S07|05 - Empowering Couples in Parenting and Partnerships with Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-FifeSep 04, 2023
Stress in our marriages/partnerships can bring strain into our parenting, and vice versa. Typically, if we’re struggling with one, it’ll affect the other. How do we start to change the dance of marriage that we have been in for so long, and create a healthier partnership (even when our partners aren’t on board with changing with us)? Join Dr Jennifer Finlayson-Fyfe and I as we dig into healthy partnerships and leave you with tools that can start changing things today.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife is an LDS relationship and sexuality coach with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. Her teaching and coaching focus on helping LDS individuals and couples achieve greater satisfaction and passion in their emotional and sexual relationships.
What we talk about this episode:
- 3 tips to help us in our marriages that don’t have anything to do with changing our partner
- How gratitude can change the way we view things within our marriage.
- What resentment is trying to teach us, and how to use it to build a more equal partnership
- What to do when you’re not on the same page with your partner (in parenting, about partnership, sexuality etc.)
- How seeking for validation from our partner affects our partnership
- We touch on how to teach heathy sexuality to our children (and pornography prevention) and will be bringing another conversation around this (and teens and screens) to the podcast next week!!
Connect with Jennifer:
In addition to her private practice, Dr. Finlayson-Fife has created five empowering and highly-reviewed online courses. Each course was designed to give LDS individuals and couples the tools requisite to creating healthier lives and stronger intimate relationships. Dr. Finlayson-Fife also offers many workshops and retreats where she teaches these life-changing principles in person.
Dr. Finlayson-Fife is a frequent guest on LDS-themed podcasts on the subjects of sexuality, relationships, mental health, and faith. She is also the creator and host of Room for Two, a popular sex and intimacy coaching podcast.
Learn more about Dr. Finlayson-FIfe and her work by clicking HERE.
Coaching has changed my own life, and the lives of my clients. More connection, more healing, more harmony, and peace in our most important relationships. It increases confidence in any parenting challenges and helps you be the guide to teach your children the family values that are important to you- in clear ways. If you feel called to integrate this work in a deeper way and become a parenting expert, that’s what I’m here for.
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Crystal The Parenting Coach: Hi, I'm Crystal The Parenting Coach. Parenting is the thing that some of us just expected to know how to do. It's not like other areas of your life where you go to school and get taught, get on the job training, or have mentors to help you, but now you can get that help here.
I believe that your relationship with your children is one of the most important aspects of your life, and the best way that you can make a positive impact on the world and on the future. I've made parental relationships my life study, and I use life coaching tools, emotional wellness tools, and connection-based parenting to build amazing relationships between parents and their children.
If you want an even better relationship with your child, this podcast will help you. Take my Parenting Quiz, the link is in the show notes. Once we know what your parenting style is, we will send some tips tailored to you and a roadmap to help you get the most out of my podcast.
On today's podcast, I get to interview Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife all about empowering couples in parenting and partnerships.
Stress in our marriages and partnerships can bring strain into our parenting, and vice versa. Typically, if we're struggling with one, it'll affect the other. So, how do we start to change the dance of marriage that we've been doing for so long and create a healthier partnership – even when our partners aren't on board with changing with us?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife and I dig into healthy partnerships, and leave you with tools that you can start using to change today.
She's an LDS Relationship & Sexuality coach with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. Her teaching and coaching focus on helping LDS individuals and couples achieve greater satisfaction and passion in their emotional and sexual relationships.
In this episode, we will give you three tips to help in marriages that don't have anything to do with changing our partner.
She also talks about; how gratitude can change the way we view things within our marriage, what resentment is teaching us, what to do when you're not on the same page with your partner in parenting – partnership, sexuality, et cetera – how seeking for validation from our partner affects our partnership.
We also, in the end, touch a little bit on healthy sexuality for our children – how to teach it to our kids and pornography prevention – but then we decided we were going to do another conversation where we dig deeper into this. So, Part 2 is coming next week, all about that. So, tune in.
Hello everyone and welcome to the podcast today. I'm super excited to bring you a topic that has been coming up over and over again in coaching calls with my own clients; and this is our relationship with our partner, and our parenting affects our relationship with our partner…and our relationship with our partner affects our parenting. And they both just really go hand-in-hand.
