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Consciously Uncoupling with Michelle & Nicholas

Nicholas Peterka is not only the father of Dr. Michelle Stafford’s two boys. He has been behind the scenes for nearly 10 years working on community outreach and marketing. He even produces this very podcast! In this episode, Nicholas and Michelle discuss a major change in their relationship which they are approaching in a thoughtful, friendly, and conscious way.

Discussed in this episode:

  • Who is Nicholas?

  • How they met

  • Nicholas’ 365 day orthodontic animation

  • Conscious Uncoupling

  • What they learned from each other

If you would like to learn more about conscious uncoupling, please refer to this excellent article. Another great option is to go straight to the source with the work of Katherine Woodward Thomas at

Listen🎧, Read📖, Watch📺! You can listen right here, or with a podcast app of your choice. You can also read the complete transcript below, or scroll to the bottom of this post for the video.

You can browse all previous episodes on Anchor and Youtube!



Michelle: Hi, I'm Dr. Michelle Stafford, here today with our podcast Mixed Dentition. Today my special guest star is Nicholas Peterka. You may know him as the father of my children, as well as you may see him around the office doing community outreach, working with some of our schools that we work with, as well as doing some tasks around the practice.

Nicholas: It's all true.

Michelle: It is.

Nicholas: All of that's true.

Michelle: So today we thought we would do a different kind of podcast and talk about us and our relationship.

Nicholas: That is a different kind of podcast. Undeniably it's true. Where should we start?

Michelle: So, I think we should start by talking about how we met.

Nicholas: That's great.

Michelle: Okay. It's 2009.

Nicholas: 2009.

Michelle: You were working in a restaurant.

Nicholas: I was a waiter.

Michelle: And I was studying for my pediatric boards with a good friend of mine. And you saw us studying in a restaurant, which is unusual, but my girlfriend and I, we used to do it all the time. And you...

Nicholas: You weren't supposed to be in that section. That area was closed.

Michelle: But it was so quiet.

Nicholas: But I saw you and I thought, well, I'm going to let her sit here. So, that's how that goes. And you made fun of my teeth.

Michelle: You had braces on.

Nicholas: Which seems rude.

Michelle: You had braces on. And I said, "We're both dentists. I can tease you about your braces."

Nicholas: Yeah.

Michelle: At which point you bust out your phone and show me a video of your braces.

Nicholas: So, I had braces as an adult, so I wanted to document that, because it was difficult. I don't know why I did it. So I took a picture every day from the same angle, a really unflattering, weird, angle. Then 365 photographs later, I strung them all together.

Michelle: Yeah, and you can see your teeth. It's actually an awesome video, and why I gave you my email.

Nicholas: If you're watching the video now, we'll put that video in here, so you can...

Michelle: Yeah, we should link to it.

Nicholas: You can watch it while you watch this, it will happen, yeah.

Michelle: So fast forward, first date, blah, blah, blah, got engaged, got married in...

Nicholas: All those things happened.

Michelle: 2011, had our first kid in 2012.

Nicholas: Ender, yep, 2012.

Michelle: Ender 2012, and then had our second kid, 2014.

Nicholas: That's accurate.

Michelle: Elodin.

Nicholas: 2014. Yeah, I remember. I was there.

Michelle: Yep, you were. Now they are kindergartner and second grader.

Nicholas: Oh, that's amazing.

Michelle: That is amazing.

Nicholas: Yeah. It's hard to believe, that's quick. And fast forward to today.

Michelle: Now.

Nicholas: Now it's different.

Michelle: Yeah. Marriage is...

Nicholas: Challenging.

Michelle: Challenging.

Nicholas: So we decided to not do that anymore.

Michelle: We decided to unmarry.

Nicholas: Unmarry. Yeah. In a very friendly, amicable, conscious way.

Michelle: Conscious way. Yeah. There's this concept from the 60s. The author's name is...

Nicholas: I got nothing. No, it's originally from the forties. I have a clipboard.

Michelle: Oh, goodness. You always have a clipboard.

Nicholas: The term uncoupling came from the forties.

Michelle: Yes, conscious uncoupling.

Nicholas: Yeah. And then that became more popular in 2009. And if you ever tell anyone that you're going through conscious uncoupling, they'll be like, "Oh, like Gwyneth Paltrow."

