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RELATIONSHIPS.

Conflict, commitment, coaching, and free content!


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#TransparentTuesdays

Hey friend,


The first time a client came to me for relationship coaching, I almost said no. 


A couple sitting on separate ends of a bed, appearing to be fighting
Photo by Alex Green

At the time, I was in a relationship that… wasn’t working. The guy was emotionally unavailable, and we wanted very different things, both out of a relationship and out of a life. It had become painful and challenging, and while I was slowly starting to see we just weren’t a good fit, I was still hoping he (or I) might be able to change enough that it could work. 


When a woman I’ll call Lori (not her real name) reached out for help working through some issues coming up in her marriage, I told her straight up that I didn’t think I was the right person to help her. 


It wasn’t that I didn't have enough experience— since body image issues are always about deeper issues, I had worked with plenty of clients on plenty of relationship issues in the natural course of body image coaching. 


It was just that I worried my personal experience would make me too cynical about relationships (and protective of Lori) to give her what she was looking for, which was to “get over her trust issues and insecurities,” so that her marriage could work. 


It was this that made me hesitate. 


You see, Lori’s husband had been having an affair, and she’d found out about it a few months before reaching out to me. When Lori confronted him about it, he had confessed everything and ended the affair, and they had been working on their marriage ever since. They had gotten into couples counseling, and were working to slowly rebuild trust and communicate more honestly with each other, and all things considered, it seemed to be going ok.


In Lori’s coaching application however, she wrote that she wanted to work with me specifically because the affair had triggered a lot of her own insecurities, which she thought she’d addressed and let go of a long time ago, and were now “causing a lot of problems.”


I understood Lori’s desire to work things out with her husband of course, and also why she didn’t want to feel insecure or anxious anymore. But I knew a red flag when I saw one, and it was clear that Lori was blaming herself for the insecurities and anxieties that had been stirred up by her husband’s actions. And at that point in my life (and not knowing yet if she had come to that conclusion on her own, or if her husband had been encouraging her to see it that way) I just didn’t trust myself to keep the focus on helping them stay together. 


Don’t get me wrong, I understood that betrayal doesn’t have to mean a death sentence for the relationship, and that there can actually be powerful healing available to two people committed to healing from it together. I understood that a healthy relationship means navigating conflict and disappointment, and that commitment requires extraordinary levels of courage, compassion, and compromise. 


I just had never personally navigated those waters, because I’d never been partnered with someone worth navigating them with. I was 30 years old, and my modus operandi when relationships got hard had mostly been to break up, move on, and try to find someone more compatible. 


I told all this to Lori when we spoke, and much to my surprise she said that was exactly why she wanted to work with me. She said she trusted me to be completely transparent and reflect what I saw and heard. She said she had spent her whole life compromising and being “nice,” and wanted someone in her corner who would be more protective of her than of her marriage. 


This story has a happy ending, I think. 


A photo of a happy couple
Photo by Andres Ayrton

Lori became a coaching client, and we worked together for the better part of a year. Her marriage got better at first, and then worse for a long time, and then better again. As she blossomed into a stronger and more empowered version of herself, they became truly honest with each other and developed a new level of friendship and partnership I found inspiring and beautiful. Years later they decided to separate– not from a place of hurt or betrayal, but because they’d realized they wanted different things. They parted as friends and co-parents, and Lori is now partnered with a wonderful man who shares her passions.


I’m sharing all of this because my outlook on relationships has transformed so dramatically from that time in my life. 


Having found someone worth fighting for, I’ve spent the last four years obsessed with the fascinating work involved in creating and maintaining healthy and committed long-term relationships— I read about it, talk about it, and coach about it, and I genuinely find relationships to be one of the most important and interesting aspects of the human experience! 


Recently I got to geek out on this topic as a guest on I Love You, Too, a podcast hosted by real-life couple and relationship coaches Josh Van Vliet and Jessica Engle of the Relationship Center. They had me on to talk about the intersection between body image and relationships, and among other things we covered questions like “what do you do when you stop feeling attracted to your partner?” and “how does body neutrality work when you’re single and looking for a partner?”


I Love You, Too podcast cover
I Love You, Too

I also had Jayson Gaddis (relationship coach, founder of the Relationship School, and co-host of the Relationships School podcast with his wife, Ellen Boeder) as a guest on my podcast This is (Not) About Your Body to talk about the keys to creating healthy and sustainable relationships!


I rarely have men on my podcast, so it was super fun to interview Jayson about things like how to get your male partner to open up more, how to navigate conflict when it comes to inequitable divisions of emotional and domestic labor, and how to choose someone willing to do the work required for sustainable intimacy!



All of this is to say that I’ve come a long way in the last seven years, and relationships are now my biggest jam. I plan to have more relationship experts on my podcast in the coming months to talk about monogamy, polyamory, sex and intimacy, communication skills, and kink/BDSM!


Also if you’re looking for relationship coaching– either because you’re single and looking, or seeking support as you navigate the challenging and rewarding experience of committed partnership— I’ve got you. I have a few private coaching spots that are opening up in March, and I would love to work with you, so apply for coaching here and we’ll chat!


Big hug,

Jessi

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