In the previous episode, Peter McGraw speaks to a divorce coach about the planning, execution, and aftermath of a divorce. In this episode, he speaks to Rachel Beisel about a strategy to break bad relationship habits. Rachel presents the concept of a relationship sponsor (akin to an AA sponsor) who can support you if you have difficulty with romantic relationships.
Listen to Episode #117 here
Do You Need A Relationship Sponsor?
This episode follows one on how to get divorced. In that episode, I speak to a divorce coach about the planning, execution, and aftermath of a divorce. This episode is the perfect follow-up. I speak to Rachel Beisel, a close friend, avid cyclist, and C-Suite marketing executive who is divorced. I was intimately involved in the machinations of said divorce. Rachel pitched me this idea, an episode on relying on a relationship sponsor, akin to an AA sponsor, someone who can support you if you have difficulty with romantic relationships.
Evidently, I am Rachel’s relationship sponsor. It is a fascinating idea. We are joined by a fun guest co-host, Laura Grant. Laura is a child-free, sex-positive, solo polyamorist who enjoys first dates, job interviews, and crafting complex spreadsheets for pleasure and profit. She is an excellent addition to this show. I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s get started.
Welcome, Rachel and Laura. I get pitched ideas for the show all the time now from strangers, friends, and members of the community. No matter how weak it is or strong it is, I have a 500-page document now. I always put them in, but I have to triage these ideas because I have my own ideas. This episode got bumped up. I did this because Rachel is a very close friend. This is an interesting topic, one that I do not know much about and never considered before. She did a ton of research. I am showing up. For those of you who want to pitch an idea, the easier you make it, the higher it gets on the list.
There is a lot of relationship talk on the show. For some people, it is too much relationship talk because this is a show about living single and living remarkably, but it is important. The reason is people are not single for the same reasons. There is a class of people who are single by choice. They are unapologetically unattached. This is a big part of the community. It is a big part of the singles community more generally. A Pew Center study, half of the American singles are not interested in dating or a relationship at the moment.
There are singles by chance. These are people who want a relationship, but they cannot seem to make it happen. They live in the wrong place. There are no good opportunities. They are in a bad place in life. They need a little sprucing up. We have all been there. Maybe there are a little too desperate. I am there every other day.
There are the singles by mismatch. These are the folks who want a relationship, but they do not want the standard relationship. They do not know how to navigate it. They may not have access to people who are in the same mindset and wants the same things. You have to talk about relationships if you are going to be talking about single, even at the very least as a contrast there. We are here to talk about people who are single, do not want to be or do not need to be, and helping them do their next relationship better. Is that a fair way to position this?
You have to define what relationship means in this context. My next relationship or relationships should be different than the repetitive past that I have had.
Let’s start with your story because we are here to talk about relationships sponsors, which is a new idea for me. I have a feeling I have already been a relationship sponsor and did not know it.
You are my relationship sponsor. That is why we are doing this episode.
What is a relationship sponsor?
It is someone that you need in your life to trust that is going to not steer you in the wrong direction per se, and someone that also knows that they can be 100% honest with you. I do not think it is a therapist because the therapist is more of the therapy, at least that I have participated in. They are not telling me what to do. They want me to figure out how to.
They want to lead me into the way to make the decision myself, whereas I am recognizing, “I might be powerless in this situation.” It is a similar tenant to not that I necessarily want to recognize that I am powerless and it is going to require believing in a higher power, but I can recognize that I might be powerless in this situation. I am willing to say that in order to ensure that I am not going to fall into my same patterns.
It is more prescriptive.
For example, with you, Pete, you would say, “Rachel, remember you said on this date, this thing.” You ask good questions. You would go back in and try to get me to think about and also repeat what I had said. You are not afraid to make me feel uncomfortable in a particular situation.
I heard a little accountability in there and helping you be accountable to yourself.
Unlike AA, this is where I grapple with this and looking at both of them. One of the things in AA for your sponsor is it is typically somebody who has gone through the recovery process already. You have never been married, but you live a lifestyle that is, in a way, would be healthier also for me because you do not steer me wrong. I feel like I am you many years earlier in a lot of situations too.
That was going to be one of my questions. When looking for someone to fill this role, how similar must their experience be? Should they have gone through the same thing you went through? Should they have had the same patterns? Is it okay to have a completely different perspective? I could see benefits and drawbacks to both.
As we go through this process, we are learning and defining on the fly, but to have empathy or sympathy in a situation, it would make sense to have somebody who has gone through it and they know how you are going to feel at your weakest times. It is easier to be able to listen if you have been through those experiences. However, if you are looking at it through the lens that you want to, “What could the future look like?” As opposed to sitting in that pain right at that moment and having something to focus on around, “This is how we are going to get here,” type of thing. Does that person necessarily have to have gone through those things? I do not think so.
