Have you ever struggled to keep the love alive after your baby is born? Or felt angry and resentful, for no apparent reason because of this? Well, relationship expert Sheina Schochet and I are here to give you all the tools you need to get out of this funk. In this episode, we cover dealing with resentment, developing tactics to engage in meaningful conversation, and strategies to bring and keep more love from your partner into your life. Make sure to subscribe to the UM Club to get exclusive access to this interview, and access to our Facebook page where we discuss the episode after it airs. With all that said and done, enjoy the episode!
Today I’m talking with Sheina Schochet from @LoveAfterBaby, all about communication strategies inside your relationship. Sheina is a registered therapist, specializing in parental love and, as her website says, keeping love around after baby is born. Make sure to check out her website, SheinaSchochet.com, for resources and specialty courses that she offers!
In This Episode We Talk About
00:38 – An introduction to Sheina and all she does.
08:01 – Resentment and what that looks like.
20:00 – Solutions for dealing with resentment.
27:00 – Strategies to develop soft starts to conversations.
35:15 – Starting relationship check-ins.
45:00 – The emotional bank account.
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*Disclaimer* People who are in relationships where there’s abuse or addiction in a really unhealthy way, make sure that you are safe and get professional help. This interview and advice is for people who are in a decent relationship, having some struggles, and are working on navigating it. But when a partner is abusive, either emotionally or physically, in any way, make sure that you are safe. And remember that there’s other things that need to be dealt with first. Please see below for support hotlines.
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Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566
Canadian Kids Help Phone call: 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free) or text CONNECT to 686868
United States National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Wellness Together Canada (full range of mental health support access) – 1-888-585-0445
- How do you feel about the communication within your relationship?
- What are ways that you can work on improving your communication style with your partner?
- How do you currently stay connected with your partner?
- What are ways that you would like to see more opportunities for connection within your relationship?
- How and when will you talk to your partner about these added moments for connection?
Read the Full Conversation
Communication is a very big skill to be learned, that’s for sure. So I would love it if you could tell us a little bit more about yourself and why you’re passionate about helping couples with communication and connection after baby.
Yeah, of course. So hi, everybody. I’m Sheina. I am a licensed therapist, and mom of two girls. I started out my therapy journey, or rather my therapist journey, working with everything and everyone because that’s what we do when we’re getting our hours. And I realized that I wanted to niche to women going through life transitions. So this was, you know, women who were getting new jobs, starting new relationships, becoming moms, entering empty nest syndrome, all different shifts that women between 20s and early 40s were experiencing.
And then I started noticing an interesting pattern with the new moms, the experienced moms, and the soon to be empty nesters, where they were expressing a lot of resentment in their relationships and feeling disconnected, feeling a breakdown that they didn’t feel previously. I remember this one mom, these two moms in specific, that I remember so vividly. One had just had a baby, had a great relationship pre-baby, and then suddenly was having all these conflicts come up. Because her mother-in-law had moved in to help them, and different communication things, and different work expectations and more struggles, because they were both working, her and her husband. And suddenly her job was less important, so to speak, or, you know, her job was more flexible. And so she had to actually take advantage of that flexibility even when she didn’t want to.
And this other mom that I remember was entering empty nest syndrome. And she was almost – not scared, but so unsure and unsettled about what life was going to be like with her husband, once the kids were off to college, because she’s like, you know, we used to have a lot of fun together, we used to have a very strong relationship. But I feel like for the last 20 years or so, we’ve been co-parents. That’s been what our relationship is about, about being there for kids together. And what’s it gonna look like when our kids are out of the house? Where does that leave us? And I realized that there’s this breakdown that starts when parents are having their kids, and if it’s not addressed it just keeps growing and growing. And it’s not necessarily at a point where people – sometimes it does get to a point where people are like, “hey, we just can’t make this work anymore, we can’t live together.” But even if it doesn’t get to that point where people are like, “hey, we need to separate, we need to divorce,” it’s still a breakdown where they just don’t feel connected, and they’re not having the best relationship that they can.
And so that’s when @LoveAfterBaby was born. I was having this realization with these clients, having my own ways that I could relate knowing different things that I went through in my own relationship once we had kids – where you get really nervous when your partner wakes up the baby right after you put them to sleep. And if you didn’t have a kid, that frustration wouldn’t be present. So that’s not saying that the kid is the issue. And that’s not saying that otherwise you’re perfect, but certain things get triggered because of having kids. And naturally when we have kids because of all the responsibilities that they entail, and because of the financial stress and all of that – not necessarily stress but more of a financial strain – there’s less opportunities to have spontaneous fun connecting moments. And there are a lot more opportunities or instances for frustration, stress and challenges that come up whether you like them or not. Whether baby’s teething and not sleeping well, whether baby has a rash which is stressful for you, baby gets sick and one of you has to stay home from work, all these little things that pop up that are out of your control. They’re more present when baby is in your life and you are naturally more tired in the evening. So you’re not going to have those same moments of connection you used to; you can’t just go out to a new restaurant that opens without thinking about it because you need to think about “do I have a babysitter? Is it worth it to get a babysitter? Do I trust this babysitter?” If a band you love is in town, you can’t just get out and go there.
