The Beauty of Grief

Emotion Series #9

August 19, 2022
Many of us have learned to associate vulnerability with weakness. We fear that being deeply vulnerable will open the door to being dominated or taken advantage of by others. What’s the difference between vulnerability and timidness, and how can unprotected vulnerability be a sign of strength and courage? Vulnerability is the V in VIEW; and the topic of today’s episode.

Episode intro:

One of the main reasons I think we find ourselves attracted to certain people and we find ourselves married to certain people is that we have an instinctual way of finding the person who can trigger us the best.

Welcome to the Art of Accomplishment where we explore how deepening connection with ourselves, and others leads to creating the life we want with enjoyment and ease. I’m Brett Kistler, here today with my co-host Joe Hudson.

Joe: Hey, Brett.

Brett: Hey, Joe.

Joe: Good to see you, man.

Brett: Good morning. We’ve been getting a lot of questions from people about relationships, and people are asking what they should do now. How do they tell if they are in the right relationship? How do they know when to dive in and when to pull back? How do they know whether or not they are coming from their feelings or from their trauma? We haven’t had an episode yet on relationships in particular.

Joe: Just to be clear, are we talking about romantic relationships? Are we talking about all relationships?

Brett: Let’s go into romantic relationships, but I think it applies to all relationships.

Joe: Most of it applies to close relationships, I would say. Maybe not acquaintances, but most of it will apply to the bosses we keep working for or the parents. Let’s keep it focused on the romantic.

Brett: I think one of the reasons for that is the context of these closest relationships, including the romantic relationships, involves a lot of spiritual growth, a lot of personal development, and a lot of our stuff comes up. It is a container in which we get to experience and recreate a lot of our patterns and work through them. The same isn’t necessarily true in a lot of work relationships. On some levels, it is, but to some extent, there is something special about the romantic relationship that more often comes up. People have very specific questions about it.

Joe: I would say more agreement is on that. It is true that there is more agreement. We can work on our stuff here today. I don’t need to be a professional. I can actually work on my stuff here. Let’s do it. Relationships, what’s a good starting question here?

Brett: A good place to start would be to lay out the framework of what a romantic relationship actually is, where it comes, what brings us into them, what attracts us to them, what kinds of relationships we are attracted to, and that’s a pretty fractal, multi question right there.

Joe: It is interesting. You said something earlier about if I am coming into this relationship out of a healthy thing or if I am coming into this relationship from trauma. I would say there that I don’t think that question is relevant, meaning that the people we are attracted to, that we find ourselves in relationships with are people who hook into our particular trauma, our particular projections, and our particular patterns perfectly. If we have a long-term relationship, you can pretty much be sure that those two patterns interlock perfectly. That’s one of the main reasons I think we find ourselves attracted to certain people and that we find ourselves married to certain people is that we have an instinctual way of finding the person who from one perspective can trigger us the best and another perspective I would say has the biggest opportunity for our mutual healing. That seems to be why people become attracted to one another is to solve that thing.

The other way I would put that is if you take a look at young children. Young children get taught what love is in a particular way. Love is associated with shame or love is associated with authoritarianism. Love is associated with money or love is associated with food. That creates certain patterns, certain ways in which they are trying to get the love, certain ways in which they are scared of getting the rejection. However that pattern gets created, that’s where you are going to find somebody in your romantic relationship that holds the other side of that pattern. That’s why you hear so many people talk about things like oh my gosh, my husband is so much like my father, or my husband is so much like my mother or my wife is so much like my father. Oftentimes we are recreating those patterns so they can be healed. At least, that’s the opportunity. The opportunity is you get to heal patterns if both people are willing to do the work.

Brett: I notice there is a way of seeing this as a feature or a bug. I just keep getting the same relationship. I just keep dating my mother or my father. There is something wrong with that and that means there is something wrong with me. What I see you also pointing to is there is an opportunity to heal these things and there is an opportunity to feel the feelings that haven’t been felt yet. This is perhaps one of the distinctions with a romantic relationship as far as consensus agreement versus a boss. At least in a romantic relationship, that’s the place where culturally we expect to be most accepted as we actually are. We tend to develop the most interdependence, which is not universally true.

Joe: Or co-dependence or dependence. I would question it, but this is a very different podcast. I would question the non consensuality of a job, but I think we are all responsible for our own decisions.

