Monday, October 29, 2012

SHARE YOUR LOVE: Happy Couple Highlight VI

Beautiful Couple: Toni and Arlene Washington

How long have you been together: 3 years
How did you meet: Toni: We met through a mutual friend. Arlene just moved to Sacramento and it was her first night out and I was just looking to meet someone to hang out with.  We met at BJs brewery on a Friday night for drinks. We talked and I was told by her friend that she "didn't do women" and I was cool with that.  I told our mutual friend that I just wanted someone to go to concerts, museums, and {do}…. grown folk stuff that my kids didn't want to do.

What did you think/feel when you first saw her? Arlene: I noticed that she was easy to talk to. We had great conversation and laughed for hours. She made me feel safe. She was sweet and innocent. She gave me eye contact, and the icing on the cake was when she asked to hold my hand.

Toni: I was smitten by Arlene’s beauty. She greeted me with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She was professional, strong and confident. After 7 hours of conversation, I knew that I wanted her to be mine. We drank quite a few beers and being the studly stud that I am, I began to think, "How strictly-dickly is she?"  So I asked, "Can I hold your hand?" She reached for me and has never let go.

Arlene:  I had just moved to Sacramento and I was quick to let her know that I did not want nor need anything from her.  I had a job. But after talking with her for seven hours, I knew she was different.

Toni: We met on a Friday evening; I didn't call her until Monday even though she called me on Saturday and Sunday. I already knew that I loved her and wanted to be with her. On Monday I called her and said, "If you're seeing anyone you need to tell them you're with me".  She said "OK".  That night I asked her to come lay with me, no sex just intimacy and she did.  
On Tuesday she moved in and we have been UNBREAKABLE since.

What helps you be unbreakable? Communication- We talk about everything under the sun even those uncomfortable {subjects}. Balance- We are total opposites in just about everything but we complement each other and we agree to disagree. We are different but there is still harmony. Compromise-You got to give a little to get a little. Friendship-We are best friends.

Discuss how you deal with and face challenges that might come up in your relationship? We allow each other to process the situation. We talk and we LISTEN. Because we are so opposite, we can usually find a middle ground and a settling point.  We pray for patience and the RIGHT words.

Arlene: We are also each other’s emergency generators. When one of us is tired, the other just kicks in. We also know how to re-energize each other when we see we’re tired or need a little boost. We are open with each other. WE don’t hide anything from each other. How can you have you transparency if you are blocking or hiding thoughts, feelings and emotions?

Toni: Arlene was heaven sent. When I met her I was 44with 4 kids.  My partner had died of colon cancer and I had been on my own.  I told her that me and my kids were a package deal and she was ok with it. I feel Vera, my ex-partner, sent me signs to confirm that Arlene was the one and that is why I know that she is heaven sent. That is why I know that she is my soul mate.

What have you taught your children about your relationship? Children are blank canvases and they become what you are. They learn what you teach them. You can’t raise open-minded children in a close-minded home. As long as they are getting their needs met, that’s all that matters. They love us.

Arlene: I have 2 older children from a former relationship, and I also have 2 grandchildren. It was a shock when they found out that their Mom with was a woman. But we talked it through. Open communication is important. We realize that we are all we have. I realize that it is just a blessing to have a partner, our kids, and our home. We have everything that we need.

Toni, what is the biggest misconception that people have about masculine identified women? That we are expected to always be in control. Daddies get tired too. Arlene just allows me to be free. She is so loving. She is so encouraging. She pushes me and inspires me. I think it is sexy as heck for a femme to be CONFIDENT enough to body-slam me and take what she wants. Sometimes, it is good to be slammed on the bed, skip the foreplay and not have to think or ask about sex; just get it in!!

Arlene, you are a powerhouse too. How does your power co-exist peacefully with Toni’s power? We are able to co-exist because I am her equal.  She did fall in love with a woman who knows what she likes, what to do with it and doesn’t always feel the need to get her permission first.  With that being said I do respect her as the head of the house.  I have to be strong or I won’t be able to love her through anything.

