Alex & Rebecca Balinski
Location: Provo, Utah
Years Married: 3
Kids: 2 (a boy and a girl)
Occupation/Hobbies/Etc.: Alex runs his own website (PreparetoServe.com) and enjoys talking with, interviewing and meeting new people, going to networking events, listening to entrepreneurship talks, and pretty much anything related to entrepreneurship. Rebecca also helps out with the website but works primarily as a full-time mother at home. She enjoys running, cooking, reading, and writing on her blog (LatterDayMommy.com). They both enjoy going on walks together, working on website stuff together, playing with their children, and learning new things together.
The Little Things
Q. Will you share with us some of the little things you do together, or for each other, that nurture your marriage?
A: I love when Rebecca scratches my head or back. Growing up my mom used to scratch my head all the time and I think it conditioned me to equate back or head-scratching with pure love. I also really like how we have very personal conversations about life and our dreams. I think it’s nice to email each other during the work day with a little, “I love you!”
R: Saying “I love you,” a lot throughout the day, just in normal conversation. We both know it already, but it’s nice to have that constant reminder and I think it helps to set a positive tone in all of our interactions with each other. I think saying a quick prayer together in the morning, right before bed, and whenever we leave the house has also been good for our marriage. We also work on our website together and brainstorm ideas together a lot.
Q. Can you give us a few examples of things he/she has done for you that may seem small, but that have made a big difference?
A: Rebecca has been very supportive of me pursuing my dreams. I think a lot of women probably wouldn't be willing to sacrifice having things like a house and car for a time while their husband is trying to start up a business. Rebecca’s also very good at giving me a warm welcome when I come home from work which makes me feel super good!
R: He writes me poems occasionally, just because, which totally brightens my day. He also sometimes puts me in “time out,” where he “makes” me go lie down and take a nap while he watches the kids. I like that. At night, right before drifting off to sleep, he often says, “Feel free to wake me up, honey, if you need anything in the middle of the night.” It’s a small thing, but it means a lot. Alex also helps around the house with the “dirty chores,” when he’s home (taking out the trash, doing laundry, changing diapers, etc.).
Q. What specific ways has continued dating in marriage nurtured your marriage? Why do you feel dating is so important in nurturing a marriage?
R: I feel like it helps us break away from the normal day-to-day routine and stressors, and just have fun together. If we didn’t ever date, I think life would become more hum drum and it could be easy to lose enthusiasm for our marriage. Life, with all its demands, can distract us from what really matters. Getting out and dating helps us rekindle that excitement we felt during courtship and reminds us why we’re best friends.
Q. What has been your favorite date you have been on together?
R: One of my favorite dates was when Alex took me to an outdoor Jon Schmidt concert at Thanksgiving Point. He kept it a secret until we got there. I loved it because it was a total surprise. I also love whenever we go dancing together. Alex is a delight to dance with - it always makes me fall in love with him all over again.
A: I think I have to agree - the Jon Schmidt concert was pretty wonderful! More than any specific date, I just love being able to relax, have fun and talk with Rebecca.
Q. What are the obstacles you have faced in going on dates, and what have you done to ensure that dates happen?
A: I think the biggest obstacle is probably just having young children to look after and not a lot of people to leave them with for babysitting. Our immediate families have helped us by watching our kids so we can go on regular dates. I think there’s still room for improvement here for us.
R: Yeah, sometimes we don’t really get “out” to go on dates. We’ve had a lot of times where we just watch something together at home after our kids are asleep. Other times we’ve just taken them along with us in the stroller (if you could consider that a date), while we go on a walk to go get ice cream or even just to talk. We’re still working on figuring out how to make it work with two children, now that we’ve added a new baby to the mix.
R: Another obstacle we’ve faced centers around the fact that we don’t have a car. Which means that our options are often limited as far as where to go for dates. It’s definitely a lot more fun and magical when we can get out and go somewhere/do something novel, but sometimes it’s just not practical in our situation. Luckily, we do love walking places together.
R: To ensure that dates happen, we usually schedule out our week on Sundays and try to set a night for a date. Often it’s just something simple like watching a movie or going for a walk. When my mom comes to visit, we like to take advantage while she’s here by taking her car to go out for lunch while she spends time watching our kids. Because of Alex’s flexible schedule as an entrepreneur, I think we spend a lot more time together than the average couple, so I guess that kind of makes up for not going out much on “official,” dates.
