best beta self, and I can help you to do the same. As a therapist, I understand the need to belong. You belong here. Join the REVOLUTION.

 

Meet Brandy Eldridge

brandy-eldridge

Hello, Beta friends. I am an alpha personality who is embracing the beta way of life. I feel alive when connected with people, whether that is listening to their stories or learning about their passions. Forget small talk, let’s go deep together. Come to the table and let’s have some life-changing conversations.

 

Thanks for listening!

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Podcast Transcription

[BILLY]:
Hey guys. I am a therapist and between writing notes, filing insurance claims, and scheduling with clients, it can be hard to stay organized. That’s why I recommend TherapyNotes. This easy to use platform lets you manage your practice securely and efficiently. Visit therapynotes.com. To get two free months of TherapyNotes today, just use the promo code JOE, capital J-O-E when you sign up for a free trial at therapynotes.com.

Hey, Beta Male Revolution. Today on the podcast we have Brad Robinson. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Brandy and I got the opportunity to interview him and we’re so excited for you to learn about him today. He has the Total Marriage Makeover with his wife. He also has a website called Healing Broken Trust where he has this podcast that’s been downloaded an astounding over 1.5 million times. Just tune in, he’s gotten shout outs from the likes of Brett Favre, Jennifer Love Hewitt. I was a big fan of Party of Five in 1994 as an angsty, brooding teenager so that one definitely caught my attention. So, join Brandy and us as we interview Brad and hang out with us.

Hey guys. Today with us, we have Brad Robinson. He is with the Total Marriage Makeover and he has Healing Broken Trust. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist who works with couples all over and we’re just so excited to have him here today. He also has a specialty where he works in the area of infidelity and broken trust, and how to heal that. And I know that’s something we need in our world today. So, we’re just glad to sit down with him, pick his brain, figure out what he knows and, what we can use in our own lives about how to improve our marriages. How to, you know, safe proof ourselves against infidelity and things like that. And if you have been through it, you know, how do you heal? How are you doing today, Brad?

[BRAD]:
Great. Great, Billy.

[BILLY]:
Yeah, so glad you’re here with us, and just want to know, how did you become a therapist? Is that what you’ve always done since day one, straight out of college?

[BRAD]:
Good question. I never actually thought I would ever be a therapist. Honestly, it was never even a thing that occurred to me. And never was an aspiration, nothing like that. It really happened as a result of – I’m sure like many therapists – but as a result of my own struggles in trying to make sense of the world and trying to figure things out. My parents divorced when I was young. I am the youngest of four kids. Didn’t really have that modeling that I needed; didn’t really have that role model. Good people. Good parents, knew they loved me, but I never saw like how an actual healthy relationship worked. By the time I was in the seventh grade, my mom had already begun her third marriage. And my dad never remarried. And unfortunately, both of my parents, as much as they loved us kids, they really did not like each other. And you give them 10 minutes, just alone with them, and the conversation will eventually just kind of veer back to, your dad, your mom, blah, blah, blah blah. So, I didn’t really have that kind of role modeling, and it didn’t show up until you get interested in the opposite sex. So, you know, you may be okay, you don’t realize the deficit, then you get interested in the opposite sex, and then you’re like, you know… and for me, personally, I kind of wanted… it showed up in a lot of ways, but one of the biggest ways – and this is really the defining moment for me, there were other areas – but the defining moment for me was dating a girl in college, and she was a really good person, but not really thinking that, you know, this is somebody I need to be married to. And we dated 18 months, first serious girlfriend I had in college, and really the only serious girlfriend I had in college. But I was thinking when we broke up, it’s like, you know, I don’t want to do that to anybody again, I don’t want to go through this. I was hurt, probably not as much as her because it really hurts to be rejected by somebody, but to be the one who has to fire somebody, or break up with somebody, that really was very, very, very difficult. And I never wanted to go through that again. So, I started reading a bunch of relationship books. How can I know much earlier in a relationship if this is somebody I need to be with? How can I figure this out? I think I have figured out some of those things. But it ultimately started as a self-improvement project.

