Episode 48: Five Ways to Upgrade Your Marriage for More Relationship Success

by | Last updated: Nov 2, 2023 | Podcast

You’d think if our society failed at something 40-50% of the time, we’d probably be doing everything we could to solve the problem…

Yet, we don’t do that with the institution of marriage, which sees that rate of divorce among first-timers (it’s even worse for second and third marriages). Instead, we assume our partner is the problem; therefore, the solution is just getting out of the relationship.

But we still take ourselves with us to the next relationship. What we really need to do is change the ways we approach marriage itself.

In this episode of The Loving Truth podcast, you’ll learn five ways to upgrade your marriage. I’ll also teach you three big reasons why people as a society tend to give up on their relationships and contribute to this thrashing of the institution.

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn In This Episode:

1:56 – Three significant ingredients that can cause people to give up on their marriages

6:39 – The first perspective to help you be more conscious and much happier inside your relationships

11:41 – Expecting and embracing lots of changes in your marriage

13:42 – Why it takes a village to exist in relationships with people

17:00 – Why owning your shit is essential for a healthy relationship

18:28 – The last upgrade that leads to more ease and connection in your marriage

23:18 – How you can start implementing these upgrades

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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.

Sharon Pope: Hello, loves. This is Sharon Pope and this is The Loving Truth. Today I want to talk to you about how we need to rethink the institution of marriage and how to upgrade our relationships so that they can be more successful. I mean, we're not being terribly successful with marriage these days, are we? We have a 40% to 50% divorce rate in first marriages all the way up to a 73% divorce rate in third marriages.

If we had that kind of statistic with almost anything else, we would be in just hyper-vigilance to try to solve the problem. But for whatever reason, maybe it's just complacency, probably complacency, we're not really actively looking for how do we do this differently so that we can be more successful? Instead what we do is we assume our partner is the problem and if I get rid of him or her, problem solved.

The problem with that idea is that you take yourself with you, and that's why second marriages end at a much higher rate than first marriages and third marriages end at a higher rate than second marriages. Many of the things that we do inside of our marriages, many of the ways that we approach our marriage are part of the problem.

It's because we came into marriage, essentially on a wing and a prayer, and then said, “Till death do us part,” which essentially means no matter how miserable we make one another, and no matter how badly we treat one another, we're going to stay together no matter what and we've established that success in marriage is longevity. My friends, we've got to start thinking about that much, much differently.

Essentially, when we get married, we give up in a way. We stop showing up to the relationship in the same way that we were when we were dating. That's part of that complacency that comes in when we say “Till death do us part” because it's really difficult to unwind a marriage. It causes a lot of heartache, a lot of heartbreak, a lot of problems. It's really, really hard to unwind it so it's got to get really, really bad before we will walk through the fire of divorce.

But that means it's not thriving, that we don't feel great in our relationships because we get lazy. This is just human nature. But once we become conscious to it, well then we can show up and do something differently. We stop communicating with each other.

Sometimes married couples will say to me, “We don't have anything to talk about anymore. We only talk about the weather, we talk about our kids, we might talk about work, but the other person isn't really interested in my work so we don't talk a lot about that so we run out of things to communicate about.”

But the things that you talked about when you were falling in love, they weren't just the weather, and they weren't the kids, or even just work. You were talking about much more meaningful things. But once we get married, it's like all of a sudden we just stopped talking about meaningful things. Like what are your dreams? What are you most excited about? What are you most fearful of? We stop being curious about our partner.

Then because the trust starts to erode, we stop opening up and we stop being vulnerable with our partner and then, of course, we're not as connected as we once were and we just start feeling more and more distant from each other.

Another thing that happens is that all those things that were different about your partner that used to be interesting and exciting, maybe a little adventurous, it seems like once we get married, now all of a sudden, we have to be in lockstep on everything and you need to think like me. All the differences now become annoying. Where before they were interesting, now they're annoying.

Now all we're doing is trying to get each other to think and experience the world the way that we do because it would just be so much easier. If you would just think like me, react like me, and respond like me, then I wouldn't have to do any heavy lifting of realizing that we are two separate individuals who are allowed to have two separate and completely different perspectives, and that maybe your perspective is just as valid as mine. We don't do that very often.

The last piece that I will say in terms of, I mean, there are lots of things that we get wrong but I'm calling these like the big three, the third one is related to how we love in order to get, in order to get love, in order to get validation, in order to feel secure, in order to feel like enough, whatever it is, we are loving to get as opposed to loving because it's who we are and that's what we're here to do.

