61: Pandemic Walls

February 11, 2021

Evie’s second birthday and birth story, hot doctors, hitting the pandemic wall, and pandemic relationship talk.

Brene Brown Podcast

The Gottman Institute

HuffPost Hitting the Pandemic Wall

www.joyandclaire.com

email: thisisjoyandclaire@gmail.com

instagram: joyandclaire_

This is Joy & Claire Episode 61: Pandemic Walls

Episode Date: February 11, 2021

Audio Length: 51:07 minutes 

Note: Unclear word at [00:37:54.19].

Joy: Hey guys, this is Joy.

Claire: And this is Claire.

Joy: And this is Joy and Claire. And it’s Thursday, and we’re doing okay. We’re getting through the week. How are you?

Claire: We’re getting there. We’re recording this on Monday. When you guys hear this, Evie will be two years old.

Joy: Two years old, I can’t even believe it.

Claire: I mean, I kind of can. I think a lot of it is because people are like, oh my gosh, my kid, how did the time fly. But this last year has gone by so slowly that I’m almost surprised that she’s only two.

Joy: Yeah. You feel like you should be eighteen by now from all this time that we’ve done in 2020.

Claire: We’ve spent so much time together that you could be at least five.

Joy: I always on her birthday have to reminisce about the text thread the night that you were like, “I think I’m having some contractions. I’m not sure. I’m just texting you guys.” This was around seven o’clock. It was me and Jess. You were being so nonchalant about it because you were like, no big deal. Then you called your midwife, and she was like, “Yeah, you need to send Miles to your mom’s house ASAP.” And I literally woke up to a picture of a baby. I was like, what happened? And I was that sleepy, blurry vision that I looked at my phone and I was like, is that a baby? It was so crazy. She just showed up.

Claire: I know. Just out of nowhere. I mean, not out of nowhere. Yeah, it was quick. I’ll just take a quick little jog down memory lane, a short, small, slow jog. I was in labor with Miles like three days. I was literally in labor with Miles for almost 40 hours, so when I started going into labor with Evie, it was like, oh I was only having contractions, but I was like we’re going to be here all night. I started having contractions at five or six o’clock, and she was born at eleven.

Joy: That’s crazy.

Claire: It was crazy. I didn’t love it. It was a lot, it was intense to go from 0 to 60 so quickly.

Joy: Oh yeah. I remember you were like, “I screamed so much.”

Claire: Yeah, the next day my throat was so sore. And I was like, why is my throat sore? Brandon was like, “It’s probably from the screaming.” I was like, oh, forgot about the screaming. Like heavy metal screaming. Yeah, it wasn’t like bloody murder screaming. It was some heavy metal screaming. I remember reading something that was talking about controlling your breath. And I was like, nu uh, no. If you have the wherewithal in an unmedicated labor, or a labor at all, period. If you have the wherewithal when you’re trying to get a baby out of your body to control anything about your breath or voice, no, power to you. I do not possess that. I was not in my body. At one point, Evie was so, she was going to get born right now. And I didn’t even lift my leg up, and my midwife was like, “I’m just going to hold your leg up.” Later on, she was saying something about it. I was like, “Oh, I don’t think I was in my body for that. I don’t think I remember that at all.” I was like, “Yeah, I wasn’t there for that.”

Joy: Oh my gosh, yeah. All my friends who’ve had kids have told me something similar where they’re like – or one of my best friends is like, “Yeah, the second I started having contractions I was like, yeah, I’m not doing this actually. Please give me the – “

Claire: Oh my gosh, yeah. So for those of you who are not familiar, I had a hospital labor, epidural with Miles. He was NICU, we did the whole thing. And then with Evie, I had a home birth, and there’s a lot of reasons that I won’t go into at this moment. Yeah, half way through, even just after a couple hours of contractions with Evie, I was like, “This was a bad decision.”

Joy: I made a big mistake.

Claire: I want the drugs. 

Joy: I made a big mistake.

Claire: I made a big mistake. Oh no. But it was fine. I think everyone who has done both probably thinks that. And no shame whatsoever around getting the epidural because I don’t think ever to this day in my life, nor probably ever again, will I feel just the – I could have married the anesthesiologist. I have never felt such an amazing sense of relief as I did when I got the epidural.

Joy: Was it a guy or a girl?

Claire: It was a guy. He was bald. I remember specifically because at the time, they were like, okay – I had been in labor at that point for close to 30 hours, and I was not even at one centimeter, and I was like, “I need the drugs. I can’t keep doing this.” I remember when my midwife checked me, because I said before I don’t want to get checked a lot. So she was checking me, and she was like, how are you feeling. I was like, if I’m not at least at a six or a seven… what did I say. I said, if you don’t think I’m going to be pushing within the next hour, then I don’t need an epidural. And she was like, “So, you’re at like a one.” And I just started sobbing. I was like, go get the drug man. 

Joy: Where is the man with the drugs?

Claire: Where is the man with the drugs? And so they were like, “Well if you’re about to get an epidural, then you should go ahead and try to go to the bathroom.” So I went in and tried to go to the bathroom, and the guy came in as I was in the bathroom. If you’re in active labor, going pee is kind of a process because when you sit on the toilet, anyway, it was painful. And he came in. It had gotten to the point where Miles was stuck in a bad position, so I couldn’t sit down to pee because his head was resting right on my pelvic bone, or his spine. So I just stood in the bathtub of the hospital room and peed because I couldn’t sit on the toilet. So I was just standing there just peeing. Bless everyone who was in that room and was like, “Yes, Claire, this is the choice. Do it.”

Joy: Yes, that was the choice.

Claire: Bless my doula who was holding my hand while I was just standing up and peeing all over myself. That was Plan A. Plan A was just peeing all over myself. This is labor, guys. And I heard the anesthesiologist come in, but he didn’t see me because I was in the bathroom. And he was like, “Is she still in here? Does she still need the epidural?” And I was like, “Yes!” 

Joy: Yes! I’m over here.

