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March 31, 2014

What I’ve Learned in 5 Years of Marriage (and How I Still Don’t Know Anything)

Mindset Makeover is open and ready for you to explore In it, I address not only many of the psychological and mindset topics we discuss often here at JillFit, but quite a bit on the topic of relationships–both with ourselves and interacting with our closest family and friends.

It was a timely project considering so many of you have been asking for tools on how to train mindset to make better choices–with nutrition, exercise and personal happiness. In short, you understand that a better brain leads to a better body. It all works together, and lasting change begins with your attitude and how you CHOOSE to perceive the world. Likewise, this week Jade and I are celebrating our 5 year anniversary :)

Five years is not a long time.

And in a sense, the time has flown by and at other times, I don’t remember my life before this relationship. Over that time, we’ve built Metabolic Effect and JillFit into international companies, dabbled in multiple new business ventures, launched dozens of new projects and programs, hosted events, coached hundreds of clients and created a life we love. And business is all fine and good. It’s our passion. But, our romantic relationship is separate, and though it can be really, REALLY hard to separate it from our business relationship, we try our hardest to do that.

And we are still learning every single day.

This blog contains my own insights gleaned from my own experience and coaching dozens of women on this stuff over the last few years. Relationships are personal things. You have your own values, and things you deem important that may or may not be in line with mine. That’s fine. That’s perfect. I encourage you to introspect there if you never have. Besides being a lot of fun, it helps you piece together your own understanding of what makes you happy in a relationship.

Jill and Jade dating 2006Dating in 2006

Allow Your Partner to Change and Grow (and Honor Your Own Growth)

A relationship is a dynamic thing. The idea that both us and our partner remain the same, with the same goals, values and interests as when we married is absurd. And yet, often we cling to how things “should” be or what they’re “supposed to be” or what we “thought they’d be” at the time we married. This is shortsighted. Holding tightly to some ideal framework of what we think a relationship should look like can hold us back from growth. And it can also sabotage our relationships success. And it can make us miserable.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life in general is that shit changes. And learning to ebb and flow with those changes and move with your partner in whatever direction they need to go in, while also honoring the way you need to go, is critical.

Relationships are both easy and hard.

Relationships are both about you, and not about you.

Relationships are both about compromise, and about honoring your own needs.

Relationships are both about honesty, but also about kindness.

Relationships are about letting the other person see all of you, all of your rough edges, and letting the chips fall because the alternative is trying to put on a show of who you think you need to be in order to be loved and accepted.

I Look Forward to the Endless Lessons

Jade is my greatest teacher.

That is 100% my truth. I love him for who he is in the world. He’s a possibility creator for so many people. He brings them up, he makes them laugh, he makes them believe they can do anything and he is one of the most generous people I’ve ever met. Is he perfect? Nope. And neither am I. And the beautiful thing about any romantic relationship is that the “imperfections” are what actually make the relationship perfect. To me, when Jade is doing exactly what he needs to do for him, I’m happy. I also want to do exactly what I need to do for me, and as a team, we try to support and honor that 100%. It’s not always easy, right? Besides, sometimes we want people to act differently than they do. Of course we do! It’s human nature. But when Jade is doing what I want him to do, in that moment, he is not honoring his own needs.

And what is love if not wanting and pushing the other person to DO and BE exactly who they are?

And when I resist or get frustrated or don’t understand or feel insecure or get mad/sad/confused, etc, in those moments, I’m getting my buttons pushed. Not because Jade wants to push my buttons. Not because he’s unkind or inconsiderate. Simply because he’s him. And I love that and want that! And button-pushing is the greatest way FOR ME to learn a) about him and b) about myself, and c) about how to be better in a partnership.

So in that way, getting my buttons pushed is a gift, isn’t it? It’s an opportunity, a lesson. Hence, he’s my greatest teacher and I’m his. How lucky am I? How is this a bad thing? So when I look at my relationship in this light, how can I NOT look forward to the challenges? Jade and I talk about this often–the idea that getting the lessons, for us, even though sometimes painful and scary is more valuable than taking the seemingly easier route of denying, deluding, oppressing, pretending, and waking up years later wondering where the communication broke down.

