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Why We Wrote The Beauty of Conflict for Couples

Updated: Nov 18, 2019

If you’ve been reading our emails you know that today is a BIG DAY for us…

Our new book The Beauty of Conflict for Couples is finally out!

So this week we thought it was only fitting that we share with you some more about why we wrote this book and why we think it’s a must read for anyone who is in or wants a relationship.

The best way for us to do that? A bonus podcast episode!

In it we are uncovering why we think this book is so different from other relationship advice books and is meant for those in new relationships, those in long term relationships, and those looking to maybe leave a relationship.

Our mission behind this book is to help you see that your relationship isn’t broken and you aren’t alone- you can increase intimacy, passion, and connect with each other in a whole way.

We use what we share in this book in our own relationship so we can be a “full me in the face of we”- we create full versions of ourselves while being in a supportive relationship.

We want this for you too and are just thrilled that the book is finally available.

So to hear more behind the scenes of the book, check out this bonus episode!

And thank you as always for listening and supporting our work, it’s our joy to help you build a life full of the types of relationships you want.

Learn More:

Find Your Mojo in Montana - Early bird is open now

Full Transcript:

CrisMarie: Today's episode is Why We Wrote The Beauty of Conflict for Couples.

Susan: So we are excited because this is our second book and really I would say this one really speaks to each of our hearts, and it came even easier than the first one.

CrisMarie: Yes. Our first book, The Beauty of Conflict, which is harnessing your team's competitive advantage, took about three years to create and write and publish. And this one, well, the whole cycle will be a year and a half, but it came out really quickly and all the other stuff has been waiting.

Susan: Yes. And we were excited this time to be picked up by a publisher, Mango Publishing, so we have that going on as well, which is very exciting.

CrisMarie: And the reason we've written The Beauty of Conflict For Couples, it is close to our heart because we are a couple, and we are in business, and we've spent the last 20 years working together with business teams. I come from more of a business consulting background and you, Susan-

Susan: And I come more from marriage and family therapy, and really, it was relationships that I believe, learning how to be more honest and real in relationships, that turned around my health many years ago, which I have talked about on this before, but I mean, I really got that when I show up real, messy, and alive in relationships, I stay healthy. And so that was important for health and well being, but it's also important for loving, intimacy, passion, and all of those things I think most of us want when we get into a significant relationship.

CrisMarie: And just in case they haven't listened to the earlier episode, you were actually diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live.

Susan: Yes. And I went through a series of programs where ... Well, for me, I began to explore how I was actually not really engaged in life. I was caught up in this very dramatic story of my early childhood, pieces that I could not put together with any sort of sanity or that made much sense, but as I started to unfold them, my health got better. But I also had struggled to know how to be in relationships.

CrisMarie: Well, it created more conflict in your relationships, right?

Susan: Yes. I was trying to speak the truth and realizing that it was very different and upsetting to a lot of people, and staying in that anyway. And yet as I did that, I got my health back. So I realized the importance of it.

CrisMarie: And my background, I didn't feel safe speaking up when I was growing up, so I became a pleaser and achiever, and really I thought, "Hey, if I'm playing a good role in my relationship, then everything should be smooth." That was my goal. How can I make everything smooth? And when I got together with you, Susan, things didn't go smooth. We kept bumping into each other and having conflict. And I just kept thinking, "Oh, I'm out of here. We broken. This is not okay."

Susan: She did end the relationship a number of times in those early days.

CrisMarie: Because that did not fit my picture. Conflict was bad and my job was to get rid of it, and I couldn't, and so I was incredibly frustrated, until I started to actually get that you really did want to hear my point of view, and when I learned how to hang in and tolerate your reaction, tolerate my own, we repeatedly came up with something that wasn't your idea or my idea, but something brand new, and I thought, "Wow, this really does work. These differences, I can exist. I can exist with a very different opinion than you, and we can be creative and innovative in our relationship and in our business." It's been amazing.

Susan: I would say also when we started working together with corporate teams and with leaders and their teams, I was always kind of amazed at how often people would say to us, "This is so different than anything we've done before." Even though in my mind it was like, "How is this so different?" And I really do believe what we brought to the table was something we have learned, and for me, something that was really powerful about the willingness to be vulnerable and curious, and very personal in a situation where normally, I think in business, people don't think of that. So sometimes even when we were consulting, we'd stop in the middle and we might even get into a bit of a spat about what we were going to do next, and that was something you normally didn't do as consultants.

