In Come Here To Me's first bonus episode, Figs and Teale break down what "a cycle" means in a relationship by exploring the emotional bonding needs every human is born with.
In Come Here To Me's first bonus episode, Figs and Teale break down what "a cycle" means in a relationship by exploring the emotional bonding needs every human is born with.
01:00 Small talk
03:48 Introduction to topic, "The Cycle"
05:46 "The problem is not the problem"
09:33 Surfer bro interlude: Just keep swimming
11:37 Couples fight because they love each other
12:38 "The solution itself is not the answer," Do you both feel loved?
14:48 Reptilian insults
16:07 "If you really love me" conversations
17:56 Attachment theory / emotional bonding
23:42 "This is the one that I hope my emotional love needs will be met by."
26:20 Honeymoon's end
26:59 Feeling unloved prompts a negative reaction
28:02 Reaction prompts negative response
28:57 What is a cycle?
33:43 Let it feel like a relief: you're fighting because you love each other so much
38:47 The key isn't to avoid getting into a cycle, it's to get out of the cycle once it's started
If you or someone you love are struggling in your relationship, visit empathi.com for quizzes, courses, and consultations.
Teale: Hello and welcome to our podcast Come Here To Me with Teale and–
Figs: Figs. That was soft. The way I said my name.
Teale: Like a soft Figs.
Figs: It wasn't a strong declaration of my personhood. That's okay, it is five– we’re doing this at five in the morning while the kids sleep. So it's hard to be, you know, particularly strong.
Teale: But I think of, like, you know, a soft Figs.
Figs: Soft Fig.
Teale: Soft Fig.
Figs: That's me. As I get older, softer, and softer.
Teale: [Laughing] Oh!
Figs: Which, by the way, and I don't know if you know that supposedly by the age of 50 — I think it’s 50 now, but I have to find the exact research — that women end up having more testosterone than men.
Teale: Oh, yeah.
Figs: So like, I'm, you know, I'll be 50 next year. So I'm on my way. You know, I'm starting to cry at the little, like, cat videos.
Figs: You know, it's all downhill for me.
Teale: I've always felt like maybe I had more testosterone. I remember skateboarding and just like spitting at people like not on them, but just like towards them.
Figs: That’s something you probably don't want to share about spitting at people.
Teale: But well, the reason why I'm talking about skateboarding is–
Teale: –like there's something about wheels, and you do create more testosterone, and I'm a wheel person.
Figs: Well, that's interesting you say that.
Teale: Roller skates, roller blades.
Figs: Right. Well, on our biking, right, we have a cargo bike that was our, you know, is our main mode of transportation. Bringing the kids to school and stuff like that. And I did find it was an amazing teacher for me, because I would end up– like you end up getting kind of aggressive on the road. Which is kind of insane because you're on this bike and every other thing on the road is bigger than you. I felt like I was a Jack Russell.
Figs: "Yeah, yeah, I'm here too buddy. I don't care how big you are." But that was a great teacher to kind of reel in, you know, the feisty little aggro part.
Teale: Testosterone part, which is it's like, how to control the testosterone. This is something you fellows, or all of us that have testosterone in your bodies, it's like you have to work with this element. This chemical. And you're saying you kind of don't have to work with it as much any more.
Teale: But I do.
Figs: One of the great things about about getting older. And you know, like, there's so much, right? Like I just don't care that much. Like you know I'll go out with a t-shirt inside out. You'll tell me and I’m like, “I don't care." Do not care, does not bother– it is so nice getting older, right? And just not giving a damn.
Teale: It's because you just, you like have your trophy wife, so you can just kind of relax on like impressing the world.
Figs: Exactly. I've reached the–
Teale: The pinnacle.
Figs: apes of– apex! Geez, "Apes," making up words. So come here, here's what we're going to– "Come here." Here's what we're going to do today.
Teale: "To me."
Figs: We are doing a session that's not– "We're doing a session." This podcast episode has nothing to do with our therapy sessions, right? That's not even right, it has everything to do with a therapy session. But so we're not going to share [laughing] a therapy session.
