Partnership + Parenthood

Partnership is transformed in parenthood. Today I am joined by Shane Birkel, a podcaster and couples therapist. Shane and I are discussing communication and relationship patterns for partners during the early years of parenthood.

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Hi, and welcome to episode 203 today we're talking about partnership. Partnership can be and usually is completely transformed in Parenthood. Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of simple families. Simple families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my Ph.D. In child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us.

Hi there. And thanks for tuning in here the podcasts, we talk a lot about developing a healthy relationship with our children and a healthy relationship with ourselves, but we don't spend nearly enough time talking about developing a healthy relationship with our partners. So today we're going to be talking about partnership. I am going to be joined by a marriage and family therapist. Shane Burchell. Shane is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and he's also a podcaster. He has podcasts called the couples therapist couch in this episode, Shane and I are talking about the relationship between partners and we're also talking about couples therapy and why it might be something that everyone would benefit from, not just those who are in strained relationships, but before we get further into today's episode, here's a quick word from our sponsor. The sponsor for today's episode is cultural care.

Cultural care is the AU pair agency that we use in our family. We've been a part of the U S AU pair program for two years. Now. Initially we signed on when I signed a contract to write a book and I knew I had a one-year project ahead of me. And with that project, I was going to need extra childcare. We quickly fell in love with the program. It's been such a gift to not only have extra support with the kids, but also to have gained new members of our family because our AU pairs truly have become part of our family. So what is an AU pair in opere is a young adult from overseas who comes to live with your family on a legal visa for up to two years. And they provide childcare in exchange for a weekly stipend room and board, and an opportunity to become a part of your family.

If you're thinking ahead to summer childcare, and you're looking for more information about cultural care, go to simplefamilies.com/aupair , AU PAIR, and use the code PC simple to waive the $75 registration fee. You can get more information there again, that's simplefamilies.com/aupair. I hope you enjoy my conversation today with Shane. And if you have questions or comments, leave those in the show notes at simplefamilies.com/episode203.

Denaye Barahona: Hi Shane, thanks for joining me today. I'm so excited to be here. Well, I'm glad to have you. I spend a lot of time on the podcast talking about our relationships with ourselves and the importance of valuing that and valuing the importance of the relationship with our children and keeping that strong. But I haven't focused much time on valuing the relationship with our partner and strengthening that. So I'm glad to have you here to talk about that today.

Shane: Oh, me too. I'm so excited to hear that you, you talk about that because kids are like sponges, you know, and they just soak up what they seefrom their parents and their relationship dynamics and stuff like that. So it's really good for us to be aware of.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. So tell me Shane a little bit about you personally, your own family and professionally what you do?

Shane: Absolutely. I have a nine-year-old and a seven-year-old and we recently had a 16 year old join our family about an hour from Boston, and I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist. And I have a private practice here where I live in New Hampshire. And I see a lot , I see mostly couples I'm focused on relationships and I've been seeing of people online as well. I'm a certified relational life therapist, which you can look up and find more about. But I also have a podcast that's all about the practice of couples therapy. So I really focus on relationships in my work.

Denaye Barahona: Great. So I'm a licensed clinical social worker, which is one type of therapist that deals with families and couples and individuals. And there are many different types of therapists. What are your certifications and any words of wisdom for someone trying to parse apart who they should see if they're looking for some type of support?

Shane: Yeah, absolutely. That's a good question. What was your license? That you said again, sorry.

Denaye Barahona: Clinical social worker.

Shane: Clinical Social Worker. Yeah, whether if I was looking for a couple of therapists, whether someone is a licensed mental health counselor, or a licensed clinical social worker, a licensed marriage and family therapist, it gets really confusing as a consumer when you're looking at all that. And to me, none of that is very important as far as those are all going to be really, really qualified people who could be good at what you're looking for. And so I would look as long as they have one of those licenses. I would look beyond that too, or a psychologist even.

Shane: I will look beyond that to what kind of, do they have specialized couples therapy training? Like I mentioned, I'm a certified relational life therapist, which means I've done. I don't know, about two years of, of training. In addition to that, just focused on working with couples and there's something else called emotionally focused therapy, gottman therapy, there's these different training programs that are specifically for, to work with couples. And I think that would be really important. It's also really important that you find someone who you have a good connection with as a therapist, you can look through their website or if they have blogs or videos and find someone who seems like a good fit for you.

