This transcript is from Ultimate Intimacy Podcast episode 13. You can find the podcast HERE
In this podcast episode, we discuss blended families and some of the trials and the positives of having a blended family. We also discuss intimacy and keeping it alive in a blended family, as well as balance in a blended family. We interview Garrett and Chelsea Zimmerman from @transformed.couples
Garrett and Chelsea’s love story
“For us, our relationship actually started on a bus, believe it or not. So we were working for the same company and we’re going to a Years of Service awards recognition event and needed to travel from the city we live in order to where it was being hosted. I walked onto the bus with every intention of finding someone to sit across from. Someone I felt I could have some really good conversation with and recently being divorced maybe someone that I might be interested in. So I walked on and looked down the bus and I saw Chelsea sitting on a seat by herself and I just put myself right beside her and we talked and talked the whole way to the event, the whole way back from the event and during the convention, we realized that we had a ton in common.
We were both single parents, and were both trying to navigate co- parenting, Balancing of schedules between when we had our kids and when we didn’t, we were both also going through this period of what I would call self discovery, in terms of I was coming out of a 14 year relationship that included a seven year marriage. Chelsea had come out of about a 3.5 year relationship and we’re both trying to find ourselves, we were in no rush to have a date the next day or anything, but wanted to stay in contact. Chelsea dropped a few hints during the conversation and of course that night I got a friend request on facebook and sure enough it was from Chelsea, but it wasn’t until about six or seven months after that initial interaction that we started to date.
We loosely sent emails through through work because we knew how to get in touch with each other, we would check in, buy Christmas presents for the boys, and ask what are you getting your kids and just some surface level conversation to kind of stay in each other’s mind, but we didn’t stay physically present with each other.
It wasn’t until Mother’s Day actually where we ended up at church together and I purposely walked up to Chelsea to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. And that’s when she asked me, where is your son? And I saw he’s with his mom today because it’s Mother’s Day… And that’s part of the agreement I have. And that’s when the light bulb went off for Chelsea and she realized, okay, there’s there’s a chance here, there’s an opportunity for me and us to create a relationship. So, so we did, we started talking after that, and it was in June that we went on our first date and we’ve been together since.
We have been faced with challenges. Faced with extreme experiences that we didn’t know were possible in relationship because we had both come out of some really just toxic environments where we weren’t feeling appreciated, thought of, cared for, understood or listened to.
And we realized that through the self discovery, that there’s so much power and vulnerability and in just sharing your true, authentic self and being vulnerable to another human in every sense of being: mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and sexually.
We were finding connection that we didn’t know as possible and we said that to each other many times. When you find something and you want to grow it and build it, you lean in and we’ve we’ve leaned in ever since. And now we’re seven years together, a couple of years married. The boys have gone from 4,5,6 years old to 11, 12, 13 and we’re just making the most of everything that we have in our relationship and loving all of it. The good, the bad and the ugly!
One of the real challenges in blended families is the notion of jealousy and the reality of jealousy.
As adults, we think of jealousy for our partner, but in blended families, dynamic and something we had to really acknowledge was our biological children were now jealous of our new partners. Chelsea’s boys who had been living with their mom as a single mom for years, they were now seeing me as a threat. The one on one time they were spending together, and some of the routines that had been created over the years were being threatened, and same thing on my side. My son saw certain changes in behaviors, and change in structure and routine. And that’s something that we had to acknowledge and learn.
We’ve had to have some conversations with the boys even to this day where, you know, it’s not about a competition for each other’s time. There’s no reason for my son to be jealous of Chelsea…. and vice versa for her boys. It’s such an important principle balancing blended family spaces, keeping intentional time with your biological children, which also reinforces the importance of intentional time with each other as partners. So Chelsea and I have had to address some of those real feelings that come up for kids and kids can’t put it under a certain term, like jealousy. But as parents and adults, you know, we can recognize certain things and behaviors, certain comments, certain non-verbals. We had to face that head on and that was that was a real challenge for us.
Balance in a blended Family.
How long did it take for you to figure out the balance, as in keeping your relationship top priority, but keeping your kids a priority too. What things did you do to figure out that balance?
So for us it was really just continuing to talk to our kids and really have that those intentional conversations with them, asking them about things that are bothering them or anxieties that they have or fears that they’re experiencing. Things like that. And I mean, I think that when we actually got married that there was like a massive paradigm shift with our boys because it was that commitment was there, mom and dad have made this commitment to each other and they were part of that experience. We actually said vows to our kids, and each other’s kids at our wedding. I think that for for the boys, after that, there was almost this sense of security that they felt and they were able to figure out their differences… and really just not see, it adds like two sides anymore. And they were able to see us as more of like a united family. And so we’ve actually had, we’ve seen a lot of improvements since then.
