#EmiTogether: Aya Takeuchi, Founder of Emi on striking a healthy balance as a couple with different values and priorities

Introducing #EmiTogether: We’re excited to kick off our new Q&A series called Emi Together, where we interview people about how they sustain positive routines and meaningfulness in their romantic relationships. The word “Emi” is Japanese for “smile,” which is something Emi wants to bring to every relationship. Emi’s founders are Japanese and they met on the Tokyo startup scene, so naming the company Emi was a nod to their heritage.

Our interviewee today: We’re kicking off the series with our very own founder and CEO, Aya Takeuchi. Aya was inspired to create Emi when life got busier and more demanding with her partner of 15 years, David, and their three young children. Aya sought the latest research and self-help guides on relationships, and after successfully using simple daily practices to reconnect with her partner, discovered a gap in the marketplace for accessible, actionable relationship practices. She developed Emi to provide a resource for diverse couples, different relationship styles, and a wide range of relationship challenges.

What are some myths about relationships that you grew up with, if any?

Both Dave and I grew up with close family units and both our parents are still together to this day. Growing up, I had a relatively stable and happy childhood, and now that I’m older and am a parent, I realize that’s in part because of the traditional roles and expectations my parents were following – I had a working father and a stay-at-home mom. In today’s modern world, while all the progressive options are wonderful, they also bring us more stress at times -such as issues of work life balance, mental load, poor parental leave policies, lack of child care and support system, you name it. All of that spills over to the relationship with your spouse and can create issues that are very real, although often not talked about.

In hindsight, I’ve also realized that my parents did a lot of things together without the kids and kept their similar interests such as traveling, going to shows, etc- so it was very much a them VS us (kids) mentality. It’s counter to some of the current child-rearing philosophies, but I’m realizing that maintaining your own interests and routines separate from your kids may be one of the secrets to staying together for a long time.

What has been one challenge in your relationship, and what are some big or small steps you’ve taken to work on it?

The biggest challenge in our relationship is managing 3 young kids – it became especially hard after kids #2 and #3. Besides the usual difficulties of time management and splitting chores, the differences in values and upbringing became more apparent when setting priorities for our children and for ourselves. For example, I am adamant that our children are fluent in Japanese, so that they can go back and forth seamlessly between two cultures. Dave wants them in competitive sports year-round so they can reap the benefits that he had growing up such as building grit, teamwork, and strong relationships. We, like most families, simply don’t have the time or resources to do it all – so we are forced to prioritize on what’s most important to us. I’m also the one in the relationship who prioritizes the children while Dave tends to prioritize our relationship, which strikes a healthy balance for us.

We try to work through challenges one by one as they come, and try to see things from the other’s perspective. Most of the time I’m tired from juggling work and everything going on with the family, but starting and working on Emi made me realize the importance and the positive effects of working on your relationship bit by bit, every single day. It’s still a work in progress!

What are some positive relationship rituals and routines that you and your partner maintain?

We have a recurring date night (and sitter) scheduled every Thursday. This makes it an effort to reschedule or cancel, and it’s also on our work calendar. Most of the time it’s a simple dinner out, but it allows us to leave the house and the kids, to focus on each other and catch up. Sometimes we get inspired by Emi, and try something different together like a cooking class. 

What are 3 things you want your children to say about the relationship you have with your partner? 

  1.  We respect  each other – I want them to realize that we have differences but we always find a bridge.
  2.  We are loving and create a safe place, both for us and for them to be themselves.
  3.  We have fun – I want them to know that it’s fun to be in a relationship, and to have each other.

What are you excited about most for the next several years with your significant other?

We look forward to the days when our kids are older and more independent when we can (re-)pursue common activities and interests together (like travel and certain sports) and not worry about getting home in time, or who’s feeding the kids, or just being tired.