Kids Are Grown,

Now What?

Transcript

Transcript – Episode 42 – Are You Acting Like A Child Or Teenager? Learn How To Be Your Mature Self – With Michelle Irving

Alice Agnello:                     

Well, thanks again Michelle for agreeing to be on the podcast. I really do appreciate it.

Michelle Irving:                 

It's delightful and exciting to be here, Alice.

Alice Agnello:                     

So Michelle, tell me a little bit more about what you do.

Michelle Irving:                 

So the focus of my work is really helping women find their inner mature feminine. No matter what age you are, we all know that there's some part of us that's wise and we can know what it feels like to feel confident about who we are and that we're centered in what we have to share. And those moments during the day may feel fleeting, but that wisdom and maturity that's inside, is something you can cultivate, that you can stand in consistently to then have boundaries with others, have relationships, share your creativity. Even just running your own house and making sure that you have time to yourself. So that's the focus of my work. And I help women find that for themselves, what they need, what they want, and how they can structure their life to have that for themselves.

Alice Agnello:                     

Because a lot of times I think that we don't give ourselves that space to explore what you just discussed because we're running around doing so many things to other people that we don't take that time to do that.

Michelle Irving:                 

I think we have a lot of expectations on ourselves and it's really cultivated in our culture for women to run around after men after other people's feelings, after emotions, after caring. And that can be seen as what it is to be a woman in the world. What we don't is a lot of models about what feminine maturity looks like in this culture. And the mature feminine is actually centered in her power. She's not in her people pleaser. She's in her very healthy, strong, contained, and vulnerable part of self. And she's not afraid to be who she is. So to have that experience of yourself, you need time and you need time to cultivate and be connected to that part of yourself.

Alice Agnello:                     

So when you say, “Mature feminine,” what does that mean? Because at first what comes to me is that, of course, I'm mature. I'm a mature woman. I'm in my 40 so therefore that's the definition. But I don't think that's what you mean is it?

Michelle Irving:                 

Yeah. I think that often when we're in our relationships, we don't actually check how old we feel when we're in the middle of a discussion with a partner say, and we want to be mature and we want to defend our boundary or we want to take care of the other person. But there isn't that sense of centeredness in the discussion and a mature feminine is that part of you that can remain grounded even in the chaos of the world and know what is right for you, what you have to give and not be so easily swayed or rocked back and forth by what the other person's feeling or what the other person needs. And that can be tricky in our daily lives if we don't have time to center ourselves.

Alice Agnello:                     

And so when you mean grounded, so if I was having a discussion with my husband, I know I probably fall into the same patterns that I've probably have used for a number of years because they're familiar and they're comfortable. But that night not be the right way to have a discussion with him.

Michelle Irving:                 

So if you check in with yourself, what do you think is that familiar pattern? Can you give just an example of what that might look like for you? And then we'll see whether or not there's a grounded space in it.

Alice Agnello:                     

I'm thinking more along the lines of having the same argument over again and I've come to the point where you have your opinion and I have mine and that's okay, but we don't need to keep arguing about the same thing over again, if that makes sense.

Michelle Irving:                 

Makes perfect sense. So often when we come into a relationship, we're really excited about the differences with the other person and the things that they have and the talents and I know for me, I just love how strongly my partner has financial boundaries and how he takes care of himself financially. And that was really attractive to me that I didn't have to do that or share my resources, but it was also something that I could learn from.         

And then what happens as we go along in a relationship is those differences, what makes healthy and comfortable relationship is we have a resonance with the other person. So we have the same values, we like the same things, we can share time in ways in which we both relax. Now when you have resonance, things go along well in a comfortable way. You can make decisions about either what's of value in the house or what's of value for a vacation. And then if there's a difference, that difference can ripple out sharply through the relationship because you're like, “Oh, hang on, we were just connected and now that you have a different view, I feel disconnected from you or I have to defend my view.”          

And as women in relationship with men, we can often feel we have to defend our view because of the way that they share their view. And it often, they have deeper voices, often their bodies are structured differently and they are used to debating in the world and having their opinions pretty well considered by the culture we live in. And as women we're taught to try and get along with men. So when you reach that point in relationship where it's like, “Okay, I know you've got that view and I've got my view, so let's just agree to disagree.” And if you can hear my tone, what's in my tone it's resentment and frustration and that's actually what's being communicated between us in this conversation about, “Let's just agree to disagree.”          

So the mature part of you can actually look and go, “Actually, I'm operating from resentment here.” And usually if there's resentment, it's a younger part who feels they can't get what they want or it's just easier to be quiet. And that's the way young women are trained in our culture. So if you're having that kind of conversation, it's likely that it's a younger part of you in the moment in dialogue with the partner. And they may be in a teenage part of themselves as well. I'm not saying that they're mature. But your focus in yourself is, “How can I bring my full mature, adult, feminine self into this conversation and say, ‘Yeah, I really hear your preferences there. I don't have those preferences, but I totally get that you do.'?” And then see what that tone does in the relationship so that it's not defend at all costs the barricades of my opinion because my opinion is going to get ridden over like a tank if I don't hold this defense position.

