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Resentment #544

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I’m joined by a colleague Dr Jennifer Finlayson-Fife and we talk about the marriages where everything seems to be great – except in one area. What’s happening here?

Plus, how do you address resentment in marriage and life?

Learn more about Dr Jennifer here –

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Speaker 1: You are listening to the regular version of Sexy Marriage Radio,

Speaker 2: You've turned on Sexy Marriage Radio, where the best sex happens in the marriage bed. Here's your host, Dr. Corey Allan.

Corey Allan: So I got some big news to start off the show here at Sexy Marriage Radio.

Pam Allan: Okay.

Corey Allan: We've been alluding to the idea of a video course, the Rekindle and Connect Course that's coming. It's launching November 10th, so that is one week from right now is the time this show is airing. So November 10th, 2021 it'll launch, and the reason that date is specific and important is we're doing something we've never done before, which is a 48-hour flash sale when it first goes live.

Pam Allan: Cool, I like it.

Corey Allan: So that's the only change you're going to have to get it as cheap as it's going to be with this sale. So if you're hearing this and it's before November 10th, fantastic.

Pam Allan: Right, get on it, we're excited about this.

Corey Allan: Look ahead, go to, and you'll see more about the details of the course and what to expect.

Pam Allan: Right, and you've been sending some emails out about it too, so hopefully you'll see that.

Corey Allan: Absolutely, so that's what's coming and we're pretty excited about that.

Pam Allan: Yeah, we are.

Corey Allan: To think that it's a cool little product that we're going to have and there's more coming after.

Pam Allan: So useful, it's great information. Absolutely useful and can benefit your marriage and you individually.

Corey Allan: This is another thing that was funny to me, babe, on a completely different subject, that on a Sunday morning I got out to go pick up some donuts for the family, some kolaches and donut inaudible family in town. I'm not quite sure what to do with the fact that my donut lady said, "Man, you look like you lost weight."

Pam Allan: Did you notice I haven't been in the donut shop as much lately? Maybe that's why.

Corey Allan: That could be a big factor as to why some of that weight going down, but it's comical when your donut shop lady knows you well enough to... you've slimmed down.

Pam Allan: The question is, did she say, "You look smoking hot now"?

Corey Allan: This is Sexy Marriage Radio, and we're so excited that you came and joined us here today. Coming up on today's regular free version and extended version, because this is one of those episodes where everybody gets the full show.

Pam Allan: Fabulous.

Corey Allan: It's a conversation that I had being joined by Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife again. What was fun about this conversation with her is I had a topic in mind that was going to be about the idea of, the phenomenon of couples that will say, "We have a really great marriage, except, X, our sex life, or our communication, or something. Except, insert, blank." What does that mean, because does that mean it's a great marriage if there's a part of it that's really not great? So we started there, but where we landed is why I'm titling the show the way I am, is we got into a little bit more of a deep dive on the idea of resentment. What do you do with it? What does it mean? She's got some really good thoughts on that towards the latter part of the show.

Pam Allan: Can even pinpoint that you've got it.

Corey Allan: I should've asked that question too.

Pam Allan: Oh, well I should've been there interviewing her.

Corey Allan: All that's coming up on today's show.
Well, it is always a privilege and an honor to welcome to the show, Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, who's a colleague of mine, a friend, we're legacy people in the sense of what we were just talking about before we hit record, of looking at what's our mark and meaning on the world? Jennifer, you're making a good one, and so I'm glad that you're a part of the show again. So, welcome to Sexy Marriage Radio again.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Thanks for having me.

Corey Allan: Absolutely, so you and I have a lot of the similar training, if you will, and with all the stuff we've done with Dr. Schnarch and the clientele we have, there's a lot of overlap. One of the things that's always such a privilege to me to have you on the show and in the conversations you and I have had offline at times, is just the challenge of seeing it slightly different but it's still the same framework or lens, right?

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, yeah.

Corey Allan: So what I'm thinking could be beneficial for today, Jennifer, is I come across this and I'm guessing you probably do too, of a couple that is inaudible somebody coming to see me for therapy or for coaching, but it's interactions with people that will say, "We have a really good marriage, it's even a great marriage, but we really struggle at sex," or, "We have a really great marriage but we can't parent worth a darn with each other," so they do the pie chart, if you will, of what would be seven eighths of it is fantastic they say, but that one eighth isn't. So I'm curious, does that jive with when you hear that, what goes on in your mind?

