Transcript: Tips To Rekindle Your Relationship & Heal An Unhappy Marriage After Baby

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Tips to Rekindle Your Relationship & Heal An Unhappy Marriage After Baby and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

Having a baby is an enormously stressful event on families in lots of ways. Of course there is the physical toll on the mother both before birth and postpartum but one area that is often neglected and underestimated, is the stress that the new arrival often causes to the parent’s relationship and harmony. In this week’s episode, I’m talking with marriage coach, Tiffany Tuttle, who had her baby during COVID. You’ll hear Tiffany talk about the stress it put on her relationship and how it almost led to the breakup of her marriage.

Tiffany and her partner refused to give up and together they brainstormed and came up with strategies to make their lives work whilst raising their baby. Tiffany is passionate about helping parents navigate their early stages in parenting to ensure their relationships continue to flourish and do not suffer and you’ll hear some excellent tips and strategies in this episode which you won’t want to miss!

Helen Thompson: Hi, Tiffany and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. I’ve been looking forward to having you on this podcast, because I know you’re a great advocate in helping moms and dads and families reconnect after they’ve given birth to their child and I look forward to finding out more about you. So can I start by just asking what you’re passionate about and a bit more about your business and what you do.

Tiffany Tuttle: Yeah. So I’m really excited to be here and hello to your audience and I’m just really excited to share this information that is so practical when you have kids and your relationship changes after you have kids and it sometimes gets a little more challenging having more children. So, you know, the first time is really the big hit and you’re like, wow, this is a lot of work. You know, it’s, it’s hard to do all this on my own coming from the mom’s perspective. And then when you have a couple of other kids that kind of gets really deep in the water and you’re like, okay, now I really need help.

So I’m passionate about normalizing everything that we go through as moms, the feelings that we feel, where society tries to make us feel guilty for feeling the things that we feel and thinking the things that we think. Sometimes we just want to run away. I hear that a lot from moms and I wish I could just run away.

I don’t want to leave my baby, but I do want to run away. But what you want to run away from, is this reality that you’re just not happy with in your relationship and in your home. And sometimes even with the baby, because babies get colicky, they’re unpredictable and we don’t live in a society where we have the luxury of just being leisure moms and we have the village to help us. You have an aunt cooking, you have your mom cleaning, you have your neighbors tending to your other kids and your only job is to rest. That used to be the norm back in the day and especially in other cultures it still is, but, you know we don’t have that luxury.

So moms are sometimes working, working from home. We get barely 12 weeks sometimes if you’re lucky of maternity leave in America and so you’re thrown into all of these roles and all these responsibilities and if you don’t have your husband helping you, then it gets really, really challenging. So I’m normalizing that struggle that the marriage goes through and taking away the shame, because we also feel shame because it’s not what we see on social media.

We see the perfect family and they’re matching Christmas pyjamas and we’re like, oh, I haven’t showered in probably seven days. And you know, I am full of spit-up and, and I’m just so over this mom life, why am I so different? You’re not so different. What that is, is a production and what you are living is reality and you’re not alone.

So taking away the shame and normalizing what we think and feel in this struggle.

Helen Thompson: Yeah. I can relate to all of those and especially this sort of what you said about the colicky bit and being fussy, because I do baby massage but for what you do, it sounds as though you’ve worked out that magical way of sort of normalizing that. You mentioned when we first talked that you had three pillars that you use to help to support moms normalize. Can you tell us a bit more about those three pillars and what they mean?

Tiffany Tuttle: Yeah, so the main pillars or common issues that I see amongst the moms that I work with and just any moms that I talk to, it really boils down to these three things and it’s reconnecting, intimacy and communication and most of your problems fall under the umbrella of one or two or all three of those things, because if you are not communicating well, you’re not going to feel comfortable in intimacy. If you’re not reconnecting well in non-sexual ways, then you’re not going to feel comfortable and intimacy. If you are having a lot of fights about money, then you’re not going to be able to reconnect because you’re not communicating right.

So all of those things are just interweaved and most of the problems, I dare say, fall under the umbrella of those three topics. So that’s how I support moms, is I make it really easy to be able to reconnect, communicate and feel positive about intimacy again because if you have those three things under control and my strategies don’t require a lot of time, because right now you are in a season where your kids take all of your time and energy.

So if I tell you hey,you guys need to go on vacation for two weeks, it’s not going to happen for most couples. So I have found a strategy and it’s worked in my marriage. I had my first baby in the height of lockdown last year, so we were stuck together 24×7 with the baby that didn’t like to sleep and very little help. My mom came sometimes, his mom came, but there was so much fear and unknown about what was going on with everything that was going on at that time that we were just like, everybody stay in place and we’re going to figure this out. But the first thing that fell through was my marriage.