What role does spiritually play in your relationship? Toni: It is the foundation for ALL we do.  Our family is very involved in our church. I am a Deacon and Arlene is the Director of Hospitality.  We have 4 kids living at home and two grown daughters. ALL are active in church. Our sons are ushers and our daughters are greeters. They also help on the Hospitality team.  It was a REQUIREMENT for me.  I need a partner that I could worship with and pray with and I got her.
Arlene:  Spirituality is the foundation individually and collectively.   We are both on a spiritual journey and we’re taking our family with us.

What role does sensuality and mutual attraction play in your relationship?
 Arlene: No more and no less than what it should....we are fortunate to be very attracted to each other so intimacy and sensuality comes naturally, authentically and effortlessly.  Every woman hopes for someone to come along and tap into all that you have to offer......which in both of our cases is ALOT!!!!! I have finally found the ONE. I am proud of it and don’t take it for granted.

What special things do you do daily to remind her of your love? Arlene: We always eat off of 1 plate. I love feeding her. I LOVE rubbing her head while watching TV- anything that involves us touching.
Toni: I write poetry, erotic passages and simple things for her. I text her on the way to work. I leave notes on the windshield. I buy cards.

What are three virtues/things that support your love and your relationship?
Arlene: 1) Being real and authentic. When you are transparent, you are easier to love. It is ok to agree to disagree. It is ok to be yourself. For example, I can be emotional and insecure. I don’t mind admitting that. 2) Open Communication. Talk about everything especially the uncomfortable things.  It’s the first step to making it better It is okay. 3) Keep the connection with God. You need God for everything.  When God is in your relationship and you want to make it work, you will make it.

Toni: 1) Prayer. Be careful what you pray for, you might just get it. Pray with conviction, good intention and be specific. 2) Love genuinely. People are different. They have different needs. Try to make adjustments and be willing to change. Problems occur in relationships, and sometimes the problem is you. Identify your issues. When you look at self, sometimes it is not so pretty. 3) Always kiss, say good night and say I love you.

What do you like most about each other?
Toni: I love Arlene’s unconditional loyalty. I am OCD, anal, mean and I have a bad tempter. But she loves me. She’s not afraid to say “Baby, can we look at this a different way?”  She is good at managing conflict.

Arlene:  I have never had anyone make me feel the way Toni does.   She not only makes me feel like I’m the luckiest girl but like I’m the “only” girl in the world.  That is priceless!!!  Toni knows how to cater to my physical and emotional needs like no one has ever done.  She makes me feel pretty.

What tips would you give to other lesbian couples? The only tip we would give is......As long as you like the person you see when you look in the mirror....and you walk with need to worry about anything live large and love hard!!

(Interview conducted by SharRon Jamison)

Thank you, Toni and Arlene, 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,

Monday, October 22, 2012

SHARE YOUR LOVE: Happy Couple Highlight V

Beautiful Couple: Bonita McAllister and April Ricciardone 
from Boston, Mass.

How long have you been together
9 years together and 6 years married.

How did your meet?  We were friends traveling in the same circles who happen to be single at the same time and befriended each other.

What would you say is the key to the success of your relationship? Communication and a sense of humor. We communicate and compliment each other when things are going right. We take time to acknowledge each other verbally and non-verbally. We practice being present. We know who we have and that we are blessed. Since we note how much we love each other and constantly express things that we like about it each other, it helps us to talk about not so pleasant things. It makes those conversations easier.

You mention difficult conversations being easier. How do make that happen?
Bonita: We are both self-aware. We make sure that we get ourselves right. We take time for self-care and self-preservation. If you don’t take care of yourself, you get distracted and then you can’t give 100% to your family or your relationships. For example, April needs to exercise to take care of herself. I love her so I acknowledge that I need to help her do that. I have to help her take care of herself even if it means that I have to sacrifice. She does the same for me.

You are from different cultures and are different races. What has that taught you?
April: We have no issues and it has never been our focus. I don’t profess to know everything about Bonita’s culture. I ask questions. I never assume to know. I am Italian, but people often mistake me for Latina or bi-racial. I am always open to learning.
Bonita: April just embraces who she is. Again, she never makes assumptions about who I am and what I feel. She just embraces me and asks questions.  Communication is the key. And, making assumptions is not healthy.

There is an 8 year age difference, how has that shaped your relationship? 
Bonita: It has enhanced our relationship. April is older in spirit, and I like younger women. We are two people who just live in the now.