Denaye Barahona: That's a great start. So I have recently become more interested in couples therapy because I've been thinking about it for quite some time because I, during my training process, when I was getting licensed, I had to go to therapy. So I've done individual therapy, but I've never done couples therapy. And I remember when I was in grad school and I was in a couples therapy class, that the very first thing that the teacher or the professor said to us was the reason that couples therapy feels the most often is because people wait until one person or two people have a foot out the door. So I always thought to myself that couples therapy is something that I want to invest in, not when there's a problem per se. I mean, definitely if there's a problem, but also just to improve communication patterns and to keep a healthy partnership healthy.

Shane: Yeah, such a great idea. I think it's so important. And it's so true that people often don't seek out couples therapy until someone has a foot out the door. And oftentimes, you know, it's so much harder to do the work at that point then if you're sort of addressing it up front and the reality is that in our society, we don't grow up learning good relationship skills. And so there's no shame in not knowing, right. It's, it's not something that comes naturally to us and unless you had really perfect parents, which no one does, then it's helpful to learn some skills like you, like, you know, a lot of it's about the communication, but a lot of it's about what comes up and gets in the way, even when we're trying our best to communication.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. I think about it kind of like taking a parenting class because it's very much the same thing with parenting. We feel like, Oh, well we were parented. We must know how to parent by default, but how much we can benefit from learning some new skills and strategies and you're right. The same thing comes into play in a relationship, in an intimate relationship.

Shane: Yes, absolutely. So true.

Denaye Barahona: So, I guess back to my story of where, where I went with that was, I wanted to do it for a long time. I never, we, I slashed my husband and I never got our acts together to actually make it happen because logistically it's hard for the two of us to get out. You know, I mean, you have to arrange for a babysitter, have to maybe get off work early, the actual logistics, logistics. Yeah, it can be really hard and it can be expensive, not just the cost for therapy, but then the cost for babysitters and that sort of thing. So what really sort of pushed me into actually doing it is because I signed on with better health, which is an online therapy organization to sponsor the podcast. And I always have to demo the products. So I was really thankful that this kind of gave me the extra push that I needed to get online and actually sign up for it and do it with my husband. And we've been loving it. And I didn't know what I was going to think about online therapy. What do you think about online therapy?

Shane: Yeah, that's cool to hear about your experience because I've started working more with couples and online therapy. And I was a little hesitant at first. I think there's something really special about being in the room and feeling the energy of people and reading all of the nonverbal communication that's going on in the room. But as I've done more and more online therapy on finding that it can be incredibly effective and you know, just as helpful depending on the situation I like it.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And I do agree with you that I think being in the room and feeling the energy is a wonderful thing, but I do also think like for me, I just don't know if we would have ever made it happen.

Shane: That's the thing, right? It's like the convenience is so helpful when you have little kids and you're just trying to figure out you know, traveling to a therapist could be, even if you're only seeing them for an hour, it could be like a three hour process by the time you drive there and park and go in and then you have to go back to work. And so, you know, it's like, it's not that simple. So I think it's such a great option for parents, with little kids who are so busy and things like that.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And I do think there is the stigma, you know, of even just going to a therapist and waiting in the waiting room and seeing other people walk out and it feels, I feel like there is something to be said about reservations that people have regarding the stigma of counseling.

Shane: Yeah. That's such a good point too. How many more people are likely to try it out? If they can do it from the convenience of their own home, they don't have to feel so exposed by going out and being in a waiting room like that. I definitely think it opens it up to two people who might feel uncomfortablegoing to life therapy.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah, so I think this whole online therapy world, which I know from a therapist point of view can feel a little bit scary because you are giving up some of that intimate, personal connection with your clients. But I do feel like it can bring support to so many more people. I think that potential is really there.

Shane: Yeah, absolutely. I think it's great. I definitely think that I feel just as connected to the people I work with online that I, you know, as I do with the people who come in.

Denaye Barahona: Do you usually do video?

Shane: I do. Almost always. Yeah.

Denaye Barahona: That helps. I would imagine.

Shane: Yeah, definitely.

Denaye Barahona: So who do you see the most often, would you say you see an overwhelming number of parents or newlyweds, or what is your, would you say there's any one group you see the most?

Shane: Well, maybe it's because I think that people find us as therapists, oftentimes you find that people come to work with you who are in a similar place as you are in life, or maybe I'm a few years ahead of where they are in their life. So I do see a lot of people with young. I also think that that timeframe in particular isparticularly stressful and a really difficult time when you have little kids, there are other developmental times in life that are, that can be challenging, but that's one of them. That's one of the main ones for sure.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. I can definitely feel that. It's an interesting thing that happens when you go from being just partners to adding a child where your attention shifts and the way that you spend your time shifts so dramatically.

Shane: Yes, absolutely.

Denaye Barahona: Where do you see this? Do you feel like the toddler years are the most challenging for couples or when do you see the problems arising with parenting, parenting challenges and communication issues?