Claire: And it was right at seven in the morning, so I knew if he leaves this room, shift change is going to happen and it’s going to be an hour or more before I can get someone back in here. I was like, “Don’t let him leave.”

Joy: Oh my God.

Claire: But no, that was all with Miles. With Evie, it was crazy fast, to the point where I often think her birthday is the 11th, but it’s actually the 10th. Because I had already had it in my brain she’s going to be born tomorrow 2-11, great. 

Joy: Right, that’s so funny.

Claire: Anyway, happy second birthday to Evie.

Joy: Happy second birthday.

Claire: She is two going on sixteen. 

Joy: When you were talking about anesthesiologist, the reason I was asking if it was a guy or girl was I feel like in my experience from the very few surgeries that I’ve had, they’re always very hot. 

Claire: Totally. Yes. He was not unattractive. I mean, at that moment that wasn’t really my focus.

Joy: Sure. And I had two ear surgeries when I was in grad school. The first one, I was just like, oh my gosh, they’re so dreamy. And when you wake up, you’re just in a stupor. And I remember waking up and having to pee so bad. This was a four-hour surgery, so it’s like holding your bladder for four hours. I woke up and the nurse was giving me water and ice chips, whatever, and I was like, “I have to pee so bad,” and she gives me a bedpan. I was like, ah, this is what we’re doing.

Claire: You’re like, “I’m peeing in this bowl right here?”

Joy: And not a second later the anesthesiologist walks up to me and goes, “How are you?”

Claire: With your metal bowl.

Joy: I’m just in my bed peeing as he’s talking to me. This is me at like 23/24, so I’m like, “Oh my gosh, super-hot guy.”

Claire: High levels of self-consciousness.

Joy: I was so embarrassed, and he was like, “How are you?” And I’m like, “Good.” They’re always so hot.

Claire: Yes. Remember when we talked about hot optometrists?

Joy: Totally.

Claire: And it’s like, they’re right by your face, and you’re like, “Hi.” They’re like, “One or two.” You’re like, “All I see is a ten.”

Joy: Oh my gosh. I mean, every time I try to be cool I’m not cool.

Claire: The harder you try, the worse it is.

Joy: The worse it is.

Claire: That’s a known rule about being cool that the harder you try, the worse it is.

Joy: I recently had – guys, I’m married, it’s not a big deal. Last fall I was at an appointment for an ear follow up. It’s a new doctor because I haven’t seen an ENT in forever. I need to go checked to make sure everything’s going okay. I have prosthetics in my left ear, so I’m checking things out. And he walks in, and he had a mask on, but of course I’m just like –

Claire: [flirtatiously] Hi.

Joy: Trying to be cool and I wasn’t cool. Just doesn’t matter how old you are, you will never be cool around hot doctors. 

Claire: You just won’t. I would love to hear people’s stories if you want to write in and tell us your stories about waking up from anesthesia. I feel like everyone, either they have it or their dad has it. When I got my wisdom teeth taken out was the first time that I had ever been put under, and I don’t remember this at all but I apparently demanded my teeth. I was like, “I want my teeth.”

Joy: Oh yeah, I remember we had this conversation.

Claire: Yeah. 

Joy: Because remember I was escorted in the back because I had blood all over my shirt.

Claire: And when I came back for my checkup, they handed me my teeth in a bag. And I was like, “I don’t want this.” They were like, “You really did the last time you were here.” I was like, oh, that’s weird. And then Brandon’s dad is famous for one time he got a surgery and they wheeled him out and he had all this tubing in his lap and everyone was like, “What is that?” And they were like, “He demanded that this was his tubing, he had paid for it, and he was going to take it home.” 

Joy and Claire: [laughing]

Joy: Oh my God. Oh my God. I bet you nurses have a lot of stories. Dish it, dish it up. It could be anonymous, just dish.

Claire: Tell us the silliest thing. Oh my goodness. 

Joy: You want these teeth. No, I do not. 

Claire: You really did. Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry for what I said when I was high on anesthesia.

Joy: Oh my gosh, that’s really good. 

Claire: Okay, so this week we are going to continue our randomness. As always. I say that as if that’s new as if we haven’t been doing that.

Joy: I know, I’m like, that’s not new, that’s really just the gist of the show.

Claire: So we are going to talk a little bit this week about hitting the wall. I posted about this on Instagram stories last week. There have been a lot of walls in the last year. I look back on this time last year and I think, man, the thing I was most freaked out by when we first went into lockdown, I was like, I can’t find stuff for Miles to do every day for two weeks. What am I going to do with him for two weeks? Now, it’s like, whatever, I don’t care. Go watch Sesame Street.

Joy: Like another month? We’re good.

Claire: I was thinking the other day, and I know I’ve said this before, we used to try to limit him to one movie a week. Hahahahahahaha. 

Joy: One movie a week?

Claire: Now I’m like, if it’s fewer than two per day that feels like a win. I don’t count Sesame Street and StoryBots. You’re learning, this is education. I’m learning. I learn stuff from StoryBots.

Joy: What do you learn?

Claire: I learned how the waste water treatment plant works. I didn’t know. I learned that from StoryBots.

Joy: You know, I loved those educational segments in Sesame Street. Anyone out there who remembers the milk one where you see the milk bottles and you can see the milk production. I loved crap like that. I loved it.

Claire: All those Sesame Street episodes, all literally 45 seasons, are on HBO.

Joy: Amazing. And they did that for freaking parents, and I love them for it.

Claire: We send Miles to school and he’s like, “Mom, I don’t need to go to school. I already learned this all on Sesame Street.” I’m like, well, that’s kind of mean. Sesame Street is free. However, Sesame Street does not get you out of the house. 

Joy: Would you do that with college too?

Claire: I know, right. I’m like, okay, where is the particle physics Sesame Street? Where’s the how to do your taxes Sesame Street. That’s what we need. Who’s making an adult – that would be a great podcast. I need an adult Sesame Street where somebody comes along and is like, “The letter of the day is W2.” “Today’s number is 1099.” Let’s figure out who to get on the podcast to do that.

