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Episode 027 – What happens in a relationship when one person wants to grow and the other doesn’t? Five stages of a relationship, five steps to avoid conflict and more
When one person within a relationship wants to grow, learn something new, try a new experience and the other person doesn’t. This can lead to conflict or even parting ways. In this episode, Dr Ro & Harms help couples avoid this pre-emptively or if they are currently in this situation.
The millennial cliche – ‘couples that train together, stay together’ – like all cliches, has truth to it. A relationship where the couple exercises, cycles, runs or weight lifts together will see the tangible results. A close bond and fit bodies! But this is the same in other areas of growth that are not visible to the naked eye. One wants to update their skills and attend a seminar – the other partner doesn’t. One wants to learn a new investment strategy – the other partner doesn’t. One wants more variety in their life – the other partner doesn’t. One wants to meet new people – the other partner doesn’t. In these scenarios, a couple can drift apart, become numb, settle and even split up.
Dr Ro & Harms recommend you work on everything in this episode with your partner and try to get your partner to listen to this weeks episode. This episode can apply to relationships, business partners, close friends and similar.
In this episode we answer three core questions:
- Why do people who love each other suddenly get into a situation where one grows quicker than the other, which can then lead to conflicts – what is the reason for that?
- When discussing Stage 3 to 5 of the relationship curve – What are the signs and how does the conflict manifest itself within a couple dynamic?
- How do couples learn from what we have said to avoid that conflict in the first place or if they are in that conflict, start an open conversation about resolving the conflict? In short, how do they solve this?
Here is a snapshot of the 5 stages of a relationship:
Stage 1 – They first meet all excited, all their needs are met
Stage 2 – Their true needs and values emerge
Stage 3 – A critical point where if there is no deeper level conversation, one person grows quicker than other
Stage 4 – The emergence of arguments, frustration, anger or numbness now takes place
Stage 5 – Decision time, split up or make a change
A process that all couples can undertake to overcome the conflict that begins to occur at stage 3 and 4:
- Firstly, focus on you – what are your needs? How do you want to grow? What frustrates you?
- Now is the time to talk to your partner – talk about what you want for the future and ask your partner what they want for the future
- An important question to ask each other, what are your fears and your partner’s fears? Especially if you stay on this trajectory?
- What are the consequences of this outcome?
- Finally, what do you do next? The typical options are – Grow together, split or stay same
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For a full read of the podcast, here is a full transcript of everything Dr Ro and Harms covered in this episode of the Growth Tribes Podcast.
Harms: Hello, it’s Harms here and welcome to another episode of the Growth Tribe’s podcast and today we’re talking about relationships, that’s the macro topic.
We’re getting more specific with this we’re talking about couples that either grow and develop together or they don’t grow and develop together and what the results are of either one of the scenarios.
Ro may not be aware of this but around my age group there was a couple of years ago it feels like a phrase which was thrown out, and many couples with their super fit bodies put themselves on social media or whatever, and the phrase, hashtag would be couples that train together, stay together.
This is one of those classic clichés as we know with clichés there is a ring of truth to them because if we look at this example, couples that train together, stay together. The training here. The exercise is a form of growth and development. So although it became a bit of a joke and it’s a laugh. And actually, the people typically laughing at this are the people who don’t train together ironically but the fact is, it is possible and it’s worth digging deeper because there’s truth to this.
It translates into different areas of growth, which is less tangible to the naked eye whereas there, we can see the end results of two couples cycled together, exercise, weight lifted, whatever.
But the discussion I want to have with Ro because Ro, you experience in this field is massive. We’re talking about experience in terms of coaching couples as part of a relationship, you’ve taught couples as part of this large relationship event.
You’ve coached couples through big educational decisions whether it’s financial, change in career path, but the big thing I guess if we underline a hypothesis is the opposite happens when couples don’t grow together.
Where couples grow together, they will remain together and they will develop and have this amazing relationship which often people can see via social media.
But if they don’t, the opposite can happen, they can drift apart, possibly split.
I want to hand over to Ro and ask Ro the question which is, is this something you agree with Ro?
Have you observed this, especially since you’ve coached other people and maybe talk into the space of what is your experience with couples in relationships. Because without a doubt I am underplaying this and I personally have not attended your relationship events, I hope that will definitely reappear in the future.
So over to you.
Dr Ro: Thanks Harms.
First of all press the pause button if you’ve got a partner that is not listening to this.
I would highly recommend you get them to listen to this now, and even persuade them to listen to the first five to 10 minutes of this, because this is going to be a seriously hot, potentially provocative subject.
You’ve put your finger on it Harms, in the last 30 years I’ve been in front of people.
I cannot tell you how heart-wrenching it is sometimes to see people who genuinely previously have fallen in love and want to stay together and have wanted to stay together.
But because of this one subject you’ve raised which is they’re not growing together things have changed and the relationship is just not how it was when they first met.
Remember, physically, they will always grow together, they will age. Emotionally they may or may not grow together.
Emotional development is very different, so we can physically age and we can age with time.
The point I want to make is that if you’re a couple listening to this and you’re facing loggerheads right now because one of you wants to grow and the other one doesn’t it is a matter of time before this becomes one of the key underlying reasons why this relationship may not last.
So it is a major subject Harms and if you said to me what kind of age groups have you had this experience with?
Typically the ages that I have seen everything from teenagers right over to 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, but the teenagers tend not to experience it in the same emotional way. Even people in their 20s, tend not to experience it in the same emotional way. But when they hit your age group. The 30s and above.
That’s when the magnifying glass comes out on this subject, and depending on their tolerance levels, depending on how connected they are physically, sexually, intimately, the length and the protraction of that experience, in other words how long the pain can be sustained by one of the partners before it is enough that will vary.
If you are listening to this right now and you have a challenge in that you are listening to us, you’re growing and studying, you’re online, you’re reading books on personal development it is a ticking time bomb.
I mean that sincerely. I’ve worked with so many couples.
We are laughing in the sense that I want you to sit up as a listener and go okay, I can relate to this or you’ve seen it in somebody else.
