What Not To Expect When You’re Expecting

//What Not To Expect When You’re Expecting

Welcome to the couples expert podcast! With Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW, your source for the latest tips and practical downpour of advice on creating emotionally connected thriving relationships. Now, here’s Stuart.

Stuart: Hi there and welcome to the Couples Expert Relationship Podcast.  This is Stuart Fensterheim, the Couples Expert.  I am very excited to be here tonight.  I’m actually recording out of my home here in Scottsdale because I’m about to do an interview with Elly Taylor.  Elly is a friend of mine out of Australia, and she specializes in working with young families: those that are beginning to have children and really wanting to help them understand the difficulties that this can create for a relationship, and she does an incredible job really helping families look at that situation and  stay close and connected in spite of this big life transition.

Okay, I want all of you to help me with something. How many reallys did I just say, really important, really helpful, really this?  One of the things that I am trying as much as possible is to really not say really.  So I would love it if you guys would email me and tell me how many count – let’s do a really count, how many reallys does Stuart, the Couples Expert say in every podcast, the person that counts the best, because I’m going to check it,  I will send a gift certificate to for a dinner for two,. How is that? Because I really want to try to not say really.

Anyway let’s go back and let me share with you a little bit about Elly.  What I like about Elly, and how I really – that’s one – how I met her was through the Couple Symposium that I did a couple of months back with Dr. Carlos Todd.  The symposium was one in which we talked about couples conflict, and Elly was one of the presenters, and she talked about a topic having to do with couples conflict and parenting. So I really began to think about it and recognized that she would be someone that would be incredible to have on my podcast.

Because one, I am trying to establish with this podcast, more than anything, a community of my listeners who can work together.  We can work together to help each other, to have each other’s back, to improve our relationships, because if we do that, if we have a marriage or a partnership with a significant person that can really begin to have a significant impact on this world, the world that we live in has a lot of problems, but if you have a partner in your life that you truly feel connected to, that one individual, that one significant relationship will help you feel so empowered that you can change the world. You can change your family; you can change people’s perspective in this world today that we live in with all the strife and hardship that people have to bear.  But having someone in your life that has your back, and you have their back, and you feel connected to that you know you’ll never be alone again.  And what can you do with that?  What changes can you make within yourself, within your life, within your partnership that will have you two be representative of the world’s goodness and not just the sorrow and pain that we live in?

What I know is that when I am at my lowest, there’s one person that can always turn it around and that’s my wife, and what she has and what she offers me is an awareness that she sees all of me and by that openness, by the power of having someone to see the good, the bad, and the ugly that I possess, and we all possess that.  But I know that vulnerability and that knowledge that there is someone in this world that sees all of me, sees the good part and the bad parts, the parts I don’t even like, and that love that she has for me is so real in spite of those; what’s more secure than that guys?

So I urge you to really take what I share in these podcast episodes to heart, and I mean it that way, take it to heart and know that people like Elly Taylor are out there, and we’re here to help you.  We’re here to really help you feel strong and that we can be many. We can be something; we can change this world; we can be a powerful force: a force that can make this world a world that we love to live in, that we’re excited to wake up in the morning and know that we’re never ever going to be alone again.

So I really encourage all of you to listen to Elly.  She has a message that’s special and let me tell you something a little bit more about Elly.  What’s sort of unique about Elly is how special she is in what she gives to the world because she definitely gives of herself.  She gives of herself today in time.  She’s had to really put things aside in order to take the time today from her work day in Australia.  It’s 5:30 here in Scottsdale, but it’s Monday morning for her, and she’s decided that this time here on the podcast, giving things to guys that you can really make a difference in your relationships, is worth her putting her whole schedule aside for us and that is special.

The other thing that I know about Elly is that she is recently a new mother and that can’t be easy for someone that has such a busy teaching schedule and a schedule where she sees clients and is working.  And what she has come up with is a message that includes – and what we’re going to be talking a lot about today is an eight-stage plan or an eight-stage development of being a parent when you have a child that’s newly born and very, very young.  And she’s formulated these steps to guide all of you, to really help you establish a partnership with your spouse or partner, and she has a book that’s coming out also.  That’s how busy she’s been. A book which is called “Becoming Us.”  And I’m going to have on my show notes a lot of resources, and what I’m probably going to also do is offer all of you a free infographic on what she talks about today, so that you can just come in and click on a link, and I’ll be sending you a lot of the material that she’ll be talking about today.

