Erica and Kathi
from Atlanta, Georgia
How long have you been together? Kathi: Although we have had some obstacles and temporary separations, I still consider us to have been together for a little over 11 years.
How did you get together/meet? Erica: A friend of mine asked me to take Kathi out and show her a little fun. Now look at herJ. Kathi: We met through a mutual friend when we lived in Maryland.
What was the initial attraction? Kathi: I always said I would know ‘her’ when I met ‘her’ and to put it simply, I just knew the moment I saw her. At the time, I was just curious and not particularly finding an attraction to anyone I came in contact with. But, when I met Erica I felt something. It was the way she carried herself. Her presence was powerful and I could feel the chemistry. Erica: I loved her the moment I saw her. When I met her, I felt a type of strength and security and I was drawn to her. I felt that she could provide something for me that I never had. I had never been in love with anyone, but something about her captured me. It wasn’t sexual; it was much more than that. I felt that she had the characteristics that I really wanted and I felt like I could love her.
What would you say is the key to the success of your relationship? Erica: Love…despite everything that we have been through I love her more today than when we met. Kathi: Love. We have really been put through some treacherous storms and we have weathered them, sometimes barely, but because we genuinely love each other, it has pulled us through.
What storms were especially difficult? Kathi: Dealing with addiction for many, many years and all that it brings. Addiction has many arms; it is a tangled web once you get in it. You really do not realize the damage and destruction until you are so deep inside and then it seems almost impossible to find your way out. I kept it to myself and dealt with the chaos alone because I didn’t want anyone to think badly of Erica. That was very unhealthy and it was a difficult road. Right now we are in a good place and I am extremely proud of her. We are getting better, individually and together. We are putting that to rest the best we can and doing the work it takes to move forward. Our love is deeper, and that is one of the benefits of our struggle.
Erica, what advice would you give to others who are struggling or have struggled with addiction? I would say “don’t quit”. I would say it is a struggle and that it is really hard. It takes perseverance. I believe that we can beat the odds, especially considering what we have been through. We are strong! I don’t know if I could have done it without Kathi. She was and is so supportive. We have both changed a great deal because of our experiences. However, I believe that our love for each other didn’t allow us to quit.
Kathi, what advice would you give to someone who has a partner struggling with addiction? I would say – don’t take it personally, because it is not about you. Even though it was incredibly hard, what kept me from walking away for good was realizing I was looking at someone I loved in pain; I knew that she was hurting. At times I was so tired, bitter, angry, frustrated but I saw the underlying agony. . You go through so many emotions and internal battles over whether or not you should stay or go, especially when there are relapses. I would say love the person, but hate the disease. I am glad that I understood that because it helped me hang on.
Discuss how you deal with and face challenges that might come up in your relationship? Kathi: One of our biggest issues was the lack of communication that existed between us for many years. We haven’t had the best track record of handling challenges well but the most important thing is we have been able to learn (however slowly…lol) from our experiences. We still are not perfect communicators but we are both taking steps individually to make sure we continue to grow in that area. Erica: Carefully…with communication and understanding that we as individuals come with differences. It is important that we allow each other to be who they are and provide support.
Erica, how does Kathi communicate her love and commitment to you? Her support – when I was/am at my lowest, she has the ability to lift me up. I can’t imagine where I would be if she would not have stood by me. She stayed with me through everything.
Crisis exposes us and strengthens us. What are your thoughts about that? Kathi: The tough times taught us many things. It exposed our lack of communication. It really shined a bright light on it and forced us to learn to do better. We have two different communication styles. We had to learn them so that we can respect and understand them. Understanding how Erica communicates helped me and now I do better at not taking things the wrong way. For instance, I used to take things she said as a “dig” or criticism but that was not the case, at least not always:-) . Going through struggles brought us closer together. During tough times, you learn a lot about yourself and your partner. We are finding out so many new things about each other. We are talking about things we never talked about before. Our communication is better and more effective.
Erica: I agree with what she said. It showed me how much respect I really have for her. She is working her own program and I am working mine and that changes how I view our relationship. We are both changing and we are committed. We are communicating and we are really listening to each other. I accept her, flaws and all, and she does the same for me. That enhances everything and that’s amazing. Now there is no stopping us. That’s huge!