Shane: And well, a lot to , about this. I might, if I start going off on a huge tangent, you can feel free to stop me at any time. Cause I get excited when I talk about this stuff, but what I find, it depends on the person, and it depends, in my opinion, in my training, it depends on the family that they grew up in. What happens for us when we're little kids growing up in our families is that there's really important. Neural pathways being formed in our brain. You know, when we're three, four, five years old, that oftentimes we don't have a lot of verbal language abilities, and we don't have people encouraging us to talk about our emotions a lot, especially in this society. And these neural pathways are being formed. And what happens is that I continue growing up in that family until I'm 18 or so.

Shane: And I get into a relationship and my specific,he specific flavor of what my family did or didn't give me growing up,clashes with a specific flavor of what my partner's family did or didn't give them growing up. And I think it can create a lot of problems. And to answer your question,the developmental phases that were most of a struggle for me growing up, oftentimes what we see is that when I have kids those ages, it tends to be a struggle for me as the parent. I may not even be conscious of that, but that,uit's hard to predict, you know, that you might have, I often see people who have been in a relationship for 10 years or 20 years or something like that. And then all of a sudden their kids are teenagers and they're having huge amounts of anxiety or depression or something else. And there's oftentimes they don't make a connection, but there's usually a story behind that. Maybe something they went through when they were a teenager or something like that.

Denaye Barahona: Great. I'm really going be in for a, my kids get to be teenagers. I'll consider that a warning.

Shane: And it's still, it's hard to predict. Right? and even if you went through a difficult time as a teenager, maybe when your kids are teenagers, it's great because I don't know you learn something from that, or you know, there's no way to predict exactly how it plays out. But I think what is important, what often happens is that let's say my partner starts, you know, let's say we have, we do have little kids and things are stressful and overwhelming. What happens is we start to be really judgemental about that or blaming, or it starts to feel like if my partner could just do this for me, then I'd feel okay and that sort of leaks into something that I think is essential about relationships and the inability to communicate, which is that at a fundamental level, I think most people just want to feel accepted and seen and understood and connected with.

Shane: And when my partner and I are having a hard time communicating through something, it means that one or both of us is having a hard time, fully understanding and connecting with the other person. And I think one of the reasons for that is that I'm stressed and overwhelmed and I'm trying to feel heard, and my partner's stressed and overwhelmed and she's trying to feel heard and no one's actually listening or being the accepting one or being receptive to the other person. And so if it ends up feeling very lonely and isolating and overwhelming and like stuck, a lot of people feel really, really stuck when they get to that point.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And you touched on an important piece here, which is connection. And I find that with my kids when I'm in tune with them and I'm really seeing them and understanding them and feeling connected to them, their behaviors a lot better, but when my brain is somewhere else, when I'm overwhelmed, when I'm stressed out and I'm disconnected from them and their wellbeing, they start acting out. And it's funny that I actually made this connection in my relationship with my partner too. Is that when I'm feeling disconnected from him, you know, when he's been traveling for work or we've just kind of been missing each other due to schedules, that sort of thing, I tend to get more frustrated. I tend to lose my cool more often. I tend to be more shameful more often. And a lot of times it comes back to just this lack of connection and lack of intimacy.

Shane: Yeah. That's great and so much of what I teach couples, and how they to, what parents need to learn to be good parents for their kids. And so often the things we struggle with in our relationship are related to things that we didn't get in our families growing up or things that were a struggle in our families growing up. I think it'd be, I think it comes full circle.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah or old patterns that we had in our family of origin that have started to reemerge in our relationships without us noticing them.

Shane: Yes, absolutely. I'm trying to think of an example that might be helpful to illustrate the point.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah, one example from my own life is that I feel like I go towards negativity a lot. Like I'll get really down on my partner and be really negative when I'm feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, and as I've become more aware of that, I catch myself doing it, but it's almost like those old habits die hard. Right? Like they always keep re-emerging when the stress and overwhelm comes up.

Shane: What is the motivation behind the negativity? You know, if you think about it from oftentimes your negative stance, and I appreciate your vulnerability, and opening up about that because we all have these thingsthere's something that that's trying to accomplish. Right? and what happens is, it's more of a reaction, butwhat would be an example of what the motivation for the negativity would be, if that makes sense? Like what would the negativity be trying to accomplish?

Denaye Barahona: Probably, to take some blame off something that I'm feeling. So, if I'm feeling stressed out and I I'm carrying some heavy piece of mental load feeling that, like for example, like trying to decide if I'm going to homeschool my children next year, or if I'm going to send them to school, right. This is something that I've been dealing with. And I take most of that on myself, in my mental load, I do the planning and the worrying, and then I also blame and get upset when my husband doesn't participate. But yet at the same time, I try to kind of run the show and make all the decisions in my mind and I don't bring him into the conversation. And then I get upset when he's not a part of the conversation.

