208 - Failure is an Option

Failure is always an option, but it doesn't have to be the end of the world. We hear about failure quite a bit when it comes to schooling and even jobs/career but failure doesn't always get talked about in regard to relationships. It seems to be a dirty word when it comes to relationships because folks can feel ashamed or don't want to drudge up the past. Failure can be scary but avoiding it altogether shouldn't be the ultimate goal. It can sometimes prevent someone from taking action or pursuing a relationship because of the fear of failure. On today's episode, we talk all about failure and how failure can be a part of growth.

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This document may contain small transcription errors. If you find one please let us know at info@multiamory.com and we will fix it ASAP.

Emily: Omission of occurrence or performance, failing to perform a duty, a lack of success, a falling short, state of inability to perform a normal function.

Dedeker: These are such dramatic definitions, Emily.

Emily: If you're happy with the same old ways of dating.

Dedeker: If you enjoy sucking at communication.

Jase: And you have no desire to improve your romantic life, then our podcast might not be for you.

Dedeker: But if you want out of the box ideas to keep in your current relationships.

Emily: Broaden your sexual horizons.

Dedeker: Develop a better understanding of yourself.

Emily: Or learn more about non-monogamy.

Jase: Then you come to the right place. I am Jase.

Emily: I am Emily.

Dedeker: I am Dedeker.

Jase: This is the Multiamory Podcast.


On this episode of the Multiamory Podcast, we're talking about failure in relationships. It's the middle of February right now, which is statistically when a lot of breakups happen, actually, the months of January and February. Relationship failure is in the air. We're [inhales] breathing it up and taking it in. Today, we're going to examine how reframing failure and rethinking failure can create resilience and growth, better emotional and mental well-being, as well as, ironically, more successful and happier relationships.

Dedeker: Yes, the idea of failure being in the air is not quite as romantic sounding as love being in the air, it's true.

Emily: Yes, I know. What would that feel like? Just an air of failure.

Dedeker: With a lot of coughing, I think.

Jase: I see, yes.

Emily: I'm sorry to hear that.

Jase: And sniffling probably.

Dedeker: Yes, like how you're irritated, lots of pollutants maybe.

Jase: I meant because everyone's crying.

Emily: I see.

Jase: That kind of sniffling, yes.

Dedeker: Got it, okay.

Jase: Yes. Failure is something that if any of you have listened to any podcasts about entrepreneurship, or about business, or potentially even about being creative, failure is something that comes up a lot. It gets talked about a lot in that kind of-- in the books about that or in podcasts or whatever, but somehow it doesn't get talked about as much in relationships. So that's what we wanted to explore today, is some different ways to look at failure and re-evaluate some things that you may have felt like a failure about and maybe you weren't actually.

Dedeker: Yes, we want to start by, I guess, brainstorming. What are things that people typically think of as "failure" when it comes to relationships and dating and that whole sphere?

Jase: Yes, give us some.

Dedeker: Okay. I feel like one that I hear about most frequently is not being able to pursue or get a date with the person that you like, or the person that you have a crush on, or the person that you're attracted to. Whether that's, "I asked them out and they rejected me, so I failed to be able to go on a date with them." Or in the first place, I just failed to have the courage or the chutzpah to actually ask them out in the first place.

Jase: There's an entire-

Emily: That happened to me.

Jase: -huge industry built around exactly that one failure that people take to heart.


Jase: Sorry, what were you going to say, Emily?

Emily: No, just I remember I really liked this guy in my yoga class in college. It was really random that there was a college yoga elective, but there was and we went on one date and then it was definitely like he was like, "Yes, I'm not into this." I'm like, "Wow, I feel like a failure."

Dedeker: Well, actually that leads to my next one and that's a very sad story. I'm sorry to hear that. I've definitely been there.

Emily: Thank you.

Dedeker: Which is maybe you do pursue this person, you do get to go on that first stage but you don't get the second date. Whether it's you go on a date or a couple of dates and then they ghost you, they just disappear out of nowhere, or they're upfront with you like that instance with Emily and yoga boy, where he's like, "I'm not into this." Is that actually what he said? What did he say?

Emily: It was something like that but I thought that he said, "Well, we'll go dancing sometime," and he picked the time and the place and he was like, "I'll call you when I'm ready to go." And then he never called.

Dedeker: Jeez, that was a combination of rejection and ghosting at the same time.

Emily: It was awful.

Jase: That's tough.

Emily: It was really sad.

Jase: It is.

Dedeker: It could be something like the stereotypical "friend zoning." I'm not a huge fan of that term, and I think it's loaded, but that's another episode for another time, but just that someone expressing like, "I'm not interested in you romantically or sexually or in any those traditional ways. I want this to stay strictly platonic," and that can feel like a failure. Things like that. Particularly within the realm of dating of someone that you want to be with or you want to spend time with, or you want to go on some dates with, and it just doesn't pan out, often feels like a failure to a lot of people.

Emily: The classic relationship failure would probably be that of the breakup or even just the de-escalation. Like for instance, I don't know you. It seems like things are really starting to ramp up in your relationship. You're going to, I don't know, be monogamous, for example, you both might be dating multiple people but then decide, "Okay, we're going to go the monogamous route and just be together." Then all of a sudden, that doesn't happen. It remains the way that it was or it even deescalates into something that feels maybe like, "I'm falling out of what I was hoping that this would be eventually."

Another one obviously is not getting married or not really hitting traditional milestones. I've definitely heard people talk about like well, we became fiances. We were fianced and then after a while, for whatever reason, the relationship didn't work out and so they ended up breaking up. Obviously, not being fiances anymore and then also just breaking up the relationship entirely.

Also that idea of moving out. Yes, that can feel like a failure hugely obviously, that you've been with this person for a long time, you felt like the relationship escalator was going up and up and you were getting to the next step. Then you ended up moving out from one another and then the relationship is over and done with.

