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How These High School Sweethearts Became Lifelong Partners

"Sometimes a closed door leads to a beautiful beginning."

How We Met

This article is in partnership with Hallmark Channel's Countdown to Christmas.

As we move into the year of 2021, it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas… and a time for some self-reflection. We think about our professional accomplishments, how we have personally grown over time, and even the evolution of our love stories. Whether it was the one that got away, the unexpected soulmate, or even the successful self-love story that took root from heartache. We have all experienced these kinds of moments and it is inevitable to think of "what if" and how our lives would be different. If you have been feeling more reflective lately, what you are about to read next will definitely spark your interest. As a part of Hallmark Channel's Countdown to Christmas, the forthcoming film, Christmas Comes Twice, is all about a time for reflection and learning about the possibilities of how a love story could be.

Christmas Comes Twicepremieres this Sunday, December 13 at 8pm/7c. The film stars Tamera Mowry-Housley playing the lead role as Cheryl Jenkins and Michael Xavier playing her love interest, George. Cheryl (Mowry-Housley) is an astrophysicist who has achieved her career dreams but finds herself wishing she made different choices. When the Christmas carnival comes to town, a ride around the carousel takes her magically back in time to the carnival five years earlier, giving her a second chance at a life she didn't know she needed before she must return to Christmas present. Though she didnt' expect to fall for her then-"frenemy" George (Xavier), she finds herself falling for him and finding an unexpected love in the process. We are all the culmination of our choices. This film gives you the chance to travel back in time and answers that "what if" question I mentioned earlier.

I am sure that the "what if" question has popped up for this couple during this holiday season. xoNecole's Social Media Manager, Ashleigh Hardin-Jones, and her partner Adrian Goodman have been staying strong and supportive of one another throughout their 13-year relationship. These high school sweethearts didn't start off with the typical boy meets girl meet-cute, but you could only imagine if things did not happen the way they did, how things would be different for them.

In this installment of xoNecole's How We Met, we were able to talk with our social media manger and her accounting specialist partner on how their love story started and how they have grown more in love with each other over time.

How They Met

Adrian: The courtship happened by accidental purpose. A situation with Ashleigh and another guy, who we both had a class with, went sour. I was asked by the guy to figure out why since me and Ashleigh had classes together. At this time, I had known for a couple years that I liked Ashleigh but she was not interested in me. Even though I felt how I felt, I put my feelings aside to do what was asked of me. We would talk about the situation during school as I played messenger back and forth. Until one day, she gave me her number and told me to call her after school. I called that same day and during our first conversation, it switched from the task at hand to friends talking, then rapidly progressed from every conversation after that point. I think we both mutually initiated and agreed on how our relationship would progress.

Ashleigh: Like Adrian said, it was an accident that I never saw happening. I thank the guy who pissed me off though because there's no way we would be at this point without that situation going wrong. Sometimes a closed door leads to a beautiful beginning.

Courtesy of Ashleigh & Adrian

Making It Official

Ashleigh: My attraction to Adrian developed over the course of a month. So I actually wasn't sure right away. I knew I liked him and I knew we had so much in common. But I was still undecided. But there was an incident where my ex called him cursing him out and telling him things about me that were untrue and I just remember being so scared that he would never talk to me again. I was in tears. That was the moment I knew I really wanted to be with him.

Adrian: After getting to know her better, it was a no-brainer for me to commit to a relationship. We have a lot in common and it made the decision easier. This happened during our 12th grade year in high school.

The "L" Word

Ashleigh: We got into an argument our freshman year of college that caused him to storm out of my dorm room. He was pissed! He's such a nice quiet guy that it's rare to see him really angry like that (I've only seen it two other times in the 13 years I've known him). I sat on my bed contemplating whether or not I cared and out of nowhere I started having what I now know is a panic attack and I burst into tears. I hopped up and ran down five flights of stairs, and out of my dorm building down the street to a bus stop where he was waiting on the bus. I was out of breath and was telling him I was so sorry. After we hugged it out and he apologized too, we realized I had no shoes on. That was love because running outside with no shoes is a no for me.

Adrian: It was this unexplainable feeling that I had never felt before. I was always thinking about her and considering how everything I did may impact her.

"It was this unexplainable feeling that I had never felt before. I was always thinking about her and considering how everything I did may impact her."

Love Lessons

Ashleigh: I've learned how to be self-less. This journey with him has taught me that love does not come with conditions. You have to be willing to compromise, not only for the sake of the other person but for the success of the relationship as a whole. I have also learned that while receiving compliments from your partner is extremely important, the greatest compliment comes from yourself. I spent so much time growing up looking for other people, specifically men, to fill my cup but loving him has taught me that if I don't fill my own cup first — it will always be half-empty.

