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Choosing Love – TDM Expert Interviews

Choosing Love Everyday in Relationships - TDM Expert Interviews
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Bryan Reeves
Bryan Reeves
Professional Life & Relationship Coach

Introducing the latest transcript blog featuring an insightful interview with Bryan Reeves, an internationally renowned Author, and Life/Relationship Coach. In this enlightening interview, Bryan shares his invaluable wisdom on thriving in love and intimacy.

Join us we delve into Bryan’s personal experiences and uncover how to cope when relationships become difficult.

Read on for the full transcript of our interview, “Choosing Love Everyday.”

[Music]

Hello everybody, this is another interview with another expert and for The Divorce Magazine, if you have not visited The Divorce Magazine um, YouTube channel or the website please do so, there’s so many interviews there with people who know a lot about the world of divorce, and separation, and breakup on the website. We have loads of articles um, which are all written by professionals within the divorce and separation industry um, except the ones that are written from people’s own um, relationship breakup so they write it from their experiences.

So, today we have yet another expert um, Brian Reeves um, I have to say thank you Brian for sending me your book. The title immediately got me and the book is “Choose Her Every Day or Leave Her”, and this is something that you know I know that my friends and I we have kind of like, discussed whether they were male, female or them we’ve kind of like discussed it and saying “but I don’t understand why, if you’re in a relationship you just don’t do the right thing by your person.” So when I read that I was like, yeah exactly that’s my thought um, so that got me.

And then uh, but what I usually do Brian is when I have somebody that I’m interviewing or if we have an event panel I’ll introduce the, the people there usually I would introduce but as I was writing out your bio and reading about you I thought hmm, I think this will come much better from Brian himself because the story is very different from the bio of a divorce solicitor for instance, this is life and relationship coach which you are, so tell us a little bit about you.

Yeah, thank you well, first I love that I appreciate that you introduced me as an expert, in this domain, I like, you don’t like the word expert? Well I don’t mind it, I’m not opposed to it, but I but I like what Esther Perel, Esther Perel, you know she is like, I know her, elder of relationship studies these days, she’s, she’s fantastic. I love what she says about that word, she says “there’s no such thing as experts, expert relationship experts. There are, but there what there are is people who have studied and thought a lot about relationships.” Yeah, and that I am. I am definitely someone who has studied, and thought, and reflected, and worked at relationship for, for many, many, many, years. And in large part, and I know that’s, that’s kind of unusual too there’s not a lot of men that tend to do that except if they go to school, to study it they become therapists, and just walk that path.

And my path is, is different. I didn’t come to it through that traditional path I, I came to it as a uh, I’m a former military uh, Officer United States Air Force I was a captain, I was in the Air Force for about 10 years uh, before that I was in a fraternity in college, before that I was just a boy growing up in Western culture, and, you know again fast forward, so boy, fraternity uh, brother uh, I was even president of my fraternity then I was uh, in the Air Force, captain, now I’m 26 years old and Soila, I can’t feel anything in my body, I can’t feel happiness, I can’t feel, can’t feel sadness, like no joy, no just dead, dead inside, and very educated, I got a master’s degree in human relations. So I, I started studying human relations when I was in the military of all places, because it was just fascinating to me, but my relationships with women were just disastrous, over, and over, and over again and that was that marked me you know.

So I got out of the military at 26, I actually married uh, a woman in France that I had met, only five weeks prior, to marrying her. Not one of my better decisions uh, but, but, but I will say that, that, that set me on a path, that brought me here today so, yeah. You know, I, I, I, wouldn’t plan how any of this has unfolded but I’m grateful for it at the same time but, you know so I, I just was disastrous at relationships for years, and years, and years and, and, and it was really, so I’m 49 now and it was really at the age of 36, that I resolved to stop sucking at love and relationship.

Are you going to tell us what came with that resolve? You know resolving was it, or am I jumping the gun a little bit? No, that’s okay no, when you said you resolved how did that come about? Well I was in a five year relationship that again just brought me to my knees, it’s actually, so the title of the book is “Choose Her Every Day or Leave Her” and that was born from an article an essay that I wrote in 2015 called, “Choose Her Every Day or Leave Her.” And it was about that relationship because I realised, I woke up and realised, not when I was in the relationship but years after in my reflections when I was actually working with couples, I was already coaching couples at this time, and I having just still learning so much myself and waking up so much myself, to just all the mistakes that I had made, all of the things that I had just foolishly, just ignorantly.

I like to say we’re all ignorant, I’m sorry, we are all innocent, in our ignorance. We’re all innocent in our ignorance if we knew better, we would do better. And I didn’t know better, so I didn’t do very well and I made so many, just God awful, you know painful mistakes that not even the big ones, I don’t mean the big obvious ones like cheating, or, physical abuse I don’t mean those kinds of things, I mean just the, the inability to, to be vulnerable the, the ejecting all of my unresolved stuff onto my partners and, and expecting them to just perform, being, show up in certain ways so that ah, I could feel better you know, and uh, so it was the, that five-year relationship I, I wrote about that epiphany of, of whoa I, I, I said I was with her, but I really wasn’t.

