Episode 001 of The Priority Pursuit Podcast helps you assess whether or not you’re prioritizing what’s most important in your personal life and business
Episode 001: Are You PRIORITIZING What’s Most Important in Your Personal Life & Business?
March 31, 2021
How to Set Boundaries in Your Business & Get Your Clients to Respect Them
Episode 003: How to Set Boundaries in Your Business & Get Your Clients to Respect Them
March 31, 2021

March 31, 2021

Episode 002: How My Business Almost Cost Me My Marriage

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Have you ever met someone briefly who told you far too much personal information far too fast?

Well, considering this is only our second episode together, that might be exactly what’s about to happen. Because, today, I’m going to tell you all about how my husband, Zach, and I ended up in marriage counseling right before our third wedding anniversary.

Now, I know this might seem overly personal to be sharing, but looking back, I can’t help wondering if another photographer or business owner had been transparent about their marriage with me, maybe I would’ve done things differently. And, maybe our marriage and relationship wouldn’t have suffered so much.

I can’t go back in time, and honestly, even if I could, I wouldn’t, because Zach and I have grown so much as a result of this trial, but if I can help save you even a little bit of grief, I want to share how my business almost cost me my marriage.

Even if you’re single, you’re still in relationships.

If you aren’t married or in a romantic relationship, please don’t write this episode off. You’re still in relationships with friends, family, roommates, and others, and whether you realize it or not, your business affects the people closest to you. And, perhaps the story I’m about to share will help you make wise decisions in a future relationship.

Zach & I have a very “Pam & Jim” love story.

Now, spoiler alert. This story does have a happy ending. Zach and I just celebrated our six-year wedding anniversary and are currently in a season of marriage that I really love.

We don’t have kids yet, so much of our time is spent taking weekend getaways when I’m not shooting a wedding; sipping wine at The Cellar Wine Bistro (our favorite date night spot in Lafayette, Indiana; or snuggled up on the couch while Zach plays guitar and I read with Hattie—our goldendoodle—between us.

This is where we are six years into marriage, but our story started in 2002 when we were juniors in high school. You see, Zach and I grew up in neighboring towns, and our junior year of high school, Zach’s parents decided he needed to transfer to my high school.

Zach and I quickly bonded because in 2010, we were the only 17 year olds either of us knew who watched The Office. This is actually very ironic now because our love story is about as Pam and Jim as it gets.

I had the same boyfriend all through high school. He was a few years older and in college by the time Zach transferred to my school. At the end of my senior year, I felt God telling me the boyfriend I had wasn’t the one, so I decided to call it quits.

Because Zach was one of my best friends, I texted him and told him about the breakup first.

He responded with, “This probably isn’t a good time, but I have to tell you that I’m in love with you.”

Shocked, I texted back, “I can’t talk about this right now.”

And, neither one of us brought it up again for months!

But, that summer, we went from hanging out with us plus friends to hanging out just on our own—which is something I never did before because the previous boyfriend hated Zach. (I didn’t know why, but I get it now!)

By the end of that summer, I knew Zach was the one, and when we were only 20 years old, Zach proposed. I graduated from college a year early, and not wanting to wait any longer to get married, we became husband and wife during spring break of my last year of college at 21.

We spent our first year of marriage in a tiny apartment above a garage and then moved to Lafayette, Indiana and bought a house after we both found jobs in our new little city.

When Zach & I got married, becoming a self-employed wedding photographer wasn’t part of the plan.

Now, when Zach and I got married, I thought I was going to work in the marketing industry forever. I studied English with a concentration in marketing, so I essentially studied copywriting.

While in college and throughout dating, I had a job writing for my school’s marketing department. I took marketing internships in the summer and even spent one summer living in Chicago interning for TIME Magazine’s sales and marketing department.

Then, my last year of school, before I graduated, my college offered me a full-time position in their marketing department if I could start immediately. So, my last year of college, I went to school full-time, worked full-time, and planned our wedding. It was all a blessing, but I wouldn’t recommend doing all of these things at once.

I—let alone Zach—had no reason to think I was ever going to leave the marketing industry when we were 21. In fact, I was enrolled to get my MBA and assumed I’d work in academia or for a corporate company forever.

But, then, Carrie Bower and I became friends. Carrie was our wedding photographer, and because I’d had such a great experience with her, I started hiring her to shoot for Saint Joe (which was a four-year college at the time).

Side note: Carrie has since left the photography industry to raise her family. She no longer has a website, but if she did, I’d absolutely link to it!

We quickly discovered we worked well together, and she asked if I would start second shooting for her. Now, I did photography in 4H and minored in art, so this wasn’t entirely out of left field, but I certainly had a lot to learn.

So, after the craziness of working full time, going to school full time, and planning a wedding let up, I quickly filled all of those hours working for Carrie and then commuting to and from Lafayette when I was hired by Treefrog Marketing—a small business marketing agency that I can’t recommend enough.

