Maturity in relationships comes over years of time spent with each other – learning each other, figuring out the give and take, and how to resolve conflicts. Riley & Jack have some very wise words to share with us today, about how they learned, sacrificed, and grew closer together over years of their relationship. These are more than pretty pictures, it’s a reflection into their lives together and how they’ve grown … read on!
from the planner: “We were privileged to work with Riley and Jack and to tell their honeymoon story in the Hill Country of Austin. Although both of them are well traveled, their staycation was relaxing, simple, and fun. We wanted to capture the beauty of their authentic connection in a leisurely way as they spent time together around the property. What a sweet memory.”
How did you two meet? What were your first impressions of one another?
Jack and I started dating 9 years ago in Charlottesville, Virginia. 6 weeks into our relationship, he’d spend 3 months in South Africa for a humanitarian project. We would speak once over the course of that summer. When he returned, it was as if we had never met. Another year together before Jack would visit South Africa again, me off to Brazil. This time we’d email incessantly, hearts aching. A few more months together before Jack would graduate and move to Nashville where he’d pursue his masters at Vanderbilt while working at their psychiatric hospital. For 2 years, every month and sometimes twice, I’d drive 18 hours to fall into his arms and revel in 48 hours together. I’d watch him grow into a strong, spirited man. He’d support me as I navigated self discovery. I would receive my degree and, to save something rare, I’d move to Nashville. 4 years, 3 cities and 2 countries later, on a rock in the middle of the ocean, he’d ask me to marry him. Later that evening, I’d hear a story of how he showed a picture of me to a new friend during his second trip to South Africa. He would say, “One day, I’m going to marry that girl.” For 6 years, he’d save for my ring. His job was no easy feat. I think back to all of the times he picked up extra shifts, worked overnight and stayed on call. I remember him holding off on getting a bed frame and walking to the grocery store…assuring me he didn’t need a car. We look at pretty rings and conjure up some romantic, flawless story. We forget the commitment, the effort, the raw emotion. I know that the ring I wear on my finger is not materialistic nor trite. It is symbolic of something intangible, even ethereal. It stands for adventure, devotion, patience; elusive elements of any 2 humans’ bond. I look at my hand, I look at his face, I think of our 9 years together and I am amazed by our love. I think it couldn’t be real. It couldn’t be mine. But no. It is real. It is true. It is ours.
Tell us a funny story relating to your relationship!
Jack and I lived in Central America for 6 months; we spent the majority of that time in Nicaragua where I photographed for non profits and we collectively volunteered for various initiatives…while also sledding down volcanoes, eating way too many tamales and traveling the coastline. We spent one of our last January nights in a beach town, San Juan del Sur, with friends- some old, some new. Locals had previously told us to shuffle our feet and tread cautiously in the ocean as the stingrays liked to migrate towards shallower, warmer waters. With the sun barely above the horizon, Jack headed towards the water to enjoy some last minutes before it set. Happy from good conversation and tipsy from Nicaraguan rum, he naturally forgot to shuffle his feet taking large, purposeful steps. Suddenly, instead of his foot landing on a sandy ocean floor, it came in contact with a stingray. Out of surprise and protective measures, it stung him in the ankle before shooting up and writhing in the air like something straight out of the movie, Alien. He sprinted back to shore dazed and confused screaming, “RILEY, PEE ON IT!!!!” I had no idea what had happened until he quickly explained. I had no pee to give and was pretty sure urine was for jellyfish stings…not stingray piercings…not wanting to make it worse, I went from surf bar to surf bar desperately trying to find anyone who wouldn’t charge us 20 córdobas to help alleviate his pain. At this point he could feel the venom crawling up his leg towards his groin. Finally, a sweet couple from New Zealand led us to a little hut where a reassuring abuela brought a bowl of boiling hot water. In order to draw the venom out, Jack had to stick his foot in the water. They handed him a handle of rum (apparently adamant this was a panacea…) and within minutes Jack felt the venom evacuate his foot. Lesson learned: always shuffle your feet at sunset with rum close by.
Describe a hurdle you had to overcome in your relationship or during your wedding planning.
We are not perfectly compatible, especially in the way we process conflict. I don’t like it when people term themselves as conflict avoidant. I don’t think it’s that. I just think they need breathing room. That’s how Jack is. It takes him a while to process. He needs space to reflect. In the moment, it drives me insane. It makes me scared. But in hindsight, when I finally take the time to stop and slow down – I have so much respect for his style. Because I’m not that way at all. I like to dig in, stand firm, fight about it, talk about it, cry about it, love about it, wade around in the mud till it’s crystal clear water. It’s not like that’s the right way. It’s just my way. Is it any surprise that he’s air? And I’m water? Some would say that doesn’t work. But I disagree. If we can look at each other with curiosity we can develop that human necessity that makes all things better: empathy; if we can hold hands and sit with each other after one has processed and the other has marinated: we grow; if we can stand back and observe we might even reach what all partners desire: admiration. And when that happens…his air and my water create steam.
If you had one piece of advice for other couples, what would it be?
I think it’s about reciprocity. Like – I give, you receive; you give, I receive. *We* give. *We* receive. But the intent is not to demand, to require, to beg. It’s just to give. And keep on giving. If both partners contribute in that manner, everything else comes naturally. The power and responsibility are shared; there is no double standard, there is no shaming, there is no tit for tat. The fairness lies in us supplying needs for one another. Maybe I provide excitement. Maybe he provides stability. Have you observed the value in that kind of exchange? Society goes on and on about the words, “I love you.” But what about the words, “Thank you.”? When is the last time you told someone you loved how much you appreciate them, see them, cherish them? I think that’s where a bit of magic lies. Can you give humbly? Can you thank graciously?
What is the most honest thing you can say about love?
We found a way to love each other passionately and fully without allowing that love to diminish our own individualism. Too much passion can crush you but not enough leaves you untethered. But there has to be some level of detachment. We really can’t take each other so seriously. The more we love each other, the more importance we tend to place on our relationship, our interactions, our compatibility. But is all of that really so important? Maybe to an extent. But the real joy lies in silliness…in playing…in affection…in the parts of our lives together that make no sense at all. Humans are strange. Yet simple. I think, to last, there must be a partnership, there must be logic. But to LIVE, there has to be some kind of chaotic harmony that keeps you together while simultaneously fortifying your individual selves. It’s not easy to find because it must be created…and any good creation takes a lot of heart.