Here’s how Jeremy and Audrey Roloff found togetherness …
Jeremy’s alarm went off at dawn — not the one on his smartphone, but the one inside his soul. He knew his love interest, Audrey Botti, was already headed to the 2011 Helvetia (Oregon) Half Marathon. Weeks before, she had asked him if he wanted to run with her. He’d laughed off the invitation as the joke it was. Distance running was not his thing. No thank you.
But something gnawed at him. What kind of love story do I want? he asked himself. There may not be a love story if I stay in my bed and sleep in, was the obvious response. With no running shoes, Jeremy grabbed his only option — embarrassing rubberized five-toed Vibram shoes.
He made it to the race in time to hear the starting gun. He spent the next two hours in sweaty pursuit of Audrey, searching among the 3,000 runners for any sign of her. Mile after 10-minute mile, he trudged on aching feet. Halfway through, he realized his goal was futile. But he kept running for love, hoping to impress Audrey with the fact that he hadn’t given up.
By the time he’d completed the race, Audrey was already home, having finished in under 95 minutes. But at a post-race party, Audrey was shocked — and a little pleased — to learn that he’d gone the extra 13 miles to enter her running world.
Jeremy and Audrey Roloff’s wedding
Jeremy’s over-the-top effort eventually paid off. In September 2014, he and Audrey were married. Their wedding was seen on TLC’s reality show “Little People, Big World” by 2.3 million viewers. Last year, their marriage book, A Love Letter Life, was released and became a New York Times bestseller within a week.
Today, Jeremy and Audrey continue to add new chapters to their love story. They want to create a Christ-centered marriage that can go the distance, so they intentionally pursue togetherness in their day-to-day lives, including their hobbies, word choices and even their failures.
The principle of sharing
The couple discovered the “principle of sharing” while they were dating and have continued to refine it. It started when Jeremy looked back to that half marathon and realized, OK, running is not that bad. If Audrey loves it, there’s got to be things about it to love. In his effort, he was not only pursuing Audrey’s favor but also trying to understand her more.
Throughout their courtship and first years of marriage, Audrey and Jeremy have deliberately shared activities. Jeremy has learned to enjoy board games and gluten-free food. Audrey has learned to appreciate watching soccer and riding in old cars, even when they’ve left her stranded. Jeremy and Audrey have decided to read the same books and watch the same movies to discuss them with each other. In short, they intentionally bind their relationship together by seeking as much commonality as possible.
A team mentality
The Roloffs make sure their “oneness” is reflected in their speech. “Words have a huge effect,” Jeremy explains. “We try to be mindful the best we can; when we’re out with friends, we say things like ‘our car.’ Just saying it that way has a psychological context not just to us but also to the people we’re with. And it identifies us as a couple; it shouts unity and oneness and strength in togetherness.”
The couple has a team vocabulary even on failure. “We try to frame our statements into ‘we’ statements when things go wrong,” Audrey says, “For example, if Jeremy forgot to take out the trash, I say, ‘We forgot to take out the trash.’ Obviously we’re human beings and forget sometimes, but we try to make even our failures as failures together, as if it’s a ‘we’ thing and we’re a team.”
Jeremy admits there’s a certain tension that comes with owning each other’s faults. For example, if Audrey takes too long getting ready for a social function, Jeremy wants to tell others, “We’re late because of her.” But he believes that ultimately they will be stronger as a couple if he protects her. “I’m not going to play the blame game on Audrey,” he says.
The Roloffs’ marriage journal
And for those tough times when one of them feels let down by the other, they’ve created a “marriage journal” to help resolve struggles.
“If there’s a conflict that arises during the week, and it seems there’s just never that good time to talk about it, that’s what our marriage journal is for,” Audrey says. The Roloffs know that on Sunday night they’re going to prioritize time to talk about it.
The journal is more than a list of grievances; it contains six discussion questions to help the Roloffs address any relationship turmoil. The questions address things such as unconfessed sin, unresolved hurt and conflict that needs reconciliation. Audrey notes, “The reconciliation question alone has been so pivotal in preventing bitterness.”
Jeremy says, “If we have a fight or a serious discussion that we can’t resolve or if I’ve hurt Audrey or been extremely arrogant, the marriage journal allows us [to seek reconciliation]. She gets to lay out her case, and I get to lay out my case, but this is what’s so special: It’s not in the heat of the moment; it’s not reactionary.”
With a 2-year-old daughter, Ember, the Jermey and Audrey Roloff have discovered that parenting issues often come up on the journal agenda. At one point, Audrey was trying to micromanage Jeremy. He felt as if she were trying to mentor him even on parenting tasks he did routinely. They worked it out through the marriage journal. “I don’t want to come across as a pestering wife that’s always questioning how he’s caring for Ember. I trust him, and I want to uplift him in that.”
The long road for the Roloffs
After getting married, Jeremy trained for a half marathon and the couple ran it together. It’s just one of their intentional times together, what they call the “strands” that tie them together. The Roloffs want to have thousands of strands binding them together for life. They have noticed that the people who struggle with marriage later down the line don’t have things in common.
Not so the Roloffs. “There is a real truth in the statement ‘You’re either falling in love or falling out of it.’ ” Jeremy says. “We want to pursue being in love, and for us the principle of sharing is the way to do that.”