And so, I wanted to bring on an expert that can talk to us about this; and I'm super excited to bring back to the podcast Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, and I will have her introduce herself.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Go ahead.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Hello.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Hi. Yeah, I'm Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife. Let's see, I live in Chicago. I have-- I got my PhD in Counseling Psychology, and I work with a lot of Latter-day Saints couples around improving the intimacy and-- emotional and sexual intimacy in their marriages, and how to help people kind of develop in their sense of self.
And so, I've done quite a bit of work because of that; on helping parents know how to talk to their kids to help their kids be more prepared for, and capable of and intimate partnership and intimate marriage. So, I primarily work with adults, but I work with adults around how to parent around some of these issues too.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Okay, I love that. And we're definitely going to dive into that as well because I have some questions around that. So, let's get into partner relationships; and then we'll also dig into some parenting and teen healthy sexuality stuff as well.
The biggest struggles for a healthy relationship
Crystal The Parenting Coach: So, first of all, having worked with so many couples – over and over and over again – what are kind of the top few things that you see are kind of the biggest struggles when it comes to having a healthy relationship?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Well, sort of just broadly, I think what interferes with our ability to create a marriage and a relationship that's collaborative and that feels like a sense of place of freedom has to do with our struggle to handle our sense of self without validation from our partner.
And that may seem like, what are you talking about? But what I mean is; we often are looking to our spouse, in particular, to tell us that who we are is sufficient, is okay – whether that's sexually, whether that's the way we parent.
And because we want so much to have that approval when we don't get it – which we often do not because we marry people that are different than us, who see the same issue with our child differently than we do – that it makes it very difficult to work together because we often get busy fighting our partner on the invalidation…on the way that they're not the way we think they should be, or that they don't tell us that who we are is okay.
And so, rather than the unintuitive thing in relationships of looking for where your partner is right about you and where you're blind to yourself – or looking for where they're getting the issues with your child better than you are, and looking at yourself – we tend to get on our own soap boxes and, you know, basically, make a case for our perspective.
And it's not that we don't have truth in our perspective, but it interferes with working together. And so, that reactivity – like John Gottman talks about – it's not the amount of difference in a couple, it's how people handle the difference that makes a big difference in people's happiness.
And so, when you're not getting that sense that your spouse is just there to back you up the whole way, it's what we do in response to that that often interferes with; the marital happiness, the sense of freedom there, the sense of being able to work together. And there's no place like parenting to bring these issues to the fore.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yes. And I feel like what you said, it's not intuitive to focus on the things that connect us – and that we agree with, and that our partner's doing well, and that we're not really maybe noticing – our brain wants to go to all of the reasons why they're wrong--
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: 100%.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: We're doing--
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Exactly. It's a terrible instinct, but yes.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Exactly. So, what do we do when we're here then – when we're at this place…we're like, 'Yeah, okay, I see that, but how do I direct my brain so that it feels more intuitive, so that we can then communicate more effectively?'?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Well, you know, it's really interesting when you look at other people's spouses or other people's children, we're often very aware of what they do well. And we're not really thinking about, 'Oh my gosh, that person's child is so whatever, what's wrong with my kid?' You know, we just--
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: We just tend to look in that way at others, but we don't look at our own; and in part, because it's coming back to this need for validation.
Well, I'm very critical of what my child doesn't get because I need my child to reflect well on me rather than just seeing them as an individual, like we might see somebody else's child.
And so, it's just kind of confronting that, first of all, I'm looking for where I'm not getting validation through my spouse, through my child because I'm needy – because I'm entitled.
And so, it's kind of pushing ourselves a little bit like; I'm not being fair, I'm not being loving. If I were to talk to a friend, they would see my spouse – usually, depending on what you're doing in your marriage – more favorably, right? They would see my child more favorably, and I'm just bringing this critical lens.
Okay, again, depends on what your disposition is because some people will kind of be unwilling to critique because they're afraid of looking honestly at a situation. But those people aside for a moment, so it's looking at; I'm entitled and I don't really see truthfully – I just see in terms of how it serves me.
How gratitude can change the way we view things within our marriage
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: So, I think there's a couple of antidotes to this, but the first is; gratitude. Right? Just like if my spouse were gone tomorrow, what are all the ways that this person blesses my life, makes my life better?
Does small things-- That maybe I take for granted now, but they make a big difference in my wellbeing, right? And when's the last time I actually acknowledge that to myself, at a minimum, and in front of my spouse – ideally – than I actually pushed my brain towards gratitude.
This is like the biggest hack in being happier in life, is to work against our limbic brain that's always looking for the next thing, the next thing, the next thing – rather than the myriad blessings we all enjoy right here, right now.
We're all thinking about everything that's wrong in the country rather than everything that's right – everything that, you know, people around us get wrong versus so many things that people get right. And just to train yourself, just a gratitude journal; people's happiness level goes up…their mental health goes up, their physical health goes up with a gratitude journal.
So just like every single day, write down 10 things you're grateful for about your spouse, about your child, about your life – very important.
The second thing-- And now I can't think of it, give one second, what was I going to say? Well, it's looking for where your spouse is right about you in a way you don't want to acknowledge.
That is that, okay, maybe they're saying some things that are wrong in their perspective. Maybe they're saying some things that are unfair, but what's the part in what they're saying that you know you need to deal with – you know is working against your child, if you're trying to deal with a parenting conflict.
Where are they right? And this is not to beat yourself up, but to get more truth on the table and more truth between you.
Truth is what will save a relationship; and yet, we avoid it like the plague because; it pressures us to grow up, it pressures us to take more responsibility, it pressures us to lose our ego and to acknowledge where our spouse is.
What's very typical in parenting struggles is parents get entrenched in opposite positions…so you have a parent who's overly critical, overly demanding – very typically – and then a coddling, placating parent.
And what happens is the more one placates, the more critical and demanding the other gets…and the more demanding and critical the other gets, the more placating the other one does.
So, meaning, they move into this kind of-- Both are dysfunctional, both are wrong – but they're having a fight, in a sense, at their kid's expense. And rather than, "Look, I can be too placating, I can be too coddling," and rather than, "It's all your fault, because if you weren't so demanding, I wouldn't be," not that.
But rather, "You're right that I don't back you up," and that's driving my spouse into more entrenchment, for example.
And so, starting to step towards the middle – or the spouse who's too critical saying, "No, you're right." And it's easy to do that when you placate, but that doesn't make it right.
And, "I'm going to stop doing that. I think we should hold standards, but I'm not going to be cruel."
And, you know, anytime you're stepping to the middle, you're taking what's truthful in your spouse's perspective and where in your heart you know you're off – and you're correcting it. And that's what allows people to move together and start taking up their own responsibility…vis-a-vis their child or their relationship, their marriage, whatever it is they're dealing with.
How seeking for validation from our partner affects our partnership
Crystal The Parenting Coach: And you also mentioned that it was this idea of like, we need this validation from other people – which we're not always getting--
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: So, how do we move towards not feeling like we need that validation from our partner – that our parenting is right, or that our choices are right, that we're okay – how do we move to a space of giving ourselves our own validation instead of looking for it?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Well, part of it is recognizing the cost of continuing to make other people your measure. Now that's a-- We all start that way, so it doesn't mean we're broken that we intuitively do that.
It's a very, very human thing because it's a survival thing. It's the way we internalize culture, it's the way we internalize expectations. It's a good thing when we're young because it's how we learn language; we're mapping what other people feel about us, and we're adjusting our behavior to fit in.
But if you continue even as an adult to be constantly in need of – even if it's going against your integrity, against what you think…and you're not asking-- you're asking, what do you think? What do you think? Am I okay? Am I okay? Versus what do I think about what I'm doing? Do I feel okay about what I'm doing?
And when we avoid that real question, we live everybody else's lives; we don't self define. Now, again, I don't mean you just leap over what everybody else thinks and you're like, 'I'm doing what I want.'
Okay, it's not defiant. It really is not defiant. It's basically internalizing the perspectives. For example, my spouse thinks I'm being too cruel. Okay, what do I honestly think about that?
Now my limbic brain wants to be like, 'Well, she's wrong – okay? – because I'm blah, blah, blah, and I'm justified.' We love that. The ego loves that. But the honest self is like, 'I also agree that I'm being too harsh…and my mind wants to blame her for my harshness, but I don't buy it. I am being indecent, and I don't like the way I'm being a parent – or the way I'm being a partner.'
And so, it's reconciling with your highest self, right? This is what I think spirituality is pointing us towards, is; reconciling our behavior with our genuine, honest beliefs – with our highest self.
And so, that's where we pull that locus of control from the external world into more deeply internal. And that's ultimately what drives the mobility for intimacy in a marriage, and collaboration, because your ego's not running the show.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yes.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Instead, your higher self is a part of that conversation. You know, my brother was just telling me about something out there that they were imagining giving to political candidates, which I'm sure will never happen.
But basically, one of the questions was – to qualify oneself to run for public office, is – what would be the accomplishment that would render you unnecessary? And that is to say, a person who's truly capable of collaboration is not there to prove their own capacity – to prove that everybody needs them, that they're the king of the mountain – they're there to actually improve a reality for humanity, for others.
And they are good with making themselves dispensable because they're driving for the higher goal; and that's what is a measure of a collaborative, a person capable of collaboration. The ego is not as important as the good.
What to do when you’re not on the same page with your partner (in parenting, about partnership, sexuality etc.)
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah. And I think this brings me to another question I had along, I think, I feel like this comes up a lot in parenting too, where; one person kind of parents in one way, one modality…and the other one usually does, pretty much, the opposite. And then they kind of – like you said – overcompensate where they're getting even more stuck in their ways.
And so, one of the questions people ask me often is like, "Well, how do we get on the same page?" And I think what they're actually asking is, how do I get my partner to parent exactly the way I want them to parent?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Exactly, right. So, how do get them to do it the right way? Yes.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Exactly. So, I'd love to hear your advice on that.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Well, first of all, we as humans and our egos-- When I talk about ego, I'm talking about our lesser minds, okay? Our egos love control; and we love ideology, that is not in the best way.
We love ideology in the way that gives us a sense of control, 'I have the right way of doing it, I know how this should go.'
Especially if you're really invested in being a good parent, right? It can be easy to say, "This is the way to raise a child…this is the educational philosophy, this is the parenting philosophy."
Now, I think it's valuable to find frameworks. I think it's valuable to think about, 'Okay, what is this framework helping me to solve or address?'
But where we can get stuck is when we start to believe that our framework is the superior one, and we've got the gospel of childhood rearing, and we are going to proselytize to our spouse; that's where it breaks down. Rather than, "Look, this is what I think would be helpful…this is what's been helpful in it for me, this is what I think is good about it. Why are you struggling with what I'm doing? What do you think is my blind spot in this?"
It doesn't mean your spouse is right and you're wrong, but you're not going to-- You know, a lot of times when we get fixated on an ideology, we become unwilling to think about where we're wrong, unwilling to think about the blind spot in our thinking.
And that's literally what dams our development dams our progression, because it keeps us from our perspective continuing to evolve and adapt to the needs. So, exactly as you're asking, it's not-- Usually, it's like, how do I get my spouse to see it the right way…versus, what is my spouse taking issue with and what do I honestly think about that?
Not, how do I just dismiss it and tell them they're wrong? But if I were standing outside of myself-- This is kind of another strategy beyond gratitude and looking for your spouse's right.
But like, if I were standing outside as a friend, what would I think is too rigid or demanding in what I'm doing? Or where am I not holding my position enough? Right? If somebody here is like just caves, the first moment of invalidation, and never kind of stands up for what they think is actually better for their children; that's also a problem.
And so, you know, it's not about putting your spouse's perspective first, nor is it about…you've got the right one and they need to concede – but how do we keep talking with the goal of coming up with something that we both genuinely feel good about…and you stay in that conflict, as uncomfortable as that may be, until you can reach a higher ground?
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Now, higher ground is kind of like, what is the perspective that accommodates both of our honest views?
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Now, it might be difficult if you're working with somebody who's not being honest, they just want control – or if you yourself are not being honest, you just want control. Okay, then you can't collaborate; you can't do something shared.
But before you run off and say, "Oh, that's my spouse…you know, there's no way to do it," to first start with, where's your spouse right? What is it that you also feel uneasy about if you're really honest?
