If you’re in a relationship right now that’s challenging, hurtful, complicated or feels more like you’re surviving than thriving, then this episode is all about how to make love work.
I know that a lot of what I’ve been experiencing is making me think about how do we live our very best life, and have a relationship we love, with mutual respect, intimacy and adventure.
In short how do we make love work at any stage of our lives?
So I got really curious about us and realised if we can come through these moments when we’re in the thick of it, when we’re at our most stressed or stretched or challenged, then we can come through anything, right?
So I turned to this fantastic book Make Love Work by Nick Beets who is a clinical psychologist and a family therapist, who has specialized in relationship and sex therapy for over three decades.
It’s a self help book for people in long term relationships where Nick is really attempting to unravel some of the very complicated things that make sustaining relationships difficult.
And he suggests ways that we can work on ourselves to get the kind of love that we really want.
- The 5 Stages of a Relationship
- How to know where you’re at in these stages
- Why most of the work needs to be done by you
- The most important key to a loving relationship
- How Josh and I are using this book to have breakthroughs
Full podcast transcript
So, if you’re curious about what makes love actually work, then this is definitely going to be the episode for you.
It has been a huge learning experience for Josh and I, and I can’t wait to share this book and the five stages that you go through in a relationship and where you might actually be at right now.
Hey, it’s Natalie Sisson and you’re listening to the life pilot podcast, which is all about how to quit dreaming and start living your ideal life today.
Life pilot is a really cool tool and methodology developed by my hubby and I that helps you to take your big picture vision and figure out what you need to do to today to make that a reality.
Or if you prefer the other way and you love planning out daily things it’ll help you to get a big picture vision that will inspire you to do more purposeful and meaningful activities and work throughout the day, so that you can reach your goals and live your ideal life.
If that sounds really good to you head across to lifepilot.co
Now let’s dive into this episode shall we because I was actually really pleased to see that when I put out episode 11 which was all about how to have a state of union with your lover, well the person that you’re in a deep relationship with, that seemed to get a ton of downloads and was really popular.
Which was super cool because In the past, on my podcast, before it became Life Pilot Podcast, I didn’t really talk about relationships.
And so, it seems like it is an important thing given that most of us are in a relationship, whether it’s with our family, our friends, our loved ones, it is really important to understand, what makes a great relationship and how do we make love work.
Every single couple that I meet who seem to have a great relationship or who have been together for decades and seem to be great friends, love each other even more than ever.
I always ask like, what’s your secret? And I just love it.
I think you should always get curious about people that you admire and that you see modelling what you’d like for yourself in any area of life.
Get curious, ask some questions You know, get their story And be prepared to really actively listen and take things away.
And you probably have already noticed from episode 11 and various other things I’ve mentioned on this podcast that I have honestly found having a toddler, having a business that I run with my husband, that both of us came into completely with no experience that has been amazing, but also quite bloody stressful if I’m really honest.
And getting married and having a lifestyle property and two dogs and all these things has really actually weighed on me, in particular, much more this year than ever before.
So, just again, the factors of a toddler, you know, having a two year old, having a child in our life for the first time.
After living most of our lives pretty independently and then together has been a huge change and I know for most parents it really tackles a lot around your identity as a person as an individual and as a couple.
And this year has just been like full of challenges, and I’ve been determined to do the work, to make love work.
Well, I will just say with hand on heart here, Josh hasn’t experienced the same thing.
It’s a lot of it has just been me as I’ve gone through this identity process around what do I want to be doing?
How do I want to show up as a mum as a wife because now I’m you know married which I never saw myself doing in my entire life and yeah.
It’s just been really interesting and it has strained and stressed our marriage our relationship. And it’s also brought forth some beautiful, beautiful conversations, radical honesty and transparency, deep moments of intimacy, and this kind of deepening love and friendship.
And there have been times where I have just wanted to run, which is very much the freedom seeker in me. And, and go do my thing, which is entirely not possible. It’s just not possible.
And I feel like, I mean, of course it’s possible, but why on earth would I do it when what I can do by, remaining in the moment and really doing the work, is build this beautiful relationship, not only with Josh, but as a family with my friends and my extended family and all the other relationships.
