Summary of this Episode
In this episode of the Generous Marriage Podcast we discuss:
- The story of Emily and Charlie, who were fighting a lot about chores and who’s doing more around the house. In these fights they were shaming each other, and this shame held them back from connecting – emotionally or sexually – and they didn’t have sex for 6 months.
Emily and Charlie had to learn the antidote to shame – being vulnerable with each other – so they can share the deeper needs and feelings behind their positions about the house chores. They learned to negotiate needs in intimacy.
The emotional intimacy they cultivated soon led to re-establishing and even deepening their sexual connection.
- The tool of daring to be vulnerable at least once, every day with your partner.
- The Research of Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, who has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy.
She became famous through her super popular TED talks:
Bonus Game for Practicing Vulnerability
We prepared a fun game that can help you practice vulnerability with your partner.
To download the game, click the button below:
The full transcript of the show:
Welcome to the generous marriage podcast, fight less, feel appreciated and have a deeper connection with your spouse and now your host, Shachar Erez and Ziv Raviv.
Hello and welcome to the marriage podcast. This is Ziv Raviv and together with me is Shachar Erez, and today. In episode seven, we’re going to talk about vulnerability. We’re going to explore a story of a couple that had an issue with vulnerability and also a tool that you can use in order to overcome certain problems in your relationship with your spouse that is related to that. As always, the goal of this podcast is to help you guys with practical tools that will make your marriage more generous. And in order to do that in a professional way, we just need someone professional on the team and that’s why we have our very own counselor and a marriage, a marriage counselor, relationship counselor, our very own, Shachar Erez. Hello Shachar, how are you? Hi Ziv , I’m happy to be here. Hi everyone. Thanks for listening.
Connection Between Vulnerability and Good Relationship
Today we’re going to talk about vulnerability and through the story of Emily and Charlie, And I wonder, you know, even before we go into actually talking about the Emily and Charlie, I can listen maybe someone is raising his eyebrow, like what the connection is between, uh, between vulnerability and a good relationship. Can you just, I’m. So, that’s why I’m really quick. If they asked me what is the number one key for long lasting, happy, nourishing relationship, I would say there isn’t a one key. But if they pressed me, I would say it’s Vulnerability. Meaning for me, in my perspective, vulnerability is the most important thing a couple can do for each other.
When we dare to be vulnerable, every time we dare to be vulnerable, we fall in love again with each other. Wow. That’s really. The heart opens. There’s closeness, there’s intimacy. We also deep into deepened into our self and deepened into our partner. We understand ourselves better, we understand better our needs and our partner needs. It’s really, it creates magic in every relationship. Yeah. In a way, being vulnerable is like a question mark at the end of what you do. Like, it’s not what you say necessarily, sometimes you all vulnerable by by saying something. But the fact that you were willing to be vulnerable, it’s just like not knowing what will happen next. This is why you’re vulnerable because you might get hurt, you might, you know, something that you are asking for, might not be accepted. And so on and coming to a relationship with some question marks with some curiosity with, um, you know, opportunities to get help as well as a feel good. That is real life that is, you know. Without those question marks, it’s just going to be so boring and not efficient and not going to work for you, for my point of view. So I think in life in general, you know, coming to the world from a place of vulnerability from place of accepting the influence of the world on you in a way is also key. A really, really cool a topic. Let’s try to understand this topic even deeper by talking about Emily and Charlie. So take it away, Shachar. Tell us a little bit about them.
Poisonous Fight of Young Couple
So Emily and Charlie were a young couple. They were in their early thirties. They were married for around three years and had a two-year-old girl. They came to me because they were fighting about sales stuff! Like a lot of capital to do that. For them it was about the chores around the house. They were both working. He was working full time job as a mechanical engineer and, she was a dance instructor and also taking care of, of, of a girl. And he was uh, complaining about how the house was organized and how clean it was and she was feeling like she was working really hard on their house, and then with the kid and the outside as an instructor. And then he’s always complaining and he felt like he is working full time job, coming back home, spending time with the kid and then doing all the chores around the house. He kept saying, oh, the chores with as if she doesn’t do anything.
By the way, using that word. I do all the chores. That sounds very much like we discussed on the last episode, like a criticism, you know. It’s like “I always, you never”. Whenever we use these words, it should raise a flag that something is off here that we’re not seeing reality as it is because almost nothing happens always or never. Yeah. And then it’s poisonous. And then there is an antidote antidote for that. Which is vulnerability. But you know how this poison affected Emily Charlie is they stopped having sex, right? That’s a big one, right? Fighting on small chores, sounds silly. But then not having sex for six months, that’s a big thing. It starts to hurt the relationship. It’s hard to come back from that to come, back to sex life too. Satisfying sex life. So this is now really a situation. They’re not just fighting the uh, you know, they don’t have any intimate relationship for, for how long? Around six months, by the time when they came to me. Well that’s a point. That’s a red flag altogether. Uh, for you to, you know, to consider some help maybe some counseling through which that point. He actually didn’t believe in counseling. He didn’t want to come to counseling. But six months without sex, that changes mind then they realize they need help. Yeah.