Adrian: I learned that the way you love is not a one size fits all but more of a unique tailored experience. I had to learn to let go of things that may have worked for my parents that may not work for us and also sometimes to do more than my parents may or may not have done. It's OK to treat yourself and not feel guilty about it. I used to think once we became one that we had to do everything together. It's OK for each of us to have time to ourselves or our own hobbies.

"This journey with him has taught me that love does not come with conditions. You have to be willing to compromise, not only for the sake of the other person but for the success of the relationship as a whole. I spent so much time growing up looking for other people, specifically men, to fill my cup but loving him has taught me that if I don't fill my own cup first — it will always be half-empty."

Love Challenges

Ashleigh: Together, I believe our biggest challenge is overcoming my infidelity. It happened years ago but it still lingers because I broke the trust he had in me. Trying to win back trust is one of the hardest things because it's not an easy fix, there's no guidebook or tips on how to make someone feel secure — so you have to have patience and hope that they will trust you to not break their heart again.

Adrian: My biggest challenge independently is being more emotionally present and available. It has been the hardest thing since I have been programmed for years to not show any emotions. The biggest challenge together has been both having a child a little over a year into our relationship and infidelity not on my part. Having a child that early was not in our plan but we both managed to graduate from college. The infidelity piece is still hard for me because I do not feel that the problems we were having in our relationship at that time warranted this response. I wouldn't have taken this route. I do understand it's not for me to decide how someone will react in certain situations and that is why it has been challenging. We are in a better place and working towards a common goal.

Baggage Claim

Ashleigh: I had a lot of baggage from my past. In the beginning, I spent a lot of time blaming him because of my trauma. I realized that he wasn't my ex and I was being unfair by assuming that all men are the same. My weakness coming into this relationship was bad financial habits. My parents talked about finances but not the bad side of it when it came to bills and debt so I wasn't as knowledgeable as he was. He's truly helped me become less of a spender and more of a saver. As young parents, we struggled financially which helped me realize the difference between wants and needs.

Adrian: I didn't really have any baggage so I had to understand sometimes I triggered things from her past unintentionally. We would have conversations and talk through any baggage issues. One thing I had to unlearn is enough is enough. There is never enough and I can always do more.

Courtesy of Ashleigh & Adrian

"One thing I had to unlearn is enough is enough. There is never enough and I can always do more."

The Sweetest Thing

Ashleigh: I believe our views on family and tradition are in sync. We both have the same ideas when it comes to what those are and what we want them to be. I also love how honest and loyal he is. It's extremely difficult to find a man who will always tell you the truth and stay committed to just you. Adrian's my needle in a haystack.

Adrian: We both value and respect each other's opinions and supporting each other professionally. I love how considerate she is.

Christmas Cheer

Ashleigh: I love decorating Christmas trees and a few years ago we started going to Christmas tree farms to cut our own. I always look forward to it.

Adrian: I really enjoy our new tradition of selecting and cutting down our Christmas tree.

'Tis The Season

Ashleigh: Favorite gift I've received so far from him has been this Caroline Herrera perfume I wanted. I collect perfumes and I'd been eyeing it for a while so I was super excited to receive it. My greatest gift I've given is buying him tickets to the Atlanta Falcons game. He's a ride or die fan so I surprised him a couple of years ago with tickets and a jacket. He was shocked.

Adrian: My favorite gift that I have given has to be a Viktor Rolf Flowerbomb gift set and some Victoria Secret items (I drove all the way to Orlando, FL to get to Savannah, GA from Tallahassee, FL). My favorite gift that I have received was a surprise trip to an Atlanta Falcons game in Atlanta and luckily the Falcons won that day so it made it that much more special.

Follow Ashleigh on Instagram @musiq.leigh.

Don't forget to watch the premiere of Christmas Comes Twice on Hallmark Channel this Sunday 12/13 at 8pm/7c!

Featured image courtesy of Ashleigh and Adrian

Jamie Foxx and his daughter Corinne Foxx are one of Hollywood’s best father-daughter duos. They’ve teamed up together on several projects including Foxx’s game show Beat Shazam where they both serve as executive producers and often frequent red carpets together. Corinne even followed in her father’s footsteps by taking his professional last name and venturing into acting starring in 47 Meters Down: Uncaged and Live in Front of a Studio Audience: All in the Family and Good Times as Thelma.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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Featured image by Getty Images

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