Jase: Or it's not.

Dedeker: I feel like those Right, that's the thing, those ones that you all talked about, Emily, they all live in this realm of the relationship escalator of it can so frequently feel like a failure of like, "I thought we were moving to the next step, but actually it turns out we don't or we move backwards," like you were just saying, we moved in together and then now you realize actually we're going to move out. Yes, really common for people to feel like that's a failure.

Jase: Yes, and I think that there is that assumption of if we live together and then we ever live separately, that means we're breaking up because it's associated with a failure. It's like we're not moving forward toward this thing, so therefore it's a failure. Because success is up the escalator doing these next steps of living together; we're getting married, we're having kids or starting a bank account together, whatever it is. Then anything that's not doing those, or even worse like undoing those, is a failure.

Emily: It's like, "Well, yes, sorry, the relationship's over." It's either move in with this person or the relationship is done. There's no other step.

Dedeker: Yes. I guess is this idea of like we fail to proceed or we fail to move forward or some narrative like that.

Emily: Yes, we took a step back and now it was a failure. Then that just means, all of a sudden, "Well, I guess I'm not meant to be with this person. They're not the one."

Jase: Another example would be cheating or being cheated on, that that is, in a lot of ways, could be a failure. Either that feels like a failure because then our relationship ended or our relationship didn't end but it still feels like a failure, either for both of us failing or one of us failing, or I failed to have enough self-control or whatever it is. There's lots of different ways that one can feel like failure.

Then another one is being unsuccessful at opening up a relationship. Meaning that you're monogamous and you decide to open up your relationship, and then either decide to close it again or it's just the relationship ends because of it, that we failed at doing that. That's definitely one that I feel like we can all relate to in our early days of non-monogamy of feeling like we failed at opening [laughs] it up that time, even if it eventually did end up being something that we did. Or lots of people that we've known who have failed at, who feel like they've failed at opening up their relationships one way or another.

Emily: Yes, they've opened them and closed.

Dedeker: Related to that, we can go into the whole specialized realm of polyamorous failure; where people feel like are failures within a particular realm of, "I failed to be able to keep multiple partners happy. I finally got into this situation where I'm in multiple relationships and it all just hit the wall. I couldn't juggle everything and everyone ended up being mad at me while I was trying to hear everyone happy." I've seen a lot of people talking about failures like that. I've definitely been in that situation for sure.

Jase: Or like, I've definitely heard a lot of people talking about beating themselves up over failing at feeling compression right away. They do feel jealousy or they feel upset by their partners or their partner, and they're like, "I'm a failure, oh my gosh, I'm failing, maybe I'm not cut out for this. Maybe I need to not do this. That it's because I've failed at this thing, it must be--"

Emily: It's like, "It's not in my DNA, I'm not right polyamorous clearly because I failed it at once."

Jase: Right, that this must be the wrong thing to do because I failed, yes. That was some good brainstorming everybody. Now, what we want to do is look at that same list and think about if those were the failures, the opposite of those would be the successes then, right? And to look at some situations where those opposites might not be a success, that might not be the best thing. That's not to say the opposite of those are always bad or anything, also those first ones aren't always bad either that's the point of this whole episode.

To go through that list, the example that Dedeker gave at first was, not getting that date with someone that you're really into; Emily's yoga buddy. On the flip side of that would be that maybe you did learn some cool tricks for convincing people to go on a date with you.

Emily: I thought that you were going to say some cool yoga tricks.

Jase: [laughs]

Dedeker: Or maybe some cool dance tricks.

Emily: Yes, and you got that out of it.

Jase: Yes, but that you learn those things and you do get that date with someone who's not that into you, or with someone that you're not that compatible with. That when it never happened you thought that it not happening was the failure, but if it had happened, because some could argue like, well, now it's more of a failure because you've spent more of both of your time and have maybe been more unhappy or let down or whatever by it.

Them the second one that Dedeker mentioned about not getting that second date or getting friend-zoned, or ghosted or whatever it is, that that same thing of, well, maybe you did stay together and weren't that happy but you just did. Or even maybe you're still really into them and they stayed with you just because they're like, "Well, I don't have anything better to do," or some sense of obligation or feeling like, I don't know, that they were manipulated into it or something. Ultimately, that's not a relationship that's going to serve either of you. That's not something that's going to ultimately lead to the well-being and happiness of those people involved.

Dedeker: I guess it's this idea that success and failure in relationships, it isn't this binary of, did the relationship last or did you break up? Because, again, not breaking up doesn't necessarily mean it's a success, it can mean that you both just extend your misery with each other, with one another, for longer essentially. Emily mentioned the marriage thing, I think that now we're all at this age where more and more of our friends are getting married, combined with social media where it's everyone posting engagement photos-

Emily: Having children.

Dedeker: -the wedding photos, and the sonogram, and all that stuff that even if you're someone who's not that interested in marriage, you can instill that sense of, "I didn't unlock this status achievement," essentially, can still feel like a failure. However, if we're looking at the inverse of that of, well, what's the success? There's a lot of people who, of course, are very successful and happily married.

Sometimes if you go after something like marriage, or some other kind of traditional milestone just out of avoiding failure, you can be stuck with just a complicated relationship where now you're dealing with also the financial and legal entanglements of marriage [chuckles] as you're trying to navigate the future and whether or not you're compatible with each other or things like that.

Similar, like Emily mentioned, you're feeling like, "We live together and now we're choosing to move out and live separately," feeling like that's a failure. The opposite of that of, okay, or maybe you realize that you don't make good roommates for each other, you don't share a living space well together but it's like, "Well, we have to live together anyway because that's the relationship escalator and that's what we've got to do."

You signed yourself up for staying in a living situation that sucks for both of you, where maybe you're both driving each other up the wall because your cleanliness standards are just mismatched, or just the space that you want to have is just mismatched and now you've just the "success" is just needing to tough out living with the bad roommate essentially even if it's a bad roommate that you also love very much.