Michelle: "Oh, Gwyneth Paltrow." Yeah.

Nicholas: People say that every time.

Michelle: If they've heard of the concept, it's Gwyneth Paltrow.

Nicholas: Yeah. It's usually because of her.

Michelle: Yeah, but great for her. I mean at least she's brought it to light and that it's possible to separate from the person that you've married from in a positive way. I mean, when you tell someone, I just really don't like the word divorce because it has such a negative connotation and uncoupling is such a nicer way of saying it.

Nicholas: It is still difficult for people to wrap their head around.

Michelle: It really is.

Nicholas: Even if you say we're uncoupling, they still want it to be, that's my sense anyway. That just given like we've been out together still.

Michelle: Yeah.

Nicholas: And we've sort of occasionally, I don't know if we just found it fun or what, but awkwardly broke the news to people.

Michelle: Together.

Nicholas: Just kind of to catch their faces.

Michelle: And their face is like, uh.

Nicholas: They're like I don't know, I'm unequipped to have this conversation. These people aren't, they're not not married anymore, but they seem like they're getting along so well. They're not mad, it's this big disconnect.

Michelle: I dare say we get along better now that we...

Nicholas: Oh, we absolutely do.

Michelle: Live in separate households.

Nicholas: Yeah.

Michelle: Yeah.

Nicholas: Yeah.

Michelle: I mean, our focus now is just co-parenting our children.

Nicholas: And that's for conscious uncoupling when there's kids involved that's huge. Yeah.

Michelle: Yeah. And I think it's been actually really positive for us and I think from my standpoint that the best thing we did was to make this very difficult decision to end our marriage when we were still at a place where we were not angry with each other or bitter or resentful and we tried to make it work. I mean we did try couples counseling and therapy and we just found that over time we're just not compatible and I don't think it has to be a negative thing.

Nicholas: Yeah. And so I'm going to look down this clipboard. So self reflection is the foundation of this process. So looking at your relationship with the person and saying like, what can I learn? What have I learned from it? What can I take from it going forward? You gain self awareness to avoid repeating similar mistakes in the future and you just focus on the positive things and grow for the future and take away positive things.

Michelle: Okay. So [crosstalk 00:06:11] the question.

Nicholas: Yeah.

Michelle: What did you learn from being married to me for eight years and being together for about 10?

Nicholas: Yeah. Ah, I learned that I'm really not a handy person.

Michelle: That's accurate.

Nicholas: So it was always an ongoing joke. I can barely hang a photograph.

Michelle: That's great.

Nicholas: I'm very technically savvy.

Michelle: Very technically savvy.

Nicholas: Very computer literate to be fair to me.

Michelle: Yes.

Nicholas: But yeah. What was the really good one? What did I do to that wall in the house where I like...

Michelle: Oh gosh, we tried to hang a cabinet, well you tried to hang it without me at first.

Nicholas: Yeah.

Michelle: It was Swiss cheese by the time.

Nicholas: Yeah. I made quite a...

Michelle: We took it off the wall and we were like, "Oh, we should just put it back on there."

Nicholas: Yeah.

Michelle: What are we going to cover this with?

Nicholas: Well, the whole cabinet fell off the wall at some point.

Michelle: Oh, that's right. It did fall off the wall.

Nicholas: Okay, but joking aside, not handy, but something that I really can take with me now especially is the way you're able to build things, you have a vision and you see it through. And it's amazing to me how you can get things done. Just you, they're like, these are the things that are going to get done and they all get done. I'll have the same lists and it'll be like, these things are going to get done, but also YouTube, but also email is going to interrupt me and then ah time's up. I didn't get those things done. Well, just start again tomorrow. So I think I've gotten better at that focus and that's something I've observed in you and taken away. I wrote a note here.

Michelle: Well, that's sweet.

Nicholas: Oh, another really important thing, especially when it comes to like this context and talking about a World of Smiles, but it's that you care about the world and you demonstrate that in the way you operate, just not just your life, but your business. And the way you've set up World of Smiles to interact with the community and to be a positive force and to support local schools and to get behind causes like Chelsea's Closet or so many jogathons and so many school auctions. That's been really neat to see and I've appreciated that about about you in the world.

Michelle: Well, thank you.

Nicholas: What do you got for me? All right.

