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I'm Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, host of the Psychology podcast and founder of the center for Human Potential. If you like on purpose with Jay Shetty, I think you'll enjoy the Psychology podcast where we explore the depths of human potential. In each episode, I talk with inspiring scientists, thinkers, and other self actualized individuals who give you a greater understanding of yourself, others, and the world we live in. Our aim is to help you live a fuller, more meaningful life. Listen to the psychology podcast on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts.


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We are often drawn to a person who brings characteristics that we are trying to get away from. Are you looking for chemistry for a love story? Or are you looking for chemistry for a life story?


She's a psychotherapist, author, and host.


A round of applause to welcome Esther Perrell. How do you turn conflict into connection? It's not what you fight about, it's what you fight for.


How do you know if a relationship is worth saving? Before we jump into this episode, I'd like to invite you to join this community to hear more interviews that will help you become happier, healthier, and more healed. All I want you to do is click on the subscribe button. I love your support. It's incredible to see all your comments and we're just getting started. I can't wait to go on this journey with you. Thank you so much for subscribing. It means the world to me. The number one health and wellness podcast, Jay Shetty. Jay Shetty.


The one, the only Jay Shetty.


Hey, everyone. Welcome back to on Purpose, the number one health and wellness podcast in the world. Thanks to each and every one of you that come back every week to become happier, healthier, and more healed. Today's guest is someone that we've had on before, and you loved her. I know you loved her before, but you loved her on the show. And I couldn't wait to get her back on because we've never actually met in person until this day. I've loved her books from afar. We've connected over messagings and emails, and we have so many mutual friends. And I'm so grateful that I finally get to sit in her presence today and actually get to do this interview face to face. Please welcome back to on Purpose Esther Perrell. Esther, thank you so much for doing this. Thank you for making the time.


Thank you.


Genuinely so grateful.


It's a pleasure to be here in.


Exactly after all these years. I think the first time I interviewed you must have been during the pandemic or something like that.


I mean, I remember. I remember very clearly seeing you through the screen and saying, oh, this is a new life.


I love it. Well, let's dive straight in, because I have so many questions today. I have questions from me, I have questions from our audience. We have questions from social media. We're going to get to play your game as well, which I'm very excited about and pick some questions from. But my first question is, how do you know if a relationship is worth saving?


Shall I stay or shall I go? Is one of the fundamental questions. And here's the thing. Even if you decide to stay or even if they decide to go, you may do so while at the same time having a part of you that actually holds the other side. If you think that the decision is 100% perfect, no doubt, no hesitation, then it's a setup. If you leave, you need to be able to leave while experiencing the loss of some things that may have been good, even if it's just a dream of what was. If you stay, you have to be able to grieve the part of you that will never know what it would have been like if you actually left. So the answer is not in the extreme determination. It's in the ability to hold inherent contradictions. It's a complex question, and complex questions don't have easy, binary answers.


And it's interesting, isn't it, because we crave a binary, easy answer. We want it to feel. We often seek complete clarity when we're trying to make a decision, rather than accepting that a decision is followed by consequences. Consequences and a number of different feelings. You use the word grief there.




And I've seen research that shows how when someone breaks up with you or when you break up with someone, you almost crave them, like we crave an addiction that may even be unhealthy for us at times. Why do you use the word grief? And can you walk us through both of those losses of identity that you spoke about on either end?


So grief is because I think every choice comes with loss. The consequence is the choice you didn't make. And even though you think this is the right choice and this is what I must do, the grief may be the fact that you were not capable of making this thing work or that you had such high hopes and it didn't materialize, or that you have wished that you didn't make some mistakes that you made or that you wish you had left sooner. There's lots of different ways, but there is no choice that doesn't have loss and therefore some grief attached to it. And that is the nature of the beast. That does not mean that you didn't make the right choice. In terms of heartbreak, it's a different part. Yes. Some people experience heartbreak with such an ache, with such a sense of longing, and such a sense of fracturing on the inside, that their longing becomes obsessive, that they are trapped in rumination, and that it experienced like a withdrawal. That is not all breakups, but that is the extreme kind of breakup which has been compared to an addiction because of the intense sense of withdrawal and because it takes place in the same centers in the brain.


Let's say someone does want to save their relationship. They want to make it work. What does that take on a deeper level from that individual? What have you seen over the years of what it really takes? I think we often think of saving a relationship as like, let's do more date nights, let's spend more time together, let's do more this. But what have you seen? It really takes from a human.


So, look, I work with relationships for 40 years. These are questions that I can answer in multiple ways. So I'm going to answer it in one way with you today, and somebody's going to say, but you didn't talk about that. So I just want to preface that because there isn't a one size fits all. And when I'm going to highlight something now with you, because it's the first thing that came into my mind when you asked, what can we do to actually repair our relationship? Strengthen them, fortify them, solidify them, enliven them. One of the first thing I often think about is accountability. It's actually not asking the other person to do all the changing. Somebody's going to tell me, but what if you've done that and it hasn't made any difference on the other side? So I just want that to be mentioned. In general, in relationships, we often get to a place where we think you need to change. Here I'm going to tell you what you could do differently that would make this relationship better. And the hardest thing to do is to actually say, what can I do? Because if you change, it is quite sure that it will also create change on the other side.


Because we are interdependent parts in a relationship. I start to do something which makes you do something, which makes me do something. It's a figure eight. But if I start to do something else, sooner or later you cannot continue do the same. If I no longer answer you when you say something, there's a good chance that at some point you're going to stop saying it because you don't get the reaction that you've been used to get. So there's no better way to change the other than to change ourselves. But that's not 100% thing. It's just a good principle to keep in mind. What is it that I can do differently? What's one thing I could choose that I know would improve the relationship? Because I've heard you or because I know us. And if I don't instantly walk out every time, but I actually stay and I listen and I pay attention, will that create something? Rather than thinking about all the good reasons why I should get out or leave in that moment? So this accountability piece is very high on my list. But there are ten other things about what makes us work on a relationship to improve it.


And you talked about there how trying to change the other person isn't necessarily the focus, but for so many of us, that seems to be the problem. The problem seems to be the other person's behaviors, their attitude, their approach to life, maybe their aspirations. I hear a lot of people say things like, they don't dream enough, they dream too little. Right? Too much. Right. That's it.




I hear some people say they don't dream enough, they dream too much. I hear people say, oh, they have too many friends. They have no friends, right. I see people at both ends of the spectrum. We always seem to have issues with how our partners live. And what I've learned, at least in my own personal reflection, and I found, is that for a long time in my relationships, I often projected the way I lived onto my partner. And we so strongly believe that the way we live is right, the way we were brought up is right, that we want our partner to kind of follow suit. And I always give this very small example from my own home. But in my house, we used to eat, hang out, and then at the end of the night, we'd wash the dishes. In my wife's home, they used to eat, wash the dishes, and then hang out. And so when we got married and we started living together, and when we were having friends over, or whatever it may be, in my mind, we're going to eat, we're going to hang out, and then we're going to wash the dishes.


In my wife's mind, she's thinking, we're going to eat now we have to clean up, make sure everything's clean, and then we can hang out. And something as little as that can cause so much friction. Friction and bad communication and feelings of, oh, you don't care about me and you don't love me and you don't appreciate me or you don't value the work. And there's so much that comes from something, and that's just a very small example. But it's interesting to me that in that scenario, we both had not created a new belief system for our relationship, but were operating based on two old belief systems that we'd simply adopted. Walk us through whether you agree, whether you disagree, whether you can edit that, reveal more to us about. I find so many of our challenges exist because we project our operating system onto someone else rather than creating one with them.


I like the way you call it, the operating system. So I'm going to take a sentence that you highlighted and start from there. You said here we were fighting about what's the right moment to do the dishes. But in fact, what we were talking about is you don't care. You don't see me, you don't appreciate me, you want it your way. And what you're highlighting here is something that I've actually talked a lot about in a new course that I'm doing on conflict, which is exactly that. How do you turn conflict into connection and one of the things I say is that it's not what you fight about. It's what you fight for. You were fighting for recognition. You were fighting for power and control. You were fighting for respect. You were fighting for trust and closeness. Underneath the fight, there are usually three sets of issues that we are actually fighting for, and that is power, trust, and value. So you don't value me? I worked on this cooking. I made this nice meal I prepared. I tried to be kind to your friends, and you don't value me. Once you've understood that, what is the hidden dimension that you are actually fighting for?


