Relationship Fitness

S17: Focus E7: Ménage à Trois

In “Relationship Workout for Men,” Season 17 Episode 7 titled “Ménage à Trois,” Vince delves into the complexities of sharing relationship issues with others outside the partnership. He acknowledges that while it’s natural to discuss our lives with confidants, the details of what and with whom we share can significantly impact our relationships. The episode guides listeners through considering the consequences of venting frustrations and seeking advice, advocating for a balanced, constructive approach to such conversations. Vince suggests that sharing with the intention to brainstorm solutions and gain insights, rather than to vilify or seek validation for one’s perspective, can be more beneficial for resolving issues. He also touches on the importance of choosing confidants who can remain objective and supportive, potentially including professional help, to foster healthy dialogue and personal growth.

Welcome to Relationship Workout for Men, a podcast dedicated to helping men be intentional in choosing a better partner, and being a better partner for the person they choose.

Season 17 Episode 7: Ménage à Trois

Few of us live in hermit-like couple bubbles. No friends. No family. No neighbors. No colleagues. Not a single person to lend an ear.

In reality, most of us have at least a few people we talk to about our lives. Whether family members, friends, a stranger at the bus stop, the guy cutting your hair or the bartender after two martinis, the list of possible confidants can span from a few to many. In addition, typically our relationship tends to be one of the most important events going on in our lives, especially when things aren’t going so well.

This all means we can find ourselves in the position to want to talk to others about what’s going on in our relationship. Maybe you just need to vent a bit. Maybe they’re just dying to know what’s going on with you. Maybe you’re in need of some outside opinion. Regardless, you may want to consider: What do you talk about and with whom?

Let’s start with ideas around what do you talk about?

Okay, you’re raging mad. You just had a fight with your girlfriend, and you can’t believe what she said. “What an f’ing bitch!” screams in your head, negativity streaming like a very, very bad b-rated movie.

You call up your best buddy, and before he can even ask what’s up you launch into an Apollo-class vomit. She said this. She did that. On and on you go, barfing up chunks of negativity. When this happens, you’re unconscious. You’ve completely lost it.

And if your buddy also has an ax to grind about an ex or his present girlfriend, then you’ve just thrown fresh meat to the starving, rabid dogs. Back and forth you two can go, tearing it up. All judge with no jury: two comrades condemning the opposite-sex opponents.

Granted, there are times when we need to vent. Hey, we’re all human, and sometimes we need to dump the negativity out of our heads so we can think a bit more clearly. Venting can help to eventually get to a more balanced, conscious place.

In any case, the strongest play is to share what’s going on from a balanced view. Your intention is to brainstorm. Share her side. Share your side. Solicit unbiased dialogue.

When this happens, you allow the person to help you fish for new ideas. Perhaps this person can help you explore your feelings. Perhaps this person can help you find empathy for your partner’s situation. Perhaps this person can help point out areas where you might be judgmental. Perhaps, this person can help you see where you’re contributing to the issue. Regardless, you’re sharing to help eventually resolve the issue.

The weak play is to keep screaming like that rabid dog. 

But when you do this, what do you plan to accomplish? Do you want your buddy to confirm that you’ve been wronged? You’re innocent. She’s the bad guy? This may make your ego feel better, but it won’t help you fish for fresh ideas that eventually will help to resolve the issue and will only keep you stuck fighting in the boxcars.

Next let’s talk about with whom do you talk to?

If the intention is to find someone who can help with the brainstorming process of fishing for new ideas, then the logical answer to the question of whom to talk to is to find someone who can help you with this process.

If your buddy or family member has their own ax to grind, then the conversation might quickly deteriorate. It’s not going to be much help if his ideas are skewed toward times when he felt wronged by his girlfriend. In other words, you’re not necessarily condemned to relive his negative experiences. Having said this, obviously experiences can bring lots of insight into the present discussion. The difference is using experience from a place of sharing Wisdom versus from a place of crucifying the opposite sex. 

Ideally, you’ll find people in your life who truly care about your well-being and who can stay in that Beginner’s Mind with you. 

These people truly want what’s best for you. You trust that they have your back. You have full confidence that what you’ve shared in confidence won’t ultimately be used against you. 

These people can also stay clear of negativity so they can truly help you to brainstorm. They can point out when you may be going unconscious. They can point out judgmental comments. They can have empathy for both you and your partner. Ultimately, they can ask you to take an honest and hard look at where you may be contributing to the issue.

That said, sometimes seeking professional help may be a fruitful answer to the question of with whom do you talk to.