Not to say that they now need to do it your spouse's way, but what's the issue that's not maybe being addressed in the--
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah. I feel like we're so black-and-white about like, this is what parenting has to look like and this is what partnership has to look like.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: And so, then we want to fit them into this, like, really structured mold that we have--
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: -instead of being like, what parts of what they're doing are actually helpful and useful--
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah. Exactly.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: -and how can create this hybrid that works for us? Because parenting is so much more nuanced; it's not just like this one way of responding to everything all the time.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Exactly. And when you think in terms of black-and-white, just think of that as your younger mind – your limbic mind, your regressive mind. Now, children think in black-and-white all the time. I remember when I was little, I don't know where I came up with this idea, but I had a good foot and a bad foot.
And I would let the good foot stand on the bad foot. I mean, just really strange. But I just remember-- And then when I got a little bit older, I was like, 'Wait, maybe they're-- maybe they both are good feet and they have goodness.'
I'm not kidding, but I honestly was thinking about, I remember standing in my little closet and thinking that. When you grow, you start thinking more complexly; and you start thinking less in duality and more in complexity.
And you can understand like two things that seem like they work against each other can both be true, right?
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Right.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: And that we live often in these paradoxes. So, when we're thinking really, like-- And I can do this even when I'm working with a coaching couple; I'll be like, you know, my brain will kind of go, who's the good one? who's the bad one? You know, kind of like, we're over that. Rather than, how is this person operating in their marriage in good ways? And, how are they operating in ways in less functional manner?
Pushing yourself out of that binary world is pushing to live in more truthfulness. And I think, seeking to understand others, empathizing with their experience. I often think if I was walking in that person's shoes, if I had come out of that person's lived experience, I'd probably be doing about the same thing they're doing.
So, before I rush and judge that person, just have the humility of recognizing there's something that makes sense in their choices. That doesn't mean that they're the best ones or the best ones for them, or necessarily – but to not get into our superiority and to seek to understand what's the sense in what someone does or why a spouse sees it differently.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah. And I think that can be really healthy and work really well when you have like fairly emotionally mature and introspective people.
But what if you're kind of in a partnership where your partner's unwilling to kind of look for support? Say, you want to go to therapy or coaching or you're trying to kind of better yourself in some way, and they're just kind of unwilling to do that. They're like, 'We don't go, we don't have problems, we don't-- we don't go talk to people about this.' What do you do then?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: So, what it is always is-- I mean, first of all, it's hard and it is a real gift to be partnered with someone who is willing to face themselves – even if they hate the idea of going to a third party or hate the idea of taking a course or something…but just to recognize what a gift it is to be with someone who is willing to look at themselves. And so, just to start with that.
Now, if you don't have that – okay? which many people do not – you want to make sure you're not the problem also…that you are willing to look at yourself. Now, that's different than, 'It's all my fault, what can I do,' because we can also veer in the other direction into the idea like, it must all be me because we almost want the control that that affords.
But to say, what is me and how am I participating in a dynamic where I'm always trying to get my spouse to take on more responsibility than they're willing – and they seem to be, you know, able to pull off not doing it?
Now, it doesn't mean that you growing up is going to make them change, but you want to make sure – you know, because I see this so often in working with couples that people are much more a part of the problem in the dynamic than they realize because they keep it going.
You know, for example-- A father, for example, that would never take responsibility for being more involved with his kids makes it very easy for a mother to over-function, do everything, step in and resent, which makes it easy…he feels her resentment – she's doing it all, anyway, for him to keep not being involved, right?
And so, you want to look at, how am I keeping this system stable and how is that serving something immature in me? Like the part of me that needs to feel heroic, the part of me that wants to be in control of everything – so I actually crowd him out, don't actually ask for his perspective.
And then he therefore feels dispensable and takes advantage of that – and doesn't parent, right? So, this is just one example. But, so, what I say is always; if your partner doesn't want to deal with themselves, no problem – go deal with yourself because if you change your steps in that dynamic, it's going to put pressure in the marriage…whether or not that person goes to treatment because that you shifting, shifts the marriage.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yes.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: And it's going to bring new questions up, new issues into the fore. If you're not rushing in and solving everything or begging for them to come to therapy or whatever it is, it's often going to make them feel less secure because you're not in there filling the void in anymore.
