Show transcript from the My Intimacy Therapist Podcast - Episode 40. Listen to the episode on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.
Welcome to the My intimacy Therapist Podcast. I'm therapist and coach, Sade Jovanne. If you want to feel less anxiety in your relationships and enjoy a confident and spiritual intimate life, you're in the right place. So grab a cup of tea - and a warm blanket - and let's talk intimacy.
Hey, okay, we got to talk about something that's very, very important for those of you guys who are in relationships. And you may have been in a relationship for a while now. So that's over three years. And I say that amount of time because by that amount of time, you have a pattern about the way things happen, about the way that the two of you... your dynamic, the way you communicate, resolve conflict, and get stuff done. And that third one, that's the one I want to look at.
Often times, there's one partner who feels like they're always initiating, always doing the stuff, always making sure there's a follow-through, deciding what gets done and when. And then there's the other partner who follows along - willingly, often - it's not that they're objecting to any of the plans, but they're just, they're in the passenger seat, and they let the other person drive. And that happens for a lot of reasons. One is that the person driving usually puts up a fight, if they have to go to the passenger seat, and they don't like the way their partner drives, right? So they're so used to driving that they're backseat driver for other people. They get a little controlling: "no, do it this way, put on your indicator, you're driving too fast, you're driving too slow".
And practically, in relationships, that looks like, "why did you pack the dishwasher in this way? That's not how you do it. Why did you talk to our son that way? When he was yelling, you know, this is how I want you to do it".
And so the other partner is just like, "okay, if I always do everything wrong, then you go ahead. Sure, whatever you want. Your way".
Another reason that this dynamic happens is because any time that the so-called 'driving partner' tries to give up control, the other partner just lets it drop. And that's extremely frustrating, especially if kids are involved. But it's just frustrating anyway, because, "I'm trying to trust you, and I've given you chances, but I feel like you've let me down. I feel like I'm not able to get my needs for security met. I feel like you would just let anything happen; you would let our sex life fall to pieces, you would let our house be overrun with mold and rats if I don't step in," and that's just a painful place to be.
And both of those things create this tornado of a dynamic that has both partners feeling unfulfilled, not appreciated, criticized, and any amount of just unpleasant emotions. So if you're listening to this, and you're like, "oh, boy, that's me. That's us. How did you know? Get out of my house"... If that's you, I need you and your partner to sit down and have a very candid discussion about this. You can show them the podcast episode and say, "what do you think?" You also know what I'm going to say: therapist, therapist.
But, if you want to start at home, talk about questions like, Do you resent anything about the way that our relationship works? Or questions like, Is there anything that I do that makes you feel not enough or not good enough? Or criticized? Is there anything I do that makes you feel unsupported or like, I don't care enough?
And if we're being quite honest, you've already heard your partner say these things. And you probably have an inkling of what it will be - but I love a good communication session. So definitely talk directly to them. And then I'm going to need you to set the culture for your relationship. That's the purpose of this. We're doing this solution-oriented. "This is how our dynamic is and how it has been... What's the culture we do want about how our dynamic works, how we get things done, how we get chores done, how intimacy is approached?"
And then the last part is: how? How do we start to change that? And so, is it something like, "hey, babe, if I make you feel criticized, please let me know in that moment"? Or maybe it's something different, maybe it's weekly check-ins with each other: "how are we doing?" Maybe it's, "I'm not a fan of you telling me how to pack in the dishwashers, just let me do it my way I need you to be okay with that."
Oftentimes, with this, a little bit of the resistance that's happening is, well, you're both going to remember, all the times your partner was in the old dynamic. And that's going to make you feel a little timid or uncertain that this can work. But we're gonna need affirmation for the things that you guys start to try when you're changing this dynamic that actually work for you. Affirmation and gratitude: "thank you so much for XYZ," or "when you did XYZ that felt good, that felt supported". And that's going to help you start moving in the right direction. It's giving you the green lights, it's clearing the path towards where you want to go.
If the two of you and your language with each other is so hyper-focused on criticism, or any of that negative energy stuff, this isn't going to work. You're not going to be able to have enough positive energy to shift your dynamic. It's just going to keep spiraling and you're going to anchor more into what's already not working.
So this is huge. This is one of the biggest things that I think create resentment for a lot of people is this...some might describe it as a parent-child dynamic. Like, "I feel like you're my mom," or "I feel like I'm being your mom." It's also not very sexy. If you feel like you have a parent-child dynamic with your partner, I'm guessing your intimate life sucks right now. Just isn't doing well. And that makes sense. Pay attention. It's kind of like a thermometer for your relationship: intimacy. It really is. Change this dynamic, get consistent over time. And this is not cookie-cutter, it is couple by couple. What works for your friends might not work for you, and vice versa.
So for the person who's in the driver's seat, I would say your task: learn to give space and margin. And you will feel anxious, I'm guaranteeing you that. But learn how to manage that without micromanaging your partner. It's not sexy, it doesn't work, it doesn't create intimacy. But also, put your needs on the table, and let your partner figure out how to meet them. If you've been dating for three, four years, and you've been asking for your needs to be met, and your partner never meets them, well, you know, this is a great time to reconsider if this is a compatible relationship. I love therapy for that though, because there's also an extent to which you don't see your role in the dynamic. And we need all puzzle pieces to figure this out.
For the person who's in the passenger seat now, what I need from you is to start looking at your relationship and put a little more activation energy into how you see a relationship. What do you want your relationship to look like? What are your needs, that you feel like are getting maybe trampled over, or overlooked, or invalidated? What are the things that you want to add so that your relationship is healthy and thriving and nourished? Put your ideas into the mix. If your partner shuts you down, that's on them. That's another thing that needs to be addressed in therapy or just directly letting them know this is what's happening. But your job here: don't worry about them. Stay out of their lane, stay in your lane. Your job is to step in and take accountability. Take responsibility for your relationship plant and how you plan to keep it alive. If your partner's the one that's floating your relationship, that's not going to work. That's not a collaboration. It's not a partnership. That's a parent. Right? So think about your intimate life. What do you want it to look like? Think about taking care of the kids, and chores, and all the household stuff. How would you like to collaborate on that? And put your ideas into the mix, okay?
You may have heard some of this before, or maybe some of this is brand new. I would love to hear your thoughts. Definitely slide over to Instagram @myintimacytherapist and send me a DM with your thoughts. You know DM means direct message, right? I don't know if that's something everyone knows. But yeah, think about this because this is so important. And this is the kind of thing that if a pattern gets too ingrained over time, it gets harder and harder to change. So now is the time to change something, it's never too late, okay.?
Thank you again for listening. I will put a link in the show notes if you would like to work with me. If you're just really loving everything that you're getting from this podcast, I would love, love, love, love and appreciate if you would leave me a five star review, and subscribe and share this episode with a friend, or your partner, or who you really think needs to hear it. And if you want to go a step beyond that, then you can support this podcast on Patreon and that link will also be in the show notes, and that just helps me to keep it going. All that good stuff. Everything here is meant so that you, of course, will create a relationship where you will feel fully seen, fully known and fully loved. I appreciate you. We'll talk soon!
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