CrisMarie: No, my gosh, it was highly threatening. As a consultant, you never want to let them see you sweat, and we always had to have the answer. So this is a very different approach. But we were doing it to show them, "Hey, you can actually be a real person." And that's really our mission behind this book is to actually help couples know they are not broken. So many couples think they are. They're not broken, they're not alone, and that if you read the book, you can increase your intimacy, passion and emotional connection with each other. And actually, you can be a full me in the face of your we, and both can be very alive and fulfilling.

Susan: I think that's probably one of our favorite things to talk about is how to be a full me in the face of we, and we both have our own versions of where we've struggled with that in different ways, and how to stay in that place of vulnerability and curiosity, inside of me, but also when we're in the midst of something, and it's not an easy thing.

CrisMarie: Well, I think so often in our relationship and in other couples that we work with, people think, "Okay, this is what I need to do to be a good partner. This is the role I fulfill. Well, I'm just going to let go of this part of me because it doesn't fit in this relationship." So people wind up kind of becoming a lesser half of themselves. We talk about relationship math in the book, which is one times one equals one, meaning a whole person times a whole person equals a whole relationship. If one person shows up halfway, half of a person times a whole person still equals a half of relationship. Then if each of you are showing up halfway, half times half equals a quarter. So the relationship gets less and less vibrant the less you show up as you.

Susan: Yeah. So it's hard for me to believe that it's okay to fully show up. I mean, so much of what we learn in our culture is to conform, to fit in-

CrisMarie: To get along.

Susan: ... to get along, to be nice and polite. And there's all sorts of ways in which that happens through education, through trying to be good members of community.

CrisMarie: Or even the family, like, "Shh, don't cry," or, "Don't get angry." There's a lot of repressing of the self that happens in our enculturation.

Susan: And some of that is an important part of being able to live together in community. It's important to have some ways, standards, and things to expect. However, what happens for us usually as human beings is not only do we start to conform, we actually believe that that's who we are. And so we get even further and further away from our kind of unique essence, or that aspect of ourselves. And so we really believe it's not about going back to authenticity, but it is about being able to recognize that you probably have made some conforming choices, and how can you show up more genuinely in every given moment and make that choice?

CrisMarie: And we do think being authentic is a good thing. You can never get back to your genuinely authentic self, but so many women come to me coaching, wanting to be their authentic selves, and so we do this work about getting in touch with your North Star, what fits, what doesn't, shackles on, shackles off, and then what starts to happen is the same thing that happened to you and your health is they start bumping in, they show up as more their, I call it "fully caffeinated self" when they've been kind of decaf, and people around them are like, "Wait a minute, what are you doing? Go back. You're asking for too much. You're not being malleable like I wanted you to."

So any time you go through coaching and you want to be your authentic self, if you go to programs or coaching, whatever it is, you're going to run smack dab into conflict. So learning how to deal with differences and hold onto yourself, but also be interested and curious about the other, you're going to be able to stay in that fuller version of you while creating a healthy relationship.

Susan: Yes, and I think that that is something that we have ... I mean, there's a lot of stuff out there about going and getting therapy and relationship support and things like that. The problem is there isn't ... Relationships really, there's not one right way to do relationships. I mean, let's face it, sometimes relationships aren't just two people. We have someone we know who calls it a-

CrisMarie: Throuple.

Susan: Yeah, so it's three, and I'm sure there are others. There's polyamory where there's more. So there isn't any really right normal, this is the way you relate. And really, all we have is sort of trying to figure out how to be as real as each of us can be in that relationship and come to our edges is what we kind of call it, come out to the edge of our comfort zone and and stand there and meet this other person. That's where aliveness can occur.

CrisMarie: So even when we do our couples workshops, quite often we have ... because our book is, you think it's maybe just for people that are in bad straits. It's not. The Beauty of Conflict for Couples is actually for newlyweds, it's for people in longterm relationships and it can support people that are thinking about ending their relationship, because it's based on our Couples Alive program that we developed with two couples, which we had so much fun developing, Kathy and Ernie and David and Sandy at the time. We developed this whole series, Couples Alive one, two, three and four.