Creating balance: Intentional Time.
We still made and set aside intentional time for the bio connection. So there would be nights or days where my son and I would leave the house and go and do something, just the two of us. I was there to help address those feelings of jealousy, we had to also still reinforce the importance of our boys in each other’s lives and how it was necessary to still pour into each other intentionally to reaffirm and to have those conversations.
I love how you mention how important communication is, Amy and I talk about this all the time. You know the whole Ultimate Intimacy app was really developed for the purpose of couples to be able to feel like they communicate better, whether it’s verbally emotionally, physically, or spiritually. There are so many different ways to communicate. Communication is what makes transition better and make things easier with the kids. I think communication can truly solve almost any issue in marriage, as long as you’re open with each other, the emotional connection or the physical connection. It’s awesome to hear that when you guys kind of solidified things that they more so came together and realized, hey, okay, now we’re a family, there’s probably a lot of other couples are blended families out there that are really struggling with those types of things.
What what do you guys do in your marriage to keep the focus?
Scheduling time and truly, I mean like we have non negotiable times, like for example when Garretts son goes back to his mom’s house the night before, Garrett spends some really quality one on one time with his son because that’s what’s important. His son knows that the night before he goes back to his mom’s, he’s going to be spending some good one on one time with that and he has that to look forward to. I take the opportunity as well to spend time with my kids and pour into that even though I have them full time now.
We always make sure that that time is known and and can be looked forward to. Garrett and I also plan our date night, we have scheduled times on our calendar.
We always eat our meals together, it’s not negotiable, I don’t care what you’re doing, you’re coming at the table and just little things like that. I think at the end of the day, like, it’s just about really being intentional about setting that time and following through for sure.
Vulnerablity & Physical Intimacy.
So, let’s let’s dive in and talk about physical intimacy. How important is that role in your relationship and and really keeping your marriage strong?
I would say it’s it’s one of those kind of foundational pieces, simply because it is a place of vulnerability in so many senses. It’s a place that we have really from the very beginning, been very comfortable through conversation when we acknowledge that our physical intimacy was born out of a strong emotional connection 1st.
Our physical intimacy was born out of a strong emotional connection 1st. It is the emotional connection that continues to drive and build the physical element of the relationship. And it’s interesting because a lot of couples and people we’ve talked to, they wonder why their partner doesn’t feel desired by them or why they don’t desire their partner. And then when we start to ask questions, we find out that it isn’t necessarily the lack of physical intimacy… it’s the lack of the emotional intimacy.
Emotional intimacy is the foundational piece. Chelsea and I have just been open and honest with each other since the beginning. We flat out asked each other, what are some fantasies that you have, What are some things that you’ve been thinking about that you haven’t done but would like to what are some things that make you nervous?
How can we experience things together and break through some of these barriers as a couple? So we were very intentional about questions like that and asking each other questions that admittedly, you know, when you’re saying you kind of get a lump in your throat at first and then when your partner opens up and respond, it opens the door for you to respond and then slowly that door just opens. We can be very honest and frank with each other.
Last week she sat me down on the bed and said, I gotta be honest with you. I’m not feeling very connected right now physically with you. What can we do about that?
That’s awesome to be able to have those conversations, because I think a lot of people can’t, and I would say there have been times in our marriage that we may be felt like we couldn’t have that conversation early on for sure, and what a difference that makes when you can just come out and say that and fix it.
It makes all the difference and we have to give thanks to the ultimate intimacy app, because we were able to pull up the app and go into the questions and start just asking each other questions and that leads to the physical intimacy.
It’s a foundation of relationships. It’s it’s going to expose the good, the bad and everything in between and you know, something we’ve been talking about lately is like…..
You have to get Naked, to get Naked.
Being vulnerable to your partner outside the bedroom, turns up the heat in every room of your house.
It’s all we’ve been talking about because there are seasons in every relationship and you know that initial time period when you can’t keep your hands off from each other stage in the beginning… and then you get into the another routine of parenting and kids and schedules and work and everything else and it just drives the importance of being intentional with your time.
That has been something that Chelsea and I have kind of prided ourselves on is that one we’re willing to sit each other down and say, hey, this isn’t working for me right now, what can we do? But on the flip side we’ve been able to sit down with each other and say, hey, what is it may be something that you want to try that we haven’t, or what is something that you really like, that you want to bring into the kind of, the sexual intimacy of our relationship on a regular basis, or how can we do this differently? Or, you know, have you been thinking about this? So it goes both ways, but it starts with the vulnerability for sure.
It starts with the emotional intimacy. The conversations, and I know you guys you do a lot of walks together and are holding hands and that that builds up to the physical intimacy. I think sometimes, especially as men, we feel like, oh hey, let’s just be intimate tonight and we forget that our spouse needs so much more than that. So getting that emotional connection will lead to the physical intimacy just as you talked about.
