Following is the full transcript of marriage & family therapist Liza Shaw’s TEDx Talk: Marriage 2.0 – A System Update for Lifelong Relationships @ TEDxHickory conference.
Listen to the MP3 audio while reading the transcript: Marriage 2.0 – a system update for lifelong relationships by Liza Shaw @ TEDxHickory
Liza Shaw – Marriage & Family Therapist
My name is Liza Shaw. I’m a marriage and family therapist and I have been working in the passion of my life for the last 15-20 years. I’d say the last 10 years what I’ve been doing is discovering my expertise. And it surprised me when I discovered it, because what I like to do probably most people when I tell them they kind of go, ooh that sounds like it’d be hard and messy.
What I do is what I specialize in is working with people who are on the edge of breakdown, and in particular, couples, families on the edge of breakdown. And what I love about that of course is not the breakdown, but it’s what comes after of course which is the breakthrough, and it is what I get up every day to do.
I literally am one of those people who are lucky to wake up every morning and go — I can’t wait to get to work. So I just am super blessed and I’m excited to share this passion with you guys today.
I want to start — it’s called Marriage 2.0 — but I want to make an acknowledgement that anyone in a lifelong committed relationship will be able to relate to the ideas here today.
And I also want to start with an acknowledgement. So just think about people you know in your life who are in a lifelong committed relationship and maybe you’re in one, or maybe you want to be in one. Just think about them. Who do you know how many people can you count that you know are in an amazing, thriving, awesome, passionate, excited to wake up every morning relationship? How many role models do we have in our culture of people who’ve been together for a long period of time and are still totally into it? It gets kind of small, right?
So we don’t have a lot of that around. We have a whole lot more of the drama and the upsets and the breakdowns; don’t we? It’s what we see a lot of. Of course, it’s what sells in the media and it becomes what we think is normal.
I’ve come up with my own kind of simple idea for why and I’m not sure if this is really why or not. It’s just my theory.
The old model of marriage has been around for a really long time, okay. It’s been around for several thousands of years. People lived a whole lot shorter when marriage was first invented. And lifelong marriage was created, I would say then, as about a 10 to 30-year proposition at the most.
Essentially if someone was married at age 15 and lived to be about 35 years old, then this lifelong relationship would only be about 20 years long. Well, the idea is that the platform if you will of marriage and what it’s made up of and how it’s evolved over time I would say works for about between 10 and 30 years. This is what I see in my practice.
My clients come in. I ask them, you know, when they come in and I’ve already found out that they’re here to work on their relationship which is breaking down, and they’re not sure if they’re going to be able to make it and they want to work on it. I find that overwhelmingly people have been together from between like 10 and 30 years.
Now there’s the outliers but this is just in general what I’ve discovered. And I believe this is really not a problem. I’m not saying like this is wrong. I’m saying it’s a design flaw. It’s that — as a species we’ve developed and we’ve evolved physically but socially we’re a little bit behind.
And so it’s time for us to upgrade, you know like until we have people-less cars we actually do have to teach people how to drive but we don’t do that much real over teaching about how to have relationships really be awesome and really really thrive. And then we don’t see it either around us.
So we’re all it’s like a crapshoot, it really feels quite dangerous. Sometimes people don’t want to get married or don’t want to make lifetime commitments because of this.
So at the point of breakdown, what occurs is of course couples make some choices they can stay married but give up on that fulfilment and the joy and all the things that they committed to when they made that commitment. They can divorce and remarry of course and those same ideas could be what drives the next relationship which will eventually break down. They can divorce and they can give up on relationships altogether. Or they can upgrade their relationship.
Today what I’m going to do is deconstruct the ideas of marriage. I’m going to deconstruct and sort of look at the platform that we kind of take for granted and often don’t even realize it’s sort of like the background of relationships. And I’m going to offer some new ideas in their place and these ideas have worked with literally probably at this point hundreds of couples.
So let’s look at our first old idea: people who love each other shouldn’t hurt each other. Right, sound pretty clear. Anybody here like to be hurt? You don’t have to actually; admit that. But we don’t generally want to be hurt, right, especially by the people who love us the most and the people we love the most. And yet and you hear that ironic saying people say, oh, the people you know it’s so crazy that I hurt the people I’m closest to. It’s not crazy actually. Actually it makes perfect sense.
So if we operate on an assumption that hurt is bad for marriage that it’s bad, it means something bad about the relationship, then your relationship will only be able to last as long as you can withstand pain and disappointment, right?
So this would be like not teaching someone how to drive on ice. Just saying to them, hey here’s how to drive, talk to that. Now ice is bad, so don’t drive on it. Well okay, we can try to avoid it, but what happens when we’re on it, right? We don’t have any preparation.
The new model says: hurt is inevitable. In fact, the new model says that the closer we are to someone, the more clearly they’re going to hurt us because they’re more important to us than others. So think about like, um, you’re in traffic and some guy flips you the bird, right? Now for the most part you’re going to be annoyed or you might get a flash of adrenaline and give it back to him for a second.
But 20 minutes later you’re probably not going to be thinking about that guy. I hope you’re not. That guy’s not that important to you. But if you’re in the middle of an argument with your spouse or your significant other, and who you love, desperately love this person, and they flip you the bird, you get a little more irritated. Look, you know, you really might get really angry and it hurts. It hurts a lot more.
So culturally what this new model idea of assuming hurt is inevitable will do is it also gives you the opportunity as a culture; it gives all of us an opportunity to actually value the opportunity in being hurt and actually prepare for being hurt, assuming it’s going to happen, so why don’t we actually prepare, why don’t actually our schools could actually prepare children for dealing with being hurt. And not just tell them to be quiet or don’t be a tattle-tale, send them to the principal’s office if they went and hurt somebody.