Joy: Please someone. Someone is out there. 

Claire: Let’s call Doug. Where’s Doug?

Joy: Doug. 

Claire: Doug’s our podcast friend who actually makes real fun podcasts.

Joy: He makes for a podcast.

Claire: “The letter of the day is I-9.” Anyway, I felt like last week in a year of walls I hit another wall. There were some personal components to it, but I just feel like a lot of other people felt that way too. And I don’t know if it’s as we come around the horn of doing this for an entire year or it’s really, really, super cold and snowy in a lot of parts of the country right now which make things feel that much more difficult because you are really stuck inside. You can’t even get out for your walk. You know, last year a big snow storm felt like, “Oh, this is kind of fun. We can just sit inside.”

Joy: That was so cute, snow day.

Claire: I will punch my husband if he asks me anything ever again. 

Joy: One more question.

Claire: One more word. If he breathes in the same room as me, I will punch him in the throat.

Joy: That reminds me of a marriage hack, don’t let me forget it. Have I told the “no more questions” thing?

Claire: I don’t think so. So that was the other part of this. Let’s also talk about some marriage hacks because pandemic marriage hacks are a whole different ballgame, and we haven’t talked about them recently.

Joy: Can I just make a point too about the wall? Because I want to also validate this. There was a Huff Post article, the title was “It’s Not Just You, A Lot of Us Are Hitting a Pandemic Wall Right Now.” And this was posted on February 4, 2021. It just kind of goes through what we were just talking about, but I want to point out something very important that it says. “The pandemic has over activated our stress system.” I know that’s kind of stating the obvious, but I just want everyone to physically think about that and about how, from my personal experience I was so stressed out from the fall of this year. I think it just accumulated throughout the year with work and whatever. Just the stress of the pandemic, and I really let – whether it’s right or wrong – I let the administration stress me out. The past administration, I like to say. Your body doesn’t recognize good stress or bad stress. Your body doesn’t recognize, oh I’m happy, I’m jogging, I’m doing something that’s really happy for me. Your body doesn’t recognize if it’s just, oh this is good stress, oh this is bad stress. If you’re relaxed, that’s fine. But if you’re stressed about something, your body is in that constant fight or flight mode. So if I think we think about that through the past year of how much we’ve been waking up to what’s next, especially with the most recent previous president. I woke up every day being like, “What now?” And then being really scared about the election, yada yada. I truly think stress played a huge part in my diagnosis. But I think overall hitting the wall, whether or not you just have a health issue or are just freaking over this, thinking about how that has overactivated your stress system. I took a training once with this guy. I’ll never forget this, and I’m very much simplifying it. But he presented about compassion fatigue. If you’re in any type of helping profession, you’re probably familiar with what that is. It’s very similar to a secondary type of trauma where if you’re in a field that causes you to be a helper all the time, that just can really burn you out. So they talk about how to help your body not absorb that stress by relaxing your body. And he went through this exercise that basically – I’m totally dumbing it down – but it’s basically doing a kegel and then releasing. Making sure your pelvic muscles aren’t tense and constantly making sure – because he’s like, that will put you into fight or flight. Making sure that when you’re breathing, you’re relaxing your pelvic floor. I thought that was such a good reminder. It’s a very tangible way to connect to your body. If you’re gritting your teeth, if you’re clenching your job, checking in with those physical symptoms to check that you’re not clenching your fist, you’re not tightening your – 

Claire: Right, your shoulders aren’t by your ears.

Joy: Yeah, Sometimes I’ll be sitting at work and I’ll just notice that I’m scrunching my shoulders or something is flexed. That kind of goes into what we were just talking about. Even those little things contribute to an already stressful year. Everything has been upended over the past 12 months. I encourage everyone – I’ll link the article in our show notes, but one of the quotes says, “We’re at more risk of burnout because of the circumstances and because of the fact that we’re continually retraumatized and reactivating that cortisol spike.” So it’s uncertainty, it’s stress, it’s “when’s this going to end,” it’s not knowing when it’s going to end. I think when we were six months into this, we were reading articles like this and we were like, “Yeah…” But now it’s go time. We really need to make sure that we’re at least checking in with those small things to take one less thing off your body.

Claire: Yeah, and I feel like there is so much to be said for, you know how when you go on vacation you get sick? Not you. But when you just run, run, run, run, run, and then the second you put your guard down you get a cold or whatever?

Joy: Totally.

Claire: I almost feel that way with the vaccine coming out where there was this light at the end of the tunnel. I kind of felt that way in December/January, and then coming into February it kind of hit. Even though I knew and had read and had been told that this isn’t going to change anything in the near term, I heard that and it went in one ear and out the other because I didn’t want that to be the case. I wanted so badly for this to be like, we’re there, we made it. And I felt that a lot when Brandon got vaccinated. We made it. And then to be six weeks out from Brandon being vaccinated and be like, our life hasn’t changed at all. That is the way it should be. That’s how we knew it was going to go, but just the reality of that I think I was in disbelief that we still have months and months and months to go. So it almost was like I let my guard down for a minute in January, and my body was like, “Psych.” The second you let your guard down, you lose that momentum. I just have felt the last week that everything just feels harder. And I also very much personally have a lot of comparative suffering as a mom because I see all these other women who are having to work from home with no childcare whatsoever. They’re juggling their kids’ online school and all that stuff. In reality, my work from home situation when it comes to parenting could not be more ideal. We have a live-in nanny. I’m not worried about where she’s going out after she leaves the house. I’m not worried about her exposing the kids. She lives at our house, she takes care of the kids. If I have a meeting that starts early, she gets up early. If Brandon’s call goes late, she’s able to stay on a little bit later if we ask her to. She’s so flexible. All of this is like, yeah, I’ve had it made in the shade when it comes to childcare. And I hate being home all the time.

Joy: Right.

Claire: My kids still come in. I’m still sort of half parenting a lot of the days, and they are as needy as ever because they don’t see other kids all that much. I’ve mentioned Miles has this very low-key preschool that he goes to sometimes.

Joy: But you’re their main social interaction, and you’re mom.

Claire: I don’t care how good you are a Legos. You can’t play with a kid the way other kids can play with them, and they don’t get the same out of it. So I’ve had to really just try to remind myself, yes, you could have had it worse. There are a lot of people out there who have had it way worse than you, but that doesn’t mean that it’s been easy, and that doesn’t mean that it’s been ideal, and that doesn’t mean that, you know. The thing that I hate about any of this is when anyone’s like, “Well, you signed up for this.” No one on this planet signed up for this. I don’t care what the job is.

Joy: Who’s saying you signed up for this?

Claire: A lot of people have said parents, especially moms, “Well, if you didn’t want to have to do this, then you shouldn’t have had kids.”

Joy: Who says that?

Claire: You know, people in comment sections. It’s the same thing with Brandon. When I was like, “Well, I’m worried that Brandon’s going to get COVID at work,” and they’re like, “Well, he’s a nurse. He should have known when he took this job.” Those types of comments where you’re like no one on this planet signed up to be a part of this pandemic. No one saw this coming. No one knew when they made any previous life decision that this was going to happen. I don’t even care if you’re an epidemiologist who specializes in respiratory pandemics. Even you did not sign up for this.

Joy: So here’s the other thing too is we are not set up for success for any of these professions.

Claire: No.

Joy: So nurses, doctors have quit. Unfortunately you hear horrible stories about people passing away by suicide because they’re so overwhelmed because the system doesn’t, isn’t, or maybe still isn’t supporting them. And by that I just mean supplies and staff, asking people to work two days in a row. I don’t think they have been supported in a way that makes this job sustainable. On top of a really already stressful situation being like, “Hey, we’re going to pay for your time off if you have to take time off” or whatever the case may be. “We’re going to pay for your kid’s childcare right now,” whatever it is. Same with mothers. The system is not set up to support mothers in a pandemic for crying out loud. Don’t even get me started. So for the assholes out there that are like, “Well you signed up for this,” it’s like, yeah no. The system is so unsupportive of all these professions that are in the eye of the storm. It’s like, ugh, go home trolls.

Claire: Go home trolls. And I think most people really acknowledge that and know that about everyone else around them that things have been uniquely hard for different people for different reasons. And I can honor that other moms are having to start their third-grade science project while they’re on a meeting with their boss, and I’m really lucky to be able to work from home, have flexible bosses who understand I need to go pick my kid up. They themselves have kids that they’re going to go pick up. You know, all of the above. While still acknowledging that I don’t want to be home. I’m glad that I can work from home, but I don’t want to be here. I want to be at work. I want to be in an office with other people. Yeah, my kids are young enough that I don’t have to worry about their school, but that also means I’ve got to find other stuff for them to do all day. The grass is always greener, but I think that comparative suffering thing really caught up with me this past week. Because I started to feel worse than I have recently, my brain immediately was like, “Yeah, but you know, it could be worse.” It’s like, f*** you, brain.

Joy: Why do you think we comparatively suffer?

Claire: Because I think we’re taught to do that. I think we’re taught to say, “Oh, well at least you’re still alive.” And it’s like, okay, true I guess.

Joy: But did you die?

Claire: But did you die? Exactly, right. That’s the joke, but it’s kind of not the joke. We talked about this last week about not being able to process difficult emotions or not knowing how to process cognitive dissonance or not knowing how to process being wrong. I think that also we as a society have not really ever been modeled very good processing skills or validating skills. I don’t think we’ve had validating skills modeled. Somebody comes to you and says, “Man, I’m having a crappy day,” and you say, “Wow, that sounds hard. I hate crappy days. Tell me about it.” Instead you say, “Oh, you’re having a crappy day? I got a flat tire and ran out of gas and a bird pooped on my head.” They’re like, “Okay, I guess that’s true. I guess a bird didn’t poop on my head, so.” And what’s the balance between having perspective to realize, yes, things could be worse. I’m grateful for what I have. While not also invalidating the feelings.

Joy: Yeah, exactly. The first thing we always go to is “at least you…” I shouldn’t say “we all,” but that’s a common response of trying to cheer people up instead of being like, “Dang, that just sucks. That just sucks.” I recently – who was I talking to? Oh. So after JT retired, I had a really hard couple of days. It was just really emotional for me. I was emotional at work because everyone shared such beautiful stories and I was crying all day. And then the next day I didn’t anticipate it being so hard. But when I got to work, him not being there, it hit me that he had retired. So I was just really teary that morning, and one of my coworkers was checking in on me. I’m like, “I just didn’t think it was going to hit me this hard.” I was just so dang teary. She was like, “Yeah, being a human is hard.”

Claire: Yeah.

Joy: That was the most perfect response. Michelle, that is the most simple and brief and accurate response I think I’ve ever heard.

Claire: Totally.

Joy: Also, I work with therapists. They always know what to say. “Yeah, being a human is really hard.”

Claire: As you know, we got some not so great health news about someone in my family earlier last week. That hit me a lot harder than I expected it to. And I was talking to my friend Heather, who we now talk about all the time because she is the only other friend that I see –

Joy: Hey, Heather. Let’s go on a hike.

Claire: I was like, “Yeah, I don’t know why this is hitting me so hard.” And she was like, “Don’t feel bad about it hitting you hard. I cried for an hour because a cat I didn’t even know died.” That to me was, we’re all in it right now. Things that are sad are feeling a lot sadder. Things that are harder are feeling a lot harder. And I need to just cope with that. So let’s talk about marriages during pandemic as well because I feel like that’s also something that for the past, you know, maybe the holidays felt at least a little bit of a break from your routine that you either got to fight a new fight for a month or were distracted to not be fighting or whatever. But I feel like it’s been such a hard year for so many reasons to be at home with somebody who, you know, not that you don’t love your spouse but you didn’t also sign up to be at home with them 24/7 365 either. So both of us listened recently to that Brené Brown episode where she had the Gottmans on. If you’re not familiar with the Gottmans, they are basically marriage researchers or relationship researchers.

Joy: Yeah, they’re very well known in the psychology world for couple’s therapy.

Claire: Right. If you’ve ever heard “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” for bivorces, or the book Eight Dates, or they have all these different books.

Joy: They have tons of books. They’ve been around forever. When I was in grad school, we learned about the Gottmans. Anything that we talk about with couple’s therapy, the Gottmans are kind of at the heart of it. They have an amazing story about how they did some research with – this is so cool – but they had a research lab where they would have couples live in this apartment where people could observe them. Obviously this is a study that they’re agreeing to do, so it’s not like they are spying on them. But they are setting up this apartment where they would observe couples overnight and how they interacted and what they said to each other, and oftentimes they would get in fights. I’m sure they were coached to try to be as normal as possible. Don’t do anything, don’t try to look perfect. Don’t pretend like everything –

Claire: That would be so hard.

Joy: Oh, so hard. What they found was what they call the four horsemen of the apocalypse. With 99% accuracy, they can predict if they saw one of these four characteristics –

Claire: Behaviors.

Joy: Behaviors. They can predict with 99% – it’s 96% or 99%, some insane accuracy – whether or not that couple would stay together.

Claire: Within like three years too, right? Not like 30 years down the road. Whether or not in three years you would still be married.

Joy: Right. Without fail, if they saw this. 

Claire: Without intervention.

Joy: Right.

Claire: Anyway, Brené Brown has these two people on her podcast last week. It’s a great episode if you want to listen to it. A huge premise of the episode is it’s been a really hard year for couples and for marriages and for romantic relationships. What can we do? So that got me to thinking about a lot of, I mean people are always asking us for marriage hacks. So on the more lighthearted side, I don’t really have any new marriage hacks, but I will say one thing that felt very validating to me when I listened to that episode was them talking about them using “I” language and asking for positives instead of pointing the finger and speaking a negative. So saying like, “I’m upset.” The example she used in the podcast was, “I’m upset because you didn’t clean the kitchen.” Or, “I’m upset because the kitchen is dirty. Will you please clean it?” It’s like I’m upset. Here’s the tangible why. Here’s what I need from you so that you can be the star of the show and fix this problem for me. Not I’m upset because you didn’t clean the kitchen. I’m upset because the kitchen is dirty. Will you please clean it?

Joy: Giving the action. Like, what can we do? Instead of just being angry, what can we do to fix it? What do I need from you?

Claire: As opposed to, “You’re a slob. You never clean the kitchen. Don’t ever leave your dirty dishes on the table again.”

Joy: Right. It’s a personal attack.

Claire: Right, it’s a personal attack. Now you’ve made it about them. Now you’ve made it like, don’t ever do this again. Even though you may feel that way, I think that one thing I took away from that episode was, okay, we do that. We use “I” statements, I try to ask for things in the positive, we make it about the situation and not about the person. But I think a big thing in the past couple of weeks that has been helpful for us is really checking in and not making assumptions about really anything anyone’s going to do. I think that’s a reflection of everyone feeling so tapped out that it’s hard to have unspoken expectations about someone, and it’s hard to feel like there are unspoken expectations being made of you. So being awkwardly upfront. It drives Brandon crazy because at the end of the night, I’ll lay in bed and I’ll go through the next day in my head. To the point where it will be 10:30 and I’m like, “Hey Brandon, did you defrost the pork chops for tomorrow?” Every night, do we have everything we need for tomorrow?

Joy: You’re planning ahead for tomorrow.

Claire: He got used to it. But at first, he was like, “Why are you asking me this?” Because I need to know what we’re going to have for dinner tomorrow night before I fall asleep. But that is really helpful because then I feel like a lot of our fights are starting from me being like, “You didn’t do x, y, x,” and him being like, “Well you didn’t ask me to.” And me thinking, “I shouldn’t have to ask. You should do it.”

Joy: It’s a mind reader phenomenon. And that’s very common, females tend to think that males should read their mind or know what they’re thinking. It’s really interesting. We can’t read each other’s minds, and you have to use your words. There’s that fallacy that we see on social media and television over the years of the perfect couple and you just live in your house, and it’s like Lucy and –

Claire: Although even Lucy and Ricky had their tiffs. 

Joy: Lucy and Ricky did have their tiffs. But that is so not what we do, and I’ve just been thinking a lot about that lately because I saw on Instagram today I just passed through someone getting engaged. It was some movie star that got engaged. It’s like, “Oh it’s so cute,” and you immediately have that reaction of, “Oh my gosh, they must have the perfect relationship.” Kind of jump to that assumption that everything’s perfect. Oh my gosh, nothing is perfect. No one has that “perfect” relationship. But back to what you were saying about marriage hacks and how to work with your partner, especially during this time. Definitely go listen to that Brené Brown episode with the Gottmans. If you’re not familiar with the work, one of my favorite books is The Seven Principles to a Highly Effective Marriage. You can get it on Amazon. It’s just amazing because they have a lot of good questions in there that you can start thinking about. It’s doesn’t take a lot of brain space if you don’t want it to. But everything they have, they have a great website, they have an institute. The Gottman Institute. You can get trained to be a Gottman couple’s therapist. I personally love doing couple’s therapy. I think it’s one of the best things you can do for a couple, to figure out what makes them tick and how to get them on a better path. But on a funny note, five minutes ago you were talking about when someone will go, “You have it bad? What about this?” Scott does that sometimes, and it drives me up the wall. Like the other day, I’ll just give you a personal example. I don’t think he’d care that I share this. The other day, he was talking about he hit a wall, the pandemic wall. I think this was, Claire, before you mentioned that you were like, “Oh my God, I’m just really hitting a wall.” He came home. He was like, “I’m just really hitting a wall. Every day feels like Groundhog Day. I do the same thing. I go to work in my office at home. I walk the dog.” Just kind of complaining he doesn’t leave the house. And I think, too, Scott’s feeling not left out but just more scared because I have the vaccine, my parents are getting the vaccine, his parents are getting the vaccine. So he’s feeling like –

Claire: He and I can chat about everybody we know being vaccinated and that we aren’t going to get vaccinated until like August. 

Joy: Exactly. He’s like, [in whiney voice] “Guys, what about me?” So I feel like he’s just feeling it. So he’s like, “I’m just so frustrated.” I said, “Yeah, I totally get it.” And he goes, “I don’t think you do.” And I just blew up. I said, “Can’t I just try to empathize and try to be nice? Why do you always have to do that?” 

Claire: I know. I do that to Brandon thought, too, where I’m like, “You don’t get it.” So what he has started saying instead is, “I don’t understand what you’re going through, but I can tell that’s really hard.” Because he totally has said, “I get it, I get that this is hard.” I’m like, “You don’t get that this is hard. You still get to leave the house. You still get to see people.” 

Joy: And that’s what he says to me. “You’ve left the house.”

Claire: Exactly, I mean me and Scott are pals when it comes to this.

Joy: You totally are. You’re the same person. And the thing where I got mad is I’m like, you know what I mean. I’m not trying to say exactly, but yeah, it was just one of those moments where I got so pissed. “I’m just trying to be nice, stop.”

Claire: And I feel like it’s so hard, too, when you’re in that because if you weren’t his wife, he never would have turned that around on anyone else. It’s that, I’m comfortable enough with you that I’m going to throw this back in your face. If I was saying that even to my mom, and she I don’t think would say that, but any other person, even you, somebody if they were like, “I know how you feel,” I’d be like, “Yeah, it’s tough>” I wouldn’t be like, “No, you don’t know.” But I do say that to Brandon.

Joy: Yes, but you have to let that out somewhere because you’re just angry. 

Claire: It feels invalidating too to be like, no, I’m describing a unique set of problems. I uniquely am hurt by this. I am in a uniquely terrible situation. Please acknowledge that I’m the only one who feels pain and that it’s worse than everyone else’s pain. Sometimes you just want someone else to be like, “Yeah, I don’t know anyone else that has it as hard as you right now.” And you’re like, “Thank you. Yes, I suffer uniquely.” And even, I mean, that sounds silly, but guys, think to yourself right now –

Joy: It’s validation. It’s feelings validation too.

Claire: If someone came to you and you were having a bad day and you explained to them what was going on and they said, “Yeah, I don’t think I know anyone else who has it as hard as you today,” how good that would feel actually.

Joy: Oh, that feels so good. That feels so good.

Claire: I feel like shit and I am validated, I am justified.

Joy: I have a trophy waiting for you.

Claire: I have the worst day award waiting for me when I get back home in the shape of a giant cookie.

Joy: I was going to say, a big bowl of ice cream and a cookie, a cake. Yeah, you get the worst day award.

Claire: Even though you would know, yes of course other people in this planet are always having it worse than you. And we’ve even gone in the other direction and be like, okay, well does that mean you can’t be happy because other people have it better than you? No, nobody thinks that. But we do think I can’t be sad.

Joy: it’s fine to compare, but at the end of the day you’ve still got to have your feelings.

Claire: And it would feel so good for someone to be like, “Yeah, you’re having the hardest day of anyone I can think of right now.”

Joy: I’m sending you tacos right now.

Claire: Thank you. I am, dang it. I feel like that wasn’t so much a marriage hack section as it was a marriage complaining section.

Joy: Well I have a couple more funny things I need to tell you. I don’t know if you remember this from my birthday party forever ago when Michelle DeWitt bought me these little cards and then everyone pass them around the table. They’re just – 

Claire: Tarot cards.

Joy: I don’t know, tarot cards. And so every once in a while, I’ll put it out and pick one. And I picked one and the card was “nurture.” This is literally right before we were recording and the little caption with it is –

Claire: Today, just no you pulled it?

Joy: Yeah, before we recorded. “The nurture card reminds you to tend the garden. Relationships must be nourished in order to thrive.” I was like, “Oh my God, we’re talking about relationships.”

Claire: Go away, tarot card.

Joy: It says, “Count the abundant blessings of the relationships you have. Find ways to let other people know that you care for them and appreciate them.” I thought that was really funny. I was like, “Oh my God, my tarot card is totally predicting the topic.” The other funny thing that I do – well actually it’s not funny, but this is something that Scott and I have just determined, that when I say, “No more questions. Don’t ask me any more questions.” And when I’m at work all day, this is where it’s hard too because he wants to talk. I come home, he’s been home all day, and especially now with the pandemic. I think I’m trying to do a better job of talking – well, we have conversations, but it’s especially when he’s watching a basketball game and he wants to pause and show me the players’ outfits as they’re walking in every five minutes. And I’m like, “Okay, okay. You get two more rewinds, and then let’s call it a night.” But those are the moments where I’m full. I can’t handle any more interaction and I have to give him that sign. Otherwise he gets really upset. He’s like, “You don’t want to talk to me?” You know?

Claire: It’s like, it’s not that I don’t want to talk to you. I just don’t want to talk. 

Joy: Yeah, exactly.

Claire: I don’t [UNCLEAR 00:37:54.19] that. I’m the Scott in this situation. The next time that happens, just tell Scott to call me and we’ll just talk, and I’ll ask him if he took the pork chops out of the freezer yet. Scott, what are we having for dinner tomorrow night?

Joy: That’s so funny. I’m going to read a quick run through and I’ll link this too, “The Top 7 Ways to Improve Your Marriage.” This is from the Gottman Institute, is to seek help early, which is so hard. But it says the average couple waits six years before seeking help for relationship problems, so don’t let it fester. And I think the longer you wait, the harder it is to really work things out. So don’t feel like it’s a failure. I think it’s healthy to go to counseling as a couple before you get married, but don’t worry about judgement or that you’re failing. “Edit yourself. The most successful couples are kind to each other. They avoid saying every critical though then discussing touchy topics, and they will find ways to express their needs and concerns respectfully without criticizing or blaming their partner. Soften your start up. Arguments often start up because one partner escalates the conflict by making a critical or contemptuous remark.” This is like me when I blew up, when I was like, “Ugh, I’m just trying to be nice.” It just blew up out of nowhere.

Claire: Fair.

Joy: It blew up out of nowhere. “Accept influence from your partner. In studying heterosexual marriages, we found that a relationship succeeds to the extent that the husband can accept influence from his wife. For instance, a woman might say to her husband, ‘Do you have to work Thursday night? My mother’s coming that weekend, and I need your help getting ready.’ He replies, ‘My plans are set, and I’m not changing them.’ As you might guess, this guy is in a shaky marriage. A husband’s ability to be influenced by his wife rather than vice versa is crucial because research shows that women are already well-practiced at accepting influence from men. A true partnership only occurs when a husband can do the same thing.”

Claire: Does number four feel a little outdated to you?

Joy: Not really.

Claire: Really?

Joy: It doesn’t in this context. This is only a few years old. But I see what they’re saying at the end is women are already the type of personality that we can accept influence from others. 

Claire: See, I feel like the gender roles of that might not be accurate. I feel like those roles are reversed in my relationship.

Joy: In your relationship, yeah, that’s actually very true. But I think in general I could see how-

Claire: I could see in general how one person in the relationship may be more or less than the other person so it is just more of Person A versus Person B.

Joy: Totally.

Claire: Or as Sandy would say the Alpha and the Omega maybe.

Joy: Right.

Claire: But I definitely, I think that… yeah. Anyway, just wanted to call that out. 

Joy: Totally. Well I think from the study we can just generalize that to accepting your partner, accepting influence.

Claire: And a lot of this information, a lot of their research took place in the 80’s and 90’s too, didn’t it?

Joy: For sure. Yeah, yeah. And most of their research from what I can tell so far, I think they may have done more recent research with LGBTQ+, but some of the research that I’ve been reading is just from their earlier studies. “Have high standards. Happy couples have high standards for each other. Learn to repair and exit the argument. Happy couples have learned how to exit an argument or how to repair the situation before an argument gets completely out of control.” And seven, “Focus on positives. In a happy marriage while discussing problems, couples make at least five times as many positive statements to and about each other and their relationship as negative ones.” Do you have “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” pulled up?

Claire: Yeah, so it’s criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. So, “Criticizing your partner is different than offering critique or voicing a complaint. The ladder two are about specific issues where the former is an ad hominem attack.” So the difference is, “Complaint: ‘I was scared when you were running late and didn’t call me. I thought we agreed we would do that for each other.’ Criticism: ‘You never think about how your behavior is affecting other people. I don’t believe you’re that forgetful. You’re just selfish. You never think of others.’”

Joy: So can you see the difference between criticism and complaint? It’s like, what your reaction was factually versus, “You’re an idiot” type of thing.

Claire: And kind of what we talked about a second ago in the kitchen situations of, “Hey, the kitchen’s dirty. You said you were going to clean it. Will you please clean it?” As opposed to –

Joy: “You’re so inconsiderate.”

Claire: Yeah, “You never clean anything. You’re just a slob.” “Contempt. When we communicate in this state we are truly mean. We treat others with disrespect, mock them with sarcasm, ridicule, call them names, and mimic or use body language such as eye rolling or scoffing. The target of contempt is made to feel despised and worthless. Contempt goes far beyond criticism. While criticism attacks your partner’s character, contempt assumes a position of moral superiority over them.” Here’s the example, “‘You’re tired. Cry me a river. I’ve been with the kids all day.’” A bird pooped on my head, what happened to you? [laughing] “‘I don’t have time to deal with you. Could you be any more pathetic?’”

Joy: Yeah. Again, these are the ones in their labs they have been able to predict –

Claire: Is the single greatest predictor of divorce.

Joy: Yeah, single greatest.

Claire: Again guys, this is all stuff you can hear and listen to and find in the Gottman stuff. We’re just kind of running through it quickly. The third one is defensiveness, which is pretty straightforward. And then the fourth one is stonewalling., which is –

Joy: Just not talking.

Claire: It says, “Usually a response to contempt. It occurs when the listener withdraws from the interaction, shuts down, simply stops responding to their partner.”

Joy: This is different from saying, “I need a break, can we reconvene in ten minutes?” This is just totally shutting down, not talking, blocking them. And the other thing that I want to call out. I’ll hopefully remember all these links is Brené put a really cool graphic on her Instagram that kind of talks about –

Claire: The antidotes.

Joy: The antidotes to these four horsemen.

Claire: And particularly in a pandemic world. 

Joy: Yes. And also really acknowledging how hard it is for people right now that, you’re either doing really well in quarantine, meaning you’re like “Wow, you’re actually not a bad quarantine partner” or you’re like –

Claire: Those are few and far between. Most people are at each other’s throats. To go back to feeling like you’ve hit a wall, the New York Times came out with something last week. It was called “Working Mothers Let Out a Primal Scream” or something like that. There was an accompanying piece to it where they interviewed some working-from-home moms with kids, and one of the quotes from it was, “None of the activities I use to ‘fill my cup’ are available to me anymore.” And I think that’s also a huge part of all of this, whether it’s your marriage or whatever, is we’re still on that train of there’s only so much baking I can do, there’s only so many times you can hide in the bathroom, there’s only so many baths or face masks or whatever. And I know the baths and the face mask thing is just self-care, whatever. But when you’re home, that’s kind of what you’ve got. For me, I would always say, “Yeah, I love baking” or whatever. There’s only so much damn baking that I can do, and then I still have to clean the kitchen. That’s not fun. So. Yeah. You can’t go out with your friends. I feel like in the summer too was easier when you could do more stuff.

Joy: Right, feel like you’re still being safe but you’re outside. Like window shopping or something.

Claire: Yeah. You could go on a hike, or you could at least see your friends on the other side of a trail.

