I first want to say that the reason I continue to do this blog is the support and interest I get from you. So, thank you for coming to this page and reading what I have to say. I don’t think I say it enough but the love and engagement you bring to this blog is truly overwhelming and I hope you know how much I appreciate you.
The topic of marriage was requested by a lot of you for me to write about. Yet, I’ve found it to be the most difficult story to tell. I thought, what would I write about? I can’t just give “expert” advice on the subject nor can I sit here and act like we have this perfect relationship all the time. But who does? The picture-perfect couple we see on Instagram is by far the most irritating because… it’s not real life. On the other hand, you also don’t want to be the couple sharing TOO much. Queue those awkward Facebook statuses. So, the best advice I can give on looking at another couple on the internet is… take it with a grain of salt. It’s not real life.
I’ll just start off with the topic that some of you have asked relating to Total Bellas.
Was our split for show?
First of all, I would never air fake dirty laundry on national TV if it was BS. I was SUPER hesitant about filming it and actually rejected the topic when we first brought it up. I was embarrassed. Now, I’m so happy it aired as I received so many amazing messages and stories from you relating to our situation. Whether you were in a personal funk or looking into counseling yourselves, it was refreshing to know I wasn’t alone. I also believe it was a stepping stone to feel even more comfortable opening up in the public eye. There was zero judgement, only questions and encouragement. So, thank you for that.
The start of counseling
We initially went to a marriage counselor because we were at a crossroads. We weren’t communicating and fighting often about the same old thing. It felt hopeless at times and we didn’t feel connected at all. I was recommended a counselor by a friend and made the first appointment shortly after. I won’t lie, I was nervous as all hell going into that first appointment. What would she ask? How could we dig deeper? Will JJ open up? How could she help us get through our issues? JJ wasn’t used to or enjoyed sharing his feelings and I am the type of person who wants to discuss the issue right away. Complete opposites.
One of the things I loved most about going to a counselor was how unbiased she was. How she helped us look at recent arguments and dissect our actions. This meant that I was wrong in certain situations and JJ was wrong in others; giving us tips and pointers on how to go about it next time. She also validated feelings that we didn’t even know needed validation. There were so many reasons why I loved counseling but most of all, its allowed us to really work on ourselves as individuals and as a couple.
After many sessions, JJ became a believer and we were on the road to communicating and working to better our relationship. I think what a lot of people don’t understand or realize at a young age is marriage is hard work and it never stops being hard work. Realize that and instead of feeling immediately like your failing and it should be over… it just needs WORK. You’d be surprised how easily you can fall back in love with that person.
Ever since counseling and the birth of Vivienne, I can honestly say that our marriage has never been better. We still have arguments and aren’t always on the same page, but we’ve honestly never been more of a team then when we became parents.
- Don’t try to change each-other but learn to adapt.
JJ and I are very different people. He is more care free and I am 100% type A. I wasn’t always accepting of certain behaviors he had and I inadvertently wanted to live this “perfect” appearing life. A trait I had from growing up and being encouraged not to share anything negative to people outside the family. So, a huge thing for us was being whole heartedly accepting of each others differences and stop trying to change who each other were.
- Just because they are blood, doesn’t mean they are family.
Something amazing happened during our sessions regarding family. We were reminded that we are each other’s family. The people you consider family does not have to be blood. Friends can be family. Neighbors can be family. Anyone who brings a positive light into your life, can be considered family. If people are bringing you down or are toxic to your life, even as blood relatives, its OK to let them go.
3. Express how you feel and tell your partner what you need.
JJ was very closed off with communicating feelings. He has worked really hard to improve this and sometimes it still takes me back on how honest he can be. Even last night, I got quiet and a little grumpy when he had to leave the house to help his friend hang a mirror. I just walked in from work and wasn’t aware he was leaving, and we had someone else in the other room working on our computer. I didn’t think it was the best decision to leave in this moment. Was I making it a bigger deal than it needed to be? Probably. It happens. The positive was he called me on his way to his friends to express how he felt on my reaction to him leaving and not understanding that he was going to help someone. It woke me up and I later apologized for my actions. Bottom line: express how you feel.
Your partner can’t read your mind. Ever. He/she will never know what you actually want or need unless you tell them. Instead of doing everything yourself and being upset about it, ask for help. From taking over the dishes to a personal need. You’d be amazed at how much more it is received than your huffing and puffing in the kitchen (something I am still working on).
- Take a moment.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder. I’m not saying everyone should take a week off of marriage and go live with their sister… but time away is healthy and OK, especially if you two are going through a heavy struggle. JJ and I have only taken one break for a week, but we often separate ourselves if we can’t seem to agree and the argument is only getting worse. Hang in separate rooms for a bit until you are calm enough to move on.
- Never stop enjoying what you love, together and separate.
This goes hand in hand with being parents and still allowing each other to be individuals. JJ is very social and often likes to meet up with friends, go to dinner, golf, etc. to get out of the house and enjoy the things that he loves. JJ thinks I’m more of a home body, but I just think the time I’ve been able to dedicate to myself has been with personal appointments (facials, hair, etc.) and photoshoots/work on the weekend. Working full-time during the week and putting a lot of focus on the blog the last couple of years has definitely changed my social life. Then add a little girl that I want to get home to… and it makes it even more difficult. Trust me, I get it. I used to be VERY social and often planned girl’s dinners and many things out of the house but right now, it’s just not a priority. I’ll get there. I think I’m just OK with this decision and truly love doing shoots and creating content when I can. I also am thankful that a lot of my girlfriends are in a similar stage in their lives… new babies or busy work lives. They know I love them.
