Years Married: 8 years (in January)
Location: Central Oregon
Kids: One son and a baby on the way
Occupation: We are currently full-time bloggers, Jennifer at Unveiled Wife, and Aaron at Husband Revolution. Jennifer is the author of Wife After God, Thirty-One Prayers for My Husband, and her latest book which is on pre-sale now - The Unveiled Wife: Embracing Intimacy with God and Your Husband
Hobbies/Fun: We love to explore; we like going on little adventures; traveling; eating out; going to movies.
Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream: J: How do you narrow it down? I like so many! A: Her favorite flavor of ice cream is ice cream. I like chocolate. Anything chocolatey.
The Little Things
Q. What are some of the little things that you do together, or for each other that nurture your marriage? How do you express love and appreciation for each other in little ways?
J: Aaron plays with my hair at night to help me relax and go to sleep. And I absolutely love it, and adore it, and appreciate it. However, I think the biggest thing for us would be prayer. If Aaron leaves early in the morning, he will pray over me and our son. Just for the day to go well and for protection. Also, he winks at me - intentionally. We’ll be across the way from each other, and he’ll just look at me and wink. It’s pretty awesome.
Q. Can you think of a time when something little has made a big difference in the quality of your marriage?
J: Two years ago Aaron gave me a gift for our anniversary that was super thoughtful. It was a book that had 365 reasons why he loved me. Each one was just a sentence, and they were silly and awesome and beautiful. Some were like, “I like your freckles,” other ones were like, “I love the way you laugh,” or “I love the way you try and tell jokes.” That gift was really special to me because it was a lot of little moments, and things that he pointed out that he loves about me.
Q. Aaron, what sparked that idea, and how did that nurture your marriage?
A: It was pretty intense. I spent a few months, actually, writing it. Have you ever sat down to think of 365 reasons why you love someone? That’s a lot of reasons. I had to intentionally be looking out for things that I liked. So it made me more attentive. I don’t remember what sparked the idea, but I remember thinking it would be awesome to show her all the little things that I do love about her. So I did, and she was surprised by it.
J: Super surprised. I couldn’t believe it.
Q. What specific ways has continued dating in your marriage strengthened your marriage and why do you feel dating is important, even after marriage?
J: Dating is important because it cultivates friendship. And friendship is really important because it helps you endure through the hardest of the hard times. It also gives you time to communicate with one another, which is really important because it gives you the time to sit and think clearly about your relationship with one another, and how you view each other.
A: Yes. It gives you dedicated time to focus on the other person - on each other. We’ll go to the movies, which doesn’t sound very interactive, because you’re quiet the whole time, but afterwards we’ll talk for hours about what the movie was about. Depending on how good the movie is, it makes us talk about bigger things in life. A lot of times, on dates, we may just go get some food and we’ll dream. Moments of dreaming, where we talk about what the future will look like.
J: Goals. It kind of puts us on the same page. And if we’re busy during the day, or during the week and we don’t get a lot of hand-holding or hugging, or looking in each other’s eyes - date night is reserved for making those things a priority. So you get the physical connection as well.
Q. What obstacles have you faced in going on dates and how have you overcome them?
A: We have lots of responsibilities, so we can’t just go on dates. We try and have them often, but they are never consistent. Having a kid has been an obstacle. We have been okay with that, we actually go on dates with our son.
J: Forgetting to schedule it.
A: Just going a few weeks and thinking, “Oh wait, we need to have a date.”
J: I think at the beginning of our marriage, finances were a huge obstacle because if we didn’t have the discretionary income to go to the movies or go out to dinner, we wouldn’t go.
Q. Do you have any favorite dates you can remember or a favorite type of date?
J: I do. I have one. This one time, it was a date for my birthday and he surprised me with a small, three-seater airplane flight to Catalina Island. It was about a 40-minute flight there and then back.
A: We got to fly the plane for a little bit. It was a little Cessna.
J: We each got a turn to fly, it was just us two and a pilot. It was wonderful. It was a cool experience. We had never done anything like that before.
A: We had lunch on top of Catalina Mountain.
J: It was such a relaxing time, and such an adventurous time because neither of us had done anything like that before. It was very fun and memorable.
Q. What does it mean to you to have an intimate relationship with your spouse?
J: Growing up, I always assumed intimacy meant sex. I didn’t realize there was a whole other side to intimacy, involving communication and just those very transparent times with your spouse. We’re still learning what intimacy is for us and how to make it a priority. It does take time to learn that over many, many years.
A: We equate a lot of our intimacy very closely with our relationship with God. We know that if we’re lacking in any area in our personal relationship, it is most likely that we are lacking in our spiritual relationship with our Father in Heaven. In all the different facets of intimacy, we’ve found that they start to get better, and more passionate, and more involved, when we seek after God and surrender more to Him. When I’m pursuing God, I find myself paying attention to my wife and seeing when she’s fragile, or emotional, or when she needs a hug. Or needs me to sit with her and listen. Or needs me to comfort her and encourage her. That’s all intimacy. The other side of it is vulnerability. If I’m in sin, or struggling with something, and keeping it from God because I’m not ready to open up about it, most likely I’m not being open with my wife either. I’m being closed off. I talk to people all the time who say, “Oh, my wife doesn’t need to know that because I don’t want her to deal with that for me.” And that is a lie. What that means is, “I don’t want to be that open. I don’t want to be that close to my wife. I don’t want her to know every part of me. I don’t want her to know what I’m afraid of, or what I struggle with, or what I’m tempted by.” And that means you just aren’t intimate.