And then it’s also been really challenging with the present state health wise; people are like, “I don’t know if I feel safe having a random babysitter come to my house,” or having people come in, or people who used to have family help. They’re like, “my family can’t travel to come help me or visit me and it feels really lonely.” So all these different things, they all compound on each other. And seeing this personally, seeing it with clients. And then also seeing – there was one specific post that I sometimes talk about that I saw on a Facebook mom group, that really was the sign almost that like, “hey, this is what you need to niche to,” where a mom was saying how she’s like driving around, baby is sleeping in the car. And she’s not even sure she wants to go home and her husband didn’t do anything wrong. But she just doesn’t know if she loves him anymore. And she was newly postpartum. So dealing with a lot of hormones and a lot of people responding saying “I’ve been there, I’ve experienced that, you know, sending love.
But nobody was giving anything constructive. And some of it is to just be there. But I was wondering, “are these people actually improving the situation when they’re going through it? Did they recover from it? Or are they still struggling in this? And can someone be a resource for that?” And I decided to start sharing content around that. And then it was interesting, I started seeing – I guess, once these things are out there, and there’s something in the world, I feel like it’s picked up a lot. A lot of other accounts started sharing information about this too. And that’s great. The more information that’s out there, the better, because some people are going to come across me and some people won’t come across me, but they will come across another account that’s going to share some info. And as long as people are getting help, and as long as relationships are improving, that’s the goal.
Wow, you touched on so many good things throughout that. I really like how you mentioned how it’s not necessarily the people in the relationships fault, in a way, it’s very situational. And I feel like kids do bring in that’s a whole other layer of things.
Yeah. And that’s something that in general, in relationships, kids are not, that a lot of people forget. They forget that this is something situational. This doesn’t mean that we don’t work. There’s something going on here. Neither one of us is the enemy. Let’s figure out why this problem is going on and how we can tackle it together. What changes can we work on implementing together to make our relationship be the best that it can be?
Absolutely. And it’s really flipping into that team mindset, rather than the us vs them.
So I’d love to hear some common challenges. So you touched on resentment being a big thing that kind of helped push you in this direction. And that’s something we’ve collaborated on in the past. And that I was personally really surprised about, because at the time, I had my first at the beginning of 2018, almost four years ago now, which is crazy to think about. But people weren’t really talking about it. And me and my husband had this great relationship before kids, everything was really good. And then when I had my son, I was shocked by how resentful I felt, and the different thoughts going on in my mind, because people just don’t talk about that very much. So could you expand a little bit on what resentment is and kind of the commonalities you see with your different clients and people?
Yeah, for sure. So resentment is typically a build up of feeling like you’re not equally sharing things. You’re not equally experiencing this new stage. You’re not having equal responsibilities. Like you said, I didn’t see anybody talking about this resentment after baby. I saw a lot of people talking about feeling alone, not ready for the late nights, not ready for certain things. I didn’t see much on the relationship piece and again, once I put it out there I don’t know if people were coming across it and realize like, “oh, this is a very interesting topic for people, this topic needs to be talked about more,” or if, like I said, I feel like once an idea is in the world, it’s kind of intangibly in the air and people just feel it. And so suddenly a lot more content around that was coming up. But it’s a build up where people feel like they can’t speak their minds without getting defensiveness thrown back at them. So, you know, partners maybe saying something that feels critical, the other one getting defensive. And then you know, lack of communication, and then suddenly this resentment builds up inside.
And a lot of moms are resentful because they feel that their life changed a lot more than their partner’s. Well physically, it literally did. Your body grew, your body was not your own for nine months or so, however long your pregnancy was. And even after pregnancy, if you’re nursing, it’s still not your own. And your body went through so many changes, which can play a lot of different things in your mind and emotions and body image, especially in the world that we live in now, which thankfully, there’s a lot more acceptance and awareness around body image things. But it’s still something that so many people struggle with. And I don’t see that going away anytime soon, just because we’re constantly hidden from mainstream media. Love yourself, but also, here’s how to not gain weight over the holidays. So there’s all these messages being thrown at us all the time that kind of contradict each other. And so naturally, that’s going to affect how we feel about ourselves, and the way we feel about ourselves is going to affect our relationship, because our partner doesn’t know necessarily where our feelings are coming from. And we might feel too vulnerable to say that we feel insecure about how we look, because we don’t want to highlight that to them. We don’t want them to see us in that way. So instead, we just say like, “no, I don’t feel like getting dressed up or no I’m not feeling things tonight” or whatever, because we don’t feel secure in ourselves.
And then they interpret that differently, like you’re not interested in them, or you don’t want to go out with them. They don’t know where that is coming from. And so there’s all these things going on, that are unspoken, which builds up into resentment. Feeling like you had to stay home from work, or if your kid gets sick, you have to stay home and they go to work anyways. Or if they want to go out with their friends after work, they just call you and say, “hey, I’m going out with my friends” and great, but if you want to go out with your friends, you have to be like, “okay, here’s the baby’s bottle, here’s this, here’s that.” You have to think about ordering all the things for baby, like diapers, when they’re growing out of the clothes, putting it away and storing it or giving it away and then getting the next size – all these little extra things known as the mental load or the mother load as some people refer to it. And that is a big driver of the resentment in relationships.