The fight, the dishes, the when to do them becomes a lot more clear. A lot more clear, rather than. It's not just I'm imposing my belief on you, and I wanted to do my way because my way is the right way. You may think this way, but the question is, what happens when you have to confront yourself with someone who is different? I mean, everything about relationships is about stradling sameness and difference. And when you are a couple's therapist, it's very typical that people come to you like a drop off center, right? They tell you, here my relationship, here's my partner. Let me tell you what's wrong with them, and maybe you can fix them, and I'll help you. I'll be your adjunct.


Yeah, exactly.


On how to make my partner understand why my family's way of doing things is the best way of doing things. It's a very good way. And so then the question is, if you have to change your mind, does that mean that it's a loss of your identity, or can you actually experience that as an expansion, as something that you let in? How do you let the other person influence you without being constantly in a defense of your. This is my flag, and here are my values or my operation system.


Yeah, I really relate to what you're saying, and I love how you've broken it down to what we're fighting for versus what we're fighting about. I think that's brilliant. And that's from your master class, right?


No, this is from my own new course.




This is from coming out with very soon. And that is really about letting people have a very different view and set of skills for handling conflict. Like this one. At first, it was a nice thing you didn't fight about. You just said, we do it. Oh, that's so interesting. No, let's do it now. And then, slowly, because you couldn't come into a unified agreement, it became a point of contention. And then that point of contention became the go to every time you need to talk about your backgrounds, your values, your style, your priorities, your way of doing.


I think we feel so robbed, or at least when I speak to people about this, they feel so robbed, as you said, of their identity. But also, as you said, people feel robbed of their power, that if I give in to this other person, my partner may be the more powerful one in the relationship. Or if I concede, then in the future, when we're making decisions, they're going to think I'm going to concede. And often that is the case, that people get into relationships because they think the other person is submissive or conceding to them or agrees with them on everything they say. And then one day that person goes, wait a minute, I didn't realize. I just gave up everything I care about for you. And so how does one learn how to practice that humility and giving up of power? Or is the solution a unified agreement, as you called it just there? What are we trying to unravel? How do we do that? Because I think that.


But you just betrayed yourself in the question.




Your whole question is framed in power terms. Concede, acquiesce, give in, loss of self. That's how people feel of power. Yes, some people feel this way. That is one frame for some people to enter into a relationship. But if I actually change the word power, I could go like this. In every relationship, you will find that there often is one person who is more afraid of losing the other, and one person who is more afraid of losing themselves. One person more afraid of abandonment and rejection, therefore, more likely to acquiesce, to pacify, to placate, to say yes, until maybe one day not. And one person more afraid of suffocation. And therefore, they fight for their ideas, their ways of doing it, the timing of the dishes. And that is less about power. That is more about the nature of connection. The majority of power struggles in a relationship are not power struggles. Power is the defense. The control battle is the way people are defending, trying to get something for something else that they are worried about. It's the surface behavior. Some people, when they're afraid, they fight. But the issue is not fighting. The issue is that they're actually afraid, and they're trying to deal with their fear by gaining control.


So don't just go for what you see, because what you see isn't necessarily just what it is. Go always looking a level below, otherwise you're going to have a lot of this.


Yeah, exactly. And so you're encouraging those people that feel that way to look at that layer deeper. The context of why they're giving in.


Makes you lose your identity. Where did you get that idea? Who did you have to fight with that you had a sense that if you don't go all the way and with fists, that's the motion of fighting, right? It's not this, but you entered a relationship with that and yet you live it with this. So what happened to you that is making you continuously interpret every situation as a fight, as a power struggle, as I have to stand up and hold on, because if I give in, this is the beginning of a slippery slope. That's a frame. That is not the truth. Now, maybe you picked somebody with whom this is sometime what is going to happen? So then you ask this person, what happens if you don't get your way? For you, the question is, what happens if the other person gets their way? And for you, the question is, what happens when you don't get your way? Can you still feel confident even if you don't trample somebody?


Yeah. And I think the questions you're asking that we all need to reflect on for ourselves. I almost think they're as important to ask. Our partners, like, to understand what happened to them, why they're in that position, why they get afraid. And I think that curiosity is so often lost in romantic relationships where we don't understand why someone is the way they are. We just assume that it's about us. Like we make it personal. We don't recognize that they have a whole history of relationships, of family, of parenting, of experiences that have made them that way. And maybe they are dealing with a deep fear or a deep challenge. Does that resonate?


Yes. This thing about curiosity is the most important shift we try to make. Curiosity about yourself and curiosity about your partner or friend or coworker, whoever the other is. Curiosity is on the other side of reactivity. So everything dealing with conflict is about helping us shift from reactive to reflective and curious. But more interestingly, what you reminded me of is a thing I talk about in the course that's called fundamental attribution error. If you are nasty or reactive or bullying me a bit, or even just simply if you late whatever you're doing, the tendency is to think that when you do this, it's because you have a negative personality. But if I am nasty or short or cutting a little bit, then it's because I had a tough day. Mine is circumstantial and yours is characterological. And the loss of curiosity in relationships is because we tend to think that we are more complex than our partner, and that's what makes us not ask, what is your story with this? Why do you need to get things your way all the time? Why do you have to drill it in until I finally say, whatever you want, dear, we'll do it your way.


Because unless you got it your way, you think that, you know, on the floor.


Yeah, I think people an Esther, you've done this for decades now. I'm sure you feel that what we're really addressing here, which I'm so happy that we've kind of gone in this direction, it's beautiful. And I'm so happy that we're there, that this idea of, are you curious about yourself and why it's happening and what happened to you? Are you curious about your partner and what happened to them? Are you not making it personal? Are you thinking about working as a team, building unified agreements? All of this language is so positive. And I genuinely believe that what we've just covered is so often missed in relationships because we're so busy pointing the finger and pointing the blame and pointing the responsibility that, as you started off with, there's a lack of accountability. And that being such a brilliant shift to even just start liberating.


Yeah, it's actually liberating for people to say, let me check myself for a minute. The fear that people have is, why me? Is it my problem? Why are you blaming me? No, taking responsibility is liberating because the only thing you can really change is you. There's a lot more freedom to do something about yourself than to go look for your partner on the other side. I had a moment like that recently. So I was on the phone and I was a little agitated, talking to banks and people and administrating bureaucracy, which gets me agitated. And then my partner said, you do? And then my partner says, my husband says to me, I have a headache. I said, what happened? He says, you've been so yelling here next to me in the car. And I'm like, I'm trying to solve these problems. And you can't just say to me, that's really frustrating. These people were like, keeping you on the phone for an hour. You think I wanted to be on the phone for an hour with this? And I just felt like a little lack of empathy, please, a bit of sympathy, some support. And on top of it, I'm get scalded now for my attitude.


And I sat there and I began brooding and I said, okay, I'm not going to talk to you. I thought, if I'm that unpleasant, well, then I'm not going to say anything. And then I sat in there and I'm thinking, I'm married almost 40 years. I'm thinking to myself, am I going to go do this one again? Why am I doing this? Why do I feel so upset? Why don't I just simply say, I can imagine that it was unpleasant to. So he says to me, why don't you say something about the fact that it's really annoying to sit next to someone who is so agitated? And I'm thinking, why doesn't you say something about how frustrating it is that I need to be so agitated? And this could have turned into a real fight. And luckily, a little bit of humor takes us out of it very quickly. We came like, how many minutes are.


We going to do this? And where was that coming from after all this time? Like you said, you've been together for four decades. You love each other, you trust each other, you've worked through so many of these things. What do you think it is that we're still fighting for in that moment? What is it? Because it doesn't go away. You're right.


We have two answers. I mean, we would have very different answers to your question. First of all, just so you understand, I will tell you, I sometimes hear him talk in a situation like this, and he's very. Could you explain to me why this is? And I'm thinking, tell them that this is not right. He says. Afterwards, he hangs up, says, I was very angry on the phone. Excuse me. So I don't think I get much further by being more confrontational than actually, I don't think I'm any more effective. I think these situations are frustrating whichever way. But we get into an argument over which of our approaches is the better one to talk with the bureaucracy. It's ridiculous.