Alice Agnello:                     

So it's almost like when I recognize that we're in that space that I really have got to check in with myself and realize, “Okay, how am I feeling? Am I in that defensive posture, that defensive mode right now?” And instead of reacting in that way, take a step back and really try to listen to what's being said and come at it from a different angle.

Michelle Irving:                 

I think there's that, but women are trained to do a lot of listening and I think the first part of that conversation is listening to self. And if it's a younger part that's feeling in resentment, you can actually say, “Actually I'm feeling in a lot of resentment in this moment. And I just need to go take care of myself so I can interact with you and attend to that need first so I don't vomit that all up over you in this discussion.” And that you can hear that adult part. It's almost like the mature part of you saying, “Okay, actually I'm a little out there on the edge and I need to take care of this need in myself and I actually, should not be interacting with others at this moment because it's not beneficial for me.”             

It's not that it's not beneficial for them, it's not actually beneficial for me. And during your day you'll think of lots of times where you're like, “Oh, I really didn't like what I was doing there, but it's his fault.” Or, “I didn't like what I was doing there, but geez, that boss really pushed me to the end and I just sped out or I lost my cool or I'm overwhelmed.” And all of those emotions can often from a much younger part of ourselves that feels we don't have equal power in our relationship.

Alice Agnello:                    

I think to go back, what you had said was that women, when we're young, we're definitely trained to either be quiet, don't have an opinion or don't rock the boat or say anything that could come across in a way that's combative. And so you will bite your tongue and you won't say things and you get frustrated because you're not saying what you want to say because you might be afraid of the reaction on the other side and how that's going to come across. I was a joke around the … My mom was, “You raise nice girls.” And then at some point I feel like in my twenties or thirties I realized that's not going to work all the time. There is a time for the nice girl and then there's a time for me to say, “No, that's not … I didn't agree with what you just said and here's the reason why that I didn't.”

Michelle Irving:                 

Yes. So this is really fascinating is that you're actually rewarded for getting along with others. You're actually validated and esteemed for collaboration. And there's some really great aspects to collaborating, but to collaborate you have to be centered in yourself so that there's two centered people working out the back and forth on what's healthy and what's a good boundary and what resources you want to share and what actually … I've got this much emotional energy, say, I'm really happy to get two hours of this energetic, creative energy in together, but I actually need to attend to myself and rest as well, just like you and I having this conversation.            

And so we've got energy to share with each other. But if this conversation went on for three and a half hours, we would both be like, Oh no, this is not working. And we'd get bitchy with each other. Simply because were overextended. And as women, we're taught habitually to over extend our emotional energy and by the time we're extended, we've all lost connection to what we really want and what we really need. And that loss of connection actually leads to disconnection with other people.

Alice Agnello:                     

And it's almost like you feel guilty for trying to actually give yourself that space to check in with yourself. And to take a break and to step back because you feel like, “I should be doing something. I should be doing this or taking care of that person or doing that,” instead of taking care of really the most important person, which would be yourself.

Michelle Irving:                 

So I think the part about when you're overextended and taught to take care of others, we must remember who's benefiting from that process. And it's not us. And if you're over extending or taking care of others, like I found in myself this belief that everybody else needs to have their needs met before I can attend to my own needs. And this is the model that women are raised in. I can only meet my own needs once everybody else has settled down and I know that they're emotionally okay. But if somebody is upset or disturbed or irritated or angry, I have to go out and fix them quickly. And the reason I want to fix them, maybe a little bit for them, but it's actually so I can lie down and rest once they've settled down.

 So you can see why resentment builds. You can see why we end up in passive aggressive behavior and most women in the depths of honesty with themselves, know that they're overextended, they're being passive aggressive, they're resentment, they justify it this way based on what he did or their shame and we feel really bad about ourselves for not being able to meet everybody else's needs.

Alice Agnello:                     

And I think that sometimes hard is to actually accept what you just said. I am responsible for creating this environment that I've allowed to keep happening over time instead of taking care of myself.

Michelle Irving:                 

I've been conditioned to take care of everybody in this way. I have not been taught the skills of how to care for myself in a healthy way. I don't know what healthy boundaries look like. So I end up with my hands up on the defense barricade saying, “I cannot take any more of your energy. I need some quiet time.” I have to push back at you. And that's where we get into a lot of conflict. And that's why you have the fight over and over again. It's because it's often that defensive energy is what you're fighting about, not what the issue is.

Alice Agnello:                     

Right, right, right, right. And so you're talking about boundaries and what exactly do you mean by that?

Michelle Irving:                 

So a boundary is, for me, it's a way to make an agreement with another person, not have a rule. So an example of that is my beloved and I have different views about what a tea towel should be doing in the kitchen. In his world, the tea towel dries dishes, that's its job. And it's kept very protected on the rack, only used for drying dishes. In my world, the tea towel mops up things on the floor, mops up things on the bench, gets thrown in the washing quickly, get something out of the oven. Now we can argue about what the right and wrong way to have a tea towel in the kitchen is. And these are very small things, but gee, in the day to day, they are the great irritabilities in a relationship.           