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, so I do definitely get that presentation. I do think that in some ways it confuses people because it's only one eighth of the pie chart, so why does all of it feel infected with what's lacking? Now, I do think people try to frame it as, we're really good friends, we parent really well, so we just got this one little issue, but I think there is research that shows that when the sexual relationship is not working well, it has more negative impact than positive effect when it is working well. I think the reason for that is because of the meanings of why you don't have a thriving sexual relationship, then shape what it means to be good co-parents or anything else that you do together well.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is that if people got married with the framing and understanding that this is a co-parenting relationship, well then they would do fine without a sexual relationship because that's all that either one expected. We're going to be good roommates, we're going to run a household well, and we're going to co-parent well, and if they do that well and they're friends in the end, fantastic. The problem is, is that most people don't get married under that assumption. Even low desire people want to be wanted. Now, that's maybe different than whether or not they want to have sex, but what's the problem in a marriage that's not sexual or not sexual enough that they're going to a therapist or a coach for input, is that there's this sense that at least one of the two doesn't feel desired. There's a sense that there's limits on how much you can show of yourself in the marriage, how intimate it really can be.
I think there's a lot of couples that collude in a low sex marriage, even the high desire person, is often okay with marrying somebody who has a lot of anxiety overtly about sex because they themselves are anxious about it. So they participate in a more sterile relationship but I think that sense that they aren't dealing with someone or addressing something, that's a part of marriage then makes them recognize that something is lacking, that something's dead in the marriage.

Corey Allan: Okay, and so in essence, the way I'm hearing all this, Jennifer, is the idea that we go into this with these lofty expectations, if you will, because if we had a little more realistic or compartmentalized, like we would a partnership, if you will, because marriage is an all-encompassing thing that the trend has changed to where there's a whole lot more expectation placed upon the marital dynamic-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: That's right.

Corey Allan: ... and relationship and spouse than ever before in history.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: For sure, yeah, right.

Corey Allan: So it's parsing-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: It used to be just a survival relationship. You're out there on the frontier.

Corey Allan: Yeah, it was as necessity.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, absolutely.

Corey Allan: It was even early culture, once American industrial revolution came along, it became a different concept but it's now even magnified more. So it's almost like when we come into it and these lofty goals all of sudden get burst because the reality sets in. So what I'm almost hearing you say is the limits that we may place on some of these things that then become problems, i.e., a sex life or sharing a desire or even akin to feeling desired, is I've placed a limit because it's become this area of like, I'm scared to bring it up, I'm scared to say something because it's too exposing, it's too risky, or my hunch also is, I've done it once before and it went badly. So therefore, the brain marked in, don't ever bring that back up again, don't ever try that move again, or what not.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, exactly. So I do think it's true that we place way more demand on what a marriage should be than we used to. I mean frankly, you didn't even have to really like the person, you just had to be good co-workers so that you could survive on the frontier and then reproduce together and so on. As those economic demands and survival demands have lessened and perhaps other factors, we've really tried to make marriage everything. While where that's really problematic is when we go to marriage with the idea that you, spouse, are supposed to make me feel like a million bucks all the time, you're supposed to make me feel good about me.
Now on the other hand, what I would say is, we're freed up to do... outside of that idea of an entitled position around what a marriage partner should be for you, there is a human drive in my opinion, to find a special other and to have a real friendship with that person. I think we all want to be accepted and valued by one other special person in our life, I think there's a real human drive for that. I mean, approach it from entitlement, it goes really badly. Why don't you desire me, even though I reject me? Why don't you get it together and think I'm great? Versus, refining ourselves to be people capable of intimacy and become capable of letting ourselves be knowable, and that's scary stuff. So we all want validation, who doesn't want it, and if you can lock somebody in that's promised God they'll validate you forever, great, because now you can beat them with that idea.

Corey Allan: Yeah, where do I sign up? Let's do it, right?

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Exactly, who doesn't want that? But if you think about what marriage is really, it's like a promise to God about the kind of person you're going to be, vis-a-vis the other person. That's committing to growing yourself into somebody who's capable of loving someone and sharing yourself, sharing the entirety of yourself, inclusive of your sexuality. That takes a lot more self development, it takes a lot more acceptance of one's self that your spouse is not going to provide for you but work you do within yourself to be able to share who you are without the demand or promise of validation.
So a lot of us step back from that and say there's something wrong with the marriage, when really the marriage is just exposing the limitation in the couple.