How did you decide to start a family: We both always wanted a family so it was never an issue. The timing was an issue because of the age crunch.

How did you decide to use April’s eggs?  
Bonita: My eggs were not viable. Anyway, I always thought that using April’s eggs was the best scenario. I felt that would be a better combination and connection for our family. That way we were both biological parents.

How do you feel when Bonita was pregnant
April: I loved it! I loved her being pregnant. She’s is the most beautiful when she is pregnant. I would love to have more children.

What was the delivery experience like? 
April: I was just happy that everybody was healthy. Also, we did not learn about the sex of our daughters until they were born. I was just happy that my wife and daughters was fine and safe.

How has having children changed your relationship: 
Bonita: We don’t sleep but we make time for each other. We work hard to make sure that our relationship is strong. April is good at recognizing when we are drifting apart and then we make time to re-connect.

How do you recognize when you are drifting part
Bonita: We start working as individuals instead of a team. We stop having conversations with each other. We stop talking about our days.
April: Drifting feels like tension; feels like two ships passing in the night. It feels like being on automatic pilot.
Bonita: We are usually playful with other. When that shifts, we know we need to re-connect.

After having kids, what you have learned about each other?
Bonita: I have learned that April is an incredible parent. She works a full time and even after a long day at work, she comes home and gives 100%.
April: I love her parenting style. She’s loving, but firm. I really appreciate how she parents and it makes me want to have more kids with her. I like her easy nature.

How did you decide who was going to stay home with the kids? Bonita: April could not stay home. It not her thing, it is not who she is. And, I always wanted to be e a stay-at-home. It was also more economically feasible for me to be home. I love it.

How do you get the flame burning after 9 years and two children?
April: She’s just sexy and beautiful so it is easy. I am romantic too and she responds well to my romanticism. Also, she makes me feel like I am funny and that’s endearing.
Bonita: She’s sexy and when we go out, I still get dressed up for her. I still put on dresses and heels. I am playful and I bring humor to the relationship. She also brings me flowers and gifts weekly. Now, she takes our eldest daughter with her to get the flowers. April is training our daughters to honor and celebrate me. I love that about her.

You have two daughters. What are you teaching them about your family?
Bonita: We are teaching them to be strong and independent. We are raising them to be neutral gender so that we don’t have to re-train them to embrace their power.
April: We are teaching them that it does not matter who they love. We expose them to different types of relationships – same gender and opposite gender relationships. Our oldest daughter understands the difference and she tells people that she has a Mommy and a Momma.

What tips would you give to women thinking about starting a family? Bonita: Make sure that you are ready. And, make sure that you don’t have competing interests. Talk and know what parenting is all about and how you plan to make parenting and partnering work.
April: Be self-aware. Don’t break under the pressure. Always ask yourself “what’s possible”. Create your own pictures of what you want your family to look like and be.

What do you like most about each other?
Bonita: She makes me feel wonderful. She makes me feel beautiful and special even on her bad times. Just having April by my side and knowing that she supports me emotionally makes me very strong.
April: I love her strength. I love how she loves me and our family. I love that she had our daughters. I love her cuteness. She makes me safe and secure and I can tell her anything and she never judges me or thinks I am crazy. I never think or feel like she wants to leave me or the situation. She always wants to know more about what I am feeling instead of being scared off by my sometimes intense emotional responses to difficult or touching situations.

What are the 3 most important tips you can share with other couples? 1)know yourself  2)learn how to ask for what you want 3)take time for yourself to be a strong individual.

What 1 word describes/characterizes your love? We both feel the word that describes our love is the word unconditional.
(Interview conducted by SharRon Jamison)

Thank you, Bonita and April, 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,

Sunday, October 21, 2012


(Written in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and dedicated to all the women who suffered abuse at the hands of an intimate partner.)

