24. How Can I Be Happier in My Relationship? With Elizabeth Earnshaw

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Despite what we’ve learned in fairy tales during our childhood, there’s no such thing as the perfect relationship. Marriage therapist Elizabeth Earnshaw has seen and heard it all and offers up practical advice on understanding the issues in your relationship, how to work through them, and when to consider calling it quits. This episode’s practice is about communication, getting your needs met, and building a relationship that works for you AND your partner.

Resources from the show

  • Read Liz’s Relationship Guide  “I Want This to Work.”
  • If you happen to be a resident of Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, California, Utah, or Maryland, check out A Better Life Therapy to find a local therapist who specializes in individual therapy, couples, family, and more!

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Elizabeth Earnshaw, Claire

Claire  00:09

Hi, I’m Claire Bidwell Smith. Welcome to NEW DAY. Do you know what makes a great relationship? I know that I’m still figuring it out for myself. Relationships can be tricky, staying in them, growing them. leaving them. I’ve done it all at this point having been married twice, but it’s still not easy. I think we often have an illusion about what a relationship is supposed to look like. But most relationships are far from perfect. They require effort and energy on both sides. This week, I’m talking to Elizabeth Earnshaw, a licensed marriage and family therapist about the keys to a successful partnership. It’s a really fun conversation as we dive into all sorts of topics surrounding love and relationships. And we even answer some listener questions. Elizabeth is the founder of A Better Life therapy, an online therapy platform dedicated to helping clients make tangible changes in their lives. She’s also the author of I want this to work, a guide for couples experiencing short- and long-term conflict. Our conversation today is chock full of helpful advice and useful tips and tools. For anyone who’s working on a relationship. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Hi, Liz!

Elizabeth Earnshaw

Hi! It’s so good to meet you.


Nice to meet you, too. So we start every episode of this podcast asking our guests How are you doing today? But how are you really doing?

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

Oh, that’s such a sweet question. This has been a rough week for my family. My husband just came off of down from I don’t know, shingles. My son ruptured both of his eardrums yesterday.


Oh, how old is he?

Elizabeth Earnshaw

He’s four. So we had a lot sickness. So I’m a little bit tired today.

Claire  02:02

I bet. Wow. Well, I am so excited to talk to you about all kinds of stuff today. I never not want to talk about relationships. I am divorced and remarried; I have a blended family. I have two daughters from my first marriage. And I have a son, a three-year-old with my new husband. And he has three kids from a previous marriage who were all teenagers. And so we have a whole big mess of exes and, you know, divorces and marriages and all this stuff. So it’s always interesting to me to talk about a

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

There’s lot of dynamics going on for you.


Yes, there are. I told my husband this morning, I was like, I’m talking to a marriage therapist this morning, anything you want me to ask her? And he was like, Oh, God, you got this. We’ll be okay. And so I’m a therapist as well. But I specialize in grief. And I, for a long time never saw couples. And in the last couple of years, I’ve had a lot of clients who’ve lost a child, all kinds of ages from infants up to adult children. And so in that work, I’ve seen a lot more couples, and they’ve been coming to me together. And so I’ve started to really have to work in that couples dynamic of therapy. And I find it really challenging. I find it really hard. It’s not about siding with them. But I see both sides so much. And I have trouble moving back and forth between them. I you know, it’s been a lot of work for me. What is that like for you?

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

It’s hard, definitely. And also just to validate that it’s with grief. So for you, I mean doubly hard, because like both people are probably feeling so tender, and you know, in pain, and so you can’t maybe be as confrontational as you would be on other topics, because it’s a sensitive topic. So I think that sounds really challenging. For me, I really like it because I actually was a grief therapist at first. And I worked in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And so I was doing grief work with kids. And I struggled with grief work, because number one, I would cry during the sessions. I don’t know how you do it. But number two, because I wasn’t able to be as like active as I like to be as a therapist. And so couples meets my energy level, I think really well where I really like the fact that I can’t side with them. And I have to like navigate how I’m going to get around that and you know how I’m going to get them both to hear each other’s perspectives and how we have to kind of hash it out. So it’s exciting to me.

