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Book Summary: Us Getting Past You and Me to Build a More Loving Relationship by Terrance Real

by | Jan 4, 2023

US: Getting Past You and Me to Build a More Loving Relationship by Terry Real is a book I often recommend to others.  These are my personal notes from the book.  These are not all direct quotes, but also paraphrases and added commentary from me.  A * designates a note-worthy point.  As always, reading the book for yourself is suggested.  

  • Chapter 1

Those who fight, those who distance and those who do both

Too many couples fight repetitively resolving not much of anything, or one or both backs off so you begin to live alone together. 

Verbal knives or bricking in

Do you remember in that heated moment when fear or anger courses through your veins that you love this person? 

Love is stored in the parts of your brain that you no longer have when you’re flooded. 

When you’re flooded, you have no interest in maintaining the vulnerability of intimacy. 

*  Which part of you am I talking to right now? The wise adult or the adaptive child? 

Over reacting often happens when someone is reacting to some thing that is no longer in front of them. 

You don’t remember trauma, you relive it. 

We use the coping strategies that we evolved to deal with. 

Adaptive child: black-and-white, perfectionistic, relentless, rigid, controlling, harsh, hard, certain, tight, people pleasing, superior/inferior, dominating/withdrawn, fixer… 

Wise adult: realistic, forgiving, flexible, warm, yielding, humble, relaxed. 

There is no redeeming value in harshness. Harshness does nothing that loving firmness doesn’t do better.

Your relational stance is the thing you will do over and over again when you are stressed or triggered. It’s your learned adaptation. 

Stance — stance — dance

A couples therapist has three sources of information: what the partners report about themselves and each other, how they behave in front of the counselor, and how the counselor feels witnessing their behavior. Where and when did you learn to do this? To psychologically survive?

* Adaptive then, maladaptive now.

Whoosh: the visceral reaction that comes up from the feet like a wave washing over your body, when you’re flooded or triggered.

Fixers are fueled by an anxious driven need to take anyone’s attention away from them as quickly as possible. 

A fleer flees by lying, omitting, and evading. Not just by running away.

Relational mindfulness: stopping for a brief moment and centering yourself. Choosing something different. A response rather than a reaction. Using your wise adult brain. 

* Urgency is your enemy and breath is your friend.

Ask yourself in the moment which path you’re going to take. 

* Shift from reactivity to responsibility. 

Give up your cherished concepts of the world and of yourself as an individual. This will mean giving up something.

  • Chapter 2

Who taught you how to be ___? 

Healthy guilt or remorse can be a good thing.

It takes two things to unlock and open up a neural pathway (change). 1.the implicit must be made explicit. You need to see what you don’t see. You need to be open to the feedback. 2.there must be some sort of recoil, a sense of discrepancy, an aha.

Coregulation: borrowing someone else’s brain.

A baby‘s earliest relationships determine the nature of the wiring, they literally build the brain. There are things that go back further than your memory stretches.

* Connect to your feelings and learn to name them.

Our nervous system‘s were never designed to self regulate. We all filter our sense of stability and well-being through our connection to others. 

Deprived of all social connection, we deteriorate even into madness. 

The largest energy draw in our brains is the prefrontal cortex. Our brains have to accommodate and navigate how much energy we have to spend. It  automates systems so that they are less draining.

People think that they are in their wise adults even when they’re not.

Your adaptive child brain reflects the cultural values at large like success and achievement. It has a delusion of control.

Accommodation is also a form of control, like trying not to set him off. 

Codependent behavior: when you back away from perfectly reasonable behavior, like telling the truth, for fear of your partners unreasonable response. Biosphere: the air we pollute is the air we breathe.

* The relational answer to the question who’s right and who’s wrong is who cares. The real question is how are we as a team going to approach this issue in a way that works for both of us.

* There’s no place for objective reality in personal relationships. It only leads to objectivity battles. You both have your own perspective. Both points of view have valid parts. 

In intimate relationships it’s never a matter of two people landing on the one true reality but rather of negotiating differing subjective realities.

Think relationally. 

Instrumental thinking: focusing on the task at hand and not on the subjective feelings of your partner. Looking after them but not attending to their emotional needs. 

Men use report talk and women use rapport talk.

Applying the scientific method to your relationship doesn’t work. 

*  Would you rather make the case that you’re right or would you rather make peace with your partner and help them feel better?

