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In this episode Joel and Antonia talk with relationship expert Bruce Muzik about couples fighting and why poor communication isn’t the problem.

In this podcast you’ll find:

Bruce Muzik Love at First Fight

Relationships go thru stages.

  1. Romance stage: Happens at first meeting when love is new. Only see good in each other and only show each other the good in us. Lasts from 2 weeks to 2 years. Ends when one or both perceive permanence – moving in together, get engaged, get married, get pregnant. Romance endorphins stop being made and we go into withdrawals, which leads to:
  2. Power struggle stage: Rose colored glasses fall off. Start seeing a dark side in our partners. “You need to change, not me.” Fighting. We love the other person so much we can’t bear the thought of being without them, but we can’t bear the thought of being with them in the same way we were during the romance phase. Most people don’t make it thru the power struggle phase.
  3. Mature Love Stage: Once you hit mature love you stop trying to change each other and accept each other – warts and all. Mutually dependent. Relationship inspires you to be more flexible, capable, and resourceful. You are better as a team than as an individual. You will never go back to the romance stage. The romance stage is shallow compared to the mature stage.

Faulty programming that relationships shouldn’t be hard. “True love doesn’t bring struggle.”

Get rid of all the beliefs that are just plain wrong.

If you don’t have the tools to resolve the conflict most people end up fighting it out.

If you are insecure you will keep fighting the same fights over and over again until you get tired of the battle.

Most couples, even the ones on the verge of divorce, still love each other deep down inside.

We go from being children (romance stage) to teenagers (power struggle stage) to adulthood (mature love stage). Dependence > Independence > Interdependence.

Nature pulls us toward our reciprocal opposite in order to heal the wounds from childhood. Nature drives us to heal and grow. Because all of us grew up wounded in some way, we grew up with certain strengths and weaknesses. We are drawn to people who balance out our weaknesses.

The couples who are most attracted to each other are usually opposite dichotomies: I/E, T/F, P/J, S/N

The more opposite you are the more spark there will be in the relationship and the more conflict there will be.

The more similar you are the less chemistry there is going to be and the easier it will be to get along. These partnerships will have to work harder at creating chemistry.

There isn’t any MBTI type that is better suited for any other.

In the romance stage you merge your identity with your partner in a way that is immature. Like a child merges with its mother. Power struggle is relationship individuating. You’re no longer enmeshed in each other. The relationship needs to mature so each can have separate lives and still be a couple. The union creates a third entity that is totally separate form each individual’s needs.

Mature love is able to maintain autonomy and stay connected as a couple. Like two people nurturing a child – the couple is their child. Otherwise, the couple is everything to the two people, and they have no independence. If one chooses to break free it threatens the other and all hell breaks loose. Or one never breaks free and a codependent situation is developed. Two people against the world.

The power struggle stage serves the purpose of having you individuate from romance and become mature. If you don’t make it to the mature love stage then you have neglected the relationship due to excessive independence.

Independence is not the pinnacle of human achievement. Its 2 of only 3 stages. Interdependence is the pinnacle of human achievement. (Dependence>Independence>Interdepedence)

Modern dating is composed of a bunch of people who are terrified of depending upon other people. We have put independence on this pedestal where it doesn’t belong.

Independence is teenaged development. Not the end of the line.

You need your partner for sex, intimacy, comfort, companionship, co-parent.

We are needy and that is okay! Unhealthy neediness is what is usually found in the romance stage. Healthy neediness is found in the mature stage. Depend upon each other and still be two autonomous human beings.

4 free videos on Love At First Fight to help in overcoming the power struggle.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that the power struggle represents a breakdown in communication. The actual challenge is connection. We are trying to learn to communicate better in order to have a better connection. Putting the cart before the horse. If you learn how to stay connected your communication will be soft, loving, kind, compassionate, and empathetic. You aren’t triggered. You don’t see your partner as the enemy.  

IMAGO podcast

Connect first. Communicate later.  

Connection exercise:

  • Gaze into each other’s eyes for 5 minutes a day, every day for 60 days. When you wake up in the morning, set the countdown timer on your phone, and stare into your partner’s eyes. Choose one eye and gaze into it. You can change eyes on alternate days. But choose one eye each day. Not a competition. Not a stare down. Common response is laughter. Resume eye contact after every break or fidget. Breath. Some break into tears. Animals when fighting don’t make eye contact. When you don’t make eye contact with your partner you stop seeing them as human. This exercise rehumanizes your partner.

Repressing bad feelings results in repressing all feelings, even the good ones.

Demonstrate to a resistant partner that they are safe with you. After about a month most partners will be brought on board. The core fear of partner who don’t want to do the work is rejection. They are afraid they are somehow flawed in the context of love and if they allow their partner to get too close their partner will discover who they are and reject them. The cure for rejection is unconditional acceptance.

