Saturday, February 21, 2015

Happy Couple Highlights: Elle and Tosha

Elle & Tosha
Atlanta, Ga.

 How long have you been together? Elle: Doc and I became girlfriends 2.5 years ago and made it official by tying the knot Oct. 7, 2014. We’ve known one another for almost 3 years. Celebrating 4 happy months married on the 7th of Jan. Tosha: Elle and I have been married for 3 months and have been together for almost 3 years.

I love to hear how couples meet. So, share. How did you get together/meet?
Elle: Doc and I met at the beginning of summer (May to be exact) at a concert, in which I was invited to by her BFF April Girard. I knew April was in the life, a life I had left alone many years ago. Later during the concert…. While playing with my cell phone, I looked up and saw Tosh lying in front of me looking directly at me. In that very moment, I snapped a picture of her (smiled) and looked back at the picture and thought, she is stunning! My heart fluttered for a second!

You see, Doc was wearing a cow boy hat that covered her face, yet in the picture (still wearing the hat) I saw her face! Her light brown eyes were kissed by the sun, her freckles caught my attention and the ever so sexy smirk on her face looked devious. I quickly turned to April showed her the picture and said, ‘She’s Beautiful!’ April said, ‘I can’t believe you took her picture! April looked at her BFF Tosh and gave her this look and smiled. I often wondered what that look was all about. As the summer got under way the love bug struck both of us beyond our control. It’s true, when you least expect it love will find you as long as you’re open to it.

Tosha: Elle and I met through my BFF April Girard. My BFF kept telling me about a woman she wanted me to meet because she thought Elle was “my type” and thought she would be good for me. Because of my prior break up, I really wasn’t interested in meeting anyone. I was honestly dating and very content with being single. That was, until I met Lu’Wana Parker. Smile. We met at the Old School concert a few years back and I immediately asked my BFF, “who is THAT?” lol, my BFF laughed and said, “that’s the lady I’ve been wanting you to meet!” I was like, oh um ok…is she gay? Is she married…you know all the questions you ask when you meeting someone as fine as my wife! My BFF told me Lu’Wana wasn’t gay and I kind of shrugged and kept it moving.

I later sent her a friend request on Facebook and you know, watched her from afar for a few weeks. I saw her again at an “Ink and Whole” party at my BFF’s house at the beginning of that summer. I was amazed and smitten! I kept staring at her and wanted to talk to her but I was afraid. Well, I finally mustered up enough nerve to talk to her (I’ll let her tell that part of the story)! Smile

We didn’t exchange numbers or anything that night; however, I did tell my friends that “she was going to be my wife.” Later, on the ride home, The Lord, told me as clear as day, “that is your wife.” I was like, “big gulp, really?!?!?” And it went on from there….

There is always something that always attracts us to certain people. What was the initial attraction?  Elle: My initial attraction to Doc was her inner sex appeal, beauty & physique underneath the edgy exterior. I was turned on by her arm tattoos, her freckles, her beautiful eyes and her calm spirit. I thought, wow I really like the woman that lives within her androgynous style. Once we started spending time, I found that although many differences between us, our similarities were strong. We were created by God specifically for one another.

Tosha: My initial attraction to Elle was her resemblance to my Mama. Her “jazziness” and “sex appeal” were very familiar to me and I thought she reminded me of my mom in that sense. I was also attracted to her love for her children. I noticed from the very beginning that she talked about her kids a lot and it really showed her concern for them. I loved that.

Congrats on your recent marriage. What did you do to prepare for marriage? And how has being married changed your relationship? Elle: Thank You! My Wife and I went to marriage counseling for 10 months. We learned so much more about one another with mediators present. It allowed for a safe space for us to be free, clear and truly honest about our deepest fears, concerns, desires and expectations towards one another and our relationship. Counseling removed the representative (if you will) and allowed us to think beyond the beginning & in the moment. We were challenged to think FUTURE and how to effectively build together. One thing I learned specifically was how to LISTEN.

Since getting married, I have this overwhelming feeling all of the time that is hard to explain! When I think’s scary yet I feel accomplished! Like I have arrived and joined an elite club. Being married has changed my relationship radically in the area of communication. My Wife and I have come to the consensus, giving up is NOT an option! Through communication, we are committed to doing the work no matter what and that in itself is our growth from past relationships.

Tosha: As Elle mentioned, we did couples counseling for several months and spent time getting to know each other before we were married. It was important to me, personally, that we not live together before we were married. I guess I’m “traditional” in that sense.

Being married has strengthened our relationship. I felt before like “quitting was not an option,” but now I feel that it is not even a thought, really. At the end of the day, we are together for life and that’s the bottom line. I would say marriage has changed us both for the better, as a couple. I don’t feel like we are individuals any longer. Now I really feel that we are one in every aspect of life.

Relationships are not always easy. We want them, but they take work. What would you say is the key to the success of your relationship and why?  Elle: The key to the success in our relationship is definitely communication, compromise & comfort. Early on I was taught that communication is key in everything I do! I work hard at being an effective communicator with everyone in my life. I use communication to teach our children, to lead by example and to express myself with respect and respect to others. Tosh wasn’t used to communicating effectively and in the beginning of our relationship we struggled because of this. We’ve learned that in order to be heard and to listen to one another, we need to talk about it in love. Compromise is equally important because we understand that we’re different. Reaching a compromise is key to settling our differences to keep the peace and love flowing. Comfort is necessary as life is challenging, relationships are challenging and knowing that your spouse/partner will comfort you regardless of any situation will allow you to create space to communicate & compromise.

