In this episode, I sit down with relationship coach Cheri Timko of Synergy Coaching to discuss ways to nurture a relationship.
Resentment and bitterness are toxic to feeling in love. They, they're like poison to it. So if you don't have a regular way of like cleaning that stuff out, like you're setting yourself up to kill that love. Welcome to The Healthy Relationship secrets prepares podcasts, saving your relationship from parenthood. So the question is, how can we be great parents and have an amazing relationship at the same time? That's the question. And this podcast will provide the answers.
Welcome Cheri, Timko, owner of synergy coaching. And Cheri, I am so glad that you are here. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show.
Thank you so much for having me.
Cheri, I like to start out. What do you do? And why do you do it?
Well, I am a couples coach. And I am a psychotherapist who's worked with couples for many years. So I I don't know, I just believe that every couple has the possibility of having a really great relationship met very few couples that that is not true of and I just want to help couples connect and live well together so that they live out that dream that they had when they got married, when they were like, Hey, this is my person, they're gonna be there for me, we're going to have a good relationship and help them really live that out.
Great. Well, on that note, Cheri, from your experience. And this is a very broad question. So go about it however you like to go. What gets in the way of the dream?
Ah, yes. Okay, this is such a good question. Because we all have these hopes and dreams, and then we get sidetracked. So what I believe is that every couple has these hurts that happen. These relationship injuries, things like not handling a situation well, or not being there for your partner, or saying something that's too harsh. We're getting into an argument. And what couples do is they let that stuff build up. They don't clear it away as that happens. Clearing it away would be like making amends, or apologizing or finding a solution to that problem. So instead, they let that disappointment and frustration and hurt build up. And that that becomes resentment and bitterness. And that resentment and bitterness are toxic to feeling in love. They they're like poison to it. So if you don't have a regular way of like cleaning that stuff out, like you're setting yourself up to kill that love.
Yeah, resentment and bitterness, not good things for the relationship. Can you give me an example of a way to clear it out? You know, clear out the resentment?
Well, there's a lot of ways to clean it out. And it really depends on what matters most to you. But the example that most people really grasp without much explanation is a good apology. Now, there are lots and lots of bad apologies. So just apologizing is not enough. It's got to be an apology, that takes some responsibility for your part in it, that acknowledges the hurt for the other person and has a plan for how you're not going to hurt them. That same way again.
Okay, let me make sure I got this. So apology for your part in it. And I think I might have missed something. You set a plan for how this won't happen in the future. Did I miss something there?
The third thing is some acknowledgement of how you hurt the other person. Now, people need something different and apologies. So it could be that when you apologize and you just hit one of those. If it's the right one, then that's a good apology. But people are terrible at apologies. They'll say things like I'm sorry, but here are all the reasons why I was right. It just wipes out the apology. So you didn't actually clean anything up.
Whenever someone says I'm sorry that you feel that way.
Yes, I'm sorry, but your reaction was poor. That may in fact be true, but that does not clean anything up.
Okay, I got Yeah, no, that's great. I mean, thank you for breaking down. Can opponents of an apology because that's really important, you know, be able to clear the air because, you know, conflict is going to come up in relationships, and being able to clear that out. So resentment, and bitterness doesn't build,
let me give you a second repair. Because this is so important that I like people to have lots of different ways of cleaning this stuff out another way is to actually solve a problem. Now, a lot of times we will get into an argument, and then we'll let it drop, and we won't come back and actually solve the problem. Or we'll jump in and be like, Okay, we'll just do what you want. Or we'll just do my solution. Okay, solving a problem is actually sitting with a problem long enough that you find a solution that both partners can get behind. When you rush to a solution, very often that solution falls apart, because someone agreed to it, but didn't really believe in it.
Yeah, sitting with it long enough to get to a win win, so to speak.
Yeah. And if somebody won, and somebody lost, that's a loss for the relationship.
Well, do you think that I know, this may be an unfair question, but that a win win? may not be possible sometimes.
