A Q&A with the men who wrote the book on communicating in relationships.
Charly Ligety and Les Starck met while they were both working at a bank. Les was a newlywed and Charly had just proposed to his girlfriend (now wife), so they bonded over being in similar stages in their relationships. Knowing how wedding planning can take over everything, they decided to create a guide book to help couples connect and communicate over the aspects that will affect their marriage – rather than just the big day. They wrote the Very Engaging Couples Guidebook, and we sat down with the two friends to get their thoughts on the new book, as well as relationships.
Inside Weddings: Do you recommend the book for engaged couples, or for couples who are thinking about taking that next step?
Charly: We designed the book to be a fun date-night activity for couples, in all stages of relationships. Whether you are thinking about getting engaged, recently engaged (congrats!), or recently married, there is always something new to learn about yourself and your partner. Our mission is to bring couples closer together by making intimidating or complex conversation topics more light-hearted and simple. If you are in a committed relationship with someone you love, you will find playing Very Engaging beneficial in helping initiate and navigate life’s most important (and sometimes trivial) conversations with confidence and humor.
IW: What is your favorite page in the book?
Charly: I really enjoy the first conversation prompt, “Firsts”, which challenges couples to recall some of the first milestones in their relationship. Thinking back to what my wife was wearing when we first met and the topic of our first conversation is always very entertaining, as we both have slightly different versions of the truth!
Les: I am a big fan of the concluding chapter of the book, “Future”. I am always surprised how thinking about long-term goals - five, 10, 20 years down the road - helps put today's issues in perspective. It also helps me appreciate and better understand my wife's expectations, as we begin our life together.
IW: What is the best date you’ve ever planned?
Charly: My wife loves exploring new neighborhoods in Los Angeles and finding new bars and restaurants off the beaten track, so whenever I can combine that with an element of surprise, it is a winning date night. Last year I planned a surprise date that started at a small, unknown speakeasy behind a gas station (she was very confused when we were walking up to the front door), then ventured over to a small Ethiopian restaurant, and ended the night with cocktails on a rooftop bar overlooking West Hollywood. It was a smashing success.
IW: When did you know you were ready to propose?
Les: I met Ashley early on in college. It wasn't until senior year that we started dating. While I know it's going to sound cliché, I knew I wanted to spend my life with her from our first date. She delayed me for six years, despite my best efforts to convince her otherwise, but she said "yes" when the day finally arrived! When someone challenges you to think differently about the world, helps you see yourself in an entirely new way, and creates an atmosphere where you can just relax and be silly and be the best version of yourself everyday, you know you’ve found The One.
IW: How did you propose?
Charly: I proposed after a sunset walk on the beach in front of my grandmother’s lake house on Lake Michigan; I proposed with her grandmother’s engagement ring (we designed a new ring together afterward). My brother and sister-in-law (who both knew it was going to happen) snuck in some photos of the proposal as it unfolded. It was special to have both of our grandmothers “there,” in person and in spirit.
Les: The first time I met Ashley was in Economics at the University of Southern California. I sat in the front of the classroom; she sat a few rows back. I decided to relive the first moment I saw her. So, on USC homecoming, with friends flying in from around the country, she was led back to that room, where I was waiting with several dozen roses in my seat. I walked back to her old desk and got down on one knee – something I had thought about for six long years. When she said yes, we walked outside together to a large gathering of friends and family. USC beat Stanford that night with a game-winning field goal – it was all just meant to be!
IW: In your opinion, what is the most important topic to discuss before getting married?
Les: While there are so many important topics to discuss and explore, in making sure you are both on the same page, the most important topic to discuss is each other's values – how you treat one another, care for each other, and your tolerance towards changing (or accepting) certain values about your partner. You can have different opinions on money, family, sex, etc., but if your partner is willing to listen, understand, and empathize with you, any other differences of opinion can be overcome.
IW: What is your goal with the guidebook?
Charly: Our goal is to bring couples closer together by making it fun and easy to communicate about the everyday issues that arise in our relationships. Talking can be challenging, but we believe that honest, frequent, and quality communication is really the key to a couple’s long-lasting happiness. There are so many complicated issues in life that we never fully understand or respect, not because we do not have open minds (most of us do!), but because we are too scared or embarrassed to have these conversations with our partners. We hope these books provide an opportunity for couples to experience communicating with one another in a whole new way.
IW: Is there a difference between the His/Hers guidebooks?
Les: Yes! We have taken advantage of the two-book format, with partners having their own book to write in and read. We include a lot of side commentary to address each partner directly, which varies between the books. There are also a couple of activities that are completely different in each book – so keep an eye out for these surprise pages!
IW: Do you plan to have a version for same-sex couples in the future?
Both: From the very inception of writing this book, our mindset has been to make Very Engaging a game that all couples can engage in. Our original Kickstarter campaign and now our Indiegogo In-demand store gives couples the option to pre-order a HIS & HERS, HIS & HIS, or HERS & HERS book set. The sets for the same-sex couples have been customized to reflect the fact that two men or two women would be sitting side by side playing together.
IW: What do your wives think of the book?
Charly: They love them! They were instrumental in giving us amazing, honest (and sometimes brutal) feedback from the very beginning. They were very patient with us – they not only gave up many nights so Les and I could write the book together, but they also helped test the conversation games many, many...many times. We could not have successfully written this comprehensive, 12-chapter book set without their tremendous amount of love and support.