Editor’s Note: In the spirit of Valentine’s Day this weekend, we recently asked the Wit & Delight Instagram audience what dating and relationship questions they had for Kate and Joe. The questions came flooding in, and today we’re sharing their answers to the ten most asked of the bunch, from their thoughts on dating during the pandemic, to how they keep the spark alive, to how they recommend supporting a partner who’s dealing with anxiety or depression.
Please keep in mind that this is advice gleaned from their personal experiences, and they would be the first to admit that they don’t have it all figured out. As it turns out, we’re all adjusting our approach as we go, gaining wisdom from missteps and lessons learned along the way. My point? If you don’t feel like YOU have it all figured out yet either, go easy on yourself and remember that you’re far from alone in that feeling.
We hope you find their answers insightful, and we hope you remember that this Hallmark-iest of holidays is really about celebrating love in all its shapes and sizes, whether of the romantic variety or the broader support system that’s there whenever you need it most.
– Jackie, W&D Editorial Director
Kate: I went on a lot of dates but didn’t date many people. In my early twenties, I felt a lot of pressure to get into a serious relationship quickly, but after that failed miserably I decided to take it less seriously. I found that it’s either a connection or it’s not. I think putting less pressure on each date made it easier to trust my gut and let it go when things didn’t pan out. It also helped when I met Joe because it felt wildly different than every other date I had been on in two years.
In my early twenties, I felt a lot of pressure to get into a serious relationship quickly, but after that failed miserably I decided to take it less seriously. I found that it’s either a connection or it’s not. I think putting less pressure on each date made it easier to trust my gut and let it go when things didn’t pan out. – Kate
Joe: I bobbed and weaved through singlehood. I was really bad at being single…I’ve always really disliked spending time alone. I dated often—some of which were longer, more serious relationships and some of which were shorter, but all of said relationships taught me lessons that made me more aware of myself.
Kate: It’s hard to imagine, honestly, and I know my friends who are dating say it’s a whole other level of stress during the pandemic. I would probably lose myself in a big project and put off dating, or would be looking at it as an opportunity to get to know someone through text and video before deciding to go on a physical date. Sometimes I wish we had those kinds of boundaries back when I was dating because it would have saved me a lot of time. But it’s hard to know for sure how I would handle it!
Joe: WWYAJD—LOL. I’d utilize the emergence of online dating in combination with Zoom. To me, Zoom is a no-risk opportunity to see if there could potentially be a spark. If things happen to be going terribly, you randomly lose connection to your internet? NBD.
Kate: I always watched how dates treated people around us—a waiter, people in front of us in a line, people around us when stuck in traffic, etc. I guess I liked to observe because I often take people at their word—something I’ve sadly learned to do less of as I’ve gotten older! Actions speak louder than words, always.
Joe: Considering Kate and I were engaged seven months after we met and married after nine months, we took things pretty fast and furious. The most important thing in my mind is putting your proverbial cards on the proverbial table. I spent YEARS trying to be what I thought the gal I was dating wanted me to be and, inevitably, I’d wake up one day and be completely exhausted of trying to be someone I clearly wasn’t. With Kate, I laid my cards out on our first date. I told her about my bouts with mental illness and the things that I was afraid to tell others and, to my surprise, the more I told her real things about myself, the more into me she seemed…which was a first.
Kate: Can someone tell me how? I can’t say we’re doing a great job at this. I did mention to Joe that we should enjoy our youth and that seemed to sink in for both of us. The moment is precious so why spend it staring at our phones? I think that’s romantic, to choose each other when there are so many other things with which to distract ourselves. I think we could work on that a bit more. Even knowing Joe is open to working on keeping that spark there helps the spark stay a bit stronger. It helps me remember that it’s not a big deal if I say something like, “You know, you haven’t really looked at me tonight.” It doesn’t have to be a big deal to point those things out and make a pivot back toward each other.
Date night—LOL. . . . I like the idea of date mornings—doing something spontaneous if we get up early and have ninety minutes before the kids wake up. We’ll catch up on our date nights in a big way when we’re all vaccinated and she and I start to hit up our old haunts. – Joe
Joe: Date night—LOL. A typical date night for Kate and me are nights when both of us are too exhausted to go “back to our jobs” after the kids go down around 8:30 p.m. I like the idea of date mornings—doing something spontaneous if we get up early and have ninety minutes before the kids wake up. We’ll catch up on our date nights in a big way when we’re all vaccinated and she and I start to hit up our old haunts.
Kate: When it comes to finding alone time together, we try to find things we both like to do, whether it’s a show or a podcast. Talking about something other than ourselves and our kids helps make our world feel a bit bigger.
Joe: For me (and Kate will laugh/cringe about this), any alone time I get is because of a gift she bought for me…the Peloton bike. As a former athlete, I was once in reasonable shape, but with a demanding career, two demanding children, a puppy (I’ll stop making excuses), oh, and a palette for a good red wine, I found myself in a repetitive cycle of drinking wine, entertaining the kids, and falling asleep. The Peloton bike has given me something that is for me—it’s my therapy, my shoulder, and my personal trainer. I’ve 100% bought into “that life” and my mind and body are better for it.
