Years Married: 10
Kids: 4 (2 boys, 2 girls)
Q. How do you both balance work, marriage, and family life?
J: I work for a home-building company. It’s a pretty big corporation and recently I’ve gone through a little bit of a transition. Now I’m in a more corporate world as of late, which creates more challenges when it comes to balance. We went through a period of time, last summer, where I was working a lot of hours - probably sixty a week, which for me was a lot. Maybe I’m a wuss.
A: Yeah, I think we’re kind of wusses. With four kids.
J: For me, balance comes when I can get home and jump right into helping out. We always eat dinner together as a family and we bathe kids and put kids to bed together. That’s a time for me to wind down with the kids, to talk to them a little bit. After that, Ange and I have our time. I also have a goal to get at least one chore done before bed - either doing the dishes, or sweeping, folding laundry or any little thing I can do (if I have energy to do it).
A: He is also on the planning commission for our city, and he is super involved in our church (which takes him away quite often).
J: The planning commission is only one or two nights a month, but those meetings are usually during a busy week, right when I have my heart set on having some down-time and winding down. It’s not a terrible obstacle, though. Sometimes I have assignments and things to work on at night, but it usually isn’t a big deal. I am also very involved at church which keeps me busy.
Q. And what about you, Angela?
A: I am a photographer, and then I also own a little etsy shop (I paint), and that keeps me pretty busy during the holidays. And then I am also involved at church, and I am a scout leader - the Wolves. They are eight years old. I have several boys come to my home every Tuesday night and I get to pretend to throw a birthday party (practically) every week to entertain them.
Q. You are both busy. How do you stay connected throughout the day? And how do you support each other, and make time for each other and for your marriage?
A: Jon is the most helpful husband. He comes home and scoops up our two-year-old, gives everybody kisses, and then he comes and helps me with dinner. Sometimes he makes dinner. We have dinner and we’ll talk, and he always lets me tell him about my day (sometimes that means I’m venting). And then Jon tells me about his day, which is nice. Talking together about our days provides emotional support to both of us. We both care about what is going on in the other person’s life. Also, he’ll make light of situations that are stressful. So instead of freaking out, I’m laughing about something. He’ll help me turn it into a joke or he’ll pat me on the butt and make me smile. And he always gives me kisses when he gets home, and I always need a big hug - one that lasts a long time!
A: At night we do spend our time together doing individual things, but we usually always watch Jimmy Fallon together. Laughing together is good. I’m usually editing pictures or painting or learning something photography-wise, and he’s either working on something or watching something on wimp.com. He likes to chill and watch movies and I don’t really do that. I don’t chill very well. I like to, like, be learning--
J: (teasing) I don’t like to learn.
Q. How do you guys stay connected through the day?
J: The way we operate is more the necessities - things like “What’s your schedule?” “Are you on your way home?” etc. If there is something bigger going on that day, like if I have an important meeting, I’ll call in afterwards or send Ange a text to let her know how it went.
A: I do text him cute pictures of the boys and he really likes that. Realistically, Jon’s pretty busy at work and there’s not a lot of time to chat. When we’re together in person we feel very connected; we’re a really good team with these four kids. Our parenting styles and goals are very aligned and we work well together.
J: I think the connection for us comes at the beginning of the day. In the morning we are all together, trying to get out the door. We take time to say goodbye to everyone and to hug and kiss. We talk about what is ahead for each of us during the day. It’s important for me to remember that Ange is working pretty hard during the day with the kids, so it’s helpful for me to take some time to appreciate her before I head out for the day.
J: Other than that, if there are important things going on, we’ll keep in touch. The other day, I was going into a meeting with the president of our local division and Ange sent me a text about the budget (stressful text!). I responded, “I’m going into a meeting with the president of the division!” She was so sorry! I made a point after the meeting to reach out to her and tell her that everything went well and that she could get mad at me about the budget now.
A: And I wasn’t really mad at him, I was just informing him…
J: It is important to keep lines of communication open.
