Are you curious about committed partnerships and how to make them work for the long run? Why is it so hard to love someone sometimes?
Self-proclaimed “recovered hot heads” Linda Bloom and Charlie Bloom emphasize, communication and collaboration are key to creating a fulfilling and meaningful relationship. In today’s episode, Linda and Charlie dive into the topic of navigating relationships to make them last. They discuss the significance of relationships, such as maintaining individuality and connectedness, respecting personal integrity, and granting autonomy in relationships. They also reflect on their own relationship and personal growth journey, providing a candid and relatable perspective. They share some gold nuggets and sneak peeks from their books, AN END TO ARGUING: 101 Valuable Lessons for All Relationships, and Happily Ever After… And 39 Other Myths About Love. Linda and Charlie also discuss relationship myths, the spectrum of desire in relationships, and the benefits of arguing in relationships. So, if you’re curious about how to make long-term romance work, tune in to this episode and learn from the experts.
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For Better Or For Worse: Navigating Relationships So They Can Last With Linda And Charlie Bloom
I have this sense of my smile stretching from ear to ear because I’ve been enjoying the pre-conversation with Linda and Charlie. There are many different directions we can go in because we’re going to be discussing relationships. I am a very curious person. I am known as one of the most curious people that any of my friends have in their life. Curiosity has come up a number of times in our pre-show conversation. It sounds like Linda and Charlie are big supporters of curiosity. I’m curious, do the two of you, or either of you consider yourself curious as well, or do you enjoy being around curious people like myself?
Nobody’s ever asked me that before. I consider myself and Charlie to be extremely curious. I think that it’s a terrific strength. I wish people would acquire that quality more because each of us has a signature strength of being lifelong learners. We read a lot. We’re at the library all the time. We read personal growth books. I can’t get enough of the relationship books. I feel like it’s propelled me in my life and that I have a rich, full life and understand more about how life and relationships work, and it’s lifted me into the thriving zone. I’m all about encouraging people to work out their curiosity muscles.
We have that in common because I can’t get enough of non-fiction. In fact, I’ve had to push myself to read fiction every once in a while, as a break because I could lay around all day reading books and it feels like there’s always new information coming out. That is a fascinating thing. There’s part of my brain that thinks, “There must be answers. There must be something that is universal or concrete.”
It feels like for psychology, personal development, and growth, there’s always something new coming out for us to learn. We should be grateful for that because maybe it would feel a little depressing if there was a concrete answer. We would figure it out, then what more would we have to look forward to? Have you felt that similar way when it comes to learning about relationships? Is there a never-ending journey of learning about how to be in relationships?
It certainly hasn’t ended for me. I haven’t reached that point where, “I got this one down. I got this handled. I don’t have any more questions about relationships.” I don’t know anybody who is at that point themselves, although I have to admit, I do know some people who believe they are. They are wrong. They’ve got a lot more to learn than they want to think they do.
That’s one of the incredibly fascinating things about being in relationships, particularly in a committed partnership. Many people have asked us, “I get along well with everybody and I never get into fights and arguments, but why is it that with the person that I love the most is where the biggest challenges are? It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
It doesn’t make sense, but it is explainable when you realize that the person with whom you’re in a relationship, your primary partner, is the most important person in your life if you have a committed partnership. That person is carrying an awful lot of your hopes, expectations, dreams, and visions. They can disappoint you more than anybody else in your life because there’s much riding on the relationship. They can also provide the answer to your most important questions and the joy and pleasure that you most want to experience. They have got both possibilities, one in each hand. It’s not surprising that you can get into some of the most intense interactions with them both positive and difficult.
Where do you think these ideas come from, and do you believe that to be a generational change that happens, in terms of how people perceive relationships and how much emphasis they put on their primary partnerships and romantic relationships? Based on some of the research that you’re doing, is there a cultural shift that happens? Is it things that we learn in our own family systems or religion? I’m curious about the sources from which we even get these ideas that one person should be in charge of all our hope, dreams, and expectations. There’s all this pressure there. Is there a purpose to that or is it something that we need to learn to adjust?
