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Episode 8 - Shame Won't Make You a Better Wife

Do you have an image of your mind of how you wish you were showing up in your marriage? Do you come down hard on yourself when you don't?

If so, you MUST listen to this week's podcast. You CAN be a better wife (or husband), but beating yourself up or criticizing yourself is not the way to do it.

More than that... you'll actually harm the authenticity of your relationship.

Your partner chose YOU, flaws and all. This podcast will teach you how to align your thinking with the result you want in your marriage.

Please keep sending in your feedback, questions, and stories--I love to hear from you! 

00:00 Episode eight, shame won't make you a better wife.

00:15 Welcome to the First Year Married podcast, where we get real about building the marriage of your dreams. I'm marriage coach, Kayla Levin, and I take newly married and engaged women from anxious and insecure to confident and connected through practical tips, real life inspiration, and more than a little self-awareness along the way.

00:38 Hey you guys, I am so excited to talk to you about this topic today, because I think this is one there's a lot of confusion and I'm really hoping that this episode will help to empower you and give you room to grow and kind of give yourself permission to get off your back a little bit.

00:53 When I was a newlywed, one of the things that I remember is a lot of feeling, I would say, shame or beating myself up, sort of coming at it from a very perfectionist place, right, like I want to be a good wife, and I had this image in my head of what a good wife is, and I certainly had an image of what a good wife was not, right? She never snapped at her husband, she never complained, she was always smiling. I don't know, whatever Adam had. This is the behavior that I kind of expected of myself.

01:23 What would happen is I'd have a hard day or something would happen or we'd have a misunderstanding or he would just do something that straight-up annoyed me, and I would behave, as humans do, in a negative way. Then I would come down so hard on myself. I really think it was almost like this drill sergeant in me, of like if I can just beat that behavior out of me, then I'll get in line and I'll behave the way I expect of myself. Now let me be very clear. This is not what my husband was communicating he expected of me, right? I'm not saying that, and it's definitely not what was going on.

01:59 What was going on is that I have a little bit of a perfectionist streak, which many of us do, and I had in minds like how I felt I should be behaving. That was helped by looking around and seeing lots of couples who'd been married a whole lot longer than us and how they never seemed to do any of the things that I was still doing. I definitely had a hard time transitioning to being married. It came out. Looking back at it, I don't think any of it was really as bad as I felt like it was at the time. It wasn't even the behavior, but it was my reaction to my own behavior that was so exhausting and caused so much anxiety and so much drama for me, trying to, again, like drill sergeant muscle my way into behaving in the way that I expected of myself.

02:41 I want to just offer you a couple thoughts if you're resonating with any of this, right? If you're ever beating yourself up for the way you're acting or if you're ever just coming down hard on yourself, I want to offer to you what if it's just normal that sometimes you get to be human, right? What if it's totally fine that in the context of your marriage, you guys can handle sometimes one of you not behaving perfectly. And sometimes he could just say something that's just mean, and you'd be okay with that, because you get it, because sometimes you're human too, and you get it for yourself so you can get it for him.

03:18 Do you see how sometimes when the people who are the biggest perfectionists on themselves can become sometimes the most judgmental? I see that for myself. The more that I'm pushing myself, the more negative I become towards the people around me, because I kind of feel like well, if I'm suffering, let's all suffer with this perfectionism, right? But when you cut yourself some slack, it's amazing how much you can just totally get where other people are coming from and be totally fine with them being human and making mistakes and saying stuff sometimes that they shouldn't say or just having like, I call them temper tantrums. Sometimes you'll just be like, "I just want to go have a temper tantrum. I'm just done right now," right?

03:53 So what if that's fine? What if that's totally okay? There was no part in my brain that considered that that might be okay, because I was so caught up in what I was trying to be and how I was trying to show up that it actually was totally inauthentic. Instead of me just being who I was, and I don't mean like no self-control, no morals, no, you know, I could just treat my husband however I want. Not at all. But what I mean is that what happens is we kind of think that we can shame ourselves or we can push ourselves into becoming a better wife or a better husband. I want to suggest to you that that's really wrong. It's just wrong. Doesn't work. It's ineffective.

