Healthy Marriage (Healthy Relationship for Love)

Hey, everybody, lee Wright here. I am divorce coach, and welcome to Season’s Ebb and Flow. This channel is a little bit of everything when it relates to divorce and healing from divorce, and I’m really excited today. For today’s interview, I am interviewing Cindy Fabico, and she is a good friend of mine, and she is a licensed therapist. And I’ve talked to her on and off as a friend about some of the journey that I’ve gone on, understanding attachment styles and myself, working towards becoming more secure in relationships and understanding where my insecurities were showing up. And so I wanted to interview her and learn a little bit more of that from a professional perspective. Cindy, I’m so glad you’re here. Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Yes, thank you for inviting me, Lee. I’m so excited to be here. So I am a licensed mental health counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist. I went back to school in my late 30s, kind of like looking for what’s the next thing that I’m going to do in my life. And so I’ve been doing this work for 20 years. And when I went into it, I don’t think I really knew what I was going to be most interested in.

I just need to work with people and help people. But I was quickly drawn to working with couples. And the reason that I was so drawn to working with couples was because I realized that the family, the couple unit, is the building block of society. Because you have a good couple, whether they’re having children or not, and they’re nurturing and supporting each other, the energy that they’re creating and putting out into the world is very positive and have a healthy couple, and they’re bringing children into the world and they’re modeling really healthy habits with good interactions. Then once again, it’s like this exponential effect that it has on society. So while I do work with individuals, my passion is really working with couples. It’s so interesting. I read two things that really resonated for me when I was going through the divorce and feeling like, oh, my gosh, is this horrible for my kids? Three things, actually. But one is that children grow up in the space and energy between the parents. And if it’s unhealthy and negative or angry energy, the kids pick up on that, and that’s the environment they’re growing up in. And so I thought to myself, okay, even though divorce isn’t optimal, the energy between my ex and I by the end just wasn’t enjoyable or positive for me to be in. So I don’t know. We didn’t fight a lot, but I don’t think it was healthy energy. And then also I thought, I don’t want our relationship didn’t have much affection or anything anymore. And I thought, I don’t want this to be the model of what my kids see as marriage or what a healthy marriage should look like. And we are amicable now.

So I feel like in some respects sometimes parting ways, if it’s just not working anymore for the children, could actually have some positives it’s not all negative, but yeah, I think that’s awesome that what you’re doing is to try and help the next generation as well by helping the couple. That’s right. Yeah. What you said there was completely true. The idea that they’re growing up in this energy that exists between the parents. And sometimes when I talk to people, I talk about that like, that energy. Imagine what it feels like. What does it feel like between the two of you? And they’ll be like, dark dank right. And I’ll be like, so just your children are swimming in that to really put effort and energy here in this couple’s container is going to benefit everybody. Yeah, but I think one of the things that’s really interesting to me based on that general topic is what I notice. So I’m 61 and so people who come in in my age group often are coming after a long marriage. For years they haven’t talked about the issues and the challenges between them. They kind of pushed under the surface. The kids are gone now, maybe somebody else caught somebody’s eye, whatever. But connection like disconnection in the couple and to be able to help people see that there is a way to bring that back together when it really feels dead to them, they feel like there’s really no hope. And honestly, sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes one person or the other, or maybe even both people have so long been emotionally checked out that they can check back in. But the thing that’s really creates so much hope for me is you know, who comes in, who’s in their twenty s and thirty s and forty s. If people at the beginning of relationships not even married yet. Wow, I love that. People who are married and they’re just at the beginning because they have had exposure to therapy, they see the value of therapy come in. We can quickly kind of teach some skills, figure out the underlying issues from their childhood that’s showing up in the marriage. Yeah. And then they have that awareness now young, of like, oh, some of my childhood wounds and whatnot are why I’m behaving like this. And they’re young enough to make changes and then they haven’t built up all those resentments and baggage over the years yet. Exactly. But then the other piece that they figure out is, oh, shit. If all this stuff from my early life is what’s showing up in this relationship and I don’t get my shit together, and I hope I can swear here totally my relationship with my partner, then my kids are going to grow up to have the same relationship issues that I have. That’s a motivator. So in the 20 years I’ve been doing this work, I’ve seen just, like, such a change in people coming into therapy. Like, super open, interested award. Oh, man, I love that because there’s so much in our society right now.

I think it’s just a really beautiful thing about the idea that therapy really does help. You really can make a difference. You’re not just going, well, I should say, if you’re coming to somebody like me, you’re not just going to somebody who’s going to sit and shake their head and say I’m right, and be like, oh, you’re doing great. Yeah. Somebody like me, I’m going to challenge you whether you’re coming individually or as a couple. I’m going to teach you skills, challenge you, hold you accountable, do all those kind of things. Because the way I look at my style of work, both individually and with couples is kind of like a combination of teaching. I’m teaching about neurobiology. I’m teaching about attachment styles. 

