In episode 25 of the Pathway to Promise Podcast Dr. Brad Miller talks with “The Relationship Help Doctor Dr. Rhoberta Shaler about urgent and ongoing care for relationships in crisis. in particular, Brad and Rhoberta go deep on the mysterious topic of love and relationships. Rhoberta makes the somewhat controversial contention that love is not enough in relationships and how the term unconditional love can be used as a weapon in relationships.
The purpose of the Pathway to Promise Podcast is to help people understand that they have a God-given promised life of peace, prosperity, and purpose and that you need a pathway to guide you in overcome lives adversities to achieve that promised life. Dr. Brad’s conversation with Dr. Shaler is a great example of a guide who can help couples, in particular, navigate crises in their relationships and deal with people she calls Hijackals® in order for the relationship to arrive at a better place.
Dr. Shaler coined the term Hijackals® to describe people who people who hijack relationships for their own purposes while relentlessly scavenging them for power, status, and control. Rhoberta describes to Brad her own experiences with her own mother and a difficult marriage and parenting which led her to have to learn how to deal with people who would seek to hijack their relationship. She used her personal experiences to fuel her desire to become The Relationship Help Doctor. Now she helps people deal with relentlessly difficult and toxic people who are destructive to healthy relationships.
Rhoberta speaks to Brad about the power of spirituality in relationships and how a spiritual path is important and when there is incongruity among partners on spiritual matters it is a challenge. She goes on to say that emotional intimacy is the complaint that she deals with mostly working with couples. It is here that she shares with Brad her thoughts about how love is not enough in a relationship and how the notion of unconditional love can be used as a weapon. She shares with Brad to her belief that every relationship needs five relational gifts (honesty, safety, trust, respect, reliability) and also need to embody the behaviors of equality, reciprocity, and mutuality all of which go well beyond the emotional aspects of love and relationship. She goes on to share that when love is not understood with these needs and attributes than the notion of “unconditional love” can be used as a weapon. This is when one party uses the leverage of the emotion of “unconditional love” to take advantage of and even abuse their partner.
In response to the challenges that couples face in their relationships, Dr. Shaler offers an approach she calls kaizen for couples which involves small incremental steps in improvement. She uses the example of asking couples the question “how long has it been since you touched one another in a non-sexual way”? Often she finds that couples can rebuild intimacy incrementally by simply holding hands or brushing the shoulder. This is part of a process she calls the self-improvement samba which involves a two steps forward one step back process still making progress.
Dr. Shaler summarizes her teaching with the phrase “give only what you are willing to receive” which she first taught in a school setting and now makes it an integral part of her counseling for people with relationships in crisis.
Episode 025 of The Pathway to Promise Podcast is an important lesson listen for any person or couple whose relationship is in crisis, dominated by drama, infected by toxic parents or overwhelmed by relentlessly difficult people.
The Pathway to Promise Podcast is produced on a weekly basis by Dr. Brad Miller who brings 35 years of experience in Christian ministry and a doctoral degree in transformational leadership to the podcast through his teaching. He also has guests on the podcast on a regular basis who are successful people who have overcome adversity in their life to achieve their promised life. Dr. Brad believes every person has a God-given promised life of peace, prosperity, and purpose and you can achieve that life by following a pathway through life adversities guided by experienced mentors.
Dr. Brad Miller
Brad Miller 0:00
Rhoberta It is a pleasure to have you with us on the pathway to promise who were are all about helping people overcome various adversities in their life, to achieve a life of peace, and prosperity and purpose. And you, of course, are about working with folks who have had their share of struggles and adversities particularly in their relationships with a I sense that the in your life that you've had some of your own
things to overcome in your life, what are some things you've had to overcome or submit versus in your life that you've had to deal with in order to be helpful to other people, there's a deal with their relationship issues.
