Episode 236 | February 9, 2021

Happy, Long-Lasting Relationships with Dr. Jessica Higgins

A Personal Note From Orion

Keeping the romance and intimacy alive in long-term relationships can become tricky. It’s challenging to juggle work, the household, kids, and your partner all the time. Most of the time, intimacy is last on the list. Although sometimes challenging, fortunately, there are many ways to make each other feel loved no matter how busy life gets.

Dr. Jessica Higgins joins me on this Stellar Life Podcast to talk about the tools that help maintain an empowered relationship. Dr. Jessica Higgins holds two graduate degrees in psychology, two coaching certifications, and over 20 years of experience assisting clients to achieve successful results. As the host of the Empowered Relationship Podcast, she helps people navigate the terrain of long-lasting intimacy more skillfully and mindfully. Through her online courses and coaching, clients transform pain into love and connection. For some valuable relationship advice straight from the expert, tune in!


In This Episode

  • [00:57] – Orion introduces Dr. Jessica Higgins. She is the host of the Empowered Relationship Podcast, and she helps people navigate the terrain of long-lasting intimacy more skillfully and mindfully.
  • [05:01] – Dr. Higgins tells how she developed her passion for helping people with their relationships.
  • [09:51] – Dr. Higgins and Orion talk about the difference between being a psychologist and being a coach.
  • [14:50] – Dr. Higgins points out how important your core bond and alliance is in a relationship for it to work out and go through life stressors.
  • [19:18] – What is the effect of criticism in a relationship, and what is its antidote?
  • [24:58] – Dr. Higgins gives examples of turning criticism into a request for your partner to understand you further.
  • [28:53] – How to open a conversation when your partner doesn’t want to work on your requests?
  • [33:00] – Dr. Higgins and Orion discuss a platinum rule in a relationship; treat others how they want to be treated.
  • [39:18] – Dr. Higgins shares her relationship principles that she practices with her husband.
  • [44:19] – Visit Dr. Jessica Higgins’ website at DrJessicaHiggins.com to check out her free guide on stopping criticism in a relationship. And check out her podcast Empowered Relationship Podcast.

Jump to Links and Resources

About Today’s Show

Hi Dr. Jessica Higgins, and welcome to the Stellar Life Podcast. Thank you so much for being here.

You’re welcome. It’s a pleasure to join you in today’s conversation. I’m excited.

Me too. I’m fascinated with your work and everything that you do and all the modalities that you work with. But before we dive in, can you please share a little bit about yourself? And how did you develop this passion to help people with their relationships? 

I could probably talk the entire conversation about this. So I’ll try to be a little more succinct. From a very early age, I’ve been fascinated with people and having a keen understanding of where they’re at emotionally. I have a propensity towards helping the profession and supporting people in their emotional and relational process. When I started focusing on intimacy, couplehood, and relationship, it was from my struggle. When I was in a relationship, we both thought that we were the “one,” and the intensity of our connection. And then we faced disruption, disconnection, and challenges, we both felt very ill-equipped. We sought support from therapists, coaches, and all types of people, and struggled. It wasn’t until I started reading and doing my deep dive, that I started to understand some of these critical relational principles that I started to implement. I was noticing the shift, but at that time, I was finishing a master’s program in psychology and had been accepted to a Ph.D. program, which required me to move out of state. So circumstances had it that we didn’t continue our relationship. 

Relationships don't just happen for you; they happen through you. Click To Tweet

But what it did do is it propelled me to study this professionally, because I’m like, “How come I grew up in a pretty conscious family, where I was exposed to a lot of personal growth principles, had an undergrad in psych, and was in a master’s program.” And I’m like, “I should be well prepared for intimacy and understanding how to navigate challenges.” It was incredibly painful. I felt so stuck, confused, and perplexed. So I wanted to know, are there couples out there that are practicing these principles? And if so, what does that look like? And how come the average person isn’t aware or doesn’t have access to this? It essentially propelled me into my dissertation work, and then my life’s work. In a nutshell, that’s what got me interested and devoted.