About a year after I started working for Carrie and Treefrog, we moved to Lafayette, and she encouraged me to start my own photography business. She said I was ready and would make more money. Plus, we now lived about 45 minutes apart, so it just made sense.

So, I started my own photography business.

Zach and I thought I was going to have all sorts of time on my hands since I no longer had a two-hour round trip to make to get to work every day. But, I quickly filled this time and then some with photography.

I started filling my weekends with weddings and shoots and my evenings and every spare moment I had began being filled with editing and doing everything else I needed to do to run my business. I’d stay up until 2:00 am most nights working, and in all honesty, I would hope that Zach would fall asleep while watching TV, so he wouldn’t reprimand me for working so late.

During this season, I missed time with friends and family because I had shoots or weddings. Zach got used to attending things without me. And, the phrase, “I can’t. I have to edit,” came out of my mouth more than anything else.

After about two years of my “side hustle” taking up more time than my full-time job, Zach was fed up.

Looking back, I don’t blame him. But, at the time, I thought he was being selfish. I thought, “I’m working hard for us. How can he possibly be upset about that?”

The little time we did spend together was spent arguing. He thought I worked too much and didn’t care about him or the life we had. I thought he was being unsupportive and even cruel. Neither one of us knew this at the time, but right before our third anniversary, we were both thinking, “Is this even worth it? Maybe divorce would be easier.”

Then, a few months before our third anniversary, we got into a big argument. In all honesty, there was shouting and tears, and it lasted for so long we both ended up sitting on our kitchen floor because we were tired of standing.

I remember looking at Zach and saying, “I don’t know why you’re so shocked by this. I’ve worked hard at everything I’ve done as long as you’ve known me.”

To which Zach responded, “Yeah. I know, which is why I thought you’d work hard at being a wife.”

After this blow up, we agreed that we needed professional help. Thankfully, Faith Biblical Counseling Center was able to get us in pretty quickly. (If you’re in the Lafayette area, Faith is wonderful.)

We spent about six months going to counseling once a week, and we were so embarrassed that we didn’t tell anyone. There were a lot of tears, but we learned a lot about ourselves, one another, how God intended marriage to work, and got to the root of our idols.

Side note: We openly share our story now because we know that many couples silently suffer. If your marriage is currently in or ever faces a difficult season, know you aren’t alone.

When there’s conflict in your marriage or in any relationship, it’s likely because of an idol.

We assumed counseling would focus on improving communication and other marriage tips and tricks. But, to our surprise, much of our counseling experience concentrated on determining what our idols were.

If you aren’t familiar with what an idol is, within Christianity, an idol is anything you worship and put ahead of God. My personal definition is anything I let consume me and put in front of my relationship with God and my priorities—especially my relationship with Zach. My faith and my husband are my top priorities.

Now, if you aren’t a Christian or you don’t believe in God, please don’t tune out here. Regardless of what you believe, an idol can still consume you and prevent you from maintaining your priorities.

It didn’t take much counseling to discover that work and success are idols for me, and they always have been.

I mean, in high school and college, I got good grades while holding part-time jobs and cheering through my sophomore year of college. When I began working full time, I worked crazy hours and felt a sense of pride when I was the last person to leave the parking lot. Heck, I once even went into the office on Christmas Eve to “get a few things done” that apparently couldn’t wait.

And, when I started my own photography business, I drowned myself in more work than I or my marriage could handle.

Until we started going to counseling, I thought I was just a hard worker. However, counseling helped me realize that I have a history of taking on too much because I try to find my identity and worth in my work and other people’s approval.

Looking back, I didn’t get good grades because school came naturally to me. I studied like crazy because I wanted praise from my parents and teachers. I didn’t start my photography business to support my family. I started it because I liked how it felt to be praised by clients and social media followers.

And, when I got married, my success and work idols wrecked my marriage.

Why am I sharing this?

Again, I know this might seem like a lot of personal information far too soon into our relationship, but I’m sharing part of our story with you, because if I were a betting kind of gal, I’d almost place money on the fact that if you’ve made it this far into this episode/blog post, you also have work and success idols.

I mean, you’re likely a determined, headstrong business owner, you love what you do, and you’re really great at it.

Work and success are idols I still battle, but today, I do a few things to keep these idols in check so I can keep my priorities in order, and I want to encourage you to do the same so you can protect your relationships.

Let’s talk practical ways you can protect & prioritize your marriage & other relationships.

Zach and I’s relationship is by no means perfect, and more often that I care to admit, my idols sneak in and cause tension in our marriage.

But, our relationship is so much stronger today, because we’re aware of the idols we struggle with most and put a few tactics in place. And, I want to encourage you to do the same.

1. Watch for idol flare ups.

Something we learned in counseling is that in every disagreement, all parties likely have an idol coming into play, which can cause us and others to be less than kind to one another.

With this in mind, I try my best to identify when my idols are surfacing by dissecting tense situations.

