Episode 74: Dr. Michelle Gannon - How to Powerfully Prepare for Marriage!

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This month we are focused on Getting Married!

Dr. Michelle Gannon gives us important guidelines to pay attention to as we explore what it really takes to get ready for marriage. We hear about the Four Stages of Relationship Erosion (criticism, contempt, stonewalling, and defensiveness) and how you can remedy the situation if you find yourself there.

We talk about the Five Love Languages and the importance of paying attention to loving your partner in the way they want to be loved. The Five Love Languages are Words of Appreciation, Gifts, Acts of Service, Physical Touch or Quality Time. My personal favorites are gifts and physical touch!

We end with the Power of Forgiveness as a critical piece to healing the past and moving on to create the magical marriage you know is possible! Michelle leaves us with her mantra: "A Strong Me feeds a Strong We" as well as her recommendation to keep a gratitude journal to keep reminding yourself of the beauty and abundance in your life. Enjoy!

Transcript

Alissa Kriteman: Welcome to Just For Women: Dating, Relationships and Sex. I’m your host, Alissa Kriteman. This show is dedicated to providing today’s modern women with useful information they need to make empowered conscious choices. This month we’re going to talk about what is going on on a lot of women’s minds, namely getting married. ‘Tis the season. It’s Spring. It’s March. So we’re going to talk about all that goes along with getting married, from wedding planning to getting your mind, body and spirit prepared to say “I do”. So I’m very excited to talk to the experts I’m going to have on the show this month. And today we’re going to talk about marriage preparation, what we need to know to create a fantastic marriage before, during and after the ceremony. Our guest today is psychologist and couples therapist, Dr. Michelle Gannon. Welcome to Just For Women Michelle.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Thank you. Great to be here.

Alissa Kriteman: So let me tell everybody a little bit about Michelle. She and her husband Patrick have taught over 60 Marriage Prep 101, that’s your workshop, yeah? And to some, a thousand couples in San Francisco. Lucky ducks. So we’re going to talk a lot about this Marriage Prep 101 today. And they’ve been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, Here Comes the Guide, Modern Bride and Today’s Bride, if you need resources on how to get ready for your wedding. They’ve also been guests on the Ron Owens Radio Show, Sex With Emily and KGO TV, Perfect Wedding Guide, Evening Magazine TV and The CBS Early Show. They’re both contributing writers to national bridal websites, magazines and have been awarded Best of the Bay by the San Francisco Bay Guardian for four years in a row. That’s a lot.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Yeah. Actually it’s five years. We didn’t update that.

Alissa Kriteman: That’s good. So it’s nice to get those accolades from your community. It seems like a lot of people are reaching out to you to talk about how to be prepared for marriage, and I’m really excited to talk to you today because I think it’s really important for people to think about that beyond what they might get from their church or their spiritual group, that you’re a psychologist and a counselor talking about some of the major points that couples need to address, yeah?

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Yeah. And actually my husband and I, Patrick and I, we developed Marriage Prep 101 about 8 years ago. We’ve been married ourselves almost 15 years, and what we have developed is a program that is not based on what some book or manual or even what we say is successful in relationships. What we’ve done is developed a program using the best research findings of couples that are happily together, for couples that don’t make it, and we’re teaching couples the skills that are really important to be able to have a successful relationship long-term.

Alissa Kriteman: Alright, lets jump right in. What’s skill number one? What would you say, I’m sure there’s many skills, but what do you find is the skill that you, that people want to learn the most or you think is most valuable?

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Without a doubt, conflict resolution. So what the research has found is that couples that learn how to resolve conflicts well are going to be much better at hanging in there long-term. So many couples come to us, they come when they’re dating, engaged, newlywed and they’re saying, you know, either “We’ve never had an argument”, and we’ll say, “Oh, too bad. Poor you, because then you don’t know that conflict is inevitable and you need to find a way to work well together when you have differences.” We also have couples that are so worried about talking about difficult topics, that they avoid. Things are taboo, they don’t want to talk about money or sex or in-laws because they’re afraid of the conflict, when in fact, if you’re going to stay together you’ve got to figure out how to work these things out. So we teach skills that couples can learn, very easy to use skills, to develop better habits about how to resolve conflict. The second one is just general communication. Couples, again, just need to be able to develop that kind of best friend feeling with their spouse so that they can talk about anything, but for most people that doesn’t just happen naturally.

Alissa Kriteman: Okay, cool. I like this. One of the things that I like to do is offer a kind of exercise. So what’s a kind of exercise, say I’m in the middle of a conflict with my fiancé and, are there, I mean it seems like money is probably one of the big conflicts, so do you have a particular, like, okay this is the first thing you do, second thing you do, if you find yourself, like, you can’t get out of the little snit that you’re in?

