On a daily basis, I look across the room at my husband Demetri and wonder:
“does everyone have it this good?”

photo by  Kirsten Noelle  | this was unprompted, it’s just how we are, and for that I’m grateful

photo by Kirsten Noelle | this was unprompted, it’s just how we are, and for that I’m grateful

I can genuinely say that I am fortunate beyond words for the relationship that we have built. It didn’t just “happen” and we had to work hard for it - but the trust and vulnerability that our relationship balances out with is unmatched to any other relationship in my life — ever. This is no accident though, because like I said: we built this. And I’m damn proud of it.

A few years before meeting my husband, I was in a really toxic relationship. I’m a “tough” girl though, so I just trudged through it until I reached a breaking point. I’ll spare you the details, but it was ugly. There were a lot of rumors, tears, and bad days. I grew a lot, I changed a lot. I had to evaluate who I was, who I was going to become, and how I was going to get there.

It was from this relationship - this toxic, messy, “worst version of me” that I found the best version of me thus far in life.

I had established so many terrible habits around communication, expectations, and my self worth that once I was free of the toxicity, I was able to look at things objectively. My perception changed, and my passion for justice was only further affirmed. Being an advocate and empowering people is my why, at the end of the day. Sure, photography is great, and it is a super fun job. I love getting to travel and share my home with people. But, above all, being able to look my couples in the eyes and say, “I support you, I get you.” because I’ve truly been in their shoes at some point, will forever fill me up and remind me of the bigger picture.

What I’m trying to get to is this: I knew when I realized my husband was my forever, that things had to be different. I worked really hard to establish good communication, vulnerability, and to always keep things fun. I’ve found that it’s our “secret recipe” and that is true for most people in relationships. I’m no marriage counselor or relationship expert — but I can say beyond the shadow of a doubt that these 3 things have radically changed almost all relationships in my life, and I believe they have the power to do the same for you, too.

3 things to transform your relationship

1.) communication

Photo by  Kirsten Noelle  | our wedding day was a literal  d r e a m

Photo by Kirsten Noelle | our wedding day was a literal d r e a m

You know when moms say to their small kids, “use your words!” when they’re in the middle of an altercation with another tiny human? Yeah — we all forgot how to do that. Somewhere in between navigating becoming adults and discovering who we are, all while trying to advocate for our futures and careers and passions and happiness, we forget what it actually means to use our words. It hasn’t come naturally to me, in fact: you could ask my mom how communicative I was as a kid and she’d laugh. “Communication? Yeah right!”

And yet, I’ve found that this is (surprise) the #1 element to having a successful relationship. We have a “don’t hold it in” policy in our home. If it’s bugging you, talk about it. If you’re uncertain how to talk about it, say so. Do the best you can with what you have. A huge piece of this “policy” is to maintain an open mind centered around giving each other the benefit of the doubt and lovingly receiving anything the other has to say. I’ll never pretend like relationships are easy and that this hasn’t taken time to put into action — but the point is that we’re actively trying, and notice on the days we don’t handle it this way.

Communication can only get you so far, though. With this also comes learning to listen. Not to just what you think they’re saying because you’re angry and/or defensive, not what you want to hear, but actually taking the time to listen and if you’re unsure that you’re hearing correctly, asking more questions to understand.

We have built our entire relationship on this. It’s the foundation that we feel has led us to knowing how to work through the inevitable problems that come with being in a relationship with another human being. We don’t always get it right, and we’re human like anyone else. But just by being able to address the fact that we want to communicate and understand, we’ve changed our relationship.

2.) vulnerability

photo by  Kirsten Noelle

How do you become best friends with someone? You open up, share your life story, connect over mutual friends, experiences, heartaches. I have always believed that stories are the foundation of who we are, but if you’ve lived any amount of life you know that not all stories have happy endings. And sometimes, those are the stories that lead us to our greatest relationships.

Our first date was under the summer stars, watching a meteor shower. It was very surface level - and I honestly wasn’t impressed. I didn’t feel like we connected — but how could we!? It was our first date!! I was so unimpressed to the point that I wrote him off for a solid 3ish weeks, in spite of him pressing to go on another date several times. I slept through the sunrise hike we planned for date #2, and when I met him at breakfast after he finished the hike alone, we planned date 3. Primarily out of guilt and obligation, which worked to his advantage, ha. It was on date 3 that my future husband said: “You know, 10th date Demetri is way cooler than 3rd date Demetri. You should probably give me a chance.”


I just remember being like, “holy cow - this guy just called me out! I guess I have to give him 7 more dates…”

On our 10th date after sitting at dinner for way too long and getting another round of drinks at another bar, we sat in his truck for three hours being vulnerable. He shared about his 200lb weight loss (yes, he’s inspirational af), being in a long relationship that ended with her being unfaithful, and I shared about my past toxic & abusive relationship. And you know what? We both left that date knowing that someway, somehow, we would be spending the rest of our lives together. (Spoiler alert: we got married 365 days from our very first date)

Any time we’re struggling to connect, or feel like we just keep “missing” each other in our communication, we make a point to be vulnerable about something going on in our lives. Whether it’s an insecurity, a “win” we feel silly about celebrating, or sharing something the other person has done lately to make us feel loved, we make a point to communicate it. Vulnerability builds trust, and requires quality communication. Are you getting a theme here?

Photo by  Kirsten Noelle

3.) find ways to have fun

Enough of this seriousness, okay? We’re not always melancholy emotional messes, I promise. The last thing we’ve made a huge effort to work towards is finding ways to have fun even in the mundane. Can I be honest with you? This is hard sometimes. It’s so freakin’ easy to get sucked into life and make excuses about why you can’t do this. But again: this is something that when we put effort into it, changes our entire relationship.

We’re busy people. My husband works late nights Thursday-Sunday, and almost all of his free time goes to training to become a mountain guide. I’m a full time entrepreneur, and on top of this business, I host a podcast, am trying to start a non-profit, and aim to still feel like a human at the end of the day. So how do we have fun?

We play Sequence or Monopoly on mellow mornings over coffee. We flirt. A lot. We take time to go see a movie, spend a few hours rock climbing, go see a comedy show, whatever it takes. We have a series we only watch together. And did I mention the flirting? Check out the person you’re spending forever with and tell them!! There is something to be said for dating your spouse and I know that you’ve been given this piece of advice by at least one married person so far: but we all say it for a reason. It’s really important.

Find ways to have fun, no matter the season. It doesn’t have to be grand or over the top, it just has to be. Make time for fun, you won’t look back at life on your death bed and wish you’d worked more hours - you’ll wish you took more time to have fun with the person you love most.

So, that’s it. Those are the 3 things that have completely changed my relationships - not just with my husband, but with everyone I’m close to. And you know what? This is a huge part of my experience with you too. Eloping can be scary, messy and unknown. My ultimate goal is to establish good communication, let you feel comfortable being vulnerable, and make sure that we have fun when it’s all said and done. That doesn’t sound half bad, does it?

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