Quality time vs quantity of time? Which is most important to foster a happy and healthy relationship? This is just one of the questions tackled on this week’s podcast featuring Dr. Jared Kiddoe, a psychiatrist, and his wife. Kaara Kiddoe, a licensed social worker and relationship coach. During our time together we learn about the their love story, the challenges of long-distance relationships and how they made it work. We take a deep dive into physician relationships with Dr. and Mrs. Kiddoe providing numerous pearls of wisdom that can be readily applied in one’s life to help ensure your marriage and /or relationships in general are healthy and happy.
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Dr. Jared and Kaara Kiddoe are the co-founders of Authentic Marriages (https://www.authenticmarriages.com/), a marital relationship Christian organization created to promote emotionally and spiritually healthy marriages, particularly amongst people of color.
Dr. JB: Hi everyone. Welcome back to the Hope4Med podcast. I am your host, Dr. JB, and today we have two special guests with us. Their names are Jared and Kaara Kiddoe. And they are the co-founders of Authentic Marriages. A marital relationship Christian organization created to promote emotionally and spiritually healthy marriages, particularly in communities of color. Jared is a double-boarded, licensed adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist and relationship coach. While Kaara is a licensed clinical social worker and relationship coach, whose individual and couples work specializes in healing emotional trauma. Welcome to the show.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Thank you for having us.
Kaara Kiddoe: Thank you.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Thank you for the invite. We appreciate it.
Dr. JB: Yeah. I’m so happy to have you guys on here and to learn more about you guys’ stories. So, let us start from the beginning. Can you share with my audience your origin story?
Kaara Kiddoe: Sure. So, we met originally, when we were 17 years old. I was living in Trinidad and Jared was still living in Jamaica, and he came to Trinidad for a church lectureship with a singing group. And so that’s when we first laid eyes on each other. And then two years later, we went to the same lectureship, again, this time, it was in St. Lucia. And that’s when we really connected and became friends. We started keeping in touch, this was in 2000.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Yeah, 2000.
Kaara Kiddoe: So, back in those days, keeping in touch meant visiting a cyber cafe, coordinating times to get online, and going on AOL Chat. So, that was way back. And that’s how we communicated for a couple of years. We visited each other, he would visit Trinidad in the summer, and I would visit Jamaica at Christmas. And then we eventually got together about a year later after that lectureship. And we dated long distance for how long?
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: We dated long distance for two years, in terms of…
Kaara Kiddoe: International long distance.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: So, by then, I was in the US going to college in Texas.
Kaara Kiddoe: And I was still in Trinidad. So, we were in Trinidad/Texas for two years. And then I got a scholarship to go to school in Columbia, South Carolina. And so once I got to school in Columbia, South Carolina, and he was in med school at Duke in North Carolina, even though it was still a long distance, it really didn’t feel like a long distance, compared to Trinidad and Texas.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Just a drive. Like, a three and half hours drive.
Kaara Kiddoe: But essentially, our entire relationship was long-distance. And we dated a total of five years and then got married. And we’ve been married for almost 16 years this year. I’m officially now losing count.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Right. You say, what year was that?
Kaara Kiddoe: When we got married, Jared was in med school.
Dr. JB: Wow, seems like time really went by, just flew by.
Kaara Kiddoe: Yes. And now we have two children. Our kids are Alexis is seven and Jayce, who is nine.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: First graders, so elementary-aged kids, and all that come with that.
Dr. JB: So, when you came into the United States, Kaara, Jared was at Duke, was he in medical school or where were you schooling?
Kaara Kiddoe: He was in medical school. Even though we’re the same age, I didn’t start college until I was 22, actually. And so, when I started school, he had finished and started med school when I was starting undergrad.
Dr. JB: Got it. So, you guys are doing a long-distance relationship with a person in medical school. So how was that?
Kaara Kiddoe: Ooh [laughs]
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: It’s remarkable. Looking back on it, it’s like, oh, my God, I don’t know how we did that. Maybe at this point, it’d be harder to do. But I think in certain ways, because it was an improvement in terms of distance because we were doing international long distance previously, it actually didn’t feel that bad. And so it was challenging, Kaara would come up more often than I would travel down to her, on weekends, she would come and drive over, maybe three and a half hour drive. And so we would squeeze in time together between my studying for all the things that you study for in medical school and all the tests and step this and step that and so on. So, we were able to squeeze that in, but I think we really have to be very intentional about the time we spent together because literally, there was not much time on the clock to spend together.
Kaara Kiddoe: Yeah, it was definitely quality time over quantity time. Because in medical school, there is very little time to spare. Your spare time is spent studying. You’re either reading or inhaling a book, reviewing for a test. You just don’t have a lot of free time. And so we really learned the art of quality time, really, really young and really early. So, I remember in those early days, even when I would visit North Carolina, I still had to do a lot of things for myself, by myself. So, I would go to church by myself, because he might be on call, or I would go to the college group because he would be home studying.
