Transcript: Ep 118: Adults Only
Welcome to the Us And Kids Podcast. We are glad you are here. I am Jan Talen, a wife, a mom, a grandma, and a marriage and family therapist.
I wanted to let you know that the Us And Kids Communication Program is open again! It is an effective and efficient communication program. Build your skills for connecting you with your spouse and your kiddos - at the same time. It's eight modules long. And has lots of professional support that leads you through great personal and relationship skills that will help to tone down the tensions and build up the connections. It's fun and it's practical. Check it out on the website today.
Welcome to the Us And Kids Podcast. I am your host, Jan Talen. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, a wife, a mom, and a grandma. This Us And Kids podcast is about how to be married forever while you parent together. We know it's not an easy task. And so I just encourage you to subscribe to Us and Kids in your favorite podcasting app.
I'm glad you're here so that your marriage and your home can be fulfilling, and so very good.
Well, you know, earlier this month in the podcast right before this episode 117), we talked about becoming new parents and how to manage some of that adjustment - all of the things that can mess up and some of the ways to keeplife pulled together.
We talked a little bit about how to not become entangled, like a pretzel, but instead hugging and being connected with each other.
One topic we sort of left out of that was a topic that's really important in this adjustment to becoming new parents. So I wanted to give a whole episode to it, not just mixing it in with the other parts of the conversation of becoming new parents.
This significant section is about how to be, and to become a couple, again. This is the “us” part of Us And Kids. It's the you and me, the husband, wife part, the partnering part.
This part of us and kids and of marriage is so important because our research has told us over and over again, that these early years of parenting are often where the seeds and the sniffs and the little parts of disconnectedness.
And discontentedness begins to develop when one person wants to wear the mom or dad hat, and the other person is wondering why we can’t be husband and wife -and can we be married, even with kids? And you sort of bumble your way through that, but the disconnected and the discontent sort of slowly grows and seeps into life. It builds up over the years and the seeds of dark force begin to grow.
You and I both know when we become new parents, it can become all consuming for either one of us or both of us. And so the marriage, the you and me, the, “In the bedroom, Babe” can tend to get put off to the side or under the bed instead of in the bed.
Okay, this is normal for a month or so after the birth of your little one, because the adjustments that our brains and our bodies have to make are truly significant and are often all brain and all body encompassing, emotionally physiologically, spiritually, relationally.
It can really tip our whole world upside down. It's not wise to keep the intimate love and joy of your marriage tucked away.
It is wise to figure out how to integrate that intimate love and joy into this adjustment of having a new little one into your house, maybe your bedroom and into your hearts in your mind.
And so that's why this topic gets its own time and space. We're working hard to make sure that the little one doesn't create enough space to give room for disconnect and discontentedness to seep into your relationship. In my conversations with so many new parents over time, the common comment is about how strange it was that the very act that was so fun before babies is a very thing that one of us wants not much of anything to do with after baby.
Everyone recognizes that sleep deprivation is a significant segment of that. But that's not all of the story. It's a small part of the story and of the adjustment that happens.
There's the part about feelings and the part about emotional capacity. It's the part that often one or both might say, “I just don't feel sexy anymore. I've totally turned off my husband or my wife hat.”
It can happen both ways. The thought and energy internally says, “I just have to pour all of my psychic energy, all of my physical energy into being a parent”, and their capacity to be touched or needed is filled by connecting with your little one instead of with each other.
This is not a good place to stay. It's not an uncommon place to be. It's not a good place to stay. You know, often after six weeks, your doctor will say to you that sex with your honey would be just fine. Body is all good. And you might think, “Not on my life! Nothing is fine.”
And if your spouse went with you to that appointment or asked you how it was, he might be having his own worries. Might not really know it but is worried about what it will fFeel like to be close again. How do I do this?
He might wonder, I don't know her. Her body's all different. I don't know how it will feel for me. I don't know how it will feel for her.”
There's nursing going on and a whole bunch of other questions around that. These are real obstacles. They are real and they are movable, they're adjustable when you work together.
So instead of just being dead, done, tired, exhausted, consider that intimacy might bring some closeness, some compassion, and some consideration in the hugging, in the holding, in the relaxing, close to each other. Even if there's not a lot of other personal skin contact, being very close to each other can give emotional strength, and encourage do that.
