In this episode, I discuss my divorce, what I learned from it, and how I found the tools that make a marriage work.
I also share some of our experience with couples counseling.
"Most of my life I've really sucked at relationships."
Saving your marriage from parenthood: https://jasonapolk.life/
My Colorado therapy practice: https://coloradorelationshiprecovery.com/
I'll be real. Most of my life I really sucked at relationships. In fact, some years ago, I went through a divorce. Now you may be asking yourself, Why am I getting relationship advice from some dude who's been divorced? And that's a good question, but stick with me, and I'll explain it. Welcome to The Healthy Relationship secrets for parents podcast, saving your relationship from parenthood. So the question is, how can we be great parents and have an amazing relationship at the same time? That's the question, and this podcast will provide the answers.
I'll be real. Most of my life, I really sucked at relationships. In fact, some years ago, I went through a divorce. Now you may be asking yourself, Why am I getting relationship advice from some dude who's been divorced? And that's a good question. But stick with me, and I'll explain. I want to share a glimpse of my life a snippet, if you will, of my life near the end of my first marriage. So here goes, I left our condo infuriated and drove to my parents house, after what was our last big fight well together, although I didn't know it at the time, not only was I really angry, but underneath that I was defeated, hopeless and sad. Over the years, my ex wife and I became experts, and pushing each other's buttons, experts and twisting the knife so to speak. When I would arrive at my parents house after our big spice, it was a refuge. But it also sparked feelings of failure and shame.
I was in my early 30s at a time, and not only was my marriage falling into pieces, but I couldn't even afford a hotel room to grieve in private. And I blamed that on choosing to be a social worker, initially, lying in my childhood bedroom that night, it became clear to me that divorce was the best option. We were so misunderstood by each other, we kept hurting each other, and we didn't know how to fix it. I wondered how we got to this point, we'd started off so strong, we traveled well together, had similar interest, and had an amazing wedding full of dancing and joy. But I also knew that by this time, I was emotionally checked out, I was done. For any relationship. This is not a good place to be. Like many couples, we made some gestures towards saving the relationship. Among other things, we went to marriage counseling, and I'll share some of that experience in a sec. But suffice to say for now, the turmoil, confusion, and hurt I experienced is strongly motivated me to be a better partner in the future, and work actively on subsequent relationships. And it's also been the fuel to help other couples create the relationship that they want. In part, because of my relationship difficulties. I chose to spend a great deal of effort, time and money in training to help people have healthy relationships, and cool side product in doing so I begin to understand how to develop harmony and ease in my own relationship.
And now I'm happily married. My wife just Can I have been together for over 10 years and married for six. And we have two young daughters. But as I mentioned, my ex wife and I went to couples counseling, I want to share a little bit about that experience. And maybe you can relate maybe not. So our first counselor did very little for us. In fact, I felt sorry for them because we were such a shit show. Pardon my French. And I think we actually scared them. I remember in one session, my ex wife was very mad at me. And I didn't know how to respond. I looked at the counselor as if saying, I don't know what to do here. But the counselor had a scared look on their face too, as if looking back me and saying, I don't know what to do either, Jason. So unfortunately, that experience was not helpful. We were left with no tools, roadmap or even knowledge about how we were wired and what we needed. Almost a year later, we sell our second counselor and this one was different. They knew what they were doing and had control of the sessions. However, we would sporadically set up appointments and we weren't
able to gain sufficient traction, we'd be good for a bit, and then we would regress. And our arguments got worse. This was the beginning of the end for me, as this was a time I was emotionally checking out of the marriage. Then we divorced a few months after our divorce, obviously, I was depressed, sad hurt, as I mentioned. And during this time I reached out to our last counselor, I asked them what they did to effectively work with couples. And I wanted to understand what went wrong as a means of healing from the divorce. And the counselor said, they were trained by this guy named Stan tacking, who, as it happened, was offering another training the next month. So I was like, Cool. I went to the training, even though I couldn't really afford it. And I started to read Stan's books and articles.
And basically, I devoured everything to stand public. And I ended up training with him for two years. And I began to understand what went wrong in my first marriage. You know, I haven't really shared in this podcast yet, the idea of attachment theory, and how it applies to our adult relationships. So basically, Stan uses a term that he calls Island, which means more of the avoidant attachment style. And he uses a term he calls wave, which is more of the anxious ambivalent attachment style. And so in the relationship with my ex wife, I showed up as the island, I was the avoidance, I was the withdrawal or so to speak, that was my initial instinct, stress starts coming up, I will slowly start to check out, shut down and withdraw. And if I get pushed enough, then I'm going to switch on the fight.
And my wife being the way her initial sort of reflex was to pursue, sometimes angrily pursue, even though if you asked her, she may disagree with that term.
And what was the result of that was often the pursue, will be met by mine with draw. And so we were in a crummy place, to say the least. But the problem is, we never really got a roadmap about how to navigate our reflexes, while still being relational. And that's really important. For example, being aware of my reflex to withdraw, I would have to be aware of that coming up. And then be skilled enough, maybe skill is not the right word, but had the motivation to take care of my reflex, while still being relational, by saying something like, Hey, I'm getting a bit overwhelmed, and I need to take five minutes, then I'll be back. And then I really need to come back in five minutes. Otherwise, it's not appropriate space, it's not a good tool. And taking this example, my wife, she would need to be aware of her pursuits, to sort of get the issue solved, or whatever that is, that it is going in, that is having the opposite
reaction, you know, she's getting the opposite of what she wants was shut down by me. But she wants connection, but in a way to be aware of that and say, Hey, I see you're overwhelmed. Let's come back in five minutes or for her, maybe not even having that dialogue with me. Okay, let's take a break. And then for her to take a deep breath or two, to get back in and centered sit in mind. Those are just some things that we could have done in practice to, like I said, be aware of our reflex, while still being relational. And the thing was, we never really learned that. And so we kind of ended up blaming each other. And then bitterness and resentment grew. And obviously you know what happened. Nevertheless, during the time when I would actually start healing from my relationship and training.
With Stan packing, the supervisor told me about this guy named Terry real, who was also working with couples, and is crazy because I was already reading one of his books at the time. And the book was called, I don't want to talk about it. Overcoming the secret legacy of male depression, and then, boom, I find myself I found myself doing another two years of training with Terry real
and his work has been an amazing addition to my previous training. Nevertheless, the thing is, even after all this training, all this work with couples, of course, is my vocation. I love doing it. But I wish I didn't need to do all this stuff, to know how to have a healthy relationship. And personally, I got very little guidance on this from my parents or grandparents. I also believe we have a cultural problem of not training individuals, to men, especially how to have intimate, long term relationships. Our culture seems to be infatuated with stories and the romances and love it for sites, I guess infatuated with infatuation, you can say, but what about when the initial excitement wears off, and then that's where the work begins. With that said, the crappy experiences and my divorce has ultimately been a blessing, leading to a deeper understanding of what makes a healthy relationship work. And my own mixed experiences as someone in need of couples counseling and participating in it has motivated to work with couples. Now more in the context of coaching. That is, we're going to commit to a specific amount of time working together. So it's not sporadic, normally two months, and let's identify both of your goals. So they're specific, and let's work towards them. And we can continue to have an ongoing conversation about how we're doing with the goals, but I found that to be more rewarding, and also to yield better results. So also another way of saying, you know, initially sucking at relationships has been a blessing, because I do love what I do. And hopefully, my experience my study my training, and benefit you as you listen to this podcast, and maybe one day we'll work together. Thanks for listening.
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