Marriage Q&A, Part 2

12 September 2019

Welcome to part two of our marriage Q&A! (Part one here!) A note here at the start: a number of your questions nosed around the idea of overcoming challenges in our relationship, and you will notice I haven’t really answered any of them. This is not to say we are perfect or our marriage is perfect – just that we have been inordinately blessed to find our best friend in each other – and so I don’t have much to offer on the subject of overcoming major challenges in a relationship.

Thankfully, there are many people out there who have compassionate, vulnerable, insightful advice for folks looking for light. Here, I like to think of this and the rest of my marriage musings as helping to “optimize” your relationship – giving you little tips and insight as you take it from good to great, or great to legendary :)

Let’s continue!

What was the transition to marriage like for you two? Easy, hard, challenging, surprising?
John: As Emily alluded to above, it was pretty easy. We come from the same background (we grew up in the same town and have similar family experiences) and share the same outlook on life and the same core values. Another piece of Adam Hamilton wisdom: he’s said that “compatibility” is not important in a marriage, in terms of having the same personality or liking to do the same things – but having reverent respect for the other person is, and sharing the same core beliefs. We’ve found that to be true (though we do enjoy doing things together, and happen to have similar personalities, as well…).

People often talk about how marriage is so hard, but we’ve found it to be the most comfortable and best thing ever. I think the world (and people thinking about marriage) need to hear more messages about how great marriage can be and we are happy to do that.

How do you prioritize each other with two full-time jobs and two babies?
John: One thing we do is divide and conquer jobs and responsibilities around the house, especially in the evenings, so we can get it all done fast and enjoy each other’s company once the kids are in bed. As I mentioned in the first post, something we both believed in at the outset of having kids is having our marriage remain at the center of our family, not our kids. On a recommendation from a Craig Groeschel sermon, I try to always kiss Emily first when I walk in the door, then kids. We’ve also invested in some great two-person games which gives us an easy and enjoyable option when we want to do something together.
Em: Something that we did not regularly do until June was about one, but now do with great regularity, is have a date night every month. We are fairly predictable – we almost always go out to dinner – but with so many amazing restaurants in the Triangle, can you blame us?! This has become something we look forward to SO much and would now consider crucial to our relationship. Spoiler alert: more to come on this topic tomorrow :)

We also regularly take walks together in the evening after our kids are in bed. Walking and talking is a treasured connection point in our relationship (I agree completely with TJ’s perspective). As for the logistics: we have an unlimited range video monitor, and just walk in a little loop around our street :)

We also are not afraid to leave our kids from time to time. We’ve really only left them overnight twice since June was born, both times with family, but this extends to leaving them with babysitters, as well.

It sounds simple, but we always ask each other how our days at work went and really take interest in the answer. We have also learned enough about each other’s jobs, coworkers, regular challenges, etc. that we can really understand the answer and offer insight.

Finally, John specifically prays for my work every day, which means so much to me. (I try to do this, too, but I know it’s a regular practice for him!)

What are you glad you did before having kids?
John: Travel travel travel. Obviously we have traveled since having kids, but we had way more flexibility before them. We were able to experience locations in ways that are harder now, and some trips would be nearly impossible at this stage (for example, our Pacific Coast Highway road trip, where we were driving every single day, all day).
Em: Travel for sure – and not just big travel but smaller adventures, too. Day trips, if they involve long stretches of driving, are usually just not worth it in this stage of life, whereas we used to take them all the time. We also did a TON of hiking (mostly just local stuff!) before kids, and I’m so glad we have all those memories! I’m looking forward to incorporating more as our kids get older.

What’s the best gift your spouse has ever given you?
John: We are not huge gift givers to each other, in general, but when I got my new job, Emily did two things that really touched me. She had my car detailed (it’s from 2011, so that really shined it up) and picked out a really great briefcase. Her gifts spoke to her pride in me, and that meant a lot.
Em: For Mother’s Day two years in a row, John got me pairs of pink shoes that he picked out all on his own – Jack Rogers and Nike sneakers. Our respective clothing budgets are pretty tiny, so these extravagant (for us) gifts wowed me.

What about your spouse makes you the most proud?
John: It seems appropriate to say here, but I am really proud of Emily for keeping up this blog for 11 years when it’s not a business at all. Selfishly, I love looking back at posts and really appreciate this repository of memories from our life together.
Em: I am proud of so many things, but what comes to mind first is what he has made of his career. Fun fact: both John and I have worked at the same companies our entire working lives. He started on pretty much the lowest rung in the middle of the recession (after being unemployed for about a year) and after many years, he is an expert in a job he LOVES in a field he’s passionate about. He stuck it out for many boring and unexciting years and is now reaping the rewards, and I think that’s pretty amazing (and wildly unpopular in today’s culture).

What’s your favorite trip you’ve taken together?
John: France. It was beautiful and really fun, with amazing food. Plus, it was the first time to Europe for both of us and we had taken French class together in high school and college, so it felt like a full-circle moment.
Em: California. We really did it up at a time when we were much more budget-conscious than we are now. It had everything – great food, beautiful scenery, memorable accommodations. I’d do that exact trip over every year if time and money were no object!

What is something most people don’t know about your spouse?
John: Emily’s favorite genre of movies and shows is government conspiracy/action thrillers. Favorites include 24, Bodyguard, Enemy of the State, Homeland, Air Force One, Casino Royale, and all of the Mission Impossibles.
Em: Back at the very beginning of my career, I helped plan weddings with the company that preceded Southern Weddings (it phased out a few years later). John was often hired to help on-site on wedding days, and his special contribution was tying chair bows (he even originated a knot we used many times over!). He’s tied hundreds of chair bows.

Tomorrow, we’ll be answering a final question: recommendations for dating your spouse when you have kids (low-cost and at-home in particular!)? I touched on it above just a bit, but it’s a topic we’ve never really covered here, and I’m excited to dig in!

There’s a lot to unpack here: any other movie thrill seekers? Chair bow enthusiasts? What trip would you take over and over again if you could?

P.S. More from our wedding, because it never, ever gets old. Tanja is the best!

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September 12, 2019 6:33 am

Happy anniversary and I’m loving this series! These types of posts are always my favorite and I’m honored to know y’all in real life! I particularly loved the “great partners make great parents, but great parents don’t make great partners” and how John comes home to kiss you first before the kids! I found that to be so profound for that I stopped to tell Jordan about it! :)
Finally, I’m super excited that the blog is back in exciting action! I just caught up on all recent posts and your blog continues to be my favorite! Xoxo

September 12, 2019 8:53 am

Oh I’ve really loved this series! How fun! And I love that this post really resonates with celebrating the everyday life, such as going on walks and highlighting that just as important as date nights! Thanks for continuing to pour into this community Emily & John! I’ve loved learning from your wisdom. :)

September 12, 2019 10:12 am

Loving this series! If it’s not too much trouble, could you please share what monitor you have? My husband and I used to love connecting over an evening walk before we had littles with bedtimes. Thanks! :)

Kelly Strawberry
September 13, 2019 10:03 am

Love this little series and hearing from John too!

September 22, 2019 2:29 pm

Haha, love the tying chair bows!! Such a beautiful couple who make marriage a number one priority x