Emily: Like Jase talked about cheating or being cheated on, we've had multiple episodes about this in general. The inverse of that is sure not being cheated on, but it can also feel almost as though like, "Okay, I'm choosing obviously not to cheat on my partner and to do the right thing because that would be wrong for a variety of reasons." Maybe I'm just choosing to stay in this relationship because of my obligation to this person, because of societal pressure telling me, "You need to stick it out, you need to stay with it."

Gosh, I've heard people say, "Well, I'm never going to divorce my wife because it's in the Bible that that's not a good thing to do," for instance. Something along those lines and being ultimately very unhappy because of that decision.

Dedeker: Which is-- I'm sorry to interject, but it's just like, I don't know, I always felt like if you're in a relationship by like, "I'm with you because the Bible says that I need to be with you or I'm with you--"

Emily: I wouldn't know very much about this, you all can take that one.

Dedeker: I know, but it's not just that, it also it could be like, "I'm staying with you because I feel obligated to even though maybe-

Emily: I took a vow.

Dedeker: -I took a vow. Maybe we're not attracted to each other anymore, maybe we don't want to have sex with each other anymore but we've got to just tough it out."

Jase: Yes, that idea of thinking like it's very noble, you're doing that for the other person. When you flip that around on the other side I'm like, I don't love the idea of being in a relationship for 20, 30, 40, 50 years with someone who's with me because they felt like they had to be. That's not a good feeling. I don't feel like anyone really being done a favor if that's not something that's getting talked about.

Emily: Yes, absolutely. Finally, that "failure" of unsuccessfully opening up and then closing a relationship that was an open or non-monogamous one. The inverse of that is just staying in a non-monogamous relationship even if you're both unhappy. That's also not a great option because if it's hurting both of you, if it's hurting the people that you're involved with, if one or both of you decide, like, "Hey, actually, I feel like I can't feel with this, I just have to keep trying." Ultimately, it's actually not something that's serving you. That's definitely a good thing to examine, and not a failure if you ultimately decide like, "Hey, this is not the relationship structure I want to be in."

Dedeker: It just occurred to me also, I feel like, unfortunately, there's a lot of people who first come to non-monogamous relationships or polyamorous relationships, and for a lot of people, their first experience of non-monogamy is with a partner who's really not on board. Or maybe they're the partner who's not on board, and it's like their first experience of non-monogamy is like, "I really, really don't like this and don't want this." I'm like, "That's just really, really sad." I feel like that's not actually experiencing the fullness of all the joy and fulfillment you might get out of a multi-partner relationship if your only experience has been in relationships with people who are super not on board with it.

Emily: Yes, there is always that possibility that someone is going to bring you into this relationship structure and then you figure out, "Hey, this actually works so well for me," and that person that initially was gung-ho about it actually does not like it. There's obviously a variety of ways in which that can go down, but, yes, that's an interesting point that maybe the initial reaction that one might think, "Okay, this is always how it's going to be," just simply because it's shitty now.

Jase: I can't even tell you how many people I know who are polyamorous now who identify that way who are like, "Yes, my first experience with it totally sucked. I did it because my partner and I didn't like it, but something about it made enough sense that then when I tried it again later, it worked and it made sense and I was with someone that it worked better with." Yes, it is an interesting thing how that-- in the micro, I guess, in the zoomed in view, that can seem like there's failure, but when you zoom out a little bit, it might not.

Emily: Yes, that's interesting. With all of this, we were interested to see what the dictionary had to say about the word failure because, again, it's just this ambiguous thing. What is failure actually? We consulted two dictionaries, the Cambridge and the Merriam-Webster. We're going to give you those-- Webster, yes, we're going to give you those definitions right now. The Cambridge dictionary says that, "Failure is the fact of not doing something you should have done. The fact of something not working as it should, lack of success in doing something." That's interesting. A lot of facts and shoulds. The Merriam-Webster says, "Omission of occurrence or performance, failing to perform a duty, a lack of success, a falling short. State of inability to perform a normal function."

Dedeker: This is such a dramatic reading those definitions, Emily.

Jase: I was just going to say I love that Emily manages to read the dictionary like it's a romance novel or something, like it's-- I love that.

Emily: I don't know if that was romantic voice. I think that that was my like aghast voice.

Dedeker: That was definitely some drama voice for sure,

Jase: It felt very sultry to me. I don't know, that was what I got from it.

Emily: Really? I can go way more sultry than that, mister.

Jase: [chuckles] Okay. Well, all right. Sorry.

Dedeker: We believe you.

Emily: Yes, no but anyways, it's like-- okay, just falling short, inability to perform a normal function. Come on, because a lot of failure occurs when somebody is trying to do something really abnormally challenging.

Dedeker: That's true

Emily: I think that that's a bullshit thing to say, Merriam.


Jase: Merriam and/or Webster.

Dedeker: You know which one of you it was?

Jase: Yes, the thing that really stuck out to me when we were looking up these definitions, it's just that they all kind of suck. None of these definitions are very good. They're all either based in this idea of should, which, those of you who've listened to this show for a long time, know I have my sort of campaign against the word should.

Emily: Saying it ever?

Jase: Yes because it is this weirdly meaningless thing that we just put on ourselves to make ourselves feel bad, or put on other people to make them feel bad. It's not actually very useful word.

Dedeker: At the same time, I would argue that maybe it's a good definition because it really does get to the heart of the failure thing, which is that it is wrapped up in these shoulds because we carry this expectation of like, "I should be dating people. I should go on a second date with this person. I should have a relationship that continues. Or I should be working harder and harder to make this relationship work. Or I should be getting married or hitting this particular milestone. Or I should tough it out or whatever." A lot of these are wrapped up in those shoulds that then suddenly we do that, the falling short, and then it feels like a failure.

