Happy Couple: Annie Ross and Priscilla A Coleman
from Durham, North Carolina
How long have you been together? We have been together for 17 years.
How did you get together/meet? Priscilla: Annie and I met at church. She had been looking forward to meeting me for quite a while. I was very active in my church and she wanted to meet this Priscilla. The first words we ever shared were "Praise the Lord."
Annie: I had just graduated from Auburn University, and my brother told me about Priscilla. I was interested in meeting someone who was on fire for God. She was sitting in front of me and all during the service I was thinking finally I will get to meet her.
What was the initial attraction? Priscilla: I was attracted to her smile. Her eyes light up when she smiles. Annie: I was attracted to her energy. It was the way that she said “Praise the Lord” it felt genuine. I felt that she was genuinely happy to meet me. She was bubbly.
What would you say is the key to the success of your relationship? Annie: The keys for us are communication, friendship and love. When you are communicating, you need to be transparent with each other. We are able to say what we feel and what we want. When we first got together whenever we had an argument, I would say “I’m leaving”. I didn’t want to leave, but I didn’t know how to ask her “Do you want me to leave.” You have to be willing to ask the right questions even if it makes you feel vulnerable. So now I know to say to myself “What question am I not asking?” and “What validation do I need?”
Priscilla: I would definitely say one of the major keys to our success is that we decided a long time ago we were going to be COMMITTED to making this relationship work. Annie and I have suffered and endured too much. We have fought too hard to be together just to walk away when “life happens” to us. Our relationship is an investment, and as with any investment you get out of it what you put into it. Annie and I have always put in the WORK of making our relationship work. We never think that just because we have 17 years together that it’s all a piece of cake. No, it is even more work now because we keep GROWING and CHANGING so we work at re-inventing and re-creating the relationship that we desire. We take our relationship very seriously. We also make sure to always keep LAUGHTER in our relationship.
Relationships are investments. What investments did you have to make in yourself to make the relationship work? Annie: I had to make an investment in myself to deal with my “mother issues” because a lot of those issues were showing up in our relationship. I decided to seek professional counseling to deal with the issues of my childhood. You see, one of the things that attracted me to Priscilla was her ability to fix things. I wanted her to help fix stuff but I wasn’t giving her all of the pieces of the puzzle. I wanted her to fix stuff when I wouldn’t divulge everything. It caused friction and affected our relationship and our communication. We resolved the issues but it was a long process. We worked together as a team, as a unit. I knew that I could not have a healthy relationship if I was broken; I had to first be willing to uncover, face and deal with those old wounds if I was ever going to heal.
Priscilla: The person that I needed to be my partner, wife, and friend in and out of the bedroom was dealing with a lot of emotional issues. I was having to support her in ways that I wasn’t equipped to, or in ways that I didn’t understand how to. I didn’t understand the depth of her issues. I was later included in some of her sessions and then I was really able to learn the depth of the situation. Going through that period truly helped our LOVE grow for one another. I didn’t want to see her in pain. Her healing also helped to heal our relationship. Often people enter into relationships with people and don’t know all the BAGGAGE in that U-Haul and suitcase their partner is bringing. Together Annie and I unpacked our U-HAUL and have kept our relationship moving FORWARD.
Priscilla: I made an investment in me to be REAL. I came from a long line of ministers and we wore a lot of masks. I knew how to change for every situation and fake the funk. We could fight all the way to church, but when we got there, we knew to put our gloves on, fix our hats, pull our dresses down, and act like everything was ok. I decided that I wasn’t going to wear mask in my relationship and that what you see is exactly what you will get. I am going to be me. I wasn’t going to play games and show up as someone else. I did the work to learn to be authentic and walk in my truth and embrace the beauty of ME. Being Priscilla aka Priskay and walking in my truth gives me freedom and I believe it also can liberate others to walk in their truth. Annie: Couples should be open to getting help if their relationship needs some assistance from a professional counselor. We have utilized counseling and it helped to strengthen our relationship. It helped us to gain valuable communication skills which lead us to a level of transparency that has been freeing and liberating.
Discuss how you deal with and face challenges/conflicts that might come up in your relationship? Annie: We face our challenges as a team utilizing each other’s strengths while also being aware of each other’s weaknesses. Priscilla - We face challenges by first accessing the situation sometimes together and then sometimes apart. We both are always seeking spiritual guidance as to what is God's will in the situation. We then come together and discuss what spirit has spoken to us in that silent/quiet time, and then we develop a strategy and tackle it head on. Annie: In our house, we have an “orange room”. It is a room where we can be transparent. We go in the room and speak to each other as friends and in love. In that room, we can say anything, we don’t leave until it’s resolved and both of us are satisfied. When we leave the orange room, we feel cleansed.