I’m teaching about your system, your brain, the thing that triggers your nervous system. Okay. I’ve seen you out the nervous system. And then I’m like giving experiential exercises, and so people really can, from the very first session, can really walk away with some stuff, go home with some skills to practice and activities. I’ve had a few therapists over the years, and the ones that kind of just make you feel good about yourself really aren’t the ones that help you grow. It’s the ones that challenge you to see where you’re showing up. Maybe not as optimally as you can. Even if it’s uncomfortable to look at, that’s where the real growth happens. Just in general in life. Like, growth is going to be challenging at times. You’re not perfect, and it’s not always the other person. We all bring our own shit to the table. That’s absolutely true. Yeah. That’s kind of just a little bit about me and my basic philosophy. So do you want me to talk about my approach, what style of marriage counseling I work with? Yeah, I think for now, tell us a little bit about I know that you do EFT and just what that means when a couple comes in to see you and kind of what to expect if a couple came in for help. Yeah, so first of all, I will talk about that, but just before we step into that, I wanted to say something about choosing a therapist or a marriage. And because people come into this, they’re in a kind of a difficult place. They’re like trying to find somebody. Often they’re just like picking the first person that they see. And so there are some things that I encourage people to really look for when they’re looking for somebody to work with their relationship. When we go to graduate school, when we’re in graduate school, we learn all about many different things. Somebody who is a mental health counselor in other states, there’s different codes for it, but we’re just learning a broad base of different ideas. We have to do two years of, like, working with people under supervision before we get our license. But in that training, we don’t learn a lot about couples. It might be one class. The marriage and family therapist might have four or five classes. Okay, but that’s over the course of a whole graduate degree, right? Yeah. That’s not a lot. People who have then left graduate school and decided to make this sort of like a vocation and put effort and energy into learning more deeply about it’s really a craft. Yes, absolutely. There are different schools of marriage therapy that are kind of like primary. So there’s people who are trained in the Gottman style, which is good. There’s people who are trained in a model, which is also very good, and there’s people who are trained in EFT, which is a motion focused couples therapy, which is what I’m trained in. I’ve done training in all of those since I was drawn most to EFT. A lot of it because of the clinical research behind it. It shows really stands up in research that, like, 75% of the couples have dramatic change in their relationship and it can be in a condensed time frame, like maybe about ten sessions dude, that’s amazing. And apply themselves. It’s not just ten sessions right. But to actually see some real results in the first ten sessions, even. That is, especially if the couple is really struggling. Exactly. So just to share a little bit about what EFT, let me go back to my how to find a good marriage Therapist. Yeah. Okay. First of all, you want to have somebody who will do a free phone consultation with you, talk to you, that you can ask them questions, who will tell you about their philosophy and their training and what you’re looking for, really, is, do I connect to this person? Are they talking about the way that they do it in a way that resonates with me? Because if not, and then you show up, and really, both people have to buy in. Right. Not just one. Right. But if you do that, then you show up in this place where you’re supposed to talk about your relationship and your life and sex and all these things with somebody that you might not even right. There’s just not a natural good rapport. So there has to be a sense of, like, a really good rapport. 

Yeah, that makes sense. Like, really looking for somebody who is like, what kind of training do you have postgraduate? Like, what is your style? That kind of thing are really good questions to ask so people can really get a sense of that. But EFT, which is a motion focused couples therapy, it was created by Dr. Sue Johnson and she is like an avid researcher. And so her passion was first she had learned about attachment theory and then doing more studying and learning and understanding and she started to realize that sure, we can teach people how to communicate. Communication is a skill. Yes, teach people how to communicate. However, if you can’t teach people what triggers them how to regulate their nervous system when they are triggered yes. How to regulate with their partner. Yes. All the communication training in the world right. It’s actually going to make you feel worse. Yeah. Spent all this money in therapy learning how to communicate. I heard you say that kind of stuff, right, the mirroring. Yeah. But if you don’t know how to regulate your nervous system, you don’t know that when your partner, when you just look this way like this, your partner’s nervous system gets activated and they are not paying attention anymore because they got the signal that you’re not paying attention. Totally. So fine. Subtle. And then that reptilian brain takes over and you’re either in fight or flight or those and you can be communicating but it’s not sinking in. It’s not sinking in. In fact you could be communicating and it might look like you’re saying the right words but you’re not really taking it all in. EFT, really the basis of it is understanding the importance of attachment. So not really necessary. Maybe one day we’ll do a whole conversation about attachment theory. Yeah, I would love that. But the overarching thing to understand in EFT is that it changes the basis of the adult relationship attachment from what we, maybe a lot of us grew up thinking, okay, it’s okay for a kid to need their parents connection, to need some level of attention. But when you’re an adult you’re supposed to be self sufficient and not need anything from anyone. Well, basically what Sue Johnson and her research shows is like no, that’s not true. You leave your family of origin and either you had good attachment and you walk away healthy and secure or you leave that environment and you had all different levels of not so good and bad attachment and you’re either avoidant or anxious and all these kind of things. And that’s how you show up in your relationship when things go wrong. Yes. You show up as either anxious or avoid it. And if your partner mindset is you’re an adult, you shouldn’t need me, then that sets the nervous system into like oh my God, fear, like anger, whatever, clingy, whatever that person thing. And what we try to explain to people is, oh yeah, that’s normal, that’s not pathological normal. Your partner is your attachment figure in adulthood. You need this person to spend the rest of your life with. They are your most important person when it doesn’t feel like they’re there for you when you need them or that they can hear you. And when you’re trying to express something that’s traumatizing, it is a level of traumatizing. And when it happens over and over, the ability to hear each other, then it sort of really becomes like, I’m not going to try anymore. Exactly. I’m just going to give up. And that can happen fairly rapidly, because if I’m coming to you to talk about it might to you seem like it’s nothing, but if you say, I’m