Getting clear on expectations with Rachael + Maicol Parker-Chavez
Rachael and Maicol Parker-Chavez are two ambitious and successful individuals passioante about creating an impact. Rachael is a Social Good Strategist who helps small business owners and entrepreneurs use their businesses to create real and lasting change in the world. Her company she founded is called Defining:Good, empowering others to build a business that makes the world better. While Maicol is a User Experience Designer developing internal enterprise software.
They've been together for about two years now and during our interview they share the story of what it's been like supporting each other in the pursuit of their passions.
How did you meet?
M: We met at a coworking space during an event. It was the only way we interacted with each other for a little over a year before we started dating.
R: Long Version: When I first started thinking about checking out what this startup scene was all about a new coworking space had just opened up the street from my office. They had lots of different events and speakers series and while I was chatting at the end of one particular event I heard a very loud laugh and decided to go meet the few people having this boisterous conversation. The loud laugh belonged to Maicol. After chatting a while with the group, we walked out together and we said our goodbyes. I honestly didn’t think anything of it. I was always excited to meet interesting people and so wrapped up in my newfound exploration into entrepreneurship that dating was the last thing on my mind. I was a little surprised when I received a facebook message from him a few days later asking me out. I thought he was really great and interesting and I knew I would see him again, so I didn’t want to blow him off, however I really was so focused on work and pursuing this new adventure, so I turned him down. We’d see each other from time to time and after about a year we got to chatting after another event. This time we stood by my car for hours and I was intrigued. Being the smart guy he is, this time he asked if I wanted to work together sometime, to which I of course said yes.
Short Version: Chatting at an event at a coworking space.
1. What is something you wish you knew when you first started dating or got married?
M: I wish I knew how to communicate better. Many times I feel like we we’re talking two different languages and that gets compounded by the fact that we have three different types of relationships. A romantic, spiritual and a work relationship. Each requires different ways of communicating and sometimes it’s difficult to get what’s on your mind clearly out to your partner while staying kind and patient.
R: When we first started dating I wish I would been less fearful of making the “wrong choice.” I had been single for a while and had already turned thirty (antient, by the standards of my midwest roots) so I really longed for a guarantee or lighting sign of assurance that he was the one for me before I put any real effort in. This is, of course, not how things work. There’s no way to know if someone will be a great partner for you without taking the time and risk to open up and be vulnerable. It took me a lot longer than it should have to really open up and allow myself to see if he was the one for me. Trust me, it’s worth the risk.
2. What are a few of your favorite things about your partner?
M: Her patience even though she says she’s not. Her goofiness, because life isn’t worth taking so seriously. And her compassion towards helping others. The last one is an important part in our relationship because it’s what drives both of us towards the things we do in life.
R: I love that he’s an eternal optimist. He can find the good in almost any situation. His optimism is contagious and I think it’s a big reason people love being around him. I also love how much he loves people. He has such a heart for others. His friends, family, and coworkers rely on him a lot. I love that he’s a problem solver. Always looking for the solution and extremely curious about new things.
3. What is something your partner does for you that makes you feel loved?
M: She helps me stay on top of my health and responsibilities. I get caught up in work very easily and tend to focus a lot of my efforts in that while ignoring the other parts of my life. She’s always the first to point out things I need to be mindful of and helps me get other parts of my life in order.
R: He checks in on me throughout the day, something he’s done since we started dating and still does almost every day. Just a quick “how is your day going” or “how are you feeling.” It reminds me how much he cares about me, not just in the big picture, but in the everyday details. It definitely makes me feel loved.
4. What is something you wish you did more together?
M: Spend more time taking walks. Our walks were an important part of our relationship from the start and they gave us opportunities to share our thoughts, aspirations and the things we’d like to accomplish as a couple. I guess our current situation is somewhat a result of those walks. We just happen to be in a season where life is crazy and we’re both constantly strapped for time.
R: We spend a lot of time together, but I would love to serve together more. Giving back is big part of our lives, but we do it more individually and less now that we’re married. I would love to be more intentional about making time to serve others together on a more regular basis.