Q. That is a perfect segue into finances. Who handles the finances in your marriage? What does budgeting look like? How do you handle financial topics that you don’t see eye-to-eye on?
J: Ange handles it. She might not admit it, but I think she likes it that way. She has her own method of doing it, and I have no objections to anything she does. We are united on savings goals, and that shapes a lot of our budget. Ange informs me each month as to overages (especially MY overages) and where we can do better. Honestly, finances is probably the point of greatest contention in our marriage. That is probably because of me, because I like to spend money.
A: No, you don’t, we just don’t have a lot of extra.
J: And I spend it.
J: I own that. It’s taken ten years for my defenses to come down; to recognize that’s where I’m an idiot in life, and Ange is there to help me. I think she’s less mad at me lately about how much money I spend.
Q. How often do you two communicate about money and about where you are at each month?
J: About every six weeks. I get a friendly text every now and then, encouraging me to “tone it down.” Ange is really good at pulling money out of our cash flow and setting it aside for the things we want to do. For example, we’re planning a ten-year anniversary trip, and so we are saving specifically for that.
A: We’ve saved for over a year now so that we could go on a second honeymoon without worrying about anything.
J: So our savings goals are aligned and we don’t touch that money. And then Angela monitors the rest of the money.
A: I keep a Google spreadsheet with different categories - areas where we spend our money. In another section of the spreadsheet I have those same categories with our allotted budget for the month. We pay for everything with credit cards (that are set up on automatic payments) and we pay everything in full every single month. We never are in debt. I’m afraid of being in debt, it’s just not how I function, so I get really freaked out if we don’t have a certain amount of money in savings just as cushion. We don’t fight about whether or not we can buy gas, I just always want to keep us at a good level so we can feel peace. At the end of each month I go through the credit cards and itemize things and put all the numbers into the spreadsheet. I also try and keep track of all of our cash - the money that I bring in from different things that I do. At the beginning of the month we talk about our plan and what expenses we have coming up - if we need to get the oil changed in our cars this month, or if we have some medical expenses coming up. Then, at the end of the month we see how well we did with the plan. We should do it every week, but we don’t.
J: We’ve dabbled in a lot of other finance trackers, but for one reason or another they haven’t worked out for us. The way that Ange does it is probably as accurate as you can do it. It’s literally just recording every transaction. We can see our balances day in and day out, and our savings being separate, we don’t necessarily worry about that balance dropping. What we do is useful for how we look at money.
Q. When you partition off money for causes, do you have a specific savings account? How does that work for you? How many accounts are you juggling?
A: We have several savings accounts. One account has savings, one is a checking account and then we have a line of credit. We use the checking account most often. There’s hardly anything in that savings account currently. The line of credit is used rarely, but it’s a great buffer. We’ve never bounced checks. I believe it’s important for every family to have a good line of credit. The savings account has multiple money market accounts, and I’ve specifically named them. One is for a trip to Disneyland that we would like to take. One is for our ten-year anniversary trip. One is for money to save towards a future home. And then one is just a savings account that is the cushion - which is like a certain dollar amount that we never want to go under.
A: You know, money comes in, and pretty much all the money goes out at the end of the month. So savings for us comes from tax refunds, and then extra things that I do on the side to earn money. We’ve saved for big purchases that way, and then Jon was unemployed...he has been laid off twice in our marriage. Once for a very short time, for two months, and once for a long time - eight months. That was while I was pregnant with our youngest son, and we didn’t have health insurance for awhile. That was a very stressful time…
Q. Can you tell us more about that time and how you worked through it? How did it nurture your marriage?
A: That was a really stressful time in our lives, for sure. Our daughter was in kindergarten in a charter school that we really loved, and it was twenty-five minutes away, so gas money was an issue. We did collect unemployment, but it just covered our bases...anyways we were able to make it. And we still never went into debt after eight months. We just really lived frugally, and we didn’t spend money.
