15 Lessons My Saintly Lion Taming Ninja Warrior Wife Has Taught Me

Since we met in 1997 no one on earth has had a bigger impact on me than Jill Erin O’Hara. 

Seventeen short months later we were married. Life hasn’t been the same since that wonderful day, November 28, 1998. 

We’ve served together across the country and around the globe, lived in household with over 70 young adults, been blessed to be foster parents to 13 little ones, and honored to call 4 of them sons as adoptive parents. 

Jill is an unwieldy mash-up of wisdom, grit, beauty, holiness, athleticism, and awkward. I love her to pieces. 

She is my best friend and the greatest wife-mom-magician I’ll ever know. And in honor of Mother’s Day (and our fifteen years of marriage) I wanted to share the 15 most important lessons that I have learned from her, so far. 

1. Love acts. I can hear her thinking “Ryan, your words are nice, but actions speak much much louder. Do something already!”

2. Saving is sexy. She is one frugal son-of-a-gun. And I’m so grateful. 

3. Giving is sexier. She has taught me the joy and freedom of giving generously.

4. A hug is always better than a handshake. Hug and kiss the ones you love, often. 

5. Dare to do great things for God. From sharing the Gospel door-to-door to lifelong ministry to Christian community to foster care and adoption, Jill has challenged me out of my comfort zone. 

6. Ask God for small things too. God is aware of every last need - no matter how insignificant.

7. Fear is for fools. She is absolutely fearless and calls me on in this area big time.

8. Love unreciprocated is just that. She has taught me to love others (especially our sons) regardless of their response. 

9. Don’t over-relate to your emotions. She has taught me that emotions are unreliable indicators of most everything (except what you happen to be feeling at the moment).

10. What someone else thinks of you is their problem. She has taught me that people pleasing is for suckers.  Still working on this one

11. Worrying is a big waste of time.  Her question: “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” always changes my perspective.

12. If you really want to do something, have the courage to be honest and talk about it. She has taught me not to be a passive aggressive punk. 

13. If you are in charge, be courageous enough to lead (or get out of the driver’s seat).  She has encouraged me to lead with confidence and trust the authority that’s been given to me

14. It’s better to go deep with a few friends than shallow with many. She is a friend’s friend.  She’ll give an arm and a leg to those she is closest too (me especially). 

15. People before screens. Our devices are a means to an end, not an end unto themselves. 

Which of these lessons do you need to heed? What lessons has your spouse taught you? Share in the comments section below. 


Best Communication Advice I've Received

Photo Credit: via Compfight cc

Every couple of months Jill and I have the chance to speak to about 100 couples who are preparing for marriage in the Catholic Church.  Different speakers come in to talk about pertinent issues for engaged couples - handling finances, sex, kids, etc..  We get to talk about “communication.”  

I’m not sure how we landed that topic, but I’m glad that we did.  It’s a golden opportunity to pass along the best bit of relationship advice that we’ve ever received: seek to understand before you seek to be understood.

Across fifteen years of marriage this one piece of advice has prevented hundreds of relational meltdowns and along the way given us thousands of tangible opportunities to love (the verb, not the feeling) each other. 

I would say a marriage is only as strong as it’s communication and I think strong communication between any two people, (especially married couples), is simply one person sharing and the other person listening.  And by listening I mean a concerted effort to understand what the other person is saying. Not just “not talking”, not just “not preparing a thoughtful response”, but focusing on the person’s words (and body language) in order to understand what they are trying to communicate.  

So, as a result more of your sentences (especially when talking with your husband or wife) should begin with: 

  • "If I’m understanding you right you are saying…"  or "if I am hearing you correctly you are saying…".  
  • And then once you repeat back to the person what you understand them to be saying, your second move shouldn’t necessarily be your response, but more questions to aid your understanding.  

Again this serves the goal: to seek understanding before seeking to be understood. Most of the time we take the opposite approach (seeking to be understood) and if two people are doing that at the same time, neither one gets their wish and both, if in an argument, are left more frustrated afterward than before.

While not fool-proof this approach will diffuse many arguments before they begin and if regularly applied could save a relationship years of frustration or resentment or even better, rescue it from it’s ultimate demise. 

Question: What’s the best piece of “communication” advice you have received?