Yeah, exactly.


So he thinks I should be nicer, right? And I think he should be a little more.


What are you saying? Are you saying that neither approach matters and we're arguing about something insignificant?


Or is it.




Here's the thing. You're in a situation where you are bound to not necessarily be successful.




You're bound to experience some helplessness. It is frustrating. The situation is frustrating. Instead of dealing with the frustration of the situation, you start to blame the other person for the fact that they didn't get to the result that you wanted. Instead of this kind of situation where you go back week after week with another person on the phone, automated thing, and instead of allying together against the situation, you start to project onto the other, why are you not competent? So that I don't have to feel so helpless.


Yes. Wow. Yeah, exactly. And I can relate to that. We had a similar, one kind of inverse to what you just said, but a similar interaction where I remember my wife would often say to me, I've had a really tough day, and I'd take that as an opportunity to say.


I had a tough day, too.


I would go further. I'd say, I had a tough week.


You? Really?


And it's like I'm using her opportunity to be vulnerable and to share how she feels with me and to feel comforted and supported and just heard. To be heard. I'm using her opportunity to be heard, to hear myself. It's kind of like when you were looking at me, looking at myself earlier, it's like that idea of she's saying, hey, just sit with me for a second. And I'm saying, want to sit with me for a week and think about where I'm coming from.


You have it tough.


Yeah. And then now it just turns into a competition as to whose life is tougher.




And making the other person feel like their pain is not valuable or that their stress that they've gone through is insignificant compared to mine. And all of a sudden, you're fighting for something that you don't even want to prove to your partner. Like, I don't want to make my partner feel like their pain is not valuable, but because I'm not honoring my challenge and my stress and what I'm going through, I'm expecting to use their space to do that.


You just explained it very well. But sometimes.


Yeah, please.


I mean, the effect is the same. You topping her in such a big way completely says to her, you have nothing to complain about, which is not necessarily your intention, but it is often the way the other person registers it. And then the question to you is, do you ever say to her, I have a tough week without her prompt?




Because part of what happens is that you get prompted by the other person, and it suddenly says, oh, if you give yourself the permission to complain or to just vent a moment, then maybe I get that permission, too. And what changes it is to just a. Is to acknowledge what has just been said and then to say, I have that feeling often, too.




But it is the competition. You suffer. I suffer more.


Yeah, absolutely. Now, something that's really helped me use humor now. Yeah. My wife can make anything funny, so I rely on her to bring the humor in, because she is just very useful. Yeah, she's hilarious. She's a comedian, so as in not professional, she's just a funny person. And so she can always add that. But now what really helps me, and this is more what I'm like, is I'm kind of preempt of stress, and so I'll sit down with them. Hey, I've got a really stressful week coming up. I just want you to be aware of that. And so if I'm a bit shorter, I'm running around, or I'm not fully present, I just want you to be aware. I've got a lot of stuff going on, and if you need me, of course I'll be there, but just know. And I like to set that up and communicate that, because to me, it gives me space to at least let her know where I'm coming from rather than to catch me in a bad moment. And then I end up behaving in a way that I'm not proud of. Whereas now she's aware, so now she's mindful of that, too.


And she doesn't have to tiptoe around me or she doesn't have to be unaware, but it's the idea that she's conscious that I get it. He's got three crazy days coming up, and we can talk about something maybe the day after.


Can I take this one, please?


I'd love that.


It's probably one of the most useful things I have seen changing in a relationship. When you do what you just do, you're attentive, you're caring, you let her know you're apologetic. And being apologetic is very beautiful, but it still says, my life is very important. And I just want you to know I'm not going to be there. The step that really changes it around is when you say to the other person, I'm so thankful that you are here, because your being here is what enables me to go take care of my busy week. Because once you say it like that, you make the other person very important, and not my life is so important. Thank you for understanding it. You come after. I'll be there if you need me, but you come after. The thinking reinforces the interdependence. And it's true, because you couldn't go and attend to your life the way you do without having the other person do whatever it takes for you to be able to be absent for a while. And when you acknowledge that, it makes them feel like they're part of the story rather than they're on hold while your story unfolds.


Absolutely. I couldn't agree with you more, and I've always found that, at least for me, doing that separately in different contexts has at least helped me when it's not tied to the same context. But I love that idea, and I fully agree with you.


It's a nice switch.


Yeah, it's beautiful.


It's a tweak that really changes the power dynamic in the relationship in a small move.


Yes, definitely. It's switching the significance from yourself to this relationship and the support that you each provide. Yeah, that's beautiful. I love that. I love what we're talking about, and you've probably heard this a million times, and that's what I think it's important to address. A lot of people will say, I want to talk to my partner about these things. I want to be curious about them. I want to ask them about their past, but every time I do, they shut down. They go quiet. They don't want to talk about it. If I get curious and say, hey, when we're not arguing, but when we're just talking, and I say, hey, you know what I just wanted to figure out? Is there anything that scares you from your past? Is there anything that worries you, or is there any challenge you're going through? How can I help you and the other person? No, no, I'm fine. I'm okay. I'm dealing with it. And people often feel like they get shut down when they're trying to be curious. I'm sure you've heard this a million times in sessions, and how have you dealt with that?


I'm Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, host of the Psychology podcast and founder of the center for Human Potential, if you like, on purpose with Jay Shetty. I think you'll enjoy the psychology podcast, where we explore the depths of human potential. In each episode, I talk with inspiring scientists, thinkers, and other self actualized individuals who give you a greater understanding of yourself, others, and the world we live in. Our aim is to help you live a fuller, more meaningful life. Listen to the psychology podcast on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts.


If you've tried to ask your partner a certain set of questions and you systematically get the same answer, change tactic. The point is not doing it one more time, hoping that this time you're going to get a better response. It's a little bit like Moses and the rock. The water won't flow. So what I like is not to be so direct. Somebody told me recently that they had gone to an offsite at work. So it started in a different context, but it's a good example. And she organized this whole offsite, and she took a card from the game from where should we begin? And the card was somebody who impacted your life and doesn't know it. And the whole group went through this question, and basically people spoke that you knew nothing about, people who never talk and people who you thought you knew that came up with stories that you had no idea about. Try to do it in a more playful way. Try to do it sometimes as part of a dinner conversation. Try to do it with a question that is less on the nose and that invites you to then start from anywhere you want.


This is an interesting question that you can answer at so many levels of depth. There are many of those. If you just say, tell me about your past. No, you saw this movie and you saw what happened there. It's like anything of that that is familiar to you and you tell your story. You need to create a context.




For many people, digging deep into the past is traumatizing, aversive, scary, uninteresting, or they don't have the vocabulary for it, is the other thing. So that's why people have used the arts, books, movies, plays, songs, poetry. They speak our human experience with, and we only have to say that that's my thing. So sometimes I say to people, how about you find some songs that express the stuff that you don't know how to talk about? And that's a much lighter lift than, tell me about your past, a character that represents the parent that you grew up with, and you go and find into a series, a television series, one of these characters, they've all been written about, use other mediums, other vocabularies to open up stuff that people don't necessarily want to be in therapy with their partner.


Yeah, I love that. That's such great advice. And I couldn't agree more. I always say, everyone who's listening to me, I always say to them, please don't force my book onto your partner. Please don't. You may love my book, so you may love. Please don't do that. And I always say to people, it's about speaking the language that your partner connects to. And that's what you're saying. The language could be music, the language could be art, the language could be movies. And I always talk about, one of the reasons why I love having my podcast is because I get to speak to so many different people from so many different backgrounds, so many different walks of life, talking about similar things.


You read a book a day.


Yeah, exactly. And what I find is someone may relate to athletes more. So if an athlete is opening up about their mental health and their vulnerability, or a challenge they have with a parent, your partner may respond to that more than they would a coach, a therapist, a psychologist, or one of your partners may respond to academics and scientists more than they would agree to a guide. And it doesn't matter how they open up. And so I love that you said that. And I love that you said, sometimes we're just trying the same strategy for too long. And like you said, on the nose, we kind of approach it in a very literal way.


Like, tell me about. You're doing this, what happened to you before? Like a cause and effect. Play with it.


Yeah. You're trying to be their therapist and you can't.


