Ep. 8: Nate Bagley: Do You Want an Awesome Marriage? Start with Real Intent.

Ken Krogue: Hi everybody. Ken Krogue and Thom Harrison here with Eternal Core. We’re excited today to have Nate Bagley with us. He’s a researcher, author and founder of several different online communities. One of which I’m excited about is Date Night, Utah. And also mormonmarriages.com. There’s several of them.

Nate Bagley: Yeah. I dabble in a lot of different things, but everything’s based around helping people to strengthen their relationships.

Ken Krogue: Now you did something really fun several years ago. You went on a nationwide research project. Tell us about that.

Nate Bagley: I did. So one of the things I was really curious about is I wanted to know the secret to creating extraordinary love. And I knew there were couples out there who had the type of relationship that I wanted, but I didn’t have really consistent exposure to them. I got to the point, I was in my mid twenties, and I was getting to that point in my life where I was getting ready to settle down. My relationships up to that point had not been so great. So I just kind of had this voice tell me like, “Man, you should just go and search out these couples and try and figure out what it is you need to do to create the type of love that you want.” So I quit my job, and I spent the better part of a year traveling all around the country, tracking down couples from all walks of life and talking to them about what makes their relationship so extraordinary.

Thom Harrison: Were you surprised at what you found compared to your conceptualization of what you thought they were going to be?

Nate Bagley: Yeah, I mean the interesting thing is that we don’t get taught relationships very often. You know, there’s no relationship class in high school. There’s not like relationships 101 in college. So much of what I knew about relationships is just what we talk about just with each other, you know, Oh, you’ve got to have good communication. You’ve got to be selfless. It’s the type of stuff we here in everyday conversations. When I actually got out on the road, I started to get exposure to couples who had relationships that I didn’t even know were possible. I would meet them, and I’d be like, “I can’t believe this is a thing. Like I can’t believe what you have. This is so incredible. I can’t believe what you have is a thing and that nobody else knows about it.” So I started sharing these stories, and it blew my mind. It totally… So yes, it was very unexpected things that happened.

Thom Harrison: Could you give us an example of some of those surprises that you found. You know, what you saw that you went, “Oh, I didn’t even know this was possible.”

Nate Bagley: Yeah, just like the level of dedication that people have. So in Omaha, Nebraska. I met a couple named Ty and Terri and Ty was a youth pastor at a nondenominational Christian church. And they had such a phenomenal relationship. They invited us as complete strangers, they invited me over to their house. I was traveling with a friend of mine, Melissa, and we went over and knocked on their door. Within five minutes, like they were hugging us and inviting us in. And we sat down and had this really long conversation. One of the things that Terri said that really stuck with me was she said, “She wanted to live her life in such a way that at the end of Ty’s life, he could look back and think that Terri was his greatest earthly blessing and that he was a better man because of how she loved him.” And I was like, “Oh my gosh, can you imagine if each one of us had the goal to love our partner in such a way that at the end of their life, they were just like, “That was the best thing that happened to me was marrying that person. And every single day they made me better because of how they loved me.””

Nate Bagley: I’d never heard somebody express their goal inside of a relationship in that way. So starting to see how some of these couples interacted with each other. And how, as their relationships improved and grew over time, their impact started to grow as well. So one of the cool things about Ty and Terri is, after being married for a couple of decades, and they had kids, Ty had this, like as a youth pastor, had a real connection with the youth in Omaha. And there’s a specific part of Omaha that’s lower income. There’s a lot of gang violence. And he decided he wanted to do something for those young kids. He wanted to open what he calls The Hope Center for Kids.

Nate Bagley: And it was just a place where they could go after school where they could not be involved with gangs or drugs. They can have mentorship. They can be safe. They had exposure to good role models. And when he told Terri this, she was like really nervous. It’s a big commitment. It’s kind of a scary thing. It’s something you’d have to dedicate a lot of time and energy to. But, as she thought about it, she said, you know, she’s like, “Okay, I can either. I know he won’t do it unless he does it with me, but I don’t want to be the one standing in the way of his dreams.” So she mustered up some courage and she said, “Yeah, let’s go for it.” And they’ve, to this day, now they’ve helped thousands and thousands of thousands of kids in that community over the last couple of decades to have an extraordinary life. But the pillar of that place was Ty and Terri and their marriage. That’s what held that place together.

