Location: We met in Hawaii, lived in Tucson AZ for ten years, and now we live in Utah.
Years Married: 15
Occupation: Jake is an implementation consultant for a school improvement network. Michelle is a blogger, real estate admin (at home) and a stay-at-home mom. Michelle’s blog (http://www.4men1lady.com/) is about all of their DIY projects and it’s amazing!
Hobbies/Fun: Michelle likes DIY stuff - that’s her passion. She has all the ideas and Jake does all the work. :) They ski and snowboard, and also windsurf - which they picked up in Hawaii.
Q. How did your blog come to be?
M: Jake started the blog in AZ, and we did it as a way to keep family and friends apprised of what was going on in our lives in AZ. And then we just started to blog about some of the projects we were doing. It was our striped hallway in AZ that kind of put us on the map. And from there it just became popular and went viral. As far as my background, it is something I’ve always been very interested in.
M: In fact, my parents were divorced when I was very young - I was two-years-old. So I would go to my mom’s half the week and my dad’s half the week. My mom ended up moving to Arizona when I was ten, and so I lived with my dad and he raised me full-time. I grew up in a bachelor’s home, in a very nice neighborhood, but my Dad’s home didn’t have a woman’s touch. I always wanted to beautify our home, even when I was young. I would always move things around and enjoy decorating. It has always kind of stuck with me and I have always just wanted to beautify our home, so that is where the DIY and blog came in.
J: In Hawaii we lived right on the beach - on the north shore of Oahu - in a converted carport. It was a like a studio apartment...pretty bare. Even then, I remember seeing Michelle put stuff up and do minor things to make things look nice (even when we didn’t have a lot of money). I didn’t realize it then, but this craftiness was like a raging beast - a DIY beast, trying to come out, even back then!
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: In addition to blogging (which has really become a full-time job) I also do real-estate work for realtors in AZ. So, I do a lot of reports. I’m very busy during the day, and I’ve also got my three-year-old, who is still at home with me. When Jake comes home I always feel relief. I’m always glad when he gets home because he can take over and I can get to work. Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of phone calls when he gets home, but I’ve found that it is important to stop what I’m doing, stand up, and physically greet Jake with a hug and kiss. Just spending ten minutes talking and catching up goes a long way in feeling connected with each other.
J: And she’s sometimes still in her pajamas when she does this.
M: 4 o'clock, still in my pajamas working away.
J: She has her work and she needs her time to do things. So when I come home from work, one of the little things I sometimes do is take the boys. We get out of the house and she can do whatever she needs to do. I think that is helpful to her sanity, just to be able to have some quiet time during the day, not at night. That’s one of the little things. And emptying the dishwasher early in the morning before I leave - that’s a huge thing for her. I have found that is one way to get some bonus points from the wife. It’s the little things that go a long way.
Q. And what are some of the things that Michelle might do for you?
J: Well, really, the only thing I ask for is dinner. That doesn’t mean that she necessarily cooks dinner, but that she has thought about it and knows what’s for dinner. I’ll cook the dinner, I just want her to think of what’s for dinner. If she has an idea, or maybe she’s been to the store and bought something, that is great. I’ll make it - you just tell me what you thought up for dinner.
M: Dinner is my least favorite thing to do. I would rather scrub toilets than make dinner. I’m a terrible cook.
J: No, she’s a good cook.
M: My problem is that you can never satisfy four different palates. When you make something one of the kids likes, inevitably, someone else won’t like it. And I think, “You guys don’t like what I’m making? Fine, I’m not doing dinner!” (Smiling) Jake just wants dinner. That is all he asks for.
Q. If you were to give some advice to younger couples or friends who were struggling to do the little things that could keep their marriage alive, what would your thoughts be?
M: Now that social media is really big, and electronics are just kind of the dominant attention grabber in people’s lives, that has become a challenge for us. I hate social media with a passion, but as a blogger, I have to constantly be pushing myself and advertising new things on the blog. So social media really is a business aspect in my life. And who doesn’t like to get on Facebook once in a while? So that is something that we have to be really careful about - when we are at home, we try not to be on our cell phones. If we need to be on social media we pencil it in as business time. That’s one of the things that I request of Jake. I don’t want to see him on his cell phone because that’s a bad example for our kids, and when he is on his phone, he’s not present. That is something we like to try and do.