You and your partner are not going to see all things the same way. You can have different realities. You will.

Stop defending yourself and tend to your partners feelings so that they feel heard. 

Relationality doesn’t mean that you’re both seeing with the same eyes, thinking the same thoughts, and feeling the same emotions. 

Before you open your mouth stop and think and ask yourself, what is the thing I’m about to say going to feel like to the person I’m speaking to?  

Disconnection sickens us while reconnection restores us. 

Your relationship is your emotional biosphere: You can choose to pollute your biosphere over here with a flareup of temper but you’re breathing that pollution over there in the form of your partners withdrawal.

  • Chapter 3

When you start becoming aware of your adaptive child, your initial instinct will probably be to try to control it and to see that it is bad. But it’s not some thing that needs to be banished or destroyed. You just need to understand its origins.

Victim mentality: offending from the victim position, feeling like a victim while acting like an offender. You hurt me so I get to hurt you back twice as much. No shame. 

What kind of victim are you? Helpless, furious, tyrant? 

Unless you’re perfect, you have an adaptive child and a stance you take. 

Your dysfunctional relational stance is what your adaptive child does unconstructively in relationships— pursuing, withdrawing, pleasing, complaining, and controlling. 

Ask yourself what you are stance is and where it came from.

Who did you see do this? 

Who did it to you? 

Who did you do it to and no one stopped you? 

Trauma can be a big trauma T or a little t trauma.  Sometimes little traumas are relational traumas. Smaller but no less corrosive, where transactions can happen dozens of times in a day. These add up.

If your partner has built a wall, are you standing on the other side of it feeling alone and abandoned and overwhelmed? 

Relational trauma: trauma handed out every day of your childhood. 

Abandonment means if you leave me I’ll die. Children get abandoned. Adults don’t get abandoned, they get left or even. When you feel desperate/abandoned, you are no longer in your adult self, you are in a child ego state. 

We all want our partners to reach in and heal the young wounded parts of us with their love. And they always to some degree fail us.  

* Maturity comes when we tend to our inner children and don’t inflict them on our partners to care for. 

Four types of injury: false empowerment, disempowerment, intrusion, and abandonment. 

Good parenting consists of nurture, guidance, and limits. 

Passive trauma can be neglect. Some with this type of trauma think they had a fine childhood. 

* Relational trauma that’s repeated or ongoing may be as damaging as catastrophic trauma. 

Passive trauma can do at least as much damage as intrusive violations.

Healthy transactions leave the child feeling neither superior nor inferior to anyone else, that’s healthy self-esteem. 

Disempowering abuse leaves those who experience it in a shame based position. 

If you elevate your child into a state of superiority then you are falsely empowering them. This leads to grandiosity. 

Falsely empowering a child looks like making them the family hero, the star performer, or confiding to them about your complaints. 

When a parent elevates a child and at the same time uses them, we call that enmeshment. 

Children’s natural grandiose, selfish tendencies need to be ameliorated by an adult. 

Did you get parented well? If not, I’m really sorry. 

Intrusive and disempowering: being sworn at or beaten

intrusive and falsely empowering: incest, emotional caretaking, regulating a parent 

abandoning and disempowering: scapegoating, saying you’re not worthy 

abandoning and falsely empowering: you don’t need us, hero

Your adaptive child almost always represents a mixture of the ways you reacted to the intrusion or neglect that came your way.

A mixture of reaction and modeling combined to create your adaptive child. 

In reaction mode, our adaptive children tend to do the opposite of what we ourselves experienced. Intrusion breeds walls, abandonment breeds intrusion.

Modeling: internalizing what we see. You see yourself as you were seen, you internalize behavior as normal. 

*  We both react to and model the behaviors we see in childhood.

The adaptive child is who we refer to when we are triggered. 

* Five losing strategies our adaptive child uses: being right, controlling your partner, practicing unbridled self expression, retaliating against your partner, and withdrawing from your partner.

Grandiose traits of superiority may be an escape from feelings of inadequacy or they may simply be the legacy of false empowerment. 

False empowerment is a form of abuse. Making a child into the family hero or a light that all others depend on is a form of trauma. No one asks to be groomed for grandiosity, it happens to them through modeling or through reaction.

Children model themselves on a parent with whom they identify, the one they feel closest to. They react to the other parent in many of the same ways as does their spouse. 