Ken Krogue. That’s so intriguing that they came to the realization that they needed to do it together. Yeah. So they didn’t have her world and his world. They had their world.

Nate Bagley: They co-created a world. And I think that as people evolve inside… The basic reason to get into a relationship is selfish, it’s “What can you give me?” And then the higher level is, you know, “what can I give you?” And then the higher level above that is “what can we give to our community.” And as our relationships mature and strengthen, the number of lives that are impacted can also grow. One of my favorite things about extraordinary marriages is, when people have extraordinary marriages, it impacts their community in an incredible way.

Ken Krogue: That’s powerful.

Thom Harrison: I’m reminded of the scripture to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, might, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. First we have to fix that structure with self

Nate Bagley: Definitely.

Thom Harrison: And then we can give to our neighbor. And then only when we do that, can we give to the wider community.

Nate Bagley: Yeah.

Thom Harrison: I think that’s a wonderful example of that scripture.

Nate Bagley: Thank you. I think they are a pretty wonderful example of that scripture also.

Thom Harrison: Yeah.

Ken Krogue: So what did you engage in after this big nationwide research study? Where did that lead you?

Nate Bagley: Well, what it led me to is the realization that other people had similar questions to the questions I had. So first it started as just a fun project, like I wanted some answers, and I thought it would be fun to record these conversations and publish them as a podcast. Then people started listening, and they said, “We want more, we want to be more inspired by these stories, and we want more ideas of how we can level up our love.” So, then it’s turned into, I’ve continued the podcasts. I’ve started to incorporate a lot of industry thought leaders, a lot of therapists, and authors, and other couples who have incredible relationships. And then it’s kind of had this domino effect, where now I’m producing events where we can teach people these skills. They don’t just hear him on a podcast, but they can come and learn them. And we’re putting together online courses that steal, borrow, take, model some of the best research that exists in the world right now about how to have incredible relationships. And it helps people learn the principle quickly and then put it into action immediately, so that they can start seeing the results.

Ken Krogue: That’s a principle you’ve built your whole foundation on. It’s not talking theory. It’s action. Talk about that.

Nate Bagley: Yeah, I will. I’m a firm believer that the people with the strongest relationships are action takers, not inside chasers. And it’s really easy in life to get… I think you can get kind of hooked on chasing insights. You know, it’s fun to read books. It’s fun to listen to podcasts. It’s fun to go to seminars. It’s fun to listen to conversations like this, because when you learn something or you hear something inspiring, it sets off that little dopamine rush in your head. And you go, “Oh, I’m a better person now.” But the information that you learn doesn’t do you any good, especially in a relationship, unless you put it into practice. So my goal was to help. A lot of what I do to help couples have the relationship they want is try and shorten the gap between what they know, and what they’re actually acting out.

Nate Bagley: I think one of the most beautiful things about relationships is that no matter how good your relationship is, it can always be better. I’ve never talked to somebody and said, “What’s one thing that you could do to be a better partner today,” or “What’s one thing that you could do to improve your life?” And I didn’t have an answer. There’s always a gap between what you know you could be doing better, and what you’re actually doing. So I’m trying to help people close that gap by hopefully shortening the amount of time between when they learn something, and when they put it into an action.

Ken Krogue: We’ve got a pretty big community starting to form and grow. It’s hard to customize or cater to a whole community at the same time. But, if you were going to pick maybe three assignments and homework for us, what would they be? What would some of your favorite things that you’ve found that just seem to work well with couples?