That’s so interesting that you said that you came from a family with self-development principles because we think we know but sometimes we need to experience it ourselves to know how to handle things. There are so many levels of knowing and I love what you did with your life and how you went on this quest to be that person that can help others. Apparently, you weren’t helped. You were like, “There is more than what I got. I need it. I need to learn more to help people.”

Exactly. I omitted a really important piece, which is, I was so devoted, after having that real heartbreak and disrupted relationship. I was committed to the principles within myself that set up my relationship with my husband. I met him probably two years later, I was practicing these principles from the beginning. It supported us. Not that I supported us, but just my commitment. I met him in the Ph. D. program. He is not a psychologist, he was more interested in education. But our commitment to deepening and growing together was a huge value of ours. So I do believe that. That work in practicing everything I talked about, I’m very much on the path myself and devoted to it. I can testify that it works and given our experiences-I went through pain and insecurity and difficulty. It’s just having the courage to move through it and trusting the process because I do have access and I’m steeped in these principles. So that’s a big difference.

Yeah, I’m very curious to know more about these principles. But before we dive in, I have another question. You studied psychology, and then you became a coach, what’s the difference between being a psychologist to being a coach? How merging the two helped you with your clients?

Yes, it’s a great question. Well, psychologists are trained to coach. They don’t necessarily identify that way but it’s part of the training. I see coaching as psycho-educational, giving people an ability to understand the scaffolding to where they’re wanting to go. Yes, it’s customized and individual to each person and each couple. But psychologists are typically trained to understand a vast array of mental health issues and also being able to diagnose, treat, and assist people in their mental health and their treatment process. I went to school in California, got my Ph.D., and then we moved to Boulder, Colorado, I set up my brick and mortar.

I love Boulder. 

Beautiful space. Love it. I had a private practice there. My love for young adults, I had a teen program that I developed and then worked at a university and the college counseling center. In those beginning adulthood years of forming “Who am I?” and questioning the world, it’s such a ripe and fertile ground for doing this growth work. Needless to say, I also specialized in working with couples. At that time, I do believe the consciousness is shifting collectively, that people are gaining more information or self-studying. I think there’s a shift in recognizing relationships. A relationship doesn’t just happen to you, it happens through you. You’re co-creating with your significant other. At that time, I was still recognizing more of the pattern of people coming in as their last-ditch effort and clearing their conscience that they’ve done everything that they could do. Usually, one person, if not both, were already checked out. 

At that time, I remember hearing a quote, it might have been from John Gottman, but there’s a statistic that most people don’t actually come to a psychologist, or counselor, or probably even a coach until they’ve been in pain for like seven years. I think this was more specific to couples. Essentially, they’ve been running painful patterns and trying to address them themselves. Then they lose steam and they lose motivation, maybe even lose hope. By the time they reach out for help, they’ve exhausted so much, so there’s very little hope. It’s like going to a doctor or MD, saying, “I broke my arm seven years ago. Can you help me fix it?” 

Embrace the journey and take every opportunity with your partner as a learning experience.

At that time, I remember feeling, “Gosh, if I had been able to work with you guys sooner and helped you create connection and addressed these patterns, you’d be having a different experience.” And I felt like it was really difficult to support people in creating change in their relationship when they were so hopeless and exhausted and lost faith. So that prompted the educational part of helping people understand and reach people on a broader scale to help give this information on the front end. Whether or not they want to self-study or then engage with a helping professional to deepen in their practice, but there are ways to navigate this more intentionally and mindfully that do set people up for success.

Right. Because sometimes the thought of going to a psychologist versus going to a coach sounds a little heavier. A coach is more accessible.

Yes. Honestly, there are state licensures, I know a lot of people are struggling with this as well, there’s a national platform or even an international platform. And it’s impossible to be licensed in every state. Coaching is not as heavily regulated. It does allow people to have a wider reach without having that regulation, if you will. So I am very clear that if I am coaching with people when I recognize there’s trauma or any mental health issues, I do refer out. You have to be very clear about the scope of one’s work, if they are both a licensed psychologist and a coach. You have to be clear about the boundaries.

