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    118: How To Embrace Conflict w/ CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

    Whether you’re terrified of conflict or you thrive on it, learning how to embrace conflict in the healthiest way possible is incredibly important for successful relationships. Today’s guests go so far as to say there’s a certain level of beauty that develops during conflict.CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke are here to talk about why we should all embrace the moments that bring conflict to our relationships.

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    Chronically repressing feelings of conflict and avoiding stressful situations can actually lead to bigger health problems. Once you start addressing some of the issues, you might notice positive changes to your health. Some of these feelings might even be held onto from childhood.

    When you’re in a relationship, communication styles are more often than not going to be different. But it’s important to honor and respect your partner’s communication style and learn how to have meaningful conversations, even when they have an element of conflict.

    You might also find that you have feelings of jealousy over something your partner is doing. CrisMarie and Susan explain how you can look at your emotions to determine why you’re feeling that certain way and how you can deconstruct the stories you hold. 

    CrisMarie and Susan share how you can reconnect with your partner when you’re feeling out of touch with them or like you’re constantly angry and annoyed. When you’re in a committed relationship, it’s so imperative you at least try to work things out than throw it all away. One of their favorite techniques is the 5-5-5 rule to foster intimate, constructive conversations in a structured manner, so no one feels attacked or overwhelmed.

    What is your love language? How do you feel after having an argument with your partner? Do you ever feel jealous over something your partner is doing?

     

    In This Episode:

    • Where the beauty comes from during conflict
    • What repressing and avoiding conflict can cause in your body
    • How you can honor and respect the differences in communication styles
    • How you can turn around your feelings of jealousy to figure out what you’re not fulfilling in yourself
    • How you can get back in touch with your partner when you’re feeling constant anger with them
    • What the 5-5-5 rule is and how it can help you have more intimate, constructive conversations with your partner
    • How to rebuild lost trust within your relationship

    Subscribe to Couch Talk w/ Dr. Anna Cabeca on Youtube

    Quotes:

    “The more ideas that are out there, the more possibilities that are out there, the world expands. My world gets bigger and I’m not stuck in the narrative, whether it’s in my relationship or it’s out in the world in general, that I would be stuck in if I only had my own storyline.” (8:27)

    “You’re defining yourself, meaning, I’m speaking out what I want. That doesn’t mean your partner has to change, you’re just defining yourself and doing what’s important for you and that’s a very powerful move.” (22:44)

    “The key is once you decide, ‘hey, I need to find my voice’ is to remember that you still have this part, that they’re your expectations and that person over there never knew about them. So you’ve got to give that some room to let that other person catch up.” (45:14)

     

    Links

    Buy The Beauty of Conflict

    Find CrisMarie Campbell & Susan Clark Online

    Find CrisMarie Campbell & Susan Clark onFacebook |Instagram |Twitter |LinkedIn |YouTube

     

    Transcript

    CrisMarie:
    If we're fighting about money or sex or whatever it is, a question that we often suggest you ask your spouse is why is this so important to you? Why is it so important to you that we have sex twice a week? Or why is it so important to you that we save money or whatever it is to get to the underlying issues because that's where we connect as humans and we can experience empathy, so to slow down the conversation and get to that deeper level.

    Dr. Anna:
    Welcome to Couch Talk. This is Dr. Anna, your host for Couch Talk, an intimate place for intimate conversation shamelessly and guiltlessly. One thing that really can ruin our day is conflict, right? But there is a beauty to conflict and that is something we're going to be talking about today with our guests on Couch Talk. I'm excited to really bring up this concept of the power of conflict and how we can really resolve situations that we are dealing with.

    Dr. Anna:
    I was talking with a friend just yesterday. It's the holiday season and there's a level of so much stress that comes in around the holidays and sometimes a high level of resentment and dislike for even intermittently some of our own family members, no surprise to you, no surprise to me. For this individual, she is really struggling with her marriage right now and how challenging it can be to communicate her needs, her wants, her desires, and also amongst this a feeling of complete disconnection and resentment towards her partner at this time. I get it. I have absolutely been there.

    Dr. Anna:
    One other thing she shared with me is that there's certainly a cyclical flow to the depth of the resentment and the anger and just the actual true hatred that's bubbling up. I get that. I was quick to reassure her, "Look, I've created products to help me with that. That includes Mighty Maca and my Pure Balance PPR cream. I'll help you with that, but we've got to get to the underlying issues too that are taking their time to surface right now. It means we have to honor it and understand where it's coming from, but also how to communicate what you're feeling and get to the real root of why you're feeling this way."

    Dr. Anna:
    So it was really interesting because we did a few exercises in kind of just understanding some of the root reasons for the resentment. I love the work of Gary Chapman in his book Five Love Languages. As was true for me, as is true for so many of us, we will not feel love if our love language isn't being spoken to us. Whatever it is, for me it is acts of service, absolutely acts of service. For her it's quality time, quality time. That's a challenge especially if your love language is quality time and your partner is traveling and working long hours. You're not getting that one-on-one time or you're raising a family. You're not getting that one-on-one time that you're craving and especially if that's your love language.

    Dr. Anna:
    There's other five languages. There are five love languages. If you haven't read the book, I really encourage that, but essential for all bookshelves. There are five different love languages. I remember them by my order of love language, so acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, and quality time. Those are the five love languages. Doing the quizzes online can really be helpful in figuring that out and start an area for friendly conversation. But the key thing is when we're feeling this conflict arise within us, within our marriage, within our families, within our work homes, we have to discover what the causes are.

