Recently, I explored marriage and how to have a thriving relationship with a very important guest on an episode of the Elite Achievement podcast, my husband, Joe Burke. This topic is critical for entrepreneurs and business professionals because what happens in our personal lives can impact our businesses. And what happens in our businesses can impact our personal lives.
Joe and I were high school sweethearts who have navigated multiple moves, a frequent work travel schedule, the launch of a business right before the pandemic, and ambitious goals. We’ve made many mistakes, we’ve learned a lot, and ultimately, we have grown significantly as a couple. In addition to being my best friend and husband, Joe runs a golf company in Southern California. He is wicked smart with numbers and can separate emotions from business decisions, so I also consider him to be one of my business mentors.
I start by welcoming Joe, who says he knows I’ve been looking forward to this conversation for a year while he’s been dodging it for the same length of time. I ask him what finally made him say yes to being a guest on my podcast. “I think more than anything, you know, I’ve watched you grow over the past couple of years,” Joe says. “I know how dedicated you are to it and that this has been a topic you’ve been dying to discuss. So, like everybody, in due time, we all cave, so here I am!”
Joe’s response is an excellent lesson in the power of perseverance. So keep asking if there’s something that you want! I appreciate Joe mentioning my business growth and everything I’ve poured into the Elite Achievement podcast because, without a doubt, he is one of my biggest cheerleaders and biggest supporters.
I start our conversation by going back to where it all started, in high school. Joe says he remembers looking over and seeing this “super attractive blonde.” “She was just absolutely stunning,” he says. “You had on a green, hooded Drill Team sweatshirt. And lo and behold, maybe two days later, I’m at your house picking you up with my best friend who is dating you at the time. So, talk about random coincidences. He was dating you for a couple of days or weeks. And I remember dropping you off one night after we were all out together, and he asked me what I thought about you, and I was very honest. I said, ‘I think she’s a huge nerd, but she’s pretty special.’ And a couple of days later, when he said he was no longer dating you, I remember going to a payphone at a hotel and giving you a call just to kind of say hello and introduce myself. I certainly did not have the courage back then that I have now to do that on my own. I had a friend give me a hint that maybe you had noticed me as well. That pushed me forward because, without that, there’s no chance I was approaching someone as beautiful as you back then.”
I remember having a really difficult time when that ex-boyfriend of mine just stopped talking to me. I couldn’t figure it out, so it’s incredible to look back all these years later and realize it was all part of Joe’s plan. I’m so glad he conquered his fears to talk to me back then and today to do it again on the Elite Achievement podcast.
I am beyond grateful for how things played out because, at this point, Joe and I have been together for over two decades and married over a decade. We’ve built an incredible life together. We share the good moments and the good memories, but it hasn’t always been easy, so I ask Joe how he thinks a couple can learn to grow together over the years.
“It’s a good question,” says Joe. “And I kind of laugh because I think most people that know us decently probably think that our marriage is perfect, right? Because we’re two people that are unwilling to give up on the things we want. As far as telling people how to grow together, I don’t think there’s a secret recipe behind it. I think it’s how much you’re willing to give each other. If you’re willing to put the other person forward every day and try to understand what they’re going through on a daily basis, then I think you have the opportunity to have some success in a relationship. Without really being able to sacrifice your needs and wants first, I don’t think you really have a chance for the other person. But if you’re willing to do that, then you can grow together. More than anything, you just have to have an open mind. It’s probably the most important thing because no two days are alike. We don’t know what each other went through during the day, what we’re going to go through the next day, what we’re preparing for. We’re all different. You have to be willing to work towards having a good relationship, make sacrifices for the other person, and have someone willing to make sacrifices for you. When you do that enough for each other and grow together that way, I think ultimately, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
I agree with Joe because I remember after we entered our marriage thinking, okay, now we’re married. We’ve made it. But it was really the point where we had to begin making more effort to understand one another, communicate, and sacrifice. And as a result, our communication has improved dramatically, not only by sharing what’s on our minds but by trying to truly understand each other.
“My form of communication usually is closing my mouth, putting on a headset, burying my head in my phone, and just not communicating whatsoever, ” Joe says. “That’s absolutely the way that I want to get through it. And, I still have to do that sometimes. Because as much as I take the emotion out of most things in life, I still have a lot of emotions. And sometimes, I just need a minute to decompress or analyze the situation. But you know, and I’m sure everybody that works with you knows, that you understand how to push the right buttons and put people on the spot. And I hate that. I mean, I hate it with a capital H because, for me, I always like to be in control of the situation. And I like to be prepared. And from that aspect, the on-the-spot questions of – How would you do this? What do you see this looking like? – they are just tough for me. For me, when I would get really quiet, that was my way of analyzing a situation before I made a drastic decision. We all deal with it differently. And some days are better than others. The days that you’re going to events, or out to fancy dinners or going on trips, those days, your relationships are fantastic, right? And everybody’s relationships work in those situations. It’s the hard days when you have a bad day at work, or you had a bad day driving, or your kids are driving you bananas, whatever it might be, we all have those bad days. And it’s in those days that you have to learn to communicate, to be able to get through them to work towards those other days that are just so much better.”
