Ep. 160: Fixing Your Relationship–With or Without Your Partner Participating with Stacey Martino
Forget about dragging your spouse to therapy. Stacey Martino saved her marriage 20 years ago, and now she tells the real, raw truth about how you can make change, without coercing your partner.
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EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS WITH STACEY MARTINO:
- [03:37] “I don’t know how to do this.” Stacey Martino, nicknamed “Ice Princess,” had a wake-up call about her relationship when her husband almost left her. So, she dove in to find tools to make it work – and her advice will surprise you.
- [07:18] One person can change the relationship. We’re trained to make relationships “fair” and 50/50. But is that hurting our relationship’s potential? Check if you might be in what Stacey calls “a demand relationship,” and what your (and your partner’s) triggers might be.
- [14:40] A blueprint guide to love. There’s a difference between masculine and feminine energies, and types of people within – and your relationship can get caught in the crosshairs.
- [15:53] Does couple’s counseling work? Stacey Martino has seen a lot of couples trying to work on their marriage and relationship; see what she thinks about couple’s therapy and its effects.
- [18:30] Relationships are like a plant (or a bank account). Stacey and Robyn finish the metaphors, and give some tips on how to work within them.
- [23:32] The number one reason people have relationship problems: You’d be surprised; what you think the reason might be is actually the symptom.
- [26:24] Is it possible to have white-hot passion 20 years into a marriage? (and beyond). Stacey says, “Oh hell yes. Oh my gosh, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.” It’s a skill set, and you can learn it.
- [34:20] Does every marriage have to last forever? In the wrong mindset and without a toolbox or skill set, marriage has a tough time thriving. Working beyond a marriage into happiness is, however, a possibility – if you learn the tools.
- [36:35] It’s not fair if I have to do all the work. Stacey Martino gives a beautiful, brilliant answer to that statement… including, life isn’t fair, and your desire to seek fairness is actually hurting you more than the results you could be getting.
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Robyn: Hi there, and welcome back to the Vibe show. I am your host, Robyn Openshaw and welcome.
Today we are talking about relationships. This is really something that I should dig into more on this show, and I’ll be doing more solo episodes on it, but I was talking to my good friend Chris Wark and I said, “Who have you interviewed that you think is fantastic lately?”
He surprised me by saying something that’s way outside his wheelhouse. He really is mostly focused on cancer; but he said, “You really should interview Stacey Martino.”
She and her husband are out there talking about their eight-step relationship transformation system.
If you’re in a relationship or if you’re like me, you’ve been through divorce — divorce is now what, 50 to 70% of couples out there? Our divorce rate is just climbing — I’m really interested in what the Martinos are doing out there.
I’m excited to interview Stacey Martino.
So, welcome to the Vibe show, Stacey Martino.
Stacey Martino: Awesome. Thank you so much Robyn. I’m psyched to be here.
Robyn: My audience should know that before we got started, you said to me, “You’re a psychotherapist. Is it okay that I’m going to talk about what a fail that whole model is?” I was like, yeah, and my audience is going to be like, “Snooze. We’ve heard Robyn say this before.” [Laughter] It’s no skin off my nose because honestly, I have seen the statistics, and it doesn’t work. You and Paul are down in the trenches helping couples in ways that are actually effective.
We need people like you who make us get very honest and very accountable about our relationships. In the context of this modern world where we are told that relationships are magical, and they work or they don’t work based on our chemistry or whatever other lies were told. Tell me your backstory. How’d you get here because you didn’t go get a PhD in psychology to do this. What’s your personal story?
Stacey Martino: I never wanted to do anything like this. I didn’t set to do this. Neither did Paul. It’s one of those things where you don’t find your calling, your calling finds you. You know what I mean, Robyn? That was 100% our story. Literally.
This all started because I was trying to save my relationship because Paul was walking out the door. I didn’t have any skills. I ruined this relationship just like every other one — just like most of us do, right? Nobody role models this for us. Nobody really teaches this.
