Photographer and educator Katelyn James is a very dear friend to Southern Weddings, and one of the sweetest gals we know. When she recently mentioned that she and her husband Michael have been working with a marriage counselor almost since they said “I do,” we were intrigued. It’s a topic that doesn’t get talked about a lot, but one we think deserves more love! We asked her to share a bit more about their experience today. Take it away, Katelyn! – Emily
When Emily asked me to share about our experience with a life coach/marriage counselor, I was excited… but then I had a split second of feeling a little uneasy about sharing this part of our life, because there are so many stigmas surrounding the idea of counseling, coaching, and therapy! Then I realized that that is the very reason why I SHOULD be sharing! Just last night we had friends over for dinner, and the fact that we meet with a life coach every two weeks came up. The first thing out of the wife’s mouth was, “Oh, he would never do that! He’s so against counseling of any kind!” I get it. It seems like only those who have super SERIOUS issues go to counseling or have a coach. Well, Michael and I have found that that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Michael and I started meeting with our life coach (who is really more like a marriage counselor) over three years ago. At first, we weren’t convinced that it was a necessity. I mean, isn’t it normal to have marital tension, and use tones with one another, and feel conflicted about the balance of working together? Isn’t it totally understandable that we came from different family dynamics and that affects the way we show up emotionally with one another? Isn’t is normal to have weeks of not feeling like we’re on the same team?
I think those things ARE normal… but they don’t have to be. I actually think that the most damaging thing a couple can do in a relationship is just accept the unhealthy parts of their marriage and never dive deeper into the reason they are happening in the first place.
My dad is a pastor, and he always talks about how so many marriages have unhealthy tendencies that get masked by the “children” phase of life. Kids come, and life becomes all about them. It’s exciting and new and fun, but what happens when they are off to college and it’s back to just you and your spouse at home again? When it’s just the two of you and those struggles that you had before kids? They’re going to be waiting for you, which is why you see so many divorces happening when kids reach the end of high school and begin college. The little things matter, and they add up!
Michael and I knew deep down that we wanted to have a third party speak into our life. We love our parents, our siblings, our best friends… but there is something so powerful about having someone meet with us that isn’t biased towards us in any way. Our life coach lives in California, and we live in Virginia. We don’t meet in person, and we don’t even meet face to face. We commit to a simple one hour phone call every two weeks.
The actual commitment of the calls isn’t hard… it’s doing the HEART SEARCHING that’s hard. It’s being honest with how you’re showing up in your marriage that’s hard! Michael and I have grown so much in the last three years. The conversations that we are having with our life coach are the type of conversations that we would have never experienced without someone helping us dig deeper. No one enjoys digging deeper into the mess of their life, but it’s necessary in order to create a new vision for your marriage!
It’s hard to explain what we’ve gained from meeting with our coach in just one paragraph. To put it simply, it has been life changing. Michael and I have a greater understanding of why we are the way we are. The beautiful thing about our coaching sessions is that we have learned to recognize and see more clearly what is truth, and what we make up to be true about what another.
For example, assuming that Michael is mad, frustrated, or annoyed with me based off of his interactions with me totally discredits what could be going on in his world. A lot of tension and tone stems from outside stress. Choosing to respond to Michael based on what I KNOW to be true about him (that he loves me, cares for me, and wants the best for me) instead of the immediate circumstances has been a game changer.
Life coaching or marriage counseling isn’t just for those that are heading down a path of destruction… it’s for healthy marriages! As a photographer, I’ve spent a lot of money on education to improve my craft. My marriage is so much more important than my business, and so it only makes sense that we would invest in our relationship, as well.
If you’re considering hiring a life coach or marriage counselor, I recommend gently bringing it up to your spouse. This is something that you both need to be willing to do. Don’t be frustrated if it takes a few conversations to get on the same page! Sometimes I look forward to our calls, and other times I dread them… but no matter what, I always end our calls knowing that we’re fighting for our marriage together and there’s nothing else that is more important! We are learning how to love each other in a healthier way and even though we’re far from perfect, we know that God is doing amazing transformation in our relationship!
Thank you so much for sharing your heart, Katelyn! For those interested in learning more about Katelyn’s specific coach, you can visit Julia’s site.
All photos by Jillian Michelle Photography