coming to talk to you about a fight I had with my best girlfriend right. Coming to my partner, and I’m like, oh, my God, susie and I had this argument, and my feelings are really hurt. And if your partner’s response to that is, okay, you’re an adult, I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Right. Or why don’t you do this or why don’t you do that? That doesn’t feel like listening, that you don’t want to talk to me anymore. You’re not interested in what I have to say, and you want me to just move along. Yes. So that leaves the person feeling, like, alone. Alone. And they don’t even want to listen to me or hear me. They don’t understand me. I’m not seen or heard in this relationship. And then the rabbit hole starts. Yeah. I know. From my personal experience growing up, my family interrupted each other constantly, and getting hurt and my family are listened to was not always easy. And one of my big triggers is being interrupted by telling a story. And especially if I get interrupted and then they don’t follow up and say, like, oh, sorry, you were saying? And I have finally learned that that throws me completely. And I now tell them, like, that bothers me. It’s partly my own insecurities and baggage, but I need you to know, and it’s okay if you interrupt me, but it really helps me if you’re like, oh, okay. Wait, what were you saying after you interrupted? Like, I need some acknowledgment, and it can’t happen all the time, or it will just freak me out. Right. And that’s taken a long time to create that awareness and understanding. Yeah. Part of what Sue Johnson talks about is there’s three ingredients that you need to have in a relationship for the attachment to feel safe and secure and positive and good. And the first one is that is your partner accessible? Right. Can I read you? Like, if I speak to you, are you able to listen to me and hear focus? If they have ad and it’s really hard to hold their attention, yes. So can I reach you? Are you available to me? Are you present? Let’s say okay, so maybe somebody’s that but then are you responsive? That’s the second one. It’s A-R-E. So responsive. Are you responsive? So you listen to me. Right. How do you validate me? Ask me questions? Yes. Probe interested in what I have to say. And then the next level, the E is engaged. Are you really engaged with me? Is it like, did you listen to me? Ask me some questions, and now you want to get done with it? Or are you interested? I talked to couples a lot about the importance of curiosity. Right. My gosh. Says something that you feel like, what? How could you say that? Or what? I didn’t know any it’s awesome. Now you have an opportunity to know more about this. Yeah. Get to know that person deeper.  If your partner comes and tells you something that you’ve done that upsets them instead of getting hurt or offended or angry, which is what most people really, most people tend to do, think of it as, oh, because you love me, you want me to know who you are and what exactly? Unhappy. Yes. And so if you’re not telling me what you’re unhappy about, you’re burying it, and I don’t really know you. We have a fake relationship. Exactly. You’re not showing up authentically with the good and the bad and the stuff that bothers you and doesn’t like, I know. I until recently, I’m more secure than I ever have been, but has shown up anxiously, which has a lot of people pleasing for me. And people pleasing is that I’m not telling them the things that bother me. I wasn’t even aware of some of those things in the beginning, and they weren’t able to fully get to know me. Like, I wasn’t fully in it with the full vulnerability. I thought I was being vulnerable, but it was to things that I was comfortable being vulnerable with, but, like, the things that were bothering me that were uncomfortable to share or I wasn’t sure how they’d react. I’d just sweep it away for the time being. You’d sweep it away for the time being. Until one day something happened that then pushed a little bit too much of a button, and then all that stuff comes out, and the other person’s like, what just happened? Right. Because they thought they were just happy. And then they’re probably you can see how that is so disconcerting. Right. I thought you were chill. I thought you were cool. Right. Everything. When you were just so easy going, yeah, now you’re crazy. Calm down. Right? Exactly. Yeah. It’s not that big a deal. But that is funny that you’re saying that, because I think at the beginning of most relationships and most people will say this, they do communicate pretty well. They are pretty vulnerable. They are pretty transparent. Not just relationship, but a lot of relationships, but also they’re showing up as their best self, so they may not share as deeply. And then once you get further into the relationship and people feel comfortable with each other, you would think that that would create more openness and more vulnerability, and sometimes it does, but often it’s the opposite. It’s like, you know what, I know who this person is. You know who I am. I don’t have to try that hard. I don’t have to listen to you. Let’s just watch TV for 5 hours at night and not really have any rate. You’re going to be there no matter what. You’re going to be there no matter what. So no effort gets put in and then one or the other people does have an issue and wants to talk about it. And in that moment if their partner is like, listen, we’re watching TV, why are you bringing this up right now? Right? And that can start to be like a whole shut down. Yeah, well, one other thing related to that is I feel like once you’re further along in a relationship and you are attached to the relationship, at that point to some degree there is more to lose if you start to bring stuff up. Like in the beginning you share vulnerability and you’re like, but whatever, if they don’t like me, I’m good. But then you get further along and you’re kind of like, oh, I like this person, I don’t want to lose them. So I’m not going to rock the boat too much until the boat is like sinking. And then you’re like, all right, I got to do something. Exactly. So this kind of thing that we’re talking about is when you go to an EFT therapist, right? So you learn about the AR e, the ability, the responsiveness and the engagement. So you learn basically about those principles. You learn a little bit about brain science, neurobiology and the nervous system. One thing about neurobiology that’s really interesting that people that I talk to, people about, that they generally find fairly interesting is the idea of interpersonal neurobiology. That we regulate others nervous systems either in a positive or a negative way. That when you’re going to have an important conversation with somebody, something that is about emotion or if emotion comes up, it needs to switch to this thing. There should be a very specific amount of distance between the people and the way to engage that. And to think about that is you think about a baby, right? Or a father is feeding a baby. Baby is like right here in the arm and the with a bottle breastfeeding and down here that distance. And in general the mother or the father is like keeping eye contact with that baby. If they are, then the baby’s nervous system is the parent is distracted and never looking. Then you will tend to see a baby whose nervous system is making a little bit overactive because they’re trying to get that connection or their attachment. Same is true with us. So what I talk to people about is when you’re going to have an important conversation about your relationship and we model it every single time. Every single time we do it, every couple of therapy session. 

