Marriage is one of the most powerful and unique relationships we can have as a human being. And the way to have a thriving relationship is by committing to grow together. In this episode, Julia Gentry and Travis Gentry talk about this beautiful union, specifically how you grow in your marriage. They discuss the importance of communication, giving each other real feedback, being vulnerable, and more. Coming from their own experiences, Julia and Travis take us inside their own marriage, sharing stories that helped them realize the beauty and the work that gets put into their relationship to grow not just together but for themselves. Join this heartfelt conversation as they tell us of their hopes and dreams together and how they keep their marriage evolving.
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Growing Together In Your Marriage
We’re going to talk about not only just marriage, but specifically growing in marriage. How do you grow in your marriage? The reality is if you’re not growing, you’re dying. I would say right out of the gate, if someone were to ask me of all the things that I’m most proud of in my lifetime, it would be my marriage. It would be our relationship. I’m extremely proud of that and not because it’s perfect, but because you’re the best. It is of anything that is something that I would say I feel like we’ve proactively worked towards. We are constantly in communication with each other in our marriage.
We’ve been through many crazy seasons and done many things together. I’m proud of that. Equally so, I’m also troubled because I’ve just been more watchful, but we have had a lot of friends in our lives who are struggling in their marriages. Whether they’re 5 years in or they’re 15 years in, but it’s either okay, fine and good enough. You can tell it’s flatlined or they’ve even shared with us like, “We’re not doing good. We’re growing apart. I watched you and Travis growing together and it’s obvious we must be growing apart.” We wanted to do a show on growing in marriage.
It was in 2008 when we got married.
For those of you who don’t know us well, we celebrated our anniversary and we’ve been together for many years.
How old were you when we got married?
I was 21. Let’s do this, growing in marriage. Where do we start?
It’s evolved in all areas.
Which may be point number one, it evolves. It’s like chapters in your marriage. All the time, especially at church, we talk about the seasons of life. There are chapters in our marriage. If you even consider when we first dated, no kids dating. You get married and that’s the honeymoon chapter. You have the first baby and then a second baby, then they are starting businesses. If you look at it, part of this is realizing that there is an evolution to your marriage. There are chapters in your marriage.
Your needs and wants change. That’s what you’re saying. It’s the evolution of where you’re at in life. That’s from physically the needs and wants to emotionally to financially. You have to reassess those to figure out, “Here’s where I’m at. I’ve changed.” You don’t see it on an external basis.
It happens gradually. Sometimes you have a baby, but I don’t think you realize that this is going to change everything. This is going to change me personally, emotionally. It’s going to change you personally, emotionally. It’s going to change financially, spiritually, sexually. I don’t think for most people, they talk about that. They don’t ever check-in and go, “This changed my life personally dramatically. It’s also going to change our life dramatically. Let’s talk about this.” What happens is you start looking back going, “We’re ten years in, but we don’t feel the same love that we used to when we didn’t have kids.” We forget that we have four kids and what is our love look like now than when it started?The reality is if you're not growing, you're dying. Click To Tweet
When you communicate and how you communicate changes. That point came to my head is when you communicate. When you don’t have kids, you can communicate at any time. I can’t remember where we heard it or I heard it, but intense fellowship. When you get in an argument or debate, it’s called intense fellowship as opposed to fighting. You get to grow and learn from it. That changes when you don’t have kids. It can happen at any time of the day. When you have kids, unless you’re willing to do that in front of the kids, which we’re pretty intentional of not doing that. If we know that there’s something that needs a deeper level of talk and one of us may be frustrated, it may not be at each other. It may be about a situation. We just need more time. I feel like that’s been an evolution too of when we have kids, I don’t want to do this in front of our kids. They don’t know what’s going on. They don’t know the context and it may not be at each other. They look at it as mommy and daddy are arguing. We’ve set that stage and that standard right up front. Communication has changed big time.
Let’s go down that bunny trail because I feel like I hear from a lot of people, “We’re not that good communicators.” I was talking to someone and she goes, “I love how you and Travis are open in your communication. We’re just not good communicators.” Fact. She’s like, “Done.” Part of this is what got us communicating? What would we tell someone who would say, “We’re just not that good communicators?”
I would say you also didn’t know how to go to the bathroom in a toilet at first and you learned. You didn’t know how to walk. You didn’t know how to ride a bike. You didn’t know how to use a phone. You have to want to learn how to and not just say, “I don’t know how to do that so I’m going to wear a diaper the rest of my life.”
Here’s what we should say. If you find yourself in your marriage saying, “We’re just not that good at communicating,” I want you to look at each other and go, “I’m not that good at peeing in the toilet so I’m going to keep peeing in my pants.” If we shook this whole conversation out, what it’s going to come down to is the ability to communicate. The ability to say. “This is how I’m feeling,” which I have a feeling we’ll talk about that. The ability to say, “Are you open for feedback? You hurt my feelings. Something is not sitting well with me.” It’s all going to shake out to the ability to have the courage to communicate what you want and what you need. That’s the growing place of all this.