Jase: Yes, or the inability to do something that's normal. All of that is based around this idea of there's a certain expectation and the failure is not that. That was kind of the point I was getting to, is the fact that all these definitions kind of suck. I think that's a really valuable thing to see, is the fact that failure is entirely based off of your understanding of the situation; how you're looking at it. Like you were saying, Dedeker, what you think is normal or what you think

Emily: Or how it should go?

Jase: How it should go

Emily: How this outcome should happen.

Jase: Yes.

Dedeker: Also influence by your environment; the people around you, the culture around you. Everything you've been told in childhood like so influenced by-- I don't know, I guess all the factors that influence your personal list of shoulds or your personal list of what is "normal".

Emily: Yes, absolutely.

Dedeker: That's the definition of failure that we've received not just from sirs Merriams and Websters, but also from our culture and parents and friends and the people around us. Let's talk about how to maybe rewrite the definition of failure personally, or reframe failure for yourself personally, so that it doesn't just feel like there was this expectation, this should, that I just didn't live up to and now I feel like crap. Before we dive into that, I just want to clarify, when we are doing research for this episode, there's a billion quotes from entrepreneurs out there about how failure is just the next step on the way to success.

There's that typical Thomas Edison quote that you see all the time where he's like, I didn't fail, I just found 10,000 ways that didn't work and stuff like that. I just want to clarify that while that's inspiring, there's often a nuance to that kind of advice that implies if you just keep working hard enough, then you'll find success. It's like even if you fail multiple times, just blast on through and eventually you'll find success. I worry about that nuance. First of all, because it's a little bit uphold the meritocracy but that's another episode for another time. If we ever think we'd actually do an episode on meritocracy

Jase: I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon, but who knows.

Dedeker: I definitely see people interpreting that to me and like, "Okay, even though I'm in a miserable relationship and we're failing in communication over and over and over again, I just got to tough it out and stick it out and blast through, and then eventually I find success." I don't want that necessarily to be the takeaway of this episode. I'm much more interested in us exploring the nuance of failure itself is a part of the process of growth, and failure itself can be a good thing and failure itself is okay.

I think there's a subtle distinction between those two meanings and nuances. I just wanted to toss that out there, put that on the table, so that people understand that none of us are encouraging you to just be in a crappy situation and just kind of I guess not telling people that part of dealing with failure is ignoring failure, I guess, maybe that's what I'm trying to get at.

Jase: If I could use an analogy here with

Dedeker: Please do.

Jase: Using one of those classic stories of persevering through failure is the Wright brothers, which I was super into as a kid. Wright, they had tons and tons and tons of attempts to get a heavier than aircraft to fly before they finally achieved it. I mean an airplane. They had lots of attempts at this. It would be like if you said, "You just got to keep persevering through failure," it would be like they built their first prototype and it crashed. Then they just kept building that same prototype over again and crashing it over and over again. That's not how they got to success. What they did is that every single time they failed, they learnED something from it.

Instead of saying like, "Well, that failed, so I guess flying's not the right thing for us to do." It was, "Okay, what can we learn from that? Let's try something a little bit different. What did we learn from that? What went well? What didn't?" Until they eventually made an airplane. Now Dedeker gets to fly to Japan and Singapore and places like that.

Emily: Literally I was just going to say that too, I was like, "Now Dedeker just got to Singapore from Japan yesterday." There it is.

Jase: Because of those--

Dedeker: Thank you Wright brothers. That was not where I was expecting this episode to go.

Emily: It's fine. We're just talking about how much you travel and fly.

Dedeker: Let's talk about that attitude shift, essentially, of shifting from just kind of powering through failure or ignoring failure, or flipping into crippling depression because of failure, and into failure being this creative and generative thing.

Emily: We've talked a lot, on this podcast, about resilience in a variety of forms. Definitely, this is a thing, when dealing with failure, that somebody should learn to cultivate within themselves.

Dedeker: Often failure itself can cultivate resiliency.

Emily: Absolutely. It is a choice, in my opinion, to be become resilient and understanding that your life is going to be full of failure and that's just the way that it's going to go. You can accept that and move past it, or to go in the opposite direction and just constantly, I guess, berate oneself and feel awful about those failures that occur, that will inevitably occur in one's life. Let's talk about resilience. A resilient person will work through challenges by using personal resources, strengths, and other positive capacities of psychological capital such as hope, optimism and self-efficacy.

Dedeker: Love me some self-efficacy?

Emily: Yes, Dedeker, why don't you blow out what self-efficacy is?

Dedeker: Blow out like a

Emily: Like a no


Give us a little old definish.

Dedeker: With that intro? Yes, self-efficacy, I wrote about it a bunch in my book. It's this idea of-- it always makes me think of the si se puede or the Obama campaign that yes we can. It's this idea of this self-belief and self-determination that you can do something. It's backed by research that if you head into a task or learning a new skill believing that you cannot actually learn that skill, it does actually affect whether or not you learn that skill it turns out. If you head into it believing that you can learn that skill, you're much more likely to not only have a better time learning, but also you actually are more likely to have success actually learning that skill.

Emily: That's awesome.

Dedeker: That's self-efficacy, which is definitely a hallmark of someone who has high resiliency.

Emily: Yes, absolutely. If you overcome a crisis by being a resilient person, that is often described as bouncing back like, "Okay, I've bounced back from a failure." Or you bounced back to a normal state of functioning after maybe being down the dumps about something that happened, but you bounced back and you're better than ever. Also, being resilient, like you said about self-efficacy, it is positively associated with happiness. So if you are a more resilient person, then most likely, you're also going to, probably overall, be a happier person as well.