She also is a columnist, and actually I didn’t really know that till just recently for an Australian parenting magazine.  One of the things she wanted me to say that I told her from the word go, I will not be saying that she lives with a firefighter, and she sees him as pretty gorgeous and cute by the way.  And she wanted me to tell you guys that and I said I wouldn’t do it. Ohh, I just did, didn’t I?  Anyway she lives with her husband and they have a relationship with their children, and they have a bunch of pets, and I want to find out a little bit about those pets.

So Elly, I want to welcome you to the Couples Expert podcast and thank you so very much for being here; it’s something that I feel very honored by.

Elly: Thank you, Stuart, and I’m really, really, really, really excited to be talking to you today.

Stuart: Yeah.  We’ll see how many reallys you do.

Elly: I think you have my four in as well.

Stuart: And maybe before the night is over, we’ll teach not only a little bit about the parenting, but you can teach us some of the lingo, the Australian lingo that my audience isn’t so welcome with.  The word that I’ve just recently learned is fortnight.

Elly: Fortnight.

Stuart: And what that means, that means two weeks, right?

Elly: It does, it means two weeks.  I actually think it’s probably an old English term fortnight, but yeah.

Stuart: I think I heard it on Downtown Abbey maybe.

Elly: There you go.

Stuart: Elly, welcome.  I’m really thrilled to have you here.  And why don’t we start with just telling my listeners a little bit about yourself and how you got into this area, which is a sort of unique area that I haven’t really heard too many people doing, which is really fascinating because it seems so important – what’s more important than raising our children?  How did you decide to take this as a specialty and what are maybe some of your life experiences that led you down this path?

Elly: Sure absolutely, what a great place to start.  Well my background is in relationship counseling.  I’ve been a relationship counselor for 15 years, and I became a mother at the same time I became a relationship counselor, so I guess I was always really kind of keenly aware about what was happening to us as a couple in the transition into parenthood.

And I thought I was really well prepared for parenthood.  We did private antenatal classes.  I did prenatal yoga. I read everything I could get my hands on, and I found out in hindsight that we were really well prepared for pregnancy and for the birth, and I also found that there were lots of resources and books and information on parenting, you know, looking after an infant, do a support for breastfeeding and settling and those sorts of things.  But I found that there was a big gap in between I suppose, and that’s parenthood.

And what I mean by that is things about how becoming a parent changes you as a person and changes your partner as a person, and how it changes your friendships and maybe even your relationship with your parents, and how all of those things can then impact on your relationship with your partner.  So we experienced lots of changes, lots of adjustments that we were completely blindsided by, and at the same time, I was seeing couples, as a relationship counselor, who were going through the same sorts of changes that my husband and I were going through.  And I thought, “This is crazy, there can’t be something wrong with all of us, you know, like what’s going on here.”

And so that was the beginning of me independently researching the transition to parenthood and combining the psychology backgrounds that I had, my emotionally focused counseling skills, the work that I was doing with my couples, and looking at all the changes and adjustments that we were going through.  And that eventually, many years later, became my Becoming Us model which I’m very excited now to be sharing with parents and with professionals too, so it is; it’s a very exciting time for me.

Stuart: Yeah.  What was the term that you just used because I don’t know if everyone caught it, something model you said?

Elly: So the Becoming Us model.

Stuart: Oh, the Becoming Us model.

Elly: The Become Us model, yes, so becoming us in terms of parents and parenting partners and yeah.

Stuart: So more about the we-ness of parenting when you say becoming us coming from two individuals and really coming together as a we, as opposed to you or I? That’s how I think of it.

Elly: That’s an us, yes, exactly.  Yeah, exactly that.

Stuart: Now, are you an emotionally focused therapist?

Elly: I am, yes.

Stuart: Oh, I don’t think I knew that because I don’t know if you – are you aware that I am as well?

Elly: Well you mentioned that you were at one stage, so yes, yeah, we’re very much on the same page.

Stuart: Because the thing that just always comes up for me, and I spent so much time and energy with the couples talking about is the whole vulnerability piece, and I even did that in the introduction as you heard.  And so one of the questions I guess I have with what you just said, you talked about being blindsided.  Talk a little bit about what types of things that you’ve learned really blindside couples.

Elly: Sure.  Lots of things.  I think one of the big ones for me was I went from a very competent, capable, organized, in control career woman to being somebody who struggled to have a shower, clean my teeth, feed the baby as often as the baby needed to be fed, and look after the baby and keep the house tidy as well.  And it was just such a huge life change for me as an individual.  I was really blindsided by that.  I just kind of assumed, I guess, that my corporate world skills would translate into motherhood.