I wasn’t really fully choosing her. In fact the, the first line of that, of that essay which is in the book is um, “I spent 5 years hurting a good woman by staying with her, but never fully choosing her.” And that was, again that was just part of all the epiphanies that I was having, but it was that relationship that was like the most important relationship of my life until that time and I think this is true for a lot of men we don’t really start to do this work, until we hit bottom. And a lot of men, we run into the what I call “the limits”, “the limitations of our adolescence” of our adolescent psychology, usually around the, the, the end of our 30s or in our 40s, look some men never, cross that threshold some men live psychologically, adolescent for their entire lives many men do I would say, but I think more and more these days, men are, are hitting those limits in their late 30s and, and 40s and uh, it thus begin many men in their 50s, hell I work with guys in their 60s, as well who are just waking up to all of this and so, and that’s what it was for me it was a relationship Soila, that brought me to my knees and I just was like I, I can’t be destined to suck at this for the rest of my life.

Yeah, when you’re talking about um, that line the opening line to your essay, um, I felt a little bit like oh wow, the realisation that you had, you had done that to somebody. But I, I’m thinking to myself how when you, okay and I know I have questions here and I’m just going to one that is in there when, because I want to go into that.

“Choose Her Every Day or Leave Her” – What does that look like? How do you show them?

Choose her every day or leave her, what does that actually look like because, you know, how do you make sure that you’re showing that, that you’re choosing her? Cuz I, I think we, okay not everybody, but I think women we don’t really ask for that much in terms of to be shown that somebody’s actually thinking about us it could be, a little text, a little this, you know I don’t know just something to show that I am thinking about and we feel quite oo, you know he’s thinking about me even after 20 years, 30, is he still thinking about me.

Yeah, well that’s a, it’s, it’s a, it’s a great question and what I’ve, there’s a spectrum of how people, process deal with conflict, or disagreement. And when two people come together in relationship, it’s like two different I call it two different thought worlds, two different cultures, I don’t care if you grew up in the same culture you still are, are steeped in different family dynamics, family systems Etc. And um, when we come together, there are, there are couples that tend to be high conflict, there are couples that tend to be uh, low conflict. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re, succeeding just because there’s low conflict, often times what that actually means is somebody is just, they just, they’re not having the uncomfortable conversations that they should be having, right, someone’s just taking whatever breadcrumbs they can get and making themselves happy about it as best they can, they’re not really happy but you know, women and men can, can do that for decades. Right, just take whatever I get, um, in the hopes that I won’t be left.

On the flip side of that though, there’s the high conflict couple, which is the couple that they’re just going to put everything on the table all the time but they have no skills, how to actually work through it and repair, and so they’re living in high conflict all the time, stressed out, that and, and this was me. I’m, I’m more in the high conflict profile and I’ve always chosen women that were more, high conflict right. So my relationship tended to have a an explosive nature to them whereas, uh, again but what’s interesting Soila is I, I had been in relationships where my partner was not high conflict, and I didn’t want to be in those.

Why do women choose the “bad boys” instead of the “nice guys”?

It was kind of, why is that? Cuz I’m really, I’m, I’m hearing what you’re saying and it’s something that I’ve often wondered, why, why is it that um, some people would rather be, you know how people say that there are women who just like bad boys, so the ones who just treat them, and then you get a really nice guy, who’s attentive who, you know chooses you every day and you’re like hmm too nice, no.

Yeah, it’s a uh, such a, it’s a deep, deep question. I think what we’re really seeking for in a partner is someone who has range. One of the maps that I work with is the masculine, feminine map which I want to be really clear I do not mean that masculine does not mean man, and feminine does not mean woman, or, we all have masculine and feminine, capacity for, for that those kinds of expressions through us.

And so what comes up for me in that question is like, we’re attracted to people who are, in contact with their own dark energy, their own, it’s like, it’s like why we love to go watch horror movies, there’s a ,there’s a darkness that we’re all attracted to, that we each have in our shadow I mean we’re getting into some, you know potentially deep psychological uh, conversations here but um, we, we want somebody who we’re instinctively drawn to somebody, who’s in touch with their dark masculine, their dark feminine. What happens though is when we’re, when we, as we ourselves are not yet really growing, we’re still in our own immaturity, we’re still working, we’re still living in our own mother wounds and father wounds, we may be attracted only to that darkness and somebody, if they don’t have range, if that person doesn’t have capacity to, to be in there let’s say, light masculine, or light feminine, I know I’m throwing around terms here that would, would need some, some def, definition and further elucidation but, at this I can say ‘it’s in my book’. Sure, thank you, that’s actually very helpful, it’s in my book!

Yeah, um, so, you know because men we are drawn to, we’re drawn to, here’s how I, frame it here’s how I’ve experienced it in my in my past, in my own choices, I’ve always been attracted to women that on some level I knew could metaphorically, not literally, but metaphorically kill me. What I mean by that is metaphorically kill the parts of me, that do not serve. Right, you know there’s a, there’s a, something I like to say about the difference between boys and men is, boys save, men serve. You know boys want to be the hero, right, I can unpack that a little bit boys want to be the hero, they want to be the one that scores the touchdown at the end of the game, they want, to be the one that’s, that, that everyone looks at and go and puts on a pedestal ‘oh you’re so amazing, you’ve saved us from the dragon’ or from whatever.

You know the, the, the hero that archetype of the hero is not relational. He doesn’t need any, he doesn’t, there’s, he just needs a dragon to fight, and it doesn’t even almost matter what the dragon, what treasure the dragon guards, it’s just some ambiguous, amorphous treasure is fine, I don’t care what it is just give me a dragon to fight. It’s about them. It’s about them, exactly, and that’s a boyhood, that’s an adolescent, psychological archetype and it’s very important, we all have to, to progress through our own, men and women have to progress through our own hero stories, but as adults, we’re relational. We, we start living in a question of well how, how does my behaviour impact the people in front of me? How, how do I serve, not sacrifice, which is what the hero also is, is about sacrifice, but how do I serve? How do I, how do I be a part of the conversation? How do I embrace what my partner needs to be a part of the conversation?

