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The Love Your Spouse Challenge

This blog was archived from August 4, 2016.

For those who have been online these past two weeks, you've likely noticed a lot of your married friends participating in this thing called the "Love Your Spouse Challenge" on Facebook. They get tagged by another married friend, post up something sweet about their significant other, and then tag someone else to keep this going. They themselves have to continue this for 7 days straight. I was tagged by a few people before I decided to go ahead and participate. It's like any other "Facebook challenge". Simple, silly, and in this case, sweet. Yet, like with everything online, it was greeted with both positive and negative reviews... and I have to say, the positive to this "challenge" definitely outweighs the negative. In fact, the negative remarks were all quite bitter. People sharing how marriage isn't perfect and look at all these couples who are showing off to the world that they're so happy.


Who said anything about marriage being perfect?No one really sits back and assumes that marriage is perfect, do they? If you do, I can burst that bubble for you here and now. (**PS, for the mutual friends, this post is not directed towards Barb -my love- Morris, but towards ___, ____, and ___ who are trying to call "bs" on happy relationships. Just throwing that out there in advance, people who have posted negatively about a POSITIVE and UPLIFTING online challenge... reading way too much in to a photo post and not taking it for what it means.**)

In the past ten years, I have photographed over 200+ weddings with my husband, Jeff. For a country that supposedly has a marriage success rate of 50%, we can honestly say that there have only been 3 out of those 200+ marriages that have, since documenting them, fail. As to why they failed? Not too sure. None of my business actually, and in seeing what the couples have presented online, two of them that ended in divorce were military weddings (thanks for living in Oceanside, we had a lot of those! :) ), not sure the exact reasons but I do know that the deployments can really make or break any relationship, especially a marriage. And this isn't to say that there won't be more divorces to come out of these other unions in the future, and this isn't just to point out what a success rate this is or what good luck I am ;) .. but it goes to show, it's work. Take it from a photographer who knows one or two things about a photo. A photo is a moment captured in time. You should see the stress and worry I witness first hand on wedding day. I've witnessed brides crying over cakes and flowers an hour before walking down the aisle with happy faces. Do I say at the end of the night, "oh ___ isn't really happy on her wedding day" ?? NO! I say, "wow, I love how they were able to pull it together for the greater good... the marriage. The love." This is why I love what I do! I arrive at family sessions and several members are fighting. But the show must go on, I put them in poses that force them to hug and smile and laugh with each other... so much so that the "fakeness" in the beginning becomes real half-way. They are shot back to reality in what really matters, not the petty argument they had prior to my arrival. In fact, I will never forget this one maternity session I did a couple years ago. This sweet couple arrive and the first ten minutes I could sense anger in the air. She was mad at him about something, and trying to hold it in. I continued to pose them regardless. I gave him instructions to hold her, to really hold her tight and nuzzle on her and whisper to her and make her smile. He seemed freaked out at first to do this, of course I can joke with them saying things like, "oh come on! You're already married and she's already pregnant so you can hold her tighter than that!" Yes, yes I can be crass. Do you know what happened ten minutes in? They were in a different pose that required him to wrap his arms around her from behind, and she had to allow him to kiss her shoulders softly. She looked up at me and tears filled her eyes. She began full-on crying. A meltdown that I had the sense to stop snapping away at. I was confused thinking maybe it's me, something I said, then she turned to him and he continued holding her and they just cried together. I just stood there. I stood there awkwardly for over five minutes which felt like 20. They both just kept saying "sorry" and then began kissing, without instruction believe it or not! She finally turns to me and says, "sorry... we were fighting the entire car ride here. We were about to call you and cancel the session.. I'm so glad we didn't. Thank you so much for forcing us hold on to each other because this type of fight could have lasted weeks of not talking." I haven't really shared this story until now, and I delivered them photos that would never make you think that these two were fighting prior... they don't want to have images in their home of them upset with each other! Did I think less of their marriage? Of course not! I took it for what it was: reality. And stopping life to snap some photos together of a happy time, wow, all I have to say is: go for it! Go for it without feeling judged! They weren't taking these to show off that marriage is perfect. They were taking them to remind themselves that there's so much more good and things to look forward to than any pettiness life can throw your way.