Harms: One of the things I want to leave listeners with by the end of this is yes, we’re going to talk you through the struggle. Things that we observe, things that we’ve seen from two different viewpoints, but one is by leveraging Ro’s experience you’ve had with couples in different fields.
But by the end of it there’s a solution, there’s a way forward, because what we are not saying Ro and I’ve heard you say this in the past is something which really hooked me is, on stage you said to couples who are in a position where technically the things that we’re talking about today is what’s really affected them.
You will not give up on their relationship and you’re telling them we will not give up on any relationship until we work through the process.
Can you just talk to that space briefly because that’s stuck with me.
The fact that there’s two people here who are very ready to give up on the relationship, but you’re sitting there saying to them directly, we are not going to be giving up on your relationship that is not our primary objective.
Dr Ro: That’s a great observation and actually you’ve witnessed the couple who were literally living apart.
If I remember at the very last day of a turning point some years ago now. This is slightly more different for you and I are turning up into somebody situations.
If you’re listening to this thinking, you don’t understand I’m at the end of my tether. I’ve been in and out of this same conversation with my partner, you might think there’s a solution, but I don’t see a solution.
Often when we’re in the pain all we can see is grey.
Many years ago I learnt a simple phrase, sometimes you can be too close to the elephant all you can see is grey and by stepping back from the elephant you suddenly realise it’s actually an elephant, there’s an ear, foot.
All I could say was grey before that, that’s what happens when we’re too close to the pain. Somebody like myself, comes with my approach. It would be first of all the question is do you still love each other?
In many cases people actually still do they’re in love, they just reached a point where they cannot tolerate a certain aspect of each other’s behaviour and its separating the behaviour versus the biological, the physiological, the sexual, the intimate, the emotional, spiritual connection that may still be there between the two of them, that might have been what was holding them together.
In me there is this innate feeling that everybody has a chance to work on it and when I’m in front of them and they come to me and ask me the question, I can’t allow that place to slip.
I have to hold that space with them and then go into deep questions and the questions are often the questions that they haven’t been able to ask each other.
Haven’t had the tools to ask each other or the space has not been right for it.
From memory about three, four years ago we did this on stage, there was a couple that literally couldn’t look at each other. They sat opposite sides of the stage in different directions, do you remember that?
I got them to start in one place and talk individually about their circumstances and slowly got them physiologically to come around face each other and then I started to ask the questions on behalf of each other and that opened up the conversation.
If you’re listening to this and you feel that you don’t understand, there is no chance, there’s always one last chance and out of today hopefully you might get some insight into what that could be.
Harms: That’s a good way to approach it having listened to the description. It’s also painting these amazing couples in a great light because refocusing back on what we’re talking about in this podcast.
They have come to your relationship event. Your growth seminar, your personal development seminar or they listen to the Growth Tribe’s podcast or they watch the relationship course within the vault.
What they are doing fundamentally is growing as a couple.
They’ve stepped into the arena together to grow and develop as a couple so that they can tighten their bond, whereas what I want to focus on is what happens and this will be the frame of the entire show today, which is we’re going to have a conversation around three core questions, which is really answering the question, why, how and what.
Why does it happen that when one person grows and the other doesn’t what is the result of that?
If I ask the first question of these three, which is you mention couples still love each other, which is amazing, but why do people who still love each other suddenly get into the situation where one grows quicker than the other.
This now leads to conflict, what is the reason for that?
Dr Ro: Sometimes people come to an event not to actually stay together.
But to find a way to part in a sensible way or to find out if there is anything still there.
So yes, some people definitely come to grow, but others come to try and find a way to navigate through it and it’s tricky.
If you feel you’re in that space it’s such a sensitive subject and Harms has asked the right leading question, which is why does it happen?
I think there are five stages.
Harms: Those couples who come in for those different reasons as well.
That also demonstrates a level of emotional development and emotional maturity because that’s not easy. To come into a space to say is it the right decision to now part or change our relationship, whether it’s into a loving relationship to a friendship instead.
That takes guts that takes bravery and courage to put yourself through that.
So in a weird way, that is a kind of growth in itself because this now leaves them entering the next phase of their life with more clarity and I think that’s one of the things people come to you for.
Dr Ro: I think that’s a very good point.
And ironically, although you might think it has to be a relationship event.
You never know what it’s going to be. For example we had a couple who came to me when I was doing a free presentation and I was talking about the communicating with impact work programme that was coming up.
They said we’ve done this with this speaker, and they said we have not had any breakthroughs we feel like we’re at the end of our tether.
I said after speaking to them for five minutes I said you’re working on these areas, but it’s clear to me that what the challenge in this situation is actually communication.
Communication happens at all levels. Kids, with yourselves, a couple internally or externally, and I picked two or three things that were going on between them, they just looked at each other and she looked at him as if to say, that’s kind of what I’ve been trying to tell you honey.
I said come and do the three days I promise you, forget business and everything else it will give you a clear indication of where the breakdowns have been in your communication.
They came to the table with that blank page and that I think is the way to listen to the rest of this podcast, is not to make a judgement. Don’t think my partner needs to hear this.
Just listen from the perspective of what you can learn for it. If you learn something from us here and you take that shift in you back into your relationship.
It might be that little shift that changes the way they receive you, the way they communicate back to you and the way they want to grow with you and hopefully they might have a listen to this podcast. I think the growth happens at all stages.
As long as you put yourself in the arena for growth.
Dr Ro: Five stages essentially.
Ask yourself this question right now if you’re in a relationship what stage are you at and you might not get all the way to stage five. You might be at stage two, you might be at stage three, you might say I’m between.
I think it’s important for me to say if you’re in the younger generation here whether it’s 20s or 30s, that’s a vulnerable group because you might listen to this and go as it’s not for now.
But, ironically, you’re probably right, it isn’t for now, but stage three will definitely be for you and you might not be there now, but if you follow the path of pretty much 90 – 95% population you will get there.
It is a question of how you manage it.
Harms: What I would say to somebody listening to this in my age group, which is anything between 25, 35, 37 that actually is the critical time.
My feeling is at this age where somebody may have just been in a relationship, maybe they start the new relationship at the age of 22, 23, 24.
They may be together for three or five years and when they get to stage three it is often too late. They’ve been together too long and they’re left in this fork in the road, do they decide to stay together or split?