Nate Bagley: I would say there’s three really solid things that are important. The first would be to have an ideal. So, the conference that we’re putting together, that you’re putting together, has so much to do with incorporating God with psychology. And I think God, for a lot of people, represents an ideal. You know, God sets a standard, and we want to constantly strive towards that standard. I think human beings are naturally inclined to want to improve. We find satisfaction in becoming, in getting better at things. So having an ideal, and probably the best way to find your ideal, what ideally you should be striving for, is to identify what your core values are as an individual and as a family. I think a lot of people, if you sat down and talked to them, they could tell you what

they value. The things that are important to them. But, if you ask them what their core values are, what the one, two, maybe three values are that are most important to them. That guide them through their biggest decisions. That motivate them to wake up in the morning. They wouldn’t be able to name those.

Nate Bagley: So that would be a great place to start. To identify those core values, and then start finding ways to turn those nouns, a noun like patience or a noun like selflessness, into a verb. What does it look like when I behave that way? So that would be the first thing is pick an ideal and strive for it. The second thing is a certain amount of consistency. So one of my favorite relationship researchers, John Gottman says, “It’s the small things done often that make the difference.” And a lot of us think that doing one grandiose thing for our partner is going to make our relationship awesome. Whether it’s an awesome honeymoon or like a lavish gift or even like forgiving them of something one time, you know. But it’s the small acts of patience, and the small acts of forgiveness, and the small acts of kindness, and the small acts of appreciation that you do every single day that build up, that really make a relationship strong.

Nate Bagley: So if you identify those core values that are important to you and to your partner, and then you live those core values every single day, those constitute the first two things. The last thing that I would say, that really makes a difference for couples, is the thing that few people actually do. And it’s have a system of accountability built into your relationship. And that system of accountability…

Ken Krogue: Wow, what does that look like?

Nate Bagley: Yeah. So what’s the goal? *Thomas S. Monson said something along the lines of, when something is tracked, it improves. And then when it’s tracked and reported, it improves exponentially. I’ve butchered that. It’s something. Do you know the actual quote?

*”When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates”*

Ken Krogue: You’re on target.

Nate Bagley: Yeah.

Ken Krogue: We’ll find it and add it to the podcast .

Nate Bagley: Perfect. You can throw it up on the screen. We do that in business. We do it a lot in hobbies. You know, if you want to learn to become a good piano player or you want to become a good basketball player, you typically have a teacher, somebody who sets an expectation for you. And then, you go back and report to them. You do drills. But we don’t do that in relationships very often. So, inside my relationship, one of the things that we do is every week we have a meeting together. And we go over the logistics of the next week. We talk about what went well the previous week. What we can do better next week. We set goals together, specifically goals around our values. How can we live our values this next week? And we compliment each other on the way that we caught each other living values on the previous week. Um, another thing that…..

Thom Harrison: That’s beautiful. Caught ourselves living values.

Nate Bagley: We should always be trying to catch our partner doing something good.

Thom Harrison: Right. Because see, that’s those small and simple things. I think in our society we often think, “Okay, I brought you flowers last week, so what do I get from that?” We focus into the “I” structure instead of catching one another being a good partner, catching one another doing that which is consistent with our values. I think that creates that sense of consistency over the whole relationship.

Nate Bagley: Yeah. I think you find what you’re looking for.

Thom Harrison: Correct.

Ken Krogue: Wow.

Nate Bagley: When you’re looking for reasons to compliment your partner, and the things that they’re doing good, you’ll find them all over the place. But, if you’re looking for all the reasons or all the ways that your partner is letting you down, and disappointing you, and making your life harder, you’ll find those as well. It’s like playing, did you ever play slug bug? The slug bug game as a kid. Some people call it punch buggy. But we, I remember doing this as a kid. We’d drive around and whenever you saw a Volkswagen bug driving around on the road, you could hit the brother next to you until they could tell you what color. You’d say, “Slug bug, what color,” and you’d hit him. And I never saw slug bugs when I was just driving around normally. But suddenly, when we started playing the game, they’re everywhere. And I’m constantly getting punched in the arm. It’s like when you start looking for something, you see it. Same thing happens when you buy a new car, you know. And suddenly everybody around you is driving that car and you’re like, “Oh man.”

