Solving Disconnection & Creating Connected Relationships (for Couples & Parents)

21: How can you be a Happy Couple After Baby? Nicole Lako shares how…

November 04, 2022 Jason A Polk
Solving Disconnection & Creating Connected Relationships (for Couples & Parents)
21: How can you be a Happy Couple After Baby? Nicole Lako shares how…
Show Notes Transcript

Nicole Lako is founder of Happy Couple After Baby and has worked with couples and parents for over 17 years. In this interview we talk about how couples can be proactive in creating success before their baby is born. As well as how to manage postpartum depression and anxiety. We also discuss conflict resolution and maintain connection.

Find Nicole: 

IG: happycoupleafterbaby

Get your free checklist (mentioned in the episode)


How can we have happy and healthy relationships while being great parents? Okay, and
the healthy relationship loving parents? Well, I'm probably going to repeat myself. But this is gonna say just to, you know, to be kind,
and patients to add to have fun
to have to find the fun to find the positive. It's a lot of work and it's hard. So where can you find the fun and the positive? Where can be, have the humor?
To be really gentle and accepting of women?
Welcome to The Healthy Relationship secrets prepares podcast, 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.
Hey, y'all, I hope you love this interview as much as I did. I interviewed Nicole lako and Nicole lako of happy couple after baby is one half of a happy couple, as well as a licensed psychotherapist, consultant and coach in California and online. She has 17 years experience helping couples and parents of young children navigate relationship building, parenting challenges, communication and connection. Nicole created happy couple after baby to provide couples the blueprint for maintaining happy and satisfied relationships. After becoming parents. When out of the office. She enjoys spending her free time outdoors playing with her husband. And two young children. Check it out. Nicole Welcome from not so sunny California right now.
But welcome.
As you heard in the intro, Nicole is owner and founder of happy couple after baby. And I'm so happy you're here. Hey, thank you for having me. I'm happy to be here as well. Awesome. Well, first question, Nicole, tell us about what you do. So obviously inherited the title happy couple after baby. I assume we all have a guest. But if you didn't tell us what you do, that'd be great. Yes, I would love to. Well, I'm a licensed psychotherapist here in California. And so that's one component of my work, working with couples working with adult individuals and some children. And then I also have consultant practice where I work with support teachers and parents on some social emotional development or with children, particularly in the zero to five age range. So a lot of experience helping parents navigate those years, the development, the behaviors, positive discipline. And then I have my coaching practice, which is happy couple after baby. And so obviously I work with couples, you know, not only in California, but online anywhere, just in navigating this process of becoming parents preparing for that or if they're already parents, again, having little ones zero to five, just how to avoid the common company experience couples have becoming unhappy and dissatisfied in their relationships after having children. So working with them on mitigating that and really turning it into a happier, more thriving, relationship. More connected relationships. Yeah, well, perfect. You know, that is great. I mean, the whole reason I started this podcast was after the birth of our daughter, and boom, you know, my wife and I's relationship changed so much.
And I see a lot of my practice is connection, unsatisfied.
under appreciated? Yes. So on amicable, how do couples you know best handle the upcoming change to prepare?
I think it's helpful first to consider for yourself, you know, what's important to me about becoming a parent, what's important, and then to learn from our partner, like what's important to him or her, you know, what kind of parent do I want to be? What did I learn from my caregivers? What were some of the positives? What were some of the negatives who influenced me? So what do I really care about? What are some of the things that really stuck with me? That you know, I want to try you know, in our
My family or I don't, and to have that open conversation with one another, there's likely going to be some alignment, there might not be alignment, there might be some things that one partner never considered. As you know, that's a great idea. I would love that to be part of our family, let's make that happen. And then especially again, thinking about how caregivers influence us,
you know, what we kind of learned from that, what value you see in that, that we want to apply into our family, and, and do that in a really intentional way. So I think when you're trying to prepare, like how to best handle this, a lot of it is going to be conversation. So you know, be patient and honest with one another, especially because you also need to think about well, what are my one of my worries? What am I concerned about? Becoming a mom or dad? Yeah, well, I think what a excellent question for this to vulnerable conversation. Right. And nobody can relate to both our first daughter, my wife, and I, we were pretty anxious and worried, is worried about keeping the poor girl alive.
Yes to because my husband and I, we were together about eight years before our son was born, and it was hard getting pregnant. And
so by the time he came around, it was like, oh, okay, we achieved this.
Yeah, we did this, because that took some time. And that had its, you know, challenges in journey.
And then, so now what, right, though, then just kind of, you know, whether it was some anxiety or you know, certainly in the adjustments of having a lot less time,
a lot less sleep? Of course, you know, we'll talk more about that. So,