04:32 So there's so many experts out there and coaches and Instagram accounts that are full. I don't know if you follow any of these marriage Instagram accounts, but sometimes I want to claw out my eyes. They're full of these lines that I just imagine some angry schoolteacher waving a ruler at you saying them, right? Like good husbands always do this. Good husbands never do this. If you're a good wife, you should never do this. You shouldn't always do this. If you want to have a happy marriage, you have to do this, right? And she needs this five times every day, and you have to say this to her, and all this stuff.

05:00 And okay, you know what? Honestly, honestly, and I'm not saying this ironically, I really do mean this, if this is working for you and if you're getting good ideas and this is motivating you, awesome. Awesome. But if this is filling your head with all the things that you have to be doing, like a good marriage has to have X, Y, Z, I want you to really question any of that before you accept it as truth, and the bigger the expert, the more you're going to have to be careful to really filter it through your own wisdom. And when I say filter it through your own wisdom, this is what I mean. I'm very interested in the results of our thoughts. I'm a lot less interested in which thoughts are true.

05:42 So here's an example. If you're feeling resentful of your husband because you're having a thought about him, what's going to end up happening is you're going to communicate less with him. Let's say you have the thought a healthy marriage has good communication, and you have in your mind what you consider good communication, and you don't consider your husband a good communicator. You feel resentful and anxious, okay? So what's going to end up happening is you're actually going to start to communicate less with him, because we don't like to talk to people who bring up feelings of resentment and anxiety. Yeah? You following me on this?

06:18 The thought that I have sounds very great, right? Good marriages have good communication. I want to have good communication. Look at me, being all growth-oriented. But what could actually happen, and again, this is different for everyone. This is why everyone has to run these models for themselves. What could end up happening is that now I start to interpret that against my own marriage and my own definition of good communication. Side note, if you haven't listened to the podcast episode your husband doesn't need to tell you how he feels, that will totally change your perspective on what good communication might be considered.

06:52 But anyway, let's say you don't consider your marriage to have good communication, and so now you're feeling resentful and anxious, and so now you're communicating less. So actually, what is the results The result is that you're not in an open and communicative relationship with your spouse. The thought that you are having that a good marriage needs good communication actually created the opposite result for you, okay? And so now you're like, "Oh, I'm in a bad marriage with bad communication," right? So you always kind of prove it true in an interested way. Sometimes clinging onto these very holy-sounding, dogmatic-sounding lines can actually really hurt us.

07:30 And the same thing with trying to shame yourself into being a better wife. I want to play this out. Let's say you do something, you snap at your husband, and you storm out of the room, and then you're like, "Oh my gosh, what did I just do? A grown-up wouldn't behave that way," right? How are you feeling? You're feeling shame and guilt and embarrassed about yourself. So what kind of action is that going to lead to? Well, you're probably not going to really act like much of an adult right now, right? You're feeling shameful, guilty, and embarrassed. The result, this is not going to bring you closer together to your husband.

08:06 So what we want to do is we want to look for a result that we want, okay? So you snap at your husband. What do I want in this moment? What I want is for this not to hurt my marriage. What I want is for this not to break our communication or break our connection. I want to stay connected to him, even when I make a mistake. So what if I have a thought normal people snap sometimes. How is that going to make me feel? I might feel relieved. I might feel sort of okay, just why is an accepting. So then, what am I going to do? I'm going to communicate to him from a place that oh, I'm totally human.

08:46 Sometimes I think of it as meta-feelings. I see sometimes the most successful couples, they'll explain what they want to do. Instead of having the tantrum, they're like, "I really don't have a tantrum right now." They're observing their feelings from the outside and sharing them with each other, which I think is the most beautiful thing. I would create a podcast episode about it, but I don't know if I'm able to yet. To be continued one day.