Corey Allan: Do you also get this from the people you work with initially, that they hear the idea of other validation and self validation, that we come into a lot of things with this other validation mindset, and that's what's wreaking havoc, that's what you're alluding to with this idea of... yeah, that's what's going to happen in my marriage, is you're going to constantly make me feel good about me. I love your phrase of, even though I don't feel good about me, you'll see past that, right?

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, yeah, you should or you're getting in trouble, yeah.

Corey Allan: But don't you... because I think one of our human tendencies is, I think, well if I'm not supposed to be other validated, that means I'm supposed to be 100% self validated. I think that's an overreach too.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, I don't think it's quite the right inaudible... first of all, there's nothing wrong with validation because a lot of people are like, well, is it bad that I like... no.

Corey Allan: Right, no, not at all.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Any good romantic relationship has a lot of validation in it, but it's coming from some place honest, not out of a pretensive validation. There's some therapy models that are like, okay, you say all this and then your spouse is going to be coached into telling you everything you think is valid. So it's a collusion with the therapist in lying to each other. I'm not saying the crosstalk-

Corey Allan: Oh no, keep stepping on toes, you don't have to back up, keep stepping on toes.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Well, all I'm saying is that the antithesis of that is not being brutally honest and being cruel either, right?

Corey Allan: True, true.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: To be collaborative is to speak about the truth in a way to deal with what's true and to create something honest and decent with each other. That's the goal, so it's not honesty for its own sake, but it's honesty that's about creating something solid and real. That's scary to do, so we in our natural response is to step back from that, but now I've lost why I started talking about this.

Corey Allan: Well no, I want to jump on this.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Oh yeah, validation, right. Yes, go ahead.

Corey Allan: Yeah, but I want to jump on this just real quick because I think one of the things you're describing of being able to start to say things to each other that's honest, also at the same time includes self honesty-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes, that's exactly it.

Corey Allan: ... of my own blind spot, awareness.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: That's right, that's right.

Corey Allan: At least a willingness to admit I do have those, right?

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right, you can't... right.

Corey Allan: Because that's another component of it, because some of it's think, oh no, I see completely clearly while everybody else is going, yeah, no you don't.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right, I'm like, your friends don't agree with you on this, your wife doesn't agree with you on this. I mean, that's important data. Okay, so but yes, so the self validated is not the John Wayne approach to life where you're like, I don't care what anybody thinks, I think I'm great, it's not that. It's a self honesty that you're willing to really deal with and be honest about who you are and if you're going to make sure you're going to get acceptance before you say something, that's what other validation is, and it will always limit how honest the relationship is. If you're able to tolerate being knowable, which is going to be very humbling a lot of the time because we also like our ideas about ourself, and then there's reality. So it's a willingness to see what's real and let our minds course correct to get clear about who we really are and what we really are capable of, and whether or not we're such a lovable or desirable person at all times. That's self validated intimacy.
So it's not like I don't care, I do care, but now that I'm trying to get you to see me the way I want to be seen, I care how you feel about me because there's good information in there about who I am. I need to deal with who I am.

Corey Allan: The art of marriage is really the art of keeping up to date with your partner, of staying on track with your own in each other's life goals as they emerge, exist and change. It's about supporting each other and staying connected emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually. Marsha Burger, LMFT.
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So let me see if this makes sense, this is also just for the sake of the nation that's listening, because some of the stuff that I've come across when we're talking about Schnarch is, how do we apply it, because it's one of those that it's such a-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: It can be very conceptual.

Corey Allan: ... such a very gray... it's such a very clear way to view what's going on but applying it is different because it's what's you're touching on. It's scary as can be, it's humbling, it's exposing, it's anxiety producing, not actually reducing to speak up. So tell me if I'm on the right track in the way I'm hearing where we're going with this conversation, because a couple of months ago, Pam came to me one morning after a quick little exchange we had had where she felt like I was punishing in something I said. She did not perform up to task or didn't satisfy something that was an expectation that she was picking up on or I was delivering. She felt like she was being punished or in trouble because of it. So she brought it to my attention, and this was the second time something like that had happened within the close proximity of three weeks.
So I finally was like, I'm doing the self evaluation of, okay, I don't think that's an agenda of mine, I don't think I'm trying... that's probably my Disneyland version of me, I'll be honest about this. This is one of the things I loved about listening to some of your work and the way you frame it is, this was also a chance that I could be courageous and realize I may have a blind spot here. I may have something going on, I have no clue. So I actually said to her, said, "Honey, this is twice in a short time you have felt like I could be punitive with stuff. Can you give me a little more data as to why because I'm not aware of it but I also don't want to deny the fact that it could be there." Right?