J: Keep the channels of communication open. Especially when there is an argument. We have had some of the worst experiences of our relationship DIYing because we will just argue like cats and dogs over how to build something. She has a vision in her head, and she is trying to get me to build it, and I’m not doing it right or I think it should be done differently. Sometimes we have to take a break and let things cool down. Then we can come back together and just communicate. You just have to keep those channels open. There will be times when you just don’t see eye-to-eye. What I love about Michelle is that she has really taught me how to be more open, and how to verbalize how I’m feeling and to stay open even though I’m ticked off.
Q. What specific ways has continued dating in your marriage helped nurture your marriage?
J: We’re not going to give you good stuff on this one.
M: You know, we really probably go on maybe five dates a year. We really are not daters. I do believe that it’s really important to connect with each other, but dating regularly is just not feasible right now. And I think we’re really in this for the long haul - I hope nothing happens a few years down the road where we say, “Gosh, we should have dated more!” But we’re going to be together forever, and now is the time in our relationship that we are doing the kid thing. So, when we go out, we go out as a family. If we have a birthday, or an evening together, we bring all the kids. The kids are going to be gone before we know it, and right now is the time where we want to enjoy each other with our kids.
J: While we don’t go out together hardly ever, we do find time after the boys are in bed to just sit around and chat. We’ll sit for thirty minutes and talk, which is very refreshing to our relationship. So I don’t know that dating has to be going out to dinner, because for us it is just having those quiet moments at night, talking.
Q. It seems like every DIY project is essentially what couples are trying to achieve when they go on dates. It’s the connection that is happening. When you do projects together, what does that look like? Do you involve the kids?
M: This is typically what it looks like: we come together in the garage and argue for thirty minutes. Then I get really offended or he gets really offended, and then the other person feels really bad, and then we apologize, and then it’s all good and we create. :)
J: We try to include the kids. But they still make a mess of things, so sometimes they have to just go play while we work together. It is quality time. When we get done with a project, we look back on it and think, “We did this.”
M: And we always feel like, “Man, we’re a good team.” We have a lot of pride in what we do, and to pump that out, and to say that we did it, is really rewarding.
J: I still remember in Arizona when Michelle said, “I found this really nice $800 leather ottoman I want.” I told her, “I’m not paying that much,” and she said, “Well, I want to build it.” My first thought was, “There’s no way are we building an ottoman!” And then she told me that she’d already bought the wood. I just had to help her put it together. So we did that, and now it’s sitting right in front of us. People come to our home and put their feet on it, and it looks professional, and people comment on it and ask where we got it. It’s fun to say, “We made it.” That’s just a real feather in the cap.
Q. What does it mean to you to have an intimate relationship with your spouse?
J: Well, for me, it goes beyond the sex. And that part is great, but I think it’s more of the being-in-tune with the other person and their needs and their desires. Michelle has her goals and aspirations, and I have mine. You try to work together and find a balance between those. When we sit and talk and have those moments, that is when we feel most connected - when we’re communicating and we’re just sharing how we’re feeling. I couldn’t find that with anybody else. I could easily find sex with anybody else, that’s an easy thing to find.
J: You can pay money and have sex with somebody, but you wouldn’t think of someone paying money to have a conversation, you know? Can I give you $100 to have a deep conversation?
M: You could hire a therapist.
J: I guess you could. But there’s a deeper connection we have that I couldn’t have with anybody else.
M: Relationships sort of evolve over time. As you know, in the beginning it’s all physical. We didn’t choose to have kids until five years into marriage, and for sure, the nature of your physical relationship changes when kids comes, and that can be really hard. It can be a really hard adjustment for a lot of people. For us it has been okay. That’s not to say there haven’t been bumps in the road, but things change as the relationship evolves, and I’m good with that and he’s good with that. You just have to learn to roll with the punches as you go along.
Values to Live By
Q. What are the things you love about your spouse that have blessed your marriage?
M: I will say the thing that I love most about Jake is his humor. He will say funny things throughout the day and I admire that because I’m not as funny. Also, I just think, “You are so clever. I never would have thought about that.” He just constantly keeps me laughing and it’s so fun because it just makes everything lighter.