Susan: I mean, what's funny about the three couples of us is that we all were very different. I mean, I would say, we have our style. We're fairly passionate and-

CrisMarie: We're the loud couple.

Susan: We're the loud couple. We get into stuff. I would say Kathy and Ernie have a much more-

CrisMarie: Loving and kind..

Susan: Yeah. We each had our own unique following of people. David and Sandy, I mean, they had been in relationship for years. They've raised children. They have a very clear and definitive way of talking about that. And when we would get together, it was sort of funny, the different highlights of things we talked about and what we each had to really say and contribute to the overall making of this program. And that I think was what was so cool was right there, we saw just how uniquely different we had all come in and developed our relationship and our intimacy and who we were as couples.

CrisMarie: And what is so neat, and we have stories in the book you're going to read about different couples, which really normalizes your situation because it's kind of like you read about people and you're like, "Oh my gosh, I thought we were the only ones. We're not so weird. Look at these people. Look what they're struggling with." So it's really actually helpful to read the different stories because that's when we do a couples workshop, like Couples Mojo, all these different couples come in and they have such different perspectives, like the three couples that we were. And you realize what you were saying, there's no one right way of relating.

Susan: And the key is can you be open. There's not even one way to stay in relationship. The reality of it is, as we are together over periods of time, we're going to shift and change. And there may be some things from our original connecting point and romance that are still there. But there are also significant changes that occur over the years and the ability to make those adjustments, the changes inside myself and the changes inside of us, that's a lot to deal with.

CrisMarie: I mean, I think we've seen that. When we first got together, you wanted us to work at Haven all the time and lead workshops, and I wanted us to be in the corporate world, and we were kind of doing both a lot. And then as we've developed over the last 20 years, I started doing other types of work, mind body work, nervous system, somatics work. And I also started theater and dance, and so that I developed more and you did, as well. You were doing more Equis work and writing and things like that. And so we each developed more of our individual mes, which has actually created tensions at time, but it helped revitalize, I think, our we in a lot of ways, or keep it alive.

Susan: Yes. I mean, a lot of times what seemed like ... I mean, I know my original romance has always been we live and work together and I have also been challenged by that more recently when you've made some choices not to do some programs that I passionately wanted to do. And that created some separation in that romantic notion of mine. And what ended up happening out of that was I think we each discovered new things that were exciting to us. Now, some of those, we've actually started to bring back into some of the work we're doing together, both in the corporate setting as well as creating our own unique strand of personal development and couple development programs.

CrisMarie: Even as you said that though, I get that still, you must have ... I'm going to check it out Susan, because it seems like you have some energy about the choices that I made.

Susan: I mean, a little bit. I mean, there were times when I was like, "Whoa." This was part of what we agreed we were going to do alongside all this corporate work was you would continue to evolve and grow in the world at Haven and when that became clear that that wasn't what you wanted to do, yeah, that was a jolt for sure. It was like, "Well, I thought we had this commitment," and so yeah.

CrisMarie: And I think that happens a lot for couples. Let's say I thought we were going to have kids or I thought we were going to travel, and then the deal changes because one or the other shifts and how ... I mean, the way through that, it's not like you can just pretend it doesn't exist. It's actually dropping in and feeling the feelings and me tolerating your upsetness for my choices, but not trying to ... First I would try to manage and fix it or, "Okay fine, I'll do all the things that you want me to do and give up myself." So there's all these things that we do that we think are helping the relationship, but they're sacrificing ourselves, and how to balance both of them because they're very real.

Susan: Yeah. And it can look very different for each couple. I mean, that's always what amazes me when we do our Couples Alive or Couples Mojo here. It's like people are so uniquely different and they may look similar on the surface. You may see two women together. You may see two men together. You may even see a man and a woman together that you think, "Wow, they're a lot alike," and then you come to discover that internal landscape, completely different for each of them.

CrisMarie: I know sometimes we get in front of a room full of predominantly heterosexual couples, let's say, in one workshop and the guys will be like, "Well, what are you as two women going to tell us about relationship? Isn't it men are from Mars, women are from Venus?" And while some of that may have some merit, it's really about two individuals relating and we always have differences over who's putting the tube on the toothpaste or, "What time are we leaving the house?" or, "You didn't empty the dishwasher," all sorts of things that we have issues with. That's how do you bridge that gap and not give yourself away and also not demand obedience from your partner.

