Kevin and Melissa Fredericks
Having been raised in a religious, two-parent home, Melissa always looked to her parents as the blueprint. Their 35-year marriage was where she looked to for direction, but all of that changed when her parents divorced. She had to rediscover herself in her own marriage, and without the foundation, she’d always known. How do you learn from others and admire what they’ve accomplished without striving to emulate so deeply?
“I’m the oldest in my family, so I could see this 180 that happened in my parents’ relationship. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, this is great! Marriage, we can do this no big deal!’ And then it was like ‘Oh but wait. Life happens, and people get divorced.’ And it made me question; literally, the question that came into my mind was, ‘What makes me think I’m exempt?'”
Elisha and Michael Beach
One of the biggest “I’m sorry, say what now” moments of this season was learning about Elisha and Michael’s unique blended family and that Michael’s ex-wife lives and co-parents with them. One of the hardest and simplest things at the core of many of these couples’ stories is that what works for you doesn’t have to work for anybody else.
“If you’d asked me that ten years ago or even 15 years ago, I would’ve been like nah. But it runs so smoothly. It’s crazy.” – “It kind of fell into place, and it just works for all of us.”
Deondray and Quincy Gossfield
I learned what romantic love was by seeing and studying heteronormative relationships. How they begin and how they can sustain. My reality, however, is different. As a man who would be building a same-sex marriage, trying to follow the blueprint of (rather than learn from) a heterosexual couple just wouldn’t work. Quincy and Deondray’s stories were so centered on the belief that if the blueprints don’t work for you, then create your own.
“You grow up with an image of at least the guidelines of how a woman and a man are supposed to treat each other. How you’re supposed to love and respect each other even though in straight relationships we watch the drama too. But as two gay guys, you don’t have that, so you’re making it up as you go.”
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Salli Richardson and Dondré Whitfield
When you seek a partnership that you want to last for 50 or 60 years, you think hard about who you want that person to be today. How you feel about them right now and what it takes at this moment for you all to start building something incredible. But that doesn’t take into account who that person might be five or even ten years from now. Dondré and Salli shared many stories about their relationship. It was evident their partnership was built on communication and mutual respect. This was the most powerful lesson I learned in their journey.
“So I gotta figure if we’re constantly changing, then I am not in a relationship with the same person. So I have to figure out who this is now and get into a relationship with that person. And that’s where most people get into trouble because they’re like, ‘you changed!’ – Well, yes, of course! I’m supposed to!”
David and Julie Arnold
Something that worries me about my generation is our willingness (or lack of) to work through challenges when things aren’t perfect. In a world where I’ve learned to interpret “live your best life” as “move away from anything that doesn’t come naturally,” how do you get through the tough times? I hope that I’ll get through with humor like David and Julie. The gritty honesty that they can keep between each other through humor amazes me. By acknowledging that things are hard, but that hard is not impossible and doesn’t always mean wrong.
David: “What?! Was there a time we thought we weren’t going to make it?”
Julie: “That was five minutes ago for me.”
David: “I left her twice yesterday! Come on!”
Kandi Burruss and Todd Tucker
The way Todd not only acknowledges but also balances Kandi’s creative way of thinking with his analytical mind is inspiring. As a creative myself, it reminds me to never settle for someone who’ll tolerate those parts of you when you can have someone who is in constant awe of those parts of you.
Kandi: “He helps me figure it out even when the impossible seems impossible to most, we figure it out. I think it’s a perfect opposite.”
Todd: “Like you’re the creative, and I’m the corporate structure.”
Monet and Clarence Daniels
It’s usually the marriages like Monet and Clarence that I admire most for their longevity and wonder how they’ve held it together for so long. There was a time when Monet came into her own and Clarence had to decide if he could embrace the changing dynamics of their relationship. In the practice of nurturing and growing your own unique relationship, one person’s transformation doesn’t have to be the dissolution of a marriage.
“I felt like Clarence has this controlling nature. So here I am being forced to move to this strange city. I started a new life, and I just felt I personally was being lost in that. The separation was not so much about the marriage. For me, it was about struggling to survive like I needed to find my identity. I just felt I was kind of suffocating. It was his world, and I was losing me and my world, so I just needed to find myself.”