J: (to Michelle) I think she wanted like three things you love about me! :)
J: For me, Michelle has really taught me to communicate and to stay open (and I’m still working on it). That has been the best thing for me. Another thing I love about Michelle, and this has to do with her DIY, is that I’ve really come to trust her vision. She says, “Hey, I want to paint this wall black,” and I’m thinking, “K, I’m not Ozzy Ozbourne, and we are not going to have a black wall in this house.” And yet, we had a black wall in our house in AZ and we have a black wall again in this house. She has this vision of what she sees, and I’ve just learned to trust that. I still complain along the way, but I’ll do it. It’s almost like rooms speak to her. They don’t speak to me like that. It’s kind of fun to watch her work. She’ll lay out stuff from magazine clippings and say, “This is what I want to do,” and I’ll just say, “That doesn’t even make sense - it doesn’t even look good.” And she’ll say, “Just trust me,” and we do it and I’m like, “Yep, you’re a genius.” She is just very creative in that regard, and so she is fun to work with.
Routines & Rituals
Q. What are the things that you do day-to-day that help you stay connected with each other?
J: I travel quite a bit and I’m with clients all the time. Michelle really appreciates just one phone call during the day - during lunch, during a break, whenever - just to check in. That’s important to her, so I’ve just learned that is part of the routine that I need to have. I work in a phone call to her during the day. And then, when we get home, I try and get the kids out of her hair so she can do her stuff. Another thing we do is have dinner together. That is a big thing. Then, we also have our night routine - my job is to get the boys bathed and ready for bed. Then we read the scriptures and have our family prayer, and then we have family fun night every night. We have a night assigned to each boy and they get to choose a game to play. Just simple games that I played growing up as a kid, or other games we’ve made up. We just run around the house playing Nerf Wars or Huckle Buckle Beanstock, or “Doc, whose got your bone?” Then we put them in bed.
M: He is an awesome dad.
J: Really, behind the scenes while I’m doing all that, Michelle is cleaning. That’s what she does and I try to help out as much as I can.
M: That sounds awful.
J: I tell her, “You have to clean this…”
M: “I want dinner and I want the house clean!”
J: You’re involved in all that. :)
M: As far as how we connect with each other throughout the daily routine, like in the morning when he is walking out the door I’ll say, “I love you,” and it goes a long way. He really (and I think this is something that men like) wants the connection, the physical connection throughout the day. It’s not like we have to be intimate, but it can be just a little kiss, or jumping on his back in the kitchen, or just saying, “I love you,” in his ear, while he is on the computer. Just to drop those little tiny cues throughout the day really goes a long way.
Q. Do you have any special sayings, names, places, inside jokes, etc.?
J: What stands out in my mind are the few moments in Hawaii when we were poor college students and we would go buy french bread and spaghetti sauce. Do you remember that?
M: Yeah, that was all we could afford.
J: French bread and spaghetti sauce. And I even wrote a poem for her about that, when I was studying abroad in Israel. “Love and Spaghetti Sauce,” I think I called it.
Q. How do you celebrate anniversaries or birthdays?
M: For one anniversary we went through the drive-through at McDonald’s. We were just so crazy-busy and that was how it ended up. I’d like to say that we really celebrate momentous occasions (and we’ve had conflict over not celebrating some occasions), but we just realize that we’re in a very intense time of life right now with kids. Going back to intimacy, you have to just roll with the punches, and get creative sometimes - and realize that it’s not going to be all roses and romantic music and chocolate, and that’s fine. But at least we’re making the connection and that’s important. It would be nice to have time to do things, but pretty soon in a few years, our kids are all going to be out of the house, and then we’re really going to be sad. So, I’m not worried that we’re not going to know each other once our kids are all out of the house, I’m really not worried about that. Really, he is my best friend and I can say that with a lot of confidence.
J: I don’t have anything to add to that. I mean, my birthday, last month - do you remember?
M: You were going to go out of town, but then you didn’t, so we didn’t have anything planned.
J: We didn’t have anything planned and then Michelle didn’t even remember - which wasn’t a bad thing, it didn’t even bother me. She called me later in the morning.
M: At 10:00 am! I called and said,“I totally forgot it was your birthday! Happy Birthday!”
J: It wasn’t a big deal to me. I know what she is dealing with, I know what we are both going through. So, we try to get away for anniversaries, at least for a night. But, that is more recent now that the boys are older we can leave them with grandparents.