Yes, sometimes, even given the best of intentions, your strongest efforts, and your least ego-driven mind, there are issues that truly stump you. Help from friends and family just isn’t revealing the solution. You’re still stuck, running dangerously low on gumption. When this happens, perhaps it’s time to bring in a professional.

If you’re like many guys, the thought of seeing a counselor of any sort just brings up resistance. You may be thinking you’re going to spend lots of time and money talking to someone about your inner-most stuff and feeling vulnerable with no resolution guaranteed.

Yet, as Sandra Amat MA, MFT once said describing her therapy practice, and I quote:

There are a number of reasons why a person may seek therapy. One may want to develop greater self-awareness or find clarity. One may want to change behavior or patterns that get in the way of living one’s life fully. One may have unresolved trauma or hurt that needs healing. One may desire to experience an authentic connection with oneself or another person. Or achieve all of the above.

Regardless of what initially draws a person to therapy, as human beings we are all presented with ongoing situations that require us to find a balance between what we think and how we feel; between our own needs and the needs of others, between what feels good now and what leads to a lifetime of fulfillment.

End of quote.

Bottom line is that there may come a time when a professional may be the right person to help you resolve the really hard issues.

That said, the mental health world is a broad one, with many types of professionals, each with different training, different qualifications, and different approaches. Licenses may be important if you’re looking for a therapist who can prescribe medication or who is expert in a particular problem like drug addiction. But in general, good therapy is more about finding a therapist who works well with you. 

Because most of us aren’t quite clear on the differences between psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and coaches, here are seven types of mental health professionals that may be able to lend an ear and insights to help you:

One, Counselors

Counselors have a master’s degree in a field such as counseling, psychology, or substance abuse treatment, and generally must complete two years of supervised practice before obtaining a license. Like social workers, they work in private practice as well as in schools and hospitals. They often treat people dealing with problems such as alcoholism, addiction or eating disorders, and usually for short periods of time. Some specialize in a certain area such as marriage, family and child counseling. 

Two, Life Coaches

Life coaching is a popular profession that has no specific licensing or academic requirements. Some psychologists may offer life coaching services in addition to mental health counseling. Life coaches, however, are not therapists. They cannot and do not treat mental illness. Instead, they help healthy people realize their goals in work, family and life. Some associations are in the process of establishing professional guidelines for life coaches. 

Three, Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists (L.M.F.T.s) receive master’s or doctoral degrees specializing in family and interpersonal dynamics. They treat individuals in the context of family relationships, addressing issues from anger and resentment to intimacy and communication skills. Treatment with a marriage and family therapist is typically brief (20 sessions or less) and solution-focused. 

Four, Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who, after completing medical school, receive an additional four years of specialized mental health training. Psychiatrists treat the full range of emotional and mental disorders and are licensed to prescribe medication. Psychiatrists sometimes use psychotropic medication in conjunction with therapy to treat psychiatric disorders. 

Five, Psychoanalysts

Psychoanalysis is a form of therapy based on the theories of Freud and his successors, wherein the patient explores his or her patterns of thinking and behavior — often originating in various childhood developmental phases — through free association and identification with the analyst. A certified psychoanalyst earns a postgraduate degree in psychology or psychiatry and then spends an additional eight to ten years of training in psychoanalysis, which includes undergoing analysis themselves. Psychoanalysts treat patients intensively and treatment can last for five to ten years on average, with at least three or four sessions per week. 

Six, Psychologists

Psychologists can have one of two doctoral degrees: a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), or a Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology). Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology emphasize theory and research methods and prepare students for either academic work or careers as practitioners. The Psy.D., which was created in the late 1960s to address a shortage of practitioners, emphasizes training in therapy and counseling. Psychologists with either degree can practice therapy but are required to complete several years of supervised practice before becoming licensed. 

Seven, Social Worker

Social workers commonly hold a Master of Social Work degree, or M.S.W., and have completed two years of supervised practice in order to obtain their clinical licenses. While many work in private practice, social workers often work in schools, community clinics and government agencies. 

So, those are seven types of mental health professionals to be aware of.

And then there are Men’s Groups.

In reality, some men are more comfortable talking about their personal stuff in a small group. For these people, men’s groups can be a great resource not only for providing helpful insight, but also for finding other men you can talk to who are dealing with perhaps similar issues as yourself.

Sometimes us men will isolate ourselves as a way to protect our innermost vulnerabilities, often resulting from past wounds. By regularly attending a men’s group, a man can help to shed this isolation as trust is built within the group. Over time, the protective armor can get lifted as inner truths begin to be shared — and healed.

This all said, regardless of with whom you talk to, keeping a journal can be a great tool to deploy to help you especially during the most troubling of times, and this is the topic of our next episode. 

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