Location: Portland, Oregon
Years Married: 3 years
Kids: 1 girl, (with a boy on the way)
Occupation: Peter is in medical school and wants to be a dermatologist. Jenae is a special education teacher by profession but currently stays at home with their daughter.
Hobbies/Fun: They both enjoy sports; outdoor activities; going to the park; going on walks; eating; sleeping; watching movies; going on trips; and visiting family.
Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream: J: White Chocolate Mousse from TCBY; P: Bubble Gum, I never grew out of it. J: He’s not joking. It’s kind of like a 5-year old phase.
The Little Things
Q. What are some of the little things you do together, or for each other, that helps to nurture your marriage?
J: Peter’s really good at seeing things that need to be done (like dishes, for example) and even though he’s super busy, he always jumps in to help. It’s particularly helpful when the bathroom needs to be cleaned, because I hate that chore. He knows that, so he is often apt to do it for me.
P: I feel like Jenae does all of the little things. That doesn’t leave a lot for me to do. I have probably only made my lunch maybe once since we’ve moved to Portland. She also makes dinner and takes care of the house, and our child. I’m at school all the time and even when I come home there is more studying to do, so she does all the little things and they really are the big things. I’m spoiled.
J: I like doing it.
Q. So, Peter what do you mean when you say, “the little things are the big things”? How do the little things really become the big things in your marriage?
P: It usually isn’t until I’m at home alone with our daughter that I realize all the stuff that goes on, that Jenae does so willingly (a lot of the time without me knowing!). The other day she went to a Dr’s appointment for a few hours, and over the course of three hours I was amazed at how many little things happen - whether it is changing diapers, making meals, doing dishes, cleaning up messes, etc - those little things are constantly adding up, and Jenae takes care of it all, without me even realizing it. Being a mom is way harder than going to school.
Q. And what about you Jenae?
J: I feel like Peter is doing the big thing right now, which is going to school and preparing for our future. That makes all the little things worthwhile, and all the little moments enjoyable, and it also provides for our family. At the end of the day we like to talk about our day and he usually says, “I don’t have a lot to report,” but all day long he was doing something that is essential to our family, and our future, and our everything right now. And he does it so willingly.
Q. What are some little things you do to express love and appreciation for each other?
J: Peter has taken it upon himself to make a yearbook every year - of our year and our lives. He usually gives it to me around our anniversary, and it is my favorite. He just compiles all of our favorite photos from the year, puts them in chronological order, and then orders a photo book. They are all the same little photo book, and they say, “Part 1,” “Part 2,” “Part 3,” and it says, “To be continued…” on the back. He always does little things like that. His love language is gift-giving, and giving things that are thoughtful and meaningful is a definite strength.
P: As far as a day-to-day basis, we are just quick to say, “I love you,” and “thank you,” and to be appreciative of each other. We also have a word that we made up when we were dating, it is our two middle names combined - and it is like a super word that means more than just, “I love you.” It’s Joslyn/William - Joslliam.
Q. What specific ways has continued dating in your marriage nurtured your marriage? Why is dating so vital?
J: It’s important to remember how you felt while you were courting, and to bring those emotions back to the surface. Sometimes when you’re around each other all the time, and when you’re in the day-to-day, you forget how special it really is to be in love and to be married. Continuing to date has helped us to remember, recall, and rejuvenate those feelings we have had from the beginning.
P: Dating gives you a chance to break away from the day-to-day routine, and kind of freshen your relationship. It allows you to do something new together, and get to know each other in a way that is outside of what you would normally do.
Q. So what works for you two as far as dating? Is it something you try and do regularly?
P: It has kind of been a hodge-podge. We have done a few dates where it is just us and we get a babysitter. I don’t know if it is still a date when you bring your child, but we have taken our daughter to basketball games, and even when she was young, to movies. When we go out, she has come on a lot of our family dates. We base most of our dates around activities, since a regular Friday night date wouldn’t work for us if I have tests to study for. Sometimes on the weekends I have to study, so we do bigger dates after I have exams, and when there are things that we want to go to - like local concerts or shows.
