Each stage of life looks different and brings unique challenges to every couple. My hope is that you will be inspired by the stories of the women in this series. I hope that their experiences will help you find more ways to make your marriage relationship a priority throughout every stage of your own life.
Jana and her husband Dustin are the proud parents of two adorable kiddos. They are college sweethearts and are coming up on five years of marriage. Jana went to culinary school and has a passion for making and eating good food. She is a former blogger and just recently embarked on the adventure of running her own women's clothing boutique. Her husband has supported her in all of her adventures while continuing to pursue and education and a career of her own. Their story shows that marriage takes work, but if you're willing to communicate and put effort into your relationship constantly, you can have the great marriage that everyone dreams of!
What does it mean to you to prioritize your marriage?
The word prioritize means to put it first, and I think that's with everything. It means that Dustin is more important than my kids. He's more important than any of my other family members; my parents, my siblings. He's more important than my job. So if there's every anything that threatens my relationship with him, no matter what it is, I have to let that thing go rather than letting my relationship with my husband go. It can sometimes can be tricky, and lucky for me we haven't had any issues with other family members that have made it come to a point where I've had to say, "Well, sorry, Dustin's my husband."
I have had friends who have had a beef with their mother-in-law and their husband has had to say, "You're my mom and I love you but this is my wife and I'm going to take her side." It's really sad, but you have to stick with your spouse no matter what the other thing is. I think that's really strengthening because Dustin knows that whatever happens, I would side with him and I know that whatever happens, he would side with me. It's very reassuring and I have a lot of confidence in our relationship because of that. When I started my business, we talked about what would happen if it ever got to the point where it was stressing me out too much or taking too much time away from family and our relationship and I said, "It wouldn't matter if I was making tons of money. Nothing is worth sacrificing the joy in our family or our marriage relationship." I said, "If it ever came to that point, I would sell the business to somebody else and just be done."
I think there are difficult circumstances when you can't just say, 'This is causing a detriment to my marriage' because there are some things that have to be done. But you can still move other things to the bottom of the list so that you can get that time together. Dustin works the night shift, which means that we don't have a lot of private time together after the kids are in bed, because he's gone. We've had to cut out other things in order to make that time for us and00 we've found a way to make it work even though it's kind of hard. That's the shift he has and there's nothing we can do about it. We've implored family members to tend for us once a week so that we can still have time for ourselves. Dustin has said no to other commitments that would require him to be gone that one night a week that he's home because it's the only time that we have to spend together. And people have been ok with it because they recognize that the relationship with his family comes first and is most important.
How have the different stages you've experienced in life affected how you prioritize your relationship with each other?
When we first got married it was super easy because it was just the two of us. He was going to school and I was working but when we were both home together, we didn't have kids or anything else so it was easy to find time to date each other and do all kinds of things like that. When Joshua was born, it was hard. Babies throw you for a loop with lack of sleep and trying to figure out how to be parents together. We had a pretty rough patch after Joshua was born because I think that I did not prioritize my marriage well during that time. I had a really difficult time separating my role as a wife and my role as a mom. I kind of felt like being a mom trumped everything, like, "Oh, the baby needs me, sorry, you're not a priority right now." That was really backwards from how it should have been because of course you have to meet your baby's needs, but if you're not meeting your spouse's needs as well, you don't have a good relationship to show your child.
It took a lot of time and me learning that I still needed to make sure I was meeting Dustin's needs as well. A lot of that just came with talking with each other and saying, "I'll be honest, I'm not happy with our relationship right now." Those talks always suck and make you feel like crap and nobody wants to admit that they're having a hard time in their marriage. It's ok to admit when your marriage is having a hard time and if you don't then you're never going to be able to fix it! As we've hit each stage, we've had to sit down and evaluate and just be honest and say, "This thing that is happening is difficult for me. I'm not feeling loved, I'm not feeling fulfilled in our relationship." We actually had a talk like that a couple of months ago. Once again, just after Felicity was born when we were adjusting to being the parents of two kids and his new work schedule. We had to sit down and plan when we could make special quality time for each other. I had to tell him what my needs were and how he could meet those needs and he had to tell me what his needs where so I could make sure those needs were being met.
