Summary of this Episode
In this episode of the Generous Marriage Podcast we discuss:
- The story of Sheryl and Jordan, a couple in their early 30s, that have been together for 3 years. They both felt like their next step as a couple was to get married but he was having hard time committing, and because they were not getting along very well in the past few months, it scared him even more to get married and commit.
They were stuck in a gridlock cycle, and what helped them out of it, was mapping their cycle, understanding it better, and learning how to act in a way that would be nourishing to the other, rather than triggering.
She would pursue by becoming controlling, demanding and critical of him. He would distance her, by closing up emotionally, over justifying himself, and simply going away.
Underneath that, she wanted to feel safe by feeling connected to him. He wanted to go for what makes him come alive without feeling guilty for it.
After understanding that, he made sure to show her that she is his number one person. And she made sure to show him she trusted him and wanted to support his freedom and individuality.
- The tool of identifying your triggers and what you actually need to feel good and come back to a regulated state.
- The Research of Dr. Sue Johnson, the leading developer of EFT, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and a research professor at Alliant University in San Diego, California. Her research studies find that 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery and approximately 90% show significant improvements.
Bonus Worksheet for Identifying Triggers
We prepared a worksheet to help you identify your triggers and your underlying feelings and needs, that can help you understand better the dynamic you engage in with your partner and how you could transform it to a positive cycle of care, nourishment and generosity.
To download the worksheet click the button below:
The Full Transcript of the Show:
Welcome to the generous marriage podcast. Fight less feel appreciated and have a deeper connection with your spouse. And now your host, Shachar Eriz and Ziv Raviv.
Hello and welcome to the generous marriage podcast. This is Ziv Raviv today. Together with my partner in crime Shachar Erez, we’ll exploring another topic that affects your marriage that can make it a more generous marriage. And today’s very different in episode eight because we’re actually talking about a couple that he’s not married yet, but through understanding that relationship, we can learn a lot about something we call the relationship dynamic. and that’s like something that, Shachar, you are an expert on, on couple therapy, on relationships. So first of all, how about you? Shachar, welcome. I’m good. I’m happy to be here. Hi everyone. Hi Ziv.
What is Dynamic Relationship?
And today the topic is not a couple is married. Just before we go into the actual story of Sherrill and Jordan and, uh, talk about that. Can you explain to us how different is it for you as a counselor when sometimes you treat people that are married and sometimes you play the people that are in a relationship? Is there a big difference? Well, actually there is a big difference. It’s about human relationship and the topic of the day, this relationship dynamic, it’s something that shows up for almost all couples. According to research, 80 to 90 percent have this dynamic. Sometimes it’s called the psycho, sometimes it’s called a dance. But everybody has it. It can be super annoying and when we learn how to change it, it can be super nourishing and transformative and the heal childhood wounds. Wow. So this is something that affects 80 percent of you guys listening to our right now. Wherever you’re driving right now or whatever you’re doing while listening to the generous marriage podcast, you’re probably affected by the dance. Oh, by the relationship dynamic. And uh, you say Shachar, that basically married couples, unmarried couples.
Both of them can suffer form and it’d be affected by the relationship dynamic. Is that right?Every couple that gets attached, which happens usually about a year into the relationship, creates this dynamic between them in which the way we react to each other pokes. The other is sensitivity and the way that the other defense, that sensitivity pokes my sensitivity. And that’s the cycle, the way we defend ourself is triggering for the other, and the way the other defense herself is triggering for me. And that’s like an infinity loop. I get triggered, I defend ourselves. She gets triggered, she defends herself. I get even more triggered. I defend myself. Hardships. She gets more triggered, more intense. It’s a downward spiral.Yup. Very familiar. So today we’re going to investigate this dance, this relationship dynamic, and how to actually step away, step back and find a way to overcome this.
I really love this topic, the topic of triggers and the topic of this dynamic because it actually has a lot of implications, not just our own relationships or on having a generous manager, but also on business. I’ll explain that later on because it just does. So let’s start with the story because we always have this structure. It’s really useful to know maybe this is your first episode with us in the generous marriage podcast. But that’s so the way we do it is we talk about a couple of the names that we use are not their real names because of confidentiality between Shachar and there are many, many couples that he works with. However, the story is based on realistic story that you might feel very familiar with, and then we’re going to talk about discovery problem.We’re going to discuss the tool to overcome the problem and even touch base with the research that proves that this problem can be healed. That this is something that you can actually improve in your marriage. If you want a more generous marriage, why should we want to know generous marriage? Well, first of all, it creates more opportunities for intimacy, creates more opportunities for feeling loved and supported, and as a parent it will also help you with the way that you raise your kids because you’re going to give some pretty amazing example. So many reasons why you would want to have a generous marriage. Let’s go right into the story part. Shachar. Take it away.
