5 Married Years Later

Today is S and I’s fifth marriage anniversary. This question is beyond cliche to ask in a post like this, but, where did the time go? Five years isn’t a long time at all, and so far our history together has felt like a whirlwind and a lifetime all at once.

Let’s see, we started dating Summer of 2011, moved in together Summer of 2013, got engaged, bought a condo, got a puppy, got married in 2014, I completed my degree at Indiana University, we’ve both been on massive career journeys, and during all of this have had a lovely niece and two nephews join our family.

Life is going to life, and it did just that. We’ve faced our ups and downs and have managed to navigate darker days with the grace of a Swan Lake prima ballerina. Our relationship has been an easy one for the most part, yes, but that’s not to say we haven’t had our bumps in the road.

At times my content can slow down because I’ve been busy, sure, but it’s also because I may not feel like I have anything to share. I love seeing happy couples post on Instagram and in other corners of the internet, but I have to wonder, how many of them are actually happy? Are they posting all this lovey-dovey bullshit just for the gram to grab a like or two? I’m so not into that.

I love love, but love is hard. If what I’m seeing from happy couples online is their truth, then great! That’s amazing. I try to be honest with my readers and followers, and I connect more with those I follow who share this sentiment.

 

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(Us on New Years Eve 2011, a few months into dating)

 

S and I have been married for five years, but come October, we will be together a total of eight years. I’ve written about what we’ve learned in our relationship a number of times on Gays in the Life, but one major lesson sticks out to us in this moment:

Honesty. You have to be honest with yourself, and with yourselves as a unit. If you’re not, you will fail.

I’ll leave all my lovers out there with this tip. Seriously, take this with you moving forward; it’ll change the game:

Check in with each other! Check in on each other’s personal goals, any issues you both may be working through, mental health, happiness, and darkness. Over the years we’ve learned not to take reactions or things said personally because you never know what someone is going through.  If you’re able to level with yourself in honesty, you’ll be able to help your relationship stay just as honest and strong.

Happy Anniversary, S! I love you so much, and thank you for being a constant source of strength and inspiration for me. 

XXOO,

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Seeing Red

When frustration strikes, she doesn’t hold back. Every couple has their expectations when it comes to their partnerships, but what happens when wires become crossed? Is that pile of laundry still stacked in the corner forming fresh wrinkles with every hour that passes? Do you find yourself having the same conversations about relationship items that need improvement? Whatever it may be, those are just two examples that rest at opposite ends of the frustration reasons spectrum. Here are some tips to help keep frustration at bay and your partnership healthy:

Time – Give the scenario a moment. We don’t have to collect all the answers and solve the problem right this second. Most of the time, an issue or touchy subject needs time to breathe. If you’re having a tiny disagreement, try waiting twenty minutes or so before approaching the topic again. Not only will this give you both a second to recapture some zen, but you’ll also adjust your approach when you reconnect.

If the problem is heavier or in the danger zone, do your best to allow necessary space in between communication or problem solving. It’s easy to jump the gun and rage if frustration is boiling over and you haven’t had an adequate resting period. Maintain the cool so productive conversation has the chance to breathe and flourish.

 

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Space – Walk away if the need arises. We all watch reality television, and know that circular discussion or yelling won’t fix anything. Do yourselves a favor and press pause. Go to different rooms – or for a drive or a walk – to allow the minds a recollection period. You’ll thank yourselves later when you notice the progress made in the resolution. The trick is safely processing the problem with yourself, and allowing your partner the same. Take care of number one so you can take care of others.

Communicate – We say this all the time on Gays in the Life. You have to communicate clearly and safely. You want to be honest with yourself and your partner. Share your true feelings and why you have them in the first place. This is not an attack. Communicate this and remember to listen.

When tension is high, or you’re at your last wits end, things can go left at an accelerated rate. Save yourselves the drama and don’t even go there. You’re adults. Listen to each other, be honest, and respectful. This gets easier with practice. So do your best and be kind to yourselves with this one. Communication pros aren’t manifested overnight.