So the reason I say that is I had a beautiful conversation with my dear friend Ruby months back where I, I… I honestly told her that I had been looking at backup options for renting a place, like I just got to this point where I couldn’t, just couldn’t see a way around what I was thinking and the, the spiralling thoughts that were happening.
And I am not one for having spiralling thoughts. I’m usually really good at being able to tap into and understand and be very self aware about what that is telling me.
And this time, nah, when you, when you have a toddler and, and two businesses and all the things, capacity, time, sleep, all those factors suddenly make your ability to make sound judgment and rational decisions just a little bit harder.
I’m being really honest and I know that those of you who are parents who are listening can relate. Uh, and by the way, big thanks to those of you who are parents who have said that you’re really enjoying this new version and format of the podcast. I appreciate it. Anywhoo. Back to what I was talking about.
So, here I was telling my dear friend Ruby that I had had these thoughts and I’d entertain them. And even just entertaining them made me feel so much better.
And she turned around and said, Oh my god, I do that every year. And she’s like without ever intending to act on it but just knowing that like I have a backup plan makes me feel more empowered, makes me want to you know, obviously stay in the game and really make the most of it.
I was like, ah, and she just in that instant humanized it for me and made it like very validating that this is a thing that many of us are going through.
You know at points in your relationship where you just sometimes you absolutely love the person other times You’re like who the heck are you and where are you coming from right now?
So being the kind of person that I am, I just got really curious about this.
I was like, why, why is this hard?
Or why is this challenging?
Or why can’t you just put the freaking dishes away?
Why can’t you just see the things that I see every single day that make our family work and run really well?And why do you forget something that I told you 20 seconds ago?
These are all some of the things that I deal with in my life, and I’m sure some of you may be laughing, listening, because you’re probably dealing with them too, right?
These are very common things when you’re in a relationship, in a long term relationship with somebody. Ah, it’s fun.
Anywho, Josh keeps reminding me, Nat, you do realize what we’ve taken on here and how our lives have changed dramatically in the last two years and what we’re coping with and that all of this is pretty natural and I was like, yeah.
And I want to know how to thrive like I want to know how to come through this period and thrive versus survive I have always wanted to live the very best life.
And so I got really curious about okay If we can come through these moments when we’re in the thick of it you know, when times are tough on so many fronts for so many people, if we can come through this when we’re at our most stressed or stretched or challenged, then we can come through anything, right?
So if that resonates with you, then I would love to recommend a book to you that got recommended to me by my coach, and it is freaking brilliant. What’s more, it’s written by a Kiwi. So it is highly practical. New Zealanders are very down to earth.
We’re very, usually very honest. And it’s just highly practical compared to some other books that I’ve read. I haven’t read a lot around relationships, by the way. But this is just an amazing book. So it’s called Make Love Work and it’s by Nick Beets, who’s a clinical psychologist and a family therapist.
And he has specialized in relationship and sex therapy for over three decades. He’s been with the same partner since he was 17, Verity. She is also a psychologist. They have two children. who have taught them a ton about love and priorities. So between them, they’ve got like 60 years of expertise in this area.
And also Nick provides training and supervision in relationship therapy and developmental models in particular.
And so this book, which just came out in May of 2023, so it’s super, super new, is essentially, I would say, it’s a self help book for people in long term relationships.
And in it, Nick is really attempting to unravel some of the very complicated things that make sustaining relationships difficult.
He suggests ways that we can work on ourselves to get the kind of love that we really want. What I love about it is. It’s designed to be easy to use.
There are lots of exercises, and every chapter ends with a really heartwarming story I’ve found of a couple that illustrates its main points, as well as like a summary.
And the stories just kind of make you sit back and go, man, we’ve got it good, or Wow, look at what they managed.
I’m talking about these are relationships where people have been for 25, 30 years together and just not communicating or tearing themselves apart or going through all this sort of emotional stuff and they managed to make it work like they make their love work and they come out the other side.
Because they’ve gone to therapy with Nick and they’re like, Oh my gosh, like I never knew that that’s the way you wanted to be spoken to. I didn’t realize this was an insecurity you had or I didn’t realize that I was doing this or you were doing that.
So it’s actually really, really beautiful to read those stories because it, again, it humanizes things.
Uh, so yeah, without further ado, what I wanted to talk about, there are many, many great things in this book, and Josh and I have been reading it each night on Kindle.