I think play is a good thing. I think movement is important. Too many people talk much more easily when they're walking, when they're hiking, when they're on a ski lift. Don't just sit and try to do face to face. There's a reason that fishing is so good because you do parallel play, everybody's looking forward, nobody has to lock eyes. And it allows me to think out loud and to answer a question here and there. The other thing is, sometimes the question comes later. Often there's one person that's much more articulate about some of these things than another. So find other mediums, other vocabularies and other settings. Start with that.


Yeah, I love that. One of my favorite dates that me and my wife went on very early on was this activity in England called go ape. And what it is is it's like a ropes course that's high up in the air, so it's like 80ft or whatever, up above in the air. And you've got all these different activities and things. So you're like swinging, you're trying to walk on these steps. It's challenging, but it's fun. And I remember having so much fun because there were activities that she found easy and I found hard, and activities that I found easy and she found hard. And we could help each other, we could talk while we were doing it. There was a sense of support. And I think what you're saying is so true that I find that doing activities where we're both novices are really fun. Because when we're both getting a chance to see a new, fresh, unseen side of each other, we really get to play and really get to understand if I'm in a position of strength. If I know a sport really well and she's never done it, then I'm not really learning anything new.


I'm kind of just being there and trying to be the teacher and same vice versa. But if we both have no clue about something, like me and my wife took a surfing lesson for the first time in our life, like a couple of years ago when we went to Hawai. We'd both never surfed in our know, we're both from London, and that wasn't accessible there. And we went on a first ever lesson, and it was just hilarious. It was fun, it was silly. We were both learning about how much tolerance we both had, and there was humor coming in and what skill set we had. And you're so right that adding movement to being together, especially, I find, in ways where you're not familiar, provides a real opportunity to see someone vulnerably.


So you added more than just movement, you added risk, and you added playfulness. There's a beautiful book by Eli Finkel called the all or nothing marriage, and he talks about really what creates a sense of aliveness in relationships. And one of the things he highlights is the importance of doing new things, not just doing things that you both enjoy, that you're comfortable with. That's good, but that breeds friendship. Whereas when you do new things, that also involves unknown, mystery, risk, curiosity, that's where you actually bring in excitement. And in my language, also desire.


I love that. Yeah, that's beautiful. That makes complete sense. And I love those words. Those words we don't often use around relationships. Risk, mystery. No, I know, but you just don't.


Hear them as much.


You don't hear them enough at all. Around relationships, you always feel mystery was something you had on date one or when you saw that person from across the room. Right. Like, that's when the mystery was, and there isn't any. But I couldn't agree with you more that.


But that's because people prefer sometimes to create an illusion of familiarity. As if I know you. Like you're the inside of my pocket.




Until you do something I absolutely did not expect you to do. And then suddenly I realize, and I say, I thought I knew you. The real beauty is to know that whoever is next to you, who you think is already so familiar and so known, is actually still somewhat mysterious, somewhat elusive. And that's where you maintain your curiosity next to the person that is with you. Faced with the unknown, you can either react with fear and try to flatten it and just ignore all of that and just hold on to what's familiar, or you can nurture it, and then you are actually engaging with the mystery and the curiosity that is right in front of you. And that you know, from your spiritual work, that is very much taken from that notion. How you then. Because that allows you to sit like this when you're talking with your partner, because you're still attentive and curious versus like this.


Yeah, definitely. Let's say someone decides to break up, or maybe they're broken up with, and we can talk about both sides of that if we talk about the side of someone's decided to break up with someone for their own reasons. And of course, there could be a million reasons for breaking up with someone, so it's hard to be specific there. But if someone's broken up with someone, but they are having those feelings, as you said, the consequences will be, you'll still have that grief of what could have been. You have the consequences of maybe it could have worked. Maybe we should have tried. There's still a feeling of I wish they were still around. I used to talk to them every day at 07:00 p.m. At night, on a Friday night, we'd always go to this favorite restaurant, whatever it may have been. We have these memories. What do people do with that feeling? What do you do with that feeling of craving?


You know, you do a lot of different things, but it's so interesting. I literally edited a new episode for the podcast for where should we begin? Of a guy who leaves his wife, who he had been very close to for quite a few years, has a young child, moves in with another woman, is on the verge a few years later of marrying that other woman, and can't do it, and has felt guilt and remorse and regret and longing for all those years, and starts to meet the mother of his child again, not just as a mother, but now they're going on a first date again, and it's like I left you and then I came back to you. It's an incredible story to see one person, because that is a question that doesn't have one answer, but in this case, he couldn't leave her fast enough, but he could never leave her fully. And I can't tell you today if he's back with her or what, but I have a sense that something when he was about to marry this other woman held him back that he couldn't necessarily put into words, and that made him feel like he had to examine himself, which is what this whole conversation on where should we begin?


Is about, and I've never had that particular version of it, but it is the one that most responds to your question. But you're going to have to go listen.


Yeah, absolutely. No, and I recommend everyone go and listen to that if that's a question you've been asking yourself. I think that heartache that people feel often feels endless. As you said, it can just go on and on and on forever. People feel like we've always heard time will heal all wounds, but who instigated.


The breakup is the really changes a lot.


Or if it was mutual, is it ever mutual?


Yes, I think that it is often mutual where two people say, we evolved into something else or it just didn't work, or both. People may have felt it, but one person was able to say, let's do it. That makes sense. And the person who is more afraid of abandonment and rejection and all of that is often more the person who may not say it, but that doesn't mean they didn't feel it. Many people tell you, I didn't have the guts to do it, but it's the best thing that happened to me. My partner pushed it. I didn't want it then. So between what happens in the moment and how people experience the consequence, it's not one and the same. The person who may have pushed it may be the one who has the most regret. The person who was more hesitant, it may be the one who actually is most liberated.




It's a much more intricate puzzle.


Absolutely. Than just, of course. What are some of the phases that you see people go through that can give people hope that there is another side to this? Because I think when you're in it, the emotion is, I'm never going to be loved again. I'll never find someone as good as them again. I can't trust anyone again. These are the thoughts that people are repeating in their minds. What does someone need to understand during that time to know?


You just made me think of another episode of this. But it's the daughter who describes how one day a truck came, took all of her father's stuff, then it comes back home. That's a story that we hear quite often. And then all the situations of betrayal, of infidelity, of falling in love with somebody else, or discovering that your partner wants a fundamentally different relationship than you. And I think that the situations where you are completely sight lined and you realize, wow, the first experience you have is that your whole sense of reality is shattered. I thought I knew my life, and this has nothing to do with where I thought I was at, how can this be happening to me? You're in a state of confusion, in a state of disbelief, and in a state of shock, and in a state where you feel like you've been just ejected from your life. You had value, and you have none. That's all part of betrayal. It's not just the lying. It's the fact that somebody could toss you away like that and that you think I don't matter. And that's what makes you much more afraid.


Will I ever find someone who can hold me, carry care and carry me? And can I trust that ever again? Because I trusted it. Here. The question is as much about how do I trust again? But not just how do I trust somebody else, how do I trust my own perception? That's the piece that when you lose the belief in your ability to know that what you believe is what is, then you are on such shaky ground. So it demands a real scaffolding and a rebuilding. No, you haven't lost your entire sense of perception because you have good friends, family, colleagues, mentors. There's not just that person. And you need to get your sense of value from noticing the other relationships that you have. So you need to bring those people into your life. Do not isolate at that moment. You need the people who see you differently from the one who just left you and those who seek you out, those who value your presence, those who think you're great. And then slowly, you often will find that you connect better with other people who have experienced a sense of betrayal like that. But betrayal is not only in fidelity.


It can also be in a partnership. It can be in being co founders of something. And there are other relationships that go through this complete fracture. Slowly you begin to say, it's not one person's harming me or hurting me. That is a decree on who I am and my self worth. That person hurt me deeply. I have been hurt, and I learned from this, and I protect myself a little bit, but I don't have to protect myself in such a way that I don't live, because the biggest victory on this kind of hurt is the ability to love again, to trust again. You did not take that from me. That is probably your biggest vengeance, is to be happy.


Wow. Yeah. I mean, that resonates very strongly. And first of all, can people rebuild trust after experiencing infidelity? And what does that process look like for someone? And how different it is it to what they expect it to be?