But one of the things that I did for me, was, I didn’t wait on him, I didn’t set my life up in a way where it was dependent on his availability, because I knew there was very little availability. And every year, supposedly, the schedule will get better. That was the promise, right? It was like, “Okay, when I’m in third year, things will be better. When I’m in fourth year, I get to choose the rotation, so I will choose.” It was always this hope on the horizon every year.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: But it did get a little bit better, because I did my Master’s as well, in med school, so I did a Master’s in psychology, and things were better in those two years. The schedule was definitely better, and less demanding. So, that was our engagement year and our first year of marriage was when I was in grad school. So, that was actually really helpful because the more traditional scheduling is not nearly as crazy as it was when you’re doing clinical and stuff. It was good. It wasn’t nearly as difficult. But looking back at it as like, oh my gosh, it was crazy. But I think at a time we felt like, this was doable. And we felt like there was going to be a light at the end of the tunnel. And so that really helped as well.
Dr. JB: So, Kaaara, this question is directed to you. So, how did that feel, as the spouse who is… You guys were still dating, you guys weren’t engaged, or where were you in a relationship at that stage?
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Yeah, when I started med school we were still dating, we hadn’t gotten in engaged until my third year.
Kaara Kiddoe: But Jared had an extended third year. So, he had graduate school for two years in that third year. So, the whole medical school part was five years total, but two years being in grad school.
Dr. JB: Okay, so how did you feel? I know that eventually, you got to the point where you’re like, “I’m not even going to hold my breath for doing anything with Jared when I’m visiting, because who knows, he might be called in.” But how long did it take you to get to that point where you made that decision? And what were your experiences before you finally decided to process things in that manner?
Kaara Kiddoe: Right. That’s a really good question. I would say probably from the beginning because the key is expectations. If you are very clear with me on what to expect, don’t sell me, unicorns and rainbows and promises of this great life when you can’t deliver. And I think that the key was that Jared was very honest about how difficult med school was from the get-go. Because before I came to the US, you had already started med school. So, I already had an idea of just how emotionally stressful med school can be and how much of your bandwidth it can take up. So, that was the key, was having the right expectations.
And then the second thing was, it was an upgrade from Trinidad/Texas, versus North Carolina/South Carolina. Because in Trinidad/Texas, we literally could only see each other twice a year, Christmas and summer. So, for me to be able to drive down and still be able to see him, even though he was busy, was still better. It was so much better than seeing you literally twice a year.
And the other thing I would add was Jared was really good at making those small pockets of time, really quality time. So, it wasn’t like I felt he was distracted. If he had an hour to give to me, I had the whole hour. It wasn’t like he was simultaneously trying to read a book, study, and then talk to me at the same time. And so, having those expectations be really, really clear. He was really clear on this is what I can do. This is what I can’t do. But I also saw how intentional he was in creating those small pockets of time. It’s like if I could give you 30 minutes, it was like 30 quality minutes and that is what I think for me made a big difference.
It wasn’t like I was being ignored. It was like “Hey, this is what I’m dealing with right now. I will be completely unavailable.” Versus promising me availability and then I’m let down, that rarely happened. I was always aware, that you’re on call, when you’re on POST call, it’s a no-go. It’s like, don’t even talk to me, “Don’t look in my direction. Don’t expect anything.” And so, for medical marriages, you have to have not only proper expectations but the person who is the doctor in the relationship, who has that demanding all-over schedule, you also have to figure out how can you produce any type of quality time that is realistic for your relationship.
Dr. JB: One of the things that you mentioned, it seems like you guys have been doing a really good job in terms of communication. So, you knew when he has a POST call, you knew his schedule, you knew when he was not going to be available. So, was that how your relationship always was? Or is that something you guys had to work on?
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Yeah, I think we were both very intentional even getting into the relationship. Because I was interested from an early point of starting a relationship, but Kaara wanted to make sure that the first year in 2000 when we really started to talk, making sure that we spend time just getting to know each other, connecting and building an emotional connection, that friendship base. And I think that really helped to define the parameters with the relationship, because we knew that, if we were going to be entering into this relationship, we needed to be very careful, because it’s going to be long distance, that’s not going to be easy, so we have to make sure that we put things in place.
And then communication is going to be definitely the lifeblood of the relationship because you’re not going to be seeing each other a whole ton. So, you have to put in that work to make sure you can stay connected that way. And I think that is carried through to when she came up. It was just in North Carolina, that it was a lot easier for us to just be very plain-spoken about what was going on and what would happen to what couldn’t happen. There were definitely times when Kaara… there was this restaurant we used to go to in Durham called Trinbago. I’m not sure if you remember that restaurant.
Kaara Kiddoe: It was delicious.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: The food was great. But I remember sometime I had a POST call maybe on the Friday and Kaara came on that Friday evening or Saturday. And she’s like, “I want to go to dinner.” And I’m like, “I’m so tired.” And she’s like, “Well, yeah, but we need to go for dinner.” And so sometimes it took me just digging a little deeper to make sure that we’ve got that time to spend with each other, even if I was tired at times, and so on.