Figs: You want to tell –
Teale: Yeah, I'm really excited about this. You know, we use all this jargon, these couples therapy terms sometimes in processing our couples therapy sessions. Words like “the cycle”. And today, we're going to break down a couple of those phrases. And one of them, you know, speaking of the apex is so important to why you're probably here and why Figs and I are here and here to help people as well, is to really talk about: why do couples fight?
Figs: Exactly. So we're gonna start from the top. So here's the way we're thinking this podcast is going to be structured going forward, is: we will share episodes that we are sharing our own personal couples therapy sessions, and then we're going to talk about it, but we're also going to do episodes like this where we actually explain what love is, how love works, why couples fight, what's a cycle that couples get into. So that you should end up with a good sense of what you need to do yourself to improve your relationship. Not only just grab your bag of popcorn and a beer and listen and/or watch us make fools of ourselves, sharing your own couples counseling.
Figs: Right? Hopefully, there will be some value other than just laughing at, “Oh my God, I feel so much better about our relationship now that I saw what couples therapists are actually like”.
Teale: Once you saw Figs ugly cry.
Figs: Exactly. You're still waiting. Everybody's still waiting for the ugly cry.
Teale: Oh, no, we've seen that.
Figs: Ha. Okay, well, okay, so come here. Today, we'll talk about, you know, why do couples fight? I was gonna give you the answer straight off the top, but why do couples fight? So just to put into context the entire show: we as emotionally focused couples therapists and attachment focused couples counselors, relationship counselors, we kind of think that there's one deep reason why couples fight underneath every single issue. We're always looking for this true, like, line through the middle of a fight which is about just love and attachment about emotional bonding. So a lot of times couples will come to see us and they'll go like, “Oh, we're fighting about the housework,” or, “Oh, we're fighting about sex,” or, “Oh, we have this ongoing kind of consistent argument about– “
Teale: In laws, preschool drop offs. Oh my gosh–
Figs: Exactly. There's so many.
Teale: It's everything, right?
Figs: There's thousands upon thousands of reasons to actually fight. You know, “You chew with your mouth open,” and whatever it is.
Teale: But isn't it just those things Figs? Like, isn't it, you know, the sex or isn't it the child Care? You're saying no.
Figs: Well, so here's the thing. Yeah. So of course, the issue is an issue, right? And this is something really hard for people to wrap their head around. The issue is an issue. But if you're really fighting about it, that means that issue is not the main issue. There's an emotional bonding issue right inside the issue you think you're talking about. So, simple way we say this, I hope it's simple, is, "The problem is not the problem. The way you're talking and feeling about the problem is the problem." So one of the first things you want to be able to get good at, if you're going to have a good relationship, is you want to get good at saying, “Hold on a second, are we really fighting about whether we go left or right on this journey right now? Or has us asking this question, 'Do we go left or right?' touched a deeper emotional place inside of both of us because of the way we're important to each other? And now, everything we do and say has been laced with this love emotional bonding, meaning?”
Teale: Mmm, this is a relief, what you're talking about. Just –
Teale: I think because it can feel so daunting, “Holy crap, we have so many issues. How are we going to get this all done, you know, figure it out in a 60 minute couples therapy session once a week?” And here's the good news, is that what I'm hearing you say, and of course, what I practice with couples, is there's a simplicity. There's something deep down inside that there's a perspective.
Figs; Exactly. The good news is — to your point Teale, that's really right — like, there's actually just one thing you need to learn and understand deeply and be able to do, you don't actually need to come up with a bunch of different solutions for all of the different problems that the world is going to throw at you. There's just going to be unending– in your lifetime, you as a couple, you as an individual, the world is going to throw at you, like you know, 147,000 different problems. Some of them are big, some of them small, but in your relationship, you don't actually need 147,000 different solutions. You just need to be able to understand deeply, “What is this emotional process that's going on? Can we solve for that first and then solve for the actual question of the day?” If you're fighting with each other. Now, if every time we were driving down the road, and like you know, I look at Teale and I go, “Should we go left or right and she's like, “Well, wait a sec, figs. Let's really think about the deeper emotional meaning in the question, right?” That'd be ridiculous, we would never get–
Teale: I like that I'm like a surfer bro in your mind.