Priscilla: Our orange room has been a safe haven for not just us but for other individuals and couples who have come to talk, for us to listen, or to give then some spiritual guidance. Many people call us and ask to visit the orange room because it is a sacred place; it is a SAFE place. People we know personally send people to us. Often people sometimes feel that they are faced with issues in their personal life or relationship and don’t know if they can make it. We tell them “Yes You Can” if you want to stay together, you can make it but both people have to want it. A preacher once told us this and it has helped us over the years. “There will be times when you might fall out of love with each other, just don’t both of you fall out of love at the same time.” We have been through a lot and we share our experiences and are willing to be open and transparent with other couples/individuals. We let them know that they can get through whatever, even infidelity or anything else, if they work on it together.
What are your strengths and how do they support your relationship? Annie: I am creative and the creativity shows up in a lot of different ways. Growing up in Alabama, I didn’t have a lot and I learned how to make something out of nothing. Priscilla is structured and she works well when she has all of the pieces. But when it gets to the last moment or we need to get something done, I can improvise. I “can make it do what it do”. Priscilla: I am good at assessing a situation, determining where we are headed, and then making a plan to get it handled. Annie walks in and gets the job done. Teamwork!!
You are not only good partners in life; you are great partners in Infinity Diamond Club. What is IDC and what it is like creating a vision together? Annie: We started the organization in 2000 in Greenville, SC. We began doing events etc… here in NC in 2007 after we moved here in 2004. Before then both of us were involved in the church. When we got kicked out of church, we had no support. We lost our church family and our natural family. We were grieving because we both experienced so much loss. We needed to find something to support us socially and spiritually. We started IDC to be that social and spiritual support for us and for other people who needed support. We never wanted others to feel like we did, lost and abandoned.
Priscilla: People need people and social interaction is important. I believe where there is Unity there is Strength. When we first came out we met a lot of people who had lost family, church and even friendship relationships. We wanted to create a healing place and safe atmosphere where people could come together to share and learn from each other. It was a place where people could come to heal, get empowered, and find a sense of togetherness and unity. A place where people could HOPE again and BELIEVE again and I believe people have experienced that with Infinity Diamond Club. Whether it is through one of our Empowerment groups, Family and Friends Reunions, annual Relationship Retreat or the We Are 1 Conference, it’s like coming home when you experience IDC. A great movement built on the foundation of “Loving the People.” We believe that when you heal, I heal, when you get better, I get better, when you succeed; I succeed ~ We Are 1.
Annie: Going out in the wilderness is difficult. We wanted people to know that even though organized religion may have kicked you out, you may have loss some friends, and your family may not understand, you can still LIVE. We wanted to build people up; help them stand in their own power.
Priscilla: IDC is different. It is not a party even though we do have a good time (LOL) or a hook-up place; Infinity Diamond Club is a place of empowerment. We seek to facilitate healing the whole person from the inside out. After they heal and get empowered then they are able to go back and help the next individual in society and help facilitate healing in others. It is a domino effect.
Losing your natural and church families had to be an incredibly painful experience for you. What happened? Priscilla: When I got kicked out of church so to speak, it hurt my heart deeply. There was a very dark period in my life where I existed in a state of bitterness and was very angry with God. Yet Annie just kept on praying for me, even when I told her I didn’t want her prayers. For you see my church was my life. I was the Pastor’s granddaughter my roots and heritage was there. My family felt that Annie came from Alabama and pulled me into this “lifestyle”. They wanted me to leave her alone. My church even called a meeting to perform an exorcism on me. I had become an embarrassment to my family and brought dishonor to our family’s name. I was physically beaten, spit on and kicked by my brother because I was with Annie. Now, that same brother is a pastor at one of my grandmother’s churches. That ripped my soul out. My family believed that I “quote un quote” could be saved but Annie was going to hell. I never wanted to hurt my grandmother but I wrote her a letter one day. I asked her “How can God accept me back, but damn Annie to hell? If God is love as you have taught me all my life, and I have read in the scripture for myself, couldn’t he love and save her to?” She never answered my letter. It was a tough time, and I suffered incredible loss. I also lost the dream of following in my grandmother’s footsteps. I was supposed to become Pastor of her church that my brother now pastors.
