TL 78 | What Do You Do When Your Partner Is Distracted

078: What Do You Do When Your Partner Is Distracted?

TL 78 | What Do You Do When Your Partner Is Distracted

When you hide things from your partner, that’s when the relationship goes downhill. There will be times that the two of you will not meet at the same level because of circumstances like work or family. As a responsible man, you try to understand the situation but decide to not let your partner know how you felt. What do you do when your partner is distracted? Communicate your feeling to her. Tell her you understand the situation and she doesn’t have to do anything to fix how you feel, you just want her to know. This then leads her to understanding how you feel and start to connect with you finally.

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What Do You Do When Your Partner Is Distracted?

It’s a very personal show in this episode. It’s going to be a very interesting show because it goes so deep, and hopefully it’ll answer some questions and provide some thought for everyone, because that’s what Tuff Love is all about. I was thinking about that as I was writing the Facebook advertisement for the show. My first thought was like, “I wonder how Morgan is going to react to this show,” because Morgan is the most beautiful, sensitive person I’ve ever known. She can take even the lightest possibility of something negative and take it internal, and that’s what this show is about. There’s nothing negative about Morgan. It’s actually about me, my feelings, and my thoughts about new experience I’m having.

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, every time we hold inside something that’s bugging us, that relationship goes to shit. Every withhold you withhold from your partner, and every communication that you don’t communicate is a brick glass between you. It’s a foam on top of you. It’s the stuff that happens that creates distance in your relationship. Tuff Love is about saying what is so in a proving manner, in a deliberate manner, in a way that you’re not dominating on your partner, but in a way that speaks the truth.

I was like, “I can’t do this show. This is too close to home.” I was like, “I have to do this show, it’s so close to home.” That’s what it’s all about. My relationship with Morgan is so good, and I like to brag about it, talk about it, and use it as an example because anything that arises in between us has to be talked about. It’s so transparent, it’s so intimate. I’ve been in a lot of relationship where I could lie through my teeth. I could lie, and they wouldn’t even notice. I was very good, very sneaky. The con artist personality inside of me could withhold.

With Morgan, I found it just isn’t like that. It’s like lying and withholding from her is like wearing a sweater, a turtleneck itchy sweater on a hot, humid day. It’s like my whole skin is creeping and crawling because of that. Every time something comes up, she notices it or I notice it and we talk about it. After that, it’s like I can take off the sweater of my discontent, my sweater of my withholding and lying.

This thing about distraction, let me give you the storyline of this experience. I went on a business trip. I was in Olympia, Washington. My younger kid got sick the day before I came back. Then our older daughter had a birthday party, which was a kids’ sleepover party. Attached to that were some adult drama. There were some kids’ drama, and it was a lot to happen. Then our older daughter got sick. On top of that, Morgan’s mom is in town. She is awesome. I love her visiting and she is an incredible human being. The amount of attention on me has been minimal to say the least.

I understand completely, at a linear point of view, that this is no big deal in the lifetime of my relationship with Morgan, which is going to go on for a long time. This is nothing. It’s a very small number. At the same time, feelings have arisen because every night, we might start off in bed together and a kid will come in and Morgan will be gone. When you’re used to sleeping to a warm body next to you, when it’s not there, there’s a definitive difference. It struck me as really intense.

This is not Morgan’s fault. She is a super mom. She takes care of the kids beautifully. Watching Morgan parent has been inspiring to me and has taught me how to treat other human beings. I don’t want to say anything that she’s doing that is off, but there’s feelings. There is a feeling of abandonment and lack of attention. I’m whining, “What about me? What about my wants, my desires? What’s going on?” I started thinking about what was happening. The first thing that I realized is that this is a new experience. I had been involved in many relationships in my life and I’ve never felt like something else was truly a priority over me. That’s a heavy thing to say.

TL 78 | What Do You Do When Your Partner Is Distracted

What Do You Do When Your Partner Is Distracted: Every withhold you withhold from your partner, and every communication that you don’t communicate is a brick glass between you.

