Every time we speak, we take questions at the end of a talk. While there are a myriad of questions we have the pleasure of answering, there is a type of question that seems to come up more often than most. These are questions we get asked in a group setting and often in one-on-one conversations, questions that involve the real heroes in our story.
“What do your wives think about this?” “How has it affected them?” “Tell us about your relationship with them.”
And sometimes it’s just a statement of truth. “You guys are so lucky to have the wives you do!”
Yup! We are!
Today we start a two-part series titled From the Wives. Enjoy the first of these two interviews as we get to hear from Justin’s wife Kirstin Skeesuck.
I’m not going to lie, I was pretty excited to sit down with Kirstin and have this conversation. I have heard so many of her answers to questions and her thoughts on our journey over the years, but never have I just sat and listened to take it all in at once, until now. On a bright summer morning, the two of us are sitting on the Skeesuck’s back patio.
Describe your relationship with Justin.
“Justin and I have always been really good friends. Since the very beginning we’ve been best friends. We just really enjoy spending time together and talking with each other and laughing a lot. We just live life together.”
After Kirstin pauses to gather her thoughts, she drives home a concept that is missing in so many marriages.
“We are very social people and love being with our friends and in every social setting possible but at the same time, we really appreciate and enjoy spending time with just the two of us.
We really have so much in common and because we enjoy talking and hanging out with each other, we are usually on the same page overall in life and that just makes life so much easier. We spend a ton of time together and we have always had a routine of making time for each other through the years. Now with three kids, it is more important than ever and we have been even more intentional about that time. Often it’s coffee dates or something in the middle of the day, and several times a month it’s a night out, but we continue to prioritize that one-on-one time together”.
In a nutshell, 17 years in and they are still dating each other. Beautiful!
What is one word you would use to describe Justin?
“The first word I thought of is “funny” because he just is. He makes me laugh… a lot. His overall outlook in life is so positive when things are not always looking up and to be honest, his humor really lightens the mood when I’m trying to be mad about something!”
I can vouch for this!
Why were you okay with the two of us taking this journey?
“I think part of it was because of the way he lives life and has always had all these grand ideas. He is the type of person that will achieve what he wants to do. He has a way of just reverse engineering things to make them happen. This idea was no different. I knew that once he had the idea, it was something he was going to do and he was going to make it happen. I am the realist in the marriage but don’t ever want to be the one to put any doubt in him. I’ve learned better than to say “well, what about this?” or “what about that?” because he is going to figure out a way to do it. So I might as well jump on board and support those things from the beginning.
We also don’t know how much time he has (although no one really does) so when there’s an opportunity to do something little, or something amazing, we just do it because we never know if there is going to be another opportunity to do it later on. We’ve always lived that way from the beginning.
We always encourage people that when stuff comes up and the ideas are there, just go for it. Don't wait for the “what if” or “maybe someday”.
I think back to our honeymoon where we spent a month in Italy and we had a lot of naysayers,“don't spend so much money on a trip,” “shouldn’t you save money for a house?” “why do you need to be gone that long?” Our response was, “Why wouldn't we?” Our jobs and life allowed it at the time and it was what we wanted to do...So we did it. And looking back, I’m so glad we did. Now, Justin would never be able to climb Giotto’s tower, he would never be able to walk Cinque Terre or around Pompeii like we did then. We didn’t know this was in our future, we just did it because we wanted to and “Why not?” We have really always lived this way, but now we are a little more careful to not let the kids, the money, or other things get in the way of living because we know that we don't know.”
We know that we don't know.
Such a great statement! We know the future is unknown so let’s live now.
What was the most difficult part?
“A lot of the preparation leading up to the trip was pretty stressful. There was just a lot of details for everybody involved, it was a lot to get ready for, a lot of time. It didn't necessarily affect me as much as it did Justin but there was just a lot happening around us.
As far as him being gone for over a month, there was so much letting go on my part. I’m so used to being the one in charge of everything in our day to day life, I am very hands-on because I have to be, and quite honestly we have a pretty well-oiled machine around here to keep things working smoothly. To have to say, ‘I’m tapping out, I’m going to let someone else do all this.’ That was hard.