Forget what every love-sick R&B, blues and country music song told you.  I assure you that love is NOT supposed to hurt.  There are many women hanging on for dear life in emotionally and physically abusive relationships all because society has convinced them that love is wrought with pain.  Not so! However, there are some hurtful experiences that sometimes occur in the name of love. Let’s take a look at them:

·         Breaking up often hurts;
·         Staying beyond the point of emotional wellbeing for one or both partners;
·         Being betrayed, lied to and cheated on definitely hurts;
·         Discovering that your mate is not the woman she presented herself to be.
These are the hurtful experiences that far too often happen as we strive to be in love.  However, we must be clear that, in fact, this is not love itself.  And we must extricate these occurrences from our working definition of love.  So then the question really becomes, how did we learn to entangle pain with our understanding of romantic love? The answer is socialization and miseducation. 
Don’t get me wrong, there can be disagreements and sadness experienced as we navigate our way through romantic relationships.  This is often because we attract partners who help us heal and/or confront challenging familial patterns.  To that end, when we are in the midst of this dysfunction we have divorced ourselves from the true meaning of love.  In other words, we are not behaving “in love”.  We are not holding on to a loving place that is shaped by compassion, understanding and kindness. 
So what do we do? Well, what if we decided that things like breaking up could happen lovingly? What would it be like to fully accept that the relationship is no longer serving the highest good of each individual? Then, we could choose a way to transition our commitment from a romantic one to a place of spiritual and emotional transformation.  We could accept the purpose of the connection and embrace the need to move on.  Hmmm…is it possible? Of course it is possible.  But it would require a complete consciousness shift.  It would demand that we relinquish treating love like an acquisition.  We would have to abandon the idea of possessing and owning our mates.  In this shift we would embrace the depth and breadth of true love and its mutability.
I realize that what I am suggesting is a radical transformation.  Truthfully, what I am suggesting is a LOVE REVOLUTION, but the need is at critical mass.  You see, 1 in 3 women will experience violence in her lifetime.  These acts of violence too often occur at the hands of those who once professed love, an intimate partner.  I believe that this is 1 too many.  It is apparent that our current culture of love is not working, and women are suffering because of it.  It is time to do something different.  It is time to evolve.
Violence is often perpetrated by those who feel powerless.  So let’s restore ourselves to an authentic power, wherein love is more spiritual than emotional.  Below is my offering of three steps to assist in broadening our love consciousness:
1.       Seek, recognize and honor God in and as your partner.  Look beyond her flaws of humanity to see the God in her.  One of my favorite songs by Joan Osborne, One of Us, asks the question, “What if God was one of us?”  What if God is manifested in your mate in order that you might grow, heal or be challenged?  What if you miss that opportunity because you are unwilling to acknowledge love in all its forms?  Ponder there for a moment, if you will…

2.       Be willing to look at the way you are recreating familial patterns in your relationships.  Are you consistently choosing the same mate with a different face (i.e. unavailable women, unfaithful women, or women who lie, etc.).  The only common denominator is YOU.  You may be modeling the behavior of your parents…As these are the first examples of love that we see. This should not be a source of guilt nor blame.  Instead, it is an opportunity to mend your heart.  Below is a link to an exercise that I developed to help my clients identify such patterns and break the cycle.  I am sharing it with you, beloveds, in hopes that you might find it helpful: RELATIONSHIP EXERCISE

3.       Lastly, decide that “falling” in love is a thing of the past.  Instead, create love.  Think about it…Falling happens when we are not paying attention.  Creating, as opposed to falling, is about intention.  It is a restoration of an authentic power to craft a relationship predicated on divine purpose, support and healing.  It is a fluid position that requires an abundance of courage.  Creating love is about believing that we are no longer possessing love.  To that end, we can actually be the love we seek.

Now that you have the tips for shifting to a new love consciousness, I sincerely wish you success on this audacious journey.  Remember it is a journey of progress, not perfection.  I honor you for taking the steps toward this LOVE REVOLUTION…Nya Akoma!


Monday, October 15, 2012

SHARE YOUR LOVE: Happy Couple Highlight IV

Beautiful Couple: 
Patricia Quintero and Rosalie Piedra

How long have you been together?
22 yrs. this month on Halloween
How did you get together/meet?
Patricia: We were friends since I was 13 yrs. old and Rose was 18 yrs. old. She was friends with my siblings.  When I was 21, we ran into each other at the Waterfront, a gay bar in Miami, and that's where it all began.

What was the initial attraction?
Rose: I was attracted to her charm and her innocence. She was younger, shy and had beautiful lips.

Patricia: I was intrigued by her. She was older. She was sexy and smart. I loved her femininity. I loved her style and swagger. She had experience, confidence and all that intimidated me and excited me at the same time. She handled me!

