How the Upper Limit May Be Impacting Your Marriage or Relationship

Season 1 Episode 5 of Better Relationships After Baby Podcast

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TLDR Podcast Notes

  • Our egos create a comfort zone that it knows how to operate in. This includes an upper limit that is the cap of the joy, success, connection, good that we feel capable of receiving
  • We can sabotage when good things are happening in order to stay within the upper limit of our minds
  • Having MORE in your life and relationship doesn’t make an impact if we are not expanding our ability to receive and accept more
  • Criticism, resentment, avoidance, comparison can be the effects of hitting our upper limit
  • Working to expand our upper limit allows us to find more of the growth and life we want (after we overcome the mindsets holding us back)

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Transcription of this episode:

Hello parents and welcome back to the podcast. I am super excited for today’s episode because it is all about something that I have been literally geeking out on over the last few weeks, and I’m very excited to share it with you. Before we do that a couple of things that I wanted to just let you know one, we have a new Instagram account.
There we’ll be discussing each episode getting even deeper into the themes that we’re talking about here on the podcast, and just growing our community around conversation. So if you are on Instagram, please come and find us there. And secondly, right now I am enrolling my summer coaching container. This is a three month coaching experience. And I don’t usually do this but because of summer, I’m offering both weekly coaching sessions and bi weekly coaching sessions. So if you are someone who really wants to have a glow up this summer, you really want to hit the next level you want to experience more in your life as a mom as a couple as a partner. This is the time for you. And I’m pretty sure today’s episode is going to give you a lot of things to think about as you explore whether coaching could help you get to the next level of your life. So with that, let’s get in to today’s conversation.


The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks


I have been reading a book by Gay Hendricks called The Big Leap. And you guys this book has been rocking my world when it comes to business and finances and lifestyle and aspirations. But also, it has been hitting the nail on the head when it comes to relationships. And I want to talk to you today about the upper limit, and what that might be doing in and to your relationship. So I’m going to go through three parts here, I’m going to talk to you about what is the upper limit as described by Greg Hendricks in his book, The Big Leap, I’m going to talk about some ways that I see the upper limit impacting relationships and couples specifically. And then of course, I’m going to give you some ideas of ways you can address this and improve it in your life.


What is the Upper Limit?


So let’s explore what the upper limit is. Maybe you’ve heard of this, maybe you haven’t. But it’s a really, really cool concept. And I put off this book for a while I just didn’t give it much attention. And when I started it on Audible, because let’s be honest, for me, it’s audiobooks only these days. But when I started this on Audible, my mind was blown, I have laughed, I have cried, I have felt angry, I have had to really go deep into a reflection mode, about how the upper limit has been impacting me and my life. And when I start to talk to clients about this, or when I reflect on what my clients are going through, it makes so much sense that the upper limit is at play in a lot of aspects of our life. And I think it’s fair to say that while we are experiencing this in different aspects of our life, each bucket you guys know I love to talk about buckets, each bucket can overflow into or take from the other bucket.

So for example, when you’re experiencing limits in your career or finances, that can add to or take from your relationship, when you are experiencing the upper limit in your relationship that can pour over into what you take to your kids and the energy at home or the energy at work or with friendships. And when you are experiencing the upper limit around just your general mindset and what you believe to be true for yourself. This forms the reality that you are living in.


Hitting Your Upper Limit

Maybe you’ve heard of hitting rock bottom, but what about hitting your upper limit your ceiling? We have comfort zones, how low we can go without feeling despair and trying to desperately change things. And maybe you haven’t thought of this one, how high we can go without feeling out of place and trying to bring ourselves back down in order to level out often we think we want happiness. But what we really want is comfort and familiarity. At least that’s what our brain and our ego default to they default to comfort and familiarity. And so if we hit or upper limit, if we hit the upper part of this kind of box or container we’ve created for ourselves that we see our life in the, again, the lows, the mids, the highs, if we hit that high, then we oftentimes create drama or problems to take our energy back into the comfort zone. Let me say that again, because I think that this is such a interesting concept. And something that might just hit this light bulb moment for you. When you hit your upper limit, the upper limit of your joy of your success, what you are comfortable feeling and experiencing, then you create drama or problems to take your energy back into the comfort zone. And I’m not saying that we do this deliberately, I’m saying this is how our brain and our ego are constructed, and how they work.


