Drs. Rob and Janelle have been married for 12 years. One year and one week to the day after their first date they said their vows aboard a pirate ship off the coast of Florida with two of their sons. Rob’s son is 19 and Janelle’s son is just a few months younger and will be 19 this spring. Together they have a son, who will turn 8 in just a few weeks. Since late 2009 they have been helping couples as relationship and intimacy experts and helping them blend their spirituality with their sexuality. You can connect with them at their website: Mission Date Night.
How did you first meet?
We actually met via an online dating service. Unbeknownst to us we only lived a mile apart, and our families had known each other for decades.
What was your first date? Why did you keep dating?
We did the typical dinner and a movie though we actually don’t recommend that. It was a few weeks before we went out again. We were both seeing other people still, and it took a bit before an exclusive relationship between us was formed.
What was your most meaningful date ever and what made it so outstanding?
The following summer after we started dating we flew to Cancun, Mexico for a week long date. The second night we were there we took moonlit walk along the beach. Rob had Janelle listen to “Walk Forever By My Side” by the Alarm. We stopped by a huge rock with the waves gently caressing the shore and Rob proposed.
How do other people describe you as a couple?
Often we hear people say that they believe we are a perfect couple, we are inspiring, we are role models, we work as one unit, we are a ton of fun to talk to and that we make such a beautiful couple. Now, mind you, we do not believe we are perfect – not by a long shot, but we love and respect each other deeply. Ultimately, that is a huge key.
What is a major challenge, disappointment or roadblock that you have successfully addressed together? How would you advise another couple facing a similar thing?
Janelle started her first company at the age of 19. She sold that business – a dance studio – 15 years later. Rob started his entrepreneurial journey at 16. Just a year and a half after we married we bought the business that had been in Rob’s family since the 60s. Together, we successfully ran this business – a bowling center – until the economic crisis. Due to the impact of that on our small community we had to close that business in 2010. Ultimately, we lost everything – our business, our rental properties, our home, our car. We lived in a slightly renovated garage for two years.
In the midst of all of this, graduate educations were under way and we were moving toward helping couples. Why? Well, for one thing, we most certainly knew how to face extreme hardships and become closer as a couple than ever before versus playing the blame game and ending up in divorce court.
Going from being affluent in your community to having to use WIC vouchers to get milk and a few other foods for your child is exceptionally humbling and challenging. We had to trust in each other and the decisions that we made moving forward. Accepting our individual responsibility in the decisions we had already made that had led us to the situation we were in was a huge reason we survived. More than that, we connected with each on a deeply profound level. Practicing what we teach others is what held us together and, in fact, made us grow closer as a couple than ever before.
What has contributed most to your understanding of what a healthy marriage is?
That no one needs to be “right” or “wrong”. Once we let go of the need to be right and learned how to accept that we could both be right in our own view of what was real or true for each of us we made leaps and bounds in our emotional bond. What may feel absolutely true for one of us may very well not seem to be true for the other. Respecting one another’s perceptions is still sometimes challenging, but we know how deeply important this is.
Tell us about an “Aha!” moment that you have had in your marriage and how that has helped you become a better spouse.
Finding love and compassion for ourselves helped us become better people and better spouses. Standing firm in who we are as individuals and relishing in how we can blend those individual energies together to create what we call the “blended spirit”. This “aha” came about during the time of our deep financial strife.
What is something you do on a regular basis that increases the strength and vitality of your relationship?
Touching one another is huge! It doesn’t not need to be sexual touch though that is special and very powerful. Just holding hands, touching one another’s arm or back, sharing a gentle kiss, or giving a warm hug are all factors that keep our love alive and well. When the non-sexual touch is regular the level of intimacy is already strengthened, and this leads to a healthier sex life.
What do you most look forward to doing with your spouse in the years to come?
Laughing, talking, pondering fascinating topics, hanging out on the beach drinking a beer or a glass of wine are all things we look forward to. We, also, look forward to continuing to spread the message of loving and respecting and honoring your partner for years and years to come.
What would you do if you only had an hour free for a date?
Well, there are two things we might do. One is picking one of our Mission Date Night Adventures and either starting it (completing part of it) or planning it all out as to when we could complete the mission. Of course, for us it might actually mean creating a new MDN Adventure for other couples.
Our second choice would be to just sit outside on a warm sunny day and talk about deeply profound topics – metaphysical topics, paranormal topics, spiritual possibilities or we might just quote lines from our favorite movies and have an entire conversation – laughing until we cried.
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