Historically, there has always been a very strong emphasis on the committed partnership in the romantic bond. The society, tribe, and community were invested in seeing that relationship was wholesome and remained intact because it’s the basic unit of the culture. For that marital pair to stick together to raise those kids are going to be a stable community.
Things changed a lot, particularly in the ‘50s and ‘60s when the religious institutions and the general public didn’t put much pressure on a couple to stay together, which in some ways was a good thing because there were people who were miserable together, mismatched fair, who needed to free themselves and each other to go on to somebody who would be more suitable or live a single life.
It’s more difficult now without the support of family, religious institutions, and community to stay together, that each couple is flying by the seat of their pants to find out how to preserve the well-being of the relationship, to work with the differences, and to hopefully create a working partnership where both of their needs get met. Some of the supports are missing, and a lot of couples are in the void about having their new set of commitments, which is very individual for every couple about what adds meaning and purpose to their relationship and what they’re about together.
One of the things that we try to do when we teach our workshops, council couples, and write our books, is to give people a starter kit to vision their particular needs and to collaborate with each other, to put agreements in place because it is more individual now, not so much about the community supporting couples to stay on track.
Sometimes individuality seems like it could be working against us. I’m curious if it feels that way to you because we can get to this mindset of every man for himself, “I’m not happy, so I’m going to end this relationship.” That’s been something for my generation being a Millennial that I’ve heard a lot about, especially with online dating. People always feel like there’s someone right around the corner, so if this relationship doesn’t work out, they can end it and go on to another.
That could be different with marriage. It’s a little bit more complicated to end a marriage, but certainly, people get divorced frequently. The divorce rate can be incredibly high. I wonder, do people treat marriage as less important? Are they focused on themselves and not so much on working on the relationship? Are these some of the things that you’ve noticed in your client work or your research?
I don’t think that you can answer that question without considering the bigger broader picture of the shifts in the culture. Linda mentioned post-World War II in the 1950s. There was a value shift from the focus on terms of relationships, keeping the relationship and the marriage sacred, preventing divorce, and staying together no matter what. That loosened up in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s with the women’s movement.
That was influenced by women going to work during the Second World War. That broke up the idea that women’s place was always in the home. There’ve been some cultural shifts that moved the balance from the focus on connectedness and the stability of the family, the marriage, and an awareness of a countervailing need that we all have, which is to be autonomous, to be true to oneself, not to be true to the code of the culture that gives us very specific instructions about how to behave and act if we’re a man or a woman and puts us in different categories.
One of the things that make relationships challenging, is when people are always saying, “Why do relationships take so much work?” We get that question all the time. It doesn’t make sense. We’re here to love each other and promote the development of our species. Why would it be hard to love somebody? That seems like a natural thing that nature would support.
Nature does support it, but there are some other factors involved besides that. One of them is that a committed partnership requires us to do two things that seem to be mutually exclusive. In other words, you can’t do them both. You can only do one or the other. One is to dedicate yourself to supporting the needs of the relationship. The other one is to honor your own personal integrity.
It’s quite a balancing act.
It’s challenging. It’s not something that we plant ourselves on and say, “This is how I’m going to deal with this. I’m going to put 70% of my attention on the relationship and 30% on my personal desires.” It doesn’t work that way. We’ve got to be able to be sufficiently fluid and flexible to give to whichever side needs it at the time most needs it. That’s the challenge that we have. Many of us, like me and Linda, attract people who are on the other side of the fence. One of us is more geared toward personal fulfillment. The other one is more geared toward concern about the relationship. That can be a good thing.
If we learn from each other.
It can be challenging.
It does feel challenging. As you’re sharing that, I’m thinking back over many of my romantic relationships. I’ve never been married. My viewpoints on marriage have shifted. I feel a little bit neutral about it. At this stage of my life, it doesn’t feel like a big priority. If I’m open to getting married, I’m not sure, but it’s interesting in my dating history how it felt like a little bit of distance. I don’t know if I’ve dated very many men who have felt willing to do what you’re describing, which is to learn. I don’t know if it’s a generational thing, but I’ve also dated men beyond my generation too. It had some of the same issues where they felt like resistance to learning and true partnerships.
