Listen to our full episode on Tiny Things That Have Helped Our Relationship below (with full transcript) or find our podcast by searching What is it all for? in your favorite podcast player.
Five Key Takeaways for Tiny Things That Have Helped Our Relationship
1. Helpful questions
“Where are you on the hardship scale?”
This started out after Caroline’s dark time with anxiety in 2019 when she created an anxiety scale to show how I (Jason) could engage with her based on where I knew she was coming from and in terms of how hard things would be for her. While traveling, we’ve adapted it into a hardship scale to lump together anxiety, vision problems, or simply being tired. This also relates to our Are You Playing Life on Hard Mode? podcast episode.
“Can you hear me?”
So we don’t interrupt each other mid-thought when we’re both in the work zone, we initiate this question. If we just ask our questions in the middle of the other person’s work, it’s very interruptive and it takes the other person to have to be like, Wait, what? Are you talking to me?
Using this question also does two things: 1) it lets the person asking the question know that they just need to wait until the other is done so they can finish the email, etc., and then they can go, Cool, what do you need? Or let’s talk. And 2), instead of asking three times, the other person not paying attention, and getting upset, it allows for understanding that the other person is simply trying to focus and it shows respect for the person who is in the middle of something.
“Do you want me to listen or want me to help?” or “How can I best support you right now?”
A lot of times we just want someone to be here with us and witness the feeling that we’re having. We just want to be allowed this space to feel our feelings. Sometimes we don’t need the other person to fix something. In fact, a lot of times, if one of us needs to vent and the other comes at us with solutions, it feels like they’re dismissing the our feelings. We find that asking this question in response to one of us presenting an issue or concern can be helpful to support them with whatever they need at that moment.
2. Helpful phrases
“This isn’t a criticism of you…”
This next one is just a phrase that we use when we’re sharing feelings with each other, especially when we’re sharing feelings with each other about how the other person said something or did something that hurt our feelings or made us feel some type of way. It can be hard because you want to share how you felt, but it can very quickly turn to the other person getting defensive. The full sentence could be, “This isn’t a criticism of you, but when you said or when you do X, Y, and Z, it made me feel this way.”
And by hearing that simple intro to that phrase, it may not always work and it sometimes puts on edge that it feels like it’s going to be a criticism, but you know from the other person’s perspective, they’re really trying not to make you feel bad.
The phrase means we’re not going to use any of the things on this list because we don’t have the patience to communicate in an effective way. We understand then to not take anything that the other person does or says in the next little bit personally and for us, it just means that we’re at the end of our fuse.
3. Rules and roles
Rules for things being stressful
As we mentioned, we are moving to Portugal (we HOPE) and the visa process can obviously be stressful. So whenever we get into a stressful situation, I (Jason) have come up with the phrase, “Donkey Kong Country.” This is just a code word reminder for the mindset to be in when we get into stress mode. Another example, we do this with Teachery too and we say, “Freechery.” It gives us a silly way to channel what are usually “serious” things that we do as adults.
Rules of engagement
Some of the rules we have when we engage in a heated argument are: we don’t raise our voices or yell, we don’t name call (EVER), we try to avoid “you always…” or “you never…”, and it’s okay to take a break or cool down, but we try to bring closure to every disagreement, this obviously is different in every couple, but it works for us. We believe that having these rules enables the relationship to hash out problems but at the same time maintain the respect and boundaries we have for each other.
Assigning roles BEFORE the activity
One example of this would be, for our move to Portugal soon, we set the rules beforehand like Carol does the forms and paperwork. We do everything together and that means assigning tasks for each other so that our roles are clear whenever we need to tackle a “group project.”
Use keywords while someone is talking so they can finish their thought. We also use these little keyword phrases to shift our mindset to come back to and approach things in a different way and with a different mood. It’s a way of communicating to your partner, “Hey, this mood and this vibe [are] getting to a place that is unnecessarily tense. Let’s bring it back to something where we can do this and be in a better mindset so we can tackle this together,” without also saying that.
“I’m feeling like…” and “I’m going to…“
These phrases are about knowing that you’re engaging in an activity that may be stressful or hard and communicating more than you might. An example of this is driving. Driving is an activity that can very quickly turn south because of a couple of things. We’re very different drivers. One of us (Caroline) has driving anxiety, while I (Jason) feel very confident behind the wheel, which means it’s very important for us to communicate how we are feeling and what we intend on doing.
Bonus: Logging hormone cycles on your partner’s calendar
Women’s hormones do fluctuate and change slightly. It’s just been this thing over the course of our relationship that we know it’s this area of a certain time of the month. We would avoid saying the phrase, “Is it that time of the month?” because that can be extremely triggering.
When Caroline started tracking her cycle and shared it with my (Jason’s) calendar, it got a little bit easier because we both could sort of see it coming. We’ve developed a language that very closely means that and what would happen is Jason would say, “Hey, I’m noticing you’re being…” We found the thing that we’ve been trying lately, which we do think is working.
Show Notes for Episode 138: for Tiny Things That Have Helped Our Relationship
In this week’s episode, we share a lot of the tiny “isms” and phrases we’ve come up with that help us work through different parts of our relationship.
Whether it’s a simple question to make sure the other person is ready to have a conversation or a set of rules we put in place before embarking on a big project/discussion/change/etc. We’re always coming up with ways to better converse with one another, especially during the more stressful and tense times.
These are things we’ve learned in our 12 years together and we hope you find them fun, helpful, or just enjoy hearing how we co-exist!
✈️ Our pramvel stories take you through our trip from central England to Tuddenham to meet another WAIMer in person. Then we made our way down to Rye and Kent (where we stayed at 👩🏻🦰’s #1 Airbnb of the year!)
🚑 Check out the chic design renovated ambulance house Airbnb in Rye: www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/11145603
💨 Check out Caroline’s FAVORITE Airbnb of the year so far, the windmill in Kent: www.airbnb.com/rooms/1237965
Full Transcript of Episode 138: Tiny Things That Have Helped Our Relationship
⬇️ You can also download the .TXT file of the transcript
Caroline: Welcome to What is it All For?, a podcast designed to help you grow your online business and pursue a spacious, satisfying life at the same time. We are your hosts, Jason and Caroline Zook, and we run Wandering Aimfully, an UN-boring business coaching program. Every week, we bring you advice and conversations to return you to your most intentional self and to help you examine every aspect of your life and business by asking, What is it all for? Thanks for listening. And now let’s get into the show.
Jason: And I’m here, too.
Jason: You sound like you’re from London.
Jason: We’re not in London.
Jason: But we are talking about our time…
Caroline: England. United Kingdom.
Jason: Jolly old. Jolly ole? Jolly old?
Caroline: Ooh, I don’t know.
Jason: I don’t know either. Welcome back to the podcast. Thank you, everybody, for your luscious feedback on last week’s announcement of us.
Caroline: The feedback was luscious.
Jason: It was pretty luscious. We’re moving to Portugal. If you missed that episode, you need to go back and listen to last week’s episode. We’re going to keep you posted. Got a handful of emails from, we have seven people listening to this podcast. So obviously you’re not going to get a ton of emails, but got enough emails that we will definitely keep you posted on the process.
Caroline: Oh, yeah.
Jason: What that’s going to look like?
Caroline: Because literally, since we recorded that episode, things have already shifted. Things have already changed. It doesn’t mean we’re not… We’re obviously still moving.
Jason: We’re going, yeah.
Caroline: But I’m just saying, like, things are in flux.
Jason: They are in flux. But we’ve signed the lease.
Caroline: We have signed the lease.
Jason: So it’s like… We’ll get to it.
Caroline: Do we need to do a new segment?
Jason: A new pramvel?
Jason: The Visa-vel?
Caroline: Portu-, por-.
Jason: Pram-gal? Pram-ugal?
Caroline: That’s the best, Portu-pram.
Jason: (coughing) We’ll see. If you hear a little bit of a cough from me, I apologize. We’ll talk more about that in next week’s pramvel.
Caroline: He doesn’t have COVID.
Jason: I don’t have COVID.
Caroline: Just gotta say that.
Jason: Yeah. All right. So pramvel. We spent a bunch of time in England. I actually look back, I didn’t realize it was like two and a half months that we spent.
Caroline: In the United Kingdom.
Jason: In the United Kingdom, excuse me.
Jason: Yeah, but it was a good amount of time. So we’ve already talked about some of that. But in this specific episode, we wanted to talk about meeting another WAIMer, which is super fun.
Caroline: A Wayne-er, some might say.
Jason: Ohh. Pffft. I don’t like it. Getting down to the south of England and then your number one Airbnb of the year.
Caroline: So far, yeah.
Jason: What are we at as far as how many places we stayed, do you know?
Caroline: Oh, Jason.
Jason: Like 25?
Caroline: Oh, no, we’re in the 30’s.
Jason: Oh, really? That’s fantastic. So number one of, let’s just call it 30 for round numbers, so far in Carol’s list.
Caroline: That was number one.
Jason: All right, let’s start with meeting up with one of our WAIMers.
Caroline: I think where we last left you off, we had changed Airbnbs. We moved to a little place called Waddington outside of Clitheroe. And then we had to basically make our way down to the more south of England.
Jason: I mean, the south of England.
Caroline: The south of england because this really cool place that we had booked… These are like two of the first Airbnbs we booked on the entire trip.
Jason: These were the two first.