It makes sense for every parent to some degree. Your child and the well-being of your child logistically, logically, and legally has to trump. There’s this feeling of being bypassed that I’ve never felt before. I was thinking some more about it, and I was like, “What is this feeling? This feeling is familiar.” I went back to my childhood. I was thinking about all your traumas happen when you’re zero to eight years old, and all your adult traumas are re-triggering all those things. Everything you’ve been feeling since you were eight is triggering based on some experience you had zero to eight.

I was thinking about my dad and how my dad’s priority was his work. He was a workaholic, like me. The job always felt like it held precedent over me. My mom was a stay-at-home mom from when I was zero to seven. She was doting and taking care of me, and I was the center. When I was seven, she decided to go back to nursing school and get her master’s, and she was gone for years. This is what my mom needed to do for her. I was always in daycare, but there was some part of me that felt abandoned at that time that this feeling is re-triggering. I was like, “There’s more to this than being gone from Morgan for days.”

I was thinking about it some more and I brought it back to myself. I thought, “You’ve made your job priority over women your entire life on some level.” When I was coming up in the corporate world, my job held a lot more attention than I did my relationship with my wife and my marriage. The job was always the excuse. I always considered myself like I was in the army and that relationships were secondary and tossable. There was no depth to them, because I could be called to move at any time. Therefore, every relationship was secondary. I did that for thirteen years, including every relationship I had.

With Morgan, I started my relationship with her and her mother at the same time. Her mother was pertinent over Morgan. I was like, “Who am I to look down at someone else when I’ve done the same exact thing?” All these thoughts are flowing in my head. All of these, “What is going on with me that this is such a big deal?”I extrapolated even more and started thinking about how this is endemic in our society and how more often than not, people feel that their partner has something else as close to or equal or even higher priority than them.

There’s even times where we look at our partner and think, “You spend more time staring at your phone than you do into our eyes.” We spend more time on social media than we do talking. You reveal more stuff to your Facebook feed than you do to each other. I was thinking about people who have demanding jobs, and these are legal excuses. That job pays the bills. That job pays the college fund for the kids. You have to find that balance between the two. What do you do with the feelings if your partner is distracted? How do you communicate that in a way that builds more intimacy, builds more connection, and doesn’t have the person feel wrong?

That was my experience with Morgan. She was gone all night. I went down at some point and made myself some breakfast. I was planning to leave, and I heard her upstairs. She came from the kid’s room and she’s lying in bed. I came in to the bedroom and she’s sitting there and was wiped out. She’s tired from taking care of the kid all night. We started talking about these feelings and we communicated back and forth about what is. It was a beautiful experience where I felt free to share somewhat charged communications of, “I’m feeling ignored and I don’t have a lot of attention. I know why you’re doing it and I don’t know what to do about it.”

She is not paying attention even to herself. Her entire days have been to the kids, the party, and the mom. She’s wiped out and I understood that. What she said to me struck me, “Your feelings are important. I know I can’t provide to you what you need right now. I know you know it’s valid and important about the kids. Your feelings are important.” This was the question or the lesson or the concept. This is the thing to bring to your partner if your partner’s feeling distracted.

It’s important to do it in real time. Like all the things we chat about, there’s still this thing that when you withhold something, that’s where your relationship starts to go downhill. Even these somewhat selfish, somewhat needy, somewhat inappropriate thoughts of, “I know you’re exhausted with the kids, but I need a little loving too.” Maybe loving won’t be exactly what I hope for, but at least it will be out of my psyche, out of my anger and stuck zone, and into an intimate communication to your partner. That’s the most important thing is when you fully speak the truth of what that is.

I got an email from a fan and she said, “If you feel bad about your partner feeling down, tell him to get a life.” I was like, “That’s one way to do it.” If your partner’s distracted, go put your attention elsewhere. There’s a validity to that view point, there’s a softer way that you can communicate to your partner that you understand the situation they’re in, that you appreciate them for what they’re doing. These are my feelings. “You don’t have to fix them, you don’t have to make them better, but I just want you to know them, so you’ll feel connected. I want you to understand them so it’s not a secret. I want you to be able to feel me, so I could feel you better more and connected.”That’s the main thing that wants to come out.