    Dr. Anna:
    That's where the beauty lies in because you're discovering what the underlying reasons are for this conflict, for you as well as the other person. So you're discovering more about them. It doesn't matter if you've been together 30, 40, 50 years. There is discovery to be had. So with our guests today on Couch Talk, CrisMarie Campbell and Susan. Oh my goodness. What a charm to have them on this Couch Talk. They have an incredible history. CrisMarie was an Olympic rower and Boeing flight test engineer. Susan Clark is a former marriage therapist and Equus coach.

    Dr. Anna:
    They are the authors of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage and The Beauty of Conflict for Couples. This book that's just been released is The Beauty of Conflict for Couples. I'm excited to share that with you. They also have a podcast called The Beauty of Conflict for Couples, so same name, so perfect in dealing with conflict at work or at home or whatever it may be. They've come from a long line of work with customers, clients, couples, as well as Fortune 100 companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, and AT&T. So they're highly sought after and have been all over the web and were just really a delight to talk with during this episode.

    Dr. Anna:
    I know you'll enjoy it. Let's fill up your class of Mighty Maca. Get hydrated. Get settled in and let's talk about conflict. Well, hello Susan and CrisMarie. It is great to have you here on couch talk.

    Susan:
    Yes.

    CrisMarie:
    Yes. We're excited to be here.

    Dr. Anna:
    When I heard the title of your book, there standing behind you right there, The Beauty of Conflict, I was like, "Yes. Yes." I like to have an argument. But maybe that's not what your book's about, but I love to have an argument every once in a while.

    CrisMarie:
    It's too funny because most people, The Beauty of Conflict, oh my God, conflict. No.

    Susan:
    I'm probably more like you. I'm like, conflict, it's out in the open. Let's talk about it. Let's figure out what we need to do. But I do get a lot of people don't understand it.

    CrisMarie:
    I think their primal brain goes, "Conflict, bad. I've got to run or get away."

    Dr. Anna:
    Right. You guys literally call it the secret ingredient to a healthy, happy relationship, right?

    Susan:
    Yes.

    CrisMarie:
    We do.

    Dr. Anna:
    Give me the backstory on that because you got to just share your backstory with my list because you just, "We love conflict. We love to have conflict with each other. Conflict is fun."

    CrisMarie:
    Well, now, we did not call it the fun, the joy of conflict. We called it beauty because beauty has depth and richness in it. I mean I grew up very terrified of conflict because I had a dad that was abusive and angry, so I learned I'm going to repress what I feel and think and just focus on pleasing and achieving. Where I got interested and really saw the value of conflict is when I got into relationship with Susan and she really wanted to know what I was thinking and she might even be, "I want to know what you're thinking." And I'd be like, "Ah."

    CrisMarie:
    What happened is she created space for me to show up and find my voice and even in that tension. Lo and behold, we should come up with something that's not my idea or her idea, but a whole new solution or insight. Another door would open. I thought, "Wow. This is pretty cool." Because I felt like I matter and my voice matters and I have impact. So that's where the beauty comes in is coming up with different solutions and feeling like I exist and it's okay for me to speak up and have a different opinion.

    Susan:
    Probably for me, this also in many ways came from my childhood as well. I had such a narrow story narrative of what the world could offer. I often felt like I made the wrong interpretation of what everyone else in the world was seeing one thing and I was seeing something different. I remember even back then often being told, "You have an imagination. You're such an imaginative child." Often because I was saying something that nobody else wanted to talk about. So I actually started to really narrow my world.

    Susan:
    I thought most of the time I thought I was wrong or crazy or whatever. I really got, wait a minute. [inaudible 00:08:24] have a different idea, but I don't have a wrong idea and that the more ideas that are out there, the more possibilities that are out there, the world expands. My world gets bigger and I'm not stuck in the narrative, whether it's in my relationship or whether it's out in the world in general that I would be stuck in if I only had my own storyline. But if you have conflicting storylines, that is conflict. I mean that's what makes a book interesting, a movie interesting.

    CrisMarie:
    A relationship interesting.

    Susan:
    I would not want to marry myself or be involved in a team with just myself.

    Dr. Anna:
    So that difference, absolutely. I see that, the difference aspect of the beauty. But now instead of shutting down and becoming someone you're not, being able to express yourself through the conflict. I have a dear friend and he says, "If you think it, feel it, or feel it, say it, or feed the confusion." Often in relationship we're so afraid of speaking what's on our mind. Actually, in Sexual CPR, my program for sexual health, I often say, "When the upper lips aren't talking, neither are the lower lips."

    CrisMarie:
    I love that.

    Susan:
    I love that. You would know because we think it adds more live, aliveness ... In sex, if you're not saying what you want, it's a disaster.

    Dr. Anna:
    You don't get the results of the purpose of it, the pleasure and the depth and the connection and that goodness.

    CrisMarie:
    Even in the sexual charge that exists, often it's because of our differences, not the sameness. When we get same, that's when we get enmeshed and then we're more cuddly, not necessarily the spark of differences can create a lot of juice in the relationship

    Dr. Anna:
    How do you bridge that conflict? You're feeling that conflict and you have a tendency to shut down or to maybe overreact. What's the bridge to bring beauty into it?

    CrisMarie:
    Well, one of the things is to start to recognize that we are typically responding in the same way over and over again. We learned how to deal with conflict probably before we even had words, when we were a little kid in this sea of our family environment. We even had to borrow our vagus nerve from our mother or our caregiver and so we kind of imprint those reactions. We are reacting, flight, fright, or freeze, when conflict comes up quite often. What I had to do for my own process, because I was so terrified of conflict, was actually to slow down and begin to watch how I was reacting.