I ended up in a terrible situation where Paul was walking out the door. He felt like he had tried everything. Nothing he did was going to make me happy.
In a moment of desperation, [it was] like my breakdown became my breakthrough. When he was telling me that he was leaving — I don’t know how to explain this — that version of me’s typical response would have been like, “Yeah, whatever. Who cares?”
I was known as the Ice Princess. That was my nickname back then — not who I am today. I really didn’t have any relationship skills, but something happened to me when Paul sat there and told me that he was walking out the door. I started to unravel, and I started to feel this tremendous pain in my heart, and honestly felt my love for Paul for the very first time. I didn’t even really know that I loved him.
In that moment I cracked open and realized, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know anything about relationships. I don’t know how to do this. I’ve never known how to do this. I need to dive in. I can’t live life anymore getting blindsided by love. It’s time to figure this out. I hope that it saves my relationship with Paul, but even if it doesn’t, I’m going to become a version of myself that I love to be, and I’m going to know how to do relationships because I just can’t live like this anymore.”
I dove in, and it wasn’t just for my relationship. I was doing this for me, and at the time Paul was like, “I can give you one more chance.” His version of this — and this was like 20 years ago — his version of one more chance, Robyn, was like, “I get it, Stacey, you have some things you want to fix. You go right ahead. There’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t have anything to do, but I get it if you want to fix some things about yourself.”
I was totally on my own. Couples therapy wasn’t an option for me. He wasn’t going to work on this with me. Through my trial and error, through my self-discovery, and through my research into relationships, I accidentally tripped over this thing that worked, which was: one person can transform a relationship, and you don’t need the other person to get on board and do this with you for it to work.
I singlehandedly save our marriage, and together we have since figured out how I did it; what are the steps, what are the tools? We’ve helped to save thousands of marriages around the world. Since then our Relationship Program has a 1% divorce rate and a 99% success rate. That’s how we got here.
Robyn: Interesting. I actually saw you on stage in Nashville this year in February. I just made that connection. Where Chris Wark (who introduced you) and I also spoke. Chris is a dear friend of mine. I call him my brother.
My audience immediately has some mental resistance, and I hope you’re going to break it down to this idea that one person can change. One person can change a relationship. One person can create a loving relationship even if the other one isn’t participating.
The only thing I have to compare it to is early on for me in my marriage. It was early in my career as a professional psychotherapist when I went to counseling one more time before I left my marriage of 20 years. I sought out a therapist who is trained in the peace givers, Terry Warner Arbinger Institute.
I don’t know if any of that’s familiar to you, but that’s the closest thing I’ve got to understanding this idea that one person can change the relationship. What it basically was is requiring you to stop blaming, and take a look at yourself and say, “It’s not him, it’s me and I will change me, and I will be accountable for me, and I will be peaceful regardless of someone else’s behavior.”
Is that anything along the lines of how you feel that one person can change the relationship and be happy in it regardless of whether the other person changes or not?
Stacey Martino: It’s true that it’s always one person that’s shifting things and yes, there’s personal responsibility. There’s no blame. The whole, “I’m just going to be peaceful no matter what goes on around me,” I personally think is probably crap. I don’t know anybody that can really just maintain a peaceful decision just because they want to.
I think it requires real tools that are actionable, that work in real family situations. I think people get triggered, and just saying, “I’m going to be peaceful no matter what,” without having a toolbox to reach for. I don’t actually see that working.
The premise behind it, it only takes one person (from our experience), and now helping a lot of people through this, is the other person will change. It’s not that the other person will never change, but people do change. People say all the time, “Oh people never change.” People change all the time. You watch one person leave a miserable relationship and they’re all of a sudden super charming and awesome with their new dating partner. People change. People have the ability to change when they want to.
Where we have gotten to is we are so insistent on telling someone in our life how they need to change; finding creative ways to ask them to change; finding maybe the next trick or the next way to try to get them to see it our way.