How The Ego Makes an Upper Limit in our Relationship


Let’s talk about the ego, our ego is meant to protect us, our ego has a fear of the unknown. So naturally, if you’re experiencing more joy, more success, less stress, more money, a better relationship, better sex, you’re having a date night again, and you’re feeling a connection with your partner, your ego goes into default mode to prevent these areas from going outside of the comfort that you have for yourself. So this might be when you go out on a romantic date, and you have a really great connection with your partner. And on the way home, you argue about parking, or about something that happened last week, or you just pick a fight because one of you has hit your limit, you’re thinking, Okay, this is too high of a high, I need to bring this down, or we’re experiencing a lot of joy and connection, this doesn’t quite feel safe, it might feel good. But maybe it doesn’t feel safe. And that’s when our ego tries to step in, and sabotage and the comfort zone. This is different for all of us.

So this is not saying that a certain level of achievement or joy or connection is the upper limit. This means we each have a zone that has been formed. This comfort zone is formed throughout our life based on our own human experience, our family upbringing, what we internalize from media and culture, our self thoughts, what we have seen and believed to be true and to be possible. And so each of us carry kind of this box, this container, this high and low parameter that we are allowing ourselves to experience.


How the Upper Limit Impacts our Relationship Happiness


Have you ever heard someone say something like, I just chose to be happier. And I was, I’ve heard that before. And I thought that it was complete and utter bullshit. But But I’m here to tell you it’s not. This is science. This is Psychology. This is kind of hacking into our brains and our norms, and understanding how that works. And then choosing to go beyond that. This choosing is like bucking against the ego and saying listen, ego, I know where you’re comfortable, but I am choosing, not choosing happiness, you guys because that is kind of elusive. I am choosing to expand beyond that comfort zone. I am choosing to expand and accept more happiness, it’s there, whether you accept it or not.


But the choosing is in you choosing more happiness, more relationship satisfaction, more connection, more money, more friendships, the things that you’re craving cannot come to you if you have them boxed out.
The things that you want to come to you cannot do so if you have them boxed out. It’s like you’re pushing up against the limit that was there and making your box of highs and lows more expansive than it has ever been before. Like you’re literally like underneath pushing up your ceiling or your upper limit making it wider making it so that you can see and except more good for yourself. And this can be scary, right? Like it sounds so great.
Like of course of course I want more happiness.
Of course I want better sex and better connection with my partner.
Of course. I want to work as a great team and I want my family to have really fun experiences.
Of course I do.
But the reality the the side So the highness your ego is stepping in and saying, listen, sure you do. But this is scary.


Doubts that Impact the Upper Limit


This can be scary, because maybe you’re scared of it failing. But you’re even more scared of it working out and having to figure out how to live a different way. You might be asking yourself, Are you worthy of it? This is really tied to our upbringing and our self thoughts. Are you capable of it? How will the expectations on your life change if you do reach a new level of happiness and success in your relationship and in your personal life, it requires you to change. It requires you to go beyond what you’ve expected of yourself and other people have expected of you. Finding that expansive joy and happiness and connection and ability to receive that asks you to grow and change. And so sometimes we’re not afraid of things failing. We’re afraid of them working.

We’re afraid of our relationship being really beautiful and blissful.
We’re afraid of having so much teamwork, that we don’t have to control everything.
We’re afraid that someone in our life might look and say, she doesn’t deserve that, or that’s not who she is.
We’re afraid, in many ways, and that’s okay.
That’s, that’s a very human experience. It’s very natural for us. But also, I want us to be able to explore how this is impacting our relationship.

You won’t be happier when you have more. We often think like, oh, if I just had more time, more energy, more money, those things are true to an extent. But unless you expand your ability to accept more than more is never going to be meaningful to you.

Celebrities and Lottery Winners

This is why we see celebrities who self sabotage their success who get heavily into destructive behaviors or relationships. This is why we see lottery winners go bankrupt after a short amount of time, because more does not equal more. If you’re not able to accept it and expand your ability to take in that happiness, that joy, that connection. So Gay Hendricks in his book, The Big Leap addresses for underlying fears. And I think it’s really important that we know these and that we’re able to maybe self identify with some of them so that you know what we’re working with and how to move forward out of this upper limit that we have been living in that maybe you have been living in.

