Jon Acuff is a self-described dreamer and New York Times Bestselling author of 6 books. For over 20 years, Jon has helped some of the biggest brands in the world tell their story—including the Home Depot, Bose, Staples and the Dave Ramsey team. He is featured regularly on national media like CNN and Fox News. Jon is very busy and has huge aspirations, but what does that mean for his marriage?
One of the things I remember getting excited about was Jenny Acuff writing a book called “Being Married to a Dreamer.”
We get the question all the time – occasionally Jenny will do Q&A with me and people will ask about how I get my wife to support my dream. One time Jenny just said, “Money is nice”. I thought the book would be a great idea and I announced it, but she didn’t want to write a book.
People write in all the time to encourage her to finish the book, and it’s still an idea that I think would be great but Jenny doesn’t want to write the book because she doesn’t want to speak on it.
Talk a little about the tension—a lot of time dreamers are married to people who are more grounded.
That’s definitely the case for Jenny and I – living with a dreamer is like a fire hose of ideas. The other person can often be the ‘how’ person and the dreamer can feel attacked. When Jenny was saying, “money is nice”, she wasn’t saying, “prove it!” She was saying that results make it easier to support it—when I’m getting up at 5 am and watching less TV. She knew that I was really getting excited about it.
The dreamer’s responsibility is to say when they just want to talk and brainstorm. Also, it’s not your wife’s job to carry all that. You’ve turned your wife into you warden, but we were created for community.
How does this connect with the idea of being a dreamer?
I think part of it is having shared dreams, but it’s also not forcing your dreams on someone else. Your spouse shouldn’t 100% understand your dream because it’s your dream, not his.
Talk about the beginning and when you were figuring all this out, then how it’s evolved over time.
Part of it is allowing your spouse to give honest feedback. There are a lot of marriages where, in your family of origin, the husband was the hero and the wife was the cheerleader. There are a lot of marriages where the wife doesn’t have the freedom to speak about things that should change.
A lot of my job is to shorten the distance between when Jenny tells me something that’s true and when I believe it. It’s having a space where your spouse can be angry, excited, critical—they don’t have to just act a certain way.
What closed the gap for you on how long it took for you to hear what Jenny had to say?
It was other guys who had the kind of marriages I want. Most of the things I’ve learned, it hasn’t been like one day I woke up and was doing life differently. I heard a counselor once say that every man wants to know he’s enough and every woman wants to know she’s not too much.
Give an example of when you and Jenny hit a space where she wanted you to throw the breaks and it was helpful.
When I first started working for myself, she would tell me that it seemed like I was trying to make everyone else my boss. She would tell me that I get to make the decisions but out of fear I was trying to get everyone else to be the boss. She was essentially saying to own my decisions and take responsibility for what I choose.
Another time she quit working for me—when you go on your own, you don’t have a community and your spouse becomes your community. I was running everything by her and she basically quit. My book Do Over she read like 8 times, but Finish she saw when it was done. Some couples work well together as an entrepreneurial couple, but they’re the unicorns.
Talk a little to the people who are married to a dreamer. What can they do to support dreams but still be honest?
I think it’s to take a pause – most situations will dissipate on their own. If your spouse has a crazy idea, just wait a week and they’ll be on to the next thing. Then be honest about what you need – tell them you’re nervous about them doing this thing again.
Also, establish some ground rules. One of our rules is that I can register a URL on GoDaddy but if I haven’t touched it for a year I can’t renew it. Figuring out the simple ground rules is part of what you can do.
How do you support her dreams?
Part of it is that I don’t try to make them mine. I create space for her to do the things she wants to do. She went to Germany, Switzerland and Singapore last year with a girlfriend and I try to be really flexible that way. I can’t travel for my job and then expect her to always be home.
Also not letting my stuff dominate the situation—she didn’t need to read Do Over that many times. Finish didn’t dominate our lives – it was my job, we launched it and it was great.
How do you guys handle it with you traveling so much?
We’re deliberate about it – Jenny told me one time, after saying goodbye to my kids, that I was giving them all my shame and guilt about leaving. The weepy goodbye thing ruins the kid’s week. That was a huge change for me. I also tie it together when we’re at Disney on a Tuesday—reminding them that we can do that cause I was in Oklahoma the week before.
Also, when you’re on the road be on the road and when you’re home be home. I try to take them with me—I’m doing a cruise this summer with Sandi Patty and I’ll take them with me. They come when it makes sense.
Talk a little about home. You have an office at home, how do you do that?
I try to be deliberate about keeping things in my office—not the living room, the kitchen. I’m usually done by 4pm when I’m at home. I’m still trying to figure it out though, every 6 months it radically changes.
I’ve heard you say one time that your kids are your kids, they’re not your content. I’m sure that applies to Jenny too, talk a little about that
The older they get, the more invested they are in not being embarrassed on the Internet. They now are looking at more and suggesting stuff for me. I don’t reference my daughters’ Instagram name, a 14 year old doesn’t need to be inundated with followers. I don’t want my kids to be in ads, they’re not a prop.
Your one simple thing for this week:
Fight in the morning. You don’t have to have it out at 2am, find the right time to have the conversation. I think it’s the most misinterpreted verse from the Bible – thinking you have to finish every discussion before bed.
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