The church asked me to leave and it was very painful. I was living with my brother, and he was the one who introduced me to the Lord. When our relationship became public, he kicked me out of his house. First, he gave me two weeks to find a place or go back to Alabama. Then he came back and said “you have to leave now, right now”. I only had $20 in my pocket and I didn’t have a car. I had just finished college and was helping to care for my mom. I went into the room and got on my knees and prayed, and got a sense of peace. I put my stuff in a garbage bag and left. My mother was sitting right there but she didn’t say a word just turned her head. My sister-in-law who I introduced to my brother just sat there and then looked away. But the Lord told me that everything was going to be ok. My brother drove me to a motel in another city called the Peach Blossom and told me to get out. He dropped me and my bag off in the parking lot and left. After he drove off, he turned around and came back and told me to give him the key to his house. He told me not to call him unless I was dying or in jail. I was new to the area, and I didn’t even know where I was. I had to call Priscilla and try to explain where I was so that she could come get me. I was in tears. For 4 to 5 years, I had no relationship with my family.
Priscilla: During this time we were trying to do the “right thing” and we stopped seeing each other. I had decided to try to work it out with my husband. We were on a trip trying to work on our relationship. He always kept my phone so I did not know that Annie had called. I finally had gotten him away from the phone and I checked my messages. I heard her voice and I could tell she had been crying. When he came back from getting the paper, I was packed and walking out the door past him. I had to get to Annie.
Annie: My world was crumbling. I was living in a mobile home that had plastic taped up to the windows. It had no locks and I was sleeping on a mattress. I did not have a car so a co-worker picked me up and took me back and forth to my 3rd shift job. My co-worker helped me buy an old beat-up car. The car had broken windshield wipers and holes in the floor. I was missing Priscilla so much! One day I had had enough and we decided to just be together; we literally ran away. Priscilla was at her house and I had come to visit her during the day. She was cooking hamburger helper and she had the chicken pox at the time - I will never forget it. She stopped cooking, called her mom and told her to go pick up her kids. She told her mother, “no matter what keep them with you”. Then we left. As we were driving down I-85, it began to rain and I didn’t know what to do. The next moment I saw Priscilla roll down the window. She manually began to try to move the wipers up and down. We both knew that we couldn’t stop no matter what. This was our chance at love and true happiness. And if we were going to do this, we had to do it now. There was no going back. I knew at that moment that she was a fighter.
Priscilla: It was hard. I was concerned because I knew that my family would be angry. I knew they could make it hard for me when they realized I had just disappeared and left my kids. I feared they would try to use my husband to take the kids away from me. I was scared, but I knew I had to run away with Annie. I knew it was best for me to leave them (3 and 4) with my mom because at the time Annie and I didn’t have anywhere to stay. We finally moved into an Extended Stay motel until we could find somewhere to live. Annie didn’t want to take me to her mobile home. Fortunately after a few months we got an apartment. I missed my kids so much. When Annie would come home from work in the morning, she would find me in bed with their pictures all around me. She was able to see that I had cried myself to sleep. After watching the movie Hope Floats, I told Annie I had to go back. Even if they fought me for custody, I was going to fight. I went back home, told my husband he had to move out of the house, and got my kids back from my mom. Each day I thank God that my divorce/custody went smoothly. My ex-husband said “if you pay for the divorce, I will sign the papers” and he did.
What role does spirituality play in your relationship? Priscilla: It is the central theme in our relationship and the tie that binds us together. As I had mentioned earlier, my roots are in the church so to find a life partner, wife and friend that has that deep faith foundation was imperative for me. We pray together, fast together, and stand in the gap for each other. After all I had been through; I know Annie prayed me back from a very dark place from 1997-2000.
Annie: Doing this work, you can get hurt. You have to be grounded in love even when it doesn’t feel good. Our spiritual foundation is love, and we know that love puts you in a vulnerable place at times. When we have suffered loss or when people have turned against us, talked about us, we made our decision years ago to never retaliate. Even all the stuff with our families, we said we will treat them nice and love them in spite of it all. When Priscilla was beaten by her brother, all she said with tears in her eyes is “that’s my brother and I love him”. We made a decision to respond and return love at all times. It is hard sometimes don’t get me wrong but having and utilizing this principal has opened many doors for us. Priscilla: Our spiritual life is important. It is nothing for me to look over at night and find Annie on her knees praying. It lets me know that she’s on the battlefield for us; that she is praying for our home, our lives, our relationship, our family, friends and our organization. We know and believe in the power of prayer.