Dedeker: I just want to clarify though that being resilient doesn't mean that you're not sad or depressed or angry about setbacks in life. It doesn't mean that something bad happens and you just immediately bounce back and you're super positive and super cheery and super smiling all the time. To share a personal story of mine, after I got out of this abusive relationship a number of years ago, and I was starting to have all the normal stuff that you go through at the end of a relationship when you are recovering from the end of the relationship combined with PTSD as well, I had a conversation with our good friend, Jessica Graham, where we talked about resiliency.

I talked about the fact that I'm like, "I don't feel very resilient at all. I feel like I'm falling apart all the time. I feel like my emotions are out of control. I don't feel resilient," and she really argued that with me saying that "No, you are extremely resilient because of the fact that it's like you're taking the time to talk about this. You're taking care of yourself, you're going to therapy. You are taking action to take care of yourself, and that's resilience. Just because you're sad or you're angry, depressed doesn't mean that you're not resilient." That really helped.

That conversation really helped for me to re-frame the way that I felt about both the failure of the relationship and my failure to recover from it or what I perceived to be a failure. I just want to make sure people understand that resiliency is the bouncing back affect, but it doesn't always look like I just stopped crying and then I'm happy for the rest of my days.

Emily: Yes.

Jase: Yes.

Emily: I can look at variety of ways. That's a great story. Thank you.

Jase: This subject of resilience comes up a lot in the field of positive psychology, which we've talked about before on this show as well. Something that's important to note there is that positive psychology, contrary to popular belief, is not about being happy all the time. It's about well-being, and there's a subtle distinction there or maybe not so subtle distinction, but just the idea of being happy all the time is absurd. That's not a real thing.

Emily: Probably not going to happen.

Jase: It's not going to happen.

Emily: That's my opinion.

Jase: It's just not going to happen.

Dedeker: I think closely related to that also being "successful all the time". It's also not going to happen.

Jase: Oh my god. I love that. Yes, absolutely, but that success happens because of failures and because of learning from--

Emily: It's imbursed.

Jase: Right, that it's not just a state that I'm in all the time. In the same way that happiness isn't a state you can be in all the time. Literally, you can't. That's not how it works. If that's what you are aiming for, maybe re-evaluate that a little bit and find some other metrics for how well your life is going such as well-being, which is kind of this looking at like how fulfilled you feel by your life, the balance of positive and negative, what your self opinion is of yourself, things like that. We talked about that more in previous episodes. Looking at resilience, there's a scientist named Angela Lee Duckworth. She has a great TED talk about resilience. It's also like a six-minute TED talk too, so it's an easy one to watch whenever. I was going to say [laughs]--

Emily: Can you do--

Jase: I was going to say, "Watch while you're on the toilet," I'm like, "Why did I thin of that?"


Emily: Well you did. I mean, your six-minute toilet break. Wow. There's a lot of gips and gaps on this.

Dedeker: It's true. No, it's okay. I'll go with that example because I'd be much more willing to start up a six-minute TED talk while I'm on the toilet then like a 30-minute one. I guess, depending.

Emily: Can you say that you've done a TED talk if you've only done a six-minute TED talk?


Dedeker: My goodness.

Emily: What? I'm just saying.

Jase: Yes. I'm going to say yes.

Dedeker: Wow. Of course you can.

Jase: I wouldn't even call it that a failure at all.

Emily: I wasn't calling it a failure, I was just asking.

Jase: I know. I was just trying to make it relevant to the-- Okay, never mind.

Emily: Thank you. All right. Go on, that six-minute TED talk.


Jase: Angela Lee Duckworth has done a lot of studies about resilience specifically, and her studies have tended to focus on school, like students in school, and also their success in careers a little bit, but basically finding that this quality of resilience, this quality of sticking things out when they are hard and working through challenges and not being completely discouraged by failures, that quality of resilience was actually a better indicator of how successful this person would be in a job or in their academic studies than other measures like IQ, which also, as a side note, goes to show why we should be using different metrics for getting people into college than standardized testing, but whatever. There's that.

Dedeker: Amen to that.

Emily: Dedeker, you also had talked a little bit about just like in terms of re-framing failure in schooling systems, and how Japan does a very specific thing.

Dedeker: Yes. This is also mostly anecdotal, but I've read a lot of accounts, specifically from the Japanese school system, of allowing kids to fail multiple times, but within a context where classmates are also being really encouraging of them as opposed to the failures where it stops essentially. I feel like, again anecdotally, my experience being in school is that it's like if you give the wrong answer to something, it's like, "No, that's not right. Let's move on to the next person who has the right answer."

Jase: Exactly.

Dedeker: It's like, "No, who has the right answer?"

Emily: And everyone gets to laugh at you for having the wrong answer.

Dedeker: Yes, I suppose, if your class is full of a bunch of jerks, which sometimes is the case.

Jase: It definitely happened, yes.

Dedeker: Again, anecdotally, I've read all this accounts, particularly in the Japanese school system, of-- I read this story of a kid in this class, it was a math class, they were letting these kids go up to the board. They were taking turns solving problems, and everyone was getting them right except this one kid who came up, did his problem on the board and it was wrong.

Instead of it being "Okay, go back to your seat. Let's call up someone who can do it correctly," it was, "No, try it again." The kid tries it again and he gets a wrong answer again. The teacher says, "No, try it again." He tries it again, and he gets the wrong answer again. Now, at this point, I think from an American standpoint, we're thinking like, "Well, that's cruel. That's just humiliating, just making this kid stand up there and keep failing again and again and again and again." Then, after the kid had "failed" three times already, but then his classmates started giving him encouragement, telling him like, "No, you can do it. You know you have the right answer. You can figure it out." After a couple more tries, the kid does eventually figure it out.

These overlaps with studies that I've read that if you're doing something, for instance, like learning a new language. The struggling to remember something and actually taking the time to remember a word, even if the first couple attempts are incorrect, that's going to cement that knowledge in your brain much better than if you just got it right on the first time, or if you immediately just looked it up.