Shane: This is great. This is such a great starting point. So, let me take it away from your personal life, and make up another example, but to go, to keep going with this idea that you're talking about, cause this is so helpful. So let's say that, you know, my wife and I both work full time. We have a nine and a seven year old and I come home from work at the end of the day. And my wife says honey did you take the trash out this morning? You know? And I intentionally said that in a nice way, because let's assume that she said it in that kind of voice from her perspective. She's just asking me, she's just wondering if we still need to take the trash out or not. It's not blaming, it's not judgmental, but I've just had a hard day at work.

Shane: And you know, I would say that it's possible, I might hear that in a negative way. And I have this shame inside of me about, you know, I'm not, I'm not doing enough at work. I'm not showing up enough as a dad. I have all this insecurity. Like you know, it's just so stressful. I'm just trying to show up for everyone. And I feel like I'm always falling short. I'm not showing up enough as a husband and I have this shame about it. And so she asked me that simple question about the trash and all, and that could, if that touches on that shame. I can tolerate that for about two seconds before I go up into a what I call grandiosity. I go up into the opposite of shame, which is, I don't like the way you're talking to me and don't, you know, how, what I've been doing today and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And so it's,the struggle in that, in the communication is that,I'm feeling very protective of something that my partner isn't even trying, you know, my partner isn't even trying to be blaming about. And I ended up not being able to stay in the conversation and turning it back on her because,it's so hard for me to face the shame that I'm feeling inside of me.

Denaye Barahona: Right. Because we're never just listening to the words, we're listening through the lens that we have formed with all of our life experiences and everything on our plate that we have all, we have our own agenda that we're filtering everything coming into our years through and you're right. Everyone has their own agenda. So you could say, did you take the garbage cans out to me? And I'd be like, Oh no, I didn't take them out today. Cause that doesn't trigger me, but you could say, does somebody else? And that is a huge trigger. And I definitely can see that happening in relationships everywhere. It's funny that you use that example. Because I actually have an example so much of that, that I use in my mental unload course because I was visiting some friends earlierit was last year at the beginning of last year and we were driving into her driveway and she, the garbage cans were out by the road.

Denaye Barahona: And she said to me, she's like, Oh yeah, John, I'll just call her husband on John's eyes. Don't see the garbage cans. And it was funny that she said that because I said, you know, my eyes don't see the garbage cans cause I don't take out the garbage. I never know it, and when we pulled our driveway, I didn't notice there were garbage cans at the end of the driveway, but her eyes always see the garbage cans and how we attend to different things as individuals, the garbage cans are not a thing for me, but they are for other people. And they are a real thing that people can get really upset over.

Shane: Right. And for that friend of yours. I imagine I'm making what I'm making up in my head about that is that she grew up in a family where cleanliness was really important. And she was feeling a little bit of shame about the fact that, you know, you might see your garbage cans and think that she wasn't a clean person or something like that. And so we all do this. We all make up these stories in our head about what is going on in the situation and what other people think of it. And I think that's so important because we can't control anyone else and we have no idea what is going on in anyone else's head. And so the best thing that we can do is focus on ourself and focus on our own emotions and speak from the first person about our reality and our experience.

Shane: So, let me keep going with this trash example, actually, let's say that it's an alternative universe and I walk in the front door and my wife is in a really bad mood. And she says, Hey, Shane, you're so lazy. You never take the trash out. What's wrong with you? Something like that. She would never say that. But you know, if, if she did that I have the opportunity in that moment to take a deep breath and not focus on the words that she's actually saying to focus on her emotional state to say, Oh my gosh, it sounds like things have been pretty stressful here. I'm going to go take the trash out right away and then I'll make sure I'll go take care of the kids. Why don't you go sit down for a little bit and relax or something?

Denaye Barahona: Yeah, no, that's spoken like a true therapist.

Shane: That's the goal I've never accomplish that.

Denaye Barahona: Oh, okay. I just wanted to be sorry. Like you're being real with you because that, that does that takes, I feel like that is that's possible, but that takes, that takes a lot of work,

Shane: But that's the solution to every relationship issue for the most part.

Denaye Barahona: It is recognizing, recognizing what's underlying that frustration.