It’s really important topic I feel because even if you do have sex, but it’s not very frequent, like when I say very, very, it’s different before one, one, couple to another obviously. But um, I imagined that even, you know, having only once a month having sex, is, is, is something that should raise some, some sort of a flag in terms of your communication skills. Yeah. Some experts say once a month is sexless marriage. Wonderful. I love this definition. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Twelve times a year is a sexless marriage and it should read their huge flag and it should have go to therapy and get help. Yeah. Yeah. And there’s nothing wrong with getting help. You only the like now by talking, by listening to this podcast, you’re getting some help. But there’s nothing wrong with just, you know, even by yourself or with your spouse to go and get some counseling. This is really something we believe in. yeah you know these guys, Emily and Charlie, they came for four sessions. Yeah, that’s it. And their relationship completely changed from not having sex for six months. They fell in love again. They were, it was amazing to see them.
The Shame Between Emily and Charlie
Let’s talk about a little bit about what happened with them. It was really clear that there was a lot of shame between them. He felt like a victim, like everything is done to him and he has to do everything around the house and then his, you know. He would make a face and she would feel bad like she’s not good enough and they just throw the shame at each other. And shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed, and because we’re flawed, we’re not worthy of love and belonging. Meaning something we’ve done or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. And as human beings, we are born into connection. We are hardwired for connection. Our psychology is all about connection. So if we that will flawed and because of that we’re unworthy of connection. It really hurts. It’s really painful. And do we need it? We need the connection. Yeah, exactly. We need as babies, we needed to survive. But even as grownups, we needed in order to to thrive, to feel good. To be happy. To be healthy. Yep.
So there was another shame between them and the antidote to shame is actually being vulnerable. Shame cannot handle light. When we talk about shame, it disappears. And, and let me talk a little bit about the difference between women and men with shame because the research finds that women and men experienced them differently.
What is Shame for Women?
For women shame is a web of unattainable expectations that say do it all. Do it perfectly. Yeah, I know we talked in different episodes how women see more details and those details are yelling at them. Take care of me, take care of me. Yeah, of course they can’t take care of everything. So there’s shame around that. In a sense, shame is something that is, I imagine, very common for women in that way because many of them has this, uh, you know, what, what Alison Armstrong explains a diffused awareness. And then basically they get all the surroundings is shouting at them, fix me! fix me! And they have this perfect lady, you know, navigating inside their brain. Or just the side that always telling them that ‘I could have been done better’ and ‘that should be fixed and that should be fixed’. And they just leave this way with all those voices. And that’s normal by the way. That’s just the way that defused awareness works. Uh, but it creates a lot of shame because they constantly hear that the, you know, not doing the things that they should do and how is for men.
So before I go to, when I come back to Charlie and Emily. Charlie was a little bit like this, uh, inner, a perfect woman that Alison Armstrong talks about. And whenever something was not perfect around the house, Emily would already feel better about it because she has the Seder, perfect woman. He would add more criticism. More shame to that, you know. He was an exaggeration of that perfect inner woman. So, so they just made the cycle of shame a worse.
What is Shame for Men?
For him just like for most men, shame was often related to the fear of being perceived as weak. We can’t tolerate being perceived as weak or as failing. Yeah. Actually, the feeling of shame that arises from that, from feeling. Yeah. I always thought it was just a disrespect. Like this is what I would. The way that I explain it when I feel that I’ve been shown is not strong enough or weak is that I feel disrespected. But that’s the other way of looking at the shame itself. So when someone looks at you in a disrespectful way, you might feel shame. So what? What’s the problem is not a disrespect of the problem. Like for my point of view is it just makes me feel shame. In a relationship, both are problems. You don’t want your partner to look at you in a disrespectful way. You want to create a culture of respect and when we don’t respect each other, shame arises. Awesome. So. So men just don’t want to be awake. It rises shame, shame in them when they are presented with facts or words or actions that make them feel weak. Um, and how, how is it important? How was that important for Emily and Charlie to understand the differences on the way that they perceive shame?