Caroline: We booked them literally last year in 2021. So we had to make our way down to Rye and Kent.
Caroline: And so somehow we had to get from North England to South England.
Jason: Well, Central England. Yeah, it felt like North England, but really where we were was like…
Caroline: From Central to South?
Caroline: And also, those of you listening know that I don’t do that well in the car. So we were also looking for ways to break up that long drive.
Caroline: So we decided we’ll stop sort of halfway in a little town called Tuddenham because we wanted to stay just, like, one night in a hotel. Jason and I go, the amount of times I’ve searched for boutique hotel inn?
Jason: Yes. Oh, yeah.
Caroline: Is so many. And so we try to find these independent hotels that are just cool and have, like, a unique thing.
Jason: Something different. You’re always looking for something different.
Caroline: Yeah. So we found this cool little hotel called Tuddenham Mill. And I don’t even know how to describe it. The rooms have, like, not a motel feel, but they’re sort of like…
Jason: They’re just very simple.
Caroline: They’re very simple. And I just mean, like, it’s more of an outdoor hotel, the rooms. You have these buildings, and then the restaurant is in a separate building, if that makes sense. But it’s in this, like, lush, greenery, kind of woodsy type of place. And so we drove there and stayed overnight. I have to say, also, the reason why we picked this hotel is their food looked incredible, and it really lived up to the hype.
Jason: It did.
Caroline: It was incredible food. I did better on the drive than I thought I did. Oh, they also in our room because we picked, like, the suite that had more space.
Jason: Yeah. So I’ll just talk about the rooms for a second because the rooms are actually a really interesting part of this hotel. So they have kind of your normal run of the mill hotel room.
Jason: Ha ha.
Jason: Then they had these little pods that were like these outdoor pods that were essentially like a rectangle, but wrapped in a circle, if you can envision that. But the weird thing was they had no windows. So if you didn’t have the door open, you basically got only artificial light.
Caroline: It’s going to be a no for the pod for me.
Jason: A no for Carol. But the other thing they had were these quote unquote loft suites. And it wasn’t necessarily a loft because you’re not walking up from inside a house. That’s what I consider a loft. A loft is a space where you walk up from inside a house and you get to another part of the house.
Caroline: I feel like people get a little bit liberal with the use of the word loft when it’s like a vaulted ceiling with beams.
Jason: Or it’s just like a second floor. They’re like, welcome to my loft. I’m like, nah.
Caroline: It’s just a floor.
Jason: It’s just a floor.
Caroline: It’s just another floor.
Jason: But anyway, this was a floor. But it was a really cool layout. The fun part about it. So a nice big open layout, big couch, had a big beanbag chair, a big old bathtub right in the middle of the room. But the funny thing about this room was?
Jason: We’re pooping out in the open.
Caroline: Oh, that’s right.
Jason: There’s not a door, and the walls were three quarters height to the room.
Caroline: That’s right.
Jason: So there’s not a single closed space. Everything is open.
Caroline: We do have a recurring segment on our year trip, which is…
Jason: Let’s poop close.
Caroline: Poop open.
Jason: Let’s poop close. And it’s not something we really ever did before. We always had, like, a dedicated bathroom.
Caroline: Ooh, in what world where you say it’s not something we really ever did before. Like we 100%…
Jason: Because I know couples who will brush their teeth and the other person will be pooping in the same bathroom.
Caroline: Ooh, that’s fine. That’s good for them. But I’m just saying the way that you did not say that definitively. We definitely were a behind-closed-doors-in-a-separate-room poopers.
Jason: Yeah, for sure. We know that each other poops.
Caroline: Do you feel closer? Do you feel like the romance is gone?
Jason: Oh, I don’t know. (coughing) Excuse me. But anyway, this was just a fun experience because we’re there for 36, 24 hours. I don’t even know how long we were there for. But obviously, nature called both of us, and I took the call outside. You didn’t want to take the call outside. You took the call on the couch and turned your music up real loud, which wasn’t great for me. I’m going to be honest. I would have rather you’ve gone outside.
Caroline: I was like, I don’t want to go outside.
Caroline: And you’re like, Well, I would like to poop without knowing that you’re three feet away from me. And I was like, No, man.
Jason: You’re too close. So anyway, the hotel was great. We really enjoyed the room. Again, perfect stop right along the drive. It was a six hour drive that we broke in half, essentially. And the best part of it was…
Caroline: The best part of it was the next day we woke up and we had a lunch date with a lovely WAIMer and friend of ours, Wayne, and his lovely partner, Chris.
Jason: Yeah, they drove out, met us. An hour, they live an hour east of where we were.
Caroline: And the four of us just had a hoot and holler, didn’t we?
Jason: We really did. We ate. There was like this little it’s called Tipi on the Stream, is the name of their little outdoor restaurant that’s in this big tent. And it was adorable.
Jason: The only part of it that I didn’t love…
Jason: And this is just like a criticism of, just, like…
Caroline: Wayne, specifically. I’m just kidding.
Jason: Humans being dumb humans.
Jason: Is it’s us, four of us, eating at a table inside this tent. There is room inside this tent for, I would say, 80 people. There are at least 20 other tables. A group of twelve comes in with, like, three screaming children. That’s totally fine. I’m happy that those people can exist as well. I get it. They sat right behind us. And I get it. Like people, you want to keep everybody close. Like the wait staff doesn’t have to go far, but we’re the only people in there. Why are we sitting right next to everybody? That was the only part of it. It was just like a little bit like, Come on.
Caroline: That’s funny. It didn’t even occur to me.
Jason: No, you’re just lost in Wayne’s eyes.
Caroline: I was lost in Wayne’s eyes.
Jason: Yeah, yeah. He’s a lovely human.
Caroline: They’re both very beautiful people. So we had a great time and that was a highlight and it really helped also distract me from the fact that we were going to have to get on the road. Do you remember, actually, I’m now just remembering that next leg was a really bad drive.
Jason: They all honestly… I’m going to have some real talk about driving in the UK. It’s not great.
Caroline: It’s not great.
Jason: It’s not great. And I’m not trying to be offensive to anybody in the UK because there’s a lot of places driving in the US that are also not great, but having driven now in like three or four countries in Europe. UK, you’re at the bottom of the list, my friend. I’m so sorry.
Caroline: That was the roundabout from hell when we got…
Jason: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Caroline: Because we were going from central to south, we had to kind of pass through, around London. And so the closer we got to London, even though we were trying to not go in the most direct routes, at one point, it’s just gridiron. Is that the right thing?
Jason: Sure, sure.
Caroline: Bumper to bumper traffic. But we’re like now inching into a roundabout, a three lane wide roundabout, and like a semi-truck is trying to inch through this roundabout. People are honking. It was just terrible.
Jason: Three lane roundabouts doesn’t even describe the fact that somehow it became like, six lanes wide. It’s not supposed to be.
Caroline: No, people were just trying to inch in. There’s honking. And Jason and I at this point are just laughing because we refuse to get stressed out also. That’s what this whole episode is about. But when we reach a level of stress where we’re like, we could easily just be at each other’s throats right now. Our coping mechanism is just to laugh at the absurdity of what’s happening. And so people are honking at us and we are just dying laughing. We’re just like, I don’t know what you want me to do.
Jason: Yeah, and also, none of us are moving anywhere, so you can be as upset and honk all you want.
Caroline: You can be so mad.
Jason: There’s nowhere for anyone to go.
Caroline: What could I do better?
Jason: Yeah. Okay. So that drive, we finally did make it down to our first stop in the south of England, which was Rye. And this was our, I will describe it as our chic, designer, award-winning, renovated ambulance house Airbnb.
Caroline: Which was stupid expensive.
Jason: It was the most expensive Airbnb per night that we have booked or will book for this entire year. I found this Airbnb very early on in our search. Like Caroline mentioned, we booked this last year, and now we booked a bunch of Airbnbs towards the end of last year. But this was like, October of last year before we left.
Caroline: And you were just like, I want to have one place that I’m so excited about. We didn’t know we would find the Dock House in Ireland. We didn’t know we would find the Ballybunion Beach House.
Jason: The Laganini Loft.
Caroline: The Laganini Loft.
Jason: Villa Pauletta. We have now found so many fun places that we have memories from that we can’t remember them because that’s how this happens when you’re doing full time travel life is they all run together. But this place, it was such an interesting experience. So we get into Rye. We pull in to the house, which is kind of in, like, a weird area. Rye is very much like a small think of, like, a very touristy town, but not in a bad way. It’s just a very popular town, like, lots of art galleries, there’s lots of restaurants, small streets. It’s just very adorable and charming. But the house is just nestled, like, right in the middle.
Caroline: It’s literally off the high street. It’s one street back.
Jason: Also, for those of you who don’t know, a high street is a main street in the US.
Jason: It’s a high street here in the UK because we’re so European now. So we park. And I had this moment where I’m remembering the photos from the listing, and it’s just like, you think, like, designer, beautiful, amazing photos. And I’m looking around, we parked. I’m like, this looks like no one has taken care of the outside of this place. And this is our most expensive…
Caroline: The concrete is, like, cracked, and there’s, like, tons of overgrown grass coming out. And we’re like, this is interesting. But then we went back and looked at the listing photos, and it did look like that.
