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Kickass Couples Podcast

How to Stay Connected in Every Area of Your Marriage – Ep 78 RECAP – Kristen Grainger & Dan Wetzel

By November 23, 2022No Comments



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Kimberly Hoffman, Matthew Hoffman


Matthew Hoffman  00:02

Welcome to the Kickass Couples Podcast. This is the place where we help committed couples who want to level up their marriage experience with newfound clarity, hope and confidence. We’re Matthew and Kim, co hosts and husband and wife.


Kimberly Hoffman  00:16

In 26 years together, we’ve seen a lot and never thought it could be as good as it is right now. We’re here to help you successfully navigate the messy, dirty and wonderful world of marriage.


Matthew Hoffman  00:28

We believe all couples deserve and are capable of experiencing an extraordinary and fulfilling marriage. And each week we’re bringing you life lessons from real life successful couples to help you grow and strengthen your relationship.


Kimberly Hoffman  00:43

We’ll get started right after this message. If you want to learn how to experience the best, most fulfilling year of your marriage, we invite you to order Matthew’s new book: Kickass Husband: Winning at Like, Marriage and Sex. You can get it at “ ” or visit Matthews website, Again, that’s “” or www.matthew And now back to the show.


Matthew Hoffman  01:18

Welcome back to the Kickass Couples Podcast. Today’s episode brings us this kick ass couple Kristen Grainger and Dan Wetzel, who took their passion for music and their love for each other to form the Bluegrass leaning Americana powerhouse of terrific songwriting, lush vocals and crazy good instrumentalists in their band True North. Kristen Grainger is lead singer, chief songwriter and co-founder with Dan of Americana String Band Kristen Grainger and True North as a nationally recognized songwriter. She wrote their first number one single “Ghost Tattoo” in 2020. She’s won and been a finalist in several of the nation’s most prestigious songwriting contests, including Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Wildflower and Merle Fest, alongside Dolly Parton and Brandy Carlisle, she was named one of the women who wrote our 2020 soundtrack by the Bluegrass situation. In addition to her work as a performing artist, she has served as vice president of Willamette University and written speeches for two Oregon governors. Three university presidents and an Oregon Attorney General. Dan Wetzel provides direction and leadership for True North, the band he co founded with Kristen and produces the band’s recordings. Three of their albums have hit number one on folk radio charts. He has earned considerable recognition as a singer songwriter and toured nationally as a solo artist after winning a national songwriting contest. An accomplished multi instrumentalist, Dan has superb skills with guitar, both flat pick and fingerstyle, mandolin, and octave mandolin. His multifaceted musical skills and techniques help give True North songs their driving groove. When not onstage, Dan designs and builds beautiful instruments that they and other musicians use in performance. In today’s recap addition episode Kim and I will share our key takeaways from our interview with this dynamic couple. We’ll break down concepts, relationship qualities and key pillar points that they’ve used to build their rock solid relationship that will stand the test of time.


Matthew Hoffman  01:35

Welcome back, everyone to the Kickass Couples Podcast episode, recapping Dan and Kristen Grainger’s interview.


Matthew Hoffman  03:47

Yeah, Dan Wetzel and Kristen Grainger, man, I almost was a little nervous talking to these two performers. They’re on stage all the time. They’ve got award winning singer songwriters, Dan makes his own instruments. And what a cool couple. 


Kimberly Hoffman  04:03

Yeah, they were definitely kick ass. I think it’s important to note that this was a second relationship for both of them. But coming into this relationship, they were both very guarded. But ready because I think they both really had some time prior to meeting each other to really identify and set markers for what they wanted in a next relationship.


Matthew Hoffman  04:31

Yeah, it was great because this is an example of someone who they both said we kind of had false starts, right?


Kimberly Hoffman  04:37



Matthew Hoffman  04:38

 So they both were super intentional about wanting to create what they want, and in all areas of their life, not just in their relationship, personally, but also in their profession. And what a cool example. Dan used to be a contractor and then he came into music. And you know Kristen has done some stuff on her own. They wove it together. And they’re another great example of a couple that works together full time and obviously coexist together. And they’ve built a beautiful family and they make literally some beautiful music.