Then once you were over there, to know you guys were going over the Pyrenees, or days where you would drop out of contact for a while and we wouldn't hear from you guys for a few days. I couldn’t help but wonder, “I hope they’re okay, I hope he didn’t fall off a cliff!” It doesn’t do any good to worry about it, but it’s kinda hard not to.”
It’s sobering for me. As I listen to Kirstin, the realization that she placed complete trust in me, completely let go of control and allowed me to step in to do so much of her role for so long; this is a humbling thing.
Did you have any singular fear?
“Ultimately at the beginning it was a fear of something bad happening because of so many distractions and moving parts because it’s a dangerous trek over the Pyrenees. There was a lot of “what if’s” going through my head.
But overall I had a weird peace that I knew it was going to work out.”
I remember feeling that same strange peace. Not knowing how things would turn out, but knowing they would be okay.
What do you hope people will get out of this story?
“I just hope that people can look at their relationships and say “I don’t have to live this life alone.” If you’re married, you have this person right in front of you that you chose for a reason. You can easily take that for granted. Spend time with them, talk to them, get to know them, be friends with them. Enjoy life with them. You and Justin had your friendship that you've had your whole life and then Donna and I came into that. Then many many other people have come alongside us and supported us through the years.
By Justin allowing you into his life and into this adventure, he needed you and it ultimately ended up being vice versa. You taught each other on the trip. We all needed each other in different ways, to support each other in all of this. To try to go through life alone, I just don't know how people do it. I think that it’s almost impossible to truly live if you're trying to do it by yourself.
Think about how much more you can see and achieve, and grow, and learn about life and learn about yourself and each other when you have other people around you. Not just family and close friends but the community all around you, we need to be open and look for those opportunities that are right in front of us.
I think that’s what it ended up being on the Camino for you guys. It extended out to other people, people that you maybe wouldn't have expected. You guys might have thought this was going to be a journey between just you two. In the same way you think about a marriage, sometimes we think it’s just going to be us. But it’s not just about us, and it shouldn’t be. There are many circles of people surrounding us and supporting us and hopefully making us better."
How has our relationship impacted you?
“I think just having a close friend impacts anybody. Your friendship provides the things I can’t. The things I don't have the ability to do because I’m not a man. You know? You have a different perspective, and a different history, so having that friendship fills those needs that I can’t and so he is more complete.
When all those needs are met, Justin and I are stronger on our part (marriage) and you have a stronger friendship on your part.
When we were living in San Diego and you would come down to help, you provided a break, a respite that no one else was able to give me at the time. You had the ability to come down and take some of my load off of me so I could rest and rejuvenate and come back able to give more to my family. I am so thankful for that”
I'm thankful for the trust both she and Justin placed in me.
How has this journey impacted your children?
“They have a different attitude towards life. They have picked up on Justin’s attitude of “I’m going to do this!” All of their life they have never said “I’m not big enough” or “I'm not tall enough”. They have a confidence about them where they say, “I want to go do this.” and where the world might say, “but you’ve never done that before.” They are not afraid to jump in and try. They are very confident, individual, strong kids. I can’t help but think some of that has come from watching their dad’s life. They are very independent and I think they are more aware and are more empathetic when they see someone in need. There are lots of people out there that are going to need help. We need to watch out for those moments and I hope that they continue to do that.
In general, they are confident, strong, independent, and stubborn because of where they came from. Anyone who knows my family, knows that is a strong gene; but to use that for something, to “channel the passion” as I always say, use it for the right thing. I think this journey is a motivation for them to say, “hey, I have this great idea” and be strong and figure out a way to get out there and do it. And of course, I hope something else that they learned from you guys is that you don't have to do it alone, you shouldn't do it alone. Ask your friends, ask for help.
Justin has to ask them for help all the time. I think it’s good for them to see the example of asking if you need help, it’s okay, it’s not a point of weakness. Look to your friends, what strengths do I have? what strengths do they have? How can we make these grand things happen by working with each other. I hope they learn that and achieve not only what they want to get out of life, but help others achieve what they want to do too.”
At the end of the day, I couldn't have asked for a better woman to take my best friend's hand in marriage. A remarkable beauty exists in their relationship.