Like it’s a question that, that I live inside of and so, I think we, we men in our ‘boyhood’ mentality, psychology we’re drawn to, you know the dark feminine, the Cali energy, that the, the destructor of worlds you know with all her arms that can just slice off the heads of, of, of BS of insanity because we need that. We need that, we need that death, we need that in order for the adult to emerge, we need that death and, and, and similarly I think to women there’s a, there’s a confrontation there’s a, a loss of innocence that is required in order to step into true adulthood. And I think women are drawn to that, the bad boy because he’s going to rob her of her innocence and the bad boy sadly does it, very painfully. Does it, it’s, it’s a violation, it’s not, it’s not a nice thing, it’s not but yet it also has to happen on some level.

You know, for a woman to become a true adult she also has to, not lose innocence, but she has to grow beyond her naive innocence into an adult that can, that can really, be present with, with reality. Right, innocence is a, this beautiful purity that is in in denial of sorts of, of of, the of the dangers of the actual world. So anyway I’ll pause there.

No it’s really interesting just to understand how that happens and how people um, navigate their relationships in the world in different ways but yet, kind of similarly, in sometime, in some ways. So I, I think uh, you have three parts in your book? Yes, so I’m just going to start with the first one which you call ‘preparation’. Yes, right. And in this part um, there was one section that actually I thought to myself, how again there, there’s some parts in your book that I personally can relate to, there’s some that I can’t personally relate to but I can feel, you know if this were to happen to me because you use a lot of your own experiences and you know it brings it alive, the sections um.

Can you explain what it means to be lonely in a relationship?

And you know uh, you know just, clar, clarifying what it is that you mean, so I’m just going to read what I have here. So you have um, one section which is ‘embracing the ache of loneliness’ and then the quote that you had there, because I read that and I thought oh yes yeah we hear a lot about loneliness and I read that, that quote that you have there and you said, “this is dedicated to the lonely, even the lonely who have partners.” Yeah, and that, I really thought to myself yes, this is, because you can be, like they say you can be lonely in a crowd, you can be very lonely in a relationship.

Oh yeah. And it makes it hard when people walk away from that kind of relationship, because people will turn around and go, “but he’s such a nice person”, or “but he’s such” or “she’s absolutely wonderful” but when they’re just the two of them, you’re reaching out for somebody but they’re not there. Yeah, I think that the one of the loneliest places a human can be is lying right next to their intimate partner that they don’t feel connected with and don’t know how to bridge the gap with. That’s certainly been my experience, you know that late night, you’ve gone to bed and oh my God it’s like this isn’t working, I don’t understand why, what are we missing, why can’t I connect with this person why, why again in my case, why is she so mad at me all the time, what is happening, oh my heart. You know I’m wanting to touch her to make love to, to get lost in each other’s eyes and, and to feel her adoration and to offer her mine, but none of that seems available. It is excruciating.

Can the honeymoon stage last?

Yeah but what you’re describing Brian, it sounds like that initial honeymoon stage can that last? Do you think you can still be in that blissful state, you know, if, seven years down the line, 15 years, 20 years or does it transform, without the loneliness creeping in? I so we, we live in a, a youth work worshiping culture, right, we want everything to stay young, we want every season to be summer, and this is reflected in our relationships too, we want the honeymoon to last forever. And I think this is, in just again, just our beautiful innocent ignorance about how the reality of things, it’s also a reflection of our disconnect from life.

That’s not how life works, life is seasonal, right, life is circular. There’s, there’s um, Clarissa Pinkola Estés, the author of “Women Who Run With the Wolves,” a masterpiece book she talks a lot in that book about the Life, Death, Life Cycle that is, that we are very disconnected from in our culture and, and again it’s reflected in that desire that the honeymoon lasts forever. In fact, if we’re being honest, with this new person that we’re relating to, things are going to come up within a few, if not weeks, a few months, that are going to, cause a sort of ‘oh boy, what are we doing here’ you know there, it’s like that, that in her book in fact one of my favourite chapters is called, called “Skeleton Woman.”

I’m promoting another woman’s book, some hopefully some, are you familiar with Women Who Run With the Wolves? I am yeah, oh it’s a masterpiece, incredible book, big book, big book, it’s a big, poetic, dense, and profound book. Absolutely. But there’s this beautiful chapter called ‘Skeleton Woman’ where this fisherman uh, and there it’s all told through metaphors and myths uh, where this, this fisherman catches a skeleton on the end of his hook, I’m giving you the very short version of it, and this, the skeleton is of a woman and he it, it freaks him out and he, but she gets caught on his hook and he, as he’s rowing back to shore trying to get away from skeleton woman she’s, she’s on the hook and she’s bouncing along on the waves it looks like she’s chasing him. And that freaks him out even more so he, he runs to his cabin to get away from her carrying his fish and tackle and again she’s on his hook, so she’s bouncing along after him.