What are the most common struggles people that come to you have? We all think that we’re exceptional, but many of us struggle with the same things.

Oftentimes, what couples are struggling with is the emotional connection. Historically, people partnered for many reasons. Love and emotional connection weren’t always at the top of the list, if we look at the evolution perspective. In our modern-day age, we don’t need each other to survive, or for our physical safety and well-being needs. We seek a partner to feel that emotional connection. We are physiologically wired up to feel bonded. When that bond is threatened, we feel it in our nervous system, we get a sense of that threat, or that insecurity, or that questioning, or that worry of, “Am I enough?” or “Are you there for me?” That’s happening on a core level, but it doesn’t look like that. It can look like criticism, it can look like various forms of protest. “You said you were gonna take out the trash? You didn’t do that.” It’s not about the trash. It’s about, “I’m worried that you’re not there for me or you don’t care about me.”

That’s big.

Yeah. Cause it could look like, “You don’t have my back with the kids.” Or “You don’t listen, you’re not giving your undivided attention?” Or “You’re seemingly distracted with your phone.” The big-ticket items are usually parenting, sex, communication, and finances. There’s a lot of ways in which couples are negotiating key differences. You have the spender, you have the saver, you have the planner, you have the spontaneous one. Then we talk about different love languages. There are so many different ways in which you have two people and the way that their particular constellation fits. There’s just going to be at least like seven to eight core irreconcilable differences that don’t threaten the relationship. 

It just means that’s ground to work together and negotiate. You have the extrovert the introvert, I could go on and on. We have all of that and we have all the life stressors. But if we have a core bond and a core alliance, that we’re there for each other, we have each other’s back, we have our emotional balance to be generous, to be curious, to be engaged, to be supportive of each other and to work together in a very collaborative way. When that bond is threatened, everything gets off-kilter. That’s when we get protective. We’re scared of being hurt. We feel inadequate. We have fears of abandonment. Again, the way that we deal with those fears can be yelling, distancing, or stonewalling. There’s a lot of ways that that can manifest.

If couples establish a core bond and alliance, they become more engaged and supportive of each other. Click To Tweet

When we start to criticize or stonewalling and all that, what’s the antidote to that? First, what is the damage to the relationship with criticism? And what’s the antidote?

There’s so much I could say, but in a nutshell, I would distill it to criticism whittles away at that emotional bond. It also sets people up to have criticism and defensive patterns. One person’s criticizing. The other one feels as they should, in some ways, it’s a very protective strategy. If somebody is attacking me, or if somebody is questioning my character, I want to uphold my integrity. It is a natural impulse to want to say, “No, I did take out the trash.” Or if one partner is like, “You never.” We’re gonna want to point out the times that we do and kind of correct what feels like an unfair accusation. So criticism, if it’s chronic and whittle away at that sense of goodwill, that sense of I have your back and that alliance that is so primary to feel safe and to feel that sense of “we are together” and assume, “I can let my guard down with you.” There’s a safe haven together, that real warmth and positivity that we start to. 

Criticism in itself, I don’t have any issue with, it’s required in a lot of areas in one’s life. What I found when people reach out to me to address the tendency of criticism, they use it in their professions. They’re perhaps the CEO, or they’re a scientist, or they’re an attorney, or whatever it is that they have to use that critique. I’ve got a new client, she’s a yoga instructor, and she works with people all over. And she’s like, “I critique people’s yoga practice all day long. They pay me to do that.” There’s a skill and having that constructive critique. But when it comes to relationships, by and large, people don’t want unsolicited feedback, it just feels corruptive.

You can’t say anything these days. If you try to say something on Facebook, people will attack you, people will come out of nowhere and just be like, “You’re wrong. I’m right.” Nobody wants unsolicited advice.

I think social media is tricky because we don’t have that relational tie. We don’t have that bond, sometimes we’re acquaintances. Depending on who we’re interacting with, that relationship isn’t always super solid. You’re not picking up the phone and having a real deep dialogue. You know and trust that they’re there for you. Misunderstandings and how we grossly stereotype and put people in boxes, it’s not a dialogue. That can be very problematic when we’re trying to discuss heated issues on a platform like that.

