Sunday, June 28, 2015

I’ve grown accustomed to receiving text messages and Facebook posts wishing “Happy Father’s Day”, even though I don’t have children and it’s widely known that I do not want children. However, by nature of the work I do, many people juxtapose the role I play in the development of young people with that of a father or father figure. I understand. I guess. Some of these messages come directly from these students and are heartfelt reminders of just how important the role counselors, advisors, mentors and others play in filling the voids so many young people are growing up with. Hell, one of my former students has called me “Dad” for the better part of ten years and he’s nearly 30-years-old. So, yeah, I get it. I’ve come to accept that those messages are going to continue to come each year and will likely increase the longer I stay in Higher Ed; what I reject are the messages encouraging me to have children of my own, imploring that I’ll be a great father or telling me that I have to want a son or daughter of my own.

Emphatically no.

I’ve known for quite some time that I didn’t want to have children and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more absolute in that thinking. There’s a litany of reasons I’ve never wanted to be a father and at the top of my list is my selfishness. I’m still at a station in my life where my wants outweigh the needs of others; I’m honest about that and okay with it. I’ve been married four and a half years and I still struggle with making sure I’m meeting all of my wife’s needs in the face of my whims and wants. I work at it daily; it’s a constant sacrifice and she has to compromise far too much to put up with me. There’s a freedom to being childless that I am not willing to trade. The ability to get up and go without pause is something I have enjoyed far too long to turn away from now. That didn’t change with marriage, because I found a partner who shares in my passions and the same freedom, who also doesn’t want children.
I think that’s the hard part for people to grasp, that my wife also doesn’t want to have children. There are people who openly ask if she made that choice because of me, but the truth is, she probably wouldn’t have dated me if I had or even wanted to have children. Not every woman wants to be a mother. Not every man wants to be a father. There are people who simply want to love one another and enjoy a healthy and successful marriage, accomplishing the goals they set, seeing the world and helping people along the way. We fit into that category, regardless of the designs people from the outside may have on our marriage. It’s always funny when we’re told that we’re going to change our minds or to wait a few years to decide, challenging our conviction on the issue.

Too late.

Two weeks ago I took the necessary step to ensure that Sharea and I wouldn’t have any biological children of our own when I got a vasectomy. The decision wasn’t hard for me to make at all; I flirted with the idea for a few years, mentioned it in a conversation with my wife and had an appointment and date for the procedure within two days. A vasectomy is the most effective birth control for men, short of abstinence and I felt it was my responsibility as head of my family to have the surgery. There are those who consider birth control a “woman’s thing”, but that devalues her and the partnership of marriage. We could’ve opted for tubal ligation, but I’m far more comfortable with surgery than my wife and the effectiveness of the vasectomy is higher. There was also the option of the having her remain on birth control, but why not free her body of the hormones distributed through her body?

The finality of the decision didn’t rest easy with my wife initially; I imagine a moment or two was needed to come to terms that this meant forever, but that’s her story to tell. I was ready, not because I was excited about not being able to have kids, but just anxious to get it over with. Having surgery of any kind generates those kind of feelings in most people, when you’re just ready to get to the other side of the anesthesia and start recovering. The pain was minimal for the first few days, more of an annoyance than anything and there was some uncomfortableness in my everyday actions for a week or so, but I’ve been through more with less at stake.

There was no change of my mind on the horizon; I’m closing in on 40 and the desire to be that old with a newborn or toddler is not appealing to me. I don’t judge anyone’s decision to have children (under ideal circumstances), so all I ask is the same consideration of my choice not to have any. I don’t feel like any less of a man because I’ve decided to remove my ability to have children. In fact, I feel more secure that I was man enough to remain steadfast in my decision and make a choice for my family going forward. It wasn’t a decision for you or your notions of the intention of marriage or anyone’s desire to be a grandmother, grandfather, aunt or uncle, this was based on the goals my wife and I made for our marriage long before we said “I do”.  

