Do you have moments (or days, or weeks) where you feel small, invisible and not at all like “yourself?” As flawed humans, it can be very easy to lose ourselves when faced with conflict yet learning the art of holding onto ourselves is what will help us move forward the most.
In this episode, you’ll learn what it means to hold on to yourself and why this is a game-changer for healing relationships. Instead of deferring to your spouse to let you know who you are and if you are okay, you’ll learn how to validate and strengthen yourself.
Whether you are single or married, this is a vital skill to learn (and one that takes a lifetime of practice). Taking steps toward holding on to yourself will give you peace, clarity and forward motion now, whether he is coming with you or not.
I’m Andrea Giles, and you’re listening to the Heal from Infidelity Podcast
episode 77, Holding Onto Yourself.
Hello and welcome to the Heal from Infidelity Podcast, where courageous
women learn not only to heal from their spouse’s betrayal, but to become
the bold, truest, most decisive, and confident versions of themselves ever.
If you know there’s more freedom than the life you’re currently living, but
don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place. Stick around
to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks off. Is it
possible? It is, and I’m here to show you how. I’m your host, Andrea Giles.
Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
I hope everybody is doing well. I hope that you are feeling like you are
moving forward in your life and making progress. This episode today is
going to speak to that. It’s going to speak to making progress. I’m going
to dive into that. All of the episodes are really, right, but I’m going to
specifically talk about holding onto yourself as a means of growth. Before
I do that, I want to say thank you again for your reviews. Thank you for
taking the time to write about your experience with this podcast.
First of all, I love reading what you write. It just makes me so happy.
It’s so heartwarming to know how this work has helped you, how it’s helped
you to heal, how it’s helped you to move forward. It makes it all worth it.
Thank you. And it helps other people to read your reviews, to say, “This
might be worth my time,” and go listen and get other people help too. So
truly by leaving reviews, you are helping other people. Okay, one more
quick item of business before I dive into this week’s episode.
I am back at work, and I have had people reaching out about working with
me. Where I’m at right now is I am going to be launching a group program
very soon. It’s going to be incredible. I love, love working in groups,
like being a participant in groups and learning from other people, and I
love leading groups. I had a group last year that I worked with that was
wonderful, and I am now shifting from I’m doing less and less one-on-ones
and doing more groups to be able to help more people.
My demand for one-on-one has gotten to where I can’t accommodate all of it
with my time, and so I am going to be doing groups. I think it’s time for
groups. They’re a wonderful way to heal, being in the same room with other
people that are going through the same thing. Keep your eye out. If you’re
not on my email list yet, go get on it because I will be dropping
information about my group in there, and you can go find me at
andreagiles.com and get on my list there.
Anyway, I will still keep a few one-on-one spots open down the road, but
they’re going to be very limited. Now, let’s move on to the actual podcast.
Okay? Today, we’re talking about holding onto yourself. Now, I’ve mentioned
before that I have a process of podcasting. It’s kind of how I find what
I’m going to podcast about. It’s like this. I find themes that I hear in
clients again and again and again often in one day.
It’s so interesting to me to see how in one day I will find myself coaching
on the exact same things with people who don’t know each other. Another
thing that draws me to do different episodes, to cover different episodes
is when I personally have things that I want a better understanding of so
that I can embody that thing, so that I can step more fully into that
thing, and then I can become a better teacher of it to my clients, to my
listeners. This particular episode is in that category.
I’ve mentioned before that the last couple months have been pretty tough. I
am in a space where there’s just a lot of change, and it’s not just with
the baby. It’s not just with having a baby. It’s kind of like an undoing,
an unraveling, an unpacking of some things that have been there for a long
time, some things that have been set in motion towards a path that has not
been particularly healthy or are helpful as a family, as a whole family
unit. My husband and I both are doing unpacking and our kids are doing
There have been lots of things that have been brought to our attention that
need attention. This episode is kind of naming what my own process is, as
much as it is naming your own process. What I’m going to be speaking about
today is part one of what I’m going to be covering over the next several
weeks. I’m going to be covering some aspects of growth that are absolutely
essential to constructing a life that you really want to be in, that you’re
really proud of, that you really feel solid in.
