In xoNecole's Our First Year series, we take an in-depth look at love and relationships between couples with an emphasis on what their first year of marriage was like.
Longtime loves Mychael and Rhonda met as college students at the University of Michigan, started dating in April 2007, and have been truly, madly, deeply in love ever since. Her first impression had everything to do with his height, as he towered over her at 6'7''. According to her, he had "the confidence and the swag to match." According to him, she was "the most beautiful person he had ever seen."
In addition to a shared alma mater and an affinity for the Michigan Fight Song (it was a song sang by guests during their 2013 nuptials!), Rhonda and Mychael, whom she affectionately calls Myke, also dedicated significant time to color the world with their mark in the form of travel. In the years following their wedding, they went to Napa Valley, New York, Cape Town, Amsterdam, and more.
This year marks six years in the game for Rhonda and Mychael as husband and wife, and 12 years altogether. And as of January, they've welcomed a new addition to their family, a beautiful baby girl. "We're learning to navigate what it means to be a couple for over 10+ years and what that looks like," Rhonda explained. "What do we want our legacy to be? What do we want our relationship to look like with a child?"
In this installment of xoNecole's Our First Year, Rhonda and Mychael breakdown how they knew they were the one, love languages, and their mentors in marriage. Here's their story:
How did you know she/he was the one? Did you approach your courtship as if marriage was going to be the natural next step?
Mychael: I knew Rhonda was the one immediately and I was very direct in expressing this to her. Her being tall, gorgeous, intelligent, driven, family-oriented, charismatic, and genuinely fun (the list can go on) were qualities that I hoped for in a significant other. Because of this, I was comfortable with voicing that I love her after a few weeks of dating and then approached our courtship as if marriage was inevitable.
Rhonda: I knew Mychael was the one because he was very upfront and direct about our relationship, he didn't play games and was very confident when approaching me. I've never had to question his affection or love for me. Initially, I didn't approach our courtship as if marriage was the natural next step because we were so young (I was 19, he was 18) but as the years progressed, I couldn't imagine being with anyone else.
Courtesy of Mychael & Rhonda
"I was comfortable with voicing that I love her after a few weeks of dating and then approached our courtship as if marriage was inevitable."
What was your biggest fear walking into marriage? How did you let go of those fears to enter into a union and that commitment you saw for one another?
Rhonda: My biggest fear was that we would fall into a rut and not keep the excitement and fun we had while dating. I let go of those fears through communicating with Myke and both of us agreeing that we never wanted to stop having fun together, whether we were traveling the world or sitting on the couch eating take out for the fifth day in a row.
Mychael: My biggest fear entering into marriage was the fear of the unknown. I had never been married before and dedicated myself to something as long term and permanent as marriage. Would I be the perfect husband? Would I be the perfect father? Would I be the perfect spiritual leader for my family? However, after dating for 6 years, the one thing I did know is that I loved this woman and that we would continue to grow together. Whether or not our marriage is actually perfect to the world, it's comforting to have faith that in hindsight, our marriage will be perfect for us.
What were some of the early challenges that came with merging your lives together under one roof? What was the thing you learned you liked most about your partner, and the thing you noticed you liked the least?
Mychael: My biggest challenge that came with merging our lives together was me being an extrovert and my wife being an introvert. Spending full weekends in the house watching movies and eating takeout while enjoying our personal time without our phones, was an adjustment for me. But I understood that marriage would involve compromises, and I found that I've enjoyed creating our own traditions and habits together.
I like most that Rhonda is willing to support and fight for me no matter what. Life comes with ups and downs, and Rhonda has been there in my corner through any and every adversity. The thing I like the least is her propensity to overthink things and overstress.
"I like to believe that I'm easy like Sunday morning...my cool breeze will always be good for her."
Rhonda: Some of the early challenges that came were often as a result of unspoken expectations. For example, the first few years of marriage, Myke worked at a different company and put in 60+ hour work weeks. It was difficult for me to come home and not have the opportunity to hang out with him because he was working so hard in the evening and up so early in the morning. I think this is where we started implementing our Sunday Funday of Nothingness where after church, we do nothing but hang out with each other at home, watch TV, and snack on any and everything! It was also helpful that we discovered for both of us, quality time was one of our love languages so to have that in common and know that we needed that from each other was important.
