Monday, May 6, 2013

HAPPY COUPLE HIGHLIGHT: Denise & Dawnn


Denise L. Hill and Dawnn M. Brumfield

 How long have you been together?  Five years, Aug. 12th

How did you get together/meet? Dawnn: I served as an intern at her church; that was the initial contact---although it was very distant because she was away in school.  A few years later we both attended a mission trip in Ghana, West Africa.  We started a friendship, it developed to love and we never looked back.

What was the initial attraction? Dawnn: Denise definitely made me laugh. I can be pretty serious and so it always makes me smile to think of something that she has done or said to bring a smile to my face.  I also was very attracted to how she took care of me when I was sick in Africa.  Her compassion for the people was very endearing.  She was brought to tears a few times while walking or riding through the villages.  I thought that was very sexy J . Denise: My initial attraction to Dawnn was her love for people and her deep need to connect deeper than just the surface. Her compassion towards others and selflessness drew me even closer.

Who made the first move? Dawnn: While in Africa, she took a risk and jumped over the bed and kissed me. I was tentative at first. It was like the Katy Perry song “I Kissed a Girl and I Liked it”. It was a scary thing to step out on faith but 5 years later we are still here.

Denise, what made you take a risk? Denise: After spending two weeks together in Africa, I got to know her. Prior to Africa, I spent years wrestling with God about my sexuality. In a time of discernment, God showed me this woman and I day dreamed about her. For 2 days Dawnn stepped away from the group and I realized that I missed her deeply.

Dawnn: In the moment (of the kiss), I felt a spark. I felt absolutely safe and I still feel safe with Denise. She is very protective of me because I lead with my heart. I depend on her to protect that part of me.

What would you say is the key to the success of your relationship? Denise: Love, Communication, Honesty, Time and Patience. Dawnn: Although it took time to get to this point I think the key to the success of the relationship is our ability to talk through the difficult stuff.  In the beginning I think we made a lot of assumptions about each other, how we think, feel or would respond.  Two years into the relationship we hit a critical point when we were at a crossroads about the relationship and we had to decide to talk ‘for real, for real.’  Even though it was hard conversation, it was necessary conversation.  Once we got through the initial talk it has been easier to keep talking.    

Why were you at a crossroads? Dawnn: We were at a crossroads because there were many elements
and dynamics of change in our lives. Previously we both worked and lived in a group home (management positions) and we had never lived together; combining life, money, habits was difficult. Denise: I felt a shift in the relationship.  I knew it was important to make a change. An opportunity to move to Atlanta and build our lives together came and we took it.  But, we had never lived together before.  It was hard. Dawnn: It was a rough year. When we moved Denise had a job; she was laid off soon after we arrived.  I was a chaplain intern---with very little pay. Within that year, we got very distracted. There was a lot of conflict because we both were growing, changing.  We didn’t know how to express our needs and emotions. That’s when we hit the crossroads. We asked ourselves – do we have what it takes or do we end it and part ways. Denise: During that year, my mom was also diagnosed with leukemia. Also, different aspects of our relationship were shifting – emotionally, spiritually, physically and financially. After my mom’s transition, Dawnn and I packed up the house and moved back to Chicago. I was concerned because Chicago has always been a rocky place for me; I am never comfortable there. But I put my trust in God’s hands and I trusted my partner.  It’s been a year since we’ve returned.  It’s been a process but we trust each other.

Discuss how you deal with and face challenges that might come up in your relationship? Dawnn: We’ve had some challenges that involve us (what couple doesn’t) and some that involve other people but certainly affect our relationship.  It was established early in the relationship that we would ‘ride the waves together’.  That meant that no matter what we would rely on God and the love we have for each other to get through the tough stuff.  Sure, we’ve run into some ‘hurricanes,’ ‘tidal waves,’ and even a ‘tsunami’ and ‘typhoon’ but we’re still here.  At times we’re treading water but we never let go of the others hand. Denise: For me, I am best known to introvert my feelings, take time to sort them out and come back to conversation with my partner and have effective transformative conversation which helps us both gain understanding of our perspectives, differences, etc.

How soon in the relationship did you have the “ride the waves together” conversation? Denise:
We came to that decision after about 2 months in our relationship. At the time I was Florence, Italy, and Dawnn was in Nashville studying at Vanderbilt. Communication was difficult because of the time differences. We were going through a rough spot. But we decided that whatever happens, we will make it. Dawnn: Denise was my first relationship with a woman. I was very afraid because of my role in the ministry. But Denise committed to walk with me through it and I felt comforted by her saying that.

Dawnn, you say that you and Denise made a covenant each other. Why do you use the word covenant? Agreements and promises are broken all of the time. Covenant is what God had with the people of Israel. I am a very intentional and loyal person and a covenant is a weighty word. For me, it’s deeper than an agreement and a promise, and agreements and promises are often broken without much thought.

What role does spirituality play in your relationship? Denise: Spirituality plays a big role in our relationship. Much of who I am is a discerner/prophetess, I can sense and feel how energy around me can shift, I can sense how my spirit can positively/negatively affect my relationship if I’m not centered with my spirit.