Shane: Yes. I talk about boundaries a lot when I work with people and I talk about self-esteem a lot and the more that I build up my own self-esteem, if my wife is coming at me with those comments, the more that I have a strong sense of self and the feeling that I'm enough and I matter. I may not be perfect as a dad and a husband and a worker, but I'm doing my best and I'm a good person. And I know I have good intentions. The more I believe that about myself, the more whatever my wife says to me, the more I can breathe and make it about her reality. This is sort of related to what I was saying before. There can only be one speaker in one listener at a time, if she's coming at me like that, I can choose to be the listener.

Shane: I can choose to focus on her reality. Instead of her words, her attack, I can sayoh my gosh, she must be feeling overwhelmed. And I can breathe, and there's, the other thing, you know people, people are always like, well, do you just, you know, you could protect yourself. You can. Why don't I have the ability to protect myself. And what I always say is healthy boundaries. Of course you do. Of course you do. But we often treat our partner as though it's our worst enemy or worse than we would treat our worst enemy and what we have to remind each other. Is there enough good stuff going on in this relationship that it's worthwhile for me to duck under this wave? And sure I can, you know, it might be more helpful if I bring it up later on, I can always come back and say, honey, you're, you're totally right. You know, I can be forgetful about the trash, but I'd really appreciate it. If you wouldn't call me lazy. Cause that's really hurtful to me. That's talking about my experience and my reality and setting a boundary, of course we have the ability to do that.

Denaye Barahona: You gave that example of someone saying, well, don't I get to defend myself? And that brought up this image for me of a battlefield and war where there are two enemy sides and that's just not what partnership is, right? There are not two sides and it's not a battle one trying to defeat the other. It's two people trying to collaborate and work together and achieve the same goals. And when we do come at it with this approach, like we're on a battlefield where nobody's going to win.

Shane: Yes, absolutely. There's something that's true for couples and that's true for parents and children. And it's that there's nothing good or helpful about harshness. There's nothing that harshness will accomplish that loving firmness won't do better.

Denaye Barahona: Give us an example of how you would differentiate harshness versus loving firmness. Can you maybe just give us some really concrete examples of those?

Shane: Absolutely. And I do talk to parents a lot, but it's the same thing for couples. When we are talking about what kids need, you know, on a very basic level, one thing that I've heard is that kids need nurture. They need limits and they need guidance. And I talk a lot about,how do we give kids the nurturing and the limits at the same time? And so let's say that my son hits his sister, we, most of us can agree. That's a behavior that I need to set a limit on. I need to make sure that it's clear to him that it's not okay to hurt other people. This is an important lesson for us to teach our children. You know, this is where kids need limits. We have to teach the kids are naturally grandiose and don't feel like there are any boundaries.

Shane: And so part of being a parent is setting good limits and teaching children that they have an impact on those around them. And some people never get that and I see them in my couples therapy office because they have a hard time modulating themselves in relationships. But let's say my son hits us sister a harsh response. And I, admittedly, I've done. This would be me yelling at him and saying, stop it. You can't hit your sister or something. You know, something like that and that's a very harsh response that I would say is verbally and emotionally abusive for me to do to my son, as I said, I've done it. We all behave in this way sometimes, but I think it's important to use strong language around that and so this is a grown ups, big strong man.

Shane: Who's getting in the face of a young child and intimidating them. That's harsh. That's mean, that's unnecessary. Loving firmness would be for me to see the behavior and say, Hey buddy, you can't hit your sister. You have a timeout, whatever the consequences are, you lost screen time for the rest of the day. And why don't you go take a, take a time out on the couch. And maybe I go talk to him while I was on the couch and say, Hey, what was going on with your sister? You know, and ask him questions about it. And so that would be a boundary that I'm setting a limit that I'm setting with him. This doesn't exactly answer your question. Cause maybe it would be helpful to think about couples as well. Let's say that my partner is yelling in my face just to keep, to sort of stick with the same kind of example.

Shane: I'm in a situation, my partner is yelling in my face. What I would say is a defensive response, which is about self protection, which is harsh, is just, how can I yell back? How can I argue back? How can I escalate it and make my points back, and you know, go back and forth and we're off to the races. That's not helpful. It's not going to, no one's getting anything beneficial from that situation. So, if my partner is yelling in my face, loving firmness might be look, honey, it's not okay for you to talk to me this way. I'm going in the other room. Let me know when you're ready to talk.

Denaye Barahona: I like that and then giving them the space to try again. And actually that I feel like is how I handle things with my kids sometimes too. You know, this idea that giving them the space, I understand that you're feeling some big feelings right now and this is not the time to process this. This is not the time to get into a power struggle and then handling it when we're ready to handle it in a way that is more constructive.