As a result of marriage, I learned that I loved Myke's enthusiasm and passion for life and people. When Myke is excited about something, you will know! This has also been difficult for me because when he's excited at 9am for the weekend, I'm not able to always share in his enthusiasm. Additionally, I'm not as vocal about my feelings so it can be difficult for me to share in his enthusiasm or passion even though I feel the same way.
How did you navigate through one another’s baggage individually and as a couple? What were some bad behaviors you had to unlearn in order to learn how to have a healthier, more stable and fulfilling marriage?
Mychael: Empathy helped me navigate through any of our baggage. I was fully aware of any baggage she brought but it was not a deterrent to us growing together. One bad behavior I had to unlearn was self-gratification (i.e. doing things I like to do when I want to do them) and by compromising with my wife, it made me and my spouse happier and as a result, made situations better. Empathy is a virtue and having faith and knowing that God is on our side alleviates any stresses that we have. The stressors will always be minor, so keep moving forward.
Rhonda: We've been together for so long that any baggage that we brought into the relationship was probably a result of each other (laughs). Some bad behaviors that I had to unlearn was that Myke is a natural provider and nurturer and me leaning on him for support in any way does not negate my independence as a woman. It's me and him versus any issue that arises not me vs. him vs. the issue. We're a team and we have to tackle any challenges as a team.
Courtesy of Mychael & Rhonda
"Empathy is a virtue and having faith and knowing that God is on our side alleviates any stresses that we have. The stressors will always be minor, so keep moving forward."
What was it like learning to speak each other’s love language? Was it easy to become fluent and well-versed right away or did it take time to learn how the other gives and receives love?
Rhonda: It was not easy for me to speak his main love languages of touch and words of affirmation. I'm an introvert and the last person to show any physical form of affection to anyone but can always notice a difference in him when he receives his love language. It's still something I have to remind myself to do on occasion because it doesn't come naturally to me but I love seeing him feel loved so it's worth it.
Mychael: It was easy because we actively sought ways to satisfy one another and because of that, I was able to find that the things that made her feel loved may be slightly different than mine. Because I was able to find that knowledge, it made it easier for me to speak her love language, acts of service, properly.
Who is that person you call when you need to confide in someone about happenings in your marriage or if you need some sage advice? Is there anyone that was your go-to person during your first year of marriage? Why or why not?
Mychael: If there was anyone, it would be my brother-in-law, Leon. I often didn't confide in people because my marriage is between me, Rhonda, and God. Additionally, every marriage is different so I struggled with confiding in others because their marriage is different than ours.
Rhonda: I have a few go-to friends that are in amazing relationships of their own that I feel comfortable venting about small issues (i.e. Myke didn't wash the dishes or pick up his socks) but for bigger issues, it's important for us to talk to each other first and then when needed, our therapist. We started seeing therapists together this year and it has been helpful to have someone who doesn't know anything about us talk us through any major issues that may arise as well as remain confidential.
Courtesy of Mychael & Rhonda
You’ve been married for almost six years, but what’s the best advice that you’ve received about marriage during your first year?
Mychael: As a man, you're not here to satisfy yourself...you're put on this earth to satisfy your family. And because you are the head of that family, you will ultimately be satisfied as well.
Rhonda: Marriage is a humbling experience. Sometimes you have to apologize when you don't feel like it, be vulnerable when you're scared, or grow when it's uncomfortable. However when you're with the right person, as I'm so blessed to be, it's worth every moment!
Featured image courtesy of Mychael & Rhonda.
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How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.
The couple met years ago at their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, when they were still working to create the life they have now, and if you had told them then that they’d eventually tie the knot, the pair probably would’ve laughed in your face.
Today, they’re new parents, flourishing in their careers, and each others’ “teammates.” When desiring love, Dalen recommends not looking to other couples for advice. And Stacey advises staying true to what you want. “Don’t put age or limitations on love and children. If God could do it for me, why can’t he do it for you?”
Here's How We Met.
How did you meet?
Dalen: We met in 2005 when she was advising the Greek sororities and fraternities in college. She was old as hell in college, and I was a young buck (laughs). Everybody had a crush on her, but I didn’t think much of it. Then, in 2007, we were in the same grad school class, but she still wasn’t trying to see me then either. I had to catch her five years ago; I was very patient.