I was thinking, “That’s the adult thing. What to do when you’re younger?” This show is not for the youngsters and the teenagers, but there’s this epidemic of kids not getting the attention they want. How, as a parent, as an adult, when you notice this, how do you bring this up? How do you explain to a child, “I would love to take care of your all day, but I got to go to the job, so I can buy your medicine?” How do you have those hard conversations so they feel satisfied and connected? My parents were doing the best they could with the technologies they had in the seventies, and the effect is still happening when I’m 47. The hurt that I felt as a youngster that I didn’t understand is still inside of me. As a parent and as an adult, how do you sit and encourage the kid to express their feelings? It comes back to communication. It comes back to being willing to express all the feelings that you have in real time so that they don’t get stuck. That’s what’s happening a lot in terms of our relationships.

Live Coaching

We’re now going to bring Daniela. Hi, Daniela. 

Hi. How’s it going?

It’s awesome. Thanks for being on the show. 

Thanks for having me. This is great. This is such a perfect topic too. I’m totally intimidated by it, but I want to jump in.

Thank you for being courageous. How can we make this the most optimal for you? 

I don’t know if I’m fully dropped into the topic, but I wanted to start with where I’m at .I feel like my partner is unavailable. I’m in a relationship and it’s also been two years. I started dating Danny about the same time that you and Morgan became a couple and started seeing each other. This relationship for me has been an interesting one because I met him on the first day that I got to LA. I met him, and we hit it off. We ended up having a wonderful night and hung out all night. We hooked up and had an amazing, fun sexy time. I never thought that it would evolve into anything more. I went back to the Bay Area because I was living in Oakland at the time, and he kept calling. He kept inviting me back to LA to see him. I was having a great time and dating other people, but I kept saying ‘yes’. I continued to date this guy long distance, and finally when I decided to move to Los Angeles, Danny asked if we can see each other exclusively. He asked that I stop seeing other people. I was happy to do that and excited. It felt unexpected for me, but I was eager. I agreed to it and we’ve had a beautiful relationship.

It’s been the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in, but one of the things that is challenging where I feel like there’s this unavailability piece with the fact that Danny has gone in and out of love and in and out of feeling in love with me for two years. It’s been constant feeling of love and connected one minute, and then the next he’s freaking out because I’m not Jewish or he’s freaking out because I have a lot of anxiety and depression tendencies and he can’t hold space for that as much as he wants to. He tends to pull away. We’ve recently discovered the specific dynamic that’s happening. It’s interesting to describe, but it’s not uncommon and I don’t think that I am alone as a woman in feeling this dynamic. What the dynamic looks like is when I get anxious, Danny pulls away because he doesn’t want to sit in that intensity with me.

When he pulls away, I want to grip even closer because I want to be next to him and I want to be connected to him. That doesn’t work, because what he’s trying to communicate to me is that when he pulls away, he wants to be alone. That’s the last thing that I want, for us to be apart in that in those moments of high emotion. It’s been difficult. We were coming from an intense conversation after leaving away Bay Area for a week for work. When I came back, we ended the evening with him telling me that he feels like our future is grim and he doesn’t see a future for us. He’s feeling out of sync and he doesn’t know if this relationship will continue for much longer. It felt me feeling raw.

I’ve received some coaching around this, but I’m totally wanting to get your perspective on what do you think is going on here. I developed a new tool that I may start to use. It’s challenging to feel disempowered and to feel alone when your partner isn’t available. I heard you when you said that you think that it wasn’t for you. It’s much more than just Morgan being unavailable for days, it was so much deeper than that. It was a trigger from your past. I wonder if Morgan was absolutely right about this trauma from one to eight and if we relive our traumas, we’ll run over and over again. That’s probably accurate if we hold a magnifying glass to our life. That’s where I’m at.