All of that — which is what Paul and I call demand relationship — all those tactics don’t work because nobody wants to change because you tell them to change. That’s just based on control in that relationship and, ultimately, no one likes to be controlled. The truth of the matter is that there’s one way that everybody changes, and that is through the power of triggers.
You know, we’re triggered all the time by people around us, our spouse, our kids, the people at work. Sometimes it’s a tone, like, “Oh my gosh, don’t use that tone with me,” or something that you’ve asked somebody to do a hundred times and they don’t do it, and you get triggered. Or your kids suddenly can’t find their shoes when they’re looking for the bus as if it’s a surprise that we need shoes to get to the bus every morning. It’s some big shocker. [Laughter]
We get triggered in our day, and triggers create a reaction in us.
Part of the bigger toolbox that Paul and I teach is teaching you the invisible things that are triggering you so that you can solve those, but also the invisible ways that you’re triggering other people [when] you have no idea you’re doing it. And, empowering you on how to actually stop triggering the worst in other people, and start triggering the best in them.
We don’t know we’re doing it, or we wouldn’t purposely do it.
So many times, people say to me, “But you don’t understand. You don’t know how my partner talks to me. You don’t know how my partner does this or that.”
I often say, “I totally get it. I know from your perspective you think your partner is treating you or acting a certain way towards you, but I just want to tell you that from my perspective, if I were to rewind the tape 30 seconds, I would watch you poke the bear. Your partner is not acting towards you, they’re reacting towards you. It’s just been invisible and off your radar that some of the things that you’re doing from your blueprint are triggering them in their blueprint.”
And we teach you how to solve that.
That’s pretty much how it only takes one person to transform a relationship, any relationship, because it’s about shifting how you’re showing up with real actionable tools. Not like, “Oh, I’m going to let that go,” or “I’m not going to let that bother me,” or “I’m going to be peaceful no matter what.” Not with platitudes, but with real tools and strategies to transform your marriage, your parenting, all the relationships in your life that involve humans.
It’s because people will change in response to you, not because you demanded it or tried to manipulate it or control it or leverage it or any of the other things that we have mostly been shown how to do. Does that make sense?
Robyn: Yeah. I think it’s funny you’re talking about triggers. I posted on my personal page on Facebook not long ago, “Hey people, when you are triggered by something, the awareness of that is not useful so that you can use it as a club against everyone. It’s so that you can be aware, ‘This triggers me. I lash out at the person who’s triggering me. There’s some work I need to do here on myself.'” It’s led to a funny conversation on Facebook about it.
I’ve been thinking recently about a couple of times that my own partner has said something and I find myself sort of irrationally angry, and because I’ve had enough life experience that I better be able to get clear on, “Why am I being irrationally reactive here? Let me stop for a minute and think about what my issue is that his innocuous statement has created this in me.”
The thing is, I’m super verbal, and stuff comes out of my mouth, and it’s fairly well filtered as I think it, but you know what, most men are not that way.
The men I’ve been in long relationships with, from this one of a couple of years to the one I was in for 20 years, I have noticed that there’s a different process for them. I don’t want to categorize all men, and we certainly have men who listen to our show. I have noticed that it just doesn’t come just right out of their mouth.
There’s some kind of other thing that goes on for a while, and it makes me think, “He doesn’t have that immediate awareness and start processing it verbally. He’s still triggered by things I do. He has had his own history; he was married; he was divorced; he suffered pain.”
I wonder how many times I have accidentally tripped his wire and he isn’t aware of it, so that we can talk about it and move forward in a healthier way.
Stacey Martino: Yeah, 100%. The masculine and the feminine — oh my gosh, we’re barely the same species. I mean even over and above life experience triggers, the masculine and the feminine process completely differently. [The masculine and feminine] think completely differently and apply different meanings to the exact same experience.
