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Podcast Episode #12: How you can work through anxiety for a relationship where you feel seen & heard with Jerry Souter, Relationship Coach

Guest: Jerry Souter, Relationship Coach

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Transcription

Hayley Stanton: Hello and thank you for joining us on the Quiet Connections Podcast. Do you find yourself avoiding relationships? Or maybe self-sabotaging? Silencing yourself? Or are you a people pleaser feeling like you just can’t be yourself? We explore all of this and more in today’s episode with Relationship Coach, Jerry Souter. This conversation is going to make you think about what you really want in your relationships and at the end you’ll take away Jerry’s key tips for creating that loving connection that you deserve. My name’s Hayley. Let’s dive in. 

Welcome Jerry. And today we’re talking about relationships, which is really exciting. So I wonder if you could just begin by introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about the work that you do and who you work with. 

Jerry Souter: Yes. Hi, Hayley, thanks so much for having me on, and I’m looking forward to the chat and just a little introduction around me. I’m Jerry. I’m a love and relationship coach, and I specialise in women’s empowerment and conscious dating. And I support single women and women who were already in relationships, but maybe not quite blissfully happy. To uncover the root causes of any unhealthy relationship patterns that are keeping them stuck and so that they can feel worthy of being in the relationship that they really want.

Hayley Stanton: Fantastic. And can I ask what your experience are with feeling not good enough or maybe socially anxious and avoidant? 

Jerry Souter: Yeah. So I found over the years, when I really started to examine the cause of the sometimes destructive relationships I was finding myself in over the years, a lot of it was down to me not feeling good enough. And around that kind of sense of when I was dating or looking for a potential partner, it was more around me asking myself whether they wanted me and whether I was good enough for them, rather than me even thinking about whether I wanted to be in a relationship with them. And then if something didn’t go my way, or if I felt like I got rejected, I was finding the reasons why I wasn’t good enough for the relationships that I wanted, whether it was my weight or the way that I looked, like whatever was going on. Like in all of my insecurities that were coming up. And, and I find that a lot with the clients that I work with now as well, they come to me thinking that they need support with finding the partner. But what they really need to do is go into restoring that relationship with themselves so that when the potential partner appears or their relationship appears, that they feel good enough to actually have it so that they can see it and enjoy it. 

Hayley Stanton: I can absolutely relate to that. Absolutely meeting somebody was extremely difficult because being very socially anxious and feeling like I’m not good enough, I tended to just avoid situations where I would have to socialise and talk to people and show up and be seen as much as possible. And if I had to do them, then I would show up drunk. A lot of my socialising was just done in the bars and that’s a really difficult place to start a relationship.

Jerry Souter: Yes it is. And I also completely relate with that because for me, what that not feeling good enough looked like as then I kind of went into performance and I also used substances to boost my confidence and to kind of put on this persona or this idea of what I though like someone that might be popular on the dating scene or whatever would be like, so this party-girl persona and just like going out all the time. When that wasn’t really who I was, and wasn’t what I really enjoyed doing. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. And I can remember waking up the next day and being like, Oh, I just feel so awful, I feel really shameful and I can’t believe that I behaved like that. And then on the other side of it, now I kind of have to live up to this more outgoing chatty extroverted persona that I thought I’d put on the night before. And it was a real cycle for me that I was like showing up, not as I am. And that exacerbated that fear of rejection for me, I think. 

Jerry Souter: Yeah, absolutely. And for me it went as far as I even ended up in a relationship that I was in for two and a half years where I was completely pretending to be someone that I wasn’t just to please this person or so that they wouldn’t leave me. And sometimes when like the real me would come out, it would be like, well, I don’t even know who you are. Like, who is this person? He would say things like, why to act completely differently with your friends than you do around me or than you do around your house around other people. And then there just wasn’t this freedom of me being myself. It was a bit like being like a chameleon or something. Like I would adapt personality and who I was depending on the circumstances and who I was around and adapting to what I thought they wanted for a really long time. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. When avoidance just isn’t an option, then the next step is often to be people pleasing and trying to show up and be perfect and be the person that you think other people want to see. And that is just so, so hard to keep up. It takes up so much energy. Doesn’t it? 

