As I have been sharing about my journey of my sudden separation and divorce, women have come out of the wood work in similar places unsure of what to do. Many of them have written to me in the first days and weeks of their husbands sitting them down and telling them they are leaving. I remember that day all too well, and I remember the days and weeks following were the hardest of my life thus far. I was dealing with shock and trauma, and I had no clue what to do. So, this post is for those women, future women who will find themselves in this spot and for the friends that are walking with them through it. I hope it helps...

It was July 3rd. Our kids happened to sleep over at their grandparents the night before, and we were having a lazy morning just the two of us. I sat down at the kitchen table to make some day plans for our day off, and Ryan sat down across from me. I asked where he wanted to go, and he said he didn't want to go anywhere that day. He then proceeded to tell me had been doing a lot of thinking, and then the words came that he was really unhappy in our marriage. He told me he didn't have fun with me anymore, that he didn't enjoy spending time with me, and that he felt we were incompatible. He felt that we would both be happier and our kids would be happier if we were apart. He told me reconciliation is not an option, and his mind was made up. Of course, I had so many words and I was shocked and confused, especially after recently celebrating our 10 year anniversary. Granted, we had been in marriage counseling for almost three years prior to this moment, but I had been doing very well in my personal counseling.I asked him to help me understand more, and he agreed to go to counseling to help me understand, but again, not to reconcile. 

Those initial couple of days were incredibly difficult. I had to entertain family for 4th of July and pretend everything was okay with a gun shot wound to my heart. I cried so much those days, but I had to be strong for my kids when they were around and not show there was any concern or reason to worry. 

When we got to the counseling office he proceeded to explain again his feelings and decision. The counselor recommended that we meet with a family therapist to help learn what we best for our kids for separation and how to talk to them. We did that a week later. Our counselor also recommended separation at that time since Ryan had already chosen, so he moved in with his parents and I stayed in our home. The kids stayed with me during the week to keep routine, and on the weekends went over to his house so that I could have time to grieve and recoup. There's more to the story, but those are the logistics of what happened in the first couple of weeks.

If you have found your self in this devastating turn of events this is what you need to know. This is traumatic. This is similar to experiencing the sudden death of a family member. The situation is out of your control because the decision is controlled by another, and yet their heart is beating. It is extreme rejection. It is life altering. it is shocking. It is traumatic. Therefore, your body and mind are going to go into survival mode and experience a trauma response. This is how it felt:

- I was numb. I was like a ghost and then I would full on break down when I knew it was safe to let go (no kids around, no people around).
- I started having panic attacks. I started hyperventilating to where I couldn't control my breathing for 5 minutes or so. Scariest shit of my life. I thought I was having a heart-attack and dying. They would come on when I would see Ryan and be in close proximity. 
- My hair started falling out in clumps. (I also have autoimmune disorders and stress aggravates them)
- I couldn't eat. I was physically ill. I started throwing up, and I couldn't eat. I went from 128 to 118 and I'm 5'7". That's waaaaay too thin. 
- I couldn't sleep. I was exhausted from so many sleepless nights. I would fall asleep fine, but I couldn't stay asleep. As soon as 2:30am or 3:30am rolled around I would wake up suddenly. Truthfully, it still happens every night. More about that below...

If you are experiencing these symptoms. You are normal, but here is what I did to combat them.

1. I got a counselor. Part of your panic is that you don't know what to do. They will help you figure out what you need. 
2. Told my best friends and my family. They needed to know to encourage me with phone calls, text messages, to come and sit with me, etc. Don't keep it a secret from close, trustworthy peple that can help you and are for your marriage. Don't share with people that are going to be divisive. 
3. Made an appointment with my primary care doctor. I shared with my doctor what had happened, and she prescribed Zophran for nausea. It helped me have more of an appetite. I also got anti-anxiety meds to use as needed. I actually haven't taken them at all, but it was a comfort to have. I honestly should have taken them when I knew I was going to see Ryan because I would have avoided some serious panic attacks that scared my children. I would also recommend getting an STD test if that's applicable to your situation.
4. Ate liquid foods. Peanut butter, banana and chocolate smoothies were the only thing I could eat. I think I survived on a week of those. 
5. Got childcare. Babysitters and family chipped in to help give me some self-care time and kept the kids having fun. 
6. Went to church - My faith is what sustained and continues to sustain me. It puts my fears at ease and gives me wisdom. 
7. Wrote out my feelings in a journal a LOT. You'll want to text and talk to your spouse, but I would advise only doing that when you are stable to avoid more damage and hurt.
8. Avoid oversharing to kids. Sought out advice from therapists specializing in childhood development. Don't wing talking to your kids. Seek wisdom from professionals that will help your kids adjust the best through this process. Make sure both parents go together. 
9. No need to make lawyer calls right away. Don't panic! Divorce proceedings can't happen without you. Ask for a month of time to catch your breath, sort your emotions and feelings and needs. 
10. Avoid triggers. I only watched happy sitcoms for a long time. The airport was a hard place to be for me because it was a lot of happy couples and families. Avoid places and things that are going to send you into panic. 
11. Exercise. Let your stress out through exercise. It's good for your mind and body. 

