Location: Greater Washington DC area
Years Married: 16. We were married in March of 1998. We don’t remember the date because Jenny forgot it.
Kids: 4 (3 girls, 1 boy)
Occupation: Matt is an executive in the educational technology space. Jenny, a mother of four, also known as “America’s Violinist,” is a Grammy Nominated musician who has released 12 albums and sold over a quarter million copies. She truly is one of the most beloved and accomplished violinists in America! Learn more about Jenny’s music at jennyoaksbaker.com. Subscribe to Jenny’s YouTube channel here.
Hobbies/Fun: J: We like to cook and we like to go out to dinner - our hobbies all revolve around food. We also like to travel and go to movies (Although it’s hard to find a good movie!). M: Jenny bakes and I BBQ. We do like to go to movies, but Jenny sleeps through most of them. J: If I have enough chocolate I’m good.
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: Matt supports me. It works really well and I appreciate it a lot.
M: Yeah, I do everything Jenny wants. I also fold laundry.
J: Matt does help me fold laundry. I don’t know if I help Matt with anything at all. Except I make you dinner. I remember someone once told me, “Marriage is a lot of work,” and I was like, “I don’t work at it.” I later thought to myself, “Hmm, maybe Matt is doing all the work?!” Because I don’t feel like I have to work at it. I feel like it is just awesome, and it works, hooray! We work hard and play hard. We love to be together. It’s just great!
M: We’re not kitschy kind of people. For example, when people say, “Don’t go to bed mad,” we disagree. If we are annoyed, we roll over and go to sleep and then we wake up in the morning and everything is fine.
J: Then we don’t even usually remember what bothered us.
M: Jenny sending me a cute text every other day with a smiley face - that’s just not our style. I think we don’t have time for the trinkety, kitschy kind of stuff. Now, some other people really are motivated by that, and that is great.
J: We just love being together. Matt calls me every time he can, when he is traveling, or every time he has a moment in his day. And I call him. We just are a really good match. Neither one of us is needy. I don’t need him to hold my hand and tell me I’m pretty. Though he does tell me I’m pretty. That’s nice. He also buys me jewelry when he goes to Asia. That’s nice. And I let him go work out. That’s really nice of me.
J: The best thing is that Matt is supportive. Completely! He supports me in everything I want to do. For example, right now we are spending all our money on music videos. We just went to Ireland to film three, and Matt has covered the costs. That’s something I really care about! I don’t need him to write me a...I mean, you could...I mean, “Why don’t you write me love notes?”
M: Because, you don’t write me love notes!
J: K, that’s fine. We don’t do that. :)
J: I need him to pay for my music videos, and I need him to be there when I do concerts, when he can, when he’s not with the kids. I need him to want to be with me, and he does. And so he fulfills every need I could possibly have.
M: We have to focus on the fundamentals of what we are trying to accomplish - like the blocking and tackling. Especially with all that we have going on with the kid’s music, and Jenny’s music, and my work, along with the work I do in Asia. We have to prioritize and decide on what is important. For us, some of the small stuff isn’t as important, and it feels a little superficial to us. And it’s just not my style. For example, if I wrote Jenny a little note and left it on her pillow...
J: I would laugh! I would think, “What does he want? What is going on here?”
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?
J: One of my favorite things that Matt does, is that he goes on his business trips at the last possible moment and comes back the first possible moment. He doesn’t go and spend an extra day going to see whatever cool sight is in China, for instance. He gets there, gets it done, and comes home. And I do the same thing when I travel. I appreciate that. Another thing I really appreciate about Matt is that I can count on him to always save me. From any situation. Whether I crash into a car, and he comes to save me, or...
M: You back out of the garage with the garage door closed.
J: I was in a hurry.
J: Oh, it was a busy day! He just is always there to save me. One example is when I was pregnant with our first, or second, kid and we hadn’t packed up our clothes for a trip. We had to leave really early in the morning and I was really ill. And so exhausted. Matt just had me go to bed while he packed up everything all night. Then he called the airlines to change the flight to later in the day, so that I could sleep longer. Little things like that, where I just know he always has my back and he’ll do anything he can to bless my life, and the lives of our kids. I know I can always count on him, and I’m grateful for that.
Q. What specific ways has continued dating in marriage nurtured your marriage? Why do you feel dating is so vital in nurturing a marriage? What works for you?
M: Well, before Jenny and I got engaged we knew each other in person for like eleven days. So, our dating experience wasn’t very normal. It wasn’t a traditional courtship.