We unknowingly trigger our partner all the time just by operating the way that we are and not understanding how [our partner is] actually wired.
Once you do actually start to get the map — which is what we teach — it’s a lot of different aspects of your partner’s blueprint. This is how to understand how they’re wired, the meanings that they attach to things that are the opposite of yours, and how to wrap your interactions with them in a wrapper that drops their resistance to you and increases their rapport with you so that it’s effective.
It’s really almost like living with someone who speaks French and you speak English, and you’re just yelling English louder because you’re thinking they’re going to get it. Or you’re talking English slower and they’re like, “I don’t know. I speak French and I don’t really get this.”
That’s kind of the difference between masculine and feminine. It destroys so many wonderfully great relationships that could be amazing. A lot of kerfuffles could go away if we ever got this playbook, this guide of the blueprint that nobody really ever gives us.
That’s why Paul and I are so passionate about empowering everybody with these skills because the masculine and the feminine are different.
What you’re describing is an extremely common dynamic, which is that men don’t speak until they’re sure and they’re certain and they’re done.
There’s a certain type of male (there’s four different energy types for male and four different energy types for feminine), type four males –which is something that we teach in one of our courses — they’ll run the process 76 times and cut once and they won’t usually respond until they’re sure.
Which is why, for instance, the feminine will text over and over and over, and she won’t hear back from the masculine and think, “What’s going on? Are you mad at me?” He’s like, “No, I just don’t have an answer yet. When I have an answer, I’ll answer.” That is the masculine approach.
Whereas the feminine will apply her own meanings, and the masculine world by his. When we don’t understand [each other], it’s kerfuffle city, and it’s really unnecessary.
Robyn: I know that you feel it doesn’t work to go to your partner and say, “Can you work on this relationship with me?” What’s that about? Why is that counterproductive?
Stacey Martino: First of all it doesn’t work because what happens is, as soon as two people start working on their relationship together, whether it’s couples therapy or counseling or wanting to work on it together, or even applying our toolbox, but doing it as couples work — which we very strongly discourage — it very quickly becomes a blame inside show.
It very quickly goes into who’s right and who’s wrong and who needs to convince the other. People use the term, “We really need to get on the same page with this,” but what they really mean is you really need to get your butt onto my page with this.
Let me tell you why. None of that works because that’s all demands. It’s all control. It’s all based on the win/lose paradigm and it’s not based on the win-win. There’s always going to be a time when you work on your relationship, but not learning the tools and strategies together and all that.
[Working together] really is so destructive because people take things personally and it very quickly slides into the blame and side show, which is the downfall of relationship. Anytime you’re doing measuring score, keeping blame, judgment, taking sides, telling somebody how they need to change, all of those things actually break down the relationship.
What we teach are tools that you can use to absolutely create alignment, have conversations with your partner without fighting, all of these things to move your relationship forward. The tools that we use and that we teach actually are designed to grow your relationship, to elevate the relationship.
There’s really only two dynamics in relationships. One breaks down the relationship and the other builds it up, and you just need to know what side of the spectrum you’re on because there are certain tactics that are proven to put you in the downward spiral.
Then there’s a toolbox like ours that’s proven to elevate it, and it only really takes one person implementing the tools that we teach. You don’t need the other person to learn it in order to do it. You don’t need them to listen to this podcast. You don’t need them to do our program. You don’t need them to come to our events with you.
It’s about you implementing the tools and strategies. You leading the path.
You can always ask for what you want in a relationship. It’s not that you can’t ask, it’s that you can’t demand. The truth is most people are asking their partner for something at the wrong time in the relationship.
I like to use the metaphor of the plant. If you have a plant and it’s dead, it doesn’t matter how clever you are. It doesn’t matter what tactic you use or how manipulative you are or what book you read, you’re not going to get fruit from a dead plant.
A lot of times in relationship, our plant is dead. We’re going to our partner with all these different tactics, all these different ways of trying to get them to get on our page or get them to change. We’re trying to get fruit from a dead plant.