Claire  04:46

I bet. What are some of the most common issues that come up that you see? And I mean, I guess the pandemic too, has been its own new world of couples therapy. Everybody I know is in couples therapy as of the last two years.

Elizabeth Earnshaw

Absolutely. So I think prior to the pandemic, the most common things that were coming up were everybody says communication issues. If it’s not communication issues, it is kind of unplanned events like somebody has gotten a diagnosis, grief, a lot. I’ve worked with a lot of couples who have lost a child, or are preparing to lose a child. And so I’ve worked with that. But beyond these unplanned events, a lot of what people come in for is what they designate as communication issues, but tends to be a lot of different things underneath. And it could be that they’re struggling to navigate stress, it could be that what they mean by communication is they don’t talk to each other. So they’re not friends anymore. They’re not hanging out; they don’t know each other. What they also might mean by communication issues is that they scream and yell at each other every single time that they have a disagreement. So I would say that’s the number one reason that people present. And then we kind of have to dig into to that means.


Yeah. I love your book. I’ve been reading your book, and I, I’ve just been really enjoying it. And I was thinking about the way you were breaking down the kind of four stages of a relationship. Can you talk about that?

Elizabeth Earnshaw  06:12

Yeah, so what we go through these four different stages and long-term relationships, and we start off in this infatuation stage, where the best one, the fun one, and when I’m meeting with couples who are down the road, that’s where they’re always kind of wishing they could get back to and I something I talk to them a lot about is can’t necessarily get back there. But we can find new ways that life feels fun and exciting, and you feel connected. But that beginning stage is just very hormonal. So all sorts of things are happening in our bodies, which kind of creates the situation where we minimize things that irritate us about the other person. And we really magnify the things that we love about them. I mean, I have done it in all of my relationships. I’m sure all of my partners have done it with me too. But even the things that we don’t like, we say we like them, you know, and our friends will point it out and say, I don’t know, doesn’t it bug you that they’re always so late, isn’t it strange how much they’re on the phone with so and so? And you’re like, no, I love that. They’re really connected to their mother, that’s so great. So we’re in the stage. And it’s actually super important because it creates a foundation of good memories, it makes us connected. And eventually things snap us out of it. And so usually between six months to a year, we start to realize who the person is. And we have what I call the realization stage where we’re noticing the things that we don’t like about them, we’re noticing how they handle stress, we’re noticing how they navigate difficulty in their life. That’s usually the thing that starts to annoy us the most, right? Oh my gosh, why don’t they ever, their car got towed. And it’s been two weeks since they went and picked it up, or they keep complaining about their job, but they never apply anywhere else. And so that we start to get irritated with them. And in this stage, a lot of people break up. So they say I don’t really like this person, they’re not for me, it’s time to end. Some people stay together. And they either say, I’m gonna stay together, but I’m still not accepting who this other person is. And they get into like, power struggles about that, right? It’s like, be more like me, if it was me, I would have already been in another job. Or they stay together and they try to like work through whatever’s going on between the two of them. And couples then start to have tension. And when they’re having tension, that’s the third stage, they are hopefully moving from tension, to understanding, and then to acceptance, and will move in and out of that over and over and over again. Sometimes they just stay there and that those are the people who you know, that are just together forever, but they seem really unhappy with each other.

Claire  09:10

We all know like one of those couples,  right?

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

We all know one of those couples, and maybe I was one of those couples with another person. But you know, you’re constantly blaming, things escalate, they don’t repair and you don’t really ever feel like you can fully accept who the other person is. You’re always wanting them to change, wishing that they were different. And saying things like well, when they do X, Y and Z better, then we’ll be happy. And that is kind of the chronic with being.


