Episode 19: 3 Unhealthy Approaches to Relationships

by | Last updated: Aug 28, 2023 | Podcast

Does your partner ever say, “my love for you will never change”? Doesn’t that feel terribly romantic? However, unfortunately, this phrase, along with a few others, can be a sign of unhealth in your marriage, pointing to bigger problems around priorities and how you consider your spouse.

In this episode, I explore three phrases that can be signs of marriage unhealth and explain why they unnecessarily place your spouse as the linchpin that holds your life together. Our spouses are of course incredibly important and should be priorities in our lives, but to not expect them and other aspects of our lives to change is setting us up for failure. Learn how to avoid these three pitfalls with me!

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn In This Episode:

  • Why ‘my love for you will never change’ is unhealthy
  • How people change in relationships
  • Why ‘I should always be your greatest priority’ is unhealthy
  • What priority should look like in marriage
  • Why ‘I can’t live without you’ is unhealthy
  • How to practice emotional regulation in love

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Struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage and you’re serious about finding that answer?

Book a Truth & Clarity Session with a member of my team. We’ll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there’s a fit for you and I to work together so you can make - and execute - the RIGHT decision for YOU and your marriage.

“Welcome to The Loving Truth podcast, where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now, your host, relationship expert and certified master life coach, Sharon Pope.

“Hello, loves. This is Sharon Pope and this is The Loving Truth. Today, we are gonna be talking about three phrases that are used that are indicative of unhealth inside of a relationship.

“Now, you might be thinking - well, if it's unhealthy and destructive to our most intimate relationship, why in the world would we do it? Why would we think that thought, or why would we say that phrase? Here's my take on it. My take is that, first of all, when you're wrapped up in the emotion of it, you can't see it.

“Also, you may have normalized some degree of unhealth inside the relationship, or if you've never seen or experienced what a healthy relationship is supposed to look and feel like, then you just may not know. You may not have that understanding of what it's supposed to look like, so you don't recognize it as something that is unhealthy. Okay? So sometimes I think we need to see what something isn't in order to see what it is.

“Does that make sense? It's like, I can understand what success is because I felt the sting of failure, right? I can understand and feel joy because I've felt pain or sadness. And this is gonna be the same thing with health and unhealth. When I point out what is unhealthy inside of a relationship, it will help you to better understand what health looks like in the relationship.

“Okay? So let's get started. The first one that I wanna share with you is some version of’“my love for you will never change,’ right? This begins at the altar, right? We start telling these lies and these unhealthy truths at the altar, right? If you think back about your vows, they probably had some stuff in there that sounded really good.

“Like, ‘my love for you will never change. It's undying. It's unending. I will always have your back. I will always be there for you no matter what.’ Like we last about a week inside our marriages before we break those vows. Am I wrong, right? Because we say things and we mean them, but showing up and actually doing them consistently over the course of years together, or decades together, that's a whole different deal, right? And the reality is this idea that my love for you shouldn't ever change - that's the thing that we've gotta challenge because, of course, your love is going to change. It should change. It only makes sense.

“Now, why do we say it then? As human beings, we don't like change, do we? Which is ironic, because we are on this earth surrounded, literally surrounded, by change constantly. Some of it is just so subtle that we don't experience it, but there's not a blade of grass outside that isn't changing. The materials in your house, and your house itself, is changing, right? Like if you don't pay attention to your house for 10 years, is it gonna look the same 10 years from now as it does today? No, because it's deteriorating.

“Our bodies are constantly changing. Our minds are constantly changing. We as people - like life throws things at us, and those things change us, right? Try to go back to being the woman that you were before you had kids. Like, just try. Like you can't. So that's what I mean. Like, life comes along, things happen, and those experiences change us. And we are absolutely surrounded by change all the time, and yet we are really, really uncomfortable with it. And so what do we wanna do? We wanna lock it down, right? We wanna say things or put parameters around it.

“This is what we do with marriage. This is why we say ‘till death do us part’ so that we can lock it down and we don't feel that insecurity of, ‘but what if it changes?’ Because we often assume that change equals bad. Change equals ‘you might leave me,’ when change could just be, it grows deeper, it grows wider, it grows more forgiving, it becomes more mature, right? It doesn't have to be worse. It could be better. So this idea that ‘my love should never change,’ if there's any version of that going on, like even when your partner might say you've changed, and they say it in a way that they mean it as a bad thing, like it's an insult.

“‘You've changed. I don't even know who you are anymore,’ right? But that's how it's supposed to be. So what if we expected that to be the case? Of course, we're going to change. We're gonna change as people, and my love for you is going to change, and I'm gonna keep communicating with you as it grows, as it evolves, as it changes, right?

“All right, so that's the first one. The second place of unhealth would be something along the lines of, ‘I should always be your greatest priority in every moment,’ right? So I'll give you a couple of examples. I had two clients in the last two weeks tell me something that their partner had said to them that demonstrated some degree of unhealth.

