Years Married: 6 years
Occupations: Jason - Global Sales Manager at Puj / Founder of PatternsofSuccess.com; Andrea - Full-time Mom
Hobbies/Interests: Hiking, Running, Swimming, Triathlons, Cycling, Wrestling, Blogging
Favorite flavors of ice cream: Jason - Pomegranate; Andrea - Carmel Pretzel
Q. What are your top 10 tips for nurturing your marriage?
1. Don't Keep Count
We don’t keep track of how many diapers we’ve changed, how many times we’ve put the kids to bed, how many times we’ve picked up a screaming baby that needs attention. If something needs to get done, we do it. We’ve found that this creates powerful alignment between us, especially when life gets stressful (and with three kids four-years-old and under, it gets stressful often).
We are teammates and companions, and knowing that your spouse is standing and ready to chip in (without keeping a diaper changing count) has been a huge blessing for us.
Before we started dating, we both were workout-aholics. We both went to the gym early and consistently (but never ran into each other). We both feel the same way - exercising is our way of charging our batteries. In our opinion, you cannot put a price tag on well-being, so we devote a lot of time and resources to our health.
So, we’re going to contradict ourselves right now, but this is an area where we do keep track. We try to make sure we both exercise equally during the week. We alternate days, so one of us will exercise Mon, Wed, Fri, and Sat and the other will workout Tue, Thu and Sat (Sunday is our day of rest). Each week one of us is left with just three days to exercise (oh the horror!), so we trade off who starts the week working out on Monday. That’s how we balance it out. Some weeks you get three days to exercise and other weeks you get four.
3. Be Proactive
Almost seven years ago, Andrea’s grandfather performed our marriage ceremony in the Washington D.C. LDS Temple. In that sacred ceremony, he imparted guidance and counsel that was to help us on our eternal journey together. We don’t remember everything that was said (we wish we did), but one thing we haven’t forgotten is his counsel about using a calendar.
He told us quite bluntly to (1) buy a calendar and as soon as all the festivities were over to (2) plan out the rest of our year. More specifically, he encouraged us to put down the dates we were going to spend time together (for us, that meant returning to the temple together often).
We haven’t been perfect in this, but we have made an effort to leverage the tremendous power of calendaring -putting the most important activities on the calendar in advance. We just completed our 2014 Review/2015 Planning session. Once we finished, we had put down all the essentials in our shared Google Calendar, including date nights, date nights with kids, family birthdays, family vacations, and getaways for just the two of us, among other things.
At this time in our marriage, we do date nights every other Friday and Google Calendar makes it easy. We simply create the event once and make it “repeat” every two weeks and it never expires. Just like that, our whole year of dates has been planned.
It’s important to note that some weeks our plans change and we need to push activities to a different day. In these scenarios, we just adjust the event on our calendar, and if it’s a repeating event, all following dates update automatically (this is the benefit to using a digital calendar).
The underlying message here is that you can either design your life or someone else will design it for you. Being proactive helps us realize the potential we have as a couple and as a family. Recognizing that we can design our life however we want is an empowering thought and has lead us to a happy, exciting life.
4. Date Nights
This is related to our previous topic, but date nights are one of the first things we put on our calendar. Our date nights aren’t too structured but we try to have them regularly. We usually just go to dinner and have a calm, quiet meal accompanied with a normal, adult conversation (if you had dinner at our house, you’d know why this is so refreshing).
Date nights not only give us a chance to re-kindle our love, but they also give us a break from the kids and we always come back renewed.
5. Showing Gratitude
When you spend a lot of time with someone, it’s easy to become complacent. You might assume they know how much you love them and appreciate them. But in a marriage (or any relationship) you should never assume.
J: I am blessed to have a wife that makes a delicious meal every night. It would be easy to scarf down the meal and then race off to go play with the kids without letting Andrea know how much I appreciate her dinners, but I try to make a conscious effort to say "thank you," for every dinner she makes. We are also teaching our kids to say "thank you," after every dinner. It’s a small gesture that hopefully shows our gratitude (and continues to produce delicious meals for years to come!).
A: I really appreciate when Jason and the kids say thank you for the meals I make them. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the kitchen most of the day so hearing a thank you and "It was the best meal," makes me smile. I also try to thank Jason for his long days at work and all the help he gives me with the kids.
6. Serving Others
We’ve found that when we are so focused on ourselves and don’t make time to help or serve others, we become frustrated. Frustrated because we know we should be capable of rising above our own challenges and helping others. There are opportunities all around us, if we but look.
We try to do one “formal” act of service during the week, along with taking advantage of the other opportunities that come our way. Working together and sometimes sacrificing together to help someone in need has a special way of bringing us closer together.
7. Never Use the "D" Word
In our marriage, there is one word that we have removed completely from our vocabulary: divorce. We don’t use it in our relationship - ever. Not even sarcastically. Call us extreme, we feel that the more we hear it and the more we use it, the more it becomes an option.
We recognize that depending on the situation, divorce may be the best option. But for us, as long as we are both trying to be honest, loyal, and virtuous individuals, there is no reason we could justify a separation. We are 100% completely committed to each other and to working through any difference or any challenge that comes our way.
8. End of Day Routine
Over the years, we’ve tried various routines as a couple. Reading books, eating healthy, new workouts, etc. We haven’t been very consistent with any of them, except one: our end of day routine.
We can probably count on one hand how many times we have both gone to sleep without saying a prayer together. It’s just how we end our day. We usually talk about the day and plan for the next (or read together or watch a funny video), and we ALWAYS end with a prayer. And in that prayer we express gratitude for the other.
We don’t always go to bed at the same time (Jason often works late at night after everyone goes to bed), but our bedtime prayer has been the one constant. That practice multiplied by 6+ years has done wonders for our relationship.
9. Family Values/Traditions
We’re big fans of Stephen Covey, so we’ve studied family mission statements quite a bit. We took a slightly different approach, however, and created a Family Constitution (we will probably come up with a mission statement at a later date).
It consists of 12 values ranging from Love and Obedience to Service and Industry. Each month, we try to focus on that one value, talk about it as a family, and implement it within the walls of our home. We’re just getting started on this, but our goal is to study these values every year, year after year, and instill them within our children.
Richard and Linda Eyre, marriage and family experts, have said that the most valuable things you can give your kids are values, because values will guide them for the rest of their lives and can be adapted to any stage of life. We agree, and although our kids are young, we’re teaching them what being a Richardson is all about.
10. Supporting Other Interests
Between work, family, church activities, and exercise, there’s not much time left over for other interests (We told you exercise is important to us!). But, whatever time is left over, we try to make the most of it.
For example, we both have things we’re interested in. Andrea likes to paint, and Jason likes triathlons. When I (Jason) have a triathlon, Andrea will round up the kids and haul them to the finish line to greet me and cheer me on. She doesn’t have to do that, but knowing that I have her support allows me to enjoy training, and racing, that much more.
We want each other to pursue these hobbies as long as they don’t detract from our other priorities. But we’ve found that pursuing these other activities can enrich our marriage because it helps both of us to have more energy and zest for life.
"There is properly no history; only biography."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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