I was hesitant at first to approach this topic because we are not by any means marriage experts, and this isn’t a list of “marriage tips” or marriage advice because I think those are sort of ridiculous because everyone’s marriage is unique so this is simply what works for me and my husband in our marriage. If you feel like what is shared resonates with you, then lean into and see if it works for you. But if you feel like it is something that will never work for you then don’t feel guilt, just step back and accept that maybe that part isn’t for you.
We don’t have a perfect marriage by any means, but we do have a happy and healthy marriage.
We have worked really hard to learn to communicate with each other and to support each other. I know I always feel supported and loved and my husband voiced that he feels the same. We have worked through some rough stuff over the years and are really happy where we are now, but I am not naive and know that it won’t be like this forever; I know that it is work every single day.
One of my followers asked “so you guys were friends first?” and we were, and I think that has made our relationship a little different in some ways. In my husband’s words “We used to hang out together in a big group of friends and eventually I realized I only wanted to hang out with her. One night I was working on setting up my new computer and she texted me to see if I wanted to hang out, I said I couldn’t cause I had to work on my computer; but later that night I heard a knock on my window and it was her stopping by to say hi. She told me they missed having me at the party and then said bye. And I realized that ten minutes after she left I was still smiling which is when I realized it was time to come out of the friend zone, and I asked her on our first date. I didn’t have a ton of money and I really liked the chicken sandwich with honey mustard at the restaurant Village Inn.” We had worked together and ran in the same group of friends so we transitioned from that into dating. We didn’t know if we wanted to tell our friends so we kind of secretly dated for awhile. We dated a couple months and got engaged pretty quickly. I remember back when we were just friends thinking “I wish I could marry someone I get along with as well as I do with Justin” but that just wasn’t the right time for us. I think being friends first gave us a solid foundation.
Another follower asked “how do you handle the stress of children in a marriage?” Justin and I got pregnant a little over a year after we got married. One thing we have always been good at is, once the little kids were in bed we would carve out time that was just for us. Sometimes in the chaos of full time jobs, second jobs, schooling etc. it was harder but we made sure to always have that time together at home, even if it meant going to bed too late sometimes. The biggest thing for us is finding time where you can, amongst the chaos that comes with having and raising children, to just be the two of you. What we do nowadays is we have a permanently scheduled babysitter every Friday night, sometimes we have plans and do dinner and a movie, sometimes we would just go to the grocery store and spend time together. But for about the first ten years of our marriage that was not something we could afford so I was really diligent about my kids bed time, making sure they were asleep at a decent hour so Justin and I could have that time together in the evenings. Justin is really good to remember the things we loved to do when we were first dating, such as going to concerts, and so he gets us tickets to them a couple times a year to continue doing what we loved to do together way back in the beginning of our relationship. Try to remember what made you fall in love in the first place and do those things.
There is a massive dynamic shift once you have kids, you are exhausted, and busy, and there is lots of arguing and conflict. The hardest couple years of our marriage were when we had little little kids and we were trying to figure out how we wanted to parent. At one point, Justin told me I had a lot of expectations in my head about what I wanted him to do, like I wanted him to just look at a room and know what I wanted him to do. In my head I wanted him to do the dishes and clean etc. and he could tell I was frustrated and said “Ashley I will literally do anything you tell me to, you just have to tell me!” and I was like “Oh…ok!” For us, I have a lot of expectations and Justin is always very helpful but he just needs to be told what to do, he’s not a mind reader. All I have to do is ASK. Sometimes in marriage we just need to ask and they will help, and that goes both ways! When we had tiny kids I had to learn to reality check my expectations. In our marriage it works for us to just list out what we don’t want to be responsible for, like I don’t want anything to do with cars, oil changes, tires, air filters in the home etc. And Justin doesn’t like the finances, and I love doing them! So we have been able to communicate by just speaking up about what we do and don’t want to do and work things out between the two of us. Try having that conversation with your spouse!
Every Sunday night we sit down together and discuss the upcoming week, what I need to do, what he needs to do, and how can we make this schedule work. We have a joined Google Calendar because we juggle a lot between our kids and our work schedules. Justin says something that has helped him is being supported fully when he just needs some time to blow off steam, time to himself to get clarity and reset, etc. When your spouse is stressed, it is so necessary to give them that time to cool off. Something that I love is that Justin has hobbies and things he loves outside of what we do together, and I am happy to support him in those. There are some things that Justin loves that I have not interest in, so I like that he can just go and do those things. Justin loves Sasquatches and thinks they are real, we have two statues of them in our yard and that is one of those things where, I don’t really care for them but he loves them and it’s really not that big of a deal so they are in our yard. At the end of the day, it doesn’t effect the quality of my life that there are Sasquatch statues in the yard. Every Sunday night we used to watch Finding Big Foot, and on some weeks when it was just a rerun we would watch Kardashians because that is what I like so it is just all about give and take.