“So for instance, one of them, she has a daytime job, and then she's trying to become a real estate agent part-time in the evening. So she's learning her craft and she's out there networking and talking to people, and she's doing her thing, right? But because he gets off work at five o'clock and he wants to spend every evening together with her and thinks that should be her priority, he takes her wanting to pursue this new thing, this real estate career, personally, where he is like ‘that shouldn't be more important than me. That's just like a second job. That shouldn't take a higher priority over our marriage and me,’ when that is important to her.

“That's a new challenge for her at this phase in her life. And she wants to create change in her life, and she's going after it, and she's doing the things that she needs to do in order to create that change in her life. A lot of people would applaud her for working so hard and doing so much, you know? And we don't have to take it to mean that you're not important or that you're unimportant in her life. It just means that this right now, at this point in time, is also a high priority for her.

“Another client, she decided to go on a retreat versus going to see her relationship partner, and he was upset about that. He's like, ‘well, you wanna go on this retreat?’ It was like a meditation retreat or something. ‘You wanna go on this retreat versus coming to see me?’ And he took it personally when she had a lot of things that she was working through, and she felt like she genuinely needed this retreat to help her reset herself and to help her get her mind, right?

“So here's what I want you to realize. Look, when someone is saying to you ‘I should be your only priority and the highest priority all the time,’ that is a huge red flag to me. Because what it's saying, first of all, it's screaming of their insecurities and the need to be needed and the need for you to orient your life around them in order for them to feel loved or enough or important or whatever. What it also says to me is that they don't have enough going on in their own life that they're excited about.

“And so that's why they need you there to help, I don't wanna say entertain them, but to keep them engaged in life and to keep them going so that they don't have to go out and do any of that heavy lifting for themselves. Like pursue their passions, pursue a challenging endeavor, pursue a hobby, do something you've always wanted to do. So we have to stop looking to our partners to be the single portal through which all of our needs get met.

“That is too much to put on any one human being. And by the way, that's not why they're here. No one is here to make sure that all of Sharon Pope's needs get met all the time. Not my husband, not my best friend. No one is here to make sure that that happens. That's my job, my needs, what I wanna create in this life, that is my job. But I can't look to my partner to be all things to me all the time, right? When I wanna be challenged, I go to my best friend. I don't go to my husband. I don't wanna be challenged by my husband. I go to my best friend for that, right? I have a business that challenges me in an intellectual way, right? In a way that my husband cannot, right?

“Maybe you wanna run a marathon, or you wanna pursue learning French, or you wanna travel or whatever it is that you wanna do - you are allowed to do those things, and we have to stop looking for permission to do them through our partners, or expecting our partners to put all of their dreams and desires and passions aside just so we can feel important, right? That's why it's screaming of unhealth. It's, ‘I need you to get smaller in order for me to feel the way that I want to feel,’ which tells me that person is not in control of their feelings, their experience in any relationship. By the way, that means you have to get smaller or dim your light in some way in order to remain in it. It’s not a healthy relationship.

“Okay? The third one, and this is a sensitive one, but it's one that I am seeing sadly come up more and more inside my membership and with my clients. It's not often, and it's not all the time, but boy, have I heard it a lot more in the last year or two than I ever heard it in the first eight years of my coaching practice.

“And that is, ‘I can't live without you.’ So here's what I mean. When you decide that for you, the best next step is to end the relationship, and your partner threatens some form of suicide, that's what I'm talking about. Like I told you, it was sensitive, but when they say, ‘I don't think I can go on if this relationship ends, I don't think I can go on.’ First of all, you always have to take that seriously. You cannot assume that they're bluffing. And I know at first, I would call it in an immature love sort of realm, this idea of ‘I can't possibly live without you. I can't live without you,’ right? That idea might have sounded romantic in our immature ways of loving, like the Disney-ified (I'm making up words) way of loving. ‘I can't live without you. You're everything.’

“To me, it sounds romantic. It's not. It is a huge red flag of emotional unhealth, okay? We think that it mirrors the depth to which they love us. It doesn't. What it shows us is the depth to which they have no ability to deal with pain and emotionally just emotion, like manage and regulate their own emotions and navigate difficulties in life. Now, I'm not suggesting that you should be the person that helps 'em manage or regulate their emotions and navigate difficulty. But what I am suggesting is that they do need help, but you don't look at that and go, ‘oh, they love me so much.’

“When someone says they cannot live without you, that's a huge red flag, because, by the way, people are not possessions. They are not. No one is here so that I own them, so that I have them, right? ‘If you ever leave, I'm not myself without you. I cannot stand up on my own two feet without you.’ That's a huge sign of unhealth.