It was incredibly helpful to learn how differently Joe and I process and communicate. I think out loud. So, if I’m dealing with frustration or having a little bit of conflict, I want to talk out loud about it. And I want to talk about it over and over and over again until it makes sense in my mind. I had to learn that Joe is much more of an internal processor and that when he goes quiet, it doesn’t mean that I did anything wrong or said anything wrong, but that’s his way of processing. He has also had to understand that sometimes I’m going to repeat myself over and over because I’m still working it out. Whereas he wants to talk about it once and be done. So, we’ve had to learn how to work within one another’s preferred communication styles.
“For sure, and everybody’s different,” says Joe. “We all have our moments. We’re all very different people and different people day to day. So, once again, we have to keep an open mind to understand what people are trying to deal with. We’ve definitely gotten better with our communication. I don’t think it’s perfect, but you know, what is?”
Another part of communication is also learning to communicate your expectations. And something really huge for me that Joe shared was that he doesn’t want to talk about business all the time. I’m very passionate about what I do. I’m building a business, and I’m an out-loud processor. I want to talk about business. I want to work on my business. I literally could have every dinner conversation centered around how I can keep growing my business and making a bigger impact. It was so helpful for Joe to tell me, hey, I want to turn it off and not always talk about business when I get home. So I ask him how he thinks couples can communicate their expectations more clearly, without hurting one another’s feelings.
He begins to describe one way that’s worked for us, which was to schedule times to talk about business. “We certainly have a unique situation because we’re both running in-demand businesses right now,” Joe says. “And we have a lot of people that depend on us and that we’re working with, so our calendars are full. We get done with our days, and both want to decompress. We don’t necessarily have time or energy to listen to the other person. And so I guess the answer to that question is, you have to make time one way or the next because if you don’t, it’s going to keep getting dragged out. And it’s going to keep getting repeated, which is horrible. If you have some dedicated time to simply give each other space to talk and go over what they need to get off their chest, with business, personal, whatever it might be, that’s great. And then, try to let it flow throughout the week. I don’t mind talking about it. But I like progress when we talk about stuff. I’m okay with having the same conversations as long as there’s progress with them. What I mean by that is, if we’ve talked about something you want to talk about in the next conversation, we can recap it, but I also need the next step. I need to see that you’re working on it, or I am working on it, or whatever, we’re moving the ball forward, per se. And I think that would have a lot more impact on me being more open and willing to have conversations. And I would imagine that is true for most people because nobody likes a broken record.”
I love what Joe has just explained because it provides some accountability for me. Sometimes I want to keep talking about it because maybe Joe didn’t give me the answer I wanted. And I figure if I keep talking about it, I will get a different answer. But I usually just create frustration. So we’re learning that with one another.
I think that’s another key to having a successful relationship or a thriving marriage is recognizing there will be moments of frustration. I had to learn to get comfortable with conflict because it was always a bad thing in my past. And it was very dramatic. But for Joe and I to get to where we are today, we’ve had to learn how to have conflict, share what’s on our mind, communicate our expectations, push back with one another, and trust that we will both still be there.
Joe agrees and says he kind of laughs about it sometimes because we’re such different people. And while people might assume that it’s easy because we’ve been together forever and must have all these similarities, really, the common interest is in each other and trying to make it work for each other.
“Back in the day, some of those conflicts lasted forever,” Joe recalls. “But now, we have a conversation about it. We try to understand each other’s side. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. But ultimately, either way, we just kind of laugh about it and move it forward. And I think that’s the most important thing is that conflicts are always going to be there; they’re inevitable. You’re going to have them, hopefully, less days than more, but when you have them, just understand and appreciate it. See what you can do to make it better for both of you, and then keep moving forward.”
I remind Joe that we have another common interest these days – golf! Joe agrees and says it’s been a great common interest for us. Joe has worked in the golf industry for twenty-five years and tried to get me to play golf most of that time. Not only has it brought us together, but Joe shares how it’s impacted his work in the industry as he works to get more people into golf. He explains how seeing my enthusiasm as a new golfer and how I’ve really enjoyed the process motivates him to be more involved in his industry and do more for the golf community.