The truth is, one of us has to start nurturing the plant, watering the plant, giving to the plant, and growing the plant. As soon as that plant stops dying and shows signs of life, that’s not when you’re like, “I did all this. Now come on. Gimme gimme gimme. ”
The plant’s not vibrant enough to bear fruit yet, but when you do keep giving to that plant, when you do keep nurturing that plant, eventually when the plant becomes strong enough, two things will happen. One, you can happily go ask that plant for fruit and it will give you what it is that you want because it’s happy to do so and two, it’ll just start dropping fruit on you even when you didn’t ask.
Marriage relationships are very much like that plant. You may be trying to go to a dead plant for what you want. It’s not that you can’t ask for what you want. A: it’s that you don’t have the skill set to ask without demanding. B: it’s probably the wrong timeline on your trajectory because your tree might be dead.
Robyn: That’s such good stuff. It reminds me of Stephen Covey’s principle that you’ve got to have money in the bank. Our relationship is like a bank account, and if you’re going to withdraw, you better have put some deposits in there.
John Gottman, who’s one of the current living and most science-based psychologists out there, did some really great research. He and his wife are PhD clinicians, and they discovered that — right along these lines of your dead plant metaphor, which is really good, and Stephen Covey’s bank account metaphor, which is really good — that healthy and stable relationships have five positives for every one negative.
There’s always going to be negatives. There’s always going to be withdrawals. There’s always going to be asks.
I thought of something yesterday that I wanted to say, and I was like, “Not today, not today. There’s too much. We’re both in a really intense phase workwise. We’re working long hours. I don’t know that we’re both getting our needs met to the extent that we could be. Today is not the day that I’m going to make this ask or I’m going to bring up this thing that could be seen as negative.”
It reminds me of when my youngest son was a junior and senior in high school. I was almost an empty nester. He was the only one left at home.
I would find that by the time he got home from school, I was so bugged about the stuff that he was supposed to do [but didn’t]. I don’t know what it is about that kid, but he wouldn’t do the dishes. I was like, “Listen, I pay for the car. All I ask is that you do the dishes,” and then the dishes wouldn’t get done.
I started doing an experiment because if he walked in the door and I was like, “Son, you didn’t do the dishes again,” there was not going to be a good interaction there. I required myself when he walked in the door to go in and say, “How was your day, and how did that test go?” Chit-chat with him, give him a hug.
I literally would not allow myself to make a withdrawal until I had given the hug, said or done the five neutral to positive things, leaning towards positive. It was like magic.
After having a five to ten-minute conversation with him, then I could bring up [his chores]. I found that because there’s love flowing, I actually said it differently than I would if I just pounced on him when he walked in the door. I would say, “Hey, what about these dishes?” I got such a different response. I got, “Oh yeah. Okay. I’m on it right now, Mom.”
[My experience is] just an example of what you’re saying. It makes all kinds of sense.
You’ve talked about the number one barrier to relationship success. I’ve been watching couples very closely for 11 years now because I got divorced 11 years ago, after over 20 years of marriage. I have noticed that stable couples are really tolerant of each other’s quirks. We’re all quirky and we get quirkier as we get older and our quirks get more [ingrained].
I’ve noticed that the couples that are really comfortable together have a sense of humor about each other’s quirks, and they just let each other be. They let each other be who they are.
The couples that are troubled in midlife and beyond are the ones who pick at each other’s quirks. I don’t even want to call them faults because what’s perfect? If there’s faults, there’s perfect.
That’s [some]thing that I’ve really been observing [in the] last 11 years. It’s not very scientific. What do you think is the number one reason why people have relationship problems?
Stacey Martino: What you’ve noticed– and that’s very observant of you — is actually a symptom, not a cause. It’s a symptom of the foundation of a relationship. When a relationship does not have a good solid foundation and the couple is now “me against you,” they’re locked in the win/lose.
