Episode 245 – How Conflict in Marriage Builds Intimacy: An Interview with Crystal Hansen


In this episode, I’m talking with fellow coach and my real life best friend, Crystal Hansen, all about how conflict actually builds intimacy in your marriage. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but it really does work. We all want to feel connected and when we try to avoid conflict, that creates a wedge in our relationships. Crystal shares with us Gottman’s Four Horsemen of conflict and the antidotes for each one. This episode is a great way to start thinking about who we want to be in our marriages next year.

Show Notes:

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Instagram: @crystalhansen_

New Podcast: Couples in Conflict

Show Summary:

Amanda Louder: I am so excited to share my guest with you today because not only is she an amazing coach, she just happens to be my best friend. So welcome to the podcast, Crystal. 

Crystal Hansen: Thanks. I’m so happy to be here. 

Amanda: It’s about time. We’ve been trying to do this forever.

Crystal: Forever! It’s about time. 

Amanda: Okay, so why don’t you introduce yourself to my audience. 

Crystal: All right. I am Crystal Hansen. I am the couple’s conflict coach. I help couples who have conflict in their marriage and feel disconnected and feel like roommates, to create more connection through conflict. 

Amanda: Wait, did you just say connection through conflict? Because that’s what my audience will be like. Wait, how do you build connection through conflict? And that’s exactly what we’re going to be talking about today. But tell me a little bit more about you. What’s your personal life like too? 

Crystal: So I am a mom of three kids. I’m married to my husband, Casey, going on I believe, 19 years. He’s better at remembering the dates than I am. I’m pretty sure it’s 19 though. And we live in northern Utah. Yeah, we just love outdoors and having fun.

Amanda: Good. Well, you’re probably going to hear a lot of laughing in here because Crystal and I, all we do is laugh and laugh and laugh.  

Crystal: Pretty much. 

Amanda: Okay, so let’s talk about conflict in marriage. When couples come to you and they’re having conflict, what does that normally look like? 

Crystal: So conflict looks different for everyone, right? So I mean, if you kind of break it down, you have those that have conflict where they’re fighting, where sometimes it’s both spouses that are fighting and sometimes it’s one spouse that is fighting and the other one’s giving the silent treatment or vice versa. Or sometimes it’s both giving the silent treatment or it can look really nice and lovely, where they’re not really telling each other how they feel, but they’re kind of tiptoeing around it, maybe being a little passive aggressive, sweeping things under the rug. But either way, we map each other as couples and so we can always tell when one person’s off or we’re both off. And so no matter what it’s there, we can’t avoid it. We can’t run from it. It’s always there. 

Amanda: Yes. Okay. So we talk a lot here about sex and intimacy and a lot of times the things that are preventing people from wanting to be sexual with each other and really creating intimacy is all of the conflict that they’re having. So what are some common things that people fight about in marriage?

Crystal: You know, it’s really interesting you think that it would be so different, but it really is underlying basically the same thing. So we all want connection, right? Like even in the bedroom, we want connection. The whole point of that is to connect and to show each other love. And so it comes out in funny ways where we make things mean that the other person doesn’t love us. So, they didn’t take out the trash. Obviously that means they don’t love me because they know this is a big deal, you know, they left their clothes on the floor or they didn’t make the bed, or, you know, whatever. It is something that we have these expectations or things that we like the other person to do, and when they don’t do it, we make that mean that they don’t care. The other thing that is pretty common too is we all are very different. Even though we think that a married couple is supposed to be like one, and we’re supposed to know each other and all those things, we have very different lives. So we experience emotions, we experience different stresses and things like that, and when those aren’t communicated, we end up creating these stories about each other, like just by analyzing behavior. It’s like, oh, they’re not really talking to me, so something must be wrong. They must be mad, they’re pouting about this or that. Like we create those narratives in our heads. 

Amanda: So my husband sent me a reel the other day and it said, For every mad wife, there’s a husband who has no idea what he did.

Crystal: So true. So true. 

Amanda: And so I go into him, I’m like, did you mean something by this? And he was like, well, it’s pretty true. And I’m like, well, I think I tell you when I’m mad at you. And he is like, Hmm. Maybe 50% of the time. 

