Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy Couple Highlights: Shelia and Chantelle

Shelia Sanders 

Chantelle Green 
from Richmond, Virginia.

How long have you been together? Both:  We have been together for 2 years. 

How did you meet?  Sheila: We met on a social site but we both were not looking for anything serious. We actually worked for the same company for 5 years and we spotted each other once. Chantelle: I thought Shelia looked mean because she always frowned. Shelia: I thought she was stuck up because she was always walking around with her nose in the air . 

What made you consider Craigslist? Chantelle: I thought that it would be an easy way to meet people. Sheila: Chantelle’s ad caught my attention. It was entitled “Turning Over a New Leaf”. Her title made me want to see what she was about. 

Sheila, after you learned that she hadn’t dated women before, how did you feel?  I was iffy, scared and paranoid but being around her made me feel at ease. She wasn’t trying to get into a relationship. Also, she was outgoing, calm and sexy. 

Chantelle, you had never been in a lesbian relationship. What gave you the confidence without the experience?  I knew that I was gay at 18 but I had to suppress my feelings. When I was 24, I came out to two friends and they both said they always knew that I was gay. That night before I placed the ad, I went to a club but I could not stop thinking about women. The next morning I knew that I was going to come out. For some reason, I had courage and I felt that I no longer wanted to hide. 

What was the initial attraction? Chantelle: Since we spent most of the time through email and text, her conversation was what attracted me. But when we met each other face to face, I was so shy that I could hardly look at her. When I gathered the courage to actually look at her, it was her smile. Her smile lights up a room and I wish she would smile more. She is so beautiful and her smile just enhances that beauty. It was also just her presence; she was/is strong and confident. Sheila: I was attracted to her honesty. She is honest about who she was and she is honest with me. I loved her conversation too. She is so open-minded about so many things. I loved her smile and she always appeared to be happy about life. When you are around her, you forget why you are upset. 

Now that you have been in a relationship with a woman, is it what you expected? Chantelle: I didn’t have expectations. I didn’t believe that it would turn into anything but being in a relationship with Shelia has been a beautiful experience. Coming out has also been a beautiful experience and it has changed me. I am stronger, more courageous and more out-spoken. Being in a relationship with Sheila had made me not want to hide. Sheila: It felt like Chantelle had already been in a relationship with a woman. I didn’t have to coach her; she just transitioned into who she was. Being in a relationship with her has had a profound impact on me. It makes me feel good and makes me feel as if I have a purpose. I know she generally needs and wants me. 

What would you say is the key to the success of your relationship? Chantelle: I would say the key to success in our relationship is being open and honest with each other. I think our relationship has helped me recognize things that I want and need to work on. I have realized that I am in a relationship with someone else who matters and I have to become a better me. That is important because when I become a better me, in the end, it will help us become a better us. Sheila: God!  Also talking about everything even if it causes one of us to feel uncomfortable is important.  It is also important to be confident in ourselves and what we bring into our relationship. 

How do you deal with and face challenges that come up in your relationship?   Sheila: We discuss them; we pray on them and take time with just each other to find the source.  Chantelle: To be honest, the first year was a learning curve for me. I don’t like to argue because I saw what it did to my parents and knew what it did to me as a child. I like to cool off first so I can be more logical. That way I can see if it is me or if it is a real issue.  Shelia is the opposite; she likes to deal with issues in that moment. I had to learn how to take a different approach and actually learn how to deal with issues right then and there. I had to learn how to speak my mind and to do it in a way that’s respectful. That has actually caused less conflict because we come from a place of love instead of a place of anger. We still get into it sometimes which is to be expected, but it is definitely less frequent compared to last year. Sheila: I had to change too. Chantelle says that I can sometimes be mean but since I have been with her, I have changed. I had to learn to take feedback and think about her feelings. I realized that I had to say things a different way. In the past, people were not honest with me but she was. I am still working on it; I am a work in progress. 