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Well the first thing to do is to know yourself and know what do you do in conflict, and when are you at the best of your game. So many times we have conflicts and we are dealing with it when we are exhausted, we’re hungry, we’re PMSing. It’s just not a good time to deal with a really sensitive topic, so make sure that you, you know, your tank is full, that you’re able to deal with the conflict so you’re going in, you know, primed. The second thing is to be able to make it shorter. So many people try to talk about money and everything about money, and hours and hours of conversation late into the night is not going to be productive. So pick one aspect of the money conversation. Like, “Hey, lets have a conversation about how each of us were raised, attitudes about money in our families.” Sit down with a glass of wine and have that conversation, and that’s it. And when you’re in the source of argument, you use anything you know about your partner’s information and it’s helpful, but it’s not ammunition. So in the source of the fight about the checkbook or about the spending or the, you know, disagreement, you don’t bring up, “Well you are really bad at money because of your family. You’re just using that. Like, you know that about your partner, so you’re going to be more sensitive, that, for many people money is a difficult topic. That’s definitely one that Patrick and I deal with all of the time.

Alissa Kriteman: It’s so funny. It’s like, yeah, don’t build your arsenal in those conversations of what you’re going to fling back, definitely. Alright, so know yourself. I like that point you brought up about timing, you know. Make sure that you’re proactive, you know, conscious about when you’re going to, when you’re going to approach these subjects that are a little bit sticky, because it sounds like what happens is, and I know this happens in my own life, we get triggered and then you just launch into it without even realizing, “Wow, I’m triggered, there’s something going on here for me”, and the next thing you know, you’re in this whole thing. What do you tell people about defusing situations? So that’s kind of like the preemptive, know yourself, approach it in a specified time frame. What if you’re already in it?

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Okay, so lets say an average conversation gets started, gets flared up. People tend to have different styles of approaching it. So know yourself and, are you somebody who avoids conflict, like you want to get out of there when something gets hot? Are you somebody that’s validating, that’s really trying to hear your partners perspective, come up with a win-win, negotiate, compromise? Are you volatile? If you’re volatile you tend to like the fight, you go for the jugular, you’re in the debate, and the problem with the volatile couple is they can easily cross over to hostile. So if you’re doing any of these hostile behaviors, and a lot of us do, you have to stop. The research shows these are predictive of divorce, okay. So if you’re doing these things in an argument, you’ve got to not point your finger at your partner and say, “Well he does these things.” You share this information with him, but you really focus on, okay, if you do criticism, contempt, defensiveness or stonewalling. Criticism, if you’re blaming your partner it is not going to go well. If you’re contemptuous, you’re rolling your eyes at each him, you’re thinking you know better, you’re self-righteous, not going to go well. Stonewalling is when you just slam the door, you hang up the phone, walk out of the room. And then defensiveness is when you don’t take any responsibility. So the argument will go much better if you don’t engage in those hostile behaviors. And in the moment, if you realize like, “Wait a minute. I’m going from zero to a hundred, I am really angry. I’m going to be more productive if I say ‘Okay, let me take five minutes’, you know, get a drink of water, go check my email and then come back and say ‘Okay, lets try again.’ I feel more in control.” And it’s generally a more productive conversation. For arguments that are really out of control, where you’re screaming at each other or you’re really losing it, you really should consider just taking a time out, which would be in 30 minutes you can reduce your heart rate, your blood pressure, and be able to come back and be more productive. And I’m not saying you just call a time out all the time, but so often we’re engaged in conversations that are not productive, and then those, the combination of them, they really hurt the relationship, they really erode the relationship’s good feeling. The other thing I always remind myself is that we’re in this together. Like he’s actually my friend, you know. Even though I’m really angry at him and he’s seeming like he doesn’t get me, we’re in this together and we’re determined that we’re going to manage our volatility ‘cause we tend that way for the sake of the relationship.

Alissa Kriteman: Yeah, that’s really good. I definitely, I read that book, John Gottman, and he did so much research, and I love that, that you utilize that because there’s specific research that shows what causes, what are the precursors to divorce, and it’s like, yeah, contempt, criticism, stonewalling, being defensive, and it’s like it’s pretty easy to pick that stuff out. And so what you’re saying is you have to stop those patterns of behavior. Do you do any work with couples on, “Hey, that’s how your parents did it, this is how you’re doing it”, do you actually want to have some choice around that? ‘Cause I notice for myself, myself and my partner both came from families where, you know, happy conflict resolution just, you know, wasn’t a part of the daily living, so, yeah?

