Location: Orem, UT
Years Married: 5
Occupation: Ben is a web designer and Meridith is a stay-at-home mom and editor.
Kids: 2 (both girls)
Hobbies/Interests: We like to try new local restaurants as a family, eat ice cream, and watch vlogs or read after the girls are asleep.
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? M: Tillamook chocolate peanut butter. B: Tillamook cookie dough.
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?
M: Towards the beginning of our marriage, we established the idea that when we are either going or coming, we’d let each other know. I still love receiving a text every morning from Ben telling me that he got to work safely. He has also been so good to let me know when he’s on his way home—whether from work, from grocery shopping, or from any other errand. (Note from Ben: this is because I’ve watched too many police procedurals.)
B: We say “I love you” to each other 20+ times each day. I think I might not even be exaggerating. We also love reading side by side at the end of the day, often with a bowl of ice cream in hand.
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?
M: Grocery shopping is not my favorite. Sometimes late at night when we’re both tired, Ben will volunteer to go out to the grocery store and pick up the things we need. I also can be guaranteed to get a text from Ben every day around midday simply asking how I’m doing. I love that.
B: Watching the kids so I can take a nap when I really need it. And occasionally Meridith will call or text during the day to say she misses me, and that means a lot to me.
Q. What specific ways has continued dating in marriage nurtured your marriage? Why do you feel dating is so vital in nurturing a marriage?
M: I feel like so many times during the evening with bathtime and playing with the girls, that I’m talking past Ben or, rather, talking to him but not looking at him. I really think that there’s power in eye contact as a huge part of communication and bonding (maybe that’s just because I’m female). Dating allows that real personal attention to your spouse, when a little one is not demanding your eye contact for them.
B: It’s easy to get stuck in a rut doing other things (taking care of the kids, work/school/church, personal activities, etc.), and dating helps you focus on your spouse as a spouse and not as your housemate or the parent of your children or what have you. The more we’ve been married, the more I’ve realized just how important this really is.
Q. What has been your favorite date you have been on together?
M: Once my sister babysat while we went bowling and then spent an hour walking hand in hand visiting local outdoor shops. It was simple but so fun.
B: The one where we got married.
Q. What are the obstacles you have faced in going on dates, and what have you done to ensure that dates happen?
M: Most of our dates are at home after the girls are asleep. Sometimes with a newborn that means that our dates have been at 11:30 at night, but I think just being in the habit of going to bed at the same time helps. We do the bedtime routine together and we can plan on being together at the end of the day, so whatever happens then is a date in my mind, whether it be microwave popcorn and reading, or a full-out game of Skip Bo.
B: We’re really good at doing at-home dates, not so good at out-of-the-house dates, I think because of the hassle of getting a sitter. This past year we bought season tickets to the local theater, which guaranteed that we’d go on an outside date every couple months. It’s been great.
Q. What does it mean to you to have an intimate relationship with your spouse?
B: Trusting each other fully, keeping personal things personal, and being 100% there for the other person.
Q. What does emotional intimacy look like to you, and what things have helped you draw closer together emotionally?
B: Working through conflicts has actually helped a lot with feeling emotionally close. Caring for our children has as well, particularly during middle-of-the-night vomitfests, and the past year and a half with our daughter’s cardiomyopathy.
M: Part of emotional intimacy is trusting that you are your spouse’s greatest confidant—that you are not going to hear anything second-hand because your spouse will have already come to you first. You can trust that they will keep your feelings and insecurities close to them and that you will do the same with theirs.
Q. What other things help you nurture the intimate relationship you have with your spouse?
M: Like I mentioned before, Ben is very selfless and truly seeks my happiness above anything else, and that helps me know I can trust him completely. This continually inspires me to try to do the same for him.
Values to Live By
Q. What is your spouse’s strongest trait?
M: Ben is constantly seeking my comfort and happiness above his own. This may include entertaining the girls while I make dinner or spend some time reading.
B: What she said, but about her.
Q. What is your favorite characteristic about your spouse?
M: Can I say I love that Ben is a homebody and sort of an introvert? He seems to just want to hang out with us when he’s home from work, and I love that. When he’s home, he’s with us all the way.
B: Dang it, she’s taking all of my answers. I love that Meridith is a homebody and that she too finds a lot of joy in just being at home as a family. That said, I’m going to expand “favorite” to be “favorites” and list a few more things: her love of reading (rawr), her goodness, and the way she’s a perfect complement to me as a person.
Q. How have those qualities nurtured your marriage?
M: Our plans are usually with each other—every evening is a date by default.
B: Spending time together is important.
Routines and Rituals
Q. What things do you do day-to-day that keep you connected?
M: We text all day long and occasionally call each other. We also instant-message quite frequently. We also share our electronic calendars and documents.
Q. Do you have any special places, things you say to each other, or other mini-traditions that are unique to your marriage?
B: I say, “I love you, Meridith,” which is unique in that it’s limited to those married to women named Meridith.
M: We’ve developed an unhealthy habit of eating ice cream once the girls are down for bed. While we eat, we’ll either read next to each other or watch something short online. It’s a way for us to unwind and gives us something to look forward to during that last half hour before bedtime.
Q. Do you have any routines/rituals around special occasions like anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, etc.
M: We were married in a different city from where we live now, so we sometimes enjoy driving back there and going to lunch somewhere in the area. (I’m particularly fond of lunch dates.)
B: We have a tradition where we write lots of nice things about the other person on post-its on Valentine’s Day and put them all over the house.
Q. What specific suggestions can you share that have helped you work through challenges that have come up in your marriage?
B: Being open and talking things through has helped us get past conflicts fairly quickly. It’s also good for me to remember that Meridith’s happiness and our unity as a couple are my main goal and also the source of my own happiness.
M: I find that when I feel like there’s something about Ben that needs fixing, it is me that actually needs to change. And when I focus on all of Ben’s wonderful traits, I immediately start to forget the things that I thought were so pressing.
Q. How do you talk about hard things, or tough issues where you don’t see eye-to-eye?
B: We try to keep things civil, speaking without raising our voices or yelling. We try to see things from the other person’s point of view, and we do our best to remember that the other person loves us, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment. We try to be open to healthy compromises, too.
M: Another thing I’ve noticed that has helped is to not present the disagreement as being me against my spouse. Rather, I see it as us together against the disagreement. That way we can freely break down and dissect the disagreement (figuring out misunderstandings and unknown expectations) rather than try to break down each other.
Q. How has working through conflict together nurtured your marriage and brought you closer together?
B: For one thing, it has shown us that love is not dependent on agreeing in every particular, which is also helpful because our children do not agree with us in every particular. Working through difficulties helps us feel more love for each other, and it strengthens that love as well.
M: I can express my true feelings and not be afraid of Ben’s reaction. I hope it shows that we are in it for the long haul.
Q. You are still married. What is your secret to a happy marriage?
M: Remember that no matter what, you’re working together as a team. Your spouse is not the enemy. When conflict comes, take it on together.
B: Make your spouse’s happiness your top priority. Forgive easily and often. Remember that love is manifest in sacrifices, often of convenience and comfort, but also remember that the dividends are deeply satisfying and can’t be obtained without that sacrifice. Make the choice to love your spouse in spite of their flaws and defects. (Unless they are a serial killer. Love them, yes, but you should also report them to the authorities.)
"There is properly no history; only biography."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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