Kate Anthony on Should I Stay, or Should I Go? Saving or Splitting Your Relationship – Smart Sex, Smart Love

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This week Joe’s guest is Kate Anthony. Kate is the host of the critically acclaimed podcast ‘The Divorce Survival Guide Podcast,’ and the creator of the groundbreaking online coaching program, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ which helps women make the most difficult decision of their lives using coaching tools, relationship education, geeky neuroscience and deep self-work. She’s widely known as an expert in co-parenting and divorce.

Based in Los Angeles, Kate talks about saving or splitting from your relationship and asking yourself the hardest question of all, ‘should I stay, or should I go?’ “People often make the mistake of thinking one unhappy home is better for their kids than two separate homes,” says Kate. “But it’s better to have your children in a happy environment 50 percent of the time, than be in a toxic home 100 percent of their time. You have to ask yourself, ‘Do I want to put my kids in the middle of my divorce, or at the center of it?’ If you take your ego out of your split and remove your desire to ‘win’, you can break up much more successfully!” In other words, it’s the difference between putting your child in the middle of your power struggle or protecting them.

Find Kate at:
Website | Instagram

Speaker 1:

Welcome to smart sex. Smart love we’re talking about sex goes beyond the taboos and talking about love goes beyond the honeymoon. I’m dr. Joe court. Thanks for tuning in 

Speaker 3:

hello and welcome back to smart sex. Smart love. Thank you for tuning in, and if this is your first time listening to my show. Welcome today. I’m joined by Kate Anthony. Kate is the host of the critically acclaimed podcast, the divorce survival guide podcast and the creator of the groundbreak braking online coaching program. Should I stay or should I go? Which helps women make the most difficult decisions of their lives using coaching tools, relationship, education, geeky, nerd, neuroscience, and deep self work. She’s widely known as an expert in communication co-parenting divorce and emotional intelligence. In addition to her online programs, Kate also works privately with clients all over the world based in Los Angeles. Kate is here to talk about saving or splitting your relationship and asking yourself the hardest question of all. Should I stay or should I go welcome Kate? 

Speaker 4:

Thank you so much for having me Joe, every time I read the, should I stay or should I go? I think of that song. I do know what you mean. Actually, my, one of my colleagues we’ve been doing a weekly Facebook live and he started playing it and I was like, you know, we’re going to get in trouble. We got in trouble. We got flagged by Facebook. Yeah. You’re using music that you’re not exactly. Exactly. Wow. Well, how did you come up? How did you come to this? Should I stay, or should I, 

Speaker 3:

um, yeah. What did it originate? 

Speaker 4:

Well, it really originated with my own experience. Um, I had been in a marriage that was, uh, not great to say the least or, you know, uh, you know, about 10 years. And I was asking myself this question all the time. Should I stay? Should I go, what should I do? Should I stay for my kid? Everyone says, stay in your marriage for your kids. Like all of this stuff. And I, and I, I kind of wanted a burning Bush. I really wanted someone to give me some clarity about, you know, weighing all the options. Right. And, um, I eventually asked a friend of mine. He was the only person I really knew who had been divorced before, um, besides my parents. And he turned to me and he was very kind and I said, how do you know, how do you know when it’s time to go? 

Speaker 4:

And he said, when, you know, you’ll know. And I was like, that’s not helpful. Cause it’s been like three years and I still don’t know. And, you know, turns out there was actually a lot of truth to what he said. Right. You know, when I knew, I really knew, and it was like a frying pan hit me upside the head in a moment of clarity when I absolutely knew. Um, and one of the things that I knew was that I had to leave my marriage for my son because the, what we were modeling to him was so toxic and so unhealthy. And I knew that my son was going to grow up to repeat these patterns. Um, and I knew that there was that the most loving and kind thing I could do for my child was to get out of this marriage. Um, and for, to allow each of us the possibility to create something healthier. 

Speaker 4:

Um, cause my ex and I really brought out the worst in each other. And I knew that we were both probably better people than we were in our marriage. Right. Um, so, but at the same time, I still felt like I needed more answers than just the one that I knew in the flash of clarity. And as I began my work as a coach, after I got divorced, I started digging more deeply into this question and why people get divorced and why people are dissatisfied in marriages. And I sort of came up with a framework for kind of all the, all the stuff you need to know. And, um, that eventually became my program. So 

Speaker 3:

I think w what do you think of when people say, um, I’m staying in my marriage for my son leaving would not be for my son. My son needs a stable housing, no matter how I’m getting along with a partner, what do you say to people? 

