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In this episode Joel and Antonia talk with relationship expert Bruce Muzik about couples fighting and why poor communication isn’t the problem.

In this podcast you’ll find:

Bruce Muzik Love at First Fight

Relationships go thru stages.

  1. Romance stage: Happens at first meeting when love is new. Only see good in each other and only show each other the good in us. Lasts from 2 weeks to 2 years. Ends when one or both perceive permanence – moving in together, get engaged, get married, get pregnant. Romance endorphins stop being made and we go into withdrawals, which leads to:
  2. Power struggle stage: Rose colored glasses fall off. Start seeing a dark side in our partners. “You need to change, not me.” Fighting. We love the other person so much we can’t bear the thought of being without them, but we can’t bear the thought of being with them in the same way we were during the romance phase. Most people don’t make it thru the power struggle phase.
  3. Mature Love Stage: Once you hit mature love you stop trying to change each other and accept each other – warts and all. Mutually dependent. Relationship inspires you to be more flexible, capable, and resourceful. You are better as a team than as an individual. You will never go back to the romance stage. The romance stage is shallow compared to the mature stage.

Faulty programming that relationships shouldn’t be hard. “True love doesn’t bring struggle.”

Get rid of all the beliefs that are just plain wrong.

If you don’t have the tools to resolve the conflict most people end up fighting it out.

If you are insecure you will keep fighting the same fights over and over again until you get tired of the battle.

Most couples, even the ones on the verge of divorce, still love each other deep down inside.

We go from being children (romance stage) to teenagers (power struggle stage) to adulthood (mature love stage). Dependence > Independence > Interdependence.

Nature pulls us toward our reciprocal opposite in order to heal the wounds from childhood. Nature drives us to heal and grow. Because all of us grew up wounded in some way, we grew up with certain strengths and weaknesses. We are drawn to people who balance out our weaknesses.

The couples who are most attracted to each other are usually opposite dichotomies: I/E, T/F, P/J, S/N

The more opposite you are the more spark there will be in the relationship and the more conflict there will be.

The more similar you are the less chemistry there is going to be and the easier it will be to get along. These partnerships will have to work harder at creating chemistry.

There isn’t any MBTI type that is better suited for any other.

In the romance stage you merge your identity with your partner in a way that is immature. Like a child merges with its mother. Power struggle is relationship individuating. You’re no longer enmeshed in each other. The relationship needs to mature so each can have separate lives and still be a couple. The union creates a third entity that is totally separate form each individual’s needs.

Mature love is able to maintain autonomy and stay connected as a couple. Like two people nurturing a child – the couple is their child. Otherwise, the couple is everything to the two people, and they have no independence. If one chooses to break free it threatens the other and all hell breaks loose. Or one never breaks free and a codependent situation is developed. Two people against the world.

The power struggle stage serves the purpose of having you individuate from romance and become mature. If you don’t make it to the mature love stage then you have neglected the relationship due to excessive independence.

Independence is not the pinnacle of human achievement. Its 2 of only 3 stages. Interdependence is the pinnacle of human achievement. (Dependence>Independence>Interdepedence)

Modern dating is composed of a bunch of people who are terrified of depending upon other people. We have put independence on this pedestal where it doesn’t belong.

Independence is teenaged development. Not the end of the line.

You need your partner for sex, intimacy, comfort, companionship, co-parent.

We are needy and that is okay! Unhealthy neediness is what is usually found in the romance stage. Healthy neediness is found in the mature stage. Depend upon each other and still be two autonomous human beings.

4 free videos on Love At First Fight to help in overcoming the power struggle.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that the power struggle represents a breakdown in communication. The actual challenge is connection. We are trying to learn to communicate better in order to have a better connection. Putting the cart before the horse. If you learn how to stay connected your communication will be soft, loving, kind, compassionate, and empathetic. You aren’t triggered. You don’t see your partner as the enemy.

IMAGO podcast

Connect first. Communicate later.