And knowing that it’s going on, knowing that other people are experiencing it, makes it a little better in feeling validated that it’s not you guys, you’re not the problem in terms of like, “we just don’t work.” So because nobody was talking about this, and nobody wants to be the first one to talk about it – because then it’s like, my marriage has issues. And nobody wants to say something like that. So people aren’t sharing it with their friends. And then what happens is everybody feels alone in it, and everybody feels like they’re doomed. And everybody feels like what’s wrong with us. When you find out, “hey, we’re all in this, we’re all dealing with the same stuff,” then it’s like, “oh, it’s not an us problem. It’s a situational problem.” Some of it, we can work on solutions together. And some of it is just gonna be, “we’re gonna have to ride it out.” And we’re gonna have frustrations, and we know that eventually it’s gonna get better. But knowing that – even though you get frustrated with the situation it allows you to get less frustrated with each other. Our kids, they go through random phases where they’ll wake up at night, whether they’re a baby or a toddler, maybe they have a nightmare. And nobody likes being woken up at night. And we’re all tired, we’re working, we have busy schedules. And so it never gets easier to be woken up at night, regardless of how old your kid is. But not taking things personally from your partner, knowing “hey, we’re both really tired and grouchy right now.” So just knowing these things – knowledge is power, and it allows you to approach the situation differently.
Absolutely. I really like how you touched on that it’s part “yes, we can work on things,” but also the bit of waiting it out, because I think that’s just a big part of parenthood, is there are just the seasons where things are extra hard. Whether it’s mental or behavioral challenges, or new schedules, things like that. And it is kind of different, outside of the parent world. But when you have those different things with your kids, sometimes you do just need to wait it out. So I really appreciate that you acknowledge that. And it’s not just “try these things, why aren’t these working for you?” Because it is kind of that balance between them as parents.
I’ll actually do a post on that. You know when you’re sharing things as you’re chatting, and then you’re like, “wait, I should do something, or share your post on that.” Because it’s something like – I’m sure you’ve experienced this – as a professional creating content, where there’s so many things that you know, and take for granted, because you know them, that you don’t even think like, “hey, this could be helpful to somebody or so many people need to hear this or don’t know this.” And when they hear that, it just makes them feel so validated and less alone, and it makes things feel easier for them. Even if it doesn’t actually make the situation easier, it makes it feel easier.
And like I said, also in terms of the waiting it out, there’s also new challenges that come with different stages. And so you finally feel like, “okay, we got this, we figured it out, baby is sleeping through the night, we’re not dealing with wake ups anymore.” And then suddenly your toddler’s having tantrums in the morning with what they want to wear to school. And one of you is the one who’s dressing them, and the other one’s the one who has to do the school drop off or whatever. And it’s like, “hey, I’m going to be late to work.” And you’re getting annoyed at whoever it is that’s dressing the toddler because you want to just get out the door. But it’s not their fault. And the toddler is just a kid and they’re going through a very normal developmental stage. So yes, there are ways to work through that. And there’s ways to communicate with your toddler. And I love conscious parenting and all that, for learning ways to communicate. But it feels like we’re here again, different details but same experience. And that’s normal. That’s normal, that every time you come across a new challenge, you’re gonna feel those feelings again. But you have to remember, like, “hey, we’ve been here before, a different situation, but same feelings. And the same way we got through that we will get through this.”
Exactly, we do have the tools from all of the things we’ve gone through previously. And sometimes we just need to recognize it. And know that we’ve gotten through things before and we will get through this next chapter.
And sometimes we need a little refresher. For example, as a therapist, I like doing solution focused brief therapy with my clients, where we work on figuring out what their struggle is, how to improve it, look at times when things were going better, why that is, how that is, and how they can make that be the norm. And so they’ll develop these tools. I want them to be independent and be able to deal with future struggles on their own. But there are times when future struggles can be really overwhelming, or future struggles are compounded where there’s a few things going on at once. I had a client who had graduated from therapy, and then had three big changes in her life all at once – she moved, got a new job, new other stuff. And she reached out, she’s like, “I just need a little bit of support getting through this because there’s so many changes at once.” And so we worked again together for about a month, and then she was good to go.
