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.
I hate to break it to you, sis, but whoever told you finding love would make you happy was not keeping it 100 with you. While we can rely on our partners for emotional and spiritual support, finding your happy place is something you have to do for yourself, playa and after their first two years of marriage, Cory and Leah Dixon have learned that this statement is big facts.
In 2016, Cory Dixon slid into his now-wife, Leah's DMs for a zucchini noodle recipe, and shortly after their first phone call, the love connection was secured. Later, the couple would meet one another at the altar and make a lifelong commitment to do life together. Today, Cory and Leah are more in love than ever before and all I have to say is, Lord, I've seen what you've done for others and my DMs are too, ready to receive a blessing.
The couple recently sat down with xoNecole and shared the secret to surviving their first year of marriage and according to them, it starts with not expecting your partner to fill your empty cup. Leah told xoNecole, "I struggled with anxiety and depression at the beginning of our marriage. It was a major challenge for us. Towards the end of our first year of marriage, I started going to a Christian counselor and it helped me so much! I didn't know how much the trauma of my past had impacted me."
"Focusing on healing myself helped take some of the pressure off of the marriage. I learned that my day-to-day happiness is my responsibility," Leah continued. "I have to invest time into myself so I can bring the best version of me to the marriage. It is not fair to expect somebody else to fill up my empty cup. I re-learned what my interests are, and decided to make an effort to feed my interests."
We sat down with Leah and Cory to talk more about adjusting to life after a long-distance relationship, how to cope when you and your partner speak different love languages, and staying celibate before marriage.
Scroll below to read more!
How They Met
Leah: We met through Instagram! It's crazy because I definitely made up in my mind that I would most likely meet my husband at the grocery store, but God had other plans (laughs). It was in 2016, and I was really focused on eating clean and not "letting myself go" after college. I made zucchini noodles and posted a picture of it on my Instagram page. Cory commented something along the lines of, "I've been meaning to try zoodles" and I replied, "You definitely should!". He DMed me not too long afterward and I recommended where he could get the pasta sauce I used. A few days later he sent me a picture of the zucchini noodles he made and I thought it was cute. He was friendly, and not creepy. Because who wants to talk to a creep on Instagram? (Laughs)
When I looked at his page, I assumed he would not be cute because he basically only posted quotes and scriptures so I figured he would be hard on the eyes (laughs). When I scrolled down his page, I saw he was really handsome! He also mentioned in his bio that he attended Morehouse College and my sister is a Spelman alumna so I asked if she knew who he was. She said he was a really nice guy! It's crazy because I really did not want to meet a guy from Instagram but Cory was just different than anybody else I had met before. We began talking in June and met in person in August. I went to visit him in Alabama for a weekend. I stayed in a hotel, near where he lived, and we went out for dinner and just spent time together. He asked me to be his girlfriend that weekend and obviously I said yes!
Cory: Leah and I met via Instagram. I am unsure of how Leah's profile came across my platform, however, it did and we began following each other. I liked her posts before I ever "liked" her posts. She carried herself with modesty and confidence. That was attractive to me and I thought she was beautiful. One day, after she posted about trying zucchini noodles, I commented that I would be interested to know how her meal turned out. I was on a health kick at the time and was genuinely interested. She replied to my comment and encouraged me to try the recipe myself. A few weeks later I did that and tried the dish. I took that opportunity to hit a right-foot-up, left-foot slide into her DMs. This was purely to tell her I tried the recipe and thank her for the plug. However, that message then turned into a series of conversations that eventually turned into a marriage.
Leah: I knew Cory was the one during our first phone call. It's kind of hard to explain, but I just knew. His voice was very calming to me and it seemed as if I had known him forever. We were compatible in so many ways. I am pretty high-strung, and Cory's presence and demeanor bring about peace. We definitely balance each other out. I knew I wanted to get married, but I wasn't necessarily in a rush to be married. I wanted to be in a relationship that would ultimately lead to marriage though. Since Cory and I share the same values and Christian outlook, we definitely wanted the relationship to progress towards marriage.
