Yvonne and Nina Ricci from North Carolina
How did you get together/meet? The first time we met each other was at a house party in October 1999. Yvonne: I had recently won a local dating game contest and was on the scheduled “date” with a friend. We (me, Nina and my “date”) met and talked off and on all evening. Nina: Yvonne and I happened to meet for a second time a few months later at the same location. We connected as friends. From that point, we eventually became good friends, from good friends to lovers, and from lovers to life partners.
What was the initial attraction? Yvonne: I was attracted to Nina’s smile and conversation. Nina: I was attracted to Yvonne’s calmness and sweet spirit.
What was intriguing about her conversation: Yvonne: Due to some past relationships, I had some self-esteem issues and Nina was so patient and loving with me. She was real. She was easy to talk to, and I did not have to make any adjustments with her. I could be myself.
Nina: I loved her sweet spirit. I had just gotten out of a stressful relationship where I could never make the person happy. But Yvonne was different; she was calm. Being with her felt good – it felt like coming home to a nice bath.
What would you say is the key to the success of your relationship? Nina: Our key to success is always being able to talk with each other about anything and feeling free to let each other be who we are. Yvonne: Nina makes me feel safe.
Yvonne, in what ways does Nina make you feel safe? I know that I can always depend on her no matter what. We are on the same wavelength. When I feel emotionally fragile, I know she will be there. Also, she doesn’t play with my emotions either. She doesn’t play games.
Tell me more about the game playing: Yvonne: Some couples play games. For example, not being honest with each other, not being fully committed to each other, not being who they really are, and hiding things. We don’t play games with each other and respect each other’s opinions and feelings.
Nina: I believe you are who you are. You don’t have to lie. Some couples give each other ultimatums. For example, one says if you don’t do or be this, I am going to leave. We don’t throw our relationship on the table. That’s not an option for us. Nothing is worth putting our commitment and love on the line. We never give each other ultimatums and hold the other’s feelings hostage by constantly putting the relationship on the line. We respect ourselves and our love above all.
How you deal with and face challenges that might come up in your relationship? First, we rely on each other in tough times and work hard to keep all third party voices out of our “business.” For example, we have loved and supported each other through Yvonne’s gastric bypass surgery and through Nina’s recent illness. We still remain totally committed to each other.
What are your thoughts about relationship counseling or relationship retreats? We have attended two of IDC’s (Infinity Diamond Club) relationship retreats and have really enjoyed the time fellowshipping with the other participants. It allows us to reconnect, slow down, and really listen to and enjoy each other.
What role does spirituality play in your relationship? Yvonne: We committed ourselves for life to each other before God and our church congregation. We have our individual prayer lives and we pray for each other in our times of stress. Our spiritual connection has really been a sustaining force as we have adapted to Nina’s health challenges.
What has facing adversity together taught you? Nina: It has taught me patience. We are very different. Yvonne looks at the world through rose-colored glasses. I let her be her, and I don’t try to solve everything for us. Before she would tell me her problems, and I would try to solve them. Now, I know that I just need to listen.
Yvonne: It has taught me to be less judgmental. I am more intuitive and a feeler. She’s is more concrete; everything is black or white. She helps me be more grounded and logical. But, she always allows me to be me.
What role does sensuality play in your relationship? Yvonne: Nina is a Scorpio and has no issues. She is very sensual and comfortable in her sexuality. I am working on my body image issues and finding my “inner sexy”. Nina: I don’t have issues because I believe you must always remain true to yourself. I do not follow the designated path; I make my own path. Yvonne: Finding my inner sexy begins with turning off some long held negative inner thoughts. I was morbidly obese my entire life until I had weight loss surgery in 2005. I used to constantly hear those childhood voices in my head that called me fat and ugly even after losing over 100 lbs. I would look in the mirror and see the old me. But with years of reading and taking to heart the lessons taught by Iyanla Vanzant’s In the Meantime, I work on repeating positive mantras and stepping out of my comfort zone from time to time to wear more revealing clothing.
What advice would you give to other couples? We would tell other couples to always talk to each other and keep the “boo” birds at bay and treat your partner as you want to be treated. Be sure to keep your home a sanctuary of peace, love and respect for each other. Don’t let any third party have a seat at your marriage table and have fun with each other.
What is “boo” bird? A boo bird is a hater or someone who may be jealous. They are unsupportive friends and family. For us, we talk to each other first about anything we may have heard from a third party. We don’t let anything that may remotely make us question our relationship fester and go unacknowledged.
What has your relationship taught you most about you? Yvonne: It has taught me that I am not alone and that I can be a princess with my very own knight in shining armor. One who comes to my rescue even when I can’t see the danger knocking at my door. Nina: The relationship has taught me how to love unconditionally- meaning loving her for who she is.
How does she make you feel special?
Yvonne: She listens; she always put my needs first. She will always take time to listen to me to make sure I am ok.
Nina: She takes care of me. She took care of me physically when I was sick. She was always there for me and didn’t seem fazed with me having to use continuous oxygen. My doctor recently joked with me during a visit that I looked distinguished with my oxygen on.
When did you “come out” and what did you believe about gay marriage/partnerships?
Nina: I came out when I was 14 years old. I always knew that I would have a long-life mate. I knew that I would eventually have somebody to spend my life with me.
Yvonne: I came out in 1997 in terms of our community. I was not fully out until after I met Nina. My love for her was very important to me and I knew she wanted to be acknowledged. She told me that she would not be put on a shelf to be acknowledged as her girlfriend only when it was acceptable to me.
Nina: When I met her, I thought I was a “Mack Daddy”. I told her that being out with me people were going to assume she was gay anyway. I didn’t want her cover to be blown but I did not want to be put on a shelf either.
Yvonne, what has been your experience being married to a masculine-identified woman? It is easier because people don’t assume, they know we are partners and people get it. We can say this is my wife and people understand. We don’t have to explain or have constant conversations about it.
What one word describes your love?
Nina: Solid. We built our relationship on a strong foundation of friendship. No matter what will come or what we will face, we will always have a relationship that is solid.
Yvonne: Blessing. Since the time that we got together, I prayed for certain things in a partner. Everything that I asked God for, I have in Nina and my relationship.
What is your vision for your relationship? Our vision is to be known as a trusting and loving couple that kept people laughing, that was full of compassion, and believed in the power of love.
If you could tell the world one thing about how wonderful it is to love your partner, what would you say? Yvonne: Nina is as wonderful as the feeling that you get when you can walk to the edge of the highest cliff and jump knowing know that you will land in a bed of clouds so soft yet strong enough to keep you from all harm Nina: It is wonderful to truly love a woman that loves me back and has made such a difference in my world. (Interview conducted by SharRon Jamison)
Be sure to nurture YOUR LOVE at the Create Love! Conference on February 16th...More info.
Much love to you,
SharRon Jamison Co-Founder