It would be nice if you have personal experience to draw from, but there are a set of skills that you can have that can transcend your lack of experience. What I hear you saying is to be a good listener, to be able to develop an understanding of what is happening, having some memory also helps because you can say, “We have talked about this. This seems to be a pattern.” A complaint that comes up time and time again. To be willing to question is more important than to prescribe.
To ask questions to probe, to remind the person, “What are your values? What are your goals?” They are there and then an overarching sense of compassion, which translates into some patients. Knowing that any one conversation is not going to solve the problem, fix the issue, it is going to be something that might be a culmination of these supportive interactions. Let’s start with your story. You already said, “Repetitive pattern.”
I tend to be serially monogamous in ways that are not necessarily beneficial to me. I can see this now. I have gotten divorced as an example. I do not want to repeat my same mistake. Over the summer, I got this concept from reading a book. It was called, How to Be an Adult in Relationships. It was more about how to be an adult. We are all adults. I am in my late 30s. There are still concepts in there that were great. When I was listening to it, I was bawling my eyes out on the way to Ouray, Colorado.
I called you on that trip. I do not know if you remember that or not. I was recognized at that time, “I need to get divorced.” Even though I had called you the year prior about that, but that is when I was able to go through the grief process. It crystallized. It takes me forever. I suffer in things way too long. That is another reason why I need a relationship sponsor.
Rachel is decisive in some ways. She does 24-hour mountain biking races. She can handle a tremendous amount of physical pain. It also translates into her ability to handle emotional pain.
It is a way to run away from my emotional pain.
It is a feature in some ways. Rachel is incredibly successful, can work very hard, and can achieve because of this ability to withstand pain and delay gratification. On the other hand, when she is in a bad space, she tries to power through.
You are resilient even when you do not need to be.
I called Pete and was talking to him about this. That is when I said like, “I need a relationship sponsor.” They had talked about this in the book. If you are getting out of a relationship which is as important to know that if you do not want to repeat your same patterns and mistakes, then you should consider this as an option. I started to look and I do not see a lot of information out there, defining the rules of what that looks like. I even went and looked up well an AA sponsor, Alcoholics Anonymous.
I looked up what the tenants are of being an AA sponsor and compared and contrasted that. Looking at that, I recognized that if I were to have a weak moment that I would want to call Pete. I followed your advice all the time. You have never steered me wrong in advice from consulting. You have also been in my shoes and are extremely resilient.
We are simpatico. My advice works very well for Rachel. It does not always work well for everyone else. Let’s step back. You are a serial monogamous. What does that mean to you?
That means that I have been involved in relationships with one person for more than a year. I have lived with my partners. A part of this that I have recognized, at least now in myself, is that I have sacrificed my individuality to then go and enter into a partnership. That is something that I would love to avoid in the future. When you go into a relationship and you merge, I struggle with not letting pieces of myself go in order to make the relationship work. I do not know if it is the type of people that I am with. It is equally me too, but that is where I struggle a lot.
What is an example of how you have given up something for the relationship?
Every place I have moved. A great example is when I was a C-Suite executive and lived a mile from the office and I was the breadwinner. I moved two hours away to Colorado Springs to make my partner happy.
I will never forgive Rachel for this.
I saw you more because I stayed with you when I would commute up and stay overnight. I saw you more during that time period.
She had this small, cute one-bedroom apartment on Pearl Street in Boulder, ten minutes from my house downtown. It was fantastic because she was always accessible and then she was like, “I am moving to Colorado Springs.”
“By the way, I am married.”
I was not consulted before the marriage.
You were supposed to officiate. This is where I knew I had done something wrong and I was like, “Let’s elope.” I cannot tell anyone. Clearly, there is a pattern of partner pleasing. This is where addiction comes in. I do not know necessarily that I am addicted to the feeling of love. I am addicted to the feeling of security and wanting someone, even though I am not necessarily getting the security in the relationships. I am the one perhaps even providing it, but that is what I am ultimately looking for too.
Rachel had a tumultuous, chaotic upbringing. She had come a long way to the C-Suite. Talk about that.
That goes with the book too. For those that do not know me, my upbringing was, I have seen ten marriages between my parents. I did not grow up with money. My brother got out of prison and my father is a musician that is touring around Nashville and is still a child in many ways. He is serially monogamous too. Both of my parents were. I grew up with a lot of stepdads. I learned not to love those stepdads over time because I knew they would be temporary. I am sure I have got a combination of daddy issues. I have done so much therapy around my childhood. It was a lot of examining my childhood.
You recommended the therapist to go to the poet. Beyond that, I do not think I addressed my own relationships and how the childhood trauma showed up a lot in my own relationships. Childhood trauma is common too, that I have learned. If you are familiar with adverse childhood experiences, how they define that as ACEs. There are 64% of people have experienced at least one ACE. If you have experienced at least one, you are 84% more likely to have two or more.
