Love and Marriage: How to Make It Past the Newlywed Phase

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Jesse and Val’s love story has a simple beginning. “We met through mutual friends,” says Jesse. “We were both involved in the local hardcore music scene in Connecticut and met at shows,” Val clarifies. It’s understandable that the specifics are hazy after two decades – he was 18 at the time, and she was 15.

Music is still a big part of their lives, but over the years the couple’s interests have expanded to include a 14-month-old daughter, an 11-year-old “canine child,” and their careers (she’s a senior database administrator for a healthcare company, and he works in real estate). As the Seven Year Switch spouses attempt to save their relationships with switch therapy, we asked Jesse and Val what makes their 12-year marriage work.

How did you know your partner was the one?

Val: I’m not sure there was one specific moment. There were two things that made me know he’s one of a kind and that I had to lock him down. The first is when my childhood dog of 17 years ran straight past me to greet Jesse. Even my parents were shocked. Maybe that’s when my parents realized he was the one? The second is whenever he saw his grandfather, because he’d kiss him on the cheek and tell him he loves him. It would always melt my heart.

Jesse: There was no particular time. When you feel it, you feel it!

What do you love most about your partner?

Val: He’s very supportive.
 
Jesse: That she does everything for me. I get so zeroed in on what I’m doing at work that I often forget the rest of my “real life” responsibilities. She keeps me together.

Did you experience a 7-year itch?

Val: If we went through it, I would say we probably talked a lot and compromised. 

Jesse: I think everyone questions their marriage from time to time. The important thing is to be honest with each other and make each other happy. We both do those things, so it works. Anyway, we rarely fight.

Love and Marriage CoupleMarried couple Jesse and Val share advice on relationship building.

How do you let your partner know you care?

Val: I make sure he gets time for himself. Between parenting and work, we often forget to take care of ourselves. 

Jesse: You should see how much room I give to her on the bed. 

Jesse, you might owe Val flowers after this interview.

Jesse: What can I say? She’s sweet. I’m sour.

What does your partner do that makes you feel loved? 

Jesse: What doesn’t she do?

Val: He’s very affectionate and always tells me he loves me. He encourages me to have “me time,” so I often use my spinning bike or do something nice for myself, like get a facial or a manicure. He’s supportive of my career. Whenever I have an issue at the office, I know I can talk to him and he’ll give me good advice. And during the first few months of our daughter’s life, he was there for me when I lacked sleep and everything seemed difficult. He’s my biggest male cheerleader.

What do you disagree about most often? 

Val: We disagree about how funny Jesse really is. I don’t think he’s as funny as he or many of our friends think he is. 

Jesse: We disagree that I’m not the funniest person she knows.

What’s the best way to end a fight?

Val: A good laugh and…you know…[laughs]

Jesse: Since we rarely fight, I’m not very good at giving advice about this, but I’ll say that most people fight about lots of petty stuff. There’s nothing worse than fighting about something petty.

Should you go to bed angry?

Jesse: No, because you don’t sleep well when you’re angry.

Val: Never! A good night’s sleep is so important.

How do you keep the flame alive?

Love and Marriage CoupleJesse and Val at their wedding more than a decade ago.

Jesse: We go on date nights from time to time.

Val: We usually do dinner and a movie. Sometimes I’ll take a half-day from work, and we’ll go to the movies while the kid is at daycare. We usually have a date night when my mom or Jesse’s aunt is visiting.

What’s the secret to staying happily married?

Val: Open communication. You need to be able to tell your partner the good, the bad and the ugly. They’ll respect and trust you if they know you don’t hide or sugarcoat anything. No one likes negative feedback, but it’s important to hear it and learn from it. 

Jesse: Be a good listener and respect each other’s opinion.

What do you want to tell newlyweds?

Jesse: Live with each other before you get engaged so you know you can deal with each other. We lived together for 6 years before we got married. 

Val: Enjoy growing old with your best friend!

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