Location: Northern Virginia
Years Married: 4
Occupation/Hobbies/Etc.: Bryan is a web developer. Holly received a degree in Elementary Education, and now teaches three students. Bryan blogs at BryanBraun.com, runs marathons, and devours Wikipedia. Holly blogs at theldsmothersroom.wordpress.com, likes to ride bikes, work with Photoshop, and is learning to code (so she knows what Bryan is talking about). HollyBraun.com is in its infancy stage, as a result of this pursuit.
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?
H: We don’t keep many sweets around the house (because I have already eaten them). But sometimes Bryan will bring me home a pink starburst, and I know he loves me because he didn’t eat it during his long commute.
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?
H: I don’t know if Bryan knows how powerful this is, but when I am stressed he puts his hand on my shoulder. I instantly relax and deal with the kids much more rationally.
B: Holly will always listen to my dumb little problems that I’m facing. They may be issues at work, or some project I’m working on, and while I’m sure that listening to me ramble is probably boring, or overly-technical, she does it anyway.
H: Oh my gosh. This is not a little thing. It’s so tough. It’s a new skill that I had to develop after I married Bryan because it was so important to him. I also had to develop the skill to put away laundry after it was clean. Come on, who doesn’t love my laundry all over the house? My roommates loved it. I’m pretty sure.
Q. What specific ways has continued dating in marriage nurtured your marriage? Why do you feel dating is so vital to nurturing a marriage?
H: Throughout the week, I forget almost everything except that our two-year-old dumped a gallon of milk on himself, or sat on the baby, and our three-year-old only wants to wear her swimsuit and listen to “Let It Go” indefinitely. But when Bryan and I spend time together, I remember that I married him because I liked him.
B: I think it just represents a willingness to set aside our individual pursuits for each other. Our “dates,” aren’t extravagant. We’re not doing weekly moonlit romantic dinners on the bay with fireworks in the background or anything like that. It can be as simple as stopping what we’re doing to play a game of scrabble or make cookies or something (and it usually is that simple). As long as we’re willing to take time to put our relationship in front of our individual interests on a regular basis, I feel like we’re in good shape.
H: Which explains my lack of moonlight. But what is it that I really want? Is it really dinner on the bay? I know that if it were just that, it would be so empty. Is the important thing him spending money on me? No, that’s my money too! The important thing is a husband who wants to be with me. And he can show me that with a few letter tiles or chocolate chips.
Q. What has been your favorite date you have been on together?
B: I like the simplest ones. Board games with friends. Mini golf. Going to get ice cream.
H: Our first date. Bryan created a frisbee golf course around campus, and we competed against other couples (and won!). Then we went back to his apartment and took funny pictures with iPhoto. When Bryan proposed, we completed the same frisbee golf course together. He had placed little gifts and notes at all of the holes. The gift at the final hole (I think it was in his pocket the whole time) was my ring.
Q. What are the obstacles you have faced in going on dates, and what have you done to ensure that dates happen?
B: Kids. Ha ha, kids are like anti-date machines. (H: ironic.) The issue of getting a babysitter alone adds enough friction to the process that it can prevent dates from happening. One way we work around it is by finding other parents our age that are willing to trade-off babysitting. Also, we do a lot more at-home dates. What we do is a lot less important than the fact that we’re scheduling them and doing something.
Q. What does it mean to you to have an intimate relationship with your spouse?
H: It means not building walls between us. I do this by giving him the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know what that grimace meant, or what he means with *that tone,* but I don’t need to build a fence out of grudges.
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?
H: I am completely honest with him. And I try to be myself, which is a vulnerable position.
B: We share everything. Our bank accounts. Our computer files. Our online passwords. Our embarrassing journals and high-school diaries. There’s nothing in my life that she can’t see, and yes, that makes you really vulnerable, but vulnerability breeds trust.
Q. What other things help you nurture the intimate relationship you have with your spouse?
H: We check in every once in a while to see if there are issues someone is waiting for a “good time to bring up.”
Values to Live By
Q. What is your spouse’s strongest trait?
B: Holly’s very good at adapting to the needs (or even the wants) of our family. Our lives would be a lot more difficult if she refused to budge on opinions or comforts. She stays true to the most important things, like family and faith, and is willing to adapt to the more trivial matters.