Is it physical abuse and emotional abuse?
If you have witnessed it in the home, the death of a parent, or drug addiction, I had somewhere around 9, but if you have 4 more, that can take 20 years off of your life. There are plenty of people who have had it far worse. I always struggle with that because there is absolute poverty and relative poverty. There are a lot of other things. I also recognize that I have privilege too. There is a lot there. Examining that and how does that show up in my relationships and taking a sabbatical in the last year, writing a book about it has helped and was one of the hardest things I have done in my life around that.
Before we get into this topic and Laura has pages of notes. You were on this trip. You are out in rural Colorado. You are listening to this book about how to be an adult in relationships and you have this realization. It crystallized. You knew it for a long time. What happened then? Was there something in particular? Was it a line or an idea that pushed you over this edge?
There was a line that said, “If your partner will read this book, you should consider leaving this person.” My partner would not read a book for me. I love reading. That is something that I want to share. I know that sounds shallow. There were a million other things that have happened leading up to that. For whatever reason, that was the one thing that hit and then I was struck by a wave of grief. I cried for four hours of the rest of that trip, which was good and cathartic because I had never allowed myself to experience the grief. I am very much in my head and want to make sure that I think through every single step very clearly first. I had called you a year before.
The writing on the wall was there early.
I followed your advice to a T and it helped me prepare for this mentally as well as financially. Do you remember?
The first thing I tell everyone is, “Change your passwords.”
That is very tactical. I did not expect that.
Change your passwords, talk to Money Amy. I am sure you have had her on. She is amazing. I love her. I followed her advice to a T. She helped me get out of a lot of financial debt. She had referred me to people also in her network who specified around divorce as well. You recommended an attorney for me and then I talked to a couple of other trusted friends and spoke to some attorneys as well. This was two years before it happened.
The reason I did this or do this, and I am working on developing a playbook more generally to help people with this, is because I get the call now. It is not about talking to the financial person to get all the money. It is not about talking to the divorced person to serve someone with papers. We do a very good job educating people about planning a wedding and what that is supposed to look like and even what a marriage is supposed to look like. There is no training about how to navigate a divorce. While it is easy to get married, it is difficult to get divorced.
Twenty five dollars and a lunch break, twenty minutes to get married and to get divorced is hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The idea is like, “Let’s prepare for the worst case first and then now you are going to be ready for that, and then let’s do everything we can to avoid the worst case.”
Also, mentally, that helped me prepare for that. That took me a long time to sit with the information that I received.
That is so unexpected when you said, “The first three things I recommended,” I expected help making decisions, but it sounds like you had faith that she had already made the decision and was ready. You could not have gone through with it if you found another way to reconcile, but that is interesting. Before you had made that decision, it was like, “Here are the steps we are going to take just in case.”
I am not saying my advice is good. I am working on it. I am like, “Let’s avoid devastation.” This is not Rachel’s situation per se, because I was not worried about her partner necessarily, but the idea of that you are going to be having very private conversations about this stuff. At some point, you start dating other people.
You want to keep this as peaceful as possible, you want to also understand what the worst case is and how you can stay away from that worst case. All the subsequent conversations around, “How do you navigate this peacefully, mindfully, and compassionately so that you can maintain connection?” During that time, it was set up to be adversarial originally. How do you then do whatever you can to make it cooperative?
If you sprung this on someone, then that is when it becomes combative.
I hate to say this, but especially if you do it to a man. If you drop a bomb on one of these guys, their go-to is going to be anger. You do not want someone digging in and fighting you tooth and nail over all of it in that sense. You are both going to be worse off.
What are the statistics like in terms of who initiates divorce typically?
It is 70% to 80% women. That percentage goes up for educated women. That happens more frequently.
My question to you, in breakups of mine in the past, I have never been married before, but when I have made the decision, it takes a long time. It sounds like for you, it was the same situation. When I finally enacted that decision, I had already done a lot of the mourning. I have already processed a lot of the grief. I can look cool as a cucumber. It might not be easy, but that is all behind me, whereas this person might be hit with a freight train with this news. It certainly is an imbalance.
That is what happened. That Ouray trip was like, “I am going to allow myself to feel the grief now. I went through that process. If I want to get on the other side of this, then what are the steps that I need to take to improve myself, so I make sure I do not continue to fall into the same traps that my lizard brain generally tries to bring me back to?” The relationship sponsor sounded like something like, “I need to do this. I need to try to remain solo or redefine what relationships even look to me.”
Let’s start to transition to this. I have one other question and then Laura might have something. I know of two major long-term relationships that you have had. Two do not make a pattern. Have you had a third?
I have had 6. I have lived with 5 of them.
That is a pattern.
They were two years or longer.
Typically, your partners are more heavily reliant on you than you are on them?