Jason: It was the same. And I sent the host a message, like, halfway through our stay, and I was asking my question. I was like, I just want to ask about the front. And they were like, Oh, we just really follow the David Attenborough, just, like, let it grow. And I was like, Oh, okay. Maybe in the description of the Airbnb, like, let people know, because I pulled up and I thought, has no one stayed here for months? That’s what it felt like.
Caroline: I wonder if it’s also, like, bringing an American sensibility of what we’re used to, of the perfectly manicured lawn and the landscape, whatever.
Jason: Yes, that could be very much it.
Caroline: And here it’s just more like overgrown cottage and, like, plants and stuff.
Jason: Yeah, and I didn’t mean to say it as it was a negative. It was just a juxtaposition to what I expected.
Caroline: Right. Expectation not meeting reality. And you having a curiosity of, like, why that is.
Jason: But then you walk inside and this place was so cool. So definitely going to add a link to this place in the description in the show notes. So you’ll be able to check it out yourself and you can balk at the price per night or you can be like that’s kind of what I expected when you were talking about it.
Caroline: No, it’s more expensive than you’re thinking.
Jason: Well, I don’t know now that you’ve said that. Maybe not. But anyway, it was a very interesting place.
Caroline: I’ll put it this way. I was not mad that, once I stayed in there one night, especially at that point in our trip, because my eyes were, that was the worst, like the worst stretch of it. I was so happy to just be in a place, especially coming from the Waddington place, which is not our favorite. I was happy to be in a place where I felt comfortable and inspired and lovely. So after the first night, I was not mad that we paid that at all. Especially because it was like one year ago us. But I will say, if you just ask me, point blank, do I think this place is overpriced? I would say yes.
Jason: Yeah, and that’s because Rye is a very touristy area.
Caroline: And listen, they can charge that because we paid for it. So…
Jason: Absolutely. Also one fun fact, when you check out the photos and you see the kitchen with the stainless steel island and like the big open living room with the metal beam and the dining room table with all the wood and just the fun layout of everything, just beautiful place. The hilarious. And I love these little moments in Airbnbs when you find them. So I’m going through all the cabinets, like looking through all the stuff. Do you remember what I’m going to say?
Jason: So we showed up, there was a bottle of champagne waiting for us with a little card that says…
Caroline: A handwritten card.
Jason: Yeah. Jason and Caroline, welcome, you and your family and friends… It’s like a little generic, like that’s okay, we get it.
Caroline: Yeah, we get it.
Jason: So I’m opening all the cabinets and I get to one cabinet and I go, Hey Carol, check this out. And she walks over and you see six bottles of champagne and six prewritten handwritten notes sitting there waiting for all the next guests.
Caroline: It’s like you saw outside the frame that you weren’t supposed to see.
Caroline: Behind the curtain moment. And we deduced that this is normally a cabinet that probably the cleaner’s lock.
Jason: Should be locked. It should be locked.
Caroline: It had a lock on it. It was unlocked. We didn’t unlock it or anything. And it was just a funny moment of being like, you know, when you get that bottle of champagne. But it’s not for you, specifically.
Jason: You’re not the only one, yeah.
Caroline: You can feed into the delusion, but when you see the twelve other bottles, you can’t as easily feed into the delusion.
Jason: And I really loved, I just took a moment because it was hilarious. I just read all the notes out loud, like, to Nicole and Steve, I hope you have wonderful… To the Gizerowack family, I hope you have a great… And it was just this moment where I was just dying and it was just like, when are you going to have that type of moment in life? And now we get to remember forever. So, yeah, Rye was a pretty short stay. It was just a long weekend, basically. We did walk around the town. We went to some of the restaurants. I think you were feeling still a little squirrely, so we didn’t do too much.
Caroline: Yeah, I remember because I was like, I had that day where I was feeling better and then I looked at my computer and it really messed me up. And then I was feeling a little bit better and I said, Let’s go for a walk. And then 30 minutes into the walk, it really messed me up. So I couldn’t kind of get my eyes back to a place where they were fully rested and it really bummed me out. And then the day that we were leaving Rye, we had one of those weird days where we had to check out at 10:00 a.m.. And we couldn’t check in ’til 03:00 p.m. at the windmill and they were only like 30 minutes away, so we had to kind of like be in a coffee shop and go to drive and restaurant. And that day was so hard on me. All I wanted was to be resting somewhere watching something so my eyes could just chill out. And we were doing lots of things with stimulus input.
Jason: Yeah, and I think two things to that. One, if you’re a traveler who doesn’t deal with the type of anxieties that you do, you could easily just go see a castle somewhere 30 minutes away and waste that time. It would be easy. Or I think if we were doing this trip and we weren’t traveling for a full year, we could have done something like that. But it’s just like when you have a full year of travel, the days where you have the time gap between you’re like, Oh…
Caroline: And juxtapose… To me, it just highlights truly the difference in my capability when I’m sort of in the middle of a flare up with my eyes or my anxiety versus when I’m just baseline me. Because, for example, we won’t talk about it this episode, but we had a long drive to this place that we’re in currently that would have been atrocious on me, and I handled it like a champ. And it was because I had been rested and it was because my eyes weren’t flared up and it was because I’m just, like, normal me. But to me, this year has actually been really good in showing me the difference of how I can handle situations when my capacity is depleted versus when it’s full. Because when I can see that difference, then I have so much more compassion for myself when my capacity is depleted because I go, this isn’t an inherent brokenness in me or a lack of strength in me or anything like that. This is just a temporary situation where I don’t have all my faculties or strengths within me, and that’s okay. And I can’t control that. I just need to accept what I can do in this moment and know that if I give myself time to rest, I’ll be back to myself in no time.
Jason: Yeah. So we did make it. That break to our next Airbnb, which, like I mentioned, was Caroline’s favorite of the year.
Caroline: It’s my favorite.
Jason: I think this one definitely falls…
Caroline: It was magical.
Jason: Definitely falls into my top five, but it’s not my number one, for sure. However, I will say, if you were to ask me what is the most unique Airbnb that we stayed in this year? I think it gets the number one spot.
Caroline: It’s because our ratings, we have different values in our ratings.
Caroline: To me, I’m rating it because for an Airbnb experience, a place where you’re not going to live full time, but you just want an experience and a trip and a place you’ll never forget, to me, it’s the most magical.
Caroline: Your rating system is much more, Could I live here full time? Where do I feel the most comfortable?
Jason: And is it cool?
Caroline: Is it cool? Does it feel inspiring? But this was just like magical to the max to me. And I wasn’t so sure at first. I went in with low expectations because, again, I’m in a little bit of a hard moment, and I’m coming to it and I’m thinking it’s going to be dark, it’s going to be creaky. Those of you who have been around since the Tateau in the south of France will remember. I was getting strong Tateau vibes in the photos, and I was like…
Jason: So what is this place?
Caroline: So this place is an old windmill.
Caroline: From the 1008 hundreds that at some point lost its wings.
Jason: Yeah. Lost its blades.
Caroline: So it’s just like the structure of the windmill and picture like a cone, like an upside down cone without, like, the pointy part at the top.
Jason: Not an upside down cone. Just a cone.
Caroline: Oh, yeah, that’s right. Just a cone.
Jason: Yeah, yeah, yeah. An upside down cone. That would have been…
Caroline: An ice cream cone is that way. And it’s the opposite of an ice cream… Think traffic cone, not ice cream cone.
Jason: Okay, cool. Nice.
Caroline: Podcasting. So it’s a traffic cone, but with the top kind of chopped off and flat. It doesn’t have wings.
Jason: Again, the link will be in the show notes so you can check it out.
Caroline: But it’s beautifully restored. It was used at some point during World War II for American and Canadian soldiers.
Jason: For something, yeah.
Caroline: I think they traced it back because people have etched in writing in the wood and stuff. And so the outside is all refurbished. It has this beautiful wrap around the deck. And then the magic of it also is the host, Claire, and her, well, I don’t know, her partner, but they have planted over the course of eight years, like, this amazing outdoor space.
Jason: Yeah, there’s this beautiful garden that just has all these different areas.
Caroline: All these different areas. She has a wildflower garden. She has a vegetable garden. She has geese. She has a tiny pond. She has an art shed in the back where she hand paints wallpaper for her grandchildren. It is just magic. To the back, she has an entire archway tunnel, basically, of…
Caroline: Wisteria that blooms. It wasn’t in bloom when we were there, but it’s just the vines were beautiful by themselves. It’s literally just magical. And then the windmill itself inside is so thoughtfully designed. It’s just like the most charming little, it’s like three floors. So the biggest, obviously think of a traffic cone. The bottom floor is the biggest. And it has the kitchen to one side where you can look out over the garden. It has a little love seat and a dining table.
Jason: A hilariously small TV.
Caroline: They’re like, just don’t watch TV. And then you go up, basically this, like, treehouse stairs, like a sort of curve. Think of it curving around the side of the windmill. And then you go up to the second floor, which is the bedroom, and you have this cute, very comfortable bed.
Jason: Yeah. Full king sized bed. There are plenty of Airbnbs we’ve stayed in that are homes that have smaller beds than this place has.
Caroline: And a little sink, which I thought was thoughtful because at night, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to go all the way up to the third floor, which you have to literally go almost on a ladder to get to the third floor.
Jason: It’s a spiral staircase. Yeah.
Jason: Yeah. The staircase up to the third floor is a spiral staircase.
Caroline: Yeah, what I’m saying, it’s just rungs in a spiral staircase. The other one was at least, like full stairs.