Anyway, this is a metaphor story for how, as soon as we have like someone on the hook, you know when we when we step into real relationship with someone, and we really want to, not just have a purely pleasurable experience, Clarissa in that chapter she says something beautiful uh, “to love pleasure takes little, to love truly, takes a hero that can manage his own fear” and this, this reason I love this skeleton woman metaphor and you know about, I mean all the stuff is, like I read that book in my own preparation for being in in a marriage. Right, I mean that a lot of that’s infused into the book that I’ve written ‘Choose Her Every Day or Leave Her’, a lot of the awakenings, the epiphanies, as a, as a man and like oh my God reading this book ‘Women Who Run With the Wolves’ and, and, and that chapter skeleton woman was, profoundly, reorienting for me. It open my eyes that skeleton woman, that, that knowing that when I get into relationship, if I’m having a real relationship with somebody, skeleton woman is right there. She is, she is the Life, Death, Life Cycle, she is the, something has to die, in order for me to really step into relationship. The, the single man has to die. The man who doesn’t need to be concerned with how his behaviour impacts another person on a daily basis, that has to die.

Right, I mean the man who just wants, wants it my way has to die. If the relationship is to survive. Yeah, and, and and, and, and truly succeed. Yeah, and so I think you know this this idea that the honeymoon can last is a is a myth it’s a myth. Now, I think when we do the work, when we, you know confront skeleton woman, when we when we realise wow, okay all of my stuff is going to come up you know my, my, my, wife we met eight and a half years ago and she broke up with me four months into our, relationship. And Soila, at the time I was already like a world-renowned relationship coach and author, my blogs were being read by millions of people around the world, like, I got it going on, Soila, like I’m the guy. And it’s in the book. That’s right, I write about this, and I found this amazing woman, like I was doing all the right things, so I thought, you know, uh, just telling like I, I knew what to do, and still all my stuff came up, she broke up with me, I mean her stuff came up too, and she broke up with me four months in because I didn’t, I didn’t know how, like the parts, the parts of me that don’t want to die, don’t want to die.

Right, so she would say this thing she would say “you know Brian, you’re, you’re like a, a single guy that, says he wants to be in relationship.” And I couldn’t, I was puzzling out, I didn’t know what she was talking about like, “what do you mean I even put you on Facebook” like “I told the, you know I said I’m in a relationship on Facebook isn’t that the gold standard these days, for claiming somebody?” Uh, but no, it was, it was you know and stuff was coming up for her and I did not know how to turn into it, to be with it, to comfort her, to, to instead I did what I would always do is I’d cross my arms and turn away from her and be like well that’s your problem not mine, as an example.

Yeah. Right. Do you think if I can use that as an example, do you think that would have been an example of the loneliness, within a partnership, that maybe she was experiencing that loneliness? Yeah, that’s a really good point I don’t think I’ve ever made that connection before but I think that’s true, I think that’s, that’s a really good point, I think she was feeling, see here she was on some level knowing like, I am a man that she could feel deeply safe with. Yeah. And she knew, like both of us saw in each other, eternities, love in a profound way and that you know, we, we were working with a therapist at the time who, who after our breakup we worked with a therapist, who uh, when we got back together, who shared with us, who helped us see that look it’s because you feel so safe with each other, that this stuff is coming up, it’s not because you’re bad for each other, it’s because you feel safe that all the stuff that didn’t get to come up with previous partners, is now coming up.

That was really helpful for us um, and I do believe for sure like, my inability still, to lean in, to hold her, when she was going through whatever she was going through that I didn’t understand, yeah, I’m sure that that created a loneliness and a, like here’s this promise of, of love, at a, at a, at a level she’s never experienced before and yet it’s unavailable. Yeah, and that is, that is the loneliness, isn’t it?

What do you mean by “living in peace with the pain”?

Okay, so the other part in your part one in preparation that I wanted to bring up where you say, “healing sometimes means learning to live in peace with the pain.” Yeah And the quote that you have there, and you talk, you give your own experience as well but the quote that you have there says, “yet despite all the inner work I’ve done, and all the beautiful insights my mind and heart are fortunate to see, there are some sorrows from my past, that has just never seem, but just never seem to fully exhaust their sadness.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. So living in peace with the pain. Yeah. I’ll tell you I, I um, I regularly work with, as I said earlier I work with men and we do a lot of group work uh, around our relationships um, I have a, this six- month programme called “Elevate Your Relationship” that is for exclusively for men, who are struggling in relationship and want to do better. And um, men often come in when they start to learn, some of the insights and, and this skills, and things that that I teach both in the book, and in the, in this, in this, this coaching experience and this is what happened to me they start going, “oh my God, I can’t believe I was doing that to my partner, no wonder, she turned away from me, no wonder she doesn’t want to have sex, with me anymore, I, I, I, never helped her feel safe I, and I, because I thought I was safe, and I was unsafe in all these ways, in my expectations, in my in my own closure, in my lack of presence”, and on, and on, and on.

What I’m often encouraging men to do is to hold on to that pain. Let that pain, of, of, of, the past be a, be a, be a gift in your heart. Be a, a source of, a source of well, you know I, I have this memory of, of a of a past girlfriend actually, the one that I in that rel, that five-year relationship that, that brought me to my knees I have this memory where we’re in a, a, uh, a staircase in an apartment building, this is probably, you know towards the end of our relationship and, and, um, she was um, we were fighting, and I remember just doing what I always do crossing my arms, turning away from her, just closed, defended I, so don’t want to be here and I’m communicating that through my body language and she was look I, I was unskilful, she was unskilful, neither of us knew what the hell we were doing, in relationship.