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, exactly.

Corey Allan: So help me see me better in this regard.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Great, good, perfect. Yeah, that's an actionable thing, exactly. If your spouse has a view that's incongruent with your own, it doesn't mean your spouse is right. I mean, they may have their own agenda but if you want to be self validated, you're going to go and find out what they mean because don't we all know that we can often seen our spouse better than they see themselves? But the problem is, the opposite is true. So to be humble enough, open enough to say, "Well, tell me what you see so I can think about it honestly myself," because the goal when you're self validated is not about proving to your spouse you are the way you see yourself. It's proving to yourself that the way your spouse or others see you is or is not true. That is to say you're taking a look at who you are through the helpful lens of other people's perspective, because our minds are self reinforcing. We like the things that create equilibrium within our own minds, and that may have nothing to do with what's true.
When I work with clients I see them do this, I say, "No, this is what you're doing. Let's look at your behavior." You see the walls and the resistance because their mind is trying to block that information because it doesn't want the disequilibrium that will happen if they start to look at or accept how they're being experienced. So they will push off the messenger or shoot the messenger, rather than be honest with themselves. Well, lots of people do get honest and that's how they start evolving and becoming more solid, is by dealing with that discrepant information honestly.

Corey Allan: I think there's a question you can ask yourself in this moment, and for those that are listening to this and even for my sake I'll do this for my own benefit too, to remind myself of this too, of that anytime I get something that's coming across that I am quick to shut down or deny. How do I ask myself the question of, okay, what if their stance is true? What if their view is true? Even if it's only 1% true.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: No, exactly.

Corey Allan: There's still truth in there, there's still something in there that I would benefit from acknowledging, addressing, confronting, and at least, this is my belief, not that I have to necessarily change it, I have to own it better because it could be some of the things that my view on something is just going to be conflictual with my spouse and those that are close to me. So, how do I not fight the fact of, oh no, I don't really believe that, and fight the fact of yeah, you just don't see it the same. Now it's a more honest conflict.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Well yes, that's right. So one thing is I think what we often do is we will use where our spouses getting it wrong to cover up where they're right.

Corey Allan: Great phrase.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: They usually are plenty wrong. I mean, that is to say they've got their own agenda, they've got their own desire to not look at their own part in a problem. So they'll overstate things, you never do blah, blah, blah. Then the spouse will be like, what do you mean I never? I just last night I did blah, blah, blah. So they get fighting about where they're wrong rather than talking about where they're right.
So the thing I will sometimes say to myself and I teach people to do in my courses is, is two questions. Talk to your spouse about where they're right. Don't lead with where they're wrong, talk to them about what they're getting right because you're starting to pull your mind to true north, you're cleaning up your internal compass when you do that. When you're over here trying to get them to get their eyes off of where they're right by focusing on where they're wrong, you're corrupting your inner compass. It's a great disservice to one's self, it feels good but it's very bad for you to screw with your ability to track true north. So ask yourself the question of, where is my spouse right about this? Even if they're getting 90% wrong, let's talk about the 10% that I can see. That will help you.
The other thing I will say to myself, this comes from a book I read about communication but I can't remember the name of it, which is, what am I pretending not to know about my role in these circumstances? So what do I know is my contributing part, even if I'm not responsible for all of the trouble, what do I know has been indulgent on my side or hasn't been fair? Because again, the more you can get anchored into what's true. You think of it as creating a real foundation, the more stable things can get, and the more you can tease out the other stuff. So to make it actionable, be honest with myself.

Corey Allan: Yeah, and that's such a huge difference because I think that's the thing that most people when they first... this was even my own experience maybe when I first started learning about the whole concept of differentiation is, at first it sounded so scary because it's like, wait, you want me to address conflict by actually leaning into it more? By actually even running to it, if you will?

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, exactly.

Corey Allan: Rather than realizing when I do that, and it's honest and it's truly from the best in me, as Schnarch would refer to it, it'll settle.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: That's right.