So there are times where we sometimes need a refresher, or we need a little bit more intervention – or even if you’ve done a course . I know for myself, even my own courses that I share, sometimes when I’m editing things or going through, I’ll watch a section. I’m like, “hey, that’s a good reminder for me too, I haven’t been so conscientious about this lately.” So we all need refreshers. Same way, like when you’re in school, when you’re anything that you ever want to work on, even like in day to day life, right? If you want to be fit, if you want to be hydrated, if you want to read more, if you want to expand your social circles, they require constant effort. You can’t just say, “okay, I did the work. And now I’ve arrived and this is it.” No, you constantly have to work on it. And you get times where there’s more inspiration and more motivation, and times where it gets more challenging, but it’s just about pushing through and getting there. There’s – I think it’s a Zig Ziglar quote – where I think it says “inspiration is temporary” or something, or “it washes away.” And he said “so is showering. That’s why we do it daily.” So you can’t just say “okay, I showered, I’m clean and I’m done now.” No, you still have to shower every day because every day you get dirty again. So same way with your relationship. You work through a challenge. You get there and you’re like, “okay, we worked on it, we’re good. We shouldn’t have struggles again.” But no, there’s still life going on around you and there’s challenges that come up and you’re going to have to strengthen that again.
Yeah, and oftentimes in those more challenging stressful situations, we kind of quickly revert back to what we know the most, and our kind of basic instincts that we have. And we might forget those different solutions that we’ve learned. And so again, it’s recognizing and working towards those. So what are some solutions?
And like you said, knowing that, knowing that you’re going to refer back to your instinctual behaviors, makes it a little easier to process the experience. Saying, “okay, this isn’t because I’m a terrible person, this is just a natural response. And now that I’m aware that I’m doing this, let’s figure out better ways to deal with the situation.” So like, let’s pause, and let’s figure this out.
So some ways to work through things are – use softened startups. I talk about those a lot on my page, where instead of criticizing your partner, you tell them about how whatever’s going on, in a neutral way, is affecting you and how you’re feeling. And then you ask them what you do want them to do, as opposed to telling them what you don’t like. So think about, on your end, at work, or with anything – you’d rather your kids say, “I really prefer mac and cheese tonight, more than chicken fingers,” or whatever it is, right? Like you want them to tell you what they do want, not what you’re doing wrong. So same thing with our partners, we both want to be told what is wanted as opposed to what we’re doing wrong. Because we make mistakes, we’re human, we’re not mind reader’s. So we want to know what you do want. So that’s one thing.
Another thing is having check-ins every so often, to say, “this is what’s going well in our relationship. This is what’s a challenge. How can we work on it?” And giving each other one thing that you would like the other person to work on. Because when we give our partners a laundry list of everything they’re doing wrong, they just tune out. Think about when you were in school or your job, if you do work for somebody, or when you were employed, if you were. If, let’s say, at your quarterly or yearly reviews, you came in and they gave you a list of 10 things you did wrong. You just kind of write it all off, because you’re like, “I can’t do anything right, so what’s the point of even trying?” Whereas if they said to you, “hey, we see you’re putting in a lot of effort. And we would really appreciate if you put in more effort into being on time, or put in more effort into being proactive on projects, or put in more effort to – give one specific feedback, then it’s a lot easier for that person to think, “okay, this is the one thing that’s wanted from me that I can work on, let me work on this.”
And then also having moments of connection. Relationships are about reducing the negatives. But more important than reducing the negatives is increasing the positives. So in parenting years, a lot more negatives are naturally going to pop up at times, a lot more challenges and struggles. So you want to manage those as much as you can. There’s a limit to how much you can manage, though, because a lot of them are beyond your control. So especially because of that, you want to be intentional about adding in positives. Mom’s feel so worn out and so exhausted and burned out – these can be tiny things, they could be giving your partner a genuine kiss goodbye, or wishing them “have a great day” before they leave for work. It could be preparing their coffee before they head out. You might be in a rush too, so you might not do it all the time. But doing it every so often, it’s going to be so meaningful to them. Our routine in our house – and every house is different. So that’s why I don’t like to give rules of this, this, and this. Because every relationship is going to be different. I like to give more ideas, and then examples of how it can play out. So typically, in our house, the way it works is my husband gets ready to leave for work. I get the kids ready for school, and then he drops them off, and continues on to work, and then I work from home. So he’s working to get ready. I’m working on getting the kids ready. And he typically makes his own coffee, but sometimes he’s in a rush and so he’ll be like, “hey, can you make my coffee while I finish this” or whatever. And sometimes I’ll do it on my own, more often he asks, but I’m really realizing as I’m saying this that I need to put more intention into trying to do it on my own, because he still appreciates when I do that. And it’s only taking me an extra like two minutes max, and it saves him two minutes, but it just makes him feel like I care about him and his time.
Absolutely and communicating those things too, and showing appreciation when they do have, so they recognize that you are so thankful that they’ve done those things. And then they know, “oh, they really liked that, I’m going to try and do that more.” And so it kind of builds off of each other when you get into a flow of doing that.
You took the words out of my mouth – when we show appreciation, that makes them feel acknowledged, and also encourages them to do more of it. Because we all like that appreciation. It’s kind of like getting tokens when you’re playing a game. Gamification is a big thing, in getting people to learn and getting people to do things. So in your relationship, not that you should view it as a game, but it’s just natural human behavior. When we get something positive, it feels like we won something, and we all like winning things. So we’re going to do more to get more of that positive, we want to collect as many tokens as we can. That’s why things like Subway Surfers, or Candy Crush, or all those games become very addictive, because you get these little wins that give you this dopamine hit in your brain. And it is addictive to you, it just feels so good, because you’re getting this positive reinforcement constantly. So in your relationship, give them those little hits of dopamine too, give them that positive reinforcement. And it’s just gonna be ultimately better for both of you. Like it’s a win win.