How to Overcome Shame for both Men and Women
So the first step for cultivating shame resiliency is to understand shame. The first step is always psycho education and starting to realize how shame shows up for me. How it shows up in my body. Where I collapsed, what kind of inner conversation I have in my head. So it starts with a cognitive understanding of what shame is in general and what shame is for me. So that’s what I did for Emily and Charlie and they really got it. The next step is to start fighting shame or creating antidotes to shame is the best one is authenticity, it’s vulnerability. And what I did with Emily and Charlie, I just had them to have them talk to each other directly, with the talking stick. The idea of the talking stick is to slow down the conversation so they don’t get too triggered, and to help them connect to their hearts. I actually had them hold estate, take it to the heart, speak from their heart, and then give the stick too. The other and the other take that steak and fierce takes it to the heart and only Dan speaks, so it really slows down the conversation. It’s really focuses on the heart and not so much about thoughts and ideas and opinions and criticism. That really helps becoming more and more vulnerable. The depth of our vulnerability is almost endless. It takes time. There’s no one point that I become vulnerable. There’s more and more and more. And I had them talk about, you know, the stuff that was bothering them, about the chores around the house and as they deepened in that they could say that there were actually much deeper needs underneath, underneath those chores.
Some, some needs for partnership partnership. Some needs for, uh, appreciation. And when they heard each other needs, it’s really changed the dynamic. It wasn’t about the chores anymore. It was easy for them to be generous with each other and to understand each other better. I call this process negotiating needs in intimacy. Coming from the assumption that my partner wants the best for me and I want the best for her. And that even though right now it seems like a conflict or you know, for Emily and Charlie, it was about who was doing more chores. But we have plenty of other conflicts and really staying with the frustration that this conflict arise brings up and deepening into what is my deeper need? What is my deeper feeling around this? And then finding ways to collaboratively and creatively finding win-win solutions that help both partners feel satisfied.
So basically what you’re saying is when they expressed vulnerability, when they were talking from the heart and slowing down the response because you cannot talk back when you don’t have the stick right? And when they expressed more and more layers of vulnerability, that created light that shone on top of the shame. And made it disappear and it made them see each other in this, in this new way, which is are both partners here, age of us, care about the partnership. And when we do something, when we complain about something, it’s not because we want to be bad, it’s because we have some, some people need that is not met. And talking about it, they understood each other better and we’re able to start to assume that the other side has a reason why he’s doing it. It has a reason that is good for the partnership, for the, for the, uh, connection, right? Coming from a positive perspective, assuming that the other has a good reason for what they’re doing. And this process allows to reveal that good reason. Both of them were the kind of people that didn’t show needs. And through this process they learned how to, to to find out what they need and then express it to each other. For her it was a lot about resting in his presence. Being able to let go of responsibilities. For him, it was a lot about partnership. He was really used to do things on his own then feeling like used, yeah, you know. Like he was doing everything. So part of what he had to learn was how to ask for what he needs and feel more like there’s a partnership between them.
Well this is very specific, but every one of us, you know, in a relationship with your spouse has those moments of, of shame. And those moments of conflicts that, uh, has a deeper reason and through, being vulnerable, through talking about your needs from a place where you know that there is a partnership and you want to listen. You want to, you know, not get hurt from the criticism from before or from the complaint. But to find the way to discuss it in nonviolent communication. In a generous way. You know, even just coming to the relationship and stating, you know. Both of us here, together as partners. We both care about the partnership we both wanted to work. That is a very generous thing to do. And then talking in a vulnerable way that is, uh, definitely the, I think to do inside the partnership. Right?
Mastering Vulnerability for Emotional Intimacy
So tell us a little bit about what is this tool that you’ve been working with them? Because I understood, if I understood correctly, four weeks later, like four sessions later, they went back into having a sexual relationship. Is that right? It’s true, because they really took what I offered and, and it’s great. And Dave and created new practices. So Charlie loved really got the whole idea of shame and the power of vulnerability to heal it. And took on the practice of daring to be vulnerable with Emily every day at least once. And the Emily loved the practice so much. It made her feel generous and she started practicing it as well. And, and they discovered vulnerability shows up in many ways. It’s not just about negotiating needs in intimacy. Apologizing can be vulnerable. Sometimes giving a compliment can be vulnerable. For them asking for what they needed was super vulnerable. Brought up a lot of shame and initiating sex. Especially after six months of not having sex, it can feel vulnerable. And then saying, no. So it’s my treat vulnerable, you know, the, the, it shows up in so many different ways and they really explored it and they did a lot of work between sessions. That’s part of the reason the process was so quick. Yeah. Yeah.
After becoming masters of vulnerability, their emotional intimacy was of course really deep, deepened now. And they found out this was the challenge for, for, for, for sex, for sexual intimacy. They didn’t have emotional intimacy, so Emily didn’t one of the open up and have sex. Which makes sense. Most women want to feel safe to feel connected in order to, to have sex. So Emily was just a normal woman in this way, and Charlie was giving her so much hard time. She just closed up and then one connection. If she doesn’t want connection, she doesn’t tell the one sex. When they were able to change that, they came back to a happy sexual life and they even deepened their sexual intimacy, which made sex even more satisfying and more free and more fun. Yup. And we will talk about sex eventually in this season of the generous marriage podcasts because it’s the topic by itself that is important for, for, for the relationship with your spouse and for maintaining a journalist marriage as well. But for now I can just imagine that they’ve created this game almost, I can call it that every day. They expressed vulnerability. They know that they are in this journey together. It’s really every time they did it, the other side could feel you care about the partnership, you care about me. And that made them, uh, go back to communicating about stuff that were very hard for them to communicate. It allowed them to understand one another and uh, it’s just, just they managed to do the homework. So in four week’s time bring a huge change, a huge change like it. They didn’t have sex for six months. And then after one month of working on it and caring about it. Look at how huge the life changed for like Emily and for, in for Charles. And that’s going to happen to you too guys, if you do the homework.