Only the wise adult part of us wants to be intimate. 

* Our adaptive children choose self protection over the vulnerability of connection every single time. 

Whenever one of your inner children kick up, you should put that child on your lap, put your arms around them and listen compassionate to whatever they need to say. Then ask them to let you take the lead rather than them. 

When where and how did we all collectively turn our backs on relationality? 

  • Chapter 4

Rugged individualists versus romantic individualists

Contradictory versions of individualism

Rugged individualists believe in the code of individualism, the assertion of one’s unalienable rights. Focused on rights, fairness and freedoms.  “I have the right to…”.  They don’t like being coached or told what to do. Does not want to feel dominated or controlled.

Romantic individualists are moved not by individualism but by the unique expression of individuality, finding and manifesting one singular individual genius or ones “voice.” Being true to yourself, authenticity, right to self expression. Entitled to share.

You don’t get someone to open up by attacking them. Romantic: Angry pursuers in the form of complaints. Unbridled self expression.

These two individuals are a common pattern for many heterosexual couples, in which the man is passive aggressive while the woman is over the top explosive. 

Grandiose women are more difficult to treat than grandiose men. Grandiose women can be proficient in offending from the victim position. You hurt me so I’m going to hurt you twice as much back after all I’m  the victim. 

The stance of your parents: how was it for you growing up? What kind of child were you in the family system? Are those the same strategies you use currently in your marriage?

* Are you arguing with your partner rather than listening to them?

*  Try keeping it positive,  don’t discuss what they’ve done wrong but what right might look like.

Privileged obliviousness: it doesn’t register the existence of those who are excluded, seeing yourself as autonomous, doesn’t realize the reliance on others. Other people don’t register as individuals and don’t realize your dependence on them or how they may be oppressed. usually seen with rugged individualists. 

The response of  empathy and the response of action are too very different and distinct physiological circuits. Although romantic individualists can easily provide empathy, they don’t always provide action.

Recent generations have focused on personal growth rather than social action. And personal growth is personal growth, not relational growth. 

Both types, rugged and romantic, steer us away from collective concerns and collective action. 

You and me consciousness is rooted in competition, as if resources were limited and only the strong survive. Us consciousness embraces the whole, acknowledges our relationship. 

Your priority shifts as your consciousness shifts. 

If one partner wins while the other loses, they both lose. Because the one who loses will make the other suffer. 

* The cost of disconnection is disconnection. 

If us consciousness unifies, you and me consciousness fragments. 

* The legacy of individualism is loneliness.

  • Chapter 5

What would a great success look like?

Chronic individualism disorder 

* Have you tried everything under the sun except getting up and changing your own position? 

Linear control model: you and me consciousness. You control her or she controls you. Seeing yourself as two distinct individuals. An individualistic model that most of us live with, relationships tend to be passive, you get what you get and then you react to it.

What if I can give you a playbook of how to win each other back and resurrect your sex life? I have good news and bad news. The good as anything I can help you. The bad is what you’re doing right now isn’t working. 

A common stance is feeling that you’re stuck with an unfair deal. (victim mentality)

Use us thinking instead. 

What do we need to do as a team? 


*  Some men’s idea of foreplay is a public service announcement that he’s horny. That doesn’t work.   

Notice the difference between the two following statements: I won’t live without sex for the rest of my life. And, we both deserve a good sex life, I miss you, what do we need to do as a team to get this right?  

In the first statement,  he isn’t thinking of the two of them together, he is asserting his rights, he’s proud to stand up for himself even though he’s cutting his own throat. 

How different are the assertions “I need more sex” versus “we need a healthy sex life.”  

Do you know What the other one wants, what turns the other one on, what it would look like to warm them up.  if you want her, court her. Don’t make her the butt of all of your jokes.  When was last time you did something romantic? What do you do to warm her up? Do you kiss or touch her and tell her you desire her? How do you let her know you want to make love?

You have more emotional needs than just sex. A lot of men are a one note song. You feel insecure, you want sex. Lonely? Sex. Scared? Sex.  You don’t do the work of identifying your other feelings and needs besides sexual desire. 

Stop pressuring her through your nonverbal complaining. 

Old cliché: one partner talks to the other in order to get them into bed, and the other partner drags them into bed in order to get them to talk. Men often get their emotional needs through sex, it’s how they connect, feel desired, approved of, and loved.