Q. What does it mean to you to have an intimate relationship with your spouse?
A: To share everything with each other and serve each other.
R: To know and understand each other completely. And to be able to relate to each other on all levels.
Q. There are many forms of intimacy in marriage, emotional intimacy being one of them. What does emotional intimacy look like to you, and what things have helped you draw closer together emotionally?
R: I feel like emotional intimacy is when you know each other so well that you feel safe sharing everything and anything with each other. It’s where you get to the point where you’ve shared so many of the same things, that it feels like you’re on the same brainwave (if that makes sense). Alex and I work together a lot on our website and bounce ideas off of each other. Whenever he comes home from work, we talk about everything we both experienced that day. He shares with me everything he learned that day, new insights he gained, ideas he’s had, etc. It’s nice because when Alex talks about work-related stuff using all sorts of website jargon, it doesn’t go over my head (since he teaches me everything he knows). (I guess that might be more “mental,” than “emotional,” but I think the two are connected).
A: I love talking to Rebecca. I want us to be able to share as many experiences as possible, and to learn everything each other knows, so that we’re on the same page and relate to each other in everything.
A: We have a daily family devotional where we pray, read, and talk about life, and I think that’s helped us to develop similar world views and feel more united in our decisions. It also makes us more supportive of one another, since we understand the why behind each other’s decisions.
Q. What other things help you nurture the intimate relationship you have with your spouse?
A: I think showing physical affection frequently, when we see each other around the house, is very helpful to our marriage. Saying, "I love you," every time we interact is always helpful. I love giving Rebecca a hug and kiss throughout the day. I think physical affection also helps to resolve conflicts quickly after they arise.
Values to Live By
Q. What is your spouse’s strongest trait?
A: Oh boy! Rebecca’s pretty amazing. I think one of her strongest traits is her ability to feel compassion and love for others. She also has this giddy sense of excitement that I feel is pretty uncommon among the majority of young adults today. She has too many good traits to list. I once wrote a book with about 100 things I admire about Rebecca with a paragraph or so to back up each point, so yeah, there are a lot of good things about her!
R: That’s a hard question - Alex has so many! I think it would have to be his genuineness and integrity. Alex is the most sincere person I’ve ever met. He avoids using sarcasm, even in joking. It’s just not in his nature. He is incredibly honest and true to his word. He’s the same person at home as he is outside the home. I’ve never seen him lose his temper or heard him talk bad about others. He’s just a genuinely good guy.
Q. What is your favorite characteristic about your spouse?
A: I love how supportive, loving and energetic she is. She finds excitement in life. I also am super grateful for how forgiving she is - since I definitely need her forgiveness on a regular basis.
R: His optimism and enthusiasm. I love how Alex is a go-getter and likes to be spontaneous and try new things. I love it when he laughs or gets super excited about something. He has a really fun sense of humor and is good at cheering me up when I’m a grump. I also love that he has a grateful heart, even when things may not be going his way.
Q. How have those qualities nurtured your marriage?
A: Her support, energy and love have really helped me to set high goals and work hard. When I feel love and peace at home, I feel like I can take on just about any challenge.
R: His being sincere at all times has been such a huge blessing to our marriage relationship. Sarcasm is such a common way of interacting in our culture, and it seems totally harmless because it’s “just joking around.” But Alex’s non-sarcastic nature is something that I’ve really grown to appreciate, and it’s made me want to be more that way, seeing how much it blesses our relationship. I feel like we are a lot closer. I know that he means what he says 100% of the time, and I trust him completely. I also feel like his optimism is a great strength to our marriage because just talking to him makes me feel good about everything in life and less like complaining or being discontent.
Routines and Rituals
Q. What things do you do day-to-day that keep you connected?
A: An occasional phone call or email. Since we don’t have cell phones, we don’t call each other as much as other couples probably do.
R: We sometimes email back and forth while he’s working on campus. When he comes home, we talk about our day. Alex will share with me everything he learned/did that day, and I’ll tell him all the funny things our kids said and did, etc. We also try to read scriptures and sing a couple of hymns together before bed.
Q. Do you have any special places, things you say to each other, or other mini-traditions that are unique to your marriage?