Corey Allan: Your anxiety starts to settle because now it becomes much more tangible, much more real. Then you're dealing, this is the way I frame it, akin to exactly the way you're describing it. Then you start dealing with what's present, not what's missing.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, exactly.

Corey Allan: Too often we go into this idea of, well the problem with my marriage is with this, and it's what's missing, rather that-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: I don't get enough of this or that, exactly.

Corey Allan: No, the problem with your marriage is what's present between you.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, what you're actually doing as a couple, that's right.

Corey Allan: What you're doing, yeah, absolutely.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, and I think that... I think you were alluding to this as well, which is this idea that a lot of times we pretend things, not just about ourselves but we pretend things about our spouse that we don't believe because we don't want their anger, we don't want the conflict. They're pressuring us to go blind to something in them so we pretend like we're in Disneyland with them.

Corey Allan: Let's play along, right.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Let's play along because I don't want the conflict, I don't want the invalidation. Maybe I'll never get sex if I talk about this, so I'll just pretend it's not there, whatever it is. So I think that that also takes courage to talk straight to your spouse about where you disagree with them. Now this is not out of that self righteous, need to be right, and to fend them off. When you're doing this constructively, you're going to be anxious too because you're throwing away the validation you want. So if you're a classic nice guy or an accommodating female that just goes into a chameleon and accommodates a more demanding partner, this is going to be a stretch to say what you really think without going into self righteous anger or throwing it all away when you start to get pushback.
So you can track it by an anxiety that comes from being honest, but that's your brain growing into a more solid self when you do that, just like when you're at the gym and you're uncomfortable. When you're talking about what's true and it's a truth you wish weren't there, you're going to feel that discomfort but it's your brain growing to start creating neuro pathways that are based in what's true. As faith based people, we say we're all about truth all the time, but a lot of us have learned a way to be good that's about pretending things are better than they are. That's actually faithless, that's like you don't believe in truth as the core good. I think Christ was very critical of that idea that you do the auspices of goodness, the pretense of it, but you don't want to deal with what's true about yourself. That's that hypocrisy.

Corey Allan: Yeah, it's not transformative then, it's not restorative then. It takes away the whole premise of it. It becomes just actions and role play, which is kind of how we started the conversation of, we've got these areas where we seem to be. So maybe the way to frame it, of the areas where it seems like we would label it as great, is we play that role well.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, exactly. That's right.

Corey Allan: But the area we're not, that one eighth is actually the one that's the most exposing of the others-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Of the whole thing, exactly.

Corey Allan: ... that's beyond the role.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: That's right.

Corey Allan: It's getting into the deeper of who am I in this role, because this speaks to my language-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: That's right.

Corey Allan: ... because my whole journey, if you talk about transformative path I have been on as an adult, was recognizing in my late 20s, early 30s, the fact that I was really good at role playing.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, pretending a part.

Corey Allan: But I was not good at being in my own life.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, exactly.

Corey Allan: So it took some serious self assessment, humility, confronting.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right, it's very hard.

Corey Allan: Almost disaster in marriage to realize, I got to grow myself up and I got to deal with life better. That's when Schnarch came along for me because it gave the perfect framework of like, this just makes complete sense. How do I get better at this?

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right, so many of us are living other people's live in pursuit of validation. It may look really good, it might get a lot of validation but it's not coming from something authentic in us. So it drives resentment and a sense of disappearing and it's not compatible with intimacy. It might be compatible with the auspices of a friendly marriage, but it is not intimate, it's not honest. So I think you're right.

Corey Allan: Let me pivot just-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, go ahead.

Corey Allan: I want to pivot real quick on, because I remember in one of your classes that you spend some time on the concept of resentment and how it actually is a good-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Signal.

Corey Allan: There you go, I was thinking messenger, but signal's better. Let's talk about that some because I think that can be incredibly beneficial for people to understand. There's something going on that you can use that for.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, well I think resentment is a signal that there's something that needs to be addressed in your life. I think it can take one of two forms, but it is the canary in the coal mine, it is a... and so paying attention to it. It can be that you're just being a baby, okay, and let's just rule that one out first, is that you're saying yes to things but then pretending like somebody made you do it as opposed to you really did choose something and you're not taking responsibility for the fact that you've chosen to do something that's hard or inconvenient but you really did choose it and you'd choose it again, but you're trying to use it to get attention or validation that you're good or you're whatever. So you need to just say to yourself-

Corey Allan: That's like the-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: ... knock it off.