The beauty of your questions is that it filled an entire book of mine because it's actually a big topic. But if I was to try to summarize it, yes, of course people can rebuild trust. I mean, that is very. Not everybody and not in every situation, but the process itself very much is real. And I have met. I began state of affair by going to talk to couples that I had seen five or ten years earlier. To know whatever happens to these people. Because I see them in a moment of crisis and often, I don't know, afterwards, they decided to stay together. They worked it through and off they went. So I wanted to know, what does that relationship actually look like years later? Who are they? What happened to their bond? You rebuild trust through a few major stages. The first one is that whoever hurt you, especially if you choose to stay together, has the ability to express guilt and remorse for hurting you. Even if they don't feel guilty for the affair itself, even if they have host of good explanations, good reasons that make it understandable, not justifiable, not condonable, but understandable, they still can experience the guilt and the remorse for hurting you.


That acknowledgment is fundamental. It's fundamental in an intimate relationship, in a friendship or between nations for that matter. Then it's the ability to basically become what I call the vigilante of the relationship. It means it's your job now to say how much you value the relationship and to protect the relationship. So in the situation of an affair, for example, it means that instead of you asking me questions about what I did and me hoping that you won't ask me, because we've already gone through this ten times, I ask you, is there something you want to ask me? Because if I bring it up, rather than hoping you won't bring it up, then I'm saying to you, I'm owning my thing, I take responsibility, I care about the relationship. And most of the time, if we have a good day, you may say to me, I don't want to talk about it. I'm having a good day because I am reminding us and I'm not letting it be forgotten. And I'm taking charge. That's the vigilante, I'm the protector of the relationship. And then number three is to explain, to talk between the people, why did you do this?


What did it mean to you? And then what did it do to me? The affair always includes both sides. If you just talk about what it meant for you, you're missing a point. If we're just talking about what it did to me, we're missing a point. So the ability to not just look at the facts. What did you do? But the meaning of it? Affairs have meaning. They're stories. They tell us something about the person, about the relationship. Not always bad things, for that matter. So what did it mean to you? And those three stages in the crisis phase? Remorse, guilt, acknowledgment. In the insight phase, you are the vigilante. And together we explore meaning making of this crisis for us. What are we going to do with this? And then phase three is, if we do stay together, what's our vision for who we want to be? No, we will probably not go back to what we were, because what we were may have been part of why we got to where we are. Who do we want to be? What does it open up? An affair topples the scorecard in a relationship. So I may have accepted all kinds of things because this was the way I conceived of our relationship.


And I was willing to not work, and I was willing to make more money. I was willing to work all the time. I was willing to do all the childcare. I was willing to do none of it. I was willing to take care of your ailing, mother, addicted brother, whatever. I accepted a lot of things. But now this basically gives me the opportunity to also say, I also have discontent. It's not just your affair that expresses the discontent. And so here's the fundamental line. Most of us today in the west are going to have two or three relationships in our adult life or marriages. Some of us are going to do it with the same person. So sometimes the affair is the end of the first marriage or the first relationship, but it can be the beginning of the next one with each other, and that's the rebuilding of the trust.


Well said. Yeah. No, and I'm sure that's going to give people a lot of hope. But also, what I love about your work and your books is that there's also a process there. There's a structure there, there's a method there for people to go, oh, okay, that's where we're at. That's what I'm struggling with. I think one of the biggest thoughts that repeats in people's minds when they're broken up with or when they've experienced infidelity that I hear from people is, Jay. I feel like I'm not worthy anymore. I feel like I'm not lovable again. I feel like I'm not desirable while.


They are staying with the person or while they've broken up.


Both. I've heard people say I don't feel desirable because they desire someone else. But I still want to be with that person, and I don't feel worthy even with that person now because I'm reminded constantly, as you said, of their infidelity and these thoughts perpetuate. But what I'm hearing you say, and I'd love for you to guide us, is what I'm hearing you say is, well, that's why you need to do the meaning making, because you really need to understand their story and meaning. And yours. Right now, you're just focused on yours, and that's always going to be this negative, repetitive pattern.


I'm Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, host of the Psychology podcast and founder of the center for Human Potential. If you like, on purpose with Jay Shetty, I think you'll enjoy the Psychology podcast where we explore the depths of human potential. In each episode, I talk with inspiring scientists, thinkers, and other self actualized individuals who give you a greater understanding of yourself, others, and the world we live in. Our aim is to help you live a fuller, more meaningful life. Listen to the psychology podcast on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts.


You remind me of a couple I saw, and this man had done something that was really egregious in some way, because he had taken everything that was special to the relationship and shared it with the other person. But everything.




Their favorite places, restaurants, clothings. I mean, wow. He had left nothing sacred. That's a devaluing, right? And whenever they would drive, there was a way when they would arrive to a place and she would look at him, and it was like there too. And so he would dread it because he knew he was guilty as charged. And then I began to say to him, I want you. Every time you drive. When there is a place, you say, yes, there too, without waiting for the question, because you know that you have to stand, but when there is that, you have to stand accountable. But when there is a place not, you say, no, they're not, before the question comes up. That's part of the vigilante. So that you protect the relationship and you bring back the value. You say, now go create new places, too, that are new for the two of you, and that you need new selves. You can't just go back and try to reenter the spaces that you were in. The loss of value gets addressed by having someone who is slowly reclaiming the value. The feeling is true, but it doesn't mean that because they had desire for someone else, they had none for you.


Actually, sometimes they had desire for someone else because you had none for them. The person who says that to you comes with one particular story. But there's so many stories. Sometimes you have a person who was completely uninterested for a decade, and then they are upset that their partner was interested with somebody else. It's not just, I was there, available for you, and you dumped me for someone that you looked at with a bigger founder eyes. So what people experience after the betrayal doesn't always tell the story of what happened before. That's why the meaning making is so really important. Sometimes somebody is going to say to the other, you devalued me for ten years. You barely paid any attention to me. You were so enraptured in your work, you were so busy with your phone. I was abandoned long before. And that also needs to be put into the story. The story doesn't start the moment that you discover something, because there are a lot of moving pieces underneath. And people addressing this with care, carefulness, and responsibility is the process. The hope doesn't come from nowhere. It comes because two people say, this is important.


We built something. We've been together 510, 15 years, 25 years. We're not letting this just go now. We need to reclaim the value of this for both of us.


Absolutely. This idea that we're going to have two to three relationships in our adult life, and they could either be with the same person or, of course, with two to three different people. And I think this idea of choice and selection has obviously rapidly changed because of technology and apps and the amount of people you can bump into. I looked at studies saying that 25 years ago, most people ended up with someone within a five mile radius of where they grew up. We know that that's not the case anymore. People are moving countries for people moving states. People are living in different parts of the world. We both live in different parts of the world than where we grew up. And so when I look at that, one of the biggest challenges I find, or that I hear from people is because there's so much selection, there's a sense of, like, I'm not feeling any spark, I'm not feeling any chemistry. I don't feel a connection with this person. I hear that a lot, and let's address that. And then the other thing I hear is this idea of, like, this guy didn't have as much as the other guy.


And you start comparing it because you can, because you're just exposed to so many more people now, and you're almost comparing resumes of people that you've heard about, spoken to, seen on a dating app introduced through your friends. So this idea of choice and the paradox of choice, as it's always been called in studies, from products to people. Now we can get stuck at a grocery store wondering which product to buy. But in dating, it feels like you can keep going because you can just keep swiping. Let's talk about both of those. The idea of how do you choose? How do you select? And when you're choosing and selecting, how do you not feel that sense of, there could be more.


I said, choice comes with loss. I'm actually very excited about this question because I'm very interested in this at this moment. Right. I'm interested in the intersection of technology and relationships and mental health. And I've just done a bunch of episodes with people in the dating scene because of exactly this. So we have a frenzy of romantic consumerism in which in search of the perfect, people are no longer happy with the good. We have people looking for a Soulmate on an app that's an interesting combination between spirituality and capitalism. And how do we even think that a partner is a soulmate? Soulmate used to be God, and now we want transcendence and mystery and wholeness and all of it, and ecstasy almost with a person. The stuff that people looked for in the realm of the divine, they now want with their person. And at the same time, they're doing it with a checklist. So that many dating experiences are like job interviews. So all of that combined. Right. I do think we have more choice, but we also have a lot more uncertainty and a lot more self doubt. And we are a lot less capable of handling uncertainty because we live with a host of predictive technologies that are all meant to take away uncertainties, obstacle, friction, rough edges.