Michelle: Well, one you are very tech savvy and it turns out there are certain things and I'm like, oh, I never learned how to do that because you took care. I mean stuff that I'm figuring out now, like even just going online and getting the library books from the library onto my Kindle, you had to teach me how to do that. It's just things like that that you took care of that I'm having to figure out myself, which I appreciate that you did all those things. Just your love of music and creativity that you've really given to our children is pretty amazing. Just you play every instrument and you hear a song and you play it out is kind of amazing to me and I really appreciate that about you. But you truly love food. You're an actual foodie, where I like food and I like to eat but you like going to really nice restaurants and enjoying the presentation and the different tastes and how they mingle together.

Nicholas: That's so funny that you say that just because we went through this weird shift sort of in the past six months as we've gone through all of this that we're like, I used to spend a lot of time looking up recipes and cooking.

Michelle: Yes.

Nicholas: And that kind of thing. And I kind of got into this mode where I'm like my diet became very simple and repetitive. But you took on these crazy, you try to eat a lot of vegan now.

Michelle: I do. Oh, you should taste my soup from today.

Nicholas: I would love to.

Michelle: Last night, I cooked this Indian vegan soup. It has a very long that I'm not even going to try and say with, because we're growing growing zucchini and then I added coconut milk. Anyways, you're right, I have been really embracing cooking and trying to try different recipes.

Nicholas: Yeah, but you've always been the better baker.

Michelle: Oh, well thanks. I'm trying to teach kids how to bake too. They made zucchini bread.

Nicholas: They just made zucchini bread.

Michelle: It's delicious.

Nicholas: Yeah.

Michelle: Humor. I think you, one of the main reasons I married to you is because you got me out of my type A personality, which I can admit that I'm a type A personality. But you helped me to find the funny in situations. And that's one thing that we've always been able to laugh and I think that's really what's helped us get through the last six months and get us where we're at today. And have separate households and figuring out how to uncouple is we can laugh about stuff and figure things out. I think that helps.

Nicholas: Yeah, that's great. Yeah, we've read some really great articles about conscious uncoupling. I'll try and put those in the links.

Michelle: Yeah, you should link it. Yeah, with Gwyneth Paltrow.

Nicholas: Yeah.

Michelle: So that's our story. So Nicholas and I are no longer married, but you will still see him around because he's still doing some community outreach and, but now you've moved on. So the beginning of our marriage, you were and are a massage therapist.

Nicholas: Yeah. I went through school while we were...

Michelle: Yeah, when we were together.

Nicholas: Yeah.

Michelle: And then you kind of put the license on hold, why we were raising the children when they were really little.

Nicholas: Yeah.

Michelle: And now you're back to the massage therapy.

Nicholas: Yeah. Very soon. I am starting my own practice in the Pearl District. It's called Massage Hodgepodge. Say that three times fast.

Michelle: That's why it's funny.

Nicholas: I'll also be starting the Massage Hodgepodgecast. That's coming soon as well, and a whole YouTube channel on a community hopefully built around that. And yeah, that's exciting to get that, to get back to that.

Michelle: Yeah.

Nicholas: Bring some of my creativity into it as well.

Michelle: Great.

Nicholas: Yeah.

Michelle: I'm excited for you.

Nicholas: And the future for World of Smiles is still going strong.

Michelle: Yeah, we're still doing great.

Nicholas: This is being recorded in the teen office.

Michelle: Yes.

Nicholas: Always good to mention.

Michelle: Yes, our teens.

Nicholas: Sometimes people forget that we also see grownups.

Michelle: We do sometimes see grownups. Yeah. If you have a teen smile.

Nicholas: A youthful smile, we like to say.

Michelle: Yes, youthful smile. So that's our story and we're just, we're putting it out there. If you have questions about what it's like to...

Nicholas: Co-parent.

Michelle: Co-parent.

Nicholas: Consciously uncouple.

Michelle: Yeah. And be positive about your uncoupling and work through it. And I'm not saying it's always going to be easy. I think there's going to be some stumbling blocks, but I feel like we've really laid a great foundation where you and I can get through it.

Nicholas: Yeah. Agreed.

Michelle: Awesome. Well, thanks for tuning in. For those of you out there listening and watching us.

Nicholas: And remember...

Michelle: Fill the world with smiles.

Nicholas: You got it on the first try.



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