But I remember, she was practically begging me to just stay in that moment don’t, don’t leave her in that moment, not the relationship but just, and I was I like I got to be somewhere else I’m leaving I’m, I’m heading out of here and I remember at the time I just all I saw was an angry, spiteful, even cruel woman in front of me, because she could be pretty nasty, she could be pretty, pretty awful with her words. Um, but what I couldn’t see at the time that I can see now, is the woman in pain beneath all of that. And I have that memory, I look back and I see how I responded, just a man in pain, two innocent, innocently ignorant people, but I see her pain now. I see it so clearly and it breaks my heart that I didn’t see it in that moment. And I didn’t see it for a thousand moments, in that, in that five years with her. It breaks my heart Soila.

I’ll tell you, that’s a pain that I keep dear, I don’t want to necessarily for that to go away or heal it cuz if it, I want to use that, to make sure I never do that to my wife, in the future, you know today or in the future, and I’m still that old pattern is still present the old cross my arms turn my body and you know screw you, this is your fault this is your problem, I’m not responsible for how you feel blah, blah, blah. I don’t want to ever go back there, so you know I think living, learning to live in peace with the pain, I think, our past messes and mistakes can be the greatest gifts if we allow them to.

And I, I see where you’re going with that a lot because there are people who we use like even within, therapeutic session where they will say “I have my nightmares but sometimes I don’t want to get rid of them completely because they remind me of what is important.” Um, yeah, a piece of it want to get rid of it um, and when, when we’re talking about that I’m just thinking about that living in peace with a pain when it, when it’s like going through divorce um, and then you go the divorce happens, and you go through it, you get your decree absolute, like we call it in the UK, and then but the pain is still there. And learning to accept that it will be there for, yeah, a while, it’s not going to, maybe the rest maybe the rest of your life to some degree, yeah, and again I don’t think that’s a bad thing I think.

Stephen Jenkinson is an author who and, and a man who’s worked with the, the, the dying for many, many years, are you familiar with Stephen Jenkinson? Actually no. He wrote a book called “Die Wise” and he, he says that we are death phobic and grief illiterate, in our modern world and I think this, this is part of our grief illiteracy, the, the, the wanting to get rid of the pain as quickly as possible, to not wanting to be in the pain, and even a relationship that was terrible, you know my relation, the relationship I was in for five years was, it was not a good relationship it was, it was chaotic we, we both hurt each other in so many ways, we were in and out in and out, it was not a healthy relationship ever. We had we had blow up fights every two or three days, Soila, when we were together, we, if we went a week without a fight that was like remarkable, like oh there’s hope! Yeah, sorry go, on.

No what were you gonna say? I was going to say that brings me nicely to the next section, you know where we doing part two dancing in the fire, okay, and you have that section thank you for leaving me, oh yeah, yeah, okay good, let’s we’ll, let’s get to that in a moment um, but that, even that relationship five years, I was so relieved when it was over like oh, it was like springtime, you know very it was a very painful winter that relationship and then oh Springtime but actually, once that jubilation wore off, oh my God now the grieving began. And I grieved that relationship, the loss of her, the for, for years, that pain lasted me for years, I mean, she would still, even in my dreams I would have dreams of her even when I was with when I met my who the woman that’s now my wife, and she knows this we we’ve talked about this, and her too she also was grieving past relationships even while we were, forming ours and it wasn’t a problem for us, we knew that that’s just part of the process and it’s okay and oh yeah, I mean it’s yeah, I think that the, that pain is a reminder that we loved.

What do you mean when you say, “thank you for leaving me”?

Yeah so tell us about that thank you for leaving me because that brings up very nice into the section thank you for leaving me. Oh yeah, well that thank you for leaving me, I wrote when my, my girlfriend now my wife broke up with me four months in. I was I was devastated, I was, again it came out of nowhere, um, I didn’t obviously didn’t expect it, didn’t want it, um, and, so I wrote that, I wrote that essay thank you for leaving me though because, you know I’ve always been a silver linings kind of guy and it’s like okay this devastating thing is happening, well let me find the gift in it.

I had always lived with this fear, my greatest, one of my greatest fears, Soila, is that because I think for a lot of my younger life, you know, I would date women and they would fall pretty hard for me and I would become the one for them pretty quick and I was never, I just wasn’t ready, I wasn’t ready for, for, for a long time. And I had this fear that oh God, one day I’m going to meet the woman who is my one, and she’s not going to want to be with me. Like Karma’s coming for me, that was like one of my greatest fears like I’ll never, get to love, fully. And so when, when Silvy is my wife, when she broke up with me was like oh my God, it happened my greatest fear, cuz she’s the one that I waited, I’m 41 years old, I waited a lifetime for her, and now she doesn’t want to be with me it’s like it’s happening.

The greatest fear, and thank you for leaving me is, is, is my letter to her, that I didn’t send to her, cuz she at the time she wasn’t open to receiving it, but it was my, my, letter of, of, you know thank you for, for cracking the armour around my heart, so that I could, I could, I can love more fully now, I can surrender more fully, I can, a friend of mine uh, in in seeing um, someone go through a, a grieving around a death of a pet many, many years ago, said um, this, this heartbreak you’re experiencing, can be your heart breaking open. And that image never left me. You know we think of heartbreak is something terrible, something to avoid, something we should never have, and look I’m not saying that, you know there are things that I would never wish on anybody, that are heart breaking um, but this this,, this Vision this idea of a heart breaking open so that I can love ever more fully, I can give and receive love, Roomy ,Roomy said that the, the, the, the, wound is where the light enters us. And that’s what this, this chapter is, is really infused of it’s that, that hopeful gratitude for being broken open in such a painful way.