When you split with somebody after five, six years of course, it is not easy. And, of course, having done it and you’re suddenly now finding yourself at the age of 35, 36 you’ve got all this other anxiety around that.
I think by knowing the stages upfront it can save you so much time in the world of relationships and the people you spend your loving time with.
Dr Ro: This is really interesting if you imagine this in a lovely, snaky shape wave that exists.
There are the five stages you climb up the stage and at some point then it starts to go down the other side, which is the slippery slope.
At which point you go in different directions and then they start another relationship. And guess what, the pattern doesn’t change because the reality is if you become aware of something as we talked about so often in the Growth Tribes, that level of awareness you have in yourself become a silent witness.
You can stop the pattern happening, you can fall in love with someone and make sure you continue to grow instead of following this cycle. This cyclical effect happens in many people’s cases.
Stage one is when you meet and it’s like wow, everything just like sparks flying. There’s lust, passion, intimacy, connection, you’ll do anything for that person and that is a point of maximum growth for a lot of couples, meaning that the biggest growth is you’re learning about each other. That person becomes the study of your life.
You want to find out what makes them laugh, cry what makes them happy, sad. What turns them on, what makes them excited, what makes them passionate, this is all growth. So, all your other values.
The values that might be tucked away in the background are your core underlying values, even health and I’ve seen people compromise the value of health when it comes to meeting someone they’re completely absorbed with.
They might drink a little bit more. They might even eat food that they may not normally eat because they are with this person and it’s amazing, especially if it’s very physical or sexual. A lot of their core values slip by the way, initially less sleep of course.
You’ll drive further, fly further, you speak on the phone for longer because you’re in this absolute sponge phase of growing and learning about each other.
So core values unless you’re an emotionally developed couple who bring these core values out early, do not come to the surface very often.
You’ll connect with a couple of them, but there is more of a physical, biological, attractive force chemistry going on, you’re drawn to each other. There’s a deep, genuine soul connection as well that’s stage one.
Harms: There’s something interesting which you speak about at your events. It’s tied to the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which can give us this, it’s not to say it’s a false feeling, but what it does, it’s this euphoric feeling.
It’s an addiction.
Dr Ro: What Harm’s is referring to is the fact that when we get ideally three or four of our core basic human needs met on a consistent regular basis, it forms an addiction for any human being, myself included, speaking is a classic example.
It meets all my needs, it’s addictive each time I come away from speaking in front of an audience I’ve met all of them.
It’s incredible, I want to go back and do more of it.
So without going into lots of detail these needs are covered by different people over the years. That essentially says that each human being has a basic need for security.
Tony Robbins might say certainty, for me very much that need it is a foundation need for everybody to have a sense of security.
Being in a stable relationship is very, very powerful for people, they feel comfortable.
Control is another word you can put against it, if you have control of something this is an important one is relationships, if you have control you have certainty. If you don’t have control you’ve got to complete the lack of certainty.
Harms: An example of how that plays out is imagine a couple who now live together and they share the rent payments together.
That’s a security paid for it is almost like a personal level of safety and security living under one roof, sharing the rent. Instead of £1,000 each, it’s now £500 each. Now that starts to form this base level of addiction.
Dr Ro: Interestingly enough that certainty can be an attractive force.
If you meet somebody who is very financially stable and you’ve been in a relationship in the past, which wasn’t stable.
You were the one supporting and those relationships break up because you felt frustrated that they weren’t financially growing and they were emotionally growing.
You find another partner and this time the partner has a good strong financial stability. That’s the initial hook for the addiction, but also you feel much more safe with this person and that is a strong human need for all of us.
In Maslow’s terms it’s kind of the need for food and everything that creates a shelter roof over our head. That’s a basic security that we need, but the opposite to that in terms of psychology is variety.
The thing about security is if you have the same of everything all the time you get bored and a psychological level, the opposite to that is variety or I use the word freedom. It is this need to grow and expand and to have different things in our life.
I like to talk about this freedom of spirit, so the opposite to being cooped up in lockdown and secure is I want to expand and be free.
That is also a very important need for all of us. If you’re listening to this and you’ve been in lockdown there is a growing feeling of I want to go out, travel, meet my friends, connect with other people, and have more variety.
They are two conflicting values that we all need.
These two fight each other because you might want lots of security, but then you get bored, so you want to have more freedom. You have more freedom then you do something crazy and think I better start being safe again.
This is where relationships can break up because people get bored and go looking elsewhere for that freedom. This is where affairs can kick in.
They’re two of the six needs that we have, the other four needs are one is a need for connection with other people and the other one opposite to that is a sense of ego or significance.
We’ve got love and connection, and we’ve got a sense of ego and these are conflicts again because these human needs when we first meet somebody we’re getting all this met.
We’re getting the variety, certainty that this person’s amazing I absently know that when I see them again I’m certain I’m going to find something new about them and they’re probably going to love to see me.
They get excited, the connection which is another need which is the love connection, belonging as Maslow called it. Then there’s this ego or the sense of importance. I feel important. She loves me, he loves me. He sent me flowers. She sent me flowers. I feel really important, I’ve got four needs met there that is incredibly addictive.
Now on the top of that, Maslow talked about growth and talked about contribution to other people.
Self-actualisation is how he packaged it all up, so growth is this element on top of all these other needs that we need to have met first.
The other four are typically the ones we need to meet first. After that, after you’ve got those meet needs met as a human being you need to grow, expand beyond this place to become even better, and bring this back down to the lower part of my needs.
I want to give beyond myself and help other people. The top two needs growth and contribution are not necessarily primary.
They typically sit behind the other four.
Harms: Those first needs are almost essential.
They come from a place of deficiency from a place where I need to get this first.
Once those are in place we can then focus on growth and it’s very hard to focus on growth without those in place, so that’s just another way of phrasing it.
Dr Ro: And when you meet not four but six get met, because not only are you getting connection, variety, security or certainty and you’re getting significance and importance, but you’re growing because you’re learning about somebody new.
And maybe they’re sharing something new with you about themselves and you’re contributing and giving, you’re probably sharing a gift doing something for them, opening a door, treating them to something.