More resources to come. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions.


When I got pregnant everyone was quick to tell me all about what to expect and prepare for in becoming a mom and taking care of a baby. What they did not tell me was how my marriage would change and the bumps that come when you add kids to the mix. Today, I am continuing on in the series, "Real Talk with Real Moms," with other bloggers focusing on the topic of relationships. Be sure to read the other bloggers' experiences on how they have learned to manage relationships in their lives since becoming moms, and you can continue reading below to hear my experience, specifically, with marriage. 

Not to get too personal because one day I know my kids will read this, but my marriage to Ryan got so much harder when Elle came into the world. If I could sum up the source of all of our fights and trouble it would have to do with expectations. I could write a whole book on the importance of managing expectations with hundreds of examples of how I made mistakes in that arena. Our marriage definitely felt like it had taken a backseat to parenthood, especially during the first three months of having a baby. You can't be intimate for six weeks after having a baby, and let's be real here, it's not like the weeks leading up to having a baby I felt sexy either. So, with the dry spell of intimacy, on top of sleepless nights, on top of the stress of figuring out if you are doing things remotely right as a mom, on top of no date nights...Yeah...Our marriage was pretty much a commitment without all of the warm fuzzies. We were in the trenches of being parents. Anyone else been there?

Yeah, that's pretty much a recipe for disaster: a lot of fighting and a lot of resentment...Ryan having the expectations of sleep, of "down time" when he got home, of me feeling back to normal after six weeks...Me having expectations that he would always want to hold the baby after a long day at work, that he wouldn't complain about the sleepless nights, that he would be extra loving and caring of me...

The second time around the reality of challenging circumstances was similar (no sleep, two kids to take care of, no date nights initially, etc.), but because we knew what could happen to our marriage we found ourselves being so much more intentional with our relationship. We didn't plan a ton of date nights to fix things, but we did what we could to show love and for one another. Also, the biggest thing that has helped...marriage counseling. There. I said it. My husband and I have been in counseling for awhile, and it's probably the best thing in the world we could have done for our marriage. We fight better, love better, communicate better...Having someone help us work through old scars, underlying resentment and simply be a mediator that helps you get to the heart of issues and explore areas that we like to ignore has been the healthiest choice I have ever made.

Based on experience and the counsel we have received, here's a couple things that helped and are helping now:

1. When the kids are asleep, carve out 15-30 minutes of one on one time at night without any distractions to ask each other how they are feeling. Don't just ask, "How was your day?" That's an important question, but knowing how someone is feeling is even more important because you will know the emotions driving their tone, behavior, etc. Also, ask, "What are you wanting from me?" Maybe it's just a hug or maybe they are asking for more help around the house, but knowing someone's wants helps with understanding expectations so that resentment doesn't build. You might not always be able to give what the other wants, but you can hopefully come to a compromise.

2. Either ask for help or take things off your plate by saying, "NO." People, we only have so much time in the day, and we have to prioritze what's important. Taking care of myself and my marriage has made me a better mom, but that also means I can't do as much as a friend, daughter or blogger. Since having children we have outsourced a lot more so that my husband and I can see each other more.

  • Hired a house cleaner to deep clean once a month
  • Hired a babysitter to watch the kids three mornings a week
  • Put my daughter in pre-school two mornings a week
  • Hired a pool man
  • Hired an assistant for AVE Styles
  • Said no to some travel
  • Said no to having friends over sometimes
  • Asked family for babysitting during the evenings for date nights

3. Try to make a date night every other week when your baby turns 3 months. We ideally would love a date night every week, but it never has been able to work out that way. So, every other week or so we go out just the two of us. Sometimes it's during the day for lunch and sometimes it's a nice dinner and movie. Just make sure there is some conversation happening and you're not just staring at a movie screen the whole time. If you're a mom of one, take advantage of the newborn stage and go out on dates with the baby sleeping in the carseat next to you. Ryan and I would do this all of the time at restaurants where you could pay ahead so that we could leave at any point.

