How do you build an indestructible relationship? It’s all about how you welcome the challenges, magnify the good times, and build a web of support. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, though – because the way to do those things wasn’t something that you were taught in school. In today’s episode, we welcome Jayson Gaddis, fellow relationship coach, founder of the Relationship School, and host of The Smart Couple podcast. Jayson shares some of his favorite relationship recipes, so that you can not only collect the right ingredients for your relationship, but also learn the unique way to cook them up into something that will serve your relationship for years to come. We also talk about Jayson’s new book, The Smart Couple Quote Book: Radically Simple Ways to Avoid Pointless Fights, Have Better Sex, and Build an Indestructible Partnership. It’s a far-ranging conversation to explore how to work smarter in support of an amazing relationship.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!

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Resources:

Check out Jayson Gaddis’s website

Read Jayson’s new book, The Smart Couple Quote Book: Radically Simple Ways to Avoid Pointless Fights, Have Better Sex, and Build an Indestructible Partnership

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide

http://www.neilsattin.com/smartcouple Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Jayson Gaddis

Amazing intro/outro music (not including the Namaste chant) graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters – Check them Out

Transcript:

Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. How do you take on your relationship in an intelligent way? How do you show up in a way that brings learning and growing to the forefront of what you do with your partner? And I guess another way of saying this is how do you avoid doing stupid shit that just perpetuates old patterns and old heartbreak and heartache, and instead show up for this dance of relationship in a way that welcomes every part of your experience, whether it’s the amazing joy that a relationship can bring, or the painful moments that relationship can bring? In the words of today’s guest, “There’s only one place to work out our relationship issues, in relationship,” and to talk about this, I have with us today a very special treat, a fellow podcast host and relationship coach, the founder of the Relationship School and the Smart Couple podcast. His name is Jayson Gaddis, and if you haven’t checked out his show already, I definitely recommend that you do.

Neil Sattin: His is a great blend of what we know about neuroscience, what we know about psychology, what we know about personal growth. In many ways, a lot like what we’re trying to do here on Relationship Alive, but as you’ll see, he has his own perspective, and that’s something that I really appreciate is being able to bring different points of view onto the show, and I’m making an assumption here because I feel like I know enough about Jayson to really appreciate the work that he’s doing in the world, and I want you to be able to hear from him as well, and maybe we’ll find out where we are aligned and where we are different in today’s episode.

Neil Sattin: Jayson’s just come out with a book called the Smart Couple Quote Book: Radically Simple Ways to Avoid Pointless Fights, Have Better Sex, and Build an Indestructible Partnership. What could be better than that? In this book, he shares quotes from his own writing as well as some of the people who have been guests on his podcast, but it’s mostly his own work, and it is the perfect kind of coffee table book or bedside book where you can pick something up, open to a random page, get an amazing piece of wisdom, and have something to reflect on or to chat about with your partner. We’ll get a chance to dive deep today with Jayson Gaddis. In the meantime, if you want to download a detailed transcript and guide for this episode, you can visit neilsattin.com/smartcouple, or you can always text the word “passion” to the number 33444 and follow the instructions, and I will send you a link to that guide and transcript.

Neil Sattin: I think that’s all the business to cover. Jayson Gaddis, thank you so much for being with us today on Relationship Alive.

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah, Neil. I’m really honored to be here, man. Thanks for having me.

Neil Sattin: I think what I’d love to start with is to get your perspective. I feel like there should be a warmup question here, but what’s calling to me right now from having read through your book, is your view of pain in relationship, and so many people, of course, come to our podcasts and our work as coaches because they’re in pain, and they feel like pain is the problem, and I’m wondering if you have a perspective on pain that helps mine it for the golden opportunity that pain often brings.

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. I love pain. I don’t like feeling it, but I love it because it’s always what ignites transformation in me, and it’s often what I see brings people to the path and to a better result in their life, so I’m a big fan of pain. I definitely don’t enjoy the crunchiness of it in an argument with my wife, and I know intellectually, and this holds me through it, that on the other side of this painful experience, we’re going to be better off, so I’m a big fan of helping people embrace pain as a doorway, as a gateway, and as a path to greater fulfillment, really.

Neil Sattin: When someone comes to you and says, “I’m in a ton of pain in my relationship,” where do you start with that person? Congratulations?

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. It’s kind of like, “Congratulations. Welcome and I’m glad for you that pain’s brought you to your knees enough that you’re willing to learn something new here, because clearly how you’re doing it is not working,” and they would probably tell me that themselves, but I might reflect something like that back if they were a little stuck in their victim seat, which we get stuck in, and I’d say, “Great. Let’s zero in on what the pain is and how is it, how did it come to be, and what are you responsible for in that? Let’s change it. Let’s do something about it.”

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and one thing that I’ve loved about your work and my experience of it is this feeling that I’ve had that you’re not afraid to tell it like it is. You don’t really pull your punches, and I’m thinking about your course, not that I’ve taken it, but I’ve actually attended a webinar of yours, that I think was meant to promote your End Your Struggle with Him course, so I’m curious, could you just offer, tell us a little bit about, what is that course all about, End Your Struggle with Him, and just my observation in listening to you from the very beginning was, “Yeah, this is a guy who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is, and to encourage you to tell it like it is for yourself, to be in your truth.”

