Close romantic relationships are often fraught with anxiety. It just comes with the territory and it’s a beautiful part of what makes us human. But how we deal with that anxiety is a different story. I read Dr. Kathleen Smith’s excellent book, Everything Isn’t Terrible and learned so much about how my family’s dynamic affects the way I show up in my marriage and other relationships. So, I reached out to Dr. Smith and invited her on the podcast to discuss how differentiation, a term she uses to describe a mature way to deal with anxiety, leads to better relationships. This is episode 45, Everything Isn’t Terrible.

Dan:

Dr. Kathleen Smith, thank you very much for being here today. I’m so thrilled to have you on! I’ve really enjoyed your book and have just been fascinated by this topic of differentiation and how it can apply in our families and in our love relationships. Thanks for being here today.

Kathleen Smith:

Thanks for having me. I never get tired of talking about this stuff!

Dan:

Yeah, that’s great. And that’s one thing that you mentioned in your book. It’s like once you kind of stumbled on this, you just want to shout it from the rooftops! But what led you to learning more about differentiation theory and helping other people and couples with that concept?

Kathleen Smith:

The concept of differentiation comes from something called Bowen theory. And Dr. Bowen was a psychiatrist who was trained, like most people back in the day, in psychoanalysis. Freud and all that. And he was really interested in observing families and how they function together, not just looking at individuals. And he noticed that people tend to do really well or not so well based on how their families were functioning.

Dan:

And he worked in, was it a psychiatric hospital? And he observed patients when they’re alone versus with their families and they behave differently. Well, he

Kathleen Smith:

He worked with patients who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and he noticed how some people manage to do better and become healthier and more responsible for themselves and how some people had a harder time. And it was how their family members treated them and how they reacted to one another, had a big impact on a person’s functioning. And so he came up with this idea that in order to change yourself, you can’t just sort of look within, you have to look at how you function in your relationships. And your family, while those are often the closest relationships, the most rewarding, some of the time, it can be the hardest to change our dynamics with our families.

I was an anxious grad student who was trying to just sort of find a theory that was interesting for me. And I started to learn about Bowen theory and I started to work on myself and my own family. And it was just so amazing to see the difference it made just kind of altering and tinkering with small interactions to see how I could calm down a little bit. And it helped other people calm down a little bit as well. So I immediately found it useful and was like, okay, this is the theory for me.

Dan:

I love that. What I’ve learned from your book is that the way we deal with anxiety, we learned that from our family. And you talk about really four ways we deal with anxiety. What are those four ways?

Kathleen Smith:

You know, as humans, we like to think that we’re these sort of special mystical creatures, but we actually behave pretty predictably most of the time. I talk about anxiety being uncreative. When I give presentations on this, I show a picture of Neapolitan ice cream. And I say that anxiety only has a couple flavors, vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, and part of working on differentiation is about sort of opening up new flavors of existence then what we predictably do. And one of the cool things that Dr. Bowen came up with was this idea that there are sort of four automatic ways that he called the mechanisms that families use to calm things down or to manage anxiety. I’ll just list them off the top of my head real quick. So one is to distance. Two is to sort of engage in conflict. Another one would be triangles, which means that when things are tense, we tend to pull other people into our problem or focus on them in order to calm down. And then the fourth one is a sort of a see-saw effect in a relationship called over and under functioning where one person becomes more responsible and the other person assumes sort of less responsibility. So I don’t know if you wanted to talk about each of them or if there is one you want to focus on.

Dan:

Yeah, I do. And let’s apply them like to a marriage relationship and give examples there for each one. Let’s talk about the first one.

Kathleen Smith:

Sure. So, you know, if you think about what humans do when things become tense and avoiding distancing is pretty much our number one strategy, because it works pretty well.

That can be physical distance, not seeing someone, not visiting them, but it can also be emotional distance, not sharing things that are important to you or that you care about, just sticking to superficial topics.

Dan:

Or changing the topic. I’m really good at that one.

Kathleen Smith:

I think in every marriage we use the distance, it’s just sort of a natural thing that happens. But when that’s the only way you can keep things calm, there’s a cost to that. You begin to not share things with your spouse because they might disagree with you, or it might make them anxious and you can’t handle them being distressed. It could be physical distance too, sort of a lack of intimacy or willingness to be vulnerable with each other in that way. Often there is the paradox of thinking that the more of an individual you are, the less you have to rely on distance because you can respect the other person for who they are and what they like and what they believe. You’re not trying to change them or control them. And that allows you to enjoy each other’s company more, to talk about challenging things, because there’s not this sort of overlap of let me function for you, let me calm you down all the time. Let me tell you what you should think and what you should do. So, that’s sort of how distance works in relationships.

