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In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen are joined by Dr. Sharon May for one last episode on building and maintaining healthy relationships. In this episode, Dr. May gives her top tips to strengthen your own relationships, such as finding and breaking argument cycles, paradigm-shifting thought patterns, and dating boosts.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we have been transforming lives for 30 years, using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information visit amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more go to brainmd.com.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We are here with Dr. Sharon May, psychologist. She has a PhD in marriage and family and a Master's degree in Theology.
Tana Amen: So good.
Dr Daniel Amen: She's the author of How to Argue So Your Spouse Will Listen and Safe Haven Marriage. She does couples intensives both with individual couples and with groups. She and I share a number of really fun patients. I've just so enjoyed this week with you.
Dr Sharon May: Yeah, it's been really special.
Dr Daniel Amen: I think both Tana and I have. Our group of brain warriors will love this. Obviously, we want our tribe to get their brains right because when your brain is right you can listen. When your brain is right you have more empathy. Even when your brain is right sometimes the dragons can drag you down or drag you to the dark place. With your experience give us some of the best tips that you've given to couples, or the best strategies that you think, "These are things I know really help the people I serve."
Dr Sharon May: Yes, and again, thank you so much for having me on your show this week. I've had so much fun with the two of you.
Tana Amen: So have we. Yeah, it's been great.
Dr Sharon May: Yes, I've had over 800 individual intensives and thousands of couples have come through the Safe Haven Relationship Center. At the end of the day I think the greatest, even though it's so simple, the greatest awareness couples walk away with is that, "My spouse actually wants to desperately be loved by me." That if we can remember our spouse wants a safe haven, they want a relationship they can come home to, and that our spouse is not the enemy. Yes, your spouse has hurt you. The way your spouse acts or reacts has made you feel bad about yourself and really hurt you, but at the end of the day, you both want to be loved and cared for. The work that we do in the intensives is we help the couples find their argument cycle. Once you can name your argument cycle you can stop it.
Tana Amen: Oh, I like that.
Dr Sharon May: What are the triggers? What do I say to myself when that happens, which is my dragon? What meaning do I put on that event, and how do I feel in that moment, and how do I react when my dragon raises its head? When we can ... How does that then impact my spouse? I see that the trash wasn't taken out. My dragon says, "You don't care about me. I'm the only one who will care about this house. All the responsibility is on me." That would be ... You know it's your dragon if you say it in the middle of most of your arguments, and then you feel angry and you react by yelling and then just withdrawing your love and having a one-up position, and that impacts your spouse. Maybe your husband then defends himself. "I was just about to do it," and he's always defending himself, and then he shuts down and goes and watches TV for the evening.
Once you realize your cycle and the both of you have agreed, "I want a safe Haven with you," the two of you can begin a journey of changing your cycle. You don't need to change your spouse, you need to change your cycle.
Tana Amen: I like that.
Dr Sharon May: Then, when both of you choose to grow and be better people you can then change your cycle. You can tame your dragons, choose to react differently so that you can be there for each other. I tell couples ... This is a little complicated. You can get the book Safe Haven Marriage. You can go onto our Safe Haven Relationship Center. We've got podcasts, love to have the two of you on my podcast, and you can learn how to do this differently. If you don't have it down then at the end of the day, turn to your spouse and say, "You know, I really want to love you better. I'm not sure what our cycle is, but I am so sorry for hurting you."
That apologizing. "I know I've hurt you. I know I do things that impact our relationship, so I'm sorry for what I do and how it impacts our relationship." The vulnerability of taking responsibility for your part. "I want to do this differently. I don't know how just yet," and to come back and say, "But what I want from you is a Safe Haven." So that, "I apologize." I'm not saying it's all my fault. I'm saying I'm sorry that we are disconnected, hurting. "I want to be a better person to know how to do this differently and I want to love and be loved by you."
That vulnerability breaks ice, and then to go on a date, to enjoy each other. A lot of couples have responsibilities. You got the kids, you got work, you got the house to take care of, you've got the holidays, or the taxes, or summer. I mean, there's always something consuming our time. But to slow down and say, "We are going to have fun. We're not going to talk about the kids, responsibilities. We're not even going to talk about how we hurt each other. We're going to say at the beginning of every date, 'I'm sorry, I want to be a better person and I want to be your Safe Haven.' I don't know how to do it. I know I've hurt you. I know we're in chaos. Can we just go have some fun?"
Being able to rebuild joy, gratefulness, connection, and to pay attention and put time into your marriage. We spend more time brushing our teeth, getting our car oil changed, even washing the floors of our kitchen, than we do working on our marriage. Why I've loved your work ...
Dr Daniel Amen: Tana knows more than I do about marriage. On the date should you take your phone ...
Dr Sharon May: No.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... or not?
Tana Amen: No. No, the mistress, you cannot take the mistress on the date.
Dr Sharon May: No.
Tana Amen: The phone is the mistress.
Dr Sharon May: Your date is about building this bond and ...
Tana Amen: I had the same thought.
Dr Sharon May: ... safe and connected.
Tana Amen: So, we were thinking the same thing.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, what's your ideal date?
Dr Sharon May: So, first I want to talk about the relationship, ...