Stuart: Your organizational skills which you are an expert at, and why can’t I find the time to go take a shower?

Elly: Yeah.  And that didn’t translate at all.  And in fact now that I know what I know, I know that the kind of person that I was then sort of set me up I suppose in some ways for some post-natal depression, because if you’ve got the expectation that you’re going to be in control and organized and on top of things, then, you know, it’s a big way to come down when that’s not the case.  So that was one of the things that I was blindsided by.

And another thing that I was blindsided by was how dependent I was on my husband.  We had a pretty equitable relationship before we had our son.  We were pretty much equal and we kind of had a nice balance of the way we divided things up, and I noticed this for a lot of my couples too is that, that balance can tip quite sharply when mom is at home is looking after the baby, and dad is still going out to work.  There seems to be this kind of unspoken arrangement that because mom is at home, she’ll then be in charge of all the housework as well as looking after the baby and dad can sort of let go with it.

Stuart: Come home and relax.

Elly: Exactly, exactly.  And again that changed the dynamic between us, and again it was something else that I was completely blindsided by, and I know a lot of the couples that I was seeing were as well.  So they’re two big ones right off the bat, very early on in the life cycle of a couple’s relationship.

Stuart: You know, it’s interesting because when I hear you talking about this, you really have an undertone that this is a normal pregnancy without any issues. There were so many things that just come from out of nowhere that you don’t expect, and then you have to adjust to it, and if the two of you don’t have a good style of relating to one another in the beginning, it just brings all of this to the surface.  And I’m sitting here going, “if it’s so hard for those couples, imagine if someone had a child or a pregnancy that isn’t so smooth and how that changes things.”  What do you see is the difference in the things that you’re talking about between the couples that have a fairly regular pregnancy to ones that are having other challenges maybe needs bed rest and those types of issues?

Elly: Sure, absolutely.  Well you’re absolutely right and as you can probably imagine and as your listeners can probably imagine, it just creates more problems.  Parents who have a traumatic birth experience, who have multiple babies, or who have a baby born unwell, or even who had to use reproduction for a long period of time and then it took a long time for them to be full pregnant, tend to be a greater risk for relationship distress and in some cases a relationship breakdown.

A traumatic birth for instance is one that I took a particular interest in. It sort of broke my heart that something like 75%, you’ve got a 75% increase risk of relationship breakdown following a traumatic birth, partly because of the high risk for postnatal depression or postpartum depression. That’s one of the Australian-US differences, and it used to break my heart that families started to come apart at the seams at the same time they were forming a family because of a traumatic birth experience.

But a lot of what I learned over the years I found could be preventable, or at least have risk minimized.  So the biggest hope for my model and for training professionals in my model is that we minimize the risks for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, even minimize the risk for birth trauma and really set families up for the best possible start in terms of their mental, emotional, and relationship adjustments that we know are normal.  You know, you said before that it sounds like this sort of stuff is normal, and it absolutely is.  Most parents go through this – well, all parents go through this transition obviously, but most of them will struggle in some way or another because our culture just doesn’t prepare parents for parenthood like we did back in the days of the village.

But we can do that.  We can absolutely turn that around.  There are a lot of people that are willing to pass on their wisdom and to support couples through this, and there are  a lot of professionals out there that are willing to fill the gaps that maybe family has left.

Stuart: And I think, you know, this is sort of where our modern society doesn’t help us very much with families who live far away or in different states, and how do you really – what’s your resource if you have a partner that’s working? The mom basically either has a job that she’s trying to get back to or decides that this is her full time position.  And I call it that way on purpose because I think a lot of men don’t see it that way, and I want to change the culture that both of you now have two jobs.

Elly: Yes.

Stuart: You come home, you don’t just –

Elly: Both of you have different fulltime jobs, yeah.

Stuart: That’s right, you both have different fulltime jobs, and you both need a break.

Elly: Absolutely.

Stuart: But how do we, you know, when we start talking about colicky babies which aren’t necessarily a prenatal trauma, but a trauma in itself, and where both of you are burning out. How do you stay together as a couple without getting into the whole blame game that so many couples get into in a normal relationship?  And that’s where I think EFT really does a nice job. If we can help couples feel really secure with each other, those things are a lot easier.