Dan:

Gotcha. And I guess the anecdote to that is being a little more thinking “I will focus on what I do have control over, which is me and worry less about things I don’t have control over, which is the way other people respond”.

Kathleen Smith:

To treat people like they’re in charge of themselves and they’re capable of handling you. And not to treat them like they’re incredibly sensitive. So the second mechanism for managing anxiety is conflict. It sounds a little confusing because you think, how does conflict calm things down? It sounds like it would do the opposite. Right?

Dan:

Right. And I thought that like, whoa, when you’re anxious, I thought you don’t want conflict. But after hearing what you said, it makes perfect sense why we engage in conflict when we’re anxious.

Kathleen Smith:

And if you think about it, we wouldn’t do it so much if it didn’t work to a degree. And the heart of conflict is this idea that we want to control or change the other in order to calm things down. So if I think that you’re the problem in our marriage, then I’m going to tell you what to do, to go to therapy, how to take better care of yourself, what to think. That can cause problems obviously. Because people don’t usually respond well to this.

Dan:

Saying, he go listen to this podcast or read this book. You need this because you’re the one with the problem.

Kathleen Smith:

Yeah. And so, it calms me down if I think, oh, okay, well, my husband just needs to get his act together. And then we’ll get along and the problem will be solved. It’s sort of inherently calming to feel like you’re not the problem. But the issue with that is there are things you can do to better yourself, to calm yourself down, to improve how you operate in your marriage. Even if you don’t think of yourself as the problem, working on yourself and thinking about your responses and reactions is incredibly helpful. And it frees the other person up to maybe do the same thing. Conflict is such a common thing with couples. You know, I work with them, I hear them tell a story about an incident or a fight and you get two completely different versions. And each person is focused on how the other behaved badly, not so much on their part and what they want to do differently. So, that kind of calms them down a little bit because they don’t think they’re the problem, but it doesn’t help in the long-term. That causes a lot of problems and can make things more anxious.

So, the third one is triangles. I think that people don’t often think about a marriage in terms of triangles. There’s this idea that a two-person relationship is sort of inherently unstable, or it will become tense at some point when there’s an issue. And what we do is we focus on a third person, or we pull in a third person. So, the simplest kind of triangle is just parents and a child. If you are worried about a child, that can calm down a marriage. Because you’re both focused on helping the kid. If you are proud of a child and all you want to do is talk about the kid, that can calm things down in a marriage. But then your kids grow up and leave and you look at your spouse and go, who are you? We never got to know each other. We were always focused on our kids.

But another kind of triangles could be an affair. A person sort of goes outside the marriage and has a relationship and that causes problems. But at least for them, it kind of helps manage the tension in the short term. Or one of them complains to one of their parents, you pull in one of the in-laws. And so if you say you have a man who always calls his mother to complain about his wife or vice versa, that calms the person down in the moment. But not so much in the long-term. So, I think a therapist can be an example of a triangle as well. Triangles aren’t always bad! You can work with a third person to help stabilize your relationship. But at some point, you have to be able to talk to each other and to focus on each other and share versus always relying on an outside person.

Dan:

Gotcha. And I guess what you just said is that dependence on that third person to calm me down, instead of doing the work I need to do to calm myself down, that’s where the harm can happen. If that’s like your go-to.

Kathleen Smith:

I think it’s a problem when it’s automatic. If I always complained to another person, or we always end up talking about our kids, then that’s sort of not healthy for the marriage.

So, the fourth one, I think this is the one that we all can definitely relate to, is a dynamic that Dr. Bowen called over and under functioning. It’s the idea that when there’s an issue, one person begins to take on more and more responsibility. And the other person gives up that responsibility to the other person they say “here, you just do it”. Maybe they don’t say that, but that’s sort of how they function. And often that under functioner can become less and less capable. They can have issues with substance abuse or other mental health stuff or other symptoms you know, and the over functioner looks at them and goes, “why can’t you do better? What’s wrong with you?” They need them to be more responsible and they don’t necessarily see their part in the dynamic. But that being said, there is not necessarily one or the other, there are a million small ways that I over-function and under function every day. I have this example in my book, if I’m telling my husband how to load the dishwasher a certain way, and he doesn’t do it the way you want, you push him out of the way. And so I’ll just do it instead.