Q. What are some of the obstacles you face in dating?
J: Time. We know dating is important and we want it to be a high priority, but it is hard when you always have a checklist of things that need to get done.
P: And also probably finances. We don’t have tons of money to pay for a babysitter, or to do an expensive activity. So, a lot of our dates are low-budget.
J: Sometimes we'll need to run an errand to Home Depot, so we’ll all go do that together, and then go get ice cream after.
Q. Do you feel like your dates are any less meaningful because you don’t spend a lot of money on them?
J: No. If anything, they are almost more meaningful because they have to be thought out.
P: And rarely is the highlight of our date the activity that we did. It’s more just the time spent together. Spending more money doesn’t make it a better date, it just means we spent more money.
Q. What has been one of your favorite dates?
J: We have had so many fun dates! Peter plans amazing anniversary activities and trips, and those have been some of my very favorite dates.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about them?
J: Peter plans all of it. It is kind of fun for me because I usually don’t know any details about it. The first two years we went to St. George, Utah - we went to the Tuacahn theater, and the Anasazi Steakhouse. This year we went to Lake Coeur D'alene. Peter is good at finding great deals and planning special and unique activities - things we wouldn’t normally do. On this last trip, he even taught me how to march, because he had just come back from military training. It is just a fun time together, away from normal life for a few days.
P: Ditto. I can’t think of one specific date. We did the Color Run recently with some friends, and that was a blast.
Q. Did you do that when you were pregnant, Jenae (she is amazing!)?
J: Yes, for my birthday actually, it was on my birthday a few weeks ago. It was fun.
Q. What does it mean to you to have an intimate relationship with each other?
P: We feel like an intimate relationship means that you have something so special that you only share it with one other person. It’s a closeness that is unique to your relationship, whether that is physical, or emotional, or whatever.
Q. What does emotional intimacy look like in your life and how does it nurture your marriage?
J: Well, we have learned a lot since pregnancy started, with emotional intimacy.
P: Pregnancy heightens the emotional intimacy...
J: Being able to trust yourself in your most vulnerable state, with the other person, is essential when it comes to emotional intimacy. You know they’re not going to take your emotions lightly, and they’re not going to try and discount or discredit them. Peter is really good at validating me and at stepping back, listening, and understanding. And then, when the time is right, he will help and we will work through it together.
P: It means being comfortable (even if you aren’t comfortable) sharing your feelings together. Being able to cry, or to be really happy and laugh, or to be sad and frustrated; and being able to express that to the other person. It means going through those experiences, the ups and downs, together. And not having to keep them to yourself.
Q. What do you feel is the connection between emotional intimacy and physical intimacy?
J: They are very interconnected. You can’t have a proper physical relationship without a healthy emotional relationship. They need to go hand-in-hand.
P: I feel like because of physical intimacy, you reach higher levels of emotional intimacy. Physical intimacy opens doors. If you are on the phone, you can share a lot emotionally, but not as much as when you can have that physical connection - which allows you to be more emotionally close than you could otherwise be.
Q. What other advice could you offer couples on the topic of intimacy?
P: When we first got married, it was a matter of understanding the other person’s...
J: Needs and expectations.
P: And being on the same page. Realizing that as human beings, we have different levels of physical and emotional needs. It is important to recognize the other person’s needs, and to be able to come together or compromise, even when you don’t see eye-to-eye.
J: Also, have you read the book, And They Were Not Ashamed? That book gave me a new perspective.
Values to Live By
Q. What is your spouse’s strongest trait or characteristic? (In other words, what do you just LOVE about your spouse?)
J: Using a medical term (that Peter taught me), he has cardiomegaly. It is basically big-heart syndrome. That is my favorite trait about him. He has this huge heart and he is ready and willing to stop anything and give his time and attention to whoever needs it at the time. And he will go out of his way to do that. Oh, and he is really funny. At least I think he is. He makes me laugh a lot.