Crystal: That’s so true. Well, and it goes both ways, right? Cause I feel like my husband is the opposite, where I’m like, he’s thinking that I’m mad. And I’m like,  just talk to me about it. Don’t skirt around the questions, you know, like we just do. We think we know each other better than what we actually do. 

Amanda: Well, right? That we are creating these stories in our head about what’s going on with our partner, we think we’re mapping them correctly when sometimes we are, but sometimes we’re not. 

So like I’ve learned with my husband, when my immediate thought is like, oh, he’s mad at me, but then I’m like, wait, he might not be. And so I go and ask him, oh my goodness, I do something so insane as ask him like, are you upset with me? Are you just not feeling good? He gets a lot of migraines, so like, do you have a migraine? What’s going on for you? And normally he’s not mad at me. It’s something else. 

Crystal: Yes. Well, and it’s interesting, even as you’re saying that, and I know I’ve talked to you about this before, but my husband is the opposite. Where I’ll ask him, Hey, are you mad? Is something going on? I always joke with him when he’s chewing his lip, something’s going on. So then of course I go to him and I’m like, Hey, are you stressed? Are you mad? What’s going on? And I’ll ask all these questions. And he’s like, I was just fine. And now I’m a little irritated. Yeah, now I’m a little bothered cause you won’t leave me alone and you’re trying to create this problem that there isn’t one. I was fine until you started giving me the third degree

Amanda:  Yes, we think we’re mapping each other and we make all these stories up in our head about what’s going on when usually it’s not true. Right? 

Crystal: Yes, yes. 

Amanda: Okay. But sometimes it is. Sometimes our spouse is actually mad at us, and I know for years, my husband and I, we kind of, just because we were so conflict avoidant from our first marriages, that we would just like either sweep it under the rug or we would just not talk to each other for days at a time, which is never a good thing. 

Crystal:  No, it’s not fun. 

Amanda: It’s really not fun. But I think we are starting to realize how much better it is to actually not avoid the conflict and that actually helps our marriage be better. So that’s exactly what you’re doing in your work, right? 

Crystal: Yes. Feels really counterintuitive at first. Like when I tell people, you actually don’t want to avoid conflict. They’re like, wait, what? Wait. I’m supposed to move towards the conflict? It feels really, really weird and it feels off and it actually feels unproductive because we’ve been taught our whole lives, let’s keep the peace, you know, happy home, happy everybody. You know, if we fight in front of the kids, then it’s going to ruin them for life. I mean, I came from a divorced home and I would love to say that the only reason why I’m messed up today is because my parents fought, but let’s be honest, there’s nothing to do with them.

Amanda: Right? Well, my parents are not divorced and I’m still pretty messed up. 

Crystal: Yeah. We can’t really screw up our kids that much. And so really truly it’s these perceived, and conditioned things that we’ve been taught. But what’s actually great about conflict is it really isn’t something that happens between both of you. It’s something that starts within you. Conflict is the first notification that something’s off for you. So when you start noticing conflict instead of mapping your spouse or trying to analyze them, the best thing is to go towards it and actually look within and be like, okay, I’m feeling this. What am I thinking? Why am I feeling this way? What’s the story I’m telling? Is it true? And really notice it more as a notification for you to check in with yourself. 

Amanda: Yes, yes. I know. I mean, a lot of times, I read things and it’s, I mean, totally not, but then I’m, why am I reading this about him? What’s going on for me? Or, so this is something I think you and I have talked about. So, last Christmas, I was really mad at him. It was before Christmas, it was after a family party. I was really, really mad at him and I kept the story that I was telling myself was, you know, I kept telling it to myself over and over and over. And then I was like, wait, is that actually even true? And what’s going on for me? And what I realized is, I mean, after a lot of self confrontation, is that I was giving into more of my people pleasing tendencies, which I do with my parents, with my mom specifically, and that’s what this was about. And it was not actually about him. It was more just me and my people pleasing tendencies. And then all of a sudden I wasn’t mad at him anymore. 