    CrisMarie:
    I remember one time Susan was having a disagreement. We had two couples over and she was passionately engaged in conflict with somebody. My body, I just started to react. My head went down. My heart started racing, shallow breathing. I went up to go to the bathroom and when I got there I just shook. I did something different when I came back in. I said, "I'm uncomfortable. I want you to stop because this is uncomfortable for me." So I was more vulnerable and I was watching. That started the intervention on my own behalf to have a different reaction in the midst of conflict.

    Susan:
    I mean I grew up reactive. That's how I protected myself. So to actually begin to recognize ... You have the highly sensitive person. I jokingly say, "I'm the highly reactive person," because that was how I kept myself safe. But I had to unlearn that, but the key is not to make it wrong but to get interested in it. Same thing happened to me when I had cancer. It was like I could either fight this cancer or I could get curious about the cancer. Very different. So if I can get curious about cancer, I can get curious about reactivity. I can get curious about ...

    Susan:
    It's very different when I'm looking at it from that lens. I think I have more compassion for myself, more compassion for the process. That allows me to then have choice. But you first have to be willing to own, "Oh yeah. I am reactive. Okay. That's just part of being human."

    CrisMarie:
    Reaction can look like getting upset and getting mad. It can also look at, "Okay, I'm going to shut way down and repress," which was my style. And then there's no conflict, but there's tons of conflict inside of me which leads to health issues and all sorts of other not living the life that I really want because I'm not speaking up. So there's always conflict. It's how are we getting curious about it and becoming more self-aware.

    Susan:
    I think in relationship, I can be so afraid of being abandoned or being inundated. It's like, okay, if I recognize those are the two primary things, I can now [inaudible 00:13:10]. That's not even, but that's what I'm afraid of. So that gives me an opportunity to, okay, I have a choice. I could talk about it or I can just keep in my reaction and likely create it. Same with inundation. If she starts to talk to me about something she wants, nine times out of 10 if you're in a couple, it means I'm going to have to do something different. So I can see how that can feel like my world is ... I don't want my world to change.

    Susan:
    But if I can just relax and say, "Wait a minute. I don't know the outcome yet. I just know I'm afraid of having to be different." Even saying that's much different than saying, "You can't do that," which we tend to say in our reaction.

    Dr. Anna:
    I can just totally see. I have four daughters and this whole thing, the beauty of conflict. We've got so much beauty going on, so much beauty. But you think about how each one is different and reacts. My 11-year-old took the Myers-Briggs entering middle school this year and she's a debater. I'm like, "I could have told you that. I could have told you that."

    CrisMarie:
    That's too funny.

    Dr. Anna:
    There is like, "Could you be a represser?" No. We don't get to wish those things. No, no. Thank goodness. But no, but it's so true. You see the different styles and communication patterns within family, within your work family. That's really critical to understand how do we honor and respect each other's differences so that we create a existence, a beautiful co-existence together.

    Susan:
    That it is critical. I mean it is so easy to just make someone wrong versus, no, they're just different and that's okay. Could I be curious about how this must work for them? Style, that comes through in families. It comes through in workplaces. It comes with couples.

    CrisMarie:
    So often we work with organizations and we work with couples. But some organizations can have such a you're going to kill the counter person, the person who's bringing up the other point of view. We just want to get rid of you. Often, that person has a great insight if you can slow it down. It sounds crazy at the beginning but if you can slow it down and really understand their thinking, a lot of times it has a lot of validity and actually insight that the rest of the group, the groupthink, is not picking up.

    Dr. Anna:
    I can see that. I like how you said get interested in it, get curious about it. Even in your personal experience with your cancer, you got curious about it. Now, imagine you're healed. You're completely cured. What's going on there? Everything's good?

    Susan:
    Yes. I mean that all happened in my early 20s. I think because I had not dealt with such a large portion of my own life and I just kept running by it literally and made myself ill, completely broke down and went through four different cancers. So it was a journey, but I mean there was two things that taught me. One, I unearthed all this stuff that I had not dealt with. So that created very huge conflict in the world around me, but oddly enough, as soon as I started addressing that, my health actually started to improve. But I also had to deal with these medical people who had all different points of view and they did not like ...

    Susan:
    Everyone thought they had the right solution, so I was kind of navigating through this tension of them telling, "You cannot do that. You cannot go to an alternative. You cannot go to a ..." This is a long time ago. Nothing alternative was considered okay. But the alternative people were not talking to my doctors. So it was like this needs to change. I'd jokingly say, "You're on project Susan, so you have to get along. I get to decide, not you." But I was young and I was fairly ... I believed they should listen to me. Even though I knew they were smarter, I had the willingness to say, "I'm not going to do what you're asking me to do unless you talk to this other person."

    Susan:
    So I learned a lot about conflict both from my medical experience, but also then dealing with the impact of not dealing with conflict that I'd had in my earlier life. So it was like-

    CrisMarie:
    I would say the more you talked about what you remembered and your experiences, the conflict came out of your body and got more-

    Susan:
    It almost seemed like that.

    CrisMarie:
    ... the relationships around or her family had more conflict.

    Susan:
    Yeah. Everything had more conflict. But it was out in the open then, so I always say, "Surfacing conflict saved my life." It was like, okay. I think it was it turned around my health and when it was out, I might not have felt comfortable but I at least had an avenue to begin to deal with it, and I am healthy now.

    Dr. Anna:
    You look it. You guys look it. That is awesome. I think that's really important because often the body holds emotions. The body holds emotions and part of my journey was this experience of traveling around the world on a healing journey, my own healing crisis, and learning from different healers, like a Native American healer, an Indonesian healer, a shaman, an Indian philosopher, I mean different people. But they all were saying the same thing. The breasts hold relationships. The kidneys hold fear, the pancreas, guilt, the liver, hate or anger. That just changed my perspective as a physician looking at patients.