And he is a capable, intelligent human adult. He can do that. He may not do it the same way that I do it. Or if I’m relying on him to always tell me how to drive somewhere and give me directions, and I never learned how to do that for myself.

If I’m ready to go to sleep, I’ll say we’re staying up too late, we need to go to sleep. That’s me trying to over function for him. Whereas I could just go to bed if I wanted to. And he can go to sleep when he wants to, he’s his own person. But I think it sort of slowly creeps in to how we function and often it uses up a lot of our energy when we could be sort of working on ourselves and thinking about ourselves. And so a lot of people with marriage problems are caught in this sort of Seesaw dynamic. Often it’s the over functioner who wants the under functioner to go to therapy, to work on themselves, and there’s a lot that they can do to kind of interrupt that dynamic. I’m sure there are lots of other ways that we manage anxiety, but these are at least sort of the big four that Dr. Bowen observed in families. And I think they operate in any human interaction, in the workplace, certainly religious organizations, anywhere basically where humans are involved, and it’s useful to pay attention to them. And to ask yourself, do I always want to do this, or is there a different way of operating here?

Dan:

Definitely. I see all four of those manifest themselves, especially in a marriage relationship, when there are these sexual desire discrepancies, you tend to want to over function or under function, or you bring up conflict to kind of calm yourself down to blame the other spouse or all of those things you do a lot of.

Kathleen Smith:

And paying attention to them, like I said, it opens up those other flavors other than just the same old, and you can say, well, maybe I can respond differently when this happens again. And I’ll see if that helps me and that helps them. And doesn’t sort of get us stuck in this pattern of operating.

Dan:

Speaking of getting unstuck in our patterns, what are the steps you coach your clients to go through to become more aware of their thoughts or to interrupt their current behavior? What are the steps you go through to help them kind of realize what’s going on and how to fix that?

Kathleen Smith:

In my book Everything Isn’t Terrible, I sort of have three main steps. I think that sort of outlines the work I do with my client. The first is just observing, and that’s what we were just talking about. Can you go home for Thanksgiving? Can you spend a day with your family? And can you watch how you sort of use these four mechanisms or four behavioral patterns? And then the second step is evaluating, asking yourself, is this really what I want to do? How effective has it been for me to always do this? Is it who I want to be as a person? And then to think about a different response. That’s the third step, interrupt, to look for opportunities to not do what you would normally do, and to see if that’s helpful, I can give an example if you need an example.

I give this example all the time, but I have a grandmother who’s still living and she over functions by feeding everybody. And she will put food on your plate when you don’t ask for it. It drives me crazy. And my response to this would always be to kind of snap at her and go, stop doing that, I didn’t ask for any food. I would kind of lecture her on how this was not helpful behavior. And I don’t know, I guess that would fall under conflict, probably, maybe over functioning as well. And so I asked myself, well, first of all, do I want to do this? Do I want to snap at my grandmother? Nobody wants to snap at their grandmother. This hasn’t been effective, she keeps giving me more food. So clearly this response isn’t working on my end.

And so the next time I visited her, she predictably did what she always did. But I tried out different responses, I ignored it and just didn’t eat the food she gave me. I said no thank you, I’ll get some more food if I need it. Or I made a joke about it, just something to kind of play around and see what made a difference. And it wasn’t so much about getting her to change, because she’s ninety years old, she’s probably not going to change, but it was about calming me down and me not feeling so much tension in that very small, innocent interaction. But that’s often what happens in our families and our marriages, right? The smallest thing can kind of set us off. So that’s just a sort of very benign example of okay, observe what you’re doing, evaluate is this who I want to be? Is it effective? And then to play around with a different response and see if you feel calmer or at least less embarrassed by how you behave. So that’s the example I always give. Sorry, it wasn’t a marriage one, but I think it applies all around.

Dan:

Oh, it totally applies. Marriages are full of conflict, but if we choose a growth path through it, we often want to change our spouse. We want them to do all the changing to fix the problem with the conflict. That’s not always the most effective solution long-term, but yet that’s kind of our go-to. Why is that? Why is that part of our human nature?