Is this stage always there? I mean, is there always some element of wishing our partner was were different or would change and is there a way to move through it rather than get stuck in it? Like what how does this whole stage work?

Elizabeth Earnshaw

Yeah, love that question. We all wish and some ways that our partner is different. And if any of us have had conversations with our friends, we know that to be true, we can look at our friends who have great relationships, and every now and then something seeps out where they say, oh my gosh, like, I just I don’t get it. They never set boundaries with their parent, or they’re so frustrating, like, why did they keep spending money this way, or whatever it is. But what we can do through that, if it’s the right match, is we can learn how to have effective communication around it. The reality is that no matter what, we’re going to be in a relationship with someone who’s different than us. And so we have to figure out, of course, we’re going to have tension, but we have to figure out what are we going to do, to get through that 10th stage so that we can come to compromise, so that we still feel respected at the end of it. And so that we create a relationship where we feel like both people’s strengths are really valued. And so couples who get there they get into an acceptance stage, does not mean that they never fight, does not mean that they never go back to the stage of being like, oh, my gosh, what is wrong with you? But what it does mean is that over time, they get better and better at navigating their differences. And the difference just becomes a part of the culture. So it’s like, oh, yeah, that’s just Andrew. That’s just what Andrew does. And we’ll figure it out. It’s okay.

Claire  11:25

Yeah. And when they get into those fights, they know how to move through them and get to the other side. And you said, if it’s the right match, how do you know if it’s the right match? I got really stuck on that. I was like, oh, wait.

Elizabeth Earnshaw

That’s a big question. How do we know? I think that if, you know, one of the things that is really important is that there’s a willingness between both people to work through these things. You know, if you’re saying to your partner, hey, I know this is a difference between us. I really respect that. And here’s how it impacts me. I would love for us to figure out how to navigate this. And your partner is just like willful is like, no, I’m not going to ever change that. I don’t care if you suffer. And you’re stuck in that tension stage, no matter what you do, probably means that you’re not the best match. And that’s hard if you are the one who is trying to do all of the, quote, best practices, people get really stuck, right? Yeah, say, well, I’ll try one more thing, I’ve been really been communicating well, but if your partner isn’t willing to meet you there, then your relationship isn’t going to necessarily improve.

Claire  12:59

It’s really hard to get to the place where you know, it’s time to leave or you feels sure, I mean, some people I don’t think ever feel sure. I know, I wasn’t completely sure when I left my first marriage, like, it just seemed, it could have gone a million ways. And it’s really tricky. But then women come to me all the time, because I’m divorced. And I like how did you know? And I’m like, I don’t think I did. When should we be staying? But we’re so scared that we want to leave?

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

That’s such a hard question, because you’re right, like for some people, I think that people can wake up and really know sometimes, I’ve worked with people who it’s like, they wake up one morning and they’re like, I don’t know what I’ve been putting up with, I’m just truly done. And then for others, there is a lot of hesitancy because you’re not sure if you’ve done enough, you’re not sure if you’ve crossed all your T’s and dotted your I’s. And if you do one more thing, it will improve. What I always say to people is that you should really think about if you were to be able to behave in this relationship in a way that aligns with you. And in a way that you really think is you showing up as like your most fair version of your being fair to your partner, your most current version of yourself all of those things. If you believe you’ve done that, and things still aren’t improving. That’s where we really need to talk about what’s next. If you don’t believe you’ve done that, then you’re going to be stuck because you’re going to constantly wonder, you know, maybe if I had learned to express myself more calmly, it would have improved. Or maybe if I would have tried to be more affectionate, like my partner asked, even if I just tried for a month, maybe it would have improved but I never leaned into that. And so if there’s this part of you that’s thinking, maybe there are parts of me that I could really tend to, that are going to allow me to show up fully as who I am, not just fully who this other person wants to be. But fully who I am, then maybe I could have a little bit more confidence if it’s not working, that it’s not because I’ve done something wrong here. It’s just because it’s not working. And if I then need to leave, I can look at myself and say, yeah, you’ve done most of it, you’ve done a good job. This is the most you could do. And now it’s time to step away. People can get stuck there, though, because some people will say, Well, I could always be a better version of myself, what else could I do? What more could I do? And this is where the reflection of other people really matters. This is where a therapist matters, right? Somebody who can say to you, oh, my gosh, I’ve watched you through the last six months, you’ve done everything, you’ve done everything you could. And so what can we do from here? And really, somebody can kind of like, hold that containment for you.

