Here at the Growth Marriage podcast, we believe every couple can have amazing communication, deep connection, and passionate, knock-your-socks-off love.
Back in 2012 I quit my fancy corporate job, sold everything I owned, and started traveling the United States with the goal of uncovering the secrets to truly epic love.
I’ve been trained by the world’s top experts, researchers, and authors - and I’ve interviewed the most incredible couples on the planet. And now my only focus is sharing the secrets of what makes amazing love possible with you.
Each week I’ll give you the tools you need take your marriage to the next level… but only if you’re willing take action. You’ll see that legendary love happens by choice, not by chance.
How to Recover From a Betrayal of Trust
Mira Kirshenbaum defines betrayal as, "When someone does something that breaks a fundamental promise, or violates a fundamental expectation and does so in a way that significantly hurts your peace of mind." In her book, "I Love You, But I Don't Trust You" she states that between 40 and 70% of couples know they have significant problems with trust. And at least 90% of couples will have a crisis of trust at some point. So... how do you recover when you've experienced a betrayal? What should you do to restore trust after you've been hurt? Can your marriage survive after a betrayal? Will it ever be the same again?
How to stop over-functioning and start enjoying life with Dr. Kathleen Smith
I didn’t even realize how much anxiety was subtly wrecking my relationship until I read Dr. Kathleen Smith’s book, Everything Isn’t Terrible: Conquer Your Insecurities, Interrupt Your Anxiety, and Finally Calm Down.
Dr. Smith’s book helped me realize that I’ve developed extremely effective anxiety coping mechanisms that kept me confronting my insecurities and weaknesses head-on.
Stonewalling: The 4 Horseman of the Apocalypse
Stonewalling is the 4th of the Four Horsemen of the Marriage Apocalypse. Here’s where you can catch the past installments that cover Criticism, Defensiveness, and Contempt. Stonewalling is when you shut down, and completely tune your partner out. You act like you couldn’t care less about what they’re saying. Men are famous for doing this. Statistics show that 85% of the time, the stonewaller is the man in the relationship. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that this is a conscious, antagonistic behavior men use to just push their partner’s buttons… but the reality is that Stonewalling is a natural reaction to emotional flooding - the feeling of complete overwhelm, and powerlessness to stop the emotional tidal wave. It’s essentially a human’s way of playing dead in the hopes that a predator will give up the fight. Here’s one of the best examples we’ve ever seen of stonewalling in a movie: If you’re ever upset at your partner and they get that 1,000 yard stare on their face, that’s a sign that they’re stonewalling. You can also check their body language for signs of stonewalling. If they’re turning away from you. If they’re making their body smaller by hunching over, or crossing their arms. Or if they’re noticeably avoiding eye contact, they might be feeling flooded and “playing dead.” When interviewed, people who stonewall often say that they’re just trying calm down and not to make the situation worse. But despite the good intentions, stonewalling sends a loud message that you just don’t care. You’re checked out. If you notice your partner doing this, it’s time to stop the conversation. Your partner will need some time to breathe, calm their nerves, get their adrenaline levels and heart rate down, and reset. It would be helpful to have a conversation with them about what triggered the emotional flooding. Was it the topic? Was it the tone of the conversation? Was it the words that were used? Identify what you can do together to have conflict conversations that don’t lead to emotional flooding and emotional shut-downs. If you are prone to stonewalling, you can develop the skill of self-soothing. Learning how to breathe, relax, calm your thoughts and lower your heart rate in stressful moments will have a huge payoff for you. Some people like to go for walks when they notice they are feeling emotionally flooded. Some people listen to music, or work out. Some people just need to take a few minutes to meditate or breathe. Learning to identify when you’re feeling flooded, and calm yourself quickly is a skill that will truly help your marriage in amazing ways. How To Apply What You’ve Learned: If you’ve noticed that stonewalling has been a problem in your relationship, have a conversation about what causes the emotional flooding, how to prevent it, and create a plan you can follow when it happens in the future. Get specific with your plan. Come up with a safeword you can use or a script you can follow. Setting clear rules about how to handle situations like this, then keeping the rules, will prevent the 4th Horseman from ever threatening your relationship.