Sometimes people will say, “Well, I'm not going to be loving towards him because he's not being loving towards me so he doesn't deserve it.” But then he's probably thinking the exact same thing. I don't feel like being loving towards her because she's not being loving towards me so then no one is being loving towards one another.

Then we're unhappy in our lives and we blame our partners for our unhappiness because if they were doing something different, I would feel happier. But there's no self-accountability in any of that. Then we get entitled, we get entitled to kindness, we get entitled to respect, we get entitled to have affairs. We get entitled to blame our partners. We feel entitled to be angry all the time because we're not unhappy.

Again, we don't want to do that internal heavy lifting to understand “What's going on within me that I'm so unhappy and why do I consistently look to my partner and blame my partner for my own unhappiness?”

All of these are ingredients into what is just thrashing the institution of marriage today, and at some point, it's going to become painful enough that we're going to start opening up to new ways of being in relationship with each other and I believe that that time is starting now. I think that there are more people looking to create a conscious relationship with one another because they want to feel good inside their relationships.

Let's talk about some things or some perspectives that you can pick up that will help you be more conscious and therefore much, much happier inside of your relationships. The first one is to realize that we are meant to be in relationship with each other. Would it be easier if we lived in a cave all by ourselves? Maybe because no one would be there to disagree with us. But we wouldn't be happy.

I think it's hard to have a happy life unless you have good relationships. You might exist, you might still walk on this planet and kick in but you're not happy, you're not fulfilled, you're not feeling content if your relationships are in shambles. We're meant to be in relationship with each other but the point of the relationship isn't to get your needs met.

Newsflash, no one is on this planet to meet your needs. No one came into this life on this planet at this time to meet Sharon Pope's needs. I keep looking around, like where are the minions? Where are the people that are here whose life has to be all about me? It doesn't exist. No one is here to meet our needs. What are we here for?

Why are we in a relationship? My friends, it’s for growth. Because you would not grow in the same ways and at the same pace if you were not in relationship with other people, and particularly our most intimate relationships are going to be there to press all of our buttons. When your partner presses all of your buttons, I want you to say thank you.

I know that sounds ridiculous. You're like, “What? I'm not going to say thank you.” When you get triggered, that's just an awareness. It's like, “Oh, there's another unhealed part of myself that I forgot about. Didn't see that one before. That was a blind spot.” Because you're only triggered because there's something unhealed within you.

Our partners know how to do that. Our most intimate relationships are going to help us to see where are we not meeting our own needs? Because if no one is here to meet our needs for us, huh, then that must be on us. I know you hate that answer, it's okay. I kind of hated it too, like, “Why is the answer always me?”

But it's those triggers and those opportunities inside of our most intimate relationships that are going to show us “Where am I not giving myself the respect? Where am I not showing self-respect? Where am I not validating myself? Where am I not showing enough love, softness, or compassion for myself?”

It's like all the things that we're looking for in our partners to do for us, that's just the time for us to be able to look and go, “Where am I not doing that work for myself and instead placing the responsibility at my partner’s feet? And then they just keep letting me down because by the way, I never told them and they never agreed to it, so of course, it's not working.”

I do think that we have to have another marker for success inside of a marriage besides just longevity. That cannot be the only element of success. It was either success or failure. If it lasts until death, it’s a success supposedly, and if it ends before death, then that is, in some mines, a failure. That's so binary. It's just a horrible way to look at it when there are amazing things that transpire from when two people took an opportunity, took a chance to love each other, and even if it didn't last till death, that doesn't mean it was a failure so we've got to come up with another way of thinking about it.

There's a quote I read recently from Jay Shetty that says, “Love means you value your partner enough to confront difficult areas.” But what do we do when we come up against those difficulties of where we're not getting our needs met and where we're being called to grow but we're kind of resisting it?”

Oftentimes, what we do is we try to keep the peace. We shut down, we ignore it, or we pretend that everything's fine when we know things aren't fine. We've got to love ourselves enough and we've got to love our partner enough to be able to confront the difficult stuff because the difficult stuff is part of being in an intimate relationship.

The closer you are, the more you're going to rub up against each other. It is inevitable, but it is how we deal with that rubbing that is going to tell us whether we can create healthy, productive, connected relationships or just divorce after divorce after heartbreak and more divorce.

Now, another thing is I want you to think about marriage in terms of expecting lots of changes. If you're going to be together for five, six, seven decades, you are going to experience a lot of change. But we don't really expect that and we sound really surprised when there's a big upheaval or a lot of change.

