Is your marriage in the best shape it could be? Do you feel like you’re married but living as roommates? How can you improve your marriage?
In This Podcast
In this podcast episode, Veronica shares the story of her marriage and how she managed to make her marriage survive and thrive.
Starting our marriage and understanding my past
The first year of marriage went something like this: you stay in your lane and I’ll stay in mine. It was a complete game. We were constantly trying to win this battle and win the role of being the alpha. Our arguments sounded like: if you don’t like it, leave. I wish it was from him, but it wasn’t.
I grew up in a dysfunctional family where my parents used to fight all the time and when they did, my dad would leave. My dad would do anything possible to avoid connection and vulnerability. I remember watching my mom feeling defeated. This was all they knew and what she modeled for us unintentionally. As a result, in my own marriage, there was no way I was going to get hurt or rejected. I decided that’s what my relationship would look like and I threatened him to leave so many times. Until I started thinking.
Veronica, what are you doing? This man loves you. Why won’t you let him in? I wanted to say sorry so badly but I didn’t know how to.
Something had to change
In so many ways I was attempting to control the situation, our marriage, and I didn’t know how to be vulnerable. To me, vulnerability meant someone could take advantage of you and it meant you no longer have control. That was a lie.
I was waiting for something to change. Because something had to change or else divorce was on the cards.
Then I thought, what if I change and I no longer want to be with him?
Those words are the words I hear from most women that come into my office. I say to each one of them: what if you change and your relationship changes with you? What if you and your husband have the ability to grow together? Why do you allow fear to imprison you?
Fear is an emotion, not a direction.
In my own marriage, I began to believe the lie that ‘we’re just in a bad phase, we’ll get out of it’ and other lies I told myself.
Ask yourself the following:
- What lies are you telling yourself?
- How is this impacting your relationship?
- Are you married to your roommate?
- Do you feel connected?
We can not rely on anyone else to meet our needs as we have to meet our own needs first. Know what they are and work on them.
Steps to go from roommate to a connected married couple
Step 1: Accept him for who he is and who he isn’t
Did you fall in love with the fantasy? Did you purposely ignore all of those red flags? Are you trying to change him into who you believe he can be? If you see him for who he is, will you want to stay with him? Let down your guard and accept him.
Step 2: Identify your part in the dysfunction
Are you dependent on him to change you and meet all of your needs? What are you scared of? Why are you dependent on him to identify you? How often are you connecting?
Step 3: How is your past affecting your ability to move forward?
In my own marriage, I had to stop seeing him as the enemy and instead see him as my husband. That was my form of protection to keep myself from being rejected. Instead of paying attention to all of the ways he could potentially hurt me, I started to pay attention to all of the ways he loved me. I leaned in and started connecting, and I started to feel so loved.
Step 4: Start to say no and set boundaries
You need to be clear with your partner about who you are, what you want, your beliefs and values, and your limits. With boundaries, you tell people how to behave around you.
Step 5: If you are at level 10 walk away from an argument
I’m going to tell you right now there is absolutely nothing you can say at this level of rage that is going to change anything! John Gottman has stated that marriages generally survive if the ratio of good to bad interactions is 5 to 1.
What is your intent for today?
Lean in toward connection. Call your partner if he’s not next to you and tell him how much you love him. Walk up and embrace him. Our relationships are worth so much, treat them at the level of value that they are instead of treating them like they’re disposable.
Until next time, keep pushing forward.
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Meet Veronica Cisneros
I’m a licensed therapist and women walk into my office every day stressed and disconnected. As a mom of three daughters, I want my girls to know who they are and feel confident about their future. I can’t think of a better way to help other women than by demonstrating an empowered and unapologetic life.
So I started Empowered and Unapologetic to be a safe space for women to be vulnerable and change their lives for the better before she ever needs to see a therapist.
Thanks for listening!
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Empowered and Unapologetic is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts seeking to help you thrive, imperfectly. To hear other podcasts like the Bomb Mom Podcast, Imperfect Thriving, or Beta Male Revolution, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.