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. Exactly. Thanks for understanding that. Yeah. End Your Struggle with Him is really part of my own journey with my wife and women in general, where it’s a course designed to help women who are struggling with emotionally unavailable men. That’s pretty common out there. It’s a pretty common complaint. A guy has shut down or he’s pulling away in some degree, and this was basically me for 10 years in all the relationships I had prior to meeting my wife, I was that guy that if you were dating me, after a couple of months, I would eventually start to close up and not reveal who I am, and little did I know at the time, but fear was really running the show for me, but I would typically blame the woman. “You’re too needy. You’re too emotional. You’re not this enough. You’re not that enough,” not necessarily outwardly, but in my mind, and then I would try to find a way to leave that relationship.

Jayson Gaddis: There’s guys like this everywhere, and to be in a relationship with a guy like this is really frustrating, so I created a course for women on how to deal with the former me, and what they can do to either change it or move on, because there’s a good man in that guy, like every man, I believe in his heart, is a good human being, but it’s covered over with a lot of defenses and hurts and injuries that have him behaving in the way he is, and I help women understand that type of man, what they can do to enroll him in a good relationship, and if he’s not willing, then how to move on.

Neil Sattin: What are some of the initial steps, not that you have to go through your entire course content here, but if that lights me up, I just heard that and I’m like, “Yeah, my dude is totally shut down. I keep asking him to show up with me or to understand me, but he’s not interested in anything. He’s not interested in therapy. He’s just happy just the way things are even though I’m miserable,” where does that person start?

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. One of the first places to start is just to assess the situation and take a giant step back, so I always encourage women to hit the pause button on their reactivity and the way they’ve been approaching it, which is typically to pursue, so a guy starts to pull away, and this is true, as you know, in any relationship dynamic. If there’s a distancer, then it awakens this pursuer part of us that feels anxious about being rejected or left, and so we pursue the person that’s going away, like, “Hey, can we talk? What’s wrong with you? Where are you going?” Which only serves to drive that person farther away, especially if we’re coming from an anxious place. It usually doesn’t work or work out well for us, so I just say step one is pause.

Jayson Gaddis: Pause on that approach. Take a giant step back, and then I might offer some journaling exercises and see how long it takes for this guy to notice that you’ve stopped your habitual pattern of pursuing him, and if he doesn’t notice and it goes days or weeks, that’s really good information. Wouldn’t you want to know that? Sometimes he notices. He’s like, “Hey, what’s wrong? Where are you? How come you’re not returning my calls?” That’s step one is just stop, take a breath, and assess.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. Maybe down the road of that journey that someone might go through, because this is a very common question that comes my way as well, which is, “I feel like I’ve done everything. I feel like I’ve tried everything. I feel like I’m taking responsibility for my stuff. I’ve figured out how I used to try to invite my partner in and I see that it wasn’t very inviting, and now I think I’m doing a better job of that, and yet I’m still bumping up against the wall all the time. How do I know when it’s time to just find someone better?” Do you have a bellwether that you offer people, because it’s a challenging choice, and obviously we choose to be with people not because they’re stubborn or shut down. There was something that drew us to that person.

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. That’s right. How do we know when it’s time to move on, is essentially the question, is that right?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. It’s an important question and I think it’s really different for everyone. We each have our own threshold, and it’s actually amazing how much some of us will tolerate in this type of relationship, in terms of not being met emotionally, for example. People will go years, decades, and my first question back to them is what are you getting out of that? Just a psychoanalysis type question of, “Well, you’re clearly getting something out of that or you would’ve left already,” and often people offer simplistic advice to these types of women, if we’re talking about the male/female dynamic here, and it can be like, “God, just move on. He’s not treating you well. Just get out of there,” and it’s a lot more complicated as you know than that. Usually we’re getting something of out it. It’s working for us in some miserable sort of way, and we’re playing something out from our childhood.

Jayson Gaddis: The women that I notice actually have success here and do end up moving on in a good way and attracting a more qualified partner down the road is they use it as an opportunity to heal something from their past, often with their father, often they grew up with an emotionally unavailable dad, a dad who was working all the time, and they had to pursue his love, and pursue connection with him to get acknowledgement, and then they play that out in their adult life and it’s really painful, so I have women examine their past, and the women that do, Neil, come out and they do some work around it, and then it’s like, “Okay. I get it. I get why I’m doing this, and there’s more choice.” With more awareness comes more choice so, “Now I have the space and breathing room to go, ‘I don’t want to play it this way anymore,'” and there’s a level of confidence that comes with having done a little bit of work there and then they’re more ready to move on, especially if their guy is not budging.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I think that’s true whether you’re a woman or a man in relationship that if you’re in that place of feeling like, “I just couldn’t leave this person,” then that indicates there’s some work to be done there, and I was even hearing in what you just described, like when you got to that point of, “Yeah, you do that work and then you’re actually in choice,” for me, I felt this huge sense of relief, like, “Oh yeah, of course, then you’re at a place where you can make the best choice for you. You’re in your discernment, not letting fear run the show.”

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. Well said.

Neil Sattin: I’m trying to figure out where I want to go right now, and you have such a vast degree of expertise in the realm of relationship that it’s hard to know, because your book covers so many different aspects and your work covers so many different aspects. For you, where is the place that joy resides, and I think a lot of people come to us in pain as we were talking about earlier, but the flip side is, do you have ways that you encourage people to magnify what’s good in their relationship and the ways that times that aren’t painful actually foster growth as well?