Monday, June 22, 2015

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13:13

We met in 1993 through a mutual friend. We became friends instead of boyfriend and girlfriend. Years went by and we stayed close, but not so distant. He was there for the baby shower of my first born; gave the father of my child and me over a hundred dollars as a gift.

He was involved with someone, and I was too. We still kept in touch to see how each other was doing and how was the family. He never mentioned he had a girlfriend, but I mentioned, I had someone. Years went by and I happened to look in my Facebook inbox and see a message from him saying, “Hey call me.” I replied, “OK, give me a second, but first, “What’s your number”?

From then came the not-so-magical sparks. All I could think about was, what does Paul want with me? Why is he inbox me and want my number? What is so darn important? All I could do is laugh, and say to myself, I know what this fool is all about.

All of my worries came to an end on July 29, 2014 when we got married and vowed to love through sickness and health.  Through sickness and health, I shall repeat for all once again. Before we got married, we talked about kids, I explained to him my struggles and even the struggle with my very own daughter. He understood and BAM I get pregnant before we got married. Not once, but twice.

The first time was planned, but unexpected (go figure). It was in April 2013. Now let me take you all back to what’s about to happen, I have hyperemesis gravidarum. This is a condition in which a mother can conceive a child but has difficulty in carrying a child. This condition can be life threatening as well. For me it was. I have been pregnant a total of seven times before him, many of those pregnancies ending in either it was a miscarriage or an abortion. Was the abortion by choice, yes and no, it was a decision I had to make due to my condition. Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) symptoms are crucial and unbearable at times. I would start to get sick at four to five weeks of conception and then just go downhill from there. I couldn’t eat, drink, or even stand the smell of my very own self. I would throw up until I started to see blood dripping in my very own vomit.

The pregnancy advanced and the sickness began. We went to the doctors, they didn’t offer me anything, I wasn’t eating, drinking, and if I tried, it came back up in seconds. I couldn’t take it, the doctors didn’t want to help, I was miserable, couldn’t stand who I was as a person, and just wanted out, even if it meant, death. This condition plays 60% on the mind and the rest physically.

I explained this all to my husband, and he understood, at least I thought he did.

I started bleeding and landed in the emergency room. My husband had to return home to retrieve his wallet, leaving me alone with the doctors. The doctors advised me that I had a high chance of losing the baby because I was bleeding and they could only find a vague heartbeat. I called my husband to explain, to tell him that I couldn’t do this anymore. He was furious, mad, pissed off, didn’t want to talk to me, he thought I was killing his first child. I thought he understood my condition, but truly, he didn’t. He blamed me for everything, even going as far as to accuse me of sleeping with someone on the side. I was already down about what was going on, feeling alone and like crap inside, but keeping it hidden with a smile each and every day.

Two weeks passed and it was time to talk. He still wasn’t trying to hear it, everything was my fault, “Why did I do that? Why him? Was it someone else’s baby and not his?” I was getting tired of being the bad guy when I had already explained my condition. I understand he never saw anything like this, but that’s not my fault.  He finally calmed down, but still didn’t understand.

We search for solutions, but they all seemed so one-sided; I was told to get my tubes tied, because I was the one with the issues not him. This was all coming from my soon-to-be husband. He calmed down and apologized, but I knew he was still hurt, this was his first time having a child at 40 years of age and by someone he truly loved.  Not to mention he’s an only child.

We worked to get over this hurdle and things were getting back to normal. It was time to start planning our wedding. Months passed and we are living a beautiful life once again and I get pregnant again. You ask why not use protection? Well, I have high blood pressure and at my age, no doctor will give me pills with this condition. I can’t do hormones, it makes me sick, so we used the ovulation method and had sex when I wasn’t ovulating.