[VERONICA]: Empowered and Unapologetic is part of the Practice of the Practice podcast network, a family of podcasts that change the world. To hear other podcasts like the Bomb Mom podcast, Beta Male Revolution, or Imperfect Thriving, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.
I get it. Being a mom is hard, especially when you are feeling stressed and disconnected. We exhaust ourselves trying to create the perfect life for our family. You deserve to enjoy your family without the stress perfectionism brings. On this podcast, I teach you how to identify who you are outside of all of the roles you play. If you are ready to be challenged, then girl, pull up a chair, grab a pen and paper because it’s about to go down.
Hey, I’m Veronica Cisneros, a licensed marriage and family therapist on a mission to create a community of bad ass women who want to learn how to become empowered and unapologetic. Welcome to our girl games.
First year of marriage, when something like this, you stay in your lane and I’m going to stay in mind. It was a complete game. He and I were constantly, we were constantly trying to go ahead and win this battle and win this role of being the alpha. And I remember we did this for quite some time, so much so that our arguments would look something like this. “If you don’t like it, leave. “And I wish I could say that that was him saying it and you know, kind of make him out to be the bad guy but in reality, was me. I grew up in this dysfunctional, unhealthy environment. My mom and dad would constantly argue and in addition to that, every time they argued, my dad would leave. And most of the time when my dad would leave, he would also step out on his marriage.
And so, I’ve seen this kind of growing up and I would see their dynamics and I would see how they interacted with one another. And, you know, I would see that my dad would do all of these things to create an argument just so he can go, just so he can escape and even avoid like any form of reconciliation or any form of like connection and vulnerability. And my mom, I remember watching my mom and just feeling the sense of defeat. My mom did everything she could and you know what, in so many ways, so to my dad. However, this is all they knew. And so, because this is all they knew, that’s all they did and that’s what they modeled for us. And so, growing up and then being married, I knew that there was no way in hell I was going to get hurt.
There was no way in hell I was going to be vulnerable and even exposed to any form of rejection. And so, I decided, well, that’s what my relationship’s going to look like. And I remember when we would argue, I remember I’d get so upset my only go-to was to ask him to leave. And that was my only go-to, because I didn’t know how to express emotions. I didn’t know what to do with these things. I mean, they were just all over the place and it just felt so uncomfortable. And so, I did that for a while and one time when I did it, he actually left. We got in this big argument. I don’t even remember what it was about, but I remember just yelling at him and saying, “You know what, if you want to leave, leave.”
And every time I said that, you know, he would change and we would work it out. Well, he would work it out. I wish I could take the credit, however. I was just so shut off. I was just so closed off. And this time was different. He actually walked out. And when he walked out, I remember just feeling like, “All right, you knew this was going to happen, Veronica. You knew this was going to happen. What’s the next step?” Well, the next step was pretending like I didn’t care. And so that’s what I did. I pretended like I didn’t care. So, I slammed the door and I was like, “Good. He’s gone. Well, that’s done. I knew it was going to happen.” And then I remember being curious and so I ran to the window. We lived on the second floor of an apartment. So, I ran to the window and there I am watching him walk to his car and the entire time I’m like, “Yep, that’s right. I knew he was going to leave. I knew he was going to leave.”
And I kept telling myself that over and over and over again, “You knew he was going to leave.” And then there he goes, you know, he turns on his car, closes his door, but he’s not leaving. He’s not leaving. Why isn’t he leaving? Oh God, here we go. Here we go. Why isn’t he leaving? So, all of a sudden, I’m like, “Well, here I go. I guess I have to fix this. I guess I have to go downstairs and talk to him again dismissing emotions all together.” So, there I am with my pride in my hand, because that’s what really led me. So, there I am walking to the car and I walked to the car and opened the door. And there he is, he’s crying. “He’s crying, Veronica, what the hell are you doing? What are you doing? This man loves you. Why won’t you let him in?”