Dawnn: Spirituality is a very important part of our relationship.  It was also a very intricate part of the early foundation and continued strength of the relationship.  I am ordained clergy and serve in full-time ministry.  At first I was very concerned about how my love for God, commitment to the people and service in the church might conflict with this very deep love I share with Denise.  It was very rough in the beginning because I really believed that God ordained and, in fact, purposed us together.  However, I was also very aware of ‘the church folk’ and how people interpret scripture AND judge people who identify as same-gender loving so I was very afraid. Denise and I were both raised in the church and have very deep, reflective personal relationship with God.  We pray for each other.  We pray with each other.  Some of our most intimate moments have been in worship---at church or even at home or in the car.  As a pastor I trust Denise to cover me as I cover others.  I trust her to tell me what she sees.  She is a discerner; I trust that gift in her.

What role does sensuality play in your relationship? Denise: It is important to me to know both mine and my partner’s places of sensuality. For me it was hard to release control, but taking time to explore my own intimate areas with my partner helps me to build our sense of sensuality together.

Dawnn: Sensual mutuality is very important.  It is very difficult to have a healthy relationship if both partners are not being satisfied.  Although we’ve been together for 5 years we had to learn to ‘dance’ with one
another in a way that required extreme vulnerability.  I had a lot of body issues and they were (are) difficult to overcome.  In many ways, my insecurities and fears really affected our relationship.  We had (have) to talk---yes, even in the moment---so that the other would know what to do---and, in some cases, what NOT to do.  This extends beyond the bedroom.  People often use sensuality and sex interchangeably.  The two are very different.  Sensuality speaks to gratification of our senses, too.  We also like to be spontaneous: impromptu dates or mini-vacation, cook together, text messages, buy cards or leave notes.  Each of these adds to the growth of the relationship and a deeper, more intense sensual connection.

What has your relationship taught you most about yourself? Dawnn:  My relationship with Denise has taught me a lot about my inner strength; it has given me insight about my capacity to love, my insecurities and how they affect my relationships (and not just with Denise) and it has deepened my level of faith.  In the beginning I wasn’t so sure that I had the strength to endure the ridicule, disdain or disregard for me and who I love.  She told me then that I was stronger than I thought.  That has proven to be true.  I also experienced a love that grows every day.  Even in the midst of our challenges---from the outside and within---I love more deeply than I thought I could.  Listening (I mean really listening) to Denise talk about what she sees in me and how sometimes it conflicts with how I present was helpful as I continue to grow.  We spend so much time wearing masks and hiding our vulnerabilities, idiosyncrasies and flaws that when someone holds a mirror to our face and challenges us to look inside it is startling…and, at times, very scary but liberating.  This relationship taught me to do that.  My relationship with God has grown as a direct result of this relationship.  When I was up crying, worrying about how (or if) my relationship with God was changed because of my love for Denise, talking, praying to God was the ONLY thing that got me through.  I journal and on those pages (to God) I yielded my complete heart.  I asked God to confirm that I was still loved and God did just that.  My relationship with my family deepened---even in the parts they don’t understand.  My open-ness about the relationship has been used as education for my family and some of my friends and colleagues.  That was God’s gift to me.  There is nothing held back in my relationship with God. The deepened faith and communication taught me that God can handle my early confusion, anger, sadness and complete AWE for this love I am experiencing.  Denise:  That love is deeper than just the words from my lips, it takes time, trust, commitment, attentiveness, patience, do-over’s, make- ups, break- ups and more but being receptive to Love has been the most  rewarding thing in this relationship for me.

 What do you most admire about her and why? Dawnn: I most admire Denise’s desire to live life and experience every part of it. I was never a risk taker and have always lived my life in a safe space. She encourages me to be more spontaneous and she inspires me to try things that I have never done before. I am grateful that she has poured that quality in me. Denise: I admire her ability to love unconditionally. I believe and know that my parents loved me but she has taught me how to love and how to be loved. She has made it clear what love is and how to reciprocate. That is her spiritual gift and that is what draws me to her and draws me closer to God.

If you could thank her for 1 thing, what would that be? Dawnn: I will tell Denise thank you for loving
me. She loves me without expectations. She loves me for me – not the daughter, pastor, big sister, just Dawnn. She loved me until I could totally love myself. I am thankful for that. Denise: I thank her for her time. In this day and age, people don’t give time. Time is an investment that shows me her commitment.

What one word characterizes/describes your relationship: Dawnn: Transformation. I met her when she was 22; I was 30.  Who she was then---and now and who I was then---and now -has been a complete transformation. Our relationship has also been a transformation. Denise: Journey. I viewed relationships as a destination vs. something you go through. I no longer have that perspective.

What advice would you give to other couples?  Denise: To share openly and honestly, so that you and your partner’s needs are communicated effectively. Dawnn: I would definitely say talk often, be honest, extend grace and learn to listen.  It is also important to establish whether you even ‘like’ the person.  It’s very easy to get caught up ‘in-love’ or ‘in lust’ and neglect to build a friendship with each other.  It is important to know that even when the deal goes down (i.e., income changes, illness, death, etc.) that you’ve established a friendship that will stand strong.  I actually like Denise…a lot.  It helps me love her more and more every day.

(Interviewed conducted by SharRon Jamison)

We thank you for sharing your love with us at Create Love! Your story will encourage, inspire and uplift other couples.  We wish you continued success and happiness. www.createloveforwomen.com

Create Love for Women Who Love Women - Founders
Imani Evans & SharRon Jamison

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