Parenthood changes relationships.
With small people to focus on, less sleep, less time together, new challenges and stress, and your own massive transformation (matrescence), your relationship with your partner takes the strain.
Many women feel alone, disconnected, unseen, and underappreciated at some point along the way.
If this is you right now, I’m SO glad you are here.
I’m delighted to introduce you to Nathalie Biviano, Marriage and Life Coach from Spine Tingling Marriage. Nathalie helps married mamas feel valued, seen, and supported by their husbands and she has joined me on the blog to share her passion, energy, and expertise.
You’re going to love this.
1. Hi Nathalie! Can you please tell us a little about you and your family, and why you are so passionate about helping women have better relationships?
I married my mechanic (got a full service, wink wink); it’s our 17th year together. We left Sydney’s hampster-wheel circuit in 2005. Life on the Gold Coast now with 11yo daughter and 8 yo son is pretty cruisy. But of course, it wasn’t always that way, ha!
Our connection evaporated when our first baby was 6 months old. The turbulent trifecta: a baby, my dad’s terminal illness, not feeling valued as a SAHM. It curled me one night into a defeated foetal position, and I just sobbed. I put it down to the shock of drowning in new territory and having little to no skills on how to steer the ship. I decided to figure it out.
After studying the habits of masters vs disasters in marriage – seeing change in my own marriage – I knew I could help others. Though I suffered severely from impostor syndrome as my self-worth and self-confidence had descended when I transitioned to motherhood.
That’s why I am so passionate to help women be seen and supported; because when they feel someone has their back — they feel they can take on the world. And I’m a firm believer that everything starts at home. If the teamwork between husband and wife is solid, this trickles everywhere: parenting, other relationships, careers, business.
2. From your personal and professional experience, what is the biggest obstacle for women when it comes to getting what they want and need in their relationship?
The two biggest obstacles for women I’ve observed are:
a) Enduring “masculine-itis”
This is out of balance masculine energy (the suffix “itis” means inflammation to the masculine parts of us). This stems from hyper independence; a by-product of the messages we received growing up: “Straight A’s, so conscientious! You can do whatever you want! You’re an independent woman, you don’t even need a man! Degree = good job = financial independence = success. Uni, globe-trot, live abroad – go get ’em, girl!”
How masculinitis plays out marriage:
- Women over function (i.e. do it all as they don’t know how to ask for / receive help).
- Their worth/value is tethered to their productivity (i.e. the more I do, the more I’ll be valued)
- They’re exhausted from doing, doing, doing.
- Yet, they haven’t exercised the skill of asking for what they need.
- Which eventuates in resentment, frustration, disappointment.
- Back to over functioning. Rinse, repeat.
b) Fearing Rejection / Abandonment
The reason why women hold off from asking for what they need is that they fear they will be criticised, judged, accused of wanting too much. I.e. they fear rejection. “It’s too risky to ask – I might be rejected – I just won’t bother asking”
As a result, women hold onto the anger, resentment, sadness, in their bodies – and carry on.
How this plays out for her in her relationship and life:
- She puts herself last
- Needs the approval of others
- People pleases
- Makes sure everything is perfect
- Tries to control other people
- Doubts higher wisdom (intuition).
The antidote to overcoming these obstacles is: building a better relationship with:
- Healing masculine energy
- Herself; accepting not rejecting all parts of herself.
3. In your line of work, you must understand men really well. Tell us the secrets! What do we need to know?
Men are really simple. Here are 3 secrets about men… (Shhhhh don’t tell your husband that you know! Just surprise him instead)
Secret 1: Men’s currency is respect
Anything that feels disrespectful will make him shut down, withdraw, stay silent, distance himself. For example:
- Interrupting him / talking over him
- Undermining his decision-making skills
- Eye rolling (this is emasculation. Emasculation = disrespect)
NB: Women’s currency is to be emotionally understood.
Secret 2: Mens’ underpinning drive: “Did I do good here?”
Just like a puppy dog that is eager to jump, do tricks, wag his tongue, and just wants an “atta boy” pat, men have the same underpinning to earn points in the relationship.
They want to know: “Have I done a good job?”
NB: Women’s underpinning drive is “Am I safe here?”
Secret 3: He wants to make you happy
Your man genuinely wants to make you happy. He chose you to build his life with.
You are his world. He too is going through the adjustment and stress of transitioning; and is also doing his best to hold the fort in marriage, parenting, career, social circles.
Takeaway: When respect is removed, he will shut down and withdraw. It will seem that “he doesn’t even try”. He doesn’t try simply because he feels he can’t win (disappointing you feels like failure, so he doesn’t even bother).
4. Many women would like more help and support from their partners, but feel they shouldn’t have to ask for it (why don’t they know already?!). Is this something you come across often and what advice do you have for women in this situation?
Here’s a 4th secret to men.
Men mostly operate in “single focus”. This is an evolutionary extension of caveman days: “I am laser focussed on hunting that gazelle; this is my only priority now: to provide so my family will survive”
Women operate with “diffuse awareness” ~ ie. they can see an overflowing bin, hear the kids’ squabbling, have a conversation on the phone with their boss, pay a bill and respond to an email all at the same time.
Brain scans of men’s and women’s brains highlight where neural connections are made and it confirms the theory of ‘single focus’ vs ‘diffuse awareness’.
So, from a single focus point of view… he genuinely may not see what you see.
If you have already asked so many times before… I’d be curious to know:
- Are you asking, or complaining/whinging?
- Are you requesting, or demanding?
There’s a difference, and it matters.
E.g. “It feels heavy for me when you all leave the table after dinner and the clean up is all on me. It feels unfair that I carry this load that we are all responsible for. We all eat, we all wear clothes, we all need to contribute to the process.”
5. Women are often accused of being too emotional by their partners, and often stay silent until their feelings are ready to explode. What’s your best tip for communicating in a way that gets the message across, honours our emotions, and maintains connection in the relationship?
Men’s default: solve problems. He feels he has to “fix” your problem.
Preface conversation with:
“You don’t need to do anything. You don’t need to fix or solve anything. I just want you to listen. Can you do this for me while I share what’s on my heart?”
My best tip to clients in this circumstance is to “rinse the yolk”.
What happens when you’ve had sunny side eggs and you don’t rinse the plate immediately? It’s just that much harder to get off.
Similar to expressing needs/disappointment/frustration.
Complaining is powerlessness verbalised. Meaning, we outsource our power when we complain. Complaints are unmet needs.
Ask yourself: What need is not being met?
E.g. When we finally have downtime, the kids are asleep, and we both scroll on the couch. I know you’re here — but I just feel so alone. I miss us. I miss you just asking me how I am. Right now I feel invisible and that I’m not a priority anymore.
When we make the implicit (what’s inside) explicit (externally express) – we don’t store the emotion. When we stay silent to avoid conflict the emotion accumulates and the inevitable release will be reactive vs proactive (intentional).
6. Many women feel disconnected from their partners after having children. What are some simple ways we can rebuild that closeness in our relationship?
“In every relationship, there is an expectation of the way things should be and an experience of the way things are. The pain in any relationship is usually represented by the gap between those two things.” – Zach Brittle, Marriage Therapist.
When we look at the pain gap — we need to ask ourselves two questions: Where can we adjust expectations? Where can we raise the experience?
When we examine the standards of “good wife, good mother, good daughter” we must explore its origins.
Here are two simple strategies to rebuild closeness in your relationship:
a) Redefine Expectations of Roles – question the shoulds
I should feed them only organic food.
I should put them in a sport instead of being on devices all afternoon.
I should take them to church.
I should be up early to make the kids’ + husband’s lunches.
I should check in on my mum and dad every 2 days.
Whenever we say “should” — pause. Ask yourself: Whose voice is actually speaking? Yours or someone else’s?
Be really honest and give yourself permission to listen to the shoulds based on your differentiated values, independent from your family of origin.
Discuss these newly defined roles with each other. When we change the T&Cs — we have to inform each other what’s going on. This is how we stay connected.
b) Be intentional and prioritise each other
Create habits that maintain connection.
Watering Wednesdays is a great start. They are weekly intention text/phone calls that say to our spouse: I appreciate you. I am thinking of you. You are in my thoughts. You matter to me.
Check out @spinetinglingmarriage highlights for rules on Watering Wednesday. As an extension of these phone calls, you can talk about scheduling date night, weekenders, have a little cheeky conversation about sexy time (even if you don’t do the act itself, just exchanging the energy in the conversation about it can keep you connected).
7. Lastly, what do we do when we’ve told our partners what we want and they don’t do anything about it?
If he hasn’t done anything about it, there are a few reasons why:
a) You haven’t conveyed how deeply this impacts you.
Hot Tip: Recruit with Vulnerability
b) He needs time to figure out how to provide this for you.
You can’t tell him what you need and also how he needs to do this. He is resourceful enough to figure it out
c) It’s not about you at all.
It’s more to do with this trauma on what’s holding him back. It’s not that he doesn’t love you or want to do something for you — something in his body stops him because on a primal level he feels unsafe to do so. In this case, I’d consider if the environment for him to carry this deed is safe for him to do so.
About Nathalie Biviano
In 2011, she became a stay-at-home mama. Fiercely grappling with this new identity and navigating marital conflict, she dedicated herself to marriage mastery. After turning her own marriage around, she started coaching women who were married to ‘good men’ but whose marriage was void of connection, communication, conflict resolution skills. Her mission is to elevate emotional intimacy in marriage and activate mama bear leadership in women by giving them maps to find themselves again. Nathalie believes women are the leaders and healers of the home. When they’re emotionally solid in their own voice and value, women will change the world.
You can download her free e-book to help deepen emotional intimacy: 5 Powerful Phrases Every Woman Should Master For Connected Conversations here: linktr.ee/