“We’d get done with work, the staff would go out together, we’d get drinks, then we’d make out and think, ‘That was a bad idea, we should just be friends,’” he said. “Then a week would pass, we’d go out again, and the same thing would happen.” Inevitably, they started dating. Months later they moved in together. Two years after that, he proposed. “I didn’t have any money at the time, and we didn’t own a restaurant yet, so I borrowed a ring from a friend,” he said. “I lined the hallway with balloons which had different notes attached to them. The last one had the ring.”
What I’ve Learned
Mr. Symon: When you work together in a restaurant, there are natural boundaries. Liz runs the front; I run the back.
I’ve learned there are things I’m right about, and things Liz is right about. If she feels strongly about something, I don’t debate her, and I’ve learned not to doubt her and to trust her instincts in business and in this marriage.
Our relationship history has taught me that we both have our strong points, to not fight the boundaries, that there are things I can’t control, and that you need to give the other person room to try something they believe in. It’s work to care for someone as much as you care for yourself — with marriage and with children.
Early in our marriage, I thought there’s the wrong way, or my way. I’m still like that about a lot of things, but not with Liz. I’m used to being the one who says, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll fix it. I got it.’ It’s very comforting to know someone who stands by you can also fix it, regardless of what people might think of you. She’s enjoyable to sit with and listen to. We have a heightened sense of connection, communication and passion. If you don’t look at your wife as the most special person in the world, why are you with her?
Mrs. Symon: This is my second marriage, but this is the first time I’ve been able to breathe. Michael is very chill and nonconfrontational. When you’re around that, it gives you the ability to trust and gain confidence.
We had a great friendship first and that helps because you learn to like the person you’re with. With Michael, I’ve learned I don’t always have to be right. I don’t always have to be first. And to have the confidence to admit when I’m wrong. That’s very beneficial. If you’re constantly combative, it doesn’t bode well for a relationship. I can take a step back now and listen to what someone else is saying. I used to say anything, and that can be hurtful.
I’m also little O.C.D. — coffee handles to the right. Michael tries to live with it, but I’ve learned to let go more. It’s my weirdness, not his, though he still believes a toilet-paper fairy exists and changes the roll, so I’ve also learned patience. Our marriage is intertwined in personal and business because we work together, which is how we started, and really, that’s all we know. The business part is simple. We have defined roles in what we do. Marriage is harder. It’s a world without rules. You have to make your own.
We’ve found our own strengths, and, in that, found each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I will always have his back and he will always have mine. I don’t think we’d be married if we didn’t have that.