That’s when you see all the nitpicking and all of the throwing under the bus and all of the different things that people use to try to win the win/lose.
The couples that have actually done the work and created a rock-solid foundation and live from the win-win have learned how to appreciate all the other things that their partner brings to the table for their team that they don’t have.
What you’re seeing is more the symptom, the ramification, of it and not really a cause or something that people can turn on or off. Honestly, the thing that most commonly breaks down any relationship is relationships that are based in demand — relationship versus relationship development.
That is the fundamental bottom line of what puts you in the downward spiral versus the upward spiral. When we use demand relationship (which is pretty much telling someone or something else how it needs to change in order for you to be happy, comfortable, or pleased), that puts people in the downward spiral. It breaks down the relationship.
When we use relationship development tools (which is learning how to use tools to be happy, regardless of what goes on around you) and relate in ways that elevate the relationship instead of trying to control or press others, that puts you in the upward spiral where the relationship is elevated, and then you see those kinds of effects there.
It really comes down to one thing, which is that relationship is a skill set, and it can be learned. It’s just that nobody ever taught us that. That’s pretty much the foundation of what we’ve experienced and what we see in our years of doing this and our results.
Robyn: Here’s another one. This is a very American question here, but people expect their marriage to be super-hot and passionate for decades, and then that doesn’t happen. Then there are other people who feel like you need to just manage expectations and say, “Hey people, that’s just endorphins. Love looks different than that.”
I know you get asked this a lot. I know that’s a common dynamic from my own practice with families and couples. What do you do working with couples? What have you done in your marriage? You’ve lived 20 years with your husband past the point where you say he was going to walk away.
I would imagine you probably weren’t that happy either. It probably isn’t like he was leaving you. There were probably issues with both of you going on there. With that dynamic, is it possible to have that white hot passion 20 years in?
Stacey Martino: Oh, hell yes. Oh my gosh, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
Stacey Martino: It absolutely is. It’s also a skill set, and it can be learned. You can have unleashed passion hotter than you think is possible.
Paul just turned 52, and I am 48. We have young kids, a very busy mission-based business. We run a charity. We have busy lives just like everybody else, and we probably have more sex than anybody else on the planet. [It’s] hot, crazy sex — having levels of ecstasy that most humans don’t think are possible.
I know that because I say that almost every week. I didn’t even know it was possible to reach that level of ecstasy. It absolutely is creatable.
It’s just that we’re not really taught it. What happens is — Paul and I designed our eight step relationship transformation system (which is our proven method for how to transform any relationship regardless of what’s going on) and step eight is sensuality — is sex.
So many times [people say], “Can I start with step eight?” The reason why it’s step eight is because most sex problems are not sex problems at all. There’s a problem in the relationship dynamic and sex is a symptom — or lack of sex is the symptom.
For women, it’s about being able to access a level of vulnerability, which is required for the feminine. In order to have unleashed passion of surrender, she must be able to get to extreme levels of vulnerability.
If a woman is protecting [herself], at any level, in her relationship because she feels unsupported — or she feels slighted or she feels like he was rude, or he was abrasive, or he didn’t really think about how that would affect her in her day — she cannot open to the levels of vulnerability to reach levels of heightened sexual experiences together. She’s also not magnetized to him that way.
For the masculine, it’s completely different. Vulnerability’s not really a thing for them. For the masculine it’s a miracle we actually ever get together because the masculine uses sex to feel this connection to her, while she needs to feel her connection to him in order to open, to have sex.
When you actually learn how each other are wired and you start creating that rock-solid foundation, believe it or not, that has people feeling very, very attracted to each other and much more wanting to be together.
It’s a system.
It’s an eight-step system that we take people through, and sex is the result. Sex is the outcome. A big part of that is challenges in the relationship getting actually solved. Not ignored, but actually solved.
Being able to align with your authentic core energy, your true feminine energy or your authentic, mature masculine energy. We have an epidemic of flip flopped energy right now.
