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.
Love is patient. Love is kind. And for many of us in relationships, love can be a delicate blend of ups and downs. Such is the case for Harvey and Casey Kelley.
Having known each other since high school, the two were unknowingly living in the same city around the same time and later reconnected via FaceBook. Harvey was a grant program coordinator through the school system and Casey was a consumer product goods professional and later moved from Atlanta to Jacksonville, Florida after she was unfortunately laid off from Coca-Cola. And it was there that they were dealt the hefty task of trying to meld their new huge (think, five girls and two boys kind of huge) family.
And it's arguably that very task that led them and strengthened their bond to build both in love and in their professional lives. Now serving as entrepreneurs to their own business, aptly named Blended Designs , the two have found a way to bring the story of their lives and passion to inspire into the forefront. Serving as a premium backpack and travel bag, Casey tells me that their mission is to elevate, empower, and educate people of color. And in response to the lack of representation of characters of color in the backpack industry, their endeavor thus found a much bigger purpose.
Courtesy of Blended Designs
Now with six years under their belt in marriage and two years in a thriving career, they let us in on some insight they've learned along the way in this latest segment of
Our First Year
Casey: I have two sisters but I grew up an only child, so I never had to share. I never had a time where I had to share with another adult or thinking about another person. It's not that I was selfish, it's just not a skill that you learn as an only child. [When I realized he was the one] it was a point where I was thinking of him more than I was thinking of myself. I was thinking about the decisions I was making and how they were going to impact him.
Harvey: After I got divorced, I said I never wanted to get married again. But she made me want to be in a relationship again. She showed me all the things I was missing from my first relationship. She made me say, "Wow this is how it should've been. This is the kind of relationship I should've been in." That kept me close to her and getting to know her. She literally does the things that I was looking for in a relationship. She filled all these voids that I had.
Courtesy of Casey and Harvey
"After I got divorced, I said I never wanted to get married again. But she made me want to be in a relationship again. She showed me all the things I was missing from my first relationship. She made me say, 'Wow this is how it should've been.'"
Overcoming Fears in Marriage
Casey: My biggest fear was acceptance with the girls. Harvey has five girls from his first marriage. And at the time we got married, the youngest was in middle school and they're very close to their mom. And I didn't want it to be that whole 'you're taking my Dad away thing.' Some of it I think I projected myself as opposed to it really and truly happening. But once the oldest daughter lived with us for a little bit, it gave her the opportunity to really know me and not the person she sees on the weekend. I just had this huge fear and it's something that I think I put on myself. Because now I have a great relationship with the girls! And I have a much better relationship with his ex than before.
Harvey: That was one of my biggest concerns as well because as much as we were a blended family, we weren't a blended family all under the same roof. So being able to manage that and moving away from them but still keeping them involved, that was the hardest part. You have to constantly travel, constantly communicate to make sure things are working.
Casey: One of the major lessons [I learned in love] is that it's unconditional. Real love will love you through your flaws. I didn't recognize my flaws as much until they were staring me in my face and someone is loving me anyway. Harvey will always say, "We're on the same team, we're wearing the same jersey." I understood that we're the only ones that can control whether or not we spend the rest of our lives together. And we both have an active desire to make sure we're always together.
Harvey: For me it's that if someone loves you, they're going to allow you to be who you are. They're not going to ask you to be different or for you to change and they're going to love you the way you are.
Courtesy of Casey and Harvey
"I didn't recognize my flaws as much until they were staring me in my face and someone is loving me anyway."
Casey: There was a couple that Harvey grew up with and before we got married, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. The wife told me to always remember the look on your face when you say "I do". That there are going to be times where we're going to be upset at each other and when things are harder than they should be. But if I remember the look on his face when he said "I do", then I'll always remember--no matter what is happening in that moment, that he loves me unconditionally.
Harvey: The best advice that I got was addressing problems from the start and to not let things fester. I was told by someone to never go to sleep mad, angry, or upset. You need to make sure before you close your eyes that night, that you resolve whatever issue that were there that day. So that when you wake up in the morning, you both are waking up fresh and ready to go.
Courtesy of Casey and Harvey
"If I remember the look on his face when he said 'I do', then I'll always remember--no matter what is happening in that moment, that he loves me unconditionally."
Casey: I know that this is someone who 100% has my best interest in mind. There's nothing self-fulfilling about what he suggests or wants to do. I know other business people and mentors and they have the best business interests in mind, but Harvey has MY best. I don't know that anyone else cares about that. And to be able to travel for business with my husband, it's strengthened our relationship so much. Its being able to bring our relationship to another level that I didn't even know we had. I knew my husband prayed for me but now he prays WITH me.
