The Psychology Behind Failed Relationships

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen continue their discussion on how to ruin a marriage. This episode focuses on the psychological aspects that tend to permeate bad relationships. Daniel and Tana help you to recognize certain destructive patterns and make the psychological adjustments that will improve the health of any relationship.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And 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
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
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back to how to ruin your marriage week.
Tana Amen: It's our sneaky way of helping you not to ruin your message, but.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you know how to ruin it, then hopefully you'll know how to help it. And in this podcast, we're going to talk about the psychological ways, so we'll talk about psychological warfare. But ask yourself a question. What is it in your background? In your development? Because when I think of psychology, I think of it's how you think, and what you grew up in that sets the template for who you are. And what is it in your background that may be interfering with you having the best relationship possible?
Tana Amen: So we start off in the last episode talking about how this is not our first marriage, and we learned a lot, and fortunately for us, we have a really strong marriage. We communicate really well. We realize, you know, you're the yin to my yang. You're the grounding force. I'm a little intense. But knowing those things is really important. What I figured out the first time around when I didn't do it right, when I first went, I wouldn't commit to you, because I didn't trust myself and I thought I'm never going through that again. And I figured if I couldn't figure it out the first time, I'm certainly not going to do this again, right? And I went through a lot of therapy, actually, before I would commit to a relationship and moving forward, which I think was really smart now. I know it drove you crazy and made you insane for a while, but it was a smart thing to do.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Holding on to hurts from the past will ruin your relationships.
Tana Amen: Yes. It's one of the things you need to know.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So I, and it took me a while to get over the, you coming and going, but I'm over it.
Tana Amen: But it was a necessary thing for me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But holding on to things is not helpful, and one of the things that really helped me is that I knew what it was like to be pressured. [crosstalk 00:02:54]
Tana Amen: So you thought about it from my point of view.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Into a relationship that I wasn't quite ready for, and so I gave you space. And then, yes it is true, I called you a black widow, because you would eat men.
Tana Amen: No. He was just mad because I wouldn't commit.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And now you are the black widow that's actually guarding the cage of our house.
Tana Amen: Yes, I'm guarding the cage. So one thing I want to point out, though, is that when I first started doing therapy, I remember being angry and bitter about the other person and what he did. And then all of a sudden it shifted, and it went to personal responsibility. And it was, okay, I can't control that. Let it go. What was my part? Because that's the only part that I can take with me into another relationship, into if I want to have this relationship with this amazing person, and I don't want to mess it up, that's the only thing I can focus on, was my part. What can I do differently? And that's when it shifted. That's when it changed. And that's a really important, I think, important factor. I mean, I don't know, what do you think?
Dr. Daniel Amen: So from a psychological standpoint, responsibility's probably the most important thing. What is it I can do today to make the relationship better?
Tana Amen: Because if you're a victim, you can't-
Dr. Daniel Amen: You know, if I think about my first marriage, I was angry and almost justified in not being nice, because of some of the-
Tana Amen: We can always tell ourselves that, though.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ...difficulties that were going on. But was that helpful?
Tana Amen: No.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It was not helpful. So I work on this with my patients all the time, but that means I work on it with myself. What's my goal? So you need to know what's your goal in the relationship.
Tana Amen: You want to be divorced or you want to be married and have a loving marriage?
Dr. Daniel Amen: I have a very clear goal, and it's always been the same with Tana. I want a kind, because I'm a kind person, I want kindness in my life. I want a kind, caring, loving, supportive, passionate relationship. I always want that, and so it's important, what do you want in your relationship, and then does my behavior, not hers, does my behavior get me what I want? And that is a frontal lobe function.
Tana Amen: It is.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So it's a brain function, but it's from a software point of view. It's a psychological strategy. Know what you want and then ask yourself, does my behavior get me what I want? And it's not selfish, because what I want is not selfish. It's good for both of us.
Tana Amen: Both of us. Right. What I love about what you said, here's what's super important about that. What you said is you focus on what you want and you behave that way, and let me tell you why that's so important, because there are times, okay, let's just face it, we have PMS, we have menopause, whatever.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I do not.
Tana Amen: We've got kids, we have bad days, right? You do not, no. Because, but all of our problems start with men, do you see that? Menopause, anyways. Menstruation. Anyways. So the reason it's so important what you said, what I love about that, so if I'm having a bad day and I'm just irritable, whether it's hormonal, whether it's situational, whatever the reason, it doesn't matter what the reason is. If I'm having a really bad day, and I snap at you, and you're not clear about that goal, and you snap back, and we now engage, right? Because you weren't clear about that goal, we engage. And you're justified. In your head, you're justified.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I'm justified.