What is each person‘s narrative of what sex means to each of them?

Grown mature men are sexier than seven year olds. 

What if I gave you some new moves on your end that might get you more what you want?  Be nice, stop complaining, and start being curious.  Give them what they want through change.  Give more joy, more love and act like you care.

You can influence your interaction with your partner by changing your own behavior.

  • Chapter 6

This is their reality. It may or may not jive with yours. That’s OK.

Retaliation. Payback. 

As a therapist I have three sources of information: each clients report, what happens in front of me, and how I feel sitting there. 

70/30 rule: if what is said is 70% accurate, it’s good enough for our purposes. 

I have good news and bad news, which would you like first? The good is that you can save your marriage, the bad is that what you’re doing is not working. Your stance is toxic. 

Seesaw analogy: Being on the seesaw complaining of the other person‘s behavior with no idea that your behavior has anything to do with it. 

You have to go first. You have to be willing to go first. To make a move. 

Healthy self-esteem is a stance of same as or equal.

A human being simply cannot be fundamentally superior or inferior to another. All people have equal essential value worth and dignity. 

Most of us have an exquisite sense in any setting of just where we are in the pecking order. The only problem with that judgment is that it’s 100% nonsense. 

The world of us, of interdependence, rests on a foundation of collaboration: collaboration with nature, with one another, with what passes through us. 

Individualism rests on a foundation of competition: competition with nature, and with one another. It’s a world of win and lose. 

Collaboration versus competition. 

We live in a one up /one down world of capitalist competition. 

Find your voice and change the rules. 

We all Marry our unfinished business. 

Are you keeping a parent spiritually present? Why? 

What was this child adapting to? 

We model ways of being in the world that we consciously despise.

The dysfunctional stance that we repeat endlessly in our relationships is driven by our adaptive child, which adapted to, with a mix of resistance and modeling, the treatment we received as children. Leaving the grandiose relational stance behind often means separating from the early relationship in which the stance was embedded. You can always tell if a client is enmeshed with a parent because they report that, as a child, they felt sorry for the parents. 

When you’re in a grandiose state, half the time you don’t realize it and even when you do it doesn’t feel bad. It feels good but it just may ruin your life. You have to think yourself down from Grandiosity. You have to let go of immediate gratification for the sake of a larger good. 

You cannot love from above or below. 

The emotion driving both shame and grandiosity is contempt. Either self contempt or others contempt.

Contempt is emotional violence. 

Micro aggressions: every day often unintended slights and insults people endure. 

Full respect living is a Practice. A non-violent contempt free existence. 

* Before words leave your mouth, you pause and ask yourself: does what I’m about to say fall below the level of basic respect? 

And if someone is disrespectful to you, you will not stand still and do nothing. You can’t control another person but you can decide to either speak up or leave. 

Neither dishing it out nor taking it in, you are finished with contempt and disrespect. 

* You may think someone deserves your rage but you deserve to live a rage free life. 

Let someone else confront the bad guy, not you. 

Exercise: Take a few minutes at the end of the day and jot down moments when you were one up that day or when you were one down. What was the trigger? What occurred just before you went down or up? What were the thoughts and feelings? What was your physical sensation? We carry shame and grandiosity in our bodies. Get to know those physical postures. Then intervene with yourself and come back to the middle equal same as mentality.

Healthy self-esteem: our capacity to esteem ourselves, to hold ourselves warmly and tenderly, in the face of our screwups and imperfections. You are perfectly imperfect.

*  Feeling bad about bad behavior is good for us. It keeps us accountable and connected. 

You can zero in on someone’s behavior but do not do that on their character. 

Not feeling bad about your behavior is shameless, grandiose and one up. But feeling bad about who you are as a human being moves you into the one down position. 

The feelings about your behavior should be proportionate to the severity of the behavior. 

When a client shifts from shamelessness to toxic shame, they move from one form of self preoccupation to another. 

* Shame is all about you, guilt focuses your energy on the person you hurt. 

To repair, it doesn’t help to keep the berating  yourself. You need to shift your attention to the person you hurt. It’s not about you one way or another. 

Accountability to the person you hurt sounds like I’m sorry I hurt you. What can I do to help you feel better?

We are not above but a part of our marriages, our families, our society, and our planet. 