There's a lot of passive aggressive, sighing and resentment about what somebody did to the tea towel, and there's a whole lot of reasons for that that we could follow through. But in this conversation boundaries, we could get really defensive and say, “Well look, I'm just going to have my tea towel. And you have your tea towel and that's the way tea towels live and I'll use mine for mine and you use yours for yours. And that's how we'll resolve this problem.” That's sort of a rule based approach. It's my rule for me. Your rule for you, we can't agree on the rules. So let's just both be right or both be wrong.

That's very different to making an agreement. So an agreement has a lot of equal power. I have as much capacity and responsibility in this kitchen as you do. I pay for half this kitchen, you pay for half this kitchen. So we have equal resources here. Let's have a conversation about how tea towels are treated. And this is not just some blind example. This is an example of some of the conversations we had moving in together.

So the agreement we made is I realized that he had vintage tea towels that he had bought and stored over a long period of time. These tea towels were actually really important to him. My tea towels, I like. They're linen, I really like them. They're very pretty. But could I just move gently in this process and say, “Actually this isn't a big deal to mean and can I honor this detail conversation for him?” So I haven't given over, I haven't gone into resentment, I've just looked at the situation that these are not rules. Could I make an agreement about this?

And it might be that you agree to disagree. You might agree to have different lives of tea towels and which ones sit where. But you could hear in my voice how gentle that is and that I'm looking to make an agreement from my own power as opposed to the shame and resentment of fighting a rule based conversation.

Alice Agnello:                     

Because I feel like if you start asking a little bit more questions, then you find out a little bit more of the reasoning of where he's coming from and the importance of a tea towel for him. And I was chuckling because I feel like we've had the same argument, my husband and I, but it was a long time ago. And we've got two tea towels, one hangs on the oven and that is the one that is used kind of willy nilly in different regards, but it's supposed to be used to dry actually the dishes. And then we've got another one that's hung higher and that one is specifically only to dry hands because again-

Michelle Irving:                 

Oh wow. Okay.

Alice Agnello:                    

 Right. So-

Michelle Irving:                 

So you come from different households.

Alice Agnello:                     

Yes. And that's how we maneuvered that young in our marriage is my tea towels were always hung to dry your hands and then also dry dishes. But his were always kind of, yeah, the catchall everywhere, do whatever you want and even use it to take hot things out of the stove. And then it's just destroyed. So I've just, it's like it is what it is and they can be washed and they can be replaced and it's not … there's nothing to present or to get angry about because it's a tea towel. But to what you were saying, in the heat of the moment when you are talking with that other person about this, yeah you dig in your heels because you're like, “No, this is how it was at my house and this is how it's going to be,” instead of actually just asking questions and talking to each other.

Michelle Irving:                 

Yeah. So I think there is that question of recognizing this is how it was done in your house. So often if you are in a conversation about the right way with the tea towel or the right way to stack dishes or the right way to vacuum the floor, any of those positions where this is the right way to do something, you're actually operating from a younger part of yourself in this conversation. And what you mean is, “In my house, this was the rule. And just as it was the rule for you at six,” in your mind it's the rule for everybody else at 46 so when you catch that moment of this is a rule, this is what I mean about there being younger parts making the decision. It's actually your six year old having this argument, not the mature part of you,

Alice Agnello:                     

Is it because you're also used to something a certain way and you're very familiar with it. So it's like this is the only way because this is what I was conditioned from young to do it a certain way and therefore … like loading the dishwasher I know is sometimes an issue.

Michelle Irving:                 

I have a beautiful example.

Alice Agnello:                     

I load it from the back to front because in my mind it just makes sense to do that. Especially at the top rack with all of the cups. Back to front, makes sense to me. The boys in my family, it's willy nilly. It's all over the place and I'm just … it's so, to me, inefficient because you just can't, you don't put as many things in the dishwasher. So a lot of times I'll just go in and redo it and then there you go, at least I know it's going to be efficient. But I know that that is a habit or something that I was developed and taught when I was young by my mother and it's just continued today. Not sure where the boys I raised learned what they're doing, but it's just easier and faster to do the same, put it whatever they want to do.

Michelle Irving:                 

Yeah. So that's something really interesting in that dynamic going on there. And there's something interesting between the masculine and the feminine. and what I'm hearing in that is you have a preference and efficiency is what's guiding that preference. And whether it isn't efficient or not, that may be a conversation. But your focus is what is efficient. I know I live with somebody who, what is the efficient is the guiding rule by how to do things. I live on the other end of the spectrum is, “What do I feel like?” Which is very different to what's efficient. And so I don't care that much whether it's efficient or not, that's not a high value for me. And this is where we could lock down in those positions. But actually just recognizing that this is where we can make agreements.             