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Absolutely. What we do is we say either you tend to repeat or react. So if you repeat the patterns in your unconscious, that’s not going to be helpful. And if you don’t make excuses for your behavior, it’s like, “Okay, wait a minute. I grew up in this family that, you know, my folks avoided conflict. They didn’t really talk about stuff. I don’t want to be that kind of person. So I’m going to work very hard to deal with conflict in a more productive way with my partner.” The other thing about the research is that couples do well, better, can handle it better. They filled up their tank, so the research, John Gotman’s research is that happily together couples have a ratio of five to one, five positive to one negative  interaction…

Alissa Kriteman: Mm hmm, yeah.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Yeah, so every one argument, disagreement, hurt feeling, they have five positive, loving, affectionate, funny… Use humor, that really helps a lot. So you want to build up your tank so to speak so you can handle these conflicts a little better. The other thing that we’ve really learned in teaching our workshops is I like to be right as much as anybody does. However, it’s not always so good for harmony. And sometimes I have to really choose, like is it more important for me to be right in this moment, or is it more important to get along, move on and talk about something else. So we’ve gotten much better about not having to be right all the time, about sometimes making choices that are better for the relationship. I get my way enough that I’m okay with him getting his way or deferring to him sometimes. But many couples get so stuck. I find as women we, it’s like we finally get our voice, our opportunity, we sometimes have a hard time saying, you know, sometimes his way, sometimes my way, sometimes a totally different way.

Alissa Kriteman: Well that’s interesting, and I’m glad I’m talking to you as a woman about this, and I wanted to do that in particular because what you’re bringing up is there is this tendency for women to not speak up, right, really about what we want, thinking we can’t have it, whatever. And so then, and so there’s a distinction of like, yeah, chill out, don’t necessarily be right all the time, or want to be right all the time, and do you think that comes from women aren’t speaking up about themselves? Do you know what I’m saying? It’s like, I don’t want women to hear, don’t speak up, but be conscious about what you’re saying when you’re saying it, and I like the five to one ration where it’s like, hey, if you’re going to have a fight, you know, consciously be proactive about having good interactions with this man, like in a very proactive conscious way.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s a bit of a pendulum, that we don’t speak up, we build up, we build up and then we lose it…

Alissa Kriteman: Yeah.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: And so that in some ways speaking up when it’s important to you, choose, you know, it’s like choosing your battles, but more than that it’s like seeing your guy as a good guy, he’s not out to get you. I mean, most men that I know, they really want to have successful relationships, they want their girls, their girlfriends, their women to be happy, they just are a little clumsy about it sometimes. And so to not think that he’s out to get you, but to be able to say, you know, “Maybe you don’t realize how important this is to me. You know, on a scale of one to ten, this really is a ten. We got to talk about this one.” So now I absolutely believe we need to have strong voices, and I’m all for us being feminists and being empowered, but I think we also have to not take the pendulum so far that we’re, now we’re becoming the bully in the relationship, and I see that happen sometimes. It’s like when we finally speak up we’re screaming, versus just like speaking up in a nice firm assertive way and using, you know, humor and love and affection as well.

Alissa Kriteman: That’s definitely been one of my challenges. Alright, wow. This is just jam packed. We’re going to take a break to support our sponsors. And listeners if you want some great discounts on things that would enhance your life, then listen to these ads coming up. They’re ads created by my sponsors for my show, and they help me bring these great experts like Dr. Michelle Gannon to you. I’m saying that right, right? Gannon? Okay, so if you can support them, I’d really appreciate it. This is Alissa Kriteman. I’m with Dr. Michelle Gannon, psychologist and couples therapist, and we’ll be right back to talk a little bit more about how to properly prepare for your marriage.

Alissa Kriteman: We’re back. I’m Alissa Kriteman. We’re talking today to Dr. Michelle Gannon, and she’s been talking to us about namely those four precursors that sounds like researchers say, hey, this is what leads to divorce. Criticism, contempt, stonewalling and being defensive, and so ladies, if that’s what’s happening in your relationship, you got to check it. Even for the guys listening, I love that. You know, this is really for anybody, but, you know, it does say Just For Women, so I like to come from that place. Alright, well lets talk about some of the key concepts that you cover in your workshop, Marriage Prep 101.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Okay, let me tell you about a fun one. In addition to knowing how to communicate and resolve conflict, really important that you know how to love your partner in the way that they want to be loved. So try this one on. This is from Languages of Love, and we have a game in our workshop, Marriage Prep 101 workshop where we have couple think about, of the five choices I’m going to tell you, what is your preferred way to be loved, and what do you predict or think you’re partners preferred way? And amazingly we often get it wrong, and we often show love in the way that we want to be loved. So if you and your guy can talk about this, this can really help, you can get better at conveying caring and loving on a daily basis. So one, choices are words of appreciation. That’s telling compliments, I love yous, unsolicited is best. I personally like the unsolicited, it works much better, and “You look nice”, it just doesn’t cut it. Get a thesaurus. Okay, gifts. Some women like to receive gifts. A lot of guys say, “Oh, she wants a gift ‘cause she can show her friends that she’s got this nice token of my appreciation, you know, a piece of jewelry or something.” What about acts of service? This is the big one for men and women, that they feel most loved when their partner does stuff for them. Show me that you love me, makes dinner, brings you coffee, runs errands for you. What about physical touch? Affection, kissing, hand holding, snuggling, making love, are you somebody who most feels loved when somebody physically shows you? And then the fifth one is quality time. To spend time together, going on dates, going for overnights, that you feel most loved when your partner makes you a priority. Now we always hear from somebody in our Marriage Prep 101 workshop, what if she wants all five?