Sleep with each other, hug each other, rub each other's backs, hold hands, kiss, look in each other's eyes because those things are so important in fighting that postpartum depression that can happen to mom and can happen to dad. Those things fight the loneliness that a couple can often feel between each other because they're so busy doing all the other baby things. Hugging, holding, touching, kissing builds hope and courage.
You both need each other. Parenting is a huge job. We need to do it together. Touch and hold because it builds that hope. It builds that courage and it reawakens and reconnects those adult loving spaces. Remember we just said, we need those adult spaces to stay really nicely, snugged in together so that the seeds of divorce can not sneak in.
And this is part of the reason why intimacy is important. While there are several physical and mental spaces that can impact our desire for this intimate closeness. We're just going to name them and talk through them a little bit and be able to say here's something you might do.
Part one, hormones can be a mish-mash - just a mess. Estrogen and progesterone are all messed up and they can mess up sexual desire. That doesn't mean we stop having sexual desire. It means we talk about it.
Remember that emotional connection here is so important to helping those hormones reset. So talk about it, but honestly,
Remember that sometimes when the hormones aren't really cooperating - which may be unusual for you because you are not over 60 or post-menopausal - that paying attention to what’s happening and giving the hormones some time to settle out can be helpful. It can also be wise to talk with your doctor.
It’s also wise to just talk with each other about what feels good now. This is a personal conversation, I agree with you, and an important one. Asking each other about how your touch or pressure feels, wondering if it hurts, or what touch or angle is best is fine to do. Ask each other and listen and respond.
I agree - You're thinking, “But it won't be the same.” It might not be the same, but I can tell you there's a very good chance it's going to be fine.
If the hormones don't settle out after six weeks, eight weeks, 10 weeks. Talk with your doctor again. My guess is that then there also might be some postpartum depression and we want that to get balanced out reasonably quickly. So don't let that go on too long.
Another thing that can best things up is our own internal fear.
It can happen on the guy's part as well as the girl’s. And that is this fear that intercourse is going to hurt. I'll hurt her. I don't want to hurt her. Did you see what she just did have our a baby?? or there's no way I'm going to hurt her again? Usually it (intimacy) doesn't hurt, but I think it's worth talking about in a very tender way.
It could feel different. It often grows to feel better and more satisfying, but remember, I know you're tired, but take a few minutes to just talk.
How can I help?
Is this better?
Be willing to stop, to pause or to just say “That's all I got for tonight, babe.” And respect each other's request as you learn how to do this.
Take your time. You got your lifetime to do this. It doesn't have to be perfect the first time or the second time you reconnect. Let your minds relax. Let your bodies relax. Use it as a comforting source in your reconnection space: patiently and gently. And then the fear will slowly go away.
Another thing that can get in the way, at least it can seem like it can, is when the mama is nursing. I think it's one of the best ways you can satisfy your baby's needs. I think it's wonderful for a mama's body as she tries to reset, but it can mess up some time how we connect sexually with each other.
You got to talk. Some moms will say, that's just baby space right now. Don't bother. Sometimes they just wear a bra to create a message that this body space is baby space right now. Some moms will say, “Oh, I like the dual sort of purpose.”
This is a conversation. And it has to be done with respect and with tenderness and remembering that this is not a lifetime. This is a time in your baby's life that mama's body is going to be shared for a bit.
Dads, where you can, remember that nursing is feeding your baby some of the best nutrients it will ever get in its entire life. It sets this baby's brain up for so much good in terms of development and resilience. Share that part with your baby and with your spouse.
Another thing that sometimes can get in the way, especially about how a mom might feel, (I know it was often true for me) was, “What happened to my body? Where is me? and me in this shape would never want to snuggle next to somebody else. It has no sexual own beauty to it. Everything fits weird, feels weird and sort of turns my brain off!”
Women, I want you to remember that often your husbands are looking at you with new admiration for what your body did, and they're looking to be close to you as their wife. They're far less judgy about your shape and about what your clothes look like. They're much more interested in whether or not you are available to them as an adult and whether or not you will come and wear the wife hat as he wears the husband hat. Talk with each other about how this is going.