Claire  15:55

That’s so interesting. What does someone do when they can’t get their partner into therapy? I see this come up a lot. And this is really hard, because one person is really willing to do this. They want to do all the work, they want to get in there and their partner, for whatever reason, multiple reasons, doesn’t want to come in with them.

Elizabeth Earnshaw  16:13

It’s so hard. And this is another it depends answer. So sometimes our partners don’t want to go because they’re afraid. You know, when I’ve surveyed couples, what I found is that it’s not usually that they don’t care about the relationship that they want, they already want to divorce, they’re over you, whatever. It’s usually that they’re afraid, and they’re afraid of a few things. And the things that come up again and again are, I’m afraid you’re about to drop a bombshell on me. So I think the only reason you’re asking me to go is because you’re about to tell me, you want to divorce, you’ve had an affair. You hate our sex life, like any of these things that I don’t know yet. So people are really afraid of that. They’re really, really afraid that they’re going to have to talk about things that they’ve never talked to anybody about. And so it’s outside of their scope of what feels natural. Usually, the person who is accessing the couples therapy first is much more comfortable with emotions. Or it’s the person who it’s like the end of the line. And then finally, they feel desperate and say, Okay, fine, I’ll go and I’m going to reach out to a therapist. But usually, it’s the person who’s already like, okay with talking about feelings with somebody. And so that’s not a fear for them. It’s the fear for their partner. And so if your partner is in that group of people who doesn’t want the relationship to end, they’re not being a jerk, even though you feel like they are, then really speaking to fears can be helpful. And so one way to do that is to not make this an absolute decision and the way you present it. So instead of saying something like we’re going to couples therapy, and I made an appointment for Tuesday, saying something like, hey, you know, I’ve noticed that you and I have x, you and I have seemed to grow apart. We’re not doing as many dates as we used to. Whenever we talk about the kids we’re fighting. And I think we tried really hard to figure it out. And I would just love some insight into how we could improve this, would you be open to seeing a therapist with me. So doing that can get rid of some of those fears of the bombshell, I’m not dropping a bombshell on you, I’m being very clear, I want insight on how we can talk about the kids and want insight onto how we can spice up our sex life, whatever it is. The other thing that can be really, really helpful is to let them think that it’s temporary. So if you would just go to one session with me, we can see how it goes, I promise we don’t even have to make a second appointment at the end. You’re not going to have to make a six-month commitment to do this. Just do it with me once that temporary nature can help people to feel less fearful, too.

Claire  18:56

I like that. That’s great. One thing that I feel like I have really struggled with is feeling like it’s supposed to be great all the time. And I’m getting into a better place with it now into my second marriage. And that’s something that I feel like I’ve gotten very just quick to trigger about is every time we’re in any kind of small thing and my now husband and I have so many complicating factors that we’re constantly having to navigate and negotiate through tough stuff, but I get really scared that the relationship is falling apart or that it’s not working. Or what I’ve come around to realize is that relationships, we have some illusion that they’re supposed to look perfect or be perfect all the time. And that’s not true, right? Tell me.

