This guest post comes courtesy Betsy Talbot. Betsy and Warren Talbot are the authors of four books, including Married with Luggage: What We Learned About Love by Traveling the World (download the first chapter for free here). They host the popular weekly podcast, Married with Luggage, where they provide advice and stories about creating a happier relationship together. When they aren’t traveling, they are writing and cooking at their sunny home in Andalucia, Spain. Click here to sign up to receive their weekly insights to creating a happy and healthy relationship, one adventure at a time.

betsy & warren

Have you ever had a small explosion of understanding in your relationship, a moment that results in light years of growth in a matter of moments? While it is hard to plan for that kind of an “a-ha” moment, being open to finding one makes it more likely to happen. Soulmates do that, and aspiring soulmates can learn to do that.

Our marriage hit rock bottom in 2005 via the usual route – neglect. But before going our separate ways we decided to put our relationship first to see if we could save it…and we did. In the years since, our partnership grew with a cross-country move, working through serious health scares with people we love, a resulting decision to sell everything and travel the world, and then to writing books together and renovating an old home in Spain.

We made the transition to soulmates through dedication and work, and we’re still learning lessons about each other. Today I want to share one of those small insights that helped us see each other clearly for perhaps the first time.

Two years ago we spent August with another couple at a 100-year-old farmhouse nestled in the hills of Slovenia near the Austrian border. They were housesitting for the summer, and as we traveled through Europe by train they invited us to visit for a week.

In the old-fashioned kitchen at this farmhouse, right next to a giant radio from the 1930s, I sorted vegetables from the overflowing garden with our friend and had a long conversation about marriage and communication. These kinds of talks are easy to have when you’re away from home and routine and in the easy company of good friends.

My husband Warren walked in to get an apple, and he overheard part of our conversation. He didn’t say a word, and I thought nothing of it. Later that night as we nestled in under a handmade quilt to fight off the evening chill, Warren told me fireworks went off in his head as he walked out of the kitchen. He said he understood more about me in those 60 seconds of accidental eavesdropping than he had in the past 10 years.

The reason? He learned I was an introvert.

You see, I’d been telling him that for years, but he thought “introvert” meant “shy” – and I’m definitely not shy. When he heard me explain to my friend that I gain energy from being alone, as opposed to an extrovert like him who gains energy from being around other people, he said he finally understood me – and realized all the ways he’s been misunderstanding me over the years.

I’m like an iPhone battery that drains a little with every interaction; he’s like a solar panel who stores power when in the brightness of other people.

He thought my need for personal space was often a rejection of him personally. That my preference for thinking things through before discussing was me being too independent to work together, or that I thought I was smarter.

On the flip side, I often felt badgered by him to always talk things through or address so many things out loud. Sometimes I felt smothered by his need to be together and talk so much.

As we snuggled under the blanket and whispered together into the night, I realized he had just as much of a right to honor his extrovert tendency as I did for my introvert tendency. But how were we going to do that without changing who we were?

What we finally realized was that we were taking each other’s energy style personally, and it caused problems in how we interacted on a daily basis, solved problems, worked together, and even fought.

Talk about a lightbulb moment.

We’ve spent years taking big steps in our relationship: Coming back from the brink of divorce by completely changing our lifestyle and location, spending two years saving money and getting rid of everything we owned to travel the world, and learning to write and work together as business partners as well as lovers.

But sometimes the greatest growth comes in small moments like this, when a realization illuminates life and love in a totally new way. We looked back to the past at all the times we misunderstood each other’s intentions and responded inappropriately, hurting our relationship. And then we looked forward to the future when we wouldn’t make that mistake again.

There is no doubt we have a strong partnership. We’ve weathered bad storms together (literally and figuratively), changed our lifestyle completely – twice!, created books together, and relied on each other totally as we’ve traveled the world. But there is nothing we’ve done that rivals the impact of of this small discovery in our communication styles.

Warren isn’t hounding me; he wants to connect with me.

I’m not avoiding him; I want to recharge so I can be at my best for him.

And now that we know where we’re each coming from, we can better work together to get where we’re going.

Mali Apple & Joe DunnThank you, Betsy and Warren, for your fabulous example of how we can CREATE a soulmate experience through the power of our intention! ~Mali & Joe, authors of The Soulmate Experience: A Practical Guide to Creating Extraordinary Relationships52 Prescriptions for Happiness, and the upcoming book The Soulmate Lover, and creators of Mantras for Making Love