The whole session is based around this. You have to be facing each other. You have to be about that distance, maybe a little bit further apart. Right. Okay. You can monitor each other energetically. And so in that distance, if I’m talking about something difficult or hard and you’re looking at me and you’re shaking your head right? Then I’m calm and I can consider, and I can continue to talk. And it feels like safe. Yes. Safety is the key in these kind of conversations. Yeah. But if we’re close like this, and as I was talking about earlier, you look away or you roll your eyes, or you try to cut me off in the middle, then my nervous system gets activated in a different way. Teaching people the importance of the closeness so that they have to manage their nervous system, right? Yeah. Because one of them wants to get up and walk around the room. Now that energy is disconnected, and both nervous systems are freaking out. That’s right. So sitting also, I tell people sitting and like, why sitting? Because you’re grounded. Right. You’re feet on the floor, butt in the chair. Nobody’s walking away. I mean, they can, but it’s less likely. Everybody’s nervous system feels so much calmer. Yeah. When people start to have these kind of conversations, it usually turns into one of three things. There’s a thing called the demon dialogues in EFT. So it’s like the three different dances that people tend to get into, and most couples default to one of these or the other. So the first one, the first demon dialogue is I might be using the wrong terms here, but it’s like fight, fight. Like, both people out to win, they’re out to be right. They’re both on the offense. They’re both on the offense. They’re not listening. They’re talking over each other. They’re just, like, escalating each other. That one often is what shows up earlier in a relationship before start to trigger even deeper stuff within each other. Right. Next one, which is the most common, is what’s called the protest pokeup. Okay. Let me walk you through what this one looks like. Okay. Most people and this book, by the way, let me just show you this book. It’s called Hold me tight. Okay? This is the book that Sue Johnson wrote for the general public about EFT. Really? When I work with couples, we use this. I give them homework out of it when they come up. Okay. They’re learning what I’m teaching at a pace that makes therapy go so much quicker. But anyway okay, so the protest polka looks like let’s take a husband who has been at work all day and that I’m going to be super traditional here. Sorry. This is like there’s other ways. That’s fine. The husband’s been at work all day. He’s had a really hard day. He’s, like, drained the door at the end of the day, and all he wants to do is what? Decompress and relax, go into his room, change his clothes, decompose. But his wife, who works part time and has been with kids all day, when he walks in the door, what’s going on with her? What does she want? He’s over it. She wants to hand the kids to him and go decompress herself. Right. Or she just wants to talk about, like, this happened today and that happened today. That’s very true. And so what he perceives and what he feels he walked in the door. He’s already at, like, level five, level six. She’s at level six. He walks in. She starts talking about her level six day. And her purpose in doing that is to release, right? And to be seen connect to him. So he knows not to bitch, not to complain, not for him to fix what happened, but just kind of like to feel a connection after the day. And what he hears is, are you fucking kid? I’m sorry. I can’t. If I can, right? I’ve been out working all day, and I walk in the door, and this is what I walk into. This is what I walk into. And so he probably doesn’t say that. He probably says a couple, like, perfunctory things that might be perceived as a blow off. And then he goes in the bedroom. And so what do you think she does? She follows him. Right? I want to talk about this. Then she’s elevated now. Now she’s at, like, seven or an eight. Yes. And he’s like, I’m just trying to get down to a three in his mouth. Right? And she’s making my life hard. That’s his internal dialogue. Totally. He shuts down even further. He gets quieter. He stops responding at all right, avoid. Now she’s at a ten. She now is pulling out of her brain all the things that has ever hurt her that he’s recently and dumping it all on him. And then his internal dialogue is like, I’m always the bad guy. I’m not respected. I’m not respected. I’m not basically shuts down. And she is left with her nervous system on ten. Right? And his is on ten, but in a shutdown free. I’m so glad you said that. The way that is a good way to describe that is on the surface, he looks like he’s at a one, but like, a duck like, a duck is floating around the pond, but underneath their feet are like, Go, go, go with him. Yeah. Or disassociating, like, just like, I’m going somewhere else. They’re thinking about going fishing or something. They’re like, I can’t even stay in this. Right. Mindset. And so what generally happens there then is that’s the dance that they keep doing over and over, and they don’t ever have the skills to resolve it. They don’t ever figure out what’s underlying that. Yes, she may have some attachment issues from childhood, and it may be that no one ever listened. To her. And so this is pushing even more buttons. He might have had a mother who was demanding, who was always wanting to get into business. Right. And so it’s nagging in his mind necessarily be that it just could be that the way that they interact and communicate is different. But if that pattern continues, most people start to start to lose hope. They’ll come back together and things will be okay. Right. Always will. Say, it’s just the stupidest, silliest things that cause us these fights. And it’s typically because they just don’t have the skills to understand what happens. Because it’s kind of like once that gets triggered, it is kind of like on autopilot. Yes. What we’re trying to teach people in EFT is to notice that pattern and catch it early, help each other pull out of that. So in that exact scenario, if, for instance, the husband comes home, he’s like ready to go decompress, the wife comes like if he were to say, hey, sounds like you’ve had a really challenging day, I’m really interested in hearing about it. I need a bedroom. I just want to change, like maybe take ten or 15 minutes, come back out and I want to hear all about it. Totally different scenario just happened. Yes. And they both get their needs met. Exactly. And they both stay in that same yeah. And it’s that simple. Right. So hard. Yeah. Especially if you’re not aware and you can’t communicate your needs. Like once you at least are aware of your needs, if you can tell the other person and they can then be aware, like, okay, you need this. I’m going to try and try and meet your needs because I love you and I want to. That’s right. And most people want to meet each other’s needs. Yeah, absolutely. It’s way more pleasant than that other dance I learned in this process of learning about my Love Languages and stuff. My Love Language, the first one is touch. And I know when, like, someone I’m dating comes in the door or I get in their door, I need a hug to be held for a minute, maybe a kiss, but I need eye contact and connection. We don’t even have to talk at all. Just a high. And that co regulating with that hug for a little bit. And I now tell people, like, I need this right away. And then I’m calmer and feel relaxed and connected. Yeah. And then once I’ve told them, they know, they’re like, okay. And nobody seems to dislike doing it