078: What do you do when your partner is DISTRACTED?

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Welcome to another episode of Tuff Love, with Rob Kandell. This is episode 78, and it’s a very personal show today. This episode is about Rob’s thoughts and feelings about a new experience he’s having in his life and relationship. Tuff love has to be talking about the things that are uncomfortable to talk about. We are dynamic human beings and every time we don’t relay the truth and hold something inside that’s bugging us, it creates distance in relationships. This episode is about exactly that, and it’s so close to home that Rob knew he had to do this show.

Rob’s relationship with Morgan is so good, and he likes to brag about it. But it’s also challenging because unlike in previous relationships, everything that arises between them has to be talked about. The current experience has to do with distraction and feeling ignored or abandoned.

The storyline is that Rob was away for a business trip, and then when he got back the two kids got really sick over successive days. Add to this a birthday party and Morgan’s mother visiting, and it made for a really busy week where Morgan has been very focused on everyone other than herself and Rob. And Rob fully appreciates and understands this, and yet there are feelings of abandonment and lack of attention.

Rob has come to some realizations and had some reminders from this experience:

  • This is a new experience. In previous relationships, he never felt like something else was a priority, or felt bypassed.
  • All your trauma happens when you’re 0-8 years old. All adult trauma is a triggering of those earlier childhood traumas.
  • There is a childhood link and experience of being abandoned that links to this current example
  • Rob has done exactly the same thing. His job was his priority over womem for a long time, and relationships were secondary.
  • This is endemic in our society. More often than not, people feel their partner has something else as higher priority than them. E.g. spending more time staring at their phone than at their partner
  • There are ‘legal’ excuses—e.g. the job pays the bills and the college fund for the kids—but they still trigger
  • It’s important to ask how you can communicate in a way that builds more intimacy, builds more connection and doesn’t have the person feel wrong
  • It’s not “either/or”, it’s “yes, and…”. Rob had the beautiful experience of feeling free to share somewhat charged communication and not making an ‘either/or’ communication. E.g. “I feel ignored AND I know why you’re doing it, AND don’t know what to do about it.”
  • It’s possible to respond in a “yes, and…” manner too. E.g. “I know I can’t provide to you what you need right now AND I know that you know that it’s valid and important about the kids AND your feelings are important.”
  • The importance of bringing this kind of thing to your partner in real time
  • There is a tender, softer way to communicate to your partner that you appreciate the situation they’re in, why they’re doing it AND your own feelings.
  • That there is an epidemic of kids not getting the attention that they want, and how parents can consider this kind of communication as well.

Robert coaches Daniella, who feels like her partner is unavailable to her and can’t hold space for her when she’s experiencing strong emotions. Daniella and Rob explore:

  • Daniella’s story and the history of her relationship with Danny
  • What happens when she gets anxious and he pulls away
  • Why this is a common dynamic among men and women
  • Teal Swan’s Completion Process
  • The difference between a man and a woman’s relationship with the vigilance center I the brain
  • Why communication and boundary setting is not the solution and has only a 75% chance of success
  • The reason men feel more comfortable fixing things or disconnecting, than holding space for a woman’s emotions
  • The importance of both partners being willing to do their own emotional work
  • Why Daniella’s focus should be on her own self-care and finding a team that can support her
  • That nobody owes anybody anything, but in relationship we give each other the opportunity to grow and expand
  • The reason men have a small bandwidth for acceptable feelings, and why anything outside the bandwidth either disconnect or get into a fight.
  • The value in taking the expectations off each other and supporting each other into mastery
  • Why you should expect to falter and stumble, and celebrate it