Tosha: The key to the success of our relationship is communication. I’ve not been a big communicator in my past relationships and I’ve learned (and am learning) the importance of communicating. I’m also learning how to communicate effectively and how to communicate my needs and wants without sounding selfish.

Relationships are wonderful combinations of celebration and challenges. How do you deal with and face challenges that might come up in your relationship?  Elle: We face challenges head on! We acknowledge, we talk and we conquer together right away up front. We understand challenges can and will create space and distance if you allow it, so we choose to breathe and go head on to rid away unnecessary absence between us. Doc and I have dealt with a lot to get where we are today in our relationship, honestly if we didn’t take this approach from the start we would not be married today! We work hard to make our time together most enjoyable, effective and essential. We live by…never go to bed MAD!

Tosha: We face challenges head on. We talk about them. We acknowledge them. And we deal with them. Compromise is probably the other key to the success of our relationship. We have both given a great deal and sacrificed a lot to be together. Learning to compromise has been probably the most essential part of us “staying together” thus far. Because I served in the military for almost 25 years, I grew to be a very independent person. For the past few years it’s just been me and my dogs. I got use to traveling and living out of a suitcase. In fact, I would venture to say that most, if not all, of my relationships even since college, have been long distance relationships because of studies and the military. So living with, and having, a family was a major change for me. I had to quickly learn the importance of compromise and the value it plays in our relationship.

I know one of the challenges that many couples have is blending families. How did you blend the family and what advice would you give to other couples? Elle: Yesssss, blending families can be difficult and challenging to say the least! Tosh and I are still blending. Blending will be ongoing and is a day to day process with us, our girls and the dogs. Honestly, personally this is the hardest part of our relationship for me. I have the girls Kharma 12 and Aje’ 7 yrs. and Tosh has the boys Zeus and Duke (boxers). I also have a toy poodle Princess who runs the house (lol). My struggle is getting used to having what I call outside dogs inside full time. Adjusting to BIG dogs in every aspect of our home (drives me batty). I pray, I deal one day at a time (really minute by minute) and keep things in mind like compromise to get through it. I also consider the situation in reverse with Tosh and the girls. My gaping love for my Wife is what keeps me. Our girls on the other hand have adjusted nicely and rather quickly, surprisingly so.

The advice I would give to other couples is, please know merging two lives takes time. When you add others in the family to the mix, it could take even longer. Have extraordinary patience, communication, exercise your right to vent (in a loving way) and work as a team, none of the, this is mine and that’s yours perspective. Take time for self (just because you’re a couple now doesn’t mean you have to give YOU up), yet be selfless. Tosh and I find it extremely helpful to have another couple you trust to have as an accountability partner(s). There’s something good in hearing another perspective from someone who has/is going through the same thing. Lastly, pray and place God as the head of your home/relationship and follow his word (providing that is your belief/faith).

Tosha: Blending our family has been interesting, to say the least. I think our greatest challenge has been learning to live in the space we’ve been blessed with. Our home is very small, nice, and cozy. Subsequently, we have to learn to live together in a very tight space. I think this has been a blessing in disguise because it forced us to get closer and spend more time together. I’ve personally learned the importance of team work and understanding that life isn’t just about me (and my dogs). Smile. Having children has taken some getting used to. The main challenge for me has been learning that the children’s schedule pretty much dictates our (the adult’s) schedules. Once I realized that, life became a lot easier.

The advice I would give to family blending lives would be to take your time, learn one another, and over communicate (your needs). I often see people give so much of his or herself that they become a different person. Remain true to yourself but remember what brought you together and why you are together. If there are children involved, be cognizant of their feelings, their age, and their other parent. Everything matters, whether stated or not. Additionally, I highly suggest both individual and couples counseling. It’s so important to know yourself and know what you bring to the table. What makes you comfortable and uncomfortable. Knowing this can help you communicate your needs to your mate. Finally, find a group that supports you. Be it friends, other couples, a pastor, or mentor. Surround yourself with like-minded people and set the expectation that “giving up is not an option.” In an effort to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals, Elle created an organization called “Healthy Couples – Atlanta.” The group has been very successful and there are couples in the group that have families. We have learned from the other couples and have created a support system as well as accountability partners who help us remain true to our relationship and our family.

I know faith is important to both of you individually. What role does spirituality play in your relationship and how do you celebrate our faith as a couple?  Elle: Spirituality is important! It’s one thing to be spiritual walking your own path and another to be married to a Pastor or someone in Ministry. I’m learning to support and play a role for other people. I’m learning my walk with God and to take on learning what it means to lead at the same time. This has been overwhelming to say the least. I will say this, ‘it’s truly rewarding!’ My reward comes from being obedient to his whisper and not allowing fear to lead me away from our calling to KIMVC. I think it’s safe to say, we are still trying to figure out our way in this area as a unit. We are also growing spiritually together by spending time in prayer and serving through our worship services/experiences. My Pastor, Friend, Confidant and Lover is teaching me and leading me to a more purposeful life…I simply admire, respect & love Dr. Tosha Parker-Meredith!