How have you learned to manage and celebrate the differences in your personalities? Chantelle: Sheila is my yin to my yang; we balance each other. She is more confident, bold and outspoken. I admire that and I have adopted some of her personality. She just doesn’t tell you what you want to hear and she listens to other perspectives. I am optimistic and Sheila can be more pessimistic. I wouldn’t want date someone just like me.  Being with her gives me a different perspective on life.  Sheila: I can be defensive and Chantelle tells me to chill out. She reminds me that everybody does not have an ulterior motive. I love to watch how she moves around the room and livens up everything around her. She is the perfect match for me and she has helped me with networking too. 

Blending families is frequently a challenge for new couples. How was that process for you? Sheila: My relationship was hard for my daughter because I usually didn’t do relationships, I just dated. She has always wanted me to be with someone and always wanted me to have someone. She was very open but there was an adjustment. Chantelle: My family made it difficult. My grandmother is over-bearing and she is not accepting. She kept asking my daughter questions which made my daughter feel uncomfortable. My parents are more positive and accepting. 

Sheila: We work as a family and we do everything as a family. We try to learn about each other. We play games and we have open communication with all of the girls because they have questions too. The older girls see counselors because we wanted to make sure that they could express themselves not only about us, but also about school and their feelings. We were firm and we made sure they realized that we were/are a team. Chantelle and I discuss everything as a team and have learned from trial and error. Chantelle: We have good communication and we always talk everything through. Counseling is so important because we couldn’t talk to our parents. Also, we know that they have issues that we may not be able to help with. 

What role does spirituality play in your relationship?  Chantelle:  It is very important.  When we first met we were both in odd/difficult times in our lives.  Our spirituality has grown so much within the past years. I am not by any means religious.  I cannot stand the word religious. I am more spiritual; I have my own relationship with God.  I know who He is in our lives and we make it a point to recognize the things He has done in our lives separately and together.  We joined a church together so we have definitely placed God in the forefront. Sheila: It plays a major role. We love each other but we love and honor God more. Since I have met Chantelle my spirituality has grown so much that I often find myself in amazement. 

What role does sensuality play in your relationship?  Sheila: Sensuality is important and we never leave the house without some kind of connection, either a hug or kiss. Cuddling and even sitting near each other without touching has become more sensual to us because of our connection has grown. Chantelle: Sensuality is very important. I have become so much more sensual with Shelia because she makes it easy to be comfortable around her.  My kisses have even changed; they are more than what they were.  Every time I kiss her, it feels like fireworks. Her touches have become more sensual too and I have actually told her that when she touches me it sends a rush all through my body. Sheila: We keep the fires burning and I am very spontaneous. I love to catch her off guard and I still flirt. I still spit game because I love making her blush.  Chantelle: I like to role-play. I love to pretend that I am somebody else in the moment. We really do pay attention to each other and we love to do things like drink wine, rub each other’s legs, light candles and send texts to remind each other that we want each other. Sheila: We also work out together and we make sure that we stay sexy for each other.

What has your relationship taught you most about yourself?  Chantelle: It has taught me that I am able to love and love with all my being.  It has taught me that just because you are in a relationship that you don’t have to lose yourself.  I have learned that I have to be willing to give a 100% in order to get that back.  And, I have learned to be more carefree and not to stress over the small things.  I have grown so much in these two years. Sheila: I have learned to be patient and to be aware of my actions. I have learned that everyone is not the same. 

If you could thank her for 1 thing, what would it be: Sheila: I would thank her for loving me, getting to know me, understanding me and for accepting my daughter. Chantelle: I would thank her for being my shero. She has taught me so much about me, life and about being vulnerable. She has shown me how something can grow. She has loved me and my children through thick and thin. 

Complete this sentence: She would be surprised to know that I love her…… Chantelle: Her perseverance. Sheila has been through a lot in her life. I have been through half of what she has been through and I have tried to commit suicide. She’s strong. She keeps going no matter what. She gets weary but she keeps her eye on the prize. She does not let her past stop or diminish her. She’s an inspiration to me. Sheila: Her humility. Chantelle doesn’t realize how gorgeous she is. Even when people tell her how beautiful she is she doesn’t let it go to her head. When she gets promoted on her job, she stays humble. She appreciates and thanks God for everything. 