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

I think it would freak me out. If you said your relationship was perfect all the time. I’d be like, Oh my gosh, who was withholding how they released [….]. No, I mean, how could they be perfect? You know, like, think back to growing up in a family, no matter how much you love your parents or your siblings or whoever like, people slam doors, you become a teenager and you say I hate you, Mom, you know, like all of those things. We fight with people. I mean, like humans are wired to connect, but they’re also wired to be like irritable, and aggressive and all kinds of things. So you’re not going to be happy with another person all the time. Because another person can’t fulfill all of your needs, another person isn’t going to agree with you all of the time. And then the complication of partnership, is that you are tasked with managing two people stress, or more when you have children or other people involved in cell stress with one is hard stress with two really complicated because you’re feeling that with each other all of the time. And so it’s totally normal to have periods of time where you’re not happy.

Claire  20:52

Yeah, I’m getting better at this. I want to go back to your book for just a minute. And then we’re going to move on to some listener questions. But I really love your book, your book is called I want this to work. But you had a section in here about the five-part relationship system, which I really enjoyed. Because I feel like in my younger relationships, and in other people’s relationships, I see sometimes there’s this idea that we need to be the same. And in your five-part relationship system, I feel like it gives a lot of freedom and autonomy to the couple that each individual in the couple. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

Sure. So when we’re in relationship, we don’t just become one. Much as two becomes one, […] I think that was the Spice Girls. But we are ourselves and the other person is themselves. And then we come together. And this really beautiful thing happens where we might start sharing certain parts of our ourselves that the other person takes on, never really becomes their thing. But they share it with us because they love us. And we take on some parts of them. And we share it with them because we love them. But then this other thing happens where we actually create something new, that didn’t exist before. That’s like a new culture. And so an example of how this looks between me and my husband is that I still have my private self, there’s friends that my husband’s maybe only met a few times to be honest, because when I hang out with them, we’re like, going to lunch or I’m driving back to where I’m from, and, you know, seeing their kids and all of that kind of stuff. And so that’s my private life. And I have my private thoughts. I have private time. That’s me my job, he doesn’t really share a ton, you know, in regards to my job with me. But there’s parts of me that he has taken on as well. And those are things like traveling, I have always been an avid traveler, when I met my husband, he had never left the United States, he didn’t have a passport. And now my husband is like always on board. Let’s travel, let’s do this, you know, where are we gonna go next. But it’s still like kind of my thing. You know, it’s still the thing that I know about the most and I have the most information on in terms of my husband, he has lots of things that are his that I don’t share with him at all. But there’s parts of him that he’s brought to me, I have never been interested in music, you can tell because like my taste was Spice Girls. That’s the last music I can cite is from when I was 10 years old. I love it. But he’s a musician. So now I know a ton about music, but it’s not my thing. And then the really cool part is that we’ve created something that wasn’t there before. And that’s our child and how we parent, it is our inside jokes. It’s our home, all that stuff that is ours, essentially.


I love that I just like I really liked thinking about that. Again, I think I feel like in my younger relationships, my partner’s and I felt like we had to only like the same things or only do the same things all the time, we had to know exactly what the other person was doing at all times. And it was I found it very stressful.

Elizabeth Earnshaw  24:03

Oh my gosh, yes, I was the same. And I would date people. And I’d be like, into just their music. And that would be like my identity, or I would be into whatever they were into. And I wasn’t like me anymore. And then I would get really jealous if they had like their own separate identity from me.


Yeah. Okay, I have one more question before we get to the listener questions on this kind of note, just about the idea of how relationships change. So, you know, say there’s someone who did get into a relationship in their 20s, that was very much like that. And they’re still married to that person. Are there ways that they can develop new senses of self-kind of grow apart in a healthy way? Like, how do relationships change over time?