- To connect, you must get intimate.
OK, I know I recently did a blog post called, “Sex After Kids” which discussed going through the ups and downs with sex in a marriage due to hormones, kids, busy life, etc. Sex isn’t always made a priority to couples and I will 100% agree that I too don’t always prioritize it. Yet, I will say that when we do, and when we do it more often, I feel so much more connected to JJ. I’ve also learned that the more you do it, the more you will want it as well.
- What’s your love language?
Take the test and follow it. I think a lot of light bulbs will go off when you do. I wish we did this more, but I am trying to be more mindful of it in my marriage as I think it is an easy way to connect to each other.
Answering some of your questions incase they weren’t discussed above.
What’s the biggest thing you and JJ argue over/how you guys resolve it? It’s probably built up emotions from daily life, house chores, etc. As much as I say, communication is key, we are still always working on improving that in our marriage.
Have you found it difficult to balance sex life and mom life? Of course. I’m no longer hanging out in lingerie (yup, I once was that girl) and put V to bed by 8pm every night… so the mood sometimes isn’t there when we are alone at night. JJ has been the main initiator the last couple of weeks and its honestly been helpful that he has.
How do you work it out when you and husband disagree on a decision related to the kids? I feel like we haven’t had any major disagreements when it comes to V. I am all about researching and the information I receive I often share on why I want to go a certain way (not doing the cry it out method, etc.) but naturally parent fairly similar.
Biggest issue to work on in therapy? Communication/letting past arguments go
How often do you make time for date nights? We would love to do every week but that doesn’t necessarily happen. I would say every other week we do date night or a form of date night.
How do you and JJ keep your relationship from getting boring or stuck in the same routine? We like to experience new places- whether that’s food or going to events. We are always all over the place every week, between the two of us, so I think we keep it exciting because our social and work life is exciting and it’s the way we like it.
How do you keep your libido/sex up? As someone with a lot of hormones going on right now, sex life is all over the place. One week I’m all about it and the next I don’t even want to be touched. JJ has been initiating a lot of that lately and its actually really helpful. You may not be in the mood for it at the time, but you never regret it. The more sex you have, the closer you feel to your partner.
Has your marriage changed since having V? 100% but for us, it’s been for the better. She brings such a happiness to our lives and we have grown together even more after having her.
How do you handle fights without threatening divorce? I won’t lie… it can be hard. I know it sounds dramatic and you should never just threaten divorce to your partner, but when you are REALLY mad… it’s hard not to have bad thoughts about your marriage. I think the best way to handle arguments that are never ending is separating yourselves to cool off.
Before you got married, did you have doubts that he was your person? JJ and I are very different people and were even more so when we first got together. The views he had were polar opposite of mine and I often thought about when the time came to have kids… would it be difficult to raise them together? We have been together for almost 10 years now and between work, life, travel, moving… JJ and I have both changed a lot and have come together as far as beliefs in the most natural way. Organically and on our own. We were never forced to think or feel different… which I feel is the best way to grow together.
Are finances a struggle in your marriage, even if you are financially secure? I think finances is a huge component to marriage as there is typically one person managing it and another person that maybe spends a little too much. We both can have the issue of over spending and then I have moments of, “omg we are spending too much” since I manage the accounts. I don’t think it ever goes away, but it does make it easier when you are more secure.
How did you get your spouse to go to therapy? It was one of those last straw moments where it was either give up or work really hard at it. I am glad we didn’t give up.
How do you feel about sharing a bank account? We’ve been sharing since we got married, which at the time, we had nothing to really consolidate. We both have worked our way up and made our own money together, so there has been no issue with sharing a bank account. Hardest thing is buying each other gifts.
How do you start the conversation on difficult topics? JJ usually waits until there is an issue to discuss to bring it all to the table, which isn’t necessarily the best way. I on the other hand have to talk about it immediately or it will haunt my life. So, the conversation is easy for me.
How do you handle JJ being away so often? Does he give you the time once he comes back? JJ does travel a lot, but mainly it’s for Total Bellas or work, so you can’t really be upset about that. I think it feels like it’s for pleasure when they get to go to fun places and I am at home, but in the end… its work. We are both really good at giving each other time to do what we need to do: whether that’s appointments, golf, photo shoots, etc. We just have to schedule it out with one another each week, but we don’t really tally who is doing more. He gets to do more fun stuff since I work full-time on both the blog and during the week.
Do you have any fears for adding another baby? I fear exhaustion while having a toddler, for sure. I fear nowhere to nap when JJ is working and I’m with baby and V is in the other room with the nanny. I am hopeful that we will work just as hard as a team together as we did when Vivienne was young.
Bottom line: be supportive of one another, allow each other to still be individuals, and don’t be afraid to WORK hard.
As a conclusion to this post, please note that all relationships are unique and different. I am just sharing my journey and what has worked for us personally. I would love to hear if any of this resonated with you and your thoughts on the subject.