Tosha: Being a new pastor, I think spirituality is very important. It is one thing to be in ministry and not necessarily play a key role, however it’s totally different to pastor a church and have individuals you are accountable to. Having a spiritual relationship helps with all the challenges that not only come with our relationship but the challenges that come with ministry in general. We are still figuring our way in the area of spirituality. We are also growing in this area to a point of spending time together in prayer as well as our worship experiences.

Tosha, congrats on our new pastorate. How can people learn more about your church and Elle, how are you preparing to be a “pastor’s wife”? Elle: Preparing to be a Pastor’s wife has been seemingly easy for me to do. I’m careful with what I read concerning being a pastor’s wife first and foremost! In the past I found myself side-tracked with worries that I wouldn’t meet people's expectations. However, I find much peace in going back to scripture and reminding myself that my real acceptance and security rest in Christ’s grace, not my performance. I consider it a huge privilege to be married to a woman who preaches God’s Word week after week. I love my wife and am grateful for the ministry the Lord has given us in KIMVC Kingdom International Ministries Virtual Church. Biblically, the role of a pastor’s wife is the same as every wife’s: love your husband/wife and children, manage our home well and be an example to women around me (Titus 2:4-5). I also let my spiritual gifting direct many of my choices. My spiritual gift is serving and outreach, which means much of my involvement is behind the scenes. My main role is to support my wife and here’s how I do that: watch out for her; I provide helpful and honest feedback; stand with her when times are tough; I discern and provide real talk; I never gossip; I ensure both of us grow a thick skin; lastly, I keep the fun alive. I strongly believe, if I continue to do what I’m currently doing and continue to grow in God’s Word, it will allow me to enjoy the role as First Lady.

I feel because I treat my role more as a wife and mother vs. a pastor’s wife makes for any challenges that could occur nonexistent in our relationship. It’s the bond not the title that I/we focus on.

Tosha: Being a pastor is something I kind of fell into. Things happened so fast and changed so drastically that I’m still getting used to it. The church is called Kingdom International Ministries Virtual Church and it’s affectionately known as KIMVC. The web address is KIMVirtualChurch.Org. We started the ministry several months ago for a few reasons. First, we saw a need for integrating technology (social media) with Christ and Christian principles. Our mission is to courageously and intellectually spread the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world; thereby creating disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28: 19-20). Our vision is to create and provide an international platform through virtual and cyber space for individuals to worship Jesus Christ while transforming their lives (Romans 12:2). I must honestly say many people laughed at the idea initially, however, the response and reception has been phenomenal. We have over 100K Followers on Facebook and almost 300 members around the world in less than 6 months! Our aim is to continue to walk in our gifts and purpose while helping others to do the same. Our ultimate goal is to save souls. 

Sensuality and sexuality are important to relationships. What role does sensuality play in your relationship? And, how are ensuring that the flame stays alive? Elle: Sensuality plays a BIG role in our relationship. I realize this isn’t and shouldn’t be everything about our relationship, but it is high on my list! Being able to spend intimate time with Doc is imperative! Being able to release, relax and relate to tosh keeps our FIRE burning. We need that to feel secure in our relationship. Touch brings out vulnerability, honesty and LOVE! We have to be creative to have this, so it’s not often present, however the creativity makes it more interesting and worth the wait. I love, love, love our moments of togetherness and I appreciate them all the more when we are in the moment.

Tosha: Sensuality is very important. Me being the dominant person in our relationship, I have to remember to be sensual and intimate at times. I sometimes take for granted that need for sensuality and intimacy in our relationship. I’m learning to take time out for “us” and be sensual and intimate for building our relationship. One of our biggest challenges is learning to work around the schedules of our children. Smile. We have to “get it in, when we can!” Lol! (She’s going to get me for saying that). But seriously, any couple with children knows that the kids run the house (not literally) and our schedules fluctuate depending on what’s on their agenda. We also have a child with special needs who is up at “o-dark-thirty!” So we are learning to get sleep when we can (usually when she sleeps). So our sensuality is built around these variables as well. Again, and area we are constantly working on and trying creative things to make it work.

Every relationship has rules that support the union. Even if the rules are not stated, they are understood. What are your Relationship Rules and how do your rules support your relationship? Tosha: I would say the stated (and unstated) rule that guides our relationship is that quitting is not an option. We are in this for the long haul and are committed to making our relationship work. God put us together and that is the basis, the foundation if you will, for our relationship. This helps our relationship because we know that we have one another’s back, no matter what.

Elle: I believe our relationship rules are to set boundaries; give what you expect to get; two heads are better than one; sound it out; laughter is the best medicine; mind your manners; fight right and DATE night. Also, when the going gets tough, the tough get therapy! We are avid believers in therapy…it works!  All of the above support our relationship as guidelines to follow to stay true to ourselves and to one another. For example: sound it out is communication! Talking about the not so fun topics like money, religion, raising kids and fidelity usually end up being the most valuable. Another is mind your manners, ‘Please, Thank you and you’re welcome’ can go a long way in helping your partner remember that you respect and love them and don’t take them for granted.  Date night, is showing subtle ways you love, admire and appreciate them. Quality time spent is mandatory for every couple to connect!!!