Oh, people love to throw that at me. Now, here's what people do. Say, they say, here's my solution. And here's your solution. And what we're gonna do is battle it out, and try and figure out who can win by pulling the other person over to their solution. Okay, a real trick to this is to say, if your solution is off the table, and my solution is off the table, what would we do? Hmm, interesting. So then they have to think beyond those two solutions. And it is very rare that I see a problem that doesn't have 10, or 15, or 20 ways of solving that problem. But we get fixated and like dig in and get real stubborn about that one thing that we've already decided is the way to solve it. Now, it could be that if you were on your own, that would be a perfectly good solution. But you're in a relationship. So you're not really looking for one solution or the other solution, you're really looking for what is our solution? And that might be very different. So like putting down your pet solutions, and say what else is there? Sometimes you might still come back to one solution or the other. But you will have explored the other things that you could do that you could solve this often you end up with a much, much better solution that meets both partners needs.
So is it fair to say what you're seeing is often couples can get into an argument about with solution is writer or my way is the right way? And they're just arguing that?
Yes. And that's, that's, that's a power struggle, that's actually not problem solving.
And to see like how you frame it's a power struggle is not problem solving. And, you know, I really liked this concept of, I heard it on a podcast was into, you know, sharing power or power with not power over. I really love that concept so much. So that's what you're sharing. But what about the word compromise?
I think compromise sucks. Okay. This is one of my things. I think compromise sucks. Compromise means that one of two things happens, I let you win this time, and you let me win next time. And we kind of keep track of that more, it means you get half of what you want. And I get half of what I want. And both of us are disappointed because we had to give up half of what we wanted. This is I feel so strongly about this, that this is why I named my business what I did synergy, the intersection of what both of you need so that you find a solution that you both feel good about. Not compromise synergy.
Yeah. So going back again to the spirit of the Win,
win win is that we both feel good about it. And the true. A sweet spot is when you find a win, win, win win, okay, that is I win, you win. Our kid wins, our community wins. That this is not just you and me. This is also this like ripple effect that when you find those really good solutions. It brings everything into a much Bigger harmony.
Yeah, that's great. I agree. Well, Ken, and maybe I'm getting fixated on this, but can you do you know, like a win win? I guess I think of the word like horse trading, right? I'll go with you to your work event. But tomorrow, I'm gonna go golf all day? I don't know, would you consider that? I mean, maybe I'm getting into semantics here. But I guess if you're both okay with it, that's a win win. Did I get that? Right?
That can be, yeah, there is no formula for this, couples have to work this out. And so if they are really comfortable with, I'm gonna go to your thing, I get to do the thing I want to and they both feel like that is their best solution. I, I like to think of it as a really good relationship is the intersection of two different personalities. So you can't just take a solution that works for one couple, and put it on another couple, they actually have to find their own process in their own sweet spot. But if you took either of those people out of that couple and put them in a different couple, that sweet spot is going to be at a different place. So your solution absolutely could win, be a win win for a couple. So if you can go to that event, and you have a good attitude, and you're really present with your partner, and then you go golfing and your partner has something else to do. And they're not sitting home, thinking, Oh, you left me and here I am all by myself. And you always go and do that. Like if if you're not doing that, then that can really be a good win win.
Gotcha. But I love the idea that the synergy about what you were talking about, you know, the intersection of two different personalities. And it's not the same for every couple are really cool. Well, would you say this is a component when I do want to talk about, you know, parenting and, and marriage? And we are but would you say this is a component of having a truly extraordinary relationship?
Yes, um, I, I'm going to get a little bit technical for a minute, because I think when you have this framework, it really helps with the whole big picture, do it, I found that there are three systems that have to work well, for a couple to have a great relationship. The first is to have good relationship habits. Okay, a good relationship habit is like after work, we talk for 20 minutes and just find out how each other's day is. Or in the morning, one of us brings the other coffee, and we just have a moment of making eye contact, asking how they slept. And just checking in. Now those relationships are very individual to the two people that are the that that place where they both enjoy, both can follow through on things that they do every day. So that's one system, the next system is that they have to have ways to work through problems, you're supposed to have problems, you're supposed to be different, you're supposed to have to figure out how to live well together. So you have to have rules and a system and a way of doing that that actually gets you to a good solution. And the third system is that every couple needs some tools to clean up relationship injuries, that it is inevitable, you cannot be close to your partner without hurting them, and them hurting you. Now, I just hope that their little hurts, like you didn't ask the right question. Or we got into an argument and you said some harsh things. But couples do. But couples have all sorts of relationship injuries, all the way to affairs, to leave it like not being there for the other person, all kinds of relationship injuries, and they're, they're inevitable. They're part of true love. So they've got to have some tools to clean those up. So if you have those three systems, and they work well, then it it allows that love that you felt for each other in the beginning to flow. And you felt good about each other. You felt good about the relationship and you felt confident that you can handle things.