So there's two things I would share with you. First is what are your boys learning in that moment? What are men learning from you in your feminine in this process? And are they learning that actually the feminine will clean up after them if that's what her preference is? And this can be very unconscious, but in small examples it can be that actually you've swallowed what's important to you. You've swallowed that voice. That argument has turned into an argument, it hasn't got across and therefore it's easier for you to just ignore what they're doing and do it your way. And I think there's a conversation about what would a maturer part of you that valued your voice and held that boundary about, “Actually, this is what's functional for the dishwasher. Let's make some agreements.”

Alice Agnello:                     

And so to that, I guess I've showed them how to do it. This is the most efficient. And I've tried to explain the why behind my reasoning because I know my brain works faster than other people's and I can figure out solutions faster. So I have learned that I need to explain what I'm saying to someone else. Because sometimes they don't get there as fast. So I've explained, “You do it this way because it'll help clean the dishes better. It's more efficient and it'll just help pack in more than having to just all these big spaces.” And yet I'm not sure if how I'm not communicating that way ahead of time. Whereas my one son who's moved out, he definitely has changed his ways.                  

Meaning that because he's not in the house anymore, he understands the value of what a clean room, what a clean bathroom means, how to do it. And he has greatly improved, with all of that. So it's been an amazing process.

Michelle Irving:                 

Because you're not living in the house running after him.

Alice Agnello:                     

Exactly. So I am so proud that he's finally … it all clicked in his head that, “Oh yeah,” I'm not going to do it. And even when they were here, their responsibility was to clean their own bathroom, clean their room. Mom is not going to do those things for you.

Michelle Irving:                 

And does mom end up doing them?

Alice Agnello:                     

No.

Michelle Irving:                 

They live with a dirty bathroom. That's their choice.

Alice Agnello:                     

Correct. It drove me crazy, but I have to … No. I've asked them to do it, it's their bathroom, it's their room. It's their clothes. If they run out of underwear for the week, that is on them and no responsibility towards that. So …

Michelle Irving:                 

Yeah. So that's making that transition. They're mature enough to set this up. And then there's other ways in which it still might be that your preferences are overridden by the masculine. And that's that we will swallow what's important to us and we will push it down simply to bear to get along in the household and not have to fight for our position.               

And one of the things I heard you talk about is you've explained to them why it's efficient. You've explained to them the value. And I think young men like young women brains are still developing. They're still working themselves out. They've been raised in a house of rules. They reach a certain age where they have the opportunity to defend their position. Does this sound familiar? They have the possibility to put up their hands and say, “I do it differently,” and defend. And this is how conflict has been worked out.

Michelle Irving:                 

One of the things I think you could do is sit down with them and say, have a conversation about what they value. And hear from them what they value in their daily life. They may actually value having a dirty cup that they have to wash or whatever. And it's a tricky process, but it's how instead of arguing for the right way or the efficient way, can we talk about what we each value and if they hear, “This is something that's really important to me.” Not why they should do it, but, “This is important to me and I know you're not going to do it every time, but could we make some agreements when breakfast dishes go in that we try and get as much as we can neatly into the dishwasher?”             

The rest of the day you may not be as phased and what you're doing there is actually saying as the feminine, “This is important to me.” And that may not be a voice that you often share particularly. You may try and argue how it's efficient or how it should be done this way as opposed to actually honestly saying, “This is actually really important to me.”

Alice Agnello:                     

And I and know probably a lot of conversations like this and a lot of women I'm sure going to identify with this, you're in the heat of the moment explaining this, you're not waiting for a better moment to explain it. It's just, I read it in a book once that boys need to be doing something when you're talking to them about something important. And I've noticed that. With my sons, if we cook together, I learn more about their day. If it was right after lacrosse practice and he would sit in the back and he would yammer, yammer, yammer about all the things that had happened during that day. So I picked up on that and I ran with it as much as possible. But there are those moments where, “Just put the cup in the right place.”

Michelle Irving:                 

Yeah.

Alice Agnello:                     

Just-

Michelle Irving:                

“For god's sake, please.”

Alice Agnello:                     

Exactly.

Michelle Irving:                

 “Can you just not put three cups in the top of, and maybe think about putting them in the right place .”

Alice Agnello:                     

Exactly. So I know that, yeah, you need to just wait, step back. That's not the right moment probably to have a discussion and why it's important to me to do this.

Michelle Irving:                 

And I think there's something, two things in there. One is that again, we're conditioned to work out what the right time is to do what we're still taking all that emotional labor. And that's something to note cause that's a lot of energy we're putting in. What's happened though I think is that you've let it go way too long before you reached this resentment stage. And so when we get in resentment or we've got an issue or we lose it, it's often because we let it go way too long and we hit our marker and we express it when we hit our capacity. And that's the conversation with self is, “Can I notice 50% before I hit capacity and then have the conversation then?” And the only way we learn this is when we keep losing it. “Oh I've just reached my capacity and I didn't notice that.” And that's why the conversation is with yourself. It's what are the triggers in me that I know I reach capacity?

Alice Agnello:                     

Right. And I know we've talked about this before, and we mentioned it before, so there's different ways of relating to another person and you had mentioned child or you're mature adult. So what are the markers or what are the words I should use when I'm trying to identify like who I am being in this moment and when I'm having a discussion?