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. I think that’s an important question because so many of us tend to focus on what’s wrong. We grew up in families always looking for the threat, so then we play life that way, and that’s how we’re wired, we’re wired for threat, and we’re more wired for threat than we are for love, so your normal listener, if you’re always looking for that thing that you want to pick on in yourself or someone else, that’s really normal and it can be a little unattractive to be around, especially if it comes out as a complaint and you’re complaining about yourself or the other person a lot. That’s not sexy and there’s not a lot of joy in that.

Jayson Gaddis: However, if you’re on the personal growth path and you’re looking for opportunities to grow and learn more about yourself, that is sexy and there is a lot of joy in that, and that’s where I find the juice – I’m like just a hungry beast when it comes to my own issues and other people’s, and I like to really wrestle with the hard questions. For whatever reason, that’s where I find a lot of joy is in the journey and in the hero’s journey of dealing with complicated dynamics, relationally, as well as just in life, so I think everybody has their own joy spot, what brings you joy, and how can we bring more joy into this relationship, but I will say, I guess one more thing here, is that in my experience, joy is best when it’s earned, and a lot of people want … We get entitled around love and we think our partner should just … Can’t we just focus on the good stuff? Can’t we just be upbeat and positive right now? Life is so hard. I want my relationship to be joyful.

Jayson Gaddis: Great. You can have that, but you got to earn it. It’s not given to you and you need to learn how to work through the struggle so you can earn a sense of joy and fulfillment that’s really beautiful, and that’s to me, where the kind of joy I love to feel and want in my life. Whenever joy or some easeful thing is handed to me, I tend to squander it anyway, and then it goes away quick. It’s like dopamine. It’s like, “That feels good,” but then it’s gone and now we’re back to the struggle. I encourage couples to embrace the struggle because you’re going to actually get more joy that way.

Neil Sattin: That brings me back to what we were talking about in terms of telling it like it is, and there’s a graceful way to tell it like it is and be in your truth, and there are some less elegant ways, and maybe part of the learning and growth is occasionally stumbling through those less elegant ways, but I’m wondering for you, what are some ways to approach, if I’m getting in touch with my truth about something, whether it’s the amount of sex we’re having in our relationship or prioritizing our couple time versus time with the kids or what’s happening with us financially, and there’s something really stirring inside me, and maybe I even talk to friends and I’m like, “This is my truth,” and I’m just looking for the courage to bring that to my relationship. How would you work with someone in that place to help them be as generative as possible in how they bring their truth to their partner?

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. I would say bring your vulnerability first, and that would look like, “Hey, honey, I’m really scared to talk to you about this. I’ve been sitting with something for awhile now and I want to have a conversation about our finances or our sex life, and I’m really nervous, and yeah, I just wanted to say that because I don’t know how else to bring it to you, but I’m bringing it to you now,” so if we lead with vulnerability, it can be disarming, granted, that can also trigger someone into, “Uh-oh.” An, “Oh, shit,” kind of response where they’re maybe already on the defensive, but it tends to go better in my experience than if I just blast my partner with my truth like, “Hey, here it is.” And it’s like, “Whoa, where did that come from? It’s out of the blue,” and it’s a little jarring.

Jayson Gaddis: That tends to not go well. I think it goes better, but again, not the fantasy that it’s going to be easeful and perfect, but it’s better when we’re vulnerable first, and I know if you brought that to me or my wife brought that to me or a friend brought that to me, it’s like, “Thanks.” It does something to me. There’s a relaxation quality of you went first and now I get to go second and I can bring my vulnerability too.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. One thing that you mentioned in one of your passages in the Smart Couple Quote Book was the way that when you’re in a conversation with your partner, to do your best to focus on either being the one who’s doing the understanding, like really trying to get your partner, or if you really want to be understood, to rest there and try to anchor yourself in that desire for your partner to actually hear you, and that bumps up against what you were just talking about, which is even when you bring your vulnerability, that in and of itself could trigger your partner.

Neil Sattin: And I think you talk about this as well, that once one person is triggered, whether it’s something cosmic or your mirror neurons, you’re in that dance of mutual triggered-ness there, so the question that comes up for me here for you is around that dance of anchoring yourself, and then also being able to stay meta, like, “Oh, look, I’m noticing you’re getting really triggered now and I’m getting really triggered now, and I really want you to understand me before we move on to the next part of this conversation.” What’s the balance there for you in terms of just being in the trigger and staying rooted in, “I really want you to understand me here,” versus, “Time out. Here we are in our state of being triggered. Let’s do something about that.”

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. There’s, of course, lots of different ways to approach this. We can go top down or bottom up if we keep it simple here. Top down is, “Whoa, I’m being triggered. I’m aware of that. You’re triggered. Let’s take a break, honey. Let’s come back when we’re both a little more resourced.” We go self-regulate, we come back and talk about it. A bottom up approach would be I stay and I breathe and I stop talking and I slowly move towards you, and I do my best to sense and perceive the threat response as I move towards you, and I want to come in as a calming person, even if I’m a little activated, I can still move towards you in a nonthreatening way, and I can do that with a tone of voice that just says I’m right here, I care about working through this with you, and my body is sending the message that I’m safe to be around.