So we don't rub anymore with stuff that helps us deal with uncertainty, unknown and engage with happenstance. Happenstance means you stand in line and you start talking to the person that is behind you in line. And after that, you go and have a drink with that person. And after that, you find yourself exchanging numbers and a story starts spontaneously, unprompted. So I think that the commodification that people feel is real. It's not just because of your childhood. It's part of society at this point. There is a way in which we talk about ourselves as products, and there is a way in which we talk about ourselves online with followers as if we are religious leaders, you and me, for that matter. So the first thing, don't go in thinking that you have to find somebody at the first meeting that's not the way it works. And that you go down your list, and then if the first thing that goes wrong, you go, ick, and you just go on to the next. What I'm doing now, when I address this very question is I show a very famous clip. It's classic in psychology called the still face experiment.


Have you ever seen it?


No, I haven't.


It's a two minute clip on YouTube. In the still face experiment, the mother is playing with the little one, and the little one is pewing and showing her things. And then at some point, the mother goes, still face, and the kid continues to point and continues to call her attention. And within 30 seconds or less of the mother not responding, the kid goes into a panic, a frenzy, loses its body composure, starts shrieking. And basically, you understand that we are relational people from. And what this clip shows me is that this is what goes on in ghosting, in breadcrumbing, in checklisting. This is what is the experience of many people at this moment. You go, you have a hedonic treadmill, you meet someone, you think there's possibilities, and then they disappear on you, and you're left like this. And then you unravel, and you do this sometimes 20 times a day with the same person. This is kind of the experience of modern dating. I haven't seen many people say, I love it. Maybe 65% of meeting people meet on an app, but I don't see people saying, I love it. Actually, it's the number one complaint of people dating at this moment.


So try to bring back something that is more humane. You meet somebody or a friend, introduce you to someone. Don't go and meet with them alone in a bar, to have a face to face conversation, to go down an interview, do an activity. It's exactly what you were talking about. Do something you enjoy doing. Bring that person to a thing that you're doing with friends. You want to get to know somebody, put them in a social situation, see how they interact with people, how they act, how they respond, how they engage with people. If you think that you're going to have epiphanies with clarity, like an app, forget it. You will be exhausted, and you won't meet anybody.


Really well said, and I couldn't agree with you more. I'm always trying to push people away. I'm like, get out of your inbox and your dms and your messages, and get out there. There's no way talking to someone over a couple of messages is going to help you figure anything out. But you've probably spoken to so many people who've had chemistry, lost Chemistry, never had it. I feel like a lot of people today that I hear from, they're meeting people, but they're like, there's no spark, there's no chemistry. I'm not feeling anything. What should we want to feel? If there is anything we should want to feel at all with someone? And what is the difference between chemistry, compatibility and connection?


First of all, I think we need to differentiate. Are you looking for chemistry for a love story, or are you looking for chemistry for a life story? Lots of people you can have chemistry with have a fantastic night with, for that matter, or more, but that's not the person you necessarily want to make a life with. The project will determine the nature of the chemistry. Right? That's number one. So number two is curiosity, a desire for more. It's like you read a book, a person is a book, right? Or you can use other metaphors. Do you drag yourself through the next page? Let me see where it goes? Or, like, you can't wait, it's a page turner. If the experience of the page turner with the person you want more, you want to have the next conversation, you want to ask them that kind of question, you want to go do something else with them, you're on a good track. This notion of this instant combustion of emotion that fills you up, you want a religious experience. That is not always the case. Sometimes people fall like that, as we say, falling. But the majority of the time, things grow.


They grow through the interaction. You get a good text, you like what you just read. You find yourself wanting to answer a sentence, and you've just answered two pages. You wanted to go and meet them for half an hour, and 3 hours later, you're still sitting on the floor in the hallway having an entrawling conversation. That's the stuff that greeds the feelings. If you sit there like this and think that some deose ex machina is going to fall from the heavens, you're off. It's this false certainty that is not the majority of people. And there's many ways in. Some people start hot, and then they become lukewarm, and some people start lukewarm, and the heat grows over time. There isn't one narrative, this notion that Hollywood has sold us, that just, ah. And I can't wait, and I just have this. I fall for you on the spot. That's one plot. There are many plots. And if you constrain yourself in thinking, this is how I should be feeling, and I'm not feeling it. Then you are limiting your options.


Yeah. One thing that has really come up a lot with people I've spoken to recently is this idea of they find someone who makes them feel safe, who they feel cared for by, and the person seems to be. They consider them to be good hearted. That person makes.


I'm waiting for the but.


Yes, exactly. You're right. You already know. You already know. This person, in their words, makes sense, but they feel like they're settling because there must be someone else who has all of that plus the other three things that they want.


You are a perfect candidate for romantic consumerism if you think this way. You've been had, literally, you've become a good person, that your mind is set for somebody telling you, this is the product. You need, the perfect fit. And then you are going to be the perfect patient who comes in thinking, I thought my person was like this and this and this, and they're not the deal that I bargained for. It's not what was written on paper, the language. It's like business. Capitalism enters romantic life. It's really crippling to people. The more you have this notion of perfection, the higher you can fall. Are you perfect? Are you that great? Do you think that everybody falls? Like, what is this notion? So then there is this idea that there is the sense and settling with the passion. And you should have that passion. Passion is a wonderful feeling to have. It's maybe not the best thing to decide if you want to have a life with somebody on. It's not the most important ingredient for that. That doesn't mean you don't want excitement, intensity, draw. But this idea that there is reason and passion, that's a very old divide.


That is the divide of the 19th century, the rationalists and the romantics.


And why do you say that? Why do you think that? And I get that you're giving a balanced approach there. But to enlighten all of us in what you've seen, you compared the love story and the life story. Why do you think it almost feels like what we've been sold is for the love story? But the life story requires a different set of skills.


Yes, skills and values and compatibilities, because there are many more people that you can love than people you can make a life with. I can have many love stories with people that I meet on a trip, with whom I have a beautiful short story with. But would that be the person with whom I can. Do we share anything else in terms of how we see life with everything else that life brings. That's a different thing. That doesn't mean you don't want love in the life story, but many more love stories can exist without life story. Not that many life stories will exist without a love story. You can call it an adventure. You can call it. It is what people used to do when they date before they're looking for someone with whom they want to have a more committed relationship. It's very important that we see that a lot of the things that we're looking for are the things that make for a real love story, the things we want to feel, the things that are on the checklist are the things that we've kind of created an impossible situation. So you don't settle if you see that language says, what, I am fantastic or I am not fantastic, but I'm going to find someone fantastic who is going to make me rise.


And it is a kind of use of people that really is creating such a psychological paucity. It's really eroding people's sense of self esteem and sense of self worth. It's not good.




Where are you at in your life at 23? You're going to think differently from 33. At 33, it's likely that you're going to think of a few people that you said no to at 23 that were perfectly fine and you kind of didn't because you kept thinking, I can do better. And this I can do better is eating people up because it creates constant restlessness in relationships, in life, in pursuit. And then they need to go and meditate to get calmer, to be less restless. But the restlessness is this constant pursuit of more, better, younger, and therefore living with the feeling, not enough. I don't have enough. I'm not enough. And that's the crisis that then follows around self worth, because you constantly want more. You end up constantly feeling not enough.


Yeah. And someone else will make me feel more than enough.


Yes. The evaluation, the meaning of finding the love partner today is that it will end my sense of constant self evaluation. I'm evaluating myself, I'm presenting myself, I'm selling myself, I'm trying to compete on the market. It's like know the romantic language is about the know the meat. And then when I find you, my beloved, I will finally stop the process of evaluation. This is a thing from Eva Iluz, a great sociologist that studies love relationships.


That's such a beautiful language as well, that you want to end your process of evaluation when actually a life story is an evolution of self evaluation. It's only going to come with more. Do you see there being inherent value in long term committed relationships? Or is that also a construct of.