I love it. I like how you break it down to three systems. And with that, you know, I know we've been parents and myself being a new parent, we went into the problem of time, you know, making time, you know, obviously to have good relationship habits even work through problems and I feel like we got the tools over Okay, but can you comment on that, you know, having a good relationship. And being new parents, I don't know, if you have tips and tricks, I know you might miss it, you have three teenage daughters. So any nuggets you can share for us.
I do have three teenage daughters. And I have loved to being a parent. And I love that it's coming to an end. Time is time is such a hard thing. Kids will use whatever resources available to them. If they have access to it, they will take it time, money, energy sleep, like whatever is available to them, they are going to use that. So if you're going to have a good relationship with your partner, it's because you don't let them have every resource. You have these even something as simple as when you get up in the morning, you have three minutes and you check in with each other. When you get home at the end of the day. Yes, you take care of the kids, you get them where they need to let you know that at some point, during that evening, you are going to have 10 to 15 minutes, even if there's kids under the underfoot where you make eye contact and talk about your day. And that those are about being intentional, and not letting them just slip by now it's great if you can have a date night and a date night doesn't mean you need to leave the house, the date night might be we put the kids to bed on Wednesday, and we sit with each other for half an hour or an hour and we just catch up. But not every couple has the time or energy to do that. So these little relationship habits become a touch point throughout your day, which keeps you grounded and connected. As you're going through all of the other thing.
So cool. I feel like I had a little mini epiphany how you framed it was kids will take time, money, energy, anything available from you. So what you said is to have boundaries around that loving boundaries, right? We're not like, pretty involved, but and feel free to correct this statement. Under the understanding, the more you can make for each other, the better parents you're gonna be, the better you're gonna feel. And as I was going down the right path there,
yeah, I don't know, there's this. Maybe this isn't even the right term to throw in here. But I think of the term energy vampires. Yeah. And like kids, it, it's just in their nature, that they are going to take what's available to them, they learn the rules of the system, they're not exploiting the rules, they're following the rules. But if you set up the rule that they have access to you 24/7 For any need at all. They're gonna they're gonna use that they're not gonna say, Oh, well, mom's tired, I'm gonna, I'm just gonna let her sleep tonight, or they're not gonna say mom and dad need some time to connect with each other. So I'm gonna play quietly in the corner. Like, we have to find those times or we have to make them a priority. Otherwise, our kids believe that they have access to everything.
Yeah, interesting. And you remember, you said it too, don't make every resource available.
Don't make every resource available. Now, you know, maybe this is easier to think about in terms of money. Yeah, with money, we do not let our kids just say I want that. And we give it to them. We have rules around that. Or we might have a budget and they have to like stay within their part of the budget. So with time, we just say you have access to all of it. And so are we teaching our kids something about self regulation or boundaries, if we're like, I'm available to you, 24/7. Now, I'm not talking about emergencies. And I had a kid who had colic, and she did not sleep more than two hours until she was eight months old. In this, okay, now, I had to be available to her in a different way than I had to be available to my other kids. So I'm not talking about that kind of stuff. But being able to tell your kid, mom and dad are gonna go sit here and talk or the kid your baby is asleep and saying once a week, I'm gonna dedicate that time to talking to my spouse. Like, those are things that are within everybody's capacity.
Great. Yeah. Thank you for continuing to to clarify that. Such a good point. Cheri, in one of your tick tock videos, and I'm trying to see this may fall under the good relationship habit category. You talked about doorway interventions, and I just love it because it was like a reframe, about how you enter the home. And if you don't mind me sharing that, I know you could do a better job. But you know, that video, you know, you walk in through your front door, and you said, if it's the first thing I see is the messy kitchen. I may think, oh my God, my kids didn't do the chores, or like this or husband didn't follow up on having them do the chores, right? And that can set up an evening of you know, tension, anxiety, frustration, resentment, possibly. But you said, instead, I'm going to go through it with the intention of connecting, and does that reframe can change the whole environment, your attitude, but you can say it way better. I just wanted to steal your thunder, basically.
