Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Years Married: 6 in December
Kids: Two - a boy and a girl.
Occupation/Hobbies/Etc.: Jeff works at University of Michigan in the Kinesiology department, more specifically in the Rehab and Robotics Lab and as a Graduate Student Instructor. Rachel is a stay-at-home mom and a friend to the neighborhood. We love spending time together as a family. We enjoy spending time outdoors. We love going on walks, playing in streams and lakes, catching frogs and crawdads, going on bike rides, drawing with chalk, eating Hot n' Ready pizza, spending time with neighbors, and making our house a home. We love dumpster-diving and thrifting. We love finding old things and making them awesome again.
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?
J&R: We text. A lot. It helps keep us connected throughout the day. Making sure that we take time to give each other at least a hug every day has been good for our marriage. Rachel is good at talking, and Jeff is good at listening, but we're not always good at taking time to really listen to or talk to one another. When we really make an effort to do those things, we are more in tune with each other.
Another thing we do is we always go grocery shopping together. Neither one of us likes to do that, so when we go together it is more enjoyable. We bring the kids along and make it an event in the day.
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?
R: Jeff lets me sleep in in the mornings. I feel super lazy about it, but I love that he gives me some time where I am "off duty," as a mom, and I don't have to answer to every "Mommy! Can you [fill in the blank]?" that I hear. I also thinks it gives Jeff and the kids great time with each other where I'm not bossing anyone around.
R: Another small example, that makes a great point, is once when I expressed that I really didn't want to clean the microwave. We have a microwave from the 80s. It is the first microwave my parents ever owned. Growing up, I loathed cleaning this microwave. It's big, messy, awkward, and... a microwave. Anyway, I hadn't cleaned the microwave for weeks (yeah... gross, I know), and I was telling Jeff I needed to clean it before my parents came into town or they may think I wasn't taking care of their property. I forgot about the conversation, and I forgot about the microwave, but when I opened it to heat up some dinner the next evening IT WAS CLEAN! I almost cried. Jeff had stayed up late the night before to do some studying, like late-late, and he took the time to clean that stinky old microwave. Those types of small things make a huge difference. He listened to me, and he showed me. Awesome.
J: We pray morning and night together. When I have something hard going on at work or school, it is powerful to hear Rach pray for 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?
R: I think dating is important...and we are terrible at it! Life is pretty stressful as a PhD student and a mother of two little ones, and we just haven't figured out how to fit dating in. It would probably be easier for us if we lived by family, but we live by a bunch of other students who are in the same situation as we are. However, I do think the times we have actually gone out and spent time together have been really great. Think about it, dating is the time you fell in love. For me, it was the time where I thought everything Jeff said was so funny. I thought the way he could always make a joke was endearing. I thought the way his family did things was so much better than mine, in so many areas. I thought we'd just hold each other forever and never let go. Back when we were dating, I loved it! Well, now there are times where I wish he'd stop joking, holding, and suggesting. I think seeing each other in those rose-colored glasses is sometimes a good thing, and dating kind of brings that back out.
J: We always spend time together on Friday night (when the whole world has date night). We don't often go without the kids, but we enjoy being with them. I always like seeing Rachel as a mother. After the kids are asleep, we will play a game together or watch something. We don't do much that is extravagant, but we enjoy all of these little moments. No matter what the week is like, we always know we can look forward to that Friday family time and pseudo-date.
Q. What has been your favorite date you have been on together?
J: We visited Utah this summer, and we were able to drop the kids off with Grandma for a good chunk of time so we could go on a hike, just the two of us. That was great. Another thing we do together is go to the temple. We belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and try to make an effort to attend the temple. We enjoy going there together.
Q. What are the obstacles you have faced in going on dates, and what have you done to ensure that dates happen?
J&R: Due to finances and a lack of free time, we just don't get out often. We rarely get babysitters unless we swap with another couple. However, we try to schedule times (like Friday evenings after the kids are in bed) where we are together doing things we used to do when we were dating. We enjoy playing games (usually board games), watching movies, going on short walks, and/or just talking. While we might not be great at getting out, we are very consistent at spending time together. Even if it's only a short time, we know we can count on being with one another.
Q. What does it mean to you to have an intimate relationship with your spouse?
J&R: We think it is being able to share anything with the other person. Being able to be completely open both emotionally and physically. Having an intimate relationship involves knowing your spouse's innermost everything.
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?
J&R: Feeling safe enough to tell the other person how you are feeling is a good indicator of how emotionally connected you are. We never go to other people with our problems unless we have talked about them together first. We do not complain to others about one another, and that helps us trust each other. Feeling like we can trust one another helps us feel emotionally intimate.
Q. What other things help you nurture the intimate relationship you have with your spouse?
J&R: We have kind of already said this, but setting time apart, where we know being together is the top priority, has helped us stay in tune with one another. Understanding how the other spouse feels loved is important, and then making sure to express love in that way is important.