Thank you for being so honest and raw. I know it takes guts, so I want to say I appreciate that. There’s some resources you can take a look at. One of Morgan’s teacher’s who I like a lot, Teal Swan, who talks about this has a process called The Completion Process. The main thing I see what’s happening at the first level is you don’t feel secure. Your vigilance center, that part of your brain that’s constantly looking for danger, doesn’t feel health. Men’s relationship with the vigilant center is very different than a woman’s relationship to our vigilance center. Men tend to be able to go into scary situations, jump out of planes with knives in their teeth, walk in, and just put themselves in danger and they feel at home. We look forward to that. We like the challenge of it. 

There’s some situations from our past that we don’t feel safe, but as a general rule, men tend to feel more comfortable in dangerous situations. Women on the other hand, have a smaller bandwidth around their vigilance center. If something feels unsafe and unsecure, then it messes up everything. It’s going to fuckup your sex life. It’s going to fuckup your intimacy. It’s going to fuckup on how you relate. The first thing is you both need to talk about how to get back to that place where you feel secure, because being totally in love and then distancing is one way to whack out your vigilant center. Do you have any thoughts about that? 

TL 78 | What Do You Do When Your Partner Is Distracted

What Do You Do When Your Partner Is Distracted: Men’s relationship with the vigilant center is very different than a woman’s relationship to our vigilance center.

I think that’s accurate. What you’re describing about the differences in our vigilance center feels super on point with Danny and I and with any other relationship I’ve ever been in with a man. With women, it tends to feel different for me. I want to talk about this new tool that I want to start using and it might be helpful for me. One of the things that I want to start utilizing is setting a boundary with Danny and my relationship, to ask if he is willing to communicate to me when he’s ready to disconnect, and also communicate to me when he’s ready to come back into connection. As long as I know that he can communicate that to me with words in a simple way, then I’ll know that I can disconnect and allow him to do his own thing and I can do my own thing and allow him to go along his way and be alone for a little while and give him that time, while I go and put the focus back on me.

It will help me to feel safe to still be in the relationship and to remain grounded in the relationship that even in moments where it’s super high emotion. We’ve never set this boundary. That’s not something that we’ve ever done, and it might be helpful to know that as long as he’s communicating that he need space, and that he can communicate when he’s ready to come back into connection with me, then I will feel great. It’ll take practice. It’s not going to be easy for me to agree to it and let him do his own thing in moments where I want to connect, but as long as I know that he keeps coming back, then I might feel better. I’m wondering your thought about that and if you have other tools that you use that work for you and Morgan and other relationships you’ve been into.

I give that a 70-30 chance of success. I don’t know Danny at all and I’m not here to judge or predict or anything, but as a man, we don’t often know the trigger point when we’re ready to disconnect or when we’re ready to come back in. If Danny feels uncomfortable with your anxiety, that’s because he’s not connected to his emotions. He doesn’t have permission for you, because he doesn’t feel comfortable with his concept of anxiety, because you, on some level, can ride the waves of it, you’re like, “I feel anxiety. I know this is going to pass. I’m going to surf it, I’m going to ride it.” Men who aren’t in touch of their emotions aren’t going to be able to hold to you in that anxiety because he hasn’t learned the skill to relate to his own feelings and thoughts around it. 

You’re now asking him to notice when he feels uncomfortable to something that he’s disconnected from. Danny is a good man. He’s just in society. He’s not been taught how to handle this. It’s a skill set. You can’t expect a guy to be a surgeon, you can’t expect a guy to fly a plane or even drive a car if he doesn’t have the same level of training. I’m not saying he’s a bad guy or any guy who’s not in touch with his emotions is bad, it’s just he’s been uneducated because he lives in today’s society. I give it a 75/25% success rate prediction. 

That’s not good. I don’t think he is in touch with these intense emotions. I don’t think he understands how to navigate that for himself.

Him saying the future feels grim, that’s not helping your vigilance center at all. Do you think he’s willing to work on himself, for himself, with the benefit of learning to relate to you better? 

Yes.

Do you know what tools he’s going for? Is he reading? Does he want to see a therapist? Does he want coaching? 

He’s going to see a therapist. 

