On our latest episode of “One Day You’ll Thank Me”, our guest Lori Epting shares some suggestions with us on how busy parents can manage their relationship, while managing all the tasks that are related to being a parent. Lori Epting is an emotionally focused couples therapist with a practice in Charlotte NC, and an author of the book - From Chaos to Connection: A Marriage Counselor's Candid Guide for the Modern Couple.
Although Lori works with all types of couples, what she found is that she had a big uptick of parents of school age children or younger coming into her office seeking support. She kept hearing the same type of scenarios over and over from these parents.
If there was a stay at home parent - they felt that the working parent didn’t understand how hard it can be taking on the role at home. The working out of home parent, felt that their spouse doesn’t understand all that they have on their plate and how stressful their job can be.
It is important for parents to begin by realizing that this time in life is hard, there is nothing wrong with you, and it is absolutely normal to be struggling.
In her work and book, Lori shares many examples of scenarios that couples are going through to help normalize it for the readers and her clients. We really want everyone at this stage to know that it is a difficult, and stressful time (even more so with kids of any type of disability, blended families, or very involved in laws), but there is a way through it!
Lori encourages parents to believe - the problem is not you or me, it’s just we are trying to do a lot in a little bit of time with a lot of moving parts - and it’s going to get frustrating!
This relieves a lot of pressure and blame. You don't want to turn away from each other at this time. You want to learn how to be “in the stress” and frustration, but learning to utilize tactics to come together and experience the relationship as a place of comfort, support and partnership.
Listen to your partner and what is going on for them and how they are feeling.
When you get those moments of sitting in your partners shoes, seeing all that they go through and then giving them that appreciation, it can be a game changing moment.
In our forums we discuss a lot about how social media shapes the lives of our kids, here is an example of how it affects us parents. You know, that feeling that your friends on social media have these wonderful lives and perfect families? Many times people post about a great trip or a wonderful day they had coloring Easter eggs (when actually at times we know is not true) and this makes some couples feel that something is wrong in their own relationship because their family and relationship doesn't look that way at all. Thoughts and doubts arise like, “maybe we are not the right fit”, “why does it come it is so easy for everyone else”? It is easy to fall into the trap of what is wrong with us. It is important to keep in mind that these posts are not necessarily realistic and the challenges you are having as a couple and a family are quite normal!
The Harmful Effects of Criticism
Oftentimes, we think we are just sharing or verbalizing what we are seeing, but criticizing your partner can really put a strain on a relationship. It can make the other partner feel that they are not good enough, or nothing they do is ever enough, it is a really dangerous place. Lori shares it is best not to criticize a behavior, but to communicate the hurt, your feelings and what you need from your partner. You want to do it in a way that draws them in.
For someone that is not getting their needs met after sharing it with their partner multiple times, she encourages you to take a closer look. Then you can decide whether it is something that just "drives me nuts" or maybe it truly is an indicator that my partner doesn't care.
I asked Lori about the idea that women are often more critical than men. She said that men can be critical, but overall I tend to see it more with women. Women are more verbal in general about expressing their emotions, and often it comes out as criticism. They can really miss the impact of what their criticism does to their spouse. It can shut someone down, cause them to stop trying, believing that nothing is good enough, and that they never do anything right.
How can a woman convey what she is feeling or needing without sounding critical?
Again, it is important to stop and think before criticizing something that your partner did, Lori encourages people to share... “when you do that, this is how it made me feel” and then spell out what we need. She wants to encourage us to be more vulnerable, this is what it made me feel and this is what I told myself about me or our relationship.
Typically people don’t have marriage troubles because of the dishes and who didn’t let the dog out, it is the meaning behind the feeling and the story we tell about why our partner did or didn’t do something. And to go through the natural ups and downs and stressors of parenting without the support and connection of your partner that's when it gets really really difficult.
Anytime there's other moving parts in our lives and relationships, it increases the stress level and any time the stress levels increase, it can either divide a couple or connect them. Many parents wait way too long to get support, they wait until they are in a place of pain and desperation. If you find yourself in a place of needing some support to reconnect, please reach out.
To listen to our conversation around this topic, listen to the podcast HERE.
Get Lori's book "From Chaos to Connection: A Marriage Counselor's Candid Guide for the Modern Couple" HERE
Learn more about Lori's services RIGHT HERE.
Learn more about Dr. Tara Egan's therapy services RIGHT HERE.
Learn more about Dr. Tara Egan's books, webinars, public speaking opportunities, and coaching/consultation services RIGHT HERE.
Register for our FREE weekly parenting webinar series RIGHT HERE. We discuss a myriad of parenting topics each week, and registrants can watch LIVE or get the recording emailed to watch at a more convenient time.
Finally, join our private FB group for parents of high school students RIGHT HERE.