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

I’m glad you brought that up because they do change and they can absolutely change and a lot of the time we are imbalanced in some area, right? And so it’s nice to continually check in and say like, how are we doing as a unit, how are you doing privately? Like, do you feel like you have enough of you? And this changes during life transitions too, right? Because when we have a small baby, it might be like, Oh my god, I’m doing terrible privately, I have no sense of self anymore. And then it’s like, okay, well, what can we do to help you get some time? How can we help you to have hobbies, or your friends or whatever it is. So even if you’ve been in a marriage for many, many years, you can always sit down together and kind of explore, where do we feel like we don’t have enough going on? Do we need more for the self? Do we need to share more? Like, am I not doing enough of your activities with you? Is that not being present with you, when you’re experiencing music? or wanting to watch sports games or whatever in the way you want me to? Or do we have to develop us, do we need to think about, like, what our rituals are, what our goals are. So I think that for any couple, it’s nice to continually check in.

Claire  26:21

This is so, I could just ask you a lot. Bring my husband on. Okay, I’m gonna move on to meat. I’m gonna move on to some of these listener questions. There were so many questions that we got that were so great. This first one is from Abby in Baltimore. And she says, I am divorced with two teenage kids. I’ve heard that second marriages have an even higher divorce rate. And I’m wondering if there’s ever an age or stage where people simply have too much baggage and trauma to form healthy, lasting relationships.

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

Oh, that question makes me sad.


I’ve got a ton of baggage and I’m in a vaguely healthy relationship.

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

Yeah, we can all be in vaguely healthy relationships, that’s the goal. So statistics can make us feel really scared. I think, you know, the divorce rate is so high or second marriage divorce rate is so high all of that. And I think that, when we hear those things that might make us think, oh, my gosh, I’m not going to have any chance here. That’s just not the case. There’s no age, no stage of life, no amount of baggage that makes it impossible to find a relationship. And if you’re worried about that, one thing that you can start to think about is, well, how do I take really good care of myself? You know, what can I do here, so that I’m nurturing who I am, so that when I do get into a relationship, I have empowerment within that relationship, so that I can communicate, so that I can make sure I’m choosing to be with someone who is a good match for me, and I really like them, and they make me feel good. But there’s absolutely no age, no stage, not too many, not too much baggage. I’ve worked with people who, you know, are on second marriages that have had traumatic backgrounds. And they go on to have beautiful, thriving relationships.

Claire  28:14

Yeah, I agree with you. I don’t think there’s any age cap on this or any kind of baggage cap, as long as you’re kind of doing the work and showing up for it. This is this is a really good one. Lin from Ottawa says, how do you deal with resentment in a marriage? Hmm.

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

Resentments hard. It builds and resentment tells you to withdraw. Resentment tells you to punish. Resentment tells you to do all sorts of things that are not going to help your relationship. And so when you’re feeling resentful, I think number one, it’s really important to map out why, you know, what, what was the injury that happened here that built this resentment, because so often it goes back to some sort of pain point, it could be an acute pain point, like there was an affair, or something like that. It could also be chronic, you know, they were never there. For me, when we were raising the kids, I’ve had to do everything. And to be really clear with how that’s built up. If you’re trying to, like, maintain the relationship and be able to move forward together, then you’re going to want to figure out for yourself, well, how much am I willing to be vulnerable here? Because getting over resentment often means being able to be vulnerable enough to talk about it without using critical or contemptuous language, right? So am I able to say to the other person, I’m still so hurt about what happened when we were in our 20s and starting our family, and I’ve been holding on to that for a really, really long time. And then you have to be able to identify what you need, you know, I think I need and this part’s really important, because if you don’t know what you need, people can’t be successful for you. So I think I need for you to really listen to what I have to say here, I think I need to be able to have more time to myself so that I can do things that I’m passionate about, I think I need work help around the house, whatever it is, you have to be clear about what you actually need. The other thing, then that you’ll want to do is to figure out how to set pretty good boundaries, when we feel resentful usually means somewhere along the line, we didn’t have a limit. And we didn’t know how to navigate that limit. So being able to figure out, you know, if I resent my partner, because they’re never home on time, and so I ended up being the only one with the kids. And so that’s a really common one, right?. Kid related.

Claire  30:43

I was living that yesterday.

