Episode 63: Q&A: Denial, Unmet Needs, Involving Kids in Divorce

by | Last updated: Feb 27, 2024 | Podcast

How can I fix our marriage if he doesn’t think anything is wrong? What can I do if my needs aren’t being met by my partner? What information should I share with my kids about our divorce?

In this episode of The Loving Truth podcast, you’ll hear from three callers who are stuck at an impasse and struggling to move forward. Together we’ll get clear about what’s necessary to make a change and how to take the first step.

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn In This Episode:

0:55 – She wants to work on the marriage, but he says it’s “fine”
4:46 – Your husband is NOT a jerk…
7:55 – He wants physical connection, but she needs emotional connection first
11:20 – Who should make the first move?
16:52 – They’re getting divorced: What information should they share with their kids?
20:36 – What your children feel TODAY is not how they’ll feel FOREVER
26:16 – The better you do *this* one thing, the smoother your relationships will be

Featured On Q&A: Denial, Unmet Needs, Involving Kids in Divorce

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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. This is our time of the month where you are able to call in and ask me your specific questions about the challenges that you're facing inside your own marriage.

And I will answer them on this podcast. So if you have something that you would love to ask me, all you have to do is call in and leave a quick voicemail at 7 2 7 5 3 7 0 3 5 9. And you can remain completely anonymous if you, if that makes you feel more comfortable. So let's get to our first question. This one is from Beth. This is Beth.

My husband and I have been talking and struggling the last few days. He started saying things to me that I have been saying to him for years, and he's always disregarded. For example, I have been telling him that I would like to work on our marriage for almost two decades. I have asked in many ways and given many suggestions, he's always said that he felt marriage was good and I was essentially crazy or just trying to get attention for years.

He uses the excuse that he thought things were good as to why he didn't feel the need to engage in any sort of improvement activities. When I ask what he thought when I told him things are bad in those exact words and many other versions, he says he didn't think I was serious. Now, he wants to try, but his version of trying is trying to initiate sex,

and that just isn't working for me. What do I do? Okay, Beth, I hear you because I see this so, so often where you've been trying to communicate for years, or in your case decades, about wanting to improve the marriage. And he kept, he kept brushing it off and going, no, we're fine. We're fine. We don't need to do anything.

Because from his perspective, it was fine. But folks, here's what I want you to know. The nature of relationships is that if my partner is not fine, then we are not fine. Does that make sense? Right. It's not just you don't, when you come into marriage, you don't just operate in a silo anymore. It's not just about how you are doing and how you are feeling.

If my partner, if Dee was not doing well inside of our marriage and I genuinely loved him, how can I sit back and go, well, I'm fine. I'm perfectly happy given the fact that you're not happy. Right? That doesn't even make any sense. So the nature of relationships is that it takes two people to want to be in it,

and those two people have to both feel good about it. And the minute one person doesn't feel good about it, it automatically impacts the nature of the relationship. So stop pretending that you're great and you're happy and you're fine when your partner isn't. And take these conversations seriously. Don't just assume, yeah, if I ignore it, it'll go away. And ladies and or gentlemen,

whoever is the one that is, that is asking for change, don't just take that brush off and go, oh, he just doesn't want to, or she just doesn't want to, or She seems to be fine and doesn't wanna do anything about it. Stay with it. Go, no, I need you to hear me. This is serious. And if we keep going along this path,

we may not be together forever. This is, this very well can impact our marriage in a very negative way. So if we don't address it now, it's not going to magically get better. It's only going to deepen the resentment that I feel because you don't want to engage with me on this. And that is going to make us feel more and more disconnected over time so that a few years from now,

don't act surprised when I've got one foot out the door, right? But we don't have those conversations. We have the conversation like, I'm not happy. Or What did she say? Things are bad. I mean, that's a start to a conversation, but it doesn't give him anywhere to go. And a confused mind will always do nothing. So if he doesn't know what to do,

he is not gonna do anything. And that's what he did. He did nothing. So I want you to take these conversations. When your partner comes to you with this, take this stuff seriously. Don't, don't wait until your partner's got a foot out the door. They come to you and say, I think we need to divorce before now. You're ready to do all the things.