Kathleen Smith:

Part of the function, if you think about anxiety, and when I say anxiety, I don’t mean anxiety disorder. I mean our response to anything that feels threatening or unsafe or risky. And when there’s conflict, when there’s disturbance in a marriage, that raises the anxiety. And so, we have to label someone as the threat. And so, this human right in front of me, they must be the threat. Cause it’s not me you know? So I must fix you or change you in some way so that things feel calm or I don’t feel like our relationship is in a bad place. So I feel more appreciated and loved. We tend to just become others focused and not self focused when you dial up the stress, that is just a natural response.

Dan:

And does staying others focused actually help solve the problem?

Kathleen Smith:

I mean, I don’t think anyone thrives under the anxious focus of another human. If you can feel someone watching you and disapproving of you and telling you what to do, most of us don’t enjoy that. We get defensive, we feel attacked or cornered or judged. And that doesn’t help people be curious. You know, I talk a lot about this in my book, and if you’re not curious about what can help your marriage, then it’s really hard to do anything differently. But if one person can begin to become curious about themselves and the patterns, I think that helps the other person maybe get a little bit interested as well.

Dan:

And I love that because now you’re focusing on something you do have control over, which is yourself.

Kathleen Smith:

Yeah, you may not feel like it! But, one thing I do when I work with couples is we talk about a fight or an issue, and I kind of draw the process, the cycle, I say, okay, you did this. And then you did that. You did this, you did that. And at any point along this pattern, someone could change how they respond. And I say, it doesn’t matter which one of you wants to volunteer. It just takes one of you to kind of change your side of the equation. And that doesn’t mean that the other person is always going to respond well or do what you want them to do. Or that the problem will go away. But it does mean that you are using a different part of your brain. Not this back part that is reactive and aggressive and anxious. It’s the front part. The part that solves problems and sets goals and is naturally interested in what could be better. And one person doing that very quickly calms down the whole relationship to a degree, at least your 50% of it. And that frees up the space for the other person to maybe use their brain a little bit too.

Dan:

Gotcha. And we’re recording this, but you’re pointing back to your forehead and to the back of your neck. It’s a great visualization though. Is it true that, I’m touching my forehead now, but that the thinking part of our brain doesn’t function very well when our emotional centers are very highly stimulated?

Kathleen Smith:

Yes, because when we feel threatened, we need to act quickly. And that is a biological response that is very useful if a bear is chasing you, not as you useful if you’re having an argument with your wife or your husband. And so figuring out how to sort of reroute that response and maybe at least give yourself a heartbeat or two to have time to think before you respond is a difficult thing to do. But I think the more you observe, the better chance you have of doing that.

Dan:

Is it like a muscle, something you can get better at over time?

Kathleen Smith:

Absolutely. And I think if you are working on it in your family, it’s like when athletes do high altitude training, it gives them sort of that 1-2% competitive edge. And you can think about this stuff at work or with friends or other folks, but really it’s with your spouse, with your own parents, with siblings, with your kids, because we are so locked in to how we operate in those relationships, you get the most bang for your buck if you’re paying attention to those.

Dan:

Got it. Any tips or advice on how we can get really good at that self confrontation or getting that more solid within ourself.

Kathleen Smith:

The first thing, I don’t think everyone necessarily needs to go to therapy or coaching, but I do think either reading something or working with someone that allows you to become more interested in thinking about it is helpful. I primarily see my job as being someone who is so curious that maybe it’s contagious and the other person will become interested as well.

Dan:

Interested in specifically what?

Kathleen Smith:

How they function in their relationships. We were just talking about how our focus goes to becoming an expert on the other person and how they need to change. So, to get that focus back to self. I think that could look like going to counseling or therapy. It could look like keeping a journal, reading books about family systems, sort of whatever engages that front part of your brain, I think sort of sets you up to pay attention to it more in your day to day life. And you’re not just sort of coasting on autopilot.

Dan:

Okay. Can you teach me a little more about this idea of reflected sense of self versus solid sense of self?

Kathleen Smith:

So in Bowen theory there’s this idea that there’s sort of, we think of it as pseudo self and solid self. And this is this idea that you can’t tell how mature a person is just by observing them because we sort of borrow self or functioning from others around us.

Dan:

Yeah. It’s normal and natural, right? Like a child developing, they need that.