Connection exercise:

  • Gaze into each other’s eyes for 5 minutes a day, every day for 60 days. When you wake up in the morning, set the countdown timer on your phone, and stare into your partner’s eyes. Choose one eye and gaze into it. You can change eyes on alternate days. But choose one eye each day. Not a competition. Not a stare down. Common response is laughter. Resume eye contact after every break or fidget. Breath. Some break into tears. Animals when fighting don’t make eye contact. When you don’t make eye contact with your partner you stop seeing them as human. This exercise rehumanizes your partner.

Repressing bad feelings results in repressing all feelings, even the good ones.

Demonstrate to a resistant partner that they are safe with you. After about a month most partners will be brought on board. The core fear of partner who don’t want to do the work is rejection. They are afraid they are somehow flawed in the context of love and if they allow their partner to get too close their partner will discover who they are and reject them. The cure for rejection is unconditional acceptance.

Assure your partner that no matter what you will never reject or abandon them. Don’t expect them to open up at once after a lifetime of hiding in their shell.

If your relationship has hit the power struggle stage, if you are fighting, if your sex life has lost its zest, or if there are certain topics you just can’t address you are in a power struggle.

John Gottman: #1 predictor of divorce is couples who don’t fight.

Love At First Fight

In this episode Joel and Antonia talk with relationship expert Bruce Muzik about couples fighting and why poor communication isn't the problem. #relationshipadvice #love

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  • Bruce Muzik
    • Bruce Muzik
    • May 21, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Hi Megan,

    You are correct. The graduation is definitely not concrete. I painted it that way to illustrate the differences clearly. Obviously, I’ve simplified things to fit into the time frame we had.

    You can fall back – for example: If, having left the Power Struggle behind, one of you had an affair…

    Mostly though, going through these stages is like learning to ride a bicycle… once you have balance, you can’t unlearn it – you have it for life. what I am attempting to say is that if you’ve truly worked through your Power Struggle issues, you’re far less likely to be tripped up by them in the future.


  • Bruce Muzik
    • Bruce Muzik
    • May 21, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Hi Rod,

    Yes, I think that dating progresses through stages of commitment. It is a longer topic that this space allows.

    When I was single, I had a lot of success using online dating tools to identify potential parnters of my “ideal” type. I would type INFJ into OK Cupid’s keyword search tool and viola! – there they were. Of course, they had to have inserted their MBTI type into their profile. So, then, I would search for books that my ideal partner might have read. This also produced great results.

    In the end, I fell in love with someone that I had read was my most incompatible type (an ISFJ). I have concluded that your “ideal type” is the type you are with. If you’re unconscious to your patterning, then perhaps one combination of types can get along more easily than another, but I now have learned that as soon as you’re conscious of you and your partner’s needs and traits, you can adapt, grow and be just as happy together. I certainly am.

    I hope this helps.


  • Charis Branson
    • Charis Branson
    • May 21, 2016 at 12:47 am

    Thanks for the comment, Rod. Bruce did say he wished people would come to him in the Romance Stage. I’m sure he could provide a ton of insight on dating.

  • Bruce Muzik
    • Bruce Muzik
    • May 21, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Hi Taylor. Good question.

    One of the benefits of having worked with hundreds of couples is that I get the opportunity to notice patterns emerging. I type all my clients using MBTI. Irrespective of type, it appears that us humans are unconsciously attracted to partners who will help us recreate the feeling we felt with our primary caregivers.

    Said another way, we unconsciously learned what love feels like from the way our parents modeled love for us. Until we become consciously aware of our “love imprint”, we will tend to unconsciously seek our that same familiar experience from our adult partners – even if this experience causes us pain.

    Whether or not this is nature’s way of healing our childhood wounds, an evolutionary advantage, or just a giant cosmic joke… I do not know. I see the pattern so often that I cannot write it off to coincidence.

    When we remain unconscious to our “love imprint”, this cycle can cause pain and suffering. As we become conscious of our tendencies, we are presented with a unique opportunity to heal, grow and expand.


  • Charis Branson
    • Charis Branson
    • May 21, 2016 at 12:44 am

    Thanks for the comment, Elena! We appreciate the rating. :)

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