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler 0:41
Oh, my whole lots of things, Brad, lots of things. I think that's what puts us on a pathway to being interested in helping other people. Sometimes the focus of my work at the moment is helping those people who are in relationship with the relentlessly difficult people I call high jackals. So there's a lot going on there. And that comes from my early life. Hi, jackals are people to hijack relationships for their own purposes while relentlessly scavenging them for power status and control. So those are the people who we put in the cluster B personality disorder category. And I work with their partners and their exes and their adult children. So that's where I have had all kinds of nasty experience. I was raised by these difficult people, I was an only child I've experienced the isolation of that I therefore being raised by them went on to course attract one for a life partner then had children had to divorce one learn how to co parent one with one. And as things go when you're with an relentlessly difficult person, or a high jackal, as I call them, Brad and I know you know this, that when you go out to get some help, what happens is the high jackal paints a picture of perfection in public, but at home, they're creating a private place of pain. So when you go out and you try to say, here's what's happening to me at home as a young adult and and the high jackal has produced this public picture of perfection, the therapist or whomever you're working with. And in my case, it was a counselor said, Oh, that's a terrible thing to say about your mother. She's wonderful. So it started there. And then, you know, I was actually going into medicine. And when I was on my way to I just start medical school, I found out I was pregnant unexpectedly, and I'm married and I could not see putting a child through the troubles and the horrible hours and the poverty of medical school. So I returned to the university and got a doctorate in psychology. Okay, very good. What sounds like is you turn them the term. High jackals there, there sounds like there's some similarities. People with Porter line personality disorder, and things of that nature. And the youth people who believe that the world is in black and white terms, they can also hide part of their personality in private, or I mean, chokes 1% private to show another personality in public, because I should have others
Brad Miller 3:20
in terms of dealing with these folks that you've had in your own life. And now you're being helpful to others. I would just like to ask you about a sense of
how dealing with people with a with a higher power is of pertinent aspect of these relationships, whether it be some sort of a spiritual development or meditation practices or anything along this line, how is this or is this a part of the relationship building that you work with?
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler 3:49
Oh, it certainly is, Brad. Because when I was three years old, and a sort of unwanted and only child, I found my calling, I went on, I said, I want to go to church. And my parents didn't go to church. So where did that come from, but I did, I went off, they were happy to get rid of me. And I sustain that interest. So I have actually been the Minister of some large New Thought churches, spiritual centers. And so I have a very strong practice of meditation and what you know, loosely called prayer, or treatment, or talking to God, or listening to God, or whatever you wanted to say, a very, very integral part of my life. And I think when people share that their relationship work can be deepened, and when they don't share it. And in fact, I just got off the phone or off the computer working with a couple who said that they wouldn't get married initially, because one had a spiritual path, the other didn't, the one with the path wouldn't marry the other. So he had to either find a spiritual path or are not get buried, and he found a spiritual path. And that's a conversation that has to be continued. So I wanted to find out why he did that, because it doesn't seem to be helping them in their relationship. But I think people who share a spiritual Outlook or practice have much more equanimity to look at their lives and more willing to be self reflective, and to listen to another person with a little more openness
Brad Miller 5:29
seems like if one person's on a path of a spiritual path as you sent one person is not there'd be a matter of incongruity and Tommy coming together into a relationship that may be a factor as well teach a part of your teaching is that some sort of a common spiritual path is a helpful piece to building the relationship?
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler 5:50
Well, I certainly think it is. Because if you have a spiritual path, then you have an openness to humans, you have a level of acceptance, hopefully, you have an open heart, you're willing to be non judgmental, you're, you know, there's things that go with having a spiritual path, not with all religious path, but with a spiritual path that will certainly open you to other humans. And if you both have that, well, of course, you double the openness. And therefore there is more possibility for growing together for developing emotional intimacy, which is probably the largest complaint that's really going on, when a couple comes is there's no emotional intimacy, because we long to be no, and we long to be seen and acknowledged, and, and heard and appreciated and accepted for who we are. And that's basic to emotional intimacy.
Brad Miller 6:52
So you find emotional intimacy is just one of the really huge issues that couples are dealing with, when it comes to resolving whatever the matters are, which are conflicts and their relationship.
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler 7:05
Certainly, I mean, if I cannot count on my partner, to be there, to be interested in me, to protect me, not physically, but to protect me to say, I'll stand up for you, I will be that person that you can share your vulnerabilities with me, and you'll be safe, I will not go turning them into weapons and sending them out into the world or using them against you, you have to have an emotionally intimate relationship that allows for that,
and that's a big, big piece to develop. And when people come to me, and they obviously don't have emotional intimacy, they can be saying the most Oh, hurtful things to one another. And really, they're speaking from their own pain, and so many cases, because they were longing for something, it was denied to them. And now they're angry with you
Brad Miller 7:59
talk about this emotional intimacy or lack thereof, almost always, one way or another. The word and terminology of love is brought up in terms of our relationships. And that's such a supercharged word, a powerful word and but in the context of what we're talking about here, in terms of restoration of relationships, rebuilding them, how can love be truly expressed any any building way as a fuel for rebuilding relationships? And how also is this word the concept of love, sometimes use as a weapon to beat down the other person? Just share with me a little bit about your take on love?