4 Underlying Fears that Impact the Upper Limit

The four underlying fears that Gay Hendricks addresses are:
1. Feeling fundamentally flawed.
This is when you tell yourself that something’s not possible. Like, maybe you tell yourself that your relationship doesn’t get better because of the person you are. Your relationship doesn’t deserve to be blissful and happy and super sweet. Like you dream of it because there are things wrong with you. You’re telling yourself that this fundamental flaw of yours is prohibitive. And so you stay where you are, instead of pushing into the expansiveness that you want.

2. Disloyalty and abandonment, the fear of disloyalty and abandonment. This is the person who maybe feels like if they have a happier marriage, then it might be disloyal to their family because they grew up in a home where marriage was toxic. And there were lots of arguments. And so what does it look like for you to have a really happy, stable marriage that might feel disloyal might feel like you are abandoning your upbringing or your friends, if you have a friend going through a really toxic situation, then you might fear getting happier and more connected in your marriage, because that feels like abandoning your friend. We don’t support people, and we can’t show them a better way if we choose to stay in the muck. And so just a reminder that it’s never great to stay stuck in order to relate to someone else or because we fear being disloyal to them and their situation.

3. More success, more burdens, or you might know it as Mo Money, Mo Problems.
So we might fear success, because success feels like it brings on more burdens that we don’t know how to handle Sure, the cards I’m playing with right now might not be the best stack, they might not be the deck that I want. But guess what, I know how to play a hand with this deck of cards. And so we just fear the burdens that we think that we perceive that we’re telling ourselves a story in our head are going to come if we expand, if we have a better teamwork connection with our partner, surely there’s going to be some problems or some burdens that come out of that. I don’t want to be a burden to someone so I’m not going to pursue a better connection and teamwork with my husband.
Have you thought this? Have you felt this does this impact you.

4. Fear of outshining.
So maybe you’ve been told your place, maybe it is your place with siblings or maybe it’s your place with a friend or a place in your family. You have been told whether outright or just an internalized experience that you’ve had, you’ve been told what your place is, and so you have a fear of outshining someone else and so you want to stay small, so that your light doesn’t get brighter than someone else’s. But again, a reminder, dimming your light does not make anyone else’s light brighter. That is a very unhelpful, unnecessary thing we’ve often been taught, especially as women.

So this can result in self criticism, negative thought patterns, anticipating the worst, and then seeing it as the worst happening when something happens because we haven’t anticipated it. It can result in busy work or deflection. It can be just avoiding your main areas of growth, it can be comparison, these are things that happen because of these fears. So of course, we want to talk specifically to relationships. And I’m sure you’re already seeing and hearing how this plays into your ability or struggle to grow and connect more deeply in your relationship.


Three Examples of the Upper Limit in Relationships

But I wanted to give you three examples that I see upper limits showing up in relationships, either from my own life and my own experience or from clients that I’ve worked with.

1. You don’t ask for help because you have an upper limit around the care and support you believe that you deserve.

So if you are someone who has a very limited view of what you deserve, or what you think is true for you, you are more likely to stay in a place of not asking for help because you feel like it’s a burden or because you don’t want to bother someone or because you feel on worthy of it. And we’ve talked about this before. But the reality is that staying in that place builds resentment, it builds disconnect, it builds frustration. And when we are not able to get support and help, then we are not able to show up fully for the people around us. So if you’re dealing with that limit, then let’s deal with that. Let’s tackle that, and work through why you might be saying no to the support that is available to you, because you have an upper limit around your worthiness. And this is really true in our relationship, right. So I hear all the time from moms, that we are dealing with resentment, that we’re not getting the help that we need, that we’re carrying a lot of the load. But I also often hear from these parents, from these moms, that we’re not asking for it. Or if we’re asking for it, we’re asking a roundabout way, or we’re worried that our partner is not going to do something exactly the same way that we do. So if you have an upper limit around what you believe you deserve, when it comes to care and support, then you’ve got to look at how this is impacting what you are taking on in the home. And the disconnect you’re creating between your partner in you, because of the resentment because of the frustration that you’re experiencing.

2. You don’t enjoy the good moments together fully, because you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

This is the person who gets a vacation with their partner, and they have a couple really great days. But then in the middle, they have an argument about something absolutely ridiculous. Because their systems just don’t know how to handle that level of good in connection. They’ve not expanded to that point. I gave this example before but this can be when you have a really great date and you felt really connected. And you know, the baby’s with the sitter and you’re able to trust it. But then on the way home, you find something, it’s it’s parking, it’s the bill. It’s the flavor of wine that was ordered. It’s something that feels so small and irrelevant, usually, but it comes up and it kind of sabotages because our ego is like, Look, you just experienced a lot of joy and connection. Something’s got to drop, something’s got to go wrong.

3. You’re resentful towards others, perhaps your partner when they go for their goals and experience success because you tell yourself that you cannot or should not.

So if you are someone who is capping your expansiveness if you are someone who is abiding by these limits and trying to play by the rules that your ego has set for you about what you do and don’t deserve, you are likely going to be resentful if someone else is pushing their own limits if someone else is going for more connection, if your partner is really trying to hit these levels of growth and success. If you see someone else who is experiencing a lot of joy and connection to themselves, this can create a type of defensiveness that is resentment. And I want you to think about if the upper limit is playing into your resentment towards your partner. Because this can be an area where we want to first self sabotage and bring ourselves down and tell ourselves a story about our unworthiness or not being as good as them or anything that our brains can conjure up. And it also can lead us to want to sabotage our partners because we don’t know how to handle them in an expansive way. We don’t know how to interact and what our conversations are going to be like and what the day to day is like if our partners go beyond the limit zones that they’ve been living in, and they become a more expanded person. And the same thing can go for you.

So, let’s say that you are working with a coach or you are working in a project group or something that’s really expanding you it’s really causing you to do some inner work and to buck up against these upper limits and create more space for joy and success in your life. But if your partner doesn’t know how to handle that they might be afraid they might be afraid not in a intentionally sabotaging way but in a way that their egos like wait, I don’t I don’t know how to handle her like this, like she’s speaking up or she is pursuing this or she is going out of these patterns that I know her to be in. And so this really really is a great time to have outside support. Especially if you and your partner are both working on expanding and leveling up. Then you need outside support to help you navigate the waters and communicate & get on the same page, so that your egos don’t come into conflict and limit the expansion that you and your partner are going for.

Four Tips for Expanding Your Upper Limit and Improving Your Relationship

So as we talk about this, I want to give you four ways to expand your upper limit. And to just just be playful with this, this doesn’t have to be such a rigid thing, this gets to be playful, because we are humans who change and evolve and grow. And we’re really magical. And we’re kind of strange. And it’s just more fun, I think, to be curious and playful, about our growth in our change, and even about the ways that we want to limit ourselves and the ego shows up, like let’s not be harsh and judgmental about that. Let’s be playful and experiential in that.

1.Become more curious and less critical.

So asking yourself, I wonder why I blank, I wonder why I am so bothered by my husband getting that promotion. I wonder why I feel like something’s about to go wrong. I wonder why I feel mad, even though we just had a really wonderful date night. I wonder why fill in the blank for you. And you just start to get curious. without judgment, this is really important. I see people, I work with people who want to make change. And then they start to get really harsh and judgmental about their change, they notice something that they don’t like, and they want it to be different. And so they get a little nasty with themselves or with their partners. And that is not going to result in what you want. You want to get to playful and curious and kind and gentle with yourself. You are human, you are operating as your default human mode. But we want to go beyond that, right? We want to expand, we want to get out of autopilot and into our best life so that we have that great personal connection with ourselves and with our partner, which is so important and so valuable. So again, just get more curious, ask yourself, I wonder why. I wonder why that upset me. I wonder why I said no to that. I wonder why this idea keeps coming up and I keep shoving it back down. I wonder why I pick on the ways that my husband folds the laundry, even though it’s just laundry like what’s going on here get curious and playful, and less critical.


2. Write a letter to the protective version of yourself.

So this might be a part of yourself where you really built your upper limits, because they were the defense you needed. It might be the version of yourself who is taking in all the images on media and all of the ideas and stories from family about who you were, this is a version of yourself and you want to write her a letter or send a voice memo or journal. And let her know it’s okay to expand and enjoy more in your life and relationship. Thank her thank her for protecting you. Thank her for having these boundaries for you to operate in when you had seasons of survival mode. But also let her know that it’s okay to grow and expand and enter this new season because you’re ready for it because you have the tools because you are able to live a more joyful and expansive life. And you can push beyond that that limit that was created before.