Ken Krogue: Especially Tesla’s.

Nate Bagley: Yeah, Tesla’s are everywhere, right? You notice one, and then they’re everywhere. So anyway, it’s the same thing inside your marriage. What you look for is what you will see.

Thom Harrison: It’s a concept of by small and simple things do great things come to pass. I think often we think it’s these big things that are gonna make the difference, but it’s those small and simple things as you continue them and as you’re consistent. Then when your partner looks at you, it’s so small and consistent. Those small and simple things that we say, “That is my partner. That is what makes it my partner.”

Nate Bagley: Yep. The other thing that I do is I have a habit tracker on my phone. So there’s an app and you can set up all sorts of different habits, and then you just check a little box every time you do it. So I have a habit on my phone to write my wife a love note on the mirror every morning. And then I have another one to give her a passionate kiss every single day. I pin her up against the wall and just really like plant my lips on her, you know. Let her know she’s loved, not a peck, something serious. I have another one for date nights. Once a week, I really want to plan a date night. Then I can go back onto that App and look at like the past month worth of habits. It takes me two seconds to check the box. Then, I can look at my history and see where I’ve been strong and where I’ve been weak over the last couple of weeks.

Ken Krogue: Now I’ve got to ask you a question here though, because having come from a Franklin Covey background with the old Franklin Day planner. The biggest mistake I made was when my wife realized she was a checkbox somewhere. Have you found the same thing? It’s got to be authentic and real. And I say, “Hey, it got done. I’m working on me to be better for you.” Talk about that. Is that something, where by systemizing, that you feel like it lessens it or the fact that it makes it happen? I’m just curious.

Nate Bagley: I think some people will interpret it as lessening it, but to me, one of the keys to having a strong relationship is that you reward effort, not outcomes. And if somebody knows that something is important to you like emptying the dishwasher. Emptying the dishwasher is really important to your wife. Whenever you do it, it means a lot to her. And you put it on your calendar to remind yourself to do it, and it becomes a check mark for you. She should be… The ideal situation is that she is rewarding the effort, the fact that you care about her enough to keep track of the things that are important to her. So that’s how I would express it if I was in those shoes. If I was the husband in that situation.

Ken Krogue: Okay, I’m taking mental notes here. I’m going to try it out.

Nate Bagley: I get that you want this to come naturally to me, but I’m working on strengthening my weaknesses right now. And I’m not the ideal husband, but I’m working towards it. And one of the things I’m doing is I’m taking note of what’s important to you, and I’m trying to make an effort. What I really need from you, and what one of the coolest things about human behavior, is that we want to do more of what we’re recognized for. So if you can recognize the positive efforts regardless of the outcome, if it’s positive or negative, or if you empty the dishwasher the right way or the wrong way, or at the right time or the wrong time, or with the right attitude or the wrong attitude, the effort is what counts. And when you reward that, that behavior will perpetuate. You’ll see more of it. Eventually, you’ll master emptying the dishwasher the way that it works.

Ken Krogue: So, summarize the three again,

Nate Bagley: Have an ideal to strive for and then be consistent. And then have some accountability, some sort of accountability structure in your relationship to hold you accountable to living those values that will help you reach the ideal.

Thom Harrison: Nate, one of the things that troubled me last month. I was reading an article which was talking about the significant diminishment of intimacy in millennials and generation X. They were finding that their intimacy in their relationship is diminishing quite significantly. Do you have anything to add to that or to say about that? Or from your research, what have you found? Why do you believe that your generation is having less intimacy in their relationship, at least from a research standpoint than any other ever studied relationship or group of people.

Nate Bagley: Right. So, when you say intimacy, are you talking about married millennials and are you talking about intercourse or…

Thom Harrison: No, I’m talking across the board, you know, intercourse, emotional connection. You know, they’re reporting that they’re being sexual much less often. And that their intimacy is, they have more intimacy with things than they have with people, at least that’s what was reported. Do you have any comment or feeling on that? Or am I just putting you on the spot here now?