Elly: Yes again, I agree absolutely with what you’re saying, Stuart.  And I found, I guess, I’ll just go back to what you said about today’s couples in today’s society, so in my research I found that parenthood as a right of passage traditionally had three main phases, and the first was saying goodbye to the old way of life.  The second was facing the fears and uncertainties of the new, and the third was emerging with a new sense of responsibility, social standing, and a new standing in the community.

It’s not the same for today’s couples.  We don’t support them saying goodbye to the old way of life.  We dazzle them with – if you look at how the media represents parenthood, it’s going to be wonderful.  You’re going to be more in love than ever, ever.  It’s going to be great.

Stuart: A pregnant woman has blossoms and looks prettier than ever.

Elly: Glowing.

Stuart: Glowing right.

Elly: You’re just going to glow from now on.  And we really – the media, I think really sets parents up for a fall.  We don’t support couples in facing the anxieties and the fears of the future, and it wasn’t surprising to me that a new Australian research project from Monash University, I think it was in Melbourne, found that whereas we’re just starting to talk about postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety is actually a much bigger issue with something like 33% of mothers and 17% of fathers reporting symptoms.

And my experience is that they’re often anxious because we haven’t prepared them before the baby comes for the changes that we know that they’re likely to experience afterwards.  So I wonder how – if we had or were to start preparing parents, whether we would be able to reduce them with those statistics.  And then the third stage is emerging with an elevated social standing.  And that’s absolutely not the case for parents these days.  As you said before, in a lot of cases they rush to go back to work as soon as possible.  And I found as a mother that I became invisible as a citizen when I became a mother you know.

Like I had visibility as a professional woman, but I had invisibility as a mother.  I lost my power in the world.  I lost my voice in the world.  And so I think we need to compensate for that.  I think that can have an impact on a couple’s relationship.  Mothers often then are very dependent. Back to what I was saying before on the husband’s attitude towards them.  And if you’ve got a husband that comes home and complains that the house isn’t tidy or that it’s not a proper dinner like it was before the baby was born, well that’s really going to impact negatively on a mother’s self-esteem.

So that’s why I have an eight-step model to cater for the differences that we have in today’s world.  And one of the steps is to welcome your parent self and your partner’s parent self and to look at identity and self-esteem and those changes as an issue.  And I found that where parents, we’re back to your EFT reference, where parents were becoming disconnected through each of the stages as I observed them in counseling over those 15 years, the work that I was doing as an EFT counselor was to reconnect them through those stages.  Basically that’s the basis for the model is to reconnect couples mainly at emotional model through each of the stages.

Stuart: Would you find, just to take a couple of minutes to stay with the EFT issues, when we talk about withdrawers and pursuers, would you find that a pregnancy or a new baby would change someone’s role in what they normally – how they normally handle stress or triggers?

Elly: Yes.

Stuart: That is if someone tends to withdraw, do they then become more of a pursuer and vice versa?  And what differences did you find?

Elly: I found probably more than anything that it would anticipate the same.

Stuart: I was going to say I think the way – you’re right.  And when I say that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because you are who you are, but the intensity and the primal rage that comes up, I think that primal need to connect.

Elly: Yes and the stress, yeah.  However and this you’ll find interesting: where a couple were securely attached originally, a traumatic birth experience could send them into a disorganized attachment style.

Stuart: But it makes so much sense when you say it though because what’s a bigger trigger for someone if the reinforcement they need is if you feel insecure, I can tell my partner: I need reassurance and then they’re reassure you.  But if they don’t have time now to do that because they got a crying baby, the baby needs to be changed; the diapers haven’t been taken care of, and you are asking for dinner, I’m sorry, your need of needing reassurance just is going to have to wait.

Elly: Yeah, yeah, it creates anxiety, doesn’t it?  And the thing is too, a lot of people underway, you know, we talk about post traumatic stress disorder, it is possible to get post traumatic stress disorder from a birth experience.  Yeah, it is interesting.  And the other dynamic that I noticed from an attachment perspective was that where both parents were securely attached, it was easy for them to be both supportive of the other parent attaching with the baby.  But where a mother was not securely attached, dad’s secure attachment and he has been able to bond with the baby could undermine her attachment with the baby.  Yeah, she’d feel not important, like she doesn’t need to be there, particularly if she had postpartum depression.

Stuart: And the jealousy issues that would maybe come from that.  And the feeling that dads are getting all the good stuff. She’s got to deal with all the crap at home when he’s away at work having a good time, and what she deals with are the demands.