What would you say is the key to the success of your relationship?
Communication, similarities, having the same goals financially and being in tune with each other emotionally.  We can compromise with one another and most importantly, we not only love each other we like each other.

You say you have the same goals financially. That is usually a difficult area for couples. So how do you deal with money? And, how did you get on the same page?
Rose: I got advice from one of my friends.  She said that she had an account, her husband had an account, and they had a joint account.

Patricia: We established some ground rules to maintain our independence. We both work. I am spender and Rose is more of a saver. So setting up our money and having different accounts was almost automatic for us.

What’s your process for compromising?
Patricia: It is just trial and error. If you don’t compromise, you don’t get anywhere. When you care, you care how your partner feels. It is important. Even if I don’t want to do something, I will do it if it is important to her. We want things to work. I want her to be happy.

Rose: You have to be willing to give in if you want things to work.  Love is not a one way street.  You have to know when you can push and when you can’t. I know when not to push Patricia on some things.

What do you like most about each other? 
Rose: I love her heart. I love her charm, she can talk to anybody. I like her bluntness. She tells it like it is and is brutally honest. I like how she fights and sticks up for people. I love how she caters to my mother.  I love how she looks at me. She still makes me melt and she still gives me goose bumps. I love everything about her.

Patricia: I like that she always has everything in order. I love that we can talk about anything. And, it stuns me that she knows me so well. If I tell her that I went to a restaurant, she can tell me what I ate. It is incredible! She knows me and can anticipate what I will and will not do.  I love the fact that I get to see the sides no one gets to see.  The sweet and soft sides her - vulnerabilities and imperfections. That’s Hot.  I love to watch her get dressed every morning. From the very beginning, I liked to watch her get dressed. I love the way she dries off after a shower, puts crème on her body, gets dressed, puts on her make up and fixes her hair.  If I could watch her get dressed every day, I would. That makes my day. I am still crazy about her.

What do you still after 22 years find challenging?
 Pat:  She has a hard time admitting she’s wrong and she holds grudges. Everybody has a tough time looking in the mirror. But, I tell her for the benefit of her good.

Rose:  She’s more lax. If I start something, I want to get it done now. I am a neat freak. For example, one day I was telling her to put her clothes away. When I got after her she said, “It is my house too”. And she was right. I had to remember that. Everything can’t just be my way.

Pat: I don’t want to feel like she’s being my mother. I didn’t want her to nag. But she listened to me.

Discuss how you deal with and face challenges that might come up in your relationship?
We discuss every decision that we make and, as far as challenges, we try to do what's best for us and our relationship.  If one of us is adamant about a challenge, we will do it...If it works out, great.   If it doesn't work out, believe me, you WILL hear about it.  No matter what, we have to respect each other’s opinions and individuality.

What does respect look like for you?
Rose: Respect looks like a line.  If you love and respect somebody, you don’t cross that line.  You never do anything to jeopardize your relationship.  Patricia’s feelings are always paramount.  I trust her completely.

Patricia: Rose is always above and beyond everybody else. I would not do anything on purpose to hurt her. Like she said, you don’t cross that line. You don’t humiliate. You always have compassion and consideration. When you love someone, it should hurt you to disrespect them. It kills me to hurt her. In an argument, it doesn’t matter who is at fault, I still want to apologize. I always want to protect her feelings.

What role does sensuality and mutual attraction play in your relationship?
Sexuality and intimacy are the glue to our relationship. Otherwise, you’re just friends or roommates.  Sensuality keeps it going.
What do you do to keep the flame burning?
Rose: Our love for one another.  We still have firsts, we laugh, play and joke with each other and we still go out for romantic dinner.

Patricia: I think intimacy should be spontaneous and feel natural. Not planned or like a job. We know that relationships have ups and downs. No relationship has the same consistency. We agree that making time for each other is important.  We are still courting each other.
You mentioned family support? Share more about that?
Patricia: It was difficult at first because I was young. The tension lasted for a couple of years with my Mom. She didn’t understand this lifestyle. My mother was fearful. She did want anyone to judge or hurt me because of it.  But I told my mother, you have loved me through everything and I am the same person.  My aunt changed her mind. My aunt totally embraced our relationship and she made my mother feel that it was okay.  She still may not understand it but she definitely respects it.

