Years Married: 8 in June
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Occupations: Photographers, Entrepreneurs and Dream Believers
Hobbies/Interests: All things coffee and espresso, travel, well crafted food, wine and beer
Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream: Mint Chocolate Chip - Ryan, Oreo - Liz
Website: Amazing Life Together
Q. How did you two meet?
R: We met in high school. We lived in a small town, so we knew each other informally. I also played on some of the same sports teams as her older brother. The guys on the team always joked that somebody on the team would eventually date his sister, and I eventually did start dating Liz. We were in AP Physics together, and we started getting to know each other better that way. I helped tutor her a little bit.
L: Physics is not one of my strengths.
R: That was how we got to know each other. Eventually, over a long summer of dating and hanging out, we realized we wanted to be more than just friends. So on September 15th, 2001, I officially asked Liz out. We’ve been together ever since and we will have been married eight years in June.
Q. How did Amazing Life Together start?
R: It was a gradual process that was a culmination of multiple circumstances in our lives coming together all at once. Liz’s parents were separated and divorced when we were in college, and that had a big impact on our dating relationship and the early years of our marriage. We started a wedding photography business and quickly realized that we were not the only ones who needed positive examples of marriage in our lives! That made us want to do something to celebrate marriage and help us be champions of marriage beyond just the wedding day. Since we were photographers, the best way to do that was to take photos. So we decided to start interviewing and photographing married couples.
L: It started as more of a passion project - where we set a goal to go and photograph fifteen couples and learn what we could about marriage from them. We put a quick website together and asked for nominations of amazing couples to interview. We received around sixty nominations of stories that blew our minds. People who have been through the hardest of hard times, and who are still celebrating their marriage every day. We felt that these stories needed to be shared and we realized this was much bigger than a passion project. And now it is a non-profit organization.
Q. Tell us about your trip. What inspired it?
R: We wanted to focus more of our time on Amazing Life Together this year. We read a quote from a book about Einstein that said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results.” Prior to this year, a large portion of our time has been running our photography business in order to pay our mortgage. Although we love capturing the amazing life moments of all the couples we get to photograph, we didn’t have much time left to focus on Amazing Life Together. So, this year we decided together that the best way to alleviate the financial hurdle of our mortgage and free up more time to work on Amazing Life Together would be to rent our home. From there, we came up with a goal to travel to all fifty states in one year, meeting and documenting married love stories along the way. And so then we decided to purchase an RV and begin our Amazing Marriage Adventure.
Q. How long is the total trip?
L: We started January 10th of this year and right now, our current route takes us through December of this year. As Ryan said, our goal is to photograph one couple in every state. So far we are 21 states in.
Q. What are some of the little things you do together, or for each other (or that you have learned through interviewing other couples) that nurture your marriage?
L: We’re learning so much about marriage on this adventure. Communication about expectations is a little thing that is really a big thing. One of my favorite examples someone shared was a very simple scenario - A couple is going to Target and the wife wants to browse the dollar bin, and the husband has a list of the five things he wants to buy. So, the wife goes in and browses and the husband responds by saying, “What the heck? We had five things we were coming in here for, and why are you spending your time doing this?” Had there been communication beforehand about each other’s expectations during the shopping trip, there wouldn’t have been any argument. Being open with your expectations is so important. The Target example is small, but those are the things that can cause big arguments.
R: We’ve also learned from other couples, how important it is to support each other in individual hobbies and interests. Many couples have shared this with us during the adventure and we’ve also found this so important in our own marriage. Although Liz knows me better than anyone else, she doesn’t know exactly what I need in each particular moment. We are together 99% of the time, so having an individual hobby is important. I really enjoy coffee and the art of espresso and stuff like that, so we go to lots of coffee shops. That makes me happy, and Liz supports and encourages that. It’s a small thing to encourage me to do, but she still does it.
L: Have fun together. Be each other’s best friend. Always go to your spouse with everything before you go to anyone else.
R: Don’t let outside forces influence your relationship, especially family. Never talk badly about your spouse to your parents or anyone else, just share the uplifting and positive things.
Q. In your current situation, you spend almost all your time together, so what does date night look like for you?
L: It is hard because everything blends together...finding those boundaries has been a struggle. There is a book about how men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti. My mind goes like a spaghetti noodle. We’ll be talking about wine, and I’ll think about the grocery store we bought the wine at, then I’ll think about the grocery list, and then I’ll think about what we had for dinner yesterday and what we need to make for dinner tomorrow night.
R: Men are much more like waffles, with squares and compartments. I compartmentalize things. If we worked separate jobs, it would be the idea of leaving work at work and home at home.
L: Our lives are so intertwined right now, so it’s hard for me to close the door and say, “Oh, we’re actually on a date night right now.”
R: We try to carve time out to be intentional and specific about what we’re going to do, whether that be a sunset hike, or a bike ride together, or a movie in the afternoon. We try to find different moments throughout the trip to do things that are special.
L: When we were in Las Vegas, we carved out half a day to just spend time together doing fun things.
R: We recently went to the Kentucky Derby, and that had been on our bucket list forever. That was a fun date just for us. We even planned part of the Adventure travel route around the Derby to make sure it would happen.
Q. What principles or practical suggestions have helped you, as a couple, manage your finances?
R: I’m an engineer by college degree and very type A, so I enjoy the financial planning and tracking our money. I take care of it and stay on top of it. However, I do make sure that Liz is aware of what bills we have to pay, what our financial status is, etc. From time to time we sit down and go through our budget together. It’s important to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to finances. Here are my best tips for you:
Q. What are your thoughts on intimacy and how do you strengthen your intimate relationship together?
L: We definitely didn’t recognize each other’s intimate needs until we read the book, “The Five Love Languages.” That changed things for us. I am much more of a “Quality Time,” person and Ryan is much more of a “Physical Touch,” person.
R: We’re not as good at doing this now as we were in the past, but one of the things that we found helpful was to schedule sex. We scheduled out times during the month that we were planning on having sex. It was super important because we were more aware of it and more in tune with each other. Not only did we end up having more sex, but it allowed us to be better to each other throughout the day. There still needs to be room for spontaneity as well, so you definitely have to find what works for you as a couple. It all comes back to communication and expectations.
Q. You are still married. What is your secret to a happy marriage?
L: We all come into life with expectations, and the homes and families we grow up in mold us into who we are and set expectations for us. I think a lot of frustration in marriage comes when life plays out different than expected. In marriage, you join two different lives and two sets of expectations together - so it is vital to communicate about expectations.
R: Our secret is making the choice to invest in each other and in our relationship. Every single day, marriage is a choice to get up and say, “Yes, I do,” and “I want to be with you.” It’s being on the same team, always, and celebrating each other. And being there for each other during the hard moments, and knowing there will be better times. It’s checking your expectations at the door. Just knowing that you’re building your life together, and that what you thought marriage was supposed to be doesn’t have to be that way. You can build it however you want it to be. Never let divorce be an option or a word in your vocabulary. And finally, surround yourself with other amazing couples who are great examples of marriage. Learning from other couples is so encouraging.
"There is properly no history; only biography."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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