Figs: You know, you're born and raised in Hawaii. You are a surfer bro in my mind.
Figs: You do know this. "Skateboard." Like I'm the chicken and you're like skateboarding down mountains and –
Teale: Says Figs who has swam out to the wind sock in Waikiki.
Figs: Yes. By the way, this whole like, you know, giving people credit for swimming to the wind sock, they have it all wrong. You should not get credit for swimming to the wind sock. So swimming to the wind sock is easy. It is swimming back in. Nobody told me that swimming back in was going to be five times as harder to swim out.
Teale: You just keep swimming as hard as you can. And that same piece of coral is right there. You can feel that existential panic.
Figs: It was a little scary but every 10 strokes I'm like, “I'm not moving”. And just the 11th stroke it would move me one yard forward. I was like, “This gonna take a while.”
Teale: I just wanted to tell you, "Hon, just keep trying. You know, one step in front of the other."
Figs: By the way, the other thing– it's actually lovely to swim with you and to see myself like swim– like, I'm just giving it everything I have, right? And of course, like, I do not feel tired because I'm terrified–
Figs: Right, that I'm gonna drown because I was gonna die of exhaustion.
Teale: Testosterone– adrenaline.
Figs: Exactly the adrenaline, right. But you're just like floating along beside me. I'm like, “How could you be floating and I'm swimming like as hard as I can right now?”
Teale: There's just something just ingrained when you grow up here. Just like the cups of tea that you make are just flawlessly legit.
Figs: I would much rather have your swimming ability than my tea making ability. I gotta admit.
Figs: But look, so come here. So we have this, [laughing] we have this one method we're going to try and help you learn, right? Both from the podcast but also you can go to empathi.com, and we have this great quiz, and we have all these articles and videos, and we also have online courses. And of course, you can book consults for counseling and coaching. Okay, so with no further ado, why do couples fight, right? Couples primarily fight because they love each other.
Figs: And I know that sounds grossly oversimplified. But, ultimately, people that are in relationship with each other are incredibly important to each other. And that means we're likely to put a very significant emotional bonding meaning on when we experience our partner being there for us in a particular way, or not being there for us in a particular way. So when people think they're fighting over let’s just use an example, literally could be any topic: Who does the housework? And no matter what the solution is you come up with for the housework, the solution itself is not the answer. What really determines if you're going to feel better about how you decide who's going to clean or wash the dishes in the kitchen, who's going to tidy up the living room, is did you both end up feeling loved by each other during the process? Right? So there's the thing, there's the problem itself: This house is messy and needs to be cleaned, right? But then inside that issue is, when you talked about it, did you end up leaving each other feeling like, "I don't think you really love me in a particular way?" Now I say the word, "Love," and everybody goes, “Well, that's a bit cheesy.” But there's a lot of different flavors of love: "Do you respect me? Do you value me? Do you see me? Do you hear me? Am I a priority to you?" These are all actually flavors of love, right. There's so many other ones. "Am I enough for you," right? "Do you want me," right? Like so many different flavors of love. So in the conversation about the house work, when you're discussing it, do you end up sending even if unintentionally a signal to your partner like, “Actually, the reason I think you should do the housework is because I worked all day?" Now let's translate that into emotional bonding language, what your partner will hear is, “I am not valued by you." And valued as a flavor of love. And so it's gonna be– you’re incredibly important to them. So it's going to hurt their feelings. Now they will respond to you and go, “You know what? Well, how about the next time you work, you actually bring back a little bit more money?” So the only reason they said that is because they were hurting inside. And it makes sense, right–
Figs: that might have hurt you, right? That might have felt like, we put it through the emotional translator, they just told you that they're disappointed in you, that you're not enough for them.