Crystal: Isn’t that funny how that works?  It’s always great when you look at it and oh wow, they’re actually not creating my anger. It’s really me. 

Amanda: Yes, yes. But there are plenty of times he does things that I do get angry about. And I mean, there’s lots of things within marriage that our spouse does something and it’s always, I think we always have to look at that piece first, but then we actually need to talk to them about it. And not just sweep it under the rug.

Crystal:  Mm-hmm.  Absolutely. And you and I talk about this a lot. We both say how much we love Brene Brown’s aspect of this. It’s sitting on the same side of the table. You’re on the same team. It’s not one’s on one side of the table, the other’s on the other. It’s actually coming together and having a conversation and my husband and sometimes you have to come back and redo that conversation. 

Amanda: It’s not over and over and over and over. It’s not a one and done. No. 

Crystal: My husband and I just actually had this conversation the other day and I swear we’ve had it about 50 times, but we had one of those situations where one of us is really calm with the kids and the other one just lost it. Like they’re re we’re ready to tap out. Our tolerance level is gone. And then we kind of got into the habit of calling each other out in front of our kids. That doesn’t work because one, it totally sets our kids up to play against us. They’re like, whose team are we on today? But it never feels good to be called out by the other, especially in that situation. And so we’ve really been working on this. It takes having that conversation after it happens of being like, okay, I noticed the emotion of me being frustrated, because actually my husband was the one that called me out on Sunday with our daughter and I was so irritated and he knew I was mad. I just kind of, you know, we give the look of like, I’m ticked.

Amanda: I’m familiar with that look. Yes, yes. You’ve seen me get well, and in myself too.  

Crystal: Yes. And so we were, I didn’t say a word, I just kind of sat with it and I know why I’m frustrated. We’re just going to have a conversation about it. Well, my husband actually came to me as we were getting in the car to go to my parents’ house for dinner. And he just looked at me and he said, Hey, I’m sorry.  I know what I did, and I know that when you do it to me, it bugs me. And I know that when I do it to you, it’s not useful. I’m going to do better. And it was instantly gone like that. I just split the script and I remember looking at him. Dang. 

Amanda: He’s actually learning. Dang it. 

Crystal: And he might actually be better than me at this. Oh, it was so great because we kept going back. We’ve had this conversation and it hasn’t always looked lovely. It really hasn’t. But because we continue to go back to it and keep having that same conversation as a team and we’re ready when we’ve had some space, it starts breaking that cycle and it turns into more of a habit that you want to have as opposed to the one that’s not. 

Amanda: Yeah. So maybe let’s talk about Gottman’s Four Horsemen when it comes to conflict, because I think these are some really telling pieces that we should be trying to work, starting to see in our marriages where we and maybe our spouse are doing these things. And I wouldn’t necessarily call your spouse out. It’s just good to know. Right. But what are these four horsemen that Gottman identified? 

Crystal Okay, so Gottman’s Four Horsemen, they’re really kind of a great way just to kind of check in. Like you said, it’s really good. You don’t want to call the spouse out, this really isn’t, maybe it’s a self-awareness tool for sure. So the first one is Criticism and that one I think is one of those things that we all we’re going to notice. I think most people will probably notice at least multiple, if not all of these come up. I mean, it’s not really something that you think oh, I’m this specific horseman. 

Amanda: Right, right. I mean, I think, so there’s four, right? And I think we tend to do one or two, maybe more than the other, but most of the time we do all four of them. 

Crystal: Absolutely. Yeah. Okay. So there’s Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. And like you said, there are definitely, we gravitate more to one or two of them, but it’s not uncommon if you’ve noticed all of these behaviors before either, so it’s okay. 

Amanda: So maybe let’s break them down and define them a little bit. 

Crystal: Okay. So Criticism is, there’s a difference between like having a complaint and criticizing, right? So a complaint is focusing on a specific behavior, whereas if you’re criticizing, it’s more of like a global expression of negative feelings. Right? 

Amanda: So it’s like, yeah, you’re like verbally attacking their personality, their character. Like instead of, Hey, I noticed that you didn’t take out the trash. It’s Hey, you’re really lazy because you don’t take out the trash. 

