Are you ready to unlock the secrets of a successful relationship? Who says being in a committed relationship is hard? Though relationships can be challenging they don’t have to be if we are intentional about how we go about creating our successful relationship.
There are some key ingredients that we need to bring to our relationship for it to be gratifying and successful.
Committed relationships, marriage, are special, delicate, and very important to our overall wellbeing. They are the pillar of our society as they stabilize the family unit, and are the strongest influence on our children.
This is why it’s my mission to cater to the wellbeing of couples. After 20 years of working with couples and helping them create their successful relationship, I embraced a longtime dream of hosting a relationship podcast. Which I’m proud to launch today!
Today’s video is special as it’s a video of my first podcast episode- I’m so excited to launch our new podcast…
In this episode I interview a longtime friend and colleague, Carole Cullen who is also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Together we geek out about a few secret ingredients that make for a successful relationship.
Hope this information serves you and helps you get on the path to your Successful Relationship.
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🌟ABOUT OUR GUEST:
Carole Cullen is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, AAMFT Clinical Supervisor and public speaker. She is a Certified Gottman Couples Therapist and Emotionally Focused Therapist specializing in working with couples in crisis. She has a group practice in Wake Forest, NC where she helps couples learn practical tools to reconnect with their partner and create a lasting love. https://mytherapistnc.org/
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DISCLAIMER: This content is meant to support your Journey and not as a replacement for professional assistance. Additionally, the ideas and resources provides by our guests are their ideas and recommendations alone and not necessarily a reflection of the host’s.
Hello lovelies, I am so excited for today. Thank you so much for being here in our first episode of my new podcast, Successful Relationship with Emma, where we talk about all things relationship. I'm Emma Viglucci from metrorelationship. com, where we specialize in working with committed couples. We help them enrich their relationships so that they can create their successful relationship and meaningful life. I've been thinking about doing a podcast for a very long time, as podcasts provide opportunity for a deeper dive on topics and conversations, and I wanted to provide that for you with my own flair and style and expertise. If you're looking for more support, visit our website at metrorelationship. com, where you can sign up for an initial session and we could get started with you to help you create your own successful relationship. I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below as to where you found us. I would love to know. Now, for today I have a very special guest, a longtime friend, Carole Cullen. We talk about the secret ingredients for creating a successful relationship. Stay tuned, you're in for a treat. Research shows that when we have an amazing relationship and it's successful and it feels good, that's the primary reason why we want one right. But there are other benefits, and the other benefits are health, longevity and happiness. So not only do we get to enjoy our partner in the relationship, but we get a multitude of other benefits for our life. So to that point and to have an amazing conversation today, I brought my longtime friend, Carole Cullen. She's a colleague - we go way back decades. Hi, Carole. Carol is a licensed marriage and family therapist and AAMFT clinical supervisor and public speaker. She's a certified Gottman couples therapist and emotionally focused therapist, specializing in working with couples in crises. She has a group practice in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where she helps couples learn practical tools to reconnect with their partners and create lasting love. Hi, Carole, I'm so happy you're here with me today.Carole:
Hi, Emma, me too. I'm so excited to be a guest on your podcast and I can't wait to talk about how to teach couples to build and create healthy relationships. It's my favorite topic.Emma:
Yes, right, this has to be the topic for us family therapists, and when we specialize, we're working with couples. All right, so let's jump right in. How do we create an amazing relationship that works? People might have different ideas of what works and different definitions of a great relationship, but just from our perspective, what makes a relationship work?Carole:
Yeah, what a tricky question, right? Because I think that's the question that every person in a relationship wants to know the answer to, because it's kind of a mystery, like what do I need to do to make a healthy relationship? What do I need to do to be happy in this relationship? And there's so many books out there and experts that claim they have the answers and they have the secrets for how to make a lasting relationship. But we're going to talk to you today about some of the things that we know that research has proven to create healthy relationships, right. So we have unlocked the code, so to speak, using some of the research from the world-renowned couples, therapists and researchers out there today. So the first thing we're going to talk about, Emma, is how to create emotional intimacy, and I think that is probably the most important aspect of any healthy relationship that couples can have. And it's also kind of a mystery, right, like what does that mean? What does emotional intimacy mean to couples? Some folks are really in tune to what emotional intimacy is and means and they desire it and they crave it and they want it and they pursue it in relationships, and then there are some folks that kind of don't know what it means when you say that. To them it sounds like a foreign language, and they also at times can feel inept that they don't know what that means. So how are they going to give that to their partner, and they feel like maybe they're lacking in the relationship and so that creates some problems too. So maybe the first thing we can do is talk together about what emotional intimacy means to us. Perfect.Emma:
So I totally agree that the term emotional intimacy sounds so clinical. Okay, let's have some emotional intimacy. And so people might not have any idea what that means. They might not have the emotional intelligence for it, they might not be in touch with their feelings, they don't even know how to share their feelings. There's a bunch of other things that might come to play there that gets in the way of creating that emotional intimacy. So definitely, let's dive in what are some key aspects of emotional intimacy, what makes great emotional intimacy, and then what might get in the way of that.Carole:
Yeah, I would say the first aspect would be really getting in touch with your own emotions and learning about yourself first, what emotions feel comfortable to you to express, and then what emotions maybe are a little bit more vulnerable. Vulnerability is a really important aspect of emotional intimacy, also a foreign word to some folks. So learning to connect with yourself and understanding what your emotions are and how you express them to others in your life, not just your partner, is a good first step. So understanding what feels safe to express and a lot for a lot of people, I think. Positive emotions right, feeling happy, being excited, feeling joy those are easier emotions to express. The harder ones, the ones that make us feel a little bit more vulnerable, a little bit more unsafe, would be fear, concern, you know talking about, maybe, your insecurities, your hopes, your dreams. These might feel a little bit scarier because there's the possibility of rejection being tied to that right?Emma:
Well, that's a very interesting observation. That it is much easier to talk about positive feelings. That kind of makes sense. But I would add that sometimes we have a hard time sharing that too, right? So if I'm very emotional and my partner is not very emotional, let's say, or vice versa, some people might feel that they have to kind of tamper their excitement or their joy or their happiness because their partner might be intimidated by that or flooded by that. So even good stuff might be hard to share sometimes. I love what you were saying. Like you know, can we first identify our own feelings and then assess, okay, how safe is it to share? And then maybe start sharing some of the positive ones first, just like they're getting risk and sharing with things that feel good, to start opening up that vulnerability. And then, when I want to take that risk and sharing some of those harder ones I'm hearing you say, and some of the harder ones might be like that fear you said, dreams, hopes and dreams, feeling scared, right? So what might be some other ones that couples experience in your experience and that they have a hard time sharing, and how might they go about creating that safety?Carole:
Yeah, I think some more ones that are kind of scary to share is just feeling not good enough, right, like I'm not living up to some expectation of my partner. Maybe I feel maybe I'm broken, there's something wrong with me. There's some sort of inability that I have to meet a need of someone else or even just to be in the world and to connect with other people. They feel broken and that at times can be really really hard to share and you have to create a really safe space in your relationship to be able to share those deep emotional thoughts, right? And some people don't even know that that's like you said. They're not in touch with that. They don't even know that that's what they're feeling. But that can become a barrier in a relationship. If we're not in touch with our own emotions or understanding what's going on for us internally, it's going to be very, very hard to share that with our partner. However, the part that is easier to share maybe not the healthiest is the behaviors. Right, our behaviors are going to reflect what's going on internally for us. So if we're not verbalizing these feelings, we're not connecting that to our behaviors. Our behaviors we're acting out a little bit and our partner's not understanding where that's coming from, because we haven't shared the emotions that are tied to it. So for emotional intimacy, I think about that as that takes two people to create emotional intimacy, right, knowing your own emotions is one person, but emotional intimacy is about creating that with another person. So first is knowing yourself and learning how to communicate that, and then the second part being the partner on the other side is being able to receive those emotions, to hear them, stick with those difficult feelings and then be able to validate those emotions back to our partner. So it is validating me, right? So let's just say you know, am I? You share with me that you're really feeling, feeling insecure, you're not feeling really good enough about this particular situation you're having with your partner and you share that with me and I hear that you know I, maybe I'm having my own struggles with insecurity and so I want to tell you oh, it's going to be fine, you're going to be fine, don't worry about that, you don't have to worry about that, that's not a problem, right, minimizing what your emotion is. It's harder for me to sit with that and really take that in and say, wow, that's hard to feel that way. That must be really difficult. I can understand that you might feel insecure in that situation, because somewhere in me I can also connect with that feeling. Right that's hard.Emma:
That is super hard and, as you were saying that, I'm thinking of all the couples that we work with and I'm like, wow, this is like advanced Right. Yeah, just a little. A little thought here, just for people who are listening. If you're really struggling with your partner and it doesn't feel comfortable being this vulnerable, take your time and maybe this is more for people who are trying to enrich the relationship, not necessarily who are really struggling. If you're really struggling, you may need more support from professionals like ourselves or somebody else, but for now, assuming that you are looking to enrich your relationship and that you just want to improve and make things better, you could give some of these things a shot. Towards the end of the conversation, we're going to have very practical things to offer you, but for now, I just want to kind of repeat a little bit what I heard Carol say. I want to make sure that I'm getting what her message is and that I want to throw in my two cents. It's not easy to be emotionally vulnerable, is not easy to share our internal world. It is not easy to share feelings good, positive feelings or even more challenging feelings and when we're listening to our partner share those, we may have a hard time taking them in. So I love that point that you were making. So there's a little bit of a space there where not only do I have to know my own feelings and share them, and share them in a way that my partner could hear them, so that could be - that's challenging in and of itself. So that's number one, and then number two, just allowing them then to respond to us. And in that response it might be challenging for the partner to respond back because they might have their own feelings. Now, right, and so when we have I have my feelings, you have your feelings and they're all over, there's a lot of feelings going on and then the conversation could get a little messy, right. So when we are doing that intimacy dance, then I'm going to show us vulnerable so I can give in the context of the relationship, and I'm going to be smart about choosing how, when, how much of the feelings. The positive, first, in doing them in a way that my partner could receive them. And if I'm the partner and my partner sharing vulnerability with me, how do I not make that that about myself? So how do I just sit and just hear you, like if you're sharing vulnerable stuff with me. How do I receive you, how do I hear you, how do I validate you? How do I get what you're saying, what you're feeling, where you're experiencing, without making it mean anything, and how do I not add my stuff into what you're saying? Just hear you. That is very, very difficult for partners to do. So if you're struggling with this, you're not alone. Don't worry, but give it a shot. First, try taking a deep breath and sharing your side as gently as possible. But go ahead, Carole. Anything else about that piece sharing the vulnerability, the harder emotions, receiving them? I think you're right when you say that this is a really hard thing to do.Carole:
A lot of folks out there are not familiar with that. It has never been safe, maybe in your life to be emotionally vulnerable, to create emotional intimacy and, like you said, if you are struggling with this because of your own personal history maybe there's been a trauma history it's really important to reach out and get some support, and this is one of the first things that we work on with couples is to teach them how to do this, because this is a very hard thing to do and if you're struggling with that, I want you to know you're not the only one. Everybody struggles with this at some point. T his is something that is taught. You learn this and it's not just you know. People are not just born knowing how to do this. So it's okay if you are struggling with this and don't feel like everybody knows how to do this but me. That something must be wrong with me because it's not true. So I just wanted to kind of give that message that it's okay if this feels kind of foreign or unfamiliar to you. It is to most of us and we have to learn how to do this.Emma:
I love that you talked about just a little while ago about accepting and validating your partner's feelings. How do you show that communication, that validation, how do you show that acceptance, right? What are some of the communication skills to help partners do that and do it well, so the partner feels good when they're receiving that?Carole:
Absolutely so. Having effective communication is definitely something that we see. Couples that are successful do. They have exceptional communication skills, so we're going to learn from them like they're in a healthy relationship. This is what they're doing, so it makes sense that this is something that couple should learn how to do. And what these couples are doing that are successful that we've observed and watched and, through research, have learned about is that they are taking turns in the way that they communicate. Each partner has the opportunity to really share their feelings in a non attacking or blaming or critical way, and the other partner, the receiving partner, is really just listening, receiving, accepting and then validating their partners message. So let me tell you what that, maybe what that looks like a little bit better. So the partner that is sharing they're starting with talking about their own feelings. I feel. Insert feeling words, right. Right, I mean, I hear a lot like I feel that you are wrong is not a feeling. That's not a feeling, that's a thought. And then reframing that would be I feel hurt by the decision you made. That's a feeling. So teaching couples how to communicate using feeling words that start with, I feel is critical and that's also a very hard thing to do, because we're so used to talking about our thoughts, but we stick the word I feel in front of it, right to make it a feeling that it's not and the thoughts are judgmental on top of it, so it's not like we're just sharing beautiful thoughts.Emma:
We're like blaming, criticizing, doing all the funny business right, and then we wonder how come our partner might not respond kindly to what we're saying.Carole:
Well, sure, whenever we say to someone, I'm criticizing you, I'm blaming you, it's your fault, anyone is going to feel defensive, right, that's going to stir up defensiveness. And then you're going to get some of this right. Well, me, what about you right? Or I don't agree with that. What about the thing you did the other day? Or well, that doesn't sound right. Why do you feel that way? You shouldn't feel that way. So we get a lot of this defensiveness coming back at us, which is just poor communication, it's not healthy and it just doesn't work. So what we want is for you to start with I feel and a real feeling word, and then share what you are having that feeling about. So you're going to describe the situation in a neutral way. So I'll give you a good example. I feel frustrated and hurt that the sharing of the responsibilities, with cleaning the kitchen and doing the dishes, has not been honored, and I really need for you to do your part in the expectations of cleaning the kitchen that we talked about last week, right? Okay, still doesn't feel good to hear that, right, because you're saying you're not keeping up your part, but you're saying I feel hurt and disappointed and frustrated, I think I said about the agreement we made to clean up the kitchen right, rather than, I feel you're lazy and you aren't cleaning the dishes when you said you would do. It feels very blaming and judgy. I think you're going to get a better response when you're using what we call a softened startup. I feel about this situation and here's what I need. Those are the three key elements, and your partner can hear that better and then they can reflect Back what you've said. They can say - so what I'm hearing you say is you're very frustrated with me because I did not keep up my end of the bargain like we agreed on last week. Is that right? And then you check in and it'd be a little bit easier for them to do that if it's not laced with criticisms and name calling.Emma:
Yes, the name calling right, okay, yes, I love all of that. We speak about ourselves. We don't speak about the other, what the other doing or not doing, how they suck, rather how we're feeling, we're experiencing the thing, right. So we're going to start with that feeling word, then we're going to observe the thing that made us feel those things and then we might make some kind of a request or some kind of solution. Possibly. Right, so great. I love that formula. That's a great way of having people just kind of address a thing that's bothering them without starting a fight. That's not going to start a fight. If you speak like that, I promise you guys you will not start a fight. It starts when you go in accusing, demanding, controlling, criticizing, blaming, like all the funny things. So that's not what we want to do. So lovely. So three steps, perfect. Give me some more of those feeling words. So then people are primed to use them. They have them handy.Carole:
Yeah, I think a really good one that is simple and kind of covers a lot of negative feelings is I'm feeling upset. That's a really good one for people that struggle with identifying really how they're feeling so I'm upset or sad is. Those are two that I feel are very commonly used. They're easily accessible and people use a lot and that those are totally fine. You don't have to get into breaking that down into very specific words yet I'm angry, I'm frustrated, I'm disappointed, I'm hurt, I'm sad, I'm upset. These are kind of very accessible negative feeling words, but you can also use positive words. If you're sharing, trying to be effective communicator, it doesn't have to be just about negative things. It would be wonderful if you could share with your partner. I'm feeling really proud and excited for you about this new venture you're taking on at work and I'm really looking forward to how this can benefit us in our relationship, because it'll give us more to talk about and it'll give us something that we can plan for in the future because of the increase in your salary right, so you can tell your partner positive things about them too in this way and they may be better able to hear it as well. And just back to your point that you said just a moment ago how this may or may not start a fight. I want to tell you the research shows that if you start a conversation using this formula, this will have a high predictability of the outcome of this conversation being good, versus starting out with a criticism. Criticism has a high predictability of the conversation happening going poorly, and this is based on the research. So we know that through science that starting using this method is going to have a better outcome. For your conversation and for your relationship, and it just may take some practice.Emma:
Perfect. I love that. Something also that I usually highlight with couples is that you don't have to talk from your leg. When you're just walking around in passing and just addressing something quick or just not something significant or important, because people get hung up on like the formula, then this is just too much work, was too clinical, right, and so we want to make this as organic as possible and we want to use this for important topics and conversations. So when you're addressing something that bothers you, use the formula, and the more that you use, the more organic it becomes. You'll get something organic even though it's a formula, I promise. And two, if you are addressing something fun or something significant, sure, you could use a formula too so it could be received the good feedback. Sometimes it's hard to receive good feedback, too, right, compliments. So we could use the formula for important conversations, negative or positive. You don't have to use a formula for everything.Carole:
So don't worry, we're not gonna make you a robot, it can be something that feels comfortable to you. As long as you're making that effort and you're trying to talk about what's going on for you first, your feelings first, I promise you it's gonna go better than it did before.Emma:
That's right. So as long as they are, you know, if they're saying let's try this skill or this is what I'm trying to do. Nobody's gonna be perfect at this at the first go, or even after a little bit of practice either, right. So, like, even the best of us sometimes can't do it when we're triggered. So I mean, we're all human beings, so you don't have to be perfect, don't worry that you're not getting it. As long as you're showing effort, you can tell your partner that this is what you're trying. Automatically, the playing field is neutral and you could synchronize and start a better conversation, even if it's wobbly, and even if the formula is not perfect and even if the words are not perfect, the intention counts.Carole:
That's right. That's right. You're showing that you are prioritizing the relationship by making that effort and being intentional in the way that you're communicate. And it's not always gonna be perfect and I tell my couples this all the time, you don't have to be perfect, you just have to be present.Emma:
You just have to show up. Beautiful. Okay, very nice, very nice, good.Carole:
Yeah, I'm gonna get serious on you just for a minute, okay, some barriers to being able to do this emotional intimacy, as well as effective communication, and you know, sometimes we see this in our partner it's just a lack of empathy or a very low ability to access empathy. This can be really hard for a partner. For a partner that's really seeking connection is to have a partner that does not have the ability currently to access empathy and offer their partner validation. This is a real struggle. Sometimes we do see this in relationships where there is interpersonal violence or domestic abuse. So these are things just kind of like - just be aware of that. At times, relationship struggle with this and just need some support, but at times it could be something that needs some additional help from a clinical expert. So just be aware of that. That if you struggle in this area, you know it's okay to ask for some help, but that would be one of the barriers is just this ability inability to access empathy and to offer empathy to your partner, or holding on to resentments and being unwilling to let those resentments go, and when you hold on to resentments, they show themselves in the way that you communicate, using contempt, name-calling, belittling, mocking, you know, minimizing, and those are all very dangerous for relationships. So we want to, we definitely want to eliminate those aspects of contempt and work on building the empathy part of our brain.Emma:
Yes, that was beautiful. If if there is domestic violence or any kind of violence, verbal violence and all the different ways that we might show up, that is not cool. In a relationship that hurts us in different ways, that maybe more support is needed than was offered in a book or in a podcast or in the YouTube video, that you are responsible for yourself and your relationship and that you get support, that you get help from a professional. That's what we're here for. We're here to take care of you right, to help you get over the humps in your life, and so there's nothing wrong with getting a little support to help you through those rough moments. And the other point that you made Carole was so good about it's hard when there is lack of empathy and lack of compassion or lack of that vulnerability, of lack of presence and showing up, how can you possibly communicate properly and create good feelings and connection, which we're going to go to next right, if that deeper sense of being together and connectedness, it's not embraced with language and with talking and properly doing that so you don't hurt each