In recent months I have seen a lot of negativity towards "happy posts." Some people choose to post about their children all the time. Do you know there are actually naysayers and bitter folk out there who complain about that? ... I mean, if you don't like what someone is posting, by all means... stop following or unfriend! It's really not that hard. What I don't like lately are posts that wanna tell you the obvious: it's not all honky-dory. No shit! But if I had to choose between a friend who wants to post a happy date night photo with her husband over a friend who wants to spill out dirty laundry on how much they hated each other that week... umm, I'll take the former! Why is everyone acting like ALL OF A SUDDEN people are only choosing to share the good and not the bad? This has been going on before social media ever existed! Think about your own families and your own childhood. Your own mother. When company arrived, did she spend the night talking about how awful life is? No! Perhaps she shared that in secret after several glasses of wine with the other mom in the room in a private corner later on, but for the most part, she bragged about how well you were doing in school, how great her husband is doing at his job, and all their favorite things. When your mother sent out the annual Christmas card with the once-a-year update she would give her friends, it was about how you made the soccer team, how your dad got a promotion at work, and how she still cooks for you all 7x a week. No one, NO ONE had the nerve to say, "oh look at Sally, everything is just sooooo perfect. Yeah right." So why is this acceptable now? When did you suddenly have THE RIGHT to the 100% truth on ___'s marriage? Who gave you the job of a therapist to analyze and break down with evidence that the marriage isn't as great as it looks in that one second in time photo on your newsfeed?

I saw posts earlier this summer about how "couples who post up photos constantly on social media are in reality the saddest." Articles like this one. I couldn't help but laugh out loud, I wanted so badly to tell them.. okay so like, what does this say about you and your situation? What world are you living in again and where's your proof that just because you never post anything that you're happier? Who made YOU the end-all be-all deciding factor in what happiness in a relationship actually means? You know what most people are thinking? YOU SOUND REALLY BITTER RIGHT NOW... These posts were put up by the same people who have shared with me how depressed they are in their own relationships, so what does that even mean? I have literally sat and dealt with people and their stories they volunteered to me on how awful their relationships are, so I get why they don't post all these lovey-dovey pictures, but to knock on those who do? Really? Whether you post or not, it's not all perfect! Can we all say this together and in sync: NO SHIT.

Let's just all agree that social media is:

  1. Free speech for whoever wants to use it. Meaning don't tell others what to post and what not to post.

  2. Not to be taken seriously! If someone elses posts are truly affecting your day, guess what? It's you, not them. When I find myself in times where social media is weighing on me... I log off. It's a miracle! Hours go by and I suddenly don't give two shits about that one friend who is an avid Hillary supporter and posts hypocrisy all day long.

  3. Not real life! We get it! Just because someone posts a great recipe, doesn't make them a great cook all the time. And that's not what they're trying to convey either. Take a post for what it is. Plain and simple. Someone wants to post a photo with them smiling with their kids? They're not saying "my life is perfect and so are my kids." They're not saying, "look at how easy I have it". And if they caption that... perhaps it means that right there, in that moment, in that one minute of their life, they have it easy. So who are you to judge? If someone posts a loving photo of their spouse, smile and move on! They're not telling you this is easy and perfect. And they're sharing nice moments.

  4. Believing everything you see on social media makes you insanely naive and I'm genuinely concerned for you. Are you that same person that follows mainstream media...? You get your news still from discredited CNN? :( Poor thing!

There is no rule/law that you have to post ALL TRUTH AT ALL TIMES in your life! Do you know how depressing that would be?! You all know how honest and open I can be at times. Do you reeeeally want me to share the 4x in the week that I had a disagreement with my husband? As if that's going to ease your worries and make you actually say, "wow...see... she's so honest." -_- Who are you trying to kid? You know your response would be, "look at Talia... dude her posts are so depressing it's like hello...leave him already. This is like the 8th time in six weeks that Jeff forgot to bring back the right cheese from Trader Joes. It's like he doesn't even know her." .. or, "wow... she complains A LOT. She doesn't appreciate the good in life." Let's all do that 7-day reality challenge and see how much more depressing our newsfeeds look.