 

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Special note: These tips apply to email and texting scenarios as well. Reading text is particularly tricky when dealing with frustration in relationships and marriage. You’re already on edge if a resolution hasn’t been met, so the brain will immediately highlight each word in red. To avoid constricting progress, read the text or email a few times and process the communication. From there you can decide to respond or wait a bit before following up. Use your best judgement and be open.

Remember these few tools the next time you find yourself furiously responding to a text, dishing out silent treatment, or screaming like a psycho at your partners. Teamwork makes the dream work!

Happy loving.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers! Single? Taken? Don’t give an EFF about today? Who cares! In our opinion, every day should be treated like Valentine’s Day – whatever this day means to you. Check out an older post of mine The Other 364 for more on that topic.

If you are single and are feeling bummed about not having a significant other, please be kind to yourself today. This Hallmark-generated holiday shouldn’t be solely about celebrating your romantic relationships, so tend to your other relationships and people that are currently in your life.  

Grab dinner with the girls. Enjoy a guys night or some bro time. Go see a movie or schedule a movie marathon for the weekend. Let’s be real here – we can’t be having slumber parties on a Thursday night. We are grown-ass working adults. If for some reason you can have mid-week slumber parties, I’m jealous.

What do S and I have planned you ask? We’ll be making some low-carb calzones and enjoying red wine berry spritzers! I’m actually pretty excited about it. We’ve been better about getting out and exploring romantic spots of Indianapolis, but a night in is always the height of excellence for us.

Enjoy the day, everyone!

J

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“Why we Broke up”

The ebbs and flows of life can be such a whirlwind at times. Adventure and massive success in relationships, while exciting and inspiring, can threaten the connection; the spark that started it all.

Mark and Ethan are a couple that has found huge success with both their YouTube channels. The energy that flows between the two of them is infectious and they shoot absolutely amazing content for their channels.

We’ve followed them on numerous explorations around the world, family visits to the lake house, and my personal favorite, a little town called Bloomington – Go Hoosiers!

I wanted to write a little note about one of Mark and Ethan’s more recent videos, “Why we Broke up.” The title alone shook me. I quaked, honey. These two can’t possibly be separating!

False alarm. There’d be no breakup, but the two did share why Ethan had recently moved into his own apartment, five minutes away from Mark in LA. Some words the two shared hit me like a speeding truck:

Ethan: “We need to re-evaluate how we’re doing individually, because everything was just so habitually together.”

Mark: “Something that you had said, and that will always stick with me is that ‘you want to appreciate my love.’ There are days that I don’t appreciate him, and I don’t want that to be a thing. I just don’t want that to happen.”

This couple has shared so many good times through their lenses and YouTube channels with us. What we as the viewers forget is that these are real people, in real relationships.

It’s amazing that these two have been able to build their platforms together, but what happens when your relationship and business blends too well? Mark and Ethan explained how they need to focus back in on how they’re doing individually, and what a word this is.

Ethan goes on to quote RuPaul.. “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Obviously, I don’t know these guys from Adam, but I get what they’re saying. You need time to focus on you; to take care of you. Without a strong sense of self-love in place, you won’t be able share that with the ones you love.  

I’ve talked before on Gays in the Life about making time for each other and not forgetting to take care of the relationship. A big part of that is taking care of number one so you can continue to be that support system for whoever it is on the receiving end of your love.

I want to thank Mark and Ethan for taking a moment to share these thoughts with us, and to remind us that relationships are work. The highs can be really high, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be low lows.

Put in the work, people! And don’t be afraid to face and enter the shadows – It’s the only way you’ll find that light in the end.

 

A Quick Getaway

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(Reynold and I in front of IU auditorium)

 

Sometimes you just have to get out of town. S and I decided weeks ago that we would take Friday off and spend a weekend in Bloomington. Bloomington, Indiana is the home of Indiana  University – Go Hoosiers! – and is where our story began. This makes it an easy place to visit if we need to escape the city and relive the college glory days, as it’s only and hour south of Indianapolis.