What advice would you give to other couples?  Sheila: Keep faith in God and in yourself, not just each other. Communicate, limit the people who are involved in your relationship, don’t keep secrets and treat your partner like a best friend. Chantelle: Communicate, be willing to grow individually and together, be positive, pray together, be open and be honest 

What 1 word describes or characterizes your relationship and why? Sheila: Growing. We are still learning each other. We are still learning how to be in relationship, how to co-parent and how to grow individually and as a couple. We are growing. Chantelle:  Rollercoaster. Our 1st year was like a roller-coaster. We had our moments of really battling and now we are fine. Our relationship is fun, crazy and spontaneous. It is unexpected ride and I hope the ride never ends. 

Sheila: As of Dec 12, 2013, we are engaged to be married. I spoke with one of Chantelle’s co-workers who helped me time everything just right. I came to her job and after their meeting I stood outside of her window holding up post cards that read different things. The final card said “Will you Marry Me”. 
Chantelle: I was in shock. I couldn’t believe she was really at work after I just spoke to her on the phone. I felt like I stopped breathing for a few seconds until my coworkers actually reminded me to breath.
Shelia: I was nervous and excited but I knew it was the right time. All I could do is picture her as my wife not wifey or girlfriend.

(Interviewed 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.

Create Love Founders

Imani Evans and SharRon Jamison 

We will see you at the 2014 Create Love Conference on March 8, 2014: More Info

Saturday, December 28, 2013

NEW BEGINNINGS: What are you REALLY willing to do?

'Tis the season for resolutions and proclamations of change for the new year. Personally, I find New Year's resolutions to be overrated and chock full of guilt for what you didn't accomplish in the previous year. Instead, I prefer to shift the way I look at change. I see it as embracing a new beginning. However, the birth of something new always requires the destruction of what was. Now, that is the part that sends us gripping on to the past for dear life; For we resist change even as we seek it. My question for you today is, what are you willing to give up in order to embrace a new beginning in your life?

First let's explore the idea of destruction as the impetus for creation. One of my favorite
figures in Egyptian mythology is the goddess named, Sekhmet. Sekhmet was a fierce goddess of war and great destruction. Her temper was uncontrollable and in a fierce rage she nearly destroyed all mankind, had it not been for Ra. Now, while Sekhmet was a fierce destroyer of enemies, she was also known as a great healer. All who feared Sekhmet also understood that upon her restoration of satisfaction, she would bring great celebration and joy. We see this kind of destruction before creation in just about every major religion. In Christianity the Big Bang theory is the most famous story of destruction to creation that we can see. But there are even more examples in the Bible and the Quran, such as the story of Job and others.

You might even have personal stories in your own life that demonstrate this point quite well. Think about the times where you had a very traumatic, or devastating, experience that turned out to transform your life into something more beautiful than you had ever imagined. It is not that you would have wished for the devastation, but sometimes that is the only way we will let go of what was. I can think of someone I know who had to face and battle cancer in her life. When she got her diagnosis, she was climbing the corporate ladder and had all the trimmings of success. Although, she was not really happy. Nevertheless, she was climbing the ladder of success because it was what she was "supposed" to do. When she got the news of cancer, it devastated her life. She fought this vicious disease and ultimately won. She survived and is cancer free. But this traumatic experience propelled her forward to a greater purpose. She started a nonprofit that has, quite possibly, saved hundreds of lives. She now travels the world and speaks on surviving and finding purpose in the pain. She is now saving lives and following her bliss.

Neither the story of Sekhmet, nor the one of my friend with cancer, has to be your gateway to a new beginning. You can be propelled there by a traumatic experience, or you can simply choose to destroy old beliefs, thoughts and patterns that are standing in the way of your new beginning. I am not suggesting this to be an easy task; If it were we would not need powerful stories like the one of Sekhmet and Job to remind us of this truth. To that end, I'd like to offer some tips to help you embrace a new beginning as you move forward into 2014. And if you are in a relationship, embracing change and growth as an individual is a wonderful gift to give your partnership. Relationships should not be stagnant, but rather should seek to grow and build on what is good.