To be fair, I’ve been reading it and Josh and I have been talking through it. So he’s been listening, then we stop and we have a discussion and we actually do the exercises together.
And it’s been a really beautiful process to go through. And, every single time we read this book and then talk about it, it’s like our relationship just goes stronger because the fact that you are actually talking about you two and where you’re at with each other and recognizing your patterns and your behaviors and things you do and your insecurities and all this stuff, as you go through it together, it’s just opened up.
Heaps of things for us, which is really cool. And I noticed the days when we’re not reading the book or at least I did because we’ve pretty much through it, but I’d, I’d noticed when we hadn’t read it, I was like, I miss reading the book with you because it, it creates all these beautiful communications and openness and intimacy.
What I wanted to focus on in this episode today, and I will totally share the link to the book and to my other episode that I was talking about, the state of the union, because that is a powerful tool to use as well. I’ll share it at lifepilot. co forward slash 18 because this is episode 18 people. That’s one eight, by the way.
And you can find all my podcasts so far, all 18 at lifepilot. co forward slash podcast anytime. So just do a search.
You’ll see, we cover a lot of areas in this podcast because life pilot, our tool and methodology is around the six most important areas of your life. So if you’re interested in wellness, if you’re interested in wealth, if you’re interested in work and impact and personal growth and lifestyle and relationships, how could we forget that?
Then that’s what this podcast is all about. How to basically have the best life you possibly can.
So. As I said, what I wanted to focus on is Nick actually talks you through these five stages of relationships and it wasn’t until I was working with my coach around this that she said I’m gonna send you this thing around differentiation and also stages and developments in your relationship, because I think it’ll really resonate with you.
I was like, okay great, because she talked to me before about the I and the we and that when you get into a relationship there’s this pull and push between interdependence and Independence and that you know when you’re single and you’re living your life.
You’re very independent when you get into a relationship. It’s this interdependence that actually it’s a beautiful thing and can also be quite a challenge, and you need to come in and out of that.
So you need to have the I and the we, and you need to have all the things in between. And I just hadn’t even really considered that.
And I think, yeah, let me just talk you through the stages because it all makes sense.
The first stage is symbiosis, and this is uniting individual I’s into the harmonious we.
Picture this, it’s the beginning of a relationship. It’s that romance stage, that honeymoon stage. And basically you’re in a dance together as two distinct individuals and you come together to have this unique we, and it’s very enchanting and you know, you’re blurring the line as you revel in the joy of giving and receiving love.
It’s a time when your sense of self temporarily merges with your partners, and you create, you create this incredible bond, right? But, it’s also a stage that just won’t last, it’s grounded in sort of fantasy, and inevitably it wanes.
However, it offers you an opportunity for growth, because the deep connection that you form during symbiosis actually serves as this beautiful wellspring of trust and nurturing to draw upon as your relationship evolves.
So that is stage one, symbiosis, or just let’s call it the honeymoon phase.
Stage two is differentiation. This is about embracing differences.
And this is about managing dissonance with grace. And I would say that Josh and I have probably been in the stage, uh, for a fair while. We’re not in the stage anymore.
I thought we might be, but no. So this is where, as an individual, your identity starts to reassert itself. And As a result, there’s going to be some disparities between you and your partner.
So dominant aspects of your personalities come back that maybe weren’t as obvious in the honeymoon phase, right? And that can lead to moments of disillusionment and disappointment, let’s be honest.
Like suddenly you uncover something about your partner that you didn’t know was there before and you’re like, Oh, I don’t know if I love this about. This person, um, and, and same goes for you, right?
You’ll start reasserting a bit more of your dominant self and they’ll be like, ah, I really don’t like the way you’re doing that or the way you show up at these things.
And so the challenge lies in how do you navigate these differences? through constructive conflict resolution and negotiation.
This has been probably one of the biggest things because when you see something in your partner that you just don’t love It’s very easy to just point it out, right?
Even if you’re the loveliest person in the world like it when you do this Which if you’ve ever had that feedback to yourself from someone that you care about you get defensive, right?
Like you’re like, huh, how rude or I can’t believe they’re being so hurtful or maybe they’ve got a point.
But I can’t believe they brought it up. Aren’t they just supposed to love me no matter what and accept me as I am.
