August 16, 2017

Advice From A Strong Relationship

I was talking with my friend Wendy the other day, and she asked a question Lee & I consistently hear: 

"How do you guys have such a strong relationship?"

Nik and Lee, a strong relationship

Lee & I have been together since 2001.  I was 23 and she was 35 when we met.  She seems to have stayed the same age and I've slowly matured to catch up with her.

It was love at first sight and has grown steadily stronger over the years.  Part of that strength comes from trials. We’ve certainly had massive disagreements over the years, and in the sorting out of those arguments we’ve developed a deep commitment to each other.

I’ll talk about three of the things I think have been important in becoming and staying a strong couple.

First, a disagreement.  Without going into the details, a few years into our relationship we got into a massive fight over something neither of us can remember. I headed off to file for divorce and a Mexican peso saved our marriage.  The story is both hilarious and heartbreaking, and I still can’t tell it without shame or laughter bubbling up inside. 

As the dust settled and we realized we’d weathered the storm, we were forced to face an important question:  Did we really want to commit to each other? 

After that fight, we sat down and made a commitment: “From here on out, divorce is off the table.  You can sleep a night on the couch, you can get as angry as you want, hell, you can light out for the Territories for days if you have to, but divorce does not get mentioned.  We’re staying together.”

Making that big commitment.  More than just tying a knot, you're sharing vulnerability and strength.

Once that commitment was made, we started behaving differently.  With that total safety net of our partner being there at the end of the day, no matter what, our relationship strengthened. 

Sure, sure, that’s what wedding vows are for.  I think they’re mostly bullshit ritual and they fairly obviously don’t work to keep people together.  The quiet commitment to each other outside of the public view once a major storm has been weathered has been far more powerful than any public vows.

After deep commitment, the next thing that’s kept us strong as a couple is remaining independent.  Lee is (as of August 2017) a 52 year old woman with her own life as an artist, both graphic and martial, and a business owner with insights and experience I’ll never have. 

I have my own path I’m proud to walk and that isn’t appropriate for Lee.  Instead of forcing the other person to participate or even be a strap-hanger in each other’s lives, we’ve realized that having our own lives, our own bailiwicks, is vital to our happiness as a couple. 

My way, your way, our way

We each have our own pursuits that are ours to explore, at our own pace and leisure.  The privacy and agency of having our own demesnes has been one of the healthiest ways we can support each other.  While we occasionally invite the other into our world, we live joyously in the idea that being different and living unique lives is vital to being happy.

Finally, we loosely use an idea I call, “Strength of Feeling.”  It’s simple, and works like this:  For any given issue or argument that becomes a real point of contention, we think about how strongly we each feel about it.  We assign that a number between 1 and 10.  1 means we couldn’t give less of a shit, 10 means we’ll fight to the death for it. 

Strength of Feeling scale

Once we share that number with the other person, it can make the decision far easier.  If Lee is a 3 and I’m a 7 on an issue, it’s a no brainer.  Usually that’s how it works; one of us feels far stronger about it than the other.

As anyone who's been around us knows, Lee & I love to debate just about everything.  Strength of Feeling helps puts many of these debates in perspective.

If we find ourselves defending an idea hotly, “Strength of Feeling” becomes a useful arbiter, and many times I’ve realized I’m pushing super hard on a “2” just to prove a point and keep my fragile ego intact.  Admitting that you don’t actually need to win an argument means you can defuse an awful lot of potential disasters quickly and easily.

Those 3 ideas offer a general scope of how we’ve stayed happily together since March 24th, 2001.  Hopefully some of these lessons we’ve learned can help you. 

If you have anything you feel has really helped strengthen your relationship with your sweetie, please post to comments below.  Sharing information is one of the best ways we Paleo Treats blog readers can help each other, and each contribution is appreciated greatly!

To life!

Nik & Lee

Liked this article on strong relationships?  Here are a few more you'll dig that circle in general around the idea of Paleo living.

Nik Hawks


Nik Hawks helps run the show at Paleo Treats. Fascinated by humans in all their strange glory, Nik is harnessed in and pulling hard in pursuit of excellence with the rest of the PT Crew. Enjoy!

Too much reading...
How about dessert?

Too Much Reading...How About Dessert?



February 08, 2019

My love and I started by breaking every rule just to be together. We sacrificed ridiculously because we are crazy in love. That is something that hasn’t changed 5 years later. Our relationship is nuts. We are 20 years apart with the woman being older, we have different cultural tastes, and we have different career paths and social circles. Seemingly, to look at us, you wouldn’t know we are joined at the hip, and have lived without stepping out of each other’s presence for weeks at a time without friction, annoyance, or disagreement. Don’t get me wrong, storms have come. We have had a few serious fights that threatened the relationship. But at the end of the day, respect has carried the relationship all the way. We refuse to be verbally hurtful. We are emotionally vulnerable. We can say, You know, I’m scared if you know this about me you won’t love or want me anymore- but here it is. No secrets. And the knowledge that we can accept each other with tremendous grace in all our short comings, failures and trouble. Money troubles, infidelity, addictions, distance, physical separation, or insecurities aren’t the root of any couple trouble. We have come to allow each person to be themselves, and choose to love and accept them unconditionally. We do not express rejection. In fact, instead of acceptance, I experience appreciation and it is liberating and empowering. It feeds the soul with gratification. We are totally not trying to control the other. Freedom to leave or love, freedom to express or not, freedom to dream and pursue drives, or to associate with whomever they like. Honestly we are more in love, more secure in each other’s love, and more convinced of our endless union than ever in spite of the refusal to confine or demand anything from the other. I know my love will sacrifice to make me smile, and I will do whatever I can to bless him. I refuse to say anything that destroys his confidence, and in return, his humility and emotional maturity do not make ego an issue. We can tell each other we are hurt frankly, honestly and without attacking the other. And we can resolve our deepest conflicts usually within an hour with respect, humility, and emotional vulnerability and honesty. Being real has been the key. Instead of trying to get what we want, or hide our feelings, or protect ourselves- we have taken the huge risk of being transparent and totally at the other’s mercy. And crazy as it seems, we have found mercy, grace, and kindness from each other when we knew we least deserved it. And we have built the kind of trust that avoids any dishonesty, fear and division of soul. He is he, and I am I and we are we. And that is all that matters. We are together. No strings attached. Just bound in love.

Misti and Dave
Misti and Dave

August 19, 2017

Dave and I just read this together. We both thought it was very powerful and insightful. As a fellow couple who “likes” to debate, we will definitely be bringing some of this into our marriage. Thank you for sharing!

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.