“Now, take it seriously for sure, and help them get some help. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have to change your decision, because then that's just enabling. But these are the three signs of unhealth. So let's talk about what to do differently and how to think about these things differently.

“So first of all, if we go back to the first one of ‘my love for you will never change.’ Look, we should expect ourselves to change over time. We should expect our partners to change over time. Therefore, the way in which we love will change over time. We should expect it. We should go looking for it. We should be curious about it. I saw something one time that said ‘My wife was eight different people over the course of our marriage, and I have enjoyed getting to know every single one of them,’ right? Which is a really clever and charming way to describe like, yes, we are going to evolve and we're going to change. And if we looked forward to that and were curious about it, as opposed to being so scared of change, then we could navigate change much easier.

“Think about how water flows in a stream. It goes around rocks, doesn't it? Water keeps flowing downstream, and it just moves around the obstacles that are in its way. That's what you can do when you're not rigid, right? When you're a little bit more free and free-flowing. But when the water is frozen, imagine sheets of ice trying to flow down the river, and there are all these rocks and obstacles in the way, it doesn't flow. It doesn't go around those obstacles because it's hard and rigid. And that's this idea that ‘my love for you will never change. We're gonna freeze it in time so that nothing ever changes because I'm so scared of change.’

“This all changes when we just start to welcome change in our lives, when we start to realize that we have no control over it. So we might as well get more comfortable with this idea of change and be more like water and be able to flow around those obstacles and not get so rigid and structured in our thinking and our approach. Okay? So that's the first one, and how to think about it and do it differently.

“This second one is for sure, we have to stop looking to our partners to be all things to us. This idea that I should always be your main priority, and you should orient your priorities in your life and your time around me. We need work. We need purpose in our lives, right? We need challenges in our lives. Passions. I mean, I need my girlfriends in my life. That is a necessity for me. And here's the thing… I always do this. So for those of you that are just listening to this on the podcast, and you don't have me on video, what I'm doing is I'm clenching both of my fists. This is what we do when we have these rigid ideas about how love should be and how our relationship should be, and how your priorities, and your partner’s priorities, should be; it's very tight and it's very restrictive, and it's hard, right? But when you start to - and now I'm loosening up my fists and I'm wiggling my fingers with an open palm - and this, to me, this is more like what love is.

“Love is open and it's free, and it's free-flowing. It's not control and tightness and rigidity. It is love and open and light and curious, right? That's what love is supposed to be. Okay? That's what healthy love is. And then the last thing, this idea that ‘I cannot live without you.’ Look, breakups are horrible. We have all been through them, and I'm not gonna suggest that they don't feel like ass when you're in the midst of heartbreak.

“Of course we do. It doesn't feel good. But that emotional pain that you feel from a breakup because you've lived to tell about it, tells you that that emotional pain in and of itself will not kill you, right? It will not harm you; it will not feel good. But you can process emotional pain. You can get equipped to learn how to feel your feelings, to not stuff 'em down, to not run away, to not say life is over, because I'm in some degree of emotional pain. Breakups will never feel good. Of course not. But we can process it. We can move through it, and it doesn't have to break me. It doesn't have to break you.

“So if you don't have those tools, then get equipped with those tools so that something like a breakup doesn't cause you to even consider ending your life because of the pain that you're in. Okay? So those are three big phrases, thoughts, things that we think even if we don't say it or we say it to our partners, that we've gotta start rethinking. We've gotta start challenging because they are the markers of unhealth inside of the relationship.

“And to me, sometimes it's so subtle, you know; even the extreme one, it's not that it’s subtle, it's just that we don't recognize these things as being unhealthy. We think we are completely justified in thinking that my love should never change. Your love for me should never change. I should always be your priority. And it's romantic to think that I can't live without you.

“That's where we're flawed. That's where we've gotta start challenging those ideas and beliefs. If there's anything that I do in my work as a relationship coach, it is challenge all the existing ideas and beliefs and thoughts that we have about how marriage should be. Because in case you haven't noticed, it's not working so well; we've got to start thinking about this in a new way with a 50 to 73% divorce rate; we're not being terribly successful.

“And those are only the people who choose to end the relationship. What about all the people who decide they're gonna stay in it, but they're gonna stay miserable? Let's say there's another 15 to 20% of those people, right? So the way we're doing marriage today, it's not working. So we've gotta start getting equipped with new tools, which begins sometimes, many times, with unlearning a bunch of things that we have learned along the way, and then relearning and getting equipped with real relationship tools.

“All right? I hope that that was helpful, and I can't wait until we meet again next week. Until then, take really good care.

“If you're listening to this podcast because you're struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage, and you're serious about finding that answer, it's time to book a Truth and Clarity session with a member of my team. On the call, we'll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there's a fit for you and me to work together so you can make and execute the right decision for you and your marriage.

“Go to clarityformymarriage.com to fill out an application now. That's clarityformymarriage.com.”


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