Yesenia & Paulo

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Yesenia & Paulo - Married 14 years

They met in college in central California.

Yesenia: We were together six years before we got married.

Paulo: We did the long distance relationship for a while. She was a year ahead. So, she transferred to UC Davis, and I stayed back.

Yesenia: Then he ended up going to Davis, so we were at Davis together for a year, but then I came to USC to do my Master’s. So, then we were a long-distance again.

Yesenia: That’s how we ended up here in L.A.

Lily Ro: What would you say was your biggest surprise after getting married? Was there anything you did not expect.

Paulo: That’s an excellent question.

Yesenia: I know. We’ve been married for a long time.

Paulo: One thing I remember is I didn't expect the family to mention children right away. I feel like at that time we were having a great time being married.

Yesenia: We waited to have kids a little while. We were together for 10 years, but we were married for four.

One thing I will say is about in-laws, you don't realize how much things can change with in-laws after marriage. For example, their influence of what they believe or think just in general. It was surprising how you have to navigate that and how you have to fight fair, not bring them up and not replay the pattern. It was a lot of that for us.

Paulo: Actually, it was a good thing we were living in Los Angeles. Hahahaha! Just imagine having them next door... all the time. Hahahaha! We do always visit them though, at least once a month.

Yesenia: Another thing I didn't expect was that marriage was gonna be so hard. I don't think anybody expects marriage to be hard. You believe you get married, and then you sail off into happily ever after. It's downright hard, like the conflict part and how do you resolve conflicts. Conflict comes up at every stage. How are you going to parent when you don't agree, how are you guys going to spend money when you don't agree. There are so many opportunities to disagree, and sometimes you just don't know how. It's not like people teach you, for example, this is conflict resolution, this is how you resolve a conflict. We have to figure that out.

Paulo: I remember on our drives back home to visit our families we would always have arguments.

Yesenia: I think it came from stress. We had to really sit and figure out why is it that every time we go, we start fighting. I would say to myself, “Oh my God, what is it?” Until we finally figured going home meant navigating those relationships. Because I know my mom, she wanted all my attention.

Paulo: Yes, when Yesenia went to my parent's house, as soon as we came back, the guilt trip.

Yesenia: Yeah, and it took a while to figure out where this stress was coming from.

Paulo: Also another thing that surprised me at the beginning of our marriage is how I was acting like my dad. At one point, I remember thinking, I don’t think I am supposed to be cooking, this should not be my role. Yesenia worked late, and at that time I was doing my master's degree in education.

I remember I created a lot of stress for me going back home. Since I’m a guy, I wasn’t sharing those feelings not even with Yesenia. I kept thinking, Yesenia is the one working, I’m the one at home cooking. I'm not providing for the home, I'm not being a good husband.

I felt stressed because of the expectations of my family. When I moved to L.A. to be with Yesenia I was supposed to have done my teaching program, and I told my family I was following her, and we were going to get married. I canceled everything, and I already had scholarships for the program I was going to do next.

Yesenia: Yes, his family was worried.

Paulo: What I saw growing up was my Dad working outside of the home providing for the family. My mom was providing for the children. It never crossed my mind, ever how different our roles could be one day.

I was stressed going home because I'm like this is not my role so how can I flip it around and that's where the arguing would come from driving up to see our families.

Yesenia: We both were feeling our own kind of pressure when we would visit family, and it would always come out on the drive. But now, we’re happy when we go. We figured it out.

I think you just have to learn as a couple how to process your emotions, how to talk things over. We've really grown so much in the relationship, and I think that's why we've been such a good team because we both appreciate the growth.

Paulo: We do appreciate the growth. At one point I realized we need to help each other no matter what. We both need to work and to help at home regardless. If I'm the first one to get home I'm going to start cooking and that is what is unless I want to starve myself for a few hours. Hahaha! At one point I just actually started to enjoy it and still do.

Lily Ro: What keeps you guys motivated in your marriage? What makes you want to work for it? We all get to a point where it's not good, there's highs and lows, right? So what keeps you motivated through those low times?

Yesenia: What keeps you going, honey?