Speaker 4:

Well, I say that, you know, what I say is, is the relationship that you have right now, one that you actually want for your children, because we grow, we do tend to recreate our childhood homes in our future relationships. And so, you know, are you okay with your child being in exactly this kind of marriage and, you know, for people who are really unhealthy and for whom it’s really toxic, the answer is, Oh God, no, you know, and then I say, okay, okay, well then let’s look at that, right. What are the reasons you think you’re staying for your son or your children, you know, and one of the reasons is that, um, you know, they think people think that two separate homes are, uh, that, that one unhappy home is better for children than two separate homes. And, you know, there’s a lot of data and a lot of science to disprove that theory, um, that actually children from divorce in which at, and some only one of the households has to be, um, should be, or can be, you know, nurturing and safe. 

Speaker 4:

Even if your, you know, another reason that people stay is that they, they want to mitigate the toxicity. So if their partner is emotionally abusive or anything like that, or, you know, physical abuse is totally such a totally separate issue, but if there’s emotional abuse happening and, um, verbal abuse or just toxicity, people think that if they stay, they can mitigate that they can sort of control the environment. And you know, what I say to that is you’re actually giving that an okay, you’re actually signing off and sort of co-signing with that behavior by being there, if you take them out, even if the other parent continues to be toxic and verbally abusive, if you create a loving, safe, nurturing space for your children in your home, even if they’re only there 50% of the time, it is far better than them being in that toxicity a hundred percent of the time. Cause there’s no safety there, right? Yeah. That’s a hard decision. I’m not saying like, you know, this is like flipping a coin and choosing what flavor ice cream you’re having. Right. It’s hard to get to that point. And especially if you are in an abusive relationship, right? Your self esteem has probably been whittled down so much so that it’s very difficult to feel that you can create such a, such an environment for your child on your own. You know, so there’s a lot of work to be done. 

Speaker 3:

So let me ask you something, cause I, uh, one of the things you, it sounds like you talk about, and I’ve always wondered about is I know the divorce rate, I’ve heard that the divorce rate for second and third marriages is higher than for first marriages. And actually I remember thinking, well, second marriages are probably better. Um, because you’ve learned so much from the first, but it turns out the second marriage is the, is the main one that is doesn’t work out. Is that right? 

Speaker 4:

Yeah. It’s kind of sad. We get worse at it. So the divorce rate for first marriages is around 50%, right? And then for second marriages, it’s about 68%. And then for third marriages that goes up to like 74, 75% divorce rate. And so really the, the reason that I think this occurs and from what my research and experiences is that we get rid of the partner because we think they’re the problem. And we don’t do the work on ourselves to figure out what our part was. Right. So we’re trading out and this goes to, that’s exactly the same thing that I was talking about earlier, which is that we recreate our childhood homes in these, in these future, you know, adult relationships. Right. And so if we don’t do the work on ourselves to heal that, um, then we’re just going to make making the same choices over and over and over again. 

Speaker 4:

And he’s gonna, you know, he’s going to look different, you know, he, or she will look different, they’ll wear different clothes, they’ll have a different job. They will present differently and you’ll think, Oh, they’re completely different, but you are the common denominator in that relate in all of your relationships. And so if you’re bringing the same thing, you’re actually, you’re usually making the same choices unconsciously about who your partners are, um, you know, under, underneath, right. So they could have a different job. They could make different money. They could, you know, have a, you know, all sorts of different outward appearing, um, differences, but underneath whatever dynamic relationship dynamics you bring, it’s going to be the same. So, you know, we keep sort of trading out our partners thinking that they’re the problem. But if we don’t do the work on ourselves, we will continue to recreate these patterns. And I think that’s why, you know, we think, Oh, this one’s going to be better because he’s different. And then like, oops, did it again. 

Speaker 3:

Couple of my office, well, a client of mine who was, who was on his fourth partner. And it was exactly the same situation. They were upgrades. One was better and better, but he was dealing exactly what the same themes that he came to me years ago with the first partner. So you’re right. He hadn’t done his own internal work. It’s what a great response that people are looking outward rather than inward. 