Elly: Absolutely yeah.  The flipside of that, and this is the work that I love to do is that, you know, whereas previously we thought that attachment styles were fixed for life.  Well we now know actually that that’s not the case, that adults can become securely attached.  We can get secure attachment and there are two windows of opportunities for adults to be really ripe for that.  The first is falling in love, and the second is becoming parents because everything changes: the brain is ripe for rewiring; we’re primed for attachment and bonding with babies and with each other.

So that’s the crux of the Becoming Us work.

Stuart: That’s really sort of – I can see why you enjoy that because what’s more special than feeling a disconnect. Having this new life come into your world and now the three of you can be connected as a new unit. Talk about with EFT and the whole crux of in my office developing a new experience that you’ve had for one another, you now could have a new life experience with each other where you never felt important that now it’s the three of you or the four of you or how many there are against… finally we have each other.

Elly: Exactly.  So instead of not telling the couples about the changes, I know, it’s a big deal isn’t it?

Stuart: Yeah, it’s such a big deal.

Elly: I know, it is.  It’s a big deal.

Stuart: I love it.  I love it.  I really do.

Elly: It’s great.  So instead of not telling couples about the changes, let’s tell them about the changes, and let’s work with the changes in ways that bring you closer together than ever because we know that’s possible.  And the benefits of a secure attachment during the perinatal period are profound.  We can reduce the risk for anxiety and depression.  We can improve relationships.  We can set a couple up for a great co-parenting relationship which puts down some really strong roots for their whole family.

So imagine if we could use/harness that neuroplasticity of the perinatal period to bond couples more closely and to build solid foundations for families.

Stuart: See, what’s so wonderful about what you’re saying and so incredibly exciting both from a perspective of really changing someone’s world, is one of the things with EFT that I talk a lot about, is if I can get you two to truly be secure, we can really undo the traumas that you grew up with if you had them.  If you had lots of emotional deprivation as a child with your own family, having this experience now can really undo a lot of inner turmoil that people have, which is where you deal with the depression and the anxiety goes away because you finally have someone where you feel finally a place where you feel wanted and important.

Elly: And loved, yeah.

Stuart: And loved.

Elly: And you know what, I’m so glad that you said that, Stuart, because that probably brings me to the other thing that I find parents, and I know that I was too am blindsided by, is how much having a baby brings up your own childhood stuff again ,and how much that can impact on your relationship with your partner.  So thank you for that.  That’s probably the other thing that parents are unprepared for: having a child brings up multiple opportunities for you to revisit your own childhood, and if you know how to work with it, it can then bring multiple opportunities for healing and for closeness and for a deeper bonding with a partner too if you can be there for them in those experiences.

Stuart: And the other issue that I’m sure comes up is the whole boundary issues with grandparents.

Elly: Oh absolutely.

Stuart: And here particularly if you come from those negative childhood experiences with your own parents and never feeling safe and can you now leave your child there, but what if you need to leave your child there? How do you deal with all those issues?  And so, that I’m sure is sort of a later in life type of issue because your eight stages does take people through a life cycle, doesn’t it?

Elly: It does.  It takes people through a life cycle.  I mean we have – well we’ve got nearly three teenagers at the moment and I find that we’re still revisiting some of the stages ourselves.  And I’ve worked with couples who had teenagers or even grown children with the stages and when they have the ability to look back on their experiences of parenthood at that time and recognize the ways that they were unprepared for parenthood, the ways that they were impacted by parenthood, and the ways that they naturally blamed their partner for it because blame is a natural defensive response that we have. It can reduce the blame and often comes a sense of loss with that.  Gosh, I wish we’d known that back then, but also some healing and a new sense of hope moving forward because once that blame and resentment has dissipated, you know, you’ve got a new relationship, so yeah.

Stuart: And the other part of blame that I’d like to talk a lot about with couples is people talk about not blaming their partners.  What I don’t think so many EFT therapist do a good enough job with, at least some, is talking about blame also involves yourself, self blame. If we’re going to have a blame for your lifestyle in a relationship, it also means you’re not allowed to blame yourself, that you’re supposed to be kind.  And having kindness is not about just kind to our partners, but we have to be kind to ourselves and recognize that there are no such animal as a perfect parent, and that every child is unique.

And I used to think with my kids, it would be nice if I had the blueprint that said this is what you do, and this is how they’ll do it.

Elly: Something operating instructions or something.

Stuart: And everything will go the way it’s supposed to.  But I read the parenting books. Why didn’t it work?