Shane: Yes, absolutely and this is where I'm really big about setting up a time-out structure for couples. I think this can, this can be a game changer for certain types of couples depending on what their relational dynamic is. But once you start getting into something that feels like an argument, or like, it's mean, or hurtful or rude or passive aggressive. I would call all of those boundary violations, which are harsh, which are abusive, making someone feel small all of these things, whenever it starts seeping into something like that, usually the best thing to do is to remove yourself from the situation. And a timeout is different than, there are also a lot of people who feel abandoned and isolated when their partner leaves the situation. And so we talk about this when I work with couples in therapy a lot, this is very different from your partner turning their back and leaving the situation, which is sort of like, screw you.

Shane: I'm done with this. I'm outta here. It's not that it's very different. It's more about, when we set up the time out plan ahead of time, while both people are calm, we're saying if I call a timeout, what I mean to say in that moment is I love you. I care about you so much that I don't want us to keep going down this path. And the best thing for us is to go our, to go cool off a little bit, before we come back to this conversation, and I'm making a commitment that after 20 minutes, whoever called the timeout, we'll check in with the other person that doesn't mean you have to re-engage, but you do have to let them know that you haven't abandoned them. You have to say, Hey, I'm just checking in. I'm still really flooded. I'm not ready to come back, but I'll talk to you again in two hours. And that would be the next timeframe, 20 minutes than two hours, and then go from there. But that it's a commitment it's like, I'm not leaving you, but I don't have the emotional capacity to come back to the situation yet. That's taking responsibility for yourself, which is, goes back to what I was saying before. That is the most helpful thing any of us can do in any relational situation. We take responsibility for ourselves.

Denaye Barahona: Great. So, can we talk a little bit about resentment? Because I feel like that's such a huge thing with couples, especially when there are kids involved. I'm experiencing some resentment right now towards my husband. So, we can use this as an excuse, so you can walk me through what you think the best best approach would be here. So we got back, we just got back from vacation and we got back Friday night around, probably get home about midnight. We'd been gone for a week, had an awesome trip. It was amazing, but my husband had received free tickets to the NBA, all star game in Chicago to leave, but he had to leave on Saturday.

Shane: It wasn't a trip that was no, no, this was, this is something that he was doing himself after. Right?

Denaye Barahona: Okay. So this was, he would have to leave LA about 10 hours after we got back. So he got back late Friday night. He had to leave Saturday 10:00 AM, I think, to get there. So, I knew this going into the trip, right? I would, I told him, I was like, I don't really want you to go. Cause I know coming back after a week of traveling, there's going to be grocery shopping and laundry and like sleep changes and grumpy kids. And just coming back from a vacation can be a lot. It can be really overwhelming and I didn't want him to go. I mean, I wanted him to have fun, but I just knew the timing was going to be really, really difficult for me. And I was going to be really overwhelmed. So despite that he still went and part of me was like, I'm glad that he went because I wanted him to enjoy that time.

Denaye Barahona: And it was an experience that I knew he was really going to enjoy. So sure enough, Saturday came after vacation and he went and I was super resentful of it, even though I knew he was going to go, it was the plan all along. I was really resentful and now it's been it's Friday and I'm still feeling it's wearing off a little bit, but I still feel irritated because I had to take on that whole weekend and all those tasks, the meal prep, the laundry, the post vacation laundry, the shopping, everything on my own. And I didn't want to have to do that.

Shane: This is great. I love this conversation. And let me just say really quickly that we don't have time for it in this conversation, but I believe that the dynamic of patriarchy still exists very heavily in our society. And I won't get on my soap box about that, but the way that we're socialized is very different. I'm sure, I don't know if you talk about this with your people. I know that women still take on the mental load of so much of what needs to happen all the time. Men tend to be a little bit not as good at showing up and making sure that things are done and knowing what needs to be done and all of these things. So, that's a real thing that needs to be addressed, but let's assume that you and your partner are pretty good about all that.

Shane: No relationship is perfect, especially when, you know, when there's a male, female dynamic. There are elements of that, that seep into every relationship, but let's say it's not really about that. It's really just about, he does show up and this is really just about this one thing that you're talking about, what I will say is that for me, what I have to do is grieve what I'm not getting in my relationship. So we do this all the time, or we avoid doing it, which leads to further problems. And this is a very specific example that you're talking about where your husband went on this trip and you're feeling some resentment. Now, when you hold on to that, and it's not this simple, I'm going to say it in a really simple way.

Shane: I know it's not this simple. It might take some people a long time to work through this, but when you're holding onto that resentment, the only person that it's affecting is you, that resentment is about your emotional reality, that's your stuff. And soyou have two choices. One, you can accept the reality of what's happening, or you can in a loving and firm way, make a request of your partner. And sometimes it's both in this case, it might be both because you have to accept the reality of what's going on in grieve, what you're not getting grieve. The fact that I don't have my husband helping me out this weekend or whatever else it is. And at the same time, maybe when he gets back, he might make a request like, Hey, can I go have a girls night soon or what, you know, whatever it is you want to do for yourself.

