Episode 32: A Cold Hard Truth in Relationships (You Won’t Like It, but You Need to Know It)

by | Last updated: Oct 14, 2023 | Podcast

I regularly share Cold Hard Truths with my clients (and on this podcast!) In this episode, I’m sharing one of THE most important ones you need to know.

Even if it’s not something you WANT to know… Even if it’s not something you’ll WELCOME with open arms…

Listen in to learn the Cold Hard Truth that’s vital to understand for couples and people in long-term relationships.

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn In This Episode:

  • The most important Cold Hard Truth that can (and will) alter your relationship
  • 4 ways this Truth plays out, particularly for couples
  • How this Truth can open the way for peace & joy

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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.

Hey there, it's Sharon Pope, and this is The Loving Truth. And today, my friends, we're going to tell some truths.

So what we are talking about is a cold, hard truth in relationships. Now, this idea of the cold, hard truths is something that I teach a lot in my programs. I don't know how many there are. There are at least 10, maybe 20, maybe a few more than that, of the cold hard truths inside of our relationships. But today, I want to share with you one of the most important ones.

And even if this isn't exactly what you want to hear, you need to know this. If you want to have healthy, connected relationships over the course of any long-term period of time, you’ve got to know this. And you may not like it, but you will have to accept it because it's Truth with a capital T. I talk about truth a lot because I think it's really important to distinguish between what is truth and what is just a random thought that we like to think.

Here's the thing, this cold hard truth isn't one that you'll welcome with open arms, but you can't deny that it's true, even if you wish it wasn't. So the first place I ever heard this theory was with a woman named Brooke Castillo, who runs the Life Coach School. And she didn't use it specifically in the context of relationships, but boy, when I heard it, because I view everything through the lens of relationships, I thought, oh my gosh, this is so applicable to relationships. And it's something that's really, really important if we're going to want to be in a long-term relationship with anybody else ever and not suffer.

Okay, so here we go. The cold hard truth that I want to share with you today goes like this. There are two parts to it. The first part is every adult human being gets to do whatever they want to do. I'll say it again. Every adult gets to do whatever they want to do. The second part of that is that they get to live with the outcome of their choices.

Now, I usually lose people in the second part because they're so focused on the first part. Wait a minute, what do you mean? Everyone gets to do whatever they want to do? That doesn't make any sense. That's not right. But let's look at it. Just go there with me for a second. Indulge me for a second.

If you choose to never show up to work, should you be surprised that at some point your employment is terminated? No. If you choose to drink a bottle of whiskey every single day, should you be surprised when your body and your organs start shutting down and your relationships and everyone who tries to be close to you and tries to love you are impacted? Nope. If you treat your partner like crap, day in and day out, should you be surprised that at some point they're like, enough, I am no longer available for this? I'm no longer invested in this. I no longer want any of this. No.

So every adult gets to do whatever they want to do, but they also get to live with the outcome of those choices. So those were some dramatic examples, but let's bring it down to some of the more subtle examples that are more difficult to see. And frankly, how many people are existing inside their relationships today? For instance, let's say you never listen and you're frankly kind of uninterested in all the things that your partner wants to talk about. So you don't listen to them. You're not interested in what they have to say, what they care about, what they're worried about, what they're stressed about, what they're excited about. You're just not interested.

At some point, your partner is going to withdraw because they feel unheard and not understood. So they're going to withdraw from you. They're not going to be curious about you, they're not going to be interested in what you have going on, because you're not interested in them. They're not going to listen to you because you don't listen to them.

And that, of course, is going to then create a disconnect. Now, when you're disconnected, the need to be seen and heard and understood doesn't go away. So what happens is that your partner goes looking for someone else that will hear them and see them and understand them. And even if they're not looking for it, they're subconsciously trying to get that need met, and someone else will come along and meet that need.

Now, sometimes that's friendships, which seems harmless. Sometimes those friendships turn into affairs. And then the person who is just seeking to be validated and heard and understood and interested in by the person that says they love them, now they're the bad guy because they got involved in an affair when really what was happening is they were just trying to get a need met that their partner refused to acknowledge or meet.