Caroline: So when you get up to the top and then it’s the bathroom and it’s a beautiful clawfoot tub by the window, a toilet, a sink, and then a beautiful glass shower.
Jason: Like a modern glass shower.
Caroline: A modern glass shower with, like, hex tiles on the floor. Anyway, it was just total magic. And I thought it was going to be really hard because my eyes were at their worst, but it was so restorative to just, like, be there, watch the sunsets over the garden, do a little bath. It was so lovely.
Jason: Yeah, it was definitely lovely. Claire was also lovely. I mean, there were so many little touches around the place as well. Just like handmade or homemade bread and just some vegetables from the garden. And yes, it was just…
Caroline: Fresh eggs.
Jason: Fresh eggs.
Caroline: From the chickens.
Jason: From the chickens, yeah. She brought eggs over one day and they were warm. I was like, Well, that’s kind of weird. Like, those just came out. But yeah, it was a very impressive Airbnb, especially thinking about the Tateau, which I would like kind of put these two in, like, a similar place because they’re older, they’re renovated, they have this whole charming vibe, but one very much thoughtful, and guests are going to stay here. The other one is, this is an antique shop that you can sleep in.
Jason: And so it was just very different, and the windmill was amazing. So, again, check out the links in the show notes if you want to poke around those two places. And that will wrap up the pramvel for this week. Next week, next time we do a pramvel, we’ll kind of take you through the end of our time in the UK and then getting into the scouting trip in Portugal.
Caroline: Right. Which we already told you all about on the Portugal episode.
Jason: Well, we told you that we’re moving to Portugal. We didn’t tell you about the scouting trip, the specifics.
Caroline: Oh, that’s true.
Jason: All right, so let’s get into this episode. So we are going to talk about tiny things that help our relationship.
Caroline: So I thought this would be a fun episode because the other day, Jason and I were doing something, and he said one of our key phrases in our relationship. I think you were like, Where are you at on the hardship scale? And we’ll get into that, but I was like, Oh, there’s all these little unique phrases, keywords, uh, processes, for lack of a better word, that we have in our relationship to make things go more smoothly. And I just thought people might find that interesting to know. Like, over the years, what are these little things that we’ve implemented that help us communicate and help us knock it stressed out at each other? And so I thought we’d do a whole episode on them. Before we get into it, a couple of disclaimers that I wanted to lay down.
Caroline: Especially for all of our episodes where we talk about relationship stuff. I am not telling you that we have relationships figured out. I am not telling you that we have the secret to a happy marriage. I am not telling you that we know how to have a good relationship. I just think it’s fascinating to share about relationships. And since relationships are arguably one of the things that you spend the most time in your entire life engaging in, I think it’s helpful to maybe pick up a few things that other people do that maybe you can bring to your own relationship that might make it better or that might make your communication better. So that’s all I want to do in this episode, is just let people in and take what might be helpful. And if it doesn’t work for your relationship, that’s fine too.
Jason: Yeah. And we get so many questions about what it’s like to work together full time, what it’s like to travel together full time now, just how for twelve years, we’ve continued to make this relationship work through…
Caroline: And spend 95% of our time together. 99% this year.
Jason: A lot of big changes traveling. Like, moving across the country and selling everything we own and just being weirdos. So you want to start with where you are in the hardship scale?
Caroline: Yep. I don’t know how many do we have? Like, seven or eight or ten. But these are just, like, little things that we’ve picked up over time to basically help us run more smoothly as a couple.
Jason: Yeah. So let’s start with where are you at on the hardship scale?
Caroline: Just today where am I at?
Caroline: Mm. In this moment, I’m at, like, a five.
Jason: And this is a fun thing for everyone to learn, as I had to learn. I would ask this question. Five is like Carol’s baseline.
Jason: Never below five.
Caroline: Well, I think now, having traveled to full time, I think I could get to below a five if we stayed for a month in one place. I would be like, I’m at a three.
Jason: Like, maybe our new home in Portugal?
Caroline: Yeah, I was feeling at a three a couple of days there. What this is, I mean, this started out especially after my really dark time with anxiety in 2019. I created an anxiety scale to show… It was, like, a physical slider, scale that I could do in my art studio in my office to show Jason like, Okay, today my anxiety is at a nine. Or, Today my anxiety is at a five. And so he could kind of engage with me based on where he knew I was coming from in terms of how hard things would be for me. And this year during travel, we’ve kind of adapted that to just the hardship scale because it could be anxiety, but it could also be like, my eyes, or it could also be like, I’m tired because we’ve been moving around. I’m anxious because of uncertainty, all these different things. So it kind of just lumps it together in where you at on the hardship scale. And also, if you listened to our Are You Playing Life on Hard Mode? podcast episode. It kind of relates to that.
Jason: Yeah. And I’ll just say, from my side, it’s been really helpful as the person who doesn’t deal with as many daily hardships. When you just want your partner to feel good, to understand, What does Caroline need from me today? And again, like, we talked about on Are You Playing Life on Hard Mode episode, I often wake up thinking, I feel good. Caroline’s going to feel good.
Jason: I don’t wake up thinking, Oh, like, she probably had an anxious night going to sleep last night because we had our coaching session and it was really long. She’s really exhausted and blah, blah, and she’s going to need more compassion. That’s not how my brain works. My brain just works like, It’s time to get up. Let’s do coffee. Let’s get into things. Here comes Carol. She’s doing great, and instead, I need to understand where you’re at, so then I can go, Oh, okay. It’s not going to be a day where we’re getting a lot done. And I just need to have more empathy for you or, Oh, okay. It is going to be a day where we get more done and I can maybe bring up more things than I wanted to. And we can work through those things. But it helps me just to gauge how am I coming at the relationship.
Caroline: Exactly, and I think it’s so powerful because it makes the invisible more visible. So even for you, for example, with your asthma that you’ve been dealing with more recently, I’ll ask you, it’s not necessarily where you’re on the hardship scale, but I’ll say where’s your breathing at? And so you’ll be able to give me a number, one to ten, so then I know what level of concern that I need to apply.
Jason: ‘Cause otherwise you’re just a ten.
Caroline: Otherwise, I’m at a ten of concern all the time. And that’s not an effective use of my resources either. And so if you’re able to be like, Oh, no, no. Like, I’m fine right now, and so you can apply the number to that. And it’s really helpful because I go, he’s not going to show me on the outside how he’s feeling on the inside. So this number scale allows the invisible to become more visible and tangible so that we can both engage with each other in a way that meets whatever the other person needs in that moment.
Jason: Yeah, and I think this would be a great one for anybody who’s in a relationship with someone who deals with maybe a little bit more things. They’re a highly sensitive person. Whatever works for you. If it’s an anxiety scale, a hardship scale…
Caroline: Or even think about, like, if you’re a new mom, this would be really powerful to be like where you are… Like, if you’re going through a hard season of life and you have to be extra communicative with your partner because you’re going to have more needs than your normal baseline. I just think it’s really powerful.
Jason: Yeah. All right, so let’s talk about, you want to go into the…?
Caroline: Yeah, the second one.
Jason: Really big stressful process? So one of the things that we have learned over the years, especially when we’re taking on a big challenge, whether it’s a big business move, a big life move, starting to travel fulltime, or like, what we’re working on right now, which is this very stressful process of applying for a visa in another country. And so much of it is all about nothing is in your control. You don’t know this process or system. And you have to go through all of the red tape of bureaucracy and all of it.
Caroline: And there’s so many moving parts. So it’s like there’s bank accounts and there’s papers and there’s passports and there’s…
Jason: Middle names that are missing from so many things.
Caroline: And there’s dates and there’s requirements, and so there’s like, so many moving parts. And we have found that when we’re dealing with something like a group project, as we would say, when we’re dealing with a group project, something that we need to tackle as a team, establishing some rules for lack of a better word, or some processes for how we can make that less stressful is something that we do. So I think actually we didn’t do this at the start. And I remember the first day we had a pretty stressful thing happen, like a roadblock immediately. And we both got really tense about it, even though we both said we’re going to enter into this process, like not being stressed out, we got stressed. And so we went, remember when we had dinner at the beach bar and I said, Okay, let’s do our thing that we say that we’re going to do, which is let’s establish some rules for how to make this less stressful. We’ll share with you a couple of those rules for the visa process specifically. So the rules are different depending on whatever the thing is.
Jason: Of course, because you’re not going to use the same rules for every process. You gotta make new rules.
Caroline: You gotta make up new ones. So these are rules for the visa process. First of all, we really like to use keyword phrases like trigger us back into the right mindset. So when you’re tackling paperwork or whatever, it’s easy to get so stressed out and so, you’re afraid to do anything wrong. And you come at it from this mindset of like, if I take one wrong step, and you just take it so seriously that it makes it stressful. So our keyword is Donkey Kong Country.
Jason: Donkey Kong Country.
Caroline: And that is a game that we both can relate to from our childhood. But the idea for that keyword is to trigger this mindset of like, it’s just a game, even though we know it’s not a game, but it brings this light-heartedness to it of like, this isn’t stressful. We’re both figuring it out as we go. So that’s our reason for saying that keyword is like what it means when one of us does that is like, Hey, take a deep breath, relax, remember that we both are navigating this level together.
Jason: We’re just trying to get bananas and balloons.
Caroline: We’re just trying to get some bananas and balloons, okay.