Him going to a therapist is not going to be an instantaneous change. It’s going to be over time, but his willingness to see a therapist and to expand his emotional intelligence will tell your vigilance center that this guy’s willing to do the work, which might lend to the security of the foundation of the relationship. What you need to do is to take care of yourself regardless of his support, until he gains the skill for him to handle your anxiety. 

If I can know that he’s doing the work and I know that he had the willingness to do the work to help himself and also to help himself understand our dynamic, then my vigilance will calm down and I’ll be also more secure in the relationship. The second part is while he’s doing his work, I have to remain grounded in my own positivity and my own well-being while he’s going through this process, because it’s going to be a long game. It’s going to take a long time for him to learn and acknowledge what’s going on for him.

He could be quick. Odds are, this is probably some deep stuff that he’s disconnected from that he has to connect to.

The last part of what you were saying is, what’s my priority while I’m in this waiting game. What should my focus be? Where should I be? Should I be focused on myself and who I am and continuing to do my own work and stay in my lane while he’s doing all this work? Is there a way that I can also do that and support them at the same time?

Yes, you need to take care of yourself first. You got to put the air mask on yourself first. You have to eat first or you’ll starve. You need to take care of the basic core of yourself. The best way to enlightenment or mastery is to get into a relationship, because they are going to push every single buttons you have. It’s going to show you where all these spots are that you need to work on and want to work on, and so focus on yourself. 

Take care of yourself. If you know he doesn’t have the skill set to hold you in anxiety, find friends, find your own therapist, find a team, so you don’t have to depend on him for a skill set he doesn’t have. If you take that pressure off, “You’re going to handle my anxiety,” It’ll give him space to work on his anxiety, which will get better and better over time, and then you guys will support each other. I may not be describing exactly the process of it, but do you get the feeling of it? 

There’s one small adjustment that I’d make if I could make an adjustment. I feel so committed to my process and my work. I do therapy, acupuncture, Al-Anon and coaching. I’m actively working on my demons every day. It’s an amazing process, but it’s also difficult. I will continue to do that, and the only adjustment I will make is that I don’t want to go to Danny for him to fix my anxiety. I just want him to hold space for it if he happens to be with me at a time where I’m feeling the anxiety or depression, I don’t want him to fix it ever. I just want to know that it’s okay for me to be that way when I’m around him.

It sounds like he doesn’t have the skill set or acumen to do that at this time, which is fine. I’m not sure he knows that, because men like to fix things. If Morgan comes to me with an issue, my brain, without even me asking it to, has already come up with seventeen solutions of different processes. My training has been not to fix things, it is to say, “Let’s talk about this. How can I support you? Do you want me just to listen? Do you want me to hold space? Do you want me to give you my opinion?” I ask these things every time because I want to make sure that I’m communicating. His untrained mind is trying to fix things. He doesn’t know how to fix things. He’s done feeling like a failure. Men get caught on production, and then we don’t know what to do. We’re agitated because the woman we love is sitting there suffering and we don’t know what to do. 

You’re giving yourself the opportunity to expand on yourself, expand the relationship, and give him the chance to expand, which is what men want. Men want to learn to be masters in all degrees of what we do, and you’re giving him the opportunity. Danny doesn’t owe you anything. You don’t owe him anything. It’s like you’re not in a relationship. He doesn’t have to hold space for you. It is his opportunity to hold space for you. It’s your opportunity to ask him to hold space. That’s what a relationship is about. We give opportunity to expand and grow and find our mastery. Have you told Danny that you don’t need or want him to fix it? 

Yes, numerous times. We have the same conversation all the time and those moments that have high emotion. I’ll usually start with, “I don’t need you to fix this, I just want to let you know that I’m feeling anxiety.” He can sometimes sit there and listen, but only for a couple of minutes before he’s like, “I can’t do this anymore.” I’m looking at him and I see the little crank sentence brain going and trying to fix it a hundred times in a hundred different ways. I don’t need that. He doesn’t owe me anything and I don’t owe him anything, and this is an opportunity for both of us to choose to be in the game with one another, to choose to be in it and it’s not owed. I want to continue to remember that.