09:06 But if I'm coming from a place of feeling accepting of myself and wise, the result that I'm going to end up with is I'm going to keep that communication, because the action that I took of snapping at my husband, and I had a thought that like, "Okay, normal people snap sometimes." So this didn't threaten the relationship any more, right? Where, if I have a thought, that snapping at your husband is bad for your relationship, now all of a sudden, the thing that I just did, which was totally neutral, now all of a sudden, it's got all of this baggage of being bad for my relationship, and that's actually going to make me spin out into a place that's more negative, right, and that's more dangerous and more harmful to my relationship. Where if I can kind of accept what happened and I can accept myself with all my emotions and all my behaviors, and again, this doesn't mean I'm not going to try and grow.

09:58 This is the really fascinating thing, right, because again, as a perfectionist, I really always thought that growth came from really hard work and mastering self discipline. I was wrong about that. What I discovered was that growth comes from understanding yourself better. Growth comes from opening up the brain and peeking inside and saying, "What is going on in there that's making me act like that?" and having some curiosity and some compassion for yourself and just being aware and noticing that's where the growth comes from, because you don't have to bite your tongue if your thought never got you that upset in the first place.

10:39 So many studies have come out about self-discipline and self-control and how you have a limited amount in the day and that's why people always binge eat at night, right, because all day long they've been getting themselves to eat healthy and then they just ran out of steam. Now I wonder if that's even just a negative thought by itself. Either way, it seems to be the case at my house.

10:57 I really want you to just question any of these dogmas that you have about what a good marriage looks like. What I don't want you to do is question how true they are, okay? That's where my clients get hung up. They want to know which one's more true. And guess which one feels more true? Usually what feels more true is the one that gives you that really visceral, hard gut reaction, and that's usually a negative reaction. So guess what, it's usually the negative thought that just feels more true. I don't care which one's more true. You have to believe it. But when you are looking at your thoughts, what you want to look at is not whether this is true or not, because usually, it's just your interpretation, it's just a thought that you're having.

11:40 What I want you to look at is how is this making me feel and behave and what results am I getting because of this thought? And if you want something to be different in your life, you need to look at what the results are that you're not getting, or the results that you want to be getting, and you need to go backwards through that model. What thoughts are going to help me to get those new results that I want?

12:03 Again, what I really, really want you to get from this is that if you're trying to white-knuckle your way into being a better person, not only does it not have to be that way, does it not have to be that hard, but I even would say it's not going to work. It's not going to work, because when you're bringing in that inner drill sergeant, and you're bringing in that inner perfectionist, you don't measure up. Nobody's at their best when they're coming from a place of not measuring up. That's not where we show up as our authentic selves.

12:39 At the end of the day, your husband or your wife chose you, not the façade you were putting on, not the person you were trying to be, the person you are. And the biggest disservice you could do is to not let them be with you now that they chose you. Now that they chose you at the exclusion of everyone else in the world. They picked just to be with you, right? So when I think back about the first couple years married, I don't have regrets about the times that I had strong emotions and acted out or whatever. I'm not so concerned about that, but what I'm so grateful that I got past was how it wasn't allowing me to be totally open and vulnerable with my husband, because I was trying so hard to play up to this part, this perfect wife character that I had in my mind. And that's not who we picked.

13:35 Guess what? Your husband or your wife is really smart. Even if you think you've been tricking them, and that they think they married that perfect person, they know better. They know who you are. They know better. So let them have you, right? And again, I'm not saying that that means you just get to act however you want, and if I feel it, I say it, and that whole mentality, I don't think it's healthy. But what I do mean is that this white-knuckling, this perfectionism, this drill sergeant, it's not going to get you where you want to go, okay?

14:11 All right. So thanks so much for tuning in this week. I hope that this resonated with you guys. I'm really, as I keep saying, I just love hearing from all of you and getting your feedback. So please keep reaching out. I'm on Instagram at firstyearmarried. If you haven't yet, please subscribe to the podcast, and we will see you here again next week. Bye bye.

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