Rose: I had struggles with my first lover and it was hard for a couple of years. When Patricia and I got together, it was much easier plus they already knew her.  I feel that both our families have embraced our relationship.

What have you learned most about each other in the 22 years?
Patricia:  I have learned she is the right person for me after being together all these years.  Through all the good and bad times, arguments and breaks up, we are perfect for one another.  I know with no uncertainty that she is loyal, loving and compassionate.

Rose: I have learned that she has a passion for doing what’s right. She will stick up for other people. I admire that about her.

Patricia:  Also, I learned that love changes.  Love becomes more powerful.  Experiences let you know that you have torn down just infatuation and that you truly love each other.  Time will show you what true love is.  Experiences show you where “home” is.  I always want to go be home. I love to know that I will see Rose every day.
What years were the hardest?

Patricia: Year 4 was hard, and we broke up for 1 year.  During the course of that year, I realized how much I missed and loved her, and we eventually got back together.

Rose: Since I was older, I had done more living. I understood that she needed time to explore and live her life. Individually, she needed that. But after one year, we both missed each other and we realized that we wanted to try again and see if it was meant to be. It was a very important year and I have no regrets.

What tips would you give to other lesbian couples?
Take one day at a time and enjoy life.  Wait and don't rush in to anything.  Don't move in after the second date.  Take time to get to know one another.  Quite often, lesbians mistake friendships for intimate relationships.  Be together but maintain your independence and individuality. 

You were together for 10 years before moving in together? How did that help your relationship?
Patricia: Before we moved in, we got all of the bugs out. We went through our growing pains. We were pretty settled into our relationship so it was an easier transition.

What is your greatest revelation about relationships?
If your relationship can last 22 years, you will realize that it was well worth the good and bad times it took to get there.  Sometimes you have to carry the other through tough times.  We are very happy.  We still talk, laugh and dance together.  We are stronger than ever.

What do you mean by carrying each other?
Rose: We all go through tough times. Job loss, illnesses, death, etc.  When your partner needs to take time off, give it to them.  Don’t take it personally.  They may just need to be with themselves.  You owe them time to heal.  When I was down, Patricia picked me up. She took care of things so I could have time off to deal with my issues.

Patricia:  Sometimes, you need a “time out” and you have to give that if you love someone. We are always there for each other and support one another.

What role does spirituality play in your relationship?
We pray to God that we don't annoy the crap out of each other each and every day.  But on a serious note, we thank God for each other, our pugs, our blessings and the strong support of our family and friends.  Spirituality is a huge part of our life and keeps us balanced. (Interview conducted by SharRon Jamison)

Thank you, Patricia and Rose, 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,

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

SHARE YOUR LOVE: Happy Couple Highlight III

Beautiful Couple:  
Dodie Robinson and Leta Deskins

How long have you been together?
Dodie: Depends on which one you ask - I will say 2 weeks but Leta will be honest and say 17 years.

How did you get together/meet?
Dodie: We worked together at a home health agency. Leta was one of the nurses and I was the office jerk(as she called me). My best friend/co-worker saw Leta at a restaurant with her girlfriend at the time. I didn’t realize until then that Leta was gay. A few weeks later she broke up with her girlfriend. Once I heard the news, I gave her a sincere hug and told her I was sorry. I told her to give me a call if she needed a friend.

Leta: She was not the office jerk. She was somebody who knew everybody and knew what was happening in the office. She spoke to everybody. She was a social butterfly. One day, there was just a spark.

Dodie: On our first date, we went to Outback. I had to take my rent money to pay for dinner and I prayed she didn’t want drinks tooJ. I pulled the old butch with a brain act. I asked her thoughts about capital punishment and abortion.

Leta: She seemed sincere, very thoughtful. It was refreshing and sweet. I knew that she was the one after our 1st date.

What challenges have you faced as an interracial couple: We have not faced a lot of discrimination. Initially we lived in Tennessee, but we moved to North Carolina to be in a more diverse area. We do things with all groups; we never just interact with one group of people. We treat people like we want to be treated. We both grew up that way.

