As we move both frighteningly and excitingly closer to book launch day (March 22, 2022), media interest in my work has increased. Which is a good problem to have when you’re me—a largely unknown blogger hopeful that this new book can find some footing in an increasingly loud and busy world.
Chris Mikolay, host of the young and upcoming podcast Three Questions, Three Drinks, had heard me on another podcast, then reached out with an invitation I couldn’t refuse—an opportunity to drink adult beverages and “work” at the same time. Which, I’m not afraid to tell you, is glorious.
As a bourbon whiskey enthusiast, I enjoy sharing my hobby with others. Being able to do that AND talk about the ideas I believe are critical to making marriage and romantic relationships work at the same time was more or less the easiest thing I’ve ever said yes to.
Over the past few years as I’ve listened to me in recorded podcast and radio interviews, I’ve sometimes found myself wishing I had answered questions differently or had not forgotten to add an important idea.
Today, I’m going to revisit this conversation between Mikolay and me and attempt to clarify or add to any incomplete answers I encounter while listening.
Three Questions, Three Drinks with Chris Mikolay
Episode 38 – This is How Your Marriage Ends
Let’s start with Chris being awesome. He’s an incredibly likable person and a total natural at the podcast host game. I’m glad I’m getting my 15 minutes as a fancy book author because Chris and I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. He’s super-smart and highly accomplished in his professional life away from podcasting—our paths were very unlikely to cross under more typical circumstances despite living in the same general area.
And, if I may shamelessly plug the book again. “This is How Your Marriage Ends: A Hopeful Approach to Saving Relationships” releases March 22 and is now available for preorder. I’ve had really positive feedback so far but remain guarded about what sort of reception (if at all) the book might receive. If you value or connect with in any way the work I’ve done on this blog or in my coaching, please consider ordering a copy.
Now, on to the 3Q3D podcast.
16:35 – “Aren’t there some things that sort of trigger [divorce]?”
At the 16-minute, 35-second mark, I’m explaining how I believe we slowly destroy our marriages in our blind spots by failing to account for the trust that erodes because of the so-called “little things” in relationships.
And then Chris starts talking about infatuation and how it always dissipates over time, and it sent me down this tangent path of discussing hedonic adaptation, which has intrigued me since I first learned about it.
But then I never came back to Chris’ specific question about triggers in relationships, even though it’s important.
Bad things happen to us. They have in the past. They will in the future. It’s an unfortunate component of the human experience.
Painful events. Traumas. Significant life changes and stressors.
The death of a loved one. Deteriorating health. Financial hardship. Pandemics. Being the victim of a crime. A job loss, or even just a job change. Relocating.
One of the best things about relationships—about a partnership like marriage—is that we’re not alone when we encounter these hardships or painful life events. It is, ironically, the sudden loss of this person in our lives that makes divorce or a bad breakup the traumatic, life-altering experience that it can be for many people.
And so—when we talk about “triggers” of divorce, something you’ll read in marriage and relationship books, and hear from long-time marriage counselors is that when life delivers one of these traumatic, painful moments to one or both spouses or relationship partners, and one or both of them feels alone in dealing with it, that is often the final straw for the partner most interested in moving on.
For example, in my marriage, we lost my father-in-law one night. It was sudden and shocking and no one saw it coming. We had just had dinner with him the night before and everything was fine.
And then it wasn’t. My wife was reeling from the loss of her father, and discovered slowly throughout the grieving process that being in a marriage with me was in no way helping her heal or feel seen, heard, understood, supported, loved, etc. She learned that being married to me in no way filled the meaningful voids left by her departed father.
I was offended by that notion back then. I totally get it now.
I pointed to her father’s passing as the “reason” she wanted to divorce. That was some Grade-A bullshit. She wanted to divorce because she couldn’t trust me. Because she didn’t experience me as loving, respectful, considerate, or any of the things she needed following the excruciatingly painful loss she was living through.
