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Couples Q&A: Nadine & Erik Still Argue About the Cows

Erik and Nadine share the challenges of getting married so quickly and the details of their month long honeymoon. 

By Erik Courtney & Nadine Jolie Courtney As a “baby couple,” what was it like still getting to know each other after you got married? Were there any surprises?

Erik Courtney: It was exciting because everything was so new and I really enjoyed spending so much time with her. But it was stressful too, because Nadine would get so upset with me. It seemed like everything I did rubbed her the wrong way. The side of the bed I slept on, my snoring, my list-making, etc. The process of figuring out how to live with each other was a lot harder than I expected it to be. We were good at going out and having fun at night, but the day-to-day aspects of our relationship still needed a lot of figuring out.

Nadine Jolie Courtney: When Erik and I first started dating, he would do anything to avoid upsetting me. Our dynamic was definitely one of him trying to please me. But we went from meeting to getting engaged to moving in to married incredibly quickly. By the time we set off for the honeymoon, we were honestly still getting to know each other and trying to figure out what made the other person tick. And when you’re married, you’ve got to get down and dirty and be honest -- you can’t always put the other person first and try to please them. It was good for our relationship, but not necessarily good for our egos.

(And, for the record, I know it sounds absolutely insane to marry somebody you’ve only known for a few months, but that’s how most people in my family and many in their culture did it. Why waste somebody’s time by dating for years? If you meet the right person and you’re serious about them: bam. My parents met and were married three months later, and they were married for 29 years, until my mother died.) Tell us about the “cow incident.” What were you both thinking as this was going on and as you each reacted so strongly?  Was this a relationship first?

EC: I thought it was really cool that what seemed like a very controlled tourist environment was actually open to cattle walking through the complex. You’re never going to see something like that at Disneyland. It reminded me that we were in a very different world in Hong Kong, and it was exciting to me to see these traditional farmers leading animals through the temple village underneath the Big Buddha. Like anything amazing that I see, I just had to take a picture with it. I didn’t take Nadine’s request to not touch the cow very seriously, because it’s not like I was going to make out with it. But I’m not a "stand on the sidelines and watch the experience happen" kind of guy. I like to be as much of a part of everything as possible: and that meant I was petting those cows. I wasn’t surprised that Nadine wanted me to wash my hands, but I was surprised by how upset she got about it. The fact that she wouldn’t even touch the strap I was holding seemed really over the top to me. I felt she was being overly dramatic.

NJC: We still fight about this, because to me he completely missed the point! Our fight in Hong Kong wasn’t about the cow or about the hand-washing. You could insert any scenario. For me, it was about how Erik reacted to me. My request was innocent and, while serious, made in good humor -- I said it laughingly. You know how you sometimes do something without thinking about it? That’s exactly what I did when I reached out to take the bag: I slid my sleeve over my hand without really noticing. I certainly wasn’t trying to make a big deal out of it or offend him. I just thought, "Hey, that was a dirty cow; he’s handing me the bag; I should protect myself from possible germs." But Erik took me to task as if I’d insulted him, and he wouldn’t back down, asking me repeatedly why I wouldn’t touch the bag. The badgering of me is what I reacted to, and it riled me up. The Erik I had first started dating would never have been so snappy with me, and it surprised me and made me snap back in return. I was absolutely being neurotic and silly about the hand-washing -- although, come on, who touches a strange cow?! -- but for me, the way he dealt with me after was the real fight.

Erik and I have a lot of similarities: we’re both neurotic, stubborn, emotional, and passionate. One of the reasons we bonded so quickly was because we let our guards down from the very beginning, which meant talking about everything under the sun for hours at a time. . .but also meant that we’d occasionally butt heads, and hard. Hong Kong was the number one destination on my world bucket list. . .yet here we are fighting at the Big Buddha like two lunatics.

I wish I could say I rose to the challenge of how he initially handled me with grace and dignity, but unfortunately, I ended up snapping right back. I wouldn’t say it was our first fight, but it felt like a turning point in our relationship. It seemed like the honeymoon was over before it had even started.

If you get into a fight at a beautiful temple in Hong Kong, you’re an ---hole.”

Nadine Jolie Courtney Tell us about the moment Nadine learned she couldn’t go diving. Erik, you seemed pretty surprised how Nadine reacted, why?

EC: Because she never displayed any interest in scuba diving whatsoever! When we were planning the trip, all she wanted to do was to relax, read, eat and drink. I had to convince her to do it, every time we talked about it and she seemed pretty nervous about it, too. I really wanted to share my hobby of scuba diving with her, but her hobby of going to the spa seemed to be a much bigger priority. Nadine – what was it like sitting alone on the boat? Did you really not want him to dive?

NJC: Honestly, I didn’t care about it until I started seeing the enthusiasm in Erik’s eyes, and then it was something I really wanted to share with him. But during my pre-check, the instructor found out I’d recently had a cold and put the kibosh on it. I’d had a cold for almost the entire honeymoon and it kept getting in the way of me doing things. I caught it on New Year’s Eve and with all the traveling and late nights; it lasted for three full weeks. It was really frustrating! Erik offering not to go scuba diving was so him, however: chivalrous, selfless, and perfectly emblematic of the guy I’d fallen in love with. Obviously, I never would have taken him up on it, but sitting on the boat alone was no fun, that’s for damn sure.

A Honeymoon Disaster What did you learn from your honeymoon?

EC: I learned that it’s easy to put somebody first when they’re doing what you want and a lot harder when they’re challenging you. But when they’re challenging you: that’s when it really counts.

NJC: Three things:

1. I learned that you can be right or you can be happy. Not every fight is worth it, and sometimes it’s simply better to let things go.

2. One month is WAY too long to travel.

3. Finally, if you get into a fight at a beautiful temple in Hong Kong, you’re an ---hole.


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