Now, Beth, your husband is not a jerk. He's just a human being. He's doing what most of us do. We don't do what we should do. We do what we have to do. So all the things that he could have done a few years ago, now, he's probably trying to do those things now. And it may or may not be shifting something within you because you may be too far gone.

We don't know. And the way that he's trying to make it better is he's going to what he's got in his toolbox, right? He's going to what he knows. Think about it. That's what we all do. We only use what we know to use. So if he wants to feel more connected to you, he wants to have sex with you.

So he's trying to initiate sex to make the marriage better and doesn't understand why that's not working for you. So here's the reality, and this is true for him. Just as it's true for you, just as it's true for everybody, if you keep doing the same things, you're going to get the same result. You need some new tools in your toolkit.

You need some more knowledge, you need some insights and some awareness, and you don't know what you don't know right now. So you keep going to what you know, but it's not working. So instead of continuing to go back to doing the same thing over and over that hasn't been successful, you've got to get equipped with a new way of doing it.

And by the way, the second way you try may not work either. The third way may not work either, but if it's not working, don't keep doing the same thing. Keep trying something new until something shifts. So if it were me, I would really want him be able to get equipped with some new tools. Now, I would not tell him how to do that.

You know, you could, you can offer suggestions. I'm not suggesting you keep something secret, but if you're forcing him to read a book, to listen to a podcast, to watch YouTube videos, to hire a coach or go to therapy, he's gonna phone it in, right? And what I mean by that is he's gonna check the box and say,

yeah, I did it. You wanna have sex now, which means he's not gonna grow and he is not gonna get anything from it. So you'd have to approach it from a perspective of where he wants to do this. And the only way he's really gonna want to do this, whatever this is, right, whatever kind of program or accountability or how he's gonna get equipped is when he's choosing,

when he finds the person that he wants to follow, when he finds the book that he wants to read, when when he listens to the teacher that he thinks can be most helpful, that he resonates with not who you resonate with, then that's what's gonna be helpful. Now, you've gotta be able and willing to do, you've gotta be able and willing to do the same thing as well.

You both need new tools because if you're just reaching into the same old toolbox, you shouldn't expect to get different results. Okay? So I hope that helps you, Beth. Let's go to the next question. My name is Jillian. One of my husband's ongoing requests, ongoing comments is that he doesn't feel he can provide me with emotional connection if I don't provide more physical connection.

For the record, I enjoy physical connection, both sexual and nonsexual. And I also desire more in my marriage. I told him that I also desire more physical connection. I reiterated all the things that I was doing to try to understand our relationship and him, and to make it all better, he got mad and said, I don't think I can meet your needs until you meet mine.

Now we're at a standstill. Neither of us is getting our needs met. And he's angry, almost defiant. Where do we go from here? Okay, Jillian, I want you to know that you are not alone in this, but let's, let's start with an overriding principle, which is, sex is not a right in a marriage anymore. It's not an entitlement.

Like no one is entitled to your body, Jillian. And I think that there are still some people on this planet that think that's the case. I'll give you the most extreme example I've ever heard, which was, so one of my clients, her husband had cheated, and she said, I'm going to need access to your phone to make sure that you're not continuing to communicate with someone outside of our marriage.

And he said to her, if I don't have access to your body, you don't have access to my phone. Now, that would tell me all I need to know. But that tells you the level of mentality or entitlement of some people. And maybe your husband's not quite there, but he certainly feels entitled to having sex with his wife. And you know,

I can't say that I, all right, I'm gonna start this one over. Okay? Jillian, I'm so glad that you asked this question because I know that so many people struggle in a very similar way. Now, let's begin with the idea that, look, sex is not a given. It's not an entitlement, not anymore inside of marriage. Maybe it one point it was,

but look, no one is entitled to your body, okay? That is completely under your control, and it is your decision. And I do think that there are still some people wandering this planet that think it, that they are entitled, and it's okay to set that healthy boundary. I can tell you the most extreme example I've ever heard was from a client where her husband had cheated.

