This week, Emily and Erik Orton's book, Seven at Sea," which recounts the couple’s 10-month sailing adventure with their five children, was recommended by The New York Times as one of the best travel reads of the summer. On the 31st episode of All In, the Latter-day Saint couple talks navigating the choppy seas of marriage. The Ortons shared practical advice from their personal experience for strengthening marriage.
Here are a few of our favorite points from this week’s episode:
1. Listen and Validate. The Ortons explained that Erik Orton took a peer counseling class in middle school that has impacted their marriage because he learned the importance of listening and validating others’ feelings.
Emily: “I think that's the greatest gift, one of the greatest gifts, that Eric brought to our relationship is that he knew how to listen and validate. And through his example, he's been teaching me, which helps me be a better partner. And it also helps me be a better mother and a better friend. So I always knew that he was going to listen, and he was going to say like, "Oh, I see how you're feeling that way, that must be hard," or you know, not trying to solve my problems.”
Erik: “When you, when somebody is talking, you just your main job is to listen. And the last thing you want to do is offer solutions and try and fix their problem. And you just listen, listen, listen, listen, listen. And then like she said, you know, you want to make sure that you can, you can restate what they said so they know that you heard them. Because if you can say it back to them, then they say, "Oh, yeah, Eric heard what I had to say." And then they would specifically say, you know, your job is not to solve their problem. But you can ask them questions that will help them solve their own problems. And so we learned to say things like, well, what are your ideas about what you could do to change this situation? Very open-ended questions, and help them create sort of an array of options for themselves. And then once they have, once they have some options, say no, "What do you think are the best options?" and basically, you're just walking through somebody, walking them through the process of solving their own problems?”
2. Assumptions Lead Behavior. Emily quoted Liz Wiseman’s Multipliers as she explained this foundational principle in their marriage.
Emily: “If we start by assuming that, you know, each of us are of value, that each of us have worth, that each of us have this divine potential. And, you know, obviously, we have these covenants that we've made to support and help each other grow. I think that's the foundation for the kindness that is required, the humility and the forgiveness, I mean, you do have to be so vulnerable, even to say something as simple as, like, 'I really feel like you hijacked that last conversation,' or something like that, because we have to be willing to show that's like expressing that we had hurt feelings or that we felt offended or that we experienced, you know, sort of the, the sting of pride being hurt or, you know, whatever it is, and, and that's, I think something that requires a lot of kindness."
3. Entertain Your Spouse’s Ideas. Erik and Emily explained how they show support for one another when big ideas (like sailing for 10 months) arise.
Emily: “I just saw like a little clip of the most recent Mary Poppins, and Mary Poppins said, ‘We're on the brink of an adventure, children. Don't spoil it with questions.’ And I love that quote. And like when the idea happens, that's not the time to, to start squashing it. That's the time to, like, I guess, kind of use some of these same principles like, 'Okay, tell me more about your ideas. Well, tell me how you think it will look like, tell me how you think we're going to pay for it, let's talk about how, you know, whatever.' And if it's a bad idea, it will, it will implode on itself, like, it will become apparent under further contemplation. But there's a lot of things that actually can happen. And so I think that's kind of been how I do it. I just have made my default response to be, you know, I believe in you. And then let's explore further.”
Erik: “Emily and I have discovered over the years is, us especially but most people ask the question, you know, what could go wrong? And you have to look at all the risks involved with any endeavor. And that's good, and that's responsible. And we kind of somehow stumbled upon this question of, 'Well, okay, that's certainly could go wrong. What can go right?' Because usually, we only look at half of the equation and we prepare for the worst, but we never let our minds and our imagination explore all of the up side of taking a risk. And that's the whole motivation, because if it's just avoiding risks, that's fairly limiting, whereas if you can open up your mind and your heart to the possibilities of success and all the things that could go right, it's actually very difficult. Because the number of things and the variety of things that can go right is usually fairly unlimited, and we've been surprised that as we add that other half of the question, or, you know, or the analysis to the process, that once we started to fill in that side, it normally tips the scales.”