Crystal: Yeah. You always do this. You forget this. Right? Or you never. Always or never. 

Amanda: And really getting to their character rather than just, I noticed this or something.

Crystal: Yes, exactly. So definitely there’s a difference between giving a complaint versus criticizing. Right? 

Amanda: Yeah, for sure. 

Crystal: I think the trash explanation is pretty, pretty simple, right? Instead of it being kind of, Hey, next time would you let me know if you don’t have time to take out trash. Or you know, what can we do to remember to do this so we don’t overflow our garbage can for a week.  

Amanda: As opposed to, you never do this and now you’re so lazy. 

Crystal: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. So that’s that one. So then there’s Contempt, and this is one that the Gottman’s are really pretty specific about this one. How this is probably the most damaging to a relationship because this is really like attacking somebody through sarcasm and really cynicism. And it’s kind of this comparison and it’s almost this, I’m better than you. Like you are a terrible person. Or what kind of person are you to do this? Who in the world would act like this?  I would never treat you like this.

Amanda: Right. Right. So it’s really insulting them and even emotionally abusing them, really looking at attacking who they are as a person. And it’s with an intent to insult them, right? 

Crystal: Yes. And it’s like this long story that I keep going back and I keep hammering it in over and over again.

Amanda: Yes. And I think all of us can think of experiences maybe in our own marriage, hopefully not, but at least like in other relationships we’ve seen where we see this happen. 

Crystal: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it doesn’t mean, and I hate to say this is the most damaging. So it’s like if you are doing this and you are bad or your marriage is doomed, that’s not what it means. But it’s definitely something that needs to be addressed because it’s one of the more damaging things to do in a marriage because you can’t take that stuff back. Those are the things that are like really attacking somebody as a person. It’s really driving in shame into the person.  

Amanda: And thinking that you’re better than them.

Crystal: Mm-hmm. Yes. Yeah. So having that really like the cynicism, but even more sarcastic. like mean digging comments. 

Amanda:  Yeah. Right. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Okay. What’s the next one? 

Crystal: The next one’s Defensive. I think that one’s pretty self-explanatory, but it’s kind of one of those things where we go on the defense, right? That’s what we do. So if somebody comes to you and says, Hey, you know, you put the laundry away. But well, you didn’t do this. We’re putting it back on the other person. You know, you didn’t kiss me goodbye. Well, you never asked me to kiss you. You don’t ever do this.

Amanda: You know, or I’ve got so much on my plate. Why would you think that I can do this, like we kind of victimize ourselves

Crystal: Yes. When we get defensive. Yes, exactly. It’s like turning us into the victim and them into the villain and it’s like, I didn’t do this, but I had every right not to because it was something that you did or didn’t do.

Amanda: Yeah. Right. Yeah. Which, I mean, gosh, I think so many of us get defensive about things as soon as someone comes at us, it’s our immediate response to be defensive and to put up the shield and go into attack mode to try and protect ourselves. But it does so much damage in our relationships. 

Crystal: Yes, yes. And it makes sense, like when you can look at it with compassion for yourself and for your spouse, it’s kind of a survival instinct, right? We want to defend ourselves. We want to not have things be uncomfortable. Goes back to keeping the peace, right? Whatever we can do to not be the problem. So if for sure it makes sense to kind of deflect that. 

Crystal:  The last one is Stonewalling, which is one that drives me the most crazy.  Personally, I like to talk things out and it’s taken a lot of practice for me to slow down and just take a step back and get to a good place where I’ve done my own self-reflection and owned what I need to own and really deciding how I want to show up and then go have the conversation. But what typically happens with stonewalling, how you’ll see it, is there will be conflict that typically grows into contention, fighting, a disagreement, whatever, however that may look. And one or both spouses, you go silent and you just don’t talk. 

Amanda: This is what me and my husband did for years, and I think we both still do it sometimes, but we’re getting better at not talking for days.