Absolutely. And even small things – I’ve heard people get annoyed or feel they need to thank their partners for doing chores around the house, and that it kind of plays down the fact that they’re doing those things all the time and not being recognized for it. But I think when you put in the effort, at least in my experience, when you do put in the effort to recognize that they’ve done those things, they’re more motivated. And also see what it’s like when you’re doing it, and wanting to show that appreciation for you and saying, “oh, yeah, this is a lot of work that they’re doing all the time.” And again, it kind of helps to build that up together.
And we all go through that. I go through that too at times, where I’m like, “you don’t notice if I did this, this or that,” but we have to catch ourselves in our brain and think about “is this thought productive for our relationship? Is it going to do anything better for me or for him? Or is it going to be something that creates conflict, when it doesn’t need to be there?”
Absolutely. And that kind of plays into – I wanted to take a few steps back to the communicating our needs part with resentment, and not just shitting on them about all the bad things that are going on and saying “I’m feeling like this right now. And it would be really helpful for me if you could do this.” Because I’ve heard from a lot of community members that they’re struggling with their communication, because every time they go to try to talk to their partner, they get upset. And I’m sure that’s something you’ve dealt with a lot. So could you expand a little bit on those strategies to kind of help soften it – like you said, those soft starts. Could you expand on that a little bit more?
So you want to make it, like I said, neutral. You don’t want to make it about them, like being bad. Nobody likes to be criticized – not a single human being likes criticism, unless they’re a masochist. But some people get a thrill out of being criticized or having negativity thrown at them. Most people don’t. And it’s not a good dynamic in relationships ever. You know, unless that’s your thing, but for most people, it’s not. And it just causes a lot of breakdown and destruction in a relationship.
And it invites defensiveness, which defensiveness then is kind of like a boomerang, where if I criticize you, you get defensive at me, which makes my criticism feel invalidated, where you’re not even acknowledging that what I said has a point, you’re making up excuses, and nobody likes that. So it’s still a lose-lose, that kind of a situation, because you’re gonna feel unheard, they’re gonna feel attacked. So we don’t want that, we don’t want that dynamic. We want it to be neutral, talking about situations saying, I know it’s not your fault.
This happened to us this week in my house. I’ve been struggling with finding cleaning help. And it’s something that, for us, it’s a necessity, because we both work, we have two kids, and two busy schedules. We both like when things are clean. We both like when things are organized, and we’re both tired at the end of the day, and when we don’t have cleaning help, we end up having to do a lot of things once the kids are asleep. Because during the day, we are both working once the kids are home, and it’s impossible to get things done like that. And then when the kids go to sleep, you have some time, but then you’re exhausted from the whole day, you’re not interested in washing dishes, folding laundry, doing all these things. So we’ve had to navigate it till we find somebody. Sunday we organized a lot in the house, folded laundry, and put things away. But it’s not ideal. And that’s something that for us gets stressful, when things are out of place and messy. And we both know that it’s not one person’s fault. And it’s not one person’s responsibility more than the other.
That’s something that we worked on. Because when we first got married – my husband grew up in a home where his mom didn’t work when he was a little kid. So she would always clean during the day and take care of things in the house. And so when he came home, at the end of school, there was dinner ready, his mom cleaned the house. And that’s what he saw as what the wife does, that was his expectation based on experience, which is something that I talk a lot about in my work with clients in my courses, where we don’t realize how much our past affects our perception of how things should be. And that’s also a big struggle in relationships, where we need to become more aware of that and communicate about that. And that can be really helpful. So in our relationship, that was his expectation based on experience, based on his past.
I grew up where my parents both worked full time. And then his mom did end up going to work part time once like all the kids were in school. But because she was in that habit of cleaning everything she would wake up extra early and clean before she went to work, and then continue cleaning after she came home from work. Nowadays, moms are not willing to do that as much, we’re too tired. Some moms do, the majority of us don’t. And so that was what he saw. I grew up where both my parents worked full time. And I know that when my older siblings were kids, my parents weren’t in a position to have cleaning help often. So my mom did a lot of stuff on her own. But that wasn’t what I saw. Because by the time I came around, my mom used to have cleaning help come two to three times a week. And do the laundry, mop everything, clean everything. And so I didn’t see my mom constantly taking care of things in the house. Yes, I saw her cleaning some dishes, if we didn’t have cleaning help that day, or yes, I saw her sweeping the floor if there was a mess. But I didn’t see her doing the day-to-day upkeep. Because that wasn’t how things were in our house. So when we first got married, before we even had kids, we realized this discrepancy of how we experienced things growing up and what our expectations were, where he expected me to do certain cleaning things in the house, even though we were both working full time. And then he realized, “okay, I understand why I have that expectation. And I know that it’s not correct to have that expectation.” And so we figured out different things that we would each do. And then we also hired somebody to come in once a week to do the more heavy duty stuff that neither one of us wanted to do. And then when we had our first kid, we upped that to twice a week. And then when I was pregnant, I upped that to three times a week, because there was less that I could do. And then when we had our second kid, that’s when we hired somebody who was full-time, both a nanny and helped with organizing and cleaning.