Alissa Kriteman: That’s what I was going to say.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: And that, that’s understandable, but you probably have a primary. Like if they really had to choose how to show their love for you, would you rather they take the time to write a card, to make you dinner, clean out the garage, you know. Like what is going to really float your boat? What’s going to really make you feel appreciated and loved? And know it, tell your partner, don’t read each other’s minds, and really continue to show that. We think that couples just get complacent about their relationships over time.

Alissa Kriteman: Yeah, again, bringing consciousness to it. What’s yours? What’s your favorite?

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Oh I’m definitely words of appreciation. Well, yeah, I really am. Although, you know, I like physical touch too. Like my husband, he’s acts of service, and he feels most loved when I clean out the garage. How romantic is that? Me? I like it when like after a workshop, we teach workshops at Fort Mason, he takes me down to the pier, he spins me around, it’s like a Hollywood moment, says how much he loves me, that’s what I like. Yeah.

Alissa Kriteman: Yeah. I like experiences. What would that be? Quality time, yeah. Because I like thinking about we went here and had a great time, and we went there, something that’s outside of our normal routine. It’s hard to choose though, isn’t it? I’m like, I like gifts and…

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Keep all the above, there’s no where to put the energy.

Alissa Kriteman: Okay, cool. Lets talk about couples who come to you after they’re married. Clearly it’s important to be proactive and understand what makes a healthy marriage, but what if you’re in a marriage showing these signs that we’ve been talking about? What can people do? Can they still come and take your course? I mean, I would think…

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Yeah. Well our workshop is more specifically, Marriage Prep 101 is up to newlyweds, two or three years of marriage. We’ve had couples as early as six months dating all the way to sixteen years dating, now tying the knot. We also both see couples in our private practices in San Francisco. But in terms of couples, you know, the first five years of marriage, the three top issues that couples fight about are time, sex and money, this according to the research. And so we often are touching on those things. Also if you can believe it, a lot of couples fight about household responsibilities, domestic partnership, how do they actually take care of the home, the kids, the pet. Is it fair? Is it egalitarian? So many of us want egalitarian relationships and so many of us feel like we don’t really line up in the top three priorities of our partners life. And so you’ve got to be able to do that, and especially if you have children. I mean couples need to reclaim their marriage after kids. We see that all the time. Couples stop having, they don’t even have time together. And so you need to have, you know, if you’re not doing this, make sure you have time to have dinner together, have date night once a week where you go away, just the two of you away from kids and responsibilities. Protect that time for conflict. Don’t argue or talk about your budget or problems when you’re on a date. It’s supposed to be romantic, it’s supposed to be fun. You’re supposed to be making love with your spouse, with your partner, and a lot of couples again just get complacent, and why is that? It’s often that, it’s this fascinating idea that, it’s called Mating In Captivity by Esther Perel, great book, that talks about how it’s really hard to maintain a passionate romantic sex life with somebody that you are also, you know, so securely attached to, they’re there for you, it’s not very exciting but it’s predictable, it’s like kind of contrary feelings. And so how do you spice things up? How do you keep things interesting and make sure there is great foreplay and it’s not that that’s just the beginning of the, to the end. The end is not intercourse and orgasm. I mean that’s great, but there’s a lot of other ways to be sexual in between that many couples get very complacent. I hear all the time, around initiation of sex, they don’t know how to get it going. Their spouse is really kind of, again, clumsy about it, says, you know, “Take your clothes off. Lets get naked”, or he takes his clothes off and runs around the house and it doesn’t do it for most women. So this whole idea, like are we romanced? Other research has found is that women are really turned on by being pursued. That that is the biggest turn-on for them is to be really desired and wanted in the full beautiful feminine way, and it sounds corny and romantic, but it works, and a lot of guys, and I hear this all the time is that, “Well that was when we were courting. I got you now”. And got news for you guys, you’re not going to have her long-term. I mean that’s a whole other conversation is the risk of infidelity is incredibly high in this country. When we say this, 44 percent of men, 25 percent of married women are reporting having sex outside of marriage. Out of their own marriage, they’re having sex with somebody else. And so couples got to keep it alive and spicy and an important part of their, of their chemistry and their marriage, or they are at risk for not keeping the monogamy.

Alissa Kriteman: Right. How would a woman… I really love that, and I really love for all the men listening. I think that’s why men listen in, because we get these gems, you know. But for a woman, how does she educate her partner on, on re-stoking the fire? How does she, without, I don’t know, maybe she just tells him, “Hey, I need to be pursued”, to actually get that, that fire back, or is there, are there ways that we can communicate to our men we like to be pursued?