The majority of men would have these walls up. When things got tough, there wasn’t a willingness to take down the wall and to come together and work through them. Maybe that’s what has led to me not getting married yet. I felt in most of my relationships that men have put a distance in, and then they would get focused on themselves and the struggles that they were going through, that there wasn’t room for us to work together and to create the support you’re describing. It feels a little bit of a mystery to me.
I’m glad that you’re bringing it up. we often have single people in our network over the years ask, “What do you think is the most important quality to look for in a potential partner or if you are looking for lifetime material?” I did this funny little dance in my mind for a long time, whether kindness was going to be at the top of my list or whether passionate about personal growth.
I ended up putting passion about personal growth at the top because people who have a commitment to learning and growth, and those characteristics in that person do are going to utilize everything that the relationship is going to toss up, issues about commitment, fairness, negotiation, repair, handling differences well, and communication. A lot of people aren’t geared that way. They don’t have the passion for it. If you find somebody who’s like-minded and has that curiosity, wonder, and passion for personal growth, that’s a winning combination.
Charlie and I have both had that from the beginning. I didn’t even have the words for it at the time. I intuited with him that he would be good lifetime material. I was sure he was kind. I was sure that he had a zest for life, but I didn’t know how interested he was in learning. It took a little while until I knew him well, and then I thought, “We are different in many ways, but in this very important way, we are lined up.” That has seen us through a lot of difficult challenges that we’ve had in our relationship, health, problems, and raising kids. It’s not just a walk in the park for a lot of parents. We used everything that the relationship tossed up as an opportunity for growth.
That makes it sound lovely and easy in some way, but easy and desirable. Easy is not quite the right word, but there seems to be an ease with which the two of you relate. Even if you’re describing it, it does seem like something to admire and yearn for compatibility. That’s the ease I’m feeling. It does take work, even if you are very compatible.
I’m curious because you offer many resources. You’ve written books, taught classes, and done lots of interviews, you’re putting out all this knowledge, and you’re not the only one. There’s much information about relationships as we talked about, but why is it that some people are resistant to learning? Why with the wealth of tools that we have for relationships, why do some people not want to take that next step to become more educated and grow?
Relationships have other polarizing aspects one way or the other besides what we talked about in terms of focus on the individual or quality of the relationship. Another example of that polarization is the desire and need that we have for security and comfort. On the other hand, a desire for adventure, novelty, and excitement. Those are two complementary needs that we all have. Each one of us has to find a place on that spectrum. On the one end, it is the extreme of security, which is not good as a full-time diet. On the other hand, is the extreme of adventure, which can be dangerous.
We all have certain places on that continuum where we feel we’re in our comfort zone. Maybe for somebody, it might be 50/50. For somebody else, it might be 75/25, one side or the other. We all do need and want security, but not all of us have the same level of need for it. If one person feels a particularly strong need for whatever reason, what’s likely is that they’re going to be attracted to somebody who is on the other side of that equation.
Therein lies the answer to the question, “Why do We get into all these arguments?” We’re going to automatically, unconsciously gravitate towards somebody who is our complement, who is going to bring more balance into our life. We may wish that they were like us, but it’s a good thing that they’re not. In fact, we’re not even going to be attracted to somebody who is like us.
It’d be boring.
It would be too dangerous. It’s a setup. It’s like, “Who designed this game anyway? This is crazy.” The challenge is, “How do we deal with this? How do we deal with these deeply entrenched positions, perspectives, and needs that each one of us has? we’ve been reinforcing them for decades, and then we meet this person who we’re turned on by because there’s a lot of juice there.” The magic or the juice comes from the differences, from the dynamic interaction between those two poles. It requires us to become more open, flexible, and willing to learn, less secure in what we have decided is the way it has to be less attached. That’s the work that we have to do in relationships.