And ever since baby started school, it’s been more challenging to find someone just to come clean five days a week. So we’ve been figuring out how to do that on our own. But we know that that’s something that is important in our relationship to keep managed. Because otherwise it can be a trigger, because we both don’t like when things are messy, even not consciously, and some people experience this more than others. But clutter and mess and all those things, play on our energies in ways that we’re unconscious of. And so when it builds up, it just is frustrating. So even if what happens is like, I’ll do the laundry, and then I don’t have time to fold it. And so we’ll put it on a bed in the guest room and slowly it builds up. And then I’ll just pull out the things I need from the pile, but the pile is still there, and the pile builds up with things that we haven’t used. And then just walking by that room with the door open, every time you see it, somewhere in the back of your mind it’s like “ugh,” because you don’t feel organized.
So knowing in your own relationship what trigger points there are – and the reason why I was saying this whole thing and coming back to it is because my husband said to me – which was incredibly validating. He watches my stories and sometimes he’s better with my stuff than I am, because he’s watching it as a participant and so he’ll use it, and sometimes I have to remind myself. But he said to me “I know you don’t have cleaning help right now, and I know that you’re also exhausted. And I know that it’s hard.” I’m home with the kids when they come home from school for a couple hours before he gets home from work. And he’s like, “I know that that is hard and tiring. But we let’s figure out how to make this system work for the two of us until we do have cleaning help again.” And he really – he’ll help do the dishes while I go do something else. And so he really is a team player. And that’s not something that was just – he always has been a team player overall. But let’s say in this situation, navigating that struggle wasn’t something that just happened naturally, it took intention and work and communication.
Absolutely. Yeah, I feel similarly with everything you’ve touched on and I can pinpoint the different spots and our journey with our relationship after parenthood, and where we’ve kind of worked through and learned these various skills. And check-ins have been a big part of that; once we kind of work through the communication and how to ask for help, and that sort of thing. The check ins helped us a lot, especially over the last year, we’ve gone through big job changes and financial stress with COVID, and childcare all up in the air. And the check-ins have been really helpful to both connect and see where we currently are at, both mentally and physically, and then how we can help each other out. So I’d love to hear a little bit more for people that aren’t used to doing check-ins in their relationship, how they can implement that tool.
Yeah. And I just wanted to add to what I said, where when he said to me “I know we don’t have cleaning help right now, and that it’s a lot, but we need to figure out this thing.” He wasn’t making it about me – look at that sentence that he used. He wasn’t saying, “why didn’t you do this?” Or “why is the laundry still on the bed?” He didn’t give me an accusatory statement that made me get defensive. It was a neutral situation. We don’t have cleaning help right now. This is our home, it’s the place where we live, we don’t want it to be like a college dormitory. So how do we figure this out? And that helps you take it less personally. Whereas if in the past, you would have said something like, “why is the laundry still on the bed?” I would be like “because I’m working all day, and I don’t have cleaning help,” and I feel attacked or like I did something wrong. And I’m annoyed. But that’s not what he was trying to say. But that’s how I interpreted it, which is a lot of times in communication what’s going on, where they don’t mean it or we don’t mean it negatively, we don’t mean it critically, we don’t mean to attack. But the way that we say things and the words that we choose and the tone that we use, have such an impact on how it’s received, and then how it will be responded to because of how it’s received.
The basic structure that I like to get for weekly check-in, try it out once a month, if it’s something that you can’t see yourself doing every week, but start off by each one of you saying something that has gone well in the home and in the relationship. So to show that you’re not only looking for negatives, validate that you see they are participating in the home in some way, in the relationship in some way. We’re more encouraged to listen if it starts off with an acknowledgment of something that we did well, as opposed to starting off with what wasn’t going well. Then you can talk about some challenges that are going on, and decide together what is one thing that each of you are going to work on to make those challenges a little bit more manageable. And then creating a structure for how you’re actually going to do that. So making it very practical, specific, a specific time you might do it, so that it’s something that actually gets done.
And then also discussing any big things coming up on the calendar that they should be aware of. So if they have a work meeting that’s going to go till like 9pm one night, you want to know about that, so that you don’t get annoyed that day, like “where are you, why aren’t you home yet?” Or so it doesn’t spring up on you the day before. Yes, sometimes things just pop up, where something comes up at work, and your partner has to stay late or you have to stay late or do something. And so it’d be like, “hey, emergency came up, I’m going to be late.”