Jerry Souter: It is, it’s absolutely exhausting. And that’s what kind of, I suppose, sped me on, into a shift of that, because it did just get to that stage where I was just mentally exhausted, physically exhausted. I’m like what? The job that I was in, I was having to constantly put on a performance for that, and then at home it was the same thing and I just didn’t feel like I had any space at all where I could just completely be myself.

Hayley Stanton: Do you feel like you lost yourself and maybe didn’t even know who you were at that time? 

Jerry Souter: Yeah, absolutely.  I kind of did this old cliche of like, I left my job and I went traveling and that was a whole rediscovery journey for me because I actually had no idea who I was or what I wanted. I kind of viewed this path, you know, this very traditional, like left school went to work in an office and ended up in kind of like corporates. And I had this goal of like, you know, climbing the ladder ladder to management. And like, I have no idea why I wanted any of these things. I think it was just what I thought I should want.

And I think it just hit me when I was living in London and I was working in the financial sector and I have this really nice apartment and, you know, good job in quotation marks and I was just deeply, deeply unhappy. And it didn’t make sense because tI thought well, I have everything that I wanted. I have everything that I had worked so hard for and I’m not happy. And then coming to that realisation of actually none of this was what I wanted and none of this is who I am. 

Hayley Stanton: Wow. I’m laughing with you because I can totally relate to that as well. And sort of my ambition was to be a solicitor, get good money, definitely climb the career ladder, like be this independent woman, have a family settle down by the age of 30 – I’m into my thirties now so this hasn’t happened, but I think you’re right. Society kind of gives us these unspoken rules that we need to find a partner and settle down and be thinking about kids and have everything as a woman, particularly before we reached that age. And that’s so, so hard and it drives us to be like, well, there must be something wrong with me or to settle down and put up with something that we don’t actually want. 

There’s been so many times where I’ve heard someone say, I got engaged or I got married because it was the logical next step. There’s clearly something missing. We need to drop down and be listening to our heart. 

Jerry Souter: Yes, absolutely. And I think just to name that, that kind of logical thinking and only using our heads to make decisions. That’s really a by-product of the society that we’re in and we’re conditioned to be that way. And I think especially as women, we’ve lost that art of connecting to our intuition and to our hearts and to our gut and to our womb space, this sort of more holistic, inclusive decision making process, rather than just thinking with our heads of like you say the logical method that says, Oh, get married, have the house, have the job, even though maybe that’s not what your heart desires or what would really bring you joy in life.

Hayley Stanton: Yeah, absolutely. The heart is where our sense of love and relationship and connection comes from. So we really do need to be tuning into that rather than just going society tells me that I need to be doing this. And of course we aren’t necessarily aware that this is what we’re doing. This is the path we’re going down, but we probably feel this sense of unease within us when something’s not quite aligned with who we really truly are. 

Jerry Souter: Yeah. And that, that pressure and it’s interesting as well that you say it’s 30. That was, it was exactly the same age for me. It was like, I need to make this type of money by the time I’m 30. I need to find the partner, I need to have the children and this whole, you know, I remember even from my early twenties, people saying for me, you know, like biological clock and you need to find a man and settle down and I’m 33 now and I still haven’t decided whether I want children or not. And I’m engaged to my partner. We were getting married when we can, when it’s possible again. And we haven’t decided whether we want children or not. And for a long time, I actually did think I wanted children and I had that kind of goal. And I was panicking when I was about to turn 30, but I hadn’t met anyone. I wasn’t with my partner yet. Like, Oh my God, it’s the end of the world. And this whole panic and I think, especially when it comes to having a family or having a partner, choosing that our of fear of like, Oh, wow. You know, my biological clock is ticking. And there’s also that if you really did want children down the line, there are all the ways. It doesn’t just have to be natural conception, whatever is, and it’s kind of like this making that decision that with fear kind of like from the logical brain, rather than the heart. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah, I absolutely agree. And I’m in very similar situation as well, where it’s kind of like if it, if it happens, you know, I may adopt in the future. I’m open to that, but I’m not going to pressure myself to make that decision. And I have friends who have chosen not to have kids and they are very happy living very  full lives being child-free and that’s a wonderful alternative that I hadn’t really considered or seen before. 

Jerry Souter: Yeah. And  I think it’s the appreciation and the knowing that now we do have those options that maybe our parents didn’t have, or didn’t realise that they had, we are empowered to make those choices and we don’t just have to follow the path that society lays out for us.