You can’t be present to your partner unless you were in the present with them. 

Often our troubled past overtakes our present. We are no longer here and now we are there and then. 

Coming out of trauma means moving into the now, and in to connection with whatever is happening without the feeling of needing to control or shape it. 

Work with the person you’ve got instead of the one that you deserve. 

Who’s up who’s down who’s right who’s wrong. Wake up because none of that matters. 

  • Chapter 7

Use crisis as a springboard for fundamental transformation, in each of the two partners and in the marriage itself. 

Crisis brings opportunity. 

The marriage you once had is gone, the only question is can you forge a new one? 

Most inFidelities don’t end in divorce. 2/3 of marriages survive the hit. 

* Our imperfections collide in ways that disappoint, that hurt, and even betray one another.  We make mistakes. 

Harmony, disharmony and repair is the essential rhythm of all close relationships. 

Untreated, many love addicts simply move from one honeymoon phase to another, often leaving a trail of destruction behind them. 

There is an addiction to the chemicals released in new love.

Trading in reality for fantasy, gratification for intimacy is a way to get stuck in the first phase of a relationship. 

Sooner or later reality begins to intrude and harmony is replaced with disharmony. 

The disappointment of a boring mundane life. Disillusionment comes all of a sudden punching us in the gut. 

Betrayals can happen here.

Unspoken contracts work great until they don’t. 

You will be my rock becomes I don’t need a daddy. 

Your partner cannot directly heal you but they are also designed to stick the Burning Spear right into your eyeball. 

Normal marital hatred: disharmony phase 

Saying I don’t know when you were unfaithful or betrayed is utter lack of responsibility. 

It was irresponsible to betray to begin with and now you compound that with lame attempts at accountability. 

What makes someone say no, not cheat, not betray?Something overrode your no and it’s our job to figure out what that was. 

2 questions for betrayals

Does the unfaithful partner have insufficient constraints in themselves? Their selfishness trumps their relationality. Narcissism and entitlement. I deserve it, life is short. 

Or has the relationship become unsatisfying, so distant or dead that the cheater feels there isn’t enough worth protecting? It’s not that great of a marriage anyway. 

Find out which it is. The character of the cheater, the state of their union, or both. 

The love lust split: Inside the home is the “stable responsible dad.” Outside the home is the  “adventurous selfish and alive man.”

Grow up or pack up. If I can grow up, you can too.

Harmony phase: love without knowledge 

Disharmony phase: knowledge without love

* The painfully hard won gift of disHarmony is change.

making a permanent shift in the stance of your adaptive child involves memory reconsolidation: shifting the automatic expectations of your CNI (core negative image). 

Repair: knowing love,  you choose to love them anyway, despite their failings and shortfalls.

Our culture is infatuated with a harmony phase of a relationship. 

Myth— A great relationship has no real discord just like a great body has no belly fat and a great sex life is like that of a 20-year-old.

It isn’t unbroken harmony that makes for trust in relationships, whether parental or marital. Rather it’s precisely countless repetitions of surviving the mess (repair). 

* While some level of disharmony may be good for the relationship how much is too much? 

70 30 principle: 70% misalignment to 30% alignment, as long as the misalignment gets repaired.

How do we reconnect once a disruption occurs? 

Remember the good/love and feel safe. 

Find each other again.

The key lies in the felt experience of safety, it’s a boundary issue, don’t wall off and abandon me but don’t intrude and try to control me either. 

The feeling of safety in another person with whom we interact consists of two important qualities: the absence of an agenda in the absence of judgment. 

Partners in healthy relationships push each other back or pull each other in. They regulate each other’s distance. 

This is the other great gift of discord, it’s the chance to speak up and reshape elements of the relationship. 

In Mainstream individualist culture, our relationship to relationships is passive. We get what we get and then react. 

learning to live relationally and skillfully opens up the possibility that we will have a say in our relationships. 

You are more than a helpless passenger, saturated with negative expectations, driven by your adaptive child’s losing strategies. 

Even when you’re triggered, you can take a moment and access your wise adult self, then choose a response. 

* Disharmony is to your relationship as pain is to your physical body. It’s a signal that something is wrong and needs addressing. 

You and me consciousness knows just what to do in times of disharmony: Wrap yourself in self rightness, attempt to control your partner, vent every emotion and infraction, retaliate, and shut down. Or some combination of all five of those losing strategies. 