M: And it’s not like we don’t talk about it. If it were to bother him, I know that he could have come to me and said, “I’m really bothered that you didn’t remember my birthday.”
J: Yeah, it didn’t bother me.
M: And then we could have worked through that. That is what I really appreciate about him, is being able to to talk about things, and he’ll be open.
Q. What does healthy communication look like between you? A lot of people seem to struggle with it, so what advice can you share with others about how you talk about hard things?
M: I dated another guy before Jake…
J: (teasing about the ex) “LOSER!”
M: One of the things that I didn’t have with him, even though I was madly in love with him (or so I thought), was that I could never really communicate or connect with him. When I met Jake I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is what I’ve been missing!” If you’re not able to connect and communicate with somebody in the very beginning, it’s not going to come very easily. It’s going to be work and a really difficult hurdle to jump over as the marriage goes on. In the beginning, the physical-ness of the relationship can hold you over for quite awhile. But, after that fizzles you have to be able to communicate with your partner. So, I will just say that I’ve been really lucky in that I’m able to do that with him. A lot of times when we get into an argument, or a mis-communication, or a fight, or what-not, really the only thing that I need from him is to be heard.
J: Uh, huh.
M: If he can just hear what I’m saying - not agree or disagree or try to solve it - just hear me, then I’m good, I’m golden, I’m done, I don’t need to go any further. And he’s the same way. He kind of comes from a family where they didn’t communicate or talk about their feelings much, and that has been something he’s had to learn. It has been a struggle for him, but now he is sometimes even better at it than I am.
J: That’s true. That’s what I was going to say. I’ve learned that what Michelle needs the most in communication is simply to be heard. That’s my overarching goal when we have a disagreement or when we’re talking. The faster I can get there, the faster I can solve the problem. The problem is my emotions and my ego often get in the way. So sometimes I have to take a step back and remember that. Every single time, as I’m processing a disagreement after we’ve gone our separate ways, I think to myself, “You didn’t hear her, you just need to hear her. Just go back and apologize for not hearing her.” When I do that she feels heard, and everything else falls into place.
M: Sometimes when you fight you’re like, “I’m right!” “No, I’m right!” and sometimes you need to kind of separate and cool down. A lot of times he’ll just come to me and say, “You know what? I apologize. I didn’t hear what you were saying. This is what I hear you saying. Is that right?” And then it’s like, “Yes! That’s right!” And then it’s over. It’s done and we’re good.
Q. Are there any other suggestions you would share with couples who have a hard time working through differences? What works in your marriage to smooth over tense situations?
J: The greatest thing for our marriage was living in Arizona for ten years, away from both of our families. That was like the best ten years of our life. It seems like since we’ve moved back here to Salt Lake, we have both our families here and they are vying for our attention. They want different things and have different requests, and that is tricky. We are still figuring that out.
M: Trying to figure out boundaries with in-laws is important. Just last night I got on Jake and I said, “You were supposed to do this!” We were driving somewhere, and he said, “No, it was this and this….” And then I was like, “No, it was this!” And he finally said, “Oh yeah, I did say that.” I know it was kind of hard for him to admit that. He then he made a joke about it and he was totally off the hook. He’s got a very funny sense of humor and he has really learned to intertwine that in our marriage. So, if you can make things more lighthearted, you would be surprised how far humor can take you.
J: I’ll have to remember that.
M: One other thing. We got a lot of advice when we first got married to “Never go to bed mad.”
J: That’s dumb.
M: Yeah, that is dumb. We feel like you have to go to your corners and lick your wounds and re-assess, and process, and come back when you’re in a better state of mind. So yeah, being able to have time apart is a good thing.
J: When you’re angry you want to battle it out. You want to win and you’re not going to let it drop until there is a winner. Something good to say is, “We’re both heated. Let’s walk away and cool down, and then let’s agree to come back later and talk about it.” That ties into one of the things I really appreciate about our relationship. We kind of have this, “We’re not going to give up on each other,” mentality. We’re going to give each other the benefit of the doubt, and we’re going to give each other a do-over. It’s kind of like a “get-out of jail free card.” I know that Michelle’s not going to give up. We might butt heads, but we walk away and we come back, and it’s amazing how quickly we can resolve issues after we’re calm and collected.