    Dr. Anna:
    When a patient came in with pancreatitis or chronic pancreatitis I'm like, "Well, is there something that you've been holding on that you feel guilt about?" She just erupted in tears. Who knew? I mean that was fascinating to me. So it just gave me another energetic perspective. But traditional medicine has been saying this for a long time, the energy meridians and how powerful that is. One thing that I always say and you guys have a perspective on resentment. I'll say and I have learned this that resentment is lack of self-care.

    Dr. Anna:
    When it comes to relational care, what is that underpinning of resentment? When you're experiencing resentment, you're shut down towards partner or someone you're working with, your boss or employee or whatever and you're having this resentment. How do you bridge that? How do you get into that, dissect it, and defuse it, heal it?

    Susan:
    I think when you said resentment, there's something about self-care. The way we look at that is when resentment comes up, for me and the way we talk about it is it's a good sign for me to look where am I not self-defining. Where am I not boundarying? And usually-

    CrisMarie:
    And saying what I want and what I don't want.

    Susan:
    Yeah, because the first step is to recognize because when you're feeling resentment it usually feels like it's about the other person. I resent that they're not doing enough. I resent that I'm the one who always has to do everything versus just an example in our world was when CrisMarie, we work together and do a lot of things. She decided that she wanting to take up acting which was great except for when you're in a community theater project, she'd be gone for eight weeks. I'd have to-

    CrisMarie:
    I couldn't travel for our business.

    Susan:
    And not only that, but she'd fall in love with whoever her ... She was always picked to be the sexy woman in the movie. So there was all sorts of stuff for me that would come up. But one of the biggest things is I could feel myself getting resentful like, "Why do I have to cover the house and take care of the business and do stuff?" What happened, I'd have to deal with that energy because that energy was there. But the real key was to look back and recognize how am I not taking care of myself because, yes, I could make it about her. But all right, maybe I want to change the way that we don't have as many client offsites while she's in it.

    Susan:
    There were things I could do for myself that I wasn't doing. What I was really jealous of was she was having such a great time. So how was it that I wasn't doing what I loved? But that took a while to kind of work my way back. But the biggest thing was to turn it around and not make it about her, but to recognize I need to take care of myself.

    Dr. Anna:
    I agree completely. I think that is really clear and it's so easy to say, "It's because of you." I'll tell you another medical story. When I was in medical school I had a urology professor, not a good teacher but he was a great person. One thing he said to me, he said, "Anna," in class, "you are the only one who can upset yourself." I'm like, "Oh no. My boyfriend can really piss me off." He's like, "No. You choose how to react to that situation. You are completely in control of that." That was like I am the only one who can upset myself. That was something that I was glad I learned that before I went to residency.

    CrisMarie:
    It's so true.

    Dr. Anna:
    Those were some challenging people. I'm the only one who can upset myself. That kind of reminds me of this. Okay, I have to choose how I'm going to react, but then that whole concept of shoving, shoving, shoving down. I've done that in relationships and then that resentment boils up. I'm like, whoa, there's a healthier way to deal with this.

    CrisMarie:
    We talk about in the book, The Beauty of Conflict for Couples, we go through a boundarying process which is really just it's kind of self [inaudible 00:22:29] that is important and am I asking for that or creating that in my world? If not, finding ways. We go through a process where you find, hey, this is important to me. I want to save money or because security is such an important thing to me. Whatever it is, to really ... And you're defining yourself, meaning I'm speaking out what I want. That doesn't mean your partner has to change. You're just defining yourself and doing what is important for you. It's a very powerful move because I'm talking about myself and I'm identifying what matters to me.

    Susan:
    One of the biggest things with couples is slowing down the process so that you actually have a real conversation, especially when, in the acting, something she wants is so different than what it's going to look like in my world should she do that. Or I mean couples we work with, sometimes it's like somebody wants a polyamorous relationship and the other one wants monogamous. Usually at that point they think, "This cannot work." We're like, "Whoa, whoa." It may, but you have to have a much different conversation if you're going to figure that out than just try to solve it.

    CrisMarie:
    We're so rushing to the solution. "Okay, fine. You want poly, I'm out of here." Versus really, okay, what's underneath the polyamorous desire and what's underneath the monogamous desire. There can be something that actually, a missing need that's both sides that could be addressed in a different way. But you don't know until you slow down.

    Susan:
    I mean I just think of this one couple we worked with. I was so sure they were going to split up when we first starting because it ... I have to admit, sometimes I have my own opinion. I don't think this is going to work. But I have learned to let that ... What ended up getting to was the guy who wanted the polyamorous, he actually really got in touch with he has dealt with depression. This was actually something that's hugely supported him with shifting his depression. They spent, I don't know how, a lot of the time, we have a four-day program, talking about this very issue.

    Susan:
    When you finally got down to what it meant to him and she really got down to what was that for her, why she didn't want that, she realized one thing it was what he was looking for. She said, "Well, that's something very different than what I thought it was." Because of course you make up your own story about what polyamory means to someone. They just want to have sex or they just want ... But suddenly she had all sorts of empathy for something different in him. They ended up coming up with this very creative solution, have stayed together. Each redefined what it means to them and it's working.

    Dr. Anna:
    Wait. I got to hear about the solution because I'm very confused.