Because you talk about the gift, her living gave you, and in that chapter you took, you give so many thank yous, and I put some of them here, I didn’t know how many there were so I started writing them down, and then I, I found how many there were and I thought it’s okay. So you have “thank you for helping me remember” and then you say what that help, the breaking up, helped to remember, “thank you for reminding me”, oh, you know, thank you, like well, like that one that’s yeah, thank you for, for, for, I’m curious what number you came up with I’ve never counted oh yeah, I didn’t finish, oh okay, wow there a lot of thank yous, well that, that, like, like thank you for reminding me, that’s many gifts, oh so many gifts, like even that okay, it’s not a woman who defines my worth, thank you, because you’re, you’re leaving me and I, I, I realise that I even as heart breaking as this is I, I’m okay.

It’s not a reflection of who I am, you’ve made a choice, I didn’t want you to make that choice, but you made a choice, and I honor that, and respect that and it does, it’s not a reflection of my heart. And that was a good again, a good reminder. Yeah but I’m just thinking how, you know working with, with um, people who are going through divorce, and having been through divorce myself, and knowing the pain that you have, um, before, before the marriage breaks down, during the marriage, after it does, you know and all of that, getting to that point where it’s almost like I don’t well now my ex and I are good friends but I don’t want to, it would never have occurred to me to say thank you, it’s almost like thanking him but I don’t want to thank him, I want to just, you see what I mean, it’s like, sure, yeah, yeah, well it’s like um, you for forgiveness is never for the other person, it’s for me really in the end and I’m not suggesting, that we just rush around and forgive everyone who’s ever hurt us no, I mean forgiveness is its own process, it takes its own time. But you’ve probably heard that saying uh, you know resentment is like, like drinking poison hoping the other person gets sick.

Well it’s the same way if, if, if, the marriage is ending if the breakup, if the if the breakup is happening, look feel the anger. I remember I did a practice, for quite some time after when that five-year relationship ended, and it I started to feel some profound anger in the years following. Maybe three years after relationship was over I start all the anger that I had suppressed, cuz I took on so much of the burden like I messed this up, this was my fault, yeah I was the bad guy and, and once you know after a few years like, I started seeing wait she did so many horrible things, she was cruel, she was mean, she was, she hurt me. And, can’t just bypass that.

But, so what I did, at that time is I just, I did this practice I call anger yoga, where it’s, in this instance I did it in the shower, it’s just because, the being, being held by the water in the bathroom nobody in the house can hear me, and I just said all the nastiest things that I needed to say to her, in the shower, not to her, not to anybody, right, it wasn’t spiritual it wasn’t uh, you know all gratitude, and rainbows, no, it was can I may I curse for a moment? It was f**k you, you motherf***er, how the f**k, how could you f*****g do that to me? You f*****g, f**k you, you know it just was like, so f*****g angry, you know and, and just and I probably did that, I don’t know maybe five or six times over the course of a month. Again, in the shower, not to her, not to anybody just, I didn’t hurt myself, I didn’t hurt her, I didn’t hurt the I didn’t rip the shower head off the wall, just, moving it through my body and I’ll tell you that, that I was never angry at her again.

You know I didn’t need an apology from her, I didn’t need anything, I didn’t need closure, I didn’t need this, didn’t need that, I wasn’t going to get it anyway, that’s part of what I was so angry about. So, you know, but doing that practice was for me, it wasn’t, maybe in some way she benefits, I don’t know psychically, energetically, cutting the ties, who knows, but it was for me. And that, and similarly that, that, that essay thank you for leaving me, it was for me, it was to make sure that I’m not carrying resentment and heaviness as I move on.

When you, when you were going through, you know the thank you for leaving me part and, and all of that were you working with somebody, or was it you just doing it on your own, how, I’m just I know how, important it is to see, that okay the marriage is over, the breakup has happened, um, but like you say, there are gifts, there, but sometimes it’s so difficult, when you’re working with somebody who is almost determined, not to see even one little tiny nugget of a gift. Yeah. I get that, I totally get that, and look, you know my, Silvy who was my girlfriend at the time, look she was amazing in breaking up with me it was the best, best breakup, best, she was the kindest breaker upper I’ve ever met. So I was, I couldn’t be angry it was hard to be angry at her or at the situation, I was angry at life, you know how could you do this you, you I knew it this was going to happen you know that kind of thing. But, I, and again I, I don’t think rushing to the thank you is maybe not appropriate, when there’s real hurt, real harm, real damage.

I think we have to be with that anger, we have to be with the pain of that before we can, turn it into, a gift I, I think that is premature for, for a lot of people it can take potentially months and really years even to get to the, get to the place where okay, I can now see this as a gift. I, I do think that there’s some grieving, and that we have to move through in many cases before we can get there. I’m just thinking just about that um, when you’re saying we need to, to you know see it as a gift. How important it is to, to um, I don’t know how to put this, it’s almost like to say seeing it as a gift, because of your own growth, so when you’re saying thank you for. Just to make it clear it’s thank you for yourself, but not thank you for leaving me because now I have met somebody else? No, I and, I hadn’t met somebody else it was, it was. No but I’m saying in general, yeah, thank you that you’re talking about, it’s not thank you for living me because now I have somebody fantastic, it’s thank you for leaving me because I have grown, I have seen, got the gifts for myself, exactly, can then prepare me for, exactly. Yeah, okay, that’s right, that’s right.