Corey Allan: That's like the one down approach to try to capture-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: That's right.

Corey Allan: ... and control something.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: That's right, inaudible martyr, poor me, I'm doing this thing even though I really had a choice to not do it, but still poor me somehow, and that's maddening for people in relationship to that because you say yes but does she really mean it, does he really mean it? Am I going to pay for this later? It's like no, I don't want anything from you because you're a drag to get things from because you make me pay for them. So we can be resentful in that indulgent way.
Then resentment can also be that there are things that matter to me that I'm not taking, I'm not being honest enough about, that I'm giving up too much, that I'm making the other person responsible for the fulfillment of my desires or making room for me, and they're not doing it. So a lot of us instinctively yield, especially if we've learned the idea that that's Christ-like to just yield no matter what, but we often have a covert expectation that people will look out for me if I'm looking out for them. That's just usually not true, we teach people how to be in relationship to us and if we keep devaluing ourselves in an interaction, we teach other people that they can get away with that. They're not malicious necessarily, they're just... you're not holding up what matters to you. So that resentment is a signal that you may not be operating sufficiently from a self respecting place and you're looking for others to manage that respect of you. It's not their job as much as it is your job.

Corey Allan: That's how we started it of, I want you to respect me even though I don't.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes, exactly. So I on my social media yesterday or the day before, I just did a quote about, it's often easier to resent a spouse for the respect we don't get than to respect ourselves enough to stand up for something that really matters. That's the self validation to move forward and say hey, I'm saying yes to too much and it's undermining us as a couple.

Corey Allan: Right, okay, so that's one on this idea of there's a martyr to it or there's the poor me. What else are the signals?

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Okay, so that's... no, that's the... okay, so those... that's I'm doing, those are two. So martyr's almost blatantly indulgent.

Corey Allan: Thank you.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Then this other one is more like one down, instinctive, giving it up. It's not so much like a superior martyr, it's more like I'm disappearing. I don't know how clear I'm being about the distinction-

Corey Allan: No, I got you.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: ... between those two, but that's more like, I've got to take up more space in this marriage if the marriage is going to thrive, but it doesn't have all that one-up, victim-y stuff necessarily. It just means I've got to move towards some hard things that are scaring me, but that resentment is a signal that I'm not in alignment internally and I need to figure out how to get there, yeah.

Corey Allan: Is it also, can it be a relational signal too? Is there's a component of that?

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, crosstalk. Yes, say more what you mean just so I can follow the question.

Corey Allan: So I... because one of the things I love about the whole differentiation model is the data that is presented to us first and foremost has to be addressed on what's my colluding culpability? How am I helping co-create this stuff, because before I take on anybody else that matters in my life, I better take on myself. But I think there's also a component of, can there be... and maybe I'm answering my own question I'm throwing to you as I'm thinking this through out loud, of a resentment that I may have that's been ongoing in my marriage could be because my partner hasn't stood up for something that they say they claim they care about but I haven't had the guts to say and call them on it to say, "Do you really care about this or not?" Because that's more anxiety that would come at me that it's almost calling them out.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: crosstalk, I think... yeah, you're saying you could take advantage of your spouse's difficulty of holding what they really want. Is that what you mean? I just want to make sure inaudible.

Corey Allan: Yeah, well I'm just thinking of it as because resentment's going to be one of those things that runs rampant in a lot of relationships. I mean, I think even in the best of marriages we're going to have, that's an undercurrent, it's something that's just there. I better take care of because it's going to become above the threshold if I don't. What we've talked about thus far is the fact that it's something that I have to do of my own doing and my own agency for my own worth and respect. But is there also a relational dynamic that-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right, maybe you're... I think what-

Corey Allan: ... the canary in the coal mine, resentment could be pointing out-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Got it, I mean, maybe by just saying is you feel your spouse's resentment and maybe they're not dealing with it but you feel it in the air all the time. Is there a way to go and address that?

Corey Allan: Because that's leaning into the struggle.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Absolutely.