We prayed that this will be the one, but the sickness started immediately. The nausea, the vomiting, it all came back. This time the doctor gave me medication, but none of it worked at all. I was back in the hospital, IV in my arm and a different medication that didn’t ease the sickness. I was sent home and started to get sick all over again. A few days later, I ended up aborting.

The reason why was different this time; I went to sleep and stopped breathing. I saw something bright and thought my husband was telling me to come towards him. He explained I wasn’t breathing for a few moments. I woke up and knew it was a sign. My body just can’t take this anymore. This medical condition has gotten to my body and won’t allow me to carry a baby at all.

Now, I’m about to get married to a man who has no children and is 40. What do I do? I cried most nights, thinking that he would leave me, find someone else who can carry his child, because I couldn’t do so.  But that’s not what he did. He married me; he came to understand that he didn’t want to lose his wife, that my condition was life threatening. He knew he was going be there through thick and thin, through sickness and health. I was the one regardless of not be able to have the one thing he always wanted. He did end up with the best wife ever and a great friend.

We’ve decided that my daughter is all the kid we need. We both decided that we don’t want kids, and my daughter is enough. We can now cruise the world, complete the goals we always wanted to complete and just love each other infinitely.

This was truly hard for me to share, because the pain is fresh and brings back memories. Often I would question myself, I’m a woman, why can’t I have a child and why did God punish me? No, he didn’t punish me, he gave me a beautiful daughter who I love more than anything. I almost lost her as well, but God granted my wishes and she was born healthy and on time. 

To learn more about hyperemesis gravidarum, please visit the American Pregnancy Association.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

On 2:00 PM by Teef 3000 in , ,    No comments

Nosy folks often ask if my wife and I ever fight. We don’t argue or yell; we may disagree from time to time and being that we’re both stubborn, spend an hour or two in our separate corners. However, we both realize that we didn’t get married to waste minutes with petty arguments or overblown fights, so those moments are far and few between. But, they happen.

We’re adults. We can take the time to blow off some steam and discuss what the issue is or was, or even just let it blow by, because usually it’s just me overreacting. When you really sit down to look at life, you realize that New Year’s Eve seems like it was last week and Valentine’s Day yesterday, so time is going much too fast to spend angry, upset or forgetting how to smile. When I say I’m sorry, I really mean it, because I don’t like not kissing my wife before she goes to bed or sleeping without her encroaching on my side of the bed. That’s what you miss when you’re in the throes of a fight, the little things.

Pretty soon those little things become dinner for one and nights on the couch, while those moments that were few and far between, become the way of life. We’ve all seen it and I don’t think any of us want that, but the choices we make don’t necessarily call for anything different. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my share of days of unhappiness and loneliness and I don't want to spend any more time on the wrong side of right. So baby, I’m sorry for things I haven’t said yet and attitudes beyond our sight; I don’t want to waste any more time that could be used loving you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My husband and I have quite the unexpected love story. We were both married previously and my experience wasn’t exactly the best. I married the summer after my sophomore year in college at the naive age of nineteen and marriage was great for the first seven years. However, our marriage suffered the strain of our military service and a cycle of infidelity.

After thirteen years of pouring and praying that my marriage would be saved by my faith alone, I decided that I had enough and filed for divorce. This was after the birth of my second son, but I decided that I would rather be single and celibate, raising my boys without the thought of remarriage.

However, God had other plans! I met my “husboofriend” literally three weeks after I left my husband and he waited for me. My children fell in love with him first, since he was the complete opposite of what I would typically be physically attracted to. But, it didn't take long at all for his kind heart and selflessness to win me.

He spent seventeen years in his first marriage and I’m certain he was perfectly happy with raising his two sons. So, neither of us was expecting to fall in love; we weren’t looking, but a mutual friend played cupid and we won. No, we are winning! I am his and he is mine, forevermore!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

On 8:19 PM by Unknown in , , ,    No comments

Let’s get one thing straight from the jump, sex is an important and healthy part of a successful marriage. The truth is, you should make sex a priority, I’m not saying schedule it in to your planner, that will make it feel more like a duty or responsibility and by no means should having sex be on the same level as taking out the trash.