In the next at least three weeks, maybe more as I develop out the next
episodes, I’m going to be talking about different aspects of holding onto
yourself. I’m going to be teaching about self-control. I’m going to be
teaching about high desire, low desire. That’s not just in sexual ways.
This is other ways that that shows up in relationships. I’m going to be
talking about seeing yourself as you really are.
Hang with me over the next month or so as I dive in more deeply to all of
the aspects of holding onto yourself, at least some of the aspects. But for
today, I’m going to talk about what that actually means. What does holding
onto yourself mean? First of all, where did I learn this concept? I’ll tell
you where I learned this concept. A couple years ago, I attended a live
retreat hosted by a therapist named Jennifer Finlayson-Fife. It was
I learned a ton, and it really helped kind of shape many of my ideas that I
have developed out with my own coaching. I was a fairly new coach at this
point and it really helped me. You know what? As I think about it, it’s
going to be through three years this May already. It’ll be three years, but
it helped me kind of put words to some of the thoughts that I had, some of
the things that I felt. One of the concepts she taught was holding onto
herself. Now, she was taught by a therapist named David Schnarch.
David Schnarch was a pioneer in relationships, particularly in marriage. Sh
e studied under him and used this term regularly in the things that she
taught. If you go back a few episodes, I had Jennifer on my podcast talking
about infidelity. She’s amazing. Go follow her. Go learn from her. She’s
amazing. Anyway, holding onto yourself basically is the ability to stay in
integrity with yourself, to stay self-regulated, to stay self-soothing,
especially in some kind of confrontation when things could go south
Today what I’m going to cover is I’m going to elaborate a little bit more
on what that means to hold onto yourself. Actually, I’m going to talk a
little bit about what it means not to first. Okay? And then I’m going to
talk about what it means to hold onto yourself and how to develop that out.
And then over the next several weeks, I will be going into more detail with
more clear instruction about how to develop out your ability to hold onto
yourself. First of all, I’m going to be using as a reference.
It’s a book by David Schnarch called Passionate Marriage. I’ll be pulling
some from his book, and I also am going to be talking about myself, talking
about clients and sharing some real examples that hopefully will help you.
At the very beginning of one of the chapters, there’s a quote by somebody
named Rainer Maria Rilke.
It says, “If only we arrange our life according to that principle which
counsels us that we must hold to the difficult, then what which now still
seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most
faithful.” Rewind that if you need to listen to it again. To sum it up, it
basically means that we go into life thinking that the things that are good
for us are the things that are easy, the things that don’t give us a lot of
struggle. What this quote is about, it’s the opposite is true.
What if we put more faith in the difficult things than on the easy things?
What if we trust the difficult more than the easy? What if those are the
things that actually help us the most to become who we are? Now, as I was
preparing this episode, I thought about my experience in my first marriage
and how guilty I am of what I’m about to say. Okay? How many of you
listening have been to therapy, have been to a coach, done different work,
thinking this will be the thing, this will be the thing that’s going to
change my relationship?
And by change my relationship, it’s change my spouse. This will be the
thing, they’ll change. This is going to be it, right? And even in
one-on-one, like even when it’s personal for you, we can learn like tips
and tools and tricks that we can go use to have the conversation that will
maybe go a little different this time. But it’s missing something super
important. It’s like, I’m going to go around the actual issue. I’m going to
skirt around it.
I’m going to avoid it by going and learning these tools, having these
conversations, but I’m going to avoid the hard work of like myself, of
going over the mountain, right? Instead, I’m going to go around it and find
the shortcuts. Really knowing yourself, really growing into the person that
you have the right to be requires doing the work. It requires doing the
work. I’m going to read you this quote from this book.
“Few of us enter into therapy to change ourselves. We are usually seeking
ways to change our situation or our spouse while we remain the same. We
seek out simple tips, techniques, and benedictions that tell us how to
communicate and be compassionate, read easy ways to feel understood and
receive compassion. The underlying message of any therapeutic technique is,
apply this properly and your problem will dissolve. But techniques can’t
dissolve interpersonal problems. Only changes in us can do that.”