I've heard of studies about also just recalling information in general. It's not language-specific. That, for instance, if you go to a presentation and maybe you take your notes on the presentation afterwards, for instance. You sit there, and you're trying to recall what were the most important things, and that you just know that that's going to be better for your retention of the information than if you're taking notes the entire time. Now, this is starting to get a little bit off the track, but essentially it's just--

Emily: No, I love all of the it's awesome.

Dedeker: It's just that sense that it's like failing multiple times can be part of the process and can actually help make success more accessible to you in the future essentially. It's the takeaway there.

Jase: I'm going to resist so hard going on a tangent with you, because I read a really cool other article about that with learning stuff, but we're not going to go there because that's not what this episode is about. We are going to talk about developing resilience, because by now you might be going, "Yes, that sounds great, but I don't have that. I'm a failure, and now we're back where we started." The good news is that resilience is something that's learned. It's something that can be taught. It's something that we mostly learned unintentionally by just picking it up from places, but it is something that we can be intentional about and trying to learn.

Here are some examples, and these are pulled from a bunch of different sources that some about things we can be teaching our children, others are about what you can be doing in business, others are more geared around the arts. There's lots of different options. I'm just going to go down this list here. The first one is setting smaller goals, setting tiny goals that align with your values. I think this one, when we think about it in terms of relationships is like saying rather than my goal is to get married, and have a white picket fence, and these amount of kids and whatever. Instead of that goal, my goal is, "I want to have a relationship where I feel safe to communicate honestly with my partner," and then be like, "Okay, I feel like I have that. Now my next goal is I want to have a relationship where we're able to talk about sharing money in a very frank and matter of fact way, while also having relationship where we communicate honestly." It's finding these things that line up with your values. We'll come back to that in a second.

Second one is spending time on mindfulness. This could look like a lot of things, like for Dedeker, she loves meditation. I really like journal writing. It's something that-

Emily: Yoga.

Jase: -like yoga. Yes, great example. Going for walks is actually been something I've been doing during breaks at work. I'll go for a walk to be away from people, and be moving, because for me that helps. I just recently read this cool article, and I apologize that I don't remember the name of this professor who was talking about this, but she's pretty famous for writing and talking about mindfulness. One of the things she talked about is that people have this mistaken idea that mindfulness is like a chore. That mindfulness is something that takes a lot of energy and it's draining. She was making the argument that it's actually the opposite. She's saying when you're on vacation, and you paid a lot of money to have time where you're not having to work and you're just getting to enjoy stuff, that that's an example of mindfulness. And that including mindfulness into our every day is actually something that is energizing in a similar way. We get to take this little mini vacation.

Emily: Vacation from our problems.

Jase: Right. By being mindful, rather than it being a chore, and yet another thing on our to do.

Dedeker: That's so interesting, because I never really thought about it that way. Because it is so easy to frame mindfulness, or even something like meditation as the chore of, "I have to resist looking at my phone for five minutes," or chore of, "I need to sit still for five minutes" or the chore of whatever, instead of framing it as like, "This is my mini vacation right now. This is like my little energy boost right now, even if it's just five minutes." I really like that.

Emily: Yes, that's great.

Jase: Then going along with that mindfulness is the gratitude exercise that we talked about. We talked about in the positive psychology episode, maybe also in one other one, but it's the exercises of-- It's very simple, it's ending every single day, ideally writing this down, but you could also just say this out loud to yourself, or even just think it. Is thinking of three things that happened today that you're grateful for, and why you appreciate those. It doesn't have to be like, "I'm grateful that I have a house" or something like that, but it's like, "I'm grateful that you know what, someone held the door open for me today, and that was really nice."

Dedeker: There have been times that I've just written down like, "I saw a cute Gecko", on particularly bad days.

Jase: Totally. By doing this, what you're really doing is you're training yourself. You're training that muscle that remembers the good things that happened, the things that worked out. Maybe you had like a really terrible meeting at the end of the day, and that's all you can think about at night, and then when you're doing this exercise, you think back and go, "You know what, actually earlier in the day I did this Project at work" or, "I had this conversation with my partner that went really well, and they really acknowledged me, I would have forgotten about that entirely, it would have gotten erased by this other bad thing that happened, but instead, I'm able to remember that."

This goes along with having this resilience of just seeing like, "Oh, right, there are positives here too." In a lot of the stuff that we were looking into, and we're going to go into more depth about us specific exercise for doing this in a second, for building resilience about specific situations. Something that came up a lot was this idea of finding your purpose, and it tended to be tied to the arts or jobs or things like that. If you find something that aligns with this higher purpose that you believe in, that that'll help you be more resilient.

It'll help you persevere through things because it's attached to something bigger than just yourself, or just your whim right then. I think that, to go back to those examples about setting those tiny goals for your relationships, rather than this big goal of like, "I want this one particular life." Like, "I want to have this close triad with this type of people, and it works this one particular way," and instead going back and saying, What are your values? What are your points of integrity with relationships?

It reminded me of like Dedeker's exercise of writing a constitution for yourself, of not describing what the other people are involved in the relationships, but what you are. What you believe are the relationships you deserve to have, that you believe you can have, and that you won't accept less than. Starting from those, that having those beliefs and reminding yourself of those can inform your relationship decisions and your relationship goals, rather than just taking on these wholesale abstract goals, because you saw it somewhere and it looked good, or you had this idea, and it sounded cool.

Emily: Wholesale goal.

Dedeker: I really like that because having that sense of purpose, and that sense of your core values, I know that having that can really immediately change the story around a relationship ending, or around someone rejecting you. Because if you know like, "Well, I know I'm staying true to what my purpose is or what my values are and it's clear to me clearly this person was not on board with my values, or this relationship was going to run counter to what it is that I want and relationships", and it doesn't feel like a failure. It just feels like more of like a maybe like a course correction or something like that. That really helps you to re frame that particular failure. I feel

Emily: We're going to talk more about reframing?