Stacey: Yeah, everybody in our grad school class called him Young, Fresh to Death because he was always dressed in B-school (what CAU affectionately refers to as business major classes), and we’d just wear sweatpants (laughs).
So, I know Dalen was always attracted to you. But what about you? Did your attraction to him develop over time?
Stacey: So 2006-2008 – all the years went by. I don’t think we were really thinking about each other at all back then. Years later, I had an event in Dallas, and I booked him to be a speaker. Then, a few years ago, Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: "If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you." But I still thought he was too young at the time, and he started pulling receipts. Taraji P. Henson was dating someone young at the time, Gabrielle Union–
Dalen: First of all, I didn’t do that. You did that.
Stacey: Okay, I did. I thought he was a cutie pie, but that age thing was on my mind!
"Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: 'If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you.'"
Talk to me about the first date. How did he change your mind?
Stacey: Our first date was at Tin Lizzy's in Atlanta. During that time, he was living in Dallas, so it was long-distance. But he came into town, and we just had a good time. We talked a lot, which we still do. It wasn’t anything fantastic.
Dalen: Don’t downplay our first date.
Then, walk me through your courtship. How did you get to the next level? What was that conversation like?
Stacey: I think he knew at age 43 or 44 I wasn’t playing around. But also, I think it just naturally progressed.
Dalen: Yeah, it just happened naturally. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t think initially either one of us thought it would be as serious as it was. She thought I was too young and I wasn’t ready for marriage, kids, and all that. I think we both thought we were just hanging out. But after spending so much time together, a lot of stuff started happening. Like, she had to have surgery early on. It wasn’t just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That’s why we still don’t have an anniversary date because we never really asked.
"It wasn't just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That's why we still don't have an anniversary date because we never really asked."
What made you want to commit to each other?
Dalen: The moment I knew Stacey was for me was from a phone call. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and I can be really blunt sometimes. But we were talking, and I said, ‘I don’t really feel like talking anymore.’ And she was just like, okay, and hung up. I wasn’t trying to be rude, and she understood that. It sounds bad, but that’s how I knew she just got me. I felt like she could get my random awkward moments, and she does to this day.
Stacey: For me, I liked him as a person. Even when times get rough and tough, I could still like him as a human. He is my best friend. We have time. We laugh until we cry, and it’s just always like that. Even when we get pissed at each other, something happens, and we fix it. Also, how he treats his mother. That’s a momma’s boy, but I’m a daddy’s girl – so I get it. I know how I want to be treated, and I see how he is with her and that’s beautiful.
What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself through loving your partner in this relationship?
Dalen: I grew up an only child and she grew up with siblings. So, when you have someone who is used to doing things by themselves, there is definitely a learning curve when you get into a serious relationship. It’s funny now, but it was definitely a process.
Stacey: I agree – definitely the only child thing. There’s times I look at him like, did you ever live with anyone else? That comes from being momma's baby, too. I have to say, my “mother-in-love” spoiled him. But also with Axel (their daughter), that brings another level of patience.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images
What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome together?
Dalen: We’ve gone through a lot within the years we’ve been together. We suffered two miscarriages – I’d say that’s the biggest.
Stacey: Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me. I was wondering if I can’t carry [a child] what that looks like for us. We had very real conversations pretty early in our relationship.
"Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me."
What do you fight the most about?
Dalen: Nagging. Stacey nags; she’s a complainer. She’s that momma that will look in a room and just hunt for something to complain about. Like, I’m worried for Axel when she's in high school.
Stacey: It’s because I like things to be in place. He leaves stuff all over the place. I can tell where he’s been in the house because something is left around. So he says I’m nagging – but it’s like, just get your stuff.
What are your love languages?
Dalen: Stacey is gifts all day.
Dalen: We’ve talked about this. xoNecole is about to cause problems in our home (laughs).
Stacey: Obviously I love you. *thinks again* It’s words of affirmation.
Dalen: That’s it.
What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Dalen: I’ve always respected her business-mindedness. That may sound superficial, but it’s not because I’ve never been with someone who thinks like me. It’s one of my most treasured things about her. I remember one day, I was just running through ideas with her, and each time Stacey had a suggestion on how I could make it better. It’s just very comforting. She takes whatever I’m doing and elevates it – including me.