That’s where Paul and I were 20 years ago. I was operating very much from my masculine out of protection and because I was raised that way to be that kind of person — closed, driven, protective, rely only on yourself; don’t rely on other people.
Paul was detached from his masculine, trying to be a nice guy. We were in the flip flop, which is not hot. There’s no hot in the flip flop. [Laughter] It’s about when you can authentically step into your feminine or your mature masculine.
When the relationship foundation is solid and you do that, the sparks start to fly, and we start to bring back playfulness and fun and flirting and things like that. Then we can move into sex.
It can be hot, and it can be amazing, and you can have more sex than you think is possible. You should [have sex] because it’s so good [Laughter], and it impacts more of your day than you think.
It’s not just about the sex; it’s who you become from having that kind of amazing physical energy with your partner. Passion is the life force of a relationship. Without it, the relationship is withering. It’s super, super important.
Robyn: Yeah, those endorphins. There are several of them that are produced in that kind of connection and chemistry, not just sex, but everything around it. It can coast you through the day.
Then guess what? He walks back in the door, and you just keep that game going, and you can build and build.
I love everything you said. You said a lot there, and I know that one of your messages out there is like, “Yeah, you can go to the shrink, but here’s what we’re going to do here.”
I’ll tell you, there isn’t a sex therapist out there who is going to disagree with what you said. I’m actually a sex therapist — it’s my specialty. You said sex problems aren’t sex problems.
I always started there with a couple to get them thinking differently about their sex problem because usually the sex problem is — if we’re going to slice it down here and get boring — “She doesn’t want it as much as I want it.” A minority of the time, but a growing minority of the time, it’s, “He doesn’t want as much as I do.”
Sometimes that’s a hormone problem. Sometimes that’s a diet problem, but a lot of times it’s exactly the dynamics that you’re talking about, and it sounds like you have a method that will resonate with some.
I’m sure that some of my audience will seek you out to plug into the ways that you have of shifting that energy because it becomes this vortex and this downward spiral of those patterns that you play out.
I relate to everything that you say about tapping into your masculine energy. I have a lot of masculine energy, and [tapped into it] a lot in my 20 year marriage. “The ice queen” would probably describe me too.
I love how honest you are, Stacey. Congratulations on that.
Stacey Martino: There’s no other way to be this point. We have to live life, and people deserve the freedom of truth and honesty.
Robyn: Yeah. When we are openly talking about our experience is the only time that we’re going to get through to someone else.
I loved when you talked about your experience on stage, and you shared some of that here at the beginning too. We know you’ve been to the war. We know that you’ve worked through hard things in your marriage, and have had 20 really good years. I’m sure they weren’t perfect years.
I have to go to this almost flip side question because a lot of people who listened to my show –I don’t know if they’re still listening if they’re not married — I want to make sure that [they know] that there’s value in this stuff that we learned about human relationships, whether we’re married or not.
I have a little bit of a phobia about marriage, not going to lie. What it took me to get out of mine cost me so much, not just in terms of money, but in terms of energy that it’s hard for me to imagine going there.
I’ve been in my relationship for a long time now. I’m not wanting to go there because I’m like, “It’s so good that I don’t want to mess it up with marriage.” Some people are going, “What are you talking about? I have a great marriage.” I always love hearing those stories. I love, love, love, love, love hearing about happy marriages.
I didn’t read Amy Poehler’s book, but I read a quote in a book review of her autobiography where she talks about her divorce from Will Arnett, the actor, after 10 years of marriage. She said, “The end of a 10 year marriage is not a failure.”
I, for some reason, had never had that awareness that, “My marriage did end. That doesn’t make me a failure.” That was an awareness for me that I was grateful for because I was raised in a culture where if you don’t stay married, you really are a failure. There’s something wrong with you.
I wonder what your take is on that. Do you think that every marriage has to last forever? How do you know when it’s time to leave?