Time Millionaires 2013Celebrating after a successful Time Millionaires retreat in 2013

Honesty, Appreciation and Benefit of the Doubt

Writing the Mindset Makeover and introspecting a lot on my own relationships, I came to three keys that for me, have been pivotal in continuing to build a happy, healthy and stable relationship. Those are:

  • Honesty (with each other and ourselves)
  • Appreciation or gratitude for the other person
  • Giving the benefit of the doubt, realizing that our partner is only human, and they are also entitled to their very own way of doing things


Though we always hear about this, it can feel so cliche and esoteric. People always say, “You need to be honest” but until you actually think about it and perhaps even experience the ramifications of dishonesty, you don’t really get it.

Often, it feels easier to just tell small white lies or lies of omission, seemingly to “spare the person’s feelings” or “keep the peace” or “put our own needs aside.” It feels easier to just smooth things over. To avoid conflict.

The problem with this way of doing things is that it eventually breaks down the trust within the relationship and it instead builds a relationship based on facades designed to appease one another, rather than to actually get our needs met. And the result is often bitterness, resentment and cruelty towards the other person, when really the issue began the second we decided the other person couldn’t handle our truth, or we couldn’t handle their emotions/response as a result of our truth. We’re scared of outcomes: What if they leave us? What if they decide we’re not worth the effort? It seems like such a lot of work to navigate the truth! It’s going to be painful and risky! It feels too vulnerable!

I get that completely. But imagine the liberation you’d feel in knowing you could say exactly what you feel without the worry of what the other person is going to think/say/do as a result. It’s still scary and there are no guarantees that they won’t leave or get upset, but the alternative is building a relationship based on half-truths and pretense. And in my experience, the more truths you tell, the less the negative reaction of the other person. It just becomes “the normal way of interacting” and there’s less to be scared of. It’s just how you operate as a couple.

BTW, a great read on why honesty is SUCH an important thing for any relationship is the quickie read ‘Lying’ by Sam Harris. Loved it so much. Highly reco.


Everyone wants this, don’t they? To feel loved, appreciated, recognized and supported. We want it, so why wouldn’t our partners? Finding things to feel grateful about in our relationships and recognizing the things we love about our partner is such a game-changer. It immediately changes our perspective, and as a result, the way we interact with them.

The scariest thing about showing appreciation and often why we don’t do it as much as maybe we should is because it can feel like a resignation. It can feel like it’s taking away from our own contributions (“I’m doing a good job, too, aren’t I??”). It can feel like condoning the other person’s behavior in all ways, and when we have ideas about how they “should” be different to please us, showing them appreciation can feel like an affirmation to keep doing the things we don’t want. I know this sounds counterintuitive, and if you are with me at this point on our woo-woo journey, then awesome. But the bottom line is that often our egos don’t allow us to show gratitude. This is a play for “status”–per David Rock’s “SCARF Model: The 5 Needs of the Human Brain” from his book, ‘Your Brain at Work.’

Can you relate to this? Our insecurities can keep us from showing the other person appreciation and support because it can feel scary and uncertain. If we give our stamp of approval on “allowing” them to do something, it’s essentially giving up control. But isn’t that the whole point of love? NOT trying to control? Letting the other person do exactly what they need to do for them, even if what it may mean for us is scary?? Aaaaaaah! But, yes! Because the alternative is trying to control the other person, which never works!

Gratitude does two things: a) it changes YOUR perception so you can feel more fulfilled and at peace, and b) it helps the other person feel loved, acknowledged and fulfilled to know that their efforts are recognized.

And when you think about it that way, how can you NOT feel like you want to give your life partner, your friend, your lover, your favorite person on earth some warm fuzzies?? :)

Benefit of the doubt:

I asked my readers to email me their #1 (only one!) best relationship lesson. I received hundreds of responses, from all different women–some married for 30+ years, some divorced multiple times, some young, some older, some newlyweds, some single. The insights made me laugh, cry and warmed my heart!

