187: Couch Conversations With Evan Ryan Ringler: Learnings From Marriage And Rhythms For Healthy Partnerships
Marriage is not the end-game for many relationships. It is where the journey actually begins. In an age where many marriages fall through the roof, how can you fight the statistics and maintain a healthy and long-lasting relationship with your life partner? In this Couch Conversation episode, Thane Marcus Ringler and his wife, Evan Ryan Ringler, share learnings and advice from their own partnership and marriage. They catch us up on some of their experiences, challenges, and how they each help the other in their relationship that so many other couples can relate to, showing that what is most personal is most universal. Tackling communication, conflict resolution, growth in the relationship, faith in God, and more, Thane and Evan paint us a clear picture of what it takes to keep a marriage within that loving place while also encouraging growth. Listen in to learn more.
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Couch Conversations With Evan Ryan Ringler: Learnings From Marriage And Rhythms For Healthy Partnerships
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Thanks for having me, Thane.
We thought it’d be fun to open up with a little random question, shooting from the hips. I usually end with a one-off. We’re going to start with one-offs here. I might as well get us off and running here. This one is going to be right up your alley because I know you and that you love to be the investigator. You love to be involved in crime scenes solving the problem, “What has happened here?” As an investigator, this question is going to resonate deeply. If you went into the witness protection plan, what identity would you like to assume?
This is hilarious. I thought we were doing fun marriage questions.
We’re going to get to marriage later. These are fun random questions.
Is this to protect me?
You’re taking a new identity because you’re in witness protection.
I would want to take on an elementary school teacher or a librarian. Either of those. My name couldn’t be Mrs. Ringler. I would want it to be the name of one of my favorite teachers.Holding space is a practical, tangible action that you can take, do, or practice that unconditional love. Click To Tweet
That works. That’s not one of my favorite teachers but we’ll go with that, Mrs. Penny Ellenwood.
That almost sounds like someone from Clue literally. Speaking of something like Clue, this is a plug that is not sponsored but it would be cool. There’s a great company called UnsolvedMysteries.com. I surprised my babe with a little gift, which was a murder mystery case that was unsolved. We had to go in and crack the case. It was intense, fun and hard.
They give you a lot of stuff. My questions all involve marriage.
Maybe then I’ll do one more and then we’ll do yours as we segue into marriage. This one is interesting. What is the dumbest thing you made your parents buy you as a kid?
I had some cool stuff. I had a kickback net that was not dumb. That was helpful in my soccer. When I was ten and below, stuff you don’t need like a toy. I’m sure my mom’s like, “I can think of 30 things that we bought her.” That’s what’s coming to mind. What would you say?
I think of dumb toys. I also think of fads. In the gym, I forgot my headphones. I was listening to whatever the guy had on and it was hardcore oldie rock but also the screamo that at one point it got to a place where I was like, “I think if I listened to this, I would go insane all day.” There were some classics that came on that reminded me of Guitar Hero. When you look back, it was like, “What hilarious game that was but that was so big.” Things like that as buying the guitar and the game, it was dumb. It was fun and we definitely loved it and used it for 6 months or maybe 1 year but then it’s completely out of sight, out of mind, never touched it again. It’s not to say that it was the worst purchase but that was something that was on my mind.
The clothes thing too like Limited Too, Abercrombie and Hollister. It had my soul. I was like, “No. I need this.” My mom’s like, “I don’t think we do.”
I’ve got one that came to me speaking of that. In high school, I thought I was pretty cool. I convinced my mom to order me a pair of fake Jordans, Fordans, from an Asian website. They were laser-etched orange Jordan Retro 5s which realistically I had no business wearing. Honestly, I wore them probably 2 or 3 times and realized, “I’m not comfortable wearing these shoes.”
Becky did it. I am surprised.
That was one of the dumbest things ever made my parents buy me. The other one blends into the first one. Let’s transition.
What is your favorite non-traditional body part? You can’t use your answer from our video. Keep it PG.
My favorite non-traditional body part that’s different from the video is your earlobe. I think your earlobes are very cute and they’re fun to play with. You have cute earrings in them now but even when you don’t have cute earrings in them, I love them.
You’re saying that because that’s the first thing you looked at.
It’s genuinely something that is non-traditional.
My next is what do I do that’s a pet peeve of yours or that annoys you the most?