yeah, so it's just like you said, it can be, there's gonna be so many more moments of vulnerability than prior to having children because just taking care of this human life and making a lot of decisions together forces you into that vulnerable place more often. So if you're approaching it with gentleness, if you're trying your best to be patient with one another question when you're sleep deprived,
you know, you're going to be able to work through it and get through it a little more easily.
Well, I'm just curious now, you mentioned that the share, you know, things are important to you. What are some things you've learned that you want to do with somebody don't want to do that maybe two years from your parents? I don't think you have an answer to this. But are people more more motivated by things? I guess it depends on their childhood, motivated by things that God didn't like, then opposed to their decisions?
Isn't a fair question. Have you had thoughts about that? It's definitely a fair question. And I'll probably sound diplomatic. I think it's both. Yeah. It's, you know, like this, this I really loved about my parents, or I really got from my parents, and I want to continue that, you know, like humor game nights.
Dad was my coach on my baseball Little League team, right. And then maybe there's some things that we don't want to carry. You know, my parent was a little too controlling, or hovered around too much to give us, you know, much of a leash to kind of go out on our own and make mistakes and be independent. Right. So I do think it's both I think that for most of us were able to see, you know, the positive and not so positive and how, you know, how we want to direct and moving forward for our families. Yeah, that's great. You know, and I found, you know, for me, I grew up in a household that wasn't much, you know, emotion, sort of like, nurture, per se. I didn't realize at the time but as a therapist, the therapy you get, you look back, but what I sometimes see and I see my practice, it's almost like we're trying to overcorrect. So much things we didn't get or did it that sometimes I found the relationship between your partner can get put on the backburner, so to speak. I don't know if that resonates or not have your thoughts on that. Do you mean by overpricing our kids over crafting our selves or our partner? No great, great question like over correcting. Like, for example, I am going to be present emotional and within kind of like more hyperbole here all the time for my daughters, right even.
Right, but kind of like I'm so attuned to not
Continuing something that we didn't get growing up.
Yeah. So in a way I can say that was put my partner in the backburner, though, and I found other couples sometimes do that as well. Right? Well, that's the thing is, I know, you're aware as a dad, like, when a child comes into our lives, that is so much attention on this little one. And again, all those decisions, you know, all the needs that babies and children have, but it's really easy to fall into that pattern of not being as attuned to each other in the relationship. And so that's why, you know, we can, we'll talk about this more, but that's why having some, some rituals in place having some sort of, or patterns and that mindfulness, of just really trying to connect with each other, whether they're small ways or bigger ways, or just paying attention to one another.
Like he, I think you mentioned long ago, like just feeling appreciated, feeling seen. Or even that when one of us makes a misstep with the baby or child, it's okay. That happens, you do that, you know, we can practice forgiveness and, and learning from it, having a bit of a growth mindset approach there. So, yeah, I think it's just and that's what you know, as you're describing, that's really what leads to the dissatisfaction. Because where, you know, where am I in this? You're getting
attention on my hair?
For sure. And,
you know, I mean, I assume that's been motivation for you. And, you know, in your practice, happy couple after baby is most focused a little bit on the couple? Yes, it is. Because, again, you know, we're losing track of that, if we're falling out of our patterns and our rituals, you know, again, you have a lot less time
to do things together and less time, individually. And that's another way to also prepare for the upcoming change to parenthood is trying to identify like, what are some of my hobbies or interests together and separate from one another that are important to me that I want to continue? And then the reality is, we're not able to continue with all of them at once. So what are those one, two, maybe three, and again, communicating that to the other so that when the baby arrives, is like, Hey, you haven't gone on a bicycle ride in a long time? Why don't you go do that?
I really want to go meet my friends for lunch. And I'll be gone for a couple of hours and really encouraging one another, to do that without feeling resentful of the other parent being away. So just, yeah, try not to kind of lose ourselves, but also trying to stay connected to what, you know what our relationship means to us and that friendship.
Yeah, that's great. And I really like that idea. Of, and you mentioned this to, you know, talking about it get on the same page of expectations in terms of being a parent, also about time.
We call I wish we wish we, my wife and I had you hired you before, go to our first daughter.
I wish I hired myself. Yeah, totally. You know, so obviously, there's, there's a need for it.
Gosh, you know, the balance between personal time, relational time, family time, I know, you mentioned rituals. Your dad is one if you can speak a little bit more about that. Sure. Well, you know, I have a lot of training in the Gottman method.
Julie and John Gottman great researchers who've done a lot of work, you know, helping couples and, you know, if we were to think about like a little pie chart, you know, one 1/3 of that would be how do we handle conflict resolution? Second, third would be really nurturing and maintaining a friendship. And the third would be, you know, whatever ritual what are our rituals of connection. So, you know, that they've identified in their research and their data that if couples have regular ways of staying connected to communication and other ways that they're going to have a more satisfying and thriving marriage or relationship. So you know, that shows up in different ways, but
