In this episode of Where Should We Begin with Esther Perel, Esther works with a married couple facing challenges around the roles they play in the relationship dynamic. He has defined himself as a calm, saint-like figure. While she, perhaps in reaction his ‘sainthood,’ plays the part of hysterical woman prone to explosive outbursts.
Can the two decide to no longer remain faithful to old stories and change together?
What to listen for in this episode of Where Should We Begin with Esther Perel.
• A direct result of perceiving his father to be weak, the husband invests a vast amount of time and energy making certain no one takes advantage of him. He looks for fights where none exist. Have you spent time with individuals like this?
• Esther refers to the “dance of negative escalation.” This pattern occurs when one partner stonewalls and the other, in reaction to this refusal to engage, allows their emotions to escalate. Have you experienced this emotional dance in a relationship?
• For both partners the part of themselves they struggle with today is the very trait that saved them as a child. Sometimes what works as a survival strategy backfires when we are no longer under threat. Can you see evidence of this in yourself?
• “I tell you how I feel and you say oh no you shouldn’t be angry about that. You invalidate what I feel.” Does this sound familiar in your current or past relationships? Reflect on a time when you may have shared your feelings only to have someone you care about dismiss them. How did it feel?
• The wife does the emotional work in the marriage leaving her husband to become an observer. Esther encourages her to shift this behavior. To be curious, to engage, but to not do all the work. Who takes on the majority of the emotional labor in your relationships?