The Power of Expressing your Needs to your Partner with Kristen and Jeff Hartnagel [Podcast]
Kristen and Jeff are like peanut butter and jelly, they compliment each other so well. Maybe we should call them Kristen and Jiff? But things weren’t always perfect in their marriage. Have you ever wondered if your spouse is having an affair? In this episode, they share how they went from a conscious relationship with open communication to assumptions, leading to Jeff wondering if Kristen was having an affair. She wasn't, but this experience reminded her of the important lesson of open communication within a relationship no matter how long you've been together!
Kristen Hartnagel is a Personal Brand Strategist with Brand Builders Group, a company founded by previous guests on the Love Intently Podcast, Rory and AJ Vaden. She is the creator of the upcoming Peace Purpose and Power podcast dedicated to helping people use their imagination and live into their vision. She is an expert coach and draws upon her dual degree in psychology and journalism as well as her many years of spiritual studies to impact her clients and help them live in alignment. She is a professional speaker, retreat facilitator, and a certified Infinite Possibilities trainer.
As a Professional Singer, songwriter and recording artist, her favorite way to deliver her message is with keynote concerts. Throughout her career, Kristen has been part of 4 startups and is a founding member of Brand Builders Group working with NYT bestselling authors, award winning talent management agents and celebrities as well as 7-figure influencers. She is leading a movement to help people release the past, live in the present, and take charge of their future.
If you’re an entrepreneur or a couple who needs help building your personal brand and finding your unique voice in the market, Kristen wants to support you with a FREE strategy call! Fill out the form at Sophie.thebrandbuildersgroup.com for a free strategy call.
Jeff owns a used sporting equipment store where their family is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, so if you’re ever in the area and are looking to play a pick up game, be sure to head to Play It Again Sports on Alpine Avenue in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Kristen and Jeff’s story shows us the importance of loving yourself first, and being extremely intentional and clear about what you need and want in a relationship. In their story we see how a lack clarity and intention led to the couple drifting apart, ultimately leading to Jeff suspecting that Kristen was having an affair. Hear how Kristen and Jeff came out of this dark hole in their relationship by learning how to express their needs, and how their marriage and family life has been going strong ever since.
Love at first fax machine
We’re pretty sure most people don’t expect to find love while looking for a fax machine with your father for your new business. Well, that’s exactly where Kristen and Jeff found each other so maybe people should ditch Tinder and head to their local office equipment store instead! We’re just teasing of course, but it’s undeniably heart-warming to hear Jeff’s account of when Kristen walked into his store:
“I was standing by the doorway and as soon as I saw Kristen I said, ‘I’m gonna marry that girl’” -Jeff Hartnagel
He asked her out right away. Kristen says she could tell he was so nervous when he asked her out, but she was so happy he did because she can remember saying to her dad, “We have to buy a fax machine from that guy because he’s a fox.”
Why we seem to find love when we aren’t looking for it
Kristen had just gotten out of a long term relationship, so she really wasn’t looking for love, but that’s when people tend to find love, isn’t it?! It’s because others can sense your neediness and desperation when you’re looking for love this way. When you’re focused on other pursuits, you come off as calm and confident, which will attract others to you naturally.
Kristen had planned on staying out of the dating scene and wanted to know what it would be like to not be in a relationship. So she was very hesitant in starting things with Jeff and wanted to take it slow.
Jeff, on the other hand, knew that Kristen was the woman for him. He could sense her hesitation, and after 6 months of dating, he told her he wanted to end it because he felt he was way more into it than she was.
This was the push Kristen needed to realize that this is what she wants, too. It scared her to think about not being with him. So she decided to put her all into the relationship. Now, the couple has been married for 28 years.
How unrealistic expectations of your spouse and lack of communication can lead to the dreaded question: “Are you having an affair?”
It can be extremely painful and possibly confusing to suspect that your partner is having an affair. You may ignore the signs that your spouse is having an affair or, if you know they are having one, you may not know what to do about it. It’s something no married person ever wishes to experience, but this is exactly where Jeff found himself at one point. He noticed Kristen becoming more and more distant, and did exactly what he should do, which is to talk directly with Kristen about it.
Kristen was not having an affair, but this question forced her to really look at her behavior towards her husband. She found it all goes back to the behaviors she learned from watching her parents. Her parents divorced when she was in the third grade. Even at a young age, Kristen observed that her mother would expect her father to read her mind and know what she needs and wants, rather than having to tell him this. Her mother would get angry with him when he didn’t automatically know what she wanted.