And so we made a final decision to try and make this work one last time. If it didn’t work this one last time, we were okay with getting a divorce. Not that we were okay with it, but we refused to continue to live in the misery and resentment that we were living. And so we said, okay, listen, we want to make sure that if we do get a divorce, we can look back and say, we tried everything. We didn’t want to leave any stone unturned. So we reached out for help and we got help. And we came up with these strategies to be able to make this work when you are raising a baby or multiple kids that take all your time and energy.

So I always say no date nights required, they’re not everything.

Helen Thompson: Yeah. So you talk about reconnecting. So how did you work on that strategy to reconnect with your husband, reconnect with your family, and most importantly, connect with your baby at the same time as well.

Tiffany Tuttle: Yeah. I think the first step is accepting the season that you’re in. You know, a lot of our stress comes from feeling like we should be doing something else, feeling like we should be someone else, feeling like we should be with someone else and we just can’t be present. And as cliche as that sounds, you know, when I’m working, I give my all to my work.

When my baby, she is 16 months now. When she’s running around and demanding my attention, I have to close the chapter of my work and go be a mom, because if I am with her, and this is something that I kind of recently discovered, honestly, if I am with her and I feel like I should still be working then I’m short-tempered with her. I’m snappy, I’m annoyed, I am like, oh, why aren’t you going to sleep? And I’m really, really frustrated on the inside because I feel I should be doing something else. So we learn to be present in whatever situation that was in the moment. And then we took the pressure off these monumental things that we are told that we need to do to reconnect.

Like I said, about the vacation, we love vacation, but we don’t know when that’s going to be possible. You know, our relationship can’t starve until then. So it’s funny because one of our things that we do every day, is we brush our teeth together at night and I’ll give him a hug while he’s brushing his teeth, he’ll give me a hug while I’m brushing my teeth. And it sounds silly, but these are what I call sparks. And so these are what I call daily sparks, and it’s not about always having that flame ignited and roaring. It’s about adding sparks to that flame every single day and that can look like getting a new dessert and try it when the baby goes to sleep and you guys share that experience together. It’s all of these things that are small, that add up to the big connection that you’re looking for. Cause you can’t jump from where you are to where you want to be. There’s no jump. You have to do it in small baby steps. And that’s what I teach my clients and whatever works for their lifestyle.

I’ve worked with people whose husbands work out of town or who they’re in the army. And so obviously nobody’s life looks the same. So I work with them to create that reconnecting steps that work for them.

Helen Thompson: I can relate to you saying that people working away because here in Australia we have what we call fly-in, fly-out, FIFO , because a lot of people go and work in the mines so the mums are left on their own with the kids. So I can relate to what you’re saying. When they come home, it’s good to give each other that nurture, but also to sort of nurture the child as well. Just doing those little things. Those are good little tips, those gentle little things, they don’t have to be intimate.

Tiffany Tuttle: Yeah and that could lead up to it because you’re already starting to feel confident in your relationship. You’re feeling of connection again. And that could be the precursor to the sexual intimacy. But a lot of times we don’t have the time or the energy to have the frequent sexual intimacy that we used to and we’re okay with that. And as long as you and your partner are comfortable with that, that’s okay. You know, if your friend had a baby and said that they have sex seven times a week and you know, that’s great for them. And so, you know, just as in so many things in life, don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s or try and be like anyone else, because you know, your family is so unique.

And so another point to what you were saying is, we feel mom guilt for so many things. In your example where the husbands go and work in mining and then come back, that mom probably wouldn’t dare to give her husband any tasks for the baby. No, because he’s been working, you know, and he’s the one providing for the family.

Okay. But what have you been doing? You’ve been keeping that baby alive, you know, and that’s very exhausting. And that’s why I work with a plan that helps you guys map things out, what needs to get done, and who’s going to do it so that you can both come to an agreement and you don’t have to tell him the same thing a thousand times or direct him.

Cause then we just ended up doing everything ourselves.

Helen Thompson: And I think it’s good though, for the dad, when they come back, to be able to have that time with both of you because they want to have connection with the baby as well. And again, I’m going back to baby massage because you can say to the dad, okay, well, you can give the baby a massage or you can go and change his diaper. So I think that one’s important because that also brings in the intimacy part because intimacy doesn’t have to be sexual. And a lot of people, I think, think that intimacy has to be sex, sex, sex.

Tiffany Tuttle: Yeah, there’s other things that can fill your intimacy cup that don’t have to be sexual that can make you happy because intimacy is where you feel safe. That’s really what the core of intimacy is. And so when you feel safe with your partner, you know, when you can sit and have a conversation with your partner and talk about your dreams or talk about even something silly that happened today, when you feel that safety that’s when you can let your guard down.