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. Okay. Let’s talk about dating because you mentioned earlier something about actually making a choice. And I think quite often we tend to fall into relationships, especially when we feel like we’re not good enough. And that was kind of my experience until my partner now. Basically just falling into relationships, usually drunk and not actually making a conscious decision, but feeling like I had to be grateful that somebody was just giving me some attention.

Jerry Souter: I think for me, the shift that happened that is when I realised I was similarly to you, I was kind of just ending up in relationships, falling into the meetings with someone. They would give me the attention and validation that I wanted. And then we would end up together. And a lot of the time I, at the end of these relationships, I would realise, you know, I don’t even like this person. And like, I don’t enjoy their company. I wouldn’t even want them as a friend. And I’ve spent years of my life with them just because of the crumbs they were giving me. And I remember being asked, I think it was either by a coach or by a therapist, what do you actually want in a relationship?

So this relationship that you so deeply desire that you’re seeking, that you want to be in, what does that actually look like? And I had no idea. I didn’t have a clue. I was completely stumped. I just didn’t have an answer. And I think because I didn’t have any role models around me. Like many of us have healthy relationships look like or what I could be aspiring to. I just had what I felt was normal in quotation marks. And, and I had to really take the time. I did take a break from dating for a while to really get clear on what do I actually want? Like, what is important to me in a relationship? What are my values? What are the things that are non-negotiables? What are the things that are just kind of like the cherry on top, like a nice to have.

And then I had to begin to go through the process of when I was dating, kind of like, it sounds a bit strange, but like screening my partners of like potential partners, like, you know, do they fit this criteria? Like, do they have the same values that I have? Do they want what I want? And a lot of clients that I work with, they’re sometimes horrified when I tell them, you know, I would tell potential partners on very early on that I wanted to get married in the near future and, you know, our society has, it’s like built into us this misconception of you can’t tell a man you want to get married or you want to commit, cause they’ll run a mile and you’ll scare him away etc. And I just got to the point where I’ve thought, you know, if that’s going to be their response, that’s not the type of partner I want. I don’t want to be with someone who is scared of commitment or who doesn’t want commitment or who doesn’t want to get married, because that was a value that was important to me. And it saved me a lot of time in the long run because I got to just let go of the partners that didn’t want what I wanted or that weren’t in alignment.

And it was challenging in the beginning to have those conversations. And it was just around really, it was practice and creating enough safety and self-soothing, and kind of preparing myself to be able to have those conversations and just getting really clear with myself that I wouldn’t settle for less or that I just wasn’t just going to end up in some relationship. And for me, the worst case scenario alternative was ending up on my own. And that was the thing that I was most scared of. And I even had to come to terms with that to think, okay, well, if I don’t meet someone who shares the same values as do then, so be it. And I had to really come to terms with that as well. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. I think it can be. Really hard to connect with someone and to feel like you are being seen and heard and loved because we tend to keep these barriers up and we feel very resistant sometimes to expressing our thoughts and our feelings and opinions for fear of rejection. So what advice do you give to people who are in that kind of place? 

Jerry Souter: So with rejection, this is what I actually did my live on today in my Facebook group, because I always get questions around how to deal with rejection and it’s something we all feel. And it’s so common. And I think it’s just normalising that we all have that fear of rejection that it’s completely human. And what I share around that is to really allow yourself to go into the feelings. Giving yourself permission to be with those feelings that are coming up when the rejection arises, whether that be, you know, you’ve been vulnerable and you’ve shared with someone and they haven’t responded in the way that you’ve wanted them to; it’s around being with that, that upset me, or it’s made me angry or it’s made me sad or I feel unsafe or whatever it is, and really allowing yourself to process and be with those feelings.

And the second part is around really, I think we attach so much meaning and we create stories around what rejection means and more often than not. It’s to do with the other person. It isn’t something that we have done or it isn’t about who we are. If the person that you’re communicating with isn’t able to see you or hear you or receive what it is that you have to say, then that’s on them. That’s for them to process. As long as you’ve done your part of communicating it in a respectful way and in a conscious way. And all of those things it’s around seeing that the rejection doesn’t mean anything about you as a person. And it takes time. And it’s kind of like, to me, it’s a process of just constantly reminding myself in that. And it doesn’t only show up in relationships. It shows up in all areas of life with career opportunities and other things. And it’s going back to what I find as well as just the soothing of our inner child because often that’s the part of us that is coming up to be seen when we’re feeling rejected and just allowing ourselves, giving ourselves permission to feel that and not making ourselves wrong for feeling rejected.

