Years Married: 8 years in January
Kids: 2 boys
Occupations: Elizabeth is a Domestic Diva; Steven is a Systems Engineer
Hobbies: TRAVEL. Photography. Amazing Race. Playing with the kids. Trips with the kids. Vacations without the kids (if the kids are coming it’s a trip, if the kids aren’t coming it’s a vacation). We like good food.
Favorite Ice Cream: E - Cookies n' Cream
S - No, you said Rocky Road! And then you would launch into, “Do you know why it was called Rocky Road? Because it was invented during the Great Depression. And it was a rocky road.”
E - That is my fun party fact. And his is vanilla. Like his dad said, “It’s okay to have vanilla be your favorite flavor as long as you have tried all the other flavors.”
The Little Things
Q. What are some of the little things you do together or for each other that nurture your marriage?
E: One of the things that I try to make a conscious effort of, is that I stop whatever I’m doing, whether it is playing with the boys, cooking, talking on the phone with my mom, whatever, I stop and greet him at the door with a hug and a kiss. Sometimes I greet him with a screaming child.
S: Sometimes it’s not even at the door, it’s in the garage, as I’m pulling in.
E: Nonetheless, I’m still greeting him at the door with something.
S: One thing I’ve learned, and I’m trying to get better at this, Elizabeth is really big on words of affirmation. Internally I think, “This food is delicious.” So, I make a conscious effort to say, “Elizabeth, thank you so much, this meal is really good.” Because she puts a lot of effort into it.
E: That is my biggest love language.
Q. What are some of the little things your spouse has done for you that have made a big difference?
E: Steven tries to get the kids in the morning for me. That is kind of their dad time. They usually have a little dance party and then they have breakfast, and then I join them. Those extra ten minutes are amazing.
S: One of the things that she does is that she always gets the kids before I leave and they say, “Thank you for working.” It kind of gives me a purpose for working. It’s really nice.
Q. What specific ways has continued dating helped you in your marriage?
E: After we had our second son, we found that the “us” time diminished. It wouldn’t just happen on its own. We had to really make a focused effort on us. So, probably two months after we had our second son, we started having a regular, weekly date night. We set some ground rules to make sure it would happen, and to make it more realistic for us. First, we take turns planning it so it’s not overwhelming. We switch off every week. We usually have it Friday or Saturday, but if it needs to be Wednesday, then it is Wednesday. Second, we have a rule that you have to ask the other person out. It’s kind of like when you were dating in college and you had to ask them out ahead of time. Sometimes it’s a creative way, like a note in the car, or something silly. Sometimes it’s just a text, or asking face to face. It’s just been a big game changer for us.
E: Also, it’s easy to think, “Oh, that’s a lot of money to spend on dating. That’s a lot of money on babysitters.” Last week he took me out, it was his turn, and our parents were in town, so we went up to this restaurant in Boulder that I’d been dying to try. This week, well, he doesn’t know what we are going to do yet, but sometimes we’ll put the kids to bed and order take-out and watch a special movie, or other things. We really cherish dating and we really think it is very important. I love my boys so much, they’re my little boyfriends, but I need to remind Steven that he is my number one and that I set him at the top.
S: There is a pyramid of boyfriends, but I’m at the top. She’s right, it can be as simple. One time we played board games on our deck by candlelight. Sometimes the most simple things can be special. We’ve been to an art studio, a bookstore, made homemade pizza, etc. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but we do it and we try to be consistent.
Q. What is your favorite date that you have been on recently?
E: I know what you should say.
S: I thought the one I planned for us was pretty good. We went go-cart racing, and then we went and got sushi, and then we went and watched Fast & Furious 5.
E: So, it was like a theme date. Since you did a go-out-and-spend-money date, I’ll do a home date. One of my favorite at-home dates was that I sent him an email in French (and I don’t speak French, so I used one of those translation websites) and I asked him out in French. The theme was Les Mis, which I rented. I went to the grocery store, and selected different gourmet cheeses we’d never tried. So we did a little cheese-tasting while we watched Les Mis.
S: And it was GREAT! But, some of those cheeses were not good.
E: I think I got seven cheeses and two were terrible.
S: Like I said, we like eating good food. I’m sure a foodie would have appreciated them.
Q. What obstacles do you face in dating and how do you overcome them
S: One of the things Elizabeth is very passionate about is the word “busy.” You hear people say, “Oh, I don’t have time for it.” She’ll say, “You have time for it, you just didn’t make time for it.” So the distinction is that if it’s important to you, you’ll make time for it. If I don’t get around to something and I say, “Oh, I was busy,” she’ll give me that look and I’ll say, “You’re right. I didn’t make time for it.”