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Well it’s funny because recently there was an article in the New York Times all about this. I’m hearing more men going, “Oh, well it was in the New York Times magazine, therefore it must be true.” But it’s this idea like saying, you know, obviously it’s a sensitive topic for the guys, nobody wants to be told they’re bad in bed or they’re not good lovers, but to be able to say, “Honey, the beginning of our relationship was so hot, I miss those times. I miss it when you would…”, and give examples if you can of times when he was really great in bed. It’s best to go with like what he’s doing right, not with some past lover or some fantasy guy. You know, and if there’s low on that, and that sometimes is the case with people, it’s like what do you want more of? Do you want more kissing? Do you want more oral sex? Do you just want more of, you know, kind of compliments? Do you want him to be more into you when you’re making love? Probably, yeah. And also, you want him to be more focused on you, and that’s a tricky thing, right. And I think taking out the word ‘foreplay’ out of the language. Instead just say, I think that we’ve gotten into kind of the traditional way of having sex, right, intercourse, guy on top, and, you know, after a while that gets a little, you know, predictable, routine. I’m all for us trying to mix things up a little bit, spice things up a bit, be a little more creative, I mean those kind of words that usually aren’t too scary for too many guys. But as I say in my workshop, most people know how each other likes the coffee made, they like how their, their fish cooked, but they don’t know like preferences about oral sex and whether or not people care if somebody is, you know, au naturale or freshly bathed, whether or not there’s music in the background or not at all. I mean, just having more variety. Research, author research has found that hot sex often comes with the naughtiness factor, where you’re mostly a good person, you know, like somebody like me, I’m a mom and I’m a wife and I’m a career woman. But to have another side of you that maybe nobody really knows about except your partner, that’s exciting. A little more spicy, a little more naughty. And if that doesn’t fit at all, for some women it just doesn’t fit at all, it’s like how much have you allowed yourself to even consider, how are you as a sexual being? Are you sensual? Do you like the way things smell, things taste? Are there senses, music, nature? I mean, again, are you really paying attention to that? So many times we close down that part of us and we’re not sexually alive, and I’m just saying that for really successful, happy, long-term relationships, that is part of it. We think of marriage like a four-legged stool; that you’ve got a romantic sexual side going on leg, you’ve got the friendship, you’ve got the business, which is like running the household, raising the kids, and you’ve got the parenting. And so many couples do well on some of those aspects, and then often the sexual romantic part is the wobbliest. You need to put energy in that or it’s not going to happen long-term.

Alissa Kriteman: Yeah. What percentage of this 44 for men with infidelity, I don’t know if you know this, comes from not having sex? Because I’ve definitely read, you know, that women, it’s like what they withhold and they use it as some kind of power tool or some kind of weapon. Talk a, talk to us about that, because if women are in that roll, how to get out of it because it’s like I want that number to go down to like four, you know. What can we do to empower ourselves to keep our men in this relationship? And it sounds like what you’re saying is really check in with our self because I don’t know where sex ranks, but I would think it’s really high just given who men are and their, how their created biologically. So can you speak a little bit to that?

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Yeah, well first of all an interesting piece from the research is that in couples that are happily together, happy enough with our sex life, the sexual relationship only counts for 15 percent of how happy they are. But if either one is unhappy with their sex life, it counts for 85 percent of how unhappy they are. So if it’s good enough, ah, it’s like one of the many things in way you relate. If it’s not good enough, then it becomes a problem. And interestingly the research is finding more and more that women are dissatisfied with their sex lives as much as men. And there’s one of the questions is that to what extent are things like internet pornography starting to add to the infidelity risk, where the guys aren’t having sex with their women, they’re, you know, looking at the porn, and then what is happening is some of these women who really want to be pursued and wanted are at risk. Infidelity rates are going higher for women. There’s not a real direct correlation between unhappy at home with the sex life and having an affair. Usually affairs start from emotional connection. Sometimes they’re physical affairs, but more often than not, the research is showing nowadays, a great book called Not Just Friends by Shirley Glass about emotional infidelity slippery slope into physical and sexual infidelity, and what we find is that when couples are avoiding really being real at home, they’re avoiding conflict, things are taboo, they don’t talk about stuff, they’re more at risk for developing an attachment to somebody else.