Yeah. I think a lot of times we criticize our partner or are angry about our partners because we just came, and we saw something on those platforms. So we’re angry, and so we just take it out on our partner. We start talking about the trash. It’s not about the trash.

Yes, it’s such a good point, Orion, because you asked about the antidote. What I have also found is that people who tend to criticize, it’s an attempt to address a need. But we’re not leading with that underbelly, the vulnerability, or “I’m super scared,” or “My feelings are hurt,” or “I’m worried that you’re not liking me right now.” “I’m worried that you’re annoyed with me.” Or “I’m worried that you don’t care about me to the level that I want to feel with you.” Very rarely do we lead with that vulnerability and even the request. So when we look at a long-standing relationship, oftentimes, the criticism is an attempt to get a need met but it’s through a very different channel, it’s usually through the intellect. Oftentimes, if we look at the backdrop of that, people who grew up in a family where emotions, emotional attunement, there wasn’t a lot of space for that. There could be lots of early upbringings where their parents didn’t know how to do it themselves so they didn’t have the capacity, or emotions are seen as weak. 

There’s a lot of lineage of where this comes from. So there’s no blame but just a recognition that if I led with my emotion, or what was going on for me, that wasn’t going to be seen, or it wasn’t going to be validated or met with. It’s either been shut down, or rejected, or told suck it up, or get a thicker skin, or go to your room or whatever, that we learn. That’s not gonna work. We learn to use our intellect. But then, if we look at fast forward and adulthood and your partner, they can feel the emotion. We are just wired up to respond to the tone of voice, facial expressions, that’s 80 plus percent of communication. So we’re charged, and we’re emotional but we’re using our intellect to address something, there are two problems to this. One is your partner can recognize the emotion but they are confused because it’s not congruent with perhaps what you’re saying. 

Find out what triggers you and your partner so you can implement techniques to work around them and alleviate challenging situations.

Like, “You’re mad at me for no good reason. I didn’t do anything.”

Exactly. They’re trying to decode that, but then they’re also on their heels. Because if you’re talking about them, you want your partner to be stable in their position so they’re gonna perhaps push back. Like, “No, I do love you, I do care.” And then that leads to the criticism, defensive, disconnect pattern, where the person who is reaching, maybe not super consciously, there’s no blame, we do the best we can with what we are given. But if there’s a reach and your partner doesn’t get it, because they’re on their heels, or perhaps they just can’t understand, then the person that’s reaching feels alone and further unmet. This can amplify. This is why people are like, “Oh, I don’t even like who I am.” Or like yelling and we’re going around in circles for hours. We’re missing each other. That’s why people are like, “Our communication is our biggest issue.”  Because they can’t, they’re like crossing channels. 

If you are the person who’s chronically criticized, what can you do to communicate better? Or if you are the person that is constantly getting attacked, what can you do to communicate better?

All right, I just want to go back. I didn’t mention the antidote. I want to make sure I don’t miss that. So the antidote in my mind is to pause. This is for the person that tends to criticize. They might need some support with this, from a helping professional or coach, to recognize, “Okay, what are the deeper layers?” I have tons of curriculum that I can offer people, if they’re looking to self-study around this. Essentially, it’s, “What is the critical thing that I am saying? What is it that my impulses say?” “You left your shoes in the middle of the door?” Or whatever that is, and criticize that. There could be a deeper request. “I worry that you don’t care about my safety. I want to be able to walk freely. And when I’m juggling all these items, when I come in the door, and I trip over your shoes, I feel scared that I’m going to break something or hurt myself. And I want you to remember or think about that path clearly.” So we can turn a criticism into a request. That would be an antidote, but it’s much easier said than done. 

As you were speaking, I’m just thinking about events in my own life.

