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4 Couples Reveal The Beauty Of Putting In Work For The Love They Deserve

"Take care of your relationship the way the earth takes care of a flower, and by no means forget about the sunshine."

Love & Relationships

Someone once told me love is the most powerful force in the universe. The power of love can unify, heal, uplift, and bring us to new heights. But, just like the universe, love can also be very complex. Love is the gateway to vulnerability. It's us completely letting someone into our insecurities, traumas, and deepest secrets. Love is kind. It's being gentle and compassionate to ourselves and others even when we don't fully understand. Love is forgiving. It's using pain as an opportunity for growth and strength rather than an excuse to stay angry. Above all else, love is genderless and colorless.

Love comes in many definitions, but I think we all can agree that love is a daily practice that takes work. I always wondered why the idea of "work" always seemed to have a negative connotation for most, especially when work in partnership can be the key to us being the best version of ourselves. I wanted to explore this idea further, of love and work and love being the kind of work you enjoy. I had the pleasure of talking to a few couples about their idea of work, growth, and the hard lessons they've learned in love.

Brandie & Her Partner On How They Define Work In Their Relationship:

Courtesy of Brandie & her partner

"Our definition of work in a relationship is growing through life together. The good times are good but I want to know that I have someone solid when things are rough, when they're ugly, when my hair's a mess, when I'm depressed when I'm angry when I'm uncomfortable. Through all seasons and in all ways. A relationship will never be all sunshine.

"It takes rain to grow flowers, it takes dirt to nurture them too. Take care of your relationship the way the earth takes care of a flower, and by no means forget about the sunshine."

"We measure growth by our communication. We can talk to each other about anything. Things that could make a couple blush, we enjoy sharing. We talk when we're angry, we talk when we're sad, we talk when we're happy. We respect each other's space as well. These are things we didn't always do, when we look back it's a feeling of rejoicing to see how far we've come. We understand that to grow, change must be willing to take place, so if ever you're feeling stuck, we know a growth spurt is near our relationship. We welcome it with open arms."

Shay & Jeremiah On Putting Work Into Their Relationship To Keep It Healthy:

Courtesy of Jeremiah & Shay

"We understood the value of proactive therapy. We started going to financial counseling, even before we got engaged. We had a vision of the life we wanted in the future, and know we needed to start before he proposed. Then, after getting engaged, we began faith-based premarital counseling. That was a game-changer! We highly recommend that couples who are dating on a serious level, do some type of therapy before getting engaged. It teaches you so much about not only your partner but about yourself.

"'Sometimes you just won't have the answer. Ask yourself, 'Can you live with it?' If so, then let it go.' This mantra has always saved us from going down a rabbit hole during disagreements. There have been times when one of us was frustrated about something, but deep down it was because we were triggered by something else. Becoming one with your partner doesn't make your individual experiences and past traumas just disappear. So we need to remember that it is natural to bump heads with the person you love."

Andrea & Donnie On The Biggest Lessons Learned Throughout 24 Years Of Marriage:

Photo Credit: Ebes OlumeseCourtesy of Andrea & Donnie

"My greatest lesson is not moving through life, or this marriage feeling like I'm superwoman! I have a life partner, where I have learned to let down my guard and not be the tough girl. And, trust me, it took some years to get here. But I allow myself to be vulnerable, even in marriage, letting my husband be the man he was raised to be, as well as the provider and protector of his kingdom!

"The best advice I have to offer is to first of all, not look for happiness in anyone outside of yourself. Once you know how to make yourself happy, and love everything about yourself, then you'll have no problem teaching others how to love you, because there's a difference in how people love you, and how you allow them to love you!"

Tiffany & Kevin On How The Work In Their Partnership Has Made Them Better:

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Austin DavisCourtesy of Tiffany & Kevin

"If your partner doesn't make you better, they ain't the one! I'm naturally very introverted and throughout the years, my husband has inspired me to take more risks and follow my creative path. We talk all the time about endlessly leaving room for growth. He knows that if he decides next week, he completely wants to change directions, I'll be like, 'OK...what's the plan?!' And vice versa.

"The freedom and support to be who we are, make us the best versions of ourselves if that makes sense."

"We both learned that love does not have a universal definition. We think each relationship you have may exhibit love in different ways. In realizing that, it freed us from having to live up to anything we'd seen before, but instead, build our unique definition of love."

Featured image by Elizabeth Austin Davis, c/o Tiffany & Kevin

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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