Hayley Stanton:  So I’m hearing some themes around self-soothing and permission, and probably a lot of compassion. And like you said earlier, if we grew up with healthy role models around us, it’s easier to step into that place and be more communicative. But my parents, they didn’t communicate with each other at all. If my mom had something to say, she’d have a few drinks first, and then my dad would walk out. So I thought that you just had to be quiet and put up with it and not cause conflict. And I think we have this real misconception around the idea of conflict. So is there something that you can share with us on that?

Jerry Souter: Yeah. So I think, again, it’s around the stories that we create in times of conflict, as long as again, you know, I’m putting this in the kind of framework of as long as a disagreement is respectful and you’re open to hearing the other person ideas and thought process, then conflict isn’t necessarily bad in quotation marks. We’ve created the story that conflict is bad. And there’s different ways and types of arguing and having conflict. And there are types that are very destructive and aren’t healthy at all. And that aren’t nice to be in. And there’s ways of working through conflicts, where it’s just open and honest communication. I completely hear you on it’s so challenging, because I think it hasn’t been modelled for most of us, less space, but there’s probably, you know, few and far between, there are people who have had healthy communication model to them by parents.

It’s not modelled in society. We’re not taught in school. And it’s around taking that responsibility of, you know, communication is challenging for me. Like how can I, how can I practice this? And practicing it in a way where in the beginning where it might be low stakes in quotation marks, you know, like not going in with like a really big issue, but starting with something like, you know, it frustrates me when I dunno you don’t wash the dishes or whatever, and this is how it makes me feel.

And I would really appreciate it if you were to help with that and what I find with communication is really framing the needs that we have and why we need that and how it’s making us feel. And then also it was be open to the fact that it is an exchange and the other person might not want to do that. They might not want to change that behaviour, but then at least you’ve expressed like how it is that you feel or what it is that you need or want. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. Certainly you’ve given them the opportunity to then. So. Something else that came up for me quite a lot was self-sabotaging. It was kind of like, I was rejecting myself first before anybody else could do that. And I really expected to be rejected. And I think when I was dating, when I was younger, I was putting people on a pedestal. I was thinking they’ve got all these amazing qualities and I was both attracted and repelled by that because they were so amazing. They were much more likely to reject me. So, yeah, self-sabotage… is there any advice for recognising it when it’s happening or how to get out of that cycle? 

Jerry Souter: Yeah. So I was someone who was in that cycle for a very long time in the relationships that I was in. And I think the first step is definitely having the awareness that it’s happening and recognising. Beginning to recognise what the patterns are. So what your particular type of sabotaging looks like? So for me, for example, it was picking arguments. That was kind of like my self-sabotage thing, creating drama. Create arguments, creating conflict. So the reason I was doing that was to protect myself because I was scared of the intimacy that would happen if I didn’t create all of that drama and conflict. And that kind of like kept me occupied for a very long time. And it was around recognising, and I think going back to the compassion of, okay, this is why I’m doing this.

It makes sense that I’m doing this based on my past experiences, based on my childhood, based on, you know, the relationships that I’ve had. It absolutely makes sense I’m engaging this pattern. And then what it looked like for me was slowly, beginning to interrupt it. How can I interrupt this pattern? How can I take baby steps and begin to shift that?

So one of the things that was a recurring pattern for me was like the text message battles which is so unproductive. And I was in one very, quite destructive relationship where it got to the point where I just had to say I’m not having any contact with this person by phone or by email or whatever it is, because it would just spiral into a huge argument. And I had to take that baby step of, okay. How can I like pattern interrupt myself? Well, when I see the message come up, what can I do instead? What can I do to soothe myself when it’s coming up, go on a walk instead, call a friend instead, or speak to someone who can support me through it or think about all of the reasons why it’s not a good idea to respond to the message or kind of just to do something too, it’s kind of a healthy distraction, not like go and have a drink or do like whatever that kind of unhealthy way of pattern interrupt is. Things are more the healthy way of how can I kind of start to identify and also identify the root cause of what was happening or what was coming up for me when that pattern, why it was so hard to not respond to the message, which was around my fears of rejection or my fears of being left and recognising how can I support myself within that to shift that.