[BRANDY]:
I love this. This is so beta. This is not something you think about, like, your college boyfriend… and by the way, I just have to say, thank God a lot of us didn’t marry our college sweethearts, or high school sweethearts. But yeah, go ahead.

[BRAD]:
I had a mentor in high school, who really believed in me and, you know, as a teenager, I was really a go getter in the sense of like, I would read; I wouldn’t do my homework, and I wouldn’t do homework and like, get good grades in that sense, but I would read like, every day, constantly, things that I was passionate about, and it showed up today in my line of work. But he really believed in me and something he told me was, do not marry the first girl you date in college. And so that was in the back of my mind when I broke up with this girl. And it’s like, you know, he said that, I’m gonna trust his wisdom. It has played out. It’s been the best and she was a good person. Nothing wrong with her. But it’s, you know, honestly, where I was at… oh, what was that, Brandy?

[BRANDY]:
I said, you just don’t know yourself yet enough to be able to do that.

[BILLY]:
Well, I’m a textbook case in that, because I did this; I married the girl right out of high school. Fantastic human being, I respect her. But we found ourselves eight years down the road and two different human beings going in two different directions. I was dealing with life and a lot of dysfunction and didn’t know how to be an adult yet, basically. And kind of went down that path. So, what y’all are saying is so true, but what I hear you telling me is that in college, you’re having a hard time relationally and you’re thinking about relationships, but it sounds like that matters to you. I know so many guys in college, you know, what do they care? How many girls can I date and break up with? It’s like a notch. It’s like, yay. But I think different guys see that a little different, relationally. It’s kind of hard for them to break up. They don’t like to be the guy who fires people. They don’t like to be the guy who breaks up with people. So, they want to find out how do I get into relationships where I don’t have to do that so much. I can totally identify with that.

[BRAD]:
Yeah, and I think I found… you know, I’ve kind of figured out, eventually, I figured out like the kind of person you should marry, or, you know, at least consider marrying. It’s like, it’s a simple one question and basically, the question is, who did you go to when you were little? Whose lap did you crawl into when you were sad, afraid, or hurt? So, a simple question, but it has a profound answer to it. I had my mom, I had my dad, and they can give you clear stories, that somebody who, more or less… not necessarily didn’t have like a trauma free childhood, or scar free childhood, but it’s somebody who had healthy modeling of how to be a lighthouse, how to be a harbor, how to really be emotionally supportive and attuned. They’re going to be somebody that’s probably going to be healthier to be in a relationship with. If they give you an answer like, nobody, I don’t remember anybody being there for me, that’s probably, even if you go ahead, and they may have other great qualities and great characteristics, if they didn’t have anybody there for them, or if they said, oh, I had mom or I had dad, and they give you an answer, but they can’t give any specifics, then you’re probably, if you choose to go into a relationship with them, just know that going in that there’s going to be a lot of growth that has to occur, for you to really have a healthy relationship. So that was kind of something much later, I figured out.

[BILLY]:
You brought up a great thing, the lighthouse, and the harbor. You have a TED talk on that. And Brandy and I both listened to it, and it’s so encouraging, and we’ll send people to that link later. But could you go a little bit further into that concept of lighthouse and harbor and what that means in a relationship? I think it’s a beautiful picture you paint.

[BRAD]:
I appreciate that. Yeah. Where that came from is me becoming a self-improvement project, like, I got to figure this crap out. Unfortunately, I wasn’t gifted with, you know, a family situation that, in a sense, you know, parents are really supposed to empower their kids. I wasn’t gifted with that kind of situation where I had that emotional empowerment and didn’t have, you know, my parents weren’t terrible to me, or abusive, thank God. But it wasn’t a situation where I had healthy modeling, wasn’t a situation where I you know, just… there was a huge deficit in that arena. And so, did a lot of digging, and I came to understand that really what makes love work, what makes a relationship stand the test of time and what makes love last, and those were questions I started literally asking at an extremely young age, like, find out what divorce is. Oh, mom and dad don’t love each other anymore. Dad’s going to be moving out of the house. And, as a kid, you’re like a nomad, you’re a refugee. You go from like a quasi-middle-class existence to an extremely lower middle-class existence, if not quite poverty, but definitely not what you’re used to. And your whole world changes around you, your whole ground underneath you starts to shake. And so, very quickly after discovering divorce, it’s like, okay, how do you prevent this? How does love last? What makes a relationship work? And I might have been your typical male who didn’t think about those things if the divorce didn’t impact me the way it did. I never saw my parents fight. I never saw them argue. I saw them hug and kiss. So, it came out of the blue for me.