Joy: Right. Can we end on a positive note?

Claire: Yeah.

Joy: We were talking about one of my new favorite podcasts last week, Gloss Angeles, and one of the listeners let them know that we talked about them and was like, “Hey Gloss Angeles girls, Joy and Claire were talking about you on their podcast.” Kirby from that show emailed us.

Claire: So cute.

Joy: And was like, “Oh my gosh, you guys mentioned us. We’re a newish podcast. We’d love to collaborate.” And I was like, this is amazing. I love how podcasts really bring people together. So I just have to give that great update. I was like, “I love your show. I love products. I love California. Can I come live with you?” So that’s really exciting. TBD on how we will collab, but I am very excited about that. And here’s one of the sins I have to confess because I got into this podcast, and I know it’s a show on MTV. I probably wouldn’t be watching this, but I’m listening to the audio version of Catfish. It is unbelievable the amount of people that are pretending to be other people on the internet and develop relationships for like five years.

Claire: What?

Joy: I’m not kidding. And these people will be like, “Yeah, he just never wanted to talk on the phone.”

Claire: For five years?

Joy: Yes, I’m not kidding.

Claire: And they’re like, “Yeah, you know, whatever happens…”

Joy: I mean, there’s a part of me in my heart where I’m like, these people are just so vulnerable or maybe they have low self-esteem. So my heart goes out to them. I’m not making fun of them. But there’s a point where I’m like, some of these stories are just unbelievable. So if you want to just zone out to some crazy –

Claire: I blame the other people in their lives. I’m not blaming them. I’m blaming their best friend who’s not like, “Girl, you haven’t even spoken to him in real life in four years. What are you still doing talking to him?”

Joy: For sure.

Claire: Get her best friend on the phone.

Joy: Where is that best friend who’s like, “Dump him ASAP. You never met the guy.”

Claire: Where is the best friend who’s like, “Don’t you just think you should FaceTime him one time? Don’t you feel… this isn’t a red flag?” 

Joy: I mean, one of the ways –

Claire: You can talk to prisoners on the phone.

Joy: Yeah, oh my gosh, yeah, I know. One of the ways they find out someone is being catfished is that they’ll take the profile picture that the person used as their profile picture and they’ll search to see if it’s just a stock photo or a first image. So one catfish was about this teenage couple or whatever. He was like, “I’m going to search ‘hot teenage boy abs.’” He’s like, “I’m really embarrassed I just said that.” He’s like, “That’s never something I’m going to Google.” He’s like, the first photo that came up was the photo of the catfish dude. It’s just a world that I’m amazed.

Claire: Sounds very you.

Joy: But here’s the thing. Here’s the thing. I dodged a bullet because I – I don’t think I ever told you this – but when I was in high school was when email, the internet was starting to come out. So right at 1996 is when I started college, and I think the internet was the end of that year when it was really booming or at least starting. And AOL Instant Message was the thing.

Claire: Oh yeah.

Joy: So I was talking to people on the internet. This was kind of before – at least for my situation, thank God, that people really didn’t know or weren’t savvy enough to figure out how to dupe people online. So I met some people – it’s such a weird story. But I met this guy in a chatroom. We became really good friends. We would spend hours on the phone. I went to visit him. I flew out to see him, stayed with him at a house on the campus. And my parents just let me do it. There’s part of me that’s like, how on earth – but back in the day, there wasn’t enough information to be like, this is a bad choice.

Claire: Right. It wasn’t like you’re going to end up in a ditch.

Joy: But there’s a part of me that’s like I could have.

Claire: Yeah, you totally could have.

Joy: I mean, we spent hours and hours and hours on the phone. Here’s the other thing I guess that makes it kind of legit is because that’s how I met my best friend in college is because he was like, “Oh, my best friends go to ASU. You should hang out with them.” So I ended up hanging out with them. We became best friends.

Claire: So you knew he was a real person?

Joy: Yes, yes, yes.

Claire: That’s legit.

Joy: He’s awesome, and I became best friends with these guys, ended up being my roommates senior year and was the boyfriend that got away.

Claire: Woah.

Joy: Isn’t that crazy?

Claire: Okay, okay, the one that you were dating while you were living with him already because you kind of quasi-hid it from your other roommates.

Joy: Totally, totally.

Claire: Oh my goodness.

Joy: I miss being young.

Claire: I know, right.

Joy: So funny. It’s so funny. I could have been catfishes, but that was way before that was a thing. Alright, what else do we have? Are we done? Is this it? Did we give you enough coping skills?

Claire: Validations. And if you need to hear it, man, I don’t know anyone else who is having as hard of a day as you. It’s okay to be just miserable today.

Joy: Yeah, the worst day. You’re having the worst day, and you win. That’s the worst.

Claire: You win. Or if you need to hear this, you’re doing awesome. No one is as good as you at all the things you’ve done today.

Joy: All the things you’ve done. Your hair looks amazing.

Claire: Amazing.

Joy: Your teeth are so white.

Claire: You smell like Oprah. And I’m just amazed by how amazing you are.

Joy: You’re glowing.

Claire: Despite all the other stuff you have going on.

Joy: Yeah, you’re just glowing. You’re really glowing.

Claire: Glowing and smelling like Oprah.

Joy: Guys, I have a small request. If you have any questions or want some tips or where to go for help with couples, please let me know because I’m really happy to point you in the direction to, not just for individual counseling but if you need some resources for couples.

Claire: Joy Parrish, real life therapist.

Joy: I love couple’s counseling. It’s so fun – I shouldn’t say fun because that’s not what I mean. But it is, I love doing it.

Claire: You know what, the fact that you just talked about how much you love catfish and now how fun couple’s counseling is, red flag to me.

Joy: Don’t trust this counselor.

Claire: Don’t trust her. She wants to watch you flail.

Joy: Yeah. Not credible, not credible. Alright guys.

Claire: Alright.

Joy: Have a great week. Talk to you next time.

Claire: Bye.

Joy: Bye.

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