Susan: Yeah. I mean, and maybe you've come from a structure where everything in your world was, "These are the roles we play. This is what we're supposed to do." And suddenly for some reason, you're not in those roles anymore, or the person you're with is like, "No, I'm not going to stay at home and raise the kids." and you have to decide, "Well, who is?" We don't have kids but we have the same dynamic. I mean, CrisMarie from her business background loves ... she hates doing the administrative business world, but let's just face it, you also probably prefer to be doing that than maybe doing-

CrisMarie: Feeding the dogs.

Susan: ... feeding the dogs or making the coffee or taking the garbage down and I think ... Tell me where I'm wrong ... you think the high value things have to do with getting the business done.

CrisMarie: Well, I do have this unwritten rule in my head, like I have to reply within 24 hours to an email and I get really stressed if I don't. So I'm often a quick Twitch, and I do prioritize that more than the things that you may want me to prioritize.

Susan: Sometimes the dogs could not wait 24 hours to be fed, nor could we wait 24 hours to get the garbage down on Thursday morning when it's going to be ... So I'm just saying.

CrisMarie: I get it. You can see folks that even though we wrote this book, you never get done with your relationship issues. You get better at using the tools and you create, I think, create more aliveness. You certainly have that possibility and intimacy. But the messes still occur because you are two human beings who have different values and different priorities and often when we see a couple that doesn't have conflict, it's because there's a phrase, "No boundaries, no conflict." So if somebody isn't showing up and saying, "Well, wait a minute, no, I don't like that," or, "Yeah, I don't want to feed the dogs right now. I want to answer this email," they're not showing up as all of them if you're giving in all the time.

Susan: Yes. And I do believe this book supports the work that we believe in and gives everyone a chance to try it out for themselves. And I know that I have a real sweet spot and yearning that this also will attract people to come and be a part of a program with other couples, because I do think that is such a profound thing to be in a room with other couples struggling with whatever they struggle with to relate, or excited about whatever stage their relationship is in, and to be able to be together, like be in your couple, but also be together with other couples talking about those things.

CrisMarie: Because when we socially connect with other couples, rarely do we reveal something that we're struggling with. And in our workshops, we don't make you reveal anything. You're always in your dyad, your couple talking, but you start to get the gist of what different couples are struggling with and you go, "Oh, we are not so different." It really is amazing, but our culture wasn't built that way. Just remain nice and polite in our social couple interactions.

Susan: And I think that when couples see that they can be vulnerable and real and that maybe it's not perfect, maybe it doesn't all work out, but there's enough of a container there to hold for a lot more tension and uncertainty and ambiguity than you probably realize, because when you're loving someone, you have a lot more room for them than I think you realize, and that other person probably has a lot more room for you. But if you never show up and risk taking that stance of, "Oh, I'm going to tell you something that you may not like," you're never going to know whether the relationship can hold it.

CrisMarie: It's actually taking the risk to say, "Uh-oh, I don't know if you're going to be okay with me. You may abandon me. You may get mad at me." But when I take that risk, one, I feel relieved because I'm standing on my own behalf, and it does give the opportunity for that aliveness, that spark. And so often couples want to ignite their sexuality, their passion and they're not willing to bring up different topics. They're not willing to say, "I disagree," and that ... It's called self-differentiation. When I say, "No, this is me over here and I'm different than you," that is actually what attracts us is those differences. Increases the energy between us and the spark and increases passion and aliveness.

Susan: We really want to be putting a message out into the world that allows people to understand, one, there isn't a rule book or a formula for how you have to do your relationship, and that if you are willing to be vulnerable and curious and show up at the edges of who you are and willing to discover more about yourself, there is a rich place for intimacy, passion and connection.

CrisMarie: And it's so interesting because we have such limited views of how to do relationship based on probably what we saw growing up or, "I'm going to be just the opposite of what I saw growing up," and so we don't actually think about, there's a lot more room for you to exist. And in the book we give you practical tools. We give you communication tools, we give you emotional resiliency tools, because let's face it, your partner knows where your buttons are and they press them even if they don't intend to. And so learning how to work with your own emotional states is a huge part of really getting the resiliency from your couple, and also boundarying tools, how to actually create boundaries and show up and ask for what you want, ask for what you need and also be willing and interested in the impact that has on your partner. It's not like a bunch of rules that.