So the point here is that you get to talk about the differences and acknowledge them and appreciate them in essentially really great conversations where you are actively listening to each other, not judging, not jumping in, et cetera.
You are actively listening and then you get your turn to share back. And he talks a lot about exercises and ways to do this in the book.
I wasn’t so worried about that. ’cause I think Josh and I. Always had that ability to communicate really well, although there was a great lesson that I learned in a recent podcast that Communication is key, but it’s not actually the real key to relationships.
It is around actively listening to be honest and reserving judgment and and listening as neutrally as you can, because let’s be really honest when, I’ll just give an example here.
Sometimes when Josh goes to say something, I already know, by the tone of his voice or the way in which he’s saying it, what he’s trying to get at.
Let’s be fair, it’s probably more me. Like, I’ll be able to say something and he already, I can tell by his face and his expressions, that he knows probably what I’m about to say. Whether it’s through shame, because shame came up a lot in this book.
Like a lot of our insecurities, which we show up to in a relationship come from shame and often shame from childhood trauma that really we need to work through because so much of this stuff is passed on to us by our loving parents who did the best that they could and now we’ve essentially taken it on as our identities and it comes up again and again when it comes to intimacy, right?
So we have to solve our trauma. We have to work through our childhood issues because they will show up in relationships and be potentially really detrimental to what we can actually have as a deep loving relationship.
So that was one thing that was really interesting,but it’s, coming back to communication, as I said, I can just tell when Josh and I are going into what I guess are repeated patterns of how we talk to each other, make requests, make invites, ask each other to change.
Versus when we’re in a “hey, I would really like to talk about this thing with you I would like you to really hear me out and then I’m happy to hear you out. I think this will be a great thing to discuss because clearly we’re coming up against it right now”.
That was really interesting to read through in the book, some of the tools and the ways to approach that.
But essentially, active listening is probably more important in a relationship than communication. And doing that with love and respect for the person that you are listening to, and also receiving that back.
It just opens up everything so much more when you can be vulnerable with each other So that was phase two is differentiation.
Stage 3 Rediscovering yourself that’s balancing the I and the We
I feel this is actually where Josh and I are right now. I would say so the biggest thing is that when you’re in stage two and you’re realizing you have all these differences, a lot of the time in a relationship, both partners, or at least one, tries to drag you back into that symbiosis, back into that honeymoon phase, going, well, we were fine before, so let’s just like not rock the boat.
Let’s not be too different. Let’s go back to how we were.
But the problem is it doesn’t work because that’s not who you really are. During that stage, you were merging and blending because it was all so new and exciting. And then you go into a differentiation stage and actually appreciate who you are as people.
And this is actually the stage where most people will split up because they decide we’re too different.
I can’t handle it. I’m not prepared to put in the work. Like this isn’t who I thought I fell in love with or thought I was in a partnership with.
But if you can come through that and appreciate the differences, actually embrace the difference and accept it and make love work, negotiate how you’re going to evolve around that, then you get to come into the third phase, which as I said, is all about balancing that I and we.
Redeveloping a symbiotic state together where you re establish yourself with your individual identities and self esteem regardless of your relationship status.
And this is pivotal because it goes from we back to I, and this is also a point where it feels like sometimes love and care have waned and that you’ve got even more differences between you, but actually is a time for you to offer an opportunity to define and sustain your new identities or the identities of who you want to be.
This enriches the relationship and lays this beautiful new foundation for reconnection and you do this by establishing things that you love again that you might have been putting off In the harmonious honeymoon stage or when you were figuring out your differences.
This is about, you know, if you’ve always loved kiteboarding, maybe you pick up kiteboarding again because as a person, it brings out the best in you. You love it. It fills you with passion. You’re energized.
You come home in a great mood. So your partner gets the best of you. Maybe that you pick up painting again.
It may be that you start a team sport. It could be that you start going to conferences or events or retreats, having some time out for you.
When you think about it, the more experiences that you have individually, that light your soul up, that make you happy, that get you into the groove, make you feel confident, excited, like, you know, you’re doing something purposeful.
You go out and you do those experiences, you do those activities, you make that happen, you create the work, whatever it is, and you bring that back to the relationship.