Dr. JB: So, Jared finishes school. He gets double board certified. And then you guys both went down this path of relationship coaching, why did you guys go down that path?
Kaara Kiddoe: Yeah, that’s a really good question. So, I have always been very passionate about relationships, simply because I did not want to become another statistic. I did not grow up in a situation or a family environment where I had role models or good examples of what marriages should look like. So, I had a very clear picture of what I did not want. I may not have had an understanding of what a healthy marriage should look like, but I was like, “This is not it. And I am not signing up for that.” And I remember when we got engaged, I said to Jared, “Listen, I am not going to be one of those people who settle.”
And especially culturally, growing up in the Caribbean, you see a lot of women in marriages where they settle, where they don’t get divorced, they just live in an unhappy marriage. The husband could be having multiple partners, drinking on a Friday night, and coming home whenever on Saturday. There was almost this culture of, like, that is what you can expect and there’s nothing you can do about it. And I was very clear, I am not going to be one of those women. I am not going to put up with foolishness. I am not going to continue this insane tradition that is going on.
And so, I started for me, in terms of, I didn’t want to repeat that. I didn’t want to repeat the patterns that I saw and that were modeled for me. So, I was very clear that I’m not going to be that. So, how then can we create a marriage? Because I’m not interested in marrying and divorcing. That was the other thing. Divorce, for me, wasn’t necessarily an option of like, “Oh, well, if this doesn’t work out, well, we’ll just get divorced.” I already had that from just a spiritual vantage point. It wasn’t an option. So, therefore, the only option is for us to make this a very healthy and happy marriage, if divorce is not an option.
And so that was where it started. And then what happened? When you think like that, you start to end up either attracting or surrounding yourself, finding people who you could look up to, and finding just resources. We were very intentional about doing anything to pour into our marriage, whether it was going to a marriage workshop, or going to a marriage conference. He was very good at reading books. So, he would read books, and then tell me about them.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: That was back when my brain worked really well, reading leisurely was like, That’s good.”
Kaara Kiddoe: I’m not good at reading books, I listen to a book on Audible, now Audible has been invented. But back in the day, I was not an avid reader compared to Jared. But he would read books, he would read relationship articles, and he would bring those things to the table to discuss. And then out of that, I think, just love for that, like a thirst for what a healthy relationship looks like? What can we do? It was just this drive. I think we also started to attract people who saw that in us and would either come to us for advice or come to us for like, “Hey, this is what’s going on in our relationship.” And so we started to see ourselves, just helping our own friends, just naturally, just organically. It wasn’t an intentional effort by any means. People just came to us.
And then eventually, my mentor said to me… I was actually contemplating if to go and get my PhD in Social Work or have to go to law school because I always had this childhood dream of being a lawyer. And my professional mentor, at the time, said, “Kaara, why don’t you consider going back to school for marriages, because you and Jared are very passionate about couples and relationships and helping people?” And I was like, “People don’t work in their passion, what are you talking about?” And I just dismiss this idea, because in my mind, if you are passionate about something, and you turn it into a job, it takes away the passion, and then it becomes a job. Seeing what medical school and residency did, it takes a lot out of you, it almost forces the joy of the profession out of you. And I did not want that to be true for me, helping people just naturally. I didn’t want that to become now a chore.
And eventually, years later, I started to embrace the idea of maybe it is possible for somebody to work in their passion and it not suck the lifeblood out of them. Maybe it is possible to have a career that you love so much, you love enjoying doing so much and it doesn’t even feel like work. And that’s what led me down this pathway of getting my LCSW and forming Authentic Marriages as a real thing, not just a passion project, but a real business.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Right. And even before she started to work on her clinical stuff, we had started to do things in the field, in one of our churches, we restarted marriage ministry in one of the churches we were going to and got that going. We started to do lectures and so forth. Because I learned a lot, especially when I did my Master’s, I learned a lot just about clinical work when it comes to couples. And I was just really passionate about that.
And so we started to do more lectures along those lines in different spaces. And then later on Kaara decided to go back to school, work on getting her LCSW, and getting to a place where we want to formally organize what we’re doing. We’re doing all of this stuff, and we need to make sure it’s done in such a way in which it’s going to be efficient, and also allow us to have a greater reach.
So, it was a couple of years ago, that we decided to put Authentic Marriages as what it is now, as a formal company that does a lot of different kinds of work, but they all grew out of our passion. It was very organic, everything was step-by-step organic. And a lot of it wasn’t necessarily planned, a lot of it was God was just going to put things in our path and certain things we just recognize for ourselves. So, like, okay, we want to do this. Okay, maybe we should do this. Maybe we should have a retreat, and see if people show up and these kinds of things. And then after a while, we realize, okay, let’s formally organize this to really take it to the next level.
Dr. JB: So, Jared, tell me a little bit more about your day-to-day. So, are you still seeing patients and wearing your psychiatry hats? Kids, adults, or who do you focus on?