other? I love also what you you said about contempt. If we're showing up with resentments, that is gonna shop in a lot of different ways, right, if we're holding on to stuff, you're not gonna - you're not gonna shop with your best self, and so it will do the partners well to air that out in gentle, mindful, safe manner so they could be heard and and so that that could be removed from the galaxy of your, the sphere of your world. I don't know if those are great analogies, but so you can remove it from the conversation, from your relationships, so that it doesn't permeate all of the interactions. And then you show up in ways that are actually very damaging the contempt in some of these other ways that really are like what I used to call once upon a time I haven't used this analogy that much but a knife to your bond. When you show up in that way, you're just chopping at the bond, right, and so we don't want that, because then it becomes almost irreparable. Some couples come to us when it's like they've done so much damage and it's like, okay, really we could do a lot if you come early enough and you get the support, and even when it feels like it's too late, we do have magic up our sleeves so we could hook you up, but don't do the damage first of all. Right, that's the main key here. All right, so why don't we move on to the third area, quality time? You had to agree more connection. This is the fun part of the conversation.Carole:
Yeah, this is my favorite one is quality time, but I do think a lot of couples get stuck here. But let's talk about what quality time is first and then we'll talk about ways in which people get stuck right. So prioritizing quality time with your partner is about spending focused, intentional, scheduled (sometimes) time with your partner for connection, intimacy, fun, playfulness, joy, lightheartedness, humor, just having that time to be connected in a way that used to be early in your relationship. And I think we just forget that that's important and we forget how to connect in that way, because life gets busy, right, and that's one of the ways that we get barriers is life gets busy and we don't prioritize that. So focusing on scheduling time first is gonna be really important. Scheduling a date night or scheduling time just to talk is a way that couples can build the bond in their relationship. It allows for their partner to feel like they are important to their partner because they're making time to spend with them. So just the fact that you put it on the calendar and make that time is the step in the right direction to show your partner. It builds trust too, right? I can trust and count on you that you're gonna be there for me when I need you, because you're already doing it in times when it's not critical. So if you can do it in times when it's not critical, I know I'm gonna be able to count on you to be there for me in ways that are important when I do need you. So it's building trust in the relationship as well as connecting.Emma:
I love that you brought up that angle right, because people have a reaction to scheduling things with their partner. I mean, they might have plans right, but scheduling a couple of times, scheduling the dates - they might be able to do date night fairly simple, but like the consistency of scheduling it and keeping it ongoing is challenging and sexy time, forget it. Don't even tell people to schedule sexy time. That's a whole other conversation. But I love what you're saying right now, that if you schedule the time or if you make the time for that connection, for being together in whatever capacity we're talking about, and your partner shows up, that that is building trust. And a lot of people ask how do you build trust right, especially when they have certain situations going on? This is one of the ways right. So good, so good. So anything else about quality time connection, different types of quality time you were going there.Carole:
Yeah, I think also just sharing in activities together. It has been a very tough topic to touch with couples at times, because you'll get a lot of couples that will say, well, we have nothing in common, we don't do anything together, we don't like any of the same things, and that is probably very true for them, right? Maybe one likes to golf and the other one likes to knit, maybe the other one is social and the other one is not social, so they probably are very different and so having shared activities is really hard for them. So I think couples that are successful find ways to share in activities together that work for both of them. And sometimes sometimes, Emma, you're not gonna believe this, but sometimes we do things we don't always like in a relationship because it's important to our partner. Can you believe people do that?Emma:
Well, I wouldn't say that very cautiously, Carole, because when people say, well, then I'm always doing stuff that I don't like or I don't want my partner to do things they don't want, right? That also gets in the way of the conversation, and what I usually offer around that conversation is you don't have to love the activity, but you could love the time together, right? And so it's not about the activity at the end of the day. If you're in this side of the spectrum, so don't get hung up on the fact that you might not like this thing or this activity, this experience. It's not about that at the end of the day. It's that in the joining and the doing of it together, that is what counts. People get lost in the different sides of things that are not that important at the end of the day and they make it a thing and it's not the thing.Carole:
Absolutely, and I can think of just two things off the top of my head and good examples is I don't really like sports. I'm not athletic at all, I'm actually pretty clumsy. But my husband is very athletic, loves sports. So he's on lots of rec teams to play baseball and hockey and you name it. He plays pickleball, whatever it is, but I don't like sports. But I will go and I will watch, or I will. While he's watching it on TV, I'll sit next to him and read a book. So I find ways to engage. Or we'll go see a movie. It'll be a movie about sports, it's a sports movie. I'll go see the movie. Right, this is the kinds of things that I'm talking about. I'm not saying change who you are and do things that really make you miserable, but there are ways to be engaged and be a partner and do activities together that can feel comfortable for both of you. Like, if your partner's a golfer, you can write in the golf cart and read a book. There's lots of ways to kind of be a part of something. And those are just ways that I participate, but my husband also participates with me. This year I really wanted to build a vegetable organic vegetable garden in our yard and I really wanted to do it, and so that was our project this whole summer and he's really taken to helping me with the garden. He built the garden. He was just out there watering the garden for me because he saw it was getting a little bit dried up but he's not a gardener, right. This is my project, right, and we're growing vegetables that we both like, so we're engaging in that together, even though he's not really a gardener. So I think that there are ways that you can be flexible and find something that you can share together and do that is enjoyable for both of you maybe a little bit more you know for one partner one day and then maybe a little bit more for the other partner another day but that you find ways to share in activities together. It's never gonna be where the two of you well, maybe it will be for some couples two of you are 100% into anything all the time. So in a relationship, it's about compromise. It's about prioritizing the relationship and finding ways to spend time together that are enjoyable for both of you, so maybe that helps a little bit.Emma:
Yes, I love that exactly. So it doesn't have to do that you do his thing or her thing all the time and that they do your thing all the time. It's a matter of making the activity pleasurable for both in some particular way, regardless of what the activity is. Yes, perfect, so good, all right. Anything else on quality time? I think you covered a lot on that one for today.Carole:
Yeah, I think you know, if we wanna touch on just like a barrier to that for just a minute, like why do people struggle with that? I think one of the struggles is, you know, compromising and finding things that you enjoy doing together. But in today's society, we all know this, electronics, technology really are getting in the way not just of adults' lives but our children's as well, and finding time to get those distractions out of the way will really make some space in your relationship to find things that you enjoy doing together. So one of the distractions just in relationships in general, just communication, quality time, just intimacy as a whole, is, you know, the electrical devices. You know.Emma:
Hmm, yes, unfortunately, you know, even when you go to restaurants, people are sitting at the dinner table and they're both watching their own phones. Then it's like it's pretty interesting what even though we love technology and it has made life so much richer in so many different ways when it comes to emotions and connection and building closeness and just the yumminess that we want in a relationship it has the way of getting in the way right, because then we're connected with our device. We're not connected with our partner and I think that having I love that you bring up children too, right. So having screen times assigned a lot of parents have this nowadays but just being very mindful of how much people are on devices and for partners themselves to also be aware, because we are good at imposing around our children but we might not be so good at imposing around ourselves. So maybe when you have that couple of conversations, when you are having your relationship check in meeting, when you are having the things that you're having to connect and to have fun, definitely don't have a sexy time unless you're doing sexy things on that phone together. I don't know, but I'm just saying - that's a different podcast. That's a different conversation, different conversation. But if you're trying to connect with each other, definitely don't have devices right there so you could be present with each other.Carole:
Yeah, so I think we're already diving into how can you safeguard your relationship against it deteriorating, right? One of the things we were gonna mention was set boundaries around technology time, and that was one of the most important things I think that you can do for your relationship is dedicate no electronic times. We do it for our kids. A lot of us do it for our kids. We monitor their electronics and then we're right there next to them doing this while we're telling them to get off their phones. So it's important that we also do it in our relationships, and I think that there's going to be maybe schedule times where you want to say, hey, we're not going to have electronics during our couples talk time. Let's make sure that we're really focused and intentional during our couple talk time so that we can really connect on a daily basis. Maybe that's something you do every day for 20 minutes, 20, 30 minutes you just put the phones away and the two of you sit down and catch up about your day or talk about Maybe some things that have happened that day that maybe we're good or maybe we're concerning. You could do like a high low of the day. That's one good way. I would also add, if you have a scheduled date night that that could be a no electronics date night, you can just put that away and just set it to emergency calls only if you have kids right. So those planned conversations are really important to have every day with no electronics, and then date night as well. So those would be like my first recommendation ways to you know, support your relationship would be uninterrupted time to talk and adding a date night once a week.Emma:
So that is, those are some beautiful tactics there and relationship building habits so that we make sure that we can create that lasting love. What are some other ways to nurture that connection and to build that keeping that flow right and anything else to make sure you have that lasting love and that you're creating the relationship in the life that you want?Carole:
Yeah, I think you know the first thing is just making sure that you prioritize time together to talk and use those communication skills and enhance that emotional intimacy. The second thing would be that quality time. Finding things that you enjoy doing together and making time for it, and then prioritizing a fun date night and also prioritizing times to talk about difficult things. So making time on your calendar to figure out when those things are going to happen and making sure it becomes something that is a habit or a ritual in your relationship. I want to add a little tip too. During these conversation times or times when you're talking with your partner, if you're, if you're still like, well gosh, what are we gonna talk about? I don't know that we really have a lot to talk about. A great free app by the Gottman Institute is available and and you can just search Gottman and it will come up and it says card decks and it's electronic card decks that include the love map cards, which are just question cards about your partner and relationship, questions like who's your best friend? You know, what is your biggest concern right now? What you know? What do you dream about? You know, for the next five years? It also has open-ended questions in there, that's that are more conversational. So questions like tell me what you think our children's qualities, who's who are children's qualities more like you or me, or which part of the family? Let's talk about that on. Yeah, really fun. So love maps