J: We didn’t set out at the beginning of our marriage with guiding principles when it comes to finances, except for “Don’t go into debt.” That was Ange’s thing. We just recently paid off all my student loans, and that’s a good feeling. Make that a priority: pay off debt. We communicate about finances quite a bit. We talk about our goals a lot.
A: If I want to spend money somewhere, I don’t ever spend money without knowing where the money’s coming from. So if I’m going to go buy some clothes, I have to think to myself, “Where is this money coming from?” And a lot of times I will do something extra, like giving plasma or something like that. I did plasma for the summer and saved money so that we could go and do these little vacations with our kids. I’ll also cash in our credit card points so that I have money to go and spend on something specific. I always know where the money is coming from for extra purchases.
J: Yeah, Ange is really strict on herself about that. And I’m less strict on her.
A: He never gets mad at me if I spend money.
J: Not even that. I’ll go spend the money that she is thinking about spending! For example, I can’t remember if it was her birthday, or our anniversary, but I bought some boots from Nordstrom - NICE boots for her.
A: They were $250 boots, and they were shipped to me. I freaked out. It wasn’t our anniversary, Jon got a bonus from work and decided to spend it on me. He bought them just to be nice. That was so kind of him. Those boots will last forever.
J: So, just so you can see, there’s compatibility here with our finances, but we’re pretty well opposite as far as mindset. We really don’t see eye-to-eye. Ange wants to know exactly where the money’s coming from. I think more like, “You need nice shampoo, I’m going to buy it because you want/need it!” Or, I’ll say, “You need clothes, and I’m going to buy them!”
A: Jon really doesn’t buy a ton of stuff, he just likes to spend money on food (restaurants).
Q. Let’s jump into intimacy. What does it mean to you, by way of brief definition, to have an intimate relationship with your spouse?
J: Obviously there’s sex involved, but that’s the easy answer. Emotional intimacy is important too. Recently Ange had a friend of hers - a family that’s almost a mirror image of ours. Children are the same age, two boys, two girls. The youngest boy, just two years old, had cancer and passed away. Ange was involved in taking pictures a week before he passed away. It was really a sacred experience for her. She was able to share her deep thoughts and feelings about it with me. I think a really big part of intimacy is being able to share those experiences, and talk about them together - whether it’s a hard situation like that, or whether it’s a victory, a success of some kind. Intimacy is being able to recognize the emotional level of your spouse and being able to share in it. However, there’s no way I’m ever going to be as excited as Ange can be about things.
A: Yeah, I get excited over anything and everything.
J: At the same time, she knows how to deal with my excitement, if it ever happens. She knows how to help me feel loved, and comforted, and comfortable, and safe. I think intimacy is sharing a lot, but it’s also a comfort thing, it’s a safety thing, I think.
A: Yeah, I can trust him with my feelings. Taking pictures for that family was life changing. I didn’t come out of it the same person. Jon and I could talk about that - about very deep things together. He knows everything about me, all of the bad, all of the good, and I still trust him 100% and I know he loves me. He always supports me.
J: Intimacy is vulnerability. Ange knows everything about me as well, and she’s still right there by my side. That’s a huge deal. There’s a lot of forgiveness too, probably.
A: Sharing your deepest thoughts. Your deepest feelings, your deepest secrets. We know all of that about each other. We know mistakes we’ve made in the past, and there aren’t any secrets. I value that, that we can talk about those things.
Q. How does the intimacy you have developed in your marriage, strengthen your confidence in each other and your loyalty to each other?
J: Whenever I think of intimacy, or a great marriage relationship where the person that you’re married to is a true heart-to-heart connection, I think of one of my favorite movies, Clear and Present Danger, a Tom Clancy book-turned-movie. Harrison Ford is in it, so it’s a good movie obviously. In the movie, Harrison Ford gets a phone call informing him that his friend just passed away from cancer. He takes the call and he doesn’t really say anything over the phone. After hearing that his friend passed away he replies by saying, “When?” At that point, he holds out his hand, and he’s got a look on his face, and his wife just kind of knows what has happened. She goes over to him and holds his hand and gets close to him. That is what intimacy looks like to me.