Brett: I mean the consensual reality of what people agree is the purpose of a romantic relationship versus what people tend to culturally agree is the purpose of a work relationship.

Joe: That’s a great question. I think a lot of people think that the agreement behind a relationship is that we are here to make each other happy. I think that’s terminal. I think that kills a relationship. My experience is that not only kills a relationship, but it also allows us to lose ourselves and others. It creates a tremendous amount of pain if we take responsibility for anybody’s happiness or give our responsibility for our own happiness to anybody and all of the subtle and not so subtle ways that that happens.

Particularly in societies where romantic love, that crushy feeling in the first three months where you have that feeling and you get that feeling of massive oxytocin, then you are like wait, being with that person makes me feel this way. Obviously, that goes away after about three to five months. Wait, what’s happening? Why aren’t they making me happy anymore? Everybody starts doing things to try to make the other person happy and has expectations. That’s where all the trauma shows up.

If you are actually in a relationship where both people are saying we are here primarily to use the relationship as a way to create our own freedom, to make ourselves happy, and to be kind and supportive to one another, then that’s going to be a relationship that’s going to be successful. Unfortunately, most relationships I think in our society consciously or subconsciously are more in the vein of I’m here to make them happier and they are here to make me happy. That’s my job in the relationship. They are not making me happy, so they need to change. There’s a lot of that, trying to get each other to change in a relationship, which is just brutal.

Brett: I wonder what it is like to go into a relationship with the agreement of relationships are meant to make us feel warm and fuzzy for a time so that we build attachment and connection, and then push our buttons.

Joe: That’s right.

Brett: When my buttons get pushed, that’s exactly what I am here for.

Joe: I am here to heal my own buttons, not yours. I am here for my own transformation, not for yours. You can see that metaphor play out completely in the sexual relationship, too, where if you are having a sexual relationship where it is all about pleasing the other person, it is going to be horrible sex. If it is all about pleasing yourself, that’s also going to be horrible sex. But you can’t exclude the fact that you are there for your pleasure; they are there for their pleasure. The only person responsible for your pleasure can be you. There is nobody else who can know what you need or what you want or how to be with you. You are the authority on that. It is the same with healing inside of a relationship.

Brett: And with growth. I’ve seen and experienced this before in my relationships where each partner feels like they are responsible for the other’s growth or in some manner guiding it or is more equipped to facilitate it. That just stifles things immediately.

Joe: That’s hell. That’s absolute hell. Tara and I definitely went through that phase. It was brutal and full of arrogance, hubris and distraction from your own shit, among a whole bunch of other things.

Brett: This comes back to in the process of getting into a relationship there is this possible having this consent or agreement that what relationships are for, this desire for each of us to use the relationship for our own freedom and growth, and part of that might even be not requiring the other person to have that same agreement. That’s just the way that you live individually. That’s the way you show up in relationships.

Joe: I would like that to be true. I don’t know if it is. I don’t know if I have ever really seen any relationship get through the bottoms unless both people have agreed to the fact that they are there for their personal growth. They might make it as far as they stay, but it is dead inside. They might be married for 50 years, but it is brutal, cold and unfulfilling. I don’t know of any relationship. I am just tracking right now. I can’t speak to any relationship that I have found that is healthy, rewarding and fulfilling and that changes with the multiple marriages we all go through over 20, 30 or 40 years that hasn’t had the agreement that it is not about changing the other person. It is about our own personal growth and how we be with ourselves, be better people. Better people is not right, but learn how to be more and more ourselves.

Brett: I think that brings up a common sticking point that can happen around this work. When somebody discovers a practice like this or discovers any kind of path that they are finding really helpful for their healing and for their growth, and then they start to feel like their partner is not on board with it, they think now I need you to agree that we are each in this for our own freedom. There can still be a trying to change them to make them the one that wants to use the relationship for their freedom and support each other in that.

Joe: Also hell. Absolutely. I see that all the time where people start discovering something in themselves, and I would see out of a deep love and care they want their partner to join them but also out of a desire to be happy. If they change, I will be happy. That’s the thing. If you think that your partner is going to do anything that makes you happy, if you have the fantasy if they become this, this and that, they will make me happy, that’s an absolute illusion. That’s now how it works.