And as they were navigating their way through that betrayal, she said, I need to be able to have access to your phone so that I can know, so that we can rebuild trust, and I can know that you're not still communicating with women outside of our marriage. And he said to her, if I don't have access to your body, you can't have access to my phone.

Now, that is some manipulative shit, okay? And that would tell me all I needed to know. But it gives you the mentality of some people out there and that they do feel entitled to be able to have sex with their partner. Now, Inside of a loving marriage, sex should be a part of any healthy marriage, okay? But what I want you to know is that you are not the first,

first person to struggle with this. This, this challenge that you're facing has been around since marriage has been around of where one person needs to feel emotionally connected in order to want to be physically intimate, the other person needs to be physically intimate in order to feel emotionally connected. And neither of you is right or wrong. It's just two different avenues. And the way that we,

and two different needs, and the way that we go about trying to solve this problem is getting the other person to put our needs first. And he's doing the same thing. So you're saying, I need the emotional connection first. And he's saying, well, I need the physical connection first. And so you end up in this needs standoff with each other,

where both of you are just standing there with your arms metaphorically crossed, and no one's getting their needs met. No one's feeling emotionally connected. No one is ha is being physically intimate with each other, and we're growing further and further apart, and frankly, more resentful of one another. So I am never going to suggest that you have sex when it is a no.

But we also have to become more open and willing. I talk about this in several other podcasts, so be sure to look for that because there's many different takes on this. But essentially what I mean by willing is sometimes we have to be open to feeling different 10 minutes from now than we do at this very moment. Like if we wait until both of us are at the height of our arousal before we have sex,

we are waiting for the stars to align, right? We're waiting to win the lottery. It just doesn't happen very often. There's gonna be some times that you're gonna feel it, other times that he's gonna feel it. But those stars aren't always going to align at perfect timing. So sometimes we have to be open and willing to say, you know what?

Let me see where this takes me. I'm open to the prospect that this could feel good, that at the end of the interaction I would feel better and I would feel closer to my partner, which is ultimately what I really want. So there is an element of can we be more open-minded? Can we be more willing to explore that even if I need something to respond to?

So it might be touching, it might be some non-sexual touch. It might be I need something to respond to, and then my body might wake up a little bit, or it might not, and that's okay too. So here's the deal. When this exists, when there is deep disconnection inside of a relationship and one of you needs emotional connection to be physically intimate and the other needs physical connection,

in order to be emotionally intimate, guess who goes first? The emotional connection has to come first. I know if you are on the other side of that equation, you don't like that answer. And I don't know if it's the man or the woman because it's not always the man who needs the physical connection in order to feel closer to you. Many times it is,

but it's not always. So I'm not choosing one sex over the other here. I'm just saying that when you are deeply disconnected, you can't just solve that with sex. So we've gotta tend to the emotional connection first and then can come the physical intimacy. So that's the piece that we've gotta be able to work on. So I want you to think about what is,

let's begin with a non-sexual encounter. What would be a non-sexual encounter that would feel really good for you? Let's open ourselves up to, instead of, here's what we're not gonna do, what can we do? And then once you have an idea of what that could look like, then I want you to think about what is a sexual encounter that could feel good to you,

that could feel interesting or comfortable for you? And it may not look the way it's always looked, and it may not look the way your spouse thinks it should look. But if you don't have an idea, if you haven't even, you know, played with those thoughts at all about what could I get comfortable with? And you're just always, no,

no, no, no, then we have nowhere to go. So let's open the door and go, okay, we can't go there. But where can we go? Where's a place that we could go, right? And that can look so many different ways. Whatever would feel good to you. So don't get in. This needs stalemate where both of you are just standing there saying,

I'm not gonna meet your needs if you don't meet my needs. First of all, it's a really immature way to love. It's not even love to be honest. It's a really immature way to be in a relationship that is, I'm going to love you in order to get something from you. Yeah, that's using people. That's not, that's not love.

Okay, so here's where I wanna go. What if, since you're both at the stalemate where neither of you are going to move, neither of you are gonna budge 'cause you're not getting your needs met. What if you both flip the script at the exact same time and said, you know what, for the next two weeks, I'm gonna prioritize your needs above my needs.