There’s not a lot, which is a sweet blessing and partly because my memory is bad. Honestly, I think that’s a contributing factor.
I’m sure there’s plenty that is not coming to mind.
The one that does come to mind, it’s not like I get upset about it but during the day, there’s more of a state of discord in general tidiness. It’s not that you are unclean. It’s just that you leave things everywhere, not all the time but a lot more than I’m used to because at least during the day, I like my ducks in a row, things put away and in order. You’re on the other end of that spectrum which is funny because when it comes to cleanliness, we’re opposites on that. I let things go and you want to have a clean environment. It’s interesting to see the parallels. We’re opposites in different ways which surprised me when I realized that about you on the tidiness side.Even though a marriage is in a good place, it always has room to grow. Click To Tweet
That’s a laziness thing. That’s something I can and will get better at. I’m sorry.
The same is true with me in cleanliness.
We share that on some stuff like lunch stuff.
We both contributed that on the counter right there. What about you? I want to know about the second one. You’ve already shared a lot on the non-traditional.
It’s all of your body parts. Your pinky toenail.
That’s on the video. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.
There are many cute things on Thane. His cute little ears. What is something that annoys me the most that you do? When I am working and I’m focused, I’m at a level five. I’m crunching numbers or trying to make sure this matches that. Thane will come in. He’s on a break. He will grab a handful of nuts, chew and eat the nuts right there. He will turn on the water full blast to rinse his hand from the nuts.
A lot of salt on there.
I’m sitting there like, “Let me know when you wrap up.” I love that you’re getting nutrition and it’s just the noise. I like quiet when I work.
Lots of things that we can get annoyed with as humans. We’re going to dive into all the things for a little shorter conversation, we thought it’d be fun to catch up a little bit on what we’re learning, processing and focusing on in our partnership and marriage. From stemming from the quote of that which is most personal is most universal. The things that you’re facing are the things that most people will probably relate to. That’s where vulnerability and authenticity are powerful and helpful. We want to mirror that here. That’s our heart in it. As we dive in, I’m curious to know from you if you had to make a descriptive statement of where you think we are in a marriage. How would you describe it?
We’ve been married for a while, which feels like no way and then at the same time it’s way longer. I would say we’re at a sweet place. I feel we seek to hear the other first. I feel our communication is open and helpful. It’s been fun learning more in the marriage scene and knowing that God did make you for me and vice versa, seeing different strengths and things I need in a partner. You have this. That’s been sweet to see and divine. Do you want some more on that?
I like it. We’re shooting from the hip here. We have not prepared anything. I resonate deeply with we seek to hear the other first, communication being open, learning each other more. It’s amazing how much we’ve learned and I feel like we still have a million light-years to go.
We recognize our need for God more in marriage.
To touch on a few of these, one, I love that you said how God prepared and made us for each other in that. What’s cool in seeing that as an aside, I’ve been partnering with an organization named Giant and they have some training tools that are effective and one of them is called the 5 Voices. It’s a personality assessment of types to understand what style or what your voice is like so that it can be heard and so that you can better hear others. It was a cool small testament to that is that we were complete opposites but completing all five by our partnership in that. It is a cool affirmation that we do help each other in ways where the other is weak and can provide the support that the other person needs to grow while being true to who we are too.
That’s a beautiful place to be and communication being open I’d say is one of your strengths. You do a good job of communicating how you feel, what you need and even thoughts that you’re having that I am weaker. I am not as strong in communicating how I feel, communicating what I’m experiencing emotionally. Even sometimes communicating my inner dialogue, I am not as confident or can access as well those things. Your example of leading me in that has been sweet to see. The communication being open is a testament to both of us but I think you’ve led the charge on that.
Will you hold this space for us? If you were like, “I can’t deal with this now.” I feel that happens a lot in relationships like, “What are you talking about?” Thane holds a space for me to be heard, seen and known in that. He tries to come in and understand with me so we can move through it. The only part you are weak at because you’re not used to it is sharing your feelings. It couldn’t happen without you holding that space.