Elly: It didn’t.

Stuart: Dr. Spock, I hate you.

Elly: I probably have people say that about me.

Stuart: No, but it’s sort of interesting.

Elly: But you’re right and that’s what happens because in the absence of any other explanation, what do you do? That’s exactly what I found would happen is that there was nothing to tell people. You are going to go through some changes.  92% of couples have increased conflict in their first year after baby; it’s absolutely normal.  There are lots of reasons why it’s appearing.  Don’t think that it means that there’s something wrong with you or your partner or your relationship, it doesn’t.  And yet women would blame themselves or blame their partner, and relationships have become undone because that.

Rates of postnatal postpartum depression have been higher because of women feeling guilty and blaming themselves for not having control over what was happening to their families.  But if you’re going to blame anything, blame shallow, materialistic, consumer driven, data focused disconnected culture.  We as a society, I think, have let parents down.  We’ve lost the village.  We haven’t replaced it with anything, and you know, in so many ways I think we’ve set couples up for failure and those that do make it through, it’s an absolute miracle because the odds are against you really.

We are not a culture that is supportive of expecting new parents unless we have some way of making money out of them.  And I’m sorry to be a bit cynical about it.

Stuart: No.  Yeah, let’s talk about Gerber because Gerber food and how expensive baby food is.

Elly: Yeah.

Stuart: And what do you do.

Elly: And we just put pressure, we put way too much pressure on. I know dads that are stressed out because mom thinks that buying the right prime is going to reduce her anxiety, but not recognizing that anxiety is normal when change is involved and that’s okay.  We can support you through that.  We can reduce it for you, but buying the right prime is not going to do it in the long term.

Stuart: I know in your stages and maybe it would be helpful just to really briefly, because we’ve been talking about a lot of important things, just maybe you can identify what the eight stages are because we haven’t done that yet, and it might be helpful to see the progression.

Elly: Sure, let’s run through them.  Okay, so the first one is – I’ll use an adventure analogy, I say that parenthood is an adventure into the unknown and an endurance sport all rolled into one.  So step one is to pack carefully.  Think about what you’re taking with you into parenthood, so have realistic expectations of birth.  Plan ahead for stress relief because there are going to be stressors, and keep your communication with your partner simple.  Start practicing that now because the postpartum period can be so chaotic.  There are three important things to pack.  Then step two is what I call nest building.  Build a nest, create a buffer from outside stressors; stop watching the news that’s too depressing. You don’t need to know about that.  What’s important is who and what’s in your home.  Involve dad as much as possible right from the beginning.  You want him to get exactly how hard it is before he goes back to work, so that he can have some empathy and support for mom while she’s doing it on her own at whatever point.

And step three is around the  8 to 12 week postpartum, when reality starts to set in and the expectations have kind of worn off, and this is what life is actually really like and just to talk about those expectations and help couples adjust those expectations so they’re not blaming their partner when they’re not there.

Stuart: Is that the stage where you would deal with intimacy issues?

Elly: Intimacy tends to come later I find.

Stuart: Okay, because you’re too tired at that point.

Elly: At that time, you’re still focused on the baby I find, but the baby starts to get into a routine and so my step four is to set up base camp.  Because there’s always going to be times of stress; there’s always going to be issues, family issues, so setting up base camp is getting down some really, really solid good habits for the family in terms of nutrition, exercise, regular stress relief and communication styles, those sorts of things.  It’s the time when you can stop focusing quite so much on the baby.  The baby is getting themselves sorted, but start to focus back on yourself and back on each other and start to kind of really knit those bonds to prepare for, you know, the rest of your lives sort of thing.

Stuart: To help people with a good focus, what would you suspect at that point how old the baby would be?

Elly: Yeah, at about that three to four-month mark.

Stuart: So that’s where you start doing that?

Elly: Well earlier or later depending on how the baby is adjusted, but yeah.  And then we talk about embrace emotions, and you’ll love this as an EFT therapist. What couples don’t often realize is that because they’re biologically primed, both mom but to an extent dad as well, in terms of hormonal changes, they’re both biologically primed to be sensitive to their baby’s emotions which means that they’re also more sensitive to each other as a couple.

So I talked to couples about they’re likely to be more sensitive, that their partner is likely to be more sensitive, and so it’s really important to be aware of that and to be a little bit more careful about how you communicate, but also about what a great opportunity this is to start to relate at a deeper level and to be more vulnerable with each other, but to make it safe that both of you can do that.