Cory: I am not sure if I experienced a moment where I inadvertently "knew" Leah was the one. I believe at some point, a man decides that a woman he is interested in is the one. I made that decision during our first phone call. I don't know if Leah used magic on me or something but I decided to love her that day. She was captivating in every sense; smart, funny, faith-filled, beautiful, mature…the full package of what I wanted. With that in mind, I approached our courtship as if marriage was going to be the next natural step. At that time, I spurned the idea of being in a 'situationship' that had no goal or purpose. Leah and I made it clear that we were going to be intentional with every step of our budding relationship.
"I believe at some point, a man decides that a woman he is interested in is the one. I made that decision during our first phone call. I don't know if Leah used magic on me or something but I decided to love her that day. She was captivating in every sense; smart, funny, faith-filled, beautiful, mature…the full package of what I wanted. With that in mind, I approached our courtship as if marriage was going to be the next natural step."
Leah: Initially, I would not say I had any fears because I was not 100% tuned-in to my subconscious thoughts and beliefs about marriage. Since being married and being in counseling, I can think back to that time and know that my biggest fear was being cheated on and facing infidelity. Although Cory showed me no signs of being unfaithful, that fear was dormant in me due to my childhood pain. Since being in counseling post-marriage, I've chosen to let go of my past beliefs. I cannot project the pain I felt onto Cory for things he has not done to me. Doing so has helped me be more confident in my marriage and my husband. I have learned that my life should be governed by faith, not fear. It is easier said than done sometimes, but it is definitely worth working towards. Nobody should have to live by false belief systems.
Cory: I think my biggest fear walking into marriage was to losing it. I hold marriage in high regard and take it seriously. To me, marriage is a life-covenant. I respect and love marriage and my wife. So, the spiritual and emotional repercussions in addition to the natural logistics of losing a marriage to either tragedy or divorce were my biggest concerns coming into marriage.
Leah: It definitely has taken time to learn to speak Cory's love language. He craves acts of service and I thrive off of affirmation. I can't affirm him and expect that to fill up his love cup. I have to love him in the way he needs to be loved. It takes effort because it is not the way I like to be loved, but it is important that I give him what he needs.
Cory: I would say this is difficult because Leah has 48 love languages that all operate simultaneously. It's like having quintuplets and they all are crying for food but you only have two bottles and one arm. But on a more serious note, Leah mainly receives love through words of affirmation. For me, this was a challenge because conveying emotions through words was a natural weakness of mine. I am still learning and growing in that area but progress has been made.
"He craves acts of service and I thrive off of affirmation. I can't affirm him and expect that to fill up his love cup. I have to love him in the way he needs to be loved. It takes effort because it is not the way I like to be loved, but it is important that I give him what he needs."
Leah: True love takes time. It takes patience. True love is forgiving and resilient. I have learned that I will be disappointed by my husband at times, and I will be challenged to forgive. I've learned that I am capable of loving him and growing with him. I have to continually seek growth and vulnerability. I have learned that no love story is perfect and hardships will come, but God is greater than any adversity and He has the final say. Any obstacle can be overcome through faith and reliance on God.
Cory: The most important lesson that I learned through loving Leah is that love truly is a verb. Love is an action and a choice. Daily, I have to choose to love Leah. And to love someone, to truly love someone, you have to die to yourself daily as well. I don't want that to sound like love is one-sided because it isn't. However, the secret ingredient of love is sacrifice. And if you are not sacrificing in some way, I wouldn't consider it true love.
Leah: One of our initial challenges was determining the roles we would play within the household. It wasn't a huge challenge, but we could have benefited from discussing these things earlier. At the beginning of our marriage, we both lived in Alabama and I was working full-time while he was a Ph.D. student full-time. I did not have the energy to clean and cook, so that put a strain on the relationship. Dishes could easily pile up (as well as laundry) and I was not used to having so much responsibility. We ate a lot of fast food, which led to weight gain and general unhappiness. If I had a plan and structure going into marriage, I probably would have been more successful with my time management.
We also had difficulty communicating during conflict. Something we struggled with is fighting fair. In my life previous to marriage, if somebody made me upset I would just cut them off or distance myself from them. I was not accustomed to working through issues healthily. That was probably the biggest challenge for us. We had difficulty getting on one accord. I wish we would have done premarital counseling because I believe a lot of our challenges could have been lessened. That is my advice to anybody who is engaged or looking to get married at some point… do pre-marital counseling! Individual counseling is great too because you can start working through your challenges before they surface in marriage.