J: We got to know each other and then we were engaged. And it was fast because my mom had cancer. She found out she had cancer at the end of July, and then I was home a couple of weeks before starting my masters at Juilliard. I had been there (in NYC) one week and then I went to church on Sunday. The first time I was at church was the second day Matt was in NYC for interviews. He was only there for a week and I was scoping to see which cute guy I should sit by, and I kind of noticed Matt. So, I went and sat by him.
M: We sat, we chatted, and we got to know each other during church, as irreverent as it was.
J: Also, as soon as my mom found out she had cancer, she started praying that I would find someone to marry before she died - and that Sunday, when I met Matt, was the day our family was fasting for her recovery. So, Matt and I met my first week in NYC and the only week he was there on that trip. By the time Matt left a week later, we weren’t going to see other people.
M: And then when I came back to NYC, I proposed to her.
J: A couple of months later, in November, we got engaged. We were going to be married the following summer. Well, my mom had pancreatic cancer, and she had a doctor’s appointment after Christmas time. The doctor said we needed to move the date up. So, we got married in March, and then she died in July. I know that Heavenly Father orchestrated our marriage. I know that He orchestrated everything about it. It was one of the great tender mercies for me, for my mother, and for my father - as she died, knowing that I was taken care of, and also knowing that the Lord kind of put us together in such a miraculous way. Because, Matt was only there that one Sunday and until meeting Matt, I had never been true to a guy before.
M: Don’t put it that way! You were never serious with just one guy.
M: Really? True? “I was never true to a guy!”
J: Well, I always dated, even when I was dating someone seriously.
M: Correct. That is a little more appropriate.
J: Well, anyway, I met Matt and it was done.
J: As far as dating goes now, if it were just up to us, we would go out all the time, and go to dinner, and have a rip-roaring time, and wahoo. But we have kids. And since both of us travel quite a bit, we don’t have as much family time as we would like. Because of all that, it’s hard to go out. Because then we would never have family time when we are both together with the family. And so, we don’t do that a whole lot.
J: But we try and travel together when we can. For example, Matt just went to Ireland with me. Sometimes if I’m away, and he is coming back from a trip, we’ll meet somewhere in the middle and have a day or so together. Then, we get back to the kids as soon as we can. Matt and I work hard, we play hard, and we date hard. Nothing we do is casual.
M: Yes, it is either high energy or nothing is happening. There’s not a whole lot of just hanging out and stuff.
J: Eventually I plan on traveling with Matt, a lot, when the kids are grown. That will be awesome, and that is what we would both love. I love when Matt is able to come with me. I wish he could come with me on all of my concert trips, that would be my favorite thing! But, for now I would rather have him with the kids. So we just try to find balance.
J: We like to work-out together.
M: We like to run... I hate to run actually. But, we like to work-out together. We also like good food - food is great.
Q. When you are traveling together, or are able to meet up at a given location, what are your favorite things to do?
M: First, decompress from all the other crazy stuff that is going on. Take a breath. When Jenny was on her way to film a movie in Bulgaria, and I was in Ireland at a conference, we met up in Italy and went to Tuscany and Florence. There wasn’t a lot of just kicking back and hanging out.
J: We took a cooking class together in Italy.
M: That cooking class was fun. We also like to go to movies when we are by ourselves. Because usually by that time Jenny has recovered from falling asleep! And a little shopping. Jenny likes to go shopping.
J: We also went on a bike ride in Italy. We have been on a couple of bike rides. That was fun. The thing is, we are both kind of in shape, so we can do whatever we want.
M: We went on a cruise in the summer.
J: Gosh, we are leaving our kids a lot! We don’t date. We just travel together. We just go to Italy, and Ireland, and Vegas, and New York.
J: When we aren’t traveling, usually we spend most mornings sitting in bed together, getting our emails done. Just happy as two clams, just being together. We just like to be together.
Q. What does it mean to you to have an intimate relationship with each other?
J: Let me make sure the kids are in bed.
M: Intimacy is important. I think anybody that makes light of that, in a relationship, is going to have problems. There is a lot to learn. In situations like ours, where we were both virgins before marriage, there was a very large chasm of understanding, of how intimacy should be. You go from 0-60 overnight, and I think that can cause a lot of problems. It took us a lot of time and effort to feel like the intimacy was a very positive building part of our relationship. That was just one of the things, it just didn’t come overnight.
J: Yeah, it didn’t. We were clueless. I think it is awesome that you are both clueless, but it is kind of a rocky road to figure things out.
M: I think intimacy is a very important part of a relationship. And there needs to be a strong level set and understanding in the relationship, or else it is going to become a detractor to the overall quality of your marriage.
