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How to Cultivate Deeper Connection, Intimacy, and FUN

with

Mike Foster

Today, Kait talks to Mike Foster, a best-selling author, speaker, and advocate for not-so-perfect people and all around phenomenal guy.He is also a fellow podcaster and hosts the widely popular and deeply thought provoking podcast, Fun Therapy.

He and his wife, Jennifer, have been married for 23 years – have two children, and live in San Diego. The two of them actually has written a book together called Five Dates, a workbook for couples to further create a sense of togetherness and unity in their relationship.

This conversation covers the importance and nuances behind communication, as well as how to fundamentally restructure how we can healthily approach relationships. Let’s get into it!

Why did Mike and Jenn decide to write Five Dates?

Mike recalls when a friend told him that relationships are a walk in the park, but hilariously clarifies, “except it's Jurassic Park.” That being said, being in a healthy relationship of any kind is hard and requires work, which is why they created this book. They wanted to address the necessary basics of healthy relationships, such as different forms of communication and gratitude, the understanding of your partner’s history, and the importance of mutual support and ambition.

Kait also adds that our culture doesn’t really know how to date, let alone date intentionally, deeply, and healthily. Relationships can quickly lose senses of connection and intimacy, so focusing on the nuances of connection is vital to foster long term healthy relationships in dating.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you think a lot of people are making in their dating lives?

Mike says that one of the biggest mistakes he sees in relationships is the communication – or lack thereof. “There’s a lot of mindreading going on,” he says. “It’s scary to have your needs be known… There is a lot of assumption in relationships and communication, and that trips up a lot of couples.” He emphasizes the importance of having clear and expressive desires and needs from the beginning of the relationship.

Kait adds that she personally – and many other women – sometimes struggles with frustration in their partner not knowing what they want or need. “We sometimes think, ‘Oh, he should know that I need a hug or that I want flowers,’ but they’re not inside your head. It’s a setback that can actually cause a lot of resentment over time.

Mike also emphasizes that it’s important to not diminish your needs. “If it means something to you, it’s your responsibility to address that.”

How do you think technology has impacted our relationships, and how can we be more conscious of this?

First of all, Mike addresses that technology has had both a big positive and negative impact on our society. He first touches on the negative. He refers to a study that took place in the 80s. Around 20% of people feel “lonely” today. However, that study finds that 40% of people feel lonely. It's actually doubled! And even though we’re conceptually more connected, we still feel lonlier than EVER. In Five Dates, Mike says that there are three things that can help construct this idea of ‘relational nowness.’

Step 1: I see you.Step 2: I hear you.Step 3: What you’re telling me is important.

He quotes someone he knew who was actually blind who said, “Loneliness is not about being around people. Loneliness is about not being heard.” Technology has taken us to a speed that makes it very hard for us to be present in moments, and he encourages us to be aware of that especially in relationships.

Sooooo… what’s “fubbing”?

“Fubbing,” Mike says, is a combination of “phone” and “snubbing,” where somebody will be having a conversation with someone in person but then look at their phone mid conversation. This is super dangerous, Mike says, because it creates a strong sense of disconnection. Mike actually says that there’s a study in which people look at their phones at least 150 times a day! Which means that we have the ability to “fub” people 150 times!

That is WILD.

Actually, Kait shares that there’s a part of settings where we can see how long we’ve spent on each apps. And after we looked at ours… let’s just say that it was, erh, eye-opening.

Mike brings back the conversation with the idea of “bids,” or something said to you or another person to “bid” for their attention. If we miss a certain amount of bids in relationships, it can cause a lot of damage to our relationships. We all know that feeling of being passionate and involved in a topic of conversation and feeling like the other person would rather be having their teeth pulled. It hurts.

What do you have to say about communication styles? How can we be more aware of these in dating?

Mike and Kait both agree that men and women think and communicate differently, and there are reasons behind both. In his book, he says that they talk about “talk styles” and the different intentions behind them for men and women. He brings up the idea that men communicate with the intent to compete and win, while woman often communicate for connection and community. “You bring those two different talk styles together,” Mike says, “and there will be a disconnect.”

He talks about how many men, when their partners share about their day any frustrations or difficulties, want to fix their partner’s problems. Many times, however, women just want to be listened to and heard. Understanding these two different talk styles can help both parties communicate and connect even better. “For us to enter into our partner’s talk styles,” he says, “is key to a healthy relationship.” And even though these are just nuanced parts of a relationship, they are pivotal and so important.

You can only knock a man down so many times before he stops communicating. And you can only be a cold, Mr. Fix-It man with a woman so many times before she stops sharing with you,” he adds.  

What is the idea of “compassionate curiosity”?

Mike says that we often try to make judgements on things wthout having facts. “The three most important words we can say to our loved ones are, ‘Help me understand,” he says. In our relationships, we’re bringing to the table our past hurts and our whole story, wounds that haven’t healed… and the best way to approach these identities is through “compassionate curiosity”! Instead of minimizing their reactions or stories, ask questions! “Why are they responding this way?” “What makes them feel this way?” Approaching these important part of others’ identities from a place of control is not rooted in love; even if we don’t understand, relate to, or even like what is happening in another person, we have to approach it from a place of love.

Again, remember the three most important words we can ask our loved ones:

“Help me understand.”

What do you think is a good plan for revealing your past to another person?

While Mike says that there isn’t really a step-by-step guideline, the first thing that we need to realize is whether or not this person is a safe person to share with. Our culture tends to overshare, but Mike emphasizes the importance of evaluating whether or not another is worthy of hearing our story, because at the end of the day, our stories are sacred, and we should not be sharing them with people who will not honor them.

The other person may not be ready to hear your story immediately,” Mike says,  “but more importantly, they might not be in a place where they can honor it. We are layered people, with layered stories and different degrees of intimacy and vulnerability. Start with the basics, and slowly pull back your layers once you feel safe with that person. Which is hard because we live in a culture where we just want to vomit on people.

What a lovely image.

While it’s great to share at a healthy pace, there is sometimes a sense of shame that encompasses people and makes us not want to share at all. But the two talk about the importance of sharing, and actually mention the idea of having just “20 seconds of courage,” when telling our stories. That is all that we need to say what needs to be said or do what needs to be done. And Mike emphasizes how important it is to have relationships where we can be fully seen and known. “Don’t listen to the voice of shame,” he says. “What are the words I have to say?

What are some date ideas that you think can foster healthier relationships in dating?

Mike says that it’s important to find your rhythm: figure out what you and your partner like and remember that there are no rules to dating. You don’t have to go to a certain restaurant or have to go to a certain party. If you’re introverted, embrace it! Figure out your basic styles are and enjoy living that way.

Lastly, what is your biggest nugget of dating advice?

“The formula for change, for healthy relationships,” Mike says, “is a combination of two things: love and time. And you’ll need more of both than you think you might initially.”

This was a great conversation to have and listen to, we hope that you all enjoyed it just as much as well!

Other Resources:

Podcast: Fun Therapy

Five Dates Workbook only available on the website: Fivedates.co

Mike Foster InstagramMike Foster TwitterMike Foster Website

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