What role does spirituality play in your relationship? Kathi: As most people do, we have our own unique relationships with God. We are both spiritual but Erica is probably more traditionally religious than I am. We have not made religion the cornerstone of our relationship and some can argue that may be the reason we have had such a rocky road. But I think as long as we continue to have faith in Him, I believe we will find the spiritual guidance we need. This may change and evolve over time and I am open to whatever may come our way. Erica: As individuals, we have different beliefs; however, I believe they provide good balance for both of us.
Erica, what do you mean by balance?: We have different views when it comes to spirituality and religion. I don’t push her to believe my way and vice versa. I hold God as my center. I wouldn’t be where I am without God. God helps me with the obsessions that come in my mind. I couldn’t do it without God.
What role does sensuality play in your relationship? Kathi: One of the things I do love about us is that even after all of these years, you will still see us touch one another often, even if it is just passing one another in the hallway or sitting down watching TV or a movie. We have been in the presence of many couples where we want to ask them, “excuse me, but do you know one another?” Erica: It is a very important part of my daily routine!!! I am extremely affectionate and it is important for me for her to feel it.
Why do you feel other couples struggle with affection? Kathi: I don’t know why people struggle. Maybe they get complacent. Erica has always been great at showing affection to me. We are always touching each other. Despite our issues, there was always touching. Some people don’t put enough emphasis on something so little but touching is so big. Erica: I asked her if show too much affection because sometimes I can overdue it. I touch her all of the time and it is important for me to do it. And it is important for her to feel it. Every day I compliment her. It is important for her to know I feel that way.
Every relationship has Relationship Rules that support the union. What are your rules? Kathi: It is important to laugh. We have fun laughing together. Keeping a sense of humor is important. Erica: If/When we disagree or we know that we are not going to have resolution, we have developed the ability to stop and re-visit the issue later. Kathi has to listen is my ruleJ. Kathi: That’s not a rule. Lol. A rule is that you have to let everybody have their roles in the relationship. Some things are important to her and some things are important to me. We have learned to respect and accept each other’s strengths. If I know more about a particular area, she should listen and vice versa.
What has your relationship taught you most about yourself? Kathi: I have learned that I am not always right. We both have strengths we bring to the relationship and my way may not always be the right way no matter how much I want to debate the issue. Erica: It has taught me that I wouldn’t want it any other way. (Our relationship) contributes to my overall happiness.
How does her love feed your soul/spirit? Erica: Kathi feeds me by her loyal support because I never had that before. I always want her to know that I will always have her back because that’s important to me. Kathi Everything Erica does shows me love. How she talks to me, how she holds me, how she makes me feel wanted, how she makes me feel attractive are all ways she lets me know she loves me.
What do you most admire about her? Kathi: I admire that Erica is who she is. She has convictions and there is not a lot of guessing when it comes to her. She’s unique and she unbelievably loyal. She loves to a fault. She has a tough exterior to most people but she is one of the most nurturing people that I have ever met. Erica: I admire her strength. I admire her nurturing qualities. They are not like mine; they are hers. I admire her intelligence because she is really smart. I admire that she listens. I love that she is beautiful like the day I met her. I admire her for loving me.
If you could thank her for one thing. What would that be? Erica: I would thank for loving me. Her love meant survival. I don’t know where I would be today without her. I believe that God put her in my life. Her love is the biggest thing that she has ever given me. Kathi: I would thank her for making me feel loved. I feel loved by the things she says and does. Growing up I knew my family loved me but they didn’t show it. I knew that I was loved, but I didn’t overwhelmingly feel it. I feel overwhelmingly loved with Erica and that feels safe.
What one word describes/characterized your love? Erica: Heavenly. I think it was divine power that brought us together. Kathi: Perseverance. We stuck together. We weathered many storms. Even when it got ugly, we never gave up. As emotionally tired and exhausted as we both were, we persevered. We are still a work in process but I am grateful we are still together.
Finish the sentence. I love you because…… Kathi: We are made for each other. We are like one of those gigantic complicated puzzles. There are many shapes and sizes to our life and our love but in the end, it all comes together. As a result, it is a complicated but beautiful masterpiece. Erica: You are the most important person in the world to me. I can’t imagine my life without you.
What advice would you give to other couples? Kathi: Because communication has been a struggle for us, I would say it is critical to find a happy medium between your communication styles. I also think that, while having expectations is human, it can also be dangerous. I try to keep in mind a saying I heard years ago and that is that expectations are premeditated resentments. I would definitely try to keep those expectations at a minimum. Erica: For me, it is all about communication and acceptance.
(Interviewed by SharRon Jamison)
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Imani Evans and SharRon Jamison