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Marriage is beautiful. It’s hard, but it’s beautiful. Work can be beautiful. Hard, but beautiful. When you combine marriage and work, those things can be beautiful, but they can also be really, really hard. My guests today recently completed the largest research study on working married couples in the US, and spent the last few years interviewing couples who want to stay in love, change the world, and raise a happy family. Jeff and Andrew Shinabarger. Jeff is the co-author of Love or Work: Is it Possible to Change the World, Stay in Love, and Raise a Family. He’s also the founder of Plywood People, a nonprofit in Atlanta leading a community of startups doing good. His work has been featured in Forbes Inc., CNN, USA Weekend, and Huffington Post. He’s mentored over 600 startups and created the largest social entrepreneurship event in the South called “Plywood Presents.” His wife, Andre Shinabarger is an adventurer who loves seeing the world. She was born in Boliva, and she has a deep passion for building community with marginalized people groups. She works at Grady Memorial Hospital as a physician’s assistant and is an adjunct professor for Emory University as well as an advisor to Plywood People, host of the Love or Work Podcast, and coauthor of the Love or Work book along with her husband, Jeff. These two are incredible and I’ve long admired their work through Plywood People and Plywood Presents. It was such a joy to have them on the show. You’re going to get so much out of this conversation whether you’re married or single. This episode is for everyone.
Andre was born in Bolivia and Spanish is her first language. She is a physician’s assistant at Grady Health System where she and her colleagues take care of underserved communities. She and Jeff met in college, have been married for 18 years, and have two children who are 10 and 8 years-old.
Jeff leads an organization called Plywood People, a nonprofit that leads a community of startups doing good. He loves getting involved in these projects to help pass on his wisdom, lessons from mistakes, and help people grow their dream projects.
Early on, Jeff and Andre stared a project called “Gift Card Giver.” They would collect unused gift cards and give them to people in need. People started sending their gift cards from all over the nation. Because of that, people started connecting Jeff with other people with ideas. They gave away a few hundred thousand dollars in gift cards, and people started recognizing Jeff and asking him how to help them get their ideas off the ground.
The name Plywood People came after Jeff and Andrew traveled extensively doing various relief work. He always saw Plywood as a short-term fix to a long-term problem, and people giving their lives to continue raising up a place and making it better.
The Book Love or Work came out of a long personal journey of working with people who are starting their own business. Unfortunately, they often also saw a lot of relationships falling apart because of those startup businesses efforts. It’s hard to maintain and nurture relationships when so much of an entrepreneur’s time is taken up by stress and trying to get a new project off the ground.
Often business mentoring sessions would also turn into therapy sessions with clients emotional over their stressed relationships or lack of free time to spend with their partners. They saw such a big need in the community that they started to research how many people were feeling that struggle. They wanted to know if it was really possible to do it all or is that just an idealistic notion? Jeff and Andrew started interviewing people and asking more questions.
The book is especially timely during this pandemic we’re experiencing in 2020. With many couples now working at home and in close proximity, many are struggling to adjust to this adjustment in their increased time together at home. Virtual school, kids, and general stress adds even more pressure on relationships.
Jeff and Andre also have a Love or Work Podcast in addition to the book. They help couples focus on their marriage with resources that help people have not only a great marriage, but also a great career and family, all at the same time. It is possible!
They hosted over 100 couples on their podcast and did a research project where they surveyed 1500 working couples! They wanted a broad perspective backed up by data.
Andre personally didn’t think she wanted kids because she didn’t think she could move up in a career if she had kids too. 83% of couples say that working has made them better parents. The proof is in the data. We really don’t have to choose. We can both work and be good parents.
Women and men feel guilt being away from their kids while they are working, but you can let go a of a lot of that guilt. Jeff cares a lot about Andre’s purpose and while it is not perfect, many couples reported that they desire that support in their relationships. It should be a marriage issue, not a career issue. It’s not a topic that is brought up in marriage books, but if a partner doesn’t value the other’s purpose, they don’t value their partner.
Women are coming out of the workforce 4x more than men right now. They are bearing a lot of the burden during the pandemic to both work and care for their children.
