In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we recently put out a call on Instagram for dating and relationship questions from the W&D audience. Today, Joe and I are answering seven of the inquiries. We’re sharing our thoughts on topics like making time for your partner after kids, having serious conversations while dating someone new, and the advice we’d give to our newly married selves.
We hope you enjoy reading through our answers below and we hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day, no matter how you choose to spend it.
Want even more? You can read our answers to dating and relationship questions from last year here.
Kate: I think we’ve mellowed out, if you know what I mean? We have less intense, explosive arguments and approach issues with a kind of calmness that I can only point to as maturity. I think we’ve gotten to know each other better, too. I see his triggers as my own, because they do affect me, and there is a kind of teamwork that comes with keeping his needs in mind as well as mine.
Joe: Our relationship has evolved as we’ve evolved as individuals. Kate and I have been very mindful and deliberate about keeping our own sense of self since the beginning. Over the last two years—with travel bans and generally staying within our family pod—we’ve spent more continuous time together than ever before. I’m relieved that we’ve proven to one another that we really do like spending time together and our relationship has gotten stronger. There are things she loves that I don’t and things I love that she doesn’t but ultimately we love one another and our kids—which is really all that matters.
Kate: We are working on it! Sometimes we will wake up early and find some quality time, or we will find a moment when we both have time for a walk and a catch-up while the kids are at school. It’s one small silver lining of that WFH/pandemic life, I guess!
Joe: A great question. While I thought initially that we would spend more time together working from home, we’re both incredibly busy with our jobs, so days will go by where I won’t see Kate between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., and once work wraps up, we’re with the kids…
I will say that a few Fridays ago we both had clear calendars at about 1 p.m., so we decided we’d go on a walk together, followed by sauna time, and it felt like a vacation in our own home. It’s still amazing to me how a two-hour period spent solely together is so meaningful, with two small kids taking up so much of our energy and bandwidth.
In terms of spending time together in the evenings, up until very recently, I too passed out shortly after the kids inevitably fell asleep. I went alcohol-free on January 1 and I’m now able to stay up until 11 p.m. or so. It has unlocked additional hours to spend together that had not really existed previously.
Kate: Joe and I did it on the first date! I think we had dated so much we both felt relieved to be upfront about what we were looking for, why our past relationships failed, and our dealbreakers. I feel like if someone retreats from the relationship as a result of your vulnerability, it might be a red flag.
Joe: I’m probably the last person on the planet to answer this one, but you asked so I’ll answer. Within two hours of meeting Kate on our first date, I disclosed numerous things about my history of mental health, past relationships, and a myriad of things I’ve struggled with throughout the years.
While I had no idea that early on in our relationship where she was coming from or what she was ready for, I had the self-awareness to know that, for me, I was not going to go through the traditional dates and gates that I had subscribed to in the past. I knew within the first hour of our conversation that she was someone I wanted to see again and figured I should just put my cards on the table—specifically, the cards that were far from perfect, and that unknowingly set the tone that would carry us into marriage nine months after that first date.
Kate: We won’t always have this much time in close proximity, so my advice would be to take advantage of having lunch together when possible or getting a walk in to just talk. Our work lives before the pandemic were very separate from our home lives and I feel like we’re better at supporting each other’s careers now that we have a chance to understand what the other person does all day.
Joe: We’re fortunate with this house in the sense that we have ample space to cohabitate and not see one another if we don’t want to. I’ve personally worked in every room in this house over the last two years as I like to change things up pretty frequently to minimize the monotony that can develop in that WFH life.
Ultimately, we have mutual respect for when to engage in conversation and when not to. I am, by nature, a talker—specifically with Kate. I will give her a thirty-minute dissertation of my day at the drop of the hat, and with my profession in global marketing, there are obvious overlaps with what Kate does. I’ve developed awareness around not “bringing work home” despite the fact that I work from our home. It’s really important to uncover topics to talk about that are not related to work, children, or the pandemic… which can be difficult.
Kate: I don’t think you ever really know 100%. I think the more you know yourself, the better choices you’ll make that will lead to a happy and fulfilling marriage. I must caveat that my definition of a happy marriage includes hard seasons and significant hurdles that require renewed commitment time and time again. That’s part of what makes it such a deep connection. This is not a choice that fits everyone’s personality or values, and I respect that! Joe and I discussed the type of marriage we planned to embark on before we married, which is still burned in my mind. I recommend it to anyone I know getting ready to make the leap.
Joe and I discussed the type of marriage we planned to embark on before we married, which is still burned in my mind. I recommend it to anyone I know getting ready to make the leap.
Joe: I knew I wanted to marry Kate when she went to Europe for ten days and I missed her. Everything was fantastic when we were dating and seeing each other every day, but when she got on a plane and I didn’t see her for those ten days, I knew that I didn’t want to have another ten-day period not seeing her. She had such an impact on me that while she was gone my life was seemingly fine, but I had found a rhythm and growing love for Kate that was interrupted when she left. If my memory serves me correctly, I told her that when she returned from her trip and we started casually talking about what it would be like to get married.
Kate: Do things you know she needs done without asking or expecting praise.
Joe: You can learn from my mistakes. I (incorrectly) assumed that if I took on 100% of our first born, that would allow Kate to simplify and focus on our second born. I didn’t recognize that Kate, rightfully so, didn’t want to only spend time with our second; she wanted to hang out with her son as well (duh, right?).
So, I would suggest paying close attention to the things that prevent your wife from being herself. Is she washing bottles? You can do that. Is she struggling to find herself as a mom of not one but two kids? Find some help and send her on a little staycation where she can sleep in silence with no threat of a midnight session with either of the kids. Also, give her space. It’s an adjustment to bring another human into the fold. While I thought I was helping in being overtly available to talk or process things, I found that with Kate, any time spent alone to do whatever she needed to do to continue being the person she is was super beneficial.
Kate: You’ll fall deeper in love as time goes by. No relationship is the same, so tune out whatever unsolicited stories or advice someone else might tell you and never underestimate the trust you have in yourself (and your INTUITION!) to navigate through the hard times.
Joe: I would tell myself to slow down and pay more attention. In retrospect, Kate and I had two years of marriage without kids, and while we went on trips, watched Netflix, and went out to various dinners and social events, I wish we would have spent more time just together at home. We were both traveling so much that when we would find ourselves at home together, we typically entertained other couples or filled our social calendars with other people. In retrospect now, having had children for five and a half years, those early years were an incredible opportunity to find ourselves physically and mentally together—just the two of us.
BY Kate Arends - February 14, 2022
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.