It doesn’t mean that being with certain people would be more conducive to thriving than other people. It doesn’t mean you should be with the partner and just learn how to endure it all. I’m not saying that, but we are responsible for our own happiness. Nobody else can take control of that. Nobody else can provide that for us. The clearer that gets, the more likely you are, or I think it is a foregone conclusions, the more you will be in healthy relationships.

Brett: Let’s scroll back a little bit to the process of getting into a relationship from this framing, from this perspective of relationships are a path to my growth. I can use relationships to make myself happy at the same time that my partner is making themselves happy. We are both co-creators and co-conspirers of our own individual agency, autonomy and growth and developing a healthy interdependence and not codependence.

Knowing that we are attracted to relationships that are mirroring our own traumas in some sense or matching them, a lot of people have a question or a wondering about how I know if what I am getting into is healthy. If I can just assume the relationships I am getting to are based on my trauma patterns, how do I tell if that’s going to be healthy or if that’s just going to re-traumatize me or recreate the situation, reprove my belief system?

Joe: Let me back off of that question for a second so I can answer it more precisely. I have had the really lovely experience of several times being with people on their first date, either being in the booth next to them at a restaurant or just showing up and meeting people who might have interest in one another. If you are listening to it the right way, it is like a contract negotiation. They are giving each other pieces of information about each other. They are telling each other how they are going to act. In both cases where I got to experience this, from the outside I got to say I know exactly how that relationship is going to go. You can see the entire thing in the first couple moments, first date or two. There are all these subtle agreements being made, subconsciously or not fully consciously.

This is just to say whether we are conscious of it or not, we are that wise in it. We might not be knowing how we are handling it, our heart palpitations and our breath. We are not engineering it, but we are taking care of it. I have seen the same thing happen on every occasion I’ve gotten to see it where people are on their first date. There is this beautiful subconscious intelligence at work. That’s the first part of that that I think is really important.

The second part is if I am attracted to this person because of my trauma or if I am attracted to this person because it will be healing. Both. You are going to retraumatize yourself. Every marriage retraumatizes some of the things we learned in our early childhood, and every relationship has the chance to heal us from our traumas. Both are the case. The easiest thing to say is if you both agree that we are here to do the work, to find our own freedom, then you are going to get a lot more of the healing and a lot less of the retraumatizing. If there is no agreement like that and one person is in full blame mode, full change the other person, full defense mode, then you are going to get a lot more retraumatization. That’s just how it is.

I think it is a false pretext to ask if this is the right person for me that I am attracted to. The right thought process is I am attracted to this person. Therefore, they do have that kind of click. That have that think in them that attracts a part of me that needs to be healed. Are we going to do that or are we going to be unconscious in this relationship? I think that’s the way to tell the difference. Is the person willing to do the work?

Brett: Then there is the open question of if the lesson for me in this relationship is to let more love in, open up and let down my defenses or if it is to draw boundaries.

Joe: I don’t see the separation in those two things. Those are the same thing in my world.

Brett: I see that as a common question.

Joe: That’s a common question.

Brett: There is definitely something for me to learn in this relationship. Is the thing for me to learn to dive into it? Is the thing for me to learn to walk away from it? Because I am having feelings and I am trying to interpret them.

Joe: There is this age-old question in all spiritual growth. The way you are posing it right now is the relational version of that question, but the non-relational version of that question is if I am truly at peace, I should be able to live on top of a disco and be at peace. If I am truly at peace, why on earth would I love on top of a disco? Do I move or do I stay on top of the disco? That’s kind of the question. The thing that I disagreed with in the first phrasing and that I didn’t hear in the second phrasing was if I open my heart and stay open. The answer to that is always yes. The question of boundaries is if I need to draw a boundary so I can maintain that open heart and so I can maintain that unconditional love or if I need to look at my own experience to be able to maintain that unconditional love and that open heart. Even that is somewhat of a false dichotomy in the fact that oftentimes it is both.

The other part of it that is also a false dichotomy is thinking drawing the boundary is more about the other person. For instance, you have got a boyfriend and six months in the boyfriend lies to you. There are certain people who would be like I am done. We are finished. There is not even a question. There are other people who would put up with because of all of these other cool things, but two years down the line, they are tired of the lying. They ask if they should be good with the lying or if they should draw the boundary with the lying. The truth is drawing the boundary about the lying is really a version of learning that I don’t have to accept lying in my life. It is internal work more than it is external work. The external saying of it is just a way to affirm the internal realization that I don’t have to live with somebody lying to me. It doesn’t help me thrive and it doesn’t help them thrive.