Oh, this was a video that I put up impulsively. And yeah, now I wish I'd done a much better job at it. Because if anyone watches it, it's like the most amateurish sort of videography that I could have done. But it really has resonated with a lot of people. It's doorway intentions. And it can be any door this really coincided with that. The debate about doors or, or wheels. And so I started paying attention to how many doors are in our lives, there are a lot of doors. So this idea is that when you cross the threshold, you can do that blindly. Or you can do that with intention and pausing before that door and saying what do I want from the other side? And what do we want, we want connection, we want to feel safe, we want real relationships. So when you stop at that door and say, What is my intention, you can set that intention. Now that doesn't, that's not a guarantee, you might still walk in, and things don't go? Well. One of the things that I think all the time is my children's bedroom door. Now my kids are teenagers, teenagers are in their own world, they don't really want to hang out with mom and dad, they have all kinds of opinions about mom and dad that they're happy to share. And so when I walk through that door into my child's bedroom, having that intention that we're going to have a connecting positive conversation helps me have that with them. But it is possible on my walk in one of my daughter's has been in a funk for weeks. And you know, really the safest thing for everyone to do is to kind of steer clear of her because she will get herself out of that. But if we try to help her, it's really setting everybody up for things to not go well. So like I know that about her, there's still that temptation on my part to be like, but let me help. Let me make that easier for you. Maybe I can do something here. So like, just having that intention with her before I walk into that door probably is not about let me connect with you. It could be let me be clear, short and leave you alone so that you can do the emotional work that you need to do that. I'm not going to be able to help with
great, great well, in do you have ones and I know you mentioned even going through the doorway of your your bedroom, but ones that have been helpful for you with your partner.
Oh, yes. I that whole thing about being mad at my husband, or how something happens or doesn't happen that is probably much, much harder for me than any other relationship in my life. Somehow my husband has a way of buying it. Like, I'll be mad or I'll be frustrated. And I'll come in and I'll be seeking connection and support. And he won't have done anything wrong. But it doesn't take too many sentences and he just bought it all like all that frustration, all that irritation, like then lands on him. I don't know if it works the other direction. I don't know. So having that intention of I want to connect and have a good conversation. I want to listen, rather than just like bringing all that negative energy home. Yeah, can really shift those conversations.
Yeah, for sure. Well, I found for me too, and I got this from kind of a life coaching book, but it's reminding yourself for me particularly in times of stress if I know that you know I'm kind of stressed and you know my four year old daughter maybe get under my skin more than usual. The idea of what type of parent do I want to be? Do I want to be patient or do I want to be irritated? But II then sort of that reframe for me, I have found to be helpful. And from my perspective, I'm glad you share. Because I think that being intentional can be an underutilized tool. And it also gives us a sense of power, right? We're not a victim in a way to our mind, state
or emotions, or a lot of us let our emotions just go. So this is a little bit of a side trail, not exactly your question. But when my kids were born, I made a conscious decision that I was going to prioritize connection and relationship with them. Now I come from the background I come from, I've worked with neglected kids abused kids, I've worked with attachment disorder kids, I've worked with family systems that were falling apart, that I had to help them put back together. So it makes sense that that was what I prioritize. But I know that there were many, many times when I was about to interact with one of my kids. And I just put that little pause in there and said, Remember what you decided, you decided attachment and bonding over everything else. But that doesn't mean I don't have limits for them. It doesn't mean I don't discipline them. But my goal in every interaction has been bonding and attachment. So if I'm disciplining them, I want them to have a purpose in learning something. So I don't know, there's some philosophies about having a mission or having values that guide everything. And I just kind of came to this organically of knowing that for me, what I needed to prioritize were these things.
Yeah, that's great. So maybe it could be important for, you know, listeners to think of kind of their own, you know, and thank you so much for sharing that Cheri.
And they really can be anything like they could be your priority could be fun, that would be a very valuable thing to say, you know, what my overarching thing that I want is for my kid to know how to have fun, know how to connect with others through fun and really know how to get that that zest of life. But it would be equally okay to say I want my kid to know how to manage themselves, or to be able to give something good to the world or to be able to be self motivated. And just knowing that that is that thing that you're going to kind of permeate through their childhood, that overarching goal that you have, then when you come out on situations, and you feel like blasting that frustration out on them by yelling at them or being harsh about a punishment, because really, you feel it in your heart that they hurt you. Then you come back to that overarching value. And you say, okay, am I teaching them what I want them to learn in this situation?