That’s a sweet thing to know and it’s important. We think about holding space and conflict resolution. We think about holding space in settings like coaching or other intensive conversations or communication elements. How important is that for partners? We’ve talked about this a lot I feel like is that the thing that’s transformed me or you or anyone is not the right answer. It’s unconditional love. Unconditional love is a thing that changes us from the inside out, which is sustainable, long-term, real change. Ultimately, what Jesus has done. That’s the biggest form of that. We get to mirror that in the relationship. I think holding space is practical, tangible action. It’s less tangible but an action you can take, do or practice that unconditional love. It’s hard because my tendency is to then get into, “Here’s a problem. Let’s solve it,” which isn’t the point. That’s been a learning process for me.
The other thing I would add to our list is reframing lies. With the holding space piece, I feel we both are able to say how things went in a previous relationship. I was worried about something because of those actions in a previous relationship. I came to Thane and said, “This popped up. I know this isn’t reflective of you. I don’t believe that you would do these things. I was triggered.” It’s helpful to name it out loud and then have Thane affirm that’s a lie. That’s not true. That’s not who he is and then try to work through that because inevitably we will all bring things into a relationship if we’ve had previous relationships relationally. You bring a lot of things into relationships but from a relational standpoint, bringing some baggage in and then trying to clear that out, I feel we’ve been working through and have made some strides in.
It’s sweet to look back, see growth, to see actual steps and progress made. To that point, I feel grateful. In a lot of this we were able to learn at least a level of self-awareness before marriage that we haven’t had to hit as many rock bottoms between us. We’ve been spared more hardship in conflict resolution than maybe others because of some of the development we did on our own. To credit you in that, as it goes, if you feel that, think that or have that experience and then don’t communicate it then it turns into a narrative that perpetuates and keeps popping up. That’s applied to things that may not apply and may not be indicating that. Since we’re seeing that narrative or have that narrative run then we’ll put it on top of things. That keeps going until it builds into a massive thing versus a smaller thing at that moment. I’m proud of you in the example you gave of how you handled that because as a team, we need that from each of us.The benefit of counseling isn't as much as putting out a fire now but as preventing the fire down the road. Click To Tweet
We’re on a team. I am for you. You’re for me.
When there are disagreements and there are and when there’s arguments or conflict and there is, it’s hard for you to feel like you’re on the same team. It’s amazing, even though we know it and we can say on this show and it sounds good, there are real moments where the feelings are so strong in the opposite direction that it’s hard to see that we are on the same team. That’s a part of the hard work that relationships are. That’s the hard work side. There’s an extreme joy side too and both are equally true.
We know everyone’s on a different part of the spectrum. if you’re at a place where, “I don’t feel like my partner and I connect that much,” think through and like, “Why aren’t we connecting? Do we take time together each day? Are we checking in? Do we have these rhythms that say our relationship is a priority? If so, what are they?” First, establishing those things because when you’re in the rhythm of, “Where are you at? How are you? What do you need more from me on?” We don’t do it every day but I’d say we do it often. We’re able to better align and come alongside one another.
If you think about where we’re at now and where we’re going, the next question I was thinking about is what do you think is the biggest area of growth ahead for us? What do you see as the biggest growth opportunity is?
Continued growth in these areas that we named. Growth will come when we have more stride in our careers. Even now I’m feeling that growth of balancing both working from the same place, working at home but as our time is more allotted to work, the balance of our relationship and keeping our priorities, what we want them to be and having those be the other me and then self-worth. I feel like we have plenty of room to grow even where we’re standing. How would you answer that?
The one thing that comes to my mind when I thought of it is establishing relational rhythms that’ll be much more important in different seasons. We’re in COVID season, meaning we’re together all the time and we’re in early marriage season which means we don’t have any kids. Our job responsibilities aren’t as heavy as they will be and life isn’t as chaotic, hectic or scattered as it will be at other times. Having committed rhythms to our cadence, communication and relationship is something you hear talked about a lot. I’ve always thought like, “I’m excited to accept those but it hasn’t been necessary for us yet because of where we’re at in life.” That’s great. It’s understanding there’s a season for that. Once things start shifting, meaning on the work front, on the COVID front, normalizing life a little bit then those things become much more important. I’d love to set those up before we reached that point, yet I don’t know how soon that’ll be.