For example, there’s been more than one occurrence where Zach has popped into my office (which is in the spare room of our house) to ask if I can do something for him, and I’ve snapped at him. In these situations, he hasn’t done anything wrong. I’m annoyed with him because he’s interfering with my work—my idol.

The next time you have a disagreement with someone, try to determine what idol is surfacing for you. Maybe it’s work, success, comfort, time, reputation, or something else you worship and let consume you.

2. Set boundaries within your business

This might seem obvious, but when work is your idol and that’s all you want to do, setting boundaries and capping how much work you take on can be difficult.

Today, these are the boundaries I set:

  • I only take 20 weddings per year
  • I only take one session per week if I have a wedding that week and two if I don’t have a wedding
  • I reserve Fridays and Saturdays for weddings, meaning I don’t take engagement or other sessions on Fridays and Saturdays. If I don’t have a wedding that weekend, that means I’m off
  • I’m closed on Sundays
  • I schedule one weekend off per month
  • I don’t take double headers (two weddings in one weekend)

This isn’t to say that there aren’t busy seasons. I mean, in Indiana, you only get about 6 months of nice weather, so 20 weddings are typically shoved into about 26 to 28 weeks. But, having these boundaries in place helps ensure that I still have time for Zach, myself, and to serve my clients well.

Now, you may hear my boundaries and think, “With my current prices, I can’t possibly work that little,” or, “Work isn’t coming in consistently, so I just have to take what I can get.” Friend, these are marketing and pricing issues, and I promise we will talk about them at some point.

3. Clearly communicate your goals with your spouse, significant other, and/or others affected by your business.

Looking back, when I started letting my photography side hustle consume every free moment I had, Zach had every right to be frustrated, especially since there was no end in sight

When I started, I had no intention of becoming a full-time photographer. In fact, I spent two years drowning in work before that thought even crossed my mind. If I had had a goal with a timeline, Zach might’ve been more on board.

Today, as busy seasons arrive, I try to warn Zach by frontloading him so he knows what to expect, why I’m doing what I’m doing, and when the season will be over.

I also communicate with Zach about what I want my business to look like in the future, because as my husband, he gets a say. I want to make sure that my business serves our family well.

4. Pray about your idols to bring lasting heart change.

When I learned that success and work were idols for me, I thought I’d simply be able to put boundaries in place and that my idols would disappear thanks to new habits.

However, when I shared this plan with our old pastor, Steve gave me a bit of a reality check when he said, “Boundaries change habits, not your heart.”

And, he’s right. Just because I was working less when we started counseling, that didn’t mean I wasn’t constantly thinking about work, that I didn’t want to be working, or that work wasn’t consuming most of my attention.

God changes hearts, and for the last few years, I’ve prayed every day that God will give me a heart that loves Him most. And, I can definitely feel a difference.

Putting God first has been crucial in helping my marriage thrive. But, if you aren’t a Christian, I would encourage you to try meditation or writing down daily affirmations to try to realign your heart. I write down affirmations as part of my morning routine, and this helps me simply remember who I want to be at the beginning of each day.

If one person can learn from my mistakes, I’m glad I overshared.

Like I said, friend, this might’ve been too much personal information far too fast. But, if just one person is listening to this and gleans one tip or trick that helps them improve or protect their marriage or another relationship, I’m glad I overshared.

As creative entrepreneurs, we love our businesses, and that’s okay. But, when our businesses and idols hurt the people we love, that’s a problem.

Today, please spend some time asking yourself:

  • Is my business an idol?
  • What idols do I struggle with?
  • Are my relationships and other priorities being harmed or neglected because of my business?
  • What boundaries do I need to put into place to protect my priorities? (Check out episode 001 to define your priorities!)
  • If I am struggling with an idol, what can I do to start changing my heart?

It might be cliché, but in the end, nobody wishes they would’ve spent more time at work. And, this has become a cliché because it’s true.

Like I said before, I do wonder if a photographer or business owner friend had been open or honest with me about their marriage when I started my business, maybe I would’ve done things differently.

I can’t go back, but I can share our story in an effort to help others avoid my mistakes, so on Priority Pursuit, we will be having tough, honest conversations pretty regularly. Both I and guests will share the messy parts of our lives in hopes of helping even one person feel less alone.

I’ll talk to you next week, friend!

Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Discover the four most common marketing mistakes small businesses make and exactly how to solve them! Download our guide.

Leverage Kelly’s marketing experience, insights, and leadership to grow your business.

As the founder and chief marketing strategist at Treefrog Marketing, a co-host of the Priority Pursuit Podcast, a StoryBrand Certified Guide, and fractional chief marketing officer, Kelly Rice has spent more than two decades helping small businesses take their companies to the next level by providing trustworthy leadership and building effective marketing strategies and systems.

She has dedicated her career to helping small businesses succeed because she knows, firsthand, how hard they work to make their communities a better place. 

Still, many people undervalue the strength and ingenuity of small businesses, but not Kelly. She believes they deserve to have a marketing partner and strategy that works as hard as they do.

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