What 1 word characterizes your love for her and why? Tosha: The one word that characterizes my love for my baby is Angel. She’s my personal God given angel that God has assigned me to take care of while here on earth. She’s assigned to do the same for me and that is why I love her.  Elle: I have two words…I know the question calls for just one but if it’s ok, I have to give two (smile). One word that characterizes my love for Tosh is ADORE - Why? Because I love, cherish, treasure and consider her to be my PRIZE! The second is ANGEL - because she’s a person of exemplary conduct or virtue. The definition according to google says, ‘an angel is a spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God’. I know without a shadow of a doubt my wife is my personal messenger from God. I have grown spiritually simply because she’s in my life.

Relationships teach us so much about partnership. Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to other couples? Tosha: The advice I would give to other couples is to always keep God in your relationship. Stays focused and committed to “not giving up,” and always communicate. Make time for date night. Laugh often, love freely. Finally, keep people out of your business. Elle: The advice I would like to give other couples is to keep our heavenly father first! Stay grounded in his word and a family that prays together stays together. Commit to making it work, giving up is not an option. Love freely, laugh, spend quality time and DATE your spouse/partner. Schedule time to converse, the art of listening goes a very long way. Lastly, keep others out of your RELATIONSHIP!

What has your relationship taught you most about yourself? And were you surprised about what you learned? Elle: My relationship has taught me that it’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to relax, take a break and put me first. I’m learning to be patient with adults and to share my feelings. My relationship shows me daily how truly blessed I am. Being married to the busiest woman on the planet has placed me on a fast track to my destiny. Growing in Christ and learning my spiritual gifts through my daily counseling with my Pastor have been the best part of merging our lives together. I believe my wife was created to assist in showing me my life can and will be great as I embark on a new journey. Doc is the missing piece to my puzzle. We fit, work and are greater together. God has blessed us, our union, our children and our footsteps are ordered in his holy name. Who would have thought…ME…a First Lady?! I claim it in the mighty name of Jesus, thanks my love ;)  Tosha: My relationship has taught me that I am capable of being and giving love freely. I’ve learned that I don’t have to do things on my own, and that God created Elle to help me conquer the mighty vision he’s given me for my life. And, I believe I was created to do the same for my wife.

What do you hope your legacy will be as a couple? Tosha: Our legacy will be that our family, the world, and society in general will be better off because of our existence. Our hope is that couples will know there is “hope” for a successful relationship especially in the LBGTQ community. I pray that we will be remembered as having “lived life to the fullest” collectively and that we were the epitome of real love. Elle: We hope our legacy will be that our ‘Healthy Couples’ group, our virtual church KIMVC, our children and families will live productive, healthy and spiritual God fearing lives after us.

Tosha, you are a new author, philanthropist and a radio host? Can you share more about your endeavors? And how can others support your efforts?  Wow, I guess I never looked at myself as a philanthropist; however, it seems that’s what my life and legacy are morphing into. The Dr. Tosha Meredith Foundation exists to provide financial literacy to children between the ages of 5 and 18. The foundation also provides food, clothing, and shelter to needy children and their families internationally, primarily in Africa. The foundation is a passion of mine and collectively Elle and I are looking forward to providing additional resources to the community both nationally and internationally. Elle’s foundation, Aje’s Angels exists to help families with children with special needs identify resources available to them. We are a service driven family and we work very hard to ensure that we give back to our communities both financially and physically.

I’m excited about the books I’ve written and am super excited about my memoir that will be released in a few weeks. My series, “Get In The Flow” is a compilation of short books that help individuals become their best. The first, “Get In the Flow – Seven Principles to Becoming A Wealthy Christian” is my version of a pocket book to spiritual wealth. I wanted to create something that individuals could read on the bus, in the taxi, or on a plane ride across the country. Many people think the book is about getting rich or financial success; however, it’s more about getting spiritually connected to God and utilizing those connections to position yourself for financial increase. The second book, “Get In the Flow – Seven Keys To The Kingdom” is a pocket book, a guide if you will to gaining access to the “Kingdom.” It provides guidance for individuals seeking to gain knowledge on how to live a Kingdom centered life. Both books are biblically based and combine my life stories with scripture, Christ centered principles. The next book in the series, “Get In The Flow – Think Like A Millionaire” is just about complete. This is a combination of “practical” and “spiritual” principles to reduce debt and live financially responsible life while focusing on spiritual principles. I have basically added practicality to the spiritual tools in the first book. Finally, my memoir, “Didn’t Ask, Didn’t Tell – The Life of A Gay Christian Soldier” is about my life of serving in silence in the military for almost 25 years. I discuss my history of molestation, growing up in the black church, and being gay during the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell era. It’s a phenomenal read and I’m so excited to finally complete this work that I’ve been engaged in since 2010.