J: Sometimes we don’t know how to explain how we’re feeling so we make up words. Like…
A: Orange. :)
J: Yeah, we made up this word called, “Orange.” It’s for when I’m feeling crazy and blah, and when there is definitely something wrong. Aaron will look at me and say, “Babe, are you orange today?” And I’ll respond, “Yes.” And then he can comfort me and walk me through it.
A: Sometimes it’s frustrating to me.
J: It’s just a code-word for something we don’t have a word for.
Q. How do you create a healthy environment for intimacy to flourish in?
A: That is the tricky part. It really takes two people that are in the same place, understanding-wise, with each other. When both of you lay out your cards on the table, then there is no one that is above another person - spiritually or righteously. There is no, “Well, you did this, this, and this, therefore I am better than you.” Or “I don’t need the forgiveness like you do.” Or “I’m hurt more than you were hurt.” I think you lay them out and you realize that you’re both naked - figuratively. Or sometimes literally, too. You realize you’re both naked and you think, “Okay, this is us. And we’re married to each other.”
J: I think cultivating a safe place for that intimacy and that vulnerability takes time to understand. I know, for me, there were many times when Aaron was trying to be open and vulnerable with me about struggles he had, and I shut him down. I was angry and hurt, and I took offense to what he was telling me instead of understanding that he has his own individual struggles and that my role, as a wife, is to come alongside him and help him, and to realize that I’m not perfect either.
A: It’s cultivating an environment where you say, “I want you to be open and vulnerable and transparent, because I want us to work through those things together." Vs. “If you tell me and it hurts me, I’m going to be mad and push you away.” We’re not perfect at it, but I think we have an open communication line where we understand that we can tell each other things.
Values to Live By
Q. What are the characteristics, traits, attributes and strengths, that you love about your spouse?
A: I’ll start. I fell in love with her because of her love for Christ. She pursued Him with everything that she had. She still does, to this day. Even though there were times at the beginning of our marriage when we were very bitter and angry towards God, because of the difficulty in our intimacy department, she still pursued Him. She loves God and she pursues Him. She allows God to work in her heart.
J: His honesty and ability to communicate. He isn’t afraid to talk about the hard issues and to face things right away (which I’m not used to). When we face conflict, he wants to talk about it right then and there, and I usually want to run and hide. His ability to pull me out of my comfort zone and confront those things, just to get past them and overcome them, has really nurtured our marriage and made us stronger.
Routines & Rituals
Q. How do you stay connected during the day?
A: Luckily, we’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work from home together. So we are probably with each other a little too much (jk). Working from home together doesn’t really equal what you would think it equals when it comes to our personal relationship, though. So we like to go on a lot of walks. We usually walk to the park and talk and vent - about each other or our day, or what we didn’t get done, or how accomplished we felt.
J: We kiss every day which automatically draws us closer together. And then family time. That family time with our son of wrestling and laughing and messing around with each other. It’s physical. It’s joyful. It’s just a time of connection for all of us.
Q. What are the rituals and routines you have developed around birthdays, Valentine's Day, and anniversaries?
A: We’re laughing about this because we’re kind of a unique couple. We don’t put very much effort into any holiday. We don’t like feeling obligated to buy things. Our society has really commercialized special occasions. We get each other gifts all year round.
J: I think we try and make it more of a priority to make sure that we’re consistently attending to each other, and encouraging each other. Pouring into each other’s life, more on a daily basis.
A: We do celebrate the other occasions, we just don’t have any rituals. We’re trying to make one for fall season - when eggnog comes out. We make eggnog french toast. We love eggnog.
Q. You probably have a lot more rituals and routines than you realize. How do the things that are unique to you two as a couple, bless and nurture your marriage?
J: One word that is really special to me, it is silly, but it is, “Ditto.” If Aaron says, “I love you,” I say, “Ditto.” Or if I say, “I love you,” he says, “Ditto.”
A: We have always done it.
J: It’s funny, because on our wedding day the pastor was saying, “Repeat after me these vows.” He did it with Aaron first, and then he got to me and he was kind of stumbling over his words, so I just called out, “Ditto!” Every time Aaron says it, it brings me back to that moment. I just love it. (To read Jennifer’s post about this, click here.)
A: The book of 365 “I love you’s” is titled, “Ditto.”
Q. What suggestions can you share that have helped you work through conflict together?
J: We’ve actually never had conflict...I’m just kidding! (Aaron laughs)
A: Conflict? What is conflict?
J: Something that has helped us is open communication. Actually verbalizing your feelings. I have to verbally say, “I’m frustrated because…” instead of saying, “I’m mad at you.” Trying to be very intentional with your words, and knowing that each word matters and that each word defines part of the conflict.
