Being in a happy relationship doesn’t end with finding “the one”. At age 34, award-winning journalist and author Jo Piazza met the man of her dreams. But before long, she found herself riddled with questions. How do you create a healthy marriage right from the very beginning? How does an independent, strong-willed feminist become someone’s partner—all the time?
As a travel editor, Jo found herself in the unique (and enviable!) position of being able to travel the world in search of answers and, alongside her new husband, Nick, decided to devote the first year of their marriage to exploring the rituals, customs, and traditions from other countries and cultures, all in an attempt to learn what modern marriage means, how it works, why it ends, and why it matters.
In her new memoir, HOW TO BE MARRIED, Jo’s recounts her epic journey around the globe and shares the most effective advice she gathered from hundreds of real women and men.
We chatted with her about dating, marriage, and how to know if he’s the one for you:
What has your marriage taught you about dating (hindsight is 20/20 after all!)? We try way too hard to impress other people when we date and dating shouldn’t be work. Marriage can be work, but dating should be the fun and easy part. If it’s too much work, if you’re trying to change or fix the person or it becomes a slog, it will only get harder when you get married and that person probably isn’t the right person to be spending the rest of your life with.
What was the most unexpected advice you got when you were researching your book? Take care of yourself and travel without your spouse. We tend to lose ourselves and our identities in a relationship. The happiest couples I met were the ones who made sure to make time for their own interests and friends outside of a marriage, who took care of themselves and even spent time apart in order to remember why they got together in the first place.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about marriage that you wish you would have known when you were dating? Go to bed angry. I think it’s the best marriage advice out there. Everyone likes to say that you should work it out before you go to sleep. You know what is better? Taking an Ambien, sleeping, waking up rested, drinking a cup of coffee and having a rational conversation when your head is clear.
As someone who is an independent, strong-willed woman, what was the biggest adjustment you had to make as you and Nick became a team? It was really hard to get used to having to consult another human about big decisions. I was so used to making those decisions on my own. A great example is when we were bidding for our house. I unilaterally agreed to pay $10,000 more when our offer was rejected and Nick was like, “Dude…are we in this together?” I just had this knee jerk reaction that I should be making decisions on my own and that’s not the case when you’re married.
How did you know Nick was the one? I didn’t at first. I also think that is a myth that you feel like a bolt of lightning hit you the second you meet the right person. After a few dates I started to feel something that was more like I’d found this person who was missing, this realization of “Oh, there you are. I’ve been looking for you.” But I think I knew when we took a camping trip to Joshua Tree and he pretty much rescued me from a flash flood and then whisked me to a hotel where he ripped apart a rose bush to roast me s’mores in a fake fireplace.
That’s love!! Out of all of the places you traveled in your book, where do you want to go back the most and why? We both want to spend more time in Kenya and Tanzania. We spent a lot of time talking to the polygamist Samburu and Maasai tribes there about building community and successful relationships and marriage and I feel like we had a lot of unfinished research there. But I think Nick would say he wants to go back to Chile to ski some more. I haven’t been out of the country since I finished the book in Scotland which feels incredibly strange and we probably won’t go anywhere until fall of 2017 since I’m about to have a baby.