Nate Bagley: I mean, I have a comment on everything, because I like to talk.

Ken Krogue: We’ve got the right person.

Nate Bagley: Yeah, you picked the right person to bring in, for an interview. I think there’s a lot to unpack there. I think I’m familiar with this study that you’re talking about. The article that you’re talking about. And one of the interesting things is that teenagers are having, there’s less teenage pregnancies. There’s less unprotected sex.

Thom Harrison: Same article.

Nate Bagley: Yeah. So those are all great things. I think, you know, people are being, they’re a lot more educated. They’re being a lot more intentional with the decisions that they make. But also, there’s the danger of people just being disinterested in it, disinterested in human connection. Spending so much time behind your device or in front of a screen that you forget how to connect with a human being and have an authentic like heart-to-heart conversation. I think that’s a risk that we’re definitely running into in society right now. It’s that, when you’re connected to everybody, you’re not really connected to anybody.

Thom Harrison: And when you’re meeting weekly and going over your goals and talking about that, that is a connection. When you know that’s going to happen, I would think that that would increase the intimacy. I mean, like you say, you want to plant a really good kiss on your wife every day. That is a motivation to get close, to get intimate. And, you know, I just thought, “Boy, what a dichotomy from what I read in the study.” A significant difference, that you’re planning intimate structure, that you’re saying, “I want to show you that I love you, and I want to be intimate with you. And in our goals, there is this desire to be more intimate and close.”

Nate Bagley: I mean why wouldn’t you? So the most extraordinary and the most fulfilling marriages are marriages that are built intentionally. Extraordinary love doesn’t happen by accident. You don’t just stumble on it.

Thom Harrison: That’s beautiful.

Nate Bagley: You look at some of these relationships out there, and the relationships that you admire most are probably the relationships with people who are planning their relationship in a meaningful way. They’re thinking, “What can we do? What can we talk about? What do we need to avoid, to make sure that we stay connected, that we stay united, that we keep on track with our goals and we are living our values and that we don’t grow apart.” They’re invested in each other’s lives, in each other’s dreams. They share the deep, dark. Dark? Probably just deep and profound yearnings of each other’s souls.

Ken Krogue: Deep, light.

Nate Bagley: Yeah, the light. They share each other’s light. That’s a great way of saying it. And, unless you plan that in, there’s too many distractions that will take you off the path. There’s, everybody knows what they are. You’ve got your cell phone, you’ve got the social media, you’ve got Netflix. You’ve got a thousand things that you need to do on your to do list during the day. You’ve got a million advertisements. You’ve got the consumer culture that says you can get anything at the drop of a hat at any time. You’ve got invitations to every single different party and events. There’s just a lot of commitments that can pull you away from what’s really important. And what I see happening with so many families is they get so caught up in their commitments and these distractions because they’re not being intentional. Then their kids start to grow up, and their kids move out of the house, and there’s this huge spike in divorce rates for empty nesters.

Nate Bagley: Their kids move out, and they realize that, for the last 30 years, they’ve been so caught up in running the logistics of their life, that they have forgotten to be intentional about how they run their marriage, and how they create intimacy and connection together. And rather than untangle all of the mess that they’ve created, all the knots that they’ve created over the last 30 years, they figure it’s just easier to split up and start over fresh with somebody else. So you got to be intentional if you want to have an awesome marriage. You have to be really, really focused and deliberate about how you treat your partner and how you show up everyday.

Ken Krogue: I love one of the consistencies you mentioned being date night. That’s a theme we’re trying to weave into EternalCore in this big event that we’re launching March 29th and 30th.

Nate Bagley: It’s going to be so great.

Ken Krogue: You’ve had some pretty big events already and date night seems to be touching a raw nerve that’s working quite well. Talk about that.

Nate Bagley: Yeah, we’ve done two dates. The two big date nights at utahdatenight.com. We’ve had over 800 people show up to these events. It’s awesome.

Ken Krogue: And those 800 we want you back, all right?