Q. What advice could you share that would help couples improve their sexual intimacy together?
J: Ange, why don’t you answer that.
A: Oh, brother.
J: ‘Cause I could write a book on this.
A: I tease Jon that he should write a book about sex. He just gets it. Ok, I would encourage couples to feel emotionally connected. I think that’s probably the base of being able to have a really great time having sex together. Sometimes when I don’t feel emotionally connected to Jon, I’ll just flat out tell him, “Honey I don’t feel emotionally connected to you.” He’ll be trying to do something to initiate sex, and I know that’s what’s coming, and I really like having sex with him, but I just have to feel emotionally connected first. Sometimes all it will take is me just saying to him flat out what I need, “Honey, tell me something that you love about me.” And then I feel better. Or just cuddling with him for a little bit helps me feel connected to him. Or letting me talk and tell him things that are troubling my heart. And then it’s just like we’re best friends in that moment, and then we can start kissing. The nice thing with Jon is that sex has never been like, “Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am!” There’s always been cuddling and expressions of gentleness and love. He is always doing things that he knows make me feel good, and I try and do things that make him feel good. It’s not just a quick thing that we want to get over with.
J: Yeah, Ange will stop everything and say, “I don’t feel emotionally connected right now.” For me I’ll usually laugh, because for me it’s kind of play time for the married couple. It’s time to have fun.
A: Everyone feels love in different ways. Jon definitely feels love through having sex.
J: For me it’s kind of my no-stress time, or at least it should be. It’s fun for me. So I don’t really worry about the emotional connection, necessarily.
A: He never asks though and says, “Please have sex with me,” or something like that. If he wants sex, he knows what to do to help me feel happy and loved. And then we end up both wanting to have sex.
J: I’ll do what it takes to make it happen, but part of what motivates me is making Ange feel good. If she’s enjoying it then I enjoy it. I feed off of that. So if she says “I’m emotionally disconnected,” I really will do anything to help her feel connected. I’ll say, “Alright, let’s cuddle for a bit, then.”
A: He never makes me feel bad about that either. And I’ll totally tell him if something is feeling good or not feeling good. I think it’s very important for couples to communicate about sex, and to not be embarrassed. Jon touched on the most important thing, though, in sex you should always put your spouse first.
Q. Do you ever find yourself too tired for sex? What is your approach to how often sex happens?
A: I probably don’t initiate enough because I am very tired with four little kids to take care of. I have a lot of emotional ups and downs during the day and they kind of wear me out. Plus, I do a lot of my photography business at the very end of the day, which means we usually stay up until midnight. However, I don’t often say no because it’s not like a question he asks. It’s more of a thing he does. I might initially feel like, “I’m too tired,” but he works his charm and then it just flows naturally.
Q. How does having sex and being close intimately, nurture your marriage?
A: It’s the one thing that you share with only your spouse. It’s something that’s very special and a time when you’re being your most vulnerable self. You’re literally standing there naked, insecurities and all. And I trust Jon completely.
J: Well for me, I think a big part of a healthy sex life with your spouse is that it is a protection. If you pay attention to each other's sexual needs and share in the experience together, then it’s not just one person having a great time and the other not caring. A healthy sex life is a protection from a lot of things. There are a lot of temptations that could creep in. It’s important to take time for sex, to be vulnerable, to get over the tiredness, and to go for it. I’ll always want it even though it’s not always convenient and it takes a lot out of us. For me, I think it’s a protection. It shields me, in particular, from a lot. It’s something that really, really nurtures our marriage.
A: There are many marriages that have to battle pornography, sex addiction, and other unhealthy practices. Some men require sex every night. That isn’t healthy either. A healthy sex life really is a great protection. I remember one of my friends saying, “Once you have kids you don’t really have sex that much anymore.” I thought to myself, “That’s not true for us.” Married couples should be having sex fairly often. For us that’s realistically like once a week, maybe twice a week. And sometimes several times a week. Sex helps us to feel closer as a couple and it helps us to show our love for one another.
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