Jason: Tryna shoot around some barrels. It doesn’t need to be that we’re signing our lives away and this can never be undone.
Jason: I think it’s just really to lighten the mood. One of the other places we did a similar thing to this was when we were working on Teachery a ton in 2020. There just became, especially because you’re the designer, so you are doing all the pixel pushing work. I’m the product person, so I’m trying to think through how this all works and how it’s going to be built and all that. And we just came to this a couple of times in a row where it’s like, we’re not having fun doing this. We get to control this entire experience and we have a lot more control in this example. So we just kept coming back to this phrase of Freachery, and we’re like, it needs to be fun, and we’re working on Teachery, and let’s just be free flowing and let’s not get so tense and upset and at each other when we don’t see eye to eye. Let’s just be a little bit more loosey goosey about this and we’ll figure it out. It’s not a big deal. And I think that just comes with two people who have such strong opinions and feelings and want things to be done a certain way. You tend to get really stuck, and I’m speaking for myself especially, you get very stuck in the way that you want to do things.
Caroline: Yeah. And you’re afraid of making a decision in the present that’s going to negatively affect things in the future. And I just find that this little keyword phrase to shift your mindset is so powerful because it’s just a reminder to come back to and approach things in a different way and a different mood. And it’s also a way of communicating to your partner, Hey, this mood and this vibe is getting to a place that is unnecessarily tense. Let’s bring it back to something where we can do this and be in a better mindset so we can tackle this together.
Jason: Without also saying that.
Caroline: Without saying that, exactly.
Jason: Because that can really…
Caroline: You can pack all of that into this phrase that you both have agreed on, and it’s just really helpful for us. So we use Freachery all the time. We use Donkey Kong Country all the time. So pick your own phrase for whatever you’re navigating. But that’s really helpful. And then also still going to our rules of the visa process, whenever we get to, even if, let’s say, Donkey Kong Country is not working and we’re getting kind of, like, hyped up. Jason will a lot of times interrupt that pattern in order to change the state of our mood. So the other day we were trying to figure something out and doing dates and all these things, and you were like, you go, Let’s do a silly stomp. And I’m like, What is a silly stomp? And Jason just makes up on the fly, he just makes up a stupid game, which is you have to do an entire circle around the kitchen island stomping in a silly way. So not like, actually loud, but, like, stomp in a very silly way.
Jason: I was just flapping my arms just like they had no control of my shoulders.
Caroline: You’re like, It’s time for a silly stomp. And I’m like, first of all, that’s not a thing, but now it is. And so you did a lap and you did a silly dance, and then I got to do my silly dance. And it’s just this way of interrupting the tenseness of a situation with something more lighthearted. And sometimes that’s all you need to kind of, like, break that tension and go, Oh, yeah, like Donkey Kong Country. This does not need to be this stressful.
Jason: Yeah. And a lot of times, to a silly stomp, in whatever version that might be, it might just be putting on one of our favorite songs from the 90s is to do it…
Caroline: The rhythm is going to get you.
Jason: It really is, is to do it before you get into the tense part.
Jason: So we’ll sit down and we know we have an hour long meeting of something that’s going to be intense and a lot of focus and whatever. But at the half hour mark, before things get tense, we go, Hey, let’s just do like an Amy Grant, Celine Dion.
Caroline: (singing) Baby, baby.
Jason: We need a break. We’ll just play, like, two songs. We’ll sing along. Maybe we’ll do a silly stomp. Maybe we’ll do a dance. Maybe we’ll get a snack, then we’ll come back to it. Instead of just like, pushing through and letting the emotions then build up. And it’s just like, again, why? Why do we do this as humans? We just set ourselves up for failure.
Caroline: Yeah. And that’s really a theme through a lot of these, is bringing levity to something that… You get to make up the rules. Just don’t think that, Oh, to be an adult, you have to sit down at the kitchen table and have a serious conversation where you both get really tense about money and finances and all the stuff. It’s like, just because we saw all of our parent’s generation doing that does not mean that that’s how it has to be. We can turn on music, we can do a silly stomp. We make the rules of how we engage in these very adult activities. And a lot of times that’s just making it more fun.
Jason: Yeah. Okay. The next one is… We do this one all the time. And I think this is especially nowadays because we’re traveling. A lot of times we just need recharge time on our own. And so we constantly have our headphones in. We’re like watching stuff, doing stuff, but it’s the, Can you hear me?
Caroline: Yeah. Okay, so explain this.
Jason: So this is essentially like, I want to ask Caroline a question. We’re both sitting on the couch, but I can tell that she’s deep into something. I have just been working on something and I want to ask her a question. And if I just ask, it’s very interruptive and it takes the other person to have to be like, Wait, what? Are you talking to me?
Caroline: Yeah, because this happens a lot when you’re writing emails. You’re writing emails all the time at your computer. And so I have a spontaneous thought that I really want to share with you about an idea we need to do or, Hey, we need to record the podcast, or whatever. But if I say, Hey, Jason, we need to record the podcast, your focus, you don’t even hear me. So instead we have this keyphrase of, Can you hear me? And we’ll just say it like that. And this does two things. Number one, it does exactly what Jason just said, which means that Jason will say if he’s in mid-thought of writing an email, he’ll say no. And so then I know I just need to wait until he’s done so he’ll finish the email and then he’ll go, Cool, what do you need? Or let’s talk or whatever. And so then he can basically say, like, I’m available to focus on you now. Instead of me saying something three times, him not paying attention to me, and me getting upset that he’s not paying, you know what I’m saying?
Jason: Yeah. And I think just to piggyback on that real quick, it’s not about the fact that writing the email is more important than Caroline.
Caroline: No, no, no.
Jason: It’s about the fact that we’re both working at a certain time or we’re doing a certain thing, and one person is coming to the other person with a whole different energy and a whole different thing, and the other person is really trying to finish a task.
Jason: And again, it’s not like every task has to be finished and we have to do everything, but it’s just more of a respect of, Hey, I’m taking the time to like, I’m the one who manages our emails. Like, I’m trying to write these emails and just, like, give me a moment to finish so I don’t lose track of what I’m doing and I have to get back into that.
Caroline: Yeah. I think it’s a respect thing. It’s also the person coming to you. In that case, just because I had a spontaneous thought doesn’t mean that… I respect you enough and respect whatever you’re working on to not come and just interrupt you and think that I should be the most important thing in that moment. So it’s like, just this respecting. And it also solves the issue of, number one, can you hear me? Meaning, can you focus on me in this moment? But number two, a lot of times we’re both wearing headphones and listening to music or listening to a podcast when we make dinner or whatever. And so it solves the problem of, like, yelling for the other person to hear you. So, for instance, if you have headphones in and you’re making dinner, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the podcast on, because sometimes you have them in. And so I’ll just say, can you hear me? And if he doesn’t answer, I know he can’t, and then I’m just like, Oh okay, I’ll talk to him after he’s done doing the stir fry or whatever.
Jason: Whatever he’s doing in there.
Caroline: Whatever he’s doing. But also, yeah, I think it’s really great because we do not like to raise our voices, and we’ll get to that later, but I don’t want yelling in my house. And so even if it’s like, innocuous yelling for like, Babe! We just don’t do that. And so it’s like, Can you hear me? It’s just such an effective way to call attention.
Jason: Yeah, I think that one works really well. But it is funny. I’ve noticed this year I definitely say, Can you hear me? a lot more than I have before. And I think that’s just because we need more recharge time. So the next one is keywords.
Caroline: Yep. So again, so many keywords. We really have our own little dictionary going here, but this one is more meta in terms of keyword as a whole. So again, going back to not wanting to interrupt someone’s flow of thought, we do, depending on where we are in the world, but we try to do daily walks where a lot of times we’re talking about our feelings, we’re talking about the day, we’re talking about… This is just like the time that we communicate the most because we’re not working and we’re not distracted. And so we’ll be walking and talking and Jason will say something and then that will spur a thought in my head and I’ll go, Oh, and then I’ll want to interrupt him. But again, it goes back to the respect of not wanting to interrupt his flow and his process. And so you’ll say, Keyword. And so what that means is basically like, What’s the keyword so that we can come back to whatever your thought is? I’ll say like and actually, now you don’t even have to ask. Both of us don’t have to ask. So you’ll be talking and then I’ll say, Oh, keyword podcast and you’re, Okay, keyword podcast. So then you can keep saying your thought. And the same for me. Like, I’ll be talking and you’ll have an idea and you’ll want to interrupt me, but you go, Oh, keyword…
Caroline: Yeah. And so all that means is let’s earmark this spontaneous thought that I just had. And after this, after you finish whatever you want to communicate, now let’s jump over to that.
Jason: Yeah. And I think this is just a really effective way to communicate in relationships, where you want to be present for the other person and what they’re talking about, but you also want to share the thing that you have, but then also just to let the other person know, like, Hey, I want to talk about this. But what you’re talking about now is the thing I’m interested in. Because we definitely run into certain times in our relationship and I do think you do this more than I do.
Caroline: I definitely do.
Jason: Where I’ll be saying something and then you start to say something and I’ll have to go, Hey.
Jason: I was legitimately starting to have a conversation with you and you just went to a whole different place.
Caroline: It’s because that’s the way my brain works. I have these urges, these thoughts all the time. I’m like, I got to express this.