So, that's just one example of it. But you can always deal with yourself and get more honest with yourself about how you are a part of the marital challenge or the parenting challenge and start changing your own steps in that dance.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah, yeah, for sure. I always-- I use the relationship dance all the time. I'm like, if you've always been dancing the waltz and somebody's like, 'Actually, I'm going to dance the tango,' they can't keep dancing the waltz anymore.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: That's right.
In summary: 3 tips to help us in our marriages that don’t have anything to do with changing our partner
Crystal The Parenting Coach: You have to change something. And I love how all of your tips on like gratitude journal, and looking for where your spouse is right, and looking outside of yourself are tips that we can use on us even if we do have a partner that's unwilling.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: And also, the question of like, are they really as unwilling as I think they are too?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right. Exactly. Exactly.
What resentment is trying to teach us, and how to use it to build a more equal partnership
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Something I just thought of. I would love to talk about resentment because that's something that comes up as well for my clients, and equal partnership; I know you talk a lot about equal partnership, and how can we create a dynamic that's healthier for both of us?
And I find, a lot of times, one of the emotions that comes up for people is resentment – and feeling like they're doing so much for their kids and for their family and in their motherhood.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: So, I'm sorry, I missed the question, though; I spaced a little bit there.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: So, I'm just curious about what your thoughts are on that – on how do we deal with resentment within our partnership, and how do we move to a more equal partnership? Because I feel like with resentment, we don't really move to it. We just hold onto resentment.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Exactly.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: And we get more resentful and we keep doing all the things.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Absolutely. So, resentment-- Yes. I think about resentment in two ways – but at a minimum, it is trying to inform us of something. Okay? It is a-- It is a canary in the coal mine. It is a marker of an issue. And when we resent but do nothing different, it is a way of not having to grow ourselves up every time.
So, that's what I would always say, is that if we just sit around and resent, we can basically say, "I'm good, you are bad"…"If you would do X, Y, Z, I would be happy and I have a right to have hostility because you won't do what I need."
Now, it is true that what our partners and kids do affect us; and it affects our happiness, and it affects our lives – so we don't have to deny that fact.
However, resentment comes when we are holding other people responsible for our choices. And instead of taking up our choices and walking in a way that we feel is better, truer, more fair to ourselves – at least – if not more fair to our partner.
So, when I think about perspectives, one possibility is I'm being resentful because I'm an entitled baby. Okay? Like a lot of times, we get resentful because we just want the world to provide us with comfort.
Like, we are just entitled; we forget how fortunate we are to have someone who's even committed to love us in the first place, who's…there doing their best as a limited human much like we are.
And so, we get into the delusion like, 'I'm so great and I'm given so well, and they're not,' and you know, 'The world owes me.' It's a little bit like getting on an airplane; and the plane is 15 minutes late, and we're frustrated and resentful that we had to sit there…rather than remembering how miraculous it is to be privileged enough in the space of all of humanity to be sitting on an airplane at all and to be able to travel at all.
And, you know, if we were thinking more honestly, we would just the whole time be in awe and amazement that we get to be on that flight; we wouldn't be thinking about the fact that our seat doesn't recline – and there's no snacks, and we're starving.
And so, it's just-- We can easily do this in marriage and life and the world; and it's just-- It really works against our wellbeing, as we've talked about.
So, there's the entitlement, but then there's times when there's really an issue; you are being treated unfairly…you are participating in a system in which you're being taken advantage of, but you're afraid to stand up and say, "This isn't working for me, this isn't what I want."
And we don't want to take an honest position. We don't want to have to back up our position because we know that if we bring it up, the person that we're saying, "Hey, this isn't working," is not going to like it because it was working for them, to take advantage or whatever.
And so, it means tolerating the aloneness of taking a more self-defined position, a more honest position, and one in which we have to validate ourselves because we're not going to get it from the person who's taking advantage; and that takes courage, that takes self-respect.
And it's just so much easier to say, "The world owes me", "This person owes me", "I'm a martyr", "Everybody treats me badly", and keep going along with it than it is to take that much more exposed position.
And when we watch movies or documentaries about people who kind of got to their breaking point and stepped up – against oppression, against being treated unfairly – I mean, we're so…like, it just moves us because we know the good happened, we know the right thing happened, but it takes tremendous courage often.