Kimberly Hoffman  05:13

They do. They really do. I think it’s interesting that we’ve interviewed several couples lately, who have a business together, and as well as obviously have a personal relationship together. And I think that one of the things in this relationship that really stood out to me, that made them kick ass is, that they’re able to manage that partnership, right? But they also are interested in meeting in the middle with regard to activities and interests that they both have. And so an example that they use was golf. Kristen hadn’t played golf, she didn’t know the first thing about golf, but because it was so important to Dan and something that he absolutely truly loved. If she was going to be able to do it with him, she needed to take some lessons, and she needed to learn. So I love the fact that she was willing to be open to that. And I think that what makes couples kickass is in many cases, their willingness to meet in the middle.


Matthew Hoffman  06:18

Yeah, meet in the middle. And I think you learn to love what they love.


Kimberly Hoffman  06:23

 And appreciate it.


Matthew Hoffman  06:24

And appreciate it. And instead, you can make a decision, you can say, hey, you know, I don’t like that I’m out, don’t want to do it. And you know, maybe on some things you can, but if there’s a passion and a love, then don’t you want to learn a little bit about what your spouse, your partner is passionate about, and what they love, so you can experience it with them? And I think, you know, Kim, I can think of a couple things in our relationship that we’ve been able to do that on, and enjoy together, finding the joy in someone else’s enjoyment, right?


Kimberly Hoffman  06:52



Matthew Hoffman  06:53

And because the overriding principle in their relationship is that they love to be together, they’re another couple who are jealous of each other’s time.


Kimberly Hoffman  07:02

 They are 


Matthew Hoffman  07:02

And so the fact that they’re together, outweighs what the activity is or what it is that brings them together. And I think that’s super important.


Kimberly Hoffman  07:11

Definitely. I want to talk a little bit about their history. They didn’t really see a lot of love demonstrated in their families, when they were growing up, you know, and I think that that really helped them to be able to acknowledge and realize that that’s something that we don’t want to bring forth in our next relationship. And taking the time to really lay out what were some of the good things that they took from their relationships with their family, and then some of the negative things. And one of the things that  hit home with me that Kristen talked about was in her family, her parents took on very traditional roles of the father being out working and had a busy medical practice, and mom took primary responsibility for the home. And neither of them crossed into the other’s domain, so they really kept those things separate. And Kristen said, you know, when I get married, and when I begin to raise a family, I want to be knighted in this front. I want to be able to share parental responsibilities, and do some of those things together.


Matthew Hoffman  08:24

Yeah, it’s kind of a generational shift that doesn’t always happen that way, but they both had those typical nuclear families, you know, husband, wife.  I think, you know, the male in both those examples was the primary breadwinner, and the mother was working full time in the home. And I think that that structure, you know, can breed a lot of things. And they said, you know, we want to do it differently, I think similar to you and I. And, you know, we share and there’s a partnership, and there aren’t things that I go, Oh, that’s not my department, I don’t do that. And I think it’s the same for you. We certainly have focuses and things that we dominate maybe or do more of in our relationship, but I really liked the fact that they were intentional about creating that. And I think they both had good relationships. And the one thing they said they both want to do is be better expressed to their children and each other of demonstrable love.


Kimberly Hoffman  09:16

Right? And they didn’t, I think they didn’t get a lot of that growing up. And that they wanted to be able to have that with their own families being able to say I love you, and be comfortable with it. Being able to give hugs and kisses and just really showing affection for one another.


Matthew Hoffman  09:34

And I think it’s another stellar example, we’ve talked about this before. And I think it bears repeating is, your relationship isn’t negotiated, right? It’s an agreement. You both come from backgrounds and experiences. And you get to decide together, not unilaterally not independently, but together, how you’re going to bring the good and bad forward to create the best thing for the two of you and some of those things. Usually the issues arise or the problem or challenges arise when we each experience something that is a trigger or reminds us of, oh, I don’t want that. Or it’s, this is heading down something I don’t really like from my childhood or I experienced. And so having those conversations and being intentional about it, they did a fantastic job of it because it gave them the life they want. And they were intentional about creating those things in their families as well.


Kimberly Hoffman  10:21

And they’re this couple super committed to each other. Dan stressed that commitment, their commitment is all encompassing. They’re always creating time to spend together. Fun and humor is important in their relationship. They are making music together, so they spend a lot of time working on that foundation of commitment.