Teale: I just wanted to say and kind of add to that is, it's so hard not to believe these things. I mean, your partner says that and it goes straight to the heart of you like, “Oh my gosh! You don’t think– ” it’s like, that hurts your feelings, and it's like, it well should. And I think one of the things I'm working to help reorganize for people is — and for myself sometimes too, of course — is you know, the stuff that we say when we're in that reptilian part of our brains is not the way we actually feel inside. It's like, “Hey, you're so important to me when you don't clean the house, when you don't feel like a collaborator with me, it's so lonely for me. And when I feel so lonely, I'm going to spit fire. You know, 'Why don't you do this better? Why didn't you do that?'" And you know, we grab things.
Teale: We grab things that maybe there's some truth in terms of like, “Oh, you know, I wish you'd make more money so that we can afford childcare,” or whatever. But it's like, it's not a, “I wish you made more money." It's like, “God, I wish we could just spend more time together." You know, there’s a heart to it that is strong and vibrant and loving. But we spit these kind of reptilian insults at one another.
Figs: Exactly. Yeah, what once we get into– this is where like I was saying, you wanna get good at noticing, we've stopped really talking about the housework and we've gotten into an, "If you really love me" conversation. The only time anybody will ever say something like, “Hey, you know, I worked all day. What about you? Why don't you do the housework?” The only reason someone would ever say something like that is because something inside them was going on where they weren't sure if you really see me or appreciate me, or you know that you value me in some way, right? Like there's some flavor of love, they didn't feel they're getting, hence they say something that actually lands — they protest, not feeling loved — and then it hurts their partner. And then of course, the partner will be hurt. And then they'll protest in turn.
Figs: But even more fundamentally than that, so why does that happen? So here we are trying to work out who's going to clean the house. And this problem has to be solved, the house needs to be cleaned. And yeah, like when we try and talk about it, we end up getting enmeshed in this, “If you really love me,” conversation, that now what we feel should have been a very simple conversation, now, it's gotten so complicated because now we're talking about our inherent value as human beings and whether we’re worthy of appreciation. Like, what in the name– what just happened?
Figs: I mean, you gotta have had that experience, right? Like, I just, you know, say, “Hey, Teale, what were you thinking about who's gonna clean the house today?” And you're like, “Oh, yeah, what about me?”
Figs: And you're like, “Um, excuse me?” And you know, next thing you know we have like a no man's land in the house. Like, we've got foxholes, you know, land mines.
Teale: [Laughing] And, you know, attachment gets existential–
Figs: It does
Teale: –like that. [Snapping]
Figs: Which is a perfect segway.
Figs: Right? That's very good. Right. So let's talk about the fundamentals, right? So everything we do is based on one theory, and I always say we everything we do is based on one theory, because I'm a very simple person. I grew up in Ireland eating way too many potatoes.
Figs: I'm a little dense. So I can only do this one way of looking at things. So everything is based on attachment theory, right? And you could substitute the word attachment with emotional bonding, right. And so just you know, anytime we say attachment, you can substitute the word with love or emotional bonding, right? Because the need to be loved is just your need to be emotionally bonded with another. And this is built into the very essence of who we are as human beings. It's not optional, you can’t just pull it out of you, right? It's like millions of years old. We as mammals, when we're born, we are useless, right? Like, you know, you've seen a baby. They do nothing, right? They're total freeloaders in your house. And you have to work all the time to change the diaper and feed them, and burp them. Look, we cannot do anything. And other mammals aren't quite as useless as us when we're born. But you know, they're kind of useless too.
Figs: So when you're born, your first need, because of how useless you are, is not actually food and shelter. You could be born and you could have a big like pile of burgers beside you. And you could actually be in the loveliest snuggliest room ever made. But you would still die if there wasn't a good enough other. They don't have to be perfect. There just has to be a good enough other on the other side of your birth. For most of us, that was our mothers. And you know, it could be granny right are you know, the village community, right? But everybody needs to have a good enough other on the other side of their birth, or else you'll die. So your body is actually built, like, at the most fundamental level to notice, from birth all the way through your life, because nothing's actually physiologically changed, "Is my good enough other there for me?" So when a baby is born, and they cry out, it's because they need to know, “Is my primary attachment figure, my primary person to be emotionally bonded with, the primary person that's going to love me, are they there?” And of course, the other side of that is, “Am I enough for them?”