Hayley Stanton: Yeah, I think my pattern was more avoidance and just being distant and cold probably. And I think the outcome was that people would just think I wasn’t interested in them. One minute I might seem interested and the next I was running away. It was a real push pull dance I guess. And I was kind of the same with, if a guy would ask me out, my immediate response would be no before I even had a chance to think about it or even consider whether I do want it so, I wish I knew to just stop and take a breath and actually, you know, I’ll get back to you on that.

But for me, one of the real challenges were around the idea of dating, and I think we’ve got this idea that we need to be going, you know, having a drink together, having a sit down meal opposite each other. Especially when you’re socially anxious, thinking about being surrounded by people who you don’t know and being overheard in conversation, that’s an extra, like layer of judgment to be afraid of. So what’s your advice for the first date? 

Jerry Souter: Yeah, I think it’s being, it’s being open to having dates that aren’t necessarily conventional and saying to someone, you know, how about instead of going for a drink, we go for a walk or how about we have a phone call before we meet in person. Similarly to what I was saying earlier about thinking about what is it that you want in a relationship, what is it that you want out of the dating experience? What types of dates feel good to you? What do you want to do on a first date? What do you want to do on a second date? What do you want to do when, once you’ve gotten to know someone a bit, how much time do you want to take to get to know their friends or family. Thinking through all of these things, which then allows you to have that framework of, so you’re not just going into dating, doing things because you think that’s what you’re supposed to be doing, but taking the time to consciously set up what it is that you want the dating experience to look like.

And knowing that it does get to be different to what society dictates, that you don’t have to go for the drink or the dinner or whatever it is that you get to set up the dating experience in a way that works for you. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. I had somebody try to take me on a date to a castle for a candle lit meal. And, apparently they had drums banging at you while you were eating. It’s just absolutely terrifying for a first date, the idea of going on a walk just takes the pressure off and yeah you know you’ve only got that one thing to think about then, just getting to know someone, not what am I going to be worried about? What to order? Am I going to like the food? Are people going to be listening? 

Jerry Souter: You had mentioned earlier around that avoidance of dating all together and I do have quite a few clients who do go into that avoidance and end up not dating for years, for years and years on end. And then they’re frustrated because they’re not meeting the person or they’re not meeting the partner and it’s around, like, you have to put yourself out there in order to be able to meet that person. And how can you do that in a way that feels right. Good for you. So again, it’s taking those baby steps and interrupting that pattern of, okay. You know, baby steps. Can I get on this app and like connect with one person this week? Or like, can I go on one date or can I have one conversation and kind of just really taking those small steps towards feeling more confident in being able to put yourself out there to meet someone. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. It’s generally stretching your comfort zone. I was working with somebody who she was thinking about going on a date and she wanted to do something different, but she was really worried about actually stepping up and asking for something different. She felt like she was being too pushy, taking control, and it just felt icky to her. We did a lot of work around actually how does she reframe that to show up? So what would your advice be? 

Jerry Souter: Yes. So again, that goes back to these societal, like this societal conditioning that we’ve inherited that, you know, the man has to be the one. Very like gender based old question, it’s standards of the man has to be the one to initiate the date, and he has to be the one to reach out and arrange everything. And I think it’s around really getting clear and that ickiness, when it’s coming up, it makes sense, but it comes up because you’re doing something different and that will be a comfort zone stretch. And different to what we’ve been taught to do, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s out of alignment or that it’s not something that you want to be doing. So just really working through that ickiness, where is it coming from? How can I support myself to feel more comfortable with this and what I was doing with one client is, she was really afraid when she was dating people to send them the first text and this is really common. She would never, ever, ever text this person a first, and this was like months into dating. They’d already been dating for a few months and she’d never sent him a text first.

And the way I reframed this for her is I think often what happens, looking at this from a female’s perspective, is we often kind of ‘other’ men in quotation marks, like we make them different or, not like us, you know, they don’t have feelings or whatever, and the way I reframed this to her was how would you feel if you were in this person’s situation and you’ve been dating someone for months and they’ve never reached out to you and they’ve never sent the first text. So then it’s not a very nice space to be in, and it’s not that you need to be the one to reaching out, but maybe just stretching yourself with, okay, I’ll send the first text now. Something simple and easy. How’s your day going, or whatever, something low pressure.