Kimberly Hoffman  10:45

 They do. And in commitment, I think Dan said something like he said, “The commitment they have for each other manifests or represents itself in 1000 different ways.” So commitment is not that I do one thing, and I’m committed or I do two things or three things. But he said, “commitment is all over their relationship,” because there’s 1000 ways about him and Kristen that they express and demonstrate in their work, in their music, how they act to each other. And a really cool thing that he shared that they do on their anniversary, is they don’t give each other gifts. But what they do on their anniversary is they each write a letter to each other over the last year of the things they saw, presented and represented and how they experienced their partner,  things they’re grateful for. And they give the letter to their partner, and then they’re together, and their partner reads the letter out loud. 


Kimberly Hoffman  11:40



Matthew Hoffman  11:40

So Dan gets to hear his letter written out loud by Kristen and vice versa. They said they always bring lots of Kleenex because there’s tears. But what a great tradition. Here’s a tool right? 


Kimberly Hoffman  11:51

Yeah, they’re on number 21, by the way.


Matthew Hoffman  11:53

21 years of marriage, and they’ve done this for 21 years and man, you went about creating some incredible memories, I just love that.


Matthew Hoffman  12:01

 when it comes to creating a kick ass marriage. Do you ever wonder what you could be doing better? Have you ever thought how helpful would be to be a part of a like minded community of other imperfect couples who want to level up and their number one relationship? Come visit Kickass Couples Nation, where you can talk with people just like you, who are looking for ways to invest in and increase their joy, commitment, and fulfillment in their most important human relationship. You’ll have access to a team of licensed marriage therapists, coaches, articles, podcasts, live webinars and more. Just visit “,” so you can learn more about a community that’s ready to help you level up. That’s “,” So you can become of the growing Kickass Couples Nation, right now.


Kimberly Hoffman  12:51

Yeah, and Kristen shared with us that commitment, she felt like it’s something that she wants to do, not something that she has to do, and I thought that was an important thing to note. Because so many of us just go through the motions, and do it and feel like we have to do it. And oh my gosh, here I go again. And that really is not what commitment is all about. We have to want to do it, yearn to do it, look forward to doing it. 


Matthew Hoffman  13:20

Yeah, commitment is not an obligation. It’s not a noose around your neck. It’s not something that should be heavy or oppressive. 


Kimberly Hoffman  13:23

Something we get to do.


Matthew Hoffman  13:24

 Yeah, I get to and just think of the difference when you say I have to, versus I get to, so hopefully you’re saying more, then I have to. Another thing Kim, on commitment before we leave that topic that I just loved about these guys, is they said in no uncertain terms, does anybody look at their relationship, how they are together, and wonder A if their husband and wife or B if they’re committed to each other. So the way they relate, the way they work, the way they raise their kids, the way they communicate, it all dictates and shows clearly to anybody watching, we are without a doubt committed to each other. So they’re demonstrating it and it’s palpable, and tangible.


Kimberly Hoffman  14:08

And I believe that in regard to communication, they have some really unique ways of communicating with each other. They write songs for each other, which is super special. And they intentionally spend a lot of time together, taking walks together, holding hands. They create time to be together.


Matthew Hoffman  14:34

Or be in the garden, 


Kimberly Hoffman  14:35



Matthew Hoffman  14:35

play golfing 


Kimberly Hoffman  14:36

They even have these two chairs in their homes that they call Archie and Edith chairs and they make time for each other sitting in those chairs. Having a morning cup of coffee every single day. 


Matthew Hoffman  14:49

Yeah, that’s a throwback. For our listeners that might be younger, there was a show called ‘All in the Family’ with Archie and Edith Bunker. Two easy chairs, lazy boys, you know what I mean? A little table. And they would sit in those chairs and have conversations about everything. And so Kristen and Dan do that as well. And you know, Kim about communication. She said, You know, you talked about being in the bubble, right? And she said, You know, when we’re not in a bubble, she goes, something feels off and it’s wrong. She said, “It’s more like, “I can’t find you. I don’t know where you are. “Because there’s something bothering you or we’re not in sync, we’re not communicating, and connected. And she said, “I gotta find them and make sure we reconnect.” And we pull back to that bubble, where we’re in touch, and we’re in tune with each other. And I really liked that.