Figs: So when a baby cries out because they're not in contact with their mom or their primary caregiver, it is the most intelligent thing in the world to do. They are protesting because, “I'm really in a dangerous situation without you.” Okay, so that is the underpinnings of why love really matters, right? More than anything, we have to know our primary person is there. So when you grow up and now you think you're this grown up, you're not a baby anymore, right? Because you're like, able to hold your iPhone and like–
Figs: –type in big words. You know, and you can drive your car, you have your job. Oh, look at you. You're so big, right? But–
Teale: You are so adult.
Figs: You're such a grown up. Yeah, you're good at adulting. Right? But when it comes to love, we're still babies. And look, you can see this. Look at all these politicians and business leaders and then you see what they do in their personal lives. And you're like, “What? What? Are you kidding me? How could you have all that money, all that success, you could do anything with your life, and you're still blowing up your personal life?” Because when it comes to love, no matter how grown up and competent you become in the world, you still have the heart of a little baby that has all of these vulnerable spots about, “Are you there for me? Am I alone? Am I good enough?” Whatever your particular flavor of weakness is, as you get to hear Teale and I through these podcast episodes share ours. You have yours and your partner has theirs too. So here's what happens then when we grow up, it starts to get complicated, right? Because it's one thing when it's between a baby and a mom, like a baby's like, “Hey, where are you Mom, I really need you to be there?” And so the mom, you know, hopefully, will come and love them and take care of them, feed them and so they get the feel in their limbic system, “Okay, I'm not alone. You're here. I'm loved and a priority to you.”
Teale: I just wanna make a quick plug for papas too. You know, I was talking to a single papa on the beach the other day and I just want to– and it's true like mama is huge in some families.
Figs: In the early– right.
Teale: But also Papa is like sometimes, you know, just as this dad that I was talking to, he's single dad from the very beginning. Just really want to recognize all the different constellations of family.
Teale: But hey, I'm really with you so let's keep going.
Figs: Yeah, no, no, no, exactly. No, absolutely. Look, yeah, it's all who your primary caregiver is, which of course it's not always one's biological mother, right?
Teale: That’s right.
Figs: And as we get older, there's more and more significant attachment figures come into people's lives.
Figs: So whatever that configuration is. So when we grow up, but there's still this little baby inside, and then we're out at a disco one night and you see this woman, if you're me, like breakdancing on the dance floor. And you're like, “Ah look at that fancy breakdancer." And then you do a little bit of your own like preening and you do a little moonwalk, and they like say, “Whoa!” Someone could compliment my great breakdancing skills with their moonwalking. And you think like, “Oh, wow, we really found each other and love each other because of our incredible dancing styles.” So again, on the surface, that actually makes sense and on some level of existence, that's why you chose each other. But something else is happening underneath. Underneath all of those reasons, and whatever yours are with your partner — yours was probably you're at a furry convention and you're dressed as a bunny rabbit, and they were dressed as a ferret, and you're like, "A ferret and a bunny rabbit. Now that would be a combo we have to see what happens, right?" Anyway, I don't know how you found each other. We did the breakdancing moonwalking thing. But so here's the thing, underneath all of that there is something inside that goes, “If I could be important to this one, if I could be this one's priority, if only they would be there for me.” Now this develops over a period of time, right? At first, you really are just like, would you look at her spinning, “Woof.”