Q. What does emotional intimacy look like and feel like, and how does that work in your marriage?
J: Matt & I both are really open people, and neither one of us is passive aggressive. So, if we feel something, we immediately say it. All of it. And get it out there and deal with it, and then move on. And neither one of us harbors any ill feelings. We just get it out there and we move on. I feel free to say anything to Matt, at any time, and I’m super grateful for that. I probably say too much sometimes!
M: Sometimes I take a time-out from the emotional intimacy game.
J: It’s not a game!
M: We are very open. There is no, “out of bounds.” So you kind of always know where you stand. But, emotions can ebb and flow. Sometimes you just need to separate yourself and let the emotions die down a bit. Sometimes you deal with it in the moment, and other times you can put it aside for a little while and come back to it.
J: And I feel totally free to have all the emotions I need to have, and spew them all out. And that is very freeing.
M: Very tiring though. Super tiring.
J: I’m just so grateful for Matt. Because he is just so perfect for me. My parents still can’t believe that I found a man that can handle me. So, I really am so blessed. Matt is my best friend. There is just no one I would rather be with.
Q. You two just seem like the best of friends. What helps you nurture your friendship as husband and wife?
M: I think in our case, there is no intimidation between us. Especially with Jenny. When I first met her, she was going to Juilliard, playing the violin. In no way was I ever intimidated that she would become more famous than me, or more popular than me, or make more money than me. I hoped she would, in all of these categories.
J: I’m more famous than you. But not more popular.
M: I have more friends.
J: You have more real friends. I have more Facebook friends.
M: So, I think one factor is there was never a sense of competition between us. So, we could throw ourselves fully into supporting the other spouse, or the other side of the relationship. And it was a little easier, probably, for me to see, because Jenny had this amazing talent, and she was going to Juilliard, the most famous music school in the world, and you would think, “Oh wow, she…,” not to mention her dad is a public figure, too. But, there was never any of that. It was more of, “I want to do anything I can to have her be as successful as possible,” and she has always done the same for me.
M: In some ways it’s made it harder because one role is more visible, it’s bigger. It has more presence in a relationship. But let’s say you scale that down to one person is a CPA and the other person is a Financial Adviser in the relationship. All of a sudden, that dynamic is not as large, but is more tightly engrained. So, there could be more issues with competitiveness, and who does something better, and who makes more money, and I think that has never been there with us. That has helped a lot.
J: But we do joke about being competitive. We kind of joke that “our song,” is “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better,” but that’s just because we enjoy bantering. We enjoy the interaction.
Q. What other things help you nurture the intimate relationship you have with your spouse?
M: I think spiritual intimacy is important. To know where each other is at, on that level. Jenny’s always been supportive of me, and I’ve always been supportive of her. Jenny has been good to push me and to make sure that things happen, those things that are valuable to our family, and that’s been important.
J: And we help each other, as well. For example, if I’m ever out of bounds, like saying something I shouldn’t about someone, Matt will reign me in. And sometimes I’ll remind him to do something he needs to do.
M: I think there is value in being on the same spiritual plane.
J: And working together and not pulling apart.
J: As far as intimacy goes, I think if you are both comfortable, go for it.
M: You can’t just leave it like that!
J: Why not?
M: Because, even when you are married, the aspect of sharing your thoughts about sexuality and your ideas about it, with your spouse, can be very hard. That part of the relationship is one that is less evolved at the start of a marriage and can create issues in a relationship. So, what Jenny is probably saying is that it is important to be comfortable talking about your feelings about sexuality with each other. It is important for both spouses to talk about what they are comfortable with, and to be able to share their feelings about their intimate relationship with each other. That ability to share thoughts and feelings about sexual intimacy is very healthy in a relationship.
Values to Live By
Q. What is your spouse’s strongest trait, and how does that nurture your marriage?
J: (teasing) How are you going to pick just one?
M: I think Jenny, one of her biggest assets, is her drive and focus. You don’t become a world-class violinist, by kind of just rinky-dinking and lally-gagging around your whole life. You have to have intense dedication and focus. And if you don’t, you’re not going to make it. She carries that across everything she does! She gets that from her Dad - and her Dad is uber smart. But that idea of being able to focus is paramount in her ability to be successful. It also blesses our kids. And they have no choice but to be successful with all they do. It’s just kind of the way it has to be. All of our kids play instruments, and they are all very successful and good at it.
J: People ask, “How do you get your kids to practice?” And I respond by saying, “Well, they can’t do anything fun until it is done!” Sometimes the kids beg to practice, just so they can go do something fun. People think I make it so fun that they want to practice. But no, they can’t do anything fun until it is done.