He doesn’t believe that when you say you don’t need him to fix it, because all of his training says, “I need to fix it.” Morgan popped on the chat board and she said, “I suspect he is feeling triggered simply by Daniela feeling her feelings. It’s easier for him to disconnect or try to fix it.” Men have a small bandwidth of acceptable feeling. For some men it’s small, and in other men it is larger, and you can expand your range with training. When I started, I was narrow. 

TL 78 | What Do You Do When Your Partner Is Distracted

What Do You Do When Your Partner Is Distracted: It all comes back to doing this together as a team in support for each other’s mastery.

Anything outside the bandwidth, I would disconnect or get into a fight. The work has taught me to expand a lot, which I’m grateful for. Your willingness to say, “I know this is a process for you to take off your expectation that he can hold you,” to say, “I’m going to work on my own team, my own support system. Let’s do this together. You handle your stuff, and then we’ll work on it together.” That is the greatest gift you can give to another human being. 

In future, when I do feel a moment of anxiety or I’m triggered in some way and I happened to be around him in that moment, it’s my responsibility at this point now, knowing what I know from this conversation, to step back and decide that I can heal myself on my own. I can go take a run, Om, go read a book, or go talk to a friend it. That’s my responsibility.

Here’s what I’d recommend, and this is for all these little nuances. “Danny, I got some insight about this piece. I know I’ve been asking you to do something that you don’t have the skill set yet to handle. In the future, when I feel this anxiety coming up, I want you to know that I’m going to take care of myself. I want you to know that I’m doing this in connection with you, not to disconnect, not from anger, but just because I want to take care of myself. When I come back, if you want to talk about it, I’m available.” 

It all comes back to doing this together as a team in support for each other’s mastery. You’re going to falter; he’s going to falter. Just know that you’re going to stumble, and when you do, just stand up. You have a lot of friends who love you. There’s a lot of people out there who are like, “Call me girl. You can text me.” We are here. We do want you to succeed, and we want you and Danny to succeed if that’s what’s in the cards. To move that from grim, to value neutral, to choice. 

Hypothetically, what happens after he has done the work and I’ve done the work, he’d gone to therapy, he pulled out all the nuggets, he understands what’s going on, he understands what makes him tick and what makes him trigger. What do we do? What happens at that point? Once we both have the tools and we both know what’s going on, then do we get to decide if we want to try to be together in moments where it’s high emotion, or do we always decide to be apart and help ourselves in the ways that we need to be soothe individually, then come together?

Do you ever do any hiking? You climb up and you’re like, “There’s this peak I read about.” You go up to the peak and you’re ten miles up, you are sweating, your boot is sweaty, your pack feels like a million pounds, and you get to that peak and it’s like, “It feels so beautiful. I’m so accomplished.” You take a second break and then you opened your eyes, turn around, and notice there’s a bigger peak right around the corner. The work never ends. 

I’ve been doing personal development since March 20th, 1999. We’re going on for eighteen plus years. It never ends, and you don’t want it to end. I’m so grateful that I get to see this happen so I could talk about my feelings about as a kid. I’m so grateful, so I can be a better partner. It never ever ends; you just get better at it. It becomes more amusing, and at some point you might get bored and creative. The work never ends until you die. 

Since you’re so far along the process, when things come up, do you do tend to do the work on your own or are you doing it with Morgan?

With Morgan. I’ll go to therapy. She has her people. I go to my therapist; I have a great therapist. I do my work and I come home and we’d talk about it. Sometimes we fight about what we talked about, and then from the fight we got closer. It never ends, because we’re complex expanding human beings. I am lucky enough to have a partner with incredible emotional intelligence, incredible skills. We complement each other, and we push each other. You can support your partner into their mastery. 

Thank you so much.

I love you. 

I love you too.

That hit home, and I’m grateful for people’s vulnerability to talk about their lives. I have the suspicion that this show is going to help thousands and thousands of people, which I’m grateful for. Thank you so much for allowing me to do what I do and for it to be real.

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