It’s been a great thing for our relationship, going back to prioritizing and sacrificing for one another. And by no means am I saying playing golf is a sacrifice. It’s far from it. But it was a way for me to learn more about Joe’s business and industry. And I had to learn it all from scratch. I had to learn how you keep score, what clubs to use. I’m still trying to figure out what club goes with what distance! But it’s been great for me to be interested in what Joe does.
“I agree,” Joe says. “Pre-pandemic, I traveled nonstop. And everybody used to ask, what was the key to success for our relationship, and I kind of joked that it was time apart. We’re both very strong, independent people, and we got to spend a lot of great time together. But we also had our own space. When the pandemic first started, we were living downtown, had two bedrooms, and we had a five-year-old that was doing kindergarten while you were starting your business. And we were on top of each other just nonstop. And that was tough. We had to find a way to re-acclimate ourselves to spending so much time together. We just really weren’t used to it. It had been ten-plus years since we had spent this much time together. And I think golf has given us that way out that no matter what kind of week we’re having or what kind of day we’re having, we look forward to our Friday golf that may or may not end with a happy hour afterward every time.”
That’s usually a may! Another important concept is the ebb and flow of a relationship. There are so many times in our relationship when we’re in sync, and things feel like they’re moving in the right direction. We’re in this natural groove, and then suddenly, we start to pull apart a little bit. And it’s usually when one person starts growing, or one person starts thinking differently. And it takes a little bit of time, but the other person starts to grow, and then we’re back on that path of being in alignment. I ask Joe how that framework has helped in our relationship.
“It’s really our entire life together,” Joe responds. “We love to be together, and we have a lot of fun when we’re together, but we’re two very different people. I kind of explain it like a rubber band. We kind of rubber band each other back together in a number of different ways. One of them is because we found a new common interest, like golf, and the other is because we’re just so competitive. We want to be better than the other individual. We want to impress the other individual. I think we still have that fight to impress the other person and the relationship, which I think is a good thing. We’ve never really given up trying to impress the other one and make their lives and our lives better daily. I think back to high school, all of the different roads we’ve taken, and all the different paths. I was out of high school and into college before you, and neither one of us would drink at a young age. So I remember, in college, I’m working at the golf store, and I’m up early and working fifty hours a week and was accountable for a dozen employees. You started your college process and went about it much differently, and you were going to school and living on campus, finding those penny pitchers. You were going through that phase in life, learning how to party and be a young adult, and I was doing the complete opposite. And then, as soon as you got out of school and got a job working, you were the one that had to get up early, and you were teaching spin classes and working out. I had established myself and kind of let loose a little bit. We were running polar opposites, but from back then to today, we motivate each other, and we’re competing against each other. We want to succeed for each other. Everybody always asked, how did we end up in L.A.? How did we end up in Las Vegas? And its opportunity. We were a team, and it was a team effort. We fight for the best opportunity. And so far, we’ve managed to get most things, and it’s just because we push each other daily. I don’t think without you that I’d be anywhere near where I’m at today. I mean, all the way back to high school. I knew then, okay, she’s going to push me and motivate me. I think your clients will agree that we all need a little motivation here and there. We need someone to hold us accountable because as great of individuals as we all think we are, and most days we are, we all need help.”
When I invited Joe to come onto the show, I didn’t expect to hear all of the compliments and the wonderful things he said, so I thank him for everything he has shared so far. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Joe. He has always provided me with a level of safety and security, and we have a ton of fun together. He is my biggest supporter. I would not have started my business if it wasn’t for him and his support. He was the one who believed more in me than I believed in myself. So I ask him what advice he has for someone in a similar situation, wondering how they can support their partner in starting a business. And how to learn to adjust to a new lifestyle with an entrepreneur.
“I think it was extremely easy for me,” Joe says. “We have a lot of history together, and your work ethic is second to none. So, I knew from that aspect that it would be very simple for you to start a business, maybe not grow a business because you don’t know what’s on the other side, you don’t know what the next day brings. But ultimately, you have to take that risk. I’m not a grass is greener on the other side kind of a person. But I think that there’s always a lot of bigger, better opportunities out there if you’re willing to open your eyes and see them and look for them. And then to put in the work. And so I think if you’re asking for advice for someone on my side of it, to someone who has a spouse trying to start a business, just support them because the days are tough anyways, and they don’t need you to make it any more difficult. Be as enthusiastic as you can be. Try to give advice if it’s solicited. If it’s not, stay out of it. Sometimes you just have to mind your own business. It’s a tough question because everybody’s so different.”
