Cynthia Viola Photography


Commitment & Responsibility

PersonalCynthia ViolaComment
Surrendering is the free-falling backwards into the unknown and trusting that the universe will catch you.
— Jen Sincero

Over the past few weeks I've made some posts more on the personal side. Sharing a bit of mine and A.J.'s infertility story as well as a portion of the book I'm writing about my childhood and meeting my brothers for the first time as an adult. (Caroline also - persevered through her story in this space).

I expected people to respond with surprise and encouragement; what I didn't expect was the outpouring of words like bravery and courage. 

I'm sure a bit of it extends from being an ENFP personality type, but sharing any and every part of my story has always been an essential part of who I am. You'd be hard pressed to know me for more than an hour before hearing some snippet about my brothers. A.J. used to tease that I play poker with my cards faced outward and several friends insist that I'm approximately 100% of the time too trusting and a bit naive when I meet new people. I know they're just concerned I'm going to get hurt one day, and I'm sure I will...I have. 

From my point of view though, sharing our story is what helps us connect with other human beings. I don't do well when I keep information and secrets bottled up inside. They feel like a poison. Sharing them dilutes their power over me and opens others up to be healed from their own story. When we find commonality in our stories, we no longer have to feel alone. 

Cynthia Viola Photographer

Personally, my biggest fears stem from 2 little words: responsibility and commitment. If you can attach the word adventure to it; I'm fearless. (Bring on the parachutes, wet suits, open road and backpacks!!) If people are involved; I'm ecstatic. (Give me quiet one-on-one conversations, a stage to perform spoken word to an arena full of strangers or a brand new family I never knew existed!!) But responsibility and commitment? Makes my stomach flip over on top of itself. 

I was scared of getting married when I first met A.J. He actually broke up with me for a month when we first started dating because I wasn't ready for a "committed relationship." He wasn't interested in the dating game and I wasn't interested in marriage at 19 years old.

I'm scared of big purchases like a home. (What if we need a new roof or HVAC, what if a tree falls through it, what if the market collapses, what if we go bankrupt??)  

I was not excited about owning a dog. (Who's going to walk it, who's going to feed it, what if it gets loose, how will we travel, what if it doesn't get along well with others, how will we host guests, what if guests are allergic??)

Mention the word baby and I start to hyperventilate.

We all have stories that have led us to our current fears and insecurities, we also have stories that lead us to our greatest joys. I don't know what it is that makes you feel weak, insecure, shameful or unworthy, but I guarantee you there is another human being in the world who has experienced nearly the exact same trauma. That should not diminish your trauma but help you find commonality with another soul and find strength to move forward.

I always want to offer a space, both physically and online to share stories and do life together. If you need help just getting some thoughts out of your head, I'm always willing to be a listening ear. I love people and find so much joy and strength in their stories. Don't hesitate to call, write or drop in. Love you guys. 


The Best Decision You Can Make Before the Wedding Day

Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love.
— Tim Keller
The importance of pre-marital counseling

With such a popular response from the last week's post about healthy choices to make before the wedding, I decided to expand on the most important one. After all, your future spouse loves you just as you are and the people coming to celebrate your love do too. All the health conscious choices that give you clearer skin, a thinner waist or brighter smile won't guarantee that your marriage will stand the test of time and trials. 

A.J. and I have offered pre-marital counseling to several couples over the years, some while we were only a year into it ourselves, but it's something we knew we would do before we even walked down the aisle. I'm not sure how to explain it, we just get each other. We trust each other completely and have learned excellent communication skills over the years from our own marriage trials as well as owning different businesses together, attending 7 years of school (almost all the same classes) together, and leading a small church together.

Poor communication or lack of communication, we would insist, is the number one reason marriages (and really any relationships) fall apart. There may ultimately be financial issues, adultery, or abuse but it all stems from communication. We believe that communication needs to begin before you walk down the aisle and preferably even before your "just said yes" moment. 


There are several questions that should at least be discussed before you agree to give your lives to each other. Questions that are obvious and questions that are not so obvious that can be surprisingly detrimental. I'll expand on two I mentioned last week:


An example of a not-so obvious one is holidays. When you're dating and so in love you can't bare the thoughts of being separated for more than a minute, holidays are no problem. Both your families "understand" and are more than willing to accommodate the extra person, or allow their son or daughter to be with their love this year...after all, they'll probably be getting married. Even your first married holiday season together is understandable, everyone is willing to let you do your thing. But after that, lifelong expectations, traditions and rituals come into play and if your families are both unwilling to budge, the pull can be catastrophic. Add long distance and grandchildren to that mix and it's over.

UNLESS you've been communicating well all along the way. There is no right answer; you have to do what works for you, but you need to communicate with each other what you want individually and what you're willing to budge on, then communicate that clearly and sincerely to your families. Being able to do this before the big day makes the transition that much smoother. 

The importance of pre-marital counseling


Most couples broach the topic while they're still dating. One wants 3 kids, one thinks they want 1, but they assume they'll figure it out along the way. They say "I do." All of the sudden the one who wanted 3 realizes they're ready to begin trying right away, "why not?" they ask, "it'd be fun to still be young as the kids grow up." Panicked, the one who "thinks" they wanted 1 suddenly isn't so sure. "Right now? Like, now? I thought we'd wait at least 5 years before we got there...what about our jobs? What about money? What about living our lives while we're still young?" Reluctantly they agree to start trying. Five years, a surgery, ovulation regimens and fertility pills later, it's actually not possible. Now what? Devastated, do we foster? Adopt? Locally? Over seas? How will we pay for that? Four failed adoptions after that you find yourselves in the middle of mine and A.J.'s story. :)

If we had not discussed from the very beginning whether or not we'd be willing to adopt, he might have second guessed marrying me when we discovered we couldn't have our own. I was open from the beginning that my "system" was a little tricky, so we had discussed that it might be a possibility. He was open from the very beginning that he really wanted 3 kids. Had I not known that I would have been totally freaked out when he wanted to start trying right away, but I knew his heart and I knew he'd make a great dad. I was terrified, but I knew we'd figure it out together. Eleven years later we're still figuring it out. I've changed my mind a dozen times and he's been the most patient husband anyone could ever hope for; I don't deserve him. For now we have an awesome pup and more than a couple businesses to run so we're content, but it's important to keep the communication open.

The importance of pre-marital counseling

These are just two of the questions we go over when we're sitting in front of a couple and you can see how complicated they alone can be. There are dozens of things to consider. You owe yourselves and your marriage a fighting chance. Pre-marital counseling isn't going to solve all your problems, it doesn't make it divorce-proof, but it definitely shows you the value of communication and what you can accomplish together if you're willing to put in the work and stay humble. 

Many officiants require it as a part of their services, most at least offer it, you should definitely choose it if you get the chance. It's worth every penny. After all, you're spending thousands of dollars on this one day of your marriage, if it falls apart in 2 years those thousands were a total waste. If you're officiant doesn't offer it, talk to me, I'll be happy to make some recommendations.