Stacey: I love Dalen’s hustle and creativity. He’s been on multiple shows, and he continues to create, produce, and reinvent himself and the product he’s putting out. I love that we can create together and bounce things off each other. Even though we may be in different arenas, there’s nothing he can’t offer me great advice about. I love that drive.
Finally, how did you know it was love?
Dalen: Well – she said it – first. (laughs)
Stacey: And he looked at me and smiled! He didn’t say it back. We were on a trip, out of the country.
Dalen: We were arguing when she said it, and she just threw it out.
Stacey: But we continue to do that. We’ve spent holidays and everything outside of the country.
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Feature image courtesy
I'm a wellness founder who currently has no therapist. Now, don't judge me; I'm being vulnerable with you.
A few years back, I felt like my life was shifting and that I wanted to find a new therapist to help me get to the root of what I was experiencing but didn't exactly have the language for it. Almost a decade ago, I was a depressed, socially anxious Black girl in an abusive relationship with practically no friends in college. Fast-forward to now and I'm a grown woman thriving and the founder of one of the largest wellness organizations for Black women.
The shy girl I once was (and still am at times, if I'm being honest) has now led meditations at Coachella, worked with Taraji P. Henson's brand, and produced her own content on mental health and Black women's healing with Foot Locker Women! But can I tell you that deep down, there are days when I still felt like that girl who thought she was broken and unloved?
That realization made me angry; I felt like I had done so much self-work and work in therapy that feeling like that girl again as a grown-ass woman made no sense.
It felt like I was going backward, and I didn't understand why, so I figured the best thing to do was discuss this in therapy. After switching insurance, I was on the search for a new therapist, and I specified to her what I was experiencing and asked if we could work through it together. She seemed kind and supportive, and she was a Black woman, something I wanted in this next chapter of therapy and womanhood as I started therapy in my early twenties and I was now approaching my thirties.
A few weeks into our sessions, she flat-out asked me, "Why are you here?" She couldn't understand why someone as successful as me needed therapy and said to me multiple times during the sessions to follow in so many words, "You don't need to be there, I think you're fine."
Yvonne Orji Therapy GIF by Insecure on HBOGiphy
Her words immediately triggered me because I felt like it was her way of saying as a Black woman, seeing me doing well made her wonder why I needed this support. I left and never went back following that session.
That was almost two years ago. There have been times when I wanted to go back, but I'd tensed up at the thought given the traumatic experience, life will always send us experiences the way that challenge us, and I don't think that never returning to therapy is the answer. Before I even began searching for a new therapist, I processed my sessions with the former therapist and, as best as I could, sent empathy her way.
We can often think that our therapists are going to be perfect and not misstep, but they're human and flawed just as we are. Whether we admit it or not, we all walk have our own biases and ways that we see the world. Perhaps she looked at me and thought, This woman is thriving; what problems could she have? She could have gone through life with no one supporting her once she began to succeed.
As I go back into therapy, I've sat with myself, and I feel confident enough to express myself again and share what I need from them in this season as I interview new therapists. There are many articles to support how to find a therapist, but I want to support you if you're heading back to therapy after taking a much-needed break.
Figure Out Your "Why"
You want to know why you're going back and ask yourself if there is something you may need from therapy now that you didn't need before. Your needs could be the same, but as time goes by, we change along with our needs. It helps to prepare a script as you approach therapists to share, for example: "Hi, my name is ______, and I'm looking for support in ______ in therapy at this point of my life."
In this post-pandemic era, Black therapists and therapists overall are overwhelmed and overworked. I can't even begin to tell you how many therapists I know personally that have stopped seeing clients due to burnout. You might not find the therapist you're looking for overnight, and you could very well be scrolling through potential therapists, getting excited at the idea of a conversation with them, and then discovering they are no longer accepting new clients. Do not be discouraged; your therapist is out there.
Don't Be Afraid To Be Vulnerable
I like to look at therapy in many ways like I look at love. And what I mean by that is much like dating; you are not going to get the experience you're looking for without vulnerability. I challenge you to be transparent with your therapist, they will only be able to help you get to the root of what you need support with if they get to know who you really are, and what you need.
I am rooting for you as you head back to therapy. Know that I am supporting you and cheering you on from the sidelines as we go back and do this healing work together.
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Featured image via Giphy