When we are triggered, injuries from the past are  activated. 

Injuries in the present evoke injuries from the past. 

* What renders a relationship bad or good is not the depths of disharmony but the presence or absence of repair. 

Self-regulation: use the crisis rather than be buried by it. Keep yourself above the flood of reactivity that threatens to sweep you away.

The skill of self-regulation emerges from successful experiences of repair. 

* It’s hard to be optimistic about repair if you’ve never experienced it.

What would it sound like if I met my partner with compassion rather than judgment or control? 

What changes would I need to make inside myself to stay grounded in my own maturity no matter how they might respond? 

* The critical first step to repair is remembering love, getting seated in a part of you that wants to repair to begin with.

  • Chapter 8

Putting all your  energy resources into work or children. Before you know it there’s little left in the relationship. 

Going from harmony to your own corners. Silent good woman meet silent strong man, neither a very capable of saying anything as simple as “hey I could use a hug.” They have it all except each other. And sometimes they’re too polite to deal with each other. Nothing you rubs, distance is normalized and nothing gets better. Smooth functioning avoidance is romantic death. Partners need to rough it up every now and then and go deeper. Bland pleasantness. Pseudo harmony driven not by romance but by denial or avoidance. 

Good couples regulate  each other, conflict erupts or distance feels oppressive and they talk things out and things get better.

Fierce intimacy is the essential capacity to confront issues and to take each other on. Realize that it’s navigating the bumps that makes for true intimacy. This is the fertile gift of this harmony.

The thrill of kind attention and contact.

Two domains to look at when encountering infidelity: the entitled character of the unfaithful one and the health of the relationship. 

Two kinds of couples: those who fight and those who distance. 

Empower each partner to speak up and surface their unvoiced needs and their anguish.

In distant couples, hand them a mallet to demolish the blandness they have constructed. 

Do you tend toward fighting or towards distance? 

* Find more constructive ways to talk to one another, less blaming and criticizing and more humble sharing of your own experience along with real curiosity about the experience of your partner. 

If you are used to big angry reactions, go small and go vulnerable, soften up and lead, not with righteousness but with your own open heart. 

If you are more avoidant, or are a pleaser, find courage. Dare to rock the boat.

Dealing with each other, taking each other on. 

Repair demands assertion, not aggression, from the unhappy partner met with care and responsiveness ,not defensiveness, in the other. 

There is a technology to repair, a bundle of skill sets that few learn about in our non-relational culture. 

Where in your life have you witnessed the skills of repair in relationships? 

Take very seriously the cultivation of relational skills in your lives. 

Repair is not a two-way street. 

When you are faced with an upset partner, this is not your turn. 

This is not a dialogue. 

You must take turns. 

* Repair goes in one direction. 

When your partner is in a state of disrepair, your only job is to help them get back into harmony with you, to deal with their upset and to support them in reconnecting. 

Put your needs aside and attend to your partners unhappiness.

It’s in your best interest to do so. 

If one of you wins and the other is left lacking , both suffer. The loser will make the winner pay.  

Most people try to repair but they’re not good at it.

* Unfortunately, we frontload our attention on what our partners are doing wrong, not on how we might be contributing. We focus on how unheard we feel, not on how we might speak more effectively. Compassion doesn’t care about his right and he’s wrong. 

2 things we get wrong:

We focus on objective reality. No one cares about your excuses or explanations. 

We focus on ourselves rather than our unhappy partner. They want to know if you care about them. Take care of the customer first.

* Repair =  skilled speaking met with a skilled response.

When you’re dissatisfied with an aspect of your relationship, it’s critical that you say something rather than sweep it aside. 

Speak in a manner that might actually get you heard though. 

An accusatory finger isn’t going to work. 

Don’t accuse them, talk about yourself.

* How you see some thing will determine how you feel about it. Emotions follow cognition. 

*  We tell ourselves a story about what just happened and our feelings most often follow the story we’ve constructed. Take responsibility for your own constructions. 

Feedback wheel: a form of speaking that has four parts. 

This is what I recollect happened.

This is what I made up about it.

This is what I felt. 

This would help me feel better.

Help your partner come through for you.

Think like a team.

Shifting from “I need more sex” to “we both deserve a healthy sex life what should we do about it?” is pivotal.