Dodie: I grew up in a predominately white town, so it was never an issue for me. People were just people.
Leta: It is interesting, when I knew that Dodie was the one, I told one of my friends about her. When my friend met her, she liked her. She called me after meeting her and said “why didn’t you tell me.” And I said, “Tell you what?” She said, “that she was black”. I replied,” I didn’t even think about that. I didn’t think to tell you”.

After 17 years together, what have you each learned from the other?
Leta: I learned to be more complimentary. I used to not give compliments because I felt that they would give people the big head. I now  realize in life that if you don’t get attention from your partner, you will obtain it from other people. Also, not to give compliments is selfish. Telling a person honestly how you feel about them, makes them a better person which only adds to their life. Dodie was always good at that.

Dodie: I have learned that kindness is free…. Leta is one of the kindest people that I have ever met. And to her, it does not matter who you are or what you do. She is just kind.

 What would you say is the key to the success of your relationship?
Compatibility, despite our outward differences as people, we are very compatible. We often say our heart strings are attached and that we “Fit”. We believe we are each other’s “Soul Mate.” When speaking of other things that are important in a relationship like trust, loyalty, honesty, communication, etc., we see those things from the same place. We have the same definitions of important words. We both have a common belief in how to treat others. To us, kindness is key.

Leta: Compatibility is the center of our wheel. We see things the same way and that really helps us get along. For example, we both believe that we want to be happy and we want to have a happy life. We are both in health care and we realize how short life can be so we want to live life to the fullest. We see life as a big sand box- life is a big adventure and we believe every day above ground is a good day.

How did you know that she was your soul mate?
Dodie: With Leta, I never felt like I had to put on airs. I never felt like I had to entertain her. She seemed naturally interested in me. I felt comfortable with her.

Discuss how you deal with and face challenges that might come up in your relationship?
We face challenges head on.  We have honest, open conversations - keeping in mind that we both are trying to do what we believe is the right thing. We remember that the person sitting across from us speaks from the heart with no harm intended. We face things with a “glass ½ full” attitude. Leta is known in our friend group as the voice of reason.  I am Type A + and Leta is type B-.  This makes for interesting debates.
What role does spirituality play in your relationship?
We both believe in a higher power. God is our guide and we trust the little voice (angels) to guide us in the decisions that we make.

What strengthens your relationship?
Time spent together…Long talks… lots of “what if” questions… Trust!
We have a common mission and values. We love to travel together. We use that time to refill our love bank. We have a quest for knowledge about the other person. For example: We both love pizza and just recently discovered why we don’t like the same pizza places.

What role does sensuality and mutual attraction play in your relationship?
Through sensuality and intimacy, we allow our mind and body to connect. We often say we feel like we disappear inside each other’s bodies. Over 17 years, our looks have changed so we find different things attractive now than we did when we first started dating. Being able to talk openly about our feelings and desires are key. We love to flirt with each other even when we are sitting across the room. We like to keep things feeling new.

Dodie: Leta is attracted more to the masculine side of me. So, I know what that looks like.

Leta: Dodie is attracted to more of my feminine side. So, I know when I want to turn her on, I wear heels and put on a dress. Also, Sunday is sex day. No matter what is going on, I let her know that she owes meJ. All of her friends know it too. Don’t call on Sunday. We make sure we plan to be together.

What tips would you give to other lesbian couples? 
One of the best books we have ever read was Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. Through this book, we learned how to love each other in a way that would feel like love to the other. We learned to love in a language that the other could understand. It’s a good read for brand new relationships as well as long- term relationships.

Leta: Remember, you can’t love a person in the way you want to love them. You have to love them in a way that they understand love. It is important not to love in a specific way just because it is easier for you. You have to love in a way that it is easier for them to feel loved.

In 17 years, I know that you have seen other couples break up. What have their break-ups taught you?  Seeing break-ups have taught us lessons and we have been able to learn from their experiences. We have learned to keep others out of our relationship because only we can fix our problems. And, don’t down-play your partner to others. If you need relationship advice, make sure that the person you talk to is not in a friend circle that you both share. Also, understand that there will sometimes be struggles in your relationship, but keep in mind that you love each other.
What fun ways do you communicate love? 
Slow dancing…playing cards. .taking baths with sugar scrubs... kissing each other on the nose..