Michelle Irving:                 

Yes. So I think one of the fastest ways is if you get that moment in yourself is ask, “How old do I feel?” And you'll often, if you ask that question of yourself, you might get, “I feel all of my 46 year old years, I'm mature,” but actually the voice that I'm using to say that is a young person trying to act like a 46 year old. And when you feel you're trying to act or trying to be mature or you've got an idea and you're trying to nail it as what it should be like, you're usually in a teenage part of yourself. So the three parts, that can be useful to identify is one is your inner child. And you often feel like six. Or five or six or seven. And you can often identify that part, A, by asking, two, just check out how your feet are planted and you might find that they're curved in or you're not quite balanced or just look at your body and see how you're sitting or standing and the body will give you clues.              

If you step back just a little bit in yourself and say, “Oh, I'm hopping on one foot or I'm twisting my other foot around my ankle, or I'm sitting on the edge of my seat,” can often be an indication of a younger part is actually having the conversation. The child also wants treats, so a child will say, “I'll do my chores and then I can have my treat.” And that can be a new dress. That can be ice cream, that can be I get to watch television. It's not that any of these parts are bad. We all need time for that just gentleness within ourselves to have nourishment and rest and entertainment and they're useful markers to know if you're arguing about what to watch on TV and you think you've done all the work and you deserve a reward, it is your six-year-old arguing with your husband or your teenagers about what's right for them.

Alice Agnello:                     

Makes perfect sense.

Michelle Irving:                 

The second part is your teenager. So the teenage part's often a bit feisty. You've got a bit more maturity you've got a bit more sense of who you are and the teenager can either be the good academic part of you trying to be a good girl in school, the grades, and trying to get it right and trying to be efficient and trying to be the best you can. Or I often hear the best self. A mature feminine part of you is not concerned about your best self because it's not concerned about what other people think, say, or do. It's not even considering your appearance. The mature part is just centered in an adult and the adult doesn't say to teenagers, “I'm trying to be the best mom that I can.”              

That's a teenage part having the conversation. The teenager feels entitled. While the young part wants treats, the teenager feels entitled to spend the money, entitled to have it their way. We'll go around picking arguments with other people just to prove their point or say, “I told you so,” and sit in very smug positioning. All of this may be nonverbal and I'm watching you nod your head and smile because it's so easy to recognize when you break these parts down.

Alice Agnello:                     

Oh, completely. I know it, I'm like, “Yep, I'll dig in. Yep. I'm acting like this.” Or I'm crossing my arms or I'm just needling, just to needle. Definitely that's the teenager coming out in me. So how can I do better to be a full mature woman? Meaning what am I trying to achieve? Or how do I know I'm actually in that space?

Michelle Irving:                 

Yeah. And I just want to gently, because this is that moment where other listeners will hear it as well. You said, how can I be that? How can I achieve that? And that's still the teenager asking, “How do I get to be a grownup?” If that makes sense. And that's the indication. The indication is actually, how do I get this right? So if we think about what is it to be in a mature feminine part of self? If you can think about … there will be times in your life where you bought a house and paid the mortgage. That's your responsible, mature adult. And that adult part doesn't wander around working out, “How do I get all this sorted and what does it look like to pay the mortgage?” The mature part just does it and she doesn't need to defend her position. She can hear that there's different positions. She can take that on board. But she is the deciding factor about what works for her.               

And it's not cross selfish what works for her. It's like, “This is how much energy I have. This is how much money I have. This is how much I can bend. And actually today I can't. I just need to lie down because my teenager and inner child is running rampant and I need to be the mature adult and take care of those parts of myself.”               

And that's a mature way of looking at things. But as mature adults, we make agreements, we don't make rules. As mature adults, we listen to what's important to the other and we say what is important to us and that is the skill of maturity. And that is the skill we are not taught well. We're taught to swallow our means and move into passive aggressive resentment. That's the version of maturity that is offered on this planet for women. And a mature part of you doesn't bargain, doesn't need to negotiate. These are my needs, this is what I want and it is not up to anybody else to meet them. I'm not requiring, I'm not telling you my need and you have to meet it because I've done all this housework or I've done all these things. The mature part can simply say, “These are my needs,” and whether or not the other person meets them is about their maturity and their capacity and they may be run down and tired from running around trying to do a whole lot of things. So it's a very different part that you're speaking from.

Alice Agnello:                     

And we are saying agreements. I'm trying to understand what you mean or how does that work or, yeah, what exactly does that mean?

Michelle Irving:                 

Yes. So one of the things is we enter a relationship and we often haven't sat down. We've said what we want and it's often we want the other person to do this, this and this. Or we've been looking for this type [inaudible 00:35:55] or now that we're in the middle of life, we want to stop running around. We want to take time for me, we want to get our creativity on board. An agreement is actually in relationship between you and a partner or even as you're in dating and interested in a partner. What is an agreement for you is what do we both value? What do I need in relationship? This is not a wish list, but I need time to myself. And I'm an introvert and I have this time to give to another person. I can socialize to this capacity and I need a day apart from myself.                