Speaker 4:

Yes. And, you know, it’s, and again, it’s hard work. It’s hard work to look at, why am I making these choices when, and it’s also, it’s also easy. It’s so much easier to point the finger, right. It’s so much easier to be like, Ooh, she was crazy. Or he was an asshole or anything like that. Um, but the bottom line is, um, you know, our, our stuff is our stuff and we make these choices and it’s so it’s so much harder than to look at, um, why am I making these choices? What is my wounding that is having me make these choices, but it is so much richer and so much more fulfilling and you know, so much more freeing because then you actually get to make healthy choices. And the other side of that is like, 

Speaker 3:

wow. Yeah, that makes sense. Why do you think, or what do you think I’m sorry, are the most important things a woman needs to address when trying to decide whether to stay or go? 

Speaker 4:

Um, so my program, I have, I run a program called, should I stay, or should I go? And it’s basically broken down into three categories if you will. And the first is the internal work. Um, the first is, you know, really that, um, getting in touch with who, who are you? Right. We tend to not really know, right. Sometimes who are you like, Oh, I’m a, I’m an architect. I’m a, this I’m that. Okay. But who are you really? What are your values? What are, who is, what is it that’s core to you? Um, what’s your wounding what’s, um, you know, so all of that 

Speaker 3:

work 

Speaker 4:

and then I think it’s important to do the cultural work. Um, what is it to be? Um, in my case, I work, I work with women, um, and I work with, um, with hetero women, CIS, hetero women, generally speaking, um, just because that’s my area of expertise. Cause that’s kind of what, that’s what I am. Um, and so, you know, what is it to be in a CIS hetero relationship in the 21st century? What does that mean? Right. So, um, you know, we have all these, these conversations about, you know, bearing the mental load and all of that, and that’s real, right. That is absolutely real. And, um, does is, 

Speaker 5:

Hmm. 

Speaker 4:

Do you leave your marriage because he’s not carrying his weight in the household when that is actually something that is fairly universal, you know, as, as studies have shown time and time again, they just did another Gallup poll about it. And there’s long re Pew research studies about this, that, you know, this is, this is the fact of being in a CIS hetero relationship in the 21st century. Right. So we have to look at all the cultural aspects. Why are we so tired? You know, what is it about the fact that the public schools, the public and private school system essentially relies on, on women’s labor, um, in the form of PTA, right? To run their systems. Right? No wonder we’re exhausted. Um, so I deal with the cultural issues and then the interpersonal, right? What is effective communication? What is the science of communication? 

Speaker 4:

Um, how do we, how do you deal with your, when you get triggered, how are you communicating through that? How are you owning yourself and, um, and effectively communicating through, you know, everything. Um, so I think that those are the three main things that I deal with. Right? There’s the inner work, the personal work, there’s the interpersonal work. And then there’s the cultural exploration. And it’s a lot, it’s a lot, it’s a lot. Yeah. It is a lot, but I think it’s important. Right? I do think it’s, I think it’s really important for me to say, Hm, wow. You know, I have this history of doing this and you know, my therapist has been really amazing for me in many ways, because he talks to me a lot about when I go in there and try to like pathologize myself, I always do this thing. 

Speaker 4:

And I’m always like this. And he’s like, yeah, cause that’s what women are trained to do. That’s how women know this is, this is a man too. It’s I love, you know, and he really breaks down like what, this is a, this is a patriarchal cultural phenomenon that you are playing out and you have internalized, right? Where can we internalize this? And that doesn’t mean that we can’t make different choices. Right. We can, because we can make the choices around our internalization. We w which then, but by the way, will help make the changes that we need to see culturally and in our societies. Right. But it has to start internally. You think it’s different for men? I know you don’t really work with men, but, and if it is different, how, yeah, I do think it’s different for, I mean, my experiences, again, I don’t work with men, but I hear from them a lot and I talk to them a lot. 

Speaker 4:

And I do think it’s, you know, when I talk about the patriarchy, which I do a lot, um, you know, I, and I think we’re in agreement on this, Joe, you know, patriarchy doesn’t serve men either. Right. It does not serve men. So, um, I think that the work that I would love to see men do, and I think the work that you do with men, um, is really opening up to this idea that, that this is, this is bad for all of us. Um, and helping men, um, come to terms with their emotional needs and their emotions and you know, what their specific needs are in relationships and how to be present for other people’s needs and emotions. And, um, you know, God, if we could all just come to this from a softer place, it would be, it would be a miracle, right. 

Speaker 3:

It really would be. You even said, um, that the term toxic masculinity needs to be a rebrand. What do you mean by that? 