Harvey: I think the best part is that my highlights are OUR highlights. When we win, we win together. So it's like we're there in the moment as it's happening and we're able to share that because we're both a part of that.
"The best part is that my highlights are OUR highlights. When we win, we win together."
Featured image courtesy of Casey and Harvey
Want more Our First Year love stories? Check them out here .
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Those of you who are true diehard fans of the movie Love Jones can probably recall every single scene, right? Well, that means you remember the one when Darius told Nina something along the lines of wisdom comes, not in having all of the answers but, instead, asking the right questions. Y’all, I’m not sure if it’s the journalist or counselor in me, yet I couldn’t agree more.
In fact, I think that a huge part of the reason why a lot of us find ourselves in relationships (professional, romantic , or platonic) that either end up being a total waste of our time or devastating as all get out is that we either went into them on pure assumption or we failed to ask the kind of questions that would give us the answers that we were truly looking for.
That’s why, a few years back, I penned the piece “ The 'Pre-Commitment Interview' Every Dating Couple Should Have ” — it’s also why, today, I’m going to share some inquiries that you should make when it comes to considering prospective sex partners as well. Because no matter what your perspective is on sex overall, I think we all can agree that anything that contains hormones that bond you to another person, could give you a disease, and/or could get you pregnant is serious enough that you should ask at least a few things on the front end. Ready?
1. What Do You Think Is the Purpose of Sex in a Relationship?Giphy
Okay, so this one is a bit layered. The reason why I say that is because not everyone is going to give you the same answer — and that’s because not everyone abides by the same principles or perspectives. For instance, because I do tend to apply a lot of Scripture to my life, I personally believe that the main purpose of sex is to cultivate oneness (I Corinthians 6:16-20 — Message) — and since there are things out here like oxytocin highs and fluid bonding that says that sex connects people in ways that are oftentimes totally underrated in the current state of our culture, seems to me that even science agrees on many levels that I would be correct (y’all be careful out here, ya hear?).
So yeah, it’s extremely important that, before you give your parts (and sometimes your heart) to someone else, you have some sort of understanding about what they think sex is designed for and to do between two individuals. One reason is to see if you both are on the same page (or at least in the same book). Another reason is that, well, if they’ve never given it much thought before, you could be in for quite a ride — and I’m not talking about the cowgirl position.
Indeed, a motto that I live by is when people don’t know the purpose of something, they are bound to misuse or abuse it — and if all a guy thinks sex is about is pleasure or simply having something to do, you could look up and be treated just like that: not much more than a pleasure outlet when he’s out here bored and wanting some stimulation. No more, no less.
If that’s all you’re after as well, y’all are grown…go forth. However, if you want something a bit deeper than that, hearing his views on sex’s purpose can bring forth a lot of clarity about whether it’s time to move forward with him…or…not.
2. Would You Consider Yourself to Be a Sexually Responsible Individual?Giphy
Did you know it’s been reported that we currently have more single mothers in the United States than at any time in our history? If you add to that the fact that only one-third of men and a quarter of women use condoms (SMDH), yes, it’s important to know how sexually responsible he is — or isn’t because it really is time out for folks acting like pregnancies “just happen.” They absolutely do not; especially with all of the birth control methods that exist out here.
It's another article for another time about how single-parent dynamics can have long-term effects on kids, even as adults (Google it sometime, though). For now, I’ll just say that if you know that you know that you know that you are not ready to bring a child (or another child) into this world, you need to take every precaution to make that happen — and outside of abstinence (the only surefire way to avoid an unplanned pregnancy), you need to be sexually active with sexually responsible individuals.
So yeah, ask him if he wraps it up every time. And none of that going-raw-until-it’s-time-to-ejaculate-and-then-putting-on-a-condom-real quick nonsense either. Pre-ejaculate can still get folks pregnant out in these streets, not to mention the fact that it can transmit STDs too. And since condoms are 98 percent effective when they are used correctly, safe sex includes rubber usage.
Speaking of sexually transmitted diseases/infections, you are also well within your rights to ask him about how often he gets tested and the last time that he did so. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ), you should get tested once a year if you and your partner are exclusive and every 3-6 months if you and/or he have multiple partners. So, if you ask him about when he’s gotten tested, and he changes the subject or tries to gaslight you and play like he’s offended, you know that’s a red flag , right?