Look, you don't have to listen to your partner, but you do get to live with the outcome of that choice. And if we just look at the end result behavior and go, “Oh, but you had an emotional affair with someone else, you're the bad person,” you are missing everything that led up to that. And you are missing your own accountability in the creation of that experience because it's easier, right? It's easier to point the blame of like, “Oh, but he or she was talking to someone else,” when there was so much going on before that.

All right, now let's take it out of the context of affairs. Let's say that you are consistently over-functioning inside your relationship. You're making all the decisions, you are executing everything that needs to be done. It doesn't matter if we're talking about dinner every night of the week or your child's birthday, or making sure that they have the school supplies that they need. Whatever it is, you're executing everything and you're carrying the mental weight for everything that needs to happen, whether it's with the house, with the pets, with the kids, in your job, all of those things, you're carrying.

So when you consistently over function, it gives your partner permission to consistently under function, and then you resent it. You resent that your partner isn't stepping up and isn't taking on more because you're feeling so overwhelmed. And then that resentment just mounts and gets bigger and bigger every single day, little by little so that you almost don't notice it, but it becomes pretty big over time. And then that resentment turns into disrespect, and I'm sorry, but once you don't respect your partner, it's really hard to feel loving towards them. And it's almost impossible to feel desire for them because now you don't respect them.

So we get to do whatever we want to do. You get to over function, you get to control how everything is delivered in your home with your family, all the things – you get to control it. But then you also get to live with the workload of it, because what you're doing is inviting under functioning by your partner.

Let's take another one. Let's say that you avoid difficult conversations or you avoid setting boundaries inside your relationship. Now, why would you avoid that? Those seem like healthy things, having the difficult conversations, saying the things that need to be said, and setting boundaries. Because we don't like being uncomfortable, right? And particularly for women, setting boundaries and having difficult conversations can feel really intimidating, and for sure can feel very uncomfortable. And we don't like being uncomfortable.

So the trade-off is, I'm going to avoid these difficult conversations and I'm going to keep my comfort level. Now I'm going to create different discomfort inside my life. Because my relationship now, it doesn't feel really good. Because now I have a partner that doesn't understand or acknowledge or appreciate the boundaries that I want to set inside the relationship because I've never told them.

So how could they possibly understand how to work with me, how to get the best of me, and where you're going to get the worst of me? How to be in relationship with me? That's really what boundaries are. And having these difficult conversations is helping your partner to understand how to get the best from you and understand what works for you and what doesn't work for you.

But if we don't tell them, and we assume they should just know, it doesn't work very well. So then they're confused about why you're just angry all the time. They don't respect your boundaries because you've never told them. So no one's getting their needs met. And all we create is more and more dysfunction and disconnection.

I'm going to do one more just because I think that this example is an important one, and I see it all day, every day. And that is how we want to shut down and avoid healing, addressing some of the pain or traumas that we've had from different parts of our lives. Now, sometimes that's work-related. If your partner has been in the military or a firefighter paramedic or a police officer, something like that, there are traumas there that at some point have to be dealt with or they're playing out in your life. For others, it is traumas from childhood. It might be physical abuse; it might be sexual abuse. It might not even be from childhood. It might be from early adulthood. But so many of us have so many traumas that we think if we just ignore them,

we stuff them down and we pretend that we're good, we're good, everything's fine.

Here's what happens. That hurt, that pain, is like background music to your life that never turns off, anything that you hear constantly. If you heard white noise constantly, you would eventually become accustomed to it. And it's the same way with that background noise, the pain from the traumas and the hurt from different parts of our lives, regardless of where it came from.

f we don't heal it, it is playing out in our lives all day, every day as background music, and we think we're ignoring it. The reality is we're just unconscious of how it's continuing to show up in our lives. So it shows up in the ways that we get triggered inside of our relationships. It shows up in ways that will shut down and will run away. And we will use whatever substance that we can to avoid feeling our feelings. So that can be eating a bag of Oreos, it can be watching a bunch of porn, it can be gambling, it can be drinking a bottle of whiskey or 12 beers in a night.