E: Even though you are busy, you make time for the things that are important to you.
S: Once you realize that the important thing is going on a date and spending time with her, then it makes it easier to plan it.
Q. How has dating nurtured your marriage?
S: It has helped me appreciate my wife a lot more. It has helped me reflect back on when we were dating. You get married and have kids and you sometimes get stuck in parent mode - paying bills, making sure the kids aren’t dead, making sure the house is clean, etc. When you go on date night, you shift back into husband/wife mode instead of two parents working down parallel paths.
Q. What does it mean to you to have an intimate relationship with your spouse?
E: I think that there is emotional intimacy and there is physical intimacy. I think when you can have a consistent, healthy, physical intimacy it opens the floodgates to emotional intimacy.
S: Yeah, the two are intertwined. I can agree with that.
E: Talking about physical intimacy is important to us. One thing that we talked about even before we got married, is deciding that we would never use sex as a bargaining chip. I think that is important. That is so off-limits for us and it’s not something to manipulate to get what you want.
S: That cheapens it and turns it into currency.
E: Having that regular, physical intimacy is important so that emotionally you can just open up and trust each other 100%. And emotional intimacy can lead to better physical intimacy, too.
S: Intimacy takes us out of parent mode and puts us into husband/wife mode. Date night and hopefully the results of that date night, help bring us back together. So we’re together moving forward.
E: And speaking honestly, there are so many times where at the end of the day, I don’t feel like a woman. I feel like a mom. And I think it is my job to help him feel like a man and his job to help me feel like a woman. I think you go through ups and downs in your marriage - of communicating well and talking emotionally, and ups and downs of physical intimacy. When we look back, when you can talk, and when you are physically intimate regularly, those small things continue to be small things and they don’t grow into big things.
E: So talk and have sex. The end.
Q. How do you two talk about intimacy together?
E: We talk about it very openly.
S: We don’t do schedules, who starts what, or keep tally.
E: We’re very open in what we want and when we want it.
S: No transactional arguments, no scheduling. We’ll talk about it. And we’ll express our feelings, but in no ways do we break out the planner. You don’t need to say “It’s a full moon, and we’re half past four, time for love.”
E: The emotional intimacy has to be stable. I never thought I would find someone that I could be 100% myself with. I can be goofy with him. I can express my concerns and my wants.
Q. Any other advice you would give to couples about intimacy?
S: You have to be willing to laugh at yourself. Physical intimacy isn’t always going to be like the movies. You’re not going to have the soft lighting and silk sheets. I feel like when you laugh at yourself, it’s a core part of you. It’s not something that you have to treat like Grandma’s china and say, “Now, we will be intimate. The intimate time has begun. We will now give smoldering looks to each other.” That’s just not how it is.
E: You make it your own. Your emotional and physical intimacy is between the two of you. Our physical intimacy is completely different than someone else’s. And those differences are wonderful. It’s what you feel comfortable with between the two of you. You’ve communicated about it, and you will grow together and make it your own.
Values to Live By
Q. What do you see as your spouse’s strongest trait? How has that nurtured your marriage?
E: I admire a lot about Steven. He is amazing. He works hard for our family, and has an uncanny characteristic of being able to leave it at the office. When he comes home, he walks in the door and he is with the family. He doesn’t bring it home. He is good at being present. And of course that makes my life easier, because when he’s with me, we can have fun, we can laugh, we can talk about his day, and be with the family.
S: One thing that Elizabeth does extremely well is filling in for my weaknesses. My dad always talked about, “When you get married, it’s like a sculpture and a relief. A sculpture takes up space and a relief has negative space.” So, you put them together, your strengths fill their weaknesses. I’m terrible at keeping things organized and keeping a to-do list. I married a very organized person, who helps keep things I need to worry about in order, and keeping our family in order. Her strength helps me out. I’ll be running out the door and she’ll be like, “Oh, you forgot this.” It sounds like she is my mom, and I forgot my school project. My baking soda volcano. I really appreciate it.
E: I don’t categorize myself as a funny person at all. Steven will make me laugh every single day. And sometimes it’s making me laugh at myself. Often, it’s making me laugh at myself. I tend to be a really serious person. The perfect example is our dreams. I have the very serious dreams, and Steven has the astronaut-in- space fighting dreams. That gives you an idea of our personalities. He makes life fun. I love that the most. I’m going to start to cry.