5. What is a meaningful memory you have with your partner?
M: Our walks on the beach. It gave us abundant opportunities to strengthen our romantic, spiritual and work relationships.
R: When Maicol brought my (now, our) dog back to California we visited my family. We started taking her to the Newport Beach Library and the beach and we would take long walks which always lead to long, meaningful conversations.
6. What characteristic of your spouse do you admire in them?
M: Her willingness to fight for what’s right when it comes to the treatment of humans. Her strong roots and knowledge in her faith give her a moral compass and confidence that drives her to fight for people. It’s something I don’t see very often.
R: Maicol is extremely generous. He definitely has the spiritual gift of generosity and it’s something I really admire about him. I consider myself a fairly generous person, but it doesn’t come as naturally to me; he is truly a joyful giver.
7. What advice do you have for someone who is afraid to date or get married?
M: Figure out who you are as a person and what makes you happy on your own. Don’t ever go into a relationship and especially a marriage with the expectation that it’s this person's job to make you happy. It’s too much pressure on any one person. They should complement and strengthen your world, but not be your world.
R: For dating I would say the uncomfortableness and extreme vulnerability dating requires is worth it of you long for companionship, especially if you’re looking for a long term partner. It can be tough, but it’s part of the process and you’ll probably learn a lot about yourself along the way.
For marriage, I’d ask yourself why you are afraid. Marriage is a big commitment and in our culture it can feel really scary when faced with such a high occurrence of divorce and infidelity. However, if you have open communication and trust your partner, this fear is likely unfounded. Keep the communication open, have realistic expectations of one another and commit to intentionally working on the strength of your marriage (recognizing that it takes work) and you’ll be fine, no need to fear. However, if the fear is based on the fact that you don’t trust your partner or they’ve inflicted emotional damage, that fear should lead you to either end the relationship or seek professional help to reconcile before you get married.
8. Whatʼs something your spouse does that makes you proud?
M: Staying true to her passions. Starting her own business with the intent of helping people first and making money second is hard. Especially when people suggest she focus on what’s easy and profitable.
R: He is committed to working on things for which he is truly passionate. When we first met this actually scared me a little because at the time I didn’t know many people who would choose the struggle of working on projects that make you excited to the convenience and security that often come with a typical job. He always pushes the envelope, pursues what he loves and isn’t afraid to fail. It’s pretty amazing.
9. Whatʼs the best relationship advice you ever received?
M: Be intentional in your relationship and be willing to sacrifice for your partner.
R: Fight for the bottom. If you are truly committed to putting your partner's needs before your own there’s a very good chance you will have a thriving marriage.
10. What advice do you have for the busy couple to stay connected even if their schedule is polar opposite?
M: Be intentional to set time aside for each other. Give each other opportunities to share what’s going on in your lives. It can be as simple as talking while you’re driving somewhere far or setting time aside for a date night. Anything that minimizes distractions and allows both of you to focus on each other even for a little bit of time.
R: Be extremely intentional about making time to do something that brings you closer and have a relentless commitment to that time. Even if it’s just once a month for this particularly busy season, at least you have that day. Put it in the schedule because it won’t happen organically.
11.What advice do you have for couples looking to start a business either together or apart? What would you do differently now?
M: Separate your work relationship from your romantic one. By separating these two, you’re able to isolate the areas where you might have difficulties. We struggle at times communicating with each other when it comes to work, but being able to isolate that from our romantic relationship allows us to adjust the way we work together in order to work through those specific issues.
R: I would make sure you’re both 100% clear on the expectations of the other person. If you’re working together be prepared to have differing opinions, arguments about workload and tough conversations in general. If your significant other isn’t working on your business, it can be difficult for them to understand what you’re going through and how much effort it takes to run a business and the support you need from them unless you communicate it clearly. We started out working together on something we were both interested in, but it really was more my business idea. When it became fully my business, I still I assumed my husband would be able to be more involved than he is and he assumed the opposite. We weren’t on the same page, so he felt pressure from me he didn’t expect and I felt let down by him, simply because we had different expectations. Setting crystal clear expectations about each of our roles is definitely something I would have done differently. This advise partners to do this whether they’re starting a business together, separately or one’s starting a business and the other works a traditional job.