Kaara Kiddoe: Yeah, so I have been out of training nine years this July, which is crazy. But I’m now working at Kaiser Permanente here in Atlanta. So, I’ve been there almost four years now. And so, what I consider my day job, which I work nine to five most days, I see kids, I see adults, adolescents, primarily kids and adolescents, just because that’s the area of need. Because at the last count, I heard there were maybe 8,000 child and adolescent psychiatrists in the entire country. There was a time in Wisconsin – I may be wrong – had one child and adolescent psychiatrist in the entire state. And this was five, six years ago. It was not that long ago. So, it’s a similar need here, Atlanta is a big place and has a lot of needs. And so, I primarily see kids and adolescents, because there’s not a lot of us to see folks along those lines.
Dr. JB: But then now, you’re also growing this business, too. So, how do you balance those two?
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: That’s a great question. How do you balance those…
Kaara Kiddoe: Challenges.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Yes, oh my gosh. AM is definitely more of a hustle business in terms of it is not structured, you have to put a structure in, you have to decide where we’re going to put our energies, our monies into growing the business. And so it’s a lot of late-night stuff. So, a lot of stuff after the kids are in bed, a lot of weekend things. I take some time from time to time from my regular job in terms of just taking time off, so I can spend more hours and put more energy, more formally into the business. But it’s about being creative with your time and making sure that you’re being efficient.
And you don’t want to feel like you’re cheating anyway, you don’t want to cheat your regular job, you don’t want to cheat your family. That’s one of the big things we’re all about is, no matter how great your calling is – and we say this to the people who are in medicine, or who are preachers in a ministry – we say listen, no matter how great what you’re doing or your calling is, your first ministry is always to your family. And so, you can always lose your job, no matter what job or how great or important it is, but your family, you can’t afford to lose that. So, we try our best not to do that. But it’s a tough balance that requires recalibration on a seemingly week-to-week basis to make sure we can do everything.
Kaara Kiddoe: One of the biggest changes that helped recently was that Jared started taking Fridays off. And so that has been helpful, and that I also resigned from the job that I was working out in Miami so that I have the bandwidth and the time to just focus on Authentic Marriages full time to build that because the one resource that you cannot make more of is time. And so we just have to find creative ways to free up our time. Some of the ways that we did that even pre-Authentic Marriages are just hiring out help, getting people to do things that you don’t have to do to save you time. And even in a business with Authentic Marriages, we may need down to social media help, and housecleaning help. Any type of help that you can do where it’s like, one, I don’t have the skill set and two you’ll do it better than me. So, let me pay you to do that.
Dr. JB: That’s important, especially for healthcare professionals, sometimes it’s hard for us to know when to ask for help.
Kaara Kiddoe: Yes.
Dr. JB: We try to do it all.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Exactly That’s a big one.
Kaara Kiddoe: That’s a big mistake.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Yeah, I think the profession in certain ways encourages that mentality of being autonomous, especially for doctors, being autonomous. There has been a push for more team-based work, but it’s still about being self-sufficient. It’s great to be self-sufficient at a certain point but there’s no one who is totally self-sufficient, that is just impossible. And so you can put yourself in a really bad position with anything you’re doing, if you’re not able to know how to ask for help, know how to procure help, because there’s so much you can do. And together, when you decide that you want to get help, you can do more, and you can be more effective.
One of the things I’ve always said is that, how do you make an effective person ineffective? Give them too many things to do. Give them too many things to do and you will see somebody who is very effective at stuff becoming grossly ineffective because you only have so much time and energy.
Dr. JB: But asking for help, is that a sign of weakness?
Kaara Kiddoe: Absolutely not.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Oh gosh, no, not at all. And it’s so sad because, in the society that we live in, especially America, it’s all about putting yourself up by your own boot straps and becoming successful by you just having that internal grit, so just get through situations and build this thing up for yourself. And it’s just crazy, it is craziness. It’s not based on any reality. Anybody who’s made it successfully has had to have multiple relationships and people who have given them opportunities to do things.
And knowing when to ask for help is such a great strength, because it will connect you with the right people that you need to be connected to. It will allow you to collaborate, allow you to expand your dreams and your reach, and your ability to do the things that you want to do much more effectively than trying to do them on your own. Doing it on your own, you just wear yourself out. And you will sacrifice important parts of yourself, including important relationships, you’ll end up sacrificing that by trying to do it all, especially when it comes to career stuff.
Dr. JB: So, can we talk a little bit more about that in terms of relationships and careers and what you guys have seen, we think about health care professionals, physicians, nurses, anybody working in health care, and their relationships.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Yeah, so statistically speaking, it’s very interesting to look at the statistics. And I think some of these things will be updated now that we’re now in a COVID world where things are different, obviously. But a lot of the statistics do show that actually, in health care marriages, the divorce rate among people who are involved in health care is actually lower than the general population. So, for doctors like 25% to 30%, depending on the study, then there are similar numbers, nurses a little higher. But anyone who is in that field tends to actually have a lower divorce rate. But the satisfaction in terms of the marriages, we get into the data, and it does show that there are a lot of marriages where people are very frustrated. In a lot of medical marriages are frustrated, they feel like their spouse, when they come home from work is distant, stressed out, irritable, and they just don’t feel like they can connect.
