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 desire to be loved wholly and intensely by a man who makes me feel closer to God. Whew, chile. Y'all didn't hear me. Let me run it back for you.
I'm talking about the kind of love that runs so deep that a man gets on his knees and prays over me every day. I want a love so patient that I know that it was divinely ordained by God every time he speaks life over me. The kind of love I'm describing is one that Trade Street Jam Co. owner, Ashley Marie and her husband, Don Rouse have been cultivating for 12 years.
The Brooklyn-based couple, who will welcome their first child in July, recently sat down with xoNecole to give us a glimpse into the first year of their modern-day love story, and according to them, it has been nothing short of an act of God. Ashley explained, "God told me he was the one so long before he proposed. I knew early on that we'd be the ones to break the cycle of divorce that our families were so accustomed to."
In our chat, Ashley and Don got real about faith, fears, finances, and how to find balance when you and your partner speak different love languages.
Here's what we learned:
Ashley: All I know is, our chemistry was so great. I fell in love with Don the way you fall asleep...slowly, and then all at once. We argued a lot in the beginning (mainly I argued because I'm an only child and I was used to getting my way). But I could never deny how good we were together any other time. Our values really did align perfectly, from schoolwork to family to finances, goals and dreams, I just knew that he made me feel really good inside. And he was so patient with me. I'd never met anyone like that before.
Don: It took me longer to realize Ashley was the one. We actually broke up because I wasn't sure where I wanted to take the relationship. During that period of separation, I learned my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was tough for me as it reminded me of my brother who died from cancer and I couldn't imagine going through this situation again. My dad decided to explore Cancer Treatment Center for his situation and they do a great job of adding faith into the treatment plan. One of their methods is having you engage in activities that made you think about your spirituality. One of these activities was making tranquility beads.
So I am literally sitting with my baby sister and the instructor is telling us to add beads for people we love in our life, people who help us be better people, and people who you are willing to go through fire with. Ashley was the first person that came to my mind. That is when I realized I had f*cked up. I had to swallow my pride and make this right. Luckily she was willing.
Ashley: We differ here. I didn't have any fears...honestly!
Don: What fears? (laughs) I was scared about everything. Money, kids and a new chapter of life. When I took a step back, those fears were self-inflicted and came from the wrong perspective. When I changed my perspective on marriage and our union, it changed how I approached the next phase in our relationship.
"I was scared about everything. Money, kids and a new chapter of life. When I took a step back, those fears were self-inflicted and came from the wrong perspective. When I changed my perspective on marriage and our union, it changed how I approached the next phase in our relationship."
Ashley: I wouldn't say Don had much "baggage". Again, we were so young when we met. He did have a girl that he used to date that wouldn't really accept that they were over for a while, but she had nothing on me. I did have to unlearn some of my (what I later learned were) selfish habits. Again, I'm an only child––I've only ever had to look out for me. That kinda hit me hard over the years, having to admit that I was being selfish in some ways and learning how not to always think about myself first before others. But like I said, Don was always so patient with me, so he sat back and let me figure it out over the years while always supporting me along the way.
Don: I was used to being self-sufficient and had pride in never needing anything from anyone. However, that isn't going to work in a relationship or marriage. I had to learn to collaborate with my wife versus just solving problems/situations on my own. It is still something I have to work on almost daily.
Ash: I'm still learning how Don gives and receives love. I have to remind myself all the time that he won't show love like I will; he'll show it in much deeper, more meaningful ways than always outwardly expressing it to the world. But man, does he show it. Once you can understand that about your partner, you can grow so much deeper in love.
Don: Our love languages are different but there are some overlaps. I had to learn that I have to intentionally work on making sure I give her what she needs from me. And sometimes, that varies day-to-day.
"I'm still learning how Don gives and receives love. I have to remind myself all the time that he won't show love like I will; he'll show it in much deeper, more meaningful ways than always outwardly expressing it to the world. But man, does he show it. Once you can understand that about your partner, you can grow so much deeper in love."
Ashley: Marriage really is like a job, one that you can never retire from. But, it can be a really beautiful job that you enjoy wholeheartedly; one that you can't wait to go to and work harder at because you know that the harder you work, the greater the reward. Also, putting God at the forefront will keep us on track forever.
Don: Marriage requires work but a lot of the work is self-reflection. Being able to understand you can't change someone but you can change what you do and how you respond to certain things. Too many times we put the blame on someone else without ever considering our role in a situation.
"Marriage really is like a job, one that you can never retire from. But, it can be a really beautiful job that you enjoy wholeheartedly; one that you can't wait to go to and work harder at because you know that the harder you work, the greater the reward. Also, putting God at the forefront will keep us on track forever."
Ashley: Don will probably say he mostly worried about being able to support us as a family. I didn't really struggle very much. Women are built for this––we have such maternal instincts to run a household. We had stayed together quite often before actually moving in, so they're weren't many habits that surprised me. He's always been really good at keeping his space pretty clean!
Don: I was worried about finances but we actually figured that out pretty easily. Once we got a good system, finances became less of a concern.
Ashley: Keep other people out of your relationship! Especially family (laughs).
Don: Make sure you increase your date nights and quality time together in your first year. A mentor of mine said it is easy to come off the high of the wedding and things fall flat. The wedding is a great time and you are on an emotional high but you have to make sure you continue that throughout your first year and beyond. We took a few extra trips during our first year and did a good job of having date nights on Friday. That extra quality time made a big difference.
Ashley: We really want to raise a healthy, happy family and uproot as many of the systemic things from our culture and our past as we can, like racism against our own people, financial instability, divorce, abuse and more. Now that we're expecting, we have such greater purposes, and we definitely align on what those are.
Don: To raise a family that contributes to the culture. Ash and I are both about helping people, being honest and transparent. If we can establish that in our family, it is a huge win. Our relationship is really rooted in our faith. Since being married, our faith has increased and it makes the meaning of marriage a lot different.
We go through challenges like everyone, but the faith aspect gives us a different perspective on things as those challenges arise. Individually, we are both committed to being better people. We focus on getting better every day in some way and with that mentality, you can't lose.
Featured image courtesy of Instagram/@ashleymarierouse.