097. Own Your Happiness to Be Happy Together with Sam & Patrick Cullinane

The Do a Day Podcast from Bryan Falchuk

Patrick, or “Paddy”, Cullinane is a serial entrepreneur who has started and sold multiple businesses and developed several software applications in the logistics and supply chain industries. Sam Cullinane began her career climbing corporate ladders to achieve the rank of Chief of Staff of a multi-billion dollar, multi-national company, before leaving that life behind to pursue a career in music, working with Paddy on his endeavors, and joining him to help couples work on their relationship through their podcast, books, speaking a more.

Sam and Paddy have been married for over twenty years and they would tell you they are one of the happiest couples they know. But they weren’t always this happy. In fact, after ten years of marriage, they were ready to sign the divorce papers. During the first ten years of their marriage, they struggled through like most people do: trying to navigate life together without any real tools, realizing they were in many ways opposites, fighting often, having sex less and less, distrust and jealousy rearing their ugly heads, and what they believed was falling out of love. They were under tremendous pressure, as many families are these days, raising their two children and each of them pursuing their rigorous careers. In their tenth year of marriage, they decided to call it quits and filed for divorce.

After a year apart, against all odds, they decided to get back together. This time they came with new insights including recognition of the things each of them brought to the relationship – good and bad. Both made the necessary changes to successfully start their next chapter.

For the last ten years they’ve grown their love, their bond, and created an amazing life together. They became students of love and they never looked back. Their book, released July 2017, Bigger Love – is their story along with tips, tools, and tricks for taking your relationship to a higher, deeper, more satisfying level. Their second book, Marriage: From Miserable to Magnificent, was released in early 2020.

Key Points from the Episode with Sam & Paddy Cullinane:
  • Sam and Paddy Cullinane have been married for 23 years, but it’s more a tale of two decades because their marriage had two distinct periods.
  • The first 10 years were separate from the second ten (plus) by a year apart where divorce papers had been signed on the back of growing very far apart.
  • Each of them had this sense that you’re married and are happily ever after with the feeling of butterflies and Eros love, as Hollywood tells us.
  • After year three, that feeling had shifted through the day to day of marriage and raising kids.
  • They had moved closer to Sam’s family, her job had changed to being on the road five days a week while Paddy’s career had ups and downs.
  • Through the grind, they felt that initial ‘fire’ was gone.
  • Sam hit on the idea of how you reignite the fire, but a better question is whether you actually want to go back to that, or if something else would be better.
  • Paddy felt that he was very far down on Sam’s priority list, below things like work, the kids, taking a nap, friends, etc.
  • And Sam felt like she was making the money and doing everything and wasn’t sure why she needed Paddy, who seemed to give her nothing but asking for sex.
  • Sam asked Paddy to move out, and also got the opportunity to move to Spain for work, so she left with the kids.
  • Paddy took the time alone to face things on the encouragement of his cousin, who suggested he look inside himself at his part in the problems.
  • That would serve him if things worked out with Sam or not since he takes himself into both situations.
  • Paddy realized he could be happy with or without Sam.
  • He had started to make more money and shared that and his sense of being the source of his own happiness with Sam, which changed how she saw him.
  • Sam felt like he grew up, and that drew her to him.
  • For Sam, she thought the escape from Paddy and to Spain would make everything better, but she found herself to still not be happy.
  • She was working too much, wasn’t finding relationships that interested her, and realized Paddy wasn’t why she was not happy.
  • Sam’s style was to compartmentalize what she faced in life, which was starting to take its toll as the various issues were filling up inside of her.
  • Paddy’s style is very different, with his unhappiness being front and center. He changed by talking about it while before he would sulk and hope Sam would ask what was wrong.
  • They had gone through the divorce process amicably, and signed the papers.
  • Their lawyer never got around to filing them, though.
  • Roughly a year after splitting up, Paddy was visiting the kids in Spain, and they reconnected.
  • No matter who else they dated or thought about, there’s one thing they have that they wouldn’t with anyone else, and that’s an equal investment in their kids, their health and their futures.
  • That shared unconditional love for their kids can be used to see the good in each other, but only if you look for it.
  • They have taken the second part of their marriage as a chance to learn and grow together, which culminated in their first book, Bigger Love (https://amzn.to/2UoBT1n).
  • They recently published a new version of their work, Marriage: from Miserable to Magnificent (https://amzn.to/39utvSe), which adds scientific facts into the discussion and honesty they shared in the first book. 
  • Paddy had previously invested a lot of his happiness in whether Sam was paying attention to him, and in the second half, he had found his own sources of enjoyment that had nothing to do with Sam.
  • And Sam had made decisions about what mattered to her most, and would be ways to make her happy, too.
  • Those ideas formed the basis of non-negotiables for them to come back together in their marriage.
  • Sam’s job had been all encompassing, which isn’t sustainable. She talked about the idea of things like that being in sprints, but not taking over all the time.
  • Paddy added the need to think about why you’re doing that sprint and making that purpose stay front and center (e.g. your kids).
  • We got into the sources of frustration, and used a story about socks.
  • If Paddy left his socks around, Sam would either be annoyed that he left them there, or, if she picked them up, got annoyed that she had to do it.
  • Now, she doesn’t like that they’re there, but she lets go of it. It does not have to matter unless you make it. If he does not pick them up, let it go. If she picks them up for him because having them there bothered her enough, then let it go and don’t be resentful.
  • They’re just socks. And of course some things are bigger than that, but many things ultimately are not.
  • One of their pieces of advice that’s tied to this is “Own It, Don’t Own It.” That really stood out to me.
  • It’s about carrying feelings like this around and taking it personally.
  • If Sam came home from a business trip, and Paddy was excited to see her and had all this anticipation about it but she was exhausted and didn’t reciprocate, he would take it so personally and feel crushed. He was owning her feelings and taking them as being about him, and then it sat heavily with him, taking his happiness.
  • If someone comes home from work and is short with us, we tend to get defensive. We’re owning their feelings. Instead, take a step back and recognize that they may have had a tough day and it seems to impacting how they’re interacting, and then ask them to share what they went through.
  • Note that you’re feeling treated in a way you don’t think you deserve, and might there be something else there that needs to be talked about.
  • If there is something you’ve done that sparked that treatment, then you can know about it, apologize and learn. And if there isn’t, your partner gets a chance to check themselves, apologize, and open up about what’s tough for them.


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