because it’s calming for both parties. But that’s the power of knowing yourself and being able to ask for what you need and to find a person who’s like, okay, I hear that. I can do that. Even though that’s not my natural thing to do. I can do that because you talked about the Love Language. We can do that Love Languages thing another time. Yes, totally. To understand each other’s love languages is huge. Okay, so back to these three. The third dance. Human dialogue. Yeah. So the first one is the Fight fight. It’s called something else that I can’t think of it. The next one is the protest, and the third one is called Freeze and Fleet. So basically, that’s where we come together. We kind of get to a stalemate. We’re not getting anywhere, we’re not talking. And both people separate and both people walk away. Kind of like, deflated that’s really when people come at that stage, really, they’re in the real danger zone. Yeah. Sometimes people show up early in the relationship in that place, but generally that’s because it’s two people with a void and attachment don’t have an ability to navigate difficulty in the relationship. Not they don’t have an ability. They haven’t learned yet how to navigate that. And if they can be taught that, that’s really important. So a big part of all three of these is back to the nervous system. Teaching people that your body is the first place that will signal distress to you. Totally in your mind, it’s your body. Beginning of working with people, I walk them through. So when something like this happens, or when that just happened now, where did you feel that in your body? Right. Getting them much more into that interception. Like, really, like, noticing what’s inside and what’s going on with their nervous system and teaching them that. Okay. Once you start to be attuned and present to your nervous system, then when you’re in that conversation with your partner and your partner’s eyes roll and you feel that hit, like, jumping at them, like, what you might normally do, like, oh, they’re in, or fine, like, you don’t want to listen to me. I’m out. You can take a deep breath and pause. You might not even need to say anything. Right. Center yourself, and then you can go on. And if the partner stays attuned, then it’s cool. And maybe you didn’t need to get triggered. Maybe it was just like they had to look aside because they were uncomfortable staring at you for too long. Right. If it continues to happen, then to be able to pause, speak what you need, say, hey, thank you for listening. But it feels like maybe this might not be a good time because I feel like you keep getting distracted. Are you cool to do this? Or I’m feeling really triggered. I think we need to stop this conversation and, like, an hour. Right. And learning those skills to be able to manage or take responsibility for your own nervous system. Them rolling their eyes didn’t make you. That’s what everybody did. Some people might not have had that experience, but because you did, now you have to take responsibility for how you have to see if you can manage it yourself. If you can’t, you have to speak it and ask for what you need and if you’re so agitated at that moment that you can’t do that, you have to say, we need to take a break. 

Giving people permission to take a break is huge because they have been taking breaks, but the breaks have looked like, fine, I’m out of here. Right. People end up feeling terrible totally. And walk away not going through their heads thinking about, what could I have done differently or better? Thinking about, like, he did this or she did this. Right. What I tell people to do is, like, when you take those breaks, first of all, make sure that it’s stated in a way that is, like, not, you made me feel this way, but I feel this way, and so we need to take a break. Can we come back and talk about it and give it time? Yeah. Okay. Or it has to be at least 20 minutes. 20 minutes at least to get your nervous system calm. And then when they come back or when they’re apart, to be thinking about what might be my partner’s point of view about this right. Coming from how could I present this in a way that maybe they could hear me better? Yeah. That won’t make them feel defensive. That’s right. Because you do have to think about that. You do have to think about how your partner receives information, trigger words that you already know will set them off. And careful about noticing tone. I mean, tone is like, yes. Oh, my gosh, aren’t you talking too fast? The amount of information you’re giving are you giving too much information? And your partner’s over there feeling completely overwhelmed and lost. Yes. And so, like, all those things are important so when they come back together, they can try to start again. Yeah. Honestly, my first session with couples is 2 hours, and so we do history, and then we actually spend, like, 45 minutes just specifically practicing communication in this week. And then I send them away to read the first section of the book, and then we talk more about it. But I want them to walk away from that first session to see if something comes up in between. People come back and they say, oh, my God, this was different. Yeah. And part of what I teach them is I teach them what I call love conversations. It’s not anything new or different. It’s like a format that I created and wrote the words for. But it’s basically mirroring. Right. But I set it up. I talked to people about the thing we talked about, about the interpersonal neurobiology. I talked to them about the importance of taking a break, and then I teach them how to listen. And the way I explain listening is something that I learned from an Emago therapist, actually Haiti Schliefer, who’s, like, a magician with couples. But what I learned from her is this visual, which is so if you’re going to listen to me, then the idea of deep listening is let’s just say it’s you and I having a conversation. You’re in the world and colored by my experiences, my perception, my history, what kind of a day I had to be colored that way. If you’re going to really want to deeply understand me when I’m going to talk to you about something that’s difficult, you’re going to need to walk out of your world and cross a bridge land in my world, right. How you’re in my world actually immerse yourself in what my world is like. What’s the world? So when I’m explaining something, if you don’t understand what I’m talking about, to be curious, all you’re saying, right? Can you help me understand a little bit more? Is there more that you want to tell me about that deep sense of curiosity that also sounds like empathy, but what if somebody just doesn’t have a high ability for empathy? Do you think that that’s something that they can learn and build? So that’s a really good question. So the skill of healthy listening can definitely be learned. People who don’t have empathy are not born not having empathy. They are born and had an experience in their childhood that generally people who don’t have empathy have avoid an attachment. And so there was something that happened in their childhood where feeling became too painful, so they had to stop checking in with their feelings. So if I don’t know what I feel, how am I going to know what you feel? Yeah. Oh my gosh. Yes. What they know is anger, right. And maybe happiness, but they don’t know when they’re trying to listen to their partner, it is very hard for them. But yes, they can learn it. But the way that they have to learn it is this interpersonal neurobiology is noticing their nervous system when their tendency is to shut down. Understand why they have a tendency to shut down, helping their partner understand what shuts them down. And then also maybe learning to connect to their own emotions more, which is scary, but forcing themselves to do that a little bit more. Yeah. In fact, this also makes me think of another piece. So if somebody comes in and they have really extreme, let’s say avoid an attachment or really attachment or a lot of trauma and complex, like a complex kind of attachment system, generally, I will send them also to individual therapy with somebody else. Okay. If a couple comes to me, I see them as a couple that’s my client is the couple. Sure. Both of them would benefit from individual. Then I send them to a colleague. Got you somebody that knows the kind of work that I’m doing. I know the kind of work they’re doing. It kind of all works together. Then it’s symbiotic helping each person get to know themselves individually and connect to their emotions if they’ve disconnected so much and then come together and learn the co regulation and understanding the other person’s world. That’s exactly it’s interesting, the whole take a break, but in a gentle, nice way. I read a novel called An American Marriage. I don’t know if you read it, but it’s really good. I love the book. It’s sad, though, but in it, the couple is having a fight and they have a safe word that they use. And it doesn’t matter who says the safe word. They separate for 1520 minutes, and then they come back. And when I read that, I hadn’t heard of what you just described, and so I was like, oh, my gosh, that is brilliant. So that’s excellent, because I do encourage that people to come up with a safe word or a name for their dance. Right. We’re in the vortex. We’re in the whatever. It adds a little humor. So it’s not it lightens, it yes, the safeboard is an excellent is an excellent tool. Okay, that’s cool. Yeah, that’s a really good tool. But anyway, the thing that I teach them, I teach them that neurobiology I teach them the idea of crossing the bridge. I teach them that it’s like their heart has to be open to what the other person is having to say, and then I teach them how to validate and how to do it in a way that’s effective. Right. Validation looks like, okay, so this is what I think. It does not have to be word for word, but it has to capture the essence of what the other person is saying, and then the other person has to agree that it has captured what they say. So sometimes people will feel like, oh, my God, this kind of communication is like, it’s so repetitive. Repetitive. And I’ll be like, yes, 100%. But here’s why you want to do it, because if you don’t do it, what happens? I mean, you end up being in a fight. You don’t talk to each other all weekend. Right? Yes. It takes a lot of effort, a lot of energy. It’s very intense. As a therapist, I understand because I have to be intensely focused with people all day long. Yeah, it is hard to be yes, it’s tiring in another person’s world and really what they’re saying. But that’s what it takes to really make people feel understood. And so all the time I’m working with couples, I’m modeling through my behavior how I want them to be, but I’m also having them sometimes I’ll give the response almost like role play for them with one of the other couple. Exactly. Right. And then I’ll let them try. And I have to be really careful. Right. Because if they’re not ready and they can’t do it, then something quickly gets off. Right. And they shut them. If I can do it with the partner. And the partner starts to reveal things and open up about things that they’ve never shared with their partner and their partners over there watching. But when they stop and I ask the partner who was watching, what was that like for you? They’re like, yeah, I just learned all these things that I never knew. Oh, my gosh, that’s beautiful. That was how she feels. I never understood that. That was the first time. Often the other partner will be like, I’ve been saying this forever. Finally he is getting through because somebody actually slowed down and listened. And so kind of what I really honestly believe that if two people want to make their relationship work, they can understand their history, their neurobiology, if they’re understanding their partner and diving deep into that and can communicate or will learn to communicate yes. Pretty much any relationship can be saved that have had infidelity and even abuse. I’ve had couples where there’s been physical abuse and we dig into it and we get that person to really understand more deeply. Even addiction, people who are active in their addiction, if they can be understood what is it that they’re blocking, if they can start to what that addiction is about and their partner can be empathic to it, that’s a lot more than ten sessions and they for sure go see an individual person. And I do stop drinking. But then when you think about it, or drugging or whatever, but if you think about it, what’s worse? Like, not doing anything. Maybe the person still is drinking a little, but like, coming to therapy and doing some work in therapy. Right. So they’re growing and evolving to where maybe eventually they won’t need that numbing. It’s tricky. Sometimes that’s just not a good idea. It has to be on a case by case basis and what’s going on. I don’t ever want to put a partner who’s with a person who’s abusing a substance in the position of having to put up with things that are destructive to them. Yes. So you know what that makes me think of? Just like this one other thing that I talk to couples about is that I want to save every marriage. I’m divorced myself. I got divorced after 27 years of marriage. And that’s like not a happy thing. Not yeah, nobody wants for me in my life. Right. It’s not really worked out. That great for my kids, I don’t think. But in the end, what was I going to say? If someone, if they pay attention to every marriage is favorable. Yeah, okay, we just got to go on because maybe I’ll come back to it, because what will happen is I’ll spend too much time yeah. It’ll get triggered. Just something that when you said addiction, then I thought, what about right now? Current day narcissism is something that everybody’s talking about and toxic relationships. Do you believe that? If maybe one party had some mental illness or narcissistic tendencies and it’s become a very toxic dynamic, but it takes two to make a toxic dynamic. Do you think in those situations. Even if there is that whatever the love bombing and then devaluing and discarding like that process has taken place in the relationship over time. Even a relationship like that, if both parties do the work, can be rectified. Yeah, good question. First of all, I would like to correct what you said. Okay. You said it takes two parties to have a toxic relationship. What? It takes two parties to stay in a toxic relationship. Yes. In a relationship with somebody, the reason that it’s toxic is not you, it’s the person and the way they behave in that relationship. Then you are party to the toxicity. Yes. You notice it, it doesn’t feel right and you leave. You are not a party to that toxicity. Right. I mean, that’s really important to understand. I love that something like that, it becomes a system. Yes, totally. So the answer to your question is, is if the person once again the person who is labeled narcissist. I don’t like labels but has narcissistic tendencies. Let’s say this is a child who had a difficult like something happened early in their life that has set them up for this. It’s not necessarily something that the parent is to blame for. It could have something to do with their nervous system and how that affected how they showed up and how people didn’t interact with them in a way that worked for them.