Jason: This is why we have keyword. We’ve had keyword for ten years. You got to do this. For the first two years, we didn’t. We just yelled.
Caroline: You probably have heard us do this on the podcast, too. We’ll do this all the time, where it’s like, keyword. So that’s a fun one and I think it’s really effective for not interrupting. If interrupting each other is a pain point in your relationship, try that one.
Caroline: Okay. So another one that we’ve used a lot this year is assigning roles for an activity before the activity. We don’t have kids yet, but I imagine this is very helpful with kids, for example. But for us, an example would be checking out of an Airbnb, which we do a lot these days. And so every Airbnb is different. And so it’s like, who does the trip? And so what we’ll do is the night before, so we’re not doing it at 09:00 a.m. when we have to check out at ten. The night before, we’ll look at what do we need to do? And we’ll be like, Okay, who does what, basically?
Caroline: So then I know, Okay, I’m going to do the dishes and I’m going to pack up my stuff and Jason is going to do the trash and we’re going to do the keys together and then we’re going to be gone. And so what it does is it, because those decisions have been made when you have a little bit more faculties and you’re not pressed for time in the moment, it cuts down on so many disagreements and like…
Jason: Cuts down on the stress, especially the checking out of an Airbnb is a perfect example. It is just a stressful thing when you’re trying to corral everything and we don’t even have kids. But the other thing that it does is it avoids resentment because in the morning I could see the fact that I do more stuff in the morning before we check out besides just packing my bags and taking out the trash and you’re only doing the dishes and packing your bags. But now I’m also like collecting the towels and I’m doing all this, I’m straightening all the furniture. I’m doing all that. But we’ve agreed upon it.
Jason: And I’ve told you in some cases the night before, maybe we’re in a bigger place or whatever, I’m like, Hey, could you also help me do this? That’s just the night before checking out of the Airbnb specifically. It helps, but I think this is definitely one of those things that as we have kids, it’s going to be so important for us because we’re such a couple that wants to play fair all the time with each other, and so having these conversations can be helpful. And one we’ve already started having is about changing diapers. And it’s mostly just because I really don’t like my hands being dirty.
Caroline: It’s a thing.
Jason: It’s just like picking up our dog, Plaxico, rest in peace, his poop was like one of my least favorite activities of all time because just the chance that my hands could touch poop just was miserable for me. But for you, I’m not saying you liked it, but you just cared less.
Jason: Like, it doesn’t bother you as much. And so it’s one of those things where I’m like, what if we just nip this in the bud early on? Like, I’m obviously going to change six to eight diapers in the first year. I plan to do maybe nine, total.
Caroline: We are going to bring this conversation whenever that day comes to the podcast and don’t worry, we’re going to have a renegotiation.
Jason: The part of that for me is then, Well, what am I doing to help out? What makes it fair?
Caroline: Yeah. And it’s not that everything needs to be so transactional like that, like a negotiation. But I do think when you are running a household together and everything is a group project, the fact that you can have those conversations and each person can feel like they are getting… Their domain aligns with what their skillset is or what they want or what they dislike. Right now, I do the dishes at night, every night, and it’s because I don’t mind and it’s because Jason does so many more things quantity-wise, but he doesn’t like to do the dishes, so I do dishes. And so it’s just like every couple, I think, has to navigate those negotiations for themselves. But deciding ahead of time and putting time aside to have that conversation can be so helpful because the expectations are clear.
Caroline: Also, the diaper thing, we are definitely going to renegotiate that.
Jason: I’ll do ten diapers in the first year, so that’s less than one month. Thank you.
Caroline: I mean, if you can convince me that…
Jason: I asked you, I said, What’s the thing you want me to do? And you said, clean all the bottles and stuff.
Caroline: No, I was just throwing things out there.
Jason: That’s what you said. I have it written in terms.
Caroline: It is very telling to me that I thought that was just like a fun throwaway conversation and you’re like, Oh, no, we decided. And I think it’s because you caught me on a good day with the diaper thing, but we’re going to renegotiate that one.
Jason: I had it written in pen and ink.
Caroline: Remember in the beginning of this when I said we are not experts on a perfectly well-oiled relationship? You’re getting that real time.
Jason: Yeah. We keep podcasting into when we have kids. You all are going to really enjoy those things, I think.
Caroline: That’s gonna be conveniently when the podcast like, Oh, it’s the end of the podcast.
Jason: Just wrapping it up. So let’s talk about overcommunicating during an activity that’s hard, like driving.
Caroline: Yeah. So this is another one I noticed. You can tell communication is like the pattern here. What’s happening? What was that?
Caroline: (laughs) Sorry. I was like, Why are you blowing on your hand? Does that help?
Jason: Yeah, it just like dries your hand.
Caroline: No. Really?
Caroline: I wouldn’t know.
Jason: Yeah, it’s just hot. We turned the fan off so there wouldn’t be any noise.
Caroline: I think this probably relates to the, Where you are in the hardship scale? thing, but knowing that you’re engaging in an activity that is maybe going to be stressful or hard, communicating more than you might. So my example for that is, like, driving. Driving is an activity that can very quickly turn south because of a couple of things. We’re very different drivers. I have driving anxiety. Jason feels very confident behind the wheel, which means if it was up to you, you’d go faster, you would go more aggressively.
Caroline: You’d be fast and furious.
Caroline: And I’m just furious.
Jason: You’d be slow and furious.
Caroline: I’d be slow and furious. And so the way that we have found to get through that in a much better way is just to overcommunicate. So I’ll say things like, instead of being like, so tense and let’s say Jason doesn’t slow down, let’s say we’re on a highway, people are breaking in front of us, it’s a very accelerated brake thing. And instead of gasping or being like all tense because I don’t think he’s going to slow down fast enough, I’ll just say… I’ll kind of keep my comments to myself the first time and then I’ll say, Hey, I’m just feeling a little bit like you’re not breaking fast enough in front of that car. Do you mind keeping more… Do you mind breaking earlier? That’s what I’ll say. And it just takes a little extra effort, but just instead of trying to make my gasps and my tenseness and my body language communicate that for me, I’ll just use my words.
Jason: Yeah. And I think the other thing to mention here is that, over time, with your binocular vision dysfunction, that is a symptom of it, which is that you have a hard time judging distance.
Jason: And so, especially in the car, as cars are slowing down in front of us, you have a much harder time of understanding, Oh, we have enough time to slow down. Whereas my brain is already seeing like, Yeah, I’m seeing… And don’t get me wrong, there are certainly times when you’re like, Hey, did you see those brake lights? And I’m like, No, I was literally looking at sheep. When you’re driving in the UK, I’m distracted looking at the sheep, but there are so many times when we’re on the highway where I clearly see that we need to slow down. And I know that I can slow down fast enough, but your vision is telling you we have less space than I probably am perceiving. So, yeah, that’s helpful. And then I think the other thing for me that I’ve learned is just especially when you’re having… Well, I think this is just all the time, it’s like, I just let you know when I’m going to pass a truck or when we’re on a single lane road or a two lane road and you need to pass somebody on the opposite oncoming traffic lane, I just let you know ahead of time instead of just doing it. And I think those are two things that really help you because you don’t know what’s going on in my head, and you’re very nervous when we’re driving at all times, and so it just helps you to go, Oh okay, I’m going to prepare for the fact that we’re going to speed up to go around the car and we’re going to make this move.
Caroline: Yeah, that’s really helpful. And I think we’ve gotten a lot better at driving as a team.
Jason: I think so too. I mean, it definitely has tested us in all these roads in Europe and will continue in Portugal. Although we will say, I think we mentioned this in the Portugal episode, the roads in Portugal are so great.
Caroline: Okay, moving right along, key question.
Caroline: Do you want me to listen or do you want me to help? There’s probably some relationship expert that came up with this for the first time. I’m sorry, I don’t know their name. We learned this from a friend who probably learned it from someone else. But this is a key and crucial question when, let’s say someone is having a crisis or a hard day or something, and they’re venting. And so the other partner who’s trying to bring support and not to genderise this, but I do think men probably have a harder time with this because on the whole, I think the idea’s that you are supposed to fix it. And so let’s say I’m complaining to you and I’m saying, Oh, this happened, and then I got this email, blah, blah. And then your response would be, Do you want me to listen or do you want me to help?
Jason: My response would be, You checked the email?
Caroline: So by him asking that, it’s so crucial because a lot of times it’s like, No, I just want someone to be here with me and witness this feeling that I’m having. I just want you to allow me this space to feel my feelings. I don’t need you to fix it. In fact, a lot of times, if I need to vent and you come at me with solutions, it feels like you’re dismissing my feelings.
Jason: Yeah, and not as many times as you, I think just in the nature of how we operate in the world. But I have brought this up to you, and you’ve brought back a fix, and I’ve been like, I don’t want that. And so I actually understood what that feels like from your side of like, I don’t need this to be fixed right now. I’m just frustrated and I want to share this with you. And so I think that does help. And then I think the other thing that has really helped and did we hear this from a podcast or something? But just this phrase of, How can I best support you right now? It has been really helpful for us because especially and again, going back to who I am in the relationship and who Caroline is. I’m the very non-emotional, I don’t always have a ton of empathy, I don’t know the right thing to say or do. And a lot of times you need a lot more care.
Caroline: Yeah, and to be fair to you, I have a very complex and rich emotional landscape, and so it’s really hard to know what I need.