Assure your partner that no matter what you will never reject or abandon them. Don’t expect them to open up at once after a lifetime of hiding in their shell.

If your relationship has hit the power struggle stage, if you are fighting, if your sex life has lost its zest, or if there are certain topics you just can’t address you are in a power struggle.

John Gottman: #1 predictor of divorce is couples who don’t fight.

Love At First Fight

 

 

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Showing 14 comments
  • Deborah Hale
    Reply

    What a great podcast! Worth every minute. Can’t say I will definitely be willing to try coupling again any time soon but am thinking about it differently after long burn out! Lol.
    Thanks for the interview and resources.

    • Charis Branson
      Reply

      Thanks for the comment, Deborah! I’m glad you found it useful. 🙂

  • Taylor
    Reply

    Thanks for this podcast guys. One thing I really resonated with was Bruce’s comment on acknowledging we need our partner, not in a codependency way, but that today esp we see independence as an ideal and forget the importance of interdependency.

    I’m guessing I resonated with that because as an INFJ, thats what Fe/Ti feels like (and I hear it from a lot of Fe/Ti users)–this struggle between relying on your community, and being completley independent.

    One thing I did not resonant with, and I’ve heard it in several podcasts, is the “wounds from childhood” influencing our choice in partner. I hear this come up a lot from NP types, and wonder if this is more an NP experience. I’m making the assumption here that Si is tightly connected to childhood and past, and since for NPs its in their tertiary and inferior position, its the lost “half” of themselves they are trying to reconcile.

    Most FJs I know are habitual TP daters. We love Ti, we love extraverted sensing, since introverted judging and extraverted sensing are a part of our “lost half”.

    I know as an INFJ Si is unconscious for me, so I would be less aware of it playing a role in my decisions than someone who does use Si. With that said, looking at my string of boyfriends these past 10 years, the boyfriends of my 2 ENFJ friends, my ISFJ mother, ESFJ sister, the pattern is clear–we find ourselves drawn to XXTP guys.

    I think its more a “finding our lost half”, someone who embodies our tertiary and inferior, than it is wounds from childhood. If you are an NP type then, yes, that may play more of a part for you (I’m thinking of Citizen Kane right now…probably ENTP) Again, I might just not be conscious of it since Si is my 8th and weakest function, I’ve just never been able to relate to this idea.

    • Charis Branson
      Reply

      Interesting theory, Taylor. Thank you for sharing. I will have to keep a watch out for some of the things you mentioned.

    • Bruce Muzik
      Reply

      Hi Taylor. Good question.

      One of the benefits of having worked with hundreds of couples is that I get the opportunity to notice patterns emerging. I type all my clients using MBTI. Irrespective of type, it appears that us humans are unconsciously attracted to partners who will help us recreate the feeling we felt with our primary caregivers.

      Said another way, we unconsciously learned what love feels like from the way our parents modeled love for us. Until we become consciously aware of our “love imprint”, we will tend to unconsciously seek our that same familiar experience from our adult partners – even if this experience causes us pain.

      Whether or not this is nature’s way of healing our childhood wounds, an evolutionary advantage, or just a giant cosmic joke… I do not know. I see the pattern so often that I cannot write it off to coincidence.

      When we remain unconscious to our “love imprint”, this cycle can cause pain and suffering. As we become conscious of our tendencies, we are presented with a unique opportunity to heal, grow and expand.

      Bruce

      • Taylor
        Reply

        Hi Bruce,

        Thanks for the reply!

        I’m still not 100% convinced this is a universal experience among all types, but I also haven’t convinced myself its not. I can’t write it off because I know I’m biased: I’m a knobhead when it comes to being in touch with my past and Si matters.

        I guess I’d be interested in what “irrespective of type means” as in, from all types or most types?

        Its because I often wonder how many patterns are universal, and how many patterns are just an observance of the majority.

        For example, many studies show women are better at multitasking. Is it simply a direct gender tie, that being a woman=being good at multitasking, or an indirect gender tie, that there’s a far greater proportion of women with Te and Fe as their top two functions. Maybe an INTP or INFP woman can’t relate to being good at multitasking, since their top two functions are focused on digging deep and exploring rather than making quick decisive outward judgements (Fe and Te)

        Similarly, we might notice the pattern women tend to make more decisions based on feelings than men. Again, the INTP woman might not resonant with this because that pattern is based on the fact 75% of women are feelers.

        Roughly 65% of people use Si as one of their 4 functions, and 35% use Se. That means there’s a greater proportion of the population whose actions are consciously influenced by Si matters. Just because a function isn’t in your “top 4” doesn’t mean it doesn’t unconsciously influence you, but I have a hard time seeing it playing a significant role in ones decisions, since the top 4 functions are all trying to get their voices heard first.