And again, like going into the root of where is this fear coming from? Is it coming from the fear of rejection? Is it coming from this fear of what he’ll say? Is it coming from the fear of him running away? And I think it’s really building that evidence. And it’s so funny because I have clients who come back afterwards and they’re like, well, I sent a text and it wasn’t the end of the world.

And he didn’t leave, and he’s still here. And he was so happy to hear from me. And I reached out and it made him feel really good. And it’s like, it’s kind of building that evidence of things, even though it feels in our bodies  because of that ickiness, like the world is going to fall apart. If we send that first text, it’s not in most cases. In those cases the person on the other end will be really happy to receive that.

And it’s thinking about when we’re dating, what do we want? It’s nice to hear from someone it’s nice to get that text and being in that balance of if this is what I want to receive, and this is the way I want someone to show up for me, then I also need to be willing to show up in that way in order for it to be a healthy balanced relationship.

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. I love that. And remembering that men really aren’t so different and it’s nice to actually step up and take that 50%. And it’s just a way of showing that you are into the relationship that you actually genuinely do care too. So, yeah, that’s a really nice reframe. Thank you for that. When it comes to relationships, I’m wondering if there’s kind of a gap between the way that we think relationship is supposed to be, and the way that relationships actually are?

Jerry Souter: Yes. I think there is definitely a gap which has been created by the media and films and songs. You know, that relationships are supposed to be dramatic and fireworks and lots of chemistry and like all of those things. And what I found when I entered a relationship with my partner now is that the relationship began very differently to what I had previously experienced, which was very chemistry based. It was instant. It was like we met. And within a week we were in a relationship like there’s that kind of pattern. And with the partner I’m with now, we took time to get to know each other and we were actually friends and we are attracted to each other and there is a lot of passion and there’s also stability and there’s a lot of groundedness and there’s a lot of trust and communication and it’s kind of like this and for a while, because I’d been so conditioned into believing that relationships always have to be dramatic and difficult and hard that my mind, my brain just couldn’t compute how easy this relationship was, and it took a lot of inner work on my part to not go into the self-sabotage mood and to be like, you know, a relationship gets to be calm and it gets to be like a safe space and it gets to be, you know, I get to be with someone who actually hears me and sees me and can communicate and who I trust and feel safe with. And my mind was going into this story of, Oh, well, you know, if it’s not passionate and there’s no argument, like I was actually worried that we weren’t arguing. So that was a genuine worry that I had going on. Like, is there a problem because we’re not arguing. And like, we do have disagreements that they don’t turn into the full blown explosive shouting matches I used to have with previous partners. And because that was such an idea that I had of what a relationship should be like, it did make me uncomfortable to not have that. And I wasn’t sure whether that was normal in quotation marks. And I think it’s just kind of reframing of what a healthy relationship looks like is different for everyone.

And everyone has different values and everyone has a different kind of expectations on ideas and that there isn’t a normal to be aspired to, it’s whatever you agree with your partner works for you. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah, lovely. And I think disagreements can be really, really beneficial to our relationship. And it’s an opportunity to get curious and to get to know each other. And even if you’re never going to agree on a topic, it’s just a lovely opportunity to really show that you can be there for your partner and demonstrate empathy. And yeah, and I think that’s one of the things that really needs to change in the way that we think about relationships. Any kind of disagreement that comes from a place of compassion is actually okay. 

Jerry Souter: Yeah I had that idea of if there’s no arguments and somethings wrong, and there are other people who have the idea that, one argument in, that I’m exiting. So it’s kind of like that balance, knowing that that disagreements are healthy and normal and that it’s okay to have those difficult conversations. And I think there is also a misconception that relationships, if it’s the right relationship, it should always be easy and there should never be any challenges and it should never be any disagreements. And always going to be me failing. And there are a lot of things in my relationship now that are a lot easier than past relationships, but it’s by no means perfect. And there are challenges and that is part of being in a relationship as well. And it’s perfectly normal. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah, of course, of course we are human beings, we’re growing and learning all the time from moment to moment, we’re becoming a different person. So there’s always going to be something in the relationship that feels like it needs to be worked on. But I think that’s something that is really important to realise is that we’re in a relationship to grow together. And it can be really hard to deal with it. 