Paulo: I know that at the end of the day, whenever we struggle in something, deep down your going to be there for me no matter what. You are going to be there, and I know this, it's a fact. You're not gonna quit on me even if I go down. Something that I admire about you is how you see the world. I just adore that. Yesenia, you’re just different. And it's different from me which is great. I really admire and love that even though sometimes we clashed and we have different perspectives. However, from the beginning, I remember when we got married I knew I had to promise you that I would respect your opinions, and whatever comes I will not impose my will on you.

Yesenia: For me it’s very similar. Whenever we have dark times I always think about what is this next step where we have to grow. At the end of the day every single hard time is another push to grow, so that’s what always gets me out of it is because I know that we're both in it for growth. I know I can’t just do this with anyone. You have to have a partner that's in it to grow with you and Paulo’s in it for that, we’re both in it for that.

Paulo: I know that whenever we encounter obstacles, they’re there for a purpose.

Yesenia: As a couple, you always have to come back.

Paulo: There's only merit on the struggles and whatever decisions you make when you’re down, that's what makes you great. It makes you or breaks you as a couple.

Yesenia: You always feel closer, after you realize you know your partner better and you even know yourself better. It's a partnership for growth. We went to see Dr. Shefali last year, she asked the crowd, “Why you get married? There's only one reason to get married." Many people responded, to have kids, to have a family. She said, you can do that without being married, you know you can do everything without being married. Then she said, there is one reason to get married, and that is for growth. If you don't want to grow then don't get married.

I think even though we didn't have the words for it, now we know. We've always been on that path, and we’ve always believed in that.

Paulo: I always thought I knew a lot, now looking back, I’m like, oh wow. There’s still so much room to grow and continue.

Yesenia: Now what I think what keeps us going is our projects, like our podcast Somos Padres and the things we're doing together.

Lily Ro: How do you find ways to reconnect after a tough time.

Paulo: When Yesenia was doing all her reading on awareness and self-growth, she started communicating more. They made me think, based on what she told me and based on my own growth, we had to talk more. There is a lot in our brains, and a lot of the thinking makes us fabricate stories in our own mind. It is not until you communicate your feelings, your emotions and everything that you realize, I was thinking all of this for what? I think by doing all the work yourself you just open the channels to all this communication to start happening more.

Yesenia: Couples have a lot of empathy for their kids, and then they don't have the same compassion for their partners, in the same way. It’s something we still work on, the way we say things, the tone of it.

Paulo: I know that for Yesenia she loves little details.

Yesenia: Oh my God if he goes and gets me my cup of coffee, I love it! We know each other's love languages. Mine is acts of service.

Paulo: For me, it’s physical touch. I love any spontaneous hug. If I’m in the kitchen, and she comes into hugs me, I love it.

Yesenia: I know that a lot of people say they feel so guilty leaving the kids, but we always make time for going out with our friends, going on trips. We do a lot of date nights or going out, or we’ll even meet up for happy hour. Last week I got off early from work, so I asked Paulo if he wanted to meet for happy hour? And we just met for a drink. It was spontaneous and fun!

It’s so essential to do these things because with kids it can be even hard to have a conversation. And I remember him telling me once, you don't have time for me. I was like okay we will figure out something.

Paulo: For me, it gets to a point where I’ll tell her things I’m feeling because now I don't suppress my emotions. I have to let her know.

Lily Ro: Was expressing your feelings about things that bothered you always easy for you, Paulo?

Paulo: No, no, no. I realized I needed to do it for the sake of the relationship. I just remember there were some misunderstandings and they only were because we were not communicating.

Lily Ro: What about advice for new couples, married couple?

Yesenia: Marry for growth.

Paulo: But what does that mean?

Yesenia: Every single time I go to a wedding, I always write that kind of a message in the couple’s card. I just know that on the other side of every single disagreement is growth. And if you can focus and harness that, then you'll come out of it stronger, you'll stay in your marriage, you'll be committed to each other. This is always my thing, we are meant to grow as human beings. And it's not a bad thing, we're expected to-- that's why we need each other. I can't grow without you, and you can't grow without me, and it makes everything much more meaningful. If you both can have that mindset, it'll be easier for you.

Paulo: I would say to be open. Be open to respect each other's opinions and ask questions. What is the objective for whenever arguments arise? What is the objective of having this argument? A question I ask myself is why is it so important for me to win? Win what? What am I trying to accomplish? And then something that I remember my wife asking herself: What are you trying to achieve are you doing it for love or are you doing it just to inflict pain? At the end of the day, we need to do things for love.