12. When starting a company itʼs near impossible to work “normal” hours. Whatʼs your rule of thumb for bringing work home?
M: Be on the same page of what you want from each other. We both work a lot of hours and I’ve been in her shoes working day and night. Even when I come home after an 11 hour day, if she’s still working on something, I give her the space to finish what’s she’s doing. Once we’re ready to relax or go to bed, then we make sure to be as focused as possible on each other. Even if that may only be an hour or so at night.
R: I work from home, so it’s really tough to create boundaries. I’m almost always still working when Maicol gets home I try to stop for the day if I can. The thing is he’s an incredibly hard worker and has worked primarily freelance or with startups most of his career, so he gets it. He’s also an entrepreneur, so he always has a side-project and if I’m not done working when he gets home he’ll sometimes just jump into those. We could probably be better about setting non-work time boundaries, but because we both enjoy working often becomes the default and it works for us. Some people watch TV, some people workout, we just work ;)
13.What are some boundaries or tactics you have implemented in your relationship or business that strengthened your relationship?
M: Being supportive and patient with each other. Especially expressing your support for what the other person is doing. I’m not the best at that and I wish I was. I feel like I’m being supportive by some of the things I do, but nothing beats actually saying it to the other person.
R: If there is conflict, we try to talk things out as soon as possible and not let it sit. We tell each other thank you and show appreciation, even for the small things.
14. How do you talk about the less fun topics, like money?
M: Count to 3 and just start talking. They’re not always fun, but they’re important and the longer you hold them in, the longer you may each drift towards different ideas about that subject. When you’re moving quickly everyday, it’s important to be on the same page as much as possible. It will save you a lot of time in the long run.
R: We try to be as open with communication about money as we are with everything else. We’re pretty much on the same page when it comes to everyday expenses, entertainment, etc. We have a budget and we do a decent job sticking to it. This is true for everything except my business. As I mentioned, Maicol is generous, optimistic, pursues passion and is not scared to fail. Plus he’s been in the entrepreneurial world a lot longer than I have, so you can imagine what that looks like in terms of spending on a business. He is very pro spending money if it is an investment for like equipment, software, workspace, etc. Those things can add up. I, on the other hand, am extremely conservative when it comes to spending. I’m always trying to do things as lean as possible and only to spend money if I’m guaranteed an ROI, which is, of course, impossible. We work to compromise a lot in this area. I try to get him to be as lean as possible and he pushes me to not sacrifice quality (like when my answer to everything is, “I can just do that myself” when that will turn out bad) or miss opportunities that will be beneficial long term simply because of the cost up front.
15. Do you have any advice on supporting your spouse to pursue their passions?
M: Be willing to sacrifice for your partner. Whether it’s time, money or doing simple things that might make you uncomfortable, just do them. It’s not always easy, we’re human and we tend to be selfish at times, but take the time to be intentional and understand what they’re struggling with and how you might be able to help. Nothing says I love you like doing the laundry late at night after a long day at work so your partner can make progress on the work they love to do.
R: Do it, even if it feels scary. As I mentioned, when we first started dating Maicol was working freelance. It was so unpredictable, but he loved it. This was totally new to me and my very secure corporate job worldview. I asked him why he didn’t just get at least a side job to have some consistent income, but as I learned that would have kept him from fully pursuing his passions, I realized I had it totally backward. When he started thinking about working for the company he’s with now, it was a dream job and it seemed like such a long shot. This would have deterred most people, but he was determined to pursue it. I could have told him he was wasting his time and it was going to be too hard to do, but I’m so glad I didn’t. He ended up getting the job, but even if he hadn’t it would have been completely worth supporting him fully to show him I believe in him. That is one of the most loving things you can do for your spouse.