P: Selfless service. Jenae is so willing to serve people - family, friends, people she doesn’t know, etc. She is always looking for ways to help people. She loves life and loves people, and I think that is why she is willing to serve. She makes our home a place of joy and happiness. She loves what she does, even little projects, like making pillows, make her so happy.
Q. How do those qualities (gifts, really) nurture your marriage?
J: How do they not? With Peter’s big heart, I feel like I’m always taken care of - because he thinks about me first, in whatever we do. And then on top of that, he not only thinks of me, but I’m laughing and smiling through it all, because he’s being funny. He helps me find joy in a lot of situations.
P: Jenae is always looking out for me before she is looking out for herself. She’ll come home from the store and be so excited about something she bought for me, even though she went to the store for herself. I’ll say, “Well, what did you get for you?” And she’ll say, “Oh, I didn’t find anything, but look at this!” That may be momentarily frustrating, but it’s not really, because it shows me how much she cares.
Routines & Rituals
Q. How do you stay connected throughout the day?
J: Peter leaves early in the morning before me and our daughter are awake, and he isn’t home until dinner time, so we are apart most of the day. However, he is really good at waking me up and saying a morning prayer with me, giving me a kiss, and telling me loves me. Then he checks in once he is at school (and knows we are awake) to see how we are doing. He also calls at lunch. It’s very much an effort he has put forth to touch base often, to see how we are doing, what we are doing, and to let us know he loves us and is thinking about us.
P: Text messages, picture messages, and Facetime if I get a chance.
Q. When Peter comes home, do you have any greeting-type rituals?
P: I usually just sweep her off her feet. We have family dinner. Jenae has dinner ready, usually, so we have dinner together, and play as a family. Sometimes we go to the park or just spend some time together doing something. Then our daughter goes down to bed, and I go back to studying. Sometimes I’ll study while Jenae is doing something next to me, like working on a project (making pillows) or sometimes we watch Survivor together, or do something like that.
Q. So what about the month Peter was gone for training? What kinds of things did you guys do to stay close throughout that month?
P: To be honest, it was really hard for a few reasons: there was a time difference, a three hour time difference, and I couldn’t have my phone during the day. I literally didn’t have a way to talk to Jenae, from when I woke up (which was four in the morning for me, one in the morning for her) until we got home in the evening. Evenings were good for Jenae, but I was tired and they kept us really busy. In the beginning our communication was okay, but not great. Then we realized, a few weeks into it, that not communicating regularly enough was hurting our relationship. It was challenging, but I made a better effort to stay in touch. At that point we could have our phones again, so I would sneak into the bathroom and send a text message off to Jenae. It was difficult. I think we realized how helpful our normal communication throughout the day really is.
Q. How do you celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions like Valentine’s Day?
J: Something that we have really tried to do is incorporate meaningful family traditions from our lives growing up. For example, Peter’s mom always had pink elephants on their birthday cakes growing up. So she taught me to make the elephants with pink icing. Our daughter had elephants with pink icing on her cake this year. Those traditions are meaningful to carry on, all while working to create our own traditions and our own memories.
P: The pink icing is delicious. I think we realized, early on, that we need to set budgets for each other when it comes to birthdays. So for Jenae’s birthday I get a budget of how much...
J: He broke the budget for my birthday. He is still in trouble for that, but I really liked the gift.
P: It is kind of in our nature to want to do things for the other person that aren’t very realistic or super necessary. So, we have to set those budgets and try to find gifts, or do celebrations for anniversaries and other things, that are within our budget.
J: We are still at the beginning phases of creating traditions. We’re usually with one family or the other. This will be our first Christmas in our home, since we are having a baby. It will be fun deciding what Christmas will look like in our home - in the Peter and Jenae Barnes family.
P: We’re still figuring it out.