Corey Allan: That's leaning into what could back at us.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: That leaning into the struggle and it's living honestly. It's like, am I on glue or are you mad? If you are mad, talk to me. What are you mad about? Because that's going to push your spouse, as long as you're really genuinely trying to understand if you have a role in their unhappiness. That's going to push them to take more responsibility one way or the other. Nevermind, I'm just being a baby, I like punishing you, you're easy to punish. That could be one legitimate response, or no, I really am upset. I feel like I've talked to you about this 400 times and you don't deal with it. That could be a response from your spouse too.
So yeah absolutely, I think couples who are talking in code but there's all this anger going on below the surface, are trying to collude in some pretense that things are fine, rather than get more honest and deal with it. That's, we like covert warfare often because you don't have to take as much responsibility as, I'm really angry at you and I plan on punishing you for the next four days. I mean, at least it's straight up.

Corey Allan: Yeah, because I could take a trip. inaudible.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: crosstalk because it's going to be bad, yeah.

Corey Allan: Like, hey, look at that, I got a conference these next four days.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Exactly, I just forgot.

Corey Allan: Take the four days, yeah.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Exactly, totally.

Corey Allan: Okay, because that's the beauty of just trying to think through this lens of the way we all operate is deluding of ourselves or it's not quite looking at what is as cleanly as maybe I need to because it takes work, it takes courage-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Oh, it does.

Corey Allan: ... to step up and ask yourself these hard questions of, what's my role? What's the real issue? What's the real problem that's being co-created? What's my part in it? Then also, what's my marital dynamics part in it, because I think some of this is just what comes with I'm with somebody that wants what I don't want sometimes. Then it becomes, what do I do with that data?

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right, and I think inherent to that process is, it's maybe paradoxical, and maybe it's just getting into the second half of life here that it just becomes so obvious that to do that is to... the gift in it is you just deeply are accepting your humanity. You don't have to pretend anymore that you get things right all the time and that wasn't what you meant or any of that stuff. You can just be more like, oh yeah, that's true, that's not cool, I'm sorry about that. There's just more ability to, it's not big news that you're a human being and that you do things stupidly sometimes. So you get more able to handle it, which means you get more able to walk to towards it, course correct, do the right thing, because you don't have so much ego in it. It's just more like, shocker, there I went being dumb again.
So I think when we're younger, our worth is tied to some kind of false perfection and so we're fending off any idea that we're anything short of it while we're berating ourselves internally because we aren't perfect. It's just a pretty miserable place. So when you can just embrace the fundamental reality of being human, you handle it much better and you're more gracious in it, and you forgive others more easily because they're human too. We all are amazing and precious anyway, even though we do dumb things. So the more you can lean into that, the freer your life is and the richer it is and the more gratitude that's in it and the more humility that's in it, but it does mean putting your ego on the altar, which is easier to talk about in a podcast than to do, but that's what it is.

Corey Allan: Absolutely, and that's the same kind of stuff we've been talking about all the way through, of being able to have the courage to ask the difficult questions of yourself-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: That's right.

Corey Allan: ... or I came across this, this was from Mark Manson of one of the chapters in his book of just asking the idea of, what if I'm wrong? Taking that stance on most everything that happens in life. I've had this belief.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: crosstalk.

Corey Allan: I've had this structure, I've had this whatever. Well, what if I'm wrong with it? crosstalk-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right, he really promotes this honesty that's at the core of... I mean, he's talking mostly about masculinity, I really like his work, but that's the core of strength is being straight, being honest. I think a lot of us want to be strong without real integrity because integrity is literally strong, you're not a house divided, you aren't crumbling in discrepancy. So, but that honesty, that process of confronting, what if I'm wrong about this? That takes a lot of moral courage, but you get the reward that comes from it.

Corey Allan: Yeah, because I think even what you were just alluding to on getting to the second stage of life and this idea of you get a little more contemplative, maybe we get a little more legacy focused, we get a little more, what's my impact? What really does matter? That coupled with that is this idea of, I've started to learn who I am, but I think equally important is, I finally accepted who I'm not.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, exactly. inaudible.

Corey Allan: That I don't have to be everything to everyone, and that I have a limitation and that's okay, I don't have to have this impact with this and be this person for this person. It starts to just become a much more solid, that's the word I've landed on, it seems to resonate with a lot of people. The goal is just being a lot more solid in who I am, which means I'm felt and I'm experienced, inaudible and all.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yep, exactly, yeah, right.

Corey Allan: So is there any things we need to wrap as we're wrapping this up that's percolating up there in your mind, to help land this? Because I think this is a good way to frame the whole view of what happens in a lot of marriages, a majority of them, is just because we have seasons or we are definitely full on in this. We play the role of married life okay or well, but is it truly transformative and restorative?