    Susan:
    Well, I will say because she really got it wasn't at all about having a polyamorous relationship in terms of it was the connection that got him out of his depression. She was jealous of the sexual aspect of it and that she was losing her relationship to him. When they actually experimented with it differently, she found out he was actually much more alive in their relationship. They agreed she was monogamous with him. He had his polyamory. I didn't ever question this, but I do think it's usually everyone knows each other. They chose not to do it that way. So they did take some elements of it out, but it's really worked for them.

    CrisMarie:
    Well, because he was also in bed for ... He was pretty inaccessible in his depression. That may not be everybody's choice of dealing with depression.

    Dr. Anna:
    Yeah, yeah. No. But it's interesting for me because I talk about how we self-medicate. So I'm interested in that. He was depressed. I think about, of course, our most powerful hormone, oxytocin. Oxytocin is love and connection hormone. Something I talk about through my journey and through my books and my work is that when we've had trauma, either adverse childhood experiences, post-traumatic stress, midlife when we lose these neuro-protective hormones, we lose that shield so we tend to have, especially if we've had PTSD or adverse childhood experience, we have a difficult time in this menopausal transition, andropausal transition as well.

    Dr. Anna:
    So what happens is that we also with PTSD or chronic daily stress, cortisol's low after being burnt out. Cortisol's suppressed. Oxytocin's suppressed at the same time. So you're in that depressed, the world has no color. It's very lackluster, shades of gray, so to speak, versus rainbow colors. You're in this state so you learn how to self-medicate. I think about Robin Williams. Did he self-medicate with laughter and jokes? Did he self-medicate that way but he was truly depressed? Laughter creates oxytocin, so boosts of laughter until you're not doing that any more.

    Dr. Anna:
    Sex, oxytocin. There's healthy behaviors to get that, but that oxytocin, how do we tap into that in ourselves in our daily life and with things that we love so that we keep this breadth of color and depth of experience in our life if we look at how's the physiology driving that behavior too, you know what I mean? That's interesting to me. I'm trying to dissect it too from another aspect.

    CrisMarie:
    Even with our view of depression even is actually a lot of people don't give themselves permission to express anger. They are repressing that. So learning to work with that energy which you could tell me the neurotransmitters, what happens in the hormonal view. But allowing that energy whether you're pounding on a pillow, because in our society we do not ... Anger is taboo really. So allowing that expression on a regular basis because there's a lot to be angry about in real life.

    Susan:
    The key is I mean I think what happens is some people don't think that can just be cathartic. But it's not catharsis if you actually can be witnessed and talk about what's happening. So it's the same way with the whole polyamory thing. It might be self-medicating but as soon as they could actually talk about it in the relationship and use it as a building of intimacy, it also became part of the contact and connection. The same way with anger expression-

    CrisMarie:
    We have a-

    Susan:
    If you find ways that I can enjoy seeing somebody actually be in their fullness of their rage. If I don't think it's going to become violent, if I know the choices, and then that person can feel witnessed and I could feel like I actually could be here and nothing crazy happened that used to happen or whatever. That can be healing for both people as long as there's that relational aspect.

    CrisMarie:
    We talk about a process in the book called a Vesuvius which is what Susan's talking about. Give me two minutes to vent and she's witnessing me. For me, expressing anger is hugely vulnerable because if I expressed anger at home I'd get hit. So anger was velcroed to violence. That is a very healing process to allow myself that anger and to also feel that connection. By the way, when you get angry you get all flushed, your eyes dilate. Very much like sexual arousal in a lot of ways.

    Dr. Anna:
    It's a release, right? It's certainly a release. So again, that can be healthy turn of events, expression. I like how it's Vesuvius, like Mount Vesuvius.

    CrisMarie:
    Yes.

    Dr. Anna:
    Volcanic eruption. You're putting a cap on it, two minutes, two minutes.

    Susan:
    Two minutes.

    CrisMarie:
    It's boundary too. You're not going to hurt yourself. You're not going to hurt the other ... If there's kids around you may say, "We can't say swear words." You give the kid the timer. They feel very empowered like, "Mommy, you have to stop."

    Dr. Anna:
    Oh man. I needed that last night with my 23-year-old. Needed a timer. It was a very cathartic experience at least for me, but yeah. One question I often get is when I have a client in the exam room and she said, "I don't even want to talk to my husband any more. I hate him. I'm feeling such resentment towards him." I'm working on hormones, working on physiology, working on sluff. You got to work on the communication. What's that like? How do you start when you actually can't even look at each other in the eye any more? What is the practice that could be implemented? What do you recommend in that stance?

    Susan:
    Well, I mean one thing and this comes from years of working with couples, I am less worried if someone is filled with either resentment or anger than if they're in depression and-

    CrisMarie:
    Indifference.

    Susan:
    ... indifference. First off, helping that person, right now you have a lot of energy with this person. Now, if we just think of it as energy there's a possibility to connect. Now, you've lost any goodwill so that's where you kind of have to start. Are you willing to recognize that you wouldn't have all this resentment if you didn't care, for one thing? Helping them to get to that there is something still here. Now, are you willing to take the risk of going back and figuring out, one, what attracted you to this person in the first place?

    Susan:
    Because nine times out of 10, that original romance story is where things started to go off. You had a romance and that's really [inaudible 00:31:44].

    CrisMarie:
    If you have a whole movie, we meet our person and a whole movie plays out in our head and we've cast this other person in our leading role, that other leading role. Unfortunately, they don't stick to the script and it really pisses us off.

    Susan:
    If someone can stay engaged to start to talk about what were your original romances with each other? Have that conversation, whether it was physical attraction. I always laugh because years ago when I was doing my marriage and family therapy thing, I had to interview my parents. I interviewed them separately. I asked my mom what attracted her to my dad. She goes, "You know what I loved most about him was that he saw me for my brains. He really didn't care. He wasn't interested in what I looked like, but we had such great intellectual conversations." You could see her come alive in it.