Tana Amen: So now we're engaged in this fight, and we can't sort of end it, and now we have to dig in and make our positions correct, right? But because you were clear about your goal, this actually happens now and then, so once in a while. So I'll snap. You stay grounded. You actually stay centered and focused on what it is you want. You say something kind instead. Rather than me needing to dig in and make myself right about what I said, I feel like an idiot, actually. So then I realize how nice you are, and I must apologize. Does that make sense?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, well you have the same goal.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You have the same goal.
Tana Amen: But rather than digging in, that causes me to put my guard down.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I know.
Tana Amen: So I love what Byron Katie says, "Defense is the first act of war."
Dr. Daniel Amen: And I know that I can make you angry.
Tana Amen: Oh, you can.
Dr. Daniel Amen: In under eight seconds.
Tana Amen: Fortunately, you don't do it often.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But why would I want to do that, unless I was conflict driven? So a lot of my ADD patients are conflict driven. They play this game called let's have a problem. But why would I do that, unless I was not thoughtful? And all of you listening, I really want you to do this exercise, it's in virtually all of my books, called the one page miracle. On one piece of paper, write down what you want. Ask yourself, does my behavior get me what I want? And if it doesn't, then don't do it. It's not going to help you.
Tana Amen: Yeah, and you get to be a role model and an example. That's another thing I love about you. You are a role model and an example when you do that, and it makes me want to be a better person. Hopefully I do some of those things that make you want to be a better person, and that's important in a relationship.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I'm so happy being married to you.
Tana Amen: Me too.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I would be so sad if you went away.
Tana Amen: Don't say that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I would, honestly. I would be super sad.
Tana Amen: I know, but let's not focus on that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Which is like, so what's really important? Me being right, me being-
Tana Amen: Or happy.
Dr. Daniel Amen: In control, and we talked about what are those experiences growing up, and I grew up with a dad that...
Tana Amen: Needed to be right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Needed to be, he was the king at home.
Tana Amen: Absolutely.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Nobody argued with him.
Tana Amen: He was the patriarch.
Dr. Daniel Amen: He, and so I grew up with really what has become an outdated model of the man is in charge, and if I took that into our marriage, we would...
Tana Amen: Oh, that would not go well. But you know one thing that [crosstalk 00:09:02].
Dr. Daniel Amen: The man is in charge. And so I have to check myself, because my goal is never to dominate you. My goal is to be [crosstalk 00:09:11].
Tana Amen: That's probably a good goal.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If I had that goal, you would not be my partner.
Tana Amen: So one thing-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because you're beautiful, and you're smart, but you're also strong-willed. And you have red hair.
Tana Amen: Yeah. And red hair has got its warning signal. You know, one thing that I learned from my mom...
Dr. Daniel Amen: I didn't say that. She did.
Tana Amen: So I grew up in a pretty chaotic environment, but one thing that my mom taught me that I have never forgotten was, because I was pretty strong-willed even as a kid, right? So I was timid as a little kid, then I became strong-willed over time. And she used to say to me, I had this sort of righteous thing that my daughter has now, and she used to say this one thing to me, and I've taught it to my daughter because it's a really important thing. You can be right, and you can be dead right. Is being right the most important thing in this situation? And it just never, I was like, what?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Like are you the kind of partner that if your partner says something that's just factually wrong, that you have to correct them? It's like, you know, I try not to correct people unless it's material to the situation.
Tana Amen: Okay, I do admit-
Dr. Daniel Amen: If it just doesn't matter, leave it alone. You're not the English teacher.
Tana Amen: Well, I do admit I told you so. But I do admit I told you so is a problem for me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Oh my goodness.
Tana Amen: No, I'm addicted to I told you so. That is my ... I'm admitting it, so it's just an issue for me. Thank God you just laugh at me and walk away, so yeah. See, I admitted it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Forgiveness falls under this psychological circle. Holding on to things from the past can really devastate your relationships, so listen to our podcast on forgiveness. When we come back, we're going to talk about the social ways you screw up your relationships.
Tana Amen: Don't forget to tell us the one thing you've learned. Please go to Let us know what you've learned, what you want to hear about, and if you are so inclined, please we're asking, leave us a review. Thank you.
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