Carrie and I got married on June 1, 2002. I was 23 and she was 22.
Our story began five years before, it was the winter quarter of my freshman year in college.
Her brother Derick and I were traveling from Cedar City, Utah to Logan, Utah for a sorority dance.
It was a long drive and we used his parent’s house in Draper, Utah to break up the trip.
During the drive, Derick, a senior in college, was telling me about how girls always tell him how good he looks and they didn’t need to, because he already knew.
In my mind, I thought, shit, I’d love to hear that (especially as an uncertain, insecure freshman).
His confidence, some may call it arrogance… lol, followed him all the way to his parent’s house, where we arrived three hours later.
Derick and I had met almost two years before during a summer program called Governor’s Honors Academy where I was a participant and he was a counselor.
I looked up to him.
He is an amazing man.
Now, in my freshman year of college, we had become friends and I even joined his fraternity.
As we walked into his parent’s house, I was intimidated.
Coming from a rural coal mining town, there were no homes like this where I grew up…
I was in awe.
Then his mom comes walking out to greet us with a little Maltese dog named “Princess” in her arms.
“How pretentious… these rich sons a bitches,” I thought to myself.
I remained quiet.
Derick showed me my room downstairs and turned on a big-screen TV for me to enjoy while he caught up with his family.
She had just finished a little conversation with her brother, where Derick told her something to the effect of “I did well with the ladies” and she translated that to “Garrett thinks he’s God’s gift to women” Her mind defaulted to something like “I’ll show him.
She walks in, grabs the remote from the table, changes the channel, and doesn’t say a word or even glance my way.
Again, I’m feeling intimidated and therefore shy, yet she sees me as arrogant.
We didn’t speak a word to each other in that first encounter, but that wasn’t the end of it.
To make matters worse, when she moved to Cedar City, to attend the same University as her brother, and me, it turns out her roommate had a crush on me (or maybe a bit more), and I didn’t reciprocate.
More evidence of me being an asshole.
It wasn’t until Christmas break of her Freshman year, that everything changed, at least for me.
My best friend and college roommate Anthony and I were meeting up at his parent’s house in Draper, Utah. The same city as Derick and Carrie’s parents.
Anthony wanted to go visit Carrie at work, at KMART.
Surprised, I said, “Derick’s sister, really?”
Anthony was driving, so I was along for the ride.
We tracked her down in the break room.
She was excited to see us, or at least to see him.
She was playful.
Such great energy and a wonderful smile.
I hadn’t seen this side of her before.
And while she joking around and talking to us in her red dorky KMart vest, my mind said…
I love that girl.
Wha, Waaa, Wait… Wait, that makes no sense.
I am only 19 years old.
This is my buddy’s sister.
We haven’t even really talked.
I don’t understand.
On the drive back to Cedar City that night, there was a major accident on I-15 south and the freeway was shut down. So, Anthony and I got out, climbed up onto the hood of his Isuzu Rodeo SUV, and looked up at the stars. I had been thinking about Carrie for the previous few hours of the drive and admitted to Anthony, I could really love a girl like that.
What I really meant was…
I love her.
That she was that girl.
I didn’t know all the reasons why, we had barely spoken, but I just knew.
That night was the only time I spoke of it… for years.
Looking up at the stars and in a vulnerable moment.
But then, out of fear, I kept those feelings and thoughts to myself.
For the next year, I found any excuse to hang out with Carrie.
We became close friends.
To this day, she claims she had no idea that I loved her.
Well, let’s look at a few facts:
That year, I saved her at a “relay for life” charity event when someone was hitting on her by giving her an excuse to get away.
I canceled dates anytime she wanted to hang out. This happened more than once.
But the most obvious one being…
One night I heard she was coming to a party at my friend’s house. I immediately canceled my date. After Carrie arrived, she wanted to walk to a convenience store, get a drink, and I dropped everything to go with her. On the walk, I said, if you aren’t married by 30, we should get married, as I was trying to hold her hand. She awkwardly grabbed her friend Leanna’s hand to prevent it from seeming romantic.
Yeah, no signs at all.
I love sharing the story of how we met.
It is, however, harder to share the story of the first half of our marriage though.
We were young in age and I was even younger in maturity.
We have been married for 20 years, the best 20 of my life and maybe the best 7 of hers.
I’m partially joking, but the reality was, I had a lot to learn.
My identity was wrapped up in the success of my business and my self-worth was directly tied to my net worth.
Sure, I lied and said I was doing it all for my family, but it was to try and fill some void of value that I mistakenly thought money could provide.
Our first year may have been the hardest on Carrie.
Rather than getting the romantic husband she had fallen in love with when we dated, I was so focused on every single dollar we spent and how to budget, that there was no room for fun and it created stress and fighting.
Even when that phase ended, I worked every chance I could.
Traveling the country to speak, learn, and grow… my business that is.
My wife recalls that she felt alone, that she might as well have been single. She was going to so many weddings, family functions, or hangouts without me.
And when I actually was home, I was tired. I had given all I had, to everyone but the person I loved.
It is hard to admit.
I don’t like writing about it.
But hard times can lead to big breakthroughs.
Sometimes the pain is what finally gets our attention.
It did for me.
I remember the first weekend in August of 2009.
I was only home for a short time before getting on the next flight.
The real estate and economic meltdown had taken its toll and wreaked havoc on my life and finances.
I was barely hanging on.
Working every waking moment and thinking about work in the middle of the night.
But I didn’t know just how much of a negative impact “work” had on my family.
Carrie and I had two young kids. And our oldest was experiencing significant challenges.
Carrie felt alone in this battle.
But she was ready to take a stand for our entire family and do whatever it took for our son.
She asked, “why is it you take care of everyone before you take care of us”?
She told me she was exhausted and scared and didn’t know what to do.