Of course, that part of your human nature that wants to give and help somebody else you’ve got six needs met.
Harms: That can happen instantly.
Dr Ro: High impact, addictive you’re satiated, which means you had a huge amount of stuff all in one go.
The question is how long does it last?
That leads us to stage two and that could be weeks, could be months, could be years.
Typically it’s a six to 12 month period I’ve seen in people because now you’ve kind of got past that shiny stage and you start to get into a rhythm, and now your core values are starting to come to the surface a little bit now, and as a person you’re not growing so much with them.
You haven’t got much excitement in the sense you kind of know who they are now, and your basic need to come back up to the surface now. You get into a rhythm and stage two is your true needs and values start to emerge and so do theirs.
Whereas before they were hidden by all of these amazing things happening now their true core values and needs are starting to come to the surface, which is a lovely thing if they’re the right values for you and your values align with them.
But if they’re not, this is where the clash starts to happen, and those needs could be needed for more security, or maybe a little bit more need for growth comes out, but not growth, about the other person now.
I spent the last six to 12 months growing with you and about you, I want to learn something new what do you think?
The other person is like, no that’s not who I am. This is what starts to happen or it might be that there is a conflict over your values over integrity. When you first met it was incredible lots of connections, physical, sexual, intimate things, but now you start to see a little bit about how this person operates in the world of finance in money, in how they are in their job.
Maybe you’ve got a value of hard work ethic you value working hard. But now, after six to 12 months, you realise actually having spent more time at their place and see how they are they’re not that hard-working.
I thought they said they were earning money, but they’re not. And all of a sudden their true nature comes out.
I’m trying to paint a contrasting picture.
But the opposite might be they’re amazing and your values are growing together. But what I’m talking about here are the values that do not align.
Harms: Where I have personally seen this play out in life, let’s take a simple example like the program, such as communicating with impact.
Now a couple has a choice, do they attend communicating with impact as a couple and pay the ticket price for that as a couple? Or do they turn up separately or does one turn up and one never goes?
Often the reason where one never goes is one is driven from a place of or the need of security, where they say, okay, I’m quite happy with how things are at the moment I’m comfortable.
I don’t really want to take risks in my job and I don’t really want to learn this new skill that’s going to rock the boat bit, whereas the other person is saying I want to learn the skills because I can leverage these in the workplace.
I can get a promotion.
We can expand our life or I want to start a business and I need a skill for negotiation, whatever it may be, I need to turn into a public speaker for my business and I want confidence to speak on the stage with all the tools and techniques.
That’s what I’ve observed, as a polar opposite of somebody who is wanting the need of variety as an example to then grow and expand, whereas somebody based on security is saying actually if you go and do that one it’s going to cost a bit of money, what if it rocks the boat?
Dr Ro: That actually could be one of the first signs of stage three because now you’ve had that amazing period together and you’ve gone and done the typical things.
You experience each other and their joy and their exploration and maybe you want to create new magic moments together and then starts to come out of this need for growth.
Harms: This is like the wave because you described a wave. Stage three is the peak.
Dr Ro: We’re coming up now and what we’re doing is we are still on the up curve, but now this is where we start to see it flatten off and the conversation is, as you just described.
You go I don’t really want to go to that and then this point now, you’re the person husband and wife or boyfriend, girlfriend and you’re going this is something that when first met we talked about this and I really want to learn more about this.
Actually you just go and do it, it’s fine. You just go to the seminar.
But I really want to do it with you, honey.
This is where the conversations go one of two ways. You accept it, and just go do it. Or you start to have a different conversation, that to me the first sign is something like that, but it could be something else. It could be you want to go see the ballet they don’t want to, you want to see a concert, they don’t want to.
This now starts to come into play where instead of maybe trying to help you meet your needs by being part of your experience and growing with you even if they don’t want to fully do it, they’re actually being part of that with you.
They’re making a choice to say you do it yourself.
So they value their own privacy, independence, and their own lack of connection with you at that point and maybe they are not supporting you in that and they’re saying, so rights can do yourself.
I’m not saying that should always be the case that everyone has to do everything together.
Harms: What if there is a couple whose listening to this and one says I don’t want to go climbing, but I’m more than happy to support you in this.
What we’re saying is you can support them, you don’t have to go and do it alongside them.
Dr Ro: Harm’s is spot on there are going to be certain things that you want to do that, physically or for whatever reason, your partner isn’t either able to do or has any inclination to do it all.
That’s not to say that they can’t be involved in some way, but it’s just that it’s something more for you. I guess what I’m trying to say is that at that point, there is an isolated case that stands on its own and you could argue actually in your example, Gee doesn’t want to climb.
She might watch you a couple of times, but the point being that the partner who is not doing it at least shows some great support and encouragement.
Now let’s imagine we are 18 months down the line and you want to go on a skiing trip they don’t want to come, you want to go do a bungee jump they don’t want to come, you want to go and join a local rambling club they don’t want to come.
This isn’t now just a one off.
This is a pattern of someone who’s just not wanting to grow and that’s a different conversation now. I’m not trying to be prejudiced, I’m just describing the countless conversations I’ve had with couples where a particular individual, where they feel upset, frustrated, and pissed off. It’s been going on for five years.
That’s a different conversation, we’re at a different stage in the five stages.
I think your question is valid. I guess what I’m trying to do is put it into context, now the curve is continuing up its flattening more and more. We’re coming off the top of the curve now.
Harms: We say that the curve is yes it’s flattening but based on how the couple now has a conversation with each other at this stage, the curve can slowly go upwards, or can start to decline.
Dr Ro: At this point this is where the person’s true values and needs emerge and all of us have it. I had it in my relationship.
We’ve been together nearly 20 years and she’s 14 years younger than me, so after a short period of time other sides of ourselves came out with different values and we went through a lot of growth and we chose to go back to stage one as a couple.
But now not just about each other, but our own needs and growth, so this can either go one or two ways.
It comes up and starts going down to stay three, four, five or you swing back into stage one, but now on personal growth, emotional growth, spiritual growth on your own evolution as a couple, and as individuals.
That’s where the watershed comes and you have to have the ability to identify these values and this needs in another person that you’re with and realise that in order for us to grow as a couple, we have to keep meeting those needs.