I want to quote Wavy Gravy. He’s a clown and a profound spiritual teacher. You could substitute a committed partnership for marriage if marriage isn’t your cup of tea. He says, “Marriage is a pit full of pitfalls devised by a devious deity for our conscious evolution.” Isn’t that something? This, “Opposites attract,” thing, which we usually call, “Compliments attract,” is some very deep wise, natural knowing in us. It is only magnetized and drawn to a person who’s very different from us, has different signature strengths, who have different attitudes, and even different values. If we bring curiosity and wonder to learn from each other, that can be a dynamic duo.Marriage is a pit full of pitfalls devised by a devious deity for our conscious evolution. Click To Tweet
You mentioned how easy people go through a dating site, and there are all these other opportunities. If they hit a rough patch. They give up and say, “I’ll find somebody who’s easier and more fun,” rather than going deeper where this relationship may have enormous potential for growth for both people, but they may give up too soon. It’s easy to replace a partner these days, rather than having that joint commitment to dig deeper and find out who we are and what we’re meant to be doing in this life.
There also seems to be almost the opposite end where some people stay in relationships that, at least from the outside, don’t feel very healthy. Certainly, there’s a lot of judgment outside of a relationship. You can look at people and say, “They’re not compatible at all. I don’t know why they’re together.” I find myself thinking about these things whether somebody is married or started dating someone, and I wonder like, “Why are these people together?”
Sometimes you think that they seem unhappy and yet they stay together anyways. I’ve often wondered, “Is that because they’re committed through thick and thin, or do some people stay together because it’s the opposite of dating a ton of people?” Maybe dating in itself is scary and it feels more comfortable to stay in a relationship even if they’re not happy in it. How do you know when you’re in a relationship that is worth putting the work in and sticking through the hard times versus when you’re in a relationship and it feels bad all the time and maybe it’s not worth any work?
We often get asked, “How do you know when it’s time to go, or it’s time to hold and fold them?” We always tell people the same thing, “Do your own work. Keep your attention on yourself. Know what your work is, and get committed to it because 1 of 2 things is going to happen. Either your growth, development, and deepening of who you are and becoming a person of integrity what we mean by that is what you think and feel and say and do is all lined up as one. When you start living your life fully, either the other person’s going to blow out or they’re going to be inspired to do their work and to join you. The relationship will grow. It will deepen.”
A lot of people settle for so much less than is available and they’re afraid of change and rock the boat. They ratchet their expectations way down and they settle for much less. Anybody who comes to a workshop of ours doesn’t have any counseling with us or reads any of our books, it’s risky for them because it’s all about reaching high and having a grand vision. We call it going for the gold. It’s okay to have huge expectations about your life and what your relationship would be as long as you have the intentionality to match them. You don’t expect it to come to you brought on a tray. You work for it, and it’s a labor of love.
Sometimes it’s pretty exasperating and you’re confused, disappointed, angry, resentful, and all that. You keep trying to be as responsible as you can about how you communicate your dissatisfaction and your lust for life. You make a contract with your partner, that you’re going to work together to see if you can have both sets of needs met and both grand goals and visions met, and that you’re going to work together to bring out the best in each other rather than the worst of each other. It’s a gold mine of potential, which we believe not enough people are mining for the gold.
It makes me think about those pitfalls that you mentioned earlier. There seems lots of gold and pitfalls. Our society, at least in the US, feels very confusing because there is so much mixed messaging. We do live in a culture where the individual is emphasized a lot of times, but relationships are still a big part of our culture as well. We hear things like, “Relationships should be easy. You should know when you should be with somebody. If it’s too hard, then that’s a sign that it’s not working. You should never settle.” All of these ideas feel incredibly complex. Sorting through them all does take an enormous amount of self-work because only you can have the answers to that.
We live in a disposable culture. I don’t mean the whole culture is disposable, but I mean, in our world, when things cease to interest us or when they break down, we’re bored or whatever, “Let’s get rid of it and replace it with another one.” When I was growing up, when an appliance didn’t work, you fix it or call a repairman. When things broke down, you repair them. That applied to everything.