H: Diligence. He believes that anyone can do anything, with sustained effort.
Q. What is your favorite characteristic about your spouse?
H: His gentleness.
B: Her positivity.
Q. How have those qualities nurtured your marriage?
H: Bryan inspires me with all he accomplishes in his free time. One of the many reasons I want to stick with him is so I can ride on his coat tails.
B: I can tend to get frustrated or impatient with myself, but Holly always helps bring me out of it.
Routines and Rituals
Q. What things do you do day-to-day that keep you connected?
B: We text. We email each other interesting things that we find online. I make it clear that she can always call me at work and I’ll answer or call right back.
H: We have a meal together every day. It works out in our schedule that that meal is breakfast. I love to tell him about our plans for the day, and I love to watch him teach the kids. It’s usually about being nice to Mommy.
Q. Do you have any special places you go to, things you say to each other, or other mini-traditions that are unique to your marriage?
B: One thing we do, which has been invaluable, is invent phrases that have shared meaning, so we can use them in conversation in order to say a lot in a short amount of time. For example, if somebody says, "I’m sorry," the other will often say “We forgive each other." This goes back to a shared principle that our marriage is forever… something we’ll never ever give up on. Knowing that we’re totally flawed, we just plan for lots and lots of forgiveness.
H: Another is “Are you sad in your heart?” or “I feel sad in my heart.” I use this one to start a conversation about issues, before it escalates.
B: And another example is the phrase, “This is important to me.” It's only used when something is incredibly meaningful to someone, and serves as a sort of trump card. I’d fly home early from a trip if Holly said, “This is important to me.” We’ll deliberately invent phrases like these to use in conversation and to find that common ground in various situations.
Q. Do you have any routines/rituals around special occasions like anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, etc.?
B: I think we’re still working them out. As we get to know each other better we’re starting to see what makes our family different than the families we came from. I believe building traditions around those things that are uniquely ours (rather than dictated by our parents' traditions or cultural expectations) will make them more meaningful.
Q. What specific suggestions can you share that have helped you work through challenges that have come up in your marriage?
H: We have a monthly financial meeting. We use mint.com, which tracks purchases from our bank accounts. Each of us knows that we will account for each purchase to the other one, and it helps us stick with the principles we have agreed on.
H: We also use Google calendar to coordinate activities; we don’t just mention it over breakfast or something. If I want him to watch the kids, I schedule it and send him an invite. If I want to go on a date with him, I do the same thing. Say what you want about the lack of romanticism, but he’s not going to forget, he knows exactly what I want him to do, and his phone nags him with reminders, not me.
B: Our conflicts are usually a result of mismatched expectations. She wants to talk about something, and I expect it will take ten minutes, but she’s expecting an hour. Or I’m expecting her to be up early, but she’s planning on sleeping in. If there’s any way we can codify expectations, like establishing routines, scheduling “who’s in charge of the kids now”, or having assigned chores, that will prevent issues from even coming up in the first place.
H: Bryan and I have opposite taste in games and movies. Here the phrase is, “One person gets to be happy, and the other one gets to be kind.” We alternate being the happy one, or the kind one, by taking turns on getting to choose the game or movie. This is also how we handle the timing of intimacy; we take turns choosing. We each get full control, half the time. One person gets to be happy, the other one gets to be kind.
Q. How has working through conflict together nurtured your marriage and brought you closer together?
H: Every once in a while, Bryan will find me crying because I am upset with something he did. We’ll sit on the couch and discuss it. There are no more emotionally intimate moments than carefully discussing feelings and making changes that meet the other spouse’s needs.
Q. You are still married. What is your secret to a happy marriage?
B: Always keep the lines of communication open. Issues are going to come up. I’m sure we’ve got plenty of issues in our future. But if we’re both willing to talk and listen to each other, we’ll figure out a way through them.
H: We got married because we were headed in the same direction. (Oh, we also happened to get along really well. And I liked his hair.) We decided to get married on the very evening we discovered each others' long term plans. We had the same vision for our family and what to do with our retirement.
H: We still are going the same place, we still get along really well, and I still like his hair.
To keep up with all of our, "Featured Couples," interviews, please join the Nurturing Marriage community. Subscribe here.
"There is properly no history; only biography."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
You Know You Want to Read
Everybody Loves These