April Tate and Renee Knight from Carolina
How long have you been together? April: Renee and I have been together for 8 years and married for 2 years.
How did you get together/meet? Our first meeting wasn't the kind that fairy-tales are made of. It was a games night and neither one of us wanted to play with each other. If what they say is true, absence does make the heart grow fonder. After 5 months and another games night later, we were both ready to put our cards on the table.
Why didn’t you want to initially play with each other? Renee: I felt that that she was an intruder, and I did not want her there. I did not know that she was coming. I felt that she would create havoc in my circle.
April: She was giving me a “mean mug.” She was sizing me up. She thought that I was just a young buck.
What made you ready to put your cards on the table? Renee: She walked in the room and it was like I was seeing her for the first time. She had a silent confidence and air about her. She walked in the room without overpowering it. I didn’t realize that it was the same person. She seemed more mature, not young like when I initially met her.
What are the keys to your success: There are a couple of keys to our success. First and foremost is communication. Over the years we have learned to talk about everything. Not just when things are tough, but even the things that we don't think matters. It has helped us to better understand each other in ways we never imagined. We have even started doing a relationship check-in from time to time. The check-in consists of 5 simple questions and your answers don't have to just be about the relationship. They can be about things happening just for you. It just gives you a way to share your lives. The questions are:
1- What's bothering you? 2- What's making you happy? 3- What are you looking forward to? 4- What accomplishments have you made (individually or as a couple)? 5- What goals would you like to set (individually or as a couple)?
How did you come up with those specific questions? And how often do you check-in? April: We got them from a couples retreat. A therapist said that she and her partner used the questions with the “sandwich” effect. Give a positive/negative/positive. The questions give us guidance. If we are extremely busy and life is happening too fast, we check-in and sometimes we are surprised by what we share and learn. Renee: When we feel alone. When I feel that she is doing ok and I am doing ok, but we have disconnected, we check-in. We know it is time to re-connect when our conversations are short, we stop having sex as often, and when we are not touching.
Great exercise, any more tips: Renee: Second, with some work, we've improved our conflict resolution. Yes, communication plays a big part in that, but it goes deeper. We've learned to ask questions before we write the story, which is something we didn't do early in our relationship.
What do you mean about “writing the story” and what type of work did you do? Renee: We were not stopping to ask what’s going on. We just assumed we knew. For example, if you go somewhere without me, I will write a story that I am not attractive. April: I thought that writing the story would protect me. I would assume the outcome, and act out. For example, I had to go the hospital and I did not tell her. I did not call her because I assumed that she would not come. I was trying to control the outcome because I did not want to ask her to come, and maybe get disappointed.
Discuss how you deal with and face challenges that might come up in your relationship? We have learned to deal with challenges by being honest and open with each other. We've found that a lot of the challenges we have are due to the fact that neither of us wanted to be vulnerable with each other. We use to spend so much time protecting ourselves that we weren't able to hear the other person. Now we listen and really hear each other. That doesn't mean we don't get mad and we don't get hurt. But we've learned that even when that happens, we can still love each other in the midst of it. And knowing that helps a lot!!!
Change is prompted by a catalyst. What made you realize that vulnerability was an issue? Renee: We starting realizing that it was a problem because the way we were protecting ourselves made us hurt each other.
What role does spirituality play in your relationship?
We're both spiritual people. Early in our relationship, we didn't share that with each other. But that has changed. And sharing our love of God with each other has only strengthened us as a couple. We know that God brought us together and that he is guiding not just our individual selves but our collective selves as well. We've found that connecting spiritually as a couple, we've grown more intimate as well.
How did sharing yourself spiritually affect you intimately? April: We talked about issues and we pray about the issues. It makes us re-align ourselves. Renee: When we connect spiritually, our intimacy goes to another level. It makes a difference.
What role does sensuality and mutual attraction play in your relationship?
People say that they can tell by the way that we look at each other how much we love each other. It goes deeper than just a physical attraction. We are attracted to the physical, mental and spiritual being. We have a strong connection, rhythm with each other. And when that connection or rhythm is off, we feel like we are missing a part of ourselves. The beauty is that we are always able to get back in sync.
What advice would you give to other couples?
The advice we would share is to learn to communicate with each other. That doesn't mean to just talk to each other, but to really hear each other. Also, don't be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s with a counselor or someone from the church. Sometimes, a neutral person can help you see the things you can't see on your own. Keeping things "in the house" could lead to different houses.
Remember that there should be two whole people in every relationship. Sometimes, we have to work on ourselves and in doing that, we improve the relationship. Creating a better ME, creates a better WE!!
Lastly, we would say surround yourself with people who support your relationship. If someone is bringing negative energy into your space, get rid of them. You are creating a loving relationship. Some people you have to love from a distance.
What does that negative energy look or feel like? Renee: It looks like people who are unhappy in their relationships and all they can do is to talk about what’s wrong in their lives and their relationships. Misery loves company. We don’t allow that in our space. April: When all of their conversations are negative and they are always eager to hear about your hard times, I know that it is negativity. Negative information travels quickly and if they are more excited about sharing negative news, I know that they can’t be in our space.
What do you love most about each other? April: I love her heart and her spirit. She is always there for people. It took her a while for her to take down her wall, but when she did, I saw that she has such a soft, gentle soul. Renee: She’s so calm. April is truly a laid back person and that helps calm me. I love that she is so protective of me. She takes better care me than I do of myself.
What do you do to remind each other of your love? Renee: I cook her favorite meal, wear her favorite perfume and I still dress sexy for her. April: Renee always takes care of everybody else so I make sure to take care of her. I do the things that she might forget. I step up and fill the void, including something as simple as packing or having her take her vitamins.
One word that describes your relationship? April: Destined. Once we met, we had some trials – heartache and hurt – but nothing broke us up. It was just God. Renee: Solid. I agree with what April said.
(Interview conducted by SharRon Jamison)
Thank you, April and Renee, for sharing your love with us. We appreciate your time, energy and generosity in helping us CREATE LOVE!
Be sure to nurture YOUR LOVE at the Create Love! Conference on February 16th...More info.
Much love to you,