And then, honestly, the post-divorce relationship that they had was extremely messy. And the unfortunate thing is, is that’s extremely common with divorce. One of the things I discovered is that when people have a love that last, they operate in very distinct ways. Everybody goes through the same problems in life. We’re all dealing with the Coronavirus right now; we’re all dealing with the economic impact of that. We’re all dealing with maybe in-laws that are good, maybe in-laws that aren’t good. We’re all dealing with all the same problems, economics, health, family, you name it, we’re all in the same boat. But the people that have a love that lasts, they just react to these problems differently. They are there as a lighthouse and as a harbor where they are in tune with each other. And they’re sensitive and they’re supportive, and they’re available to each other. They operate as a receiving function, I’m a lighthouse, so I’m going to operate as a receiving function. I know there’s storms out there. There’s monsters at the bottom of the ocean, I know there’s waves trying to knock you over, I know that there’s pirates that are out there and there’s fog. And sometimes you just can’t see your way. And I’m going to shine my light for you, and I’m gonna be available. And I’m going to have hot cocoa ready for you. And I’m going to have dry blankets and warm clothes for you, when you come in, and you’re going to… I want to hear your latest adventure; I want you to talk to me about it. And when we have that, in our relationships, to be able to receive that from somebody you feel loved; that’s really where feelings of love come from. So, to receive that you feel loved. But the irony in that is to be able to give that to someone else, you also feel loved, to be able to be there for someone else you feel loved. It’s not just… people feel very icky about only taking and only receiving, and people want to care for someone else and people – that’s where vulnerability is so important, for men and women.

And of course, the other function is a harbor where, this is we support each other in each other’s dreams and goals and aspirations, and we operate as a hardware where we help that person launch, and we’re still supportive and we’re there, and we’re available as needed. And that’s really, if you had to boil it all down to what makes a relationship last, it’s we are lighthouses and we are harbors for each other in those storms of life. And when we have that there’s a confident expectation that I can go to you, you know, maybe we had some rough patches, but I know you’re going to be there for me. I know you’re there. And we have that. That’s what makes love last; that’s what makes a relationship work. And so that’s it, at its most core basic element, is that.

[BILLY]:
That’s perfect. I love it. What were you going to say, Brandy?

[BRANDY]:
So, in your practice, you deal specifically with infidelity and broken trust, and you see couples, all ages and all differences, and my question is it sounds like, when I’m listening to you talk about the harbor and the lighthouse, like, it’s beautiful. I love it. I can relate to it. I’m 42, Billy’s 43 years old. We’ve lived, we’ve experienced stuff. But for the people who haven’t lived and who haven’t worked through things, I don’t know… if healthy people aren’t healthy, how do they even understand this? And so, when you talk about, who was the lap that you crawled into? And then you say, if they can’t answer it, it’s gonna be a lot of work, a lot of growth. And so, I wonder, when people hear this, can they even understand it if they’re not working on themselves? And so, what do you see, and how does this work with the couples that you specifically work with? I know that was a long question, but I’m trying to work out that, when you come in… go ahead.