Tell us about your walking talks that you guys have. I really like that, especially that you hold hands and keep it romantic and you’re able to express your concerns of the day. And how does that help your emotional and physical intimacy?
I like to refer to our daily walks and talks as like emotional foreplay.
We are really intentional with spending that time together. We go for a walk after supper and connect with each other, we ask each other other questions from this month’s challenge every night and we’re able to just really talk. If one of us is not having a good day or if there was something that happened in our day that we need some support on, we have deeper, not the surface level conversations, but deep conversations. It is our sacred time.
We honestly cherish that time so much, being able to come home in the evening and reconnecting physically in the bedroom at night because we were already kind of have that emotional foreplay.
The challenges of parenting, have been and there will be times when, like the boys will ask if they can come with us on our walks and sometimes it is a yes, let’s all go as a family, but other times it’s a you know what, not tonight, we’re just gonna go out on our own.
We talk about boundaries in relationships and we’ve had to put those boundaries in place to protect that sacred time and to protect the opportunity to talk about things that you can talk about without little ears around and really be honest and open. And to Chelsea’s point, emotional foreplay that then translates into, okay, now I feel like really connected vulnerably and emotionally and mentally too. Now let’s take it one step further and go into that physical intimacy and then that sexual space. So it’s a it’s a sacred time for us and we love it.
Prioritizing your spouse and setting boundaries.
I love how you guys continuously put your marriage as a priority. Amy and I did that as well. We’ve sat our kids down and said, look, we love you, but someday you’re going to leave the house and our marriage comes first and it comes before anything. And I really believe that our relationship with our kids is much better because of that, because our kids see how much we love each other, how important our marriage is. It doesn’t mean that we neglect our kids in any way, but they see how important our relationship is, and I think when they grow up and they get ready to get married and have children, they’re gonna hopefully treat their spouse that same way.
I think there’s a lot of people out there and especially in blended marriages, it’s hard to have so many different things and kids to deal with, but it probably makes it harder to put your spouse first. But it is so so important to do. It doesn’t mean again that you don’t have time for the kids, but letting your kids see how important your spouses and you guys are a great example of that. I think some parents have a hard time taking that selfish time for each other and and pushing the kids away.
It’s not selfish to put your marriage first. We need to set those boundaries and train our kids. If we’re making healthy choices for our marriage, our family is eventually going to be okay with the guidelines that we set down after a certain amount of time because they’re getting used to it and then they respect it and then it just benefits everyone. A healthy marriage equals healthy happy family and kids.
Affection in front of your kids.
Showing physical connection and especially in blended families, there there are some high conflict relationships out there and co parenting relationships where the kids don’t ever see any like closeness or positive physical connection. All they see or hear is yelling frustration. Sometimes, unfortunately physical violence and that’s why for us, we haven’t felt guilty about kissing in front of our boys or hugging each other because they need to see that they need to see what a healthy relationship looks like.
We strongly recommend you show affection for each other in front of kids. You need to show your kids because they’re learning relationship from you and it’s so important to keep those moments of connection visible obviously within within the the 18 under range. I’m gonna hug your mom, I’m gonna kiss your mom. Kids need to be told and shown it’s okay to show love.
Communication honestly is the mother of all things in terms of a blended family.
Communication is an area that Garrett and I have been really been good at, but it doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people. We find ways to continue to learn more about each other. Learn to build that trust and that vulnerability because that is like a superpower in relationships and especially in blended families when there’s so many different dynamics going on with kids and with exes and all the different things that kind of encompass a blended family. No two blended families are the same.
You have to do what’s right for you and for your family and not compare yourself to other blended families because they’re going through things that you probably know nothing about. So always stay true to yourselves and always stay true to what you and your partner as a united Front.
Making the most…
Make the most of those times when you don’t have the kids, because that’s one of the benefits of a blended family, is that sometimes there is overlap when the kids are with other side. When the kids are away, make it count like morning, afternoon and night, have some fun right? We have strategically scheduled time when the boys have been away to, you know, take a night and book a hotel room or to go out for supper and then go for a walk and then come home and play a dice game or something new because when the kids aren’t in the house, you can really have some fun.
You can kind of mix things up and and stay fresh and excited with each other. So like turn off the tv, don’t go golfing with the guys, skip girls night till next week with the ladies and pour into each other because that time one on one is when you can go back to what it was like when it was just the dating phase when it was just you and your partner. So make the most of the time when the kids are away!
You can find Garrett and Chelsea Zimmerman on instagram @transformed.couples or at https://www.transformedcouples.com/
They offer marriage coaching for blended families or couples going through intimacy challenges.
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