  • Create a vision of what you desire: one of my favorite thought leaders is Anthony Robbins. He was the first to really help me grasp the idea of seeing what is next for me as a critical element to manifesting it. If you look at really famous and successful people, one of the common denominators in their story is how they could see themselves already there. The well known comedian, Jim Carrey, talks about writing a check for $1 million to himself and keeping it in his wallet. He would visualize himself cashing that check one day. And he did! There are many ways for you to develop your vision. You can do a vision board, write a story of your success in the present tense, or you can make it a daily meditation... Or if you are really ready to do something fantastic, try them all! Here is a great link for a step by step guide to creating vision board: How to Make a Vision Board
  • You must believe that your vision is possible: beliefs create thoughts and thoughts create things. If you want to really check out what you believe about yourself, simply look at your life. You might say you believe in wealth and maybe on some level you do. However, if your life is full of lack and limitation then there is a deep belief that must be shifted in order to create what you desire. There are some really dynamic thought leaders and authors who illuminate this principle really well: Lisa Nichols, Wayne Dyer and Iyanla Vanzant to name a few.  One of my favorite books on this subject is The Power of The Subconscious Mind, by Joseph Murphy.  OMG, it is my "manifesting new things" bible! I plan to be revisiting it this year as I embark on new beginnings for myself.
  • Fly with birds going in your direction: this is a fancy way of saying that you must share your vision of a new beginning with like-minded thinkers only. Not everyone is going to be able to cheer for you. Sometimes that may even include a romantic partner. It is okay. When you are charging ahead toward something new, it is an ever present reminder to some people of the things they are not accomplishing in their own lives. It is not that they do not wish you success. However, the mirror that you reflect to them can sometimes be too painful. Other times people will project their own fears onto you. These are the naysayers. The naysayers are uncomfortable with taking risks and doing anything new. After all in order to do something new you have to be willing to take a risk. Therefore, It is imperative that you find someone who is headed in the same direction, with the same intensity and passion, in order to fully share your vision. It is also important to remember not to linger with any animosity toward the naysayers. While their lack of encouragement feels personal, it actually has nothing to do with you. Waste no time on it, because what we focus on magnifies.

So, I will end this article in the same way that it started, with a question: what are you willing to destroy in order to create what you desire in your life? I encourage you to revisit
this article frequently as you create a plan for a new beginning. I will be claiming success for you. Revisit the tips as part of your action plan. Sometimes we have to behave our way to success. There is a saying in the 12 step program of recovery that "self-esteem is built by doing estimable acts, one at a time". Conversely, success is built by one successful action at a time. Once you create your vision, then set your goals, then take one action step every single day toward the success of your vision. Behave your way to change while you are shifting your belief system. I hope you come back to share your plans as well as updates of your success. I wish you great triumph as you embark on all of your new endeavors.

Nya akoma!

Imani Evans, MA

SharRon and I look forward to seeing you at the 2nd Annual Create Love Conference for Women Who Love Women!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Rules of Reconciliation: Part 3

Trust! Trust is the foundation for all our significant relationships. Trust provides the emotional security that we need to share our hearts, minds and souls. Trust provides the physical safety that allows us to share our bodies openly, willingly and sexually. Trust is what allows us to share our resources, merge our households and link our lives. Trust allows us to raise families together, pray together, work together and dream together. Trusts help us compromise, collaborate, negotiate and communicate. Trust is the emotional glue that bonds, unites and supports us in all of our “ships; it is the bedrock of our most important connections.
But even though trust is valued and plays a major role in all of our human interactions, there are “trust” challenges. First, the concept of what trust is and how trust should be demonstrated is highly variable. Why? Because trust is learned and earned.  We learn what trust means from our families and from our intimate associations. As a result, two people rarely share the exact same definition of trust or trustworthy behavior. And, we earn trust differently based on the individual needs, values, personalities and experiences of those whose trust we want to earn. Since people are different, we gain their trust differently.
Not only that, but trust is a feeling, a choice and a skill; it is a multi-dimensional concept that automatically kicks in when we interact with people.  Just think about your own experiences. Many times when you meet people you immediately and sometimes unconsciously attempt to assess their trustworthiness.  In less than 10 seconds, you get a hunch/feeling about them and you make some assumptions about your ability to trust them. It is not fair to prejudge, but we all do it to some degree.
Trust can also feel like a powerful belief of extremes. For example, trust is fragile, and at the same time, trust is strong. Trust is liberating, and in some ways, confining.  Trust takes years to build but only takes moments to break.  Trust is never all of one thing and none of something else. Let’s face it - trust is a 5 letter word that carries a lot of power in our lives and the loss of it erodes our relationships. 

To further complicate matters, most partners never discuss trust or their meaning of trust until there is a break, breach or a betrayal. Violations, indiscretions and infidelity are subjects that we usually don’t consider until we find ourselves faced with a painful situation that pierces our hearts, boggles our minds and/or bruises our spirits. Then and only then do many of us talk about trust, what we learned about trust, our experiences with trust, the impact of trust, the pain caused by mistrust or ways we have regained trust. Many of us don’t even discuss our Apology Love Languages until there is a crisis or until we are faced with heartbreak.  For some relationships, that’s too late. 

But I believe that however we define it, trust can be restored I emphatically believe in reconciliation. I believe that with courage, vulnerability, honesty, mutual respect and a willingness to grow, relationships can be repaired and in some cases, strengthened. Yes, reconciliation is achievable if you and your partner are willing to do the emotional work. It may not be an easy process and it may be a journey filled with starts and stops and ups and downs. But it is a journey that partners can travel together if they are open to restoration and renewal. This is what I know for sure: As long as there is hope and desire, reconciliation is possible.
So, what is reconciliation?  I believe that reconciliation means to settle, to understand, to resolve, to compromise, to reunite, to restore and to negotiate our “ships” to promote healing. Reconciliation does not mean giving in, caving in, or doing anything else that does not honor you. It does not mean shutting up, shutting down or shutting your partner out of your heart, mind and soulAs I said in Rules of Reconciliation Part 1, one definition of reconciliation means to forgive: GIVE up your past, FOR a better future.
In Part 1, we discussed the importance of three principles: Reflection, Realization and Repentance. We reviewed how the rules assist in the healing process and how the rules must somehow be a part of the healing journey. In Part 2, we discussed the importance of two additional principles:  Removal and Restructure. We discussed the importance of identifying/ eliminating temptations (people, behaviors, addictions, situations) that destroy credibility and confidence. We also considered the importance restructuring relationships to better support authenticity encourage growth and foster better communication. This week we will explore two more rules.  Note: this list is not THE only path to reconciliation because healing happens differently for different people, at different times based on their difference situations. However, the rules listed below are guidelines, directions and thoughts to consider if you and your partner decide to embark on a healing journey together.
Let’s discuss some additional principles.
RESPONSBILITY: Responsibility is something you take. We often think of responsibility as something given to us by others, but that is not the case in our “ships”. In love relationships, you must take responsibility for your behavior, your attitude, your words, your mistakes and your actions. If not, you relinquish control of your life and you give up your ability to love.
Why is taking responsibility important in love?  I am glad you asked. First, if you don’t accept responsibility for your actions and choices, you will become a victim or you will succumb to a victim mindset. Both are recipes for relationship disaster because victims or people with victim mentalities are terrible girlfriends/wivesWhy? Because both types of people focus and rely too heavily on others for their happiness and for their relationship success.
Victims and people with victim mindsets also betray themselves because they acquiesce even when they feel dishonored and devalued. They don’t engage in healthy conflict and they are not problem solvers; they are blamers and poor negotiators. They are usually co-dependents who fail to be responsible for getting and expressing their own needs.
Here is the truth. You are not a victim. You have a role, you have a position, you have power and you have a choice. You are a queen who is desirous of love but who is also willing to love. You are a powerful, beautiful woman worthy of adoration and affection.
How do you show responsibility in love relationships First, by keeping your promises and commitments. Whatever you promise yourself, do it. Whatever you promise your partner, do it. You learn and practice trusting your partner by first learning to trust yourself.
Secondly, you take responsibility for your own happiness. If you need to change your mind, do it. If you need to talk, do it. If you need to re-negotiate, do it. If you need to lose weight, do it. If you need to go back to school, do it.  You MUST take responsibility for your own contentment so that you can bring a happy, confident and more fulfilled YOU to the relationship. You must remember that it is not your partner’s job to make you happy. You have to bring your own “happy” to the relationship and then together you can share/ enhance each other’s happiness.