And if relevant in this letter, or in this reflection released the relationships that formed a limiting belief for you in the past. So for example, I had a long term relationship with someone and it felt like we were constantly at odds about who would be more successful, it was like I could only be so successful as a few steps below him. And that is something that I’ve held on to for a very long time I internalized that I felt that yeah, I wanted to do really great things, but I could never be a threat to his ego. I could never be a threat to his success. And so I had to temper myself I had to stay a few steps behind. That is something that I have worked on releasing and overcoming but I had to do the reflection of going back and visiting that Chels, it was a college aged child and telling her you know what, that’s okay, that you operate it like that. But now you’re allowed to expand now you’re allowed to grow by leaps and bounds now, you are allowed to experience more joy and more happiness and you have a partner who can accept and love you, no matter how far into the expansiveness you go and it’s safe to do so. So this can be really powerful to reflect on. These earlier versions, these earlier habits and where they came from and work on releasing that.

3. Work on enjoying even the smallest areas of your life.

When you’re eating a meal, even if rushed take a moment to savor a flavor you really enjoy. When you hear a song you like, take some time to really listen to the harmonies and the melodies or the lyrics, whatever it is that you love about it. When you give your husband a kiss goodbye, notice the sensation on your lips. instead of rushing off quickly to the next thing, we expand by recognizing more and more joy and connective moments, I don’t want you to think that this has to be expanding your limit by leaps and bounds and yards and feet. This can be simple, small, incremental pushes up against our upper limit. And so these small moments can really add up and be very, very important.

4. Develop a simple mantra that you can use when you start to hit your upper limit.

I’ll give you a couple of examples. Although I really encourage you to find one that is super cozy and super helpful for you.
It is safe for me to trust my partner more.
I am worthy of accepting and embracing more love.
It is safe to experience more joy with my family.

Again, you can go from there and develop a mantra that really helps you. As you notice, oh, I’m hitting an upper limit, I’m hitting an upper limit, I could sabotage right now. Or I could expand just a little bit, I can expand a little bit here. And that’s what I want you to be able to do.

And as a quick disclaimer, as we wrap up this episode, this is likely going to bring up some other things like ingrained thoughts and behaviors from your upbringing, the expectations that you perceived from the adults in your life patterns you’ve developed in your current relationship or in previous relationships, and aspirations and goals, you’ve been afraid to say out loud, that the great thing about inner growth is that it’s so cool. It’s so fun. And it is growth.

The hard thing about inner growth is that it often requires us to face a whole plethora of experiences and ingrained thoughts and behaviors and things that, you know, when we’re coasting on autopilot, we maybe don’t have to even look at hard work through. So if you’re someone who loves doing the inner work, you know that this often brings up other things. And I say that to say that a third party like a coach can be a really safe container for you to do that. So as a coach, I see myself as more of an usher. I help usher people off of the autopilot path and onto another path that feels a little bit unknown. It feels a little bit scarier. It’s the relationship path that has more communication. It’s the relationship path that breaks the patterns that you’re existing in, even though you don’t really love them. It’s the path that calls you into having more confidence and believing that you can live with more confidence. It’s the path that helps you to make your family experience different from your upbringing, even though that’s what you knew growing up.

So I love to usher people from the autopilot path onto a new path not to give you the exact playbook for your life because no one can give you the exact playbook for your life. But to create that routine, safe, intentional empowered space for people to process for people to work out their experiences for people to try new things for people to get skills. I love ushering people in that way. And so if you’re working through this, just a reminder that it’s totally normal. And it’s totally empowering. And it’s pretty cool to have a third party like a coach to help you explore these new areas of growth process and sorting them out and take aligned action for your future
and for your growth.

I hope that today’s episode on the upper limit and how it impacts you in your relationship has been helpful. And I highly recommend the book The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks let me know if you pick it up. Let me know what you think. And of course, if you are someone who wants to expand in your relationship, whether that is starting with you solo and growing your own confidence in your own story, or whether that means you and your partner taking this step together. That’s what I do in my coaching containers. And right now I’m offering a summer special where we can meet together throughout the summer in a very Are you safe empowered space and help you to make this a really impactful book marker season of your life

Published by Chelsea Skaggs: Coach

Chelsea is the queen of taboo topics and new-mom life. Postpartum Together (Blog & Groups) and The WTF Trimester (Relationships and coaching) are your go-to places for life after baby. We focus on communication, connection, and confidence. As a life coach for moms and couples, Chelsea helps you have your strongest relationship with yourself and with your partner, even after baby.

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