In a world that praises extreme independence, many of us don’t know how to help each other calm our nervous systems. We may even think it is co-dependence to try to help each other in this way.
In this week’s episode, we will take a deep dive into what it actually means to co-regulate, and how it can bring deep healing. We will also take a look at how our parents help us to learn how to settle ourselves down by first regulating with us.
You’ll understand what healthy co-regulation means as opposed to co-dysregulation.
Don’t miss this episode- first to understand your own patterns better, and to learn how to ask for the help you need.
To learn more from me, be sure to be on my email list here.
Get on my waitlist for my signature group coaching program here.
I’m Andrea Giles, and you’re listening to The Heal From Infidelity Podcast,
episode number 106: How to Co-Regulate.
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 boldest, truest, most decisive and confident versions of themselves
ever. If you know there’s more for you 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.
Hi, friends. I hope that you are doing well. I’m happy to be here for
another week. I am currently just enjoying a view out my window of snow.
It’s snowing right now. It’s very beautiful. It’s cold, very cold. I live
in Montana and it’s chilly, but it’s beautiful. I’m really excited for this
episode today. I hope that you find it very useful as always. So I will go
ahead and jump in.
I want you to think about someone in your life that you feel really good
around. It can be someone from the present, it can be somebody from the
past, but somebody where when you think about them, you like how you feel
when you’re around them. You like who you are when you’re around them. I
for sure have a few friends that are like this for me. I’m thinking of them
right now that are that person for me, where when I’m around them, I just
feel good and I feel special. I feel seen.
Who do you feel like that around? My husband is often that person for me
too, where I just feel good around him. Now, if you think of these people,
I hope that you can think of at least one person, you are likely
co-regulating with this person. And today we’re going to talk all about
co-regulating and what it means and what that looks like for you today. All
right. Now, I want you to think about somebody that you can be around that
has an opposite effect. You might feel anxious around this person. You
might feel worried. You might feel really bad about yourself. You might
feel self-conscious or negative. Can you think of somebody like that? Maya
Angelou said, “People won’t remember what you said, they won’t remember
what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel.”
So today is all about co-regulating. And Maya Angelo’s quote there
perfectly describes what I am talking about today. I really hope that you
come away from this episode with some understanding of how to grow your
capacity to help others regulate, and how to ask for what you need in this
regard. As I talk to you in this episode, I want you to listen for how you
were taught to regulate your emotions as a child and how that has affected
your emotions as an adult.
As you are thinking about different people in your life and how you feel
around them, you may notice it is not necessarily the words they’re saying,
it might be. But it might not be the words they’re saying or the things
that they’re doing. There’s something deeper. This is what’s going on here.
Your nervous system is picking something up from their nervous system. If
they are calm, it can settle your nerves.
If they are really anxious, you can pick up that anxiety. I felt this so
much in my first marriage. My first husband was a pretty intense guy. He
worried a lot. He was just intense most of the time. He had this intensity
to get the job done. He was very accomplished, he got a lot done, but it
was often really stressful for me to be around him because he was in this
heightened nervous system state so much of the time that I felt amped up a
lot being around him, and often fed off of his mood. I didn’t know how to
regulate my own emotions. And so I could be having the best day with my
kids at home, and then when he came home, it was like, what kind of mood is
he in? And he was often in this hyped up mood and intense mood and anxious,
and it was not real pleasant. It was kind of difficult.
And I would pick up on that and that would then become my energy. So what
exactly is co-regulating? It’s not that. That is something else that we’re
going to talk about. Co-regulating is when the systematically oscillating
emotions that are coupled between partners are dampening over time. So
those are some big words, big explanations. So let me explain what that
means. So oscillating emotions like a fan. Oscillating kind of moving,
they’re moving. And one partner is helping the other partner dampen their
intense emotions and the other partner’s doing the same for the other,
they’re helping each other regulate to where it’s dampening over time,
where we’re lessening the intensity, we’re helping each other sooth.