In our world, that disposable orientation has come to include relationships that if the relationship I’m in isn’t fulfilling all of my needs, then I must be with the wrong person. I need to find somebody else without the social pressure to stay together in a relationship. The motivation to work on it is gone if you can be replaced.
When I was younger, most people couldn’t afford to buy a new refrigerator every time there was a problem with it. When you can replace something, it’s very tempting, whether it’s a person or an appliance to get rid of this and get a new one because the new one is going to have all of the bells and whistles that we want, at least we think in a relationship.
We wrote a book called Happily Ever After…And 39 Other Myths About Love. There were 40 myths in the book that we buy into in terms of how relationships are or how they should be. They are just myths. They’re ideas that have been embraced by many people in the culture and held as fact as truth, but they’re not.
One of the myths has to do with, “Someday my prince charming or princess will come. I will know it because there will be this incredible magic magnetic connection that will blow us away.” Many people make the mistake of thinking that the future of this relationship is going to depend upon how powerful the initial attraction is and how strong our love is. It’s not love yet because what we love is our projected imagined expectation of, “What things are going to be like with this person who I think I know, even though I only met him or her days ago.”
We get locked into that. It’s called confirmation bias. Once we believe something, we want to confirm that’s true. We put all of our marbles in that basket, and the hopes and expectations that this is going to continue. This is what they’re talking about when they talk about having a lifelong partnership, “This is it. I finally found the one.”
People hate this, but inevitably there’s going to be a stage of the relationship beyond the infatuation called disillusionment, where you see that, “That was an illusion that I had, that this meant that it was going to be easy and continue this way forever.” We begin to see that was an illusion that, “This person has some of these qualities that I love,” but there’s another part to them that gets revealed as you get to know somebody better, particularly if you’re living with them because you can’t conceal all that stuff forever.
You can do a good job on it for a while. At some point though, we stop making such an effort to create the impression that we think this person wants to have and wants us to be. At that point, we have to make a very important choice, “Am I going to hang in there and do the work that I need to do in order to see whether this relationship can be as sustainable as I want it to be, or am I going to let this go and just, ‘Next?’” That’s a very important choice. Many people opt to call for the next one.
Is there any timeline in which you can safely measure the quality of a relationship? In that beginning stage, especially appearance-wise, and if you’re online dating, a huge struggle is that you’re judging someone based on their pictures. You’re reading about them. People are sharing all the highlights, their best photos, or maybe their edited photos. It’s this perfectly contrived viewpoint of who you are.
To your point, you get to know someone and maybe even on the first date, you realize they’re not quite what you projected them to be based on this limited picture of them that you were seeing. Some people, after one date, say, “This person isn’t for me.” That might be way too soon because how do you even know if that person’s for you after one date? The opposite could be true when someone goes on one date and they feel like, “This is it. This is the person,” but they don’t know that until a certain period of time. Is there an average of how long it takes to know if someone’s for you?
Somewhere between 5 minutes and 30 years.
We know that people keep the looking good image up. In the beginning, do you know the first many dates? Sometimes even in the first few to six months, they’re even therapists in our field who encourage people to do that to keep the image up. That’s not our point of view. We encourage people to get real soon. You don’t have to tell your deepest and darkest secrets on the first date, but be as real and as soon as you can be because it’s an efficient use of your time together to not send the persona to know the image to the date.
I always recommend to people, the singles in the network, to not make the decision about a committed partnership until you’ve hit a rough spot. Sometime in the first year or two, you are going to have some breakdowns, maybe some awful arguments with in-laws, sex, money, career, or kids. It could be any topic.
When you hit a rough spot, you find out what you’re each made of, whether you’re going to hang in there, have empathy, compassion, support, and make room do you know what it’s going to flush up because when you hit some kind of traumatic, challenging experience that is going to be a lot of feelings that are going to come up. People are going to need extra that they don’t need when things are going along pretty harmoniously.When you and your partner hit a rough spot, you find out what you’re each made of. Click To Tweet
I say, “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste.” When you hit a crisis, you find out what you are made of and what your partner’s made of. You see whether you’re going to be good for the long haul because you’re going to have a lot of blissful experiences and challenges in your decades together. You want to find out, are you a good working team? Do you bring your signature strengths together and work through them together? You’ll find out that way. We encourage people to do that sooner rather than later. Show up.