It’s, it’s, yeah, it’s a, you’re right, it’s not thank you because I, because you left me and now I have something better, yeah, no, I’m still in the, I’m still in the heartache, I’m still in the, in the, in the chasm, between what was, and what is to be, I’m still in that painful void. But in that painful void, is the work of, of, of, mining for the gold, yeah, you know, what, what you think is a mountain of s**t, if we, if we, if we search inside of it there is gold in there that we can take with us into our next experience, and that’s what that’s about.

“Sometimes the best gift is to leave your partner” – Can you explain this more?

When you go to, from thank you for leaving me, then you have another section that you’re saying sometimes the best gift is leaving your partner uhuh, yeah, and what I like, I’ve written here um, “the twist here is making the leaver aware of how they could have helped their partner,” so for your, your, person your, your girlfriend now your wife when she left you, and you had all the thank you for leaving me, then there’s a part for, of you, thank you if she left you then she can look at it and say thank you, for leaving him to herself, because now what has happened here.

Yeah, I again I think this is common for a lot of men we, we, won’t, we won’t change until we have no choice. Right. What happens in a lot of relationships is I mean I, I, I, I, mean how to a woman just the other day sharing with me that for 15 years, she’s been trying to please her husband, cater to him, say all the, the, nice things, trying not to be critical of him, give him feedback about what she needs and she’s been doing it for 15 years, and, and what comes up for me is why have you been doing that for 15 years? 15 years? Well, no wonder nothing is changing, because you’ve been doing it for 15 years and he hasn’t had to change. So, why do you think all of a sudden he’s going to change now? Like if nothing changes, nothing changes. And so you know sometimes the best gift is leaving your partner, that, that chapter I wrote um, really again in that in that mindset in that in that from that from the viewpoint of, of, of look I, I’m a man, so I, I know a man’s experience and obviously my own, more than any other man’s, but you know I see patterns, I’ve been working with men, I’ve been working with couples for what, are we 2024 for about 10 years now you know I, I just see patterns, and nothing applies to everybody.

But in patterns, so many men, we can, you know this is an interesting statistic, 70% of divorces these days are initiated by women. And a lot of times, men are taken by surprise, that their partners, they don’t want to be with them anymore like what do you mean? We have no problems everything’s fine! You’ve been like this for 15 years. What’s wrong? Yeah, exactly, exactly now you want a divorce, we’ve been but 15 like, what’s changed? Nothing! That’s well, that’s the problem, nothing has changed. And, but see men we, we, can stay in that discomfort for a long time. If the only consequences are you’re upset, well that sucks but fine I can live with that. Those are the only consequences? Just you’re going to be upset and say thing, well I can zone out, I can watch TV, I can go focus on work, I can focus on my hobby, I can play video games, I can watch porn, so many ways I can go, and check out of the relationship. That’s easy, for most guys. It’s not comfortable necessarily but, it’s easy.

And so, you know sometimes the best gift is leaving your partner. Well uh, I’m not, I think, there’s another, there’s another essay in, in the, the book that, that every couple should break up. I don’t mean, I don’t mean that every couple should break up, but there is, but in order to, in order to escape co-dependency because that’s what that 15-year relationship is about, it’s about a co-dependent way of being, if I just do it the right way then you’ll love me, kind of thing, or if you do it the right way then I’ll feel loved. Right, that’s, I don’t know a simplistic way of, of defining co-dependence like I’m not okay unless you do X, Y, or Z and vice versa. Well the, the, the, step out of co-dependency is independence, becoming independent of, my partners whims, if they, if they give me what I want then I’m okay, like be being okay even when they don’t give me what I want.

Right, and so, I think, sometimes the best gift is leaving your partner. Not done out of maliciousness, not done out of, it’s not a punishment, that I’m encouraging, it’s just if you’re genuinely not getting your needs met ,and you’ve learned how to communicate that in in skilful ways, to give feedback and be honest uh, and, and being courageously vulnerable about what it is that you’re needing and wanting and your partner repeatedly doesn’t show up for that. Well, again you can, you can try for 15 years, to hope that they’ll show up for it, and maybe they will someday, it’s not likely. Sure. Not in my experience.

Yeah. But, but leaving them may be and this is what happened to me even four months into my relationship with, with Silvy, her leaving me revealed to me, seem to wake you up. That and in fact we had a phone call what, what got us back together is we, we got on the phone and I was so broken open, I was just like, again all my success that I’d been having, it just meant nothing to me. If I, if this if, if, if love wasn’t in my life, none of that mattered. It was so empty, and meaningless. And I felt that, when she broke up with me I felt the void of that. In fact, I was in a, I was at a conference centre, I was giving a presentation at a, at a spa conference um, around doing business with a mindset of love, like that was my presentation to these spot owners and, Silvy called me at the end of the day, and I was in this cavernous you know conference centres they’re, they’re huge and they’re cav, cavernous like big, big giant hallways and, I remember she called me and, she didn’t break up with me in that moment, but I, I heard it in her voice.

I was like oh my God, she’s going to break up with me. And she was like well we, we’ll talk you know when you get home, I was travelling and, we’ll talk when you get back and I was like oh my God, it’s over. And I remember hanging up the phone, Soila, and feeling the emptiness those cavernous, you know that cavernous hallway, it’s like, it’s like in that moment I was walking around in the psychological space within which men kill themselves, because we get everything, we achieve what we think we’re supposed to, we do what we think we’re supposed to do, and it still doesn’t work. And that was really important for me to see, to taste that, to touch that, to be inside of that, because that’s what enabled me, after a few weeks of, of being in that experience, of, of getting back on the phone with her and being like, like, woman, all I want to do is learn how to love you. That’s it, I just want to learn how to love you, and I realised I didn’t, I wasn’t up, to that game before I, I thought I knew how to love you, but clearly I didn’t, there’s so much more I need to learn. Not just about love, but about you, how to love you.