Contempt: The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Today we’re going to talk about the 3nd Horseman of the Marriage Apocalypse… contempt. Click here if you want to learn about the first or second horsemen. Dr. Gottman calls contempt the sulfuric acid of love. Needless to say, contempt is frickin’ dangerous if it’s present in your relationship. So pay attention to this post, because I’m going to teach you how to deal with contempt when it shows up, and then set up protections to prevent it from ever creeping back in! Contempt is dangerous because it robs the relationship of equality and mutual respect. When a partner is acting out of contempt, they are putting themselves above the other person. Contempt is making yourself smart, and your partner an idiot. It’s making yourself right, and your partner a moron for even thinking they could be right. It’s making yourself the good one, or clean one, or punctual one, or considerate one, or helpful one, or thoughtful one... and then making your partner the wrongest, messiest, most inconsiderate and least helpful person around. Contempt is putting yourself above your partner. It’s making them feel small, unimportant or less-than in some way. A typical sign that you’re being contemptuous is if you’re using weapons like name-calling, swearing, belittling, demeaning comments, mocking, or eye-rolling to get your way or prove a point. Contempt is usually caused by the buildup of frustration and resentment over time. It creeps into the relationship slowly, then explodes and does serious damage. Nothing will destroy your relationship faster than contemptuous behavior. Preventing Contempt If you want to prevent yourself from falling into the contempt trap, the best thing you can do is learn to practice constant, sincere gratitude. Fill your relationship with appreciation! Gratitude connects, where contempt drives you and your partner apart. Gratitude fosters empathy which puts you and your partner on equal footing. Contempt puts one partner above another. Gratitude makes you appreciate all the wonderful things about your partner. Contempt makes you focus on all of your partner’s faults. If you want to protect your relationship from contempt, practice gratitude constantly. If You’re the Recipient of Contempt If you’re the recipient of contempt, here are some things you can do: First: Call it out for what it is. Say something like, “The way you’re talking to me is hurtful. It’s not ok.” Next: Take a break “I’m going to go take a walk. We can revisit this when I come back.” Then: Have a conversation about the conversation After taking a break, and before diving back into the conflict conversation, have a chat about how to more effectively have the conversation. Ask each other questions like: “What is the ideal outcome of this conversation? What did I do when we talked the last time that contributed to it going poorly? What can I do next time to ensure we don’t lose our tempers, or fall into the trap of contempt again?” If you can take some time to reflect on the mistakes you make as a couple that invite contempt into your relationship, you can take steps to prevent it from happening again. If contempt is a part of your everyday life, I highly recommend seeking out a good couples therapist - to help you overcome these dangerous and harmful habits. How To Apply What You’ve Learned: Since the best antidote to contempt is gratitude, set a gratitude goal for yourself for this week. How are you going to practice gratitude daily? How can you switch from contempt to gratitude when you’re feeling emotionally revved up? How can you use gratitude to help you with gentle start-ups when you have a complaint you want to address?
Defeating Defensiveness: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Defensiveness is the second of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It typically shows up right on the heels of the first horseman: Criticism. (.) Defensiveness is the trap my wife and I fall into most often. Defensiveness is always an attempt to protect yourself from a perceived attack. A defensive response usually implies, “The problem isn’t me… it’s you!” Defensiveness shows up in two different ways: Cross-complaining, and playing the innocent victim. Here’s an example things of how things unfold when criticism and the cross-complaining form of defensiveness are in the picture: “Would you clean up your dirty laundry, you always leave such a mess!” (Criticism) “Oh yeah? Well what about all your dishes down in the sink, and our filthy car that you always leave your junk in?” (Defensiveness) “Don’t even get me started on junk. I can barely even walk through the garage without tripping over one of your tools.” (Even more defensiveness…) See how that works? Let me rephrase that. See how that doesn’t work? The other way to be defensive is to whine or play the role of the innocent victim. This may include statements like, “You’re always picking on me,” or “I guess I just can’t do anything right.” Most of the time, phrases like this are used in an attempt to score pity points, or get validation from your partner while taking the focus off of the problem. Defensiveness can send you into a nasty endless spiral. It’s always about avoiding taking responsibility and shifting the blame to someone else. Defensiveness will turn your marriage into a conflict dumpster fire. The masters of marriage know how to combat defensiveness. They do it by taking responsibility for at least some part of the problem. Here’s an example: Jane called Andy at noon and asked him what time he’d be home from work so she could plan what time to start cooking dinner in order to have the whole family eat together. He told her he’d be home by 5:30, 5:45 at the latest. Then, right before 5:00, Andy’s boss came into his office and dropped a big, last-minute project on him. It was the difference between keeping a big client and losing them. Andy jumped into the project hoping that if he worked fast enough he wouldn’t be too late. He lost track of time, and at 5:50 his phone rang. It was