The stresses of the economy and career pressures are topping the list of what is causing couples to split.
But somehow some marriages grow stronger in these trying times.
One couple who have worked together for nearly a decade in the stressful world of theater, producing Off-Broadway plays, have decided to share their secrets.
“In part, it is because we work together that our bond has strengthened after 10 years of marriage,” says Jamillah Lamb, co-author along with her husband, David, of Perfect Combination: Seven Key Ingredients to Happily Living & Loving Together.
The couple has worked together professionally in their stage company, Between The Lines Productions, Inc., for nine years. But the Lambs say even couples who aren’t business partners are working together every day; because being in any relationship requires negotiating, compromising, and decision-making. Just think about the last time you had to decide whose mother’s house you were going to for Christmas or where you were going to go for vacation or even which movie you were going to see last weekend.
“We get more opportunity to grow together because, between home and work, we’re making 100 decisions a day instead of 10,” Jamillah says.
The couple lives by their guiding rule, “Love like kids, act like adults.”
Here’s our insightful interview with them…
Celebzter: When you say “Love like Kids”, “Act Like Adults”, what essentially does that mean?
Jamillah & David: We have all been blessed to see how openly and beautifully children love, without fear of rejection or embarrassment. Seeing this, we can’t help but break into big, broad smiles when a child expresses their love. Despite these broad smiles, however, most of us turn our own love lives into a Quentin Tarantino movie and “get medieval,” “get even,” and “get over”. We forget to love the way we once did, instead we build massive, reinforced fortresses around our hearts to protect us from hurt. Complete with moats (baggage from past relationships) and knights (friends and family who, filled with their own past relationship baggage, advise us to protect ourselves and not open ourselves). Unfortunately, while we believe these fortresses protect us, in reality they are prisons that imprison our love and leave us unable to genuinely give and receive love.
We say no more, it is time to make the greatest prison break since Shawshank Redemption.
Here’s an example, we playfully call this the screaming greeting. When a small child is happy to see you walk through the door, you don’t have to guess about it the joy comes out as their little voices rise and they run and hug you. Now have you ever come home after a long-day at work and greeted the one you love without any greeting at all or worse yet a grumpy greeting, each of you distracted by the mail, the work day, the television, the phone or the thousand and one other things that distract us. Well—stop it! That is merely a façade another way of putting a fortress around your heart to protect yourself, but instead has turned into a prison inhibiting your love. Next time the one you love comes home after a long day of work greet them with the enthusiasm that your love deserves: run up, hug them and shout out your love for them. It will shake off the blues and bring you closer, you will find yourself cheered up and longing for them even more.
Celebzter: A lot of couples working together, actually signals the end of their relationship, but for you two, working together has made it stronger. How has this come about?
Jamillah & David: Originally we planned to produce our play, Platanos Y Collard Greens, for one weekend in June 2003. We both had full-time jobs and thought that it would be a fun thing to do on the side, but when the audiences came that first weekend, they fell in love with the show and it took over our lives.
Suddenly we were managing a company of twenty actors and dealing with drama on and off-stage. We had to learn how to manage people and not let the stress of doing that damage our relationship. Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends & Influence People became a handbook for managing people and surprisingly we learned things that improved our relationship, one very important thing we learned is that people crave appreciation. When we first began working together we didn’t appreciate that fully and would sometimes take each other for granted without even realizing it. Once we learned this lesson in business we began making sure that we showed each other how much we appreciated each other, and it made our relationship better.
Celebzter: Why do you think divorce rates are so high now?
Jamillah & David: One of the things we stress is that being in a relationship is about being able to let yourself grow. What we’ve learned is that you have to be willing to learn the lessons—even when you don’t like the lessons.
Celebzter: Do you think people give up too easily when the going gets tough?
Jamillah & David: Many relationships fall apart because the couple doesn’t know how to handle disagreements. We have seen couples explode over something as small as which movie to see on Saturday night. What we’ve found is that it’s not the things you disagree about that break couples up, but the ways in which couples disagree. We urge everyone to take Dr. Martin Luther King’s advice and “learn to disagree, without being disagreeable’.
Celebzter: How do you keep the spark in your relationship?
Jamillah & David: Loving Like Kids is a living, breathing philosophy for us. We go on spontaneous dates—doing what we want to do in the moment, and we have no limit on public displays of affection (no matter how embarrassing.)
Celebzter: What are your fundamental tips for making a marriage work in your opinion?
Jamillah & David: First, Let Your Past, Be Your Past. One of the keys to being happy in a relationship is to be in that relationship. We all carry emotional baggage from past relationships around in gigantic duffel bags and oft-times those past relationships poison the current relationship we are trying to have.