Crystal: Right? Well, and stonewalling can be easily just tweaked a little bit to turn into something healthy and it really is just using that time to do your own self-reflection and kind of really take a step back but then you have to remember to circle back and have the conversation. Because let’s face it, when we’ve gone a certain amount of time, whether it’s hours, days, weeks, without talking, our brains finally quit stressing about the thing. Or we even forget what we’re even fighting about in the first place. And so we just kind of go back into the same routine and that’s why it keeps happening because we don’t ever circle. 

Amanda: Yes. Yes. Okay. So I love talking about these four, the criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. So Gottman developed antidotes to each of these four horsemen. Let’s talk about those. So what’s the antidote to criticism? 

Crystal: So, the antidote to criticism is a gentle startup that’s going to be, instead of going right into it, right, just diving right in and saying, Hey, what in the world? You never take out the trash. Instead let’s slow down and let’s go into this conversation a little bit. How I like to explain it is going into it with curiosity as opposed to blame game, right? Or to score. It’s like, let me just go in and ask some curious questions like, Hey, what happened here? What’s going on? 

Amanda: Well, and really kind of what I said before, Hey, I noticed this, right? Rather than, you didn’t take out the trash, you’re so lazy. It’s like, I noticed that the trash wasn’t being taken out, what can we do differently? Or whatever. It’s more gentle and I think it’s also Gottman that says how you start a conversation, it’s usually how you’re going to end a conversation. So if you start gentle, you’re probably going to have a gentle ending as well. It’s not so harsh. 

Crystal Yes, and it’s really good. And I’d love to give this preface too, when you’re starting, just know that whatever the habit is, that’s what you’re going to see at the beginning. It’s not abnormal. If the habit is to be fighting or yelling and screaming or sweeping it under the rug, stalling, whatever, it’s going to be the norm at first. This takes some practice, but yes, just really just noticing, Hey, I noticed that this trash didn’t get taken out, what’s going on? You know, were you in a hurry? Is there something I can do to help? What do we need to do differently? Kind of that same thing, sitting on the same side of the table, we’re a team, right? How can I help you? What do you need, you know?

Amanda:  Well, and I notice this is really good with my kids too. Rather than you didn’t clean the bathroom again. Hey, I noticed the bathroom is still kind of a mess. What happened? Really being curious about it, rather than just going straight into criticism, whatever it is, and I feel like kids are so sensitive to that criticism. And so when we can do that gentle startup, it usually ends up a lot better with them too, not just our spouse. 

Crystal: Yeah. And you can even notice it, I was telling a friend this the other day, we were shopping and she’s like, how come you’re always so patient at stores or with people, the drive through  And I’m like, really? Honestly, I think it is that I’ve practiced this right where, I mean I genuinely actually really just love people and like to give people the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t always translate over to my family as easily.

Amanda:  Why is that? Dang it. 

Crystal:  I know what I’m working on. But I mean, honestly, you can practice it even with that, where we get frustrated with the bank teller. We get frustrated with the drive-through. I mean, we see those signs everywhere, we’re understaffed, please be patient with us. But it really is just practicing that gentle startup when we notice that conflict coming up, it’s really just kind of taking a step back and being like, okay, where’s this coming from and why. Do I like my reasons for it or do I not? 

Most of the time getting mad at the bank teller isn’t going to make the line go faster or getting mad at the person who’s doing your return isn’t going to do anything better or quicker. It’s not useful, right? So we can practice that gentle startup everywhere and it really does start with just noticing the conflict within you.

Amanda:  So, yes. Okay, so what is the antidote to contempt? 

Crystal: And this one’s a really good one. This is when you want to start building this practice of appreciation. So instead of being in the habit of looking for the negative, I just had this conversation with one of my kids. Let’s, instead of being glass half empty, right, looking for all the reasons to be upset or finding all the evidence for why things have gone wrong, start having this attitude of gratitude, right? Let me get in the habit of, in the practice of, looking for things to be appreciative of because as much as our spouses, our kids, other people around us can frustrate us, there are so many things that we can find appreciation for. A really great antidote to that is just having this practicing, this appreciation and gratitude. 