In a way, it is all internal work. Sometimes it is drawing a boundary, and sometimes it is leaving. There is that false dichotomy between it being my problem or their problem. That’s the false dichotomy. It is always about you being responsible for your own happiness.

Brett: That speaks to the process of healing in a relationship, which leads to showing up in a different way and then to drawing boundaries and opening your heart. This leads to taking actions and taking on ways of being you have never had before and allowing your partner to do that, allowing your partner to change into something you’ve never seen them be before or seen anybody be before in a relationship with you. That’s a continuous process of feeling helplessness and grieving whatever a relationship was or what our identity was in a relationship.

I think that that also paradoxically is what keeps the relationship fresh and the spice going. There is the NRE, the new relationship energy, which is often considered to die off after a certain period of time. In my experience, it comes right back every time a relationship goes through a big move and a big healing process and becomes redefined, more accepting and more aware of more parts of both people.

Joe: Yeah. I think it is a more grounded version than new relationship energy every time is my experience, but it keeps it fresh and alive. That’s a beautiful way to say it. One of the reasons that relationships in particular we take so personally is because we suffer under the illusion that the other person’s actions or reactions are going to affect us more or with an inordinate amount of pressure so to speak, meaning if he quits his job, what does it mean for me? If she becomes a vegan, what does it mean to me? We are constantly monitoring the person’s change on the other side and how it is going to affect our life. More profoundly, we are monitoring what they are doing and how it is going to affect our identity.

Also, we are monitoring to see if they are going to hold us in place or not. Wow, you are going through something that makes it that you don’t want to care take me anymore, but then who the fuck is going to take care of me? I’ve created my whole system to create care takers. I’ve created a system where I feign helplessness, and I am weak and a victim. I find people who want to take care of me. If you stop taking care of me, then I am going to have to become empowered, but really I feel that care taking is love, so now I feel unloved. It goes like that. We get very scared by the other person’s growth typically, so we will exert a lot of pressure and get very angry over it or sad. We will use every tool in the toolbox to try to keep the person in a place where we feel safe.

Brett: It is interesting to see the pattern where often in a relationship somebody is afraid of being held back or of holding back, the same person is also doing the disempowering for themselves and the other or bidding for disempowerment.

Joe: That’s right. Totally. The other thing is all of these fights we get into in our relationships, you can break them down to pretty much the same basic thing. One person feels unseen or both people feel unseen in that moment or feel unheard or unseen, not grokked, not respected, some version of that. Then there is a desire to change the other person. That is quintessential part of all fights, and that somebody or both people have closed down their heart and decided not to be open. Every fight can be resolved with one and/or both people saying I am going to love unconditionally even in this situation. Here let me take the time to see you. Let me make sure I am seeing you correctly. Let me make sure I understand what you need to be respected and I am not going to try to change you anymore.

If you flip that switch in a fight, the fight goes away. It might take a while to go away. Most people, when they are in that fight, they do this. I am going to open my heart until they open their heart. I am not going to see them until I am seen. I am always the one who is seeing them.

Brett: I need a partner that does the work.

Joe: All that friction. It is like saying hey, I am going to be free until they are free. What the hell? That makes sense from this perspective. If I drop my needing to be seen, if I drop my closedness, if I lower the armor, that’s my freedom. I get that no matter if the person is yelling. I get that. My freedom might be to leave or to draw a boundary, but I get my freedom. Why would I care? This is that focus, the focus on self. Then they have to make their choice. They get to make that choice. That’s the fascinating piece. Every one of the fights, I have never seen a fight that isn’t basically about that in a relationship.

Brett: If you do find your freedom, you are giving your partner to love you in your freedom, which will do things for them as well.

Joe: Unless you have somebody with a severe psychological disorder, when you show up and you listen to them, you unconditionally love them and you hear them, they won’t continue to react the same way towards you. They will change. I feel seen. I feel safe. They will show up more loving. They will listen better. They will want to meet you there. It might take them 20 minutes, but they will want to.

Brett: Or even a few weeks or however much time it takes.

Joe: Exactly.