Shane: And so you're talking about a specific example. Let me talk this really quick, talk about when this is a pattern in a relationship. Let's say that for me, I really want three hugs a day, and that's what I would want in for me to feel good in my relationship. And let's say for my wife, she's kind of fine with like once a week that we hug each other. And that's not a big deal for her, there's no right or wrong here. This is another thing people get way too caught up in who's right or wrong. And it doesn't matter, it's about her reality and it's about my reality, and I have to, another good line is turn a complaint into a request because I can live like a resentful victim and a lot of people do, who feel like they're stuck in their own life.

Shane: And I could say, well, I'm only getting one hug a week and this sucks and you know, every time my wife walks by say, Oh, I guess you don't want a hug. Do you know? And sort of be complaining about it and resentful about it. And it's just toxic, right? Or I can make a request as a mature adult and say, honey, I would really appreciate if we can make a plan about this. And let's say we sit down and we make a plan where we're going to try to give each other a hug once a day. And I have to grieve the fact that I'm not going to get three hugs a day. There's enough good stuff going on in this relationship. I love what we have with our kids. I'm really happy about the life we built together. My partner, you know, brings some many good things into my life. I'm getting enough that I'm willing to grieve the fact that I won't get three hugs a day and I'm not going to live like a helpless victim. Who's not in control of my own life.

Denaye Barahona: Right. And I'm kind of a resentful victim right now. No, I am though. I definitely am. And it's funny because when he came back, he looked at me and he said, I hope you're not going to be mad at me about this forever. And when he said that, it really made me realize that this was something that was really important to him, important enough to risk me being upset with him for a couple of days. And that's not a risk that he takes very often, but he was, he really, really wanted to do this. He really enjoyed his time. There. It was some. He said, this is something that I'll always remember, like the experience with something that he'll always remember and always treasure. And that I think I found peace in that, knowing that it wasn't, that he was just like leaving on a whim. Right. This was something that was actually really meaningful him for him. And I think it was underestimating that going into this.

Shane: Yeah, and I don't know you well enough, but let's pretend that well, for some people who are in your situation, they could easily go up into up, I would say up into anger about the situation, angry complaint and what we want to do. We want to really encourage people to go down into their feelings, into expressing what that was like for you and into requests. Like honey, that was really hard for me when you were gone. I was really sad. I was actually a little bit angry at times, and I'd really appreciate if we could have a date night this week to reconnect, or I'd really appreciate if you'd take care of the kids the rest of the week. And I'll just do whatever I want, whatever, whatever the request is is fine, but that you usually, you're going to get a lot more from your partner when any of us can move into expressing things in that way, instead of up into angry complaint.

Shane: And what I will say really quick too, is thatwhat if your husband, these are situations people run into, what if your husband was going off watching basketball games every weekend and wasn't involved at all? And let's say it's beyond the line of what you want to grieve in your life. Let's say it's beyond the line of what you're willing to tolerate. And you're like, no, no, no, no, no, this isn't going to work for me. Then I would say that in this might be a whole other conversation, but just really quick. Cause those, these situations exist. I want to acknowledge that what I would say is that we have to figure outhow to communicate that in a very serious way, where there will be consequences if this doesn't change and that could be leaving the relationship, but it doesn't have to be, it could be other things as well.

Shane: And as a therapist, what I try to do is help the person who has less of a voice help the person who has less of a voice speak up for themselves. I can't do it for them as the therapist. They have to do it for themselves and we have to connect it to something that the person who's going off every weekend wants. Right? So I have to and I am getting into something else, but there are times when that's important, I just want to acknowledge.

Denaye Barahona: And I feel like that's a time when it's really good to have a third party, someone, a family, or a friend involved, because it is if one person has more of a voice than the other person, it's really hard for that other person to be heard and to really learn how to properly communicate their needs. Yes, absolutely. So they don't turn into a resentful victim, right.

Shane: Yeah, right. Yeah, totally.

Denaye Barahona: So does couples therapy last forever? Like what kind of timeline do you usually look at with couples?

Shane: This is a great question. And my opinion is that if you find a good couples therapist, you should see significant progress within a few weeks. I am not the type of therapist who's going to sit with people for three years every week just listening to them and going over stuff and this is partly because of my training as a relational life therapist, we believe in transformational change. And I have very specific ways of creating that for people and so I'll often like to do longer sessions. I'll often work for people at a minimum of two hour sessions. Sometimes I do intensives for four hours or a full day or a full weekend.