Figs: And she's like, “Oh, that's a smooth move." But underneath all of that, your body eventually starts to go, “This is the one that I'm hoping my emotional love needs will be met by." And they, too, are going to actually engage in that, almost like a contract, that, "You are actually the one that I want to have my emotional needs met by, too.” And so now we've got two people that now our bodies — we think again, we're seeing all these things with our senses, — but our body, our limbic system is picking up now that this body here beside me, “You're the one that I want to feel loved by.” And your body's going, “You're the one that I want to feel loved by.” And so now whatever we're talking about our bodies are listening the whole time, right? Our attachment mechanism, this part of us that's really sensitive to, “Are we getting the love we need?" or, "The emotional bonding we need?” It's noticing absolutely everything that's said and done, "Is this an indication that I'm loved by this person?" So at some point, you know, in the honeymoon period of relationship, everything both people say and do seems to be further evidence of, “Oh, I am loved, this is wonderful. I always wanted to meet someone that was going to make sure that I felt I'd never be abandoned again, and I was going to be cherished and worshipped forever.” And of course, the other person was like, “I knew I was enough. I knew this day would come where someone would really get my magnificence and appreciate me.” And that's great, right? You're living in this, like, you know, elevated state of, “We're going to feel this way about each other forever.” But then sure enough, something will happen. There will be some moment or period of time where you'll transition into the person– where you'll be talking and it'll look like they daydreamed or they had a yawn, and you're like –
Teale: Or they grabbed their blanket just now.
Figs: They grab their blanket. And I'm like, “Wha– did you– am I boring you?” Which basically, you know, if you were to translate — which, I wasn't feeling that way.
Teale: I know.
Figs: But like, you know, to translate it touched the place inside me where I felt like, “Wow, am I too much for you? Or am I not enough for you?” And so I start to touch a place where I don't feel loved inside. And that's a vulnerable feeling. And so now, my response is, I'm going to react in some way. Like explicitly or implicitly, I'm now going t, “Hey, would you mind not fidgeting?" And, "Would you mind not fidgeting,” I asked Teale a question, I made a request of her, but it was infused with, “You actually did something to hurt my feelings. You did something bad.” So now, for you, what will that touch in you?
Teale: Yeah, just feeling like I didn't do it right. But am I gonna say, “Oh, did I not do it right? Oh, gosh, I feel so bad that you didn't feel prioritized by me. And I'm feeling like I'm not doing something right?” No, I'm gonna say, “Are you kidding me? Like, I've been patient, I've been like, here and present and you're still not happy about me.” I'm gonna say something that looks kind of aggressive.
Figs: Exactly. You will react to defend yourself or attack me or freeze or say nothing, right? That's what your behavior would be. But on the inside, the only reason you would behave in any of those ways is because your feelings got hurt.
Figs: Because it looked like you're a person that your body, your limbic system is looking for, “Am I loved?” It looked like they're not loving me. So when you hear us refer to our cycle, the easiest way to understand what we're referring to is, because we're human beings we have this built in need to be emotionally bonded, and we're each other's person. We’re the most important person our limbic system is going, “Are you there? Am I enough for you? Am I special to you? I'm my priority to you. Do you value me?” Like we're constantly sending out those sentinels, like seeing, “Is that emotional bond here right now?” Even if you don't realize it's happening, you think you're talking about the weather, right? That could so easily turn into, “But I don't understand why I said it was a sunny day. And you have to say, 'But it's a little windy.'” Like the little things can like, “Why aren’t you with me?"
Figs: Right? Now, so the easiest way– when when you hear us refer to our cycle and episodes, this is what we're referring to. Because of the way we're important to each other, our emotional bond really matters. When it looks like we're not there for each other. One of us gets hurt. Of course, this is all happening at the same time. But it's easier to explain it just one at a time.: One of us gets their feelings hurt because they perceive the other person, their primary attachment figure is not there for them. Their feelings get hurt, because having that love is fundamental to feeling safe in the world. And you know, not just like, “Oh, I want this.” This is like, “I need it to feel like I'm not going to get eaten by a Dingo.” Right? I'm the most basic evolutionary biology level. [Gasping] Like your body's like, “I could die.” So it hurts when it looks like you're not there and now I react, whether I'm a freezer, blamer, criticizer, or defender of myself, minimizer of the other person, joker, “[Fake laughing] Oh! nothing happened!” I’m going to react. And the way I react is now going to hurt this little body that's, “[Gasping] It looks like I'm under threat. My primary person is not there for me.” And now because that's going to be a difficult vulnerable feeling– I’m now touching Teale’s vulnerable belly. She's like, “Okay, Figs. I think you're over acting this."
Teale: No, I’m like this is so nice. Keep rubbing that belly.