You’re already operating as your best self. You’ve filled your cup and so now you get to come home and fill the cup of your loved one, your partner versus when all you’re doing is just talking about your differences and what you get frustrated about each other.
So for example, I am picking up the sport of pickleball because I happen to love and I really enjoy table tennis and I haven’t ever played badminton.
It’s a combination of the three of them, but it is way less time to play it way less hard on your body. Super social, super fun. You can smack the shit out of the ball because it’s a plastic ball with a paddle. And it doesn’t really go that far. It’s super agile, really quick, fun. And as I said, very social.
And I can pop along to that on a Thursday morning and play for an hour and a half and come away and just feel really great. Like, I miss team sports. I miss the camaraderie of playing with other people and socializing, of being fit that way and getting my cup filled.
And I’m also going to be playing tennis this weekend. I am going to be signing up to go to a few events, retreats, and conferences again.
Josh has been away. On a six day event in Melbourne, he’s going to another one down south. And so we’re just, literally feels like we’re starting over, but it feels like we have got to a great point where we can start doing things that we really like by ourselves again.
And then we get to come back together and talk about those, we come back in better moods, we’ve had a break from each other, we appreciate each other more, we’re inspired, we’re, you know, intellectually stimulated, all these things.
Rather than leaning on your partner for all the things you go out you do the things you love you come back It’s more enriching you get to share that with each other.
And of course, we’re also putting more Events into our calendar each week that are for us just for us. So date days date nights timeouts together shared activities, reading books, for example, watching movies. And it’s just, it’s really cool. . So this is what I would call the rediscovery stage.
And ultimately the relationship is changing. We’re not the same as we were when we first got together and we’re now appreciating that. And then you come into stage four
Stage Four – Rekindling the connection. The dance of intimacy
Perhaps we’re sort of between stage three and four. So mow that you’ve fortified yourself as an individual identity, again, you get to learn to maintain your perspective without any hostility and you get to approach your differences and disagreements with a newfound sense of grace.
And that in turn fosters this deeper and more enduring intimacy.
So I guess by this point you are well aware of the differences that each of you have. You’ve embraced them. You’ve accepted them. To the degree that you can, you’ve gone out and reestablished yourself and what makes you whole and what fills your cup.
You’ve brought that to the relationship and now you’re bringing this kind of new evolved sense of you and together going forward you have this whole new sense of intimacy around that, which is really beautiful.
You have differing viewpoints. You can challenge each other without feeling like you’re stepping on eggshells or defensive.
Or the person’s going to get really frustrated or angry or upset because you are basically entering a phase that is characterized by mutual respect for each other’s individuality.
So that reduces demands and it, it definitely It gives you a heightened tolerance to your differences.
And then you enter stage five.
Stage Five – The dance of synergy.
So this is all about balancing independence and interdependence, which I talked about at the beginning of this podcast, as your intimacy deepens.
You and your partner will become more adept at managing your emotional response during moments of tension.
You’ll commit to relating in a way that aligns with your core values, with both of your core values actually and beliefs while actively supporting your partner’s right to do the same and the boundaries between I and we blur and the relationship takes on a life of its own.
It’s infused with energy and vitality and you aspire to create and contribute to the world as partners and as individuals.
And you share the journey together with deep intimacy, with vulnerability, and just all your emotions. So you can see you almost come back to the state of symbiosis, but in a much, much healthier way.
As two individuals who are creating a union, a we, around the things that they share, their values, their differences, and doing all of this with mutual respect and love. There you go.
I hope I’ve explained those in a way that makes sense, and I hope that you can also see at which stage you may be at in your relationship.
And I highly recommend you pick up the book, Make Love Work, by Nick Beets, because the stories at the end of it, as I mentioned, are just, just really beautiful examples of, of what it takes, right?
But also that every single one of us is going through this.
I think my biggest revelation this year is that every single couple that I look at, whether they’re married, engaged, been together for years, I don’t know, to the outside world, you just kind of look like, Oh, you know, they’re going great or they have really good communication.
But every single one of us is going through some form of challenge, often made even more challenging by the way we were brought up, the way with which intimacy was shared with us, the way in which our parents loved or, you know, showed us love or didn’t show us love, the ways in which they opened up communication or didn’t, all of these things come through.
So one of the biggest things that we were learning when we’re going through it is the ability to identify our insecurities.