See, look, I work very cross culturally, right? So I don't think the answer is the same if I am in Belgium, in India, in Turkey. But I think there is a lot of value in a long term relationship. But the long term relationship has doubled in lifespan. So a hundred years ago we lived half of now. So the long term keeps on getting longer. But there is also tremendous value in having had the possibility of finally being able to end this and to start anew, or to never have had it, and to start anew. People who marry for the first time in their sixty s, or people who realized that they had a beautiful relationship for certain things and that now they needed something else. Marriage was an institution that you couldn't leave. You got in and you got in for life, and if you didn't like it, you could hope for an early death of your partner, because that was the only way out. And especially for women, marriage has not meant the same for men and women. Marriage for same sex people is very recent. So the question has a lot of different pieces.


I think that there is something very beautiful in a long novel, and I think that there are beautiful short stories. There isn't a one size fits all at this moment. And the interesting thing is, we've been creative about a lot of things. We disrupt. We are creative about even family life. We have blended families, same sex families, single parent families, accordion families. But when it comes to romantic couples, romanticism, the exclusiveness, the monogamous long term model has been the dominant model for two centuries and is quite strong. So I think we can be more creative and in rethinking relational arrangements and relationship arrangements that are more diverse and that bring in other people as in the community. Because what is happening in the long term relationship of today is not only that it is much longer, but it is also much more isolated. Longer and lonelier, longer and lonelier. One person to give us what normally an entire village should provide. And that is crippling the relationships under so much weight and so many expectations. So those who do it well do it better than the relationships of the past, says Eli Finkel. But the majority of them don't manage to climb the Olympus.


Yeah, and I often think about that because I think what we were talking about earlier, when I first met my wife, I definitely say that there was so much of the romanticism of the perfect relationship, and I often talk about in my book as well, about how I proposed to my wife, which was basically based off of Instagram and YouTube videos, how I invented a proposal that was so not personal or not.


She liked it.


Well, I'll tell you what. So. And if anyone's heard this story before, I apologize, but I want to estimate.


I don't know it have the context.


Yeah. So we'd been together, I think, at that point, for, like, maybe I proposed after, like, a couple of years. And so we'd been together. I decided I was going to propose. We were walking down the bank of the River Thames in London. I had an acapella group jumped out and sing Bruno Mars, will you marry me? Like, marry you to her. They gave her a bouquet of flowers. They performed this amazing number. I got down on one knee. I proposed. We both shed a tear. She said yes. We then had dinner on the side of the Thames, where I had to kind of finagle a table from a restaurant. I had food that was brought in, but it was cold because everything had gone wrong on the timing. So we ate cold food, which was. We didn't mind. My wife is amazing, so she didn't care, but I was looking at that. Hmm. And then we walked around the corner, and we ended up on a white horse drawn carriage that I'd booked that took us around London on this beautiful carriage. And it was a beautiful trip. And then we got on the train to go back to her parents, and we got home to her parents.


Her parents opened the door, and they said, what happened to you? To her? She had hives all over her face. Because that was the day I discovered that she was allergic to horses. And I didn't know that, and she didn't know that. And I've always looked back and reflected at that story, because my wife said yes. She's never complained about it. She was happy with it. But when I really look at it, and as I've got to know her more and more every year, and like you said, I feel like I get to know more of her new things and old things every year. We've been together for ten years now, and I still feel like every day I'm discovering something new about her, I realized that that was the most impersonal show of love ever. The song wasn't specific to her. The horse drawn carriage wasn't specific to her. The food was the only thing my wife would care about, because she's a big foodie, and that's her world, and it was cold. And I look back at that event, and I go, I'm lucky she said yes. But actually, the hives were a reminder to me of how little I knew my wife at that time, how eager.


You were to impress.


How ego. Exactly. I was a complete show ego. I was 20, maybe 627.




And just what a show it was. As opposed to.


Do you come from traditional families?


I would say we come from more traditional families, yes, definitely. They're modern thinking, but generally traditional overall in the world.


Were they arranged marriages or were they?


My mom and dad were. And pretty much hers was as well. Yeah, pretty much her parents were as well.


So that's a major transition. So when you ask me about long term relationships, I think people who are in an arranged marriage system answer that question very differently than people who start with the romantic. You know what the research says, right?


I've seen bits, but please clarify. Yeah.


I think it's Danarielli's research that people who start with romantic and falling in love and passion are much more likely to then experience a dissatisfaction in the relationship than the majority of people who start in an arranged situation, which is much more rational. Actually, their satisfaction rises as they get to know each other and develop the fondness and the relationship. I think this is true. If the relationship is good.


Yeah, if it's good.


But for those for whom it was really not a good match, it must be horrific.


Horrific, yeah. And I think the reason why I was sharing that story was because I think what I've realized, and you were mentioning this earlier, is that I feel like I found the person who has helped me continue self evaluation in a way that I would have avoided with someone else or that I would have tried to avoid if I would have had multiple love stories. Whereas this life story that I have with my wife currently is just the most purifying and cleansing, detoxifying process internally, but in the most fun loving and caring way. And I look at that and I think about that often, where I think to myself, I would have had to learn these lessons with anyone, but maybe someone else may not be able to challenge me as much as my wife does, with the lack of criticism and complaint and judgment in a safe space with humor, which actually makes it accessible to me. And it's one of these really interesting reflections that I wanted to share with you to hear your thoughts on that, because I don't think I would. There are so many skills today that I have only because I married this particular person.


There are so many emotional parts of myself that I've been able to discover because of this person. There have been so many, you know.


What you're telling me in some way is you didn't succeed in impressing her.


I have never succeeded in impressing my.


Wife, and it is the best life. That's her power.




I mean, not that you're not impressive to her and that she doesn't appreciate and admire, but you didn't succeed till this day. Right. And therefore her opinion matters, and therefore, she can keep you on your toes, and therefore, she doesn't let you sit on your laurels and get away with stuff. And therefore, she can see you in a more humble way when you come home from having done 40 stage events after another where you get clapped the whole time and you kind of lose a sense of proportions. And that is an extremely. I think that you're very lucky, and not just lucky because you found her, but also because you knew that you did need someone who challenges you and who can hold hers to you, but do it in a way that doesn't feel authoritarian or humiliating or ball busting, et cetera. And so it creates the right friction. She cares and she can criticize. She loves, and she can challenge it's both ends. And holding those tensions in a relationship is, in my mind, very important and very. Gives a lot of strength and energy to a relationship.


Yeah. Sorry. Please.


No, that's it. I think it's your self awareness of it that is really good. It's like, if you had somebody who just looks like that, it would have been a problem. If you had somebody who just did that, it would have been a problem. But you knew that you needed that.


Yeah, and I don't think I knew it before we started having that experience, but it just became really evident to me that she loves me for who I am, not what I do and what I achieve and how I try to impress, for example. And I think that's a great reminder for me to love myself for who I am and not love myself for what I achieve or what I do or what I create. And I think that that is a really. I'm like, that's very important. Yeah. To have something, and it's also how you perceive it. I think what you're saying is true. I've talked about it with people. I could easily perceive it, and people could perceive it and say, jay, you're just a pushover. Jay, you're just making it up. You're making sense of something, and it's bad treatment or whatever. And I'm like, well, no, because I can see that it's done from love and care, and it's humor. As you said, it's done from such a special, loving place that I feel that. I know it's a knowingness, that it is liberating, and it is wonderful. But it's interesting because I think a lot of people may have that experience, but they don't want to be humble.


They don't want to access that point. And I'm fortunate that my monk training kicks in there and allows for that vulnerability and self reflection and not thinking I'm perfect. Whereas I wonder if we're scared to do that because we almost want our partner to make us feel perfect.


No, I think that this thing of perfection is. I think we want our partners to recognize us and accept us, but it.


Comes in the form of, at least in the beginning, demanding adoration.


Yeah, but the beginning is only with the beginning. It's one phase of a know. I think my friend Terry real has this beautiful definition. Self esteem or self worth or self confidence is seeing ourself as flawed, imperfect people and still hold ourselves in high regard. If you actually need to see yourself as perfect, you lack the confidence. The confidence is the ability to make mistakes and not to not sleep over it for three weeks because you feel such shame and such intense attack on your identity. But I have a question from you, for you, from what you've just said, do you feel that these days, on all sides of the spectrum, of the gender spectrum, that people are so enraptured with the notion of identity and holding on to the self that they find accepting influence from another person an instant threat to their identity? Like pushover. Pushover. It's a power dynamic instantly when you use that word. If you accept what your wife says, what kind of a man are you? Right. You're just a pushover. That's more in the masculine version. Women have it in the. But it is along the whole spectrum, something about the way we are so busy protecting our egos is making everything that involves letting someone else actually have influence over us, which is part of what being in a relationship is about.