Stuart: And that’s where talking about your fears would really be important.

Elly: Fears, hopes, dreams, you know, there’s a lot of hopes and aspirations and dreams that come with parenting, and it’s so important to talk about that sort of stuff as well as make room, make space for the fuse, yeah.

Stuart: Yeah and I think that’s probably also the stage where people – you know, I think one in the same is talking about society, and what we do is not only do we say it should be an easy thing to do, but we also talk about everyone can do it, everyone can afford it, and it’s not a problem and then you have couples who just don’t know to deal with the financial issues that come with this; it’s really just a tragedy.

Elly: It is, it’s huge. It’s a huge tragedy, yeah.  Have we created a society where couples can’t afford to have children, how have we done that, you know?

Stuart: I don’t know, but we sure have.  So that was the emotionality stage.  You were now –

Elly: So that was the emotionality, that actually starts during pregnancy, and that step is pivotal in the model because how couples manage that emotionality really can affect the next few years or few decades because this is where the relationship dynamic starts to change.  Either they can start to become disconnected, or they can start to come closer together in this step five which is really, really pivotal in the model.

And so then the next one looks at identity and self-esteem and how becoming a mother or becoming a father changes you. You and your partner as people are really knowing the importance of supporting your partner as a parent because it adds to their self-esteem.  If they feel that you – in fact I can tell you that something like 75% of women who feel unsupported by their partner find baby care meaningless and don’t find a sense of purpose in baby care, so partner support is absolutely vital and partners need to know that.

It’s all too easy to bring your frustrations home and not even see what your partner has done.  There’s no clear indicator of–I’ve had a successful day and nobody gives a gold star for superior baby care.  It’s just completely invisible unrewarded for stay-at-home mothers and stay-at-home fathers is even harder.

Stuart: Right and I would say that one of the things about being vulnerable with our partners, particularly if it’s the male partner who traditionally is the one that’s going to work, letting your partner know how valuable they are to you, that you need them so much to be there that they make such a big difference in your life and the child’s life by having them there for you.  And I think sometimes dad feels so inept.  They don’t know what to do, and so I think it gets very sticky at times.  And I think it’s up to the women to let them know that they’re important.

Elly: Absolutely.  And to involve them is not just possible.  We know that dads who are involved have higher self esteem and are generally happier in their relationships.  So in every step, there’s dad’s involvement and taking dad’s needs into account and that’s certainly something that we don’t do enough as a culture I think.

In fact I’ve noticed in Australia and I’m not sure how this is in the states, but I noticed a change in advertising that a lot of the ads that we used to have that had dads in them were kind of making fun of the dads. They were kind of humor, so we’re kind of making fun of the dads, but I’ve noticed a shift with that lately where we have a washing powder commercial where dad is doing the washing just like mom would be doing the washing and there’s no distinction.  There’s no judgment based on dad participating.

I hope that’s the case in the states too.

Stuart: I’m not sure if I have noticed that, but I have noticed there’s more stay-at-home dads recently than I have noticed before.

Elly: Yeah.

Stuart: And I think there is a cultural change that says dads are valuable.

Elly: Great, I’m glad to hear that.  I’m really glad to hear that.  I’m definitely noticing it here in Australia, and I’m glad to hear that it’s happening elsewhere as well.  So step seven is to learn how to negotiate differences in ways that bring you closer and don’t send you further apart, because as I said, 92% of couples will experience more differences and more conflict in the first year after baby, so it’s something that couples really need to get a grasp on.  And you would know as an EFT practitioner that when you do conflict, well it can actually bring you a lot closer.  You learn to trust your partner more through negotiating your differences and just through celebrating your similarities.  So that’s step seven.

And then step eight is to know how to stay connected through all the stages and how to reconnect when you become disconnected, as you will inevitably will with your partner.  So to make time with each other and share yourself, and reach out to your partner and take interest in what’s going on inside of them, and there’s plenty of opportunity to do that in parenthood.

Stuart: Right and also seeing what you have done by going through these stages, it’s such a blessing of your family really flourishing together and working together to just make everything feel like you’re special, and you’re special to each other.

Elly: Yeah.  And you couldn’t do it without each other.  And growing together, that’s one of the things that I found too is that couples would – mothers and fathers would often grow at different times to their partner and that could create distance and friction and conflict, but if they recognize it’s just a different growth rate, but you’re still growing, and there are ways to grow together rather than to grow apart, then you can manage it.