A: In Proverbs it says, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” I’m terrible at that. I always want to speak first. It’s a good tip. If you listen intently enough, usually you can hear what is being said behind the words. Apologize often. Not just saying, “I’m sorry,” because sometimes that means...
J: “I don’t want to deal with.” So truly apologizing and saying why.
A: Usually I say it like this, “Will you forgive me? I didn’t mean to do this. I’m sorry that I did it.” “I understand that I hurt your feelings.” I say why I’m apologizing. Especially if I know why she’s angry or hurt. Or vice versa.
J: The other intentional word that we always say is, “Forgive.” “I forgive you.” Instead of just walking away or saying, “It’s okay.” When we have resolved issues, we say, “I forgive you.”
Q. What principles and practical suggestions can you share that have helped you manage your finances?
A: We actually are debt free.
A: Our number one tip is get out of debt and stay out of debt. We believe in doing whatever you can to get out of debt - selling everything if need be. We actually have never had credit cards. I never have had a credit card.
J: I did, before we were married.
A: We gave up all of our debt in a year and a half.
J: It was just school loans.
A: And we stayed out of debt. When you are out of debt and you commit to being out of debt, it helps you with every single decision you ever have to make financially. If you have to get a credit card to get something, then you shouldn’t get it. Either we save for it, which we have done a lot of, or we don’t get it.
J: We experienced so much conflict around finances and especially the process of getting out of debt, that we feel this is an important tip to share with other couples. A lot of our debt was Aaron’s school loans, so I blamed him for the struggles we went through financially. It just caused a lot of drama and chaos. I think a lot of couples face that kind of turmoil when they are in debt.
A: Or if they just have poor spending habits. So our first tip is to get out of debt.
J: The other one is to budget. Keeping track of what goes in and what goes out, and keeping track of where you want it to go. Then exercise self control and discipline when you don’t have the means for something you want.
A: We actually set up a very simple budget where we opened up a few accounts with our bank and one was a bills account, one was allowance account and one was a savings account. Then we had a fourth one - a giving account - and this is probably the #1 thing we have been living by for the last three to four years - giving.
J: Be generous with your finances.
A: We give as much as we can. We believe in blessing others. Giving to our church. Giving to the missionaries, and to people who are adopting children; buying the random person in front of you coffee, or paying for people’s meals. We live by this idea of generosity. There is a scripture in the Old Testament where God says, “Test me in this and see if I don’t open the floodgates of heaven on you.” And he is talking to the Israelites and saying, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,” when they all were poor, and so we kind of live by that. It’s the only thing where God says, “Test me,” so we test Him. We try and give as much as we can. We would attribute every blessing in our lives to that promise. We’re not rich by any means, but we are well taken care of and out of debt, which makes us massively wealthy.
Q. You’re obviously happily married and you’ve figured some things out. If you were to try and summarize the secret to a happy marriage, what would you say?
A: I have to go back to Christ-centric. The only reason I know and understand how to be a husband is because the Bible says, “Love your wife as Christ loved the Church.” I should cherish my wife and be an example to her, not just to the world. My mission is to my wife. That I would represent Jesus Christ to her. People see that, and then I can minister to others outside of my marriage. She is my first ministry.
J: I would also say a huge secret is not to expect a happy marriage. I think we set ourselves up for failure when we hit a day that’s not very happy, or a week, or a couple of months, or the first few years (like us - years that were very burdensome and full of trials). If you expect a happy marriage and you’re not getting it, you’re going to want out. That, by selfish nature, is how we operate. Instead focus on joy - because joy is lasting. It can endure through those hard times. And hope, because hope will get you through that next day, or week, or four years, or whatever you need.
A: We have a lot of couples that say things like, “I’m not happy in my marriage, and I believe that God would want me to be happy. Therefore, I should leave my spouse.” I’m like, “You totally missed it.” God’s not interested so much in our happiness as He is in our holiness. Jesus on the cross was not happy. It was joyful because of what it meant, but it was not happy. We don’t simply pursue happiness, because it is so fleeting.
J: And marriage is so much more than that.
A: So much more than that.
J: Just going back to what you said about marriage being so full of tiny moments, so many of those tiny moments are going to be not-happy. So many of the moments we shared were awful and hurtful, some of them were happy, but some were tiresome and fear-filled. In my book coming out in March, there is a quote at the end that says, “Marriage is like a mosaic with millions of tiny moments that make your love story.” It’s this idea of “It’s not done yet. You are adding color by color and piece by piece.” When you stand back and look at it, it’s a portrait of you and your spouse, and every tiny moment matters. Every single one of them.
A: The longer we are married, the more we grow. The more we feel like we’re one. We are really good at being vulnerable. The first four years of our marriage we were struggling a lot. We considered divorce and considered a lot of things that we won’t mention. Marriage is hard and we have spent a lot of time on this one. All the big things and the little things, and the hard things and the easy things, and all the fun and all the joy, makes me more excited about the oneness that we have and that we’re working towards.
"There is properly no history; only biography."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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