Since reportedly, there are 110 million people in this country who have an STD and a whopping 20 million who will become infected this year alone, anyone who takes their health seriously and wants to be careful about the people they sleep with, they will not only get tested consistently — they will appreciate a partner who brings the topic up; especially a prospective new one.
By the way, there are multiple different at-home tests that you can take these days (read more here ). They’re not the cheapest on the planet, yet they are an option. Just an FYI.
3. Where Would Sex Take Us?Giphy
Back when I was sexually active, I made it no secret that my pattern was that I had a tendency to sleep with my friends (which means several of my male friendships were absolutely not platonic; check out “ Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic' ”). So, while I’ve never had a one-night stand , and I knew the middle names, birthdates, and other random intel on all of my partners, one of my personal biggest missteps was not factoring in just how much sex really can alter a dynamic.
With four guys, I got pregnant (check out “ Why I Named The Children I Aborted ”). With one of my closest friends, it made things so complicated that our friendship ultimately did not survive it. With another, we found ourselves jealous and distrusting because we never discussed if we were only going to sleep with each other or not (check out “ 14 Lessons I've Learned From 14 Sex Partners ”). Yeah, with all of these men, we just started having sex without considering what could possibly transpire once we did.
Can anyone predict the future? Even the ones who think they can, they should roll with some humility because sometimes we fail to factor in uncertain situations and circumstances. That’s why this question can help you and him to think about things that passion would encourage you to underestimate. Things like, “If we do this, do you think our relationship will remain the same?” or “If I got pregnant, what would you want to do about it?”
Sure, these types of questions aren’t the most romantic in the world, yet let me tell it, that’s what’s wrong with a lot of people now — they want sex to be a rom-com when those things are scripted. Learning someone’s mindset about sex and its potential consequences can give you clarity and bring you peace of mind in ways you could never imagine. TRUST ME.
4. Why Should I Trust You with Me?Giphy
A couple of days ago, a friend of mine and I were discussing if there is such a thing as a tactful oral sex song. Two immediately came to mind. One is by a friend of mine named Shannon Sanders. Back in the day, he had an underground cult classic LP entitled Outta Nowhere, and the song is called “ Interstate .” The other is Usher’s totally underrated single “ Good Kisser .”
While I was listening to Usher’s joint, that had me thinking about some of Usher’s other sex-themed songs. One in particular is “ That’s What It’s Made For ” off of his Confessions album. Sexy? Yes. Reckless AF? Also yes:
Game rules, no cap no cut
But even Superman couldn't turn your love down
I slipped up, slipped in
Hey man what the hell you doin?
Raw dog is a never
I know I know better
Heard her whisper
Don't worry I'm safe
Didn't matter cuz it's already too late
I was lost in the sauce, dead wrong
And I ain't stoppin' now
Parleein' in the bush again
Didn't think about what I was puttin' in it
Go on and hit it
That's what it's made for
She said, You got somethin’ on right?
That's what it's made for
Boo why you trippin'
You know I got it
Hmph. No wonder his actual "Confessions, Pt. II " single was talking about getting side chicks pregnant (chile). If you’re Elmo shrugging about not using condoms, there’s no telling how life will play out for you (SMDH).
Okay, but let me stay focused. The reason why I’m bringing that song up is even though a lot of us can relate to having moments when we weren’t nearly as careful as we should’ve been, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn from our past poor choices.
It also doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t raise the bar moving forward — so, yes, a prospective partner should feel like he is able to trust you and that you are able to trust him. Trust when it comes to health-related matters. Trust when it comes to honesty (even if hearing the truth is uncomfortable). Trust when it comes to needs, wants, and expectations. Trust as it relates to how all of the things are to play out, both in and outside of the bedroom.
And what should that trust look like?
- Ask him if he always uses protection (too many guys assume that a woman is on birth control; not only that, but birth control doesn’t protect people from STDs. CONDOMS DO).
- Ask him if he’s good about discretion; what happens between the two of you should stay there.
- Ask him if he plans on sleeping with other people too; more folks, more risk, so you need to be kept in the loop.
- Ask him if he would tell you if his needs aren’t being met rather than faking like they are (check out “ Men Fake Orgasms (And 14 Other Semi-Random Things About Them In Bed) ”).
- Ask him if he will give you a heads-up before sleeping with other people so that you can decide if you want to stop sleeping with him (or if you want to sleep with others as well).
Sex is too serious to be sleeping with people you don’t trust — and trust should be established on the front end…before any clothes start to come off.