It all just boils down to communication! I'm not a mind reader and he's not a mind reader. I had no idea that it made him feel sad that I wasn't giving him hugs that were longer than two seconds. He told me that was a big thing that he needed, for me to give him a 30 second hug. And I can do that, I can take 30 seconds out of my day to give him a good hug, that's not hard. It's just been letting each other know what's not working for us and what we can do to fix it. I think the key is to not do it in an accusatory manner because that never works.
What are some rituals or traditions, big or small, that you have with your spouse?
Because Thursday is his day off, we talked with his mom and specifically said that Thursday is our day to go on a date so she agreed to babysit for us every Thursday. She'll text us at the beginning of the week and ask what time we need her that week, what we're doing, if we want her to come to our house or if we'll drop the kids off. Whether we go to the temple, or sometimes we'll put the kids to bed and she'll come over and sit while we go to the rec center and play pool together or go get shakes and fries. It's always a real small, simple date but it's just having that time with him that has nothing to do with our children or anybody else, just to reconnect. It's usually only two hours, but just having that time together makes a big difference. On the nights that he is home, after the kids go to bed, we like to sit down together and watch TV. Sometimes I feel like it's so lame that that's what we do together on our nights that we're home, but because he's not home at night a lot, we only get to do that once or twice a week. It's our down time together when we cuddle on the couch and eat chips and queso and watch shows and laugh with each other. We really enjoy that.
Also holding hands in the car, that's something that we always do. When we had the conversation about how we weren't happy with our relationship he said that he misses me during the day. He said that he wishes that I would text him more so I do that and I'll take funny pictures of things that the kids and I are doing or just tell him funny things that Joshua has said throughout the day or dumb stuff that I do that he would think is funny. I kind of got into a habit where I thought, "I'm going to tell him all of this stuff when he gets home anyway." But he likes to be reminded that he's part of the family during the day and just having that quick little break from his work and a quick glimpse into what our day is like is really connecting for him. I try to text him at least once while he's at work.
How have the obstacles and challenges that you've faced as a couple made you a stronger team?
Just realizing that it doesn't matter really if we've had a rough patch. That doesn't have to be the definition of our relationship forever. Having a rocky spot in your relationship doesn't mean that you have a bad marriage or that you made the wrong choice. Through communication and willingness on both of our parts to work it out, we really could get through anything. There are a lot of situations that I hope we never have to deal with in our marriage but if we had to, we know that we can communicate through it and just keep moving forward from wherever we're at.
Tell me about something that you guys are hoping or dreaming for the future together.
We just really want to travel. I'm sure a lot of people say that. I would really like to go back to Germany with him where he served his mission. I've been to Germany a couple of times and I know that it holds a special a special place in his heart and I love it to so I'd love to go with him. I'd love to see what he experienced and show him things that I experienced and just do that together.
He's really big on finances and I am too, I've gotten into self-reliance and finances more since we've got married. We have our financial goals together like by the end of this year we want to have this amount in our savings account or by this time we want to have purchase our first house. Just little financial goals like that that keep us on track with each other. It's really rewarding to be able to meet those goals together.
I feel like any goal, no matter what it is, that you achieve together, it brings you closer. It's like, "Wow, we did that together, we're so awesome, look at us!"
I know that Dustin's in school, and you did culinary school, he was super supportive of your blog and now you have your shop and he's super supportive of that.
He's super willing to watch the kids for me when I go to photo shoots. That's another thing that I've loved about this stage of our lives when I've been running a business is how supportive he is of my dreams. I knew that he would be supportive of my shop because he supported my blog, but this was a much larger financial risk. We put money into it and it wasn't a small chunk of money like it was with blogging, this is a significant investment. Every time I get worked up about my business not growing as fast as I want or anything like that, he reassures me that I'm still in the start up phase and always tells me that I don't have to make money from this. "If this never makes money, that's fine. We have enough money to support ourselves from what I make. Just enjoy it and do this because it's fun for you."
He's just so supportive of me having my own thing because I told him that's important to me. I love being a mom and that's my main job description in life, to be a mom and be there for my kids. But I feel like for me, it's important to have that one thing that's mine and to have my own creative pursuit. He wants me to have this because it makes me happy and when I'm happy, he's happy. I think it's strengthened our marriage to be able to support each other in our different careers and what we're doing.