        Again, this is assuming childhood wounds and love modeled from our parents is directly related to Si.

        With all that said, I have noticed amongst my friends that, those who come from tight knit happy loving families chose relatively healthy partners for themselves, more often than those who didn’t have a great family background. I don’t know if that’s because they were looking for the same model of love they knew, or if its because in general, we attract people, friends, partners into our lives on the same “wavelength” and level of development as us. My guess is, if you grew up with well developed parents you had a better environment for developing yourself than a dysfunctional family environment.

  • Elena
    Reply

    Hi Joel, Antonia and Bruce,

    Many thanks for this podcast. Please come back Bruce. I always thought the “you just need to communicate more” was saccharine and ineffective advice and now I understand why. Of course connection comes first. I didn’t realise until you explained this how unconsciously convinced I was by the “communcation is paramount” popular narrative and might have kept beating me head against that wall even though it didn’t feel right.

    In Cultural studies they talk about the “problem of difference”. The behaviour pattern throughout history And in all cultures for communities to dehumanise other groups. In 30 seconds Bruce provided an antidote. We just need to get everyone with opposing interests to look each other in the eyes for 5 minutes a day for 60 days and then voila. World peace! Of course this did make me think of that scene in clockwork orange where they keep that kids eyes prized open and force him to watch shit. Lol. An elegant solution for those willing to participate.

    Guys your podcasts have been so helpful for me as an INFJ to understand the mechanics of my own thoughts and interactions with others and help me focus on my strengths and healthily support my weaker areas. Please keep going as long as you feel passionate about it. I am one of the listeners in the great beyond (And on the other side of the world in Australia). And I did do the iTunes rating Antonia because I am grateful.

    • Charis Branson
      Reply

      Thanks for the comment, Elena! We appreciate the rating. 🙂

  • Rod
    Reply

    Great podcast!! You need to get Bruce on again. Just a thought, would he have any info for those dating? It seems there is this “phase” process and now with online dating in the mix, is there insight from Bruce about that phase? i.e. crafting profiles for you type, intros..along those lines..

    Once again, you two do a great job crafting these pods.

    • Charis Branson
      Reply

      Thanks for the comment, Rod. Bruce did say he wished people would come to him in the Romance Stage. I’m sure he could provide a ton of insight on dating.

    • Bruce Muzik
      Reply

      Hi Rod,

      Yes, I think that dating progresses through stages of commitment. It is a longer topic that this space allows.

      When I was single, I had a lot of success using online dating tools to identify potential parnters of my “ideal” type. I would type INFJ into OK Cupid’s keyword search tool and viola! – there they were. Of course, they had to have inserted their MBTI type into their profile. So, then, I would search for books that my ideal partner might have read. This also produced great results.

      In the end, I fell in love with someone that I had read was my most incompatible type (an ISFJ). I have concluded that your “ideal type” is the type you are with. If you’re unconscious to your patterning, then perhaps one combination of types can get along more easily than another, but I now have learned that as soon as you’re conscious of you and your partner’s needs and traits, you can adapt, grow and be just as happy together. I certainly am.

      I hope this helps.

      Bruce

  • Megan
    Reply

    I enjoyed this podcast a lot. And feel like there could have been another hour of really productive talk on this topic! My one question that is nagging me is… Once you are out of the power struggle is there no back stepping or relapse?
    The graduation from the power struggle phase seemed so concrete. A black and white line. But is it not a little more gray? Once you acknowledge these tools to move your relationship forward, are they life changes, that if you give up, you may slip back into the power struggle again?

    I’m on my way to loveatfirstfight now! Excited to hear more.

    Thank you for this insight!

    • Bruce Muzik
      Reply

      Hi Megan,

      You are correct. The graduation is definitely not concrete. I painted it that way to illustrate the differences clearly. Obviously, I’ve simplified things to fit into the time frame we had.

      You can fall back – for example: If, having left the Power Struggle behind, one of you had an affair…

      Mostly though, going through these stages is like learning to ride a bicycle… once you have balance, you can’t unlearn it – you have it for life. what I am attempting to say is that if you’ve truly worked through your Power Struggle issues, you’re far less likely to be tripped up by them in the future.

      Bruce

  • Kerry
    Reply

    Thanks so much for having Bruce on the podcast! Love the fact that there is a teacher out there who is both informed by type theory and also some truly effective relationship theory like John Gottman. Many of the points really resonated with me, but especially the one about fostering a feeling of safety. Feeling good about my relationship really is predicated on feeling a sense of commitment and reassurance from my partner.

    I actually went and signed up for the course with my partner, and we’re finding it immensely useful. Thanks for a consistently wonderful podcast!

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