And so a Shachar, you prepared some sort of like a bonus pdf file that explains another way of doing uh this vulnerability exercise. I can you can you tell, we just played a game the other week. Because vulnerability, always feels vulnerable right? Feeling vulnerable is scary. But it also, when we go through that, it also can bring out joy and happiness and playfulness. And really, Charlie and Emily taught me something about how fun it can be. So just created a game out of it that you can use with your partner, daring to be vulnerable every day and brings playfulness into your relationships through this. And when you gave me an element of communication with your spouse that, uh, for, at least for the men, you will really love points. We love to work for points. But it also creates, um, curiosity for, for the ladies. And it’s basically, you know, it’s fun. It’s just purely fun and good for you. And so all you need, you know, some time with each other and, and the dice and all the details will be explained even when you go and download this bonus pdf from generous marriage.com. So if you go to episode seven, you can download this document that will explain to you the rules of the game and if you play this game with your spouse, you, you’re going to have two different versions, one that even might end up with some intimacy and one without. So check with your spouse if she wants the version of the game that has intimacy or not. Basically we just want you to feel confident and like at ease with this game so that you don’t use it too to, I dunno, like don’t leak and get the game. Don’t leak the game. Check with your spouse what type of a of a game you like it, then go for it. So this game is going to be really fun. I’d like to play this game with my wife to autumn. I will report back. How was it? And let me ask you this Shachar, is this process of being vulnerable? Was it researched every anywhere?
The Power of Vulnerability to Heal Shame
So Brenda Brown is the number one, not number one, it’s Renee Brown is a researcher that makes shame popular these days. Shame is not a popular feeling. It’s one of the least. Shame is another popular feeling. It’s really hard experience and nobody likes to feel shame and apparently very few people like to talk about shame. So you can find hundreds of books in psychology about emotions, about anger, about fear, about jealousy. You can only find four about shame, but in the last two decades, Renee Brown, a researcher from the University of Houston has been studying shame, vulnerability, courage, and empathy. She became really famous a few years ago through her super, Super Popular Ted Talk. About vulnerability which has 35 million views by now, and then she gave another fair, another famous Ted talk about listening to shame, which also has around 9 million views, so super popular. And she’s a researcher and the storyteller, she has a lot of data about shame and the power of vulnerability to heal it and she just knows really well how to tell that story. So I really recommend watching her ted talks and going to her website. She has a lot of resources about that. She’s really interesting.
So guys, you will be able to download the PDF and the game, but also to get the links to Renee Brown’s wonderful ted talks. This is something that you should see with your spouse before you play the vulnerability game. Just that will be an amazing night for you. I guarantee that, uh, and this brings us to the end of yet another fun and educational episodes of the generous marriage podcast. We talked today about Emily and Charlie, and how they’ve experienced, um, friction in the marriage and fight. But after using the power of vulnerability to heal shame. They came back into a deeper connection and get back to having sex as well. And that was within four weeks of work and just wonderful and very, very optimistic. We talked about the game of vulnerability, how to gamify it. And we also discussed, you know, the research by Brenae Brown about how important it is to understand what is shame and what is vulnerability and how one heals the other.
Uh, this is been so much fun. Shachar, any words of advice for the ending of the therapy? It’s really about daring to be vulnerable. And when you dare to be vulnerable, your life becomes more authentic, more meaningful connections. Get stronger, and there’s just more joy and happiness. Try it. I’m into that brother Shachar and guys, uh, we always ask this, but it’s, it’s really important, like people need to hear about the power of shame and how to heal it through vulnerability. So if you only do one thing for us today, just take this podcast and tell about it to some friend of yours, maybe over coffee at work. Maybe you go to facebook and post a generous marriage.com and let people know about about this podcast. It will create accountability for yourself. About actually doing the work and it will help you in your journey to have a better and more satisfying, generous marriage. Thanks again for listening and see you next week on the generous marriage podcast.
Thank you everyone Ziv. Thank you everyone. Stay on you next week. Bye Bye.
Weekly episodes with stories, tools and research that will help you make your marriage generous
Shachar Erez, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, 12 years married, father of two
Ziv Raviv, 16 years married, father of three