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler 8:38
Yeah, well, you know, I think I'm going to say something that many people find controversy or Brad, but I'm going to say this love isn't enough. It isn't enough to keep a relationship healthy and whole, it needs a few housekeeping things. And I'm going to give you eight of them. You know, when I wrote Kaizen for couples, I said, Love is not enough, it must have these five relational gifts. I call them the relational gifts. The reason I call them that bread is because if you don't have a gift, you can't give it if it's not in your, in your grasp, you do not have it to give. So you need these five things that I talked about Kaizen for couples to, to have worked on within yourself, that you are using them within yourself, that you're in alignment within yourself, so that you have them to give to the relationship and where they are is honesty, safety, trust, respect and reliability. And if you have those things to give you will make a great contribution to the relationship and they will all enhance the idea that we actually have a what it feels like to experience love. Another thing that I think a relationship we're always going to be unsatisfactory to it least one person when we're not discussing hijack costs. Where there's a non high jackal relationship there are three things that must occur there must be a quality reciprocity and mutuality. And if those things are not there, we're still not going to add up to love. Because love is just not enough. You know, I'm you can really love somebody, but not like them at all right, you can love them because they're human. And they, they take up space and draw breath and they have the right to, and you'd love that and you love all kinds of thing about them in a human way. But in order to be in relationship with them, there are other things that must be present for love to be felt like for some folks love sometimes is confused with passion in the sense of, you know, passion can be a temporary flame, it can be burned hot, but will essentially subject side and loved it. I believe that you're talking about ways that we sustain and grow and nurture relationships and these other factors you're talking about are involved here. So Love is not enough, especially when it seemed the context of that of that hot
Brad Miller 11:15
passion. It's just a temporary thing
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler 11:17
we like to throw around the term unconditional love. So let's talk about that for a minute.
Unconditional Love, meaning I went to love you, no matter what you do, no matter what you say. No matter how badly you abuse me know, unconditional love is something I do from within me by choice. And I also keep myself safe through distance. And we I've heard people and you probably have to read heard people use the idea of, well, you're supposed to believe in unconditional love as a weapon to hurt their partner where unconditional love is a decision I make as to who I am, and how I practice my spirituality, and I decide whether I'm doing it, well, you don't
then you don't weaponize it, and hit me over the head with it either. So I think it's very, very important to understand that unconditional love is not something to expect something, it is something that I choose to give and live in alignment with.
Brad Miller 12:22
In a way, that's part of the conditions that you have to give yourself permission in order to be in this type of give and take in a relationship where you have to respect one another's and you want to be under the difficulties and you're going to deal with it in this kind of contact. Perhaps
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler 12:40
you know, I mean, some people don't deal with it. If we go back to the high jackal thing, you know, my mother was was a borderline and I had some narcissistic tendencies. And I loved my mother, because she was my mother. I did not like her. I didn't approve of her. And I didn't appreciate her. So you know, I could be unconditionally loving by loving my mother, and what she stood for, and understanding her and being compassionate about all the triple trouble. She went through sharing electroshock therapy, horrible things happen to her. She, she got into this behavior pattern and way of looking at the world. And she happened to do it when I was two years old. And that's just unfortunate for me. And or, but it didn't mean that I couldn't have unconditional love for her and her struggle. I did not want it to be the kind of love which says, I'm going to live with you every day. No matter how badly you hurt me.
Brad Miller 13:34
That's a past any way of framing the relationship here. And understanding that you don't have to put up with the hurts but you still have to love for persons. But you don't have to put up with
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler 13:48
all that pain. No. And this is a good idea not to,
if somebody is is yes, yes, let's be healthy about this not long suffering under the guise of air quotes, spirituality, you know, no, let's be real. That's what spirituality is, is reality. You know, in my opinion, of course, of course,
Brad Miller 14:12
when this process you've, you've, you've mentioned all these various concepts about how sustaining relationships are involved, much more than love and the various factors that you've mentioned. But you've also used the term Kaizen in your book, Kaizen for couples, and I've heard the US guys in the term Japanese term, Kaizen us quite a bit, but often in terms of old business or corporate culture, this type of thing having to do with
being efficient toward doing things in a constant state of improvement. say a little bit about what why you How would you apply this term Kaizen to couples and relationship building?
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler 14:55
Sure, of course, the term Kaizen comes from Joe W. Edwards, Deming long time ago working with Toyota, but what it actually means is small incremental improvement, which is why I chose it for the title of my book, we can't make big sweeping changes, but we can make small incremental improvements in the way that we relate to ourselves and each other, and, therefore change our relationship. And it's important to do that, you know, it's just one day at a time, it's one change at a time, it's one step at a time, it's one shift at a time, and then maybe I'm going to do what I call the self improvement Samba, you're going to do two steps forward and one step back for a while, and you're going to learn a few things. So, that's what Kaizen is, is that you just make...