We’re all so habitual. It’s so commonplace. There are degrees of this. Even the most subtle your partner, if you have a really strong emotional bond, it’s not going to be a major riff or a major wedge. But we’re looking at the chronic disconnect and the criticism, defensive patterns that lead to relationship demise, breakup, and divorce a lot of times. It’s not necessarily criticism itself, but it’s that inability to have that deeper understanding that your partner is the one that’s reaching, wants to feel seen and attuned to like, “Oh, yeah, I get it. Okay, I don’t operate that way. It’s different for me. But I get it. And I want to help. It’s not that I’m responsible for you, but it’s like, I see you, and I care about you. And I want to show up for you.” The person that’s reaching and needing help, can also do things to help take care of that need as long as that’s conscious. So that’s the unpacking and connecting with the deeper need. 

When we go to the significant other, that’s in a relationship with someone that tends to use criticism, this can be difficult. I want to acknowledge that, it’s very understandable. If someone in this position is having their reactions, feeling like it’s unfair, or “I want to connect with you more positively but it feels so negative.” Or “You’re so rude.” Or there could have been lots of reactions. Sometimes those reactions can activate one’s own deeper insecurities as well. What gets activated in a relationship is often an opportunity for healing and growth, that our partner will be our mirror, our relationship will be our teacher. We want to be aware of what’s getting brought up in us. Because it could be a lot of fuel, there could be a lot of reactivity that might even be bigger than the criticism. So we want to recognize that and work with that. 

But that being said, just tactically, it can be really helpful to set some limits or set some parameters around, “I’m not gonna engage in this, like, this isn’t helpful for me, it’s not helpful for you, and it’s not helpful for us.” It can be helpful to say, “I’m noticing I’m getting defensive.” Or “I’m not understanding what you’re saying, and I’m noticing that I’m starting to react, I do want to hear you. Maybe it means let’s take a little break.” Not just like, “Oh, let’s take a break, and then sweep it under the rug and never come back to it.” That’s just going to probably make matters worse. But it’s scheduling 20 minutes an hour to revisit, “Can we soften? Can we slow down? I do want to hear you.” 

So sometimes there are some limits, or this is a much more advanced move. But based on what I’m talking about, I might be able to see that there is a deeper layer. If we don’t know, we can ask, “Seems like you’re having a hard time. And it sounds like you’re talking about the shoes. Can you help me with what that would do for you? Or what’s in this for you? I want to understand you more.” Essentially, acknowledging that they have an issue and it’s almost like this pivot of like, “Can we just let that be? And let’s pivot a little. I want to understand you more. Can we get off of me for a minute? So I can understand you.” Because that’s where the real connection is going to happen. That’s where the person is going to be able to share more, and then you’re going to be able to hear more, and then that’s where that connection can occur. Does that make sense? 

Criticism whittle away the emotional bond, and sets up defensive patterns. Click To Tweet

Yeah. Because many times when people don’t feel heard, they just yell louder.


With my relationship, I’m married to an incredible man. Of course, we have our struggles and everything. Sometimes I make requests over and over and over and over and over, and over and over and over again until I lose patience. And then I get mad. And when I get mad, he does what I want. Help me help him before I get mad.

Exactly. And then you know, unfortunately for not necessarily in your case, but other people, they start to learn that, “Oh, the only time you listen is when I get mad.” So then it almost reinforces that approach because it works. This is when you step up. Well, I’m sure you’ve done a version of this, but I want to just kind of state that it can be a good revisit that when we request something from our partner, and there’s not an actual conversation around it, they might not want to do it, or it doesn’t work for them. And then, as I mentioned, the personality difference. They might want to do it but perhaps it’s uncomfortable for them, or it’s not their natural instinct, or it’s not even on their radar sometimes. Unfortunately, we’re all individuals. 

But as far as it relates to communication, it adds a layer of difficulty that we’re often moving through the world in our micro chasm-in our worldview and our thinking. So it does take a leap to like a pause to consider our significant other. Even if we had been with them for years, and years and years. So I would revisit and just notice without a lot of accusation, but wondering as much curiosity that feels genuine. “I noticed I’ve asked this a lot, or sometimes I get frustrated and lose patience, and then I escalate and get angry. And I know that probably doesn’t feel good for you. But I’ve noticed this. Can we look at what happens here?” And it’s really surprising to me, how much is there? In this case, your husband, what you might be experiencing? Can you give me an example so we could be a little more specific? 