I do a weekly broadcast on the “Live, Love, Laugh” Network. It’s a Blog Talk radio show where we showcase individuals who are striving to transition to their next level of success, whatever that level is for them. We also discuss current, real world events on our “Tuesday Talk” show. I have a weekly morning show called “Monday Morning Glory” which is a time of prayer, scripture, music, and motivation to get the week started!  It has been a true blessing and I am so humbled by the platform God has given me/us. Elle and I also have a monthly broadcast we do together called “Pillow Talk With Elle and Doc.” This show has gotten very good response and we have a very nice following. We talk all things relationship on this show and we collectively open up and allow our listeners into our personal lives in an effort to help them (couples and singles) grow. The “Live, Love, Laugh” network as grown tremendously over the last year and we are now broadcasting on BlogTalk Radio as well as C.U.R.B. Radio out of Tucson, AZ.

To learn more about Elle and Dr. Tosha, please visit their websites below:

Books available for sell:
Get in the Flow: 7 Principles on Becoming a Wealthy Christian
Get In The Flow: 7 Keys To The Kingdom

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

 Create Love Founders

Imani Evans and SharRon Jamison

 Don’t forget to register for the Journey to Wellness Retreat. September will be soon!


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Happy Couple Highlights: Lenora and Sandra

Lenore & Sandra 
Atlanta, Ga.
Where did you meet and what were the initial attractions? Lenore: We met online and over a period of time with the online chat, I asked Sandra to meet with me. Sandra invited me over to her home in NJ and we developed a loving relationship since that first date. Sandra and I are both creative artists, eclectic. We love to club dance, to eat cuisine dining, are both from NY, enjoy hosting parties, love our family, are loyal to our friends, love a good laugh, are home bodies, and are extremely ambitious.

Sandra: We met online. I initially reached out to Lenore to say that, although she was not my type, I liked her profile, style of writing, and that I wished her luck in her search. We became pen-pals of sorts as I was dating at the time.

You have been together for over six years. First, congratulations. What advice would you give to other couples and why? Lenore: I would not recommend any one to move as quickly as we did. We moved in together after sixty days of dating. Please date each other for at least two years, discuss everything under the sun to better acquaint yourselves, and have fun….travel, spend time together, with friends and family….just get to know each other before you move in together.

Sandra:  I would advise they proceed slowly, cultivating a friendship while asking lots of questions. And know that you’re under no obligation to continue if you’re feeling leery or uncomfortable.

What made you know that it was time to get married and how has being married changed your relationship? Sandra: Well, Lenore brought up living together after only a couple of months. I honestly believed it was because she was unhappy with her living environment at that time. I knew that it was way too soon having not known her for very long. She sensed my mistrust of the idea, and in her haste AND chivalry proposed marriage in an attempt to make me more comfortable…..that idea that this was not a fly-by-night relationship. It was a romantic gesture as were others on her part and I relented. For I am nothing if not a total romantic.

Lenore: Sandra stated she wanted the relationship to be meaningful and legal and that sounded reasonable to me. I wanted to marry Sandra because I loved her, so I proposed and she said yes. Marriage is a legally binding commitment and I take it very seriously and it’s my first marriage. I vowed not to separate from her. I am a runner by nature, so now I have to slow my impulse to flee whenever I feel frustrated or afraid; I have to work through the challenges. I like the idea of marriage, the commitment to love my wife for better or worse and the emotional maturity challenges I experience daily. I am very responsible, focused, steadfast, faithful, and deeply concerned about someone else now that I married Sandra.

Getting together is easy. Staying together is difficult. You have weathered many transitions and storms?  How did you manage and what was the hardest part?  Lenore: I manage my emotions by talking to others, writing/ journaling, attending self- help support groups, seeing a therapist, going to church fellowship, creating visual artworks, staying focused on career goals, and creating a balance in my relationship. It has been very difficult experiencing grief and loss. Sandra lost her mother recently. When I met her she was recently divorced from her former wife, and she had relocated to NJ from her hometown NY. I had to learn to manage my emotions over a period of time, to establish a support network for myself, and to set concrete boundaries with Sandra. It appears that Sandra transfers her sadness, frustrations and anger as it relates to grief and loss, unto the person closes to her (me). Our decision to retire to Georgia has been daunting because the southern culture is very different from NY.  Also my family resides in Georgia and has been very supportive of us. Sandra appears to feel displaced and lonely, after having lost her mother and her daughter lives four hours away. I believe our recent church membership will give us additional support and spiritual strength to continue to weather this storm. We love one another very much and that is the glue that sustains us.

Sandra: The hardest part was dealing with the fact that there was someone else in Lenore’s life almost immediately after our big union. Though I asked her on several occasions {she denied it of course} and I told her several times that she was free to be with this person if she desired, she continued to deny that there was someone else. She denied it until the woman found me on FB and wrote a devastatingly scathing message to me about “their” relationship and how I’d better leave Lenore alone. Lmbo! I tell you I can laugh now but at the time it was heart-wrenching. Particularly when my previous marriage had ended from infidelity. It took a lot to get through this period - God, good friends, counseling, love and a fighting spirit on both our parts.