Jane. She was wondering if he was almost home. “Actually,” Andy said. “I haven’t left yet. My boss gave me a big project at the last minute.” Jane was obviously hurt and frustrated. “Why didn’t you call and tell me?” “I didn’t even think about it. It’s just been crazy here this afternoon.” “Too crazy to even text me?” She snapped. “Look, I’ve been working hard all day to provide for the family. Give me a break. It’s not like I can just tell my boss ‘No.’” You know where this conversation is going… absolutely nowhere. And neither partner is going to walk away feeling good. On the other hand, what if the conversation went like this: We’ll start over in the middle… Andy looks at his phone and it’s his wife calling... “What, was work so crazy that you couldn’t even text me?” Jane snapped. “Actually, no probably not.” Andy said, “I’m sorry. Yeah this is a big, last-minute project, but still I should have called. I dropped the ball big time on this one. That was really inconsiderate on my part.” Jane heard the remorse in Andy’s voice. She knew he knew he’d screwed up. “It’s ok honey, I understand. My feelings are hurt, but I’ll get over it. When can I expect you home?” “I should be out the door in 30 minutes. I’ll set a timer as soon as I hang up the phone with you. And I’ll talk to my boss tomorrow about cutting out early from work on Friday. I’ll plan a date, and book a sitter to make up for blowing family dinner tonight. I love you, babe.” “L
Criticism: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Criticism: The Gateway To Marriage Misery In marriage, one thing is a given: At some point you and your partner are going to disagree on something. It might be something small like where to eat for dinner on your next date night, what brand of toothpaste to buy, or which Netflix show to stream next. Or it could be something big like how to manage your finances, how you’re going to spend your holidays, or how often you’d like to have sex and who should initiate. It’s impossible for two people with completely different upbringings, backgrounds, and family dynamics to agree on everything in life all the time. Learning to navigate these moments of stress and conflict is what separates the masters of marriage from the disasters. As a matter of fact, there’s been a HUGE amount of research done on marital conflict, and researchers have found that how you handle these disagreements - both big and small - has the biggest impact on whether or not you stay together as a couple… and if you stay together, whether or not you have a happy marriage, or a miserable one. Dr. John Gottman, whose work we’ll be referencing throughout this challenge, has built a mathematical model that can predict divorce with a 91% accuracy, and one of the key factors in his model is how a couple deals with conflict. This is a big deal! My goal over the next few weeks is to introduce you to the Four Horsemen of the Marriage Apocalypse. I’ll show you how these horsemen will derail and destroy your marriage… and how to deal with them when they inevitably show up. (Because they ABSOLUTELY will.) Your Primary Objective over the next 4 weeks is to identify at least one bad conflict habit that you bring to the relationship, and create an action plan to change that habit. The Four Horsemen are the things Dr. Gottman looks for when he’s trying to predict divorce. No relationship is immune to the Four Horsemen. So, if I talk about one and you’re like, “Hey… that’s me… I do that.” there’s no reason to freak out. My goal here is to help you identify, and start to change these habits to get your marriage headed in the right direction. Today, we are going to start with the first horseman: Criticism Have you ever experienced something like this... You're having a great time with your partner. You’re laughing and getting along. You’re feeling good… and then, out of the blue, you feel criticized. When something like this happens, do you shut down? Do you get angry? Do you immediately turn off and change your behavior? Do you get defensive? Criticism is a super sneaky relationship killer. Often it starts off with good intentions. “I’m just going to let my partner know how they could improve so our relationship can be better!” We expect our partner to show up to a conversation with a notepad and say, “Wow, thanks for letting me know I’m defective in all these ways! I’m going to go work on this. Maybe next week we can get together and you can tell me more things about me that make you miserable?” Criticism kills your partner’s most attractive qualities. It shuts down their ability to feel confident, passionate, authentic, and emotionally available. These are the exact qualities that cause people to fall in love, and stay in love! Criticism is different than complaining. Complaining is when you bring up a behavior or action that bothers you. Criticism is when you attack or blame someone’s character. Complaining stays specific, sticking to isolated incidents... Criticism is almost always based on generalizations based on specific incidents… using words like “you always” or “you never”. Complaining is an attempt to improve the relationship. Criticism tears your partner down and blames them for your problems. Here’s an example: Giving Criticism vs. Complaints Suzy and Kent have been married for a few ye
Life changing work!
I love Nate’s passion for empowering people to create an amazing marriage. Both the expert and solo episodes are filled with truth. I appreciate the actionable takeaways and encouragement. Excited to see more episodes!
Growth Marriage is an awesome podcast that shares so much value in a really relaxed and intriguing manner, making you want to listen to more! Nate is very relatable and open minded at the same time, getting you to really think about your marriage and how you can improve it. All those who love to grow have come to the right place!
I really look forward to a new episode of this podcast. I can relate to the information provided by Nate and Andrea. I enjoy the humor, compassion, understanding and hope that they bring. Thank you!