Joe mentioned support. And support can look different for different people. Often, support for me is listening to me and, as we’ve joked, listening to me say the same thing repeatedly until I process exactly how I want to fix it or move forward. But support could also be ordering the groceries or taking care of dinner. Support could be going for a walk. It’s really so personal. So, if a spouse or a partner isn’t sure how to support, have a conversation and ask. Don’t be afraid of not having all the perfect answers. Sometimes you might have to try different things until you find the thing that really resonates and helps the other person. The biggest thing is having that desire to help and that desire to make the other person’s life a little bit easier.
“For sure,” Joe agrees. “And I love that as we talked about our communication, it just gets better and better. You’ve mentioned a lot of that stuff to me before that I just handle. I don’t necessarily handle them because that’s what I thought you needed to have support to run your business and to grow it, things like ordering dinner and having groceries delivered, and so on. I just do those because those are things that I feel like I’m okay at doing. And I can get them off your plate, right? You carry a lot of weight on your shoulders all day anyways. So I just tried to get those things off of your shoulders and have less stress for you to focus on the things you need to focus on. But I think you hit the nail on the head because most of us guys, we’re probably not going to ask the question. I’m kind of a do it and ask for forgiveness kind of guy. But hearing what you just said makes so much sense because communication is the most important piece of it. There are so many things that we can do to support our spouses who are trying to run a business that we don’t even know will help. You communicating those things to me now, and me knowing that those are helpful and supportive, is great. That would be a big step in people’s relationships when they’re trying to start a business is to tell your spouse what levels of support you want, what levels of support you expect, and what levels of support you need. You know, they’re all very different things. And I think your spouse can probably tell you upfront what things they can truly give you. And then you can build around it. It’s about communicating those expectations and recognizing that even after being together for over two decades, we still are not able to read one another’s minds. It’s up to us to communicate our needs and our expectations.”
As we wrap up our conversation, I want to go back to one topic that Joe mentioned. He shared how relationships can feel more effortless in the good times when you’re going out, spending great times together, maybe traveling. It takes me back to a conversation he and I had last year when he said something that was so eye-opening. He said, fight for the good days. So I ask, what does it mean to him to fight for the good days?
“You know, nothing happens overnight; businesses don’t grow and just show up overnight,” Joe says. “You’ve got to put in the groundwork to have successes in life, and successes are all measured differently by different people. But it’s a full-time job when it comes to the relationship. We’re tiptoeing around each other’s wants and needs every single day, trying to navigate our lives to make sure that they’re great for us, but also great for each other. And I think if you remember in those tough situations and those tough moments to take a deep breath, reflect on where you’ve been in life, what you’ve done together, all the things you’ve accomplished, and think of those good or great days. I think you’re going to be a lot happier because so many people like to dwell on the negatives of a relationship. And yes, there will always be a few, and no, you’re not always going to fix what the other person wants. We all have our little nitpicky things, but if we let those things build up too much, we forget how great things can be in the moment. You just can’t forget how good things can actually be. You have to fight for those good days. You have to put in the groundwork and the day-to-day work to have those moments that are spectacular. Whether it be trips, business success, or just a great day on the golf course, with a fantastic dinner, an amazing sunset, and good conversation.”
It makes me think that we get to choose. Do we want to focus on all of the things our partners do that annoy us? Or frustrate us? Or do we want to focus on all the things that our partner does that are right, loving, or that they do for us? I mean, we get to pick which one we are going to focus on because, look, we all have our quirks. But then, you start living with another human being, and those quirks get amplified. So, you have to choose, will you focus on the negative or focus on the positive? I can tell you from my experience that the more I focus on the positive and the things that I love about Joe, the things that I appreciate about him, and the things that I feel incredibly grateful for, the better the relationship gets in my opinion.
“I think when it comes to focusing on the positive things, yes, you have to,” Joe says. “But not without completely ignoring the negatives as well. They should be brought to light, and you should have communication about them and make an effort to accommodate the other person. This is probably the biggest issue with many relationships that I hear about. And I try not to stick my nose where it doesn’t belong. But so many times, in relationships, you hear about people trying to change the other person. And for me, at least in my world, that’s never going to work. I’m never going to change. I’m always going to be stubborn. I’m going to do exactly what I want to do. And that’s what’s going to make me happy. But I can absolutely listen, understand, appreciate, and make an effort as much as possible to understand your wants and needs, and try to work towards a spot or a space where you’re happy with our relationship too.”
I think that is an incredible place to wrap up this conversation with the insight Joe just shared. It’s not about trying to change the other person. It’s about listening, seeking to understand, and putting in that effort.
With that goal achievers, keep celebrating your weekly wins, noting your lessons learned, and identifying your priorities for next week so you can consistently pursue progress in the direction of your goals.