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This Couple Says That True Love Means Not Expecting Your Partner To Fill Your Empty Cup

"I have to invest time into myself so I can bring the best version of me to the marriage."

Our First Year

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.

The One

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."

Deepest Fears 

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.

Love Languages

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."

Love Lessons 

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.

Overcoming Challenges

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.

Baggage Claim

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."

Best Advice

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.

Building Together 

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.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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