What came to mind was we want to go to marriage counseling not because we “need it.” To break that down a little bit, I feel there’s the stigma around counseling like, “We don’t need it.” Our marriage is in a good place but it always has room to grow. I’d be happy to go to marriage counseling with you, have a third person speak into our marriage, see where our blind spots are and come alongside. What’s helpful in that is doing it when we “don’t need” it because then we’re becoming better equipped. Financially, that could look like different things at different seasons. On the same hand, I was thinking it’d be sweet to establish those rhythms when we “don’t need them” because we always need a date night. How do we want to do our check-ins? Is it daily? Is it weekly? How do we make it fun and not regimented of this checkbox of, “He’s good. He’s a five?” What are some of the rhythms that come to mind?
One of the things that are more front of mind because I heard a podcast about it is setting aside a time for conflict resolution throughout the week and this example that I heard was every Friday at 1:00 PM. It was like, “Anything in the last week that was triggering, frustrating or we had an issue with is discussed.” The example they gave was this guy who would write things down on a list and then when he got to Friday, he’s like, “That’s dumb. I don’t need to talk about that.”
It naturally resolves some of those lesser important things and then the things that are still there that are still deep or important are able to be discussed, debated or fleshed out within a set time and then you are able to shift back and forth a little bit. I thought it was a cool rhythm. Something like that has always been on my mind to give more space before diving into it. I think that’s one thing we’ve experienced. When we dive into conflict, when it happens, I don’t think that’s always been helpful for us but vice versa if we wait too long then that’s not helpful either because we would both sit in it for longer. It’s a weird dance.
There are ways to move through the conflict then and say, “We’ll talk about it more. Get what you need to say to feel okay, reconnected and then we’ll address this for how can we not run into this in the future?”
The rhythms of a date night or monthly check-in about where we’re going as a family or a team. I think about daily small check-ins. We haven’t been as consistent as I’d like to be but praying together has been such a sweet daily connector. In one of my sessions, we talked about that as well. This is uniting, such an important practice and it produced so much benefit. It doesn’t have to be that crazy. Those are some of mine. What do you think?
I’m thinking of two things. We were at a friend’s wedding. It’s COVID-safe. The couple that we were eating dinner with has a family of five. They were sharing how once a month they will do a little trip for a getaway with the kids or maybe it’s every year, like a big vacation for the kids and then vacation for mom and dad. I thought that was sweet. My sweet friend, Hannah, she and her husband will do six months check-ins for larger things. For instance, if Thane takes a job and we’re like, “We’re not feeling 100% about this but we’re going to give it a go. We’ll have a six-month check-in, reevaluate and see if it’s working for you or me.” That way there’s a date and a set time to say, “This is only going to be this way for this long.” You can reevaluate if needed earlier but it takes some pressure off of bigger decisions like that.
It was cool talking with a guy at a meeting about the common thing that is experienced in relationships, couples and marriages, small steps can lead to drift. Once you’re in a place of drift then it needs to be like removing that drift to where it’s back in alignment with one another. It made me think more about like, “What are drift producing elements?” Even having conversations with several other people in our community, this idea of having a filter of commitments is such a helpful framework of reference. It’s been on my mind because it’s such a simple yet powerful tool for building this hierarchy like a pyramid. At the top is number one, priority to your commitment and then, 2, 3, 4, all the way down the pyramid.
Anytime there is something that is a question mark or something that you’re unsure about, it goes through those filters and starts up top and goes all the way down. For me and for us, it’s the first God which means that my number two priority, my wife. If by chance there was something that she was doing or wanted me to do that wasn’t in alignment with priority one then I answer to God before Evan, which is crazy. Filtering our priority through God and then filtering second through you and through us. I’m like, “My commitment is second priority, very close to the top, is Evan.” What does this look like in light of that?
Third, which I thought was helpful, is myself. What is the commitment to myself that I’ve made as a man, as a child of God, in my work or what I feel called to do? Is this in alignment or not with that? It then goes down into coworkers, teammates, clients, community and beyond. That simple pyramid framework of filters in commitments helps us so much any time there’s a question mark. In decisions and steps we take, there will always be question marks in life. Having those filters is going to be helpful to prevent drift as we think proactively and preventative. As you’re talking about that, I love that you brought that up. I don’t think that the benefit of counseling isn’t as much as putting out a fire now but as preventing the fire down the road. I want to be preventative in many areas. It’s funny you talk about it here because this is helping us think through it even on this show.