Jason: And it’s not even about you. I’m just saying, especially in a relationship, when the people are polar opposite in their empathy, emotion, et cetera, this is super helpful because I can ask this question. And again, it goes back to saying, Well, just, shouldn’t you know? She’s an emotional person, like, have more common sense, that she needs more emotion? But I don’t think that way. It’s like telling a computer to do a problem that it doesn’t and has never seen before and can’t do. And it’s like you have to keep showing it over and over again. Like, you got to figure this out. I got to figure this out.
Caroline: Yeah. And I don’t always know what I need. So it’s a good question to ask because then it gives me an opportunity to check in with myself.
Jason: Yeah. This example, too, it surprised me because I didn’t know this was going to be the answer, and you’re going to tell them in a second. But I was like, Oh, I wouldn’t have thought that you needed…
Caroline: Yeah. So the example he’s referring to is, and it coincides well with this episode, but when we were in the Windmill, my beautiful and wonderful grandmother, Betty, who is 97 years old and lived the fullest of full lives, and truly, when people say, like, she’s an inspiration to me, she’s an inspiration to me, but she passed away. And like I said, she lived 97 wonderfully full years. But it was still sad because we had chats every single week for the past two years, starting in the pandemic we would FaceTime every week. And so she wasn’t just my grandmother. She was my friend. She was more my friend than my grandmother, actually. And so I had to grieve, even though I knew that this was happening and I knew it was probably happening soon, there was still grief there, of course. And so after I found out, I got off the phone, and Jason and I talked about it for a little while.
Jason: And it wasn’t a surprise either.
Caroline: Exactly. It wasn’t a surprise, but I was feeling this range of emotions, and Jason said, How can I best support you right now? Do you want me to be with you? Because I said, I think I want to go outside on the deck and just sit for a while. And so I just watched the sunset and just, like, sat and felt my feelings, and I cried, and it was great, but Jason was like, Do you want me to come out there with you, or do you need to be alone? And I said, I think I just want to be alone. And so it was him asking, How can I best support you? That allowed me to check in with myself and go, I do think I just really want to be alone with my feelings and have just some privacy to feel that range, which isn’t always my answer.
Jason: Of course, which is why I think it’s good to continue to ask these questions.
Jason: Especially any of these are questions just over and over again throughout time.
Caroline: So that one is helpful for us, especially, like Jason said, when we’re coming from two polar ends of the emotional spectrum. The next one is just a phrase that we use when we’re sharing feelings with each other, especially when we’re sharing feelings with each other of maybe like how the other person did something that… Hurtful is a very strong word. Like, that said something or did something that hurt our feelings or made us feel some type of way. But if we want to share that with the other person, it’s hard, because if you’re sharing that, you want to share how you felt, but it can very quickly turn to the other person getting defensive.
Caroline: Because it can feel accusatory, like, you hurt me on purpose, which is never like, we have an understanding that I know that you’re never hurting me on purpose, or you’re never like, that’s an understood trust. So if I’m sharing something with you, that something you said made me feel a certain way, it’s not because I want you to think that I think you hurt me on purpose. It’s just because I need to share with you what’s happening in my emotional landscape. And so a phrase that we use often is, Hey, don’t take this as a criticism. We’ll say that a lot. Or like, This isn’t a criticism of you, but when you said, But when you do X, Y and Z, or when you said X, Y, and Z, it made me feel this way. And by hearing that simple intro to that phrase, it doesn’t always work, but it can…
Jason: Yeah, sometimes it puts you on edge that it feels like it’s going to be a criticism, but you know from the other person’s perspective, they’re really trying not to make you feel bad.
Jason: I think that’s the key, because I think in relationships, there are just times when you want the other person to feel bad because they’ve done something that’s hurt you. They’ve done something that made you not feel good.
Caroline: Right. Not saying that that’s a good thing, but it’s just an unconscious thing that you’re doing.
Jason: Yeah. And so this becomes a way of, like, I really don’t want you to feel bad, but just I need you to know that you did this thing and it made me feel this way.
Caroline: Yeah. And it can be helpful because it can be like, Oh, okay. It’s a clue to me to basically pause and wait for my first defensive reaction to pass so that I can receive what they’re saying and I can focus more, not on how it makes me feel that I need to defend myself and more on my partner sharing something with me, and I want to hear it.
Jason: And I think nine times out of ten, it really does, it sets you up to have this armor on that you’re like, Okay, yeah, that wasn’t that bad. It kind of bounced off me, what you said.
Jason: As opposed to just, like, you saying a thing, and then you’re like, I didn’t have any armor on. Ouch. Ow. Ow.
Caroline: Yeah, for sure. All right, just a few more here. So another phrase that we use a lot is, I’m spent.
Jason: This is “we”?
Caroline: Okay. Another phrase that I use a lot…
Jason: That’s not to make you feel bad.
Caroline: That’s not true. You remember when we did the drive here and you said, I’m spent.
Jason: Oh, yeah. That was the first time this year where I was just, like, more tired than Caroline and just had no energy.
Caroline: So put that on the board. But this one is just a phrase to say basically, like, I’m at the bottom of the barrel. And it just means, like, Hey, I don’t have any of my normal… Literally, it’s the phrase that means I’m not going to use any of the things on this list because I don’t have the patience to communicate in an effective way. So please don’t take anything that I do or say in the next little bit personally. And for me, it just means that I’m at the end of my fuse.
Jason: Yeah. And what’s really interesting about how we’re different in that moment is where I’m spent, I just go, like, completely shut down mode, and I don’t talk, I don’t do anything. I have nothing left. And that’s where I exist. I’m like a blob. Where you go is you just have no filters. So you’ll still talk, you’ll still do things, but there’s no filter to cut through things. And so it’s different the way that we…
Caroline: Yeah. It presents very impatient and irritated.
Jason: Yeah. And it’s just good to know because I’m like, Okay, she’s not actually mad at me for whatever.
Caroline: Exactly. She just has no resources left.
Jason: Yeah. And for you to know, the one time this year, I’m just a blob. Leave me alone.
Caroline: Right. He’s not ignoring me. He’s just has spent.
Jason: Literally has nothing left.
Caroline: So yeah. So we’ll say, I’m spent, and that’s a good one.
Jason: And I’m sorry, I hope this doesn’t come off as me criticizing Caroline for having less ability to do hard things this year, or less energy, or less ability to work through the tough things that you go through. It’s more just to share the reality of how we operate differently in the world.
Caroline: That’s very sweet of you, but I do not take it as a criticism because we just have a very pragmatic… I would say our outlook in relationships, and maybe this is where we’re a good match for each other, is very pragmatic. That’s where we can find common ground, is to say, like, I’m not hurt by you acknowledging that I have energy limitations and I need all of these phrases so that we can operate in a relationship. It’s just pragmatic. It is what it is. Thank you for saying that. That’s sweet.
Jason: Two more things here. So the next one is one that we popped up a couple of years ago.
Caroline: Yeah. Boy, we have tried to solve this problem in all different types of ways.
Jason: There’s like this one…
Caroline: Be careful. I need you to be careful.
Jason: There’s, like, this one recurring thing that pops up that we have not figured out how to specifically have us both navigate it. And it’s just your hormone cycle, and it’s just how, and that’s not me bringing this up as a criticism of women and they have hormones and blah, none of that. It does fluctuate and change slightly. So it’s not like something we can say on the 8th of every month, Caroline is going to be sharp and she’s going to be curt. And that has nothing to do with anything that’s going on with me or her. It’s just her internal body is doing a thing and her filters are down. But the problem is it’s a bit of a moving target.
Caroline: It’s a lot of moving target.
Jason: Exactly. And so it’s just been this thing over the course of our relationship that we know it’s this area of a certain time of month, but it’s very hard to know exactly what could be triggering it, because there could just be times when I’m being an a-hole.
Caroline: Well, yeah.
Jason: And it’s running into that close time and so I’ll defensively, just be like, Oh, well, maybe you’re in the cloudy part of the thing and you’re like, I’m not in the cloudy part of it.
Caroline: Yeah, well, thankfully, you don’t use the phrase, like, Is it that time of the month?
Jason: No, I don’t say that.
Caroline: That’s extremely triggering.
Jason: Did you think I was going to say that when we started this?
Caroline: No, no, but I just think every person knows that that is like the cardinal sin. Don’t say that. But we’ve developed language that very closely means that, and there is some truth to it, because for the way that it shows up, for me, it’s just like one week before my cycle starts is always this one day. It’s honestly one day where, for me, it shows up in this like Jason was saying, it basically is like I’m spent for the whole day because I’m irritable. Jason likes to use the word sharp, which I think is a very good word for it. I’m just sharp. I just am like, it’s not like happy-go-lucky Caroline. It’s like anything you do is irritating.
Jason: Well, yeah. I’ll be like, Do you want to go get coffee? And it’d be like, Why would I want to go get coffee? I’m like, Oh, I don’t know, because it’s like a delicious bean that gets roasted and then put in water and it tastes good? It’s silly because (coughs)… Sorry, my laughing gets the cough going. It’s silly because the next day we can then look back and laugh and be like, Wow, that was just like…
Caroline: Totally. But what’s hard, the hardest part I mean, God, it’s been twelve years now, every month for twelve years. But the hardest part about it is what would happen is, this is even before I started tracking anything. So I think that was the hardest time because I just had no awareness of what was happening. Then I started tracking my cycle. It got a little bit easier because I could sort of see it coming. But what would happen is you would say like, Hey.