Jayson Gaddis: And I might even put my hand on your leg or just be in proximity, 10 feet away, not directly facing you because that’s too threatening, so I might turn my body a little bit, and I just plant myself as a gesture of kindness, and I’m speaking to the scared animal now inside of you, and letting you know that it’s okay. I don’t like what’s going on but I’m committed to staying in the room, and I want to work on this with you. Those might be two different ways to come at it, and as one of my mentors said, Bruce Tift, have you interviewed Bruce yet?

Neil Sattin: No, not yet.

Jayson Gaddis: Okay. You should interview this guy. He was awesome. Years ago, he was a professor in my grad school program and he was like, “It’s pretty simple,” which you’ve probably heard before, which is the most mature person in any given moment, or the most resourced person in any given moment needs to take the lead on the repair. If there’s been a rupture, it’s like, “We’re both triggered, but the least triggered of us needs to take the lead here,” so sometimes that can be pretty predictable who that role is in the relationship, and other times it’s dynamic and changes every fight we have, but I just thought that was a good rule of thumb.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. That feels really true to my experience too, that there are times when I’m that person and definitely times when my wife, Chloe, is the person who’s staring at me and my trigger and either finding a way to laugh or to get back to safety or whatever, whatever it is that helps initiate that process.

Jayson Gaddis: Yep.

Neil Sattin: When I was reading your book, I had this thought about how we do have this fantasy of you meet someone, you get all the hits of dopamine and endorphins and you’re in the honey moon stage, and the idea that there’s some way to perpetuate that and live in this state of bliss, and one thing that you comment on time and time again in your book is, “No, the journey here is the way that we experience conflict and welcome conflict and get to the other side of that as a growth experience,” and you just mentioned the hero’s journey and that was actually what came up for me. How boring would any of our myths be if there were no obstacle to overcome? Which isn’t about manufacturing obstacles, like let there be easefulness in your relationship, but I think if our innate human truth was just everything is going to be bliss and everyone’s going to always get along and there’s no reason to grow, then we wouldn’t have the art, the mythology, the stories, the things that actually compel us, which also seem to be wired into as well.

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. I’m with you and that’s why I encourage people not to make their past or their parents wrong, because what you went through was the initiation, if you will, into who you are, and all the scars you have, especially if you make meaning out of them, can be real assets in your life, and then you get to help other people with those challenges later on.

Neil Sattin: Is there a point where you feel like people are just dealing with an issue in the present, versus having something from the past that’s being triggered up and rippling back into something that happened in their childhood?

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. It’s pretty rare. I want to say yes, but my experience shows me it’s most often … There’s two things going on there. There’s the neuroception stuff that you understand from Porges’s work where you walk into a room and you’re just having a bad day for whatever reason, and your facial expression sends a threat signal to my body. Now I’m triggered and it has nothing to do with my past. It’s just the animal inside of me is looking for threat all the time, and it just saw a facial expression that looked threatening, so I reacted, and it may have absolutely nothing to do with my dad or my mom, so I think those are the moments certainly that it’s just like, “Oh, we’re now in something and we don’t even know what happened and it doesn’t feel tied to our past at all.” I think that’s where I would say yes to that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. That being said, most of the time, we are getting hooked into some really deep experience that was imprinted on us, perhaps even before we knew how to talk about it or knew what was happening with our parents.

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. Exactly. You may see this with your kids. I watched this with my kids, that they’re sensitive little kids, and they have a very secure attachment, and I feel like a pretty clean life in terms of big relational injuries, there’s been a few, but overall it’s pretty amazing, what we’ve been able to create, and I don’t have a fantasy that’s going to last. They’re going to get hurt naturally in life, of course, year after year, which will shape them, but it’s interesting to see in a pretty secure, really secure attached home, that their threat responses and alarm bells still go off as they should when they perceive threat, and it doesn’t have something to do with their past, like my daughter will walk into a park or a room and all of a sudden she’s hesitating, and it’s because she’s picking up on some vibe in the room that doesn’t feel good to her. I think that’s helpful for me to see because then it goes, “Right, it doesn’t always have to do with her past.”

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and you’re making me think also at this moment about Peter Levine’s work and the way that with kids, he’s working to help them develop a language of sensation in their body, with that language being tied into the more primitive parts of their brain that are fully online, versus the still-developing prefrontal cortex that really isn’t fully developed until we’re in our 20s, and so I’m just thinking about with my kids, of course they’re on the edge of being triggered all the time because the parts of their brain that would help them actually regulate and come back into balance don’t even exist, or exist really incrementally as opposed to being fully there and online, which might be why we end up hearkening back to those childhood experiences so much because we’re in that raw imprint stage around those more primitive parts of our brain.

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah, totally. I like that, and then they’re looking to you to regulate and to help them because it’s not developed yet.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. How funny is that, that so much of … I wonder if at some point our work around relationship will become moot because the co-regulation that’s so deeply healing and connecting and partnership will just be natural for people, and yet I feel like in many respects, that’s one of the biggest tasks that I have right now, is helping people see how when they show up in relationship and view that as their mission, that that’s part of what gets them past all of these places where they bump up against each others’ triggers and each others’ insecurities and fears – is having that skill of co-regulation.