Jerry Souter: And I think there’s also this misconception that I see a lot around people who have resistance with working with relationship coaches and therapists, where they’re like, I should know all of this. Like I should already have this figured out and I should know how to be in a healthy relationship. And I should know like how to do like all of the things. And it’s just giving ourselves that grace of, if you have any kind of physical ailment and you would go to a doctor if you wanted to get fit, you would do to a personal trainer. So, it’s exactly the same thing. And knowing that actually, you know, that’s no relationship classes at school, we’re not taught how to relate healthfully and that it makes sense not to know and that it’s okay not to know. And it’s okay not to have all the answers. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah, I think it’s really fascinating that we train for being in a profession. We get training on our health and fitness, but we don’t get training on relationships. 

Jerry Souter: No, it’s kind of that shift of it’s okay. To. To learn and grow and get curious in that area as well. It doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you that you’re broken. 

Hayley Stanton: Okay. So let’s say that we have been through some kind of self-development. We have more awareness and we are practicing speaking our truth in our relationship. And it’s not met with openness or we’re with a partner who kind of wants to block that connection because it’s uneasy for them. How do we cope with that? 

Jerry Souter: Yeah. And that’s, that’s really common as well. And I think it’s around that coming back to when we’re communicating from our truth and from what it is that we want to express that we’re not doing it for the other person that we’re doing it for us. And that there is a possibility that it might not be met with openness. And that has more to do with them than it does with us. And I think it’s looking at it from a sort of long-term perspective. If you’re with a partner that isn’t open to any type of communication at all, that might be some things that needs to be looked at, or if you’re dating with someone who isn’t open to any communication. And I think it’s really around, we can only take responsibility for how we are showing up. We can’t control what our partners are doing. We can’t control how the other person responds, we can only kind of come from a space of, this is what I have to communicate and doing it in this way, that feels aligned for me. And then it’s challenging to do, but letting go of that expectation or that just because we’ve communicated that we want something doesn’t mean the other person has to deliver, like that’s then on them. And to kind of be able to see if that if they’re able to do that and then have the further communication around that. And I think it just really depends on the level, but as long as there is an element of respect there and openness, then I think it is possible to grow those communication skills and to practice them.

Hayley Stanton: And that leads me to a discussion that we were having within the community around, I guess it’s kind of questions that have come from two sides of the same coin, where one person’s asking, how do we honour our own reality when we have this awareness that maybe our thoughts aren’t real, our feelings aren’t necessarily coming from what’s happening in the moment, but it could be coming from the past. How do we honour our own reality and speak our truth when we’re finding that hard and we know that that’s not necessarily the reality. And then the second question was around, how do we make sure we’re supporting our partner enough and managing our own need to rescue at the same time?

Jerry Souter: That’s really it. Those are really good questions. So with the first one, I think it’s around, so I’m going to give like an example to make this a bit more tangible. So for me, I know that I have some triggers or activations that logically, to the outside world, don’t really make any sense.

So  for example, if my partner stays up late and wants to like read a book of something, sometimes I feel rejected and I know that he isn’t doing anything wrong. He’s not being a bad partner. He’s perfectly  entitled to stay up and read and let me go to sleep earlier. And I know that that comes from past experiences that I had from previous partners. And I think it is possible to hold both the experience of me feeling rejected and this discomfort that is arising with that. That, that is a reality. Like that is just a simple fact that that is what is coming up for me and holding at the same time that I know that it’s coming from a past experience that I know exactly what the trigger is. And yet I can still give myself the permission to feel those feelings. So it’s both and because what we don’t want to do, what I see a lot in the spiritual community is this kind of like gaslighting of ourselves and like, Oh God, like that thing happened 10 years ago. So I shouldn’t be feeling this way and I should be over it now. And it’s not in those feelings about now because that’s based on a past. If you are experiencing them in this now moment, they absolutely are real and you get to feel those feelings and to process them while at the same time, recognising that it’s not something that’s happening in the now that’s being caused by a past experience.

Hayley Stanton: That’s brilliant. And that has just brought up something that Brene Brown talks about, where she talks about a process of owning what’s going on and going, this is how I feel. And she says “the story I’m making up is…” so she is automatically acknowledging that she knows it’s not necessarily true, but she’s putting it out there for discussion for reassurance and doing it in that way, she’s reassuring her partner that this isn’t an attack. 