    Susan:
    So then I went and interviewed my dad. I said, "What attracted you to my mom?" He said, "She had on this blue dress. She was so sexy. She looked great." At one point I said, "I'd love to show you guys the interview," because it's sort of the classic example of what happens. But if a couple can actually listen to each other's romance, start to, as more of this is the movie this person made about me. Now, some parts probably fit but some pars don't. But as soon as that couple can start talking about that, that romantic juice starts to come back up. So then it's like, okay, so what ... There's still usually little fragments of it there.

    Susan:
    And then they could start to, okay, so what could you do now to remember that? Because you each had very different things you wanted. Because nine times out of 10 what comes up then is the differences. But that really wasn't. Like CrisMarie, she saw me deal with a bully one time in a big room of people. I was calm.

    CrisMarie:
    She was so powerful. I thought, "She's going to take care of me," because I grew up with a bully and I didn't get to take care of myself. So I thought, "She's going to protect me. It's going to be awesome." And then we go across the borderline. She's in Canada. I'm in Seattle. We're crossing the Peace Arch. She's driving the car. You have to figure out what borderline and she just turns into a neurotic mess like, "Which line should I get in? Oh no. I messed up." I'm like, "Who are you? You're not the person I thought you were. This is not okay."

    Susan:
    It's like I never said that I going to be this great-

    CrisMarie:
    She didn't sign up for the role but-

    Susan:
    But when we can get into talking about it and recognizing, "Oh okay. That's what you liked and that's what ..." Then it can be fun. That can actually start to enliven a relationship. Now, if a couple can't even start there, then it may even be just have some physical contact with each other, back to back. Listen to a piece of music you each like or choose one and just sit and listen to the music through the other person's ears to see, what do I like? Anything that can help them get back in touch with something about why they even got together.

    CrisMarie:
    And doing something where you're not if you're in a big ... A lot of times couples kind of do serial fights like they're upset about things. If you can do anything to break that cycle because our lives are so transactional, it kind of keeps like a washing machine going around. But taking a drive together or a walk or anything that gets you out of your same environment too. It just shifts the energy so you can reconnect. If it is a big issue that you're talking about, is really getting underneath this if we're fighting about money or sex or whatever it is, a question that we often suggest you ask your spouse is why is this important to you?

    CrisMarie:
    Why is it so important to you that we have sex twice a week? Or why is it so important to you that we save money? Whatever it is to get to the underlying issues because that's where we connect as humans and we can experience empathy, so to slow down the conversation and get to that deeper level can create-

    Dr. Anna:
    Well, you hit on a really big topic, fighting about money. Do couples really do that?

    CrisMarie:
    All the time. We do it.

    Susan:
    Well, the funny part is we have done a little bit of where we've been invited into financial planners' conferences to speak because they end up dealing with the conflict way more-

    CrisMarie:
    They become money therapists.

    Susan:
    It's kind of funny because they're like, "We have no qualifications for this other than we have found out that basically they're totally covering up different bank accounts, whatever else." So it is. It's one that people don't talk about but they need to. We actually talk in the book about know your hot topics, if it's money, if it's sex, if it's-

    CrisMarie:
    The kids.

    Susan:
    ... the kids, parenting. And then regularly have conversations [inaudible 00:36:32]. In a couple, you don't need ... Too often, people just get into a fight about it. It goes on and on and on. But we called it a 5/5/5. I get to talk about how I'm feeling about the money for five minutes and she's just listening, absorbing, taking it in. She gets to talk for five minutes about her position on the money. Then we dialogue-

    CrisMarie:
    For five.

    Susan:
    For five. And then you cut it off even if you haven't resolved it. It's like, "Okay."

    CrisMarie:
    You don't want a 5/5/45. You want a 5/5/5. We actually suggest you use a timer. And then either go off and do something different, switch gears. Don't continue because too often a topic comes up and one person's talking about it and the other person, "I don't want to talk about it." They're chasing each other around the house. So this actually creates a boundary time capsule. You could do this. If it's a really hot topic, you could do it once a day, once a week, on that topic. What starts to happen, this is where the beauty comes in.

    CrisMarie:
    What starts to happen is things start to percolate in each of you and you start to actually get deeper into what are the roots of this thing? What is going on? You're starting to solve or get insight into the deeper issues.

    Susan:
    Not the surface issue. I've seen couples who have money issues, big money issues. One couple totally, this guy had done all sorts of crazy things with the money. But they agreed before they thought this is it, to do these 5/5/5s on a regular basis. Eventually they came to a much deeper, richer understanding of each other and how they dealt with money and they didn't have to end the relationship because of money. But the key is not trying to solve it, really using it as an exploration because most times couples don't need to get divorced tomorrow.

    Susan:
    You could talk about this thing you think is irreconcilable over a period of time and see if something different emerges. I'm surprised how many times that's helped a couple stick in and come up with something totally different.

    Dr. Anna:
    All right. I love this conversation. I like the 5/5/5 rule. I also like the back to back and just, okay, what can we do to have physical connection, but it's very safe and it's peaceful. Let's start there. Let's start there. Hey, Susan and CrisMarie, can I jump onto your couch for a second?

    CrisMarie:
    Oh yeah. Yes.

    Dr. Anna:
    That's great. Therapists, help me out here. So conflict, back to the money conflict. For example, I have a friend who's dating someone now. Okay, this is like I'm just dating someone. Dating over 50 as a single mom for nearly a decade now. It's quite interesting. Just started. So dating this gentleman and conflict over money. There's that feeling like looking for, for me, this is great because I've been having these conversations. But feeling like, okay, I need ... Of course, he's going to pay for dinner. I'm not splitting the bill. Of course he's going to pay for dinner.