However, you do need to satisfy one another; through acts of spontaneity, getaways and martial intimacy escapades.

Things to remember:
  • Don’t forget to talk about what you enjoy sexually. Communication will help strengthen your experience.
  • There is no set number of times to have sex. It doesn't matter whether you’re having sex four times a week or four times a month; what is important is that both of you are happy.
  • Lastly, marital intimacy is important even outside of the bedroom. Hold hands, kiss and just enjoy each other’s touch.  


Over last few year I have met some pretty awesome people in couples’ counseling. Usually the issues that bring them to me have less to do with loss of love and more to do with a lack of healthy communication. I am convinced that the individual work it takes to help develop those skills is a lot less emotionally expensive than the reality of divorce. I am happy to say that most of couples that I have worked with, when both parties are truly committed, were able to quickly learn lessons that would help them develop and grow a healthier relationship. For this reason, I decided to share and I hope others can benefit from the top five communication tips I usually give out in my couples’ counseling sessions.
  1. Stop with the complaint that your partner does not understand your needs.  Instead of complaining, ask for what you want in concrete, clear and measurable terms. In counseling, my goal is to help people see that many times they are treating their partners like “mind readers.”  So, the work requires that both individuals need to ask their partner to do some things that would change their current dynamic. This will help each feel better about being heard and understood in the relationship. For example, if your husband asked you to stop throwing things during an argument, you need to hear him being honest about the escalating anger, making it difficult to have a real conversation with you; without violence. Remember each partner deserves to be listened to and have their feelings respected.
  2. Remember the rules of engagement for healthy communication; be kind, use “I” statements and it’s not about being right, but doing what is right for your marriage.  Start by softening your words and raise issues calmly. When couples start off with anger it’s almost impossible to return to relative calm. For example, if we think of your communication as a bell curve where we start calm, tempers may escalate, but are more likely to come back down to the initial tone; calm. This approach can help eliminate having contempt and feelings of personal attacks. 
  3. Always complete what you’re attempting to communicate. Truth be told, you have to get to a resolution that you both can handle, even through difficulty. If not, I can promise you this much; you will be having the same argument ten years after the first time the issue was not dealt with.  Like it or not, you must keep talking. That’s the only way to make progress. One of the assignments I give during counseling is picking a disagreement that has gotten you into therapy and having a full conversation. Yes, it sounds simple, but when hurt develops in a relationship, having direct conversations are a struggle.  For example, take a Friday night and sit down to a full conversation. *Don’t forget the rules of engagement from tip two.
  4. This is a continuation of tips two and three because the reality is that communication is a continuum; learn to exit the argument without losing or abusing one another. Successful partners know how to leave an argument. Learn to mend the situation before an argument gets completely out of hand and things are taken personal. Some possible suggestions in this area are: changing the topic to something completely off-subject; using laughter; helping partner with a caring statement.  For example, a statement like, "I understand that this is difficult for you” or “don’t worry, this is our problem and we are in this together.”  Never be afraid to offer real gratitude and signs of appreciation for each other. Finally, if an argument gets too intense, take a break, and agree to come back to the topic when all are calm; remember this does not mean leave the discussion unfinished.
  5. Lastly, celebrate the good about your relationship out loud! Many partners will spend more time complaining about one another, but never mention what makes them great. For every bad, there are probably a million good things being overlooked because someone’s feeling are hurt. Create high standards on how you show gratitude. Plainly speaking, focus on the bright side; this will help you build a healthy emotional storage. I once read that most happy couples have a 5 to 1 ratio of positive statements to not-so-positive.  So start being positive “out loud” now.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I was a teenager when I noticed the majority of my relationships in my surroundings were unwed parents in tumultuous relationships that didn’t display affection, respect, growth or real partnership. The mothers were typically the primary custodial parent, struggled financially, while raising multiple children on a single income. The fathers were in and out of the apartment; at best they were one-third contributors and showing face long enough to get their offspring excited before he’s off again carrying no responsibility.   The children practically fended for themselves, which generally resulted in all types of abuse, poor grades and low self-esteem. I wondered how my life going to be different.
In 1997, I met a person who would become my last best friend. We were sincere friends with no sparks between us. We enjoyed each other’s company on a friendship level and shared stories about our upbringing. We had a lot in common and guaranteed that we would not repeat the actions of those before us. Maybe sharing conversations about the lives that we didn’t want unconsciously drew us together, which resulted in a courtship. We dated for a year and discussed how we wouldn't become ‘products of our environment’. 