It almost makes arguments something to look forward to because that’s where you find out if the relationship is working. Given that’s the subject of your book, you had 101 lessons in this book, which is quite a lot. Arguments are pretty complex. There’s a lot to learn from them. I would love to know what was it that inspired you to write a book about arguments. It’s a challenge, but also an opportunity there. Maybe looking at arguments is not necessarily a bad thing.
It’s not a bad thing. We need to have these experiences where both of us are revealing to the other person what our deeper concerns and values are so that we can find out more about who it is that we are partnering with here. We need to bring forth those different perspectives. In the early stages of a relationship, if we’re both attracted to the other person, then we want to figure out who they want us to be so that we can be that person and we’re not going to lose them. That’s where our focus is.
We’re doing whatever we can do to conceal what we think might be our less desirable aspects so that it’s all a conscious or unconscious attempt to solidify this connection if that’s what we want to do. We don’t know who else is in there, but after we’ve spent a certain amount of time and some of those walls have come down and we’re more relaxed with each other and less willing to keep having to put up a false front, then we get to see, “Sometimes this person isn’t quite patient. They can be judgmental sometimes,” or whatever it might be. We can see those aspects of them that weren’t apparent to us before.
We will have experiences together where we’re both operating from aspects of ourselves that were not evident before. We get to see who we are and how this person responds to me when I’m crabby sometimes or in a bad mood. We get to see whether they counterattack if they feel judged. We get to see whether they’re accepting and understanding under stress. We get to see them when they’re being influenced by forces that are uncomfortable for them. We’re going to have to be dealing with this stuff because this is part of who they are. Having these differences come up is not a bad thing. It’s a necessary thing because it tells us a lot about ourselves and each other.
My sense about it is that I want to know who I’m with as early on as possible because the sooner I learn and get clear about who they are, the more time I’m going to get to spend with them if it’s somebody I want to be with. The quicker I can make the choice to move on if I can see that, “This is a deal breaker. I can’t stay in there with this person because there’s something there that doesn’t work for me.”
Arguments are not the enemy. They’re an essential part of the process. What we want to support people in is not avoiding having differences because you’re going to have them and you need them. What we want to support people in is to not go down that slippery slope where we’re both coercing each other or trying to coerce each other to see things our way, where we’re in control, where we’re trying to get them to accommodate our demands. We’re each trying to get them to see things our way. That’s the hell that we’re trying to keep people from descending into in the book.
How about people that have been in relationships for a long time and maybe think they know each other, but perhaps keep falling into the same habits of arguments that are very frustrating? There’s one couple that comes to mind for this that have had a loving long-term relationship and yet there’s dissatisfaction, frustration and it seems like the same issues keep coming up over and over. From the outside, I wonder, “You’ve been together for a long time. There’s a lot of love and commitment there, but why are you still having the same challenges?” What do you do in a situation like that?
Even the happiest couples have areas where the difference never gets resolved. There’s a lot of research about this that many years later, the same unresolved issue that they came into the relationship with is still there. Let that be, “We’re never going to see eye to eye about this. In this particular area, you have your view. I have my view. We have descriptive views. I’m going to respect your right to have your view. I hope you’ll respect to have my view.” There’s no real percentage in even discussing those areas because we’re going to agree to disagree.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of areas where we may have resentment and disappointment, which is workable. There are resolvable, but they haven’t gone deep enough into, “What hurts about this? What’s disappointing about this? What scares me about this?” because they’ve stayed at the level of trying to influence the other person to change their mind and behavior. They haven’t gone deep enough. Underneath the angry interchange, there’s always some pain, hurt, suffering, and fear.
