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Tomorrow is a special day in the Keep Thrifty household - it’s our 9-year wedding anniversary! When we got married, I was so excited to spend the rest of our lives together. Looking back, I didn’t actually grasp the full power of having a partner in my life. Our marriage has had plenty of ups and downs but in the last two years, I feel we’ve really started to figure this whole thing out.
When my wife and I first started dating, we quickly bonded over shared values. We were incredibly close with our families. We were excited to be parents someday and to make that a core focus in our lives. We grew up with entrepreneur parents and had aspirations of running our own businesses.
We had a solid foundation based on our values and quickly fell in love. After two years we got engaged; after another year and a half and we were married.
We were excited for the years ahead but over time our focus had started shifting. We used to make carefree time for each other and would dream about our future together. Now our careers, possessions, and personal goals had taken the spotlight.
I started classes for my MBA just over a month after our honeymoon. I invested countless hours into business articles, video games, and other distractions. Even though I was working a full-time job and taking a full load of classes for graduate school, I invested free time in my coding skills instead of our marriage.
My wife invested her energy into her work and in turning our house into a home with new furniture and decorations. We started a family and my wife pursued her dream of starting a business while being a stay-at-home mom.
We were pursuing our dreams, but we didn’t feel like a team
If anything, our goals felt like they were in competition with each other. Whenever I brought up the concept of starting my own business, my wife felt like I wasn’t prioritizing our financial security and time together as a family. I felt like I wasn’t being allowed to fulfill my aspirations.
We grew distant and that distance led to bitterness. We got to a point where everything turned into a fight. We quite literally had nothing nice to say to each other and our future looked grim. It wasn’t what either of us wanted, but we were lost on how to turn things around.
That’s when God presented us with an unlikely situation that sparked a big change in our marriage.
In 2014, we found out that my sister-in-law would be getting married in Arizona. With three kids (ages 3, 2, and 2), that either meant a stressful flight and 5 full-price plane tickets or a multi-day road trip. We decided to hit the road and planned out our trip.
As we put together the pieces, my wife and I found ourselves working together - building a vision for what the trip could look like while balancing the needs of every member of our family. For the first time in years, we felt like we were working together to create something we were both excited for.
Finally, in June, we hit the road and it was magical.
My wife and I had countless hours on the road to talk, laugh, and experience new adventures. We felt more connected than we had in years.
As we drove, we talked about our travels as individuals - counting how many states each of us had been to. We flipped through the road atlas and found places we’d love to visit. Finally, we asked a simple question: “How cool would it be if we could visit all 50 states with our girls before they graduate high school?”.
A shared dream was born.
Bringing it Home
When we got home, we couldn’t wait to plan our next trip. Even though we wouldn’t leave for another year, we started looking at our stops right away.
Talking about our road trip plans paved the way for discussions about our broader life - our bigger dreams.
My wife wanted to remodel our house and grow her design skills. She’s got incredible creativity and a unique ability to see a space for what it can be. Years ago, I would have only looked at this as a financial burden, but now I looked at it as my wife chasing her dreams - something I truly wanted to support.
I wanted to work on my coding - to develop and launch an app. Years ago, my wife would have looked at this as taking time away from our family. Now, she looked at it as me chasing my dreams - something she truly wanted to support.
Our mindset shifted from pursuing our own interests to supporting each others’. Even better, we started to see the bigger, shared goals that we could accomplish together.
We began to envision a life where we had more time together as a family. A life where we had time and energy to pursue our passions. A life where we felt like we were living out God’s calling for us.
Suddenly, marriage seemed less about what we each wanted and more about what we wanted together
Once we stopped working as individuals and started working as a team, we started to see the true power of having a partner.
The True Power of a Partner
Before we met, my wife and I had each considered studying abroad in Australia during college. I got tripped up by the big picture - it’d be expensive and way outside my comfort zone - what if it isn’t worth it? My wife got tripped up by the logistics - this paperwork is crazy - how do I know I’ve got everything taken care of?
Neither of us actually went.
The true power of a partner comes from the different strengths you each provide. Where one is weak, the other is strong and together you’re stronger than the sum of your parts.
My wife has an ability to see things for what they can be - a blank piece of paper can become a beautiful work of art. A jumbled set of rooms can become an inviting family space. When it comes time to make leaps, she’s got the courage to see that it’s worth it. I, on the other hand, have an ability to grind through, research, and figure out logistics.
Alone, we had dreams but were each missing pieces to make them a reality. Together, we’re a completed puzzle. Throw God in the mix and we’re nearly unstoppable.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV Version)
As we’ve kicked off our mini-retirement, we’ve talked about what other big dreams we have. We’d love to live somewhere else for a short period of time - to experience living in a different culture. Knowing our strength as a team, maybe we’ll end up in Australia after all :)
Find Your Partner - Find Your Power
If you haven’t found your partner yet, look for someone who shares your values. It’s ok - even good - if they are different from you in other ways, but shared values are important. Start your relationship dreaming together and never stop.
If you’ve already got a partner, identify your shared values. Look for areas of conflict and recognize that there’s an opportunity to see your partner’s strengths buried in there. Find how you complement each other and dream together.
You might be in a relationship where things aren’t going well. We’ve been there. Our marriage has had some really rough stretches. But remember that the things you’re going through now don’t define your whole relationship. You chose to be together for a reason and with the right focus, you can dream again, work together, and experience the true power of a partner.
A great marriage takes work but it’s more than worth it.
If you’re looking for resources to help, here are some that have helped us:
- The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman
- The Seven Levels of Intimacy by Matthew Kelly
- Fireproof - Movie
- The Groovy Guide to Having a Great Marriage - a great post by one of my favorite bloggers
I feel incredibly blessed to have such an amazing partner in life - my wife Jaime. We’ve already accomplished some amazing things together and there’s even more to come. I’m truly a better man because of you and I’m so excited for the life we have ahead. Let’s keep dreaming :)
How has having a partner made your journey better? What dreams are the two of you chasing together?