When Ben and I started dating in 2005, shipped names for couples were definitely a thing but definitely not called that yet. Still, Brangelina, TomKat, and Bennifer were all over celebrity news at that time, so it didn’t take long for people to merge Ben and I’s names together, too. Except, we didn’t want to copycat and become another Bennifer so we flipped the script and made ours Jenjamin instead. Hilarity ensued when one of my friends actually wrote us a check for a wedding gift made out to Jenjmain Welsch!
Beyond the funny name combination, though, we’ve always had a great deal in common that’s lead us to this point of 16 years married:
1) Planning. My goodness, do we both love to plan. I wouldn’t call it daydreaming because we’re both a little too serious and intense for the stereotypical approach to that act, but we can future cast like no one else it seems. We can also plan and pull off quite a bit in our actual daily lives, too (even though raising five Littles also makes it feel like we never actually accomplish much more than just getting through the day’s schedule). Of course, sometimes our plans go up in smoke but that’s just life I guess. Somehow we keep each other balanced and grounded enough to keep trying and keep our chins up when things don’t work out and celebrating when they do.
2) Running. This is something we both did as teenagers in high school and young adults in college, except Ben’s was for actual college athletics and mine was for occasional exercise by then. It was also one of our favorite activities to share pre-kids when we trained for and completed two half marathons in 2007/2008. Then we started having babies and even though I’ve dabbled here and there with running since, it’s not been a couple thing for us again until this year (2022). We certainly don’t run far or fast, or even that consistently yet, but it’s good to be back at it together, even if our older, wiser bodies are wondering what we’re doing to them each time we hit the pavement.
3) Music Appreciation. For those who wonder why our kids play so many instruments (we have four piano players, two cello players, one saxophone, and one flutist so far), it’s because B and I have always had music in our lives, too. I played three different instruments as a kid (violin, just one year; trumpet, for five years, and piano, for who knows – several years at least) and Ben was active with choirs/singing at school and church. The funny part of our musical history stems from being in a Doane College choir together for an entire year and still never actually meeting each other, which is one of the biggest misconceptions about our relationship. Despite that shared class/concerts and three years roaming the small campus at the same time, we didn’t meet until a year after I had graduated and left Doane. But sure enough, once we started dating, his mom found an old concert program with a choir group photo on it and there we both were – several rows apart but not all that far from each other, even. I’m the one who brings the music into our daily lives with now my playlists and pushing us to see live music, but Ben’s always been down for a good lyric and/or the rare turn at karaoke.
4) Childhood. Even though our school and growing up on a farm experiences were different both in state location and methodology (conventional vs. organic), we understand a lot about each other due to our remarkably similar experiences growing up in the Midwest of the 80s and 90s. We’re just under a year apart in age from one another and our family dynamics were the same in that we each had one sibling of the opposite gender. We even attended the same church denomination (Methodist) for our primary education years before my family joined the U.C.C. instead. We’re also both the first born, and in three out of four cases, the oldest grandchild as well, so we get a lot of what that role was like and how it shaped us into the people we are today.
5) Homebodies. Once upon a lifetime ago, we traveled halfway around the world together but now our favorite place to be is at home. Maybe it’s the long distance runner/farm kids in us, but we both tend to crave quiet and room to think which folks often associate with their homes. The irony is that during this particular stage and season of life and parenting, it’s rarely ever quiet in our house but neither one of us is big on going out or being away which still makes our less-than-peaceful abode our primary destination of choice.
We’re opposites in many ways and complement each other in so many of them (his math to my English, for example), but clearly we are two peas in a married pod as well. Here’s to Sweet 16 (and many more runs)!