photos: Kel & Mel Photography
Jeremy and I slid under the covers in complete exhaustion after two full days of morning-til-midnight renovations at my sister’s house which followed weeks of intense travel and hustling side-by-side. We lay in the dark in a freshly painted room in Long Island; both of our bodies were limp with tiredness and our eyelids were forcing themselves shut. The heaviest thing in the room, however, wasn’t our eyelids or the darkness, it was the unspoken rift that had somehow grown between us as we had worked so hard alongside each other in the months preceding.
The rift wasn’t irreparable nor was it long-lasting, but it was present all the same. We both knew it by the way we had spoken to one another and chastised one another throughout the day over silly little things.
“No we can’t put a nightstand there,” I said.
He heard “Your ideas aren’t valid.”
“Move out of the way so I can finish this project,” he said.
I heard “I don’t want you here.”
Simple words are interpreted hurtfully when the rift has already begun.
“We’ve been together almost non-stop for weeks, but yet it feels like we haven’t really spent time together,” we both echoed in our own ways as we rattled off the ways that we felt hurt or unimportant. How did we let this happen? Just a week prior, we were hiking the Grand Canyon together and feeling on top of the world, and yet that night as we lay there, we both felt distant and disconnected due to our own respective selfishness and distraction.
After a few minutes of discussing the issue and apologies on both sides, we fell asleep with our toes touching in the middle of the bed and a surefire resolve to repair whatever damage had been done. Our marriage is worth it.
We just celebrated four-and-a-half years of being married; next week we will have been a couple for eight years. It is difficult for me to imagine life before this relationship…like I wasn’t my full self until Jeremy sat down next to me in English class freshman year of college. Someone recently asked us our favorite thing about marriage. My answer is this: the chance to do things in life as a team.
As two become one, you learn to make major decisions as a team, to handle finances as a team, to eventually parent as a team, etc. Jeremy’s and my skillsets are such, however, that our teamwork extends into almost every arena. We lead worship at our church, started this home design business, hire each other to help with our jobs in the music industry, and do almost every creative endeavor in tandem.
Perhaps our biggest team effort is Peach & Pine Home. I have a passion for making things beautiful—for the details of a room’s design. Jeremy is the logistic whiz. He is integral in planning projects, coming up with creative ideas and solutions to design problems, and physically executing tasks.
That kind of constant teamwork is a blessing (I love doing work with my best friend!), but it’s also a great responsibility. Marriage is a constant laying down of self and putting relationship even above professional goals.
A couple of months ago, another married team sent me an e-mail. Kel & Mel are married photographers who live near us, and they stumbled across our account on Instagram. I got an email from Melonie saying she acknowledged and appreciated our value of marriage and business model focused on teamwork, and they offered to come to our house for a marriage photoshoot. We jumped at the chance and have had a lot of fun getting to know Kel & Mel.
We invited them into our home one lazy Saturday morning, and they spent a couple of hours snapping photos of us as we did life together. As a team. Their photo shoots are meant to be experiences…chances to reconnect and pretend the camera isn’t there, and celebrate the years spent together.
I have been reflecting since this point on what it takes for us to work in harmony…especially on a professional level. We are not marriage experts; four-and-a-half years hardly earns us any awards, but we work hard at making our relationship one that functions well and will last for the long haul, and we have a lot of fun doing it.
We prepared intentionally in our three-and-a-half years of dating for this thing called marriage. We invited a slightly older couple at our church to be our mentors. We read books. We prayed hard. We hashed things out. We wanted to do this right, but we had no idea how linked every part of our lives would truly be and how much we would love doing everything together. I’m so glad we prepared with intentionality.
Here are a few of the things we focus on as we strive to balance work life with personal life, and do it all while continuing to love each other well.
1. Know and acknowledge strengths and weaknesses.
Nobody’s perfect, and nobody is truly a jack of all trades. Jeremy and I have a lot in common, but we also have very different strengths and skills. It is really important that I know my own skills, and I recognize and praise his (and vice versa). When I start to believe that I am always right or that my weaknesses are nothing compared to his, we have a problem. We have to acknowledge skills and struggles openly, and we have to be open to our partner reminding us of those.