You see it in other areas of people’s lives that they want to step out and learn something. It’s the unwillingness to say, the vulnerability most often of like, “I’m feeling this way. I don’t know how to communicate it.” Let’s talk about a few of the tools that we’ve learned over the years to help set the stage of the conversation I want to have or about to have or, “Let me verbally throw up quick. I’m not looking for you to solve my problem. I need to get it energetically out of my mind.”
This is valid because for me, I’m a verbal processor. We’ve talked about this before, but I don’t think a whole lot in my head. I process by talking things out with you. If I look back and think of pivotal times in our marriage, it was when we started using some of these key phrases to help our communication. If you’re there right now and you’re going, “We’re just not good communicators. We’ve never been good communicators. Something happened that we’re not good communicators. I’m not a good communicator,” or whatever it is, this one is for you. I remember that whole concept of this is how I’m feeling and saying, “Travis, you did this and it made me feel this way.” Why that word is so powerful is because no matter what you did or didn’t do, some of this is perception. It isn’t even fact, but no matter what you did or didn’t do, you can’t take that feeling away from me. If I feel sad, rejected, not heard, that opens the playing field for me to say, “Regardless of the fact, I feel shame. I feel rejected.”
It’s your interpretation at some point in your life that you carried and it became a truth. When something happens, it triggers you to go back to that truth or scenario that makes you feel X. That’s exactly what we talk about on the Dream Factory and that’s what we do. That’s what our business is around is understanding those things. When you have a conversation with your spouse, you know where it comes from. It’s not me. I didn’t do it to you. I did something to you and brought up the emotions of the past. It could be the past together. Most often, it’s deeper rooted. It’s a few generations back that pops up.
This was years ago and I remember when we started using this because prior to that, what happens in those moments is it’s like a blame dart. “You said this to me and it hurt me. You did this and this. You looked at me this way. You didn’t do that. You didn’t do this.” Being a human, now I put you in the line of fire. Your tendency is now to come in hot and heavy because it’s like, “No, I didn’t.” No one wants someone to point the blame at them. Now we’re both on the defense. I’m blaming you. Now you’re on the defense.
I’m on the defense because the blame needs to match another blame. It was like this downward spiral as opposed to now the prompt is, “You did this or you said this and it made me feel this way. It doesn’t mean it’s true. It just made me feel angry or sad,” or whatever it is. I’ll give you some prompts. I notice your countenance change because you don’t want me to feel those that way even though you’re trying to prove a point or you’re trying to communicate something to me. The goal is not to make me feel shamed or guilty. The minute I say that, you’re like, “I at least get where she’s at.”
It could be in an unhealthy state. It could be I want an emotion. Let’s give an example. In the past, not knowing and recognizing that, I would look for a reaction. I wanted a reaction to know that you understood the point I was trying to make. I picked that up somewhere along in my life that I need to see a reaction so then I know you understand what I’m saying and you get it. You didn’t show emotion until I kept going and kept going.
For me, the reason that I couldn’t show emotion is because emotion meant weakness. Any signs of emotion meant weakness. It was like, “Heaven forbid, I’m weak,” good emotion or bad emotion. I can remember the day when you had that conversation. I was almost emotionally flatlined, not to the point that it was so obvious, but to the point that you weren’t getting any reactions out of me. It was like, heaven forbid I show anger or sadness, remorse even because then that meant I was weak. You’d push me and all that did was verify my shame. I would feel more and more shame, which meant I kept shutting down. It was like two ships passing in the night.
I would say as tool number one is to get on the same wavelength and to say, “Here’s how I’m feeling or this is how I feel based on what happened,” which allows me or the other person to then come in and say, “Great, I hear what you’re saying. Here’s how I feel.” There are two sides to the feeling. I did something and you feel a certain way and then you reacted a certain way, or the reason why I did it, then I have the opportunity to explain. You know that it wasn’t what you think it was or why it was.
That’s the problem. It’s that whole cognitive therapy, which says, “Every thought creates emotion and every emotion creates an action.” What’s happening is that if we keep in a conversation that’s not working in anger without saying, “I feel angry,” the natural byproduct is I’m going to make decisions. I’m going to take an action in anger, which means my words are coming out angry or spastic or guilty or shameful or whatever it is, as opposed to saying, “Let’s hold space and time for a second to go, I feel angry.”
We could probably talk about this the whole show and how important it is as far as those emotions because most often, what triggers you is not the thing. You have the thing under the thing that you bring with you, but most people bring it out on the people they love and trust the most. If they had a bad day at work, if they were angry because someone cut them off or something happened outside of the relationship, you’re stirring. You didn’t confront it in the right way. You hate your job and it’s miserable. Monday through Friday, you’re built up anxious and energy and then something happens, it triggers you and you lose it. It has nothing to do with that situation. It’s like a buildup potentially not even with that person. It’s the thing under the thing.
These are not in a specific order, but that is such a level of awareness. There have been times that even in our intense fellowship, both of us are able to go, “Are you mad at this? Is it something completely different?” At the moment, you’re like, “It’s this. It’s the fact that you didn’t put the clothes in the clothes hamper.”
We went through that process where you have to consciously be aware and sit with it. It sounds silly and say it in your head or say it out loud, “Travis is feeling this frustration or anger. Travis is pissed off,” or whatever it may be. It’s sitting with it. It happened weeks ago or whatever, when we were in the car and I was getting anxious and amped up. It had nothing to do with you. We started to peel back like, “What is it? Why is that triggering me?”
In theory, what we were talking about was enough to ruffle feathers, but not enough to get you as anxious and frustrated as you were. I don’t even remember what it was. This is a level of awareness to know your partner so well that even in those moments, you can see that you’re spinning. It took me for whatever reason the courage to go, “Travis, are you that mad at this thing or is there something else?” To be able to hold space, if someone were to say like, “What else has made your marriage great?” I would say that we are friends first. You are my best friend and you’re my lover and my business partner and my baby’s daddy and all the things. You are my best friend first.
When you get in these moments, if you can realize that this moment is not just about me, it’s whatever Travis is also experiencing. I care about you that much. I am with you. I am your partner in this. Even in the Bible, it talks about that when God created woman for man and it was because he didn’t want the man to be alone. He wanted to help her. That’s why he made a woman for the man. When we start to see each other as like, “No, we are for each other. We are with each other. We are together in this,” as opposed to like, “You versus me.” I feel like we’ve always looked at each other like that.
I don’t think that’s modeled very well in society as far as the communication, but what I saw growing up and what you see in movies, what you see around you with other people and relationships. I didn’t learn how to communicate until I was like, “I need to be better at this,” because I’m not that good at it. I don’t say nearly as many words a day as you do, as I’m thinking. In my head, I’m saying thousands of words a day so I process differently, but I also need that externally too. I can’t process it internally. There’s a point where it’s like, “I got to invite you in on the conversation,” as opposed to being standoffish, shutting down and disconnecting. That could look in a few different ways, disconnecting and drinking, disconnecting and not being physical touch, disconnecting and not talking or wanting to be present.Every thought creates an emotion, and every emotion creates an action. Click To Tweet
Even as you’re saying that and I’m a verbal processor, you’re a thinker. For those of you out there, Travis will be thinking so much in his head that then I get the cliff note version. I love the process of discovery. A lot of times, you’ll go through the whole process in your head and then just give me the cliff note version. I’m not putting all together, which makes sense now because you’ve already spent so much time processing it in your head. Part of the reason why we don’t see ourselves as friends is because of the examples around us. If you watch the movies, most of the time, it’s all sexual. It’s just passion and it’s sexual.
That’s good in marriage. That is necessary and that is needed. Sometimes too much, even in the Christian Church that it’s almost as hierarchy if we’re not careful of like, the man is the head of the home. “You do this, I do this.” I stay home with the kid. I’m not suggesting that these roles are wrong, but what it does I’ve often felt like is it starts to create this inequality in a marriage as opposed to going, “No, we are equal in this. We are in this together and though we’ll have somewhat different roles, but it’s based upon strengths and weaknesses. Not because you’re a man and I’m a woman.”
It’s the breakdown of communication of saying, “I do this naturally well.” There are some couples that we know that the husband takes care of the finances. We know some couples that the woman takes care of the finances and pays all the bills, which is awesome if it works for your relationship. You can’t just assume this is what I do especially because that’s what you saw growing up. If you saw your dad always take care of the finances, but your wife happens to be a CPA and good with numbers and detail-oriented, it may be better handing it off. It’s the communication too right from the get-go. That evolves and changes again, but continually the checks and balance of like, “Here’s where we’re at in the relationship, sex.” That looks different from when you first get married and when you have four kids. It’s communicating that. You get to a certain point and it’s like, you’re in this habit loop of money, of how you’re going to raise kids and what you ate.
We’re very intentional and aware of what we had growing up is different than what we have now. I could do the same things as I grew up and eat the same foods, but it’s evolved and changed. You’ve done good at that and taking the lead on that. I probably would’ve done a lot of the same things or fed the kids a lot of the same things. Because you took the lead on it, I’m all-in. I buy into it as far as we need to feed our kids healthy stuff and not give them a ton of sugar. Once you’re consciously aware of it, you see it’s almost like an adult taking a couple of shots of alcohol, just like a kid getting a sugar rush and they’re buzzing and running all over the place. You have to be aware of that. With all that being said, it’s looking at it and saying, “You’re going to take the lead on this. I’m going to take the lead on this. Some of them we have to do together throughout the day, the week, the month. Some of it, I’m just going to do and some of it you’re going to do.”