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. I think that’s definitely the frontier in the future, and yeah, it would be an amazing day when we saw that was status quo or normal, but I think we’re really far from that and I think we’re still pretty stuck in the anti-codependent model, which means I need to regulate myself and I’ll deal with my triggers and you deal with yours, and that’s still the norm. I love hearing that you’re a fan of that, and I like what you said, that, “That’s my mission.” That’s inspiring to me because it says if I’m in a relationship with you, it means that you’re going to look out for me all the time around my nervous system and you’re going to do what it takes to help me calm and sooth and we’re going to be a team in that way together.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. How are you doing right now?

Jayson Gaddis: I’m good.

Neil Sattin: Just checking.

Jayson Gaddis: Thanks.

Neil Sattin: At the same time, you talk about, and I loved this in your book, your definition of intimacy as balancing closeness and separateness, and so here we are talking about the importance of co-regulating and how we show up for each other, and yet there’s this dynamic, a dialectic at work around also needing some differentiation. I love, too, how you just brought up the anti-codependent paradigm. I know you and your wife did a talk recently out in Colorado. I think I saw that in one of your emails about codependence, and this is something that we’ve talked about here on the show. I’m wondering if you can offer a little bit more insight into what you’re talking about, like bridging from anti-codependence into more of a healthy interdependence, or at least that’s what I’m guessing you’re shooting for.

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. That’s right. The codependency movement came out of the addiction model and Alcoholics Anonymous, which was great. It was like, “Let’s focus on the system and let’s focus on the person who’s in relationship with the addict, and try to help them because we’re so focused on the addict that we’ve lost this person who’s an enabler. Let’s deal with the enabler,” and that was a good move. That part of the system is absolutely part of the problem, and those people need just as much help as the addict does, so the codependent scene was awesome in that it said, “Hey, when you’re codependent this is actually not probably going to help your partner recover from an addiction,” and what it basically said was they’re depending on you to stay alive or stay sober or something, and so you’re really hooked into being that anchor for them, and it’s a one-way relationship.

Jayson Gaddis: That’s how Stan Tatkin I think would define codependency, is it’s a one-way track, and co-regulation on the other hand is about we’re mutually going to have each others’ back on regulating each other, and it’s very different than a one sided, “I’ll be there for you, but you’re not really going to return the favor.” Our talk, essentially Ellen and my talk, was essentially saying that and we were saying, back to the intimacy definition, it’s like a long-term partnership is you need both independent qualities in both of you and you need to learn healthy dependency on each other. I’m so dependent on my wife in so many ways, and likewise her with me, and that doesn’t have to be a problem or bad or labeled codependent or it’s the boogeyman and it’s going to fuck up our relationship. Dependency is necessary in a partnership over time, so we’re trying to help people embrace that through more of a co-regulation model.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. You also talk about marriage as being like a business, and you better pay attention to it like a business, and suddenly I’m just thinking about how funny it would be if you formed a business with someone and then you didn’t figure out how to depend on each other healthfully, that it’s almost required in a business. “All right, we’re going to figure out who’s responsible for what, and how we can share in responsibility, and how we show up for each other.” It’s kind of funny. That’s obvious, and then somehow you would expect your relationship to be like, “No, you do you, and I’ll do me, and we should be good that way.”

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. I know. I agree. That’s why I like to use those kind of analogies because people, it seems foreign or something in a relationship, and then you just try to meet them where they’re at with the practical examples that are going on in their life around business or finance or whatever, and it’s like, “Right, we would want to be a team here.”

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Could you talk a little bit about your curriculum? What’s the foundation that you stand on in terms of what you see as being really crucial for people to learn in order to be in relationship well?

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. There’s a few different ways I can talk about that. A lot of it is … My frame is we didn’t learn formally how to do relationships, so when we don’t, we’re just going to fall back on the patterns in our nervous system and body and communication style that we grew up with, or we have survived our life with for how many years we’ve been alive, so that’s okay and it gets us what we’re getting, but what would happen if we formally learned and we were given a curriculum that helped us walk through how to do a partnership well, a love relationship well? So that’s what the relationship school is, and it’s really two elements, Neil. It’s the intellectual understanding of how relationships work and then it’s the practice. It’s really just that.

Jayson Gaddis: The curriculum is really designed to give people the meta view of how relationships work, how to do them well, how the brain works, how the nervous system works, how to talk, how to listen, and all the skills involved in that, and then we practice because practice is really what moves the needle. I was a therapist for years and I would give people homework and they wouldn’t do it, and then they went home to their isolated lives and they didn’t know anyone that was talking in this way and being this authentic, and they would just not really progress very quickly.

Jayson Gaddis: And what I’ve found with more of a school-based learning is it attracts a more committed person that actually wants to learn and gets that in order to have a great relationship, there’s some things I need to learn and actually get in my cells over time, so that’s why it’s a nine-month curriculum is you have to practice with people in your cohort, and by the end of the training, you know how to listen to someone in the heat of the moment, and we saw that as evidenced in our last training and it was really powerful.

Neil Sattin: From that, it sounds like that question of how you maintain your presence when the shit hits the fan, that’s also something that you see as central in how we navigate the day to day of our relationships?

