This story is the first of four profiles of couples taking a third metric approach to matrimony, prioritizing wellbeing and fun ahead of wealth, status and being constantly "on." Look for more portraits of third metric marriages later this week.
After Josh, a nutritionist, gets back from the gym each morning, he and Meghan, a self-employed online cooking instructor, meditate together for 20 minutes before breakfast. His workday involves client appointments in the morning, and workshops and teaching engagements in the afternoon. In a loft space Meghan renovated to create a double kitchen, she conducts her classes, develops recipes and writes. Each evening Meghan goes to yoga or takes a bike ride (Toronto weather permitting), then meets Josh at the farmers market to buy supplies for dinner. After they eat, they retreat to the infrared sauna they recently installed in an extra bedroom in their apartment. Then they unwind (further) by watching "Portlandia” or “The Daily Show" before heading to bed.
It wasn’t always this blissful. Meghan held eight successive jobs with eight different advertising firms in her first three years of employment, working 10- to 11-hour days that started at 5 a.m. There was huge demand in her specific field, interactive advertising, in 2004 and 2005, so headhunters called her constantly. “They would offer me more money, and I thought that was what I was supposed to want, so I would take the jobs,” she said. “I thought, maybe if I was getting paid more, it would be more enjoyable.” It wasn't.
Meghan and Josh on their wedding day in 2012.
While logging those long hours, she was battling a painful and mysterious digestive illness that ultimately rendered her unable to work. She took a leave of absence. "I was fortunate that I was making a lot more money than 24- and 25-year olds really need to have, so I had savings that I could live off of," she said. "I had my parents' support as well. If I could no longer afford to live on my own, I could move back home with them. I had that fallback."
Soon after she was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, which causes inflammation of the lower gastrointestinal tract. She was prescribed medication and told that she might have to have her intestines removed.
"My priority was 100 percent to make sure that didn't have to happen," said Meghan, who began a regimen of acupuncture, yoga, meditation, a lot of rest and a diet of completely unprocessed food.
After six weeks, she was symptom free and wanted to "learn from a more formal perspective what I had done that made this work."
Meghan decided she was done with advertising and the lifestyle it required, and enrolled in Toronto's Institute of Holistic Nutrition where she met Josh.
They quickly discovered that they had a lot in common; both grew up in loving middle-class families near Toronto, their mothers are artists and both sets of parents have been married 40 years or more. But what binds them most is their commitment to health and well-being.
"We make a conscious choice every day to be happy," said Meghan. "If we don't, we ask what we can do about it. I don't think there's been a single day that I've known Josh where either of us wakes up and says, 'today's gonna suck.'"
That's not to say that their lives are completely stress-free. Josh's mother and Meghan's father have had cancer in recent years. And their unpredictable income can be a strain -- especially as they contemplate starting a family. "We both sometimes say, it would be nice to know what you get paid every other week," said Meghan. Adds Josh: "I have similar worries, but I feel like we'll figure it out.”
Meghan and Josh at the April 2013 launch of Meghan's book, UnDiet
Josh’s more laid-back approach helps Meghan avoid becoming overwhelmed. “Josh does a lot of work with his clients helping them manage their stress. He does a really good job helping me put things in perspective," said Meghan. "We balance out very well.”
But more than anything, it’s their lifestyle that keeps their stress levels low. “We make healthy living a priority, whether it's [sex] or going to yoga or going for a walk or going to the gym," said Meghan. "Those are the non-negotiables.”
In November, the couple will move to Venice Beach, Calif., for three months. “We thought it would be fun to live in a place that's sunny” in winter, said Meghan, “where you can get organic food, and there's great yoga and surfing and bike trails."
Since Meghan's business is online, and Josh works with most of his clients remotely, they can continue their jobs. Josh calls it their "pre-tirement," and the couple agree that they feel no guilt about taking it in their early 30s.
"I don't feel it needs justifying at all," said Meghan. "My dad went through cancer in his 60s, and that's what forced him to retire. Why wait for that?"
The thing no one around them seems to understand, Meghan says, is that the trip and their overall lifestyle wasn't that difficult to establish.
Josh agrees. "I think people don't really look at what they truly want to do in life and then take the steps to see if that's a feasible thing. [They] just jump to conclusions -- 'oh, that's not responsible,' or 'I don't have the money to do that.' You can pretty much do anything if you take the appropriate steps to set it up that way."