“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.

 

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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

Coming Next Week! Weekly Audits.

Hey there,

How often do you check in with your partner and yourself? When is the last time you both sat down and asked yourselves “are we happy?” A couple that’s cohesively existing together, under one roof and in a good place with their relationship would say they are happy.

Now don’t go looking for problems in every nook and cranny of your relationships! All I’m saying is that it’s important to talk about your relationship with the person you call your other half. Couples fear asking the hard questions because they’d have to be honest with themselves. It’s amazing how grown people freeze in the face truth.

“What makes you most happy about our relationship (or marriage)?”

“Are you okay? Honestly, how have you been?”

“What’s something we need to work on as a couple?”

These conversations don’t have to be hard at all. Put on some music to set the vibe, mix a couple cocktails, and chat about your relationship. This person is supposed to be your best friend, you know… And this should be fun! Think of it as free weekly therapy sessions.

If you’re a couple in a more turbulent relationship or going through a tough time, I suggest you face the issue(s) head on. Trying to dodge and avoid what needs to be faced will only cause your mental health harm. Get everything on the table, hash it out, and make a plan for improvement.

Starting next week, Gays in the Life will post weekly audits. These audits will consist of questions and thought provoking activities – to be done with your partners – that will inspire conversation about your relationships with one another.

Answering the questions together, listening and processing every word shared, will encourage openness. These audits only work if you’re honest and open with yourself, your partner, and your relationship.

I can’t wait to get this going!

Cheers,

 

Pizza for Two

S and I didn’t put much thought into Valentine’s Day this year. In the past, we’ve gone out and stayed in, so knowing which direction plans for this day can go each year is always a wildcard.

“Do you think our Valentine’s Day plans are boring?” He asks just nervous enough, but still hungry for my response. “Not really. I like our plans. We’ve both had so much going on at work, so a chill night in sounds perfect to me.” His tone is relaxed now. “I just haven’t really thought about it.” Nor had I.

The truth is we had talked about our plans for Valentine’s Day. A couple weeks back we decided that we’d have a quiet night in – cooking low-carb pizza and having some champagne. We try not to drink during the week, so the fact that this day happened to fall on a Wednesday made it a treat in itself.

We settled on a simple bacon and cheese pizza. The crust consisted of cream cheese, egg, mozzarella cheese, almond flour, and we topped it with a low-sugar pizza sauce. We typically do pepperoni and sausage pizza, but we forgot to put pepperoni on the grocery list. Whoops! Not that this should be considered creative at all, but we decided on bacon when we realized our mistake. There’s always bacon around here though.

 

Pizza 2

 

I tend to be a big cheeseball, so you could argue that I would expect a surge in romance on this day. Maybe it’s because we’ve been together for going on seven years, maybe it’s because we’re both thirty-one years old now, but this day is hardly considered romantic or important to us. I’ve written about this previously – check out that post here – but what about the other 364 days of the year?! If you’re going to be cute, warm and fuzzy, just surprise me with your heart.

We had some good pizza, crispy champagne, and each other… we’re full.

Level With Me

Maybe it’s because I had a long day, but I’m not in the most positive of spirits. I get in these ruts where everything seems to stack and stack and stack up to catastrophic heights, all while floating through the day as if all is well. The stacks never fall.

Deep down I need a change. I know a large part of that is professionally speaking. I don’t like that work energy is so easily brought home. I care too much (most of the time) to fully disengage my brain from the 8am-8pm coverage windows I have to monitor.

I get this from my mother – I am most certain of this fact. We are doers, you see. Helping anyone who needs it and bending over backwards if need be. But what happens when we need a break? Does anyone notice? The answer to that question seems to be a blatant “no” at the moment.

My kitchen confronts me daily with dishes I’ve left undone from the previous night; sometimes two nights. Nothing major but enough to make my skin crawl with annoyance.

I love my dog, but there are times I wish I wasn’t so hands-on with him. He’s my shadow and comes to me for everything – even if S is doing absolutely nothing. It can be overwhelming at times. Just call me super mom.

I was taking my sister and nephew home tonight when I had a concealed panic attack behind the wheel. Driving is something I absolutely hate and I’m not really sure why. I’d just missed our exit and I was surrounded by assholes and semi-trucks.

I don’t think she noticed but I immediately went into a breathing exercise for relaxation and mindfulness. To distract myself, I had to focus on my breathing and veer away from questions about her day. We could catch up later. My only focus was getting the two of them home safely so I could scream in my car and turn the music WAY up.

I feel as though being nice is turning me into an asshole. Does that make sense? I reach a point of “no more” in multiple areas of my life and a shift happens almost too easily for me… and not for the better. I suppose my team could use a more strict environment, but I don’t have go full vicious on anyone.

(This is the part where I read you the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.)

I got home safe after battling the bright lights and over-sized trucks of the interstate. I could finally sit down, vent and release the weight of the day, and make sure my attitude wasn’t crashing into anyone’s world but mine.

Cleaning always helps me chill the fuck out. S has a holiday party tomorrow – spouses aren’t invited – so that’ll be a good chance to reel in my crazy. I also have a feeling that tomorrow’s morning workout will be a great one…

I’m going to sleep now. Goodnight, everyone.

A Cabin for 2 and a Pup

It was so great to get away,  disconnect, and recharge in Brown County this weekend. Never underestimate the power of a quiet weekend in the woods – with limited connectivity – to put some zing back into your zen. The weather didn’t feel like fall at all, but that’s okay… We’ll keep our soup recipes and sweaters handy for a future fall cabin adventure.