We have to find a way to support that person in such a way that it’s not taken away from me and it is adding to me, but at the same time it’s making them feel important because remember if we start to ignore something they want to do, one of the needs that Maslow talked about a sense of importance that we want to have.
If I was with your Harms and you’re my partner and every time you want to do something I had said no, I am not interested I’m now showing you that you’re not important to me.
That’s one of your basic needs suddenly eroded.
Another need is being now eroded because you want to connect with me and you want to be part of that relationship, where I’m doing something with you. I’m now not doing that with you so now we’ve lost that connection.
That’s two bloody main needs suddenly severed by my actions.
Harms: We’ve gone from that addictive relationship, which was from three, four and what we’re saying is you once you typically hit three and four needs there’s a level of addiction, or this is a really cool relationship.
Whereas once they start to get eroded through these consistent actions like that then we start to remove them and we’re left with and I think I have personally when I’ve been around you and your coaching couples, they often come to a point where they’re left with just one remaining need.
That’s normally the base level, the security.
Dr Ro: If you think about it in this scenario for you and I.
You go off and you’ve now gone to a training course where you start to grow. Learning new subjects and meeting new people. Those people now are different, they’re new, you are growing, you’ve got variety and they’re showing you attention.
Suddenly instead of you getting the sense of importance from me and showing my commitment to you, you’re not getting that from me anymore, you’re getting that from somebody else and you’re getting a connection with somebody else.
Then of course you get variety with somebody else or a group of people and you don’t need to come back to space.
That addiction to me is actually diminishing and it’s growing towards a subject, topic or, God forbid, another person because that person is now showing you more interest than me.
It’s not you want to break up with me but hey, you know what, it just happens.
Harms: It happens for example, where I come back and we’re having dinner at the table and then you decide to ask the question out of the blue, which is how was that thing you’re doing?
At this stage because I’ve shared it and have experienced it with all these other people.
My response may be yes, fine. It was good. And then there is no longer conversation around this either.
Dr Ro: God forbid you say you met this amazing person and that name comes up more than two or three times in a conversation, I’m like who is this person?
The jealousy kicks in.
Forget sexual, intimate relationships it can happen to business partners.
One wants to grow the other one doesn’t and then suddenly, one comes back talking to this guy that they met and the other business partner is like, what’s going on here?
Sometimes that can be enough for the other partner, whether it’s intimate or business do say, okay let me see what is going on here. That might be the reach that brings that connection back to start the level of growth more often than not, it’s not enough it creates anger.
Harms: Let’s talk about stage four where what if we don’t have that conversation.
What happens then?
Dr Ro: Let me just clarify stage one is all needs are met.
Stage two is your true values start to emerge.
Stage three is there’s no deep conversation happening at this point between the two of you, and one of you grows quicker than the other.
Just to clarify this third stage we’re getting to the top of the peak is where you’re not having the conversation you need to have. You’re not having a conversation about values and where you’re both at, it becomes kind of a muted conversation.
You continue to grow your partner doesn’t and you find yourself going out more learning more, growing more speaking less about it at home or with your partner and feeling more and more like shit, I’m not sure if I can do this.
But because you’re so absorbed with this new growth you kind of kid yourself things will be fine. That addiction can grow somewhere else and this stage can go on for years, depending on the couple.
If it’s a very sexually connected couple that can often outweigh the emotional growth of the other person, meaning that you might find that that connection with that person is so powerful and there are a lot of other good things there.
You can live with the lack of growth because you’re getting that somewhere else and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you don’t move to stage four.
Stage four is arguments, frustration, anger, numbness, total numbness and in other words, there isn’t even that physical connection.
There isn’t that intimacy there isn’t that passion.
You either get really angry and it gets physical and that’s when you reach out to a coach or you go numb to it and just carry on.
What happens now the way we numb ourselves is through the phone, TV, through eating and just through anything.
We preoccupy ourselves.
You sit down together in a room and there are five minutes of opportunity to connect and you’re on your phone or doing something else.
In other words that lovely stage one is nowhere anywhere to be seen, it’s like two separate people living in a house together with two separate sets of needs, but as you said financially they’re both supporting each other now. It depends on where you are down the cycle, but it’s a tough one.
I started to really sit in my early 30s, because that stage there I was coaching but I hadn’t seen it in my peers because I was too young to see that yet. I was seeing it in older people through the coaching.
Harms: What’s interesting is that because of this tool we have, the phone, we can put Netflix or Amazon prime instant video series is being published every single week or every single month, which can help disguise the numbness.
This is what I may be observing within my generation, or people 25, 30, 35, which is the numbness is completely masked or disguised by things like the telephone, Netflix series where you find a different way to connect.
Which is actually not a deeper way to connect, the deepness comes from the growth doing something which is beyond yourself.
Whereas you’re masking and you default it to this soft entertainment.
Dr Ro: That is a spot-on description.
What you’ve described there are two core needs, connection, and variety straight through social media. So hey if I’m not freaking getting it home I’ll get it through watching these people. I’ll get absorbed into this, I’ll lose myself there and I can live with this.
That’s the kind of phraseology that keeps them locked into this space for years and years and years and decades. I’ve been on events with you and these are couples who are in their 30s, 40s, 50s.
You and I have walked away and we said they shouldn’t be together.
They’ve come to seminar on property to try and fix their life because they think if I can get some more money it will fix everything else, but that is so disconnected.
We’ve even seen people come on the third day of an event and they’re sitting in separate places because they just do not agree on anything, and they’re totally misaligned.
Unfortunately or fortunately my style of teaching tends to press those buttons and this isn’t even a relationship event. It’s property-based education or a communications event.
It’s a tricky one which leads us to stage five because at this point there if the pain is great enough I think that’s the emphasis, if the pain is great enough and that could last six months, 12 months eight months, eight years, then one or two things happen. People split up, or they make a change.
Otherwise they stay in stage four for a long time.
Harms: Ro I wanted to focus on stage three and four before the split happens which can either be in year two.
What’s interesting is I have observed in the Asian culture, or certainly my generation, I’ve seen this probably trigger at three years or four years in terms of when the split happens.