How to Resolve Commitment Problem
So Cheryl and Jordan were a young couple in their early thirties and they’ve been together for three years and both of them felt like the next step as a couple, what way to get married. But Jordan was having hard time committing. It’s hard to know what started it. It’s like a chicken and egg thing, but because he wasn’t committing, Cheryl would get triggered and more frustrated and become more demanding and critical and they would fight more. They had this dynamic, this dynamic where she would pursue him and he would distance himself and they would fight a lot which made him not want to commit. Why would you commit to an unstable relationship? But she wanted to. And it just seemed like there was no way out. Well, it’s nice to be very fascinating. They were together three years and the ages light like the 30. So like in many, many cultures you a 30 is a very modern age, uh, age to get married. And especially after three years, like I remember on a book by Alison Armstrong, I always go back to her books because I really loved them.
She mentioned how for women, after even nine months, she would feel in the relationship like he needs some commitment. Because there’s always the biological clock she needs to get to the next step in her life and so Cheryl was already you for three years in this relationship. What is going on? Where is it going? Where is it leading? And form Jordan’s point of view. He’s not ready for the commitment for some reason, and that’s might to be very frustrating and from his point of view, of course he’s scared to commit to this. Can I say beach that is constantly complaining about him not being committed enough so like it’s creates he spiral effect, like a snowball effect.It’s true. They were actually really sweet people, but when this dynamic was on, shit turned out to be this controlling. Yeah, bitch, I’m sorry for this word, but that’s how he described her and she would describe him as irresponsible fool. So here we go, a controlling bitch and irresponsible fool. Really not getting along. Really not getting their needs met. He was afraid to commit because he was afraid to. Because for many reasons, but one of them that he was afraid to lose his individuality, loses freedom.
She wanted to commitment because I didn’t say that, but she was a strong woman, a business consultant, powerful, independent. She didn’t really need him. But she needed him because she was craving letting go some. Leaving her responsibility and, and, and resting in his presence. But in other to do that, she had to feel safe with him. So she had to know he is committed to a future with her. So she could feel safe and let go and trust him.Wow. Well, I wonder where does this lead the end story of this couple and tell us a little bit about what is the actual problem in the relationship? You know, how, how does the actual dynamic was, was uh, expressed in depth. Because we understand the story that she wants to his commitment and he’s afraid. But how did it affect the day to day life? So in their day to day life, she would pursue him wanting more connection. But the way she did it wasn’t effective because she would become controlling and demanding and somewhat critical and he was sensitive to all that. He was sensitive to his freedom.
So when she came with demands, he would withdraw. He would distance himself, it would either leave the house or smoke some weed, then disappear in the yard or over explaining himself. Which didn’t make her feel understood and connected the way she wanted. So it was a hard dynamic. It’s, it’s actually a very common one. The pursuer withdraw our psycho.Can you explain to me like it wasn’t explained to me because this is very frustrating. I really can relate to not the weed part, but definitely the, you know, become distant part and why you do they do it. Why do the women come and try to get what they want in ways that are not efficient? You know what I mean? Yeah. Cause it’s a defense mechanism. They underneath it, they often feel scared because, for example, Cheryl, she grew up with an alcoholic father. Who Was it? It was hard to know how he’s gonna react to stuff. Sometimes it was sweet and sometimes it was a raging alcoholic, so she had sensitivity to instability. Whenever Jordan did something that made her feel unstable, she would try to gain control.
And the way she tried to get control was becoming more demanding and more controlling, which helps her not feel the fear. The terror, even of what she felt as a kid that was still arising with Jordan. But it wasn’t really creating stability. It was a defense mechanism. What she really needed to do, and what we did in therapy was find out everything that I just said, a historical wound that created this sensitivity and when Jordan was able to see the inner child, the wounded child he could see beyond the controlling bitch, you know, and become generous at helping her feel safe.I want to take a look at what you just said with the, with the, with the cavemen metaphor, right? There are a lot of time looking at the cave in our genetics. Looking at how we will build human beings. A lot of our genetics is all about being that, that’s Homo Sapiens Cavemen. I am livinging in, in, in small family tribes and imagine this, the lady in this case, let’s, let’s take the ancestor of ancestor of ancestor of Cheryl. Yeah. Cheryl, the cave lady. She. She knows that she cannot hunt a tiger by his self. She cannot haunt a deer by herself. Physically speaking. She’s smaller and not as strong as Jordan, the caveman.