[BRAD]:
Yeah. How can somebody, if somebody like me, like Brad, grew up in a disadvantaged home where they didn’t have that kind of support and didn’t have that role modeling, how can they grow out of it? Part of it is learning what the right steps are, learning what the right skills are, you know, part of it is things like that. Another part of it is just healing from our own demons. What divorce does, and people don’t understand this about divorce, and, to me, I don’t get why this isn’t talked about more – I read in two different places that divorce, at a minimum, when a person goes through it, and when a child goes through it, at a minimum, it shortens the lifespan of that child by five years. And I’ve heard it even be said it was seven years. And so, when a child goes through that, or when an adult goes through divorce, their lifespan is gonna be cut short, at least five years, maybe even seven years. So, if you go through that as a child, and then you go through it again, as an adult, the lifespan is gonna be cut short, at least 10 years, maybe 14 years. Nobody talks about that. And so, these wounds that are there have to be dealt with. And kids lifespans are getting cut short not because of oh, they’re more likely to be into promiscuous sex, or drugs and alcohol. That’s not it. That’s not what the studies are showing us. It’s showing us just how traumatic it is, physically, on a child. The sleepless nights, and how that results in bedwetting, and developing fears and phobias and social awkwardness. Those are the outward signs. But the inward signs are just how the stress impacts the body and how the nervous system starts to attack itself. And it shows up later, where these kids become adults and they’re having severe health issues; they’re more likely to get cancer, more likely to be overweight. And it’s not necessarily that they’re always, you know, engaged in these riskier behaviors. The body is still secreting these hormones because it believes it’s in fight or flight. It still believes there’s danger there. And so those hormones never get shut off properly, and they don’t get shut off properly until people deal with their own demons.

[BILLY]:
Yeah. And I think the key is deal with your own demons because, you know, when we look at that adverse childhood experience and you know, I love The Body Keeps The Score. If people haven’t read that, beautiful book about what happens in the body when we experience traumatic stress. The good thing is there’s healing out there. And the earlier on kids get into therapy, if there is a divorce, they begin to process this stuff, the better outcomes that they have over overcoming that adversity. But if you just leave them be and they have to deal with their own trauma on the inside, it does manifest in anxiety and fear and all kinds of, you know, cortisol levels chewed up, and we could get into the science of that all day long. But, what’s the hope for people out there? I think people think it’s rocket science, that I’m in my marriage and I don’t know how to communicate to my wife, and she doesn’t know how to communicate to me, we feel a million miles apart. And it’s probably going to take all this work to get there. But at the end of the day, what are the building blocks? Are they super complicated? Are we as far apart as we think we are?

[BRAD]:
No, we’re not. It’s really simple, to be honest with you. It’s as simple as being a lighthouse, or a harbor. You know, part of where there’s fighting though is, when we’re hurting, we’re really, really, really selfish, when we’re hurting. And one of my pet peeves is, you hear this a lot, relationship therapists hate this because it’s usually people who say it don’t really understand relationships, but the general public hears it and they buy into it cuz they don’t understand it. I hate it when people talk about, there are narcissists in the world, there are abusive people in the world, but not everybody in a relationship that’s not going well is a narcissist or abusive. And, like, what people do is they get into these response cycles, where they… it’s kind of like, like begets like, where we respond in the way that we’re treated. I’m gonna have a response that probably correlates pretty well to the way I’m just treated. And so, my son’s playing with me, and he plays a little rough and he accidentally hits me in the nose, I’m probably going to respond to that upset, even though it’s an accident, and I don’t want to show anger to him, I’m going to feel, my body’s going to feel like man, I just got hit. And I’m going to feel like a rush of adrenaline, I’m going to feel the heat in my body to mobilize me for action. But then that rational part of my brain says, oh, you know what? It was an accident. It’s okay. Don’t get mad at your son, just keep playing with him.

But what happens in a relationship is we have these interactions with each other. And when we don’t feel like we’re getting our needs met, or we feel like we’re being ignored, we start to get a little selfish, we start to get a little resentful because we are feeling hurt. And so, then our response or reaction to this is either to be intense when we talk about it, critical, blaming, demanding, we kind of initiate the conversation in a way that is probably not going to have a good reception. Or we kind of hesitate and we don’t really fully engage in these conversations. And so when people get into these, I call them kind of a, you know, these response cycles where you have the initiator, you have the hesitater, and the way they go about it, they’re both feeling stepped on, they’re both feeling like they can’t depend on each other emotionally, when they’re communicating this way. And when we start to feel like we’re not getting our needs met, we start to have these negative beliefs about each other. You start to think, see, you’re selfish, you know, all you care about is yourself. And the more that goes on, the more we have what John Gottman called, he called it negative sentiment override, where we kind of have these sunglasses on where we see our relationship as only negative. And this person is never there for me. And that’s where people start to say they’re narcissists, they’re selfish, or this or that. And really, they’re also feeling like they can’t depend on us emotionally either. They don’t feel like they can lean on us emotionally either.