What are the keys to relationship success?
No one person is completely responsible for another’s happiness so being an individual is important. We feel comfortable watching each other do those things that bring us joy, even if it is done apart.  2) Honest conversation is always necessary even when it hurts 3) Ask for what you want. Don’t expect your partner to read your mind. After all, what you are asking for is your NEED. 4) Don’t just HEAR your partner, listen!

Leta: Have time for interests that are not common. Be careful to enjoy each other.
Dodie: Remember that you can’t make anybody 100% happy. Fill those spots with other interests and other people. I remember that Leta is the best person that I have ever met. (Interview conducted by SharRon Jamison)

Thank you, Dodie and Leta, 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,

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What it REALLY means to be authentic...

The Truth About Authenticity

People often mistake the neck-rolling-hands-on-hip-diva-style-tell-it-like-it-is persona with what it means to be authentic.  To the contrary beloveds “keeping it real” and authenticity are not quite the same.  I am not saying that some circumstances might not warrant a diva-style approach to speaking the truth.  Indeed being a diva is a defensible choice.  But there is power in doing anything from choice, versus a lack of understanding.  So for the sake of clarity let’s shape a working definition of authenticity. 

Authenticity is an amalgamation of personal elements, composed of compassion, vulnerability and honesty.  Now let’s break it down into bite-sized pieces of awareness:

Compassion and Authenticity
Authenticity without compassion breeds contempt.  Your “truth” (which is simply an interpretation of facts filtered through a psychological schema) must take into consideration the heart, soul and being of others.  This in no way means that being authentic will avoid hurt feelings.  Hurt feelings are an inevitable part of living life on life’s terms.  However, treating others with grace and respect honors our sense of humanity, even in the face of emotional pain.  To that end, what we often perceive as emotional pain and hurt is God’s way of redirecting our attention back to Divine purpose.  When our ego convinces us that being inauthentic is a way to protect another’s feelings then we may be getting in the way of God’s plan…And all I can say is good luck with that!

Vulnerability and Authenticity
Vulnerability is the biggie.  It is the piece that usually stumps those who have not done the personal work to heal their emotional baggage.  It requires you to have a good sense of self and self-image.  However, authenticity without vulnerability lends itself to the desires of the ego. And, oh my, what an untamed beast the ego can be when left to run amok! The ability to be vulnerable means freedom from the primal needs of the ego.  You can speak your truth without being affected by someone else’s image of you.  Thus, your locus of validation must be internal in order to fuse vulnerability with authenticity.  But it is essential if your intention is to speak a truth from your heart, without blame or judgment.  For example, it is easier to extend forgiveness when you are vulnerable enough to recognize all the ways in which you need to be forgiven.

Vulnerability affords us all an opportunity to sift through our own painful stories, or joy for that matter.  We are then able to see where our stuff ends and the other person’s begins.  It is a heart-centered place to be and it takes real courage to live in that emotional position.

Honesty and Authenticity
Honesty is the foundation for authenticity.  It is required, or you have to forgo even calling it authenticity.  My new favorite quotes come from longtime empowerment coach, Iyanla Vanzant.  On her new show, Iyanla Fix My Life, you can often hear her say, “Let’s call a thing a thing people” and “Just tell the truth”.  Both phrases are more than appropriate for this element of authenticity.  So let’s keep it simple.  Here is the secret to honesty…Just be willing to tell the truth. 

It is imperative that you decide where your integrity begins and ends.  It is not always easy to do…I said simple, not necessarily easy.  But the people around you deserve your honesty.  You deserve your honesty.  I am going to dare to say that it isn't always honesty with others that we grapple with.  It is actually being honest with ourselves that poses the real challenge.  We have to stop lying to ourselves, first and foremost.  Stop people pleasing and tell the truth.  Stop living in denial because wherever you go there you are, and you cannot run from the universal consciousness, so tell the truth.  Stop living in shame because of things that you did when you didn't know any better and just tell the truth.  There is no need to worry about how others will perceive you.  Remember they are simply filtering their perceptions through their own schema.  Instead focus on living with the person you see in the mirror every day. 

Final Thoughts on Authenticity
Now, imagine how much richer our relationships would be with authenticity.  Communication, compromise, love and even sex would be better.  Yes, it is true…I promise! I wish you well on your journey to deeper love through authenticity.  Namaste

Nya Akoma,