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