And when you're looking at these needs, then you can make agreements. What does the other person need? Is the other person an extrovert? And they really need to tell you all of the things in the moment. And what agreements can we make? And it's exactly the type of agreements you've already made with your son. You've made an agreement, “Okay, he'll talk to me when I pick him up from lacrosse or when I pick him up from training.” So you've made an agreement in the mature part of you, it's, “This is what I'm going to do in this moment. I'm going to sit back and hold that stability for him to emotionally share.” And he's not demanding it and you're not overwhelmed by it. It's actually an agreement that's been made. And when you're working with another adult, you can make those agreements very explicit.

Alice Agnello:                     

Linked to what you said, what you were saying that the, I am an introvert and so I definitely need to kind of take some time away from things. Like I can work a room and go to a party, but as soon as I'm home, I'm done. I need time to just regroup. And it was interesting because my husband and I, we like to vacation together always, but in different ways. And what I mean by that is we figured it out finally. It took a while, but he likes to go, go, go. And I like to not do that. Basically.

Michelle Irving:                 

Yes. Yeah. Well the same relationship that I'm having.

Alice Agnello:                     

Yes. So we were able though to figure it out. So we went on a vacation to … I could go to a beach and a pool and sit there and read the whole seven days and be perfectly happy and not do anything else other than that. But he needs to get out and do things. And so we discovered that if we would do things in the morning and then we would go and pick a beach and then spend the next couple of hours there and then go back to wherever we were at the hotel, it worked beautifully. Because we were both doing what the other person wanted to do. Because my husband's like, “I'm not going to sit there and do nothing for a whole entire week.”

He just can't. It just drives him insane. And I realize about him. I know that about him. He will definitely have his downtime. Like take a whole Saturday, watch TV and not do anything. But even on that day he will still, all of a sudden he's getting up and physically doing something. And I'm like, “That's okay. I'm going to stay right here because this is what I need right now.”

Michelle Irving:                 

And this is the beauty that the holiday offered a container for you to work it out. You actually made agreements about how are we going to spend seven days. And my partner and I have the same. He likes to be incredibly stimulated. And we worked out … and I'm actually, I'm happy to go to Rome but I don't feel the need to see everything in Rome. So the agreement that we make is, okay, I work out what are my top priorities when we go to Rome for seven days. These are the seven things I want to see. And then we make, he makes a list of all the things he want to see. We prioritize mine for the morning and then he can go off and do the other things, which I'm prepared to let lose or I can join him.

But those are the agreements. And that's what you just described is exactly that, an agreement. So the question is then how do you have those agreements in your daily life? And one of the things I see for couples is that you get so used to checking with the other person or making decisions or what would they think about that? That it comes down to, “Oh, what do you want for lunch and what should we do for dinner?” And even if you have a free day, there's a lot of checking with each other about what are we going to do? And that checking can create resonance with each other, but it can also rub off all the sexual chemistry. Because you're [inaudible 00:00:40:31] each other, you're nannying each other, so to speak.

And it becomes habitual. So one of the agreements, my partner and I made is that we're both introverts and we needed days to ourselves, we needed time to restore. And so we call them day-aparts, even if we're both in this house together. So we both work from home as well. So this was a critical way to manage both our own self nourishment, but also to detach from the constantly feeling like we needed to check or manage the other person.

So the agreements around a day apart is one, you're free to do whatever you want that day, have lunch at your own time, nobody's checking about lunch. You don't need to tell the other person when you're leaving the house. You don't need to check if they need anything if you're leaving the house. And in fact, the agreement is not to do those things so you're not calling on each other's energy, which can be part of that niggling thing too. If we feel disconnected, you're trying to hook the other person's attention so that we can feel connected again.

So that agreement to have a day apart, both resets … you're in your own skin, you're in your own flow. I like to think of it as I'm in my own rhythm and I'm not accommodating his rhythm and vice versa. And then you can come together at the end of the day and we agree that actually we'll have dinner at eight or we won't have dinner at eight and we'll check in with each other at six about whether or not we want to catch up. And that stops 12 hours of checking before 6:00 PM or 8:00 PM as the moment flies into your mind. And that's a day apart.

Alice Agnello:                     

So it's interesting, you saying that, it's funny. On Sundays we'll go and do grocery shopping and then come home and then sometimes I'm hungry and then sometimes he's not. But it's always this checking. And I always feel like the other person, we're always like, “Why aren't you eating now? We're supposed to eat now.” Because then it's going to mess up the rest of the day. Because if you're not eating now at noon and I am, then you're going to be hungry at three and I'm not going to be hungry. And then like the whole day is messed up. And I'm like, this is kind of silly.

Michelle Irving:                 

It's crazy.

Alice Agnello:                     

Yeah. I'm like this is an argument or a discussion that doesn't need to happen because, so what? I'm hungry now and you're hungry then. Just let's just do our own thing for the day. And then it's okay.

Michelle Irving:                 

Yeah. And so one of the ways I can hear you're having that discussion is you're already exhausted by the time you get to having that discussion.