are on there, which are just the straightaway questions, and then open-ended questions are in there. But there are also, I appreciate, cards. So they teach you how to offer appreciations to your partner, which is another tip like start giving your partner daily appreciations for who they are, not just for what they have done. So instead of saying thank you for throwing out the garbage, thank you for dropping the kids to school. That's wonderful. Don't stop doing that. But you can start with appreciations and the Gottman App will teach you you know good ways to do this. But here's an example. I really appreciate what a great father you are that you are so intentional in your time with the children. I really appreciate how generous you are helping the neighbor mow their lawn when they've just had a surgery. I really appreciate what a good friend you are when you really helped out this friend when they were going through a difficult time in their family. So you're appreciating these qualities versus thanking them for who they are. I love that and that would be like my number three tip is to offer those appreciations, and in the Gottman app they they have all these little card decks that help you with these appreciations and solve for free. There's also some sexy cards in there, so they're called salsa cards and so there's some - you know you can check those out. They're mild, medium and spicy, so you can check those out. I think it's mild, medium and hot, but they just give you suggestions for a way to be more intimate with your partner, emotionally as well as physically, and those are just some really great tools for relationships. If you're going on your date and, like gosh, we have nothing to talk about, we sit at dinner and just stare at each other. If we don't have our phones, what are we gonna do? Well, if you're gonna pull out your phone, pull out this app and start talking and engaging in conversations. That would be my third tipEmma:
So before you threw in there also how to bring that vulnerability, that emotional connection, had to make the quality time, how to share an activity. So you kind of brought it all in into this part to tie it all together and really help people enrich their relationship. I love it. So the last one is goals and values. So what about helping couples and when partners feel are feeling like life is passing us by, we're not creating the life that we want? We're just grinding with stuck and we're stuck, nothing's happening. It's boring, like all the things, right. So how do we make a relationship in a life better than I asked? But so we talked about the relationship side of that. How can they work together now to create an amazing life, a meaningful life, I'd like to call it - but whatever life that people want to create, what do you think in terms of goals, collaboration, working together, partnership, having impact on their lives, being empowered to create the life that they want?Carole:
Yeah, that's really one of the key it's like a secret weapon of couples that are successful is that they know how to create a shared and meaningful life together. So when a couple really knows that they are in alignment and on the same page about their values and what is important to them in their life, they find it easy to have shared goals and dreams for their future together. But this is a result of communication, intimacy, vulnerability and being really connected to your partner, and that starts at the beginning of your relationship and is something that you work throughout your relationship to develop. So, knowing the expectations in the relationship, your roles and the rules in the relationship, who does what and do you feel appreciated and valued for your role in the relationship? So if you are a mom who works and also has four kids and also has a small business on the side, feeling appreciated and valued for all of those roles that you have in the relationship and being honored for those roles and also supported in those roles is going to be really important. If you're not feeling supported and honored and appreciated for all the roles in your relationship, that's going to be really hard on your relationship. Over time, you're going to start with holding your dreams. You're going to start with holding your goals and not share them with your partner because it feels like they're either maybe rejected, minimize, not heard, and so it's real hard to get on the same page about a future together if you're not sharing what your goals and dreams are right. So that really good communication and being able to hear your partner and validate them is where dreams begin. So if you want to be able to share and dream and create a meaningful life full of really rich connection with your partner, it starts with that really good, open communication and knowing what the expectations are in a relationship and feeling valued for your role, in your part in the relationship on a daily basis. So, learning how to do those basic things. I think of it like a ladder, Emma. Like you start in a relationship on the first step. Okay, if we can do this, this, you know, if I can share with you my feelings and I can step on that next step, which is sharing with you difficult feelings, and if I can do that and you still show up, then the next step is I can share with you some of my insecurities or vulnerabilities or fears. If that were, then I can do this. It's a ladder that you climb up, the ladder of trust and commitment that you climb up as you're testing out the waters in your relationship. Is my partner going to be there for me in these difficult situations? If you're not there for your partner with something really simple and basic, they're going to have a really hard time trusting you with the really difficult things their values, their beliefs, their dreams about the future. Getting on a path where the two of you are working together to achieve those dreams is something that you do today. It starts with the small steps.Emma:
That was so beautiful. It's so interesting because a lot of times when couples first come in to see us, they talk about how they can get stuff done together. There's no support and they want to tackle that first, before they even have all this other stuff under their belt. I like to say to them wait a second. We can't even tackle sharing responsibilities and getting chores done and achieving goals and creating your life vision if you can't even talk. Let's start with the basics. Let's get on the same page about some of the what do we want to create? How do we talk about that properly? How do we build that connection first and then we go a little deeper in some of these other things and collaborate better with each other. I love that so much. Yeah, so showing up properly so you could have those good conversations about the good stuff, so you could create the good stuff, I love it, good. So any tips or any I hate the word tips I'm going to take that back any tactics or habits or tools that you want to share about how to collaborate and how to work together, assuming that they have the other things under their belts already.Carole:
Yeah, assuming that communication is already established or you're working on that. I think finding something that you both enjoy doing together is a good start, something that you can do together that seems like it could be the first step in a bigger goal. So, for example, there was a couple that I knew that wanted to, in their retirement, be missionaries and they wanted to travel the world and work in different countries with people that needed their assistance, and so they started with small projects at their church and they started to reach out and they started to form smaller local groups and that was something that they could do. Now, having small children, they couldn't really travel at the moment to do these trips, so they felt like they couldn't. So they were working towards this bigger goal. For me, this garden that I'm building is a small step towards my dream of having a small hobby farm one day. You didn't know that. I want to have a therapeutic farm for children and adults struggling with trauma, and it starts with a small garden. The garden is a place to start. It's very therapeutic to have a garden and so learning how to do that and then eventually build that into having animals and therapeutic riding. So it's a small step and it's something we can do together to get to that goal. But we talk about that dream all the time, like we dream together. Well, what would it look like? Well, what would we need? How would we get there? What does it mean to me? This is a big one. What does this dream mean to me to achieve this goal? Why is it important to me? How is it meaningful in our relationship? And having those conversations is a good place to start. And just doing that every once in a while, either on a date night or a long drive we love to do it on long drive it's a great way to start to understand your partner's dreams. And the warning sticker, the warning label that comes with this for me is do not diminish or minimize your partner's dreams. Even if you never in a million years think you're going to live out that dream or that goal, even if it's so farfetched and out of reach, never minimize it. It's a dream. Go with it, ask the questions, explore it with your partner. That's what makes a healthy relationship. It doesn't mean that that dream has to happen or will absolutely come true. It's a dream.Emma:
Oh, my goodness, talk about it. I love that, carol. I think that people feel threatened by their partners as we said earlier, feelings, but by this, and there might be conflicting dreams or different preferences of things, and I love the way you just said that is just a dream, you don't have to agree with it, you don't have to love it. I use that all the time when people are trying to validate each other. You don't have to agree, you just show that you're the same thing as the person. That's the validation part in terms of dreams. Just play, Just be curious. That conversation in and of itself is creating emotional intimacy. That's right. And just the sharing and just the chatting, and just the curiosity and just the talking. So good, then you can figure out what this dream means for you too. Like, if you're creating a joint vision, right, like, what does that mean for me, what does it mean for you? And how do we combine our dreams if we have individual dreams? So how do we make this joint dreams? How do we create a joint vision? I love that. And it starts with a conversation and curiosity in being accepting and non-judgmental and playful. So good, very, very nice. So, Carol e any last minute thoughts that you want to throw out there to help the couples and partners who are listening to us, who might be wondering about how to continue to enrich their relationships or, if you're struggling, anything that maybe we haven't covered yet, that you might want to throw out there?Carole:
No, it's totally fine and there's, so I could talk about couples all day long. I know you could too. We could literally be on this podcast for 24 hours straight and talk.Emma:
We could geek out on this. This is our passion.Carole:
This is our passion. This is our passion. So I'm going to really take it down to one simple thing, because I think, if you take anything away from this conversation, I want you to know that just trying and being present is all you need to really do to start. Just be present and show up for your partner in a way that's meaningful to them, and that is going to be the most important thing. So all the stuff that we talked about is because we're excited about it and it's great, and if you could do it, that's wonderful. But just showing up is enough. You are enough in your relationship if you show up and you are intentional and you are present. So just take that away. I think that's the most important thing I want people to walk away with.Emma:
Oh, that's so good. Exactly that eye contact, the presence, the energy right, just being with each other. That is so dismissed. It's all about the doing and all the tactical when it doesn't really take that much at the end of the day. What, right? Yes, amazing, really, really good stuff. So if people want to find out more about you and what you do and any suggestions as to how to get a taste?Carole:
Sure, well, all of my contact information and Instagram and Facebook will all be in the podcast notes. But you can reach me at mytherapistnc, like North Carolina, .org, and all of our information is on our website, and we're also going to be offering those of you who would like to receive our free PDF couples relationship guide. You can either sign up for our newsletter on our website or the link directly to sign up for it will be in the podcast notes.Emma:
Yes, exactly, I'm going to hook you up, whoever's listening, with all of the ways to find Carole and her work and you could get it downloadable. So just deepen the learning a little bit and, yeah, we'll have everything on there for everybody to check out and enjoy and get a little more taste of Carole.Carole:
Thank you so much. This has been so fun. I love just hanging out with you and talking about something that we really connected about 30 years ago and just so passionate about, so it's so wonderful to be here with you and thank you for having me.Emma:
Well, thank you so much for agreeing to be my guest and I love this conversation and, yes, we go way back. We started this conversation a long time ago and I love that we were able to share it with everybody else as well. So, thank you so much, Carole. You're the best and I will see you at the next one. Everybody have a good one. Bye-bye. Thank you for tuning in until the end of this episode. As a thank you note for being a loyal listener, message me the word lovelies for a chance to get a shout out on our next episode.