That has transitioned over time. It used to be the other way around and then it transitioned as I started progressing in my career and out of school.
That is not necessarily a pattern, but one is you are giving up too much of yourself.
That is a pattern. I have done that repeatedly.
Is there anything else that you identified?
This is something that Esther Perel, which have you had on your show before?
No, not yet. I would love to get her. She is a tough guest to get.
I have been reading her books and have a group of women with that I am playing the Esther Perel game.
What is this Esther Perel card game?
Where Should We Begin is what it is called. It is a card game with prompts to ask unexpected, deep, open-ended questions. It is promoting intimacy between people. Some of them are a little saucy. You can exclude the sausage cards if you prefer. It is a good time diving deep into people’s experiences and the way they see the world.
What might be a question? Have you played before?
I have not. It is six solo women playing and me.
I remember I was playing with a close friend who I had known for years. One of the questions was, “Who is someone from your life that you find to be challenging?” I thought she had interpreted it as like, “I am challenged. I am led to grow.” I saw the challenge as a good thing. She saw it as, “Who do I find most problematic in my life?” Even that approach to the question was so interesting and the different ways we interpreted it. That will be a lot of fun.
I am looking forward to it. I had been reading a lot about her because, as it relates to the patterns that I have seen in my relationships, you cannot have eroticism and also lose who you are. That is something that I have done in all of the relationships because it is a spectrum in the way that she talks about it. Her quote is, “It is a paradox to manage, not a problem to solve.”
The way that I have looked at it is, “I can solve this problem, moving towards security, intimacy, this person, and sacrificing either myself.” Not that it is my partner’s fault in that. I take 100% ownership in that. That is why in this pattern, how can I maintain some of that more elusiveness and eroticism aspect of my relationships and also my sense of self?
If I am correct in understanding this from my reading of Perel, this paradox is you want safety and security in a relationship, but that kills it in the bedroom. You want something spicy and exciting, a little bit of insecurity and of excitement and uncertainty. That is why new partners are often so enticing in this thing. The heteronormative gender stuff is why I push a lot of men to get their shit together because if you are not careful, you end up creating a parenting-like relationship where the wife takes care of the husband.
In some ways, that works because she has the control, he does not have to worry about anything, but you do not want to have sex with your child. You are like, “I already got children. Now I got a third. Why bother with this guy anymore?” It is a very dangerous pattern for relationships in general and then specifically, it is a bad pattern for the bedroom.
In a lot of my therapy of looking at the happiest times in my life, when I plotted it, I am a very visual person, so I physically wrote this out and looked at it like a line graph.
I did the same thing. That is why I am non-monogamous now.
If we overlaid our graphs on each other, they might look somewhat similar with the same peaks and valleys.
Let’s make the visual for the reader. Time will be on the X-axis. What is on the Y-axis?
It would be levels of happiness. At what point in time were you happy? Plotting that out and looking at some of my happiest times were either right when I got out of a relationship or right before I was about to enter into a relationship. The valleys were often right before I was about to exit a relationship. Not that I want to be defined by my relationship status ever, it is more of a window into who I am and how I act, but that is something that was important to showcase another pattern that establishes why I need a relationship sponsor.
Do we think objectivity is important? Relationships are so personal. One’s experience is so personal and baggage is a thing that we all bring to all of our perceptions of relationships. That is very hard to do to say, “Here is what the books say or some objective thing says that is the correct way to do this, or that would be best for you.” I imagine that would be quite the hurdle to being a good relationship sponsor.
I like objectivity. Maybe it is different depending upon the person. I get into things in my head first before experiencing them either through my body or through action. Being able to think objectively about something or being told something that makes me think in a different way about something that could help me potentially break a pattern or break something that is where I can recognize in myself, “I am about to do this thing that I always do. Let’s take a step back and focus on this other thing.”
This conversation reminds me of an episode I like about Nietzsche On Friends. Friedrich Nietzsche made a case for the value of friendship in the following way is that friends care about you. They practice compersion, anti-jealousy. They want you to succeed because they want to celebrate with you and they do not want you to fail because they do not want to have to commiserate with you. Good friends have pure intentions. The other thing is that they are optimally distant from you. Sometimes you can be too close to whatever it is and strangers are too far.
In some ways, therapists are reliant on your interpretations of the events, but friends see it. They get to experience it and they get to experience the full range of these kinds of things. Rachel and I have been friends for a long time. A friend can see things that you cannot and a good one is motivated to act in your own best interest.
They will tell you.
You should get in the habit of seeking out feedback from your friends, especially when you think that they are not going to agree with you because of this thing. Do you have a story? Since I have been your de facto relationship sponsor and only have started doing a good job, do you have a story in particular that might help people understand what this process might look like?
I do not want to be celibate and not get out in the world.
You want to take advantage of all this new eroticism and all this newness.
