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Category: Marriage and Relationships

Engagement has been one of the sweetest and most refining seasons of my life. We’re less than four months away from the big day (more on my wedding planning journey will be coming to the blog this January!), and it’s been an opportunity for my fiancé and I to lay the groundwork for one of the best parts of life—our marriage.

The privilege of working for Southern Weddings gives me a treasure trove of real wedding interviews from brides who have walked before me and shared their best wedding planning advice. One of the most common pieces of advice I’ve heard? Set a goal for your wedding, and run each decision you make through it. It’s been one of the most helpful pieces of advice during wedding planning, and we know it carries over into planning for our marriage, too!

While I won’t claim to be a goal-setting expert by any means, I’ve learned a lot from our sister brand, home of the PowerSheets Intentional Goal Planner, and the amazing ladies I work alongside. Today in the spirit of the new year, I’m excited to share some tips for how to incorporate goal setting into your relationship!

Our friend Sophia is a real-life PowerSheets user and joined us at this year’s PowerSheets photo shoot as a model! Photo by Faith Teasley

Create a common language. Logan and I are paying for the majority of our wedding ourselves, and we quickly realized that our money can easily disappear if it isn’t connected to what matters to us. By setting a goal for our wedding and asking ourselves four questions each time we make a decision, we’ve created a unifying language that makes it easier to have what could be difficult conversations. Why? Because we’re on the same page about our end goal. Those simple questions have diffused a lot of tense conversations and decisions we’ve had to make over the past two months.

Explain why goal setting has worked for you. If your significant other isn’t fully on board right away, explain why goal setting matters to you, what excites you about it, and the difference it has made in your life. Give tangible examples and be open to hearing his thoughts, too. Sharing my PowerSheets with Logan over the past two years has helped keep me accountable, and it’s given me a cheerleader on the days I don’t necessarily want to work on my goals (ahem, gym days!).

Play it cool. Introduce the idea of goal setting gently. If you’re hoping to set goals together, don’t bust out eight different colored pens, stickers, PowerSheets, and your calendar and ask for a three-hour block of his day all at the same time. That’s a sure fire way to send him scurrying away! If you think sitting down for a large chunk of time isn’t in the cards, try incorporating some prompts from your PowerSheets into your normal conversation. I’ve found that some of our best conversations happen during long car rides (great for upcoming holiday travels) or on Sunday afternoon strolls.

Listen before speaking. Ask questions, and practice the art of the awkward pause. Looking for an easy way to get your significant other to share more? Employ a simple phrase: “Tell me more about that.”

Make it fun. Whether you’re celebrating your first holiday together or your fiftieth, I’d venture to guess that some of your favorite memories stem from traditions in your family. The same can be true for goal-setting! Make setting goals for your family fun by incorporating things you love. Have a favorite restaurant that falls beyond your typical eating out budget? Make it a special date night and enjoy a leisurely dinner together. Love traveling and exploring new places? Choose a recurring weekend each year, and make it an adventure. A change of scenery can be helpful for you to dig deep together. Look at what fires you up as a couple, and incorporate those things into your goal setting!

Seek guidance. If I’ve learned anything during wedding planning, it’s that asking for help from those more knowledgable than me isn’t just recommended, it’s required. The same is true for goal setting. Instead of flying solo, look to others with more experience! Our founder and sister brand, the Cultivate Shop, created the PowerSheets Goal Planner to help you cultivate what matters most in your marriage. Whether you use PowerSheets or not, there’s a plethora of resources available. Find them, and use them!

Write it down, and celebrate your progress. A hallmark of the PowerSheets is that you don’t just say goals out loud and forget about them. You write them down, post them up in your home, and return to them regularly. When there’s progress to celebrate, do so with abundance! Make your favorite meal for dinner, go out for ice cream, go to the beach for the day, take the afternoon off of work and go to a movie–whatever is meaningful and fun for the two of you, do it.

We’d love to hear from you! Do you and your significant other set goals? Share your best tips, tricks, and advice for setting goals in your marriage below!

Written with love by Jess Metcalf
4 Comments
  1. avatar Heather reply

    Love this. Goal setting has been so crucial in our marriage. We make a point every 3 months to have a goal setting meeting.we plan goals 1 month away, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year and 5 years. Both in regards to work, personal growth and travel. (We love traveling, so it’s important to plan trip goals for us). Lots of goals! But it helps us stay on track as a team, build each other up and celebrate those accomplishments. ?