M: And you force them to, sometimes, kicking and screaming and everything else, but that is just the way it goes. It takes time and effort and money.
J: You did so good! (At complimenting her strengths) I like that. Okay, you have so many...
M: Yeah, whatever, that is just a stall tactic!
J: Matt is amazing with people. He is super crazy-good with people. He can become best-friends with everyone in the whole world. Like, I had a roommate in college who was kind of the complete opposite of me in every respect… every respect. Complete opposite. And Matt and I had just met each other, and we were really hitting it off. Then we went back to my dorm room, and I introduced him to my roommate, and he hit it off with her. And I was like, “Who is this guy?!” He and I are hitting it off, and he hit it off with her.
M: Hit it off? I can build a relationship. I was able to establish some sort of connection with her.
J: And with everyone I met, he was like that. He is just good with all people, from all walks of life. And he sincerely has relationships with all kinds of people. In sales, he just knows how to attract people. I’m always proud to go to things with him, or to bring him to things with me. He’s just got an incredible sense for people, and developing relationships, in a very sincere, and a very likable way. Everyone that meets Matt just loves him.
Routines & Rituals
Q. Are there any little things in your day-to-day life that are special routines or rituals for you?
M: Family dinner is important.
J: And eating the same thing. A couple of nights last week, it was just so busy, that I kind of said, “It’s dinner time, everyone just make whatever... cereal, cheese bread, whatever.” My youngest is seven, so theoretically everyone could find something to eat and survive one meal. And so they all made their own dinner. Nobody sat down together, everyone’s food was ready at a different time, no one was eating the same thing, for a set amount of time, and I was so sad. Sure, our bellies were filled at the end, but it hadn’t been that ritual of eating together. Everyone was totally in a weird, different place, and I felt like we hadn’t eaten family dinner. After that experience, I thought to myself, “Wow, I can see how important it is that there is a meal, where everyone is eating the same thing, and where the meal starts and ends at the same time, and where you eat it together!” It becomes an experience that is so unifying for a family, and for a couple.
J: Another thing is that we always go to sleep together. If I have a late night, Matt will pretty much wait up until I’ve taken care of everything I need to take care of. That, at the very least, gives us a moment, in the evening together. That’s kind of a ritual.
M: One other little thing is that I drive when we’re together.
J: Oh yeah. Matt drives, and I do my emails and stuff. I love it. It’s my favorite.
Q. What specific solutions have helped you resolve the conflicts that have come up in your marriage?
J: Just say you’re sorry. It’s not that hard and it does a lot of good. Shortly after we were married we moved to the Washington D.C. area and were looking for a house. We temporally lived with this wonderful older couple that I just greatly admire. Matt and I had been married a year or less, when one day this older woman pulled me aside and said, “Jenny, I notice that you make little critical comments about Matt quite often.” Then she told me, “You need to stop. You need to immediately stop.” She was really gentle with it and wonderful. And she simply said, “It will harm your marriage and damage your children.” I am so grateful to her. I’m sure I still do it, more than I should, but I really became more aware of it.
J: I’ve seen how children, the way they view themselves, is so wrapped up in how they view both parents. If you tear each other down, it’s really tearing down your children, as well - whether it’s your spouse or an ex-spouse. It’s so important that we build each other up and support each other, and that we say only good things about our spouse to our children. We try to be very, very careful not to say anything negative about each other to anyone, especially our children. It is so damaging to the marriage relationship, and also to our children.
M: Yeah, we just say we’re sorry.
J: Sometimes he calls me a hot mess. But at least he’s got the hot part in there. :)
M: I also think, and I mentioned this before, that sometimes you just have to put it aside. Give it some time, and sleep it off. There have been quite a few times where we have just turned over and gone to sleep. When you wake up, you’re much better, you’re rested, and a lot of the bigger stuff, or the smaller stuff, seems to kind of just wash away.
J: The thing is, that I also crave to be close emotionally to Matt. I can feel if I’ve done something wrong. I can feel when he doesn’t want to be emotionally close to me. I can sense that, and I don’t like it. I want to be emotionally close to him, so I will do anything I can so that we can come back together. I do it, because I know what it feels like to be emotionally close, and physically close, and I crave that. So, I won’t let anything get in the way.
M: I don’t know how good this is, but we’re not the kind of people that say, “Sssh, let’s just talk about this when we are by ourselves.” We’re very open about things. You know, we’ll argue and kind of raise our voice at each other...
J: Not really that much, we don’t yell at each other.
