After ten years of running a company and watching as my health and joy for life declined rapidly, I left my career and promptly retreated to a fitness camp in San Diego, CA to focus on recovering my health and wellness. During this time and for the past year, my husband and I have faced the question of how to experience personal growth individually while also avoiding growing apart as a couple. I’ve been fortunate enough to learn and experience what it takes to maintain a relationship with my husband while experiencing significant personal growth, transformation, and evolution.
Hitting Health Bottom
My husband, Nick, and I have been together for almost 16 years, married for about 14 of those! For the last decade, we were a dynamic duo, a rare couple who worked together, played together and still enjoyed being around each other. We complement each other. He calms me down and I motivate him.
Through our mutual hard work and determination, we built a multi-million dollar “small family” hospitality business on a historic ranch in California. We hosted over 125 events per year (about 80 of which were weddings), managed 10 on-site guest rooms, 18 acres of vineyards, 100 olive trees, a winery, horse stables, restaurant, and wine tasting room! I was the CEO and Nick rocked the outside sales department, IT, and basically, anywhere I needed help from someone I could trust.
I loved my job for many years. I was my career, and my career was me. I had no problem working 14-hour shifts, seven days a week and while on vacation.
Then, gradually, and without realizing it, I took on too many things and neglected my health to the point of abusing my body with food, alcohol, and lack of self-care to balance my hard-driving career lifestyle. My weight yo-yo’ed every year. I stopped sleeping through the night, waking up at 3 AM almost daily.
I developed rashes and hives. Then, the heart palpitations started. Crippling anxiety came shortly after that turning this former “force of nature” into a shivering chihuahua.
Then, came the depression diagnosis, discovery of a torn labrum in my left hip, breast surgery to remove a cyst (benign), and the list goes on. My body was whispering, then yelling, then shaking me and screaming. I finally listened and knew I had to choose between my career or my life.
My Personal Growth Affected My Relationship
My husband has always been an incredibly supportive man. He’s known for saying, ”I’ll follow you anywhere.”
When I chose to launch myself onto a whole new life path to reclaim my body and mind I had to redefine who I am, what I want from my life and career, and even my relationship with my husband. Here’s how we did it:
Face to FaceTime to Maintain Our Relationship
For the past year, my focus has been primarily on me, myself, and I. Reclaiming my life and my health has become a full-time job. I didn’t run myself into the ground overnight and I knew the healing process would take time, patience, and a lot of work to feel ”right” again.
Take time to fully dive into your recovery, whatever that looks like. If it means attending a retreat away from home, and that feels good to you, do it. If it means extra “me time” in the bubble bath at home, or attending classes or workshops on the weekend, talk it out with your family and make a plan. You can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself first. It’s like they say on the airplane security briefing, “Put the mask on yourself first before you assisting others.”
Through this evolution, I realized that part of what was missing during my career and subsequent burn out was quality time with the people I love the most. Since embarking on this journey, I’ve been able to be far more present with my husband and son because I’m not constantly on my phone checking emails, or responding to phone calls that seem like they can’t wait until the next day or talking about work, or thinking about work… you get the idea!
But the truth is, you don’t need to quit your job to do this.
Scheduling designated “no-work” days, or even “no-work” hours if it seems too hard to take a full day off is a good way to start. Having at least one meal together each day without distractions (even if it’s just a snack) can go a long way toward re-building the foundation of your relationship.
Finding New Shared Hobbies and Interests Together
We’ve enjoyed reconnecting, but we’ve also learned some great tips for growing together:
- Too often, in relationships, one person has their hobbies and the other person has different interests. This is fine for alone time to refresh, but it’s also wonderful to be able to spend time doing something you both enjoy.
- Think outside the of the box! Rediscovering your mutual interests is a guaranteed way to bring you closer. Plus, for those who have been in long-term relationships, it adds new conversations to your mix.
- There are so many ways you can find new hobbies, but here are a few of my favorite brainstorming ways: Make a list of 20 things you’d each like to try without talking about it. Compare your lists and do everything that you agree upon. Negotiate the rest as either maybe or absolute no’s depending on what it is (i.e. skydiving might sound super cool for your hubby but not for you if you have a paralyzing fear of heights ).
- Some other things you can do with your partner:
- Cooking classes
- Exercise classes
- Wine tasting
- Take improv or acting classes
- Take a writing class or other creative class such as painting or photography
Understand Each Other’s Authentic Needs
Fitness has become a big part of my life. I have found workouts that I love and refuse to compromise and do anything that feels like “exercise.” My husband has always disliked exercise, so we’ve worked on finding modalities that we both enjoy. Having a mix of alone time, quality couple time and family time is vital.
Adjust What You Think You Know About Your Partner
There’s an old saying that a man marries a woman expecting her never to change. A woman marries a man expecting him to change. Neither wish comes true. While I don’t want to skew towards heterosexual couples, it’s what I know.
Women and men are different, down to the very way our brains are wired. In fact, in this UCLA study, researchers found strong differences between men’s and women’s brains that included their ability to handle stress and health-related issues (such as blood pressure) based on brain function!
But on a personal level, I was in charge for so long. I was the boss everywhere. This included my personal and professional life. Frankly, I was tired of being in charge. I told my husband that now it was his turn and that I would follow his lead. It’s taken about a year, but we’ve developed a nice give-and-take. This has proved that we can redefine the roles we have in our relationship.
Now we divide our tasks and responsibilities equally depending on what we like to do and what we’re good at doing.
For example, he’s a chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and loves to grill, so he handles the cooking. I love math and numbers and handle paying all the bills. Recently, he made a random suggestion that we should move to San Diego and live on a boat. I said yes and that will be happening next summer!
Adopt a “Sure, why not?” attitude instead of falling into the same “no” rut that you’ve been in for a while in your relationship.
Schedule Time Together to Maintain Your Relationship
Literally set time on your calendar dedicated to meaningful connection. I wrote about how communication has been better since we’ve understood our love languages, but it goes beyond simple understanding.
Sitting in front of the TV is not quality time. Going to the movies is not quality time. Put down your phones, look each other in the eyes, talk about your day, your dreams, your fears. Be real!
I’ve always been a fixer, an overachiever, and the kind of woman who gets shit done. My personal evolution and growth is no exception to this. My husband knew the woman I was when he married me, and I’d like to think that although this journey has been largely about who I am becoming and what I want from my life, it also has fused into what we want, and what we represent as a couple.
We spent the time doing the dirty work, laying the foundation for our relationship and our goals at the same time. Healthy, strong relationships take work. Not necessarily a struggle, but intentional and inspired effort to make sure that it continues to grow in a positive way. Much like you pay attention to your children’s needs or your bank account, even your career, our relationship requires the same level of nurturing.
What challenges have you faced on your path to personal growth and health and wellness as an individual and as a couple? I look forward to hearing about it, comment below! Or share this pin on Pinterest. I look forward to supporting you through this time in your life.