Alissa Kriteman: Wow, that’s a huge distinction. So it’s not even about the physical sex, it’s about the emotions. I like that.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: The other thing in terms like what you can do to be empowered as a woman is I just think that we collectively as women are keeping the bar too low for our guys. That we are saying, “Well, you know, he’s really stressed or he works a lot or, you know, his mother, you know, he comes from a family of divorce”, and I say we need to stop doing that. We keep our bar low, our expectations low for our guys, then that’s what we’re going to get. Instead, to be able to say, “You know what, I have so much to give and I want to be the best partner I could be. I want you to be that too, and this is how you can do it”, like give him the roadmap. That’s what guys say in our workshop, “It’s so helpful to know. I had no idea that by just doing more sweet nothings and, you know, having some candlelight and really letting her know that I’m really into her in the bedroom, that would make a difference that easy?” And a lot of times it’s not rocket science, it’s just that we as women don’t feel entitled to really being loved and adored and having our needs be as important as the guys. And so I’m saying you need to get better at telling them, don’t do the Morse code. The guys need somebody to directly tell them what they want and need, and then of course throw a party when he delivers.

Alissa Kriteman: I like that. You know, it’s interesting, I was just thinking about the single women who might be listening, around that setting the bar high as someone who is single, so you can not be attached. Maybe it’s about some scarcity mentality that, you know, it’s really hard to find good men, and what would you say to women who, you know, we’ve heard you can train a man or as long as he’s got like some certain fundamental easy listening, does he take care of you well, you know, these certain aspects to it, you know, that sort of, but you, like you said, you have to come from this place of, “I’m good enough. I’m entitled to have an amazing man”, and learning a lot of things that you’re saying to have a relationship actually work, but that it comes from our own high level of self esteem.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Absolutely. You have to believe you are a great catch. And I really think that a lot of times people focus on dating, they focus, there’s like two ideas, there’s the product development and then there’s the marketing. And are you really focusing on being the best person you can be? Are you a good friend? Are you a good daughter? Are you good at your career? Like are you really? And are you okay with not being perfect, ‘cause you don’t have to be perfect. We all have flaws and that’s okay. But, and I say this all the time, you only need one. And so even in San Francisco, there’s always going to be some good men. I think it’s far, far more important to have a guy who is kind and sweet and open to influence and loving and you have a good sense of humor with. That’s far more important to me than how much money they earn. And I think that women really have to take an honest look, a real direct look at themselves, like how much importance are they putting on how much money the guy’s making. Because you’re going to get somebody who makes a lot of money, he’s going to be working a lot, and he’s not going to, it depends on where he is in his career, but he’s probably not going to be able to have the time and focus that a really strong committed relationship needs.

Alissa Kriteman: That is such a good point because so many of us were raised with this idea that this white knights coming, and not that financial security isn’t and can be important, but it doesn’t need to be the whole thing, it doesn’t need to be the driving force because that’s like you said, it’s never a win. The guy, he’s, he has money for a reason and if you’re needing something else it’s going to be quite a challenge, and I wouldn’t doubt if that isn’t part of this whole, like… We need to have our emotional needs met in relationship and really looking at what is relationship anyway. So I appreciate that you said that. It also makes me realize how we met, which I’d love to share with the audience ‘cause it’s so funny. You and I actually met when you were featured on the ABC show How To Get The Guy, which I was featured on as well. But unfortunately, you know, they sort of cut it off a little early and we never got to see your great feedback to how, how to choose well in a relationship and a lot of these concepts that, yay, we get to talk about now, but I just thought that was kind of funny, and this whole like how to get the guy, you know, concept is still alive and well, especially in San Francisco when they came here, the city that’s supposed to be so lacking in men. It’s like, not at all.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Well what I say all the time to my Marriage Prep 101 couples, it reinforces my belief that there are so many great guys in San Francisco, and anywhere. And that really what you need to focus on, what kind of life do you want to have, are you being the kind of person you want to be, and are you finding somebody that co-mingles well with that. And do you make them be a happier person, do you make yourself be a happier person? And I think that looking at things like are you really good friends, do you have similar values, do you communicate well, is there chemistry? Without a doubt, having good passions important. Do you want the same things in life? I cannot believe how many women are not honest. It’s okay to say, “Hey, I can see myself getting married. I want to have kids.” Those aren’t bad things. You shouldn’t, you shouldn’t be pretending you don’t want those things. And I hear that all the time where women won’t let the guy know that she loves him or won’t let him know that she wants to have kids ‘cause she’s afraid of scaring him off. Again, this is the bar too low. If he’s going to get scared off by that, he’s going to be really scared when you have a couple of kids to take care of.

Alissa Kriteman: Yeah. I’m glad you said that. It’s definitely an echo of something we’ve heard before. And just to reiterate, it’s so important. I think sometimes I had to sort of deal with this is where I was looking in a, in my relationships for things I wasn’t alright with in myself, and unconsciously trying to fill these voids and these holes in the partnership with this other person, which puts so much stress and strain on the relationship and never it works. Like you said, like, “Yeah, I want to have kids, so if you don’t this isn’t a match.”

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Right. And I do believe the relationship enhances your life, enhance who you are, but it should not make you who you are.