By the time we decide to speak up, so much has been festering that we speak from a place of both anger and authority. 

Learn to exercise soft power instead. 

You can be connected or you could be powerful but you cannot be both at the same time. 

Power is power over not with. 

You break the thread of mutual connection when you move into power. 

Affiliation is seen as feminine and power is seen as masculine. Cooperation is nowhere in sight. 

Women, instead of shifting from accommodation to assertion they move from the feminine side to the masculine side. They assert the I but the us is forgotten. Women were taught to exchange the selfless way for the selfish me. Women have earned the right to be as a relational as men have always been.

Soft power gives voice to the I and cherishes the we at the same time.

In your rage you lose the thread of connection.

When you need to speak up, be artful. 

Take care of your partner as best as you can by explicitly cherishing them and your relationship. 

Start off with an appreciation. Then state your intentions. And always remember love. 

You’re speaking to someone you care about in the hopes of making things better. If that is not your intention, you are probably in your adaptive child. Stop. This won’t go well until you are self regulated. 


When you share your feelings, skip over the emotion that first comes to you, your go to emotion, and lead with others. 

soften up and reach for and lead with your vulnerability. 

Change what you do on your side of the seesaw and watch what happens. 

Once you’ve given your feedback you’re finished. Let it go. Detach from the outcome.

The listener must also be centered. You too  need to remember love.

What can you give this person to help them feel better? 

Let them know they’ve been heard and  reflect back what you heard. 

Own whatever you can, with no butts excuses or reasons.

The feedback wheel is about this one incident.  Stick with the occurrence. Do not start adding in trends or character labels. Things will escalate and get worse if you do. 

Give to your partner whatever parts of the request you possibly can. 

Lead with what you’re willing to give not with what you’re not. 

Let the repair happen. 

Don’t discount your partners efforts. 

Don’t disqualify what’s being offered with response like I don’t believe you or this is too little too late. 

And if what your partner is offering you is at all reasonable, take it, as imperfect as it may be, and relent. 

Tone trumps content. Tone reveals which part of your brain you’re in. 

  • Chapter 9

The personal work of your own relational recovery is not for you alone but your children and the generations after you. Are be upward mobile psychologically. 

Experiential exercise: 

Close your eyes and invite your father/mother/whoever to come and sit in a chair so that you can talk to them. 

What are you feeling as you look at them? 

Can you picture the younger you with them? how old are you? 

What’s it like to be there? 

tell him what you need for him to know. 

all that trauma that’s lodged in your body, roll it up into a big ball and hand it back to him. 

If a client rages too quickly ask him who the angry one was in his family. 

Ask your client if they have become that person in their current family, the very person they most despised growing up. 

* What stops offensive behavior is healthy guilt.

Wake up your client. 

Our relational stances, like cheating or rage or anxious dependence is what we have learned from our past. ask yourself what you might be replaying from a childhood sense of overt or embedded entitlement.

Whose behavior might yours line up with, an angry father or an a grieved mother or an abusive still sibling no one controlled?

Keeping spiritual company with your problematic, beloved parent is perhaps you were only way of feeling close to the parent. Repetition of the parents dysfunction is a form of attachment. 

As you free yourself from this form of attachment to a parent, you must allow yourself to grieve the loss. 

Shifting away from the accustomed stance can feel like you’re betraying that parent, even abandoning them, triggering grief, and sometimes even guilt. 

The work of leaving your parental matrix and becoming your own person, is sorting through the legacy, passing on consciously, deliberately, the positive traditions that you’re proud of and laying to rest the negative traditions lodged in your body as reactivity, your adaptive child, your need for you and(vs) me consciousness. This is healthy separation/individuation.

For a child to achieve maturity, the parent child relationship must be renegotiated such that the new relationship is roomy enough to allow for the child’s increased capacities. 

Mothers hold close to your sons, but not so tightly that they cannot grow.

* When you wrap yourself up in a self protective cloak of disbelief and steadfastly remain in complaint mode then you will not see how your partner is growing and changing right before your eyes.

Allow your partner to make repairs.

We achieve maturity when we deal with our inner children, and don’t force them off onto our partners to deal with. 

When your inner child kicks up, put your arms around it, hoist them up onto your lap and listen to what they have to say, be empathic and loving, and take their sticky hands off the steering wheel. Demote them. You are now driving the bus as a mature adult. 