But for the average person, these kinds of things don’t come up all the time. And it’s something that can be communicated. I had one client that I was working with and I remember that this happened with both of them, because they both had very high profile jobs. And one of them would be in a meeting, in a Zoom meeting on their phone. This happened during COVID. Then one of them would have different work that they needed to do after their meeting. And one of them, once they finished the meeting, they needed to have a few minutes to just wrap up mentally, to just decompress from it. And so we realized the strategy for them was that – let’s say their partner knew that they were going into a meeting at x time, and they knew to expect the meeting would be like 45 minutes, an hour, hour and a half, however long their meetings usually are, that when they’re done the meeting, they should send a quick text and say, “hey, just finished the meeting, I’ll be out in 10 minutes.” Because that little communication makes the person feel like they’re aware of me and my wants and my needs and my time, as opposed to they’re just taking me for granted.
It’s those little things – it seems like a really small thing. But it really can be quite impactful in feeling validated. And so if we don’t need these big changes, and that can have a lot more resistance too. So I always think both with relationships and in general, it’s really just about the little baby steps. I know, one thing that actually helped me a lot with our relationship is dinners can be a really stressful time. For me, I feel like it’s the end of the day, you have all the stress for the day, I’m cooking dinner, the kids are going crazy. And that’s where the stress can start to build up. I’ve been able to put some things into practice that have helped with that. And one of them is just seeking more help to have the table set. Where before it was like, “oh, I got to do this” and then scrambling. But just communicating “I’m stressed, can you please help by getting everyone’s water ready and putting the plates out on the table?” It seems really small. But it can make a big impact on your stress and just supporting and helping each other.
Yeah, and see you use a softened startup there, even if you didn’t realize. You shared that you’re stressed, which is your feeling. Maybe you stated why you’re stressed, maybe not. But then you gave them a constructive way they could help you as opposed to saying, “could you get off your phone and help?” That’s not productive, it just makes him feel attacked. And you said “can you put out the water?” That gave him something concrete that he could do to help you feel less stressed.
Yeah, it’s giving the instruction manual, right? Just as you touched on with our kids. it’s like, “why don’t you want to eat this? What do you want to eat? Do you want this?” And it’s providing those instructions so we can help each other with going down the path to success.
Yeah, exactly. And it takes time, it’s not going to be always seamless, when you’re working on communicating in a new way. And even when you did it successfully once or twice, you’re still gonna have some time come up where you’re stressed, you’re tired, you’re hungry, and you just have a snap reaction instead of responding intentionally. But you can pause and say, “I didn’t mean that. I’m sorry, I am overtired, or I’m really hangry right now. This is what I meant to say.” And then even though your partner might be hurt by that initial reaction, they will feel better that you’re acknowledging that you said things rashly, or in a way that they felt attacked.
I know one thing I’ve noticed – again, in personal experience, as we as we’ve gone through working on our communication and things like that – is when we do have those moments, both of us are better able. I can be like, “oh, I shouldn’t have said that. I meant this, I’m sorry.” And then he can also better recognize it and might not immediately react, or he’ll say something that’s kind of in the middle, that’s like, “I know you didn’t need to say that. Like we don’t need to be so catty right now.” And then we can reframe that and continue with the communication instead of getting reactionary. So it really is a practice and continually working at it together.
Yeah, exactly. And it’s again, doing it together knowing that you’re both putting in this effort, knowing that you’re both working to be more intentional. And just ultimately thinking what’s best for this relationship where we will both get what we need, as opposed to feeling like we would. Sometimes we have this dynamic, whether from home, school, or whatever – in general, culturally, we all like to be winners. And so sometimes we’ll try to one-up our partner, especially if that was a dynamic we had with our siblings, let’s say, or in our schooling. It’s not a competition between you and your partner, about who did better, who did more, who was more right. When you one-up your partner and one of you is the winner, you’re ultimately both losing, because you are doing something negative for your relationship. You’re detracting from your emotional bank account, which is something I want to touch on. I know we don’t have a lot of time left.
I was just going to lead into how we should expand on that before we cut off. So yeah, feel free.
Yeah. So we all have this emotional bank account. It’s this abstract thing, but it’s affected by practical and tangible actions or steps that we take, where in our relationship, we’re constantly either making deposits or withdrawals. So every time we do something positive, say something positive, make them feel something positive, that adds to our emotional bank account. Every time that we don’t acknowledge them, or criticize them, or don’t do something that we told them that we were going to do, or do something that makes them feel not cared for or invalidated. And again, this is vice versa as well, when they do or don’t do certain things. It detracts from our emotional bank account.
And when you were saying how you and your husband didn’t always do so well with these kinds of things, and then you navigate it, and you’re in a better pattern now, and you know how to fix these things. But it still comes up at times. The point isn’t that your relationship is perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist in this world, right? Where there’s never any hiccups or bumps. But it’s perfectly imperfect. Where it’s not that a healthy couple never has disagreements or never has any challenges. It’s about the way that they navigate those challenges and how they repair from them. And at times, they’re going to do better than others, like when things are going really well. And they’re well rested, and they’re well fed, and they’re well hydrated. And financially there aren’t many struggles, and childcare is good, and house health is good, and all these things are good. A struggle that comes up then is going to be navigated really smoothly.