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. Totally. One of our live weekends out here in Boulder is called Embracing Conflict, and it’s really contrary to what so many of us know, which is to not have conflict. In fact, one of the kids in our high school class in Wisconsin that’s taking our first curriculum, 10th graders, asked the question or said … We were introducing the concept of embracing conflict and this young woman said, “I do conflict well because I don’t get into conflict, and that’s doing conflict well,” and it’s like, “No, that’s not what we’re talking about,” but that’s a statement about where people are at with conflict, which is the assumption that not doing conflict means you’re good at conflict or that that’s doing conflict well, and it’s like, “No. We actually want to enter into conflict.”

Jayson Gaddis: I grew up in a family where there was no conflict or very little conflict, and that was my badge of honor for years, and so any time a conflict came to my relationship, I’d cite my parents and be like, “Hey, they never had conflict. This must mean the relationship is doomed,” but that just kept me at a glass ceiling that I couldn’t move past because I wasn’t understanding conceptually that tension is actually necessary. It’s a necessary part of life and conflict will never go away, so what if we learned how to be the aikido move of how to work with it and that energy when it’s coming at us and we’re upset, because those people tend to be the most empowered people, relationally, that I see.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. It’s like you feel it coming, and I don’t want to call it a bring it on kind of moment, but it’s like, “All right. I’ll welcome this. How can I show up here? What do I have to learn in this moment?”

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. You got it right. Exactly. How can I show up? What can I stand to learn from this? How can I grow through this? This is hard. I also have an opportunity to lean on people and ask for help, whether it’s a therapist or a coach or a friend. What an amazing opportunity versus, “Oh, shit. It’s bad. It’s wrong. This has got to go away.”

Neil Sattin: So when, if I’m listening to us and thinking, “Well, shit. I fight with my partner all the time,” how much is too much? How do I know if conflict, if we’re not experiencing conflict the way that you and I are talking about right now?

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. I’m glad you asked that. That’s an important add-on here. I think if it’s going on and on, this is where people will burn out. One of my mentors taught me this term of boredom or burn out, is usually what happens in a relationship, of people get flat and stale or they get burned out because they don’t know how to work through their upsets effectively and it’s grating on the nervous system after many years of not being able to resolve resentments or issues, so I always say back to that person that says, “How much is too much,” is let’s ask a different question. How about, “What do I still have yet to learn? What do I still need to learn to make this process more efficient for myself?” I think that is going to get you further faster than, “How much is too much?”

Jayson Gaddis: To me, there’s always a solution inside myself. It may not be with the other person, but I can work through a conflict with myself, with or without them, so I need better tools probably. I need to learn from people who have this part of their life dialed and are good at it, and then I could maybe ask a similar question.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. That gets me really curious. Again, something that you mention several times in Smart Couple Quote Book is the possibility that when there’s something that you’re judging someone for or you’re dissatisfied with or you have an ongoing conflict with someone, that there’s an opportunity for you to resolve that within you, and I’m wondering if there’s a bit of a process there, the kinds of questions that I might ask myself that help me get at my responsibility, because that’s part of what I’m hearing in that, is, “Yeah, this is the part that I’m truly, totally responsible for,” knowing that at some point I’m going to reach the limit of my boundary, and there probably is at least one percent or two or maybe 30 that the other person’s responsible for, and that’s their deal, but I would love for you to offer some questions or insight into your process for how to mine my side of the responsibility equation.

Jayson Gaddis: Okay. Again, something I learned in gestalt therapy years ago that then was reinforced by another mentor years later was this notion of “you spot it, you got it,” so whatever I’m judging out there is something disowned that I’m judging and in resistance to inside myself, so if I’m judging someone as needy, for example, they’re needy and that’s triggering me, and you’re in a relationship with me and I’m just, “God, you’re needy and it’s turning me off, and I’m starting to pull away because you’re so needy,” I need to look at my side of that and go, “Why is the needy person, if I’m perceiving them as needy, why is that triggering me? What’s going on here? Why do I let that bother me so much?”

Jayson Gaddis: Chances are I grew up with a parent or someone in my life that might have had a lot of needs that I was expected, demanded to fulfill, and it was overwhelming for me, it was traumatic for me, it was engulfing for me, it was a number of things, and so I might start to examine my past there, and then another layer is I need to start to look at, because the story I would then tell myself is I’m not needy, but then I need to go back in my life and look at all the places and times where I was needy, and up to the present moment because I’m of the view that there’s no trait that isn’t mine that I can’t own, so I’m a liar, I’m a crook, I’m a villain, I’m an asshole, I’m a hero, I’m an amazing person, I’m a champion, I’m all of these different things.

Jayson Gaddis: I’m needy, I’m not needy, and so if I do the work to find out if that’s true, chances are I’m going to get to a place of embracing my neediness, which then lends itself to me embracing your needs and you don’t have to scream and yell anymore because I love you as you are. I love your needs. I love the way you express them, and now you don’t have to … It doesn’t have to come out sideways or come out and be so strong because you’re not trying to get me to own this part that I’ve disowned anymore, so that’s a practical example, two specific ways of how I might take more responsibility there.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. On the flip side, I can see that also being true, the flip side being that person that we were talking about, actually right off the top of someone who’s disengaged and maybe our judgment of them is that they’re abandoning or they’re checked out, again, I could see that being at least a way of really getting checked in with that part of you before you make any conclusions about whether that person is or isn’t showing up in the relationship.