And he said the exact same thing to you. We're both going to knock ourselves out meeting each other's needs. You know why? Because it feels good. And because that's what love does. And because you're my partner and I care that you feel loved, I want you to feel loved. What if we prioritized each other's needs? And it doesn't have to look the exact way that you like,

he thinks it should look or you think it should look. But what if we just went out of our way to make sure our partner felt loved? How would that shift the dynamic? It's certainly gonna do a lot more than both of you just kind of standing there with your arms crossed going, we've got nowhere to go. We'll learn something through the process of prioritizing our partner's needs even above our own,

it's worth a shot, right? All right, for our final question today, we are going to Emily. Hi there. My name is Emily and my husband and I are in the process of going through a divorce. I've moved outta the family home and we're operating well together. You know, we're still even using the language that you propose. That is,

we're still a family. And it's not unusual for me to spend time at the family home, especially when the kids are around because my 19-year-old son is home from college and he's been acting cold towards me and the rest of the family. But my soon to be ex. And I sat down and we talked to him after many moments of just one word answers and awkward silence.

He finally told us why he's upset. And he said that that he doesn't feel like we're a family anymore. 'cause I don't live in the family home. He also feels like my husband and I are not working on our relationship. I told him that we're a family regardless of whether a marriage exists or not, and that he replied, that's bullshit. He can't subscribe to a family being separate from a marriage.

He also thinks that he should know what's going on in our relationship. I explained that we don't wanna put the kids into the struggles we're having, and we don't wanna assign blame as to why the marriage isn't working. I told him we don't want him to take sides 'cause we don't, because we want to function as his parents and he gets to love us both.

And he disagrees and he thinks he's entitled to answers to his questions. My thing is, I don't wanna permanently damage my relationship with my son. Any advice? Okay, Emily, first of all, I just wanna congratulate you on handling divorce in a really mature, compassionate, kind way. I mean, you are doing work that most people aren't equipped or open-minded enough to be able to do.

So congratulations on that. I think that will serve your entire family really well. Now, Emily mentions in this call this idea of we're still a family and that's what her son is reacting to. I wanna ex explain that for a second because this is someone who's obviously worked with my tools or worked with me in the past. So she is explaining, look,

mom is still mom, dad is still dad. The nature of our relationship, mom and dad, that's what's changing. But kids, your relationship with us does not change. And just because we choose to not be in our most intimate relationship together does not mean we're not going to be in a relationship with one another. Of course we are because we have children together,

and you someday will have children. Therefore, we will have grandchildren. Like we're going to be in one another's lives forever, and we can still care about each other and choose to not be in our most intimate relationship together. We can still consider ourselves to be a family. We get to choose what family looks like, even if it looks different than it did in the past.

So that's what she's talking about. Now, Emily, here's what I would say. Please keep talking to your son. Keep talking to him. Keep getting him to open up to you. Let him share how he feels, even if it's not what you wanna hear, let him share his perspective and know that it doesn't have to match your perspective. Don't get tied to trying to change his mind or get him to see it your way.

He's gonna feel that and he's gonna resist that. Instead, just let him have his perspective, but keep him talking. He's allowed to have his opinions. It's not that this doesn't impact him at all. He can have his opinions about it. But here's the reality. He also has absolutely no possible way of understanding what it's like to create and sustain a loving,

connected, committed relationship over the course of, I don't know, 3, 4, 5, 6 decades. He has no idea how to do that. He's 19. So he has no frame of reference to know what it's like to do this, to, to have kids, and to raise a family and to grow apart, and navigate challenges and do life together besides someone that closely over the course of decades.

He has no way to understand that. And the reality is, is that people don't learn through our words anyway. He's only going to learn when he is in an intimate relationship. And he experiences challenges. So release the idea that he should understand because here's the reality, he can't, he's 19. He's never even been in really an intimate relationship. Now,

he might think he has and he might even have felt like he was in love, but that is a very different thing than doing marriage alongside someone over the course of decades. Okay? So let him have his experiences and know that how he feels today about this isn't how he's going to feel forever. Emotions change. I call, they're like water. Emotions are like water.