Kimberly Hoffman  15:40

Yeah, they kind of have their own lingo of, you know, being able to express to each other, are we in the bubble? I’m not feeling like we’re in the bubble, we’re out of the bubble. And I love how they use that.


Matthew Hoffman  15:52

Yeah. And then kind of moving on to conflict resolution. I think both of them had some great things to say. And, you know, most people will say, Oh, we argue about this, we argue about that. But Dan had kind of an interesting, 


Kimberly Hoffman  16:07



Matthew Hoffman  16:07

 Take on that


Kimberly Hoffman  16:08

He did. He said, You know, I don’t believe couples have a lot of arguments, I believe they just have one argument. And they have that same argument over and over again. And that that argument manifests itself in different ways. And most of that is a result of fear. So I appreciated those words, because I do think that a lot of our arguments do come out of fear.


Matthew Hoffman  16:34

Yeah, it’s a fear of will they really love me for the way I am or the way I am now. Right? And you need that affirmation, you need to hear from your partner continually, probably more often than we all realize that they love you. They care for you, just the way you are just where you are, you know, scars and ugly warts and all. And, you know, you gotta give those affirmations and make sure that you’re not getting stuck in attaching those things to somebody but saying, Hey, I love you and accept you. And I’m going to tell you that and I think, you know, Kristen grew up in a really competitive family. She had five brothers and sisters.


Kimberly Hoffman  17:15

Yeah. They were competing about everything all day. 


Matthew Hoffman  17:18

Yeah. And for


Kimberly Hoffman  17:19

 Always a competition. 


Matthew Hoffman  17:20

And their dad was a real successful surgeon, I think in the medical field. And to impress her dad, she said, you had to do something amazing. So there was a kind of competition to win dad’s approval, and you know, a lot of Win, Lose thinking. And she said, you know, they kept score. Who’s to blame, who’s responsible? And she said, Wow, I want to make sure that that’s not entering into our relationship. But one thing she learned out of all that she said, if you feel you have to win an argument, then it’s the death of intimacy, and that is so true. You know, we in in how to handle conflict, we had this in one of our webinars lately, harkening back to another interview, and what was shared with us from Beverly and Tom Rodgers, he said, a great way to get out of an argument or to stop it in its tracks, is to look at your partner and say, Honey, you might be right. Because it’s not about winning, or, or losing and seizing the day. But it’s about that understanding and making sure that you keep that intimacy alive, by not feeling that your opinion, your thought, your preference has to win the day. And I thought that was just really good stuff to think of and Kristen shared that. That was a great lesson she learned and that she’s brought forward to their relationship today.


Kimberly Hoffman  18:40

Yeah. Well, I hate to give away too much more. This was such a great interview. And I think the very best part was the last part where you asked if they would play either a chorus or a little riff for us. And so I hope that our listeners will go back and listen to this episode and interview in its entirety because it’s well worth it.


Matthew Hoffman  19:06

So well done. I mean, Dan pulled a guitar off the shelf, one that he had made, and it was a song that Kristen wrote. She sang, he played and man, True North, Kristen Grainger and True North is the name of their band. Check them out, listen to the podcast. You know an ending thought Kristen shared, when we were talking and kind of winding down, is that we all have compatibility, but we have totally different skill sets. She’s good at things that Dan is not as good at and he’s great at things that she has no idea how to approach and it’s not about being the same to be compatible, but it’s about magnifying the good in each other. So how are you magnifying the good in each other today? Go back and listen to this interview. It’s a lot of fun. They’re so talented. Check out their tunes on Spotify, Kristen Grainger and True North and remember,


Kimberly Hoffman  19:56

Happily ever after doesn’t just happen. It’s on purpose.


Matthew Hoffman  20:00

Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you again soon.


Kimberly Hoffman  20:03

That’s all we’ve got for this episode of the kick ass couples podcast. If you liked the content of the show, you’ll love Matthews newly released book, “Kickass Husband: Winning at Life, Marriage and Sex.” To receive a digital mini book of quotes and images from the book, all you have to do is rate the show and leave a review on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you tune into. Then email us a screenshot of your review at “” And we’ll get it over to you right away. Until next time, remember, happily ever after doesn’t just happen. It’s on purpose.