That’s what true intimacy is. So when you have these sparks every single day, it’s filling your intimacy cup until you can let your guard down. Cause if you’re struggling with that and then you can say, okay, I feel like I am safe. And you know, and maybe you don’t say it consciously. It’s a subconscious thing that women are built with.

They have to know that they are safe in their relationship in order to feel vulnerable, to be intimate. And it’s not, what’s present in your mind, you’re thinking, well, I’m annoyed with him. I’m not gonna give him sex because he didn’t take out the trash. But you know, it’s so much more than that. It’s you don’t feel safe, you don’t feel heard, you feel overlooked. And of course that’s not going to lead to intimacy.

Helen Thompson: Yeah. And I was going to mention with the intimacy and when you first have a baby, some mothers, have stitches or they’ve had a cesarean, and they’re still really sore down there and I guess for dads or husbands, it’s harder for them to understand because they haven’t gone through that experience. It’s what you’re saying, building it up slowly, because if you don’t communicate these sort of feelings with your husband and, and encourage that intimacy in other ways, it’s not going to flourish.

Tiffany Tuttle: Right and the thing is men are fixers. So if they see that you’re in pain, recovering from a C-section, if they see you’re in pain recovering from birth, or just general overall uncomfortable with yourself, they kind of freak out because they’re like, how do I fix this? What do I do? How can I help? And, and then if you don’t have that strong communication, then you guys start feeling like roommates and you’re just at each other, always butting heads.

And you know, you just feel like we’re, we’re not the same. Who is this person? This is not the person I married, where is the spark and the love that we used to have. And of course, that’s gone right now because first of all, you’re mentally drained. You’re mentally fogged, you know, I had so much mental fog.

I also had postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, which I didn’t realize at the time and then the lack of sleep, my baby didn’t like to sleep. Colicky, frustration, nobody to help us and just stir crazy. Cabin fever as they say because we were locked in the house 24×7. And so I even had one of my things that I suffered with anxiety is it’s just fear of going outside. And so I was literally in the house 24×7 and so all of those things, all these changes that are coming to your relationship in your home, if you guys don’t have that communication, you’re just going to make a lot of assumptions.

And that is the worst thing you can do in this stage of life is to make assumptions about what your husband is feeling or thinking or expecting. So that’s why the communication aspect is so, so important.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think it’s important to both of you to sit down, even if the baby’s not sleeping to sit with the baby together and help with the baby. You just communicate together because I think that is so, so important in any relationship, but particularly after you’ve had a baby because that changes your lifestyle completely. When you’re pregnant, you think, oh, great, I’ve got a baby coming. Some moms are really excited about the baby, some moms may have a bit of anxiety, but when the baby actually arrives, it can be a real shock to the system. It’s like, oh, this little bundle of joy. I’ve just brought it home from hospital help. It’s not sleeping, it’s got colic, I’m frustrated, I’m overwhelmed. My husband walked off because he can’t cope with me being stressed. So yeah, from what you’re saying, these three pillars are the main connection. So, with your business and your course, how do you support moms? If a mom was going to come to you, what kind of structure would you start with?

Tiffany Tuttle: Yeah. So I have two forms of support for moms. The first one is a six week program called from roommates to soulmates. And in six weeks they can get their husband to start pitching in, stop feeling resentful, reconnect in their marriage.

Like I said, no date nights required and then know that they’re not alone because I have a community online. I’m in my Facebook group called Marriage After Baby. And that’s just where I really foster all of this normalizing, everything that we are going through. So in the six week program, we meet and talk over whatever this week’s topic is.

And so the first week of this program is, it’s not just you, you are not. That’s the first thing we’re going to tackle is you’re not the only one going through this. You’re not the only one suffering. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not doing anything wrong. You just don’t have the tools to be able to address these issues that you guys are facing so you keep having the same arguments over and over again. And then we have week two, which is divide and conquer, which is how you guys divide baby duties and all the life responsibilities among you. Cause you know, the dog still has to get walked and nobody’s talked about if it’s going to be you or your husband.

Then the week three is how to ask, so he says, yes. And that’s the communicating aspect that we talk about. Week four is keeping the spark alive, the things that I talked about earlier, and then week five, we get really, really deep when we’re talking about intimacy and body shame, because we are the biggest critics of our bodies, society doesn’t help and then society tells us we need to criticize our bodies. And so we do. And then you know, that’s a hindrance to intimacy, obviously. If you feel ugly and fat and all these things that you feel. Of course, you’re not going to want to, you’re going to do everything to avoid any sort of intimacy because sometimes a lot of women that I work with fear even going and giving their husband a kiss or a hug because I say no, because then he’s going to want sex.