Check out other bloggers' posts below:
Could I Have That
Apartment 34
Smitten Studio
The Refined Woman
Parker Etc.
A Daily Something
Effortless Chic

Read past posts: Feeding, Sleep, Travel, Childcare

Photos by Gina Meola


This post is sponsored by Coca-Cola.

With a three month old baby and a three year old, you can bet that Ryan and I aren't getting much alone time these days. We usually like to plan one nice date night out a month with a sprinkling of quick coffee or dinner dates throughout the month, but that's just not reality in this season of parenting and marriage. So, what do we do instead?

Movie nights at home by the fireplace. Honestly, sometimes I love it even more than going out. I think the only thing that can keep it from being a good date night is if Elle gets out of bed or Levi doesn't stay down for the night. If you're in the same boat as us, try to make a special Christmas movie night with your guy or gal. It's important to carve out some quality time, especially when stress levels can be high around the holidays. 

Make some gourmet popcorn (chipotle rosemary popcorn or candy cane popcorn), dessert nachos, pigs in a blanket, serve ice cold Coca-Cola and sit back and enjoy. And if you're on a budget here's a FREE movie guide if you are a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscriber. I'm sure your wallet will thank you later for this date.

  1. While You Were Sleeping (Netflix)
  2. Love Actually (Netflix)
  3. Finding Neverland (Amazon Prime)
  4. Serendipity (Netflix)
  5. White Christmas (Netflix)
  6. Happy Christmas(Netflix)
  7. I'll Be Home for Christmas (Netflix)

A Kitchen Engagement Styled Shoot

View More:
View More:

They say a way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and I say the way to a woman's heart is a man cooking for her.

In my seven years of marriage there have been a handful of times when Ryan has cooked for me, or shall I say "attempted" to cook for me. All of those times I have felt so loved and cared for because I know that's not a strength of his, and yet he was doing it purely to help me and show me that he was thinking of me. Those acts of service in our marriage are the sweetest things to me and to many women.

View More:
View More:

The way Ryan feels the most loved is good espresso or coffee and conversations with me. That's exactly how our dating relationship began, and that's something that has stayed with us over the years. I have a gold member card at Starbucks to prove it to you. haha.

This engagement shoot is all about the simple ways we love one another in relationships - making food together, reading the paper together, drinking coffee together, cuddles and conversations.

View More:
View More:

As a stylist, I have styled many engagement sessions for real couples and for inspiration, and lately I've just gotten tired of trying to think of the next coolest, most-unique shoot to do. When Melissa Jill approached me to do a styled engagement session to celebrate her new branding I started to think of a unique concept and nothing really came to me...and then it hit me, why not just do it a beautiful home, with good food and keep it simple and authentic.

View More:
View More:

I gathered some wonderful women in my life who are SO creative and also value simplicity and realness. Coley Arnold and Lindsey Holt created a beautiful environment, Jessica Helgeson style and made the tasty food, Stephanie Neiheisel created a natural face, Malori Maeva gathered wild flowers and green that you could pick from your backyard, and I gathered comfortable and beautiful vintage pieces from GrowOp to style Liz and Cesar. Liz and Cesar are a married couple, so the emotion in these photos is totally real. I think that makes a huge difference.

View More:
View More:

Melissa did an amazing job capturing the shoot and intimacy. She used film for the first time, and I'm so proud of her. The light and warmth is gorgeous. Go read her blog post and check out her brand new website!

View More:
View More:

Treasured Photos of Our Marriage


Ryan and I have been together for 10 years, and have been married for seven. We have a lot of photos that we treasure, but none more than these I am sharing with you today. Why? Because love is hard. It's raw. It's commitment. It's work. It's sacrifice. It's a choice. These are photos that symbolize our continued commitment to each other.


After seven years of marriage we have recently decided to have an AMAZING marriage, and not just one where we exist as life partners, one of true intimacy - not being afraid to share the ugly and support one another through it. This year has been a hard one for us, but I'm thankful for it because it has brought us closer in a way we have never known until now.


Ryan took me away to San Francisco to celebrate my birthday and to also set time aside for us. It was an amazing and special time to say the least. One of the things we got to do while we were there was have our photos taken by Gina Meola and Marcus Murphy - two dear friends of ours that also happen to be brilliant photographers.


We had dinner with them, prayed with them and then took in the most breathtaking views while they snapped pictures of me and Ryan. It brings me to tears to know that these photos were taken by the hands of two people that love us, pray for us and support us.


Engagement photos are sweet and beautiful, wedding photos are momentous and seven year marriage photos are empowering. I encourage all couples that haven't taken photo of JUST them (not family photos) after seven years to do it. You need to celebrate how far you have come since day one of "I do."


Photos  by Gina Meola