Brett: Another thing this points to about being in relationships where there is an agreement that each is in it for their own freedom and supportive of one another, there can then become a level of what that means or what the tools are. I see this be a common thing where somebody gets on to some path of what works for them. I’ve seen this happen with somebody who gets really into psychedelics and then the partner doesn’t. Somebody gets really into this work, into VIEW and Art of Accomplishment type work or somebody gets into whatever is out there, and then the other partner doesn’t necessarily agree that is their path. Then the argument is not about we are here for both of our freedom, but the argument is about what path to freedom actually is.

Joe: Then you are trying to change them. Tara went a completely separate way for a decade. I know I’ve talked on this thing about her making fun of my path. You don’t get to control that in another person. The best approach in that is to learn what their path is. What does happen sometimes is people say that’s not my path, but they are not doing any path. They are not doing any work. Therapy is not my path. That’s not my path. I’m just reading books and intellectualizing. That will be my path, but you are not seeing the growth. Then address that issue. Then the issue is I don’t see whatever you are doing being effective. I don’t see you living up to your side of the agreement, which is working on your own freedom.

I think that that’s more of the thing, but there is a subsection of this. Let’s take it out of transformation for a moment. It is like I am clear I want to be non-monogamous, and that’s what I need to do, or I am clear that I need to try to start a billion-dollar company. That’s what I need to do. The other person says I am clear I don’t want to be in a non-monogamous relationship, or I am clear that I don’t want you to have a boyfriend or I am clear that I don’t want to be the wife or husband of a multinational CEO. There is something in that which is really fascinating. I think the basic misnomer there and those are big ones. We can do small ones, too, which is I am clear I don’t want to do the dishes and I am clear I don’t want to live with someone who doesn’t do the dishes.

Brett: I am clear I want to wake up at 8 in the morning and mediate with my partner. I am clear the kids should have a certain schedule.

Joe: Exactly. In that one, one person compromises or both people compromise. I am going to use that word really specifically. To compromise means that I am going to neglect some aspect of myself to make you happy, and I highly recommend never doing that because that always builds up resentment. Now you are walking around the house saying I can show these three parts of myself but not these two parts of myself. I can’t say this thing.

I have got to walk on eggshells and all of this other weight and friction comes into the relationship rather than saying what we are going to do now is we are going to figure out a way you get your needs met and I get my needs met. We are going to be smart enough to do that. We are going to commit to doing that. If for whatever reason that can’t be done, which in my experience never can’t be done, then maybe the relationship is not right for us and let’s admit that. Let’s get there. But neither of us are sacrificing. We are both going to get our needs met, and we will find a way to do it.

There is always a way. We are going to get someone to come in and do the dishes, or we can do the dishes at 7 o’clock at night together. I would hate to say this, but we are using disposable and recyclable dishes and putting it all in the compost. There are a thousand solutions to every problem, and if you are not in a power struggle with the person, if you are not trying to get them to change, there is always a solution.

Brett: I think a part of that is seeing the other’s stated needs as not threats but as something that points to a deeper need because then you can climb down the ladder of apparent needs into what’s actually needed, which tends to become sort of the same thing, the need for safety, the need for autonomy, the need for connection.

Joe: Yeah, beautifully seen. That is why the job is to constantly keep an open heart. It is to not armor up and think you are under attack. It is to see that you can only really be attacked on something you are thinking is bad about yourself. I want you to get your needs met. Of course I do. I want my needs to get met and how we can do both. That is the open-hearted approach as compared to I will not do that. The crazy thing is I see this. No, I will not have a non-monogamous relationship. If you have that boundary, that’s fantastic. I love that boundary, but it is so much different than saying I really hear you are sexually unsatisfied in the marriage, and I want you to be sexually satisfied in the marriage. I am not okay with us having relationships outside or I am not okay with us not having relationships outside of the marriage as long as we are not connected, or whatever the boundary is. It is so much different than I won’t do that. I won’t do that is this armored and defensive thing than saying I can really acknowledge and see your needs, and I really want you to get your needs met, and by the way, this scares the fuck out of me because I think we are about to get a divorce because you have a need I am not going to be able to fulfill.

Brett: I hear a vulnerability of these are my needs and these are your needs. There is this openness that this might not actually be a match and we can’t both get them met at the same time, and there is an openheartedness to really looking for where that correspondence might be. Ultimately, once again, going back to that original principle of each of us is in it for our own freedom and in support of each other’s freedom, which means if I have a need, my need doesn’t need to become a control pattern upon you.