Just because we’re home more now doesn’t mean we’re connecting. Both the Love or Work book and podcast helps people connect heart-wise and get deeper into issues of work, love, and kids. It has work couples can do together at the end of the book as well. When was the last time you invested in resources to help you with your relationship? We invest in so much, but this important aspect of our lives together is too often an exception to that.
A desire for passion and fulfilment in work has started to develop in the last few decades in our society: A real deep desire for passion and purpose in what we do for our careers, and that is only going to continue. More families are likely to include to people with deep passion for their work. The question is how to maintain partner relationships, relationships with the children in the family, and how everyone stays healthy in that.
95% of participants in Jeff and Andre’s study believed it’s possible to say in love, change the world, and raise a happy family. However, they’re all exhausted trying to do it. No one goes to counseling, they don’t exercise, they don’t take vacations. It’s not worth it to “have it all” if you’re having it all in an unhealthy state. Jeff and Andre talk about practical ways to have it all in a way that’s healthy.
This increased time at home has also spurred difficult and important conversations and given couples time to reflect on their relationship and make sure they’re both willing to stay on the same team long term. It’s a hard but vital question. Counseling and opening the conversation for feedback to trusted friends is vital.
If we change the world and lose our family, we lose. Sometimes we have to say no to work and prioritize our kids. You can change your family set up if it is no longer working for you. It’s your family and marriage, and you can adjust together and edit accordingly. Don’t force something that isn’t working for you and your family just because you said you’d do it. It will help you grow together rather than grow apart.
A finding from their research that genuinely surprised Andrew is that only 8% of couples surveyed have ever gotten counseling. Even if counseling feels scary, even talking to someone close to you who may be further along in their journey or buying a book to help can set couples on a better path simply because they are investing in something for their relationship.
Only 31% of couples have a shared calendar. This also surprised Jeff and Andre. Especially if you have kids, a shared calendar can save a lot of relationships from frustration, miscommunication, and fights.
59% of people surveyed do now use their vacation time! Taking time to step away to be together is a privilege that families should take advantage of if they have it! There are so many forms of different intimacy that can emerge while on vacation!
Jeff and Andre learned from their sex therapist friend about the 4, 4, 4 principle. It’s an idea that each person needs for hours of induvial time a week, and couples need 4 hours of time together every week. Away time invigorates us when we actually come back together to spend time with each other. It should of course be intentional time, not just watching Netflix together.
Getting to Know Our Guest
Find out some fun get-to-know-you things about Jeff and Andre! Things like which of their pet peeves are the strangest, if they had to eat the same meal for dinner every night for the rest of their life, what song they have to sing when it comes on the radio, their favorite TV shows growing up. Be sure you hear what it means to Jeff and Andre to run a business with purpose!
13:21 – “When you look at some of the historical leaders that we count as heroes, most of them had pretty rough family lives; Somebody took a hit because they pursued this heroic thing.”
17:46 – “That is a core issue that should be a marriage issue. I’ve never read in a marriage book that you should be in support of your partner’s purpose. That’s not been a topic brought up in any marriage book before. If I don’t value her purpose, I don’t value her.”
23:12 – “The reason why so many women take pride in their work is because they want to paint a picture for their daughters that is a new path forward. A lot of the men connected to this women in committed relationships want the same thing. They want their daughters to see a different image of what their mother is. ”
27:08 – “It’s important that kids see a bigger world view. Whatever you do, it’s important for kids to see that it’s outside of this immediate safe bubble of home, because there are hurting people, and there are bigger needs, and it’s a bigger world out there.”
40:08 – “If we change the world and lose our family, we lose.”
About Jeff and Andre Shinabarger:
Jeff Shinabarger is the co-author of “Love or Work: Is it possible to change the world, stay in love, and raise a family?” and founder of Plywood People, a non-profit in Atlanta leading a community of startups doing good. His work has been featured by Forbes, Inc., CNN, USA Weekend and Huffington Post. He is the co-founder of Q, mentored over 600 start-ups and created the largest social entrepreneur event in the South called Plywood Presents.
André Shinabarger is an adventurer who loves seeing the world. Born in Bolivia, she has a deep passion for building community with marginalized people groups. She works for Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta as a Physician Assistant and is an adjunct professor for Emory University. She is an Advisor to Plywood People, host of the Love or Work Podcast and co-author of the Love or Work book alongside her husband Jeff.
Thank you to our partners of the show:
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