Jerry Souter: Yes, exactly. And that’s exactly how the communication looks like around this with my partner, where eventually I told him, you know, when you stay up late or like, it makes me feel this way. And it’s nothing to do with you it’s to do with this past experience that I had, but I wanted to communicate this with you so that, you know, and now he’ll do like things to support me to feel okay when he’s staying up later, like he’ll give me a little cuddle and it’s kind of like, that is his responsibility as a partner, as well, to support me within that. And also he doesn’t have to change his behaviour and it’s my responsibility as an adult to repair myself and to deal with all of my inner child stuff that’s coming up around that. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah, definitely. Okay. So the second question was about how can I know that I’m supporting my partner enough. This person is constantly worried that they’re not doing enough to support their partner who’s also experiencing anxiety and is maybe a little bit further behind than she is right now. And she recognises that there is this sense of like, I feel like I need to rescue, cause I kind of can see what’s going on and I’ve been through it and I know what they need to do. So what’s your advice there? 

Jerry Souter: I think it’s very challenging, especially as women, you know, we’re more nurturing and caring. Especially if you have had an experience where you are further along than your partner, to not go into that rescuing mode. And I think it’s recognising that we each have our own journeys and the things that work well for an individual person might not work for that partner.

And I think it’s being really mindful that at the end of the day, it’s a partnership and it’s not like therapist, client relationship or like whatever it is, it’s kind of like, you’re there to be a partner and to support them, but you’re not there to save them. There is also an element of self responsibility on them to get the support that they need and being that support as partner while recognising that ultimately the person might need outside help outside of the relationship to process what’s going on for them. And that as a partner, you might not necessarily be best placed to be the person to do that. 

Hayley Stanton: I think it can be really hard when you’re in a relationship with someone who’s experiencing anxiety and you are very empathetic and understanding, it can be really, really hard to set those boundaries for yourself and ask for what you need.

Jerry Souter: And it is, it is absolutely hard. It is challenging. And it’s also the recognising yes, I have empathy  for what my partner  is going through, and ultimately I have the responsibility to myself to be taking care of myself, supporting myself first and then giving as much as I feel able to to my partner as well, to support them through their experience without going into this saviour mode in quotation marks, because I think if we’re on the receiving end of that, It can feel quite challenging because it’s like, you know, you’re my partner and now there’s this really grey zone of now you’re trying to help me with like the challenges I’m going through. And it’s just defining where the line is between that support within the relationship and trying to save the other partner and in quotation marks. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. And depending on what that looks like, it could be very disempowering for your partner as well. So they might not even step up and do the work that they need to do.

Jerry Souter: Yeah, exactly. And it’s being mindful to not go into that territory of enabling. And I see this a lot with people who are in relationships with people who have addictions, where it’s like eventually, that the person needs to step up and be able to work through it. You can’t rescue them. You can’t bring them out of what is going on for them, they need to get the support that they need as well.

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. So do you have any last words of advice for anyone who’s maybe single and wanting to get into a relationship or they’re in that relationship? What are the key things that you want them to take away? 

Jerry Souter: Yeah, I think the key things are just about around being really clear if you’re single and dating what it is that you want out of the dating experience, if you’re in a relationship, what your vision is for your relationship, what you desire for your relationship and working on communication skills as well when you’re dating. Taking the opportunity to put yourself out there and practice those, accessing them in your relationship, and also setting boundaries as to, you know, what is acceptable for you, what isn’t, and what is negotiable, what isn’t non-negotiable and really, and going back to what we were talking about earlier, doing everything in a way that feels doable and manageable and in baby steps and soothing yourself along the way.

Hayley Stanton: Brilliant. So where can people find you, Jerry, if they want to connect with you and see what you’ve got on offer? 

Jerry Souter: So I have a website, which is my full name it’s Jerrysouter.com. And I’m also on Instagram @thejerrysouter, and I have a free Facebook group called conscious intimacy club and there’s other spaces where you can find out more about me and what I offer.

Hayley Stanton: Excellent. Thank you very much for coming in and sharing your wisdom with us, Jerry. 

Jerry Souter: Thank you so much for having me.

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