We decided that we  didn’t want to let too many know that we were in town. Reconnecting and refocusing our energies on each other, at times, can mean tuning everyone and everything out for a moment. This is not to alienate or disrespect those in the area, but to share valuable time with each other  and have a private adventure away from our cozy couch. We did stop by a good friend’s house to visit with her and her son, but we hadn’t seen her in ages! We had to say hello.

 

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The weekend was nice and simple. Before checking into the Hotel, we got to hangout with Reynold – our pup – at one of  our favorite Bloomington spots, Crazy Horse, and walk the B-Line trail. Later that evening we enjoyed dinner and drinks at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants and turned in after a couple more drinks at the hotel bar.

We spent the next day walking around campus with puppy, exploring shops, and recounting all the wild and crazy times we had as undergrads. I really got a kick out of walking all over the IU campus with our dog – it’s like I was taking my kid to orientation or something, haha, showing him the beauty and glory or IU’s campus. Saturday evening was a very enjoyable and relaxing time for the both of us. We’d planned to go out, but somehow, we never made it out the door 🙂

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Sidebar: Orientation is currently going on at IU. If you didn’t know, I was an IU orientation leader the summer of 2007 for the university and to this day say it was probably the best job I had. It was fun and exciting for me  to spend a summer greeting our new students and parents; getting them excited about the adventure they’d begun. I smiled every time I saw a group and spotted one or two orientation leader t-shirts in the middle of the crowd. Has it really been eleven years since I was in that t-shirt? Goodness.

The weekends are never long enough, but we appreciate any bit of time we can spend with each other. A quick weekend trip down the road is inexpensive and a fun way to experience the escape of a vacation without breaking the bank or taking too much time from work. Could we have used another day in Bloomington? We could ALWAYS use another day. Have any of you ever taken a little staycation with your significant other? Share your experience with us in the comments! We’d  love to hear 🙂

J

Weekly Audit 4: Face the Scary Stuff

Every couple goes through a rough patch at some point in a relationship. Maybe it isn’t a rough patch, but a period of discovery. What’s the topic on the table? Do you have something you’ve been meaning to ask your partner but just can’t? Why is that?

S and I have learned to communicate whenever possible if there’s conflict. Communication is still probably the most important key in a relationship, but just because you can talk doesn’t mean there isn’t any lingering darkness from time to time. Maybe you’re just in your head, right? Get to the bottom of whatever it is. 

Don’t get me wrong, every talk doesn’t have to be sitting around having therapy sessions every night, but it’s important to check in with each other. Go on a walk and chat. Explore a new bar; someplace vibey and romantic.

Not every conversation needs to be heavy, but addressing any hurt feelings, disagreements, and new territory in your relationship is of the utmost importance if it’s going to last. 

There’s always a slight feeling of, “ugh, I don’t want to talk about this yet…” but you have to get over it – come into the light! Face the scary stuff in your relationship. If love is present, the support and love of  your partner should help you through the conversation.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN! ANSWER THE QUESTION WITH YOUR PARTNER OR FRIENDS, AND SHARE YOUR RESPONSES IN THE COMMENTS. Ciao!

Weekly Audit 3: The L Word

How do you say I love you? Is it the way you look at each other or in the little isms in your day to day with each other? Think about this for a second. How important is it to you that you hear the words I love you, and if this does matter to you, how often?

S and I aren’t terribly expressive in person. We say I love you here and there – sprinkling the phrase throughout the week, but not necessarily each day – and this isn’t something that’s been an issue for us.

 

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(This picture was taken the night we first told each other we loved one another… Awe.)

I tend to show love with physical contact, while S translates the little things as me caring for him. For example: I’m not a big toucher… Family, friends, I won’t really hug you unless I haven’t seen you in quite some time. I’m the complete opposite when it comes to S. I’ll mess with his hair or sneak up on him in the kitchen; hugging him from behind. My favorite is holding a free hand while he’s driving or resting my hand on his leg.