Amanda: Yes. I think that’s so, so important. I mean, we just had Thanksgiving a few weeks ago and we tend to focus on gratitude around Thanksgiving, but if we can really practice it year round, it’ll make things so much better in our life.

Crystal: Yes. 

Amanda: We even do this on my calls with my clients, you know, our brain has such a negative bias all the time. It’s always looking for problems and danger and how things need to be better.  That is just the natural inclination of our brain. But when we can be intentional and look for the good things and the things that we can be grateful for and stuff, then it really reorients our brain away from that negative bias, and we can do that in our relationships as well. 

So at the beginning of our coaching calls, I always have people type in things that are going well in their life, and it doesn’t even have to do with our coaching or sex or anything. It’s really let’s look at everything that’s going well in your life and start being appreciative and having gratitude for that so that we can reorient our brain and when we can start to do that in our relationships. So another practice that I have my clients do is to write down a hundred things that they like, love or appreciate about their spouse. And for some of us, it’s really, really hard when we’ve been looking at the negative for so long. But when they can start to do that, then they just find more and more and more and more. 

Crystal: Yeah. No, I love that. In fact, our mentor, I remember when she had talked about this, practicing this herself and she was like, yeah, and there’s some days where it’s like, I’m grateful that my spouse has hands, right? 

Amanda: Yes I’m grateful he has teeth . 

Crystal: Some days are harder to find grateful things, right? I just did a challenge on social media, but I’ve done it with my clients, where the challenge is to go a hundred days with telling your spouse one thing you’re grateful for. Either what they do or how they act or whatever. Whether it’s a text or in person or whatever. And it really does bring something, one, it brings a whole different lens to see your relationship through because you actually are searching and keeping it on the forefront of your head. Like, oh, I’ve gotta tell them today what I’m grateful for. And then you really do start to see that they really are pretty awesome. I remember why I fell in love with you and why we got married. 

Amanda: Right, right. I know our brain loves to find all those negative things and what’s wrong. I mean, how many clients have you had, I know I have, those that think they married the wrong person because they have conflict, or they start seeing all these negative qualities and they forget all the positive stuff of why they fell in love with him in the first place. 

Crystal: Absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, I think that’s most people at one point or another think, crap, I chose wrong.

Amanda; Yeah, yeah, for sure. 

Crystal:  Right. It’s totally normal. 

Amanda: Okay. What is the antidote to defensiveness? 

Crystal: This is a good one. Take responsibility. So it really is a practice to slow down. Once again, notice that conflict and slow down and be, okay, what is mine to own. Right. So when the spouse comes to you and says, Hey you, you didn’t take out the laundry and now, I mean, not the laundry. This is where my brain’s going. We had a flood this week in our laundry room. That’s where, that’s where my brain always goes back to the laundry right now. But yes. You know, if this, if that’s like on the reverse, you know, if they come to, if my husband comes to me and says, Hey, you didn’t take out the trash, it was garbage day. And now we’re like sunk because we have, you know, Christmas next week and we’re going to have boxes and know where to put it. Instead of me getting defensive and being like, well, you didn’t remind me. Or, it’s always your job, and you just told me to do it, and I forgot cause I have to get the kids off to school and I have to do all these things, right? Instead of it being like, okay, I noticed the defensiveness popping up with me that conflict. And it’s like, yeah, I did, I told you I’d do it. So instead, it’s really getting in the habit of practicing. You know, you’re totally right. I forgot it. It was my bad.

Amanda: Yep. And really, when we can take responsibility for things, it’s just like our spouse feels a lot better about it because they’re coming because they’re frustrated and you’re owning up to your part what is yours to own. You forgot. And then we take responsibility and it creates more of that intimacy and that connection again.

Crystal: Absolutely. And to always remember that we’re all human, there’s nothing wrong with taking responsibility for our mistakes because we all have them. And I’ve even noticed the more that I do it, the more my kids start to do it too. And my husband will start to do it. And even family members will start doing that because they see it. Right?  We kind of watch that behavior and it’s like, oh, okay. It’s okay to own up to what you did and apologize. That’s actually a good thing.  Showing that it’s okay to be human and make mistakes. It’s fine. It’s part of the process. 