you know, sharing each other's stressors with one another, and really practicing that active deep, deep listening, showing empathy, expressing understanding,
repeating back what you hear, so that you really are showing
that you're listening, not rushing to problem solving, unless
sometimes a guy thing but the same.
Right, right. I mean, or even as a therapist sometimes rush to a problem solving thing. So asking for that, like, do you want help figuring this out? Let me just kind of listen to just, you know, sharing with each other, you know, things that are on your mind and checking in with one another? How are How are things at work lately?
Seems like your commute has been a lot worse. Must really stink for you. Yeah. Yeah, though. So that's one example of a ritual. And another is kind of the common ideas of having a weekly or bi weekly meeting where you're checking in with one another, especially when you have to be again, all these details, you know, you're going over logistics or going over your schedule, and you're planning for a vacation.
So you're kind of having that bad time to just kind of ironing out certain details, and you know, that you're gonna have that meeting. So you can kind of wait till then, of course, you're having your reminders and talking throughout the week. But sometimes it's helpful to have a ritual like that. And then I say the last one is, like, always checking in, not like everyday, but just, you know, having these periodic times where you're checking in with each other about, like, what, what are your interests now? What are what are some of the things that are important to you, and the government's call this love maps.
So that is the idea of just always checking in that on each other's inner world, that you are aware of what's going on for them, or what might be shifting for them. So you're still trying to get to know your partner better. No matter how long you've been together. That year, again, here's where the intention comes in. So you want to ask open ended questions? Like, you know,
how are you feeling about your job?
What's, what's a vacation that you would really like? To go on? Is there a place that's really meaningful, important to you and visit
our things with your family?
Okay, so mom and dad. So and this is good practice, too, because then when our kids grow up, and then we're having, you know, more of those questions, more of those conversations, whether because they I noticed with my eight year old now, I can't just ask how was school today?
Right if I need to be craftier,
and asking a more open ended question, so get more more of an answer something more specific. Yeah.
Well, my daughter is four and a half.
I asked her name's Josie, Josie. How was school? Good. Okay.
So who did you play with at school today?
That's great. I like the idea of the love maps. And I know you know, what, the John Gottman app.
Everyone? Can I recommend that everyone? Yeah.
Yeah, I think it's yeah, if you search Gottman in, in any app store, you'll you'll find their stuff they have. They even have their cars on there, like love map cards. So you get examples of questions. You can ask one another, they have assaulted debit card for somebody intimacy piece, and yeah, all of all of their materials are just super helpful. And their books as well.
Yeah. Great. Well, you mentioned connection, friendship, conflict resolution.
Correct, is what I make up is that it can be hard to kind of initiate connection, conversations, rituals, remember friendship,
resentment towards your partner. Right. And then I guess, kind of in the common framework that is under the idea of conflict resolution. But I guess the question is, you know, what, clue now resentment? Do you have any suggestion tips? I know basically, when you get on the table.
Well, I mean, if we're having resentment, then we're kind of, I'd say, really consistent and persistent resentment, and we're kind of steering more on the unhealthy unhappy side of things. No, yeah. You're asking us like how to kind of bring it back and
a bit
Part of it is how are we? It really does come back to that attention again, how are we? How are we paying attention to one another, because, again, I'm sure you're familiar with this, the garden has had the phrase small things often. And what that means is, you need to make consistent gestures, smart they, they can be tiny and very small, they don't need to be these big grand gestures make these consistent and small gestures towards one another.
So for example, you know, hugs showing affection, showing your fondness for each other, showing that you care, quick little text messages, how's your day going? Or it was really nice when you left the house today, or I'm looking forward to seeing you tonight. So if we're if we're really making those consistent efforts, it fills us up we have,
he was just overall, this sent me a sense of feeling of positivity, so that when there is conflict, or something negative happens, it won't be as detrimental, detrimental and affect the relationship as strongly and really go to that contempt or resentful place because you know, you have this other balance of really positive and caring contact.
So that really helps sort of resentment, because it's kind of like what you brought up earlier. of, you know, why parents paying so much more attention to the baby or the child than say, you know, I'm my hair too. And we're kind of wondering where, where we are in that, and Am I important. And, you know, let's think about it. I mean, who doesn't, who doesn't want to feel important? Who doesn't want to feel special, we all deserve that. So if we can remember and connect to how that's important to us as individuals, then of course, it's important for our spouse and our partner. And so if we can remember that, and we can commit, you know, again, if we want to have a happy, healthy relationship, we must commit to being kind to one another, to being respectful. Because I'm sure that we have the conversation about what's important to me, what's important to us and becoming a family I'm sure kindness and respect. Blessed,