An example, talking to you about dating apps. You have been on a couple of dating apps and tried them out. How do you navigate these apps? How are you doing this without then going into too much of a relationship? How do you even broach the conversation of ethical non-monogamy? What do other styles and flavors of relationships look like? What you had described at the SOLO event about the escalator of society, how you go through and school, career marriage, kids, and death.
When society is structured that way, I need to do some reading. I need to understand a bit more about not just myself, but also what are other things out there? I love love. It makes me feel invigorated and how can I do it in such a way that is not going to get me stuck in a monogamous pattern? There are other ways that you could potentially do that.
For your situation is, how do you handle the whirlwind? Rachel gets caught up in this whirlwind of love, sex, and excitement. These guys are like, “Here is this beautiful, smart, athletic, and impossible to offend woman. How do I keep this as close as possible?” That sometimes leads very quickly to stepping on the escalator and the merging.
One thing that is different from when I got married, and that was my first and hopefully only marriage, I was seeking a sense of security. I had a ton of student loan debt at that time that I have since paid off. I feel like overtime, I have slowly removed a lot of these barriers to having security in myself. That is something that has helped. I built a community during that time when I was like, “I might get divorced.” I did not have any friends when I moved to Colorado Springs. I was still driving up to Denver and Boulder, so I had to make a new friend group. That was something that I was hell bent on doing when I was there to build a good sense of community. I have got the security aspect. I feel like I have a good community aspect.
Rachel’s pattern is around scarcity versus abundance. She grew up poor, lack of opportunity, and uncertainty. That puts you in this scarcity mindset where you are trying to avoid bad things. You can be successful in avoiding bad things in life, but it does not feel as good. What happened was she became successful and is healthy and has distanced herself from a lot of these chaotic relationships in her life. The problem is her go-to is a scarcity mindset.
Mono normative culture teaches you that love is scarce. It is a difficult thing to unlearn should you decide to do so.
I am also reading The Ethical Slut, which is a pretty good book. It talks about looking at love through abundance and the infinite possibilities of love in that regard. I have to reprogram my brain to be able to do that.
The monogamy hangover is real. That is a term we use. I was a little weary. I would not want to co-opt the language of addiction. I would never want to do that, but what I am hearing you say is you do not want to quit relationships, romance, and being in partnerships. You want to get some help figuring out how to change your own patterns of behavior. That takes a lot of maturity and vulnerability to say, “I need some help.”
You mentioned the book, How to Be an Adult in Relationships. They said that if you are not capable of protecting yourself or trusting your decisions, that comes from a place of like, “I am not there yet. I need help getting there. Who can I rely on? Who can be in my support network to help me through this darker part until I get to a place where I can be in healthier relationships?” Does that feel like what you were going for?
When I heard that line, that was when I was calling, “This is what I need in my life right now.” I did not trust and I am still learning to trust myself and my decisions. It has been a journey.
Let’s talk about this addiction metaphor because I have the same wariness. There are a variety of reasons. The term addiction gets thrown around a lot for things that are not truly addictive. To be clear, there is a class of substances that are addictive. They meet six criteria, things like withdrawal and dependence.
There is a class of experiences and substances that are problematic and there is some overlap between those two, but they do not meet all of the criteria. The bad relationships fit the problematic one for some people. The issue is when something is addictive, the best solution is to go cold turkey. It is to stop doing heroin if you are addicted to heroin. If it is cheese, you want to cut back on your cheese then, but you do not have to give up cheese totally.
In your journey, Rachel, you mentioned you went to a therapist that this was some other underlying issues, your attachment style, you talked about your childhood and how it was difficult to have consistency in your relationships growing up.
It makes me incredibly anxious when I get into a relationship. I can appear very secure, but then upon entering a relationship, I tend to become more anxious.
We are pairing all this new self-awareness you have with, “Now that I know these things about myself, how is that impacting? How is that driving these patterns? Maybe there are not. Some yes. Some no. How do I diverge from that and draw from other sources of strength and funnel that into new behaviors?” It seems like a good way to go. I am hearing that it is not just one person. It is like a board of directors.
I come from Corporate America, so I have been talking about mentoring versus coaching. These kinds of differentiations seem to apply here. We have got all these different people in your community, in your own support network that can help you. It sounds like you have done a lot of hard work to break it all down and now you are building yourself back up in a way that is more in keeping with your values and your goals. I would not want to put all of that onto one person.
It seems like it would be more like a board because everyone is going to have a different experience and everyone is also going to have a different expertise that they can bring. That goes into the greater sense of the community aspect that you are building too. This is progressing because I do not know, and I have not necessarily gotten that far, but if it became down the road and I had a partner that I liked and wanted that to be either a primary partner or where it looks a lot like monogamy, then that is where I would want not just Pete to call, but a lot of my community as well too.