Amanda: We’re not letting that shame creep in. Like, oh, there’s something wrong with me because I made a mistake. No, we’re human. We all make mistakes. 

Crystal: Yeah. So we’re normalizing handling mistakes in a mature way, as opposed to this other way of being defensive and projecting it on the other person.

Amanda: Yes. Okay. What is the antidote to stonewalling? 

Crystal: This is really fun. It’s practicing the habit of self soothing, which can kind of be difficult when you’re used to, I mean, in a stonewalling situation, you really are either avoiding it completely, right? Like we avoid and we resist. We don’t want to do it. But when it does come up while we’re stonewalling, when that narrative keeps playing, it’s that I’m the victim. This is terrible, they’re wrong, they’re whatever. It’s all their fault. Practicing how to self-sooth, where I don’t have to have them change or do something differently. I can calm myself down. I don’t need anything from them. It’s going to help so that you don’t have to pull away. 

Amanda: Yeah. Well I think self-soothing is such a great skill for so many things. I know the more I practice the self-soothing where I’m able to reconnect quicker, what we’re doing with stonewalling. Right. But I just realized like I feel so much better about myself and then I can go back to want to reconnect. I don’t want to reconnect with him when I’m feeling such internal conflict. It goes from  external to internal and external again. Right. But if I can do that self-soothing, then I don’t have the internal conflict and then I can approach him in a much calmer way because I’ve calmed myself down first. I hate the thing, like don’t go to bed angry. Like sometimes, when you’re so tired, you just need to get some sleep so that you can think more clearly and address things. But I always think, especially if you’re in the middle of conflict, I tend to be one that needs a little bit of time to process, which can often look like stonewalling, even though that’s not what I’m meaning to do. But I need to be better about, I’m processing right now. I want to come back to this in 30 minutes when I’ve taken a little bit of time. 

Crystal: Yes, the communication piece is huge, so I actually add that to the self-sooth part because really, truly self-soothing is something we have to practice to do all of these, right? I  have the ability to practice gentle startup or being appreciative or taking responsibility. We really do have to self-sooth because the minute that that conflict hits our nervous system goes into overdrive. Right?  That’s just what happens. So we, no matter what, have to practice self-soothing. It’s exactly what you said. It’s that communication piece. Your first instinct is to  put up a wall and just not talk, but at least communicate that you just need to take some time to process, but you would really love to talk to you in 30 minutes. Or, you know what.

Amanda:  In the morning.

Crystal: Yes, yes. We’re tired and we both have to get up, so let’s chat tomorrow or after work tomorrow, let’s circle back and have this conversation. Right? 

Amanda: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t think any real resolution happens at 3:00 AM.

Crystal:  No, absolutely not.

Amanda:  It’s never a good thing.  It’s so much better to just get some sleep and calm things down and it might not be better in the morning, but you are better in the morning.

Crystal: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And it really is just truly just knowing your own body, right? Like tapping into yourself and being like, what do I need right now? Do I need resolution or do I need sleep? Well, it’s three in the morning and we have to get up early and do all the things. So sleep’s probably the best thing that I can do for me right now. And for my spouse.

Amanda: Yes. Okay. So we’ve identified ways that we’re having conflict externally, like with our spouse. It starts with internal conflict and then we project it outward to external conflict. Try to resolve it. Right? How does that actually create more intimacy and connection in marriage?

Crystal: Well, it starts, the biggest thing that it will do is it’s communication. We are opening up doors to communication. So once you can actually figure out what it is that is bothering you, and you learn how to identify it and own what’s yours to own, right? Self-sooth. You start having the conversation. 