Dr Daniel Amen: Since we ...
Tana Amen: ... the argument cycle.
Dr Daniel Amen: Since we haven't experienced-
Tana Amen: Yeah, but first I want to talk about the argument cycle, because you actually brought it up, I did not. It's the phone, it's the phone. It drives me insane.
Dr Sharon May: That's your trigger.
Tana Amen: It is a complete trigger and it's like ... I recognize it as you were saying that. I call his phone the mistress. So-
Dr Sharon May: What meaning does it have for you, Tana?
Dr Daniel Amen: What's the dragon?
Tana Amen: That it's more important, that he can't set it aside, that it's more important, and then he's always really nice. He's like, "Okay, I'll do better," and then he slips right back into it. I know that it's because he's busy and he's got a big business and whatever, but it's like there needs to be boundaries around time for me. So, if we're going to go spend time together, otherwise I have things I can be doing. If it's not important enough, ...
Dr Daniel Amen: So the dragon may be "I'm unimportant?"
Dr Sharon May: Yes, is that I'm not important enough.
Dr Daniel Amen: You aren't making me ...
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr Daniel Amen: You are triggering. You're opening the door so the dragon gets out.
Tana Amen: But I'm still not going to go hang out with you if you're going to be on your phone.
Dr Daniel Amen: I get the dragon and I get that that's something I have to work on, ...
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... and there's not a good excuse.
Tana Amen: I have no need to sit there while you're doing this. I could be at home doing something. See that, that's ... I recognized that when you were saying it.
Dr Sharon May: Yes, and choosing that at that moment saying, "You know, this is my dragon. I feel I'm not important enough."
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Sharon May: This is maybe how I have felt before, and how I have coped with that dragon and vulnerability is to fight for myself. Put up the boundary and that's it.
Tana Amen: That's interesting.
Dr Sharon May: But, you know, today in our relationship to have a Safe Haven, I will kindly say to you, "Love of my life, source of all my trouble and strife."
Tana Amen: That's great.
Dr Sharon May: Right now you're on your phone. I want to feel important to you. I want your full attention. If you can't give it to me now, that's fine. I'll go do something else.
Tana Amen: Right. [crosstalk 00:10:21]
Dr Sharon May: Give it, you know, "That's it." Or say to him, "Love of my life, this is what I'm talking about. To have your full attention I need eye to eye, shoulder to shoulder."
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr Sharon May: "Would you like to finish that so you can give that to me?"
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr Sharon May: It is. When you do a harsh startup, as John Gottman says, someone then defends themselves with a harsh reaction.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Sharon May: When we just pause and give each other space, "I know you cherish me. Would you like to demonstrate that right now by putting the phone?" I sit there with you.
Tana Amen: So funny. No, I'll often just get up and walk away which is pretty much the same as a harsh startup. That's a harsh startup.
Dr Sharon May: You ... [crosstalk 00:11:06]
Dr Daniel Amen: I'm going to use that line- [crosstalk 00:11:06]
Dr Sharon May: We can't do that. [crosstalk 00:11:06]
Dr Daniel Amen: Love of my life,- [crosstalk 00:11:08]
Tana Amen: I am just a devouring your books, and your material, and your podcasts, and I was listening to your one podcast on loving well. We can't do that if we don't have a healthy brain. You're not sleeping well. You're not exercising. You're not eating right. Your serotonin, dopamine, all those levels are just crazy.
Dr Daniel Amen: If you've had a head injury, if you've had toxic exposure, if you're going through menopause or andropause, all of those things impact relationships. So, when we're on your podcast we will talk about those with great fun. You are such a gem.
Tana Amen: Yeah, so much fun.
Dr Daniel Amen: Such a joy.
Tana Amen: This is so good.
Dr Sharon May: Thank you.
Dr Daniel Amen: We've been with Dr. Sharon May and tell everybody how they can learn more about your work. We talked about your books, How to Argue So Your Spouse Will Listen, Safe Haven Marriage you wrote with your dad. They can learn about the intensives. You are also on the radio with Focus on the Family. Is that correct?
Dr Sharon May: I have done radio programs with numerous programs, Focus on the Family, Family Talk, and I have a Family Talk blog that comes out every week on how to love well in relationships and families, as well as on safehavenrelationshipcenter.com, our website, we are doing and getting ready to launch a series of podcasts on how to identify your cycle, your dragon, and the way you react, and how to change that so you can foster a Safe Haven Marriage. Our intensives are just amazing. We have couples who maybe have affairs or just many years of arguing, now disconnected. They don't trust each other with their hearts.
Or, even couples who say, "You know, our marriage deserves every year a few days where we can look at our cycle, look at how we're doing in our dragons and grow as people," because the more we grow as individuals the better we are to love well. So, the individual intensives, the Safe Haven Intensives, and then the group intensives which are so fun and grow together, as well as intensives we do for individuals. So, give us a call ...
Tana Amen: I love it.
Dr Sharon May: ... email, email@example.com and we would love to share the information, as well as the resources we have so you can grow as a person, so you can live in love well.
Dr Daniel Amen: Great.
Tana Amen: Love it.
Dr Daniel Amen: Thank you so much.
Tana Amen: Thank you so much.
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