I think that can be two-fold. This example happened with some people in our community, maybe there’s a business relationship that’s not God-honoring and that business relationship was taking precedent over some of the other priorities. That was a practical example. I feel like there are things that seep into relationships that cause drift such as it could be innocent, looking at your phone when your husband’s trying to talk to you and you’re not listening. It could be looking at porn in private. It could be 1.00001 million things. They could be subtle, not subtle. Those are the ones that we can sift through that filter of like, “What the heck am I doing on my phone? What is that putting into my brain? Is that helpful?”
For me, it’s make it personal. The thing that I would say is the biggest stimulant for drift would be career or work. That looks like if I checked my email in the morning or evening when it’s not work time, why am I doing that? There’s no point to do that. It’s taking away from you and me at this special time or I’ve been a lot of self-work with this training for this program and realized in conflict, I go to gear number four, which is multitasking. It’s like busying myself with what is comforting, which is work and work is comforting because it’s what I feel called to and I feel passionate about all this stuff. I realized that in conflict, I default to work, which detaches me from us and that can lead to drift especially when repeated over time and not corrected. I don’t think it’s been a huge issue but it can be. That’s real. I could see how that competes.
Something I was thinking about too when we’re talking about this filter that could be fun to do. I think we have an idea but even going a step further and writing out like, “This is the man of God I want to be. This is the woman of God I want to be.” Helping each other stay accountable to that and do these practices or life choices. Does your day-to-day reflect that person? That could be fun too to keep us centered.Relationships take work. It is both easy and hard. Click To Tweet
I love that idea. We will do that. Any other questions that you were thinking on or musing on? I know we didn’t talk about it beforehand.
I feel led to say if you’re in a place of marriage that’s dark, scary or you don’t feel connected, there is redemption and nothing is too far outside of God’s redemption. To encourage whoever is reading that might be in that place that relationships take work, let’s start with that. Relationships are easy and hard. It’s both. With that, setting small things of connectedness, going through some hard stuff, it could be hard past history that you need to walk through together to get through. That is all possible. It could involve some hard work. I’m grateful to Thane, to have a partner that does the work with me in all things. I felt I needed to say if you’re in a place where you’re not feeling encouraged in your partnership or marriage, that it can be redeemed and nothing is outside of God’s redemption.
For the majority of people, marriage is harder than it is easier because it is a process of living in a continued partnership, which is hard and that involves acting more selflessly than selfishly. That’s a learned thing a lot of times. It’s not natural, I don’t think. Don’t expect fairy tales. That’s a reminder. The other thing that you made me think of and that I would like to say now that we’re making a little statement here is for anyone who’s reading who is single know that marriage is not the answer to all your problems. Marriage is harder than singleness in that you are in a constant growth process because you’re living with someone who’s holding up a mirror to who you are, who you say you are and where the differences are in that.
That’s helpful, awesome and challenging. For anyone who’s reading that is single, know that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side of the fence. The grass is greener where you are if you water it there. Start watering where you’re at. God knows if you’re worried about finding the right person, you’re going to find the right person. That’s going to happen. There is no perfect person out there either. We’re all imperfect humans. I love my wife and I believe she’s perfect but she’s not perfect. I’m not perfect either. Be encouraged if you are a single person like that. That is a beautiful season of life and place to be. It’s of worth and value as much as marriage is. I can say that wholeheartedly now having experienced both.
Both are gifts. I feel like part of me wishes I would have embraced singleness more because unfortunately in a lot of Christian circles, it is always, “When are you going to get married?” It seems like something’s wrong with you. There are such purpose and blessing in being single also. Both are gifts.
We don’t have anything figured out. If you gain something from this, we are so glad. We are trying to figure it out one day at a time and hopefully always will be. That’s been in front of mind for me is I want to be discovering and learning my wife until kingdom come, the day I die and beyond. She’s an endless ocean of a human that I get to learn, discover and explore. I’m grateful for that and the excitement or the adventure that is. Until next time, this has been a lot of fun. This is Couch Six. For those of you who have read this far, if you want an insider tip to something that will change your life, look no further than Splendor.
If you’re a fan of Catan, you will be a fan of Splendor. Thane and I shamelessly got this game and I’ve played it 14 of the 21 days.
We did play almost every night for two weeks straight.
It has created some conflict mostly on your end when you lose to me.
I will say she’s come on strong. Go check out Splendor if you are into games and want to find a new one. You’re welcome for that tip. Until next time, we hope you all have an up-and-coming week because we are out.
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