The biggest mistake I ever made in my marriage

If you know anything about me and my business, you know I’m a big advocate of strong marriages. I honestly do believe they have the power to change not only our family trees but our communities and our world. I’ve heard it said many times that the best gift you can give your children is having a strong, loving marriage to model for them.

Having a strong marriage is something that’s super important to me and Travis. We did a premarital counseling class at our church before we were engaged (which I highly recommend but that’s another blog post for another day) and after we got engaged, we did two-on-two counseling with the pastor and his wife who married us.

Books and articles on marriage are definitely helpful — I read a lot! — but it’s easy to forget all the principles and behaviors you want to cultivate once you get into the daily grind of life.

After we got married, life changed pretty drastically and unexpectedly. I started doing some photography on the side of my full-time job. I was doing photography as part of my full-time job but some of my responsibilities changed and I wasn’t able to photograph as much. I loved the whole process of planning a wedding and wedding photography so when my first wedding fell into my lap, I jumped at the opportunity. And from there, I was hooked.

If you had asked me a year prior to that whether I’d ever shoot a wedding or run my own business, I might have categorized that as “dream that probably won’t happen.” But here I was in early 2014, only four months into marriage, hungry to start a business and perfect my craft.

Travis was supportive but over the next few years, it took its toll on us. For any of you who have ever had a full-time job and a side hustle, you know how hard it is to balance the two, let alone a marriage, friendships, and life. So before I knew it, I had made the biggest mistake I promised myself I would never make:

I let myself and my business be more important than my marriage.

There were more times than I cared to admit that I was not doing a good job. I’d come home from a demanding job in nonprofit communications and be on my laptop all night, editing, blogging, and trying to run my business. Saturdays and Sundays were for weddings and shoots. I took no time off and it took a toll on me physically (landed myself in the ER in the spring of 2016), emotionally, and relationally.

We were both elated when the time had come for me to quit my full-time job and finally have more balance in life. I left in the fall of 2016 and my business exploded. I booked a ton of new clients within the first two months which meant scheduling and executing engagement sessions, bridal session, newborn session, family sessions, all on top of the busy fall wedding season.

I knew Travis and I weren’t connecting but to be honest, it was like I didn’t care. I wanted to care but I was so focused on building my business that I reasoned he was being supportive and letting me do my own thing.

I will never forget New Years Eve 2017. I had a wedding in Austin and I was stressed. Never mind the usual hustle and bustle of the holiday season but Travis had traveled for work most of December and we had moved into a new condo just four days after Christmas. I barely had boxes unpacked when I had to pack a bag and head to Austin.

What made this wedding tough was that by extension, you’re going to be out late for a new years eve wedding. I didn’t get to my hotel room until 1:30 and didn’t fall asleep until after 2 a.m. I got up at 7 a.m. to drive back to Dallas because New Years Day is Travis’s birthday and we had plans with friends for lunch and football watching.

I was miserable. I was exhausted and burnt out and I didn’t even get Travis a birthday card. I think he bought his own present a few weeks later. I knew I was failing miserably as a wife but I didn’t know how to stop the madness.

You may remember last month that I shared about my surgery and how it changed everything. I said that it took a toll on me emotionally and here’s why: I suddenly had a clear calendar and nothing but time and solitude to sit and reflect on the past few years of my life and how I had gotten to where I was. And you know what I realized?

I had been a terrible wife. I had not prioritized my marriage and for the first time, I felt a deep, spiritual remorse for it. The weight of my choices (my business and myself over my husband and my marriage) all came crashing down. It felt uncomfortable not to be working and hustling but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It literally saved my marriage.

I don’t want to make it seem like we were on the brink of divorce or anything like that. It was more of a silent marriage killer: apathy. Those little moments of not choosing your spouse over your ambitions or letting another week/month go by without a proper date night or time together. We weren’t arguing and slamming doors; we were letting our marriage take a backseat to our lives.

Luckily, this story has a happy ending. I confessed to Travis how much remorse I felt and how wrong I had been to allow the apathy to creep into our marriage. Because I had to rely on him so heavily during my recovery, we were bonded back together. It was such a painful time but so much beauty came out of it. I thank God every day for that season even though it was one of the hardest of my adult life.

So why am I telling you all this? Because of everything I did and let happen, I believe that much more strongly in marriage and to warn you that apathy may be the bigger demon you fight in this divine relationship. Your marriage is worth fighting for and it’s worth setting aside your own individual wants and desires for the common good of your partnership.

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