Shane: I really try to get to the core of the matter relatively quickly and I try to give people really specific things that they need to start doing right away. I often work with people once every two or three weeks in the longer sessions we can spread it out and I see people, you know, if people work with me consistently for three or four months, they're going to for a lot of people that are going to see the transformation that they're hoping for, if they're doing the work that,I would suggest in the therapy.

Denaye Barahona: So you have a more direct approach.

Shane: Yes. I'm definitely more about telling you what I see that's going wrong. I am not going to sit back and just listen. Well, I will at times, but I'm also going to be very directive at times.

Denaye Barahona: So how do you, well first of all, help me differentiate between therapy and coaching and then help me differentiate between your more directive style therapy and coaching.

Shane: That's a great question. You know I think that what we do as therapists is often really similar to what coaches do. I think what coaches do, can sometimes be related to what therapists do. I think a really short answer is that coaching is often focused on the outcome, on the goals on what do you want, what are you hoping for and how do we get there? How do we move toward that therapy is often focused on the problem. Like you have depression, let's spend the next five years view coming every week and focusing on that. So I do work more like a coach oftentimes when I'm definitely a therapist. And but I think that I've done a lot of training about how to do some really deep trauma work for people in the presence of their partner. And I'm a big believer in that. And so what I do, there's a lot of coaching aspects to what I do in therapy as well.

Denaye Barahona: Okay. That's good to know. Cause I know there are a lot of people who go into therapy with, you know, the image you have on television, where you're laying on a sofa, just talking, and the therapist is sitting there silently, and that's not always the case. Every therapist has a different approach and a different philosophy that underlies their approach.

Shane: Yeah, and I, I like to cook, I like to use this term micro coaching. This is what I do with couples a lot, especially once I, once I have a good connection with them and we have a good relationship and I asked their permission, I might say, Hey, you know, did you realize that this thing that you do, like when you roll your eyes, let's say did you realize that's really shutting down the conversation for both of you and making your relationship a lot worse? And they might say, well, I didn't realize I was rolling my eyes. And I might say, would you like me to point that out for you next time it happens so that you become more aware of it in your relational dynamic. And then I have permission, then I'm going forward, I'll do this micro coaching where I'll say, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, hold on a second. Do you realize what just happened there? And I'll sort of like, let people know what I'm seeing as they're trying to communicate and struggling.

Denaye Barahona: I have one of those. I have a really dramatic sigh, which actually my six-year-old pointed out to me. And it's funny. I never realized that I did it. It's a really dramatic loud sigh. And my six year old was like, what's wrong. One day when I was like, nothing's wrong. I was like, why would you ask that? And he's like, well, because you're breathing like that. And after he mentioned that to me, I caught myself doing it all the time. And I do, I think awareness is the first step and really making change. And I've been working on it.

Shane: I appreciate how open you are about your personal stuff.

Denaye Barahona:That's great. I'm a work in progress.

Shane: I like saying that we all, we all mess up our kids, right? I think this is important for parents to hear. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't try really hard, but you know, your kids are going to be sighing in their own relationships someday and say, I have no idea why I do that. But these things play out. These are legacies that play out generation after generation. And I think going to couples therapy can often be changing the family legacy. I tell people that sometimes especially people who have come from abusive families that doing this work is changing your life and it's changing your kid's life and everybody who's yet to come. You're sparing them from the pain that you went through. So I think it can be really beautiful when people do the work in their relationships and think about it in that way and how many people they're really impacting by doing that.

Denaye Barahona: I completely agree. Well, this has been so great. Thank you so much, Shane. I feel like we should probably do this again soon because I think there's a lot more on this subject that we need to continue talking about. And I think my audience would like to hear it.

Shane: Yeah. Thanks Denaye. This has been a great conversation. Yeah, absolutely. I'd love to talk again at some point.

Denaye Barahona: All right. Thank you so much, Shane. That was great.

Shane: All right.

Denaye Barahona: Thanks so much for tuning in. I hope you've enjoyed my conversation with Shane. If you have questions or comments, leave those in the show notes at simplefamilies.com/episode 203. If you want to support this show, leave us a review or rating in iTunes. Your help is greatly appreciated. Thanks for tuning in and have a good one.

Denaye Barahona

Dr. Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She partners with families to tackle the challenges of raising children. Denaye is a minimalist who claims to be a decluttering expert (don't let her near your closet). She loves to travel, talk health-and-wellness, and give unsolicited advice. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, The Minimalists, Motherly, Becoming Minimalist, and numerous other media outlets. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Clinical Social Worker with a specialty in child and family practice.