Nate Bagley: Yeah, come back. So the cool thing, what I’m really excited about, is that we’re putting meaning into date night. So often date night is dinner and a movie. There’s a routine, it’s something that’s comfortable. But one of the great opportunities of date night is to, one, get you and your partner outside your comfort zone. You can take that opportunity to experience something new, see your partner in a different way that you’ve never seen them before and that builds attraction. If you get too habitual with your date night, it doesn’t give you much opportunity to do anything except talk logistics. But, if you want to cultivate passion and intimacy and closeness, then it helps to get outside your comfort zone and go experience something new.

Nate Bagley: In addition to doing that at our date night events, what we also add on is some education. We call in relationship experts, some of the best relationship experts around. And we invite them to share some of the top most powerful things that couples can do to strengthen their relationship. And, most of the time, we allow the couples who come to date night to put it into practice at the event. So for example, a couple months ago, we had an event and Georgia Anderson came. She’s a marriage expert, and she’s amazing. And she did this exercise on cherishing. What she did is she gave partners an opportunity to identify each other’s core values and then tell like… I got to tell my wife a story of when I saw her living her core values, and how much it meant to me. And I’m looking out over the audience while we’re doing this, and I’m seeing, you know, 400 couples sitting there sharing these moments with each other. They haven’t talked about this before. And they’re crying and they’re hugging and they’re kissing. It’s a 10-minute exercise and people left holding hands and more in love than when they walked in the door.

Ken Krogue: Sign me up for that. That’s great.

Nate Bagley: Yeah, so rather than sit in a dark room and watch a movie and not have a conversation, once every three to six months, come to one of these events. Learn something new that you can work on over the next three to six months. Get a shot, an inoculation in a sense, against the things that are going to tear you down and remind yourself what you can do better.

Thom Harrison: Yeah, with a neuroscience background, when I hear you say these things Nate, I think of all this wonderful neuronal development that’s taking place in these people. Just establishing new neuronal structures in the brain. You know, that’s what keeps us alive. That’s what’s going to move us away from early dementia and early Alzheimer’s and things of that nature. So, you know, I just see the correlation of all these things.

Nate Bagley: Oh, that’s awesome.

Thom Harrison: Isn’t it Wonderful, Ken, to have this opportunity to sit down with some of these movers and shakers that are really spending all of their time thinking of how to help marriage instead of how to destroy people.

Ken Krogue: It’s beautiful

Thom Harrison: And we appreciate so much people like you who have spent the good walking boot structured time to go out and find these things, and then create a wonderful organization. We so much appreciate you.

Nate Bagley: The feeling is mutual.

Thom Harrison: And chatting with us.

Ken Krogue: And we’re excited because everybody, we have asked Nate to be our coach. To put on a really fun date night, Friday night, March 29th with our entire community at the Little America hotel for the first EternalCore event. So, we’re going to hold you to it. We want you to coach us, teach us what a good date night really looks like. Is that okay?

Nate Bagley: Of course.

Ken Krogue: And then we’re going to, as part of the ongoing community partnership here, we’re going to go back and forth between our large events and piggyback and work closely with Nate and Date Night Utah. We’re going to get outside of Utah Real quick though, aren’t we?

Nate Bagley: Oh, I sure hope so.

Ken Krogue: Yeah. You’ve got some big plans, don’t you?

Nate Bagley: Yeah, hoping to make it into a couple of different states this year and continue to grow. The response has been so positive that it can’t be exclusive to here

Thom Harrison: From date night America to date night universe.

Nate Bagley: There we go.

Ken Krogue I’m in.

Thom Harrison: There we go.

Ken Krogue: Well thanks so much Nate. Anything else you want to add?

Nate Bagley: I’m just really excited about the conference. I’m really excited to be a part of it, so.

Thom Harrison: Well, thank you for your willingness to be a part of it. We appreciate it.

Nate Bagley: My pleasure.

Thom Harrison: I hope you listen and join us more frequently to hear more of what Nate’s doing and people like him in our community. Thank you so much.

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