Whereas we can have the opposite effect on each other and amp up each
other’s emotions. That was the situation I was in often in my first
marriage, and that is called co-disregulation.
Co-disregulation. So there’s co-regulating and then there’s co
disregulating. It’s kind of like function and dysfunction. One serves to
move things forward, one serves to at the best, hold things still, at
worst, pull things back. As children, we have to learn to co-regulate first
before we can regulate ourselves, especially before the age of seven. Many
of us though, did not grow up in homes where our parents were regulated
themselves, and so we didn’t learn how to do this. We didn’t learn how to
regulate ourselves. We picked up on the nervous system energy that our
parents had, and that became our energy. And so we learned to do something
different. So if you grow up with a chaotic nervous system home base, you
probably picked that up and didn’t learn how to regulate yourself, how to
get yourself back down, and maybe carrying some of that with you now, you
may have learned some things.
It is healable. I’m just saying these things that you understand what might
be going on with you. So a couple examples. One, I grew up with some chaos.
I’ve mentioned before my dad was killed in a plane crash when I was two
days old. So you can imagine that my mother’s nervous system was probably
not great. Her husband died. He went out one day on a flight and he didn’t
come home. And she had three children. I was the third child, the oldest
kid was not even four yet, my brother. My sister was not even two, and I
was two days old and premature to boot. My mom probably had some stuff
going on. And then she got remarried when I was two, to a man who had some
untreated mental illness, and he was abusive and all kinds of issues, and
she got divorced when I was five.
So she was dealing with all of that. And then she got remarried, and it was
pretty dysfunctional for quite a while. So for me, I grew up in a space
that was pretty chaotic, emotionally, nervous system-wise. There was a lot
of disregulation. Now, my daughter, Finley, who just turned one, it’s
interesting. For those of you who’ve been around children, this is what I
mean about them learning how to regulate by watching us. Here’s an example
from yesterday. So we have lots of stairs in our home, and one of the set
of stairs, they’re wider and they’re carpeted and she can get up and down
really easily, and so we have not put a gate at the top of those stairs.
They’re wide, if she took a tumble, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, and
she knows how to get up and down.
Other stairs that are wood that she’d really get hurt, they’re steeper, we
have gates on. But for this one set, we decided not to. Well, yesterday she
was doing her thing, scooting on her belly down the stairs and she
miss-stepped with her foot and tumbled about two stairs. And she just laid
there flat and looked at me with this look of, “Should I be scared? Should
I be worried? Is something wrong?” And I just thought, “I need to be calm.”
And I just was like, “Oh, you okay, Finn? Look at you.” Just really didn’t
make it a big deal. And then she looked to my husband and he just kind of
had the same response. And then she laid there, and then she got up and
went the rest of the way down.
She wasn’t hurt, and I think it startled her a little bit, but she was
waiting for our response before she could regulate herself. That’s the way
it’s supposed to be. And so she’s learning this kind of thought that, “They
think I’m okay, so I’m okay.” And then the time will come hopefully, that
she will grow in her own self-sufficiency to know when she’s okay without
cues from mom and dad. So something that I see in my coaching is that often
as adults, when we are trying to heal this, when we’re trying to figure out
how to stop being dependent on others to manage how we feel, going from
trying to move out of a more codependent model to a more independent model,
what we often do is we swing this balance from being codependent to very
independent. Now, that doesn’t sound terrible, but I want to talk a little
bit about some of the dangers of this.
So as you know, co-dependency means that we are very in-tune with somebody
else’s feelings and we’re responding to their feelings rather than really
being our own separate person. We’re jumping when they say jump, very in
this reactive space, not particularly safe, not feeling safe, not feeling
like we can stand on our own feet. We’re very dependent on them to tell us
how we’re doing. So if there’s a problem in the relationship, if there’s a
problem, we’re going to maybe panic. We’re going to maybe feel like, “I’m
not okay because they’re not okay.” And so we try to hurry and fix things
so that they will be okay, so we can feel okay, but it’s not coming from
yourself, it’s an outside-in approach.