And that’s the, you know the, the, transition that couples need to make and men need to make, how to love you, we men come in with all our preconceived notions about who we are, and what we think we’re capable of, and what good lovers we are, and this and that, or maybe what good lovers, we aren’t, we come in with that idea too. How to love the woman in front of you, and, and, and to do that we need to listen, we need to pay attention, soften our own resistance, face her, like I mean there’s that, that’s a whole journey, yeah.

What do you do differently in relationships now?

I was just going to ask you, and you started touching on it there, I was going to ask you, what, what do you do different now? Well, I’ve said this a few times that, that you know in one of the things I do in my body, when I get upset or when I start to get defended is I cross my arms, you know, and turn away and so just one of the very first things I do because I still can do that, it’s, it’s a pattern, it’s an old pattern in my body of, of defensiveness def, I’m defending myself, I’m closing and defending. So I’ll uncross my arms, I’ll turn and face her, and I’ll just breathe. That’s just one little thing that I can do.

I mean now we’re, now we’re, now we’re off into the, the, skills and the practice, how to lean into, relationship, in the moment, I don’t mean in, and I mean very practical terms, not abstract poetic terms, but, but, but practical and, and that using my body, how I use my tone of voice, there are certain sentences, I call them language needles, I talk about this in, in my book, there’s certain language needles, that are it’s like little acupuncture needles in the form of language that I can put into the relational body, between us you know by speaking them into her listening.

Words like honey your, your feelings matter to me. I’d never said that to any woman in my life, before my wife, no wonder, they were so angry with me so many women, I’ve never cared about a woman’s feelings in my freaking life, it’s terrible to say, but it’s a tragedy, but no one ever taught me to care about them, in fact the opposite, I was only taught to not care about them. Yeah, which brings me to, to because we’re going to finish now but yeah, brings me very nicely to the programme, that you mentioned about the programme that you have for men, is it just for men’s years only or can I ask questions about, what is it about, how does it work, and can I just say I’m so glad you’re doing it, for as many men as you can, because there’s something that has changed in the, way that it’s not working, at the moment that is.

It’s pretty cool, it’s pretty cool. I, I’ll, I’ll, have it’s, this so it’s called “Elevate Your Relationship” it’s a, it’s really like a men’s group for men that are all circled around, improving our, our intimate relationships and um, I mean there’s a lot of curriculum, a lot of training, a lot of direct coaching, they get to work with me, uh, in that experience, but I sometimes sit there and you know I’ll have a, I’ll have a Zoom room full of ,you know 10 or 15 guys, and we’re all talking about our relationships, and these are, I’ve got fighter pilots, uh, doctors, you know orthopaedic surgeons uh, we had a, a, um, a convicted felon who had been in solitary confinement for two years in this programme, that’s a tragedy for another time, but um, just regular dudes, you know, just, just the guys that make up our world in, in this room and I’m like this is unprecedented.

Like we’re talking about our relationships, and how to do them better, we’re not, being cynical about women, about relationship, you know being down to the bar, you know and time oh, I’m sorry to hear, no, we are doing, we are taking our responsibility for, for, we’re looking at our parts in the breakdown, and how can we do this different to inspire trust to, to inspire confidence, in our partners to, to, heal wounds, and betrayals and to make repairs. And is it just,, for men in relationships or can it be for men who are looking for relationships and they want to learn how to be a relationship, yeah, we have single men as well, that join us, yeah,, or we we have men that are just out of relationships, that also don’t, want to repeat old patterns.

Yeah, yeah, is it face to face or is it um, on Zoom or? It’s not in person right now, we’ll probably have some retreats that we do in the in the coming, yeah, in the future, we want to do some live in person retreats for that programme but um, right now it’s all online. Well that’s great though, because then can reach more people, yeah, we have men in Europe, uh,  we’ve had men in from Australia, obviously a lot of them are here in America and Canada but uh, we’ve met all over the world that participate.

Yeah, yeah. Brian, thank you so much for meeting with me, and for agreeing to the interview, thank you for sending me the book. You’re welcome. So really, really, helpful and um, if anybody wants to reach you, where can they reach you?

Uh, my website brianreeves.com it’s Brian with a y, that’s key. reeves.com I mean you can find my book there, you can find a link to the Elevate Your Relationship Programme, if someone’s interested in that, or just you can reach out to me there, um, all my social media accounts are linked like, that’s bryanreeves.com. My book is on Amazon, it’s in the UK, on other, and other Distributors as well. Yeah. Fantastic. Thank you so much. Soila, thank you so much I’ve enjoyed this conversation.

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About Bryan Reeves

Bryan Reeves is a former US Air Force Captain turned author, blogger, life/relationship coach and workshop facilitator. At age 36, while going through yet another agonising breakup, Bryan had an epiphany: He knew nothing about how to do intimate relationships well. In that moment of painful realisation he vowed to never suck at intimacy again. Thus began an extraordinary journey deep into the realms of love, sex, and genuinely intimate relationship. A few years later, his blog went viral, exploding to over a million readers daily.

Bryan released a book called “Choose Her Every Day (or Leave Her)“, which is an anthology of teaching stories, insights, practical tools, practices, and secrets (that should never be secrets!) that Bryan uses with his relationship coaching clients, and that can help individuals guide their own journey to thriving in love and intimacy.

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