And worse yet, if you’re in one of those professions in medicine, where it’s like you are literally taking your job home. So, it’s like, yeah, I come home and then I’m doing charting until one o’clock in the morning, and then repeat that the next day. That creates a lot of feelings of disconnection. And so you have this outside picture of success, where it’s like I got through medical school, and I have gone through residency, I’ve set up this practice or I got this academic position. And it’s like, everybody wants to be you. This is awesome. You’re living a great life. But internally, you’re really struggling. And a person who usually feels it the most is your spouse, because, for many, many reasons, you are not being able to connect with them, especially now in the world of COVID that we live in.
Dr. JB: And so part of the difficulty connecting, is it just because you just have a pile of notes you have to sign that’s dividing the two of you guys, or is there more to it than that?
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Well, the answer depends. If we’re talking about the pre-COVID world or the post-COVID world, there are certain factors that are common to both eras. And I consider them eras because we’re in the COVID era now. Some of the things are definitely yes, you carry work home with you literally. Literally, there is stuff you have to do on your laptop and you’re doing charting. But I think a bigger part of it, even for people who are able to leave things at work is that you don’t know how to process all of the stress that you’re dealing with at work.
And so, burnout has been a big issue for doctors and other medical professionals for years, especially frontline workers. So, people in the ER, family doctors, internal medicine doctors, and other health care professionals in that space, there’s a lot of burnout that has happened. And so we have increasing rates of depression, and anxiety, people are coming home, and they are feeling almost hopeless because they’ve lost so much autonomy because of how our medical system works now. And if you don’t have that communication base, if you don’t have that quality, time base, if you don’t have that self-care base, all of those things work together, they’re all interconnected. If you don’t have all of those things connected together, then you’re going to slowly start drifting apart.
And so you may do certain things you should have been doing to de-stress. So, maybe you get into drinking, maybe that’s what you do to de-stress or unwind from the day. There’s a higher level of drinking among medical professionals. Or food may be your thing, maybe you just kind of veg out on television where you just turn on the TV, and it’s on for three hours, four hours straight. And then it’s bedtime. So, where’s the connection time? Where is the real self-care time?
So, I think it’s more along those lines, just being overwhelmed with what’s going on. And then you add COVID on top of it. And then if you don’t have those things in place to connect with your spouse, you’re going to start drifting apart. It’s a human phenomenon. If you don’t put in the time together, you’re going to drift apart. It’s just what’s going to happen. Doesn’t matter how good of a person you are, it has nothing to do with that.
Dr. JB: Does part of that has to do with feeling like you don’t want to burden your significant other with what you’re experiencing in your day-to-day?
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Yeah, definitely. I think that, especially with COVID, with what has happened with COVID. So, if you’re a frontline worker, if you’re working in ICUs and things like that, you’re seeing some of the saddest things you’ve ever seen in your life, and you’re seeing your patients die every day in front of you. And there’s a certain level of moral injury that happens where you are seeing almost atrocities happen in front of you and don’t have the ability to stop it. And especially I think it’s gotten worse with the starting of the vaccines because you feel like this doesn’t have to happen. Why is this happening? Why are so many of my patients sick?
And so, how do you talk about that with anyone? It’s like what veterans go through all the time, especially those who have served, it’s like, “I can’t tell my wife about all the stuff that went on in Iraq or Afghanistan. I will be selfish to tell them about that. Because why would that give them that burden.” So it’s very easy to keep it in. And especially if you don’t feel like they understand fully what it’s like, then it’s like, there are so many reasons not to tell your spouse about what it’s like. But then that creates further disconnection. Because marriage especially is about sharing your emotional lives with each other, your emotional experiences, even the ones that are pretty crappy, ones where you feel powerless, and even a little bit hopeless about. You have to talk about those things, so that person can carry your load, but also stay connected to you, and you to them, because the situation is also affecting them.
Kaara Kiddoe: And I just wanted to add to that, that if you don’t share those “burdens” with your spouse, or significant other, it will turn into resentment, because what will end up happening is that you are still carrying it, you’re still carrying this load, you’re still carrying this burden. And you are very much aware of how hard that is, you are very in tune with, this is difficult, this is torturous, this is heavy. And if you don’t get from your partner, if you don’t get any type of understanding or any type of empathy, you’ll eventually start to feel like you’re taking me for granted, you don’t see how hard I’m working, you don’t see what I’m doing.
But all of this is in your head, right? Like all of this has been internalized. But you still expect your partner to be your partner, you still expect your partner to somehow magically understand what it is that you’re going through without you telling them. And so that’s one of the things that I even see with couples a lot is that they don’t share their burdens, but they still do expect understanding, they still do expect empathy, they still do expect their partners to see, I am working hard for you. I’m not just working hard for me. I’m working hard for us. And then it’s like, how dare you complain that I don’t have time or energy to spend with you? Because now that comes back to, you don’t see what it is I’m doing and you’re taking me for granted if you have the audacity to complain. But your partner really doesn’t know the depth of the burden that you’re carrying.