I remember where she was in the hall when she said it.
I remember the look on her face, the tone of her voice, and the feeling throughout my body as she spoke the words…
” What about us? This isn’t what you promised, this isn’t what I signed up for.”
Just the year before, I launched a book, started a book tour, and invested money and time, to make it a NY Times Bestseller, without consideration of anything or anyone else. That combined with a tough economy led to no paycheck from the business that entire year as everything was being reinvested. All the hard work and “sacrifice” ended up creating more problems, not more wealth. It was less time with the family, lots of leverage, and far too many broken promises.
The low point came when Carrie reached out to her mom for money in order to pay for my son’s social group and counseling.
Carrie wanted to know when our son would come first, and when she would be the priority.
I felt like a failure.
I was working so hard to make money.
Working hard in things I didn’t love doing like hard money lending, real estate, and oil investments.
There was no passion or purpose other than to get rich.
And all of this wasn’t an opportunity, but a distraction that was destructive for my family.
Carrie calling me out was the pivotal conversation that led to redefining success, redefining my priorities, and finally going all in on investing in what really mattered, my family.
It was now time to take so much of what I had learned that allowed me to grow an INC 500 firm and hit the NY Times Bestsellers list and apply that to my marriage, to my family.
I had invested so much time and money in having a mission and vision statement, identifying values, and doing retreats in my business, but not for my family. Setting up regular meetings. Getting regular feedback. All these things worked in business, why not with my family, with my wife?
But before having any of this, there was a lot to repair. I liken it to being in debt financially. I was in debt from all the conversations I didn’t have, and the times I wasn’t there.
Enter the do-over.
Relationships are dynamic, complex even.
Often people fight.
When emotions are involved and especially if you add the element of kids, pandemics, politics, or differences of opinion, it can create contention.
But when a fight keeps coming up over and over, or there is a lot to recover from like in my case, maybe it is time for a do-over.
A do-over is something to be used sparingly.
When emotion gets the best of you.
Or when you are stuck in a pattern and finally realize or have a new awareness.
A do-over is different from an apology.
It is what you would do if given the chance to do something over again.
Asking for a do-over is the path to healing.
Accepting a do-over is a lasting act of forgiveness and love.
Letting something go, to create anew.
I asked for a do-over August 7th 2009.
I had been on the road, and I wasn’t emotionally available as a husband and father, so the do-over was the start.
But how would I see it through and change the behavior?
Well, it required immediate action as well.
It was this plan that changed everything.
First, we started meeting every week.
Carrie and I had a scheduled meeting on the books to discuss what was happening during the week, the schedule, challenges, opportunities, and planning. Initially, this meeting came with some emotion. Some fighting at times. I especially remember one outburst at the office that I am sure all the employees heard too.
Bottling up and numbing out has some long-term consequences, so realize, things come up and emotions may be part of the process.
I treated this meeting as sacred.
Nothing could be scheduled during that time.
This wasn’t a meeting that could be moved for anything else.
By doing our weekly meeting, it was the beginning of unlocking an epic love affair with my wife. Listening, giving space to cover important topics, and knowing what to do better.
In this meeting, we would rank how we were doing.
Carrie, on a scale of 1-10 how am I doing as a husband?
What would it take to go from X to 10?
For Carrie, a nine meant there was likely one adjustment that needed to be made. Eight meant there were more things to discuss and potentially some emotion involved. A seven or less meant there were major issues.
In business, it is smart to look for feedback from our customers, but I had been avoiding it at all costs in my marriage. Getting results requires being rooted in reality. Even if you don’t like that reality for now.
We would also talk about logistics, money, and projects. And as time went on, we were able to start dreaming in these meetings. Where did we want to travel? What did we want to do before we die? It went from a necessity to something we enjoyed, even savored.
We would listen to records and have a coffee. Not in the beginning, but over time, it took time, but the best investment I’ve made to date.
In this meeting we invented our future, we created our lives together. We came up with our guidelines for good living.
Some of those guidelines included:
If I traveled more than 4 nights per month, I took a day off during the week for every night gone beyond 4.
Carrie and I would have 14 nights away from the kids per year.
Done with work by 6 pm on 4 of the 5 workdays.
No computer in our bedroom, leave work in the office.
A certain amount of money in cash value for Carrie to feel safe and secure.
Always have a trip on the books. Something to look forward to. We have always felt that the trip starts when we book it. So, this became a secret ingredient to our happiness.
That is a question we ask regularly: What are the ingredients for a great marriage?
- Listening and respect
- Date Nights
- Daily Rituals
- Time together and time away with friends
- Pillow talk or time in the hot tub instead of TV
For the first decade of our marriage, I didn’t have a vision as a husband.
Without vision, it is easy to get lost in routine, to become average or ordinary and uninspired. Work goals can start to replace romance.
For me, it was easy to overcommit to work and neglect my family. The consequences of neglect weren’t easy, but society pushes us towards work and financial goals, often at the expense of what matters most.
A NY Times and INC 500 mediocre husband.
Yeah, let that set in.
What makes a bio rarely makes a life.
It is in those quiet moments of feeling loved and content that I am most present, that I am most fulfilled. Yet all the external pressures, all the external validation, all of the societal success had taken precedence over what I knew deep down that wanted December 1998 in K-Mart.
I had lost my way.
Until I declared my vision as a husband – to be an extraordinary husband and premiere romantic.
Time with family, traditions, travel, great dates, great dinners including cooking together, coffee, walks, cuddling, concerts together, and lots of laughing.
These happen to be our ingredients for a great marriage, but what are yours?
For me, this is the greatest accomplishment of my life, my marriage.
I cherish time with my wife, sharing all that I am and all that I hope to be, including my imperfections.
That place where she knows me, and loves me for me.