Another question from a follower “was it hard to have hobbies while raising little kids?” When they were little, yes it was so hard to have hobbies. But it is important to TRY to squeeze in hobbies you enjoy, for Justin it’s movies and as for me I find a lot of joy in the work that I do. Obviously pour everything into your kids, but don’t completely abandon yourself! We just went camping and it wasn’t nearly as stressful as it was with little ones and I remembered how much joy I find in camping. So as crazy as life can be try to give time to your hobbies and support your spouse in their hobbies. If there are hobbies you don’t enjoy that your spouse loves, let them do that with people who do enjoy it and you don’t have to be apart of it, but when you allow them to do what makes them happy, it will make you happy!
A question from a follower “How do you grow together and not apart with kids?” We put in a team effort when it comes to parenting, and that in and of itself brings us closer. In Justin’s words”kids are a challenge, but there is nothing like tackling that challenge together.” The next question is “How do you handle disagreements?” We definitely disagree on a lot of things, we were both raised very differently by our parents. When it comes to those parental disagreements, we try to have those privately and not in front of the kids because we don’t want them seeing us strategize! But when it comes to disagreeing on other topics, I read an article that it is actually good to let kids see their parents handle conflict and watch them resolve it so they can learn how to handle conflict in a healthy way. Instead of calling them arguments, we like to call them marital debates! The disciplinarian in our relationship is Justin, whereas I am more about just giving them structure (chore charts, to-do lists etc.) I like making sure they have accountability.
Another question someone had is about love languages. We don’t talk about ours much, but I know what mine is and I know what Justin’s is. His love language is thoughtful gifts, and that is not mine at all, I appreciate gifts but I would much rather have words of affirmation. It is good to be aware of their love languages so that I can make sure he is feeling loved and appreciated and vice versa. “How does Justin help with body positivity in your home?” He has always been so supportive through all my sizes, he has always made me feel confident and beautiful. In the past when I have said mean things about myself he gets upset and tells me not to call his wife those things!
Next question “How do you manage time in your family?” We definitely juggle a lot, Justin works full time as an administrator at a middle school, and I juggle three businesses online. We both wake up at 5:45am, I do meditation and Justin gets ready for work. I get all the kids up and dressed and fed and make their lunches. I got to work Tuesdays and Thursdays, and am home the other days. In the afternoon Justin gets home at about 3:30pm and we high five and I pass off the children to him and I go upstairs and work in my room for and hour and they have play time with dad. We do family dinner around 6 or 7pm. We tag team bed time, I put Mabel down and he puts Parker down. When Mabel asks for chocolate milk in the middle of the night, Justin always goes and gives it to her because for a long time I was the one up breastfeeding them when they were little. Justin usually does dishes and laundry, my work never quits cause its on my phone. Our kids don’t see a lot of traditional roles in our home since we both work, so they see dad doing a lot of house work which I am grateful for and I think is a good example for my boys because I want them to plan on helping their wives with that one day.
Next question was directed at Justin “How did you know you wanted to marry Ashley?” I am a very spiritual person, I didn’t straight up ask God “should I marry Ashley?” It was more like “I feel really comfortable around Ashley, I love her and care about her I feel like marrying her is the right step” and I felt really good about it.” As for me, I went into class one day and teacher salary was discussed and Justin and I had been dating and I just remember thinking Justin and I are going to be married and both on teacher salary, I just knew we would be married one day. Another question was “How did you meet each other?” My best friend from high school, Nick, was actually Justin’s room mate at Utah State University and so we first met at a Linkin Park concert! We met at game night again a couple months later too and just went from there.
Someone asked “My spouse and I get into a lot of arguments about each others’ parents and what they do that annoys us, how do you handle that?” So, I love Justin’s parents, but I used to think that it was just normal that you get annoyed with your in laws but what made me more compassionate about in laws was having my own son and thinking, how do I want his wife to respond and think about me? I came to realize that I tended to make a lot bigger deal out of situations than was necessary. TRY TO SEE THE GOOD. Put yourself in their shoes. When you merge families together, its not going to be perfect. Focus on the good, and accept that things will annoy you. It is never helpful to attack or talk garbage on your spouses parents. Invest in the relationship, you don’t have to be annoyed by everything. Also, if you are annoyed or upset about something about your spouse…tell your spouse! Don’t make it a community effort and turn it into husband bashing. Go directly to your spouse instead of tainting everyone else’s image of him and vice versa.
Next question, “How has Justin helped you in your structured eating program work?” I am doing a structured eating course just to focus on my health and keep my mental addiction to food. He is very helpful by watching the kids while I am at meetings a couple times a week and by making food that I can eat and packing me food. “How do you switch from the role of mom/dad to nurturing your marriage?” It sounds cheesy, but I love the feeling of being loved. I love that compatibility and support that comes from a healthy and happy marriage so investing that time and energy is so important, that is what I have to keep in mind! “Do you have a favorite date night spot?” Justin says he loves just going to dinner and a movie with me, we do love having ‘staycations’ in Park City though!
“Can you give some advice on slowing down?” I personally always have a million projects or things going on but the number one thing that has helped me slow down is prioritizing what matters most to me. Things change really fast and you don’t want to have regrets, I spend 30 minutes every morning looking at my schedule and outlining what matters to me and making sure that is where my time and energy go that day.
Overall, the thing that helps us most in our marriage is PRIORITIZING it.