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. This is where it gets really rich in terms of my growth opportunities are everywhere in an intimate partnership, and basically wherever I get triggered is probably where my work is, and there’s things to learn about myself, and so I really enjoy personally that process of learning because I do take a stand for love and to me, love embraces the dark and the light, and so it’s an opportunity to love more of myself, which then allows me to love more of my partner and my kids, so the responsibility path is really empowering.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. That seems like an important distinction when it comes to choosing your partner or trying to invite, if you’re already in relationship, invite your partner into that kind of relationship, is to be able to show up that way and to be able to encourage them to show up that way, and to notice if you’re choosing someone just because you’re really attracted to them, and you jumped into bed, and before you know it, there you are. Now it’s six months later, you’re talking about living together, but the question comes up of, “Is this person willing to step into … ” I don’t know why the ring is coming up for me, because I’m not sure I like the boxing metaphor, but are they willing to be there with you in that way, whereas how many people find themselves in relationship and then down the road, months down the road, being like, “Wait a minute. This person doesn’t really seem all that interested in me, or in what’s in my life or what’s going on with me. I guess it was fun as long as we were having sex together or going out on fun dates.”

Jayson Gaddis: Right. As long as it felt good, it was cool but now it’s not feeling good. That’s why in Stan’s book, Wired for Dating, he talks about vetting, the importance of vetting a partner, and how you should take them around to every one of your closest friends and have them meet separately without you there. I thought that was really edgy and intense, like an interview process basically to date someone, but I get what he’s saying. It’s so crucial to find that right sparring partner, if we’re going to stick with that metaphor of you’re going to get in fights. You are going to have extremely hard times. Why not do a thorough vetting process and find out if this person is going to be the kind of person, if you’re out at sea on a little raft, that’s actually going to do the work to help you get to safety and that’s going to be a team and that’s going to be an ally out there instead of a foe, where you’re going to just argue with?

Jayson Gaddis: I think it’s essential. People that don’t do that and just get married quick and, “Hey, everything is great. Honey moon. It’s awesome. Let’s have kids. Let’s join our finances. Let’s move in together,” and they make all these intense decisions, man, those people have a steep path. That’s fine. They chose that. They can deal with it, but I recommend slow it down, folks. Slow it down. As I say, probably in that book too, I think I said I don’t recommend marriage, really to anybody, unless you want to go all in on the work, and the work meaning facing yourself, growing and learning, learning how to do relationship well, learning how to listen well and all that stuff. It’s essential.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And people, you cannot know that that’s what you’re showing up for and still find your way there.

Jayson Gaddis: You can. Yeah, because life will … Back to the pain thing where we started, life will bring you some pain to get you to wake up out of a fantasy, and you can start paying attention to what needs attention, and smart people are like, “Oh my gosh. I had no idea a relationship would be tricky like this. Let’s do it. Let’s get our work gloves on and get in there and learn about ourselves.”

Neil Sattin: Yeah. What are your thoughts on ways of spicing up your relationship, so when people are in a relationship that they feel is getting a little stale, I’m guessing that one place we might go is, “What conflicts are you avoiding?” Is one obvious place, but there’s a lot of conventional wisdom that’s circulating right now that has to do with doing things to up the dopamine in your relationship, and I’m just curious to know what your take is on that, as far as a sustainable approach to keeping things fun in your relationship.

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. You probably know what I’m going to say here, but the only way I would recommend that, upping the dopamine, is to do some psychedelics together, and really go deep and have it facilitated. Get a facilitator and do some LSD together or some MDMA or some psilocybin and then see what you find out about each other. Great. It’s not all going to be dopamine, especially if you’re dealing with LSD or psilocybin. It’s going to be very confronting because you’re going to see parts of yourself you don’t want to see, but that all of a sudden isn’t boring anymore. It doesn’t need to be spiced up. It’s plenty spicy.

Jayson Gaddis: That’s obviously an immediate hit, but most people aren’t going to want to do that, so you might instead … First of all, the view here, I like what you said, it’s like we’re probably avoiding something. I probably have some patterns and defenses and density inside of me that’s pretty thick, because I don’t think people are boring at all. I think there’s always more to explore with another human being, but I would sign up for a workshop. Come out to Colorado to the Embracing Conflict week, and sign up for one of Neil’s events. Sign up for a tantra weekend. Sign up for a weekend and just throw yourselves into an experience with other like-minded, like-hearted people. Take a giant risk and I guarantee you’re going to come out of the weekend, if it’s facilitated well by someone, a different couple, and you might come out of the weekend realizing you need to leave and separate, and that might be a win for both of you.

Jayson Gaddis: These types of experiences, I think, can be like a jolt to the system in a good way, and then certainly another low-hanging fruit would be to hire a professional to get in there with you or to go to your 10 closest friends that you call close and get feedback. “Hey, we’re stuck as a couple and we’re looking for some feedback. How do you see us? What do you think our strengths and weaknesses are?” And get some really vulnerable, honest assessments, and even the thought of that, is I think, exhilarating to think, “Oh, I’m going to go be that real with people.” Yeah. Try it. Those kind of things would be what I would say, but certainly not recommending dopamine.

Neil Sattin: I love that last idea and I’m wondering if you have maybe an additional piece of wisdom or two around setting up that frame for your friends so that what they’re offering you is truly helpful?