Then it happened - we became pregnant at 21-years-old.  At this point we thought what now?  If we brought a life into this world of unwed parents then we are surely continuing the cycle.  So we thought, let’s just get married and figure out the rest later.  I was five months pregnant wearing a plum colored business pants suit and he was wearing a sweater vest with khaki pants.  We arrived to the courthouse and the judge said to us, “You two look like you’re going to a barbecue”.  We were not dressed for the occasion, didn’t have rings to exchange and didn’t tell our families that we were married until 22 days later during Thanksgiving dinner.   Understandably to most this appeared to be a shotgun marriage, but to us, it was the beginning of a new world.

In our ten years of marriage, we were living a life we never envisioned, yet the complete opposite of what we grew up in. Working together, we created a conformed lifestyle for us and our three sons. We did it – we made it – we beat the odds, I thought. Then another thought came to me, ‘Did I marry to play it safe’?  I mean, I loved my husband, but if I didn’t get pregnant or if I grew up like Denise Huxtable, would I have married so young, had children, and would I have married him? These questions continued to surface and made me wonder whose life was I living? I literally looked into the mirror and didn’t recognize the reflected image.  Furthermore, I couldn’t remember how I became Clair Huxtable.

Did I marry to play it safe?

Sure, my husband and I got along well with hardly any disagreements, our bedroom life was active and we often had date nights. My relationship with my sons was like a scene from “Leave It to Beaver”.  But for some reason, I felt this life was too good for me. How did I deserve such a life with a man who respects me, provides for his family and would rather be at home relaxing on the sofa, instead of hanging out with his comrades? Out of nowhere I felt like this was a manufactured life. So I became detached from my husband and our sons. My husband quickly noticed the changes I displayed and we sought marriage counseling. After having months of marriage counseling our therapist suggested one-on-one sessions with just me. This is when I discovered more about myself and how much I was suppressing about my childhood. This is when I realized that I was born into a life out of my control and was not to judge the decisions of my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. I had to respect others’ standards and choices while knowing that mine were simply different. 

In counseling, my husband explained to me that what drove us to get married was not just about defeating an urban stereotype, but giving ourselves and our offspring a life that we are pleased with. He explained that what we have accomplished was because of our conscious decisions and efforts and we should not feel guilty for it. He assured me that as excited as he is to live comfortably, he’s just as excited when we embrace and caress each other. Our therapist asked me to visualize what type of life I would have wanted and I said there’s no way I can visualize life without my husband and sons. My husband asked a simple question, “Was I happy”? I took a moment to really think about the definition of happiness and then responded, “I couldn’t be happier”. He said, “Well don’t think this relationship was built entirely on us getting that picket fence and two parents under the same roof, because those are the things we work hard for and what our sons deserve. But also know that we did all of this because we love each other and more importantly we love ourselves”.

A few months ago, we celebrated fifteen years of marriage by renewing our vows with 103 family and friends at one of the best wedding venues in the area.  We even had the original judge re-pronounce us as husband and wife. It wasn’t intended to be a wedding do over, but we did dress the part and we finally cut the cake! 

Fifteen years ago, I didn’t know what life I wanted, but today I’m overjoyed with the decisions and the motivation that lead to the life I have.  

Ciejea Lopez

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Many couples spend years of their marriage bumping heads over how their family should work.  Most of us come into marriage with our own of how a "family works."; ideas usually based from our family experiences growing up. Many couples end up fighting over something as trivial as who should take out the trash, wash the dishes or change the bathroom towels.  Sounds petty right? However, these little issues can quickly add up to big problems, especially if you add children. 

My tip is to figure out how you can live together emotionally and physically; while each maintaining their own sense of self.

Things to remember:
  • How a couple manages parenting responsibilities effects the quality of your entire marriage.
  • You and your partner may have extremely different beliefs on how a child should be raised and what “family time” means.
  • Have clear conversations about the basics; employment expectations, your religious practices, the importance of sitting down to dinner as a family, etc. 
  • Lastly, the more open and honest the communication the more successful the outcome! 

Marriage is not easy and I don't think it's supposed to be. Once you add children, a mortgage, bills and other responsibilities to the mix, it can get overwhelming. You can start to feel less and less like lovers and more like roommates. Two people making changes and adjustments to their lives is bound to cause moments of tension anger, doubt, etc. I've found the key is to remember why u fell in love to begin with and focus on moving forward beyond the tough times. Saying "I do" is the easy part, saying "we can" is the true test! Finding that one person you couldn't imagine not having by your side is priceless.

My husband and I were having a conversation a few days ago when I was reminded that I never wanted to be married. Even after I met him. But then the light went on and I said what the hell are u doing? I said to myself, “Either marry him or love him and yourself enough to let him get on with his life”. I was okay with that, but what I wasn't okay with, is living with regrets and I knew if I walked away I would regret it forever! A year later we were married and I haven't looked back.

The alternative, staying a party girl and living for the moment, wasn't worth destroying the relationship. I knew I was on borrowed time; at some point he was going to tire of the BS and leave. I was young and dumb, but not dumb enough to see partying is temporary. I needed to grow up and nurture an adult relationship instead of being at every party. I'm blessed enough to have seen the light before I lost what really matters.

Marriage is hard! Period! Either you suit up and play like your life depends on it (because it kind of does), or sit on the sidelines and watch. I've seen enough games; I'm not beat for that. I wouldn't trade my husband, our ups, our downs, our babies or any of it for the world!

Tomane Boone-Harris

Friday, January 2, 2015

How many times have we heard the phrases, "If I get divorced, I ain't never get married again," or, "So, you’re doing it again huh? Better man than me,"? I'm 37, happily divorced at 28, and happily remarried. I got married young. Too young in my opinion. I was inexperienced, immature and not equipped to handle the hurdles that came with marriage and loving somebody that I wasn't evenly matched with. But, of course I didn't come to this conclusion during my divorce. The way I saw it, it was all her fault. I didn't make this important discovery until I met my present wife.

"The Girl from Texas" is what her label was at first. She was beautiful, smart and away from the only home she knew. I had to know her story. But marriage was not on the table at first. I wasn't sure I wanted to take that plunge again. I was a divorced man; apprehensive about every woman that came near me. It wasn't until a Saturday afternoon, almost three years ago, that I knew this was going to be different. We were hanging out in my apartment that we hadn't yet shared, when something happened that had never, ever happened to me before. Joking around, she did an impersonation that made me laugh harder than any woman has ever made me laugh. I don't mean a chuckle, but a gut busting, doubled over, laughter.

It was one of those moments I will never forget. It was that moment that not only made me say, "I'm gonna marry her," but it made me say to myself, "is this what real love is"? When somebody can make you laugh uncontrollably? Is this what I was missing? Something that simple forced me to challenge everything I thought I knew about relationships. Everything. How to be friends and lovers, and how important it is to have a life-long bond. A spiritual connection. Laugh often. At yourself and at each other. I had been going at it all wrong. I knew that now. Of course we have our hurdles, arguments and disagreements. But I look back at that moment I will never forget and it makes it all better.