Finally, you accept responsibility by asking and expressing your needs, desires or wants. You partner is not a mind reader. You take responsibility by being honest, open, thoughtful and candid. You accept responsibility by admitting when you are wrong, right, arrogant and sometimes ignorant.  If you want to heal and enrich your relationship, accept responsibility for yourself and then share responsibility with your spouse.  You both deserve it. 
REMEMBER: Remember that restoration is never immediate; it is a process that takes time. You relationship did not unravel in 3 days, and it will not take 3 days to heal or reconcile. But for some reason, couples struggle with that concept. Let’s be honest. If you had sex with someone else, you partner may not want to immediately have sex with you. She may not even want you to touch her. That’s understandable. If you repeatedly mismanaged the household funds, your partner may not want to immediately share money or credit cards with you. That’s understandable. If you shared your partner’s most intimate secrets, she may not feel comfortable baring her soul to you. That’s understandable. Here is the hard truth – after an indiscretion, you will not be immediately restored. And if you were, I would be concerned but that’s another article.
How long should restoration take? That’s a good question but there is no standard answer. The willingness to trust again depends on many things – her values, personality, experiences, your efforts, your changes and the ability as a team to address your relationship issues candidly and lovingly.  The timing of restoration varies but I will say this. If you have made changes, showed remorse, asked for forgiveness and did everything you know how to do and she refuses to release the resentment and start anew, you are not unforgivable, she is unforgiving.  Here is a sport analogy for our sport enthusiasts. If she is always playing defense, nobody is making points. Nobody is scoring and both of you are losing.  Here is a spiritual principle for those who relate better to spiritual analogies. If you are holding so strongly to one principle, you could be violating another principle. 
How can you tell if you are resisting reconciliation and forgiveness? There are a few ways.  
  • When you are using your forgiveness as power against your partner 
  • When you are withholding forgiveness as a bargaining chip 
  • When you are concerned that your forgiveness makes you look or feel “less” than 
  • When you are concerned that accepting her apology will encourage her to repeat the offense  
  • When you are concerned that she has lost respect for you or that you have lost respect for yourself 
  • When you are withholding trust to control her 
  • When you are withholding trust to give you a false sense of safety 
  • When you benefitting from being a victim or being catered to 
  • When you are focusing more of her weaknesses and faults and fail to address your own 
  • When you feel good about being right or righteous  
  • When you are withholding forgiveness to manipulate or degrade her 
  • When you desire revenge or feel a need to even the score 
  • When you feel that you are letting yourself down or not showing up for your “little girl 
There are more telltale ways but this list should get you started. If you are finding it hard to forgive, take a moment and identify why. Sometimes we resist reconciliation because of childhood wounds, hurts from precious relationships, old emotional baggage, low self- esteem or just plain fear. Our past should never dictate our future, but our past does influence and inform on future. So, spend some time alone, with a trusted friend or a therapist to learn more about you. Your healing depends on it.
Reconciliation is possible but it takes courage. Brene’ Brown, an expert on shame, says that “you can’t be courageous and comfortable at the same time. The African proverb says “is heart, not horn, that make ram goat brave”. What’s in your heart?  If you have courage, you can trust again.
Responsibility and Restoration are two principles that have the ability to build bridges and connect hearts. They both demonstrate love, commitment, growth, desire and most of all, trust.  Remember, without it, love can not flow or grow; trust and faith are important to sustain our unions. 

Do you want to trust again? Is there someone special that deserves another chance? As 2013 comes to a close, I hope you will use the Rules of Reconciliation to start your own healing journey.  Let’s start 2014 with a commitment to CREATE LOVE that we all declare, deserve and desire. 

I look forward to completing this series in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts and your stories about Reconciliation. Your comments may be used in a follow-up article to help all of us as we embark on our healing journeys with ourselves and with our loved ones.
I look forward to seeing you on March 8 at the 2014 CREATE LOVE Conference! Make sure you get your tickets.  Happy Holidays!

Related Blogs:


SharRon Jamison