And the way to get out of that is really, really, really simple. Like I mentioned, there’s a lighthouse, there’s a harbor function; nobody fights when there’s a lighthouse and a harbor, when we’re acting that way. But sometimes where the conflict happens is when we’re operating as a ship. When we’re coming in, and the ship can come in, like man, there’s a freakin monster at the bottom of the ocean. I’m coming in hot and heavy and you don’t have your light ready for me. You don’t have your hot cocoa. You’re not really… you’re not even sure, you’re not there. You’re checked out. And that ship can come in hot and heavy and start blaring their horn at the lighthouse, criticizing them, and blaming, demanding, and then gets mad: you left me out there all night and you didn’t even send your lighthouse and I was sending distress signals and you just ignored me. And the secret is, when you approach your mate and you’re needing help, you have to approach them gently. You have to…

[BRANDY]:
Ah, no, Brad, you’re done. I’m done. Like, I don’t want to hear that.

[BILLY]:
And I agree, and here’s the hardest part, Brad. What I see is, even in Brandy and I’s own stuff, and when I’m in counseling sessions, if someone will surrender first, if someone will soften first, if someone will just bend the knee and just say, I’m not fighting anymore. I’ll hear you; I’ll listen. I’ll listen to whatever you have to give me, and I’ll try to understand it the best I can. Then the atmosphere changes in the room but it’s that swallowing of the pride. You mentioned vulnerability which, you know, men are really, just, I’m a man, I know that’s not an easy thing to do, to become emotionally naked in front of a person you feel guarded towards.

[BRANDY]:
It’s not a man thing. Women are the same way. We don’t want to let our guard down to be told like, suck it up, or it’s not that important, or it’s not validated. It’s the same thing, it’s people. People don’t want to be vulnerable. It doesn’t matter, men or women.

[BILLY]:
I stand corrected, Brad.

[BRANDY]:
Well, I just think that that’s important to know. It’s the whole reason we’re doing this podcast is, so I’m the alpha in the relationship. I don’t want to have to pander to feelings. Let me just tell you, Brad, we got you on here because we need some marriage therapy right now.

[BILLY]:
We tell people on our podcast, there’s really no podcast. We just bought a mic and a website, so we get free therapy.

[BRANDY]:
Billy, he says that, and so when you said approach gently, I have a hard time approaching gently. It’s just not my nature, and I feel like I have to, like, talk to a child sometimes like, hey, it’s gonna be… and I just don’t have time to do that.

[BRAD]:
Yeah. Well, you bring up a good point. Part of, you know, we all, at our core… Now, this is really important, what I’m about say. At all of our core, everybody has a fear of being rejected. We all have that fear of being rejected. And that fear is stronger when we didn’t have somebody’s lap to crawl into when we were a kid. You know, if we heard, you’re stupid, quit crying, unless your arm’s cut off, you know, don’t come to me. We hear stuff like that. And when we didn’t have that as a kid, it makes that proximity seeking harder, it makes bringing our boat in harder, to the lighthouse. Because those key lighthouses we had earlier in life, they were probably critical, rejecting, cold, preoccupied with their own stuff that they had going on, and so we have this expectation, based on our past, that that’s how you’re going to be. And sometimes we even pick partners based on those expectations. And sometimes we expect that based on our own relationship history with our partner, you know, like that one time you weren’t there, or several times you weren’t there. And so, what can happen is the initiator in a relationship, usually there is an initiator and there’s a hesitater. And the initiator is, of course, the one who generally wants closeness and brings up issues to work on and doesn’t mind conflict and things like that. If they’re anticipating rejection, what they tend to do is they actually come on stronger if they’re anticipating rejection. They will come on hotter, stronger, but when they do that, they’re actually creating their own little self-fulfilling prophecy.

[BRANDY]:
Yeah.