R & A: We have lots of inside jokes and things we say to each other, but most of them are extremely goofy and probably wouldn’t make sense to anyone else. We sometimes like to quote silly lines from favorite movies, when a situation seems to fit. One little tradition we have is that we usually get one meal to split whenever we go out to eat.
Q. Do you have any routines/rituals around special occasions like anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, etc.
A: On Anniversaries we always go out to eat and try to spend extra time with each other. We usually don’t do anything too extravagant, but we really enjoy just spending more time together and talking about our relationship!
R: On our anniversary sometimes we dig up old letters/emails to each other, or look at photos and home videos of when we were dating.
A & R: We also like to celebrate the anniversary of the day we first met, by going out to eat and reminiscing about that day. Sometimes we even take a bus ride for old time’s sake (because we met on the bus).
A & R: The past couple Valentine’s Days, we’ve enjoyed getting all dressed up and going dancing. We’ve tried not to make giving/receiving gifts a big deal when it comes to birthdays, Valentine’s Day, etc. So when we do get something for the other person, it’s more of a delightful surprise rather than an expectation.
Q. What specific suggestions can you share that have helped you work through challenges that have come up in your marriage?
A: Resolve problems quickly after you identify them - there’s no need for both of you to feel bad for longer. You’ll both feel better after a good discussion. I think it’s also important to do what you can to serve the other person. I’ve found that serving my wife is one of the quickest ways to improve how I feel about myself and my relationship with my wife. I think it’s also important to recognize that growing as a couple takes time, and habits often take time to change, but with God we can change and become better than we can imagine.
R: Keep things in perspective. Realize that you are both on the same team. Both of you against the problem, not against each other. If it helps, try figuratively putting the “problem,” on a chair on one side of the room, and then the two of you sit on chairs side-by-side on the other side of the room, facing the “problem.” Then you can get a little goofy and start asking the chair questions like, “How long have you been around?” or “What can we do to get rid of you?” It may seem a little silly, but it can be a fun, light-hearted way to shake off stress when a challenge comes up. You may even get a few laughs from it. I can’t remember where I first heard this idea, but I’ve always loved it.
Q. How do you talk about hard things, or tough issues where you don’t see eye-to-eye?
A: Using “I,” statements is very helpful and helps put things in perspective. For example saying, “I’ve been feeling sad because of such and such a problem,” is much better than saying “You have such and such a problem.” I think it also is important to not say, or do, things you know you’ll regret. If you can’t say something in a nice way, it might be better to remain quiet and let your emotions calm down first. I’ve also found it can be relieving to unload my thoughts to Rebecca and let her know everything I’m feeling.
R: One thing I really appreciate, that Alex does when we’re having a disagreement, is that he says things like, “I want to feel close to you, but right now I don’t, so I’d like to talk about it until we can feel close again.” Starting out in a loving way like that makes me feel much less defensive and more likely to want to talk. I also think that it’s good to remember that, “different doesn’t always mean bad.” We’ve found it is helpful to ask questions to try to understand where each other is coming from and why we feel the way we do. Usually we realize that we both have legitimate and noble reasons behind our differing opinions, and so it helps to acknowledge that. I think a lot of it comes down to trying not to take offense, and giving each other the benefit of the doubt by assuming that the other has the best of intentions.
Q. How has working through conflict together nurtured your marriage and brought you closer together?
A: Over time it’s given me comfort and confidence that we can overcome challenges. It’s also helped me to understand Rebecca, and where I can improve, which ultimately will help us become more united and happy.
R: I think the more we’ve worked through conflicts, the more we’ve been able to predict what triggers them, and I think we’ve become a little better at trying to avoid them.
Q. You are still married. What is your secret to a happy marriage?
A: I think the secret would be simply to try to make your spouse happy. A lot of good things come from just seeking to make each other happy.
R: Ditto. One thing my parents have always said is, “The key to a happy marriage is trying to make your spouse happy, not better.” I think that has a lot of truth to it. The times when we focus on serving each other and trying to be unselfish, rather than nitpicking on each other’s mistakes and weaknesses, are the times when we are both much happier.
Velda K. Chipman
9/29/2014 02:54:54 am
love what you are doing. We need more input on nurturing marriage--and Rebecca & Alex are a good example for really loving and selfless nurturing in marriage. Thank you!
12/29/2014 11:58:25 am
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