I’ll give you a silly example, like something I get really mad at. I just get frustrated. I’ll cook food, and I’ll have it in the refrigerator for him. And he’ll forget to heat it and eat it. And I have to constantly remind him that there is food in the refrigerator. It’s not like I get mad at that. It’s just a little thing.

We can work with that. I would wonder, how did that arrangement get developed? Was it something you were doing to care for him and nurture him and love him? Or was it something that he asked for? 

I do it to nurture him and love him. Eventually, I do it because if I don’t do it, he just forgets to eat. 

Okay, so there’s some love there but there’s an obligation. What is his experience with eating? Does he find it problematic when he forgets to eat?

He just spaces out. He is like, “Oh my god, I forgot to eat.” He just forgets to eat.

Is there any downfall for that? Does he notice any negative consequences for him when he doesn’t?

No, he’s not aware.

Okay, so after the fact, though.

I don’t know. I don’t think it’s a big deal for him.

Well, that I would just be curious with him around. How much does this mean to him? In a relationship, we usually give the thing that we want or we want to give and it’s our way of nurturing and loving. The golden rule, we treat others how we want to be treated. In a relationship, I think it can be helpful to think about the platinum rule, which is said to treat others how they want to be treated. For example, if one partner wants to acknowledge partner B’s birthday, and partner A is like, “I’m going to throw my partner the biggest surprise birthday party. It’s gonna be the best” Let’s say partner B is mortified. An introvert. That’s uncomfortable. We want to look at what hits the mark. 

You’re putting energy and investment and wanting to nurture him and I’m sure, I don’t doubt for a minute that he doesn’t appreciate it or see the love and the gesture. But is it a high-ticket item for him? On his being, does it matter to him? It might but it might not either. If he’s okay missing a meal, and it doesn’t impact him, and it’s no skin off his back. I wonder about the priority of making him food, if he doesn’t mind skipping a meal. Do you know what I mean? I’m not saying that that’s what the solution would be. But do you get what I’m getting out? But if you’re both in agreement that it’s like, “No, eating lunch is super helpful. And I do want this.” Then we look at what’s getting in the way of remembering. Kind of addressing that together? Does he set an alarm?

Collect good memories with your partner, so you cherish each other more as time goes by.

In any relationship, what’s funny, what you’re saying is, it’s not about the other person, it’s about us. Our stories and the stories that we make around food. And the story is that I make around him not eating the food that I made for him. My husband is a vegan, so I’m cooking special food for him. And I’m like, “He’s not appreciating me and my effort. Why is he not eating it? I made it for him.” I have all those stories in my head and think this is why I get frustrated.

That’s super understandable. It’s not a small thing to plan, shop, prepare, cook, and clean. That’s a lot of investment. To not feel his receiving of it, can feel like my huge gift just fell on the floor. 

Thank you. And I love giving gifts. Thank you very much. You’re good.

But it’s super special, right? And if he’s not receiving it, it can feel really painful that the gift and all the energy investment is not being received and therefore in some ways can feel like rejection. 

Wow, that’s deep. I learned something today. 

But if your husband felt comfortable. Would it be okay, if your husband would say, “Honestly, on a scale from 1 to 10, when I think about you and what you’re doing, it matters so much. But if you’re just asking me individually, it’s like a three. It’s nice but it’s not. It’s not a game-changer for me but what I love is when you rub my neck. That’s like a nine.”

It could be other things.

Yeah, it could be other things, for sure. There could be other things that matter more to him or hit the mark more than. And he is like, “I’d rather you look at just me individually.”

That’s funny. Wow. Well, thank you so much. I enjoyed this epiphany. It’s gonna help me with that. I needed help with that. So I appreciate you. You think things are small. “Oh, it’s this little small thing of like having food in there,” but in time, you hold emotions around it and it’s not getting smaller. It’s getting bigger. So it’s good to figure it out with somebody, who is smart like you, and get the breakthrough.

