How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself & Relationships + How to Use Conflict to Deepen Relationships (with Human Connection Specialist Mark Groves)

Thank goodness, we got through another Valentine’s day, right? If this is you, then you are not alone. So many people struggle with this holiday, whether they are single or in a relationship. Yes, it is good to celebrate love, but what does love look like in a relationship? What exactly are we celebrating? In this podcast (#256) and blog, I speak with human connection specialist, speaker, author and relationship guru Mark Groves about how to truly love and be loved, how the mind drives intimacy, how to avoid common relationship pitfalls, how to communicate and argue better with your partner, the importance of choosing “you”, and more!

As Mark notes, we shouldn’t just put time and effort into finding a great partner; we need to put time and effort into being a great partner. When we worry about relationship outcomes, it is often because we don’t trust ourselves in the relational experience. So many of us are so focused on the search for what we desire that we haven’t taken the time to slow down and be present with ourselves.

Yes, we are wired to belong and connect. But our worth is not validated by who we are with. Someone choosing to be with us doesn’t define our value—being “chosen” is not everything in life, regardless of what society tells us.

As Mark points out, to give love can actually be relatively easy, but to receive love is often more challenging. If you don’t believe you are worthy of love, you won’t be able to fully receive love. If you don’t know how to choose yourself, being chosen by someone else will not fill that hole in your life.

Your relationship should be a container with room to grow, not a prison that confines your sense of self. To be free and in love is a lifelong journey—learning how to navigate these two aspects of humanity in a relationship is something we all must do.

This doesn’t mean your relationship will be free of conflict. Great couples do argue. But it is how they argue that makes their relationship great!

One of the keys to arguing well is to understand what is called your “vulnerability cycle”. It is important to remember that the unmet emotional need behind the content of an argument is often more important than what the argument is actually about. This means understanding that whatever your vulnerability was during your childhood and based on past experiences, and how that will affect how you relate to your significant other when times get tough. For example, imaginethat when your parents fought as a child, you went to your room to escape the intensity of the fight—your vulnerability was intensity, and your survival strategy was leaving. Now, let’s say that your partner, on the other hand, experienced a divorce when they were young—their vulnerability was someone leaving, and their survival strategy was getting angry to cope with the fact that their parents separated. As Mark notes, very soon this can become a vicious circle in a relationship and can end up destroying it if not addressed.

Thankfully, we can change this! Relationships are a dance, and at any moment you can change that dance, which may change the whole outcome of the relationship—depending on how your partner responds. We are responsible for 100% of our half of a relationship. We can’t take responsibility for the whole relationship, but we can be held accountable for our part. If we invite the other person to change and they don’t, then we will have to draw a line in the sand and decide if we want to stay in the relationship. If a relationship doesn’t shift, then it should end, otherwise there is no room to grow, explore and expand as a person or as a couple.

We should never be afraid of change in a relationship. It can be scary, but it not something we should run away from. Change is inevitable. When we try to escape outcomes, we often create them. We can end up living in a prison of our own fear!

In fact, conflict can be a way to deepen intimacy; we shouldn’t be afraid of it in a relationship. The key is to create conflict that is filled with curiosity and understanding—something that is an invitation to growth and does not lead to suppression or avoidance. The relationship should be a platform for exploration and expansion, one that can embrace different truths at the same time, even if they are in conflict.

We need to remember that if someone sees something differently or feels something different, this is not a threat to us. We need to make room for complexity in our relationships. We should be curious, not defensive. If we do feel threatened, then we should take a good look at ourselves—why are we reacting the way we do? What is making us uncomfortable? What is our response saying about how we see the world? What narratives have shaped our perceptions and behavior?  

So many of us are taught to place our worth in our relationship, in how much money we make, in what we do, in where we live—the list goes on. We live in prisons of lifestyles that we were taught to want and roles we were taught to play. But what life do YOU want to create? Unless you take the time to get to know yourself and explore who you are and learn how to choose “you”, you will get sucked into a life you don’t want. Your sense of belonging and worth will always be based on the need to meet some external condition. But the reality is that you will lose whatever you place your worth in as a reminderthat it doesn’t live there.

So, pay attention to how you may be sabotaging your own life!If you want a great relationship, you need to believe that you deserve a great relationship, on YOUR TERMS. Your authenticity lives under so much social conditioning that it will take time, effort and courage to discover who you are and who you want to be. But it is worth it! When you better understand what you want and need and your own worth, you will better understand what you want and need in a relationship, on your own terms.

For more on relationships, listen to my podcast with Mark (episode #256) and check out his website. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).

For more help on managing your thinking and dealing with relationship issues, preorder my new book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess (and receive exclusive bonuses!) and check out my SWITCH app and our most recent clinical trials.  

This podcast was sponsored by:

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Podcast Highlights

3:45 Why the problem with many relationships isn’t about finding a partner, but learning how to love

7:03 How to learn how to love and be loved

13:43 How to communicate and argue in a relationship  

25:50 Why we always need to be willing to learn, change, grow and explore in a relationship

35:00 How your brain responds to conflict in a relationship 

38:00 Why we need to believe that we deserve a good relationship

50:33 How your relationships affect your mental and physical health  

56:00 Why you need to choose “you” first

Switch On Your Brain LLC. is providing this podcast as a public service. Reference to any specific viewpoint or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by our organization. The views expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. If you have any questions about this disclaimer, please contact 

This podcast and blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional. 

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