Well, that’s where the communication comes in. Hey, I want to start building up to feeling comfortable again after having our baby and I just need you to help me with this so that we can start with a hug. You know, they say a 10 or 15 second kiss is like, you should do that every single day.

It’s so, so powerful for your relationship but you’re gonna resist if you feel like he’s going to want sex and that’s not what you’re comfortable with. So that’s where the communication comes in. And then week six is speaking each other’s language and by that, I mean your love language, because I hear so much, I don’t feel like he loves me because he never tells me I’m pretty. And then he says, but I just got you flowers what are you talking about? Those are two different love languages. When you know your love language, and you can understand other people’s, you start picking up and it’s really fun because you can hear what they say and it’s really fun when you understand that principal of the love languages. So that’s what we do in my group program and also in my one-on-one coaching with the couple alone.

So there’s two options to work with me. It can either be in a group environment with other moms, no husbands allowed.

Helen Thompson: I was just about to ask you that. Are dads included?

Tiffany Tuttle: No, not in the group program, that’s just for moms. And I always say it’s baby friendly too, because I know it’s a little struggle and they’re recorded if you can’t make it that day.

So lots of benefits for the mom. I also have WhatsApp support throughout the six weeks so that they can let me know if they have a bump in the road and get custom advice for them and then it’s the same exact package for a one-on-one coaching. And that is for the couple, just one couple that I sit with every week and we talk about these same issues and then the dad is present on those calls.

Helen Thompson: I noticed at the very beginning, you said no dates required. I thought that was an interesting one because when you’re stuck together with your husband in the house, during COVID and stuff, you can still have a date night. You don’t have to go out to have a date night. Cause when you said no dates required that sort of intrigued me because I thought, there are ways that you can have a date with your husband and it could include the intimacy and the sex. I’m not saying that it doesn’t, but you know, it’s more as we’ve been saying, the reconnection, the communication and the intimacy. You can have a date night by just sitting, having a cuddle , eating pizza and watching TV.

Yeah, that’s a date night or you can have a date night lying in bed with your baby, cuddling your baby, you breastfeeding and talking to your husband or bottle feeding or whatever.

Tiffany Tuttle: Giving you a foot massage and you’re feeding the baby and you’re talking about your next vacation that you want to take together or your next meal that you want to cook together. And cooking a meal together is really fun too. Yeah. That’s something that we love doing too, because we both love food. So cooking a meal together, trying new desserts and we really have to scale it back on what we, what we expect date night to be. And I don’t say that to lower your standards , but I say it to take the complication out of your life because right now, your date night standard is get dressed, do your hair and your makeup, I don’t have time or energy for that. I really don’t. And so if that was what I was building up date night to be, I’m going to be really discouraged because I can’t do that with my baby, especially when she was smaller and wanted to be held 24×7. I mean she’s 17 months almost, and she still wants to be held all the time.

So you know, if I have all of these standards and expectations of what date night should be and that should word is so detrimental to us in so many ways. And so when we think of what date nights should be, then we’re just going to be disappointed and discouraged and defeated before we even start. So reframe what date night is. Date night is a time where you guys can just hang out and be silly. You know we have so many responses. We say in America, adulting, we’re always adulting. We’re paying bills, we’re responsible for the car, now we have a kid, we have to go to work. We have other responsibilities and so we are always in adult mode and sometimes we just have to be kids again. Be silly, tell jokes and watch cartoons even.

There’s so many ways that you guys can reconnect without having that huge anticipation of date night and going to a fancy restaurant and, challenge yourself, be creative. And if you’re not creative, look on Pinterest, look on Google. There’s so many ideas. There’s even some really cool things of popsicle sticks that you can color different colors and say, well, yellow is desert, red is a meal and so let’s pick a yellow stick out and you pre-write everything. And then you stick it in a jar and you say, I want to try a new dessert today and just pick a yellow stick out. Oh, we’re going to try a new ice cream place today and so it takes all the guesswork out of it. So things like that, you know, you can find that on Pinterest and there’s so many resources that we have right now that we really make it complicated but I understand if there is a sting of resentment and things in your daily life, it’s just a cycle that you are not comfortable with. That’s why we tackle these three topics in working with me.

Helen Thompson: I like your strategies and it’s obviously worked for you because you’re still together, which is a great testimonial for you and for what you do, because you said you were struggling.