As an attack.


Yeah, I'd love to discuss this with you and my reflection, from what you were saying, and I was nodding along because there's so much of it that I agree with. I think that what I see is most of us struggle to know ourself when we get into a relationship. So I think I'd propose that I don't think most people have a lot of self awareness when they get into a romantic relationship. So they don't actually have a conscious sense of self identity. We have a subconscious sense of self identity in the sense of what our parents taught us and what family and media, we have all this mix of stuff. But if I asked someone to lay out their top ten values, they wouldn't be able to do that because they'd be like, I'm not sure. And what ends up happening, I think, in that scenario is you adopt the values of the other person and then at some point you go, wait a minute, I've just been doing what you want. And you think that person made you adopt their values, but actually you just didn't know yours. And so I think you see that happen in some relationships, in other relationships, I think what you're saying is true.


People are so definitive about their own self identity that they go into a relationship going, I'm not going to get influenced at all by this person. And I think that also happens because we're getting into long term relationships later in life. So if you're going into a relationship later in life, chances are you know who you are and what you want to do and what you're building and what's important to you. When you're younger, you're less self aware. When you're older, hopefully you're somewhat more self aware. And so you're more concrete in your ideology.


But the opposite could be equally.


The opposite could be equally.


When you're young, you think you know everything and you're certain about stuff you have no certainty about.




And when you get older, you actually become more flexible because you realize that there isn't one way for everything.


Totally. Exactly. So it can be both ways. And I think overall, I think the point that at least I think we're trying to get to, which I like, is that it's a bit of both. It's almost like I'm trying to find this poem and I can't find it. Ever since I read it, it's one of those, and I'm sharing it here because hopefully someone finds it. I read this poem while I was researching and there was this beautiful poet, and I can't find it. I've looked for it and everything, but this poet was talking about how when you are single, you've been building your home with the bricks that you were given and your home is broken. And some of it's beautiful because that's how we are as people. Some parts of our home makes sense and some part of the bricks are falling out. And he said, when you come into a relationship, you want the other person to move into your home. You want them to come to your home, and the other person wants you to go to their home. But actually what you need to do is take the bricks you both like from your own homes and build a new home together.


And I really love that visual, the idea that this unified agreement, which was the language you used, or this idea that you're saying of, like, how much do I allow the influence without feeling powerless, but to feel like we're co creating something. My wife and I have a lot of agreements that they're not rules or contracts, but they're agreements of how we deal with certain things. And it's something we've created together. It's not something we adopted from my parents, her parents or anywhere else. And I feel that if we walked into a relationship and said, what do we want to build together? What do we want to create together? What does a good, healthy relationship mean to us? To me, those questions at least feel empowering as opposed to draining of power.


One of the complementarities in relationships is that we are often drawn to a person who brings characteristics that we are trying to get away from.


So true. Yeah, so true.


When it's dynamic, it's really a very know. Kneading of the dough.


Yeah. Sylvester, throughout our conversation, you've been referencing this new course of yours, which I'm so excited for people to do because I feel like so many of what things we've discovered today with your books and your practice. Yes, exactly. How do you actually apply it? So please tell us where we can find this course and the name of the course and where it is.


Turning conflict into connection. It's 1 hour, eight videos with a fantastic workbook that really not just helps you fight better and more constructively, but also helps you relate better, because if you have a different attitude toward conflict, you have a whole different relationship. It's on my website,, and it's coming out October 10.


Okay, amazing. Well, I recommend everyone who's listening and watching make sure you go and check out the course. If you've loved this conversation, I know you're going to get so much value from it, so much insight. And, of course, make sure you go and take a look at all of Esther's books as well. So please check those out. I want to do one last thing, Esther, with you. Because you did our final five last time.


Yeah. Because when we don't fight, I want you to play. And so first, I created the game. I said, let's play.


I love it. This is Esther's beautiful game. Where should we begin? A game of stories by Esther Burrell. If you don't have this, grab it, too. We're going to pick a couple of cards and have some fun with this.


Open it like a chocolate.


Oh, there we go. I love chocolate. So you speak in my language? Completely.


We are too.


I'm going to take this out, and we're going to shuffle these cards. And then what do we do? Pick one at random?


Yes, we pick. Look, relationships are stories, and we tell stories about ourselves to people at every level. And we recreate connection, intimacy and fun. You pick.


This is fun. Oh, I'm picking first, then you hold it. You shuffle it, too. Then to make sure everyone knows that this is truly random, I want to have some fun. And I love stuff like this. So I love games. I love play one of my wife's. And I's favorite things to do is we play a lot of pickleball right now.


Will you write to me after you've.


Played with her escape rooms? Yeah. This one I'm going to. Yeah, definitely. I'd love to.


All right, if you don't like it, you pick another.


Oh, okay. Is that how it works?


Well, it works now.


I'm going to do a few. I'll do a few because they're quick. So at a party, you'll find me is the prompt. And so at a party, you'll find me finding the one person I can have a deep, meaningful conversation with, sitting in the corner with them and having existential conversations for the whole night. And people may not even know I was at the party.


That would be me.






Then we'd just be sitting next to each other. Great. I love that. So I'll do that with you. I love it. Awesome. Oh, me again. Oh, you're, like, poking that out to me. This is like.


I caught it.


There we go. All right. Oh, wow. If I could change something about the way I was raised, it would be so the easy answer. The first thing that came to mind is I wouldn't change anything because I'm really happy with the human I am today and how my life has gone the way it has. I really think that is my honest answer. But if I could change something about the way I was raised.


And it doesn't just have to be your family.


Yeah, I would say it would be. I would have loved earlier on to know that there were so many more careers and paths in the world. So when I met the monks when I was 18 years old, that was the first time my mind was open to that path. But it took me years to recognize that you could have a career in media, that you could have a career in. Do this, do this. I never knew any of that. I literally thought there were like three. It sounds ridiculous, but I was so limited in my thinking growing up because of what I was surrounded by. I would change that. I want people to know that there are so many different I didn't know you could be a therapist. I didn't know you could be a neuroscientist. I didn't know you could be any. I would have wanted to be a neuroscientist if I knew that existed.


I didn't know I can be a therapist outside my office. I've worked in a field that is very confidential. I could never talk about what I did. And through the podcast, I'm able to work with people who are not patients will never be. And so I can actually bring what is happening between the four walls to the world and bring the world inside the office. And you can be a fly on the wall in someone else's session.


Amazing. So just to remind everyone, the game is called where should we begin? You can also order the game as well. Playing with your friends, family, with your.


Dates, with your partner. You grab a few cards you put in your pocket. You can leave the box and off you go into storyline.


I love it. And you can surprise someone with chocolates in it too.


Oh yeah, you can mix and match.


Esther, it's been such an honor, honestly, talking to so it's really interesting when you talk to someone and you just feel like you've immersed yourself so deeply in this space for so many decades, and the wisdom shines through your words, it shines through your empathy. At the same time, your assertiveness. I am so grateful that you do what you do for the world. Honestly. I learned so much from you. I learned so much from your work. I'm a student of your work and I honestly feel humbled and grateful that I've got to spend this time with you. And I highly encourage everyone to go and immerse themselves in your world in all ways. So thank you so much for the gift that you offer the world. I really mean that.


Thank you means a lot.


I mean it. Thank you. If you love this episode, you're going to love my conversation with Matthew Hussey on how to get over your ex and find true love in your relationships. People should be compassionate to themselves, but extend that compassion to your future self, because truly extending your compassion to your future self is doing something that gives him or her a shot at a happy and a peaceful life.


I'm Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, host of the Psychology podcast and founder of the center for Human Potential. If you like on purpose with Jay Shetty, I think you'll enjoy the Psychology podcast, where we explore the depths of human potential. In each episode, I talk with inspiring scientists, thinkers, and other self actualized individuals who give you a greater understanding of yourself, others, and the world we live in. Our aim is to help you live a fuller, more meaningful life. Listen to the Psychology podcast on the radio app or wherever you get your podcasts.