How do you deal with and face challenges (family acceptance, money differences, etc.) that might come up in your relationship? Sandra: I deal with everything by being honest; first and foremost with myself. I have an open kind heart but I also live by the courage of my convictions. My credo is “just do it” you know, like Nike. Though I will say that family situations are very difficult on many levels. Some are outright homophobic and some still pretend that Lee and I are two single roommates. I tend to stay away from situations where I cannot honestly be myself and I don’t deny that it hurts on occasion

Lenore: We talk, yell and scream about it; and tackle each challenge together because we are both type A personalities and stubborn as bulls. Sandra does not let anything kick her to the floor because she is a warrior by nature. She will fight to the end to get what she wants. I am very driven, hardworking, extremely ambitious, loyal, and trustworthy sometimes to a fault. I am also very easy going, popular, very close to my family, loving and kind hearted. Sandra does not believe I demonstrate the above mentioned characteristics with her often enough and she makes no bones letting me know this. I struggle with being openly affectionate and touchy feely with Sandra since we relocated to the South. Sandra has and will continue to fight for her relationship with me and I am extremely focused on doing better when it comes to intimacy with my wife. Our strong love for each other and my unwillingness to give in to failure when it comes to intimacy continues to keep us together. We are both out to our families and it’s been a challenge for Sandra, because of folk’s religious beliefs. My family totally accepts me, because I came out when I was very young, and over the years they finally came to accept my sexuality. I am Sandra’s rock with regards to coming out issues.

I know faith is important to both of you. How do you practice your faith as a couple and what role does spirituality play in your relationship?  Lenore: I love to fellowship, to study theology, to pray, meditate, and follow spiritual principles on a daily basis. We pray at the dinner table and I always encourage Sandra to go to God for refuge and comfort, as it relates to her grief.  Sandra is a believer and has a strong relationship with God, she experiences her spirituality through gospel music and expressing her feelings openly (crying etc.).

Sandra: As a couple we practice by prayer and meditation…believing in a higher power, and attending church together when we can.  I am very spiritual and I know that that higher power has brought us both through some tremendous struggles. This is where Lee and I have never ever disagreed and though we are two entirely different personalities, it is in spirituality that our heart and mind connect 

After 6 years, how do you keep the fires burning? What role does sensuality play in your relationship? Sandra: Well, right now the fires are more like smoldering embers. I think it has a lot to do with hormonal changes -- peri-menopause and actual menopause. There are also a side of life’s stressors thrown in - job changes, moving several times, health issues, and various family crises. Sex begins on a mental level and with all we have to deal with on a daily basis, well…But I will say that for me intimacy is just as important if not more, than sex. Lee and I have that in spades. We have intimate rituals like dancing in any room of the house at any moment….sometimes in the morning between our second cups of coffee. Or, when we’re in separate rooms writing or watching TV and Lee calls, “Honey! When are you coming to bed so we can watch a movie” lol! Yes. A movie…. not sex. But we are together sharing a movie experience, with a lot of handholding, fondling and tender kisses. Though she and I used to swing from the chandeliers, (can I say that) I love that we have intimacy on a regular basis.  But now that we have settled in GA and our minds have quieted a bit I think the glowing embers will ignite again.

Lenore: It’s been very difficult to say the least. Our fire has been out for over a year now and we are determined to ignite again! We decided we would date one another again, spend as much time together and learn through intimate moments what turns us on and fan the fire again. Sensuality plays a major role in our relationship. We are both very sexual beings and sex has been dead for way too long so that is a priority for us in 2015. We do hug, kiss, hold hands, and dance at home quite often.  There have been so much grief and loss challenges as of late, then the move to the South, the culture shock, career challenges, and financial challenges; we have been holding on through the grace of God. We love one another deeply and we want the relationship to endure.

Every relationship develops “Relationship Rules” that support your union. What are your spoken and unspoken rules? And how did those rules form?  Lenore: We must be faithful! I broke our trust by cheating early in the relationship and I promised I would be faithful for the duration of our marriage. Rules……Develop trust, effective communications, no violence ever, no cheating, must respect one another, allow each to have their space, be fully responsible for our financial decisions, and put each other first. These rules were formed over the years as we developed our relationship and realized over time that these particular rules needed to be adhered to.
Our relationship has been a work in progress, Sandra is an extrovert and I’m an introvert, Sandra has excellent communication skills and I prefer to quietly go along to get along.  Sandra: I would say love, loyalty and respect.

Every relationship challenges us in different ways. What did you have to learn and un-learn to love her fully? Sandra: I had to learn how to deal with someone in recovery for the most part and how to keep loving no matter what. Lee does not like to appear vulnerable which to me part of being open to being loved is. I am very intuitive and observant so I knew this from the beginning and accepted her with all of her idiosyncrasies and foibles. I dare say that it took her quite a bit longer to accept mine.

Lenore: I am learning not to run, to remain open minded, to resist shutting down, to be clear with the ladies that I am married and fully committed to my spouse, to communicate more, to take risk with intimacy, and share my feelings more often. Sandra is very passionate and speaks her mind, no holds barred. I am cautious, calculating, and slow to demonstrate vulnerability. Sandra has been very patient with me and I’ve developed tougher skin with regards to Sandra’s words.