Dr. JB: I have a question for you Kaara then, so would you truthfully want Jared to come home and say everything?
Kaara Kiddoe: Me, yes. I like details. I like to know, I like details. And I like to be in the know. Though what happens is that when people are… because there’s a way to share information that can help your relationship. And there’s a way to share information that can hurt your relationship. And I think that when you share information from just a genuine, vulnerable place, that’s the difference. You can come home and be irritable. You had a rough day. You don’t want anybody to talk to you. Then here I come like hey, can you take the garbage out? And you’re just like, “I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to take the garbage out.”
And so you could just irritably say, “I had a bad day” or “I had a rough day” or something along the lines of indicating in your world that this should communicate to you, “Leave me alone, I need space” versus you coming home and saying, “Babe, I’ve had a really hard day. I need time and space for myself. I’m going to go to the room and close the door with Do Not Disturb sign.” And that comes across so much more… I get that, I understand that, I could do that. Because then it’s like, now, I know what’s happening. Versus, if we don’t check in with how we’re communicating, what we’re communicating more so, and the manner in which the vulnerability that is involved.
So, that’s the biggest thing is like if you can create a vulnerable space in your relationship because I think for even men, as well is that the other problem can be the pride of not looking – pride can apply to anybody really, men/woman – of pride and not wanting to be seen as deficient or defective, or weak, and all of those things. And so those are the things that can prevent us from being vulnerable and actually admitting, “I’m not in a good space right now.” But I think if you create a culture in your marriage, where that is allowed, it does allow for me to say, I’m not in a good space, and I need to run away from these children, as soon as you come home, as well as it’s okay for you to say the same thing like “I need to run away from work, but I also need to have this space to Zen out and have a Do Not Disturb Sign Out and make that okay, versus, I would take that personal if it was not said in a vulnerable way if that makes sense.
Dr. JB: So, how do you create that? How do you create that vulnerable atmosphere in your relationship?
Kaara Kiddoe: I would say, that is the challenge for a lot of people. And it is easier said than done. Because it goes back to what was the foundation of your relationship built on? And because we had this very intentional foundational space of like, we’re not trying to be dysfunctional, we’re not trying to be like what I was raised to see, we really created a lot of intentionality about how we communicate and learn and aggressively seeking out information. So, for people who are listening, where this may be a challenge, where you feel like oh, my gosh, I don’t know what to do here. I don’t know how to create this space. I just want to validate that that’s a very hard space to actually create, it’s not an easy thing. And it takes a lot of work.
Because if you don’t feel safe with your partner, if you don’t feel emotionally safe with your partner, if you don’t feel like they have your back, they’re looking out for you, they love you, they care for you, and if you were to express your vulnerabilities, and you’re afraid that it could be taken and thrown back in your face at a later point. All of those things are going to prevent you from being vulnerable. If you’ve had experiences in your relationship where you’ve attempted to be vulnerable, and they have not received it well or they have been triggered by your vulnerability, and they’ve gotten into their own stuff, then you learn very quickly shut down, don’t say anything, keep it to yourself, because whenever I say anything, you don’t react in a safe way, you don’t react in a way that actually helps me.
And so, those are normal challenges that probably 70% of couples have and face because it’s a very hard thing to do. And if you have your own trauma, and you have your own past, everybody has their own past, their family upbringing, but if you add trauma to that, if you add emotional neglect to that, if you add abandonment to it, then it makes that even more difficult for you to do, even if your partner is a safe person, even if they have proven to be a safe person, your own stuff can still prevent that.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: And definitely what I get out of your question in terms of what the answer is. But I think in medical marriages, a lot of assumptions are made about what kind of person you are to be a doctor or nurse or a dentist or so forth. Well, you have to have it together, right?
Kaara Kiddoe: You’re very smart.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: You are very smart. So, clearly, we should be able to work this out. And that’s not the case at all. Emotional intelligence and emotional healthy living are something that can be absent in any home growing up. And so it’s not going to be a situation where you’re going to be able to just know how to do this. You have to be very intentional.
One of the big things is getting back to basics. Getting back to basics, making sure that you’re creating that time on a daily basis to connect with each other, simple things, not a time to spend with each other like, “I have this grievance to bring up with you and I am so mad about this situation. We need to talk about it.” That’s not connection time. That is something else that you may need to do but that is not connection time. Connection time is just spending 15/20 minutes time, TV off, you are just talking to each other, checking in, how was your day? What can I do for you today? What can I do for you this week? Things along those lines. What has been the most challenging thing you’ve been dealing with this week at work? And things like that, where you’re being emotionally open on a basic level.
But when you do that regularly, it creates a safe space that fuels your relationships so that when you are under stress, and you do need to deal with more difficult things, you have that foundation to do it, you have that foundation there. And you may need more help than that, depending on the state of the relationship and your own mental health concerns. But I think that is one of the big things, creating daily time to just emotionally check in with each other.