M: And the thing that really saves us, and it doesn’t happen very often because it takes a lot of courage, is to realize that you’re getting really heated and say to the other person, “I want to resolve this. I can’t do it right now, but when I’m ready I’ll come back and talk to you.”
J: Uh huh.
M: And that doesn’t always happen, but boy, it sure works when it does happen. A lot of times, at the beginning of our marriage, we really struggled because we would get into conflict about something really silly, and he would shut down for a week at a time. And you know, during this silent treatment (and I think giving a person the silent treatment is very abusive because you don’t know if they're not talking to you on purpose, or if they are trying to process something) I would try and talk to him and he would just shut me down. He had to really learn that it’s not okay to not talk for that long of a time. He’s gotten much better and in fact, he is really better at it than I am, at times.
J: The apprentice has become the master.
Q. Do you feel like working through challenging situations has strengthened your confidence in your marriage?
J: Yes. We’ve done it so many times, the other end is really quite rewarding to think, “Man, we worked through that, and that was really a difficult thing.” I don’t know why we keep doing it, but we do. We have our disagreements. We’re okay with that. We don’t try to portray this facade of this angelic relationship. We have our arguments, and our tensions, and our struggles. Sometimes I’ll come home from work and Michelle will say, “I have another idea for a project,” and there are three other projects that we’re already working on, and we’ll go at it. I’ll say, “We can’t do another project right now! I’m too stressed, and blah blah blah…” We work through it. But we’ve gone through the process so many times that we’ve seen the fruits of resolving issues. And that gives me hope for the future. I feel like right now we could pretty much tackle anything. And I’m going to knock on wood, before I say that, because I don’t want anything else thrown at me, but you know, we come out on top.
M: I don’t have any good modeling of marriages. My mom is on her fourth marriage. She jumped from relationship to relationship to marriage to marriage in my younger years, and my dad stayed single to raise me until I was twenty-one or twenty-two. Even though I didn’t have good modeling of marriage, I think bad modeling of marriage can be just as good of a teacher as good modeling, because you know what NOT to do, and what mistakes NOT to make. I can’t stress the importance of choosing your spouse wisely. I think a lot of people go to the altar knowing in their heart whether or not it’s going to work out. With Jake I never had any reservations. I really felt like we were on the same page. And after being married, I know we are on the same page, not only with our relationship but also with our views in life, and with the way we raise kids. So I can’t stress enough the importance of picking the right spouse and being true to that little voice inside of you before you step foot at the altar.
J: You need to get on the same page in terms of finances, of religion, of whatever it is - there are a lot of deep-seated beliefs that people have in regard to those things. You don’t necessarily have to think the same way in those areas, but at least know where they stand and be able to be okay with any differences.
Q. As far as parenting, were you always on the same page or were there things you had to learn?
J: I think we were pretty much on the same page, and that is a true miracle. In regards to co-sleeping, in regards to the cry-it-out method at night (which we are against), just everything. The nice thing about it is that I can see when she is at her breaking point with the kids and I can step in. She can also read me - “Okay, I’ve got to get the kids away from Dad.” We kind of work well together in that regard. We really haven’t had any disagreements - at least heated ones over parenting. We have had a lot of conversations, but we have been on the same page when it comes to parenting, and that has been a true blessing.
Q. Do you have any financial tips for couples that you would like to share?
J: Don’t spend more money than you have! That’s how we live our lives. Try and save some here and there, but it’s really a simple principle - if you have it, you can spend it. If you don’t, don’t spend it!
Q. You are still married. What is your secret to a happy marriage?
M: Communication. You probably get that answer all the time, but it really comes down to communication - for us at least. I call him my best friend because I can communicate with him - on a physical level, spiritual level, social level - just being able to connect with him.
J: I agree with that. Communication just has to be there. I can’t really add anything to that. Being open and realizing that our relationship is our relationship. And how we communicate and how we raise our kids and how we do things is going to look different than everybody else. When we first got married, we read a few books on relationships and different things, and that was all nice, but in the end I felt like, “How we do things needs to work for us.” And that is all that matters. This is our relationship and we have to work it out and we have to make it work for both of us. Essentially, we are writing our own marriage book. So my advice to readers would be, “Write your own marriage book.”
"There is properly no history; only biography."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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