People are reluctant to open up that much, get vulnerable, and expose that tender vulnerable area. When people can drop down to that level of communication, that’s where we are learning and understanding takes place. Not necessarily agreement, but learning and understanding where people can feel connected. I always say to these couples who keep going round and round with the same thing and they never get anywhere, you may need a third party or trained professional person to help you to create a safe space, to be able to drop down to that deep level of vulnerability and talk about what’s painful.People often hesitate to expose themselves and reveal their vulnerability. When people can drop to that level of communication, that's where learning and understanding take place. Click To Tweet
Often, it’s old stuff, childhood stuff, or things in an adult relationship. It could be a previous or current relationship, but a previous piece that never was discussed thoroughly, that wasn’t repaired, learned from, and still festering. It’s still drawing energy. It keeps coming up because it’s incomplete and it needs to be discussed it could be completed and laid to rest.
You make it sound easy, but I know it’s not and you said that relationships aren’t easy. The two of you are having celebrated 50 years. That’s in your marriage, not the whole time you’ve been together. How long have you been together in total?
Fifty-four now in 2023.
I imagine this comes up in your books, but I would love to know it from you now and maybe something you’re reflecting on. What are some of the biggest lessons that you’ve learned? Are there any new lessons that you learned in your relationships after all this time?
The word that came to mind immediately when you asked the question, is a word that Linda’s used and that is vulnerability. Like most guys, I grew up in a culture, although thank God that’s changed a lot since I was young, where vulnerability was a sign of weakness and it was something to be ashamed of. It was something that needed to be concealed usually below a false front of bravado and aggression which are qualities that make it impossible for the other person to connect on a deep level to you because I’m insulating myself with this image that I’m putting out. That’s something that the other person is going to be having to hit all the time when they want to connect.
Part of the male conditioning, particularly in the past generations is still there but not much anymore has been to see vulnerability, which is an essential aspect of emotional availability. It’s essential for relationships because you can’t be authentic if you’re not willing to expose and express the parts of you that you may fear would be judged by other people and yourself as being signs of weakness, which would make you appear to be unworthy of the respect and love that we all want to have.
In this relationship, what Linda has taught me is that it’s okay to be vulnerable. The way she’s taught me that is by responding to me in ways that have reassured me that when I risk vulnerability, I’m not going to get shamed for it. I’m not going to be viewed as unworthy. I’m not going to lose her respect and love. It’s something that, over the years, I’ve tested by putting it and putting myself out there and acknowledging rather than getting, aggressive, angry, intimidating, or judgmental.
When I feel insecure or threatened, I have been willing to risk saying, “I’m concerned about this right now. I’m feeling fearful about this. I’m feeling envious and hurt,” and getting a response that is reassuring me that, “I’m not going anywhere. I don’t love you any less. When you expose that part of you, I don’t have any less respect for you. In fact, I love you more because you’re giving me more of who you are.” That would be my answer to the question. My personal answer is that is what has made the difference for me, not in the relationship, but in my whole life.
It was easy for me to give that to him because when he would speak from his tender heart, to me, it was beautiful. I loved his sensitivity. It made him more attractive, not less. That was easy for me to validate and encourage that. It was still a process that he could get over all of this belief system that he had about what a real man was.
My growing edge was way different from his. Mine was about growing courage. I will be grateful all my days for Charlie, demanding that I show up and be a worthy opponent and not cave in, cry, and drift away because I used to be angry and conflict-phobic. I thought that interchanges in an angry, passionate, intense manner, that they were dangerous and he would deem me bad and ditch me.
I had to get over my fear and have some assertiveness and speak up. I will admit that when I came out of hiding, I was a bitch on wheels and I was not very skillful about the way I did it. I did threaten, judge, and all manner of unskillful things, but I told you, we’re hungry learners and we had some good help. I learned to do the more refined way of speaking up on my own behalf, that I could use a fly swatter instead of a sledgehammer, but I needed to wake him up and be assertive enough to get his attention and to make sure that he was hearing me, that my needs were not being met, and that I didn’t want to have power over him.