And so, we get seduced into resentment and living small often when we're really colluding in something unhealthy.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah. And when we see that and we're like, 'I do want to move towards more equal partnership, I don't feel like that's the situation that I'm in.' Where do we start with that? Like, it's going to be uncomfortable…it's going to take a while, what do we do?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, for sure. So, one of the things that we easily get wrong is we say, "Okay, you are going to grant me equality…the outside is going to make me feel equal."
And it's a tempting idea. And I don't mean that there's no truth in it – but we're starting in the wrong place because in even saying that, we keep giving the withholding one – the offending one – the power over our sense of self.
And when people have really made big shifts in society, big shifts in their relationships, it's not been from getting the other one usually to grant validation; it's by standing up and saying, this is--
You know, Rosie Ruiz not-- Oh wait, I'm saying the wrong person, Rosa Parks, not sitting down in the back of the bus. Like, 'My self-respect won't allow it'; and holding her dignity enough to be able to sit anywhere on that bus that she wants to. And that's coming from inside, we're not waiting for someone else to tell us we're enough.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: And so, it's looking at, okay, where do I know I'm playing small in the marriage? Where do I know that I'm participating in being the self-doubting one, the dependent one, the needy one? What do I do that makes me reinforces that?
My spouse may treat me like I'm backup for him, for example, but I'm not going to be able to control his choices; I have to control, why am I going along with that? Where does that--
Many people I work with, they have a lot of fear about, you know, they got socialized into a dependent mindset; they believed they weren't worth a lot, so they married somebody who kind of agreed with them. You know?
And it can be very hard to deal with that internal belief, but that is the place to start because that will shape what you're willing to tolerate and put up within a marriage.
And, you know, Dr. Shankar, someone I trained with, would often say, we basically get about the amount of respect from others that we have for ourselves. And so, we often are teaching people how to relate to us.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah. By how we treat ourselves. Okay, this is so good. And I feel like you've given us so many tips that we can do to work on us – even if we do have an unwilling partner, and to move forward and to make change without that. So, thank you for that.
How to teach heathy sexuality to our children (and pornography prevention)
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Moving into a totally different topic before we head out, I would love to hear your thoughts on parenting and teaching healthy sexuality – and teaching about pornography, prevention, all of that – just quickly. And then I would love to have you back on where we can talk about this in more detail.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: I mean, this is definitely a much larger topic, but-- This is kind of what I would say is just a sort of a thousand-foot view. And then, maybe I come back on and we could talk a little bit more about this in the weeds of this.
But the 1000-foot view is that for our kids…we want to think about with respect to sexuality, what our goal is as parents. And to think about what you say and do with your kids, and what it's revealing about your goal – even if you think you have another goal.
So, some people will say, "Well, yeah, of course, my goal is I want them to be happily married and have a good sexual relationship," but they're actually operating more from a goal of fear, and don't really acknowledge that sexuality's even a real thing, for example.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yes.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: And so, every time there's something that comes on TV, the parents are panicking or whatever; they have another fear that's actually hijacking them as parents. So, that's a discrepancy, to be thinking about within yourself.
But I think the largest goal that we have for our kids is we want them to be able to accept their sexuality, to integrate their sexuality and to create good with it in their lives. Not either suppress it out of fear – like repress it and feel like, 'This is a terrible part of me', because that is terrible for one's sense of self and one's wellbeing and…marriage and partnership.
And also, it's really not to go the other way, which is sex is a way of escaping life. Sex is a way of like just finding pleasure. I think it was Viktor Frankl who said something like, "If we can't find deep meaning in our lives, we will numb out with pleasure."
And so, then pleasure is in this more indulgent form, which also works against our wellbeing and our happiness and our ability to be in relationship with ourselves and others. So, we don't want either extreme.
What's tricky about sexuality – and any passion or pleasure such as food – is, how do you find this place of integration and moderation? Because that's the pathway into happiness.
And what is the parent's role in facilitating that integration? Because if a parent is over or under-reactive to the child's behavior, if the parent is themselves repressed or indulgent, they're not going to be able to be a good guide in facilitating their child's acceptance of themselves and living up to their higher selves.
And we have the double challenge, I think; you know, I work with a lot people who are in a religious framework, so there's a lot of fear that sexuality will take you down.