Jason: I’m noticing you’re being…
Caroline: I’m noticing you’re being… But in the moment, I would not want to admit that I was like, we used to call it cloudy because my little, like, I used to use the Clue app and it would show cloudy. I would not want to admit that I was cloudy because to me that was an admission of like… To me, by admitting it, it felt like I was invalidating whatever feelings I had. And anyone who’s experienced like, hormone fluctuations, you know that the feelings are real, it’s just the amplification of them. And so I never liked to say that I was cloudy because it felt like, Oh, you’re just going to dismiss any feelings that I have as being that. And then sometimes you would say it like I said, where it was not actually around them, and it would really piss me off because I’d be like, No, you can’t just wash everything away by saying that it’s that. But then other times I’d be like, No. Oh crap, I’d go look at my calendar. I’d be like, Oh, he’s right, it’s the day. And so we found the thing that we’ve been trying lately, which I do think is working.
Jason: Yeah, I think it is too.
Caroline: Is I do track now. I just use the cycle tracking app on Apple now because it’s like helpful with my Apple Watch and stuff like that. I do miss some of the features from Clue, but anyway, I’ll track on there and then I will add it to Jason’s calendar. So I will add each phase. And I really love the seasons metaphor. And again, I think I’ll get all the hormones wrong, but basically…
Jason: You could just do it in the seasons so you don’t have to do like…
Caroline: Right, so winter would be like, okay, when you’re bleeding. And then after that it would be like spring. And this is when your hormones kind of like pick back up again. And I don’t know which hormones or whatever, but the hormone that picks back up as your energy starts to kind of increase again. So that will be like spring and then there’s, like, your five to seven days of summer, which is like, where you’re ovulating, which is like, you’re on top of the world. I am super Carol when I’m ovulating. I am just, like, feeling myself, and I have a lot of energy, and I can handle anything.
Jason: That had to have been the past five days.
Caroline: It was. That’s exactly what it was. And then now I’m like, Oh, we should have recorded yesterday. And then after that is fall, and that’s sort of like, now your hormone is dipping again until you’re kind of, like, going back into that. Again, I’m not a scientist or doctor.
Jason: Yeah. You’re definitely not a scientist.
Caroline: But I have read books, and I find it really helpful. And so that’s like your fall and then into the winter, right? So I’ll put each of those four seasons on Jason’s calendar so that he, again, it’s just like where you are on the hardship scale. He knows when that’s coming up so that I don’t have to say it in that moment, but he can kind of just go, like, okay, if she’s sharp the next day or so in this little window, it’s not about me. It’s not about what’s going on. It is just, it is what it is.
Jason: Yeah. It’s just like, my life in existence has been run through Google Calendar forever, and it’s just because it works perfectly for my brain. Like, whatever system works perfectly for your brain, whether you’re a journaling person, whether you’re a Google Calendar, Asana, Notion, whatever it is, that thing works for me. So putting it in there, my brain can now go, Oh okay, I now know what’s going on. And so it just is a really helpful thing for me that when I literally look at it every day, that’s on my calendar, and I go, okay, where is Carol? She’s in the fall, so she’s going to want to be a little more comforting. She’s going to want to have more cozy stuff. She wants to have more tea, and just, like, she’ll probably be a little bit less active and just not want to do stuff, which is totally fine, but it’s good for me to know that because, again, it is a little bit of a moving target. Like, it moves every month slightly, and you just don’t know.
Caroline: Yeah. And everyone’s cycle is different, right.
Jason: And even there are months when yours are different. There are some months where it’s like, summer never existed, spring never existed. We just lived in fall. But there’s somewhere you’re like, Oh, wow, this was like a full summer month. And I think that in those times, it’s just really helpful to again acknowledge that that’s going on, and it goes back again to, like, my brain doesn’t understand those things.
Jason: All right.
Caroline: That’s going to be different for every couple of how you deal with that. But for us, that’s helped.
Jason: Let’s finish off with the rules of engagement, and we appreciate and hope you enjoyed listening to all these tiny relationship things and we have one more for you.
Caroline: So this one’s probably the most important because it’s just like the one that goes through everything, and it’s just the rules of engagement when you disagree. And we didn’t do this verbally early on in our relationship, but it just happened naturally. But over time, we’ve kind of put words to it. But it just means, like, what are the things that you both agree to as a partnership that you will not do even when you’re fighting, even when you’re disagreeing? And so for us, I mentioned it before, but we don’t raise our voices. I think there’s been two times that I can think of when I have, quote, unquote, raised my voice in an argument. And when I tell you it’s like, it’s at this level.
Jason: Pull the mic away if you’re going to get loud.
Caroline: Well, it’s literally at this level. It’s like, I wish you would listen to… That’s the level of it. Okay? We don’t yell, we don’t slam doors, and I’m not trying to pass judgment on other people and how they fight. That’s not what this is at all. It’s just the most important thing is that you’re on the same page about how to engage in disagreements and that you’re clear for each other on what is triggering. So for both of us, yelling is triggering.
Jason: Yeah, it came from childhood trauma.
Caroline: It comes from childhood trauma. It is not helpful for either of us because we go to complete trauma response mode, and neither one of us can communicate at that point. So very early on, like, we just never raised our voices. We don’t name call because to me, those are things that you can’t take back.
Jason: Unless they’re cute names.
Caroline: Yeah, you little…
Jason: You little pumpkin pie.
Caroline: Oh, I don’t like it. We don’t do that because I do not like that.
Jason: All right, tried it, didn’t work out. Some of these things don’t work out.
Caroline: But definitely no name calling. Definitely no you’re so stupid. None of that. And that’s just because you can’t take those things back, and that will cause a crack of resentment and contempt that you can never recover from, I think. And then we also try to avoid, I don’t know, I think I learned this from, like, a relationship book or something like that, but we tried to avoid you always or you never. And it can be really hard because when you are in a disagreement and it’s going to a place where like, Oh, it was this tiny thing, and now we’re having a bigger conversation about our relationship, I think the human instinct is to do this extrapolation thing where you go, You always do this. You… And it’s like when you say always or never, it very much feels like you’re telling the other person, this is a core part of your identity that I’m criticizing right now. And instead of dissociating it from the person and saying, This action is something that I don’t like about the way that we’re engaging around this, you’re now making it about the person and it’s hard to come back from that as well. So we try to avoid that. And then for us, and again, every couple, I think partnership is different around this, but for us, it’s okay to walk away or to cool down or to take five. But we always try to bring closure to an argument.
Jason: And I think the walk away or take five, the important note there is it’s not a…
Caroline: Storm off.
Jason: It’s not a, I’m going to go take five and I can’t be in this argument. It’s like, No, I’m sorry, that’s not going to work. We say it is like, You can’t leave the table, right? You need to stay at the table. But if we both agree, like, Hey, we’ve gotten to an impasse here, let’s take a break and let’s come back to this because we want to sort this out, that’s okay, but it’s just a hard and fast rule. Like you can’t leave the table. We have to work on this together. And I think we have gotten so good at that over time. And I can think of a couple of times, maybe not this year as much because we just haven’t had time to argue. But it’s like in previous times where we run into this similar impasse in our relationship and then we’ll just sit in silence in the same area for like five to ten minutes.
Caroline: Like, Yup, we’re at the table.
Jason: Because we’re not, like, neither of us want to leave, but neither of us know how to solve it in that moment. And then we just take the five to ten minutes of awkward silence and then we’re like, Okay, I think I have a way that we can work through this. Or just like, Here’s how I have been thinking for the past couple of minutes.
Caroline: And for us, I think with that, I’m just sort of unpacking this now. But I think what’s so important about that for us is that, even if you don’t know how to move forward through an argument, the fact that the other person is demonstrating their commitment to the relationship by being, by staying in that moment with you, it builds trust in the relationship. Even twelve years later, it builds trust in the relationship because, as life gets harder, as life gets more complicated, if you trust that the other person is committed to making it work, to me, that’s what a foundation of like a strong partnership or marriage, if that’s what the relationship is. For us, it makes me feel so secure in our relationship because I go, Oh, I know that Jason is not going to be at a place where he is going to give up on our relationship just when it gets hard because he’s demonstrated it to me over and over and over and over again that he’s willing to sit in the hard moments with me there. And so that’s just for us. And again, if you’re a type of person that has all different types of triggers and maybe you need to have the flexibility to be able to walk away so that you can feel safe and you can go gather yourself, like, if that works for your relationship, totally, that’s great. But for us, I think that value of commitment and demonstrating commitment builds trust. And so that’s why those are our rules of engagement. But regardless, I think it’s important to set up the rules of engagement so that…
Jason: You’re on the same page.
Caroline: Yeah, you fight fair and you fight clean and you fight in a way that makes your relationship better, not worse.
Jason: We hope you enjoyed those tiny things. If you have any in you’re in a relationship, or even you’re not in a relationship and you just have ones for yourself, feel free to send them to us. Just would be fun to hear what works for you, [email protected] Always curious to hear what resonates. Maybe if you’re going to steal any of these, maybe if you’ve heard them do some of these over the years and you use them in your relationship, let us know what sticks. But that’s it. We appreciate your time and peanut earbuds, and we’ll be back next week. Okay.
Caroline: Thanks for listening.