[BILLY]:
Oh, this is… yeah.

[BRANDY]:
It’s good.

[BRAD]:
And, you know, they don’t want to get rejected, they don’t want to be abandoned. But they’re like, you know what, you’re gonna do it anyway. So, screw you. I’m going to come in and tell you what I want and need. And I hope to God you actually ignore my attitude and you do it. But maybe if you actually do it and you listen to me, maybe that’ll tell me you love me. And then the hesitater, these are people, could be man or woman, this could be male or female, doesn’t matter.

[BILLY]:
It’s me in the relationship. We’ll just put that out there.

[BRAD]:
Yeah, and the hesitater, you know, they typically don’t like conflict. And when they hear these things, part of the hesitater is they feel inadequate, because what they hear from the initiator… The initiator will bring up problems and issues. They don’t mind conflict, so they want to talk about stuff. But what they often hear is where they’re falling short.

[BILLY]:
You’re a failure. You’re a bad dad. You’re not a good husband. You’re right on it.

[BRAD]:
Yeah. They hear things like that. And so, what they do is they close off, they shutdown, they withdraw, they go to the other room, they bottle up what they’re feeling emotionally, and they really struggle with inadequacy. They really struggle with not being enough. And so, then they close down, and then that causes the initiator to feel like, gosh, I’m inadequate too. I just came to you and told you what I needed, and you just turned a blind eye to me that confirms that I’m not loved, that confirms that I don’t matter. And that gets tricky because what people are talking about, you know, like, there’s the household stuff that we’re talking about that we got to deal with. But the stuff that – and I’m being very general when I say this – but the stuff that really gets under people’s skin in my office are the things around, am I enough for you? Do you want me? Do you desire me? Am I enough? Can I lean on you? Can I depend on you? Can I trust you emotionally? So, it’s in that category of, am I valuable and do I matter? And then, just as weighty, and just as true is, can I trust you? Can I lean on you? Do I matter to you? And the more we feel valuable by somebody, the more we can trust them. And the more we can trust somebody, the more valuable we feel to them. So, they’re the opposite sides of the same coin. And the initiator struggles with those things, the hesitater struggles with them. They’re in the back of everybody’s mind. But if we had somebody we could go to as a kid, crawl into their lap, and they’re there for us, it’s not as strong. Because we weren’t told consistently, you’re not enough, get away from me. You know, we weren’t told consistently. We had people we could go to, but then we get into relationships as adults. We experienced the same type of things. I want to crawl onto your lap. I want to bring my ship into your lighthouse, and we get rejected. What happens is you’re rejecting me because I’m not enough.

And the kinds of things that couples in my office are really talking about are, am I enough, am I valuable? Can I depend on you? Are you there? Do you really believe in me? Do you really like me? What happens that’s really damaging is when we bring it up and we talk about it, maybe we’re bringing it up a little too hot and heavy so that when it’s brought up, we’re almost kind of forcing a response where they’re going to reject us. They’re going to shut down on us. And then when they shut down and reject us, when we’re talking about something weighty, like do I matter to you, then it confirms I’m not enough. See, I don’t matter to you, you don’t love me, it confirms it. And that’s when we get into trouble. And that’s when we start getting into these extreme response cycles where we can’t get out of them, and they really become negative.

[BRANDY]:
Wow, I’m blown away, like, you read my mail. Billy and I are sitting here looking at each other and I’ve got tears running down my face. It’s good.

[BILLY]:
It’s good. We need it. We need it in the world. I always thought I had to be the strong financial provider. But I never learned how to be an emotional provider. That was the one thing that I fell short in and when you speak to the lap and the little boy and, you know, it’s so important. I mean, I think as dads, sometimes we think, if I don’t teach my son that the world’s a tough place, and it’s hard and he’s not strong, he’s going to go out there and just be weak. We send this message, you know, we want to offer up our lap, you know, I want to pull my son up in my lap and just pull his head in close and let him know that he’s loved and he’s okay when he has a tough day, and be that for him so when he’s in a relationship one day he can be that for someone else. And that if we didn’t have that we know that there’s hope and we can heal.

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This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guest are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.

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