But the reality is that you are constantly changing because life is changing you and your partner is constantly changing because life is changing them. Now, it doesn't mean that everything about you is changing but a significant amount is changing over time and the environment that we live in is constantly changing.

Yet we get so surprised, so shocked, and upset when there's change. We even say it to our partners like, “You've changed,” like it's such a horrible thing as opposed to expecting things to change and going, “Oh, now is a perfect time for us to reevaluate our goals as a couple, how we want to show up, and how we want to feel in our most intimate relationship,” because I promise you, when you are in your late 40s, 50s, the way you want to feel in your most intimate relationship will sound absolutely nothing like how you wanted to feel when you were in your 20s or early 30s.

It just isn't the same. But if we predicted it, let's just say if every couple on their 10-year anniversary sat down and said, “Where do we want to go now? Who are we now? How is it different than who we were 10 years ago? Where are we headed?” that's just bringing some awareness to the relationship and awareness to the fact that we're changing and that's okay. Then we don't get upset by it. We don't get all twisted up about it when we experience change inside the relationship.

Another thing that you can embody that will help your relationship is the idea that it takes a village, folks, just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to get your needs met and to exist on this planet in relationship with people.

Here's what I mean—and I think that this became more pronounced through COVID when we were all in lockdown and the only people around us were just the people that were in our immediate family. We wouldn't even see extended family sometimes and we wouldn't see friends as often—we put a lot of responsibility on one person.

We wouldn't put it on our kids. We put it on our partner. So all the needs that we have inside of relationship in terms of wanting connection, wanting to be challenged, and wanting to be understood, all of the needs that we have that we get met through our relationships oftentimes, and we don't realize this, but we look to our partners to be that one person that supplies everything for us.

It's like the day you walk down the aisle, “Congratulations, darling, you now get to have the sole responsibility to heal all of my unhealed sh*t that I haven't done and you get to be the single person through which all of my relational needs get met.” That is just too much for any human being.

By the way, they're doing it to you so it's not working. This is why we also need friendships. This is why we also need work peers and people who will challenge us. We need a community. We need a village. I call it the board of directors. Who is my board of directors and who do I go to to be challenged? Who do I go to to be understood? Who do I go to to get some poor babies? Because everyone needs that once in a while. But they're not all the same person.

One person cannot support you in all the ways that you might need and so we need to get real conscious, there's that word again, about who can support us in the ways that we need, who's skilled in those particular areas. I don't go to my husband to be challenged. I don't want to be challenged by my husband. There's enough opportunity for that. I go to my best friend to be challenged.

But when I want to be understood and I want to be heard, I go to my husband for that. He's great at that. Figure out what your community, what your tribe is great at, and then use them very consciously. Not use them but tap into their skill set. I don't look to be understood by people in my family. That would crash and burn 100% of the time.

That's not what they're equipped to do. But they can be equipped to do other things. They can help me feel more connected and more grounded to my lineage. They serve other purposes. It's okay. But it takes a village. Think about who's in your village and it can't just be one person. It's too much to put on any one human being and no one signed up for it.

The fourth thing, it's a big one, we got to own our sh*t. There is no path to a healthy relationship without each of you owning your sh*t. But we don't love to spend time in our own sh*t, do we? It's not a comfortable place to be looking at the ways in which I can do things better. I could do things differently.

Instead, what do we do? We spend a lot of time in our partner's business, which only leads to trying to control them. No one is here to be controlled. That's never going to feel good. We've got to get out of their business, back in our business because you cannot be in your business and their business at the same time. Impossible.

Just like you can't be at your house and my house at the same time. You got to get out of your partner's business of all the ways in which you think he or she should be different so that you get to feel better, get back in your business, and start taking accountability for your life and how you're showing up to it. Because, my friend, that is where all of your power is.

I know it feels prickly, it feels like bad news like just mind your own business and own your sh*t, but that is where all your power is. You have the ability to change yourself. That can happen in a decision that you make in an instant. You have almost no ability to change your partner. You might influence but even the ways we go about influencing are not helpful.

Which brings me to the last way that if we can embody this principle, along with some of these other ones, our relationships will start to feel a lot more easy, more easy. It's probably not great English. We will have more ease. We'll have more connection. We'll have all the things that we really want to feel.

This last one is we've got to learn, we've really got to learn to upgrade our communication skills. There's a gentleman named Nick Cannon, who said this and I love this quote, “You will never nag, complain, or punish your partner into being a better partner for you,” but that's what we do.

If we're not controlling, then we're nagging and we are complaining and punishing. What I mean by that is like silent treatment or withholding love, affection, whatever. That's punishment. But when we apply those things to our relationships, we're never going to get what we want, I promise you. If it worked, I’d tell you to do it.