Cory: Starting long-distance created a culture in which any time we got to see each other (about once a month) it was like a mini-vacation or an extended date night. So once we got to be in one space together long-term, we struggled to find a lifestyle that was balanced and productive. We were so excited to be together that we "lived it up" with dietary, financial, and productivity habits that weren't conducive to the lifestyle we desired. Ultimately, that caused friction between us and strained our communication and general satisfaction with life in general. For example, Leah eats small frequent meals. I like one or two bigger meals a day. We ended up eating big frequent meals more often. Let's just say our scale started to lose count.
Leah: Cory and I had many challenges and hardships in the beginning. We faced financial difficulties, job loss, and relational difficulties. We overcame them by learning to truly rely on one another. I personally have learned that there can be no intimacy and true love without vulnerability. Before I was with Cory, I really had to take care of my own needs and get things done by myself, so when we got married I had to learn to share my vulnerabilities with him.
Cory: I needed to learn how to deal with stress. Stress is a word I never really was able to use to articulate how I felt. However, my built-up stress manifested itself in other ways such as frustration or a general sense of discontent. So now, I found that just expressing my emotions can help relieve my stress. Once I do, Leah and I can work together to figure out how it can be relieved. Being open and honest with my emotions has helped me feel more fulfilled and stable. In turn, I am better equipped to support Leah though her emotional struggles. There is more empathy and understanding there.
The Best Part
Leah: My favorite part about being married is knowing I have a partner I can do life with and grow old with. When I look into my future, he is there. It's comforting to know we will go through life together and experience many firsts with each other.
Cory: I enjoy the oneness of marriage. Becoming one with someone is a fascinating experience. Spiritually speaking, we get the opportunity and privilege of being a natural representation of God's love for His people. From a more natural perspective, going "all-in" with someone gives you a chance to learn about yourself on a level that I don't believe happens outside of marriage. Two people go from complete strangers to the deepest form of a love affair that two humans can experience. 100% vulnerability and connectedness. I get to do that with Leah. That's my favorite part of marriage.
"From a more natural perspective, going 'all-in' with someone gives you a chance to learn about yourself on a level that I don't believe happens outside of marriage. Two people go from complete strangers to the deepest form of a love affair that two humans can experience. 100% vulnerability and connectedness. I get to do that with Leah."
Leah: The best advice I received in the first year of marriage is to pick your battles wisely. It is not feasible to argue about every little thing, and frankly, it is a waste of time! it's important to let things go and to do so quickly. Harboring and dwelling yield no positive results.
Cory:*Insert WHOLE Bible here* Aside from pure Biblical truth, "Women are thermometers, they read the temperature of the home. As a man, you are to be the thermostat. You set the temperature." - Dr. Jared Russell
For me, that piece of advice has never left my mind. It alludes to how a man should be cool, calm, and collected in tough times but also have the ability to be warm to his wife. It demands that I take accountability for the "temperature" of my home. If my wife is "trippin", it can most likely be traced to a temperature I set at some point. It's the same for her pleasantness. This isn't scripture and I am sure that individuals that are way smarter than I [am] can poke 1,000 holes in that metaphor, however, it has helped me a lot.
Leah: To be honest, I think this is something we are still figuring out. Cory and I both want to lead others to Christ and encourage people to seek Him. Our faith has always rooted us. I believe my spiritual gift is encouragement. I share my experiences and perspective through my social media to encourage others. I know God has so much more in store for us though. I am excited to grow in our purpose together.
Cory: We are still allowing our specific purpose as a couple to materialize. Today, we strive to be in the best physical, financial, and spiritual shape of our lives so that we can exemplify God's love through our marriage. We always seek to be a light and to allow ourselves to be used for whatever God's ultimate purpose for us is. Our individual goals always help us as a whole. Like I mentioned before, we are one flesh. If it benefits apart, it benefits the whole.
For more Cory and Leah, follow them on Instagram!
Featured image by Instagram/@leahessence.