Dedeker: Yes. Are you ready for some writing homework, I mean, a super fun writing exercise.

Jase: Yes, I love writing.

Emily: Re-framing it not as homework, but a super fun exercise.


Sure, let's do it.

Dedeker: There's this particular exercise for reframing failure, and building resilience around failure that was created by Dr. Martin Seligman, who is often credited as like the father of positive psychology.

Jase: What's funny is that, that woman I was talking about earlier who talked about mindfulness, she's often called the mother of positive psychology. So they were definitely very much in cahoots or related.

Dedeker: Our positive psychology parents

Jase: Yes, I guess so.

Dedeker: I love it.

Emily: Do they work together? Ever?

Jase: I'm sure that they interact. I don't know.

Dedeker: They can co-parent, that's fine. They can co-parent however it is that they like.

Emily: Co-parent. Completely separately from one another.

Dedeker: Anyway, this is Dr. Martin Seligman's ABCDE exercise, and for those of you who are familiar with CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, maybe you either studied it or read about it, or you have gone to cognitive behavioral therapy yourself. The beginning of this will be very familiar. The first ABC of the ABCDE became a milestone of CBT, and it's called the ABCs of CBTs. Now I've said way too many letters, and I'm going to stop saying letters.

Jase: I'm lost already.

Dedeker: The first step is A. Figure out what is the adversity. What was the thing that happened? I'm just going to run through these, we're going to dive more into like an actual specific example of going through this writing exercise, but first, I'm going to explain each step. A is finding the adversity. What was the thing that happened? What was the failure here? Writing that out.

Then we move on to B, which are the beliefs. What are my beliefs about what happened? What meaning am I giving this thing? What do I believe about myself? What do I believe about the situation? Moving on to C, which is consequences, which is. How do I feel because of those beliefs? What are the consequences in my life? What kind of actions or behavior am I taking as a result of my beliefs around this adversity, or this failure that happened? The ABC is the foundation of CBT therapy. Then we move on to the D, and E, and D is disputation or just dispute it. That's all. Dispute it. Argue the other side of those beliefs.

Write out different reasons for why this failure happen? Or a different way of looking at this failure. Dispute that it's actually a failure. Dispute that it's actually something negative. And then the last one is energization or energize it. Which means, after going through the steps. How has your feeling changed after disputing your previous beliefs? What might be a different mindset to put on moving forward? Again, even if it's just a tiny change, what might be a way to energize yourself so that this failure is again something generative, something creative something that pushes you forward rather than something that flattens you essentially.

Emily: Now, what we're going to do is we're going to do a little writing exercise of our own. We made up this exercise example. A pro tip, if you are going to do this on your own, it might be a little bit difficult just to have the objective opinion of yourself going through this. It may help to get someone that you trust to talk to to help you through these steps. Because again, sometimes it's really difficult to look inward during times of crisis and instead an objective viewpoint or even just someone who's not totally within it could be really helpful.

Dedeker: Or it can be helpful to dispute it to yourself sometimes.

Jase: Yes, something to keep in mind with this is just that this is a partly fictional example based on real life experiences that we've come up with here, but this is just to give you the idea of how you would go through this ABCDE, how you would go through these steps, what that might sound like.

Emily: Here's this example that is a fictional example that we came up with but in this example, we are deescalating or breaking up a relationship. In this example, my partner and I of many years decided to take a step back from our romantic relationship. We're planning on moving out. We have been living together but we're moving out within the month. We're just really not as compatible as we used to be. The sex has been lackluster for about six months and we're just clearly happy when we're around each other. That's the adversity section.

Jase: Unhappy.

Emily: Yes.

Jase: Unhappy. You said happy when we're around each other.

Emily: Did I say happy.

Jase: Yes. [chuckles].

Emily: We're not happy. We aint.


No happiness is there.

Dedeker: That's the adversity or the failure, the step A of the writing exercise.

Jase: Then the B is belief. What do I believe about this? It's well, maybe I'm not trying hard enough or I am really sick of all the work that's going into making my relationship stay afloat. The fact that I'm sick of that means I'm a shitty partner or I'm afraid because I don't think I can make it on my own and no one else will love me. I don't feel like I can live well on my own. If I couldn't make this work, I won't be able to make anything work.

Dedeker: Right. Those are those internalized beliefs of what you believe about the situation. Moving on to C which is the consequences of those beliefs. The consequences is maybe like, "Well, because my entire life is an upheaval because of the break up, I'm stressed out all the time. I'm not able to get any sleep because I'm stressing about finding a new place to live. I'm stressed about living alone or I'm stressed about trying to find roommates or I'm stressed about how I'm going to afford this."

Or as a consequence, I'm crying all the time or I'm angry all the time or both at the same time. Or I feel depressed or I feel discouraged about the future. I feel discouraged about my future of getting into another relationship or being single for a while or things like that.

Emily: Okay, with those adversities and the beliefs that come from that adversity and then the consequences that come from that belief, we're going to turn this on its head and we're going to dispute that. We're going to look at these things in a different light. Okay. Even though we're venturing into the unknown here with the breaking up with our partner and being on our own, there's an excitement. There's this excitement that we feel about the possibility of getting to live on our own again about creating our own agenda. We're not going to worry about what we're doing or saying, if we're pissing off our partner, if we're making them happy.

Then there's also a different side of this. Like my partner and I work well as friends. Maybe taking the difficult part of sex out of the equation will actually make us be happier and allow us to have a really great friendship eventually.

Dedeker: Yes, I feel like you could also dispute. I think another part of this disputation process is also disputing. Like, actually, I don't think I'm a bad partner or I can look at evidence from past relationships to show myself the times that I was a good partner. Or I can dispute like-

Emily: Yes, and I did give it a good college try.

Dedeker: Exactly, or I can dispute like, I have lived alone in the past and it's been fine. Things like that.

