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.