Stacey Martino: There’s no way that every marriage is meant to last. It’s absolutely not even possible. Part of a demand relationship is the shaming that we do, the guilt, and all of that crap that really got us to where we are, which is unhappy. We don’t do any guilt or shame or any crap like that in relationship development.
The truth is every marriage is not meant to last. In fact, we all know this is true because, if you’re honest with yourself, there are people that you know who told you they were getting married, and inside yourself, or even to your spouse, you’re like, “Oh man, that’s a mistake,” [Laughter] because they’re getting married for the wrong reason. How could it possibly be true that every marriage is meant to last? It’s obviously not.
Paul and I are proud of our 99% success and 1% divorce rate. We’re just as proud of the work that we do –changing the face of divorce today by helping people create a family design and changing what divorce is to family design. You still have a family, you still have children, and they deserve a peaceful and harmonious relationship.
If we get the skill set and the tools to navigate [marriage], you can harmoniously transition from being spouses to being a family while you attract and keep your forever love relationship. It really is just a skill set, and it can be learned, and everybody deserves [a happy relationship].
[We have] to stop the shaming and all the crap that goes on. Our children certainly don’t deserve that. We didn’t deserve it, but I wasn’t here for our generation. Paul and I are here now, and it’s our mission to make sure that everybody who wants it gets this tool box and these strategies because it’s time. The suffering has got to stop.
Robyn: Before I go to how people can learn more if they want to follow you and Paul and your work, I know people are thinking back to your original statement “You can do this yourself. He doesn’t even have to show up or she doesn’t even have to show up.” They’re thinking, “How’s that fair if both of us aren’t going to do the work?” Address that.
Stacey Martino: Absolutely.
The short answer would be to say that life isn’t fair and that your desire to seek fairness is actually hurting you more than the results you could be getting. The truth is all of that is just based in fear, and that’s totally normal. I felt that way too, in the beginning, and most people do.
It’s been conditioned into us to look for fairness, and it’s also been conditioned into us to watch what our love partner does to try to figure out where we are in this 50/50 math that we decided was the right way to go, so that we’re not like being a doormat or we’re not like, “Hey, you know I’m a loser if I’m the only one working on this and they don’t give a crap.”
All of that is based in fear. It’s based in fear of us looking bad, of us losing worthiness of all the other stuff that goes through our minds, which is not serving us.
All of that leads to the decay of our relationship. The truth is, it’s your life, and it’s your relationship, and it’s your family. You either have to live through it or live through leaving it, and someone is here handing you a step by step system and a toolbox.
You could be the hero for your family and break the chains of demand relationship and live in the amazing results of seeing results from the first day you implement it. Seeing results that are your quality of life, improving your kids’ quality of life.
You’re not doing this for your partner. You’re doing this for yourself, for your family, for the experience that you have of life. You will see all the results that you want and more. It’s your willingness to go forward. If your only obstacle in moving forward is your fear-based thinking, please don’t let that keep you bound in suffering. You deserve better than that.
Robyn: That was very passionate and very well said. I can tell that the work that you do is a mission and is very meaningful to you. It’s no small thing to save families.
I think most marriages can be saved. I’m not at all sorry that I left mine, but, boy, the wake of catastrophe afterwards. They say it takes two have a good marriage and it takes one to have a bad divorce. That had a new meaning for me. In fact, I didn’t ever hear that until after my divorce. I wish somebody would [have] told me that.
I really appreciate the work that you and Paul are doing in the world and your energetic and positive way of talking about these really difficult issues. Where can my followers learn more about your work?
Stacey Martino: Awesome. You can always find us at relationshipdevelopment.org and our 14 day boost for your relationship program is at 14dayboost.com.
Robyn: Thank you so much for being with us, Stacey Martino.
Stacey Martino: Thank you so much for having me.
Related Vibe Episode: Ep.65: Be a Better Lover with Susan Bratton