I wouldn’t have said I was a very insecure person, but we all come with insecurities and then they get amplified in times of tension or when we’re having a fight and they show up and the way we react to things that our partners say.
Because you get to this point where, this is one part I loved in the book, where what your partner, the person that you love, says to you means so much because you’ve become almost dependent on their approval.
And so when they say something great about you, you’re like, Oh, they’re validating me. And when they say something less great about you, it can tear you to pieces because you’re like, what do you mean?
You’re you’re the person that I love and that loves me and if you don’t even love me as I am you know, how can I love me as I am?
It was this really interesting piece in the book where I was like, yeah, Actually self love comes first over and above anything else and we instinctively know that’s right.
But we do get to a point in our relationship with people that we love and trust and respect Hopefully before we start seeing all the massive differences and having the arguments of like your opinion really matters to me .
And I love you and you love me and you know, if you don’t love how I’m showing up or who I’m becoming, that hurts, right?
But also there’s this beautiful moment there where you can take that and go, oh, if I take out the defensiveness here and I take out the insecurities and I just remain really vulnerable and truly listen to what they’re saying to me.
So much of it is actually about you and them. It’s about how you’re showing up for each other.
It’s about how you’re making them feel. It’s about how they’re making you feel and these are the things that Josh and I have been discussing and having some beautiful breakthroughs and understandings and deep conversations about.
So I highly recommend that if you feel any of this or if you are challenged in your relationship or if you actually just want to get to the next level the next stage, I highly recommend you read this book. It’s awesome.
And if you enjoy podcasts about relationships, I am no expert in relationships, but I am definitely a lifelong learner and happy to be a leading learner and share what I know and learn with you and give you examples of us implementing it if it inspires you to want to step up in your relationships too.
So yeah. I could tell you about all the feels I’ve had over the, the space of this year in particular, but you probably heard that coming through and I just am so glad that we are doing the work and putting in the effort because a little bit like, you know..
When you start a business, if you’ve never had a business before, get mentors and coaches as soon as you can and talk to people who are in business for themselves and have been for years because you will learn a ton.
And there are business books that help and guide you right, but ultimately you learn a lot by figuring it out on your own, making mistakes, failing, getting back up, learning the lesson. And as I said, um, you know, reaching out to people to help you, mentors, business coaches, business besties, and then when you become a parent, if you’re listening to this, it’s the same thing.
Like there are lots of books and teaching and courses, but ultimately you have to learn what you learn by going through it.
And right now I’m also taking a course, which is brilliant, which I’ll be sharing in another podcast about the opportunity when kids are two, three, and four. So rather than this whole thing around terrible twos, it’s called the opportunity twos, which I just loved the way they reframed in this course.
And again, I learned so much about what I’m doing right as a parent and, and other ways in which I can help my little one manage his amazing emotions and his development right now and really arm him to be a wonderful, caring, supportive, sharing, confident, loved human being. And then there’s relationships again.
I feel like nobody teaches this stuff in school. And unless you’re prepared to do the work, read books, go to relationship coaching, how the heck are we supposed to know what a wonderful, loving, intimate, respectful relationship looks like?
How are we supposed to know how to thrive in a relationship when things start going wrong or those differences appear?
We just don’t have the tools. So again, the whole point of this LifePilot podcast is to arm you with the tools, the knowledge, the know how, the exercises, or the information and resources for you to dive into yourself, to do this work, to live our best lives and to be the best that we can be. S
o I hope you have enjoyed this episode, head across to lifepilot.co forward slash one eight for show notes. I’ll link the book in there.
And ultimately just do yourself a favor, invest in yourself in any area of your life where you are not happy right now and you don’t know how to get out of it. Make the investment in whatever it is that you need.
And while we’re talking about investments, if you want to invest 30 minutes with me on a complimentary call to discover whether we’d be a great fit to work together with me as your holistic life and business coach, then head across to lifepilot.co/coaching 30 minute conversation.
Absolutely everything could come out of it or you might just walk away having had a great chat with your new friend and feeling clearer about what you want to achieve in life and what you’d most love from it.
And that’s, that’s how we spend our 30 minutes and I’m going to feel happy.
So lifepilot. co forward slash coaching. Thanks so much for listening.