M: No, not yell.
J: Speak passionately, emphatically.
M: We will deal with things. There’s not a lot of ego in how we need to come across in dealing with conflicts or anything else we need to work out. Everything is just there and we do it, and if people are around, they are around. They see how we interact, and we don’t try to put on a different face when we’re in public.
J: We really don’t fight that much, though.
M: Well, I’m not talking about fighting. I’m just talking about any little thing. It’s very much open and up-front and what you see is what you get. Our friends call it, “The Jenny and Matt Show.” You get it. That’s just the way it is.
J: Another thing I think I probably should share is that when we were first married I wanted to immediately have babies. I just did. I also felt like I was super old getting married - even though I was only 22. I thought I was truly way, way, way old. And I thought, “My clock is ticking, we need to have babies, now!” And Matt thought we needed a month or two, or three, or six months or a year, or whatever. So, I was kind of not so happy about that. And I think that probably caused a little bit of friction. My Dad told me, or maybe I prayed about it; I either got counsel from my father or an answer to prayer. I don’t remember which, but either way, the counsel was that it was more important that Matt and I were together on this, and other things, then that we immediately start our family. As important as starting up a family was, it was more important that Matt and I were of one heart, and were unified in that. That was a really important lesson to learn early on. Some things, even though they are good, are not as good as being unified in your marriage. So, I let it drop. Then a few months later, Matt told me he was ready to start trying to have kids, and eventually we were able to have four.
Q - How have your differences helped nurture your marriage?
M: We are similar in many ways, but we are very different in many ways. I think our ability to bring those together has been wonderful to watch. I don’t think you can necessarily plan that, going into a marriage. It just kind of works out.
J: When we were first married, we didn’t know each other as well as maybe some other couples do (because we didn’t date that long before getting married). I remember seeing silly differences that I noticed. For example, before we had kids, once in a while Matt would come home, and horror of horrors, watch TV. I had never seen my dad come home and watch TV. And I was a little like, “Wait a minute, I didn’t marry my father?!” A couple days later, I came to a realization that Matt was better for me precisely because he wasn’t exactly like my father.
M: It was only Monday night football.
J: Just the fact that he turned on the television was quite shocking to me. But I learned, early on, that everything about Matt was so perfect for me. And that my father, as amazing as he is, or someone just like my father, wouldn’t have been the right kind of husband for me. Joying in each other’s differences is important. I’ve been so grateful for Matt and how we are different, and how we are similar and how we have such a great time together. We’re kind of each other’s ying and yang, and we have this good thing going on.
Q. How has working through conflict brought you closer together?
M: The standard modus operandi, would be the fact that you’re doing it together. It’s not that I have an issue, so I go work it out, or that Jenny has an issue, so she goes and works it out. Anything we have, whatever the issue may be, even though it may be more personal or more situational to work, is always handled together.
J: Have we had issues?
M: No! I mean, I don’t know! Something… we’ve had something!
J: We haven’t had a lot of issues.
M: You bought a dog. That was an issue!
J: That was a bad choice. Why did you let me get the dog? Seriously?
M: We’ve been blessed to not have a lot of those big monumental issues that are really challenging to a marriage. Sure, we’ve had trials - Jenny’s mom died, and my mom died. That was tough. So, there’s things like that. I’ve had some work related issues, changes in work, and stuff like that, that have been kind of jarring. But, you work through it together. The point is, those issues are just handled together, and I think that is where the strength comes.
J: One other thing, we don’t really spend free time without each other. I don’t go on girl’s trips. There is no one I would rather spend time with, than Matt. If I have a free night, I want it to be with my husband and kids. Or just my husband. I have no desire, whatsoever, to go hang out with some girls. I just don’t get it, and I appreciate that Matt doesn’t want to leave me when he has free time. I appreciate that he wants to spend all of his free time with me and our kids.
M: (sarcastically) Yeah, I would hate to go on a golf trip for three days, just sitting around and playing golf!
J: I would be so mad at him! I’d be like, “No!”
M: Independent of what my feelings are, it will never happen.
Q - You’re still married. What is your secret to a happy marriage?
J: (laughing a bit) Matt supporting me in everything I want to do.
M: Work hard and play hard. We really subscribe to that philosophy. We work really, really hard, and our kids even work hard with their music and other things; but when we go do things together, we have a good time. And fun things don’t have to be financially based. When you go do something, you do it to your fullest, and you have a good time doing it.
J: Wow, yours was good. Love and respect each other. And make sure to say, “I love you,” a lot.
"There is properly no history; only biography."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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