Lessons  of Love

Teachers Robb & Liz Neill - well, Liz - share their lesson plan for married life

WINK felt that the month of love was a good time to solicite a bit of sage advice for millennials-in-love from a couple of ‘GenXrs’ from the block. Robb and Liz Neill took the bait.

Robb Neill teaches Coding and Cyber Security at Morristown East High School

He has a Bachelors Degree in History from the University of South Florida and Masters Degree from Tusculum College

Liz is an ESL teacher at Hillcrest Elementary School who recently received her Ph.d.

Robb and Liz have been married for 21 years. They have one son, Jackson, who is a senior at Morristown West. Their family also includes two rescue dogs, June and Jolene. The Neills attend First United Methodist Church and live in west Morristown.

Editors note: Robb’s mother-in-law is Teresa Ayers, community school coordinator for Hamblen County Schools.

Liz served as spokesperson for the couple.

“We’re all about the fairytale, or as close as you can get to it. We won’t settle for anything less.

When Robb first laid eyes on me he said his heart stopped and he just knew. He said my beauty overwhelmed his senses, and he immediately thanked God for putting me in his path.

After two eye rolls and a ‘yeah, right;’ I figured anyone who knows us knows what a load of crap that was. His true first thought was, ‘How can something so little be so loud?’”

What was your first impression?

“Because of our age difference, our first date was probably not exactly what Robb signed up for. I had moved back home from college. Yes, I was living with my parents and Robb had to pick me up there … knock on the door and converse with my parents. That’s normal if you are both 18. We were not both 18. It was precious.

Early in our marriage we both suffered marital culture shock. Robb never imagined the complexity of being married to an only child and an only grandchild: ‘WHAT do you mean I can’t bring my mom on our honeymoon?’

I knew he was crazy intelligent, but more than once he has taken his nerdom to Vulcan levels, his geekness to infinity and beyond. Our wedding registration had more electronics than linens or cookware.

As responsible adults, we sat down to discuss “buying” a new computer. Days later, boxes started arriving, daily for two weeks. Many, many boxes. Boxes from Hong Kong, Beijing, and Taiwan.

Somehow I missed the fact that my new husband was going to build that cool new computer we’d discussed so responsibly. For about a week our house looked like Radio Shack and The Geek Squad had a love child.”

How you fight?

We fight like everyone else ... Wesson Oil, Jell-o, and upper cuts, right?

Do you get sick of each other?

We haven’t stabbed each other yet. We have plenty to talk about, countless books to read, a history on which to reflect, and a future that is always in the works.

Who picks the vacations?

Teresa Ayers picks the vacations. There will be many chapters in our books about the Ayers-Neill family vacations. Another chapter for another day. Enough said.

Who pays the bills?

We throw our money in one pot. Robb pays the bills. I don’t do math; it is safer that way. He is certainly the CFO.

Who washes the dishes?

We have a son. He washes the dishes. We had him so he could wash the dishes. The same rule applies for cutting the grass.

I’d like to say that I am domestic, but let’s be real. We tried to buy a house without a kitchen. Apparently, those don’t exist. Robb hides my Christmas gifts in the oven. If I am feeling very daring, I might buy two different kinds of cereal for dinner and add a sprig of something for garnish.

What is the worst habit of your spouse?

Robb possesses strong grammar skills and doesn’t smoke. What more could I ask for? Let’s be real here, I have a doctorate degree, I can put down a toilet seat.

Most days, I have no complaints about the man I married. Life is way too short to pet the sweaty things.

We see eye-to-eye on what is important: raising a kind, hard-working child, social issues, our future, our place in life, dogs….the big picture…I don’t care if he doesn’t pick up his underwear – I can pick them up with my toes…but I don’t.

And trust me, he gets past the fact that I can’t cook. We can find food, anywhere, with relative ease.

Any advice for millennials?

I have plenty of advice for millennials, must I limit it to marriage?

Work hard.

Be equal, however equal works for you.

Make sure your values, politics, and beliefs align. I can’t imagine sharing life with someone who has fundamental opposition to my beliefs and values. Converse about these values, politics, and beliefs…often. Conversations are blessings.

And consider that the children you have will be with you for only a while. Around pre-teens, these children begin to find their place in the world and need their parents less and less.

We scratch our heads at how an alpha woman and a complete nerd raised such a kind-hearted redneck.

Before you know if, the kids are gone and you are sitting across the room staring at your spouse.

Make sure that spouse is your best friend first.

How have you made it this far?

Somehow we lucked into an agreement, without actually setting it as a ground rule, that we would not say anything we would need to apologize for. It is sometimes a challenge for us to maintain the ground rules on this one because we both have an extensive collection of “Yo Mama Jokes” committed to memory.

Four-hundred fifty-seven years of marriage later, we are excited that our “turn off the paved road” future that isn’t too far away.

He makes fun of how I talk, and I make fun of how his eyebrows grow. I’d give him a kidney and he fixes everything I break. We have independently and together failed at many things, but marriage isn’t one of them.

Being old married people is what we do best. We continue to be insanely proud, madly in love, and wouldn’t change a thing – well, except those eyebrows.