Alissa Kriteman: Yeah. Or save us or anything. Alright, so we’re going to take one more break, and again listeners, these are my sponsors kicking down some great deals for you, so if you can check out their stuff I’d appreciate it. Also don’t forget you can call me and leave me a phone message. And that number is 206-350-5333. I’d love to get you on the show via that modality, so go ahead and leave me a message. And then as always, you can send me an email, Alissa, a-l-i-s-s-a, @personallifemedia.com. I’d love to hear your feedback, any questions you have, any topics you’d like me to cover on the show. This is Alissa Kriteman. I’m with Dr. Michelle Gannon. Wow, great stuff, and so we’ll be right back.

Alissa Kriteman: We’re back. I’m Alissa Kriteman. We’re talking to Dr. Michelle Gannon, psychologist and couples therapist about some really great keys that we need to remember when, you know, we’re creating a marriage, when we’re in a marriage. It’s so important to have this understanding about what works. I loved what you said about the five love languages; words of appreciation, gifts, acts of service, physical touch, quality time, know what really lights you up, what you really need, what he really needs and communicate that. It, it’s sounds like, I like that you’re bringing so much fun to it because I think, you know, sometimes we get so in it and nattered down. I can imagine that your program is really uplifting and adds more energy in life and fun and humor.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: One of the advantages of Marriage Prep 101 is that it is taught by a husband/wife team. So my husband Patrick and I are both psychologist, but we’re really talking about what it’s like to be married, almost 15 years, two young kids, we are in the trenches. And we’re volatile and we both like to be right and we, but you know, we really are working at our relationship, and I can honestly say of all the things I’ve done in life, education and career and lots of ambition, I feel really proud of my marriage. I look around at my fellow, you know, friends and colleagues with their relationships, and they just have not given it the same kind of focus we have. This is something I feel really, really proud of. And I have to be really honest, it is a lot easier to be a mother. It is a lot easier to be a friend, to be a daughter. Every other role in my life is easier than the one of being a wife. But I feel most satisfied because I really feel like trying to find the combination of the strong me and a strong we. It’s something we really work at. Really being loving and kind and having a great sense of humor, and also knowing that we can always just say, “You know what, that was horrible and lets start again.” ‘Cause we’re in this together, we’re committed with a goodwill for each other, but we certainly have had our share of challenges over the years. And we talk about that in our workshop with a sense of humor too.

Alissa Kriteman: Yeah, I really appreciate that. And that, you nailed it. That is the challenge most women have, a strong me and a strong we, and it’s like if you’re not taking care of yourself and cultivating yourself, I know that’s such a huge issue for women. We, somehow we’re indoctrinated, we got to work, work, work, work and be so out of balance and nurture everybody else but ourselves. What do you have to share with women about how you take care of yourself as a wife and a mother, course leader.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Absolutely. I think if you find what works for you. And for me, I’ve always been a big exercise person, so finding time to work out four or five times a week is essential to my harmony with my husband, to my satisfaction as being a mother. Having time with my girlfriends. I am very extroverted as you can tell and I love to have the one on one connections with my girlfriends. That’s, we make that a priority. We make it a priority that I have time to read and to keep up with the various things that I’m interested in. I’m a big volunteer at my kids school. And there are also, I have a high energy, and a lot of women don’t have the kind of energy I do. You have to be respectful of that. If you’re somebody who just can’t do it all, then don’t. This is one life you got to live, I don’t think it’s a dress rehearsal, and to really be honest with, it’s okay if you can’t do it all. Nobody said you had to be perfect. And I think as women, we’re just not very compassionate towards ourselves. Like we’re not good friends towards ourselves, and to be able to say, “You know what, I’m just me. I just am not that good in the kitchen. Oh well. Who cares, you know?” And again, it’s like, you know, of course I provide food for my family and I cook a little bit, but being accepting about that. I was recently talking to another woman who says, “You know, I just don’t like to volunteer at my kids school.” Then don’t. You know, again why do people take on, especially as women, we’re such caretakers a lot of us and we take on and we don’t ask for help and we don’t rely on our girlfriends and our family, we don’t say, you know what, I have, this is a phrase I like, ‘compassion fatigue’. “I’m tired of caring”. And rather than say, “You know what, I really need a girls weekend away” or “I really need to get to bed earlier” or “ I need to take more baths”, what we do is we keep giving, giving, giving and then we’re depleted and we have nothing left…

Alissa Kritman: Right.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: And then we’re resentful and angry, and who do we take it out on typically? Our guys.

Alissa Kriteman: And that never works. I’m sure they love that. We are almost out of time, but I want to ask you, if you could tell our listeners one practice you recommend for women, you know, and maybe it’s this kind of staying connected to ourselves and really being truthful and honest… I really liked what you said, that was such a key distinction about the, one of the keys to erosion, is like you’ve got to tell the truth about who you are and what you want. Otherwise, it’s like we’re living a lie, we’re living these, these lives that aren’t even our own, you know, when we’re not telling the truth. So is there a practice or something that you can leave women with that if you just did this once a day or once a week, something that sticks out in your mind?