And I remember, I remember looking at him and just wanting to hold him and just wanting to tell him everything’s okay and I’m sorry. I wanted to say that so badly, but I didn’t know how. And I didn’t know how, because to be honest, I didn’t even know how to love myself. How the hell was I going to let somebody love me? I didn’t feel like I was enough. I didn’t feel as if I was deserving. I didn’t know that back then. So, arguments continued so much so that I then switched from him leaving to me leaving and I would pack up all of my stuff and just go. Well, I did it so much that after a while I realized, “Well, you got to unpack this. Come on Veronica.” And so, I ended up, I want to say I was smart, however, I was still dumb.
But I got to a point where I only packed my shoes because those are easy to just kind of throw out. And it’s crazy because I knew I was packing just to see his reaction. And I needed his reaction because I needed to feel wanted, I needed to feel needed, I needed to feel loved. And the only way, the only way I can feel that is if there was some form of pain and this just, I needed to see him in this state of desperation. Oh my God. Like, even when I say that, it’s like, what the hell Veronica? Like, really? And I want to say that this isn’t true, I want to say that this isn’t my story, however it is. I needed to actually see it. I needed to see that he loves me and I needed to see it at that moment. And so, in so many ways, I was attempting to control and manipulate the situation. I was attempting to control our marriage.
I didn’t know how to be vulnerable. I didn’t know what vulnerability looked like because to me, vulnerability was being exposed to somebody taking advantage of you. To me, when you show signs of weakness by crying, that’s it. You no longer have control and you’ve given this other person so much power. I’m going to tell you right now, that was a lie. That was a lie. It was a lie because it wasn’t true. It was a lie because you find complete control over yourself and only yourself because we have, we do not have the power to control other people. We can only control us and that’s it. So that’s something I had to learn. And all of this was a problem and it was a problem because I was waiting on something to happen. And then I thought to myself, ”Well, something has to change, but what if I change and I realized I no longer want to be with him?”
Those exact words are the exact words I hear from most women that come into my office. You know, they’re so scared to change because they’re afraid that if they change, they’ll finally come to the realization that they don’t want to be with her husbands and each one of them, I challenge with, “Girl, what if you change and your relationship changes with you? What if you and your husband have the ability to grow together? Why do you allow fear to keep you imprisoned?” And I thought to myself, well, that’s also what I did. I did the same thing. I allowed fear to control me. Well, that had to change because if not, then me and my husband would be on the road to divorce. And so that’s exactly what I did. I started to realize that I needed to change and whether or not my husband bounced on his bandwagon or not, it didn’t matter. I needed to change because I wasn’t liking who I was at all.
And I recognized this was a problem for obvious reasons. You know, we allow, I allowed fear to control and take over my life. And one thing I often say, especially to my clients in my private practice is fear is an emotion, not a direction. Think about when I say that fear is an emotion, not a direction. We tend to rely on fear to direct us and control us and tell us what our next move is. We give it that much power and when I was young, I gave it full control of my marriage. And now looking back, I realize that the effects of that almost cost me my marriage and staying stagnant wasn’t an option. I realized that I began to believe the lie. It will get better. It will get better, we’re just in a bad phase. This will change soon, which drew me to this question, “Girl, what are the lies you tell yourself?”.
And that’s a question I also often ask not only my private practice clients. For those of you that don’t know me, I’m a therapist and you know, I help women. I help women that are currently feeling defeated, stressed, and disconnected. I help them challenge their insecurities, I help them by building their confidence, I help them by being a part of their journey and helping them develop this level of understanding of where this all came from. And in addition to that, because this was so common, I decided to also help those women right before they needed therapy. And from that Empowered and Unapologetic was brought to life. And so right now, ladies, I want you to ask yourself, “What are the lies you tell yourself?” It’s going to get better. He’s eventually going to change. I’m eventually going to change. I’m happy.