The cavemen version. And Jordan knows that he’s really good at hunting that, that deer or that tiger and protecting the cave people that are within his responsibility and in this case it might only be even just sharing, but if he will go there and hunt, he will still need someone to help with the rest of the things like collecting the berries and gather them and maybe even being aware of the environment and cleaning and stuff. So for, for both of them, they actually need each other. Right. But the reason for Sheryl to go into this partnership of you go and hunt. I’ll collect the berries and wait for you here. He wants that because she needs protection. Right? It’s very. It’s a very integral part of Cheryl, the cave lady that her genetics scream at her and said, you need to make sure you have one of those big guys around to protect you. Now, of course, I don’t think that in the modern age you need to protect yourself for a tiger! And you don’t necessarily even need men to protect yourself.
You can protect yourself by yourself. However, our genetics still make us feel like, hey, we need one of those big guys around or in your genetics. Your mostly barely gather. You’re mostly aware of the environment and the way of how to improve it and how to make it better.But why should you? Why should you care about Jordan hunting stuff if it doesn’t really commit to, you know, to protecting you. Right. So feeling safe for a female, for a lady, for women, it’s very important. It’s a part of her to want to feel safe and she will, she will work to to make sure that she can feel safe and her way of working around it. You know, if she says this asshole Jordan, so you know, going and smoking weed in the yard instead of doing something to connect with her or doing something too to commit to something that’s very frustrating. That’s her triggering point. That’s where she’s vulnerable. She needs to feel safe and feeling safe can come in many ways like even when you’re sitting down after cooking a meal together. Even just giving a compliment about how lovely this meal is. Thank you so much for preparing it for me or with me or or whatnot. So there’s so many ways to make someone feel safe and it’s not something you do and then you’re done. It’s like something you need to constantly help the other side feel safe. Right. And like you said, because of genetics and also because of cultural influences, it’s the most common that women are more into the safety. That connection gives and men are more into freedom and individuality and providing. But I see other couples as well. Sometimes it’s the other way around.
The man is the pursuer and the woman is the drawer and sometime you know, in same sex relationship, this kind of dynamic happens as well. So, but it’s not necessarily something that everyone exactly the same. It’s not. Yeah, but they’re not. And this dynamic happens in almost every capital. It’s amazing. Yeah. Eighty percent. Wow. So I understand now I understand better and this is really important. Sometimes we forget, forget why they’re being a bitch and not being a bitch. They’re actually responding to the needs. The actual hill. Sometimes even genetic induced needs or culturally induced needs a, oh, history from going up. So they have real needs and when not met, they will respond to it and try to fulfill their needs in a different way. So now let’s understand a little bit about how did you work with them in order to overcome this relationship dynamic?The most powerful part of the work together was to describe their dynamic trigger each other and how they defend themselves. She would pursue him by becoming controlling, demanding, and critical of him. Hey would distance her distance himself from her by closing up emotionally, over justifying himself, or simply going away smoking with below that and this part they knew. That’s what I call above the hood. You know, that’s what is shown, and this is than knowing part of the dynamic. What’s more important is to realize the underlying sensitivity, the underlying need.
She wanted to feel safe by feeling connected to him. He wanted to go for what makes him come alive without feeling guilty for it. They’re missing experiences. She needed to hear from him. You’re my number one person. I want you to feel safe. I want to take care of your needs. Why? He needed to hear from her. I trust you. I want to support a freedom. I want to support your individuality. Which both didn’t get enough in the family where they grew up in. She grew up in a family that wasn’t very stable and she needed more stability and she needed to be admired more and he grew up in a kind of restrictive family where they didn’t really support his fund. They didn’t really support well enough. What makes him come alive, so it was a missing experience for him and one day realized that and we’re to sometimes, not always, but sometimes do that missing experience for each other to take care of each other’s attachment needs. It made a huge difference and from fighting all the time, they became generous with each other. And then when generosity was the main cycle they had sometimes when they visit each other, it wasn’t a big deal. They wouldn’t collapse over; they wouldn’t fight over it so much because some of the needs are now met. They didn’t trigger each other anymore. Right. Wow. Or, or even if they got triggered, it wasn’t a big deal because most of the time those needs were being met. We’re being fulfilled.