What role does sensuality play in your relationship? Annie: I still get excited when Priscilla walks into a room. After 17 years together, I still tell her that she is beautiful and that I love her on a daily basis either verbally or by a display of affection. Although we don't look like we did 17 years ago, the passion and love still burns deep. Priscilla: I am a very open, frisky, and let's just say passionate and fun person. What I find sensual about Annie starts with her heart and then generates through her eyes and when she lays that million dollar smile on me, I melt.
What has your relationship taught you about you? About each other? Annie: It has taught me that Priscilla is a total package. She is an amazing person on so many levels. I realized that she is gifted in so many ways. I see the depth of how God uses her, and she doesn’t flaunt it. She is humble and she trusts in God. Her faith is unbelievable. She’s a great woman of faith and a gifted woman. What I learned about me is that I have an ability to nurture in ways that I never knew I could nurture. I never knew that I had that. My biggest accomplishment in life is that I raised two wonderful kids. I am proud of that; I tell people I am mommie #1.
Priscilla: I have learned that I don’t have to take a back seat; my light can also shine. In my family, there was never room for me and I always felt overlooked. Annie reaches into the crowd and pulls me forward. She tells me “you are great, you are wonderful”. She helps me to have courage. She’s my biggest cheerleader. What I learned about Annie is that she has a strength that she didn’t realize was in her. She had faith to face something that would cripple others. She is so strong. To have gone to therapy and work through her painful memories is nothing short of miraculous.
How do you remind her that you love her? Annie: She loves to receive gifts and acts of service. Even in her spirit, I want her to know that she is first, that she is the priority. I want to always pour into her because love is about service. Servanthood is love. She loves it when I massage her scalp or when I play silly games with her. I do whatever I can do to tune into her. I try my best to let her know that I am here. Whatever I can do to help her and make her comfortable, I will do. I want her to know that I am always available. Priscilla: I take care of her. I am a provider by nature. I make sure that I meet her needs and that I am all she will ever want (smile). She knows that I always have her back. We joke and say we are Thelma and Louise, but Annie says “we aren’t going over a cliff now.” I make sure she knows that whatever she needs I am here and that she is safe with me. To really remind her that I love her would be for me to cook her meal and I do occasionally (boiled egg…now how will I know when it’s done… lol). Like I said, being for real, Priscilla doesn’t cook. She also likes if I just sit with her on the porch. We also like to read out loud to each other in bed.
Finish this sentence: What I really love about her is that she _________________
Priscilla: She is my landing place. Annie will allow me to go out into the world and do my assessing and analyzing. After I have done that, I can land and ask her “did I do that right?” She allows me to be vulnerable. I can cry and she will cuddle me, wipe my face off, spin me around and send me back out to do what needs to be done to further the vision/the call on my life.
Annie: She is real. When we first met, I told Priscilla “if you really got to know me, you wouldn’t love me”. I would tell her personal things and she was so accepting. She made my fears appear smaller. She keeps me grounded. I know she’s dealing in truth and reality. When I walk in Priscilla’s space, the dust settles. I think better and clearer. I remember my sister-in-law asking me “why can’t you let this woman go?” I couldn’t because with her I feel like I can conquer the world.
What song best characterizes your relationship? Priscilla: Jennifer Hudson –And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going. Annie: I Am Changing by Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls Soundtrack) we have had ups and downs in our relationship and we have changed. Over the years, we have learned that there is beauty in changes. Our love and relationship is always evolving.
What is your final tip for couples who find themselves in a similar situation: Our tips would be the following:
- To always be attentive to your partner and her needs.
- Surround yourself with a few good friends (you don’t need a lot of folks in your relationship) who love and support your relationship yet know and understand boundaries and how to stay/remain neutral.
- Couples should be quick to forgive and slow to anger.
- Make sure you don't fall into the trap of taking each other for granted in your relationship.
- It is also good to be open to trying new things.
- And finally, be committed to your relationship. We believe that relationships can and do work if both people are truly willing to do the WORK.
(Interview conducted by SharRon Jamison)
We are grateful to Priscilla and Annie for sharing your love with us at Create Love for Women Who Love Women! We will see you at the Create Love Conference on February 16th! www.createloveforwomen.com
Imani Evans, MA
(CEO of Women Healing Women, Inc.)
SharRon Jamison, MBA
(Author of I Can Depend On Me)