Next, I’m going to ask to pay attention to how this is impacting your relationship. You know, for me, kicking my husband out, running away, doing all of these things, I was only hurting the relationship and I was playing a game. I was playing a game because I ended up becoming roommates with him and he had his wall up, I had my wall up and we completely avoided each other. We both shut down and we didn’t know how to express ourselves. We didn’t know how to communicate. And we for damn sure didn’t know how to be vulnerable with one another. So that’s what we did. We just went about our day, pretending like everything was going to be fine, pretending as if those words that we had said the night before didn’t mean anything.
And so, ladies right now, I want you to think about your relationship. I want you to think about your marriage. Are you married to a roommate? Do you feel as if you are both connected? You know what a relationship looks like, what a healthy relationship looks like is you can both be independent and you could be interdependent. And what I mean by that is you can both stand-alone. What I often see in the couples that I work with and even in my group, in my coaching group, what I often see is most couples tend to be so codependent attempting to meet each other’s needs. And each time they fall short and when they fall short, they’re left with this exact statement, “Whatever I do, it’s not good enough for you. Whatever I do, it’s never good enough.”
And in so many ways, the person is right. Here’s why. We cannot rely on other people to meet our needs. I’ve been married for 20 years and I’m going to tell you right now, not only can he not read my mind, he also will never be able to meet my needs. You want to know why? Here’s a secret. I have to meet my own needs first. I have to identify what they are and I have to be willing to work on them. In addition to that, my husband doesn’t know how to fix it because he can’t. And even if he attempted to fix it, it wouldn’t work because in reality, what we both want is we both want to be understood and loved, and we both want to be accepted. And most of the time that’s not happening because neither of us want to be vulnerable. Neither of us want to be exposed. And that’s exactly what we have to do.
I have helped several couples understand the power of vulnerability and how beneficial it is to their marriage. So, I’m going to teach you, I’m going to teach you right now, how to save your marriage and how to go from roommates to a married couple, an emotionally connected, married couple. Here are some steps mixed with some personal steps I had to take to change. So, if you don’t have pen and paper, I highly recommend you get one. So here we go.
Step number one, except him for who he is and who he is not. Girl, let me ask you a question. Did you fall in love with the fantasy? Did you purposely ignore all of those red flags? And then I want you to take it even further. Think about this. Are you trying to change him? Are you trying to change him into who you believe he needs to be versus who he really is? So my friend and I, we met up for lunch and we were just catching up, you know, and we had this conversation around parenting and I’m listening to her and she’s telling me how she’s always wanted her husband to take her daughter out on a date. And she’s always wanted this because her father never did it for her.
And so, I’m listening to her and we’re having this conversation and she’s telling me everything she did to make this happen. And the entire time she’s also telling me everything they did, everything he did, so it wouldn’t happen. And I’m listening to her and I’m hearing her as she’s telling me how she set this up, how she set it up. But yet she’s giving him all the credit. She’s giving this man all the credit and he didn’t want to go on the date. And so, you know, her and I are really, really good friends. And I asked her, “Do you see anything wrong with this?” And she’s like, “Well, yeah, I do. I see that I set up the date. I see that I have made the reservations. I see that in addition to all of it, while they were on a date, I was hoping and praying he wasn’t going to be on his phone.”
And that’s when the conversation got real. And I shared with her how I’ve done the same thing. I’ve done the exact same thing. I’ve attempted to force my husband to be who exactly I wanted him to be versus who he really was. And I felt guilty about that because in so many ways, I was denying him over and over his ability to just be him. And it was constantly trying to change him by manipulating him, writing his scripts. You know, ladies, we do that. We write other people’s scripts. We’ll get into that in another conversation. And so, through that conversation, I realized, well, why do we do this? Why do we refuse to accept our husbands for who they are and who they’re not? And the reality is that we are so afraid. We’re so afraid to see who they are and not even know how to go ahead and adapt to it.
And in addition to that, if I see him for who he is, am I going to want to stay with him because if he’s this man that’s just lazy and doesn’t pick up after himself and he leaves all of his crap on the floor and he doesn’t care if the dishes are in the sink and he’s not structured, he’s not family oriented, he’s not this construction worker that can fix everything in the house and he doesn’t have this great body. Well, if he’s all of those, if he’s not all of those things or some of those things, then I have to admit that I married the fantasy. I have to admit that I’m attempting to change him and attempting to go out and make him out to be something he’s not and I have to own that.