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Actually I really like to help people be more positive about their lives and about their relationships, and I like to do things, something called a ‘grategy journal, where I’d rather do it daily or weekly or just take some time with a cup of coffee in the morning to think about what do I feel grateful for, positive about, appreciative about in my life. And for me, a lot of times what I focus on is that I have such a better marriage than my own parents did. I have a more conscious and intentional family life. I’m always striving to balance work and kids and husband and friendships. And to be able to focus on like what are the good things in my life… Because a lot of times, like everybody, I get burned out, I get worn down, and it’s so easy to go to a place of ‘this is so hard’. And so trying to appreciate what is good, and also what is good in my guy. Because again, it’s so much easier to focus on how he’s disappointing me or how he forgot this, and he’s a pretty good guy, but to be able to focus on various things about him, that really helps me, helps me have a better lens to look at my relationship and feel more hopeful and positive long-term.

Alissa Kriteman: Yeah, it’s kind of what you said earlier about how men really do want to win with us and take care of us and provide us pleasure, and if we never learn that growing up that, that is one thing I love hearing over and over again, ‘cause it was something I didn’t realize when I was growing up. I mean, you know, it’s just whatever, sign of the times, but I think that’s one key piece is that men really do, they’re so earnest in their desire to please us, and we have to let them know, we have to give them that roadmap, so than you for saying that.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: I’ll say one more thing, as a mother of two sons, and I was definitely the woman who was going to have as many kids as it took to have a daughter… I love having two sons and I’ve learned a lot about men. Men were once boys, and when we are angry at them we usually forget that. And so just accessing the maternal nurturing loving part of me, of being like, he’s a good guy, he’s trying often his best, and a lot of times he just doesn’t have the roadmap, he just doesn’t know his way. He’s bad with directions. Not really, but bad with directions about how to be in relationships. We as women are just socialized so much more about how to be in relationships than the average guy is, and that’s changing, but certainly in previous generations, and certainly in our father’s generations, that was the case. So I guess the thing I would just say is to, if your guy is willing to read a self-help book, go to a communication workshop, go to like a Marriage Prep 101 workshop or do some couples counseling, that already puts him in a different category of men, and that I think is a keeper quality. That’s somebody who’d be willing to say, “You know what, I don’t know how to do this. Can we get some help?”

Alissa Kriteman: Yeah.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Yeah.

Alissa Kriteman: Yeah, and that’s another opportunity to celebrate. So speaking of which, tell us a little bit more about where we can find you, what you offer.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Absolutely. Marriageprep101.com is our website. Teach workshops monthly at Fort Mason in San Francisco. Also I have a private practice in San Francisco. And my phone number is 415-905-8830.

Alissa Kriteman: What about internet stuff? What if someone’s in the Midwest and really wants to connect with you, do you do any kind of phone coaching?

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Sure, they can just send us an email straight from the Marriage Prep 101 website. Also, we have lots of referrals and other kinds of marriage education marriage preparation workshops across the country. We only do San Francisco, but there’s a great website called smartmarriages.com…

Alissa Kriteman: Okay.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: and marriagefriendlytherapists.com have great resources nationally.

Alissa Kriteman: Okay, perfect. Awesome. Good to know. Thank you so much for being with us today on Just For Women and for dedicating your life to people having great marriages, such that they can have children who are calm and balanced and stable. That’s what I think about sometimes in my desire to have a relationship work, is that so my kids, that I don’t have yet, but, you know, that even myself and my children and other people children, that we can raise children who are going to be adults that know how to get along, that have these keys, that have these distinctions and all of the new learning that we didn’t have on how to do it right, how to make it work, how to have love be at the cornerstone of our relationship.

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Mm hmm, absolutely. My favorite stories when my children were little, they would say, “Why do you go on dates Mommy and Daddy? Why do you go away with us?”, and then when they were like maybe 5 or 6 one day one child said out of the blue, “I know why you go on your dates and go away without us, is you need time away from the kids.” I said, “No, no, no”, “You need grown-up time”, “No, no, no”, “I know, because it’s good for your marriage.”

Alissa Kriteman: Are you serious?

Dr. Michelle Gannon: Yeah, I’m serious, and these are children, these are boys, 10 and 11, who are going around saying, you know, it’s good for your marriage to have time away from your children, it’s good for your marriage to make up after you fight. So we’ll see what happens.

Alissa Kriteman: The breed of a new nation. I love it. See, totally makes a difference. Well thank you so much again, and we are out of time and that brings us to the end of the show. Thank you everyone for listening. For text and transcripts of this show and other shows on the Personal Life Media network, just visit our website at personallifemedia.com. I’m your host, Alissa Kriteman, always expanding your choices here on Just For Women: Dating, Relationships and Sex. Join us next week for more juicy news you can use.