Tiffany Tuttle: Yes, we were down a really, really dark road. It was to the point where at two o’clock in the morning, one day I was so, you know, when you’re you’re bitter and you’re angry, you just feel it boiling inside and I was so upset about something. I don’t even remember what it was. I think it was just the accumulation of everyday being the same, not getting any help. And of course my anger prevented any sort of communication. And so we were just getting further and further apart and one day I woke up at two in the morning and I came to my office and I Googled how to get a divorce in Florida because I was just ready.

And I had accepted that this is real, this is going to happen. I hate this life for me, but I am willing to do it because I am not willing to stay in the same place. So these changes work and they work for me. They’ve worked for us and other couples that I’ve worked with, and it’s just such a breath of fresh air and a sigh of relief when we talk.

And I’m like hey, this is going to be so much easier than you think, and what your mind is telling you right now.

Helen Thompson: I think you do a great job for doing that and I just like to say, I admire you for sticking with it and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, because that’s a great testimonial for moms because for them to see that somebody has actually gone through it and seen the light at the end of the tunnel, I think is so powerful. So thank you so much for sharing all that with me cause I think that’s a very, very powerful and profound way of doing it.

Tiffany Tuttle: Thank you. I love the simplistic approach. I’m a simple kind of girl, jeans and t-shirt every day. And I just love simplicity and taking all the complications. There’s so many things outside of our control that are so complicated. Let’s try and simplify the things that we can control so that we can conquer them and be successful at them. And that’s just my approach to everything in life.

Helen Thompson: I think that’s a great approach. I like to try that, but sometimes it doesn’t work but being positive and knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel, I think it’s valuable.

Tiffany Tuttle: Yeah. And just as you build on it, the communication I, I posted in my group a couple of weeks ago that my husband didn’t want to change the baby’s diaper in the morning. I just posted the conversation we had and he said the baby’s dirty. And I said, yeah, I know. And he said, well, change her. I said, well, you change her and then he said, well, you’re already up. I said, exactly, I’m doing something else, so can you change her? And he got up and changed her and I said, your husband is not always going to be smiling and skipping to go change your kid’s poop diaper, but can you ask him to do it and he will, because you’ve already established that strong foundation of communication. That’s the key, isn’t it?

He might not volunteer. Cause we always say, well, he should know but are you going to get stuck in that or are you going to look for a solution? So right now where your marriage is, can you go to your husband and say, Hey, I need you to do this or that for the kids or for the house, because I’m doing something else or because I just don’t feel like it. I need you to just let’s do a tag team right now. I need a mental break because I don’t feel like myself right now. And I need help. Can you do that in your marriage right now is what I always ask the women I talk to, to reflect on before we work together.

Helen Thompson: It’s interesting. how you talk about poop cause some husbands just don’t want to do it or they think that they can’t do it cause they’ll put the nappy on back to front or they don’t know how they put the nappy on or they’ll say, oh, oh, can you come and help me with these tapes? I don’t know how to do it. But then I would turn round and say to them, well, look I’ll show you how to do it this once and then you can just get on with it. And if you put it on back to front, it’s not going to be the end of the world. It might fall off in five minutes, but it’s not going to be the end of the world because moms have to learn how to do it. So why can’t a husband at the same time?

Tiffany Tuttle: Yeah. We all make mistakes and you know, I’ve made mistakes and, and that was something I struggled with too. I felt like I needed to have all the answers cause I was the mom. And sometimes he would know more than me when it came to the baby.

And and I would get upset because I would get maybe jealous or just sad that I didn’t know how to fix that problem in the moment and he did. And then we had to have that conversation of, I’m sorry, I’ve been pushing you away, but I get upset that you don’t make the mistakes I make sometimes.

And so we just had to be honest about them and I asked for forgiveness and we moved on from it. But those things can all snowball into so much resentment, years of resentment and hurt that’s just not necessary.

Helen Thompson: Positive communication with each other as well. So, after this lovely chat, if my audience wanted to get in touch with you and find out more about what you do, how would they go about doing that?

Tiffany Tuttle: So the best way to get all my content, all my free content and everything I’m about is to go to my Facebook group called Marriage After Baby From Roommates to Soulmates. Just join the group and you’ll see everything that I do and all of the tips. Every day I share tips, Facebook lives, different strategies and information for parents to keep their marriage strong while raising kids that take all their time and energy.

So that’s what I do in that group. And that would be the best way to contact me. I’m very active in that group.

Helen Thompson: Well, thank you Tiffany, I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. It’s given me some valuable tips for other topics to talk about, so I really appreciate you being on here and thank you for your time.

Tiffany Tuttle: Thank you so much. I enjoy talking about this and I hope this is useful to your audience and that you get some great testimonials from this chat.