What has your relationship taught you most about yourself?  And her? Lenore:  I realize I am a wounded soul who has slowly picked up the pieces and is becoming a whole person again. I am a very loving, caring, nurturing, giving, and a selfless individual who just needs to let go of my fear of being hurt. Sandra is the same way I am, except she is not afraid of being vulnerable with me and will not give up her fight to win all the love I have to give. Sandra: I think it’s taught us both how “to accept” and that there are different ways of loving for different people

What one word most captures her essence and your love? Sandra: Mutual admiration. Oh…sorry that was two words right? Ok then…strength. Lenore: Passionate! Sandra is fiercely passionate, a warrior, and a fantastic artist. My love is DEEP

What will be your legacy as a couple? Sandra: Hmm…I believe we’re still working on that. Stay tuned. Lenore: Our legacy as a couple will be that we endured the lowest valley of grief and loss; re-committed ourselves in a loving committed relationship, and co-owned a successful not-for-profit community-based business dedicated to Sandra’s mother!

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

 Create Love Founders

Imani Evans and SharRon Jamison

 Don’t forget to register for the Journey to Wellness Retreat. September will be soon!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

We're JUST Najah Rodgers

Honoring the “We’re Just Dating Stage”
“An often heard truism is that it takes at least seven months for the representative to leave the room and for the real person to show up.” Many of us have found this to be true. If we have been unlucky in love we can pull out a cache of dating experiences, an arsenal of hindsight, and reveal the keloids from heartbreak shrapnel. For some, past relationships can range from Nightmare on Elm Street horror and trauma to the less dramatic and less taxing, “round peg in square hole” or “we just weren’t a good fit.” No matter the previous levels of discomfort, we can still file the relationships or stunted dating experiences into investments that did not yield a life partner. How long did it take for us to see the representative leave the room? Many of us proceeded forward anyway because we had already invested too much to walk away. Too much what of what? Perhaps too much time, money, hope, optimism often by way of denial, to walk away. How could we have preserved ourselves and our sanity if we stayed just dating longer before proclaiming we were in a relationship?
The Seven Month Facade

Are seven months, or if we are going to be honest, much less than 7 months truly enough time to find out what you need to know in order to move into a commitment with someone? Depending on the weight in which we regard our relationships, there is significantly a much greater level of commitment and investment associated with relationships of those seeking something long-term as compared to just dating. This transition from “we’re just dating” to “we are in a relationship” is usually marked with some level of formality, and with good reason. Thinking back to when we were 9, we remember the little folded piece of paper asking, “will you go with me? (check the box) YES or NO” In high school it was symbolized by wearing our amore’s letterman jacket so that not only did we know we belonged to each other, but the whole world (or at least our peers within the high school walls) knew as well. As women loving women, all too often, blurred lines remove the formal transitions from dating to relationship to marriage. Not only are the lines blurred, but the speed in which we move through each stage seems stereotypically fast with us. There is this rush towards the sense of shelter, security and propriety of a relationship and towards the greater destination of marriage of some sort. Often, our desire to reach the end goal is despite the benefits of each step of the journey and the possibility that the journey is not meant to be taken with our most recent dating partner.

If seven months is the magic number for the intentional or unintentional fa├žade to fall, then anything less than seven months of dating is still the precursor to deeper levels of the getting to know you phase; a phase in which no major commitments are required. Would our greater comfort levels with extended times of the just dating phase allow us to avoid the all too familiar, “one second she was this and then all of the sudden she became that!” “That,” being the exact opposite of who we thought she was-like day and night. One second she was so giving and sweet and less than a year later, she was sucking me dry.” “At first she seemed so loyal and all about me and less than a year later, she was sniffing the air every time another woman walked by.” “Low and behold, she was a go-getter, working and going to school, but the moment we moved in together, she said she needed a break from work and I never saw her crack open a book or write a paper for class! Of course, I had to foot all of the bills during her break.”

The flipside of people putting their best face forward and hiding their flaws are those who just put it all out there because they choose to keep it real. They say, “I lay my issues on the line and I am completely transparent from day one!” Those individuals should be applauded for their candidness, however, the cerebral understanding of the issues being relayed by mouth is incomparable to the shared experience of those issues-when we are actually walking through the fire, so to speak. “She told me she had anger issues but I never thought that would translate into her laying her hands on me.” “She told me she liked the finer things and to be spoiled by her mate. I never imagined that would be the sole depth of our relationship.” “She said her family had issues but that she was down for them no matter what. How was I to know her family and their issues would be affecting our lives, our bank accounts, and our personal space on a daily basis?”

Visualizations vs. Delusions

So often many of us are deluded by the temporary high that newness provides. We are hopeful
and expectant. We have spent copious amounts of time creating images in our mind’s eye for whatwe want and deserve. We’ve envisioned this ideal just so, then she comes along. Immediately, insertnew woman into the picture in our minds, overlooking the obvious mismatches and ill-fits. If the new woman possesses even just a few of the qualities and characteristics that we have envisioned that the right woman for us would have, then she must be the one. Hopefulness in this instance, distorts our perceptions. Additionally, many of us are also affected by deep levels of loneliness which can also refract our view of things when an opportunity to end the loneliness arises due to a new dating interest. Whether it be hopefulness or loneliness, both states of being can have a very real effect on our ability to judge a situation with equal levels of openness and objectivity.