I was happily divorced, happily single, and now, happily remarried. This isn't a do-over. It’s a Diddy remix with a new beat and hook! And I'm bumpin’ to it!

Life after divorce!

Peace and blessings.

Chris Irving

Thursday, January 1, 2015

On 1:17 PM by Teef 3000 in , ,    1 comment

What if I decided to go to the New York show instead of Philly? What if you were on time and didn’t need to share a space I arrived early to get? What if the show started on time, reducing our window to get to know one another?

There were so many variables and moving parts Halloween 2004; ten years later the details have faded, but the constant is that was the night I met the “light-skinned girl with locs”, as my boy would describe you for the years to come. I knew that night you were special. I knew I wanted to get to know you better. Knew I wanted to marry you.

A week later we had our first (and only) date and the moving parts of our lives at 26 left me wondering about the woman I shared that evening with for nearly five years. There was an e-mail, and another that I never sent, but you were always hanging between me and love like an apostrophe. I wondered what you were doing, if you were married, if you were happy, but for five years I never actually tried to find out.

But The Facebook allowed me to track you down (a little stalker-ish I know) and answer the questions I’d been holding for years. You were doing great, weren't married and was as happy as could be. The key was that you weren't married, not all the way single either, but God gave me a second chance and I didn’t care.

The months it took us to go on our second date were the best thing to ever happen to us, because we had the time to get to know one another (again) and I wouldn't trade any of our story. It has all brought us to where we are now, able to laugh about that night, reminisce about our first date and allows me to remind you that we could have been married at least eight years by now.

What if I decided to go to the New York show instead of Philly? What if you were on time and didn't need to share a space I arrived early to get? What if the show started on time, reducing our window to get to know one another?

I wouldn't have enjoyed that night as much. I wouldn't be married to you right now. I wouldn't be the happiest man in the world either.
On 11:57 AM by Unknown in , ,    No comments

Most married couples that I have worked with admitted to lying to their spouse about money at some point in their relationship.  A lie as simple as spending on an item that both were not aware of can quickly cause money woes; sending the marriage in a downward spiral.  

In reality, we all know that one of the main reasons couples fight and relationships tend to suffer, is poor financial agreement and planning. So, here is a clear financial tip, discuss and agree upon some financial ground rules, hopefully before you jump the broom.

Things to remember:
  • Don’t worry if you and your partner don’t have the exact same philosophy on money. This actually could be seen as a good thing; it can help balance the rigid and structure the flexible. 
  • The sooner you address financial issues the better. So take time to communicate who exactly will pay the bills, how much unrestricted spending is reasonable, and how you’re going to keep track of it all.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a budget and a plan. 

On 10:42 AM by Teef 3000 in , , ,    No comments

I have found that the hard thing about Black love is that a good portion of our relationships are spent overcoming the condition of distrust and the subconscious feelings of unworthiness put in us by society. Fatin and I were extremely naive when we started out, acting out roles that we thought represented a good marriage: husband as provider, nurturing wife, agreed upon spiritual beliefs.

Although those things are important, it took like ten minutes to realize the intellectual and emotional heft needed to stay married were in a different galaxy from where we were.  Our desire to stay married made us challenge our limits on patience, humility, compassion, forgiveness and maturity. Our biggest obstacle was us. We were forced to ditch bad philosophy from past pain and childhood, plus, not hinge the worth of our whole relationship on one issue. We’ve learned to relax long enough to trust that we were loved and that one fact would make us receptive to critique from each other.

These are all continuous lessons that have degrees of difficulty depending on how life unfolds. Islam states, “Marriage is half your religion", and it’s true, because marriage will test and strengthen every single spiritual obligation.