My personal thoughts on the FB Spouse Challenge? I liked that it was a break away from the norm which is lately all politics. I liked that it encouraged marriage and loving your spouse. I liked that for some it allowed you to reminisce. People were forced to dig in to old memories of good times so even if there was an argument the night before, it reminded you of why you are going to keep trying. We just live in a country that is constantly celebrating BROKEN relationships. This is fact. Just try it. Try to post about how amazing your family is and your husband and watch them burn you at the stake with their "how dare yous" and "how insensitive! Don't you know how many people have to be single parents...what about them and their feelings?" Umm.. WHAT ABOUT THEM AND THEIR FEELINGS? Oh does that sound harsh? Well so was your unwarranted opinion on a photo post. People who are showcasing happiness in their lives, aren't highlighting the bad in yours. You are. And it's sad that people who want to showcase the good side of marriage are looked at as "bragging." Yes, showing only the good doesn't mean there isn't bad. And showing nothing doesn't mean there is good. Or bad. Or whatever. Let the married couples have a WEEK in their entire year to shine positive light on their marriage, even if the post only brings them 5 minutes of happiness and a "aww, thanks babe!"

I will also admit that I technically failed at the spouse challenge. I posted 6 days ago, once, and then forgot to post every day for 7 days. Jeff doesn't seem to mind. Life got in the way. Actually, some days I found it more important to post something political over a memory.. sad right? Sad, but reality.. isn't that what you wanted naysayer? Because how dare I be happy posting about a spouse challenge while upset over Hillary Rotten Clinton committing treason? (sorry, I am honestly laughing while typing this because it's all madness!) Oh and all that lovey-dovey stuff you see below in those photos? Yeah. That's totally real. That's not bragging. My husband looks at me with love and still makes me weak in the knees. I don't have to tell you it's not always perfect, that's a given. But I'll be damned if naysayers wanna sum my entire relationship up to: well... they only post the good stuff. Once again, here I am with a resounding: NO SHIT. If you have the time to sit back and analyze someone elses social media, (and I say this with love and sincerity) maybe you could use that time to perfect your sad situation just a little bit. Just a suggestion!

I think the general consensus on marriage is: it's difficult. It's a LOT of work and it's not always perfect, but it's frikkin' worth it at the end of the day. Don't give up. Look for inspiration. Follow other couples and seek advice from people who were there and witnessed you make those vows for better or worse. If someone truly cared about you and your relationship, they would convince you to keep truckin', keep trying. They would tell you when you are being awful, unreasonable, and not thinking straight. I get that there are situations that you just have to walk away from. But encouragement is necessary, especially these days! The over-entitled culture is killing us. It's killing marriage. It's giving up when things get too hard. If something as silly as a "love your spouse" challenge brings your marriage a highlight on the week, puts your spouse in your thoughts and makes you smile and move forward: DO IT! Keep posting all that goodness that comes along with marriage! Have a lot of real life passionate moments and stop comparing. Look at other relationships and instead of being judgemental about them, try to out-do their corniness and cheeseballness. I know you have it in you. Seek what caused the spark in the first place. The only time it's a issue is when it makes you compare.

Now look below!!! Look at how happy I am and how perfect my life is!!! Muaahahhah! "EVERYTHING IS AMAZING, EVERYTHING IS PERFECT! YAHOOOO... LIFE IS GREAT!" Cause you know what? In these photos, in this moment in time, life was. Cheers guys, enjoy some wine and make out as often as you can with your loved one. CELEBRATE MARRIAGE AND LOVE. As often as possible. <3

All content and images copyright Talia Likeitis ©2016 and cannot be used without expressed permission.

Photos by: Jed

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