S usually tries to bat me away as he’s got a different love language – acts of kindness. He stays pretty busy so I try to accomplish whatever I can in our home – chores, errands, taking care of our fur-child – before he even has to think about it. Whenever he has a moment to relax and decompress, I make sure he can enjoy it fully. 

Don’t get it twisted though… I usually save the hardwood floor cleaning for him 😉

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN! ANSWER THE QUESTION WITH YOUR PARTNER OR FRIENDS, AND SHARE YOUR RESPONSES IN THE COMMENTS. OFF YOU GO!

(If you haven’t already, I suggest you dive into finding out what your love language is… do that here.)

Weekly Audit 2: What Do You Love Most About Yourself?

This week’s audit question is… “What do you love most about yourself?” Let’s see.

Something I find most interesting in society are the amount of stories there are to be told. My story is what I love, as it’s produced countless gems that have morphed me into the individual l am today.

The writing’s on my wall are what keep me driven and what give me the capacity to learn from any hiccups life may conjure. Through all of the tough times I’ve experienced in life, I’ve learned to welcome failure.

You see, with each mistake comes a lesson learned; another gem.

I’ve had plenty a lesson in my thirty-one years in the land of the living. Those lessons, and the evolution that comes along with them, are what keep me on track.

 

Now it’s your turn! Answer the question with your partner or friends, and share your responses in the comments. Off you go!

Weekly Audit 1: What’re the Best Qualities You Bring to a Relationship?

The time has come to look in the mirror. What is it that makes you you? No relationship is the same, but there’s one thing I know to be true: That in order to have a successful relationship, you must first know yourself. The beautiful part about people and the relationships we experience, is that we’re constantly evolving; flourishing as individuals and elevating our relationships.

There’s probably not one person that has entered a relationship completely knowing themselves. And if they have? I’d dare to ask how many relationships they’d been in previously or what they learned from their last relationship. The point is that part of our evolution as couples is learning as we go; learning from mistakes and applying the changes as we work through it together.

Welcome to your first weekly audit with Gays in the Life! Now it’s time to focus on you for a second as I give you your first assignment. Here goes…

  • I’d like you to sit down with your husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend, and discuss the following topic: What are the best qualities you have to bring to a relationship?

If you happen to be single at the moment, feel free to gather some friends and discuss this amongst each other. I want us all to have fun with this. Please please please let me know how your first audit goes in the post comments or on the Facebook page. I’m always so delighted when I hear from you all.

Ready, go!

You didn’t think I was cutting out without sharing did you? Some of the best qualities I believe I have to offer in a relationship are:

Wisdom – I haven’t had as hard a life as most people in the world, but I’ve been through enough to be grateful for so much. My experience in life as a young, black, gay man has afforded me the ability to approach any bump in the relationship road with an open mind and clarity. I’ve had my fair share of questionable guys and have made terrible decisions in the past, but I’ve grown from each lesson. The ability to process issues and communicate clearly with S helps us thrive. S was not a communicator when we met, so I’m proud to say I’ve helped him morph in that way and I’ve learned much more about myself in the process.

Spice – I’m a spicy personality and there’s no getting around that. I present as a cool, zen queen that isn’t bothered by much. In relationships though, I tend to be the outspoken one and will keep you guessing. Bland has never been part of my brand, so don’t be surprised if one day my look suddenly changes, I want to go dancing, or you hear me schooling someone for something stupid they’ve just said. I love my couch and pajamas, but I love a good party and a bit of excitement too. Did I mention I’m contagious?

Strength – I stand firmly by those I love and think of myself as the foundation of the majority of my relationships. Whether it’s tough love, providing a sense of calm and support, or lifting you up when you’re down, people know they can count on me. In my marriage, I’m able to keep our foundation strong because I can go to my husband and check in; letting him know I’m there regardless of what. It’s the little things that have the biggest impact, people.

I hope you all enjoy your first assignment. Please feel free to share the assignments with friends and family, and let me know how it goes!

— J