That is where I would want to talk through that and understand that. I do not think the sponsor or whoever that is helping you through this from a relationship standpoint is going to tell you not to do it. They are going to present a very good case as to remember your goals and try to help you stay on track because you have never discouraged me from necessarily doing anything.
You did not consult with me before getting married. I know what I would have said. I would have said, “There is no need to rush this.” I would not have said, “Do not get married.” I would say, “Do you need to do it right now this quickly?”
The reason why I rushed it was because I knew what my center of influence would say. That is again, where I do not necessarily trust myself in some of the decisions or I did not at that time. Things are a little different now.
This notion of objectivity came up before. It is very difficult to be objective. I have my own set of beliefs, biases, and values. I have a lot of experience with my friends. The way I often approach this is when I have friends who are in partnerships, especially if they are in a partnership with someone that I do not think that well of. Oftentimes it is not that I do not think well of the person. I do not think they might be a good match or whatever it is.
My thing has always been, “If my friend is happy, I am happy.” Regardless of what my opinions of the partner are, if the friend is happy, then I am happy, but the moment they are unhappy and they seek my counsel, I will not hold back about my concerns. I usually will do it as observations, “I have observed that you give a lot in this way and it is often not appreciated.” I am not sure if my friend is happy with this exchange, I am not going to try to make him or her unhappy with it. One they start going, “I have noticed that this thing,” I go, “I have noticed that too. How does that make you feel?”
Those questions make you have to examine yourself. That is eye-opening.
We were hovering around, “Is sponsor the right word?”
I wanted to propose a couple of other words and see how we like it. I talked about a relationship mentor. I am not clear on what path I want to go down. Someone with wisdom or experience can say, “Here is the path I went down. You do not have to take it verbatim, but here is how we can figure out what path is most in keeping with your values.” There is a relationship coach. A dating coach is becoming a big thing. You can make lots of money being a dating coach. I have been thinking about it.
What is a dating coach?
Coach, in general, meaning something more tactical. They know the skills you have, the skills you need, and how to work on those skills to achieve an end goal. Dating is how to present my best self, how to connect with people, and how to make those connections stick when I want them. It is tactical, “I will do XYZ actions in order to achieve whatever you have said your goal is.” That is the difference between a mentor and a guide versus you know where you are going, but you are not sure how to get there. You do not have the skills yet to get there.
There is a coach for everything. Why have I not heard of relationship coaches? I think of dating coaches where they are trying to get you more dates or a matchmaking service, but I have never thought about it from a coaching standpoint of growth.
When I have done any dating coaching, it has been for friends who have been in a long-term relationship. The dating game has changed. Getting back into it is different than it used to be. What I need now that I have been thinking about is a relationship spotter. I am good at knowing what the technique should be. I have done it well a few times. I would like to continue doing it well. I need some help making sure not holding myself back and not executing the way I should be. It is promoting that accountability and helping me reinforce those known strategies.
Like a gymnastic spotter.
It is like a weightlifting spotter, “You are doing that lifting correctly. You might hurt yourself. You know how to do it correctly, but you cannot see from the outside the way I can. Your knees are not bent.” It is like a safety net, but again, it assumes that they are helping you tweak a fairly good technique. There is a good old therapist, which is figuring out, “What is the lens I am seeing the world through? How to be aware enough to apply my lens to the world mindfully?”
I am going to make a case for sponsor. First of all, those are great. The mentor has the wisdom. They have done it before. The sponsor has the knowledge. The coach has the direction or directive. Depending on your particular challenge within relationships, one might be better than the other in a sense. I am going to choose responser and it does go back to Alcoholics Anonymous, where I have some experience with this. My father was an alcoholic. I went to Alateen as a kid. My mom went to Al-Anon and was involved in that community growing up.
My dad did not go to AA though, unfortunately. First of all, AA works. The research on AA is incredible. I found this thing. This is 35 studies. It was a meta-analysis. This is work done by Keith Humphreys, a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. His colleagues determined, “AA is nearly always found to be more effective than psychotherapy and achieving abstinence. In addition, most studies show that AA participants lowered healthcare costs.” There is a lot of evidence that AA works. It may not work for everyone. For the secular crowd, it might not exactly fit because of all the God stuff.
It is a mixture of the group element to it and then also the sponsor part of it. In the sense of, a sponsor is, they are the person you can call in the middle of the night. They are the person who will be there for you, no matter what, in the sense of, rather than this transactional, “I am going to hire you and I am going to pay you to do this thing.” A sponsor does it because they have been there, they care. There is intimacy associated with that relationship.
The different roles I am talking about are more when you are facing a conundrum versus when you are facing a crisis of, “I am making bad decisions. I see it. I need to get out of this pattern. I am hurting myself.”