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

Yeah, yeah. Then what do you do? Like what’s, what’s the limit? How do you set a boundary around that. And it might be that you have to just take action to protect yourself. So it might be something like, well, but you know what I’m going to, I’m going to call some babysitters around town, and we’re going to start having a babysitter because I’m going to go to my yoga class, like, I’m not putting up with this anymore. And so just to summarize, it’s being able to look at the pain points, it’s being able to be vulnerable, express what you need, and then practice setting boundaries.


That’s really helpful. Do you think it’s possible to move through resentment if your partner is unwilling to talk about it or look at it?

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

I think that in some I have seen this is like, gonna probably be a surprising answer. I’ve seen people be able to when they realize they don’t actually care about what they’ve resented, for a long time. If you are resentful, and you’re truly resentful, and it is current with this person, and they won’t talk about it with you, they are not willing, I don’t really think it’s possible to move forward from the resentment because what that would mean is that you have to force yourself to accept something that is painful to you. And that is just looping right back into the resentment again.

Claire  32:00

So interesting. This kind of feeds into this next question. Kaia from Denver says, my husband and I have the same argument on repeat, honestly, we just have different priorities. I love him dearly. And he’s the most amazing husband and father, but money trumps all with him. We don’t ever get away together and making a family vacation happen takes a lot of pressure, we save and I’m grateful that we’ll have retirement money, but I want to make now more of a priority. He doesn’t seem to get how important that says, this ties into like the repeat arguments, but also money, which I feel like is one of the biggest issues between couples.

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

I love this question. Really fun answer for it and a really fun exercise. First of all, the person who wrote this so sweet, because they really tried to include a lot of relational awareness like, so appreciative, we’re gonna have savings and my husband’s great and I love them. And they still, with this relational awareness still have a sense of themselves. And they’re able to say, but there’s things I want too, we can’t only live the way my husband wants to live, it’s not going to work. Money is a big issue. And it can be really challenging to work through because it is very visceral for people, it is really, really intertwined with our experiences and our fears and all sorts of stuff. And so when couples are arguing about this difference, in particular, this is a really common one, I want to save, because it’ll keep us secure. And the other person is saying I want to play because it makes our life worth living. This is me and my husband. Yeah, why would I want to be secure, if my life isn’t going to be worth living, because then the other person says, well, if you’re going to be that risk taker, then we really need to be secure. We need to have money in the bank. So this is very common difference. And in Gottman therapy, we actually call it a perpetual problem, which means that you will always be different on this, you will always be the risk taker and your husband is always going to be the saver. And if you keep trying to get the other person to think like you like come on, can you just think about how great it would be to spend money? They are not going to. They’re going to say, no, because I think it’s important to save money. And the reason this is because it’s often very connected to your dream of how you think money should be, that should word is really important here, how you think money should be used. And often, very powerfully, our dreams come from either what I call an extinction dream or legacy dream. So in your childhood, you either experienced people who spent a ton of money, and it was really fun and you wanted to keep the legacy you thought, oh my gosh, it was great. When I was little, Disney World. That’s my family and my husband and I.

Claire  34:56

My family was super reckless. And just like, you know, we were always in and out of money. But it was really fun.

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

Really caused me too many problems. Like, there was stress, of course, but like we went to Disney World, we took trips, we went all sorts of fun things. So I had that legacy dream, when I grow up, I’m going to have these things too, we’re going to take our kids to Disney World, we’re going to decorate our house beautifully. This is what we’re going to do. Now, and then some people have an extinction dream. So this listener, they might be relating to what I just said, or it could be the opposite. They could have had a family that didn’t spend any money. And so what they said when they were little, when I grow up, I want to be more like my friends who went on trips and had fun, this is boring. This is stressful. What’s the point, my parents never enjoy their life. When I grow up, I have a dream that I am going to have fun with my money. And so what I would recommend to this couple is stop arguing about money. And actually ask your partner, where did you develop the belief? Why did you decide that it was so important for you to save, and your partner is going to tell you, it’s because I either saw a really horrific thing happened, or I saw a really beautiful thing happened. And that’s why it’s important to me, and then share why it’s important to you, then you have to figure out how are we going to do this together so that we both have our dream.

