How did I ever clean before podcasts? Or run errands? Or sit in traffic? Podcasting has changed my life in small but significant ways. The good ones make me feel like I have a companion as I complete mundane tasks. The great ones make me pause. Make me gasp. Make me think.
Podcasts have made me a better person, especially when it comes to communication and relationships. Below are five examples of podcasts that have upped my interpersonal IQ. Some of them lead by example. Others are challenging – they make me rethink the idea of what a relationship can look like and how love is expressed between two (or more!) people.
The thing that ties these podcasts together is that each, in its own way, isn’t passive entertainment. Rather, these shows help me interact with people in a way that is active and thoughtful. They will do the same for you.
Premise: Actress / writer Julia Meltzer invites couples on the podcast to discuss a recent argument.
Emily (guest): As a human woman I’m, like, thinking about my wedding (since) I turned 15, 16. My mother has probably been thinking about it since the moment she found out she was having a little girl.
Julia (host): Wow.
Emily: So, she has been waiting for this longer than I have.
Julia: She needs to get everything she wants.
Emily: She needs to be a part of everything – to experience it fully.
Danny (guest): And, I’m concerned with the food.
This podcast is for you if: You like to dissect and analyze how couples communicate. Julia’s guests make themselves vulnerable by giving a play-by-play look at their most cringe-worthy moments. Most of the fights are over the minutia of daily life. Yet, those are the exact things that can make or break a relationship.
Honey makes it possible to witness the honest – and sometimes embarrassing – aspects of how couples argue. You will recognize yourself. You will recognize past relationships. Replaying someone else’s anger and heartache gives listeners a chance to ask questions about how they react when it comes to love. It’s enlightening, uncomfortable, and epiphany-inducing.
Premise: Host Anna Sale dives deep into subjects that we think about but rarely discuss in an open manner.
Anna: When we asked for your stories about why you’re not having sex, you also told us that not having sex can be really difficult to talk about. But by talking about it what becomes clear is that our idea of what’s ‘normal’ might, in fact, be a myth.
This podcast is for you if: You want a broad approach to some of life’s hardest, but most important, themes. Anna sometimes conducts interviews with well known personalities (Gloria Steinem, Tituss Burgess, Brooke Shields), but she also talks with people who would rather remain anonymous because the conversations are so personal. Anna’s approach is open and inquisitive. Her light touch allows the audience to consider things in a new way.
Premise: Comedian Jenna Kim Jones co-hosts this funny, uplifting podcast about everyday life with her husband, Allan Moss.
Allan: Who would win in a fight: Fraggle Rock or Sesame Street?
Jenna: …Here’s the real question: Is Snuffleupagus a lover or a fighter?
Allan: If you corner Snuffleupagus…..(laughing)…this is so stupid….
Jenna: (laughing) Keep going! If you corner Snuffleupagus what happens?…NOBODY PUTS SNUFFY IN A CORNER.
This podcast is for you if: You want to hear an example of a fun relationship that is rooted in mutual respect. #SorryNotSorry covers extremely important subjects – like, what snacks are best and what they are going to eat over the weekend. They also play games including “quench or parch” where they have to decide if a situation is amazing (a quench) or awful (parch).
The best aspect of the podcast is the energy between Jenna and Allan. They make each other laugh. They apologize for misunderstandings in communication. But most of all they come off as a great example of a healthy relationship.
Bonus: it’s a clean podcast, which means you can put it on in the car and not worry that the language or subject matter is too mature for kiddos.
Premise: Comedians Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson describe Guys We F****D as the “anti slut-shaming podcast.” Get ready for frank talk about sex and relationships.
Krystyna: have you ever had a one night stand?
Mike Birbiglia (guest): Yeah, sure.
Mike: Yeah, I mean I think I had a handful of those in my 20’s that were, like, fine. The problem is I always felt like…oh, we both feel bad somehow.
Mike: I would always be like ‘Maybe we will have coffee in the morning!’ but, that’s not the cool move.
Krystyna: I guess, yeah.
Mike: You know what I mean? Dating politics and one night stand politics are just so complex…For me one night stands fall into the realm of ‘Dark Joy.’ It’s joyful, but once the joy goes away it’s just dark.
Corinne: Like heroin?
Mike: Yes, like heroin.
This podcast is for you if you have questions about sex that you are too embarrassed to ask. Corinne and Krystyna do not hold back when it comes to language (if you are easily offended this isn’t the podcast for you). But, the resulting conversations are refreshingly honest and insightful. Guys We F****d reveals what women go through in relationships while discussing female sexuality in a way that is hilarious, empathetic, and surprisingly deep.
Premise: Author Cheryl Strayed (Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Brave Enough) and essayist Steve Almond (Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto) dole out guidance and encouragement to listeners who write in about their problems.
Steve (host): I was a betrayer when I was younger. I have written about that feeling of literally driving from the affair’s (house) back home to the apartment that I lived in with this beautiful, wonderful woman…I was trying in my own deformed, destructive way to tell her that I couldn’t love her like she needed me to love her.
This podcast is for you if you love advice columns. Strayed and Almond speak their truth in a way that is straightforward and kind. They don’t always agree on the advice that is given, but it gives the listener an opportunity to step into someone else’s world and think critically about relationships.
Of particular note is a series that was released in September 2015 about infidelity. Strayed and Almond interviewed people who were betrayed as well as people who committed adultery. The resulting podcast episodes are complex and leave the listener thinking about his / her own relationship.