Receptivity: The One Thing that will Transform Your Relationship, with Shane Birkel, LMFT

Overview of this Episode:

Shane Birkel, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Relational Life Therapist talks about receptivity and what it means in a relationship. Couples often have a hard time being receptive and vulnerable in communication with each other. Shane helps us learn how these challenges with receptivity developed, along with how to embrace compassion and healthy boundaries to create a healthy relationship with your partner.

What problems with receptivity do couples experience?

  • You might notice all the problems your spouse has, all the things they’re doing wrong.
  • When you get overwhelmed seeing your partner anxious, stressed, or angry, you might get into a fight or flight mode and have difficulty listening to your partner.
  • You minimize your partner’s reality, get defensive, fight back.
  • It can be hard to be receptive to your partner if you experience low self-esteem and don’t have compassion for yourself or how you grew up.

How do receptivity problems develop?

  • There are two ways you learn about relationships and how to deal with the world around you:
    • Modeling what you saw: what you noticed your caregivers doing when you were younger. If your dad was very angry, this was modeled for you, and you might tend towards acting in anger now.
    • Reacting to what you experienced: going the opposite way of what you saw. If your mom was very anxious, you might be reacting to that by trying to be very relaxed and letting everything go.
  • How you grew up and the relationships you had with caregivers often impact the way you experience relationships now.
  • You may not have learned skills for understanding emotions and communicating in a healthy relationship.
  • If you aren’t being mindful, you’re acting on the raw emotional experience you have.

What does a healthy relationship look like?

  • You and your partner learn and understand that there’s no right or wrong. You don’t blame, judge, or criticize.
  • You express your reality from a 1st person perspective (this is how I feel, what I think, my experience with it).
  • If you catch yourself being overly-critical or overly-withdrawing, you might be trying to protect yourself or your self-esteem. You recognize this and move from self-protection to healthy boundaries.
  • You recognize and care for the inner child who might be hurt or angry. You also choose to respond as your whole, adult self. Your partner is not responsible for caring for your inner child.
  • Healthy boundaries means you can focus on feedback from your partner and let that in, without accepting the criticism from them or taking that criticism in as part of your view of yourself.
  • Receptivity and vulnerability. Let yourself feel the emotions you’re experiencing. You can choose to expose this emotion and communicate it to your partner. Allow yourself to turn toward them and take in their reality. You can’t connect if you’re letting yourself stay in an angry or defensive mode.
  • Be willing and open to listening to your partner. This invites receptivity and connection.
  • Choose compassion and love for yourself.


Connect with Shane:

Shane Birkel, LMFT is a Certified Relational Life Therapist. He operates a private practice in Dover, NH, and works with couples and individuals with relationship issues. You can connect with him through his website:


Resources discussed in this episode:

  • The Feedback Wheel: helps you to speak from the 1st person perspective with your partner. It includes 4 sections: What happened, the story I tell myself, how I feel about that, my request/what I hope for. You can find an example of the feedback wheel HERE 
  • Terry Real and Relational Life Therapy
  • Pia Mellody


Special thanks to:

Will Gladden of LEVEL Digital Music Entertainment for making the music for the podcast.


Connect beyond the podcast:

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