So the spectrum swing goes to this independent place where it’s like, “I
don’t care what anybody else thinks. They can take care of themselves.” Or,
“I don’t need anyone. I am fiercely independent. I don’t need anyone. I’m
fine.” Or, “If I just keep my wall up and just manage my own thoughts and
feelings, I can prevent getting hurt.” Now, this may feel really empowering
at first. It might feel great. It might feel so good to know that you can
count on yourself, that you can manage yourself, that you can count on
yourself to feel the way you want to feel. But what if there’s something
even better than this? Co-regulating is a really beautiful thing. It’s
beautiful. It is when we strengthen our relationships by first working on
being able to keep ourselves regulated so that we can show up for others.
It’s learning how to manage our own nervous systems, to keep ourselves
calm, to know how to calm ourselves down, to keep ourselves out of fight or
flight so we can help others regulate.
Humans are pack animals. We are wired to be together. We are not wired to
be totally self-sufficient, to swing to that other spectrum of being
completely independent, “I don’t need anybody. I got me.” We’re wired to
need people. We’re wired to be together. All right. Let me give you an
example. If you are feeling triggered or activated, if your nervous system
feels activated by something having to do with infidelity with your spouse
or partner, you may want to hunker down, hide or attack. Co-regulating
would look like going to your spouse and telling them what you’re
experiencing. Now, if they are in a space of feeling defensive or not
wanting to help, I don’t recommend going to them because it might amp up
your response. It might have the opposite effect. But go to another safe
person. You can share what you’re experiencing and just ask them to sit
If your partner can do this, you can ask them just to hold you, just to
physically hold you. Over time, it will be easier to do this for yourself
when you get amped up. Sometimes we think that we want them to say certain
things to us, but I have found that when our nervous systems are really
highly activated, there really are no words that can make it better. We are
just seeking safety. We just want to feel safe. We want to know that we’re
okay. So somebody else being able to manage their own nervous systems and
them really feeling calm inside, the calm presence of somebody else can
help tremendously with this, especially after infidelity, trying to repair.
If you are separated from your partner, who else can you lean on? Who else
can sit with you? And this is not somebody who can just give you lip
service, give you the right words, but to actually share their calm and
presence with you. Their presence.
Do you know anybody that can share this with you? As a coach, this is part
of my job. I am much less effective as a coach if I show up to calls
anxious. I may say the right words, but people can pick up on my underlying
energy. My clients rely on me to be calm and centered and able to handle
whatever emotions they show up with to the call. So finding a good
therapist or coach can really help you co-regulate. In my Know in 90 group,
this is something I have seen demonstrated, and it is something beautiful
to behold, I tell you. Everyone on the call is so loving and energetically
giving so much love to each other, so much energy and love, and just
attention and intention. So if one person on the call is getting coaching
and feeling really activated, there’s a whole army of people on the call
that are helping them regulate.
Isn’t that amazing? Just energetically, by being there, by being focused,
by being present. It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. And on the flip side, I
can tell you that if I have something going on personally in my life and
I’m on a call and I’m feeling triggered or feeling activated in some way, I
am not nearly as effective as a coach. And so it’s my job to learn how to
regulate myself or to bring in somebody else like my husband or somebody
that I trust to help me co-regulate so I can be ready to go on my calls.
Now, if you are staying in your relationship or trying to, I want you to
spend some time thinking about how you can help each other co-regulate. You
may both be really amped up. They might feel really terrible about
themselves a lot of the time. They might feel really heavy with shame.
I want you to notice this, and I want you to trust that it’s in your best
interest to try to understand what is happening for him, because it will be
far more meaningful and healing for you if he can show up for you in an
un-triggered place. So I want you to pay attention to what’s going on with
him and notice how you respond when he is really heightened, and notice how
you respond when he is not heightened, when he can just be there, he or
she, when they can just be there for you in a more calm, centered place. So
I want you to pay attention to that. This is where marriages can be deeply
healed, even after there is the breach of trust of infidelity. This is
where deep healing that is long lasting, happens.