And when somebody gives you a compliment, accept it. Don't say you're lying. Just say, “Thank you. I'm not sure I fully can absorb that right now, but thank you for saying so”. As you accept those compliments, it will help to fight off this other thing that can really squash desire.
And that is depression.
Postpartum depression is usually talked about as being worn and internalized by the mom. And that would be mostly based on the hormonal segment of their body resetting, but husbands as well can have quite a significant adjustment as well. They too can be stunned with wondering what just happened to us?!? The worry and the confusion can set into both of you and depression - postpartum or otherwise squelches sexual energy and wrecks sexual closeness.
But I can remind you that spending some time connecting with each other snuggling with each other, (even if it's not actually sort of really snugly intimate), sexual closeness and cuddling can help to reduce the depression. If you wait for the depression to go away before you are intimate, you'll give a lot of room for those seeds of divorce.
Work with staying really connected with each other even if there's some depression. So sometimes that's touching and cuddling, but remember that eye contact, laughing, holding hands, reaffirming with each other, your love, your appreciation, your admiration are also great ways to tell Mr. Depression that he's not welcome in your house. Work it together because you as mom and dad and husband and wife are worth it.
Strangely enough, there's another one here that I hadn't given much thought to until I did a little more research. The comment that I read about and studied a little bit, was this piece about being jealous. I think that that jealousy didn't happen a whole lot in my relationship with us when we had kids but it did some. Jealousy was the giving of all your energy, physically and emotionally to the babies and the kiddos, and not having any for your spouse or your relationship.
Be careful. The emotion and the behavior of being jealous is shown by not saving energy for each other, but putting all your energy into family life, and into just maintaining homelife. This can plant those seeds of discontent and disconnection that are the core to that growth of divorce energy.
What do you do? This is more of an intentional behavior. It's a decision within your mind and in your heart to save some energy for your spouse, for your marriage. Some people would set aside personal time. They would say Thursday night is our time when I can do less (work) and you can do less (work) so that we can have some energy in our adult relationship. Some people try to save that extra energy for the weekend.
I'm going to remind you that alcohol and pot do not really build better awareness or connection between each other because they become a third party in your relationship. And so when you're going to really be with each other, especially if you're sort of fighting the sad thoughts of loneliness and un-likability then be sure to lower the alcohol and other substances.
Put your phones away and really connect with each other.
Eye contact, touch.
Good, accepting, compassionate conversation.
Not judgy, not snarky, not eye- rolly, but really appreciative conversation and comments can go such a long way to lowering the jealousy and building up that connection.
You'll find it's really enjoyable when you do that.
Jealousy is an ugly space. Kick that guy as far to the curb, as you can.
Well, here are some practical situations that can also make your bedroom fun. We just dealt with a whole bunch of the emotional - sort of psychological babble chatter that goes along with how to become really close and reconnected after baby.
Here are some practical ones that I just want to remind you of that can make that fun become awesome!
Number one, there's a lot of practice in the co-sleeping and having babies right next to us. Our kiddos slept close to us as well, but sometimes when the baby is too nearby, then our intimacy has to become too quiet or too sneaky. And some people wonder what fun is that? I think the two of you have to look at the options. And if baby is too nearby for you guys to have some fun, then either move your baby or move yourself, but don't say babies too nearby so we don't fix it. You don't have to fix it f/change the sleeping spaces or hours, you just have to fix it for a time so you can reconnect as adults.
Number two. Sometimes we just have different priorities and those will need to be talked about and adjusted, supported, and realigned. We have to make it a priority to talk a bit about breasts and body parts and how to have them integrated into both giving birth and being an adult. Oh, this can happen for both of you or one of you. It's a significant conversation because it will help to hold you together.
You have to talk about those priorities. What's the purpose of our bodies post baby? Is it just to create more babies or is it to create a really tight connection between the two of us as well? And some people will say, no, it feels like it's just for baby. You have each other's space to adjust, to wonder, to re-introduce ideas, not judgment. Compassion in this space here will help make bedroom fun, fun!
Another thing that can sort of undue bedroom fun is a divided attention. So this happens when we're in bed together. There's plenty of skin, but my brain isn't here. My body can do all the things okay, but I'm thinking and planning this and that and this and that and this and that. And I'm not really in the space where I am fully here, with you.