The stage had slowly been set, and unease had been building within her for many years. But a shocking and painful life event is what “triggered” my wife to take action and end our marriage.
When Chris asked me about triggers, I failed him and his listeners by not talking about that important idea.
59:30 – “Two people can be very different, and still have an awesome relationship.”
Chris asks me about compatibility, and all I do is repeat the same shit I’d been saying the entire conversation, which is probably annoying to everyone. I knew what I meant, but failed to communicate it effectively.
Near the beginning of Chapter 10 of This is How Your Marriage Ends (page 268), I address the idea of compatibility.
COM·PAT·I·BIL·I·TY–noun–1. a state in which two things are able to exist or occur together without problem or conflict 2. a feeling of sympathy and friendship; like-mindedness
“There are two kinds of compatibility, and I am under the impression that when the average person speaks about romantic compatibility, they are focusing on the No. 2 definition. Friendship. Like-mindedness. Similar personalities, interests, wants, life goals, etc.
“The focus, to a certain extent, is on ALIKENESS or SAMENESS. Which isn’t without merit and helps to make a compelling argument for using romantic compatibility charts (as one might find in personality type assessments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [MBTI] or the Enneagram of Personality) and other matchmaking tests.”
A few pages later, I write about Ted Hudson, a researcher at the University of Texas, who conducted a longitudinal study on romantic compatibility in couples who had been married for several years. Hudson’s research concluded that there was no difference in the “objective compatibility” between those couples who are unhappy and those who are happy.
“Therein lies the problem with the word ‘compatibility.’ Partners unhappy in their relationships often resort to blaming a lack of compatibility for their dysfunctional relationship. Natural human chemistry brings people together romantically and sexually. We’ve been making babies and populating the planet using this method for longer than we’ve been recording history. So, this is likely to keep happening,” I write in the book.
“Couples who feel content and positivity within their relationships said that compatibility wasn’t an issue for them. The happy couples in Hudson’s study said it was their own willful behavior that made the relationship successful—not personality compatibility. When the unhappy couples in the study were asked about compatibility, they all said that compatibility was extremely important to having a successful marriage. And in the midst of their failing marriages, they didn’t believe they were compatible with their partners. When the unhappy couples said, ‘We’re incompatible,’ what they actually meant was ‘We don’t get along very well,’ Hudson wrote.”
I wish I had more thoroughly addressed that idea in my podcast conversation with Chris. I skipped to the end without explaining the beginning.
So-called “compatibility” is nothing more than the state in which two things or people can exist together without problem or conflict.
And two people who habitually validate the emotional experiences of one another (even when we might not understand or agree with them), and two people who habitually consider their partner—not sometimes, but all of the time—in their decision making, are two people who can exist together. Forever.
1:13:25 – “I mentioned the Magic Sex Potion. What is it?”
First, I say something about the broken-English search terms a person used to find the blog, and I used the phrase “which suggests a foreigner.” I regret the word choice, because it feels like a harsher-than-necessary way to describe a human who lives elsewhere. Neither I, nor my homeland, is the center of the universe. To him, I am the foreigner. I work hard at self-awareness in ways I did not when I was contributing to the downfall of my marriage. I’m sorry I used that phrasing. I should have said something more polite and thoughtful such as “a non-native English speaker,” or “someone from another country.”
The Magic Sex Potion part of the book began as a blog post. I updated and hopefully improved it for the book, but if you’re interested in brewing sex potion, you can start here.
I had lot of fun sharing drinks and relationship convo with Chris. He has a really cool show, and I hope some of you will check it out and subscribe to the podcast.
I talk too much, say “like” wayyy too much, use repetitive phrasing like “the notion” or “the idea of” and it’s always a little embarrassing when I notice my own little weird verbal habits or ticks. Other than those things, if any of you listen to the episode, and have thoughts or questions or criticisms, I hope you’ll share them.
Happy belated New Year, everyone. I’m cautiously optimistic this is going to be a fun and interesting year. Fingers crossed.