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. Maybe setting the stage to educate your friends on where you’re at, and a lot of us hide out with your friendships, and we actually don’t talk about the struggle when we get together, socially, we might just go to dinner, party, or whatever, and we might talk about the struggle at work or struggle with finances, but we might not talk about the flatness or stuckness in our marriage and how to get out of it, so we could set it up to our friends by saying, “Look, I know we’ve been giving you the impression that we’re doing well. Well, the truth is we’re doing well on one level in that there’s no problems here, really, but that’s part of our problem. We’re a little stuck and we’re looking to spice things up a little bit, and we’d love our closest friends to gather either together over at our house or one on one and give us some really honest feedback, and no holding back, we can take care of ourselves,” and you set it up like this so that people have a little bit of the dos and don’ts.

Jayson Gaddis: But again, we want to go to friends that are actually going to be real with us and not just tell us, “No, you guys are great. I don’t know what you’re complaining about. You guys are an amazing couple.” We don’t want that kind of feedback. we want feedback that’s going to challenge us to examine ourselves more closely.

Neil Sattin: It inspires me to think about creating that kind of culture on a larger scale. That’s something that Chloe and I have definitely done with our marriage in terms of enlisting the help of friends at various points along the way, something that we’ll continue to do, and yeah, you highlight this really well in your book, that so often what you see on Facebook does not represent the reality of the lives that your friends have, so being able to show up with them and I think have it be really clear that this is about being in support of your relationship, and not the time probably for your friends to say, “We never really liked the two of you together anyway.”

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. You get to set it up with the dos and don’ts again, right?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Right. I love that. I’m curious for you if you don’t mind offering something personal, how has that shown up for you in your marriage with Ellen in terms of times that you’ve maybe been able to or had to enlist the help of others?

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. We call it friend therapy. There’s been numerous times where over the course of our relationship, we’ve had friends over or gone to a friend’s house and just wanted reflections. There was one time I’m thinking of, for whatever reason in this moment, where we on our patio, and we had another couple over, really close friends of ours, and said, “We’re stuck. We are in it. We are in some kind of dynamic and I’m pretty fused to my perspective and so is she. Can we get your guys’ … We want to talk about where we’re at and give you some context and content and then just give us what you see. Where are we stuck? Where am I stuck? Where is she stuck? Help us out here.”

Jayson Gaddis: It was like two hours later, we were unstuck. It was done, and we were totally moving forward and it was just extremely helpful, and then the other night recently, we had a couple friends come over and we did the same for them. They were extremely stuck and we listened and helped just offer a few reflections that changed it for them. Ellen and I, sure, you could say, “You’re an expert. It’s easy for you to say.” Well, sometimes if you’re just a good listener and you can reflect back what you’re seeing, “It seems like this. Do I have it right?” That alone, just to get an outsider reflecting back what they see is extremely helpful.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. That’s an interesting twist on that whole process of being seen and having someone reflect things back to you because often, they can be completely accurate in what they’re reflecting back. “This is what I’m hearing. Did I get it? Is there more?” The classic Imago script, and you hear all that, and you’re like, “Yes, that’s exactly what I said, and in hearing it reflected back to me, I realize that’s not what I mean at all, or that’s actually not me, or that’s me being in my fear.” It offers you that kind of insight even if it’s a step beyond being simply seen and understood.

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. I like that. I think what we’re saying here to the listener is it’s just an opportunity to step outside of you. It’s hard to see ourselves when we’re really in it, and just to get an outsider reflecting us back is immensely helpful.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So you can encourage your friends to listen to Relationship Alive or to the Smart Couple podcast before they show up at your house to give you their reflections. Jayson, it’s been such a treat to have you here on Relationship Alive. I definitely encourage you to check out Jayson’s show, the Smart Couple podcast, Relationship School. Is there any preferred way that you think, Jayson, for someone to find out more about you and engage with your stuff?

Jayson Gaddis: I think just the relationshipschool.net is probably the easiest way to find out more about us and check out the podcast and what we’re up to and how to get involved.

Neil Sattin: Relationship School, is that something where someone has to show up at the beginning of a semester, or is that an ongoing thing?

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah, good question. There’s really three levels. We have a membership community. We meet every other Wednesday to practice skills, relationship skills, and those are live calls that are then recorded and sent out to you, and that’s like $31 a month if you pay annually, and then there’s the high-level program that requires a nine-month commitment, and they do start, one in January, and the next one in September, so two rolling a year, and those are a much, much bigger commitment that you do need to start at a specific time with.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. That makes sense because I’m sure your material builds on itself, so important things to know so that you can … Yeah. It sounds like it’s also the community around the process is just as important as the information that you’re getting. As you said, the practice as well as the download of information. That makes sense to me.

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. We don’t need to struggle in isolation in our relationships. We can struggle together and learn together and grow together.

Neil Sattin: Well, Jayson, I look forward to staying in touch and keeping my eyes on your work. I really appreciate what you’re bringing to the world and through your show, and the Relationship School, just such important way of helping our whole culture change and transform, so thank you for being there and for being such a bright contribution to the world in that way.

Jayson Gaddis: Yeah. You got it, Neil. Thanks again for having me, and I’m psyched to reciprocate and turn the mic over to you shortly on my podcast.

Neil Sattin: All right. I’m looking forward to that.

Jayson Gaddis: Cool.

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