Susan: As a matter of fact, I mean, that is probably one of the pieces that I think is most profound is in the book and in the work we did when we were working with the couples and designing it is this idea of boundarying. And we actually found out that from the English language, it is not a word. We had editors trying to get us to take it out of the book.

CrisMarie: They wanted us to use boundaryizing, but we decided.

Susan: And the reason we wanted to use the word boundarying is because one, it's a verb, it's a process. It's not a stagnant state. A boundary is a statement about something that I want or don't want. It's about defining me, not about defending against the other person. I mean, that is a tough concept I think for people to get. So that's something we cover in the book quite deeply.

CrisMarie: And it's also, boundarying, the boundarying process is a verb and it's about using your body and connecting to what feels right for you. So it's a lot about connecting into that authentic state and what you want and then finding ways to come forward and speak up and ask for that in your relationship.

Susan: And I think, CrisMarie, the real key there is that it's not so much about having ... You may discover that as soon as I define myself and I really show up, I may actually end up wanting something very different and it could shift, and it's not a stagnant, static state. And that's I think something we've definitely learned in being together.

CrisMarie: Yes. And one of the other concepts, I talked about emotionally resilient tools and one of the biggest things, and this was a big deal for me, is the whole concept of anger. I was terrified to express my own anger because it had been very threatening when I was a little kid. And so when Susan would get mad passionately, I was like, "Red alert." And I really had to unveil ... Often people have anger Velcroed to violence. And so we talk about separating those two concepts, that anger is that rising up energy, it's very healthy and it's alivening and Velcro ... I mean, Velcro and anger is the crossing of somebody's boundaries without permission. And so often those two, once you can kind of separate them, we give you some real simple tools to help you express your anger but in a way that you can be heard rather than creating hurt and then feeling bad about yourself and all those sorts of pieces.

Susan: Yes. So, I mean, that really is a big significant piece of it. And I know I spoke in the beginning about why this is so passionate for me was because really, I have discovered that the way I show up in this relationship has a huge statement to how alive and well I'm doing in my own being. And so I do attribute a lot of health and tenacity I have for life now has to do with my commitment to kind of keep figuring out how to deepen my relationship with you and to develop that same type of intimacy and connection to the world around me.

CrisMarie: So often I hear, if you go into a women's room or hang out, and just with women ... It may be the same in the locker room with guys, but women are complaining about their relationships, and that complaining can get to be a habit, and so you're discharging your energy about the sock on the floor. You don't have sex enough. He doesn't do enough around the house, whatever it is, versus finding ways to bring those into the relationship and have genuine dialogue about it. He still may leave the sock on the floor. You still may not have enough sex, but you're going to find ways that you can start to take care of yourself in that relationship that start to feel good so you're not complaining about, you're talking to, your partner.

Susan: So it's been kind of fun to talk about this and I love that this book is now, or should be out in the world at this point. We have a link in the show notes on how to order the book, and we'd love to hear how it is for you to work with some of this.

CrisMarie: And really, you can be a full me, your full self in the face of a we and both can be quite alive and fulfilling and so hope you give the book a chance and we certainly had fun writing it and have fun talking about it. We love it.

Susan: All right, take care.

CrisMarie: Thank you for listening to The Beauty of Conflict podcast. And if you're interested in The Beauty of Conflict for Couples book, you can pick one up at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books or Indie Bound, and the benefit is it's a simple book with practical tools that you can apply right away with stories about couples who I'm going to guess you're going to relate to. And if you've enjoyed the show, please tell a few friends and if you're willing, give us a five star review on iTunes.

Susan: Your review helps new listeners discover this program and more people listening to this show means less friction and arguing and suffering out in the world. So that's a great thing for everyone. Also visit our website,, T-H-R-I-V-E-I-N-C dot com, to read our articles, join our newsletter, buy our other books and learn more about the services that we offer.

CrisMarie: Thanks again for listening. We hope you have a peaceful, productive, and beautiful day. Take good care of yourself and we hope you'll enjoy us again for another episode.

Susan: Okay, thank you.


CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

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