One of the challenging things about, and this is called the principal agent problem, this happens almost anytime you have any transactional relationship, you have to be concerned that the agent has some other motivation besides your best interest. For example, in the case of therapy, your therapist wants you to keep coming back. You know that you have a good therapist. The poet one day said to me, “Peter, you are doing well. You can keep coming to see me as you like, but I do not think you have to.”
That is a powerful thing because this was off insurance. I was paying him to do this. It was money well-spent. He was willing to forgo those checks in order to do this. The sponsorship thing is the person is doing it for you more than for themselves because they are not being paid. Are there any other best practices do you think for identifying this person, asking them, or approaching them? If you were to be a sponsor, is there anything else that you should consider? It seems like a weighty responsibility.
Yes, because we are defining what this looks like. There is a paradox between flexibility and adaptability because if we are figuring this out and understanding what that looks like, and then rigid framework. Understanding that paradox, you do have to be forthcoming and ask and say, “This is important to me,” and recognize, “I have a problem.” Communicate that and also have a willingness and need and want to change. You cannot approach it until you have recognized those two things. Hit rock bottom so you can recognize it before you do.
We talked about optimally distant. We were talking about friendships. That is a question, what do you think the right distance is? You have talked about how Peter being your friend has added a lot to that dynamic and that sponsor relationship, but I am envisioning someone who might be too close. Do you think it would be possible to be too close?
In choosing the right type of friend, you want someone who has candor. Brutally honest is not right. You do not want to feel like you are being judged in this process because all that is going to do is bring about shame and then you are not going to be and say anything, which is why I ran off and eloped. I was so concerned about perhaps what others would think.
There was a whole host of other issues that were going on in my personal life at that time too. Candor is important because if I go into a friend and I have on this outfit that is awesome, they are going to tell me, “You should not wear those shoes with that.” I want them not just to say, “You look great. Let’s go.” All the time to everything. I want someone who can be critical but do it with kindness and compassion.
First of all, you never have to put the word brutally in front of the word honest. I want honesty. In my relationships, I say, “I will be 100% honest with you,” but I will not be mean. These things get conflated where people feel like they are licensed with their honesty to hurt someone else. All of this comes down to how you deliver this idea, which is, “I recognize that I may disappoint you with this. You are not going to like it.” I do not want to do it in a way that diminishes someone and that is designed to hurt them in any way. I will tell you if your shoes do not match, but I do not want you to think that you have bad taste. You say, “Rachel, you have bad taste. Those do not match.” That is mean. You say, “I am just honest.”
You are mean. You say, “I love the shoes. I do not think they work with this outfit.” That takes care of the entire problem. If you want to wear those shoes, let’s go. It does not bother me. It is a friendly PSA for people because some people will hold back being honest because they are afraid it will hurt someone. It gets connected to this brutality too much.
With the example you gave, you focused on the behavior rather than trying to make character judgments. That is a skill set that they teach you when you are trying to have any difficult conversation. It is focused on the specific behavior. “You moved to Colorado Springs, it did not seem like you wanted to. It did not make sense logistically for your jobs. If you can explain to me why that was a good decision, I believe you, but I am having trouble seeing it.” As opposed to, “You always give up yourself.”
You have mentioned the book that you are working on. Rachel has written a memoir. I have not read it.
You discouraged me from writing a memoir or a book in general. That was one thing where I went against your advice.
I am sure I had good reasons at the time. I was working on mine. In the book that I was working on, I have a chapter called Write it or Regret it. Rachel read the book. She was one of my early readers. I remember she sent me an email and she said, “I have read over 100 business books, maybe 200 business books in my life and I have never read a business book that talks about writing.”
In that chapter, I talk about the value of writing in three ways. One is record keeping. It is keeping a journal for posterity to be able to revisit your thoughts. You can identify patterns. Especially if you go back and read a journal and you are like, “I have been writing about this problem for six months now. I should do something about it.”
The second reason is to clarify your thinking. Writing requires precision. It slows your thinking down in terms of better being able to articulate to yourself the arguments and ideas that you are developing. The last one is to communicate ideas. It sounds like the act of writing this memoir was useful for you in many ways. What is the memoir? What is it about? How does it factor into the conversation we are having here?
Before diving into what the memoir is, I went through a coaching session. I did hire a coach to help with writing my memoir and a writing coach to hold me accountable, which is great. I highly recommend it. When going through my workshop around writing my goals, “What was your biggest fear about writing this memoir?” I wrote down that I was going to get divorced. I wrote that down and I knew that in my head logically. This was February 2021. In going through that process, I knew it logically.
I wanted to write about my life and go through how I remembered it and start it with some of my earliest memories and focus a bit on adverse childhood experiences and trauma, but going through my own life. It is how unresolved childhood trauma impacts you in work life and love, as told through my story. It is incredibly vulnerable and scary. I highly also recommend The Emotion Thesaurus.
