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summer 2021

Designing A Life That Works For Us

A Strong Couple Shares the Same Destination— Even If They Have Different Ideas On How to Get There
Written by: WayMaker Journal Team

Daniel and Laura Valencia have been a couple long enough for some of their 30-something friends to come to them for relationship advice. They met through mutual friends: he thought she was “beautiful” like Halle Berry and out of his league; she was impressed by his honesty and straightforwardness.

Together for 12 years and married for two, they live in New Jersey, where Daniel is the Bearded Banker, a mortgage banker and real estate investor, while Laura is New York City-based executive assistant to WayMaker founder Louis Carr. They spoke with WayMaker Journal about what they have learned about making a relationship work.

WJ: So, what’s the bottom line?

DANIEL: Relationship-wise, we’re just on the same team a lot of the time, and we communicate well and we’re friends before everything. That is what we would tell people above all, to have those foundations.
LAURA: In a relationship you have to recognize when you have to communicate, or when you have to over-communicate. We know each other well enough that if we’re arguing we know that means we are not on the same page about something, and in that moment, we become aware that we need to work a little harder at expressing ourselves and hear each other out to reach a mutual decision.

WJ: Tell us more about friendship.

DANIEL: I’ve had a group of friends since middle school; there’s 10 of us and we’re really close. I don’t hold grudges against my friends; I know their flaws and I still accept them. I know who they are, and I treat my marriage the same way.

LAURA: You don’t try to change who your friends are, right? Daniel has always accepted me for who I truly am, and I appreciate that above anything else.

WJ: Does being on the same page mean always having to agree?

LAURA: Not necessarily, because we do disagree on a lot of things. We’re not the same person. But we have been together long enough to where I already know what’s important or not important to him, and he knows what’s important and not important to me.

DANIEL: We agree on the big goals, but we may have different ideas on how to get there and we learn to accommodate each other in the process.

WJ: Can you give us an example?

LAURA: Sure, buying a house. We have moved a lot since we have been together: Daniel is a mortgage banker—that’s the information he is privy to on a daily basis—homes and home sales and mortgage rates and interest rates and all. So, I know that most likely we’re not going to be in the same home long because chances are he’ll learn about a deal, and we might have to get up and go because it just makes sense based on the market. I follow his lead, and I’m very flexible in these scenarios because he knows what’s best for us and our investments. I can’t make big decisions on things I’m not sure about, and I’m OK with that.

DANIEL: She allows me to do what I’m good at (and I allow her to do what she is good at) because we have the same goals. So when I say, “This is a good move for us,” she usually agrees because she knows that I’m always working and strategizing to get us to that big-picture destination down the road.

WJ: We’re talking about trust?

LAURA: Oh, absolutely. I trust him 100% with things like that because I know that he will always make the right decisions for us. I’m grateful and lucky enough that I’ve found my partner and my opposite, someone that can bring out my strengths, but is also willing to point out my weaknesses. I know he has my back, and that means everything.

WJ: How similar are you?

DANIEL: We’re definitely opposites in a lot of ways, especially personality-wise. We have the same goals and ambitions, but how we handle things is completely different. I’m very realistic and cautious and she makes decisions based on emotion and gut feelings. She also takes more risks, which isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes being as realistic as I am, it holds me back from doing things and I need Laura to say, “Just do it!”

LAURA: I admit that, at times, I can overshare. I want people to know exactly how I feel at all times! I don’t want you to wonder. I don’t hold back. I’ve learned that’s who I am and not who Danny is. I know he is more reserved than me, and I don’t have expectations of him changing.

WJ: What’s your shared dream?

LAURA: We don’t want to go and live on an island and do nothing, although that sounds blissful. We both pretty much thrive on being busy, but not just doing “busy work.” It’s actually doing work that fulfills us during various stages of life.

We’re really conscious of our relationship and our happiness, and not sacrificing it.


DANIEL: We talk a lot about designing a life that works for us and our plans change based on what’s happening around us. So, we are constantly adjusting and adapting to the plan. We’ve learned that we can work and be successful without feeling like we’re in a rat race because we constantly remind each other of our why. We’re really conscious of our relationship and our happiness, and not sacrificing it to try to get to some career or financial end goal.

WJ: How was working from home together during the pandemic?

LAURA: We like to have our own separate spaces; I tend to bounce around the house a lot, whereas Danny needs one designated area. We stay out of each other’s way and at lunch or dinner we catch up on our day.

DANIEL: We try not to be in each other’s face all day so that by the time we finish, we are happy to see each other again. LAURA: Since the pandemic, we do make it a priority to sit down and have dinner together every night. When we were both working in the office, having dinner during the week was very rare because of our schedules.

WJ: How else do you prioritize your relationship?

LAURA: On the weekends there is always something going on—errands, friends, family, baby showers, weddings, someone’s birthday, the list goes on… you know. Three years ago, we decided that Thanksgiving is our holiday. Although we celebrate with our loved ones before or after, we don’t spend Thanksgiving Day with anyone else. I cook and the day consists of eating and watching TV and no one is invited. It’s our holiday that we look forward to each year.

WJ: What’s the big mistake too many couples make?

LAURA: I think people who move too quickly tend to hit some hardships. We’ve been together 12 years, and the person that I met is not the person who I’m with now. You have got to get to know each other for a while and understand and accept the good and the bad from your partner in order to grow together. Most importantly you really have to know how to share your space with someone else. That takes time.

WJ: What have you learned about yourselves through marriage?

DANIEL: Definitely that I’m lazier than I thought I was. When we moved in together, I stopped making the bed because I knew she would. And I had to learn that, well, this is a marriage and we’re partners, and I can’t expect her to do it all.

WJ: What’s the secret to a good marriage?

LAURA: I don’t know there is one. I think it’s so obvious, it’s just hard to apply. It’s all the things we’ve talked about.