Figs: You like me rubbing your belly? Good. So because it's going to hurt that vulnerable little baby inside it now makes sense that you will react again, whether you’re a freezer, shut her downer, blamer, criticizer, minimizer, a joker–
Teale: I’m a criticizer. I'm a, “disappointment in you."
Figs: Yeah, you're good. You're good at the criticizer.
Figs: Now of course I'm good at all of it.
Figs: I've got like, you know, a post doctorate degree and–
Teale: You're being very good about this.
Figs: Well, no, I am though. Well look that's why I'm a decent couples therapist, is because I have lots of wounds inside me, crazy person.
Teale: You're wonderful couples therapist.
Figs: And I have – Thank you, you are too. Right. But I do lots of different reactive things. But remember, cycle. Four things. Every time you hear us talk about, “Oh, we're in our cycle." It's because I'm hurting inside. And there's ways I protest, that's two. I hurt inside because I don't feel loved in some way, and then I protest. Which hurts Teale inside, and then she protests. It's four things. And that, we just loop, then. All couples, when they get stuck in their cycle, they loop. I hurt inside, then I protest, which hurts Teale inside, then she protests, which hurts me more inside, then I protest, which hurts Teale more inside, and then I protest. And this can be happening in a very dramatic way. Like you can imagine, I don't feel loved inside so I go into Teale’s closet, I take out all her clothes and I put them in a big pile and I burn them in the backyard. She sees the clothes burning and she goes, “That fecker!” That hurts her feelings. And so she goes into my private files, finds my passport, and burns my passport. Now, so that's what people think is as we see in the movies, this is very dramatic. But actually these things play out in a subtle way all the time.
Teale: They do and they do for all of us. And you know what I notice as you're talking? It just calms–
Teale: [Laughing] Why did you drop the beeswax?
Figs: [Laughing] I didn’t mean to drop it.
Figs: But that sounded very dramatic.
Teale: There we go. The beeswax drops.
Teale: Figs and I are always fiddling around.
Figs. We're fiddlers. My daughter calls me, “Figs the Fiddler” and I tell her not to say that out in public. “Fiddler Figs!” “Fiddler Figs!” “You’re a Fiddler Figs.”
Teale: I wish we were a family that like actually fiddled. You know, like the musical instrument, everyone. Please get your heads out of wherever.
Teale: Hold on. Speaking of heads, speaking of bodies, I wanted to recognize even as you're saying this, like, I drink this medicine. I teach and help and create this medicine with other people. I just have to say, every time I hear you talk about this, I feel my nervous system calm down. It is such a fucking relief.
Teale: So let it feel like a relief. You're not fighting because your partner is just incompetent. And here you are picking this person that's just, like, you're never going to have help with the dishes because they're always playing their video games. I mean, first of all, that's not okay. No, just kidding. Well, it's not, but legit — is that you love them so much. You need them so much. Where the fuck are they? "Come be with me. Come take that end of the kitchen. I'll take this end of the kitchen. Let's be in this together. Or let me put my little feet up. You know?"
Teale: "I need you so much here. You're not here."
Figs: You’re talking about the perspective of like the– Yes, that totally–
Teale: Well, I'm the one I'm taking one perspective, but I'm just saying, as me, as someone like, I own just in this moment, I can react with criticism, or looking like I'm disappointed at you because I need you and want you so much.
Figs. Exactly. My presence, feeling my love matters so much that it hurts inside and how you respond is by being critical.
Figs: Right. Absolutely. That's great, right.
Teale: And feel calmed by it even as you're talking about. So I just want our listeners to tune in and take a moment like let your brain engage with this. Let your mind engage with this, but also feel your nervous system. Is this a relief to you? Is this something new? Did you know parts of this? In some ways it's kind of attachment 101.