You don't have to look too far or too hard to find a way to numb the pain of our lives and not feel all the things that we really do need to feel. But then those actions, the ways in which we numb, create their own level of dysfunction and stuff that we now have to overcome inside of our relationships.

So let me bring you back. What we're talking about is a cold, hard truth, which is everyone. If you're an adult human being, you get to do whatever it is that you want to do, and you get to live with the outcome of your choices. Now, your partner gets to do whatever they want to do. You get to do whatever you want to do. Both of you get to live with the outcome of your choices.

So I want to spend some time here talking about how you also get to choose. So no one likes this truth. What we really want is our partners to do the things that we want them to do. We don't like it when they're being hateful or impatient or whatever. We don't want that. We want them to do what we want them to do, and we want them to not do the things that we don't want them to do. This sounds ridiculous when I say it, because you can hear how controlling that is in our nature – except when we're on the receiving end of a relationship where it doesn't feel good, we genuinely think that we are justified in terms of how we think someone else should be behaving. And that's just not how it works.

So the reality is we get to choose how we feel about that. We get to choose how we react, and we respond to that. Because just because our partner gets to do whatever they want to do, my friend, so do you, and this is the part that I really want you to hear. I told you at the beginning, a lot of people tune out to the second part, because what they hear is, “Oh, if my partner is being a horrible partner, I'm just supposed to suck it up and just be okay with it.”

Nope. Nobody ever said that. We said, as adult human beings, everyone gets to do whatever they want to do, but they get to live with the outcome. You are part of the outcome. You get to choose what you do with the information that you are receiving from your partner. So if you want to tell your partner how you're feeling, you get to do that. They get to choose whether or not they hear it. They get to choose whether or not they receive it, whether they do anything differently with it. They get to have whatever feelings they're going to have about it.

But if you choose to express yourself, you get to do that. And frankly, no one can stop you if you want to shut down and pretend like everything's just great when you know deep down it's not great, you get to do that. I can't stop you. No one can stop you from doing that, but it will feel like a self-betrayal every single time you do it. And you'll never feel at peace. You'll never feel right inside if you want to end the marriage because your partner is a shitty partner.

If you want to end the marriage, you get to do that. And I know that that feels like a really big thing, and it is. But ultimately, if your partner has the freedom to be able to choose and do and show up however they want to show up, you do too, right? And that doesn't mean that it's going to be easy, and that doesn't mean that the people around you aren't going to have something to say about it.

And that doesn't mean that your partner isn't now going to be like, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. You can't end this. I want to share with you one of my favorite quotes from Abraham Hex – “You are so free, you can choose bondage.” You are so free that you can choose to remain inside a destructive, toxic relationship and say that you're trapped when you're not.

All you're doing is trying to control the behavior of another human being, and it's not working, thinking that you have no choice or that you have no freedom in how you react and respond to what is being presented to you. So my work is all about, I'm going to tell you the truth, but I'm going to empower you in the process because the truth of the matter is that you are very, very powerful in your own life, and you are never trapped and stuck or confused. Stuck is a thought that keeps you safe. At least it feels safe even though it never moves you forward.

So look, you can stay in a relationship. You can choose to end a relationship. You can choose to be happy in the circumstances going on inside your relationship, or you can choose to be miserable because of the circumstances going on inside your relationship. The choice is yours. But first and foremost, you’ve got to back up and acknowledge that everyone else gets to do whatever they want to do.

Whenever I get frustrated with someone that I love and I care about, I have to remind myself, oh, that's right. Everyone gets to do whatever they want to do. I get to choose how I feel about it. I get to choose what actions I'm going to take as a result of it. I can choose from my life. And that's why I can remind myself that I am a powerful creator in my life, and my friends, you are too.

And so while this may not be a welcome piece of information for you, this is your path to peace in all of your relationships; you let everyone do whatever they want to do because you can't control it anyway. And what you can do is you can get back over here in your business and you can control your experience and how you choose to show up, react, and respond to all the circumstances that are always happening in your life all around you.

All right? I hope that was helpful for you. And until next time, 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 I 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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