Kathleen Smith:

If you’re at your job and your boss praises you, you feel good and you’re probably going to get more work done that day. That’s a natural human thing. But a pseudo self can also be sort of the beliefs and the ways of functioning that we alter to please other people. So if I act one way around one group of friends or agree with what they’re saying, and then I’m hanging out with another group and I agree with what they’re saying, the total opposite, that’s the pseudo self, because I don’t want to upset anybody. It’s the part of you that changes based on who’s in the room. The chameleon. And I think that this operates in our marriages to a degree. To not want to say something that’s going to upset your spouse or that they disagree with because you just don’t want to start an argument about that. Or another way is to behave differently when you’re out with them because you don’t want them to be embarrassed or you want to impress their friends or other people, or to adopt their beliefs in their thinking, because it’s easier than using your own mind and reasoning about how to handle a situation.

And so building up solid self that looks like actually taking the time to sit down and determine what you think and what’s the best way forward. And I think that while there are many things that are wonderful about a marriage and that boost our functioning, I think that it is very easy if we’re not careful for us to lose that self, just because there’s always another person there who can reassure you or tell you what to do or what to think. I think it’s hard when people get married young, and you’ve spent your entire adulthood together. I think it takes a little more effort to make sure that you build up that sense of self. That being said, I’ve met tons of people who get married in their forties and they begin to under function in their marriage.

So it’s not just about age. I think it is useful for everybody to sort of ask themselves, what are the gaps in my own maturity that never got filled up because I always had this other person who was there to do it for me or speak for me. And to think about how I’d like to be more responsible for myself or how I’d like to get clearer about my own thinking and beliefs and be able to articulate them. I think that’s useful for anybody to think about.

Dan:

And what’s the main benefit? Like why does someone really want to take time to think about becoming more solid than their self?

Kathleen Smith:

I’ll give you an example. Because our worlds will collide. And first of all, I remember when I got married, seeing everyone from different parts of my life in stages, being all in the same room. And I remember thinking, oh wow. I’ve been different things in these groups of people, there’s some consistency, but we operate differently based on who’s in the room. And so, you have no choice but to be yourself, if you’re trying to please everybody, that will only leave you anxious and reliant on their praise and approval. That’s a very anxious place to be in.

Dan:

Because then the moment they don’t approve, what are you going to do?,

Kathleen Smith:

Also people aren’t always there to function for you or to tell you what to think. And you have to be able to stand on your own and to do things for yourself. And so if you’ve relied on one person and all of a sudden they’re gone or they’re just not available, then you’re really going to have a hard time.

Dan:

And it kind of is related to having integrity. And what I mean by that is being an integrated person to develop more wholeness within you.

Kathleen Smith:

Absolutely. You know, does how you function reflect what you actually think and what you believe. We all like to think that we’re principled people, but most of the time we’re not operating based on our principles. We’re just trying to make everybody happy and look good.

Dan:

I want to talk a little bit more about the things we do to try to lower anxiety by focusing on other people too much. Like in your book, you talk about the four A’s, the things that we do to try to reduce anxiety by controlling others. Can you talk on that?

Kathleen Smith:

Yeah. I’m trying to remember what they are. I can’t off the top of my head. It’s like approval, attention, agreement, and assurance.

I mean, those are feel good things. And we sure rely on them. I think it varies based on our families and our position in them, how much we need those things to really get by and how much you need them in your marriage. And can you hold on to some thinking if your spouse doesn’t agree with you. Can you calm yourself down if your spouse is unwilling or not there to calm you down? And my poor husband, he knows too much. He’s dangerous. He knows too many of these ideas, so I’ll be distressed and he’ll just sort of be there with me, but he’s not calming me down because he knows it’s useful for me.

And I’m like, man, I wish you didn’t know about these ideas that I’m talking about, because it’d be nice if you just told me everything was going to be okay. Of course, support and reassurance, there’s nothing wrong with those things. It’s just if that’s the only thing that works then you don’t build up your own ability to self-regulate, to calm yourself down. Like, why is his thinking so much more magical than mine? Can’t I tell myself, yeah, I think things are going to be okay. You know, based on past experience, and my capabilities, all signs point to yes. But in the moment, that’s not what we do. We turn to the other and say, I’m not crazy, right? It’s going to be okay? And we go for that assurance all the time. And that doesn’t, just my last thought on that, is that doesn’t free the other person up to sort of be there for you because they want to, or because they love you. It’s because they have to be which is not a fun place or not a fun position for the other spouse to be in. Often they can become very resentful and upset about that.

Dan:

So how do you calm yourself down? Just curious. Binge watching Netflix?