So it was easy, you know, their emotional account was full, so it was easy not to get super triggered about every time they missed each other.So basically you’re explaining about a situation, this dynamic relationship dynamic or the dance is a situation when we’re in the relationship, one of the people and it can change from time to time between the two. Yeah, but mostly h one stays more or one role. So one of you is probably more typical sewer. A lot of time that would be the lady in the couple. And she used her safety. She wants her connection. She wants her commitments from the spouse, from the relationship and the withdrawer, which a lot of time is the guy he wants his independence. It’s very, it’s very important for him. His independence. He wants to feel appreciated. He wants to feel freedom.
He wants to feel individuality. That we thought well once things and episode once things and those two things, those things that they want are actually in collide. They can collide, they can create a situation where the exact thing that we throw once, we make the pursuer feel triggered and the exact thing that the persona can sometimes create a trigger for the other side. So what basically the first step in understanding how to stop this relationship dynamic, how to you know, not be only with the hat of the withdrawer and, and not be only with the head of the pursuer is to understand one another. Yeah. So tell us a little bit about this tool of understanding yourself as a withdrawal or yourself as a pursuer or your couple as one of these. How can you reach a deeper understanding of the dynamic and fluid understanding, you know, become more generous and not be triggered as harshly as you used to.
How to Handle Trigger?
Idea is to create a list of triggers. We all have things that we know the trigger us more than other things and it’s really good to create this list of triggers and then understand how we feel when we’re triggered. So Cheryl would get triggered when she didn’t feel stability. She would feel scared and she would need help in gaining stability and safety. Jordan would get triggered when he felt like his freedom is under attack, like his freedom is taken away. He would feel despair. He would need support in a going for what makes him come alive. So there is to create the list of triggers and then write down what you feel when you’re triggered and what you need when you’re triggered, and ideally you share it with your partner and it creates a change. It creates generosity. You learn how to stop or not stop because we keep on triggering each other forever, but less, you know, how to trigger each other less or when we do trigger each other, how to help each other come out of the triggered state and feel more regulated.So basically, uh, I mentioned before how this trigger topic is very close to my heart because although I really loved the topic of business and in business, mapping your own triggers is even like a mandatory thing in if you want to succeed.
You need to understand when are you triggered, because if you’re going to take action when you’re triggered, you’re going to take the wrong action. You’re going to ignore the fact and because of the emotions you feel from the trigger from the fact you’re going to wrongly analyze those facts and myths and behave in a way that is not focused on your actual purpose or goals. So in this process, I’ve been involved in like a business challenge. Uh, one of the initial tasks were to map all of your triggers exactly like you just did a mentioned like mapping. What is the thing that happens that triggers, what is the emotion that is triggered and what is the story that I tell myself about it, like why is it triggering me to the best of my knowledge, and then a very, very important thing is the last bit, which is what do you do when you are triggered?What do you use it usually do in that situation and those triggers they can be with your wife, that you can be with your girlfriend. It can be with your mom.
They can be with yourself. You know, but mapping them actually helps you with a very important element in life in a way which is to know that those triggers, they do not control what you do. They only control how you feel. So changing how you feel now. Oh Man, I don’t know if that’s even possible to maybe after you practice for very, very many, many years and meditate and I don’t know what. Maybe then you can feel a little bit less intense when something is triggering you. Maybe, but you definitely can control how you behave, how you act after you felt triggered. Have you felt all those emotions in you, so knowing that no, because you only mapped all of your triggers and even sharing that with your spouse?Omg. That’s the generosity because your wife basically just got a manual. If she wants to trigger you, she can just press the button and she can trigger you immediately because she knows what are your triggers, so by showing it to her, that’s a partnership.
That’s generosity because your vulnerable. Remember we talked about vulnerability. I last week on episode seven. Vulnerability is a wonderful thing. You mentioned how this is one of the very important keys in a relationship, so it’s not a coincidence that mapping your triggers and being vulnerable is part of a way to improve the relationship dynamic. They love it. I love what you said about this process because it helps come out of this habitual patterns of response and add some choice into them because yeah, we get triggered and we feel bad. That’s something that’s hard to change, but we can change the way we respond to our triggers and we can add choice and become more vulnerable and ask for what we need or take care of what we need instead of just responding in a hostile in a protective way.Let me ask you this, Shachar. Did Sherry and Jordan, when they did that mapping of list of triggers a, was that staffing that was improving the relationship and can you tell us what happened with them? It’s pretty changed their relationship and they get engaged quite quickly after we ended the process. It’s funny because commitment was still hard for them, so they got engaged, but they got married almost three years after they get engaged. But they did get married and they actually had me perform the ceremony for them. It was very touching. Wow, that’s wonderful.