There’s a lot of different reasons that person is unwilling to look at themselves, take responsibility for their behavior, work on the way that they’re showing up. Then there isn’t really an opportunity to work on that relationship. And it’s really destructive to them and everybody around. And people will stay in relationships like with people who are like that they’re not always toxic, but that are toxic enough that it becomes and they’ll start to lose their sense of self. It’s really sad when you see it. Yeah, it’s horrible. So beaten down. And I don’t mean physically, I mean emotionally beaten down that they don’t know if it’s okay to feel the way they feel. Right. And it’s really hard to see those people. So that person also needs therapy. Definitely. Yeah. The gas lighting has them believing that they sense of self restructured. Totally. Very healthy person coming in the relationship. Because that’s the other thing people often say, oh, well, you chose this person because x, Y and Z not always. You a person who was like really interesting and showed you all kinds of attention. And so you got swept in there and then you got into a relationship and it was fun. And then these things started to happen and at first it seemed innocuous. Exactly. So oftentimes people get desensitized. It’s like the frog in the boiling pot of water. Right. The frog in the boiling pot of water. Right. If you throw a frog in a boiling pot of water, it’s going to jump right out. So if it’s from the beginning. Most people are going to be like, I’m out. But it slowly happens over time. Then it’s like lift. Exactly. Yeah. And then all of a sudden you’re in this boiling pot of water and you’re like, how did I get here? Or you don’t even you’re like, oh, no, boiling water is good for me. Or this is what I know, this is my temperature. Yeah. I don’t remember the thing I was going to say, but I do have another thing. I know we’re probably running out of time, so I do want to leave with the visual of something that I think is also really helpful that I talk to couples about. Just like to review. Right. Like understanding your nervous system, having a format for communication that makes communication being safe, understanding what is your demon dialogue as a couple? Are you the fight? Fight? Are you the protest POCA? Are you the freeze and flu? Right. Identify that. Being able to understand what’s underlying that for you, related to your attachment system. Which I didn’t go into a lot, but we could definitely yeah, we’ll do another session. So let’s say people get their relationship back to a better place. They can talk about difficult things, but there’s still another piece that has to be worked on, which is how the couple honors the relationship itself. What is the energy that is getting put into the relationship? So I create this visual for people. And one thing I did, just remember what I was going to say. One thing I tell people is like, okay, so you are two individuals. Marriage does not make you one. No. Yes. And so the thing I was going to say earlier was that and if this relationship is tearing down one person or both people, and you’ve tried to save it, you can’t destroy yourself to stay in a relationship. Absolutely. It has to be something that is positive for both people that have positive, like, emotional feel, not as a situation. So the two people are these like separate entities. Entities. And remember earlier you were talking about the energy field between the couple. Yes. If you think of that energy field as like, the relationship, so that the energy field between is the relationship. And if you think of it as if it’s a balloon, whatever, you can visualize the balloon. It could be a certain shape, a certain color, a certain texture, it could have pictures on it, whatever. But this kind of floating between the two of you. So how do you keep a balloon afloat? Right. How to put air into it? What is the air that you as a couple are putting into this to keep it afloat? And talk about some of the things like love, language, things and things like that, that keep their balloon afloat. And then talking about the fact that sometimes in a relationship, one person is doing all the air and the other person, whether it’s because they’re having a mental health crisis, they’re having there’s something going on individually, they may not have any air that they can put in it. And if the other person can continue to see that and can continue to put air, the balloon can continue to float. The relationship stay alive. Right. Only go that way for but not indefinitely. Like if it’s a temporary where one person is putting in additional air until the other person writes themselves and then they’re both again putting in air. So that balloon is like floating and it’s filled with all the good stuff, the positive things you say, the time that you spend, the little cute text. Right. All those things are what keep the balloon afloat. But as long as that there’s a lot of deposits. So this is a John Gottman thing. It’s like deposit that balloon. Yes. There can be a pretty big withdrawal. Somebody can do something pretty difficult. Right. And it doesn’t deflate the balloon beyond the capacity of being if the balloon is always getting new air and you’re giving to each other, to the relationship, there will be things that deflate it periodically. But there’s a continuous filling. Yes, but what often happens with couples is the amount that gets put in versus the amount that gets taken out. Something shitty to me, you didn’t listen when I told you I asked you to do this one simple thing, right. Remember to do it, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And if there’s too many of those and not enough to positive, then the balloon starts to lose its ability to float. And to the point where some couples, when they get to me, their balloon is smashed and stuck together, the sides are stuck together and how much air they blow into that balloon. It just can’t even separate to fill. Yeah. And that’s just too far gone. No. Often times they’ve been together for a really long time. Yeah. If there’s one method that I would like the people who are listening to what we have to say to hear is that if there’s any issue in your relationship, it would be the best thing you could do early. Help your family and society at large to go. Skilled marriage therapist or couple therapist, not marriage skilled couples therapist who can help you get things attuned, help you understand each other, give you skills. Sometimes I only have to see people four or five times. Right. And then maybe like a year later they come back. But