I wanted to share power with him, stay engaged, and dialogue with me until we worked out some system where we could both get our needs met for safety, security, adventure, and growth. It’s a lot of conversations. All the couples that we deal with underestimate how much good communication is required to grow that kind of relationship. Who you’re viewing right now is a couple of recovered hotheads, not recovering hotheads. We’ve worked long and hard.
Now we can speak our truth without blame and judgment. We’re sensitized to where that line is where we can have a very deep feeling, passionate interchange, but we don’t go over the line to make the other person bad and wrong for having the views, needs, and feelings that they have. We’re in the business now of helping people to get sensitized to where that line is, where the differences, and alive in their relationship, and don’t aggravate each other.
To speak your truth with that vulnerability, courage, and transparency that you shared, I imagine this is a sliver of everything that you’re teaching on a regular basis and what you’re writing about in your books. It’s such a gift to this world because talking with you has revealed to me how complex and mysterious it can feel, but also that there are ways to learn and stretch.
I love the growing edge terminology. That’s such a great way of looking at it and understanding that there’s much for us as individuals in relationships. It’s one of the greatest ways that we can learn about ourselves and also give to others, be generous, and find ways to support people. As you mentioned in the title of your book, which is An End to Arguing: 101 Valuable Lessons for All Relationships, we were specifically focused on primary romantic partnerships.
Before we started recording, Charlie mentioned that it says all relationships for a reason, the learnings in this book, this conversation, and all of the work that Linda and Charlie do goes beyond romance. The skills that we can build in our romantic relationships can have a ripple effect. Probably vice versa too, that when we do this work on ourselves and with other people, it influences much of our life and our well-being.
It’s been a joy to talk about this with you and to hear all of the lessons that you’ve been picking up in your relationship and from your work with others. The sweetness and kindness that you two have and the openness are lovely to be part of. Readers, I was learning about the teaching they do on both the East and West Coasts. You’re expanding to a little bit more of the middle of the country as well, Southern parts of the United States. Do you ever teach internationally or is it just in the US?
We have been blessed to be able to teach in Asia, South America, and Europe. We teach internationally.
How about virtually, do you offer virtual classes?
We’ve done classes online. When people go to our website, they have a chance to sign up for our newsletters. We send out a booster shot of inspiration once a month. There are all kinds of free things on our website. We’ve got three free eBooks about sexuality, the ten most important things we’ve learned since we got married, and there’s another one called Going For The Gold about the qualities that we need to strengthen in ourselves to be eligible for a great relationship. We’ve got over 600 blogs on Psychology Today. People can read blogs according to their topic of interest. We have over 100 YouTube videos on our YouTube channel. For the people who like to read, we have recommended reading lists.
That is generous, the vast amount of resources. I remember being blown away when I went to your website and like, “How have they done this all?” You’ve been doing this work for a long time and building it up. It’s such a wonderful thing that you offer to the world. Linda and Charlie, it’s been wonderful talking with you. Thank you so much for spending some time with me and the readers.
Thank you for inviting us. I enjoyed the interview.
It’s been a pleasure. Thanks a lot.
- Linda and Charlie Bloom
- Happily Ever After…And 39 Other Myths About Love
- An End to Arguing: 101 Valuable Lessons for All Relationships
- Three Free eBooks
- Psychology Today
- YouTube – Linda Charlie Bloom
- [email protected]
About Linda and Charlie Bloom
Linda Bloom, LCSW and Charlie Bloom, MSW have been married since 1972. Trained as psychotherapists and relationship counselors, they have worked with individuals, couples, groups, and organizations since 1975 and have lectured and taught at learning institutes throughout the USA and internationally, including the Esalen Institute, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Northern California Mindfulness Institute, The California Institute for Integral Studies, and the World Health Organization.
They have authored five books, including the best seller, 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last (over 100,000 sold), Secrets of Great Marriages, Happily Ever After… and 39 Other Myths about Love, That which Doesn’t Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places, and An End to Arguing: 101 Valuable Lessons for All Relationships. They are founders and co-directors of Bloomwork, based in Santa Cruz, California.
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