That's great. This made me think of, you know, one of my mentors, Terry real his seen it's, there's nothing that harshness can accomplish that loving firmness, can't. And I think that has been his mantra too.
I would even take that a little bit further. Yeah, harshness will not get you what you want. Now, I'll just share a fun little exercise that I do with couples sometimes where we talk about approaching something harshly versus softly. And one of the examples is, of harshness is you're so cold to me. And the reason that has such an impact on me is because how often do we say to our partner, maybe even to our kids, something that will never get us what we want. If you say to your partner, you're so cold to me. Do you think that they're going to come over and say you're right, here's a hug, I'm sorry, I've been disconnected. Like now they're gonna be like, what's your problem? Why are you attacking me? So like, being able to say what you actually need? And that softness, that connection? That's where relationships change. That's where you can get what you want?
Well, let me ask you kind of a deeper philosophical question. Why is it so hard for us?
Oh, right. Right, right. I don't know if there's an answer for that.
Yeah. It's working. Why, right. Yeah, the idea of vulnerability requesting for some reason doesn't come natural, right. It doesn't come natural to me. But something I definitely had to work at.
But we have so many messages and so many life experiences that make our us believe that the world is not safe. And so being able to tell your partner what you need and hoping that they're going to step into that space and give it to us. There that's a really vulnerable thing. Hang on. So this is where being able to solve a problem, that system about solving problems really matters. Being able to say what the problem is, and know that you'll eventually get to a solution that provides so much safety in the relationship able to clean up when it doesn't go well, like, that's inevitable. We're all gonna have that experience.
Yeah. And I like how you said, it doesn't mean that the relationship is a failure, you're a failure, we're all going to have that experience of it not going well,
on my way to not have that experience is to not be in a relationship or be in no relationships. It's one of the challenges of being close to someone else.
Yeah, so cool. Well, Cheri, I want to ask you, well, you mentioned eye contact several times. And, you know, I want to ask you about that, I also want to ask you, being kind of all the time, about having a good sex life. I know, these are two big questions. But if you would like to speak on one, I'd love to hear your expertise, I love
that you called me out on eye contact, you know, as a, as a therapist, as a neurotypical person, I fall back on talking and eye contact as the solutions to most things. But I recently wrote a blog about different ways to connect with your partner that don't rely on those things. And if you listen to the broader self help mental health world, you get the impression that you can't have a good relationship without being able to make eye contact and talk to people. And the reality is that there are many, many ways to connect with a partner, or a friend, that don't rely on those two things. So I just challenged myself to come up with as many possible ways of connecting that don't require either of those two things.
And then this is the blog on your website. It is
Cheri, Tim care.com. I, I love to just kind of tear these ideas apart, and give very practical tips for how to communicate, how to connect how to work through problems, I've got a series about what to do if your partner really deeply hurt you. And I just launched a new freebie, just as a side, it's a video free video series for people who just found out that their partner had an affair, like what are the most important things to do to think about when you're in that moment of shock, and you just can't make heads or tails of things? So yeah, there's just a lot of stuff there. I just, this is such a core mission for me, that I really want people to have access to lots of resources.
And that's great. And I'm sure I'm glad you're sharing this because it's obvious, you have a lot of expertise, knowledge, good nuggets. So I'm glad you're getting this out there you owe it. One way of looking at it, you owe it to the to the world to do so
I just this is my life mission is to help couples have good relationships, that says that if I didn't make a dime one, this for the rest of my life, I would still feel compelled to help couples really have this deep connection, not just to have an okay relationship, but to really find that sweet spot where you have the best life that you can, because this relationship becomes a springboard for everything else.