Yeah, Orion. If you’ve ever looked at love languages. If gift is ranking high for you, I believe that if we experience something negative in our relationship in our love language, it hurts more. One of my top love languages is words of affirmation. If my husband is speaking to me in a negative tone, or he’s grumpy, or he’s being gruff, it hurts more than someone who isn’t their love language. For example, I met with a couple yesterday, the wife lost her mother and had an injury. She’s just been grappling with so much that she hasn’t been as present or attentive and his love language is quality time. So it hurts so much when she’s distant. 

Any of these things I think are gonna hurt anyone but I think they hurt even that much more. So going back to the food in the fridge, if the food in the fridge is going to waste and it’s like getting I doubt you let it get moldy. But let’s say it did get moldy. You’re like, “My love is like atrophying.” It’s like a physical representation of love. We see it as symbolic. If it’s symbolism, it’s just being neglected in the refrigerator and going bad. That can feel even scary like, “Is this how you care for us in our lives?” But I can see for some people that without even being aware that that’s what gets activated?

Well, it’s brilliant. Thank you so much. I want to know, in the beginning, you mentioned that you have these beautiful principles that you practice with your husband, can you share a bit about them?

There are so many. This is why I had the podcast. So I do my best to offer a lot of these principles and refer to them often in that podcast. I’ve been doing it for almost six years now. So people are like, “Did you ever run out of things to say?” And I’m like, “No, not at all. I have lists of things that I want.” And I do have a lot of guests. Now, it’s primarily me interviewing other people. Where the first half was just delivering the content myself. 

The lack of dealing with negative patterns may lead to losing steam, motivation, maybe even lose hope among partners. Click To Tweet

I know we don’t have a ton of time, but one thing would be staying in your lane. I think it’s so easy to look at, or to feel some level of discomfort or pain and look to, “Where’s that pain? What’s the origin of that pain?” And pointed out. It’s a human thing to address the issue and wants to fix it. When it comes to relationships. If we’re looking at our partner, if you would do X, Y, and Z, or if you would be different, I would feel better, or sometimes if we have a propensity to take over responsibility. 

Like, “You need to make me happy.”

Yeah, that essentially, will just stay with that. This hooks back into criticism because if we’re addressing the issue by means of our partner, there’s some even natural instinct to be like, “That’s you.” Distinguishing between what’s you and what’s me and those lines often get crossed. So staying in your lane actually can encompass a lot of other even principles. I’m a big fan of the process of differentiating, which is a psychological term, essentially, it’s the ability to hold on to yourself, even if your partner is upset with you, or has issues about something and how to kind of hold ground. How to self-soothe, how to self-validate, and be able to have some level of that balance. And it’s really difficult to do, and this is part of maturing. I want to say this principle isn’t to be exercised in and of itself without other components. 

Because the other really important component is that, how do we reach each other? What are the moves that we make that create connection? If I’m meeting you, or if I’m scared, or if I’m insecure, or if I am worried, how do I reach you in a way that you can respond and be available and engage? We want that reach to be soft and vulnerable, so they can see us and feel that connection. We are social animals, I’m not a big believer of like, “Oh, love yourself first. And then, therefore, your relationship will just be beautiful.” I think both need to happen, that we are responsible for our work but we also are nurturing a connection with another and how we do that and how that creates the emotional bond and looking at how to set that up so that it is secure. And if it’s not secure, there’s going to be a lot of pain, questioning, strife, and difficulty. 

I could talk for days about different principles. But those are the two that come up in our conversation around staying in your lane, really recognizing what’s coming up for you. Including the differentiation, how-to. So staying in your lane is how to own your stuff, essentially, like not project on your partner, not immediately or catch the impulse. But sometimes we just do it and it’s not about being perfect. It’s about catching it and understanding, “What is in this for me?” So owning your stuff, staying in your lane. The second would be, how do I find my balance? How do I learn to tolerate some of the discomforts? Sometimes we have these tendencies of engaging with our partner because we’re anxious, or they’re mad at us and we can’t tolerate it. So we get all messy.