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Well see, I think there's maybe a couple ideas of Schnarch's that I particularly appreciate, which one is that marriage is a... how did he say it? Is a people growing machine and from my faith tradition we have, and I think many Christian faith traditions, there is an idea that marriage is divine as an institution. I think one of the reasons that resonates with me is that marriage pressures your development because you've got somebody there showing you your warts and saying, "Hey, it hurts when you do this, that's not nice." So that is about giving yourself more information about how to refine who you are and to expose your limitations in being able to love. It helps us get out of our self delusion.
So I think that we have the possibility to relate to marriage not as a prison, not as some guarantee that somebody's going to love us even if we're being dumb and immature, but to see it more as a mechanism God's given us to grow ourselves into more refined people. Giving purpose to that struggle helps tremendously, that's the second idea of Schnarch's, which is, discomfort for growth. That when you have a purpose in it, I'm not just being uncomfortable because life's miserable until you die. Okay, well that's very hard to tolerate, but if you're saying, well this hurts but I believe in the process. It's hard to be honest, it's scary, it makes me anxious. But this is why faith is a virtue, I'm tolerating the uncertainty to create more world in the world, to create more strength in my marriage, in myself and my family. So when you can see that larger goal, it helps tremendously to tolerate the humiliation fundamental to living more honestly.

Corey Allan: No, that's well said, Jennifer, because I think that's... this is some of that stuff that's built off of Viktor Frankl's work of reframing suffering and struggle-

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Absolutely.

Corey Allan: ... and making a meaning attached to it of, change is everything. So if you can look at your task of what I'm facing in life, because these are the dynamics that are immovable.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: That's right.

Corey Allan: If I'm going to be in relationship, regardless of the level of relationship, there's dynamics that are at play.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: That's right, yeah.

Corey Allan: So I can spend a lot of energy trying to change those dynamics, or I can recognize they're actually trying to produce something.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, exactly.

Corey Allan: That's very good. So Jennifer, how can people that have been digging this conversation that we're having, find more of your particular specialty and expertise?

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Sure, so you can go to my website and I have a lot of online courses. I am LDS, I grew up as a Latter-Day Saint. So I'm focused on that group, but it's really they're good materials for... it's like today. So that it's crosstalk-

Corey Allan: It's applicable to everyone because I've seen every single one of your courses and whole heartedly recommend them, so.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, thank you. So yeah, so there's courses there. Then I also have just started a podcast, I don't know if you know about this but I started a podcast called Room for Two, in which I'm doing couples coaching with real couples and applying a lot of the principles that I talk about and that I teach in my online courses, to these couple's situations. So it allows people to listen in and see themselves in these couples and get the feedback that I'm giving to them. So it's like curious coaching. Then I do an instructional element on the end where I talk about something, some principle or idea that was fundamental to this conversation.
So it's a paid podcast, so it's gotten rave reviews, people have said they can relate to so many-

Corey Allan: That's awesome.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: ... of the couples and that it's really helping them change things in their own lives. So that's my biggest project lately that I've really been loving.

Corey Allan: That's awesome. Well Jennifer, I can't thank you enough for every time you take some time out to hang with me and help me get better and then the Sexy Marriage Radio nation get better.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, thank you.

Corey Allan: It's great to have you as a colleague.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Thank you, yeah, thank you. I always love our conversations and I miss being able to see you at Schnarch conferences for so many reasons.

Corey Allan: Exactly.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Maybe we can create one of our own as a group of colleagues again soon.

Corey Allan: Sure we can come up with something.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, we need to do, yeah.

Corey Allan: Perfect, well thanks again, Jennifer.

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Thank you.

Corey Allan: Well it is so great when voices that think similarly but just slightly different are a part of the conversation. Dr. Jennifer is such a valued colleague in the ways she sees things and in the way she presents things. She has some really good things going on that's fascinating at how much it can help. Our hope here at Sexy Marriage Radio is that this kind of conversation, just about how a lot of what goes on in our marriages, if I look at it differently, it just is better. It doesn't necessarily change what's going on, it changes the way I approach what's going on.

Pam Allan: Perspective matters.

Corey Allan: Therefore then, I change myself in the process because that's what we believe here at Sexy Marriage Radio, it's really all about.
So this inaudible Sexy Marriage Radio, if we left something undone, I didn't do this at the beginning, but call us, let us know, (214) 702-9565, feedback at, join into the conversation. We'll see you next time.