they’ve been working really well and have good skills or knowledge that they can work with. Yeah. You know, I listen to Louis House and his podcast, the School of Greatness sometimes and he’s been talking a lot about his current relationship and how when they got together, he was like base minimum, I want to start therapy from the get go. Because he had a few unhealthy relationships and he was like this is my criteria. And he said it’s really been a positive experience for him. So I was like, that’s so interesting. I mean, I’ve heard of premarital counseling, but not therapy from the get go, and I think that there’s a lot of intelligence to that. Establishing a relationship with a therapist who you really is a fan of your relationship, really has bought into your relationship and, like, you on your side that you can go back to maybe from time to time. I have that. I saw we did whatever we did, and then I spread them out to, like we spread out to once a month and every six weeks, and then every two months. And then I’ll say, like, why don’t you I think you guys are really good, and people love to hear that. When I spread, I spread them out pretty quickly. Makes them feel like, okay, right, we’re making progress. And then when I say okay, I think we’re good. What do you guys think? And they’re often like, whoa. But I was like, you know where I am, right? Reach back to me. I’ll get you on my schedule, and it’s going to take two or three sessions, maybe even less, and I’ll get you right back. I love that I understand each of you, and I understand your relationship, and I can help you quickly when you kind of have those blinders on, right. For whatever reason. That’s so cool. I think having that connection or that relationship with a good therapist is like a life hack. Yeah, I think that’s so cool. Yeah. I definitely want to do a few more interviews with you. I would love to talk about attachment styles and shame. Like, I’ve been reading Renee Brown Staring Greatly, and it’s really just been mind blowing, and I’d heard her talks and stuff, but the book is very good. But I’d love to do a conversation on that, and then I’m sure there will be others. But those are two topics that I would love to talk about with you more. So where can people, if they want to learn more about you or what you’re doing, where can they find you? Online. Yeah, so thank you for asking. So I have a website. My website is Cindy. My first name Cindy, and then the letter. The name of my company is Life Skills Resource Group. That is not what it is. This is a shortcut. The website is But I have a shortcut to the site, which is my Okay. That’s the shortcut to the website. But I’m also on Instagram and Facebook. Anybody can follow me on either of those.

It’s Cindy Price Babato. And on both of those places, I post things about relationships, parenting, like neurobiology, a good podcast. I listen to a book that I read. I try to post a lot of things. A lot of stuff. That’s really good information, give people things to think. About or put into action. Yeah, awesome. If anybody wants to listen to a good podcast about relationships, Esterra Perrell has a really nice podcast where she’s actually doing therapy with a couple and each one is about a specific topic. It’s called where Will We begin? Or where do We Anyway? It’s something. Where do we begin? I think. Yeah, it is. Where do we begin? That’s a really good one. Yeah, I know. I love every interview I’ve listened or talk that she’s given. I’m like, she’s brilliant and this is such good information. So I recommend her and interviews to a lot of my clients that I see the ones who are healing or starting dating or anything like that. I think it’s just so much great information about living in a healthy relationship dynamic and what it means. That’s a good point. I will say one other thing that what you’re doing, doing this divorce coaching, separation coaching, life coaching is so important because what happens is I have this couple, right? And then this thing that was a basis of their identity, how they operated in the world, they put themselves as part of a unit and now all of a sudden, after all these years and the visualization that they had for what their future was going to be and they have to redefine their life totally. A lot of people get really lost in that process. It’s scary and intimidating and it’s beautiful as you once start to create that foundation and grounding and find yourself. But the beginning part is very overwhelming. What percentage of people do you really think actually do that thing that you just said, do the work and then find themselves and figure out what their issues are? Right. People don’t most people get in another relationship and repeat totally and repeat the same patterns. That’s why I decided I wanted to do this. I was doing all this work on myself and finding all these amazing things and learning and I was like, man, I want to share this with people. And the people who come to my support group and I part educate and then part we just listen. But I text people YouTube videos and everything. When I see something that’s helping me, I want that to be the same thing. I did the same with my clients. And then the other thing that you’re doing, which is like, bringing people together who are like, they’re newly single or they’ve been single for a while, but trying to find friends is another big situation, right? So if you’ve been whatever amount of time you are married, generally your friends have been other married people. And so your social circle, while they might still be your friend, it doesn’t feel the same. And needing to find people who are like you, for me, that was like life changing. It took me like at least eight years after I got divorced to really figure out, oh, I need to find other people who are single or divorced or whatever and create relationships. And now I have this vast network of amazing friends. I always can find somebody to do something with or I can stay home. But it’s like the sense of community that I yeah. You’re not out there alone. Even if you’re not in a relationship, you’re not desperate to get into a relationship. Right. Your life is still I don’t need somebody to go. So if I choose to get into a relationship with somebody, it’s completely because they’re going to level my life up another level, add to what I’ve created. Right. It’s not coming from a place of desperation or loneliness. That’s right. I love that. Okay, on that note, we’re going to close it out. And we will do this again, though, because it was awesome. Okay. Thanks, Lee. Thank you. You’re welcome.

Table of Contents