It is a book that is about character expression when you are going through that. It is also incredible for somebody like me, who I feel a sensation in my body, but that is detached from my mind. I can equate this to anger, shame, sadness, and regret. It shows, “This is how it can show up in the body. This is how it shows up in your actions that can devolve into this emotion, evolve into this emotion.”
It is great from character expression and writing, mainly for novels but also in memoirs too. That was a very helpful tool. Going through the whole experience, I focused a lot more on early childhood and some of my earlier relationships in young adulthood. I ended up skipping a lot about ten years coming into Colorado, but where I am now. I still have not figured it out, but I am still on this journey that we are all on. It was a good experience and a challenge in vulnerability.
Did you have any particular rules that you used in order to maximize your vulnerability?
Your vomit draft, writing a vomit draft, was super helpful. Not going back and not caring because I wrote for B2B tech for twenty years. You cannot get more objective. The feedback that I got from a coach was like, “This reads like a police report.” Show emotion and write in the first person, but write a vomit draft where you are puking words.
You do not care how it sounds. You are not trying to sound poetic. You turn off your spellcheck and Grammarly and you are vomiting on the page. That helped me get through the fear of judgment if I had to release this into the public. The second thing was set a very low word minimum, as opposed to like, “I am going to sit down and write 1,000 words a day.”
Your friend, Kim, can do that. I cannot do that. I set the lowest minimum of 250 words, which is three sentences. If I cannot sit down in front of the computer to develop a habit or writing pad, if I cannot write three sentences a day, I am not going to become a writer. It was not so much writing a book as it was the act of becoming a writer. That is also from your book. It is amazing that in business books, you equate writing a lot more to self-help and journaling and in that particular genre, but your genre within a business book is gold.
Writers write. If you write, you are a writer. It does not matter what you are writing.
I cannot tell you if it is going to be any good.
Do you have a title?
I go to a title workshop. I have got a lot of coaches in this process. I like being coached.
Rachel is an athlete. Athletes often will embrace coaching in other places in their life because they have seen how valuable it could be.
I find it a little difficult to be coached. I love mentorship. I am getting much better, but I have had challenges in the past with it. I am not an athlete.
You do not have a title yet?
I am toying with, “Children and Suits.” This is primarily because I left my job and we were on a hike. You told me, “Rachel, this is the sickest I have ever seen you.” It was not a physical illness. At that point, I did not equate stress to physical illness. I got super sick to the point where I thought, “I need to make a will. I might not survive.” I was sick for three months and did not realize how much stress had manifested in my body. You cannot continue to go. You also told me, “Anger is a great motivator, but it is something that cannot last forever.” Going through that and recognizing how that showed up in work, love and life.
I did not go to your fancy school. Whatever it is, “I will show you,” is incredibly motivating and it can work, but it will poison you on the inside. The worst part about it is no one ever goes, “Laura, I did not think you had what it takes, but did you prove me wrong. You showed me.”
That goes back to a scarcity mindset as opposed to abundance. That is where I am starting with, “Children and Suits.” We will see. I will go through a title workshop. I got my “hurt your feelings” at it back, which did not hurt my feelings. I was expecting a lot more because I have had much more coaches in my life. It hopefully will be published in May 2022 timeframe. I met with my publisher.
This is a good way to bring this to a close, with you finishing your book, with you finishing a marriage, you launching a book out into the world, and you putting yourself back into the world for relationships or not as you like, for you to get a chance to design them and for me to have the opportunity, which I am flattered to do, to sponsor you with my co-sponsor now, Laura Grant.
Dating coach, whatever you need. I am here.
Laura, thank you for joining as a co-host.
It’s always a pleasure.
Rachel, thank you for coming to the studio.
Thank you for having me.
It is long overdue.
- How To Get Divorced – Previous episode
- Rachel Beisel
- How to Be an Adult in Relationships
- Money Amy – Previous episode
- Where Should We Begin
- Nietzsche On Friends – Previous episode
- The Ethical Slut
- The Emotion Thesaurus
About Rachel Beisel
Rachel Beisel recently returned from a year-long sabbatical after writing a book, climbing mountains and biking across the desert. She founded LeadOut Sales, a B2B and B2C marketing firm specializing in a variety of practices/verticals. She’s an angel investor and a managing partner of SoCo Angles, and an Entrepreneur in Residence at Exponential Impact, and a fractional C-suite leader for growing companies. After Rachel’s divorce, she wants to understand why when she’s been in monogamous relationships, she’s lost herself. To make sure she doesn’t repeat similar mistakes, she suggested finding a ‘Relationship Sponsor’ to help hold her accountable.
About Laura Grant
Laura Grant is a child-free, sex-positive solo polyamorist who enjoys first dates, job interviews, and crafting complex spreadsheets for pleasure and profit. When not traveling to experience different cultures she finds great meaning in investing in her relationships with herself and others.