Yeah, I agree on that. And what Cheri, can you talk about? And this is another very, very broad question, how parents can start to reincorporate having sex again. And whatever the definition of sex is, you know, obviously, being aware of that too. But if you could speak on that,
this is where I think co creation of your relationship comes in that to you in a relationship, you, and we're talking about to this could apply to a bigger or other structure, relationship. But I'm just going to talk about two because that's what that's what we're focused on. You're co creating this. So what that means is you need to work through this together, you're looking for how both of you relax, how both of you can come to the table and connect with one another. And that that may mean that there is a path there. That may mean that you're jumping into the pool, the deep end and just saying like here, we're going back to what it was before, but it's an agreement between the two. Now couples notoriously do not talk about sex until Uh, that that makes that harder what it baffles me. But it also makes sense because I understand why this happened. But we give SEC special status. And we don't try to solve those problems the same way that we would solve any other problem. And when you kind of like put that in, all right, we're not having sex. Let's just kind of look at why we're not having sex, and how are we going to solve that problem? Because we operate better when we have regular physical contact. Okay, so what are our options here? And I know that sounds very, like logical and rational. But I don't know why we wouldn't solve that problem, the same way that we would solve a problem of our kid won't sleep at night, or we don't have enough money in the budget, or any other problem about functioning well together.
I love how you share that. So simply, you know that let's talk about this logically. And under the understanding of this, you know, do the co creation of the collaboration of agreements to solve the problem? I love it.
And these problems are not one and done. Yeah, we'd love to make problems one and done. But they're really not. They're really a series of conversations that get you closer to that sweet spot. And being being able to put that conversation down, and then come back to it and know that you're probably going to talk about it for a while.
Great. Well, I share with with couples that I work with, you know, my wife and I, one of our issues is money. We have money is a problem. We don't have money, there's a problem. And I was sure exactly what you're saying. It's a reminder, there's something we have to constantly be talking about, because this is our thing. Right? And what are the agreements around it? It's not one and done. You know, unfortunately, wish wish we could say that right. Got that wrapped up. Now on to the next big thing we we always argue about.
Right. We're just gonna move on to the new problem. Yeah. This is why problems are not Irin, irreconcilable. They're, they're really not. We just try to put this one and done framework on it. Or we have this same conversation over and over again, without taking steps forward. But problems are not irreconcilable. They just need to be worked out over time.
Yeah, I love it. Sure. That's great. Well, in closing course, I want to hear how people can find you and share your tic tock, what is it? What do you call it? Address? Guy, guys. Sure. I'm so old. Now. What are the young people call it these days? Handle? I don't know, dang,
I don't know, I'm with you. All of this stuff is new to me. I think they're synergy. Couples. I'm either synergy couples or synergy coaching in all of the different social media. And I tried to change everything to consistent and a couple of the platforms are like, you can't have that. And I'm like, oh, yeah, so you just kind of go with it.
I gotcha. Well, is there anything that you would like to add or share? You know, maybe something that you it is really important to you that we didn't address? I mean, I'm sure there is but you know, things that you think would be pertinent to share.
I think when couples take their irritability with one another, they're their day to day frustrations. And they don't accept that as the status quo the way it has to go. And then they start working on clearing that stuff out. And they they address it like a couple problem. Not You're the problem, you need to stop doing that. But we've got a problem here, we don't do well, when we hit this point, this point in the day or this point in the relationship or this kind of problem. So let's try and figure out how we can do it differently so that we can, we can get rid of that irritability, that irritability just kind of wears on the relationship, like when you have gears and you have sand in it, and you don't clean. It's like not cleaning out the sand and eventually that just kind of grates on each other. So just like be intentional. Think about it. Put that problem on the table, not not attacking your partner. You want them to see this as a joint process, and then try to clean that stuff out.
Yeah, that's so great. Well, Cheri, as you mentioned, people can find you on Tik Tok at Cynergy coaching also your website, Cheritimko.com. Did I get that right?
You did. All right.
Well, I gotta say this has been In awesome in lining, thank you so much for sharing your expertise and your experience. I know for myself, and I share in the beginning of the podcast, this is also my journey to, to have a healthy relationship and be good parents and I got some stuff. So selfishly. Thank you. And I hope your listeners can benefit from this as well. So thank you so much.
Thank you so much for having me. I admit that I'm a little bit of a geek about this stuff. Like I take this deep dive into what it takes to have a good relationship, then I find the simplest path between those things. And that's what I want to teach people. So not complicated, like let's make this easier. Yeah.
And you have a knack for uncomplicated at times complex issues. Thank you so much. And so I encourage people to go check out your website and your tick tock so thank you so much. Thank you
hey, if you liked this, I would love you to give us a review and share this with your friends and family members who could benefit from this information. Thank you so much for listening.