Ooh, let me say that again, techniques can’t dissolve interpersonal
problems. Only changes in us can do that. This doesn’t mean that we have to
be so excited to change, that we just have to change ourselves as before we
can be acceptable, that’s not what I mean. Okay? It’s more of recognizing
that to become who we really want to be, it’s an inside job. There is no
shortcut. There is no way around. The beautiful thing here is if you think
of it like at climbing to the top of a mountain, some of us want to take
If my spouse would just do this and this and this, then I would just like
miraculously land on top of this mountain, right? The problem with this is
that in doing this, you are missing the opportunity for you yourself to get
yourself to the top of the mountain and be the hero. You’re missing that.
How sad is that? You’re missing the opportunity to be your own hero. You’re
wanting your spouse to be the hero. You’re wanting these tools that are
outside of you to be the hero.
But really the work we’re talking about is the work of growing up, which is
the end result of being at the top of the mountain and going through the
struggle and process of growing up, owning it all, taking ourselves to the
top of that mountain. That is self-mastery. That is holding onto yourself.
Okay? We are not outsourcing it. Now, another thing you’ve heard me say
before is that infidelity can be quite an opportunity for this particular
kind of growth. Climbing to the top of a mountain and truly becoming your
This is a moment that can shake our very foundation, right? All the things
that we thought we knew somehow seemed to be obliterated. We feel higher
anxiety, which can bring up other things that we’ve already thought that we
had worked through. Really shaking us, right? This is an opportunity to
learn at a deeper level how to get to the top of that mountain, how to be
your own hero by holding onto you. If we continue on with this analogy of
climbing a mountain, I’m going to read to you something that this book
It says, “If you feel in control of yourself, rather than trying to control
the terrain and weather, you can relax and enjoy the climb. When you’re
tense and feeling out of control, the climb seems far more difficult. It
helps if you keep in mind that you never really master the mountain, you
master yourself in the process of climbing the mountain. The mountain
remains the same. It is you who changes.
And remember, you have to climb several mountains before you feel confident
of yourself, but you can’t wait until you feel safe and secure before you
venture out for your first climb.” In this book, David Schnarch said that
some of his clients actually coined this phrase of holding onto yourself to
sum up self-mastery and self-control.
But basically what it means to hold onto yourself is learning about
yourself, confronting yourself, and shifting to self-validated intimacy,
I’m going to talk about that a little bit, and taking care of yourself.
Learning to hold onto yourself nudges your personal development and your
marriage forward and fundamentally changes how you and your partner
interact. Now, keep in mind that there are some of you listening who are
There are some of you listening who will use these tools to decide you no
longer want to be married, or some of you who are not sure in making that
decision. It’s okay. I promise you, this work will serve you where you are
now and in the future. Nothing is lost here. Okay? Here are some things
that have to be a part of holding onto yourself.
Number one, maintaining a clear sense of who you are as you become
increasingly intimate with a partner, who is increasingly more important to
you, knowing what you value and believe and not defending a false or
inaccurate self picture. That one, I want to just go into detail a little
bit. Oftentimes we think of defending this picture, this false or
inaccurate self picture as defending parts of ourselves that might be kind
of like traits that might be coined or termed negative that we really just
want to put a positive spin on.
I think that the opposite is also true. I think sometimes we hide our
amazing traits from our partners. I think sometimes we water them down. It
reminded me when I was preparing this of something that someone said to me
so long ago, but I’ve not been able to forget. When I was 19, I spent the
summer opening up a store, Circuit City, if any of you have heard of
Circuit City, opening up this brand new store in an area of Salt Lake City
called Sugar House. I were worked with a bunch of guys.
One of those guys, one time he said something to me that I was being
falsely humble, false humiliation. And all these years, it kind of stopped
me in my tracks. I’m like, “Huh? What does that mean?” And as I have lived
several more years and learned more about myself, I think what I was doing
is rather than allowing myself to receive a compliment, I was rejecting it
and being like, “No, it’s okay. I’m not really that good at that,”
something like that. Okay?
Part of holding onto yourself is knowing what your strengths are and
letting them shine, letting them be seen, and not trying to defend a false
or inaccurate self picture, the things that we that are positive or
negative. Number two, maintaining a sense of perspective about your
anxieties, limitations, and shortcomings, so they neither drive you nor
immobilize you. You’ve heard me talk before about certain emotions and how
they can get behind the wheel of your car and take you to places you don’t
necessarily want to go.