Messy is my middle name.

It’s so true. Mine too. Thirdly is, how am I contributing to our dynamic, and what are the moves that we’re making when we’re… John Gottman talks about them as bids for attention. How are we either reaching to each other because we’re hurting, we need to feel that presence and that availability and that engagement? Or is it just we’re going through our day, and how our partner responds to us. How we nurture is critical and key.

Wow, this was incredible. I appreciated our conversation. I’m sure we can speak for hours and hours on end because you have so much wisdom and knowledge, and you’re fascinating. I truly enjoyed this conversation. Thank you so much.

Oh, it’s a pleasure. I enjoyed this as well. Thank you for what you’re doing.

Always do the best you can with whatever situation you are given. Having each other's best interest in mind is what keeps a relationship healthy. Click To Tweet

Thank you. If people want to work with you, reach out and listen to your incredible podcast, where can they go?

One thing I will suggest if people are listening to this conversation, and perhaps even the criticism sparked something, is that I have a free guide that gives a side-by-side comparison of what critical statements tend to be and a direct comparison. So there are all different situations and there’s actual language to use on how to turn that into a request. The critical example is like a situation and then how to turn that into a request. If anybody’s interested, there’s a free guide for that. Or people can also go to DrJessicaHiggins.com, and there you’ll find everything. You’ll have access in the top navigation bar to the podcast. You can also go on any podcast player, on your Apple Podcast, or Stitcher, or Spotify. And the podcast is Empowered Relationship Podcast. And then people who want to do a deeper dive, I have courses and also coaching. I have a small waitlist at the moment. But I do work with people to help support them shift these patterns.

Beautiful. Jessica, thank you so much.

Thank you too, Orion.

Thank you and thank you, listeners. Remember to stay in your lane, stay grounded in yourself, learn to find your balance, nurture your connections, and have a stellar life. This is Orion till next time.

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

{✓} Learn and grow together as a couple. Embrace the journey and take every moment with your partner as a learning experience. 
{✓} Be observant of each other’s patterns. Find out what triggers you and your partner so you can implement techniques to work around them and alleviate challenging situations.  
{✓} Don’t hesitate to seek professional help when you feel like you’ve been stuck for a long time. Overcome your emotional baggage together with a coach or counselor.
{✓} Do activities that create stronger bonding. Collect good memories with your partner, so you cherish each other more as time goes by.
{✓} Establish a sense of security in the relationship. Let each other know that you have each other’s backs no matter what. 
{✓} Collaborate on building a healthy support system. Let each other feel needed in the relationship. 
{✓} Appreciate more than criticize. Be careful with the words you say to your partner. In every situation, it’s always healthy to have each other’s best interests in mind. 
{✓} Practice the art of taking a pause. Whenever things get heated, remember that you can take a break and cool off. It’s better than a raging fight. 
{✓} Keep being curious about each other. Asking questions about their day, work, or feelings can make people feel how much you care about them. 
{✓} Visit Dr. Jessica Higgins’ website to learn more about how to keep a long-lasting, empowered relationship.

Links and Resources

About Dr. Jessica Higgins

Dr. Jessica Higgins holds two graduate degrees in psychology, two coaching certifications, and over 20 years of experience helping clients achieve successful results.

As the host of the Empowered Relationship Podcast, she helps people navigate the terrain of long-lasting intimacy more skillfully and mindfully.

Through her online courses and coaching, clients transform pain into love and connection.

Disclaimer: The medical, fitness, psychological, mindset, lifestyle, and nutritional information provided on this website and through any materials, downloads, videos, webinars, podcasts, or emails are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical/fitness/nutritional advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Always seek the help of your physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, certified trainer, or dietitian with any questions regarding starting any new programs or treatments or stopping any current programs or treatments. This website is for information purposes only, and the creators and editors, including Orion Talmay, accept no liability for any injury or illness arising out of the use of the material contained herein, and make no warranty, express or implied, with respect to the contents of this website and affiliated materials.

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