Joe: That’s it.

Brett: My need becomes something that I inquire into myself and vulnerably share my process. It is my responsibility to get that need met.

Joe: I think about relationships. If you think about it, standing upright and having your arms out in a cross, most poetry, most art is written about the arms of the relationship, the beginning and the end. We are talking right now about the body of the relationship, where most of the self-help books hang out. The thing about that body of the relationship, I will tell you a story. I was working with a client, and the client was saying she felt she was being attacked all of the time by her husband. I said who gives a shit. I remember her looking at me like what. I said yeah, so he is attacking you. If you are different than your authentic self because of an attack, they have won. He has won. The only thing you have to focus on is being authentic in the face of that attack because otherwise you are already out of yourself. You have already lost, so to speak. How do you want to be in the fact of this attack if it is true even, which is it most likely not true?

The way it works in relationships is someone thinks they have something to defend, and the other person sees that defense as an attack. They think they have something to defend. The first person sees that defense as an attack, and both people think they are defending themselves and both people feel attacked. That’s typically how it works.

Brett: Then they create an attack by doing something like not being their authentic self in the face of an attack, which then makes the other partner feel more disconnected and more abandoned.

Joe: That’s right. It is like great, they have attacked you. How do you want to be? I’ve never seen somebody deeply get in contact with that and think what I want to do is shut down. They might say they want to draw a boundary. They might say what I want is to say I don’t want to be treated like this. Please stop yelling at me. If you have to keep on yelling at me, then I am going to leave. I’m happy to come back when you are not yelling at me. There are lots of ways to handle it, but I’ve never heard anybody say authentically what I want to do is I want to shut down and attack. That will feel great. Being defensive feels freaking great. I want to be more defensive with my husband. I’ve never seen someone say the marriage I want is 55% more defensive. It is not what’s true for us. That’s the thing.

It reminds me of this other story I love. Tara and I saw a therapist years back, and he had this story, which I loved. He was working with a client, and the client went to the bathroom in the middle of the night, started to pee and missed the toilet. He noticed the first thought he had was god damn it, she moved the toilet. In that moment, he had this recognition that he was holding her responsible for everything. None of it is her job. He saw through this whole thing of him blaming his whole life on his wife. Do you want a life where you are blaming somebody else for your own happiness? No, nobody wants that, and yet here we are finding ourselves in this in the middle of a relationship. Just that acknowledgement that this isn’t the way we want to be with each other and this is the way we want to be with each other, that’s huge.

Brett: We have talked now about the beginning of the relationship and the kinds of agreements and consensual reality in a relationship for growth and freedom. We’ve talked a lot about the body, and now what if you do this work and you find this relationship has played its course? What we are actually looking for is something different or what I am looking for is something different. My partner left me and they are shutting down. I feel powerless. How do I stay connected to them while they are shutting down to me?

Joe: Before I get there, one of the things I will say about the middle of the relationship is one of the things to look for in a relationship is there are a lot of situations in which somebody thinks they want something and have so much craving for it that they are pushing it away. That can be jealousy. If you find yourself in a relationship where you have this strong desire for something and you keep on trying to get it and you can’t get it, then it is really great to acknowledge that you are actually pushing it away, which means subconsciously you are not ready for it, don’t want it, haven’t admitted what it is going to do to your identity, some version of that. I think that’s a really good, helpful hint for people who find themselves thinking I want this so badly and I can’t get it. To know that that energy is actually pushing that away from you, which means there is some way in which you haven’t fully accepted your desire for it and willingness to receive it.

Brett: That seems to apply across the board to cravings.

Joe: Yes, the deep cravings. The ending of the relationship is often the most productive time in a relationship if you are approaching it like this is a spiritual growth thing. The great story I have on this is the first time I experienced it. I had a friend who had the love of his life and had been in the longest relationship, which at the time was 11 months. He was a perennial bachelor until he was 40. He was in this situation, and at the time, he was overweight, drinking too much. His business was failing. He had this break up. He had lost himself quite a bit in the relationship and had this breakup.

We had this conversation about this being a great time if you can mourn it. He had this long drive he was doing. He was doing restoration work. He had this long drive across Arizona every week. He would cry and mourn the whole time there and back. Two months later it was cry and mourn for a couple of hours there and back. Six months later he wasn’t drinking too much. He was in shape. He was running a successful business. He got new contracts. His entire world had changed.