though, and that's something we want to model for our children. So we can argue, in a kinder, more respectful way. It's okay to disagree. It's okay to be angry. We want to teach our kids that to all emotions are okay. We still love each other when we're angry.
We week, but we can disagree. And we can do it in a way where we're not hurting one another, where it's not leading to, you know, really big criticism and contempt. Yeah, that's great. I like that. Well, especially with the business, happier couple after baby. So say that postpartum depression,
postpartum anxiety
that after Josie was born, how does that affect the relationship? And how can you know the husband slash partner? Support the wife? Right? Well, yeah, but you also mentioned anxiety, because I feel like that's a component that isn't always addressed, we think about the depressive side of it. So yeah, I'm glad you brought that up. I know that for my husband, and for me, it was probably more on the anxiety side, especially with our second one. Okay.
But uh, you know, it's a first I want to say like, it's really it's typical, it's normal to have the baby blues, the first six weeks after the baby arrives, that's really typical. So because of course, you're like, Am I doing this right, and you're
trying to if you're breastfeeding, you're trying to figure that out in the sleep situation.
If the other partners going back to work,
you know, they just saw these
big and little adjustments. So it's really common to have just to kind of have some depressive thoughts, especially if there's also well, in the Robie, just the hormonal shifts and just physical, physical changes like that. And then I think also for the other, the other partner, the one who didn't, you know, maybe deliver the child.
Yeah, it's just like, Am I doing the right thing? Am I helping him?
What, what does she need right now? Can I do it? Right? Kind of felt out. So I think it's really important for couples just again, here's the communication piece. Talk about your stress about what's hard.
What you're struggling with, can you identify where you need help, and ask for help, and then accept that help.
Especially even if that help isn't gonna work, look exactly how maybe you would do it. But it's helped nonetheless. So, and you know, something else that's not really talked about is how, you know, dads or, you know, the secondary parent also can have symptoms. That's, that's common, too. So, you know, we want to make space for that, for, you know, them having that experience to,
you know, I think, I think the research shows that about 15 to 15 to 20% of women in particular, the baby blues might develop more into a mood disorder of depression or anxiety. So it might be helpful to go into therapy to get medication. So you certainly want to talk to your doctor about that, to talk to the pediatrician, even just to kind of connect about those things. And I think that's a place where dads or the secondary parent can really be helpful.
Where you're paying close attention to how mom is doing, or the primary parent, you know, just pay attention to how they're doing. Are you noticing shifts in their?
In their mood, right? Is there less of a interest in things? Is motivation appetite being affected?
Is their anxiety pretty, pretty heightened? As the seat sleep deprivation, taking taken a toll on sunlight? So I think it's helpful for, you know, both parents to go to, to the postcard of doctor's appointments? Well, because sometimes, you know, the mom isn't presenting accurately how she's doing.
So if you're there, oh, actually, like, kind of notice this has been going on the last couple of weeks. And remember, you shared your concerns about that, right? So there's another perspective in the room, to give a different picture to the doctor and to help professionals more assess for that. So I do think that that's one way of helping, you know, then obviously, offering help, listening, being patient, really encouraging rest, and maybe some time separate from the baby, because all of a sudden, as you remember, you're like thrust into the situation where you just always want this.
Maybe it needs some separation.
Okay, I got it like, Well, you were saying going to the appointment together. You know, I love that. I mean, I know it's what it represents, though, is that we're a team. Yes. Together. Love that. And you also mentioned for the partner, offering help encouraging rest? Yes, you can get it. Yeah, if you can get it. Yeah. But then there's also via you mentioned is to the open to the help. But for example, say there's foreigners listening to this, there's a little nutritional male partner, and why is having some symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety? Let me know how this sounds.
Hey, do you know what I got the baby tonight? You go grab a glass of wine, and I booked a hotel for you.
What do you think of that?
Now how what percentage of women would would take that offer? Yeah, well, I guess because of the whole breastfeeding thing. So I guess I don't know if that one was gonna work to this. But maybe could be a research study what percent?
It's hard. It's hard to turn off. But I remember. You know, a lot of people would say sleep when the baby sleeps. I had a hard time doing that. I just did. I don't vote that I'm out. So it works for some investment work for others. But it is. Yeah, I liked your point, though. Because it's helpful to just have to practice that we have to practice our times and separating from our little ones and just trying to restore ourselves in a little way when they're so long. Or having a glass of wine, just taking a nap. You know listening to podcasts reading a book. Just you know what, what can you do, whether it's a short time or a longer time to read to restore? And yeah, it is a practice to accept. Accept the offer to accept the help. Yeah. Well also, what are some things that foreigners can do? That is not helpful. Okay.