Kate: We talk it out. I tend to process things for days after the fact, not realizing I was still upset or had feelings I needed to address. So I try to let Joe know we’re going to have a difficult conversation and that it would be helpful if he could listen before he reacts. I found that helps us stay open when delivering hard feedback. It happened just this last weekend and I was worried we’d still be too mad at each other to write this post. Thankfully, we’ve learned to leave our egos at the door. Life is easier when you’re not letting pride dictate whether you’re going to be speaking to your partner or not. It’s admittedly easier said than done.
We talk it out. I tend to process things for days after the fact, not realizing I was still upset or had feelings I needed to address. So I try to let Joe know we’re going to have a difficult conversation and that it would be helpful if he could listen before he reacts. I found that helps us stay open when delivering hard feedback. – Kate
Joe: For us, it’s coming back to our base of why we got together in the first place, and understanding that we’re often not our best selves; that even at our worst, we’re still faithful partners in this whole life deal, and that we’re both incredibly lucky to be on this ride together. We were blessed to have two kids together, and as much as they make us want to lose our minds at times, once they’re asleep, we often just sit next to each other and beam about how absolutely incredible they are and how lucky we are to spend the time we have with them.
Kate: We said we were open to the idea and decided we’d wait until it felt right. It never did, so we just decided to give it a try when we were on vacation. We got lucky.
Joe: Well…we decided while on a two-week, two-year anniversary trip to Scandinavia. My sister was married a few days before we left and the ongoing question at the wedding was, of course, “Are you going to get pregnant on this trip?” My response was consistently, “We’ll either come back pregnant or divorced…hopefully not both?” We hadn’t spent two consecutive, consistent weeks together in our two years of marriage at the time, so it was really great to get reacquainted, and to be blessed with the ability to have a baby, and then another one. 🙂
Kate: I think it helps to remind each other that this isn’t permanent. Yes, your children will be your responsibility for the foreseeable future, but their needs will change. You will have time together again, and when they’re gone, you’ll have a LOT of time together. It is just a season—a hard but beautiful season. So hold each other accountable for putting effort into the relationship, even if it is just acknowledging that you’re in a rough spot. I think the scariest thing that can happen is to drift far enough apart that it becomes harder to come back together once you realize the relationship has been neglected.
Joe: I find that some of the most connected looks we give one another occur in very random moments with the kids—either in agreement around the fact that they’re both perfect angels or around the fact that we have no idea what we’re doing and need assurance that we’re not going to mess them up too badly. My ongoing theory is that when you meet someone it goes from all about “you” to all about “us,” oftentimes ignoring both you and your partner as individuals in preserving the idea of “us”—and when you incrementally add human beings into the equation, it can become even less about you and your partner while all of your attention and affection goes (rightfully so) to a new baby (and I think (?) this is natural). But ultimately, the clouds of new parenthood pass, and it’s imperative that you rekindle the most important connection you’ve got—which is with your partner in life.
Kate: Just listen. And empathize. Validate their feelings. Sometimes we want so badly for our partner to stop suffering we search for the cause and try to snuff it out without stopping to offer emotional support or acceptance. When you’re the one struggling, it helps to know that what you’re feeling is valid and that your world isn’t falling apart, even when anxiety tells you it is. Joe often asks what would make the situation feel less intense and helps to tackle anything that might help me feel better, like taking the kids out for a bit or suggesting I get outside. I also have a question I ask Joe when I’m feeling anxious to help bring me back to reality, to not let my fear and worry spiral too far. I simply ask if the situation is as bad as it feels. It rarely is. It’s helpful to have safe words or questions like that. It gives your partner some guidelines to use that you both know work for the two of you.
Anxiety and depression are sneaky…they come in both the worst of times and, ironically, the best of times. . . . You could seemingly “have it all together,” but if anxiety elects to come knocking at your door, it’s important to not push it away, but rather to welcome it so you can process and deal with it, without judgment. – Joe
Joe: Without judgment. No two people feel the same through any experience. No matter how many hours of therapy you may have in your book (enter: me) that does in fact NOT make you a therapist, especially to your partner. Listening without haste, judgment, or solution and simply being there is what I strive to do the most. Anxiety and depression are sneaky…they come in both the worst of times and, ironically, the best of times. It’s important to remember that anxiety and depression drop in without notice, most often at the most unexpected times, and that’s not on the person as it’s not within their control. You could seemingly “have it all together,” but if anxiety elects to come knocking at your door, it’s important to not push it away, but rather to welcome it so you can process and deal with it, without judgment.
Kate: I would say ours are very different. We tend to fight over the same things, and most of our arguments are solved by realizing we’re approaching each other the way we want to be loved, not how the other person needs to be treated. It’s such a simple thing that is so easy to get wrong. I try my best to remember that one of Joe’s love languages tends to be words of affirmation. It doesn’t always come naturally to me, but it makes it all the more rewarding when I remember to make the effort where it means the most to him.
Joe: In short, absolutely not. I’m still navigating my own love language. Kate has hers pretty well figured out, but I find that I’m a service guy. The dishwasher is loaded and the kitchen is spotless? That’s “I love you” from me. The dogs get fed, kids get dressed, snow gets plowed? That’s my love language. I have full awareness that I need to think about other, more traditional ways of showing love, but for now, acts of service are what I’m good at. We resolve our differences by talking about them, and recognizing what the other is doing to show their love. While many times it’s shown in different ways, it’s most important to acknowledge and appreciate the language—however it’s displayed.
BY Kate Arends - February 12, 2021
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.