Alice Agnello:                     

Right.

Michelle Irving:                 

And if you make the agreement of, “Okay, there are times where Sundays, let's just make midday Sunday, we're both on our own and we come together at 8:00 and whether you've eaten or not can be decided at that point.” Or you might say, “Okay, but let's have dinner at eight,” and everybody's free to work themselves out. And it's not a rule, it's an agreement that you've made with each other. It's not, “You said you would be ready at 8:00 PM to cook dinner and have dinner.” And if that is the tone, that is your resentment, that is your little person saying that was the rule.     

Whereas an agreement is just an equal agreement between two adults and the person can get to 8:00 PM and say, “Yeah, I actually still don't feel hungry.” And you can go, “Well actually I am and I'm just going to cook for myself but we've got dinner tomorrow at six,” or whatever. So that's what an agreement looks like. And it's made before the whole example has been played out. And that's what cuts down the chicken. It's not, “Let's make an agreement at midday about when to eat.” It's too late by then.

Alice Agnello:                     

That makes sense. I think sometimes when I'm … I'll have to try it out with my husband too to see. Because of course I'm already assuming that he's going to be like, “You're crazy. This is a stupid idea.” And I don't even know that yet, but I have a feeling that that's what it's going to be. But that's fair to him to automatically assume that that's going to be his reaction to it. It could be my teenager self just trying to manipulate the whole entire situation.

Michelle Irving:                 

Yeah. So what that says to me, and this is part of all relating is we get habitual with even how we have these conversations.

Alice Agnello:                     

Yes, definitely.

Michelle Irving:                 

And so one of the things, the agreements that my partner and I have, and it's really a survival strategy, is that we have what we call an admin meeting. So every Sunday at four and it might shift, but all the diary scheduling, all the questions about finances, all the, “What about this or what about that?” That goes into an admin meeting. So what we found is he drives, I don't, so when he's driving the car I'm like, “Oh, so should we get this for that person for Christmas?” And, “Oh, I was thinking I might update my website and I'm wondering if you can have a look,” and that is just all chores and admin lay it on top of the other person when they're doing something and it feels like an open moment to you. It is not an open moment for the drive. So what we do is it really cuts down on the checking.          

We have a little calendar appointment that we both share and you can add things on that to discuss about whether we're going to buy tickets to Cirque do Soleil. And then we run it like an agenda and it doesn't have to be mean or it doesn't have to be rigid. What we're having is a discussion about all of the admin things and what we've allocated this time for that. So then the other person knows that and you know that is the time set aside to discuss it and then you can both come together prepared. And that's the curiosity that I would have for the two of you is can you just set up a time weekly and everybody gets to put on it some of the … And they're admin things like who's going to do the groceries on Thursday? And you work out that you have some standard agreements, but there's also habits you just assume the other person likes. And if you ask them in that moment and it's on an agenda so it's out of their head and out of yours, they might have a completely different feeling about the groceries.

Alice Agnello:                     

What I think is interesting is that I've, I've tried to do something similar to that or try to get my husband to, if he thinks of something, to email it to me. And he's like … but he doesn't see it that way. He's like, it doesn't make any sense to him. And I'm like, “But it'll help me if you put it over there because then we can talk about it later or we'll remember it.” And so it hasn't worked out. But what I've been trying to do is if there's something that we need to talk about, I'll say, “Hey, I'd like to talk about this. Is it okay to talk about it now or should we do it later? What's a good time for you?”                  

I try and give him that space. Because I know what you mean exactly. You're in the car and it's undivided attention, you know what I mean? No one … and you can just pepper each other with things. And when we do long car trips, I'll try and say, “Do you want to talk about any of these things while we're in the car or tonight or later?” That way we're both in agreement of when we're going to talk about it and not at 10:00 PM when we're both trying to go to sleep. And that's all I want to do is sleep.

Michelle Irving:                 

And so the conversation about making a time, what I can hear in you is you're saying, “I've tried to get him to do it. I've tried to help him see the value.” And I wonder if there's a way you could say, “Hey look, I get really overwhelmed when these things come at me and I know that's your preference,” and my experience is, so this is you owning your part, you're telling a man the experience is my body tightens up. I go up into my head and I feel overwhelmed. And when my body is tight and my head is overwhelmed, one of the things that happen is I lose connection with my sensuality. I lose connection with my feminine part that really wants to be close to you. And what I've found is I can do those things if we set a time and that will free me up to then be connected to my own sensuality at other times. And that's what'll work, and I'm wondering, how that lands in you.

And so there's this conversation about how does that land on you? Or what does that feel like for you? Because one of the things that men don't realize is if they want us to always be available, if they want to have a debate, not a conversation, what's happening for a woman is we have to armor up the masculine part of ourselves to defend the territory. And if a woman is criticized and has to armor up and defend against the masculine, there ain't no way she's going to feel vulnerable, relaxed, sensual, soft and flowy with you. Because I just had to put on my warrior pants and get my shields up, or I just had to sit with a pen in hand and do 10 minutes of admin or an hour of admin while you threw ideas at me.