And ladies, I’m going to tell you right now, one thing I’ve learned by accepting my husband for who he is and who he’s not, I realized that all of that is a complete lie. All of that is all of these distorted thoughts I built up in my head and they’re not even true. And to be honest, my husband wants healthy things for himself too, but I’m so busy trying to control things that I refuse to see it. And so, this is where I ask you to let down your guard. Let down your guard and accept them.
Step two, identify your part in the dysfunction. Am I dependent on him to change me and meet all of my needs? What am I scared? What am I scared of? Why am I so dependent on him to identify me? Well, here’s why. Because as long as I depend on him to identify me, then I know my worth. But the minute I’m standing on my own, well then, I have to do the work and I have nobody to blame. I have nobody to blame but myself. And this is why I ask you to identify your part in the dysfunction. What are you doing to sabotage your relationship? Hell, what are you doing to go and take on that role of his roommate? Like what are you doing right now? How often are you being vulnerable? How often are you connecting? Oh, that’s right. You’re nuts because you’re so busy attempting to control everything. And again, ladies, it’s an illusion.
Step three, how is my past affecting my ability to move forward? Well, I’ll tell you how. For me, I had to stop seeing him as enemy and instead as my husband. Well, what do you mean by the enemy, Veronica? Well, I saw him as enemy because that was my form of protection. I saw him as enemy because then I wouldn’t fall in love with him and then I wouldn’t expose myself and then I would keep myself from being rejected. I would keep myself from feeling any form of pain and that’s what I did. I looked at him as enemy. I remember having an argument with him. He and I were back and forth and we were arguing, and I can’t tell you what we were arguing about, but as I was doing my own work, I realized, well, this is one of those times that you know, you got to be open, you got to be vulnerable.
And we were in this really big argument. And in that moment, I wanted to kill with words so badly because the minute I kill with words, I feel like I have power. And I couldn’t, I realized I couldn’t do that because I wanted to change so badly and change needed to happen. So, while we’re having this argument, I looked at him and I said, “You know right now we’re not talking. And when we’re like this, I just get scared that you’re going to leave me and I get scared that you’re going to leave me because I feel like you don’t love me.” And as I was saying these words, it’s like, “Girl, what the hell are you doing? Knock it off. Get it together. You don’t say that. Now you’ve given him all of these tools. Now you’ve given him all of this power over you. Stop talking.”
And as I was saying, I just kept on going and I remember Willie looking at me and he was about to reply. My heart just stopped. My heart stopped because whatever he was going to say in this moment right now, whatever he was going to reply with that in my head, determined where I would go. That determined if I was going to walk out of this argument feeling safe and confident, or if I was going to walk out of this argument feeling completely defeated and rejected. And he looked at me and he said, “Listen, we’re just arguing. It’s going to happen. I still love you. However, I don’t agree with you and I’m not going to leave you. Why would I leave you just because we’re arguing?” And then it dawned on me, where did I learn this from? Well, every time my mom and dad argued, my dad would leave. And so that’s how my past impacted my relationship. So, I started to pay attention to all the ways he loved me instead of paying attention to all the ways he could potentially hurt me.
And I started leaning in and I really started connecting and in addition to that, I felt so loved and it was just this amazing feeling. And it still is because I’m going tell you right now, we’ve been married for 20 years and I lean in. I lean in, and in so many ways, by giving myself permission to lean in, I’m also giving him permission. And so, it’s just this beautiful connection, it’s just this beautiful exchange.
Which takes me to step four, setting boundaries. I started to say no. So, you ask what is a boundary? Well, you need to be clear with your partner, who you are, what your beliefs are, and what your values are, and you’re basically telling people how to behave around you.
What’s up, ladies? Just want to let you guys know that your ratings and reviews for this podcast are greatly appreciated. If you love this podcast, please go to iTunes right now and rate and review. Thank you, guys.
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