Kaara Kiddoe: Yeah, I think we’ve gotten away from that just because of busy schedules, just as a society and couples in general, we’ve gotten away from those very basic essentials. Once you’ve added a career to your marriage and then you’ve added, for some of us kids, where can we find the time? Kids come with all sorts of demands, their own schedules, their extracurricular activities, they may have health issues, special needs, all these other things. Where can we find time for us? And so I think that those are the things that often get cut first.
As our time increases, career demands, more kids demand more, maybe you have parents that you have to take care of, and that demands your time, there are a lot of demands for our time, and our marriage is going to be the first thing that gets cut as an option, we are an option. The kids are not an option. Taking care of grandma and mama is not an option. But we are an option. So, we can cut our time, we can stop doing date nights, we can stop going on vacations, and we can stop talking. Because it’s just one of those things that just happens by default. And that’s what produces or fuels disconnection, is literally we just don’t have time to connect.
In my experience working with couples, most of the people who come to therapy are not bad people, they’re not in situations where the husband is aggressive and beats the wife over the head. And it’s not a situation where there’s affairs happening or drugs and alcohol, it is just literally good people, professional people who have just drifted apart because of life, because of careers, because of demanding careers at that. And really, we’ve lost our ability to stay connected and to make that time for each other because our schedules don’t allow it.
And so, that’s the first thing is that we literally… you see how we have to pin this podcast as an agenda item for today on our schedule. We have to do that for ourselves. We have to put a date night on the schedule. We do couple vacations alone without kids as a norm in our marriage. And that was another intentional aspect for us. Because we said we’re not going to be that statistic. So, we’re going to do everything that everybody else is not doing. Amongst our friends, we were probably the first that would travel without kids. And it made us feel like we were weird or different because it wasn’t the norm to be young couples and travel alone. That was so different. And so we’ve kind of felt weird for doing that. But we also are grateful that we’ve done that because we see what happens when we do make time without the kids for each other.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: And it makes it better in your other spaces. It makes it better as a parent because you don’t feel like you’re drained or you don’t feel resentment towards the kids. Like you’re just taking the lifeblood out of me or our work, you don’t feel that way, you feel more energized because your needs are being met both individually but also as a couple.
Dr. JB: I think being intentional and that your relationship has shown a lot of intentionality from the very beginning of it. Intentional with communication, intentional with your time, dedicating if you have an hour, if you have 30 minutes, but it’s 30 minutes or an hour of dedicated time for each other not distracted. And now you have kids and you have careers, but that intentionality is still there. That’s a theme that seems like it runs through your entire relationship. This allows you guys to stay close.
Kaara Kiddoe: Yeah, for sure. I don’t think our relationship could have survived without it. And that’s one of the things my friends told me, they are like, “Kaara, you’re a very intentional person, and I’m just not that way.” And I’m like, but guess what happens when you’re not intentional about your relationships, they fizzle out and die. Even friendships, even just other relationships outside of marriage are that they die without intentionality. Without you pouring into it, there is nothing left, other than a shell or a memory. And I implore all couples to be very intentional about their marriage and their relationships that are important.
And what happens that is a struggle is that we do live in a culture, in a society where, for example, America, is a very child-centered society. And so most of your peers are not going to be intentional about their marriages, most of your peers are going to be intentional about putting your kids first, putting their kids into five different activities, and putting their kids in the best schools. And what that then does is that takes your time. We literally had to have a conversation where we’re like, let’s pretend our kids were Olympic athletes, they had this potential, what would we do? What would we do if Alexis wanted to do gymnastics five days a week and do competition?
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: And with those kinds of things, they start at five o’clock in the morning on the way to school.
Kaara Kiddoe: Right. And we literally decided, we would have to tell them that they were born into the wrong family.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: It is one of those situations like, okay, look, we could do this, and spend the next 20 years doing this. But I think the greatest gift you can give your kids is a healthy marriage. Because a lot of times, what people realize when they get success, including even in medicine, when people get to the mountaintop in their minds of where they’re trying to get into in medicine and the medical field, and they get there, they’re like, “Oh, that’s great.” But that’s it. It’s like, “I got here, now what?”
Our emotional connections are the biggest things that helped to define our ability to really enjoy life and really be happy in the space that we are. Obviously taking care of ourselves individually. But making sure that our emotional relationships are healthy, and that the level of intentionality required is going to be significant if you have all these other things going on. And you can put yourself in a space where you literally can’t be intentional because you’ve got way too much going on.
Dr. JB: Yeah. So, if you were to find yourself in a shell of a relationship, is there a way to reignite that fire?