This all takes a level of awareness of having to check in with yourself and your marriage and going, “Is this what I want? Is it working right at every different phase?” It’s not because it’s not working or broken, sometimes yes. Sometimes it’s to your point, we do what was modeled. We solve this with our parents. We’re just doing the same thing or we started out doing it and now here we are 5, 10 years later still doing it. If you look at any industry or anything that’s continually growing, it has to change and it has to evolve. If you’re not aware and then have the courage to start asking these questions and just express this vulnerability of going either we’re friends or we’re not like, “I’m nervous to share this with you or this is how this made me feel,” or even introducing feedback.
I remember now when we say to each other all the time, “There are some things that aren’t working in a certain area.” We’re not intentionally trying to hurt each other’s feelings, but it’s saying, “Are you open for feedback?” As long as you ask the question, I’m allowed to say no, “No, at this moment I’m not open for your feedback,” as opposed to like if he prefaces with, “Are you open for my feedback?” I know out of love, you’re going to give me feedback on an area that isn’t working as well as it could, or as well as we want it to, but I need to be open to know that like you are for me. You’re not trying to judge me or shame me.
With that though, we want growth. We want to be better. I’m not going to sit there and listen to you chase your tail around the same thing though, week after week. If you were to complain and you’re like, “I can’t lose this weight and I’m heavy.” I’m like, “Are you open for feedback?” You can’t do the same thing and expect different results. I feel like we’ve also committed to each other like, “We want to grow.” We have to take feedback. Sometimes it’s like, “Maybe not right now.”
Not in the middle of a fight. If you’re having a fight, you’re like, “Are you up for feedback?” They’re allowed to say no like, “Let me get myself at a state in which I can accept what you’re going to say. Let me get my ego out.” We talk this real talk. I had someone say, “I can’t wait to see who your kids are when they grow up.” They’re going to look at other kids and be like, “You guys.” That’s ego. Your ego is getting in the way. I’ll say to Travis, he’ll say, “Are you open for feedback?” “No, I’m not. I’m not open. My ego’s in the way. I feel defensive. I want to hear what you have to say, but at that moment, maybe not. Maybe I can’t hear you.”
That’s okay as long as we’re not going to circle around that conversation multiple times. That’s where I think it starts to break down is that one spouse tends to back down and one dominates that situation or that area of life. There’s no real opportunity for growth, input and feedback to get on the same page, to fix the problem instead of chasing your tails and keep circling around it for months or years. We’ve practiced that. It’s a constant practice of now more so than ever, it’s like, “If I’m doing something and it doesn’t sit well with me, then it’s like, ‘I need feedback.’” Whether it’s from you or someone else, depending on what I’m trying to accomplish like, “I don’t have the tools to be able to do what I want to do. I need someone else to tell me to do something.”
I’ll give you a little bit more credit on this because that I had so much of this limiting belief that I am wrong. Looking back, even at the first five years of marriage, it was challenging for me to do, because if you were to ever have told me something that I was doing wrong or an area that I could be better, it automatically implied I’m wrong. This was harder for me. When you started opening up the conversation and even saying, “What could I do better as a dad? What do you like about sex? What could we do better as a couple? How can I show you that I love you more?”
I remember sitting there looking at him like, “Why is he asking me these questions? Does it mean that I’m wrong? Am I not doing the right thing?” It stimulated so much anxiety and stress for me at first because I didn’t live mentally in that world. It already implied I was doing something wrong. At first, I admit this was uncomfortable for me. Immediately I was like, “Does he not like having sex? Does that mean that our marriage is wrong? Does that mean that I’m not a good mom?” Instantly I went to this like survival tactics. That’s why I give you huge props.
You process something different. Your interpretation is different than mine. I was just like, “How do we make this better for both of us?” I’m probably not doing something right either and how do we do the best together? It’s giving each other real-time feedback. Some of it is vulnerable, if it’s sexually or if we’re doing something that it’s like, “Here’s what I like. What do you like? What can I do different? What can I do better?” I don’t know about most relationships in couples, but in other areas, I see it. You tend to do the same thing that you did ten years ago. You’ve changed and evolved. The things that you may like or dislike now are different.
If you don’t tell your partner, then there’s no opportunity to say, “This is good, so let’s do it and be great at it.” Financially too and I’ll give you kudos on that is we’ve done many things and tried many crazy things from moving to jumping in an RV to spending tens of thousands of dollars on education outside of college. Having money and not having money, all the transitions and all of those were growth opportunities. I couldn’t say when it shifted, but it was like, “I’m just hungry to grow and learn and I’m not going to stop.” We’re even talking about another potential opportunity to shift or change and to grow. You’re on the same page. I’ve seen this in other couples where one spouse is like, “Here’s what we’re going to do because we’ve been doing it for 10, 15, 20 years.”
The other one is having their midlife awakening. They’re like, “No, I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to go and experience life differently or I want to move or I want to go try this, but I’m going to take a pay cut or I may not make any money for a certain amount of time.” The other spouse just the lack of communication and support of saying, “Let’s do it. Let’s try it,” because nothing is guaranteed. If that other spouse is convicted by, “No, we’re going to do this and retire when we’re 60. We get the pension and the 401(k),” and all that. Maybe we can try that, but probably not because you’re stuck in the ways. You’re not going to all of a sudden when you’re 60, jump out and be like, “Let’s do this now.” No, you’re not. You have to practice those little waypoints and little muscles in all areas throughout the marriage. I appreciate that too that you’ve allowed me to do. Whether we’re selling everything and jumping in an RV or we’re moving to a different state. It’s been awesome and we’re not done.
My anxiety came and we talk about it all the time, about my limiting belief of I am wrong. It implied all that. The more healed I got personally in that area, the more I was able to give you in that area, which is what is so important in marriage is not only to grow together, but it’s also to go, “I’m growing for me too.” I’m not just growing for you in our marriage. I’m growing first for me to be the best version of me, who God’s created me to be because that’s the only thing I can be responsible for.
In theory, when I continue to do the work for myself and I get closer to God and I know myself and I become more aware of, “This is what makes me tick. This is what triggers me. This is for my own sake,” then I can stand before you way more open-hearted for your ride too. Now I’m not scrambling and don’t know how to deal with my stuff on top of someone else who doesn’t know how to deal with their stuff, on top of marriage now that’s like, “We don’t even know how to do this together.” It’s warranted that marriage is 50% are not working, but I want to demolish that statistic by simply saying, “We have to commit individually for growth and then together for growth.”
We have to. It’s trite to say this, but if we’re not growing, then we are dying. We’re ultimately going to grow apart. You don’t wake up grown apart. You slowly are choosing to grow apart by the lack of communication. You’re either growing together like this or you’re growing apart like that. It’s almost just asking yourself every single day, “Am I choosing to grow closer to myself, closer to God and closer to my spouse or am I growing away?” Once you grow away, it’s hard to rein it all back in. There are a lot of years in between that.
We’ve seen this in other relationships where one of the spouses start to lose their identity or they want to recreate who they want to be. People call it the midlife crisis. I don’t think it’s a midlife crisis. It’s a midlife awakening. It’s an awakening period. You could be in your 20s, 30s, 40s or 50s. What you were doing worked for that season, but you’re not going to stay in high school for the rest of your life. You have to let it go. You may have had a job and a career for ten years. All of a sudden, this dream, this desire of like, “I’ve always wanted to do this.” Your identity, you’re leaving it behind.
In defense of the other person is like, “Wait a minute.” The person I have known up to this point is now telling me that you have this dream on the inside of you.If you're not dreaming together, where is the hope in your marriage? Click To Tweet
I want to quit my job and go start this business or try it.
It changes just as much for me as it does for you. Looking back, do you remember when we first got together, we would sit in my car and we would talk about our dreams. I’m seventeen years old. We’ve always talked about our dreams. Here we are however many years later that is total since I’ve met you. We first started talking about our dreams, always been talking about our dreams. We’ve reinvented ourselves many times that I think you and I are now, we’re almost like, “I’m bored. Do you want to do something different? You want to move somewhere different?” I’m not suggesting that this is easy to do when you start doing it. We’ve done it now for so long. If you’re not dreaming together, where is the hope in your marriage?
Let’s say someone’s reading and they go, “Kudos to you, guys. You’ve been growing together with your whole life,” but we’ve already grown apart. The reality is we’re not having sex. We’re disconnected. Neither one of us like our jobs, we are disrespectful in how we talk to each other. My only answer would be the same thing that we started doing. The next best time to start is now would be you got to start dreaming together. I know that your reality in your marriage says, “We’re disconnected. We’ve grown apart. We’re not talking to each other. We’re not sleeping together,” and all the things, but what are you dreaming of in your marriage? “Yeah, but he this.” “Yeah, but her that.” I didn’t ask you that. I did not ask you about that. I asked you, what are you dreaming next?
What are you going towards? Not looking at what was or what is.
Look at reality for what it is. Write down every single thing.
That’s a very vulnerable place to be for both of like, “I’m going to be honest, transparent and truthful.” Some of it may hurt because of your interpretation. If you come to that place without the intention to hurt the other person, then it’s like, “Let’s lay this out on the table and look at it. Let’s see how that makes you feel and I feel about it. Here’s what I’m trying to do with that. It’s not to make you feel that way. Here’s what was or what is. Where are we going? What are we going to go do? What do you want to do? How do I help and support you?” You may have to make some big changes, financially downgrade, sell one of your cars or whatever it may be for both of you to get going on the path that you want. Some of it is not. It’s like food changes. You see couples as they get older, you’re starting to get the dad bod. That’s because you get comfortable.
I told Travis that maybe that’s why you didn’t marry me because I was like, “I just want you to know. I will never have a mom bod.”
It’s intentional. We’ve been practicing that and continually learn something new all the time. We don’t know. We know like very little. What is the saying? Sarah’s a nutritionist that one of them that we know. Basically, I know very little is what I’m trying to say. It’s a constant thing and it’s science. It’s changing all the time. You should do this in the morning or you should do this in the afternoon or right before bed or take this or whatever it may be. It’s trying and playing with it because everybody’s bodies are different and the responses are different. That’s the same principle as you start out because most people when they get married, they’re in the best shape.
They’re smitten, they’re in love and sex and all the things. Over a period of time, you get comfortable, you get complacent. The lack of communication creates that disconnect. When you look down in 7, 15, 20 years, you’re way over here and I’m way over here. We’re like we’re disconnected. If the other person wants to be like, “We need to buy some different food.” The other one is like, “Why all of a sudden do you want to feel better, look good, work out and lose 50 pounds? Why would you want to do that?” There’s no support of like, “That’s awesome. I’ve been thinking about that too.
A lot of times, Travis comes up with ideas all the time. If I don’t get a text every couple of days that says, “I have an idea,” something is wrong. I don’t know that I did this while starting out. I value your ideas, whether we act on all of them or not, whether we’re practicing the idea creation part, but even those moments that in my head I’m like, “This is crazy. This is nuts. We’re not going to do that.” Whatever my mind wants to tell me, I always will. Now at least tell me if you say that this is accurate. I’ll say, “Tell me more. Tell me what you’re seeing.” If you’re getting a vision for something new, to your point, wanting to start a new meal plan or you’re wanting to take us someplace new or you’re wanting something new in the business or something new in our sex life.
I’m like, “I don’t understand what you’re saying.” Sometimes if I bite at that or I’m like, “That’s ridiculous,” or I reject it or I feel shame or whatever, it could shut down that idea and demolish it. It’s almost like the intimacy of those first ideas are so vulnerable. It’s almost like a seed. That thing’s not planted yet. It’s so vulnerable and so new that if I come in and judge it or demolish it, it’ll never take root. As opposed to like, “Tell me more. Tell me more of what you’re seeing. Tell me more of what you’re feeling,” then we can establish some roots and decide, is this something we want to grow with?
The pros and cons and what is best case, worst case scenario and then move forward through there. We’ve done that on most decisions. We’re in a decision right now that we’re like, “What is the best case, worst-case scenario?” It’s a big decision. It’s a constant of like, “You’re spot on because it’s not always like, “I have this idea,” and the other person is like, “I don’t get it. It’s stupid.” You’re like, “Okay.” Over a period of time, I’m not going to share with you my ideas because the feedback that I get is not what I’m looking for. Resentment builds up, frustration and disconnect. You’re spot on because I’ve never heard once when I have an idea as crazy it is, you’re just like, “Tell me about it.” I hear other couples where it’s like, “I could never do that because of my spouse.” I feel bad for him because it’s like, “You may not do. You’re probably not going to do some of the things that we do.”
There are other people who are doing things that we wouldn’t do.
It’s taking that in and allowing that to sit with both sides and say, “Is this your heart’s desire? Is this something that you want to do or is it emotion for the day,” or whatever it is? You have to process it and allow both of them to say, “If this is something you want to do, let’s figure out the game plan.”
If I could plant a seed of what true marriage is, it’s the greatest gift that God could ever give us because no matter how two guys are out there or books or things and a great read, I’m like they don’t hurt, but there are no two other human beings that could come together and create what we get to create. If you look at every marriage, there are no two marriages. The beauty of that, and sometimes the scary part at first is that we get to make this whatever we want it to be. That’s why I love The Greatest Showman, all their songs about dreaming together. I love it because though this sounds cheesy, you’re like, “Is it or is the rest of the world just missing something here?”
We get to dream together. Travis and Julia Gentry, two human beings, or whoever’s over there reading this right now in their marriage, this is your marriage. There is no right way to do it. It’s just your way to do it. Another thing that we don’t do is that even when you and I get into intense fellowships or when we are disagreeing, I don’t go to a bunch of my girlfriends and talk to them about Travis. He doesn’t go to a bunch of his guy friends and talk to them about me because you’re leaving the person out of the whole equation. I’m talking to my girlfriends about Travis and he’s not even there. Some people go, “My girlfriends give me feedback and it helped me process and talk things out.” I would disagree.