Alice Agnello:                     

Right, right, right, right. No, that makes sense.

Michelle Irving:                 

And what you're sharing is what happens in your body. And one of the things is I feel that if you share with a man, “This closes down my body, my heart closes down in these moments.” A man wants to know how to help a woman be happy. A man wants that information. Men want women to be happy. They do not want to be combative with women. They do not necessarily want to have all those arguments. It's just that's the trenches that we get into in our culture. And as women, if we don't know our needs and we've waited four weeks to talk about the thing that we're really irritated about, then they're like, “How do I fucking fix this in this moment?” And they're like, “Geez, how do I fix this in this moment? This is a really big problem.” But the problem is that the woman has sat on it for four weeks.

Alice Agnello:                     

Yep. And all that. It's been simmering the whole entire time, just rehashing the whole thing in her mind. Yeah, no, that makes perfect sense. Yeah.

Michelle Irving:                 

Whereas if you can notice … and it takes time, but if you can notice back when you're at the age, then you might be able to notice back, “Okay, I'm at my age, but I'm just before blowing.” And then, “Okay, I'm at my edge, but I'm holding tight.” And so as you track back, you learn to notice them. And, “Okay, this is a moment where I swallowed my need. This is a moment where I swallowed the want.” And that's the four weeks before I realized I couldn't swallow it any further.

Alice Agnello:                     

Right, right, right. It's just that self-awareness part and doing the research and the detective work backwards.

Michelle Irving:                 

And it's giving yourself the time. This is not to sort out the relationship for him. This is not to be a better person. This is just me noticing this is when my emotional entity's amped up and I'm exhausted from the adrenaline running through my body. So this is just self care. I don't even need to report on what activated with everybody else. It's just me managing my emotional energy and my resources.

Alice Agnello:                     

So Michelle, thank you so much. Is there anything else that I didn't hit on or wanted to make sure to share?

Michelle Irving:                

I think the most important thing that I want to share is one, you are responsible for your emotional resources. And that is what your maturity looks like. You are responsible for the self care and healthy boundaries. And the mature part of you can work with that. If you're in rules, try to make agreements and don't try and make an agreement that works out to be your rule. So make a genuine agreement with the other person about, “This is what we agree, we value, this is what's important. This is what we're focused on together.” and finally, you only learn where your limits are, your boundaries are, and all of those other things about yourself by hitting them. Work out where you've got a boundary, usually by the fact that you've crossed the boundary or somebody crosses yours. So this is like progress, not perfection. This is practice. This is your care of yourself. You don't need to defend yourself for yourself care. You can just take that position in yourself and take care of you.

Alice Agnello:                     

So if anyone wanted to know more, how to get in touch with you, what's the best way, Michelle?

Michelle Irving:                 

So I'm based in Australia, but I offer a lot of my clients Skype sessions over the web so they can find me at Michelle Irving. I-R-V-I-N-G .com.au. And I work with women both around relationships and I do a lot of work with women about recovering from serious illness. So if you've had life threatening illness or have chronic illness, all of these conversations have a different dimension about self care and healthy boundaries. And that's a specific amount of work that I do with women out of my own lived experience. So find me on Instagram, Facebook, all of the web page. And I'd really be delighted to chat with anybody about helping them find that maturity within.

Alice Agnello:                     

Okay, excellent. And so I always like to ask my guests three questions at the end just to get a little bit more, know a little bit more about you. So tell me something that not a lot of people actually know about you.

Michelle Irving:                 

So I learned to box about 15 years ago and it's something that I really like. I do it with a personal trainer. I don't get in a ring, but it's fantastic for your emotional energy to be channeled when you're really irritated about things. It also helps me focus on my body as something that I live in and something that moves as opposed to what I look like.

Alice Agnello:                    

Interesting. I love that. We used to have a … what are those things called? The bag out in the garage and some days when I just didn't … yeah, me and out there heaven for just a little bit of time. Name three things that you can't live without other than your friends, family and friends.

Michelle Irving:                 

Well, it's sad but true. But I cannot live without chocolate. It's just too divine to experience and enjoy. I can't live without meditation or as I would phrase it, I can live without meditation, but I may not live well. So I choose to live well. And the third thing that I can't live without is the internal desire and drive to do something new, to challenge myself, to strengthen my capacity to be in relationship with others.

Alice Agnello:                     

And if you could choose one song to play every time you entered a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Michelle Irving:                 

That's a really interesting question because I have a daily practice about choosing a song and because women moving their bodies is another way to feel down into that sensuality. So I actually have an instrumental piece of music by an artist called Laf. So L-A-F, a Swedish artist and every morning that is the music I get on my hands and knees and move to and it becomes a real meditative centering experience for me.

Alice Agnello:                     

Thank you so much Michelle. I really appreciate having you on today.

Michelle Irving:                 

Thanks to you so much, Alice. And I really am delighted we got to have all these conversations. And I also want to thank you for sharing some of your experiences in relationship so that we could have a broader, more realistic conversation that others may learn from.

 

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