2. Always put your love above your work.
It is really easy for us to function constantly in “business mode”—and not just regarding “business” matters. If we aren’t careful, we go days at a time only checking off tasks on our to-do list (clean the house, balance the budget, etc.) and we never really stop and invest in one another. While it’s important to put on our “business” hats sometimes, we can’t let the “husband and wife” hats get dusty on the floor for long.
3. Be willing to take criticism
Partnerships don’t work well if you’re walking on eggshells. We both have to be willing to accept criticism and suggestions on how to do things better. We also work really hard at being honest in our admonitions while also being gentle in presentation so that it’s easier for the other person to accept that criticism. There have been times when Jeremy has said to me “You should really try doing this a different way. I think it would work well,” and I have to check my spirit before I take offense and realize that he is just trying to help.
4. Be generous with praise
In the same way that we have to be willing to accept criticism, it’s also important that we affirm each other whenever possible. Luckily, being married gives us the ability to be even more creative in our affirmations. Nothing like a little “you did an awesome job” pat on the butt.
5. Figure out how love languages play into your partnership
This is really tied into #4…it’s important that in the midst of the craziness of life’s hustle, we make each other feel loved in our own special ways (If you haven’t before, check out The Five Love Languages. It’s a great resource for any relationship!). For Jeremy, he feels most loved through quality time and acts of service. For me, it’s gifts and words of affirmation. As we work together, I need to make sure that I find ways to serve him…whether that’s making sure the dishes are done when he comes back from a trip or taking a to-do list item off of his plate. And I need to make sure that we spend time together in a meaningful way. If our “love tanks” are full, we more easily work together in harmony.
6. Make time for the fun stuff
Whether the primary way you “partner” together is in raising little ones or in running a business together, it’s really important to make time for a break. Do something you love or do nothing at all, but the best partners know how to have fun together.
7. Don’t take life too seriously.
In a similar vein, it’s important not to take life too seriously. One of my favorite phrases to remember is “it’s not that serious.” Your house didn’t get clean? It’s not that serious. That client opportunity didn’t come through? It’s not that serious. I often find I apply this for other people quicker than I allow myself to apply it to my own life, but when we are working with our spouse in any capacity, it’s important to keep perspective.
8. Priorities matter.
It’s important to keep the main thing the main thing. The Lord is first. Our spouse is second. And any business endeavor, creative project, and even parenting struggle comes after those first two things.
9. Keep up your spiritual fitness
I notice a pattern in my own life. When I get really busy and I start to let time with God slide by the wayside, it's a slow fade to becoming a much more unpleasant wife. First, everything seems fine. I'm proud of all that I'm accomplishing in my busy life. Maybe I don't need to spend time with Jesus every day. This isn't so bad, and having that few extra minutes in the morning really frees up my schedule. Soon that pride begins to invade the way that I treat other people, and I start depending on myself for everything. Before I know it, I'm treating Jeremy like a second class citizen. I'm quick to anger. Slow to listen. And constantly thinking of myself. At some point, i realize that I haven't spent time with Jesus in a few days, and my pride is knocked down a few notches as I realize how much I need Him in order to love my husband.
10. Establish systems that work for you
Just like in a business, a marriage partnership benefits from regular team "meetings." We put these in our schedule. We say "Hey, can we have a goals meeting on Tuesday night?"...and we make a plan. For us, a monthly budget meeting is essential to being on the same page. We also use a budgeting app called EveryDollar and we log every purchase. Being on the same page with our budget from the very beginning has been a saving grace in our marriage and one of the things that helps us work together and keep open lines of communication running. We also use Evernote to keep track of projects, Google Sheets for client budgets, and we send each other emails for to-do list items. Once I realized that I was easily forgetting to do things that Jeremy told me in passing, I asked him to email me if he needs me to accomplish a task, and it has really helped our communication.
Whether your partnership is professional or just the everyday business of living life together, figuring out systems and using tools that aid your communication is essential. That looks different for every marriage. If you feel like your lines are often getting crossed or you can't get on the same page, figure out a way to amend your systems!
You may be wondering why I started this blog post with an anecdote about a misunderstanding we had. Isn't this supposed to be about working together as a team? The truth is, doing life together isn’t always easy, and we don’t have it all figured out. But the important thing is that when the going gets tough, we pray hard, love hard, and fight hard to make our marriage work…because it’s the most sacred and wonderful partnership of all.