For example, let’s talk about anxiety. You may be somebody that experiences
anxiety. I have at different times. I know how debilitating it can be. With
maintaining a sense of perspective about your anxiety, what this means is
that you might recognize, I am somebody that experiences anxiety, and it’s
just coming along for the ride, right? It’s giving it a seat in your car
without letting it drive your car, and it’s not judging it for being there.
That’s a huge piece of that. That it’s like, yes, this is just part of my
Anxiety’s part of the deal. Maybe it won’t be in the future, but it is
right now and we’re not hating on it for being there. That’s part of this
perspective. We’re just carrying it along. It gets to come along. Next, the
willingness to engage in self-confrontation necessary for your growth. This
includes standing up to your fears, taking the hits about yourself. Meaning
if somebody says to you something that’s hard to hear, taking it, not
challenging it, asking if it’s true and then maybe challenging it if it’s
not true. Okay?
Your family of origin, your marriage and your life, confronting your own
selfishness, hatred, manipulation of others, sadism, withholding, and
self-denigrations and resisting your attempts to avoid yourself. Ouch,
right? Who wants to look at those things? Not me. I don’t want to know, but
it is in looking at those things. It is in telling ourselves the truth that
we grow. That we grow. It’s knowing ourselves. We’re confronting those
things. Why am I this way? Where did this come from?
Next is acknowledging your projections and distortions and admitting when
you are wrong, whether or not your partner does likewise. Ooh, that’s kind
of hard, huh? It’s so much easier when our partners are doing the same
things that we are, at the same pace that we are, but they often aren’t.
They’re often either at a different pace, or sometimes they’re not into
this work when we are, right? Hopefully they are trying to grow, but
sometimes they’re not. You’re acknowledging your projections, your
You’re looking at how you are reading something that they’re doing and
making it mean whatever you’re making it mean. You’re looking at how you’re
blaming them for your behaviors that you don’t love. Looking at all of
those things. And the last one, tolerating the pain involved in growing,
mobilizing yourself toward the growth you value and aspire to, soothing
your own hurts when necessary without excessive self-indulgence, and
supporting rather than berating yourself.
How many of you tend to go to berating yourself instead of supporting
yourself? It may sound like a subtle difference, but oh, what a difference,
right? What a difference in the outcome between berating yourself and
supporting yourself. You’re tolerating the growth. You’re looking at the
things that need to change. You are mobilizing yourself towards those
change, instead of just sitting in self-pity and self-indulgence, and you
are supporting and loving yourself rather than berating yourself.
Holding onto yourself, if you’re hearing all of those things, is not an
easy task to do, right? But the benefits that you will receive from this
are massive. Okay? Massive. You will grow so much in your respect for
yourself. You’ll grow so much in your ability to stand tall and support
yourself in any situation you find yourself in, whether it be like the
bully at the PTA meeting, or in a church setting where you need to speak up
for something that you believe in without being made to shrink.
This is really, really important work. A huge part of this I want to talk
about is how learning to hold onto yourself is such a key part of breaking
patterns in relationships, whether it be with your spouse or anybody else,
could be your mother, your mother-in-law, sister, anybody. David Schnarch
says it lets you break the set of your communications, habitual topics,
patterns, intensity, and tone.
Instead of matching your partner’s feelings and emotional tone when you’re
locked in protracted arguments, bad feelings, or flaring tempers, holding
onto yourself allows you to break free of this form of emotional gridlock
called negative effect repriso… I can say it. Reciprocity. Got it.
Holding onto yourself means you don’t go down with your partner when he or
she becomes depressed, despondent, and hopeless.
Another way to put it that my husband and I talk about is that the work
that we’re going through right now is kind of like a roller coaster.
There’s some days where he’s on that wild roller coaster and I’m not.
There’s some days when I am and he’s not. Holding onto yourself means if
your spouse is on the wild rollercoaster, you don’t have to get on with
them. You don’t have to get on. You don’t have to abandon them while
they’re on this rollercoaster. You can observe.
You can see their excitement or their fear or their exhilaration or their
panic, but you don’t have to climb up there and get on it with them. That’s
what this means. You can show that you care without matching the same
emotion. I remember in my first marriage, a pattern I had is he was often
anxious and worked up, and I remember feeling like I needed to be at that
place too. Kind of buying into his story to show that I cared. Isn’t that
That’s what I thought, that I needed to match his emotion and energy level
to show that I cared. And that brought much more instability to our
marriage than stability. Being with yourself, staying with yourself
stabilizes your relationship. It stabilizes it. Something that we tend to
do if we’re not holding onto ourself, if we aren’t separate from our spouse
is either become really reactive, right, or become indifferent and
completely pull away, disengage, back off.