Back to our childhood. Long before marriage, long before our partner’s
infidelity, many of us learned not to trust. We learned not to bear it all.
We learned to hold back, to keep some walls up. This can be healed, and
sometimes it is after infidelity that we are in a place where we are
receptive to this deep healing. It’s because we’re so hurt, the hurt is so
raw that it’s like, “The only way I’m going to get through this is if I
And part of deeply healing is deeply healing some of the wounds that were
there long before the infidelity. So what this looks like in real-time is
moving towards each other instead of a way when feeling activated. Leaning
into trust. Asking each other what you need. Telling each other what you
need. “Hey, I need this from you right now, okay?” Experiment with
strategies to help yourself calm down with your partner involved. So if
you’re feeling activated, and maybe they are too, rather than bailing,
rather than leaving and both being miserable, go for a hike. Go for a walk.
Partner up. Go do something together. Move your body, dance, sing, play,
Do something to shift the activated energy, and if you do it together,
you’re both helping each other co-regulate. Be with others who can hold
space for you, not people who are going to dive in and try to fix it, not
people who are going to tell you what to do. We’ve all got plenty of those
people in our life. That’s not what this is about. I want you to know that
it’s okay for you to want this. It’s okay for you to want to be with a
partner who can co-regulate with you. In our culture of extreme
independence, we really are missing a beautiful thing, which is helping
each other at a deep level, helping others feel our presence, our love for
them, our confidence in them.
Even when you’re the one who’s been betrayed, you can learn how to manage
your own nervous system so that you can help your spouse co-regulate when
they are in a shame storm, when they are feeling like the biggest loser. Or
if you are leaving, or if you have been left, if your partner left, you can
bring in people who can give this to you. I challenge you to find at least
one person who can be that for you, who can help you with this space.
I hope that you found this helpful. I know that for me, it made me think
about how I parrot even, especially that now that I’m starting all over
again with this new little person, it’s making me evaluate. I know for sure
my older kids saw an anxious mom a lot of the time when their dad was
around. And I’m not trying to sound like a victim at all. I am showing you
what was true for me, which was that it was pretty codependent and I didn’t
know how to self-regulate. I didn’t know how.
And as our marriage progressed, I learned how more to be able to get to the
point where I was able to leave the marriage, but it took a lot. It was
really, really hard for me. And so some of this, I’m getting better at
today, right now. So I understand that it might feel challenging, it might
feel very vulnerable. And I also just want to make sure you know, I’m not
painting myself as a victim, it’s more I understand the systems and
patterns that we get into. So go practice co-regulating, practice what
works. Practice trying different things that help your nervous system
settle down, help somebody else’s nervous system settle down. Help your
children. Help them to know that you’re safe, that you’re not getting
activated because they’re activated.
That you can be calm. That you can be the calm presence so they can learn
how to settle themselves. What a gift, right? What a gift. All right, thank
you, my beautiful friends. I will see you again in a little while, a couple
weeks. You’ll hear from me again. I hope that you have wonderful holidays.
I hope that for those of you who are struggling, many of you are that are
listening, I hope that you know there’s somebody in Montana who loves you,
who thinks about you all the time, who thinks about how I can help, and
most of all, who feels such hope for you so much of the time that you’re
going to be okay, that you’re going to find out who you are in this
process, and maybe there was no other way for you to learn it.
There might not have been. To really know your strength, your wisdom, your
courage, your grit, all of the things that make you, you. Just keep going,
and I will see you next time. If you want to find out how to work with me,
I am going to be opening doors to my Know in 90 program probably late
January is what I’m looking at. You can get on my wait list at
andreagiles.com. There’s a link there to get on my wait list, and I look
forward to talking with you again soon. All right, bye-bye.
Thank you for listening to The Heal from Infidelity Podcast. If you 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 subscribe at andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. Again,
it’s andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. I will see you next time.