Values to Live By
Q. What is your spouse’s strongest trait?
R: Jeff has a lot of fabulous traits. I truly believe that! One trait I believe stands out among the others is his humility. Jeff is so humble. I could go on, and on, but... he'd probably prefer I not (hence the humility).
J: Rach is a friend. I was going to go with gregarious, but it sounded too fancy. No matter who it is, it seems like people will just tell her anything as though they had known her for years. Maybe that's why we got married. It literally takes years for me to be that friendly with someone. The mail lady, the old guy across the way, and random checkers at the grocery store, all stop and talk to Rachel like old friends. It's great.
Q. What is your favorite characteristic about your spouse?
R: One of my favorite characteristics of Jeff's is his sense of humor and happiness. He makes me laugh. so. much. His humor plays into how wonderful he is as a spouse, a parent, and a friend to others. I love hearing the ridiculous stories he makes up at bedtime for our daughter. He is able to make others feel comfortable because he is happy. He makes me feel both silly and amazing at the same time. That's a pretty good quality if you ask me... and you did.
J: Picking a favorite is tough, but I love that Rachel loves people. She doesn't always love to be around them, but she just genuinely cares about them. That's what makes her a good friend. She cares about your story, which is why she gets life stories from complete strangers (seriously). I even like it when she cares enough to tell them I can help with something when I get home from work. Seriously, Rachel is always willing to help, and she's pretty good at finding out what people can use help with.
Q. How have those qualities nurtured your marriage?
R: There are so many qualities I love about Jeff, and I only mentioned a few above. Focusing on good qualities rather than negative ones strengthens a marriage immensely. Just answering these questions has made me feel more loving toward Jeff. I tend to be the more negative and fault-finding spouse, but when I try to hone in on the things that Jeff is amazing at, I remember why I married him in the first place. I also then realize how he is even more amazing than I initially thought.
J: I think it's important that we recognized these qualities in each other before we got married. In some ways we seem like opposites, but I say we're complimentary. We have always seen things in each other that we admire and try to emulate, and it lifts both of us. Rachel said this already, but we try to focus on the positive. We're definitely not perfect, but between us we have a good starting place, and we work on the rest.
Routines and Rituals
Q. What things do you do day-to-day that keep you connected?
J&R: As mentioned above, we text to keep connected throughout the day. We always eat dinner together. We pray together, and as a family. As often as we can, we do the children's bedtime together. So, pretty much between the hours of 5:30 - 8:00pm we try to do everything we can together.
Q. Do you have any special places, things you say to each other, or other mini-traditions that are unique to your marriage?
R: Yes, but they are super silly.
J: Most of them involve us acting like children.
R: Haha! Like Jeff wants us to be the parents who can always do a handstand. We regularly practice doing handstands these days...not that we're very good at them.
J: Not yet. Also, when we get the parking spot we want, we yell, "Sucka!"
Q. Do you have any routines/rituals around special occasions like anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, etc.
J&R: Ann Arbor is known for the birthday specials at restaurants. So, we like to go out to dinner for our birthdays (usually the only two nights per year that we do!) and take advantage of the deals. We also celebrate Valentine's Day the day after when all the candy is on sale. It just makes more sense on a student budget. We usually write each other a nice letter on our anniversary. We're not really into gifts, just pigging out on bad food and saying nice things about each other.
Q. What specific suggestions can you share that have helped you work through challenges that have come up in your marriage?
J&R: Don't be proud. Listen to your spouse. Don't run away from conflict.
J: If you're going to punch a wall, make sure you don't punch a soft spot.
R: Because then your wife won't just be mad about being mad, but she'll be mad about the ugly hole in the wall!
J&R: This was obviously an example of when we weren't handling conflict very well.
R: Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree. And then you find out you were both wrong anyway... Be teachable. Accept responsibility, and say you're sorry. Don't go to bed angry (that is advice we got... maybe everyone gets that advice, but it's good). Be willing to laugh about your mistakes and shortcomings.
J: And if you can't make your wife laugh, at least make her roll her eyes. Be quick to forgive. If you're not talking, just say you're sorry. It will all get better. Marriage is hard. It takes sacrifice and humility from both people to make it work, and in the end you find out you're both better for it.
Q. How has working through conflict together nurtured your marriage and brought you closer together?
R: If we didn't work through conflict, we wouldn't still be together.
J: When you face difficult things together and are able to work through it, you realize you can do hard things. Together. In the future, there will probably be harder things and things will get more complicated (especially with kids). We both know that no matter what it is, we are committed to each other, and we will get through it.
Q. You are still married. What is your secret to a happy marriage?
R: Kids... :)
J: Our kids do make us happy. We really do enjoy watching one another interact with the kids.
R: I fall more in love with Jeff when I see him being a good dad.
J: That's just hormones.
R: Haha! see? He makes me laugh (and roll my eyes).
J: Our secret is that we have never considered any other option than being married to each other (since we've been married).
R: Of course there are situations where some people shouldn't be married, but we are just talking about us here.
J: Spending time together.
R: Since we haven't said that already... :)
J: We just enjoy each other. Life is good, so we just have fun.
"There is properly no history; only biography."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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