When I asked about him how that had worked. A couple of things he said that were exceptional. He said oh my god, I had no idea I could make sounds like that when I was mourning. I had no idea. The other thing was he said he started by mourning the relationship, but then I mourned everything that got me into the relationship, all the trauma, all of the patterns that got me into that relationship. I could mourn and move through them. That’s the opportunity at the end of a relationship. If you fully mourn it, you are not going to replicate the relationship. If you fully allow yourself to feel the sadness, the heartbreak and the heart, it will increase your capacity to love in the future. It will mandate a deeper, more connected form of love from the next relationship. You will be attracted to different people.

There is this huge opportunity in a breakup to allow that mourning to occur and to move through all of those difficult emotions, embrace them and love them. It is a gigantic opportunity rather than dismiss it. That includes the person breaking up and the person being broken up with or whatever.

Brett: Even the people around them, mourning the identity of the couple and the way they related to them. One of the things that seems to be a really common factor when I see people in my life after a breakup remain friends or be really close friends or even decide that they actually want to stay together but just in a completely different form of relationship, the factor there is they have actually grieved it fully. Those who have not done that are the ones who are continuing to hold the bitterness and get into another relationship just like it.

Joe: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly the pattern I see in the world. I think in the front end of breaking up with somebody is this moment of asking if you should break up with them or if you should stay with them. It’s that crazy moment that people have. My response to that is almost always the same, which is why don’t you just be fully who you are and if it ends, it ends. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. It is the same thing I tell people who are thinking about quitting a job.

There are all these ways you have stopped being yourself in the relationship. Why don’t you just be yourself in the relationship? If it becomes a dumpster fire, it is a dumpster fire. You are done anyways. Seventy or 80% of the time the relationship heals just from that, just from people showing up and saying this is how I want to be. Love it or leave it, but I am not going to defend myself. I am just going to be me, and I hope you stay or you don’t. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. My job is just being me here and not being defensive about it. It is incredible how much that changes.

Brett: The inauthenticity is the source of a lot of the pain, all of the pain really.

Joe: That’s correct. Usually the person on the other side is more attracted, more excited, more eager to be involved after one to six months of pushing up against this isn’t what we agreed to, that kind of stuff. It is amazing how often that works.

If it doesn’t work then as far as keeping a relationship alive, it definitely works as far as teaching people how to be themselves in the next relationship. It works as far as creating a more amicable split-up.

Brett: The final piece I just need to mention here is it can be a journey to be fully authentic in a relationship and to hold somebody to being fully authentic in a relationship isn’t loving them as they are in their journey, and the same is true for yourself.

Joe: That’s right. I don’t think that journey ever ends. I hope it doesn’t. I hope I continue to find ways to be more authentic and more supportive of myself and others. That’s the other piece that I think is really critical. Anything that you can’t love about your partner, anything you want to change about your partner, the most useful thing to know about that stuff is that is something you can’t love about yourself. It is something that you have no flexibility in yourself. It is something you judge yourself for or would judge yourself for. My ability to be patient, loving and caring towards every aspect of Tara is a direct reflection of my capacity to be loving and patient with the aspects of myself. I think that’s a really important way to look at it. There is nothing that the other person has in them that you don’t have in you. There is no way to think I really love this but I can’t love it in myself or vice versa. That’s not how it works.

Brett: It is the people who love themselves who tend to also be the most attractive.

Joe: They create the healthiest relationships. I’ve never seen two people who just deeply love themselves and can accept themselves who are in a diabolically horrible, dysfunctional relationship. You can’t imagine it. The other thing to say about that is I think for some people that’s a little scary. I am going to love myself. There is some fear that doing that, then I will be non-ambitious or evil. There is a slew of things. Look around. See if you can find anybody who truly loves themselves and is evil or truly love themselves and is not ambitious. Self-care and all that stuff doesn’t go away with self-love.

Brett: I think this a great place to wrap it up.

Joe: That was good. I could see us having another podcast on relationships. I feel like we could delve in deeper. Do you know what would be cool? Maybe we do it with you and Alexa.

Brett: Yeah, I would love that.

Joe: That would be cool to have a three-way conversation. That would be fun.

Brett: Let’s do that next time.

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