They come and go and they're always evolving. We we bounce between mad and sad all the time on topics that we don't like the circumstances around. That's the way of it. And so just trust that how he feels about it from his vantage point today is not necessarily how he's going to feel about it a year from now, two years from now, 10 years from now.

Okay? Now the other thing that you can explain here that will be beneficial to him in his future relationships, because in this way he is wrong. When he says he has a right to know what is happening inside your marriage, he has a right to understand the intimate details of your marriage and where it broke down and what went wrong and why it's not workable and all that kind of stuff.

He is not entitled to that. So I'm gonna explain this to you so that maybe you can explain it to him. The space that exists between two people who choose to love one another in an intimate relationship. So in every relationship there's you as an individual, there's your partner as an individual. And then there is this third entity, which is your marriage.

This my friends, is sacred space, this third space, because it doesn't exist anywhere else on the planet. And the only two people that belong in that sacred space are the two people that have chosen to show up and consistently love one another even when it gets hard. So that is a space where nobody else belongs, even when you love them madly,

right? Like you can love your kids more than life itself, but they don't belong in that sacred space between you and your partner. That's private space. You can love your sister, you can love your best friend, you can love your mother, but they don't belong inside your marriage. They don't belong in that sacred, intimate, vulnerable space that only exists between you and your partner.

So what I would tell him is be careful when you invite other people in to the dynamics of your relationship. When you start sharing details of your relationship with other people because you're bringing them into a place that they don't belong. And when you invite them in, you are essentially, when you share parts of your intimate relationship with someone else, you are essentially rolling out the red carpet for them to have an opinion about your relationship of which they have no basis of understanding.

And it will be colored by their own experiences and frankly, what would benefit them, right? He's doing that right now because we all do it. This is human nature. We can only tell other people what to do through the extent of our own experience and what would be most beneficial to us. So he wants you to stay together because he thinks it will be beneficial to him.

He won't feel this pain, he won't feel this upset if you two would just get back together so that he could feel better. But all he's learning in that is if if I can control IE, and it's a little manipulative, he's not trying to be manipulative, but it is, if I can control and manipulate other people, then I can avoid facing negative emotion.

When negative emotion is part of life, there's going to be circumstances that are going to happen in his life that he does not want and that he would not choose. How is he going to deal with that? Right? And so this is why these sorts of challenges are also opportunities for our kids to be able to learn how to navigate life's challenges. Because not everything is gonna go their way.

That is not how life is. None of us get away with that, right? And mom's not always gonna be there to, to protect you, and you're not gonna like some of the things that happen, but you get to choose how you show up to it. You get to choose how you react to it and how you respond to it. And that's what you have control over.

And so that's where you can focus. And then lastly, the last thing I would say, which I think is pretty obvious, is the more you and your soon to be ex can stay in lockstep in terms of what you're communicating and keeping those lines of communication open with your son is really, really important and will go a long way to help this look.

He may not ever agree with your choice to move out of the family home or to end the marriage. He may not ever agree with that, but we can love people who don't agree with us, can't we? You can love people who don't see eye to eye with you on every single thing, and so can he. He just needs to find his way through this.

And he will, as long as you keep those lines of communication open, I just don't want you to use this as an excuse to stop communicating. And then the we no longer communicate becomes the reason that we are not in relationship together, right? So be willing to engage with him even if it's not in alignment with how you see the situation and keep holding that boundary of you don't belong in this sacred space between your dad and I,

and I know you think you do, but here's why you don't. And then explain it to him so that he can apply it to his life and he doesn't get tripped up in that same way. All right? All right, folks. I hope that that was super helpful for you. I know that these are really common questions, so I know a lot of people are going to benefit from it.

If you have a question that you would like to ask me, I would love to answer it. So won't you please call me, leave me a voicemail. You can be anonymous if you want. Just call 7 2 7 5 3 7 0 3 5 9 and we'll feature your question on next month's call. I'll see you then. Take 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 clarity for my marriage.com to fill out an application now that's clarity for my marriage.com.

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