I think culturally that can protract it.
If you weren’t so heavily influenced by your culture, your parents, and everybody else’s perception of how your relationship should be often it would happen quicker, but you’re spot-on. I think especially in Asian culture, African culture, et cetera where this is the community feel. Sometimes this can go on a lot longer .
I think with my generation you really see it play out because of my culture and Asian culture and our world, which is we actually are masked by the fact that we don’t often live together before we get married.
We are experiencing stage one, two and three in a stretched period.
We are also so busy with our careers that when we finally get to the point where we’re now living together on a day-to-day basis, and now one of us wants to grow.
That’s that kind of year three, four, five stage, and this is why the timeline I personally see it being stretched in my age group 25, 30, 35.
Because we’ve got all of these distractions which take the focus away from our actual relationship and then when we do look at our relationship we’re like it’s stage five already.
Dr Ro: You’re a 30 something year old person. Forget cultural background and you’re in a relationship and the cracks start to appear at stage two, three, and on a daily basis you’re on Facebook, Instagram.
You’re following people.
Maybe you’re out in the nice car, got a few functions with work, etcetera lots happening around you. If you imagine life as a path as a straight line and that straight line if it was clean and clear you’d have an amazing experience with the right people who are connected to you, but now it doesn’t quite work for you, so you start to drift off into different directions and all of a sudden you’re distracted from the true connection with somebody because you’ve got all these other things happening around you.
That’s why it can go on for a lot longer because people just accept it.
Harms: Imagine having posted about your amazing highly addictive relationship for the last three or four years and your Instagram and all these comments, it’s pretty hard to be open and honest with yourselves at that stage that this is not going to work and to split with that level of commitment out into the public is also a challenge.
That is just a side note, because you should be aware of that as well. Having a public relationship in social media and presenting yourself in such a way is another dangerous mask for stage three and stage four.
Stage four is like we don’t really hone in on it, which leads me to the next question Ro which is, let’s go back to stage three to five and help the listeners because again they may be masked.
All of these things may be masking the true reality of what’s happening which is what are the signs and what have you observed on how it manifests itself stages three to five.
How does that manifest itself within a couple dynamics?
This can be any kind of couple dynamic. How does that play out?
Dr Ro: Things to look for the obvious one is a loss of connection so the things that you did a lot at the beginning in stage one and two start to diminish.
You don’t have the same interests, there isn’t the same length of time or attention taken to sit down and have the same conversations you might have had 20, 30 minutes previously, now you’re too busy.
You become so familiar with them that you don’t need to necessarily give them that attention and that’s a very quick early sign for that as well, so you’re not showing the same level of interest in the little things that they did at the beginning which you loved.
In the same way kids, my five-year-old is fascinated by the tiniest things. She will come up to me as a 54, 55-year-old and she will show me something that fascinates her about a leaf, bee, or fly.
I will still show that same interest.
That’s for me kept me in that space and I’ve got two girls as well, it was great because I could go back into her world and I think that’s what we forget to do.
In simplest terms, we can go back into our partners world and remember that they still have an interest in something, even if we have lost that interest in their interest in that something. That is a really big clue in that stage three where the conversations aren’t happening, values start to come out.
Arguments or high-volume discussions happen over little things and that’s because you’re getting irritated.
That’s a sign of getting to stage four.
It has nothing to do with that particular thing.
It could be that they’ve left something in the kitchen and not tidied up and you’re channelling your frustration towards that. But you’re pissed off because they didn’t come to that seminar with you.
Harms: You’re describing the person who is maybe on the growth path, the person who is not on the growth path would be just as mad about you didn’t take the bins out as an example, but you had enough time to go see your new friends and do your new thing and that will also play out.
Dr Ro: This is the challenge, it becomes a bigger argument, and now you’re both arguing about something that has nothing to do with whatever it is.
Both of you want to be right and that’s another whole thing to do with your basic human needs and of course it’s not that you don’t love each other, you can’t articulate it, and maybe haven’t had a conversation like here.
So one of you just defaults you go to the phone, you go to Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, spend time with somebody else or you just re-submerge yourself into learning something exciting.
You get more and more involved in that and it just continues to escalate, and then of course the signs of numbness, so switch on the TV.
An evening goes by, hardly anything said, you kiss less, hug less, no physical intimacy. But either way or use the kids this becomes a major one.
Use the kids as a buffer to deflect it and lose yourself with the kids and there are so many different signs to a point where eventually one of you has a meltdown and that’s where you get to the split point.
That will normally come on the back of one major thing. It could be that you read something, you hear something or something happens at home, you suddenly realise you can’t carry on like this in front of our kids.
Something has to change.
It is usually a very big emotional thing that’s beyond the relationship now that just triggers you.
Harms: One of the questions I had is this gender specific?
For example, do you typically see the man growing more, which leads to this conflict or split or is it that the lady in the relationship grows more?
Dr Ro: It’s a very good question because I would have previously said I think it’s more ladies than men that would have been me, maybe 10, 15 years ago, 20 years ago, but I think that’s changed.
I think now there’s a balance. It’s pretty even.
Don’t get me wrong there might be periods where I’ll find myself talking to a whole bunch of ladies, but that could be because the subject or the theme of that particular event I’m running has a softer edge to it.
It might be more about personal emotional development, as opposed to personal financial development. If it was personal financial development I might see more men than women, if it’ is personal, emotional development.
I tend to see less men than women there because they are spiritually and emotionally more developed and often want to.
It’s the make-up of who they are as a person, that’s not to say men don’t want it they do and actually do need it.
The problem is for men they don’t want to admit that, and so tend not to go into that space. I think the genre we’re in at the moment, this whole personal development movement that is happening is seeing a more mixed spread overall.
But 10, 20 years ago, more female biased but if I took it to a trading seminar I think it’s probably more male bias, if I took you to a mind, body and spirit event, I think you’d see more ladies as a general rule.
I think overall people do want to grow and that’s certainly been triggered by the number of apps online now and the type of people attending personal development.
Harms: We could probably put male, male relationship into this female, female relationship in this, within that dynamic will be this masculine and feminine energy within that particular dynamic, it does play out across the whole gender mix.