Again, going back to these lots of changes going on, do you want to manage these changes or do you want to just react, constantly react to them?  They can be managed and you can prepare for the ones to come.  And that’s one of the hopes for my model is that couples are able to do that.

Stuart: It’s such a nice sort of partnership with emotionally focused therapy because the whole concept of EFT with cycles is if the two of you could see the cycle the same way, if we can really understand what’s happening to each of you, then you can work together to doing the right kind of dance, and instead of dancing the negative cycle, dance the positive cycle.

Elly: Absolutely.

Stuart: And if you take these steps alongside of these cycles, which are going to happen even within these steps, understanding why you’re struggling here and having it be just sort of a normal part of your relationship and seeing the negative side of it is just power.

Elly: Yes, well it is, and I mean that’s what was happening for me as a parent. I was experiencing the negative cycles that as a practitioner I was working with couples to create positive cycles and so, you know, thankfully I was able to use that in my own relationship and also that forms the basis for the steps is how to work through these stages in way that brings you closer.

Stuart: Well we’re pretty much out of time, but I wanted to have you share with my listeners a bit if they want to get ahold of you, how they could do that?  And I understand, at least I may be incorrect here, do you do some online programs as well?

Elly: Yes, yes.

Stuart: So maybe you can talk a little bit about that, so if people want to contact you, again involve with some of what you’re doing.  And I will be putting most of this in the show notes.

Elly: Sure, fantastic.  Well I have a website, it’s EllyTaylor.com.  The book is Becoming Us: Eight Steps to Grow A Family That Thrives.  So that’s my eight-step model.

Stuart: And that’s on Amazon, is it not?

Elly: That’s on Amazon online, Barnes & Noble.

Stuart: Okay, great.

Elly: Just search Google and it will pop up somewhere I’m sure.

Stuart: All right

Elly: And the big thing that came out of me travelling for the last couple of years and having the opportunity to speak about my work was requests from professionals to know more about the model and if they could train in the model.  So I’m actually now doing webinar training for birth professionals, health professionals and therapy professionals in my Becoming Us model to give professionals the opportunity to prepare and support parents and work with parents through the transition using the eight steps and support them in ways that bring them closer together, so that’s very, very exciting for me.

Stuart: That is exciting. So if there’s a professional out there that’s listening, how could they get involved with something like that?

Elly: I am actually doing my pilot at the moment, so I’ll be running the training again early next year, probably February or March next year.  They can email me through the website and let me know that they might be interested to go in the waiting list.  It’s been really well received, lots of excitement.  Obviously a lot of professionals are aware of the gap in prenatal education and preparation and postnatal support, so I’m training people to fill the gap.  And it’s really very gratifying work to be doing.

Stuart: Well, Elly, I just want to thank you again giving of yourself and being so kind and generous and just really trying to make – I can’t think of a better way of giving back to this community than helping the parents out there who struggle and are really the foundation of changing how we feel about ourselves.  The parent-child relationship is just so critical to everything, the relationship issues, looking at attachment needs, all those things.  So the work that you’re doing is just so very valuable and I want to just thank you for sharing it with my listeners.

Elly: Thank you.  Well my pleasure.  I mean I love to support the couple bond because the couple bond then is the basis for the family and feeling good in your relationship empowers you to be a better parent.  And I know that I’m a better parent when I’m feeling good in my relationship with my partner and I really want that for families.  And I think that’s the missing link.  We haven’t been supporting couples to be strong through parenthood and we’ve as a culture sort of undermined them in lots of ways.  So I really hope that the work that the people that are doing my training do will make a difference.  And thank you for letting me talk about it

Stuart: My pleasure.

Elly: Because I’m passionate about it, so I love to share.

Stuart: All righty.  So if you have any questions or you want to be involved with this, EllyTaylor.com is where you can really leave some information, and in my show notes for those that are listening in your car or whatever, it will be there at my website which is www.thecouplesexpertscotsdale.com.  And we’ll see you next time when I’m going to have Rebecca Jorgenson who’s going to be joining me to talk about – this is one I’m really excited about, she’s going to be talking about marriage counselor’s own personal relationships and how they get triggered as well as all of us because she specializes in working with some of the couples counselors or EFT therapists that struggled sometimes that’s being triggered within them on relationships.

So we’ll see you all next time.  All right, terrific.

Elly: Listen, thank you.

Stuart: All right, take care.  Bye-bye.


One Comment

  1. […] You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here. […]

Leave A Comment