But then when there’s other things going on that compound an issue, then we might not respond to it in an ideal way or the way that we would want to. But then even when we respond to it in a way we wouldn’t want to, we can repair from that. We can be vulnerable and share where that was coming from and apologize, own up to what we did and make them feel validated. And when you repair from a negative situation, that adds to your emotional bank account, because it is showing them that you care, that you are there for them, that you’re validating their feelings.
So with the emotional bank account, we ultimately want to have a healthy balance. So there’s always going to be pluses and minuses, there’s always going to be deposits and withdrawals. It’s not like there’s only deposits, deposits, deposits. Because deposits can happen easily, withdrawals can happen easily. When your partner walks in from work and you’re looking at your phone and don’t look up, there’s a withdrawal, even if it wasn’t intentional, but they just felt like you didn’t acknowledge them when they walked in the room. And those kinds of things are gonna happen in day-to-day life, especially when you’re both busy, especially when you’re parents and have a lot of different responsibilities and challenges. And there’s some withdrawals that are bigger, and some that are smaller.
Similarly with deposits, there’s some that are bigger, and some that are smaller. Remembering your birthday might feel bigger if that’s something that’s meaningful to you. And this also ties into love languages, right? When we express something in our partner’s love language, that’s going to be more meaningful and make a bigger deposit than something that still shows love, but isn’t in their love language. Gifts for me – obviously, I like gifts, but gifts is one of my lower love languages. I think it’s in my bottom two. So of course I appreciate it if I get a gift, but there’s other things that I appreciate way more. And yes, the initial euphoria when you get something special feels really good. But it fades. And then when you use that thing, it makes you feel cared about that, like they thought of you. But tuning into your partner’s love languages – if words of affirmation is their thing, then give them those words of affirmation. And those make really big deposits. If quality time is their thing, create intentional pockets of time where you’re together, if touch is their thing, cuddle and snuggle. These little things.
And just touching on this briefly, because I know it’s something you wanted to touch on, and we really don’t have time anymore. But touch and intimacy is not all about going all the way in the bedroom. It’s not all about sex. It could be a touch on the shoulder, it could be cuddling on the couch, it could be a meaningful hug. All these different things are all touch related. And they all connect you in that way if that’s your love language. So really being intentional about how you express yourself to each other, making intentional moments of connection – so date night doesn’t always have to be a grand going out thing where you get a babysitter and go to a restaurant or a movie, it could just be catching up on your show every week on the couch. That could be a date night if it’s done meaningfully and intentionally, where your phone is aside, you’re sitting together, you’re focused, you’re talking to each other. That could be your version of a date night. It’s figuring out your own ways to connect that really work with your own life. And making those things happen as often as possible. And putting in the little deposits as well, like giving an intentional goodbye before you each start your day. Having a meaningful reunion, as it’s called, when you both come back from your day, and seeing how their day was. Having intentional time where you’re not interrupted by your phone or other things. And just really, again, intention and meaning are what matters.
Yeah, intention, taking that pause to reflect, and just keep practicing at it.
Yes, keep going. I like to tell clients, as long as you’re breathing, there are things you can do to repair.
Well, thank you so much for your time. I think that was just jam packed with really good information for communicating and building and keeping up that connection within your relationship. Where can people find you, Sheina?
So they can find me at @LoveAfterBaby on Instagram, and my website, SheinaSchochet.com. And I touch on a lot of these things in more depth in my resentment to reconnection course, which is all about communication, connection and relationships. Then I have a short workshop on – I mean, it’s not so short, but I typically price it at $9 – it’s the touched out to turned on workshop for people who are struggling in that department, which I find is a struggle for lots of moms. And then I have a 30 day recharge your relationship challenge, which really has so much included in it for less than $1 a day. And I was a bit of an overachiever when I planned what to put in it. And I look at it and I’m like, “hey, this is really comprehensive, it should be way more,” but I don’t want to price it up. So I’m keeping it as is for now. But over time, I might dilute it a bit, because it really has a lot of things that I don’t even expect moms to get done every day. Each of the 30 days has a relationship tidbit with how to practically apply it to your relationship, a journaling prompt, a self care idea, conversation starter, and a date idea. So they’re all these things every single day, which obviously no one’s going to do every single day. So I tell moms technically, this can last you for five months if you just choose one thing from each day. So I might turn that into more of a series eventually, but right now that’s where it’s at. And those are the different ways that people can access my content. And I also do limited clients one on one. So if you liked anything in this class, then follow @LoveAfterBaby where I share lots of tips like these.
As you can tell, Sheina is just incredibly knowledgeable. We’ve been in touch, following each other, and communicating for the last couple of years, and you’re just so helpful in the work that you do. So thank you for all the information you’ve provided us today, and please everyone watching go ahead, check out Love After Baby. See all of Sheina’s content and the different resources she has available. And we will also dive into more of this within our Facebook group and our UM Club bi-weekly hangouts too. So I will see all of our UM Club members there. And thank you again, Sheina, for your time today.
And another episode is done! If you’re interested in Sheina and all she does, make sure to check out her Instagram and her website! And if you want to talk more with us about everything we’ve gone over, make sure to join the UM Club, and come to our Facebook hangout!