You can never see the potential of your future, if you are always viewing it through the lens of your past. One of the most complementary things that someone has written about Perfect Combination was that the book inspired them to not make the next person pay for the last person’s mistakes, but instead to always put their best foot forward in a relationship and to leave the baggage behind wholeheartedly embracing a new opportunity to “get it right”. That is our message – that love and happiness are not elusive. They are accessible, but they begin with a ready, willing and able self strong enough to make the journey and take the trip.
Celebzter: Does your marriage get stronger by the day?
Jamillah & David: The more we become strong individually, the stronger our marriage becomes. The more one of us is a rock for the other, in those times when the other becomes weak, the stronger our relationship becomes. Being in theater has great peaks and valleys and we have had to learn, the hard way (smile) to Act Like Adults: not to get to down or cast blame when our best laid plans don’t turn out exactly as planned. To encourage each other’s dreams and to guard our words because we all know that at times we can say some beautiful things, and at other times we can say some stupid, hurtful things, so we try to keep the latter to a minimum.
Celebzter: How have you overcome any problems you may have had?
Jamillah & David: I’m from New York City, and I like most New Yorkers I received an infusion of sarcasm at birth. Jamillah is from the Midwest, and when we first began dating I thought I was being funny with my sarcastic comments, but to her I was being hurtful. This was a difficult patch for us, because for me making sarcastic comments came as naturally to me as “I pity the fool,” comes to Mr. T. It was one of those Act Like An Adult moments, ultimately I had to decide what was more important, and our happiness was more important than making every sarcastic comment that crossed my mind.
Even though I’m a laid back mid-westerner, for me, I had to learn not to carry grudges. I didn’t realize how much and how long I carried grudges. One of the things that helped me overcome this was that I took something called The Anger Diet which gave me tools to overcome this habit and to laugh at how ridiculous it was. I mean I realized some grudges I’d been holding since the second grade!
Celebzter: And lastly, what is your advice for others who may be experiencing some problems at present?
Jamillah & David: Take responsibility for yourself, what role are you playing in the issue. Even if your partner has things that they need to work on, consider what can you do to help them, as well as what things you can you do for yourself to help yourself become the best you that you can be.
And, here are some general questions we asked the pair, which sheds some light on their very own love story.
Celebzter: How did you meet?
Jamillah: We actually met at work. David worked in the New York office and I worked in the California office.
David: Yes, one week after starting work I noticed a picture of the company’s retreat from the year before, and my eye immediately went to Jamillah. Something told me she was going to be my wife. I know that love at first sight is a Hollywood cliché, but for me it was a very real experience.
Jamillah: A month later we had our company retreat in California and David and the rest of the New York staff came out to California. I have to admit that when I saw him there was instant electricity.
David: It took her ten years to admit that!
Celebzter: How did you know that each other was the one?
Jamillah: Well we both believe in signs, and David really believes in signs.
David: That’s true I do. I was already smitten, but there were other, well, signs that I couldn’t overlook. I was born and raised in New York City, and it was the epicenter of my world, but after my first year of graduate school I went to work at South Shore Bank in Chicago, which by chance happened to be in Jamillah’s neighborhood and where her family banked. Years later when my book Do Platanos Go Wit’ Collard Greens? was released, I went to speak at various colleges, and the very first college I went to speak at, I was invited to speak there by Jamillah’s brother, who at the time didn’t know me from a can paint. Then I was invited, by chance, to speak at another college, by Jamillah’s cousin. I always tease her that her family was working on setting us up all along.
Jamillah: Like David, my grandmother (who was my best friend and my favorite person in the world) believed in signs, and a few months before I met David, she had a Matrix-like dream, that I would meet the ‘one’ by that May.
David: And the first weekend, we dated, I went with Jamillah to her grandmother’s house and I’m sitting in the chair and Jamillah asks her, “is he the one?” I’m sitting there thinking, “well that’s a little fast,” even though I had already decided she was the one.
Jamillah: I’m so embarrassed I can’t believe I said that in front of him.
Celebzter: How quickly between meeting, did you marry?
David: In all honesty I had to fight the temptation to ask her to marry the week we began dating, which was three months after we first met. She still lived in California when we first dated, and moved to New York seven months later. Two years later we were married. Even though I wanted to marry her immediately, it was actually better that we didn’t because we both had to grow up some.
Celebzter: What is the quality you like most about the other?
Jamillah: His sense of humor and youthful attitude. He keeps me laughing, all the time. And his belief in and support of me.
David: Her sweetness. People say you end up marrying someone like your parents and for us its true, even though that was not our intention, but the first time I walked into Jamillah’s apartment and saw a painting of trees that she had worked on, I thought, this is really bizarre, because my mother is one of the great tree painting enthusiasts in the world.
Jamillah: It’s true, and I don’t know how it happened, but David is a blend of both my father and step-father – the good parts.
David: And her support of and belief in me.