Kaara Kiddoe: My number one advice is therapy. Obviously, I’m a therapist, so I am biased. But I am a big believer in therapy because I myself, I’m in therapy, even as a therapist, and I am holding on to my therapist for dear life until the end, until she fires me as a client because I need this for me, to deal with my own stuff so that I could show up as a better parent, as a better wife, as a better person. So, for couples, you don’t have to do this alone, you don’t have to figure this out alone. Just like, if you had a medical condition, you wouldn’t sit home and be like – well, people do actually – I’m going to the University of Google and become their own doctors. But you shouldn’t do that. You should go to a professional who trained for eight to 10 years to help you. And it is the same thing for relationships, there are people who have been trained to help you to get out of that rut to reignite the passion. It is possible for couples who feel like they are disconnected to regain it.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Bring back the energy, and a big part of it is a lot of people are like, “We’re not that bad where we have to go see a counselor or a coach or whatever.” Here is a problem for most people. Usually what happens is that they wait until things are really bad, then they’re like, “Okay, we’re bad enough.” And just like in the medical professional, if you have shown up here a year ago, I would have helped you so much more than now. And the same thing, if you wait that long, you’ve inflicted so much damage on each other, that it becomes significantly more difficult.
So, when you’re seeing the signs that we are coming off the tracks a bit, that’s the time to be like, “Let’s check in with a therapist.” The therapist may say, “Oh, this is simple. Let’s work together for a couple of months. You guys will be good to go.” Awesome. Otherwise, you could spend a couple of years in therapy because there is so much stuff to unwind, and it’s so much harder to dig deep when you’ve already hurt each other so much. And so, make sure you do that. But also having a community of people around you who are trying to do the same thing. People who are intentional about their marriages or intentional about taking care of each other.
A lot of times we have communities maybe around kids in terms of things that we as families are doing to support our kids in this field or that field. And that’s great, awesome. You need something like that for your relationships. The intentionality in community building.
Dr. JB: So, if my listener wanted to find out more about you guys, and what you do, how can they do so?
Kaara Kiddoe: They can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org as well as visit our website, authenticmarriages.com. And so we would be happy to connect. We’re also on Instagram and Facebook as well on Instagram, it’s @authentic.marriages. And so you can find this on IG and follow us there as well.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Exactly. And I want to say we do still have a free workbook that comes up on the website. So, this really goes well with what we’re talking about today in terms of staying connected. So, while we’re staying connected, there is a free workbook that is available to anybody who visits our website. And it has exercises and things that are in there to help you to figure out how to actually do this, how do we actually restart this thing? We’ve got a free workbook, you can download it and literally start doing some of the exercises with each other right there and then.
Dr. JB: Wow, that works out perfectly, based on our conversation. So, in closing, do you have any pearls of wisdom you would like to leave with my listeners?
Kaara Kiddoe: Pearls of wisdom. Going back to the community, I think this is probably one of the hardest but easiest things to do. Because it’s hard to find the right type of community, the right type of people that you jive with, that you vibe with, that’s also important, that share similar values. But it’s easy, from the point of view of that, if you’re intentional, I really do believe that if you open that space in your heart, the universe opens the doors for you, and you are introduced magically to people who will align with you if you have an open spirit.
And this is regardless of what faith you subscribe to, I just genuinely believe that if you have an open spirit and an open heart, you will attract the people that you need in your life, it’s just that it starts with you, it just really starts with you, just cultivating that desire of saying, this is something that I want, this is something that I need. And if you start there, your body, and your spirit is going to find those resources, it’s just going to appear, you’re suddenly going to notice, “Oh, I never noticed this church down the street,” or “I never noticed this next door neighbor,” or “I never noticed this person at the gym.”
I’ve just found people at all sorts of random places once I started noticing. There was a point in my time when my vision was closed. And then when I decided to open it up and be okay with where they came from, school versus church versus the gym versus the grocery store, and I just opened up myself and I just realized, wow, there are so many beautiful people over in my space that I did not notice before. And so that would be my first thing is just, have an open heart and an open spirit to welcome community and then use the spirit of discernment to know, to filter out. I call it a spidey sense. I believe that we all have a spidey sense inside of us that guides us, we just need to listen to it and pay attention to it. And so, that’s where the discernment comes in just knowing who should be in your inner circle.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: And there are a lot of things we could say, but one of the biggest things is that every relationship goes through a struggle.
Kaara Kiddoe: And season.
Dr. Jared Kiddoe: Yes. I think just recognizing that that’s just the reality of the life we live. If you’re a human being this is what’s going to happen. If you’re married, this is what’s going to happen. So, recognizing that and being okay with that and getting the help that you need, when you recognize those things are going wrong. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. This is something everybody goes through. Our society still does a poor job of making people feel comfortable getting help and building that community. But when you realize that everybody goes through this, when you talk to other people about the stuff you’re going through, it actually gives them a gift because it opens things up for them to be like, “Yeah, I’m going through the same thing.”
And oftentimes, we are able to connect with each other much more through vulnerability as opposed to strength. If I’m always like, “Hey, I’m doing this and I’m on IG all the time. Look at my great, perfect life.” Yeah, that’s not the real stuff. That’s not reality. The reality is that we all go through stuff. And when we connect vulnerably, we actually have a much better likelihood of having healthy relationships with each other, but also in the community in terms of building communities where we can support each