Kristen fell into the same pattern of behavior as her mom. She took it for granted that after years of marriage, Jeff will know by now what she needs and wants. But new problems and situations always arise. You have kids, financial problems, work problems, and deaths of family members. It’s impossible for your partner to read your mind, and it’s unreasonable to expect them to be able to do so.
Kristen started becoming resentful and adding up in her mind all the ways Jeff wasn’t being the man she expected him to be, and she began to distance herself from him.
“We were living in the same house but not living the same life or being intentional about being together.” -Kristen Hartnagel
Kristen decided she would communicate better with her husband about exactly what she needs and wants from him, because how could she expect him to know? For example, she might say, “I’m going to tell you a sad thing and I just want you to wrap your arms around me and hug me, I don’t want you to try and fix it.” Jeff really appreciated this as well because he knows exactly how he can be supportive to his wife, which is super important to him.
Give what you need to get: The Five Love Languages and your Love Personality
Referencing the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, Kristen realized in order to save her marriage and become more intentional, she needs to model what she needs the most. This is because everyone can only come from their own experiences, they don’t have context or a frame of reference for anything else. So you need to show how you want to receive love by doing that exact thing.
Kristen started keeping a gratitude journal. Every day, she would write down why she loves Jeff, and what he is doing right, so that she can share this with him. At first, it didn’t feel genuine to her because she was still feeling so resentful, but…
“I know the power of positive thinking. I know we create our realities by the thoughts and beliefs we are holding.” -Kristen Hartnagel
Eventually, their relationship improved, and Kristen reflects on the important point that it wasn’t Jeff who changed, even though she originally saw him as being the problem. The relationship improved by Kristen becoming more intentional about their relationship.
Learn how you can be more intentional in your relationship by taking our Love Personality™ quiz!
How to parent with different religious beliefs
In Kristen’s personal development journey she discovered something that led her to a huge turning point. She had always felt different from others in her spirituality—she always felt very loved by God, and felt unique in this because other people she’d talked with seemed to feel more of a fearful relationship with God. But then, she read a book that validated her beliefs. The book is called Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch. She had suddenly stumbled upon this community of people who felt the same exact way that she did.
The real breakthrough here for Kristen was to trust yourself. To not just believe everything you’re told, and to not even just believe what you believe, but to analyze and challenge everything, and ask WHY do you believe what you believe.
Kristen and Jeff are parents who do not share the same spiritual beliefs, so the question becomes, what do they raise their sons to believe? Trick question, Kristen and Jeff hold the opinion that part of parenting is to give your children the space to draw their own conclusions. To not press any beliefs onto them but to answer their questions and have open, honest discussions. Kristen loves when her beliefs are challenged and the opportunity to open her mind to different perspectives that she is not seeing. The beautiful thing, she says, is that their two sons do not have the exact same beliefs, but they strongly believe what they believe and always stand in their truth.
“I think people get into trouble when they think their children should be mini-mes. It’s much better if we allow them to be the human beings they’re being called to be. In the world, when something goes wrong, we continue to do something that’s always been done, simply because it’s always been done. Imagine how much we could evolve if we were more open to innovation and new ideas and exploring?” -Kristen Hartnagel
The most important thing to understand about love: It is not a destination
Kristen had a few breakthroughs on her personal development journey when it came to love that we can all really benefit from hearing. One amazing truth she discovered about love is it isn’t a destination:
“We set ourselves up for disappointment if we think love will be this utopia. Love is a verb, it’s what you do to make sure a connection remains. How do you love on? How do you love on through the things that show up as crap? As distractions or diversions from where you thought you wanted to go? You gotta love anyway. It’s a doing, a being, not just a destination.” -Kristen Hartnagel
The next thing she learned is that we must love ourselves first before we can love others in a relationship. It’s how we talk to ourselves and perceive ourselves that really matters. She learned to let go of what others think about her, and how to fall in love with failing:
“When I start to compare myself to others, or am worried about how my thoughts and actions are going to be perceived by others, I sell myself short. I have everything I need within me and if I can just remember to step in to my power and trust…it doesn’t mean things won’t go wrong, but I can fall in love with failing, and I can fail forward. Failure is just a judgement that we put on something anyway. It’s just a try that I need to try again.” - Kristen Hartnagel
Links and Resources
Free personal brand strategy call with Kristen: Sophie.thebrandbuildersgroup.com
Follow Kristen on Instagram: @khartnagel
Follow Kristen on Twitter: @KristenHartnage
Follow Play It Again Sports on Facebook
Take the Love Intently Love Personality™ quiz
Book: The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
Book: Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch