A few months ago when I was preparing for a collaborative project I stumbled on the #staymarried website. I was drawn immediately to all of the great links to professional advice on marriage but I was even more in love with the words and stories of Michelle Peterson, the creator of the site.
I knew you would love her, too, and so I wanted to share her and her awesome message with you.
I’ve not actually met her in real life…but she’s on my wish list.
With Father’s Day coming along this weekend I wanted to chat with Michelle about how #staymarried was created, what meeting her husband was like, and the power he has in his little girls’ lives.
Here’s a little interview I did with her (imagine you’re sitting at her kitchen table…):
Where does the #staymarried idea come from?
I started using the #staymarried hashtag immediately following a devastating phone call with a friend. She called and confessed to me that she had been having an affair for the past few months and her husband just found out. She was mournful, devastated, and not sure if her marriage would last. I really couldn’t believe it. This is a couple that are close friends of ours, we never saw it coming. Not only that, but her phone call was just the latest in the news I was hearing of several friends who were separating and divorcing.
The 50% stats on marriage and divorce that we all know about became more real to me than ever. I thought, if couples we know and love can’t make it work, what chance do Tony and I have? How do I know this won’t be our story as well. Tony’s parents are still together after decades of marriage, but mine split when I was just three years old.
I decided I was spending too much of my thought life on the sadness of divorce and that I wanted to do something positive about it instead. I began tweeting things I thought would encourage the couples I knew with the hashtag #staymarried.
I posted things like…
*How can you express appreciation for your spouse today? #staymarried
*Plan a date night. Your marriage deserves it. #staymarried
*DO IT! When you feel too busy, too tired, or too stressed for sex, that’s the perfect season to MAKE time for it. #staymarried
*”Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only with what you are expecting to give – which is everything.” – Katherine Hepburn #staymarried
Often social media is bashed for being an insincere band-aid, allowing us to feel like we’ve actually done something, when all we really did was “like” or retweet. But, with my social media accounts linked, I was starting to see something very different. People were responding. Most wanted to stay married. They appeared to appreciate the reminders and encouragement, and to my surprise, they seemed to want more. That’s how the #staymarried blog was born.
How did you and Tony meet?
Tony and I met in a bar in Lake Forest Park, Washington on a Thursday night in the summer of 2001. He was in a band playing live and I was with some friends who had nothing better to do. I was instantly awestruck, he could probably tell. We made eyes at each other and he made it a point to remember my name and use it often over our next few encounters.
Though I had decided he was the most interesting and handsome man I’d ever met, it would be a few years of mutual acquaintances and friendships before we finally started dating. When we did finally go out just the two of us, it was over breakfast. We dated over breakfast for several weeks, actually, and they were the most delightful and honest dates I’d ever been on. I mean, how much more casual can you be than coffee and pancakes and eggs over medium? We truly enjoyed each other and got married three years later in 2007.
In your experience, what are some of the little things you do in daily life to keep your love strong?
I think, like everyone else, our “strong love” ebbs and flows. In the stronger seasons, its a lot of at home date nights snuggled up on the couch together under a blanket after the kids have gone to sleep. It’s late night conversations about far-off daydreams and current events and our favorite things about our kids. In the “weak” seasons, the habit he has of kissing each one of us (all three girls and then me) before he leaves the house for work and the purposeful “mom first” hug he gives me when he gets home that keeps us connected. Our foundation of giving each other the benefit of the doubt and knowing we are allowed bad days gives us both the security we need to be ourselves and know we are loved and allowed to love one another.
With little kids, how do you make your relationship a priority and not let the chaos of life take the front seat?
This one is tricky. We are in love with our girls… each of them separately, and then the three of them together. We are both pretty sure that they are the best thing we have ever done with our lives. Still, we do want to remember that if our own relationship doesn’t take priority, we won’t have much to offer them. So, little things like having conversations in front of them and letting them know that it is not okay to interrupt, kissing in front of them, sending them back to their room in the morning so we can have a few extra snuggly moments to ourselves all make a great difference. They know that mommy’s favorite person is daddy and daddy’s favorite person is mommy, and that we still adore each one of them.
I love what you’ve written about holding hands and love maps, what is another simple yet profound thing you and Tony do to stay connected?
We make each other laugh. There is something powerful in knowing that you understand someone so well that making them laugh is pretty effortless. We check in throughout the day through texting and instant messaging and some of our silliest conversations happen then. There are times he has been stressed and frustrated with a project at work and getting a silly message from me makes him feel loved and helps him refocus. The same goes for me. Whether its a link to something funny, or a silly picture, or just a little heart emoticon, we make sure that we stay on each other’s mind in the most fun and loving ways that we can throughout the day.
With Father’s Day coming up, you talk a lot about the power a dad can have in the life of his girls, what’s one thing you do to support Tony as a dad?
Tony is an incredible father. Our girls are so lucky to have him. My own father was absent from my life from the time I was three years old, so watching my husband be so present for our daughters is such a gift to me. Sure, there are things he does as a father that I just wouldn’t do as their mother – like rile them up with tickling and wrestling right before bed – but I am more thankful that he can’t control his delight than I am concerned that they aren’t winding down at the end of the day. So, one of the things I do is allow and celebrate the crazy fun dad that he is. I try not to nag him about the way he parents because I know that he is the best dad they will ever have. I mean, sure I think he buys them too many toys and indulges them with ice cream and popcorn a lot more than I would, but the greater harm would be for them to see their mom undermine their dad for trying to love on them.
Wishing you lived next door to Michelle? Me, too!
If you’d like to read more of her awesome words check out these great posts:
Fathers Matter: Awesome post for supporting your husband as a dad
Date night ideas: 25 great ideas
Defeating Marriage Monsters: 3 monsters…which one tries to get a hold of you?
When I begin reading Michelle’s words I just can’t stop. She puts into print concepts that I can’t help but say AMEN to! She’s great at seeing the good in the everyday and at the same time being so real about life as it is. Michelle is an all-around cheerleader with a dose of kindness that makes you want to #staymarried.
Thank you so much Michelle!