Claire  36:32

I love it. So lastly, if someone can’t afford to go to couples therapy right now, or they can’t get their partner in, what are some things they can do just you know, right now, if they’re struggling, or they’re really unhappy, or they’re confused, what are some like kind of basic things that can get started with like today?

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

Yeah, so you can read my book, that’s the one thing you can do, any relationship book really, the other thing that you can do is really radically love, work on, take care of yourself, if your partner won’t go to couples therapy, then maybe use the time you would have used for that to go to individual therapy, and to really talk about you know, what’s happening in your relationship, how you want to navigate that how you can show up as your best self-aligned with who you are in that relationship so that you can figure out you know, what you want to do next in regards to it.


So great. Thank you so much for the work you’re doing and for this conversation today.

Elizabeth Earnshaw 

Thank you so much for chatting with me, it was so nice to meet you.


I absolutely loved this conversation with Elizabeth. I might even be calling her myself soon for couples therapy. And not because there’s necessarily anything wrong with my marriage. But because I think we could all be putting more effort into making things work better with our partners. This week’s practice is about emotional integrity and getting your needs met, while also building a relationship that works for you and your partner. Today’s conversation was a great reminder that there’s no such thing as a perfect relationship, nor will it feel amazing all the time. This week, I want you to take a deeper look at your relationship and the areas that could use some improvement. A great way to start is to first pinpoint what the issues are. Then identify what stage your relationship is at. According to Liz there’s five stages in building a relationship. infatuation. When you magnify everything you love about the other person realization, noticing what annoys you about the other person. People usually break up during this stage tension trying to work through the issues, understanding and acceptance. Next, I want you to ask yourself, what do I need? Is it personal time you’re longing for? Or do you need to share and spend more quality time with your partner? If you weren’t sure a great way to determine this is to sit down with your partner and talk about it. Discuss what you don’t have enough of, talk about what your goals and rituals are.

Claire  39:01

And if this doesn’t do the trick, consider going to couples therapy, make it temporary and talk about just one issue at a time. And if that’s not an option, I definitely recommend that you get a copy of Liz’s book, I want this to work. There’s great journal prompts if you want to reflect on your own. Liz also offers talk about sections and exercises that you can do as a couple. And if you happen to be a resident of Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, California, Utah or Maryland, check out A Better Life therapy to find a local therapist who specializes in individual therapy, couples, family and more. Remember, relationships aren’t perfect, and the person you’re with is always going to be different from you. But if you can both be open understanding and willing to pick up the pieces when they fall apart. It can work. As always, thanks for listening. And if you get a chance, send me a question through my new online forum at bit.ly/newdayask, it’s totally anonymous. You can literally ask me anything and you can find the link in the show notes. Or if you just want to tell me about one of your weekly practices, call and leave me a voicemail at 8334-LEMONADA, that’s 833-453-6662, or email me at newday@lemonadamedia.com


NEW DAY is a Lemonada Media Original. The show is produced by Jackie Danziger, Liliana Maria Percy Ruiz and Erianna Jiles. Kat Yore is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. Executive producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer, Lily Cornell Silver and Claire Bidwell Smith. NEW DAY is produced in partnership with the Well Being Trust, The Jed Foundation and Education Development Center. Help others find our show by leaving us a rating and writing a review. Follow us at @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms, or find me at clairebidwellsmith.com. Join our Facebook group to connect with me and fellow NEW DAY listeners at facebook.com/groups/newdaypod. You can also get bonus content and behind the scenes material by subscribing to Lemonada Premium. You can subscribe right now on the Apple podcast app by clicking on our podcast logo and then the subscribe button. Thanks for listening. See you next week.

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