S: That is so sweet. I love that Elizabeth thinks that I’m so amazing. Elizabeth has what textbooks call a “very magnetic personality.” People are extremely drawn to her, whether they realize it or not. I saw that with her friends in college and that immediately drew me to her.
E: All my college girlfriends call me, “Momma.” That is why I needed someone light-hearted and fun. I asked for a crock pot my senior year in high school so I could take it to college.
S: I love seeing her with friends. She is such a force there. She is able to command the room. That is so cool to stand back and just watch her in her element. She would be fantastic as a talk-show host.
Routines & Rituals
Q. What are the things you do day-to-day to stay connected?
E: We always hug and kiss good-bye. The kids and I always tell Steve, “Thank you for working.” Steve & I text and call throughout the day. Letting him know that I’m thinking about him throughout the day is important. Not that we’re great at writing love poems to each other. We always eat family dinner together. It helps us connect as a couple and as a family. When you strengthen your family, it connects you as a couple, too.
Q. What do you do for birthdays, anniversaries, etc?
S: Travel. We’ll have large, big picture discussions of the places that we want to see and we’ll rank them. We’ve determined that we don’t want to wait until retirement to travel, because we’re able to get around now. We don’t want to potentially be dragging around an oxygen tank. We want to make sure that we travel now, and enjoy it now.
E: Individually we like to travel, but it’s incredible when I get to travel with my best friend and it’s something we both love. Steven is a master navigator, no matter what country we are in or what language. I am a research guru. I love to research. This is our passion together. We make sure that we have a vacation, just the two of us, at least once a year. And sometimes that’s abroad, and sometimes that’s a staycation. That is HUGE to us. We plan it, we save our money up ahead of time and we look forward to it.
S: It’s taking the date night idea to a larger level. It’s an ability to reconnect as husband and wife, to just have "us," time, and to do things we couldn’t do with the kids.
Q. How far ahead do you start planning for your trips?
S: It depends. Europe was 6-8 months. We’ve got trips planned out until 2017. But then Elizabeth saw an Iceland deal that was ridiculous. That was spur of the moment. We said, “We can afford this now," so we jumped on it.
E: Because this is what we love and it nurtures our marriage, we put money aside every month into our travel fund. When we did Europe for twelve days, we planned in advance and we saved specifically for that. Iceland, this deal came up, it was about time for us to get away, and because we have that travel fund, the money was there.
S: Everyone chooses to spend their money differently. For us, travel is our thing.
Q. What specific things have helped you overcome challenges that have come up in your marriage?
S: Boxing gloves. Like intimacy, you are going to have to determine conflict resolution on a per couple basis - it can be unique to you.
E: Marriage takes work. I took a marriage prep class and the professor said, “There isn’t a one and only, but when you choose to get married, you choose to make that someone your one and only.” It takes a lot of work. It’s fun work. But, it’s hard work. It’s emotional work. You need to figure out what works for you as a couple.
E: For Steven and I, and I’m terrible at this, we’ve made a rule that the person can completely get their point out there so you can identify where the other person is coming from. Often it’s just a communication thing. We’re thinking the same thing, but we have to talk through it to see that. For us, talking works. Sometimes you do go to bed angry and sometimes you figure it out before you go to bed. There is no hard and fast rule. For us, it is hearing each other out; seven out of ten times we are on the same page, we just need to talk so our views can merge.
S: If I start at A and the problem is at Z, but I stop at C to argue about something, then I’m spending useless time arguing about a point that doesn’t matter. Get out the entire problem and listen. Heaven knows you have two ears and one mouth, and the ratio should reflect that. That is hard for both of us.
E: Another ground rule we have set up for our relationship is that if I have a beef, and I bring it up, then that is the subject we are talking about. If he brings up something about apples, we can’t bring oranges into it.
S: All that being said, that is what works for us, it may not work for everybody. There isn’t one tried and true way to work through conflict.
Q. What is your key to a happy marriage?
S: Good food, sex, and travel.
E: I don’t want to sound shallow.
S: Everyone is going to read the first paragraph and then this line.
E: I think it is being 100% emotionally and physically available. That you can talk about anything, you can laugh about anything, and you have a healthy physical relationship. We change, and it’s amazing how much our marriage has evolved. It’s not the same from when we said, “I do.” Make your marriage your top priority.
"There is properly no history; only biography."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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