Instead of going to those other habits of the blame, the shame, the criticizing the Stonewalling, and you know, being defensive, having those same fights. If you look at your marriage, I mean, most people, at least with my clients, I’ve seen this, and I’m sure you can say the same with yours. We have the same five fights, right? It’s the same thing and it’s the same cycle and it just looks the same, just maybe in different situations, right? But it’s the same fights over and over again. What it really boils down to, like we talked at the beginning, is we want to connect to each other. We want to feel connected, we want to have this good relationship, and when we don’t know how to do it, it comes out in different fighting styles. That’s just how it works. And so what happens is we’re opening up the door to what’s getting in the way and being able to navigate through that to actually have the honest conversation of, Hey, you know what? This is what I really am wanting from you right now. I really just want this, like I’m mad that you didn’t take out the trash, but after I sat here and really taken a long look at what’s going on inside of me, I just am really feeling like I want to know that you love and care about me. So I’m making all of this stuff mean that you don’t love me. So, Go on a date, let’s do this. Or  I just need you to give me a hug right now and tell me you love me, or I just want to make sure that we’re in a good place and we’re not forgetting that our relationship matters. Right? 

Amanda: Yeah. I think especially, so let’s, you know, bring this back to sex.

Crystal: Yeah, let’s do it. 

Amanda: So many times when sex isn’t happening, the higher desire partner is interpreting that as they don’t love me because we’re not having sex.  And the lower desire partner is saying, well, they only want sex, they don’t actually love me.  And what both people want is to feel seen and heard and loved. We want that connection. So we’re actually wanting the same things and we’re just having the conflict and going about it in ways that don’t actually create intimacy and connection so that we actually can have that and you know, maybe sex and maybe talking and other things too, right? So when we can start to work through some of these things, then we’re getting to know ourselves and our spouse better, which creates more intimacy, which helps us want to connect, which helps us have more sex. 

Crystal: Absolutely. Well, I was even thinking too, sometimes you have that lower desire, and I mean, of course I’m going to go the stereotypical route with the wife. It also can be even, oh, they want to have sex, but he’s not realizing that I’ve had a really stressful day. He knows all this stuff that’s happened. And now he wants me to do this. It’s just even that narrative of how we’re spinning it, that it’s like it really gets in the way and it’s oh, if they really cared, he wouldn’t be asking me for this right now. 

Amanda: Right, right, right. There’s so much that goes into it. For sure. Well, this has been fantastic. So just so people know, Crystal and I refer people back and forth to each other quite often. So when there’s couples that are in really big conflict, when they come into my program, I will actually refer them to Crystal first to help resolve some of that conflict so that then they can come back and re-engage sexually. And then Crystal oftentimes has clients who resolve the conflict, but then they’ve had, it’s been so long since they’ve had a good sexual relationship, she’ll refer them to me as well, just so that, because it’s so intertwined, right? 

Crystal: Yes, it is. And it’s so great because once you actually have kind of come together as a couple and really worked on your marriage, you want to be intimate, you want to have a good sex life. And so your program is such a great stepping stone for them, but it’s the next step. It’s like, okay, we know the tools, we know what we’re doing. And you and I teach and coach very similar too as far as, I mean, we use the same tools and the same concepts. We’ve done a lot of the same certifications, and so it goes hand in hand. And so it’s this lovely step that it’s like, okay, now they really are invested in their marriage. And it’s like, now let’s make sex a priority and make it fun. And it is such a good stepping stone. 

Amanda: Awesome. Okay, so tell people where they can find you and how they can work with you.

Crystal: Perfect. Okay. So you can find me on Instagram. I don’t post very often. I’m not the best at posting, but you can find good things on there every once in a while I’m going to get back into the swing of things. That’s my new goal in 2023, just for getting back to being on social media. You can always find me on my website, CrystalHansencoaching.com. I have a podcast that should be released by the time this airs, which will be Couples in Conflict. And I’m sure you’ll hear Amanda on there too, because we just can’t get enough of each other. So we’ll be chatting there too.

Amanda:  We literally talk all day, every day. When we’re not with clients, we’re with each other most of the time.

Crystal: Yes. So at any of those places, there’s a link in my Instagram or on my website, there’s a place where you can click to have a consult with me if you’re interested in working together. I work with women or couples, whatever they want. I do have some husbands that come and their spouses aren’t always on board, but most of the time it’s, it’s women and couples.

Amanda: Awesome. Well, thanks so much for being here with me today, Crystal. 

Crystal: Thanks for having me.

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