    Dr. Anna:
    Or we stop through and he's waiting for me to pick up the check for lunch. I'm like, "I guess I'll pick up the check for lunch." But then I resent that. Having that feeling because I grew up in a very Middle Eastern family, very male pays, fights for the bill. The men will fight for the bill. So I grew up with that. I've been self-sufficient and taking care of myself. I don't need someone to pay my bill or whatever. But it really is an area of conflict for me saying, "Okay, is this someone who is a provider who will take care of me?" I go down that route. I'm like, "I'm dating this man. Why am I thinking this way?" You know what I mean? And having that resentment of that male/female role and the family, now hopefully for a second marriage or meaningful relationship.

    CrisMarie:
    Have you talked to him about it at all?

    Dr. Anna:
    A little bit, yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

    Susan:
    I mean that would be more the-

    Dr. Anna:
    A place to start.

    Susan:
    The place to start. Even kind of doing even the 5/5/5 around your differences around roles, men and women's roles with money. You could just talk money. Then you could define it as I grew up thinking this.

    CrisMarie:
    When a man pays a bill it means he's going to take of care me, he loves me. I feel safe. There's probably layers that if you shared that with him he'd be like, "Wow. I just wanted to make sure you felt liberated and you could take care of ..." We don't know but there's whole different stories though that could be unearthed in that conversation.

    Susan:
    With that, I mean that's, again, this like, "My story is because I grew up where men always paid the bill so I assume when you don't, I could go down to, uh oh, he can't, doesn't have the money or it's not important." Or maybe something what fits for you. So it's sort of your story if you share it and then check it out. He could say, "No." We have a friend who takes us, that's how he ... What is that? Language of love-

    CrisMarie:
    Love language. He loves to take us out to dinner.

    Susan:
    But I don't really care whether he pays for my dinner or not-

    CrisMarie:
    I do. I want him to.

    Susan:
    I want him to actually, there's other things I'd prefer to have in a relationship. And she loves him to take him out to dinner. We've had this conversation, the three of us though. Now he never pays when it's him and I that go out. He always pays when it's the three of us though. But we had to have the conversation. One time he and I split the bill and CrisMarie didn't pay anything. So she got exactly what she wanted.

    CrisMarie:
    But to be willing to-

    Dr. Anna:
    I'm with you, CrisMarie. I'm with you. I'm like, yeah, pay. I'll take that.

    CrisMarie:
    I have always been kind of like I'm going to make my money and take care of myself. It wasn't until more recently that I had to admit, wow, I actually really want somebody to take care of me. I want to be provided for. That feels like an anti-feminist statement, but it's kind of acknowledging that something in me wants that piece.

    Susan:
    It could be an anti-feminist, except for it's me you want to do that.

    CrisMarie:
    Yeah, I know. I want this woman to take care of me.

    Susan:
    It's like I don't know where that fits into the equation. I do think it's kind of crazy.

    Dr. Anna:
    I think that's so interesting but it is like that whole concept of feminine energy. What fires me up? What stirs up my feminine energy? What puts me in this place where I can be flirty and fun? Versus if I'm going to pay the bill, man, I am the boss. I am the boss and I am in charge. I'm running the show. I don't want that in another relationship.

    CrisMarie:
    I get that.

    Susan:
    That's interesting. For me, I really find differences like that fascinating generally. I mean there are every once in a while. But it's like sometimes she'll tell me things she thinks about money and I'm like, "Wow, that is so different than my world." Because money's a big thing for her in terms of safety and security, but I had four cancers when I was 24 and no money and just was living off of nothing. So it doesn't come easy for me when she says, "You need to save." It's like, "For what? Tell me." When I start to understand more, and then she, I think, has had more appreciation for me because she understands I just have a whole different context for it.

    Susan:
    That could make the difference. But if you can't have that conversation, you can never get there.

    CrisMarie:
    And just to be curious and interested and not ashamed for what you want. Maybe he'll play along, maybe he won't. If he wants you to be more flirty and you say, "Hey, when you pay I get more flirty," I'm thinking you have a good case.

    Susan:
    There you go.

    Dr. Anna:
    Right. And then if the answer is, nope, that doesn't work for him, well, there's your answer too.

    CrisMarie:
    There you go.

    Dr. Anna:
    Speaking that early is really important. So that counts to speaking your truth and expressing yourself and not stuffing, not holding it down and getting to those underlying reasons for the feelings. That's all a part of self-discovery which is always beautiful, always beautiful.

    CrisMarie:
    Well, I think in so many I definitely was like, oh no, I've got to keep the relationship smooth, especially in the beginning. But that smoothness is at the cost of me. It's that inner conflict. Wow. Because you're pretending. There's that fraud thing. I'm an imposter. They won't love me anyway. So why not be yourself? Because if you want to relax into that, then speak up.

    Susan:
    Even if you realize because this probably happens more with women than men, I don't know. But women do make the choice to maybe, like you said, you didn't ever say what you wanted. You kind of thought the relationship should be smooth or had different expectations that never got spoken. The key is once you decide, hey, I need to find my voice, is to remember that you still have this part that they're your expectations. That person over there never knew about them. So you got to give that some room to give that person a chance to catch up. Because so many times in a couple it's like I've seen someone say, "Well, I have always done this. I have always been the one who did the dishes, who did the this." I kind of wait for them to say, "And you always did it without saying a word, right?"

    CrisMarie:
    Or you hinted and thought that that was loud enough but it wasn't.