But then we live in a larger social societal ethic of indulgence – and any repression or any saying no is repressive and unhealthy. And so, there's these, kind of-- how to say…contradictory meaning frames; and parents are often like, "I don't know how to do this better because I don't want to do either one of the unhealthy…so, how do I do it?"
So, I have a whole course that I've developed around this, like; how do you help parents to really understand what their goal is and what their role is at each stage in facilitating that integration – and learning to handle pleasure and sensuality in ways that are self-respecting and respectful of others…which the meaning of that changes as the child matures?
And so, anyway, I know I'm trying to give a short answer here – but just with respect to pornography and so on…a lot of times, our challenge as parents is that we are so terrified of it; and for some good reasons. Okay?
I mean we-- I mean, really, technology has advanced way ahead of our ability societally to handle it. And so, it makes the world, in some ways, super privileged – but in other ways, super dangerous because we haven't yet figured out what effect does it have for an adolescent to watch pornography four hours a day.
We don't necessarily know – but we intuit, not good. Right?
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yeah.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: On the other hand, I don't want to be so reactive to it that it drives their indulgence in it or their terror around sexuality. And so, how do we navigate this?
And hard enough, when it's just about navigating screens that don't even have to do with sexuality.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Yes.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: How do we have our kids not be on screens 24/7 and living a good life? And so, I think I don't want to come across as like, 'Oh, this is easy, you just have to--'
I mean, these are not easy questions. But I do think at a minimum, we want our kids to understand-- And that doesn't mean we're just putting it all on their shoulders, but we want our kids to understand some of--
We want them to start to have an idea of how good their sexuality is, what a good thing it is – but that they have a stewardship, a responsibility around their sexuality to create something strong and solid in their lives.
And there is a lot of pull in directions, either to be ashamed of it or afraid of it or to indulge it – and to help them be aware, like critical consumers of the society that they are operating within.
And to hold an idea of sex is good…but that is when you actually use your muscles, your decision-making to create good meanings with your sexuality, to preserve it, to value it – but in some ways, to be careful with it, to keep it as a positive thing in your life.
And so, what does it mean in this situation? What does it mean in this situation? There's nothing strange about the fact that you're going to be drawn to the pornography, it's designed to do it.
I mean, this is like walking into a candy store – all the packaging, everything – it's designed to get you to want it. That doesn't make you weird; that makes you a human being that's getting exploited by that.
So, you don't have to pathologize yourself, but you want to be thinking about, is this going to lead me to the life I want, eating candy 24/7? Probably not. Right? So, how do I-- How do I relate to this in a way that gives me the life I want?
But our kids need a strong sense of what that is; and part of it is getting it worked out yourself because if you don't have a healthy relationship with sexuality – you're, kind of, the blind leading the blind…and your kids won't trust you if they don't think you genuinely see the good in sexuality and have it bless your life. So, that's my short answer.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Okay. That is a perfect short answer; and I would love to come Part 2, we're going to talk about both screens because that is another question that comes up so much of the time – and pornography, for sure. So, we will do that shortly.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah.
Where to find Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife's course
Crystal The Parenting Coach: But I would love to hear from you until then, where can people find that course that you talked about?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Sure. So, if you go on my website, which is just my last name, finlayson-fife.com; and on there, I have five courses – and there's one called How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex.
Now, I've designed it with LDS parents in mind, but all that means is that I'm talking about parents who have an ideal of wanting their kids to be partnered, married, in a commitment for being sexual.
But really, the course is really for anyone, because I'm asking you as a family to think about – or you as parents to think about – what is it that you want for your kids around sexuality, and how do you offer your values to them?
And then I have four other courses there that are about addressing your own relationship, strengthening your relationship…can be very valuable for just understanding where you as parents lose your collaboration. How you use this idea of validation to interfere with working together to solve, whether that's your sexual relationship, your parenting relationship – but how you can look at your own role in the dynamic that's driving you crazy. You can find it all there.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Okay. That is so good. I will have the links to those in the show notes as well so that people can find them there. And I look forward to our next conversation. This has already been so good and so helpful. And thank you. Thanks so much for being here.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: My pleasure.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Thanks for listening. If you'd like to help spread this work to the world, share this episode on social media and tag me – send it to a friend, or leave a quick rating and review below so more people can find me. If you'd like more guidance on your own parenting journey, reach out.