It just really depends on who is the masculine energy and feminine energy within that dynamic.
Dr Ro: If you look at the way people and how society was structured previously and historically is that you go off you study hard and just the mechanics of how that industrial era and post-war era was that man would go out to work and woman would stay at home look after the kids.
Which was by far the most important role, and that tended to lock people into roles and I think because of these unconscious roles that we have in our minds, it then triggers how we want to grow and then we start to see a period where actually there were a lot of ladies saying, I want to grow.
I want to break out of this ridiculous mould that we’ve been put into.
There was this huge surge. I saw it through the 80’s.
Then I think the whole idea of personal development became more appealing to both men and women, and now it’s sexy.
If you want to give a name to it for so many different people and in both genders. Before, it might have been driven by circumstances, the roles people have been put into now you’re seeing strong characters, real celebrities, and famous people.
Some big names out there, male, female, strong messages drawing both genders.
I think it’s really now down to people’s actual evolution.
Harms: You spoke about this is the industrial era where somebody would train, educate, and that would be the growth period.
Just imagine a curve which is rising, typically from the age of, say, five to 20, 21 when you finish University that’s typically a growth period within a relationship and internally as well.
Then from that point onwards, you can pretty much draw a straight line up to the point of retirement and then there’s a slight decline.
That straight line is a period of no growth because actually jobs, careers were around for life and a couple locked into that straight line that became the norm back then.
What we have now going forward, and this is now being well documented, researchers and historians are seeing something which probably has never happened before, which is we, as a couple in a dynamic or as an individual will probably have to grow and expand ourselves literally every seven to 10 years.
We have to recreate ourselves, which is going to need this requirement to learn, grow and adapt. Add that to a couple dynamic and everything we’re saying today is suddenly going to be on steroids.
So that’s just a little insight which I have started to see in the background, but it just came to mind as you spoke about that classic conventional work model, which was available in the past which is not really the case now go forward.
Dr Ro: Information is so readily available, someone who is looking after the kids at home, whether it’s the husband or the wife has access to those tools and learning skills like a podcast like Growth Tribes instantly during the day.
That growth can occur 24/7 whereas traditionally if you’re a bloke you’re working the wife’s home looking after the children, she can’t grow but he might grow through his work.
Whereas now that the playing field is levelled and I love it because everyone has the option to grow, then it comes down to your core make-up and who you are as a person, which takes us right back to where we are in the whole cycle.
Harms: We want to leave people with some action steps because if they find themselves in stage two entering stage three and they feel like the curve is starting to flatten out and things are getting slower.
What do they do?
How do couples essentially learn from what we have said today so that they avoid that conflict in the first place?
The conflict being that when one wants to grow, they are not going in separate ways and they end up splitting.
How do we get them to have some steps that they can undertake so that they actually make a change together rather than just default to split.
Anchoring back to what you said we don’t want to give up on any couple that’s not the default, especially if they still love each other.
Dr Ro: I was in touch with an amazing lady called Susie who I have known for many years. One of her big things is there is the physical movement that has to happen between you as a couple. In other words, it’s the physical dance that happens, it’s how you as a woman get into your feminine core and as a man gets his masculine energy and brings that to the table because that’s how you met as a couple.
If you are numb that numbness also means it’s numbed your core energy.
Whatever your relationship is, you’ll have a core energy that you brought to the table when you met and that’s kept that dynamic when you’re numb, you tend to numb that, and that gets muted.
It gets switched off.
You’ve got to stir that back up again and come back to that core energy but there are essentially five steps.
The first step is you have to focus on you and what your needs are. I know you’re thinking this is about the other person. I understand that, but you’ve got to decide what you’re going to bring to the table in the conversation because you can’t bring frustration.
You can’t bring anger.
It means sitting down with a piece of paper writing down specifically, what are your needs?
What do you want to experience more of?
What do you want to feel more from a relationship, not what you want your partner to do for you, very different.
What do you want to experience in a relationship?
What do you want to feel?
What are your needs? It’s not about the person, it’s about what you want to experience. Not what they could do for you, it’s what you want to experience.
How do you want to grow is another great question.
Looking ahead now, you’ve hit the stage where you’re at the question is, how do you want to grow in the future?
Another question is what frustrates you?
Because you’re going to bring this to the table and ideally get your partner to do the same thing. It can include what frustrates you about the relationship and about how your partner is.
That’s really important, so slightly more directed now as well.
That’s a 20-minute, 30-minute, one-hour, two-hour process. Depending on how deep you go.
Harms: What energy would you say approach this with?
Because we are leaving the anger, frustration at the door, but we could be creative with this.
Is it fair to say that we may be in a place because we are in stage three, four where we are frustrated and angry. But if we have fun with the way we doing it.
For example, rather than a piece of paper, use Post-it notes. Could we have fun with lists, is that the right energy to approach it?
Dr Ro: Whatever you feel is a good way to capture it, do that. Go into your core energies. If you’ve got feminine energy go into that, play some music and get you to a place where you want to dance.
Get back into who you are, that beautiful female person that female energy. If you are male and you’ve got a strong masculine core then the key thing there is going into that energy and really get a sense of who you are and who you were when you met and what your aspirations are.
I think it’s good exercise to go into a meditative state to take some deep breaths, go through a calming process.
Step two is now going to tell your partner. This is where you say there are some things we need to share or maybe if you’re doing it together already you both agree to spend a couple nights doing step one and then you agree on the third night to sit down together.
You don’t talk about it beforehand.
No judgement here. That’s the whole thing you come to the table with no judgement whatsoever, which is a tough one for people.
You share with them how you want the future to be, describe the future. Your vision of the future, so they get a strong sense of where you want to be in the future it’s not about judgement where you are right now, but the future.
Then ask your partner to describe that as well because that’s important. Imagine if you’re both describing something completely and radically different.
That in itself triggers a different conversation.
We need to find something in your description of the future that has commonality that has that connection.
Harms: On the judgement what I think stage one does is by actually journaling and getting down this description of your needs, experience, how you want to grow, what frustrates you that starts to remove some of that judgement because you spend some time documenting.
What happens if they find no commonalities?