Honestly, it's what we've been doing forever. There is a long, long history of women nagging men on this planet. Our divorce rates just continue to go up. It doesn't work. What do we do instead? We have to upgrade our communication skills. We have to get better at having open-hearted, direct, and loving conversations.

Loving, by the way, does not always mean what people want to hear. Loving can be honoring yourself. Loving can be telling the truth. Loving can be setting a healthy boundary. Because if someone wants to be in a healthy relationship with you, then they want to understand your boundaries. They want to know how to get the best from you and they want to avoid how to get the worst from you. That is loving.

But instead what we do is we complain and punish. We shut down or we blow up in anger. All of those things are so counterproductive to everything that we want from our most intimate relationships. Here's what I want you to do. I want you to be able to share your heart very clearly and very directly and then I want you to watch your partner's response to that. By that I mean more their actions than their words. Because actions will always speak louder than words.

I want you to watch what they do with that information. You got to tell them the whole truth and you got to do it in a direct and loving way. You need to make sure that they understand. You might ask for “Do you agree that this is what would be healthy for our marriage?” You might look for agreement, but then you just get words back. What you really need is to see their actions aligning with that.

Now let's say you're not getting the response that you want. Nagging is not going to help. Punish is not going to be helpful. It doesn't even mean that if you're not getting the reaction that you want after being very honest and telling the full truth, you have to end the relationship. You might end the relationship because what you're talking about might in fact be a deal breaker for you.

But what you can definitely do is you can move forward with real clarity about who your partner is willing and able to be and who they're not willing and/or able to be. Byron Katie says, “Anytime you argue with reality, you will lose 100% of the time,” and that is true.

If you keep nagging, complaining, arguing, and punishing trying to get your partner to be someone or to do something that they're not, then we're only causing our own suffering. Then because we're suffering, we're unhappy, and we blame our partner for our suffering and for our unhappy feelings. It just comes full circle, and nothing ever gets better and nothing ever feels better.

When you're able to speak really open-heartedly and have direct conversations even when they're difficult, then you're able to exist with clarity and move forward in some direction with real clarity for yourself. See, if we want to have better relationships, we've got to create a new model for them. Because this old model of just come into marriage on a wing and a prayer and think it's going to last for, I don't know, six decades or something, clearly, it's not working. We've got to start looking for ways to do it differently.

These five ways, I hope, give you at least something to hang on to, and you don't have to embody all five of them all at once, although that would be lovely. Go master one of them. Do it for two weeks solid where you look to your partner and everything that's happening inside the relationship as growth. This is a growth opportunity for me. Every time I get flustered, triggered, irritated, there's something here for me. Isn't that interesting?

Do that for two weeks to where it starts to feel a little bit more natural and then later on, “Oh, how can I expect that of course, we're going to change? How can I open up a conversation between the two of us in terms of how we've changed since we were married?” No matter if you've been married for 5 years or 50 years, how have I personally changed? How have we changed as a couple and then where do we want to go next?

Layer that on until that conversation feels like, “Huh, made some progress there,” then layer in the village, then layer in. Start layering these things in. They're not impossible. You could completely transform your marriage inside of two or three months if you started to really embody these things.

I'm going to challenge you. You probably listen to lots of podcasts and lots of YouTube videos, read books, read articles, and all the things, you're doing all the things and that feels super productive, don't stop there. Don't just take this information and go, “Oh, that was interesting. Sharon Pope is so smart.” Take it, do something with it, apply it to your life because that is the only way that you're going to create any meaningful change in your relationship and in your life.

Whether it's with your partner that you're with now or a partner that you're with in the future, these are the skill sets that we need to be able to bring to the table if we want to be successful in having long-term committed relationships. I'm not against marriage. I don't think that there's anything wrong with marriage. I think our idea of marriage and I think how we come into it and how we show up for it is what's wrong with marriage. But we can change that. I hope this was helpful for you. Until next time, take really good care.

Love, if you're questioning whether you can recover the feelings you've lost for your spouse and you're serious about putting an end to feeling stuck, lost, and alone, I've written a book just for you. It's called “Stay or Go? How to Find Confidence and Clarity So You Can Fix Your Marriage or Move Forward Without Regret.”

The approach I share in this best-selling book has already worked for thousands of women struggling in lonely disconnected marriages and I'm confident that it will work for you too. If you don't want to spend another day stuck in indecision, go to sharonpopebook.com to get your copy of “Stay or Go?” now.


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