One thing that came up over and over again was a variation of: “realize your partner is human and let them be themselves, while you be yourself.” In other words, give your partner (and yourself!) the benefit of the doubt. Realize that people will always do what they do, and sometimes those actions can come across to us (based on our own insecurities) as cruel or inconsiderate or strange or scary. But ultimately, they’re just them being them. Trust in the knowledge that they love you. Trust that even if you feel those negative emotions, chances are they are not doing anything to purposely hurt or disrespect you.

People are human. And building a deep connection with another person requires our ability to throw them a bone! Allow them to be who they are, and for us to also show ourselves compassion. And realize that shit, we don’t have it all figured out either! I’m sitting here writing this blog feeling like the biggest fraud on earth! But I need to give MYSELF the benefit of the doubt and go, you know, I don’t know everything, but chances are I know a few things, one of which might be able to help someone. And so I feel a deep obligation to write this post. Even though I have so, so much more to learn. It is what it is :)

Your Perception is Your Greatest Tool

Five years is not a long time, relatively. I had Judy A., married for 30 years tell me to “keep courting/dating your spouse. That’s it. We “date” each other, doesn’t matter if it’s a coffee date, a walk, or a fancy dinner. We date, alone.” I love that. This stuff, although personal, is also universal. We can “get” all of these lessons and insights.

Who can’t relate to this stuff? We have our own unique experiences and insights. But so much of these lessons can be extrapolated. That’s why I love personal development. You can do it, all on your own, and as a result enrich all of your relationships. Why? Because YOUR perception matters. It has the power to change everything. For example, if I believe (my chosen perception) that giving my spouse space and time to do what he needs to for him, then I never have to feel threatened or worry when he does, in fact, do what he needs to do for himself. How liberating.

Our perception is our greatest tool.

And how we CHOOSE to see other people, their actions, their words is 100% up to us. Feeling “hurt” or “betrayed” or “done wrong” or “regretful” are all choices we make. Can they be painful? Absolutely. But ultimately–and man, is it hard!–we can choose to actually just … be okay. We actually can just choose to … accept. We really can choose to just let things go, and realize that our partners will do what they do, and no amount of kicking, screaming, silent treatment, huffing or puffing will change that in the end. And it shouldn’t. What good is even being in a relationship if it doesn’t ENHANCE our own journey?

I love Jade. But he doesn’t complete me. I’m complete and worthy on my own. My worthiness doesn’t depend on my relationship. My happiness doesn’t depend on Jade making me happy. Instead, my relationship with Jade enriches my life, enhances my experiences because I have someone I love to share the ups and downs with. My relationship helps me grow, it challenges me to do better, it pushes me to introspect and learn to be more loving, emphatic, selfless and understanding. And that’s awesome, and it really all boils down to perception. I choose to SEE my relationship as tool to push me to my highest self. Jade doesn’t need to do or say anything. He just has to be himself. And I get to learn if I choose to.

Byron Katie says, “It only takes one person to end a war.” And I love that so much, because it reinforces that we don’t ever need to wait on another person to be happy. We can choose our reality right now. We can CHOOSE to find gratitude in situations. We can CHOOSE to give people (and ourselves!) the benefit of the doubt. We can CHOOSE to find the bright spots in situations. And you know what? We can always CHOOSE to move somewhere else. How amazing is that!

As per usual, this post went way, super long :) but if you are still here reading, I’d love to share with you some of the responses to my email last week, asking for feedback. Go here to access some great insights and testimonials from JillFit readers.

YOU GALS ARE THE BEST. I seriously can’t believe how lucky I am sometimes to be able to carve out this tiny little space online to share my thoughts. I appreciate all of you who read all the blogs and interact on the JillFit Facebook page to help create a community of likeminded women who want more. Better brains, better bodies and more personal growth. I am so, so grateful FOR YOU! Let me know what you think of this post on our page! Oxox, Jill 

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