Love dependent: thin skinned, easily triggered and easily offended. 

Rager: boisterous, high, drama, storming off, slamming doors, shouting things, and throwing things.

Hurt people hurt people. 

Children look up to their parents and say, should I be like this one or that one?

Individualism severs connection at multiple levels, psychological, familial, and societal. 

Dominance eats love. Contempt for vulnerability erodes connection. 

Healing demands that we learn how to be intimate with one another. 

We must start listening and responding to the various different parts of ourselves. 

We need to learn not to be overtaken by our past. Or the stories in our minds. 

Our traumas can teach us or run us, depending on how we handle them. 

* In this moment, which will you choose: vulnerable closeness or protective distance? 

Your right to express yourself or your duty to find a workable solution? 

Will you choose you or us? 

Urgency is our enemy and breath is our friend. Slow down. 

Think for a moment of your partners experience, beyond right or wrong, beyond objectivity, and beyond you and your self-centered concerns.  

It may require you to step up or step down. 

Swear off unkindness and swear off disrespect. 

There is no redeeming value in harshness. 

There is nothing that harshness does that loving firmness doesn’t do better. 

* Angry complaints will most likely get you nowhere. 

Hard emotions like anger and indignation evoke anger back or withdrawal. 

Soft power is critical  in the first phase of getting what you want. 

Pitch in like a good team member. 

Reward your partners efforts. 

Stand up to contempt and put it in its place. 

Lead with appreciation. 

State your intentions. 

Use the feedback wheel. 

Give your partner an avenue of repair. 

Let go of the outcome. 

Digest each other’s imperfections and grieve the things you wanted in your relationship that your partnership will not afford. 

Embrace what you do have and allow it to be enough. 

  • Chapter 10

are you acting like a disgruntled customer?

Do you stink up your environment? Not necessarily with words, but with passive aggression, punishing people by what you don’t do and I have a little you gift? 

Many powerful people regress in their relationships.

3 Types of children: 

In your life, have you had the privilege to fail and screw up and make a fool of yourself? Did you get to be much of a kid growing up? 

Were you the good one or the hero child? Or the bad one, the scapegoat?

Lost child? The lost child is subdivided into two types, depending on how you were neglected. You could’ve been lost because you were bad and not seen as worth it or you could’ve been lost because your parents were busy with something or someone else. 

Were your emotional needs met as a child? 

Use your words and ask for what you need now. 

Don’t continue to act like that child.  

The same guy who won’t ask his wife for comfort is the one who makes her pay when she doesn’t get it. 

* You really can’t be mad at not getting what you never asked for. 

You have more emotional needs than just sex. A lot of men are a one note song. You feel insecure, you want sex. Lonely? Sex. Scared? Sex.  You don’t do the work of identifying your other feelings and needs besides sexual desire. 

Stop pressuring her through your nonverbal complaining. 

Grown mature men are usually sexier than seven year olds. 

Intimacy requires vulnerability. 

Don’t live a harsh life inside and out. 

Dissociation: a reaction to trauma, splitting. 

Once we allow ourselves the privilege of not thinking we become dangerous. 

We are sickened sometimes by what we can’t stop thinking about, but we can be even more damaged by what we refused to think about.

Holding yourself apart or aloof has consequences to others, and to you. 

Moral injury: a form of PTSD that assaults the psyche of the perpetrator. 

Sometimes we manage our guilt by dehumanizing our victims. They deserved it. 

Dismantle the super structure that holds both sexes hostage, unite. 

Otherization: the methods people employ to leach humanity from depictions of the enemy. Individualism asserts itself through disassociation. It exists through disconnection.

* The cost of disconnection is disconnection. 

* The first step in recovery is to see it. Realize your part. Confront the unconscious biases you carry. 

* Intimacy is not something you have, it’s some thing you do. You can learn to do it better. 

Generosity pays off. 

*  It is in your interest to behave skillfully, and to be a good steward of your own relational biosphere. 

  • Epilogue

Nature has neither rewards nor punishments, it has consequences. The choice is yours.

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About Kristi | View Profile

Kristi Schwegman is a psychotherapist specializing in helping couples develop healthy relationships, whether dating, engaged, or married. She also draws from her Christian-based approach to lead individuals in becoming aware of the limiting beliefs that can get them stuck.

We offer in-person and virtual services – contact us today to learn more!

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