That’s like A. I usually work with the problems, but to also be able to be there when they commit to each other. That was super powerful for me.That might be very meaningful. Must must have been very meaningful for you guys. If you’re listening right now to this and you might be thinking, Hey, what if my spouse won’t agree to this repairing list of triggers? How can I explain it to her? Well, first of all, in the document that Shachar is making for you, this bunos material that you can download. If you go to the generous marriage.com website and in the podcast tab, go to episode number eight and just press the button to download that. This bonus deal will be information for you that helps you explain yourself to your spouse, why it’s so important to list the triggers, and that is something that auction. Also, you can let her or him listen to this podcast to understand how important it is when you filled it triggers, but just on a personal level, I want you to know I did this myself without mapping the triggers like gluten doesn’t need to map help legals.I, I can map it for her honestly and I can. Nowadays we with the maturity of researching the topic of generous marriage.
I can understand why helped take us a triggers. Why is it so important for her by myself? So even if of course it’s always better to be generalists and to do it together, but even if you just do it yourself, you will see a huge improvement in your relationship because you will trigger your spouse less often. And you will be less triggered by yourself less often. So many times like I would look at it stopping that autumn will tell me like, why do I need to pick this up and I wouldn’t. I will no longer see that as a way for her to be controlling me. Instead, I would see it as she needs me to be aware of it. To make her feel safe.Just by knowing your own list of triggers and remembering that you don’t have to act upon your feelings when you’re triggered, you can decide how you will respond. Sometimes it’s okay to be triggered. To feel something and to act upon it. But you need to decide when and how you’re going to act upon your emotions when you’re triggered. Because many of the times, those triggers that are very well defined, it’s very easy to sit down for like 30 minutes and think about, hey, uh, yeah, every time this happens I feel this way. Every time that happens, I feel that way. So really powerful stuff to map your triggers and even do it by yourself. Let me ask you Shachar? Is there any research about the topic of, of this triggers thing?
How is Couple’s Therapy Highly effective for Couples
So yeah, there is a lot of research about this. Uh, the main researcher is Dr. Sue Johnson who is the developer of Eft, emotionally focused couples therapy and her research and other people’s research finds that 70 to 75 percent of couples that go through eft process moved from distress to recovered. And approximately 90 percent show significant improvements. So couples therapy is highly effective. Highly, highly, effective. It’s really worth going to therapy and figuring out your dynamic and figuring out other ways to handle your triggers and your partner’s triggers.Imagine that. Imagine if you had like your, your, your back will ache or you had headaches or or you bloke, I dunno, like you had these feelings and you went to the doctor and you knew in advance that for 90 percent chance they’re going to heal you. That that is the huge, huge amount. Like I, I went to like 10 different doctors about my back. No one of them helped me. It was like I have zero improvement and like to know that 90 percent significant improvement will be achieved. If you go to a counselor and work on your relationship.
That is huge and this was researched and reresearched and that is why we will share with you very proudly the link to the research so you can take a look at that and learn more. Guys, we are wrapping up for today. If you go to the generous marriage.com website, you are not going to only found the bonus that explains how to do the trigger exercise and how to help yourself get away from the relationship dynamic from this very harsh game of life. Whereas pursuant with withdraw, you keep triggering each other. But through this exercise, this bonus document, you’re going to get information on how to make the triggers list and more efficient way does even a fill in the blanks section where you need to sit down with your spouse and mentioned like what makes you feel safe, what makes you feel appreciated, what makes you feel trusted, and more of these that will help you identify if you are with withdrawer or are you a pursuer?
And then the game of, you know, mapping what are your triggers will become easier. And from there you know, you will also be able to even see the link to the research. So everything is waiting for you and the generous marriage.com. Shachar has always, it’s been a real privilege and a very fun experience. We’ll talk with you about this very important topic. Do you think they. This will help people maintain a more generous marriage?Yes. I’m sure that this dynamic affects almost all couples and when you figure it out and learn how to manage it, how to handle it differently, it’s really helps create more intimate, more satisfying, more generous relationship. So this is not just about the relationship when you’re not married yet, even though Cheryl and Jordan did get married, eventually you will. Even during the ceremony, I conducting it, but we, what we’re talking today is not just for unmarried couples. It’s for everyone of you listening to right now to the generous marriage podcast. Guys, please talk about us at work. Talk about this on facebook. Thank you so much for listening and we will be seeing you next week on the generous marriage podcast. Thank you Shachar! Thanks Zaviv you everybody, who’s listening. We’ll meet again next week. Bye Bye. Bye Bye.
Weekly episodes with stories, tools and research that will help you make your marriage generous
Shachar Erez, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, 12 years married, father of two
Ziv Raviv, 16 years married, father of three