    • avatar Jess Metcalf reply

      Love that you plan goals for those increments, Heather! We’re hoping to invest in a house this year, so my fiancé and I will definitely need to have goal-meetings and checkpoints to stay on track!

  2. avatar Tameika reply

    My husband and I have been married for 14 years and we always set goals together. And not just new year’s goal but monthly and quarterly goals, We also meet on Sunday afternoons and in addition to planning for the week, we use that time to check in on goals. We are accountability partners and that helps.

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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

emily Written with love by Emily
1 Comment
  1. avatar Amber Stapp reply

    I love this! What a powerful article with such an important message for all couples! I’m inspired by this wonderful couple and their commitment to creating the best most God honoring marriage they can. Blessings to them both. And their baby is gorgeous!!!

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Friends, today is my fifth wedding anniversary! You may have caught my ongoing Instagram stories party, where I’ve been sharing some of my favorite photos from different parts of our celebration (if not, you can always see the full feature here and here!). I love celebrating an anniversary because not only does it give me an excuse to pull out my wedding album, watch our wedding film, and go out to dinner with my best friend (yum!), it’s an opportunity to stop and reflect.

An anniversary is the perfect time to cheer yourselves on (something I think is so important!), to remind yourselves of everything you love about the person you married, and to give thanks for all the ways your life is better for having your partner in it.

Like a new year, an anniversary is also a time to consider ways you might be able to improve. John and I are far from perfect, but we have done a few things right in our first five years of marriage. Today I wanted to share five, in the hopes that they might be an encouragement to you!

1. We draw strength from something outside of ourselves. One of the most beautiful things about marriage is that it’s a place where your ugly can show, and you’ll be loved, unconditionally, despite it. That being said, I know I’d be a much more selfish, unforgiving, ungracious, record-keeping wife without a Father who is continually calling me to die to myself and love others as I’ve been loved. We would not have the marriage we do without our faith.

2. We’re willing to change. When I think of the couples I know who have gotten divorced, it’s very rarely because of something dramatic and awful. Usually, the answer is something along the lines of “we drifted apart” or “he’s not the same person I married.” This seems kind of strange to me, because wouldn’t you expect someone to change over time?! Stanley Hauerwas, quoted in Tim Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage, says it well: “We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing that it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered into it.”

When change comes, John and I have committed to growing towards each other. Towards each other, not away from each other, and not side by side. We expect each other to change (as high school sweethearts, it was inevitable!), and when we do we (imperfectly) seek to understand it and grow along with it.

3. We trust in our relationship without reservation. This is a hallmark of our particular marriage. We’ve never given each other a reason to doubt it, and so we’ve never been tempted to do so. We don’t treat our love for each other like it’s conditional, or could be threatened to be taken away, or withheld as a bargaining chip. Even if we are angry or frustrated, at bedrock, we both know without a doubt that we are acting from a place of unshakeable love.

4. We don’t ask the other to fulfill needs they can’t. This one can be so hard, friends! While my and John’s lives are deeply, inextricably entwined, we try to take responsibility for our own happiness first instead of looking to the other to fulfill every emotional need. Practically speaking, for us, that means building an inner confidence, maintaining equilibrium through each other’s bad days (you have to put on your own oxygen mask first!), and again, going to God to be reminded of our true worth.

5. We enjoy each other. You know that saying, find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life? I like to switch it up a bit: marry your best friend, and you’ll never work a day in your marriage. That, of course, is not entirely true — even the best marriages have harder days and easier days — but if you truly LIKE your partner, and love spending time with him or her more than anyone else, everything else seems to fall into place. One of our favorite ways to be reminded of how much we like each other is going on evening walks together – we are totally on T.J.’s bandwagon!

Whether you’re celebrating your first or fiftieth anniversary, know I’m cheering you on, friends! And if you’d like to share, I’d love to hear something you’ve done right in your marriage in the comments :)

emily Written with love by Emily
3 Comments
  1. avatar Mike reply

    Love these wedding photographs! The bride looks so happy.

  2. avatar Jessie W reply

    Love #1 <3

  3. avatar Geoff reply

    What a great concept to write about a couple’s advice looking back over the years.

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