In our desire or active search for mates, when we find ourselves with the potential for the relationship that we desire we jump on it, throw ourselves into it, prepare to fall in love donning our rose colored glasses. Rose colored glasses that all too soon crack a lens. Once we’ve gotten the first case of the butterflies we want more and more, like our favorite dish. Attempting to resist the urge for gluttony, but those cravings for togetherness have us moving full steam ahead, giving away so much of ourselves and often without reservations. We believe the best in people and often times our wanting and beliefs match stories that we are fed by our new interest. We simply see what we want to see because we want to. So we proceed, fast in, fast out to find ourselves right back to where we started-with another notch in our belt, another line spoken of “how did I get here,” rubbing our temples, breathing sighs of relief, or lamenting the demise of yet another experience.

Insanity is…Well, You Ought to Know by Now

Quantitatively speaking, at some point deductive reasoning kicks in and that’s when things start looking up for our relationship forecasts. A combination of weariness from hitting brick walls, investments yielding poor kickbacks, broken hearts, public embarrassment, and many other displeasing outcomes of the “rush to relationship” take their tolls. It becomes almost foolish for a woman with much experience to continue to point the finger. We have to decide to change how we do things and how we present our hearts, even those of us who are practitioners of vulnerability and wear our hearts on our sleeves exercise responsibility for ourselves in new ways. We will not be taken, nor will we give everything away. We begin to sound like this “…what I do have is a very particular set of skills. Skills that I have acquired over a long period of time.” The allure of the love drug loses its appeal, the intoxication of a million fluttering butterflies is no longer worth the risk of extending so much of ourselves too soon. It becomes time that we start using not only our hearts, but our heads as well, by reconsidering the significance and benefits of just dating and by utilizing this period for all that it is worth.

With all of this experience under our belts, we begin to get smart about it. Moving on not just with more clarity on who we don’t want and what characteristics we do want in the next one, but with lessons learned about ourselves. Lessons about areas of our own needed growth that we can focus on to make us better partners for our future Loves. Hopefully, we’ve gained more usable information on our comfort zones and how far we are willing to step outside of them. Are we willing to date women with young children again or have we decided that we unapologetically prefer not to? Are will willing to be honest with the next woman about our previous struggles with anger, or drug use, or overspending, overeating and what level of therapy and corrective actions we are in the process of applying? Are we going to be willing to expose ourselves to the type of woman who is able to see us and challenge us? Are we willing to date a woman who will call us out on areas that we may need to improve upon or are we going to remain guarded and living on the surface for fear of discomfort? Do we hide the truth because we are afraid that the next one will use the information against us? Are we willing to date someone who makes minimum wage, who is differently abled, who does not have a college degree, who does not make six figures? Are we willing to communicate in a way that encourages growth, healing and health or are we going to cut the tree down at the base with our tongues the first time we perceive our new love interest to have hurt us?

Becoming Comfortable with the Unknown

If we decide to step outside of our comfort zones for whatever reason, time needs to be allotted for adjustment. Getting it right with the new one is the goal. For many of us, a life partner is our intended destination. With the newness comes a level of zeal. The excitement of a true connection is on the horizon. However, those of us with enough experience, also carry the inverse of zeal; weariness. How many times have we heard, “At my age,” “I been through too much to deal with _______ (fill in the blank),” “After all I’ve been through, I wonder if there is even someone out there for me?” At some point we may have even asked God, our mother, our friends, or even an ex, “what is wrong with me? Why can’t I seem to find my mate?” But, then comes spring-another chance to do it all over again. Here she comes, and with her comes a new opportunity to utilize our experience. Let us not waste it with the insanity of doing the same exact things in the same exact ways again.

As we move forward with our new interest, we understand that she is just that-an interest and not a guarantee. She is a hope and a possibility. She may be worth the world, but she is not worth everything we have right away. Prudence and preservation are key. We know what we are willing and not willing to deal with. We take our expressions of love slower because we want to make sure that we even like her seven months from now. Our professions of togetherness can be placed on hold because the pressure of togetherness is much too heavy a weight to bear and unfair to the youth of our dating experience. Nor are our public proclamations of togetherness necessary right away, no matter how many times we are seen out together and encouraged by well-meaning onlookers who want us to have somebody.
Four Seasons
The goal is not to have someone on our arms just for show, but to experience the adjustments, bargains, explorations, negotiations and growth together, in private, as we have the right to non-disclosure at any stage of our interactions. We move slower because not only are we being responsible, but we are being reasonable. Holding each other at enough high regard to allow time for patience and practice to see if we can create our own personal recipe for a satisfying future relationship. In our new experience we allot more time to explore how well we work together or not. This is the necessary work of the dating stage in which our only investment is to be fully present to engage with each other and consider if we are able to negotiate life and togetherness in ways that are healthy, healing, and harmonious for our spirits. This applies for those of us seeking a fulfilling long-term union.

Just dating is an amazing stage if we are prepared with the wealth gained from previous experience and introspection. It’s a special and necessary period that should not be rushed through with the goal in mind to be in a relationship. To rush through the process would be like licking the icing off of cake batter. What a relief to know that in dating there are no guarantees, no pressure and all that is required is to honor ourselves and each other’s unique experiences while navigating the possibilities or deciding after considerable review and discussion that it’s best to go our separate ways. Whether we wait seven months to see if we can deal with the real or we just date for at least four seasons before we graduate to the stage of a relationship, being in the present each day and giving our best is the investment and the pay-off.

By Najah Rodgers