Speaker 4:

Yeah, because I think that when we talk about toxic masculinity, I remember having a conversation with my son. He was like, he was 13 at the time, I think 12 or 13. And I said something about toxic masculinity. And he ran out of the room and slammed the door and he was so angry with me. And I was like, what? We need to have this conversation. It’s important. And he’s like, you think men are toxic and I’m a, I’m going to be a man. And I was like, Oh, that’s not what that means. And I realized that that’s what most men here. Right. And they get defensive and they dig their closet and they don’t want to hear anything else. Like they’re done with the conversation on entry. So if we were to actually talk about it in different terms, um, give it just a different name. Um, then I think more men would be open to the conversation and would realize that this isn’t about them being toxic. And this is actually coming from a place of love. Like I love men, but when I talk about toxic masculinity, people think I hate men. 

Speaker 3:

Yes. Right. That’s a go to one of the first associations people make it’s really not true. 

Speaker 4:

Right. Exactly. So I think we need to just talk about it in different terms and talk about it. I think a little bit more expansively, because, you know, when we, when we label something, it becomes very reductionist and I don’t think that that’s healthy or helpful to anyone. 

Speaker 3:

No, I don’t either. And you said that you had a very contemptuous marriage or contentious marriage and volatile, but you had a stellar divorce. Can you explain how you were able to create that? 

Speaker 4:

Yeah, well, it was very volatile. It was very valid. Like I said, we were just a bad toxic match and we had been since the beginning. Um, but you know, I was trying to get my childhood wounds healed through him and he was trying to do the same and it was just this constant sort of toxic push and pull. And, um, and, but, you know, the thing that we did in our marriage was that we were both an individual therapy almost the whole time. We were both, we were in couples therapy for years. We were a group couples therapy for years, which is awesome. Oh yeah. We were both in 12 step programs. Right. So, and we were also doing other personal development work. So there was a lot of work being done to try to save our marriage. And, you know, it didn’t work because this was not a salvageable, uh, marriage. 

Speaker 4:

And, um, and I also think we were doing it at different, different degrees of commitment. Let’s just say. And, um, you know, but when we called it quits, I think we were so exhausted and we were so kind of relieved to have the pressure off that. Um, immediation one of our, one of our mediators was like, so how the hell? Cause we were having so much fun and we were talking, we were bantering. And we were, it was, it was really a weird experience for our mediators. They were like, what the hell is going on? And we were like, and my ex said, you know, we tried so hard to make our marriage work that I think by God, we’re just going to try. We’re just going to make our divorce work and all of the commitment that we had to, to all the work that we had done and trying to make the marriage work, we just put it to work, uh, to use in our divorce and the single most important. 

Speaker 4:

So all the communication tools, right? We were in a Mago therapy together for years, our group group of Mago therapy. And in our very first meeting with, uh, our mediator, uh, we had an Tomago dialogue and he had never heard of such a thing. He’d never seen such a thing. And he was like, and it was about whether or not we should keep, who should keep the house. And I, you know, gave all my impassioned, you know, things and, you know, reasons I should keep it. And he mirrored me word for word and he summarized and he empathized and all of that. And then we flipped and I heard all of his reasons that he wanted to keep it. And at the end of that, you know, 20 minute Immigo dialogue that we both, you know, we flipped and each took a turn. I said, okay, you’re right. 

Speaker 4:

You should keep the house. I was like, what? So, um, you know, so we took those communication tools into our divorce and the, and then the single most important thing that happened was when our mediator said in our very first session, he said to us, you have one decision to make right now. And that is, do you want to put your chil your, your son, um, in the middle of your divorce or at the center and in the middle would be push and pull, right. We’re using him as a pawn at the center of, it means every single decision gets filtered through the lens of what’s best for him. That distinction that’s very 

Speaker 3:

good. 

Speaker 4:

Isn’t it? Great. And it was, and it was so clarifying. It was like, in a minute, we were like him, obviously we want to put them in the center. And he said, okay. And when things get tough, we’re going to bring, and he did every time things would get contentious or we would be arguing over something, he would say, okay, what’s best for your son. And my friend, Ben, hell fond. I don’t know if you know, the, um, Ben and Nicky from our happy divorce. And Ben talks a lot about, um, two plus two equal equals four, right. But if two plus two might, you know, might equal a thousand for my ego. Right. But if it equals four for my son, that’s what I choose. Right. And it’s really about taking ego out of it and really, you know, removing, removing the desire to win and really looking at what is best for my child. What’s best for my children. Is this 

Speaker 3:

everything you’re saying? And I believe in it a hundred percent, I think this is very, very, very hard and very different. I think you’re above and beyond what most people do. 