Aja Graydon-Dantzler
On 9:30 AM by Teef 3000 in , , ,    No comments

As I reflect on my first year of marriage, I have joy-filled thoughts of my wedding day. I recall wearing that ivory dress, feeling like the prettiest woman in the room, professing my love and commitment to my partner of eight years. The dancing, partying and the drinks flowing until the wee hours of the morning; the excitement of the wedding night, finally being able to listen to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” and follow his directions without having to repent on Sunday.

I remember feeling overwhelmed with the happiness of finally being able to live together; the day my husband and his children moved their belongings into our house was one of the best moments of my life. Our first combined holiday celebration with our siblings, nieces and nephews interacting as family was beautiful, not to mention the attention of everyone doting over the newlyweds and expressing pure happiness for our union.  We were finally a blended family and everyone around us was just as happy as we were.

After about a month or so of basking in the afterglow of the production and housing changes, things started to change without warning, our loving relationship was now filled with arguments and tears.  It didn’t take long for my husband to start rearranging furniture, painting walls or to remove my books from the bookshelf and replace them with a surround sound system. I remember turning on the stereo to start my weekend cleaning ritual and instead of hearing R&B pouring out the speaker, I now heard house music turned up to 100 rocking and shaking the house. I immediately called him at work, yelling and screaming about my CDs, frantically asking him where he put them. I felt my personal space was being invaded, as if I was lost in my own home.

Not long after this we had a huge blow up over my spending habits, about how my impulse shopping was not good for our ultimate financial goals. I felt that the money in my paycheck was my money and I could spend it how I wanted to. Who was he to tell me that I spent too much on an item? He felt as the head of the household, it was his right to express his concerns about my spending habits and that we should consult one another when making big ticket purchases. After weeks of arguing over everything from leaving a cup in the sink to spending time together, we began avoiding having difficult conversations altogether. I’d retreat to one room and he’d retreat to another. Our conversations were generic. Our passionate kisses had become lackluster hugs. We resided in the same house, but were living separate lives. Only to pretend to be the happy-go-lucky couple at social events.

For the life of me I could not figure out what we were doing wrong. This was not what I signed up for. I wasn’t naive to think there wouldn’t be bad days, but I didn’t expect them to come so fast and without any end in sight. Eventually, I got the courage to ask my husband if we made the right decision in getting married. His response was the turning point in our downward spiral. He said that he made the decision to commit his life to me and if I wanted to go he loved me enough to let me. He said he hoped that I loved him enough to allow him to fulfill his commitment. He reminded me that as long as we stayed together we could get through anything, but we had to be willing to do the work. With this response, we started the work.

Our approach was to engage in an honest and opened dialog. We used safe words when the conversation started to turn into a debate or argument. In the end, we realized that we could not change each other; we could only make changes within ourselves. We decided that we would work on ourselves and the way we approached and responded to situations. We knew we had to be honest with ourselves and figure out who was better at what task and assign those tasks accordingly. We realized that communication and honesty is the key to a successful marriage. We also had to trust each other with everything and accept each other for who we are as individuals, flaws and all. We had to work as a team and stand in alliance with one another no matter what.

The last decision we made is a little cheesy but it works for us. We made the decision to watch our wedding video or look at our pictures when we hit low points, this way we will always remember our vows and the commitment we made in front of our family and friends. We can see our smiles and the joy that day brought us.   Every time we watch the video we silently recommit to one another.  

Lastly, we constantly remind each other of the most profound advice given to us by a couple at our church who were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary during the week of our engagement announcement. They told us marriage was not always going to be a 50/50 partnership, the ratio can shift at any given moment and at any given proportion; when the bad days come, don’t throw each other out of the house, pick a neutral space and simmer down. They said if one is angry and out of the house whose shoulder will that spouse lean on, you don’t know, but what you do know for certain is that it won’t be yours. The last piece of advice they gave us was marriage is a boat ride and as long as we rowed together and didn’t jump ship, we’d make it through any storm.

Mahogany Hall