5. Is Not Having Sex a Deal-Breaker?Giphy
Now this one is super important because if you’re looking for more than a sex buddy , you need to make sure that the two of you feel the same way. Otherwise, you could find yourself having sex with him and assuming that it means things are about to go to another level while all he’s thinking about is how good of a time he had.
For the record, if that is how it plays out on his end, that doesn’t make him a bad person. We really need to stop thinking someone did us wrong, all because we assumed that they had the same train of thought that we had on a particular matter. Yeah, the only way you will know is to ask — and the main way he comes out being an ass is if he lies. Otherwise, you’ve got to take some accountability for not getting all of the clarity that you needed…before getting into bed with him, not after.
All of this being said, if you’re someone who either wants to take things very slowly or you’re not interested in having sex without a formal and/or official commitment in place, that’s something else that you should bring up to him. And while, again, he’s not the devil incarnate if he’s not down with sex being off of the table (at least for a while), if going without that type of intimacy is some sort of deal-breaker for him, at least you’ll know what many of his intentions are before he had the honor and pleasure of having sex with you. That way, you won’t feel taken advantage of or blindsided.
Another bonus that comes with this question is you might be able to stay friends — or at least cool. The benefit in that is you’d be amazed how many men come back around to women who moved at a slower pace once they are ready to make a serious commitment. I’ve been counseling enough folks at this point to have lost count of how often I’ve witnessed this with my very own eyes.
No question, asking if no sex is a deal-breaker can help you to see if a relationship with him (at least right now) should even be on the table.
6. How Should We Hold Each Other Sexually Accountable?Giphy
There’s no telling how much safer and peace-filled our culture would be if grown folks simply learned how to hold themselves and others accountable — LAWD. And what exactly does that mean? To be accountable is to be responsible for your words and actions — and to expect those in your world to do the same.
Sexually, let’s look at this from a couple of different angles. If all of these other questions get the green light and both of you decide to take things to the next level, what happens if things get hot ‘n heavy and neither of you has a condom? How would you hold each other accountable? Or what if the condom breaks? How would you hold each other accountable? If you’re both being responsible, somebody would go and get some condoms in the first scenario, and a Plan B , along with an STD test , would be in order for the second one.
I used to be a teen mom director for the local chapter of a national non-profit several years ago, and boy, there was nothing like seeing teenagers having sex while having no clue how to do it responsibly. In many ways, it was beyond tragic because they were so selfish, immature, and sometimes just…silly.
Knowing the character of the person you are dealing with when it comes to sex can bring forth a lot of peace of mind. So yeah, it’s a good idea to also discuss mutual accountability. Pose a few hypotheticals to him; it can never hurt.
7. Are We About to Be Exclusive?Giphy
Out of all of the things that I’ve already said that you should never assume, this probably tops them all. Although there used to be a time when it was common that marriage and sex went hand in hand, we all know that isn’t the case anymore. So no, you can’t assume that he’s only going to have sex with you, just like he can’t think that’s the tip that you’re going to be on — unless you mutually decide that exclusivity is where sex is going to take you.
And even then, because no relationship is a monolith, does that mean that you’ll still date other people and just not have sex with them? Does that mean that sexual exclusivity also includes emotional commitment? See what I mean?
I know a guy who used to be notorious for saying, “I may be her boyfriend, but she is not my girlfriend.” Yeah, he was an ass, yet that doesn’t change the reality of what was going on — women were only involving themselves with him while he was out here being a “boyfriend” to several different women who didn’t know about each other. And they were so caught up (I knew a couple of ‘em) that they didn’t think to ask him…so, he used that to his advantage. They were only with him, yet it wasn’t a mutual reality.
Bottom line, sex doesn’t make something exclusive — a conversation with some established boundaries does.
I get it. Some of you might think that this line of questioning is “too deep.” To that, all I will say is, is it that the questions are too deep, or is it that you don’t take yourself seriously enough when it comes to sex, and who should have that type of access to you? *insert Jeopardy music*
Sex is one of those things that, once you do it, you can’t take it back. So, it’s better to have the answers that you’re looking for before doing what can’t be undone — for the sake of your mind, body, and spirit — and time. You feel me? Gee, I certainly hope so.
Besides, if you’re considering a responsible man, he should actually have a few questions of his own. Because again, wisdom lies in asking the right questions. Sex is certainly not excluded from that…either.
Your body is a privilege.
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Featured image by kupicoo/Getty Images