Speaker 4:

Don’t you agree? I mean, thanks Joe. I do. I do. You know, they’re not a lot of people out there doing what I do. Um, and you know, at first, you know, my, my work gets more complex the longer I do it because I, I hear these stories and I experienced these things and I think, Oh God, there’s so many layers. There’s just so many layers. And I wouldn’t serve people if I didn’t sort of, um, sort of attack all layers. Right. And didn’t dig through all of this stuff because all of it matters. Yeah. 

Speaker 3:

Yeah. It really does. What would you say is we’re getting closer to the end of the show. Um, what would be the top things you’d want to people to leave the show with knowing about the work you do? 

Speaker 4:

Oh, well, um, that it’s, you know, that it’s hard, but it’s worth it. That if you are in a position of thinking of really struggling with, should I stay, or should I go, um, that there’s, first of all, there’s help available. Um, there’s a community. I have run a Facebook group with over 2000 women in it that are just, that are struggling with this exact same thing. And every time someone posts, someone’s like, Oh my God, that’s my, that’s my experience. I can’t believe that someone else feels that way. Um, so you’re not alone. Um, and that this is a deeply complex time for relationships. Um, and you know, we’re trying to make a lot of changes culturally, and it’s impacting all of our relationships as the entire system shifts and, and tries to change and grow. And it’s, um, it’s causing a lot of, it’s causing a lot of, um, tension in relationships. And, you know, sometimes that means a relationship has to end. Sometimes it doesn’t, it just has to be done in a different way. And you know, those are, the skills are so important, you know, doing self work is so, so, so important. I can’t stress it enough. Um, and so I want people to know that there’s help available, that it really is out there. 

Speaker 3:

Now. What if they have a partner that’s unwilling to do the work on the other side? Can it still be done? 

Speaker 4:

Honestly, I don’t think so. Um, I, if your partner isn’t willing to, if you, if you’ve been saying to your partner for, you know, years and years, Hey, um, I’m unhappy. And I think we need to go to therapy together because, you know, I I’m like, I’m like, I want myself to, I want my work to be sort of like the last stop, right. First go to couples therapy. But if you have a cup, if you have a partner who is unwilling to do the work and unwilling to go on therapy or unwilling to go to couples therapy, you know, you can do all the work that you want. You will outgrow that relationship. You will move beyond your current circumstances. And some people are very scared of that, but I mean, what do you think, Joe? I don’t think so. 

Speaker 3:

No. I know there’s a book about couples therapy for one, I don’t know the name of it. I have it on my list to read, but she feels you can do couples therapy with just one person. Um, and I don’t know that you can do uncoupling with just one person very well. I don’t think so. 

Speaker 4:

Right. That’s I mean, I, yeah, I don’t know. I’m interested in that. 

Speaker 3:

I know it is. It’s got a real too. Alright. So talk to people where they can find you, you know, they want to continue the conversation to join one of your groups. 

Speaker 4:

Yeah. So I’m Kate anthony.com is my website. My, uh, on the homepage, there are links to join the group, listened to the podcast. The podcast is the divorce survival guide podcast. It’s on every place you can possibly listen to podcasts. Um, yet we were just, I was just, uh, recommended by the New York times last week. So, 

Speaker 3:

Speaker 4:

Yeah. So yeah, the podcast and my Facebook group, you can, there’s a link to join, or if you’re on Facebook and you search, should I stay or should I go, my group will come up. 

Speaker 3:

This is so helpful. Kate. I really appreciate you coming on the show. I’m very helpful for people to hear and neat to hear, and maybe we’ll have you back and maybe we won’t be able to get you back. If you’re on the New York times recommendation, you’re going to be on Oprah. Who knows where you’re heading. 

Speaker 4:

Oh my gosh. I’ll always come back to talk to you, Joe. A hundred percent, 

Speaker 3:

so much Kate, thanks for being on the show. And I’d like to thank everyone for listening and to not forget to follow me on Instagram and Twitter at dr. Joe court, D R J O E K O R T. And please rate, review and subscribe to my podcast. See you next time. 

Speaker 1:

Thanks for listening to this episode of smart sex, smart love. I’m dr. Joe court, and you can find me on Joe kort.com. That’s J O E K O R t.com. See you next time.

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