Schnarch says, “When you have a firm hold on yourself, you can allow
yourself to be influenced by your spouse and others, while at the same time
remaining resilient to pressure to conform when it’s against your better
judgment or feelings. Having a solid, but permeable self allows you to take
others into account. There is room for your spouse’s reality without losing
your own. You can be interested in his position during arguments rather
than trying to dispute it.”
This next piece, I think, I’ve had to really think about and wrap my head
around and I hope that I can articulate it well. Holding onto yourself
permits true mutuality. Mutuality is compromised for the greater good.
Let’s say that your spouse wants something and you don’t want that thing
and you not wanting that thing is kind of an immediate gratification
response. Okay? Let’s say he wants to go to one place and you want to go to
another place for like a trip.
You’re feeling like if I give in to him, then this comes at a cost to me
and I don’t get that immediate personal gratification of going to this
place that I want to go. Now, when we are in a space of holding onto
ourself, we engage in this mutuality where we are compromising for the
greater good based on the deeper values and meaning that we place on our
relationship and who we want to be in our relationship.
Often you might be sacrificing your own prerogative, your own immediate
personal gratification, but it is for the bigger purpose of growing this
marriage. And that matters more to you than the immediate gratification.
Now, it doesn’t mean you’re the one always making the compromises. It could
be that next time you get to go where you want to go. This can be really
gratifying, but you have to be able to self-soothe and calm yourself at the
feeling of loss that you might experience for the greater good of your
In a nutshell, holding onto yourself is this ability to stabilize yourself,
to keep yourself stable in the heat of the moment when things are in front
of you where you could shrink, where you could puff up, where you can hide,
where you can disappear, where you can cave to what they’re saying, where
you can cave to past behaviors that you have engaged in. For example, if
you have a habit of not thinking you’re worth much, of not thinking that
you’re worth being listened to, holding onto yourself means remembering
It means remembering that you also get a vote. When we shrink and go back
to those old patterns, we are not holding onto ourselves. We’re letting go
of ourselves. As I said earlier on, I’m going to be touching on many
aspects of holding onto yourself and what it actually looks like. David
Schnarch talks about this process as a crucible. A crucible is a hard test.
That’s what a crucible means. It’s something that’s a hard test. There’s a
reason why it’s called a crucible. It’s not easy. This work is not easy.
It requires strength. It requires resilience. But guess what? You are going
to build more strength and more resilience in doing this work. It’s one of
those things that we’ll climb a mountain and get to the top of a mountain
only to look over and see that there’s another mountain to climb. It’s
And the more that we learn how to do these things, how to hold onto
ourself, it will make it so much easier to climb those other mountains, to
stay with ourselves, to not lose who we are, to show up for ourselves in
love and compassion and maintain our own strength. One last thing before I
go is that sometimes when I find myself in a situation where it’d be easy
for me to slip to old ways or to give into anxiety or things like that, I
do this simple thing and I want you to try it with me. I just put my hand
on my heart.
I just put my hand on my heart. And sometimes what I think in my mind is,
I’m feeling anxious and it’s okay. I’m feeling anxious and I’m okay, or if
it’s some other emotion, I’m feeling scared. I’m okay. It’s okay. It’s okay
that I feel scared. I still got me. I’m still with me. I’m still hanging
with me. I’m okay. I want you to practice that. Putting your hand on your
heart, naming what you’re feeling, and making a statement to yourself that
it’s okay that you’re feeling that way and that you’re safe. You can even
say, “And I’m safe.”
That’s part of holding onto yourself. That’s what I’ve got for you this
week. In the next few weeks, we’re going to be going into much more detail
about different elements of this, and we’ll all just be pros by the end.
Doesn’t that sound fun? All right, thank you, my friends. I love that
you’re here, and I will see you next week. Bye, bye.
Thank you for listening to the Heal from Infidelity Podcast. If would like
to be kept in the know about upcoming free classes, new podcast episodes,
and other ways of working with me, go subscribe to my weekly email. You can
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andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. I will see you next time.