Jase: Or disputing like, "Well, people have decided to date me before so I'm not going to be alone forever." Yes, it's looking at each of those beliefs and being like, could I make? Not just say "It's going to be fine," but actually give evidence of no, actually I have had people ask me out before or actually just the other week someone asked me out and I said no because I was in this relationship. People are still interested in me. It's like finding evidence. How would you actually argue this against yourself? How could you make a good case?

Dedeker: It seems like a step that's also good to have someone else again that you trust. Someone else who's not just going to say "Whatever, you'll be fine you'll be fine you'll be fine," but we'll help you talk through this and will help bring up examples to actually dispute or contradict these negative beliefs that you're holding about the situation.

Emily: Absolutely.

Jase: I think that the power of those if you're the one disputing it. I still love having that friend there who maybe reminds you of, "Well, what about this?" But then if you're the one yourself who's like, "You're right, that's an example of how I am a good partner or that's an example of how I can find love or do well on my own or whatever." Yes.

Dedeker: From that disputing process you distill all that down into energizing. That might be something like, "Okay, even though I know that this transition is going to be difficult, I am looking forward to getting out of here. Getting into my own space again. Maybe being able to go on some new dates. I feel like this is just another chapter in my life and I can rebuild myself. I can get back into the hobbies that I abandoned when I was with this particular partner or I can pick up something new, explore these new things. I can be my own agent in my happiness again."

Which is definitely like it's landing in a better place than just wallowing in the, "I think I'm a shitty partner and I failed at this." Not that going through this is going to instantaneously turn things around but it is going to help lay that groundwork for rewriting that story about failure in your head.

Emily: Yes, that sounds great.

Jase: Yes, and I think this last step of the energize of writing about how you feel different now after disputing this, is the one that I think it's easy to take issue with and be sure sure and the examples everyone's like, "Now I feel so great", but the truth is that even if you still feel shitty about it and you still feel like you maybe have some of those beliefs the negative ones, even if there's this incremental bit better that you feel that's what you write about write about. When you do this exercise it's like, even if it's not like, "Problem solved overnight. Wow, miracle cure."

It's like, "No, but you know what, I do feel a little bit better even though overall I'm still not happy about this." I think that's a really important piece. Is to don't-- ironically, I guess don't feel like you failed at this exercise just because your outcome didn't look like it does in the example.

Emily: Tip top shape immediately.

Jase: Right, yes. Also, just for those of you listening at home, your time for the quiz is up. The answer was Dr. Ellen Langer.

Dedeker: Was who the mother of .

Jase: The mother of positive psychology. She's the professor who talks about mindfulness and said that thing about it being energizing rather than costing energy.

Emily: I thought it was the Ted talk lady that you were talking about earlier.

Jase: Yes, she's also awesome. She's a young lass compared to Seligmann and Langer. They're both-

Dedeker: She's like the young auntie maybe.

Jase: [laughs] Gosh.

Emily: The niece of .

Dedeker: Underneath the cousin. Cousin perhaps.

Emily: The second cousin once removed of the positive psychology movement.

Jase: Well, that makes it sound like she's not quite part of it. Yes, I don't know but, yes, Angela Duckworth is like the younger generation of researchers and people talking about this whereas Dr. Ellen Langer and Dr Martin Seligman are both-- they're quite a bit older at this point. They were pioneers of this earlier in the day.

Emily: Okay, cool.

Dedeker: Well, good job on that pop quiz that no one saw coming.

Emily: Yes, I didn't even know that was a quiz.

Jase: There's going to be one person who when I couldn't remember earlier who's like oh my gosh, I think it's this. It's got to be Dr. Ellen Langer.

Emily: Probably more than one, but yes.

Dedeker: Well, a handful of people got a little boost just then.

Jase: Yes, tweet at us and let us know because I think there's only one. I'm expecting one for you.

Dedeker: Can we end things out with this beautiful collection of quotes about failure that we've collected?

Jase: Yes.

Emily: Yes, all from beautiful women which I love. Okay, this one is from the goddess Oprah Winfrey. Or maybe I should say queen because she says, "Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness."

Dedeker: You really have been trotting out the drama voice.

Emily: I know. I think it's because of the Drum Bible study I'm not even going to lie to you all.

Jase: Yes, that makes sense.

Emily: I wish I know that people have gotten on me for the voices but I love them. It's theater.

Jase: [laughs] It's the theater.

Dedeker: It is theater. Well, our next one is from Maya Angelou. She says, "You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it." I love that quote. I love how she breaks it down. It's not like-- Oprah Winfrey is talk about queens and stuff and I love that but Maya Angelou feels a little more down to earth and pragmatic which I really love.

Jase: Then our last one is from Ellen DeGeneres, which is, "When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail and both are equally important." I love that. Just Ellen, the idea that it's not like you'd have to put up with the failures to get to success. It's like no, both of these are equally important in terms of your growth and your success. I think that's really cool.

Dedeker: Wow. Well, I love all that. I would definitely love to hear from you if any of you try this ABCDE exercise and what it produces for you. Or even if you want to pop into our patron group and just share with us what came out of this exercise or even share the writing that you did, we definitely love to see it. The best place to share that and to share your thoughts about this episode with other listeners is on this episode's discussion thread in our private Facebook or discourse forums. You can get access to these groups and you can join our exclusive community by going to patrion.com/multiamory.

In addition, you can share with us publicly on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. You can email us at info@multiamory.com. You can leave us a voicemail at 678 MUOTI 05 or you can leave us a voice message on Facebook. Multiamory is created and produced by Emily Matlack, Jase Lindgren, and Dedeker Winston. Our episodes are edited by Mauricio Balvanera. Our social media wizard is Will McMillan. Our theme song is Forms I know I did by Josh and Anand from the Fractal Cave EP. Full transcript is available on this episode's page on multiamory.com.