And usually the spouse can feel that.
So pay attention to your own self place. Honor the marriage, the person you're with and give your brain and your person permission to go into that very, very married space for a little bit. It will rejuvenate you in a way that's refreshing and energizing and your brain will be able to think about all of those other things you had to do, even when you're all done.
You see rebuilding and maintaining, connecting, not with touch, but with talk and with tenderness and tones with smiles and with tears are a part of this major life, a joy. No one really knows exactly how it's going to go - how the important work of connecting by being with each other physically as well as emotionally, financially, relationally, spiritually is going to develop.
Do this important work, together.
I said it a little bit ago, but it's this piece about remembering to compliment each other and to accept the compliment. It came from their heart and their truth and it's true for them. So let it be true for you, as you see it through their eyes. What is the harm? Let it be true.
It helps us reduce our negative mindset. When Chip (my husband) would tell me how pretty or cute I was as I stood there in my sweatpants or my dirty, dirty shorts from working in the yard, my hair in a ponytail, no makeup on it's 110 outside. I would roll my eyes. I felt gross and slimy and robotic, but he saw me as pretty. And sometimes he saw me as pretty intense and he liked it.
I had to grow up a little bit and accept that he saw through my exhaustion and still saw me pretty and cute. I’d take in a sigh for a minute and say, “Well, thank you. I'm very slimy, but...thank you:)”
Take intentional time for each other. I am suggesting that you put time on the calendar, like a date with a start time before your “go to sleep time.” There's a time on the calendar that says, if we're going to snuggle, we have to be done with things by 8:20pm, because I'm going to be sound asleep by 9pm. If you're going to set that onto your calendar for Thursday nights, then do that. If it means sometimes that you have to get a room, because that's really where you're going to relax and have the most fun, then go get a room. Just be sure to set your alarms, to make sure you get home before the sitter comes, looking for you. Right?
Take intentional time for each other.
You might ask what has happened to spontaneity and being “in the mood?” And I'm agree, that's a real thing too.
And both can happen. What I am talking about is intentionally being sure that you are connecting. Just like eating is intentional and scheduled and satisfying, when we intentionally set aside time for each other, it helps us save energy and prepare our mindset for being close. This takes courage and courage does take energy and does take focus. So blend this time with not just what I'm going to call raw sex or quick sex, but fill it with sexy looks and feels; fill it with conversation and romance.
Blending the emotional connection with the spiritual and sexual connection can be very, very powerful and good for each other. Don't overpower the other.
Use your power, your wants, your needs in a way that blends and pulls the two of you together. Be very sensitive to how your spouse is feeling and thinking and reacting and bit by bit, you'll just snug your hearts and your emotions, right close to each other in a very trusting and admiring and honoring way.
So this means tell the truth. Your body is different. It may have some intense and intrusive experiences in very personal spaces. Those may be important for your spouse to know about and integrate into how you both make love with each other. If he doesn't know, he can't adjust and, no, he probably won't know just because he was there in the delivery room:) It will probably be important for you to tell him, with the details, and then you work together to get a new, yet satisfying connection with each other, together.
Remember that in the long run, your baby will grow up to be your child and then your teenager, and then your adult child. And all of those kiddos, all through all of those growth stages are still going to want to copy you and how you are with other people. But they especially they will want to copy how you are with each.
So show your kiddos, even now that mom and dad are also husband and wife. The DNA method of communication that we teach in the Us and Kids Communication Program are great for helping this transition. You can join us there, in that program, because it's going to give you that opportunity to learn how to think and react to all those different marriage and parenting spaces in an effective, efficient, and compassionate way.
Visit the Us and Kids website to get all the information about joining us. If you have a question, just use the contact form and email me. I'll gladly answer the question. We'll hop on a phone call together, or we'll do it through written texts, but we'll figure it out.
Of course for this podcast, because there's a lot of words here we've made a printable and it's free and you can get it easily.
There's also a free workshop on the website. If you just want to pick up some quick tips right now, the workshop teaches three different scenarios and what to do about them. It's easy to find. It's easy to use and it's easy to connect with us.
I sure look forward to meeting you and talking with you soon. Have fun snuggling.
Talk to you later.