Dr Ro: If there are no commonalities you have to dig a little deeper and what I would say is you then share with each other why I’m feeling like this and then you talk about your needs, because in order to get that future, certain things may need to change.
Then if there is a different future described at that point you both go okay this makes sense, this is why we’re feeling like this.
At that point there is a different conversation, this is a conversation about should we stay together and this is where you decide if you need to get a coach or get some counselling. Or can you between the two of you have an honest, candid conversation about where the future is now, because if this is not the path you want to go on there is no point carrying on these two different trajectories.
If at that point there’s a commonality in the future, now you’ve shared your needs. You go to step three which is what your fears are.
Step three is okay; these are my fears about where we are at the moment. You seem to want the same things, but in order to get there something has to change and this is what I’m afraid of. I’m afraid that if we carry on like this we’re going to split up.
We’re going to have more arguments; it’s going to affect the kids.
You’ve got to be really brutally honest and both of you have to share your fears and my suspicion is a lot of those fears are common for most of the coaching I’ve done.
The fears are very, very common.
Harms: What my gut says to me is that one of the most common fears would be that we’re just going to drift apart, but from your experience, what are one or two fears that commonly pop up?
Dr Ro: How it impacts the kids, what it does to you as a couple in terms of your finances, the business, the impact it’s going to have on both your confidences.
Often I get conversation with people where they’re like in their late 50s or mid 50s or late 40s and the fear is I’m not going to meet somebody else, it depends on where they are.
Culturally what’s the family going to say?
The fears are driven often by the external impact of what it does to somebody else. What it does to themselves as a person and what it does to the financial situation as well.
There are usually three or four key things that seem to be the triggers for the fears. Step four there is an expansion of step three.
What are the consequences?
Meaning that you’ve described the fears initially but then you really fast forward and what are the consequences if we carry on like this?
Let’s just go there now, let’s map this out, you discuss what’s going to happen financially.
How to split the portfolio, the business, the finances. What about the house? What about the kids? What about the family?
If it’s an Asian family, Nigerian family, or you come from somewhere in the eastern culture where maybe families are much stronger and they are, I hate to say it but I see this a lot. Whereas the Western world is slightly more fractured.
Those can be massive consequences for some people. So describe the consequences in detail and I’m talking about rip the Band-Aid off, get the finger out and prod the wounds so you both really understand the massive impact of this if you don’t freaking make a change.
This is what I do a lot when I’m pushing people to see if we can get them to make a transformation because if you’re numb, you don’t feel the consequences.
This process takes the numbness away. It magnifies the pain hopefully to the point where both of you say we can’t go there, I still love you honey we can find a way to solve this, but we cannot have those consequences.
Harms: We’re bringing awareness to the couple of what was the relationship in the first place? What is the relationship now?
Is there a future for this relationship and the only way to get them to that place is to get them to feel something.
This process is almost opening up that place so they can start to feel something otherwise, like you said, it’s just a process driven approach where somebody still gets their needs met elsewhere and then they can’t quite connect their needs back to the relationship.
Dr Ro: I’ve got to be mindful that this might seem a little bit dark here and if I were coaching you it would be different again because I’d be watching your body language to make sure we don’t go too dark down this rabbit hole.
Step four has to have a balance to it.
Like everything has. In that process step four we have to then go back to what you both saw as your vision for the future which is step two and step one.
Looking at the consequences you then say what if we can pursue this future vision that we both have. Imagine we can do that. What if we grew together?
You balance the consequences with something that is far greater, more beautiful and for you, more real, so that you make those consequences something you’re not prepared to accept and you can have this belief you can work towards something.
You have a long history together. So what if we can make it work.
Which takes us to step five.
What do we do next?
At that point there, having had that conversation in step four you go right what do we do next?
If it’s a case of let’s make it work I’m so sorry, I know when I first met you the things we did together I want to get back involved with you, I want to grow.
That’s a really powerful, engaging, upbeat, self-directed, responsibility taking process or you realise you know what there is nothing left, we’re going to have to split.
That comes from the reality of the consequences.
Or you stay the same and you numb it.
Make a decision to grow or separate, but don’t stay the same because that’s just so painful.
Harms: Staying the same is indecision.
Because that is the decision that will make an actual change in growing or splitting and are we saying either are okay?
Dr Ro: I’ve been there myself; the split is not an idea and as you said the remit here if I was coming to the table we want to look for a solution.
Can we get this couple to grow, but if having gone through this and a lot more work ideally, it’s not going to happen.
Be honest and split otherwise make a decision to grow and commit to it 100%. If it’s 99% one of you will be looking for the other person to slip up, or there will be a reason to default back to that pattern. it’s a powerful process.
It does work and it basically filters very quickly, it cuts to the core of the problem and if you do it effectively you will know the truth as you as a couple.
Harms: The result of this will be positive.
Yes, the decision point may be really painful, even the concept of growing because that’s going to have its own growing pains.
But in the long term, that pain disappears and you start to go on to be in a relationship that you’re meant to be in or transform the current relationship into a relationship that it was just numb to, and it was just waiting for this process for you to embark on, so that you could then discover that relationship.
Can this exercise process be used earlier in the stages of one or two?
Dr Ro: Totally.
In fact when you came to the turning point, three or four years ago, you were in a great relationship already as you are now with your lovely wife Geena, but I took you and the other 290 something people through a similar sort of process.
We looked at values and we had the exercise done because if you can do it on a regular basis it gives you a chance to keep growing, and I think that’s the important thing here.
It is that ongoing growth process that you really do need to go through.
Don’t wait until stage four or five and get onto it as soon as you possibly can.
Harms: Hopefully, you’ve discovered the power in growing together as a couple and doing an exercise in order to not get yourself in a position where you are at a stage of conflict.
If you are in a state of conflict now you have an exercise to work on that and work on the relationship itself, but also using this preemptively to continue to grow within your relationship. Going back to that cliché couples that train together, stay together, but it’s couples that grow together stay together, couples that learn together, stay together.
By working through this episode in this process that is a form of that as well.
That’s taking your relationship seriously showing your loved one the love that they deserve. By actually going through this process.
That’s a final note for myself.
From myself and Ro that’s us singing out, we will see you on the next episode.
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