Figs: No, that's so great. Like, is it a relief to know that your fights are not just about like, “Oh my God. Are we really this terrible?” It's like, no, you're not terrible. You're just incredibly important to each other. And because you're important to each other, you're very sensitive to, "Does it seem like my person is here for me?" Your partner is, too. Both of you are, and then you both have ways of reacting, responding, protesting whichever word you like that you can wrap your head around when you don't feel loved, and that, unfortunately, even though it makes logical sense for you to react, respond or protest the way you do, it will make you now look to your partner like they're not getting the love they needed from you. And now it makes sense that they will react, respond or protest in kind. And you're going to go into this cycle of hurt and reactivity, hurt, reactivity, hurt, reactivity, over and over again. That's what we want you to see, "We fight because we love each other. It's not just because of the dishes. And not just because we're not having sexy time. It's not b–" I just like calling it sexy time. I'm sorry. It's very childish, but, "It's not because, you know, you won't come to see my in-laws for the holidays." Those things are important, but they trigger a much deeper issue. It triggers an emotional bonding reactive cycle, because you love each other, and you're so important to each other. And if you both got on the same page of seeing that's what's going on and you started being willing to study your own cycle, your relationship will get dramatically better. And what you and I are trying to do is actually show you, two people that are steeped in this all day long, trying to help other people, we're trying to be brave and courageous by showing you how our cycle still plays out, not because we're bad people, or over-reactive people,because we're two people that love each other so much and need each other so much, it makes sense we got hurt. Now, I did not stop that whole monologue while you put a blanket around me.
Figs: Now I look– again, you know, I was saying like now cause I'm 49 my testosterone is going down.
Figs: But, like, I'm not ready for the like pastel blanket wrap. I’m not.
Teale: This is my favorite moment.
Figs: I just, like, I just don't even know what to do.
Teale: You were so vulnerable. You were so in the flow, you were telling us something so important. And I just put a wooly, beautiful, pastel green blanket from Ireland. The sheep in Ireland are this color.
Figs: Exactly, yeah, right. That's good. But so come here, hopefully that was helpful. And we'll do more of these episodes where we just explain. Hopefully shorter, this one is a bit longer. But we'll do more of these episodes where we try and explain the concepts. And this one, like, trying to understand why the couples fight, what love is, what is the cycle? And then the last thing I'll say, just to like — you know, we'll do a whole episode on this — the key then is not to try and work on not getting into cycles. And this is really hard to actually accept, right? So just let this sink in and we'll leave you with this thing to ponder. The key to a better relationship is not actually to keep doing work on, “How do we make sure we don't fight with each other?” The real hard work of relationship to make your relationship better is, “How do we notice we're in a cycle and how do we get out of cycles once they've already started?” With understanding deeply how the cycles are only happening because we both make sense, because we're both hurting, and we're both being reactive, and it makes sense we'd be reactive, because we bloody love each other so much.
Figs: That's why we got stuck.
Figs: And if that's where you end up after every fight, you'll be fine. That's the key.
Teale: Amen. That was beautifully said. And it's like a simple model. But it's friggin hard to make this happen. And like Figs just said beautifully–
Figs: Thank you.
Teale: –is that you and I do this friggin work all day long and we just still get into it. We're going to probably get it into it today several times. We got into it yesterday.
Figs: 'Cause we love each other. We’re important to each other.
Figs: We'll have tough moments.
Teale: And so just be gentle with yourself, be gentle with your partner, if you're in relationship. If not, contemplate. You know, this stuff happens with best friends. This stuff happens with parents with children. Cycles happen in attachment bonds, especially, you know, in our love relationships. Those are different and extra, you know, volume's turned up. And so just notice if there's some piece of today's podcast that can land and sit and hopefully there's a piece of it that can create a little bit of relief for you. And knowing it's not that you're not cared about or it's not that you're not enough, it's that you're so enough. You're so cared about that, of course, your loved one reacts when they feel their side of the wound. And so keep fighting the good fight, people.
Figs: Yeah, thank you so much for tuning in. And we're looking forward to seeing you in the next episode where we will be sharing one of our own personal couples counseling sessions and talking about what we learned and what we think is a good takeaway for you from our sessions.
Teale: You’re like a little Irish granny right now.
Figs: See you next time. And, of course, you can learn more about us at empathi.com. Empathi with with an "I" on the end not a "Y" on the end, ".com." Next time. Bye.