From the very start, and that was probably something that I just saw, it doesn’t work. Whether you’re dating or you’re in a marriage, it never works to go outside to seek counsel for a relationship.
That’s not professional and not together. It’s your bunch of girlfriends or your bunch of dudes.
If you’re going to vent to a bunch of friends, especially guys or girls, if I was to go and talk to a friend that’s a girl and I go tell her what’s going on, that could be disastrous for a few different reasons. It’s probably a whole different episode of why. You can’t go outside of it unless it is mutually, “Julia, I’m going to this person. I need to get a different perspective than what we’re coming up with,” and then include Julia in on the conversation.
It honors the relationship so much because if you were to come to me and go, “Julia, I feel like we’re stuck in this area. Either A) I’d like to go to see a counselor or a pastor or someone together that we could work this out or B) I have this person that I want to talk this out with. Are you okay with that?” “Yes.” My first inclination would be like, “No, I want to do this with you.” If I agree, I think we are stuck and you need a different perspective, but at least I get to be included in that, as opposed to you just going and doing it. Not telling maybe getting bad advice, maybe them creating biases. All it’s doing is it’s aiding in the separation as opposed to bringing the intimacy back.Marriage is just the best, most amazing gift from God. Click To Tweet
The emotional disconnect that happens because if I have a conversation and say it’s intense fellowship, and then we say, “Let’s think about it, process it.” You’re still processing and thinking about it. I go somewhere else, talk it out with someone else. I’m fine. I come back and you’re not fine. It wasn’t resolved with the people that need to be involved.
Where that goes is now learning to say, “We need to be committed to growing together.” Not with them, not to ourselves to how someone else’s marriage is, not to compare ourselves to who we were ten years ago or who our parents were in the marriage. We were just going with this and what I would encourage anyone, no matter where you are in your marriage, even if you’re like, “We’re doing good. We’re in a good season. We were feeling connected all the way to the point that you’re like, “We are on the out.” Here’s what I would encourage, two steps. Number one, sit down as Travis said and check in on reality.
Here’s what it is. We’re not doing this to judge each other. We’re not doing this to blame each other. We’re not doing this to like out of anger. We just have to look at every part of our marriage and our life. We have to say, “It is what it is.” We need to call a spade, a spade. You have the courage to go take some space. Once you’ve done that and to go, what are we dreaming? Not even just like, “If Travis would do this, I could finally do this.” No, I want more passion. I want more connection. I want to feel alive again. I want, I want to be intimate with you. I want to explore in our life, like come up with some ideas that give you to your point, where are we going?
We could sit in a circle. We could avoid all the stuff we could avoid. Reality. We could keep judging and blaming and shaming, or we could start looking at our dreams or what’s next and go, “Let’s go there together.” Anything that’s not in alignment, we’re going to have to rub it for a minute. We’re going to have to look at it and go, “Does this work? Does this not work? Do we have to change habits, the way we talk to each other? Do we need outside counsel? What do we need to get us from where we are to where we want to be?”
Some of it could be or feel like it’s selfish because when you have kids and you have four kids under the age of six, there’s a lot of energy and time that goes into that. For me to want to do some of the things that I want to do still, it feels selfish. We’ve talked about that of like, I can’t lose my identity through us, raising kids for two big reasons. One, I don’t want our kids to see that I’m not pursuing and going after my dreams, becoming an evolving and challenging myself. My kids will see me fall, working out, or whatever. I want them to know that I will put in the effort and the energy in whatever I’m trying to do. I want to lead by example.
Two, when the kids move out, if you don’t practice that, if you don’t have that pattern and habit of going after, and it’s going to change. When you’re in your 30s, maybe you like playing a certain sport. When you’re in your 40s, you’re like, “I don’t like playing that but I want to pursue this.” It evolves and changes, but you have to keep going after that. When the kids get older and they move out and all your life was consumed with your kids, you have no identity. You wake up and you’re like, “I hid behind my kids and that’s all I did. I’ve got you, but I don’t even know you.”
You said a good point that we have to look at, it’s the pattern and habit now. The pattern of growth, the habit of growth because as long as you and I are saying, “I’m going to grow individually, I’m going to grow with God and we’re going to grow together,” then in any season and when our kids do leave, the pattern and habit, we’ve put in the work to know that when those pivotal moments happen or whatever. We have the tools. We have the strength to keep doing that as opposed to the kids are gone now. We look at each other and we’re like, “There’s no pattern. We haven’t been growing together now. Now how do you start?” Most people don’t.
I haven’t been growing. I don’t know who I am. What do I do? When I get there then? When you retire, when the kids are out of the house, then we will, and we’ve made a commitment from the very beginning. If we want to sell everything and jumping in an RV, as crazy as it is, our kids are coming with us, unfortunately, and fortunately, you’re coming with us because we want to live our life out. We’re not going to just put it on hold then. Once all the kids are out of the house, then we’ll go do that.