    Susan:
    So not that you should have to keep doing it but, remember, if that's been your pattern it's going to come as a shock to the other person that it wasn't what you wanted to do, especially somebody who is good at saying what they want. [inaudible 00:46:01] or you could just go, "Well, I get this is going to be hard for you. We're going to need to make some changes because I didn't tell you, but this is actually what I wanted. So here we are." Having that compassion that that person is going to be surprised. We talk about it. CrisMarie talks about it. She was decaffeinated before.

    CrisMarie:
    I used to go around as decaf coffee and everybody liked my decaf coffee, meaning me. I didn't speak up. And then when I became fully-caffeinated, everybody was like, "Whoa. Wait. Could you go back to being decaf because you were easier to deal with then?"

    Susan:
    I'm kind of like, "Just go back to half and half and then we'll see if we could do this right."

    Dr. Anna:
    Half-caf. That's hysterical. No, but I can totally see that. I think that concept is giving yourself the freedom to do that, so encouraging each other. So when you're working with a couple or an individual in speaking their truth, creating that safety for them to do that because you have to feel safe for that.

    Susan:
    Yes. That's why one of the things about a 5/5/5, that sets a boundary and creates a container. You make a commitment. We're not going to leave each other this. We're just going to have a conversation. The more you can do that, it kind of strengthens the ability to tolerate differences and it gets easier.

    CrisMarie:
    Even tolerating your person having a reaction, that still does not mean you need to change. Can I hold? Even though she's upset over there, can I just know that I'm still safe? I don't have to fix it or change it. I'm just stating my truth and giving them time to catch up.

    Susan:
    Sometimes you can ask that question, "Right now, I'm afraid you're going to leave. Can we agree that you're not going to leave tonight?" So it might be small agreements if you have a lot of ... But that starts to build a little of that trust that usually has been broken down and lost and creates the safety.

    Dr. Anna:
    I love it. That's so meaningful. All right. Show your book there, The Beauty-

    CrisMarie:
    Right. Yes.

    Dr. Anna:
    Tell our listeners where they can get their copy, The Beauty of Conflict for Couples.

    CrisMarie:
    Yeah, and we have a business book, The Beauty of Conflict. This is our newest one, The Beauty of Conflict for Couples. You can get it on amazon.com. To learn about it, you can go to beautyofconflict.com and we have some information. We have a free snippet sneak peek for the book. So you can take a look at that and lots of information about it. We are also developing book club questions for it and those will be on our website because people said, "You have to have a book club because all these women want to read this book and talk about it." So we're getting that up.

    Susan:
    I have to tell you, even recently I was just working with a couple. Because they couldn't get on my schedule, they had been reading it to each other. That had profoundly impacted them. I thought that was such a cool thing. They said, "Well, we can't see her for a few weeks. We're not going to end this thing. We're going to at least read the book." They were working through it.

    CrisMarie:
    At the end of the chapters we have some little visuals. We have questions for them to answer with each other. So it's a great little interactive, easy-to-read book, chock full of tools.

    Dr. Anna:
    Yeah. No, that's so powerful. So beautyofconflict.com and that's also how your events are there and your weekend retreats and all that stuff is there so if people wanted to schedule with you.

    CrisMarie:
    We should probably integrate these two websites. But the other one is Thrive Inc, T-H-R-I-V-E-I-N-C dot com and that has our Relationship Mojo which is an online class for people that want to work on their relationship even when their partner doesn't, or Couples Mojo which is our in-person Equus retreat that we do here in Montana which is really fun. That's our four-day program.

    Dr. Anna:
    Awesome. Awesome. I love that. All right. Well, I want to thank you both. Thank you, Susan, thank you, CrisMarie, for being on this call with me and to sharing your wisdom. This has been a fun conversation all about conflict.

    Susan:
    Yes.

    CrisMarie:
    I know. You didn't even know.

    Dr. Anna:
    See why I love conflict. I don't know.

    CrisMarie:
    Right. Thank you. This has been great.

    Susan:
    Yes. Thank you.

    Dr. Anna:
    Thank you all so, so much. Well, for our listeners, I want to share with you this great book, The Beauty of Conflict for Couples by Susan and CrisMarie, beautyofconflict.com, and you can get a snippet of the book. Of course, you can get it on Amazon and anywhere books are sold. Fun conversation to have with us about conflict. Looking at those couple of things that we discussed in this is how important it is to express yourself, as to be yourself, as to share what's in your heart, what's on your mind. If you feel it, think it, say it. Be the confusion. We want to connect and have healthy relationships.

    Dr. Anna:
    Often, it's because we're not seeing the other person's perspective. So getting to these safe places, feeling safe to have these conversations is the next right step in so many of our lives, whether it's in our personal, most intimate, and valuable lives, me with my four daughters, conflict there, and then or in work relationship and in all relationships. I encourage you to share this Couch Talk. Let me know what you guys like. I love reading your reviews. I've gotten five-star reviews for this podcast. I love it, I love it, I love it. It really warms my heart. So I want to thank everyone out there for giving the reviews and passing on these podcasts.

    Dr. Anna:
    Let me know how much it means to you and what you're working on in your life right now. So thank you you all for being here with me today and I will see you next week on Couch Talk.

    Dr. Anna Cabeca

    Dr. Anna Cabeca

    Dr. Anna is a Triple Board Certified OB/GYN, Anti-Aging Medicine expert, and author of the best selling book, The Hormone Fix.

    Dr. Anna helps women heal the 9 most dreadful symptoms of menopause with natural, safe solutions. Follow her for content on hormonal imbalances, vaginal dryness, menopause (and more) that are medically backed, and created to empower women — not just treat them.