Kathleen Smith:

It’s so funny. People always want to know that there’s some magic technique. And there really isn’t, there are a thousand ways to work on self-regulation. Some people take up meditation, some people do breathing exercises, some people stop and ask themselves what’s going on here and what do I want to do? One thing I do is I try and ask myself what now, instead of what if, because what if is sort of the anxious position to be able to say, okay, what do I want to do now? It sounds so simple, but we don’t ask ourselves those questions when we’re worked up and when we’re upset. And I think that’s sort of the individual piece of how do you work on the physical aspects of calming yourself down, but also it’s how you function in relationships, right?

So I’m a helper as a counselor. So I naturally become an over functioner when people are distressed. And so I have to learn how to calm myself down by not taking over and telling people what to do, because that is my go-to. And that also means I have to put up with some anxiety, it’s not necessarily about how do I calm myself down. It’s also just, how do I learn that the distress of letting this person flail a little bit or do something less efficiently than I might, that that is a survivable thing.

Dan:

We don’t have to escape anxiety at all costs. It’s learning to sit with it and being okay with it.

Kathleen Smith:

Observe it and say, yeah, it makes sense that me doing something differently than I would normally do is going to make me a little tense, like that I should expect it.

Dan:

Yeah. And it’ll pass like clouds passing over the sky. It’ll come, it’ll go. Any stories that you can share of maybe someone you’ve helped or like a pseudo couple, like similar patterns of couples that you’ve helped, where they had a really anxious situation. And then kind of just sum up everything that you’ve taught us today and help them through those steps and to kind of help them through on the other end.

Kathleen Smith:

I was just talking to a couple the other day and we were talking about the pattern of comforting, and every night one person in the couple wanted the other person to rub their feet, or just sort of like pat their head and make them feel better. And the other person in the couple, they felt like it was expected of them. That they were responsible for calming the other person down. So they can fall asleep and not be distressed. And that would have built up some tension and resentment in the relationship. And it didn’t really free the other person up to sort of spontaneously offer like comfort or physical touch, because it had become this locked in way of regulating the relationship.

Dan:

It became a duty, the choice was not in there anymore.

Kathleen Smith:

But because they were thinking of it in that way and not, oh, well, they don’t love me. They don’t want to touch me. They feel resentful about it, so I must not be lovable. I must be asking too much. That’s sort of the way we personalize it, and make it about feelings, as opposed to it being this relationship pattern that you get locked into. And so I think it was useful for them to think about because all of a sudden they were getting interested in saying, okay, how do we switch this up? How do we try something different one night? Can the person who always has to comfort the other one, can they just not do that one night? And you guys can talk about something or you can ask the other person what they want, as opposed to it just being this automatic thing.

And I think it was useful because each person was thinking about what they wanted to try that was different versus what the other person needed to do to make things feel better. I think it’s such a very simple example, but just these patterns where we sort of offer comfort or expect comfort or offer functioning, or doing things for the other because we assume that they can’t, or they absolutely have to have them, that doesn’t free up a lot of space to just have intimacy. So, I hope that’s useful. That was one that came to mind.

Dan:

That’s excellent. Now your book is amazing. It’s called Everything Isn’t Terrible and you also have a newsletter that’s pretty incredible too. Can you tell us where we can go to find that?

Kathleen Smith:

Yeah, my newsletter is called The Anxious Overachiever, and it’s very similar to the book. It’s just sort of biweekly essays about what I’m thinking about in my own life. Some of the challenges I’ve had with clients, all of it’s about sort of anxiety and relationships in Bowen theory, and just sort of concrete examples about what some of these patterns are and what they look like in our day-to-day lives. And people can just go to my website which is kathleensmith.net, or you can Google the anxious overachiever, and it’ll come up and it’s free. So I always recommend it as a resource for folks who maybe want to start observing some of this stuff in their day-to-day life and play around with it in their marriage or other places.

Dan:

Excellent. Is there anything else you wanted to share today?

Kathleen Smith:

No. I mean, just the main point I always try and get across is just to not be so hard on yourself, we do what we do for a reason in our marriages and in other relationships. It’s very predictable, it’s adaptive, it’s human. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t change it or begin to think about how to function differently. So I think it really starts with just cutting yourself some slack and getting curious about that maybe there’s a different way of being in a relationship.

Like what you read? Be sure to listen to the full podcast episode here and download the Intimately Us app, the fun and sexy app for your marriage! It’s full of games, connecting activities, and ideas to increase connection and pleasure in the bedroom.