Q. What specific things have helped you work through challenges that have come up?
J: We haven’t had a lot of conflict in our marriage at all. This summer, when he was away, we realized that communication is absolutely essential. That contact, and understanding what the other person is thinking, feeling, and going through and why they are doing the things they are doing, has been really important for us.
P: Knowing your spouse well enough so when they’re not acting the norm, you recognize that and can approach the subject and check in. If they want to talk about it then, then talk about it. If not, let things blow over, and then bring it up again. Or have them know that you’re aware that something is off and have them bring it up when they are ready. Talking about it, opposed to brushing it aside. That works better for us rather than letting things fester.
Q. How does working through challenges help you grow closer as a couple?
P: I think going through difficult things deepens your relationship, adds a new layer, and helps you come closer together. When you overcome things like that, you have to grow closer.
J: It makes me step back and remember what I have. Sometimes it is easy to forget how special this marriage and our relationship is, and what it is that we see and love in each other. Being able to go through experiences that are hard remind me, “Okay, this is pretty awesome. We just got through that, so we can get through the next thing that comes our way.”
Q. Do you feel like this past summer when Peter was gone for a month, is one of the bigger hiccups you’ve faced so far?
J: Oh, easily. We couldn’t even think of another time that we’ve fought or bickered, or not even really seen eye-to-eye. We’re very similar in our views and in the way we approach situations, so yeah, this summer was a really big growing experience for us. We’re really grateful for it because we learned a lot and we’re still learning from it.
P: Our other conflicts revolve around things like us being stuck in traffic and me being upset.
J: Or the kind of ice cream we choose, because I don’t like bubble gum.
P: That is the extent of our conflicts.
Q. That's very commendable. Why do you think that is the case - is it personality? Something you learned quickly or something that came naturally to both of you?
P: I think we are both people pleasers, so we generally want to make the other person happy. The majority of the time there is some kind of problem, Jenae is really good at being accommodating and giving up what she wants, if it’s not important. I try to do the same. Little things like which flavor of ice cream or which movie to watch, those little decisions don’t have to be conflicts if you’re willing to be accommodating and think of your spouse first.
J: We’re quick to talk about anything where we don’t see eye-to-eye. I think we realize it right off the bat and then we discuss it.
Q. You seem to have really healthy communication going on. Healthy communication doesn’t come naturally to some people, can you share what it looks like for you two? How did you learn to be good listeners and good validators?
P: We try to have moments every day where we are unplugged and just talking - not in front of the TV, not on our phones - just talking together about life or each other’s days. Sometimes it is in the car, sometimes it is in bed, sometimes it is over dinner - just moments where we openly communicate.
Q. How do you guys talk about hard things or big things? Decisions, babies, things like that.
J: We don’t have a formal time to counsel together, it’s more like a constant opentable counsel. We are frequently throwing things off each other. With this baby it was like, “When do you think? When’s right? What are you feeling?” And adding prayer to the matter because we do feel that is really important. We have an open-line of communication and I really appreciate it. I can interrupt Peter at anytime, even if it is at night and he is studying, if I have a thought and I want to brush it by him. He is always happy to stop and talk about it.
P: Some people bring up contentious dealings they have with their spouse, when other people are around, whether it is friends or family. Sometimes it is in the form of making a joke about their spouse, or critiquing them in front of other people.
J: Or even making a comment about their financial situation, which can be very personal to couples.
P: We both feel that for us, it’s really important to keep those things between the two of us. It never helps to bring those things up when others are around. If you need advice from others, you can approach it more appropriately, all while respecting your spouse.
Q. What is the secret to a happy marriage?
P: Maybe this is cliche, but putting your spouse’s needs above your own and treating them as the better half that they are. Then if you are both looking at each other as the better half, and taking care of each other’s needs, then both of your needs are met and you are happy.
J: And smile and laugh a lot during that process.
P: And ice cream. Lots of ice cream.
"There is properly no history; only biography."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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