It’s the pattern and the habit of communication. You start out having hard conversations and you’re not going to do them right. They’re going to be awkward. They’re not going to flow and be like the most like enlightened conversations because you’re practicing communication with each other. You’re practicing communication with yourself. It has to be the practice and habit of thorough communication. It has to be the practice and the habit of growing together, of dreaming together. That is a practice.
The first practice is, for most people, “What do I want?” The easiest answer is what’s your dream or whatever. I don’t know. If you did know, what would that be? You have to allow yourself to open up and be like, “What is it?” There’s always that next level from physically to financially to relationally like, “I want to be better than I was yesterday and the week before and the year before. I don’t have to spend all this energy and effort where it’s so exhausting, but I just want to be that just a little bit better each day. In the long run, it compounds and I want to live great knowing that I tried the best that I could.
I’m not going to be a victim. I feel like both of us have committed through the communication and conversation of like, “I want to pursue certain things. I want you to pursue certain things and knowing that they can get a little rocky if it’s financially or we’re going to move or we’re going to try this or I’ve never done this before, but I feel like I’m called to do this or I need these mornings or these afternoons to go pursue this thing I’ve always wanted to do.”
Back to communication and ensuring that you’re growing together individually and together.
You had said it, but to wrap it up, you were talking about laying it out on the table and saying, “Let’s look at all the areas of life and where you think you’re doing good, where you think you’re falling short, you want something different and just have that conversation. Maybe ask clarifying questions and then let it be. Sit with it and take some notes and write down and then come back. Talk about that again. The third meeting would be dreaming like let’s whiteboard, white dream and go and write down all the things that I’ve wanted to do. I want to do and see if they align with where you’re at and truly what you feel called at that point.
If that’s what you want to do and here’s what you want to do, how do we align those to make those work? Some of them are going to take months or weeks to get into. Some of them are going to take years because it’s like, “I’m committed to this. I want to achieve this goal,” but it’s not going to happen overnight. We’ve got to know, “This is a 10 or 5-year goal and support each other.” From there, it’s constant checks and balances. Weekly at first and then monthly and then as needed throughout the week of like, “I’m a little frustrated or I’m feeling this way.”
When you have that vision of what’s important to you and what you’re dreaming now, I always have a way to realign. The minute I start to feel disconnected, the minute I start to feel like we’re two ships passing in the night, we start to use all this table talk. You have to ask yourself, “If I keep doing this, is it going to get me what I want?” If it’s not, you’ve got to realign and readjust and go, “We’re off target here.” That’s our target. That’s where we want to go. If we keep doing this right now, it doesn’t seem like it’s that big of a deal. If we practice this and keep this habit, it’s going to get us off target.
Knowing that’s okay, coming back to it. There are certain things or the season where it’s like, “I’m going to go to school and I’m going to go be a doctor or attorney,” or whatever it is where you know you have a full-time job and you want to go back to school or start a business. You know you have to put in more effort and energy. It’s not like you’re included in the conversation. For the next six months or a year, we have to make sure that we maximize our time together, our time with our kids if you have kids and it is going to be like we’re passing. If I know why you’re doing it, I’m supported by that dream.
The idea is that even if our schedules are a lot, we don’t have to grow apart. It’s almost like that becomes the easy out. We’re just two ships passing in the night, but that doesn’t mean you have to be disconnected. That doesn’t mean that there are not little prompts or nudges or kisses or make-out sessions. You can still stay connected even in the busy seasons of our lives. Even in productive seasons, even in hard seasons, even in stressful seasons. There are all these different seasons is that the concept is still, even though our life is full, I don’t have to be disconnected from you.
For all of you out there, we encourage you from the bottom of our hearts that there is no perfect marriage. There is no perfect answer. Even in this, my hope is that this awakens people to go, “I can do that. I can grab just a couple of those things to make my marriage great. Our kids need our marriage to be great. I believe our world needs our marriages to be great.” Marriage is the best, most amazing gift from God. It does take work, but it’s amazing. My hope is that this encourages you and it meets you where you’re at to begin your journey or to continue your journey in growing together.
If you don’t have the wherewithal or the tools, Google. There are tons of books out there. Go to TheDreamFactoryandCo.com. We have different workshops online, a six-week course. We have a 26-day challenge that you can go through. Your one thought and one book away that will spark up that conversation and to get you on that path. Once you start to be consciously aware of this, then it goes to this and this. Don’t use that as a crutch of, “I don’t know where to start.”
Tag us and ask us the question, “Here’s where I’m at. What do I do next?” We will respond, guaranteed. Let us know how we can support you, but do something. Until next time, dream on.
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