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.
It's true what they say, "absence makes the heart grow fonder," and after being in a three-year long-distance relationship the love between Ijeoma and Jonathan Kola is absolutely adoring! These love birds crossed paths freshmen year on the campus of Harvard University. Both bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, the two were eager to jumpstart their college careers and take on the world. But, as fate would have it, cupid interfered and redirected their sights.
"He gave me very 'fresh off the boat' vibes. I'm from Nigeria. I was born in Nigeria, but I grew up in America and Jonathan was born in Kenya and grew up in Kenya. He came to college from Kenya. To me, he was very African," recalled a hysterical Ijeoma. Jonathan's Prince Akeem in Coming to America persona didn't scream husband material to Ijeoma right away, but Ijeoma's bubbly personality and positive spirit intrigued Jonathan instantly.
During the couple's senior year, their friendship blossomed into a full-blown relationship. After graduation, Jonathan moved across the globe to Nigeria and Ijeoma moved to New York to pursue a second degree. She admitted she wasn't thinking about marriage then, but being in a long-distance relationship really forced them to really get to know each other on an emotional level. Two years later, Jonathan moved back to the U.S. to attend graduate school in California. By the second year of their long-distance romance, Ijeoma knew she could spend eternity with Jonathan. "I knew that I wanted to be with him, but I also knew I didn't want to be long-distance," said Ijeoma. She spiced things up when she presented Jonathan with the ultimate ultimatum.
Read carefully ladies, Ijeoma told Jonathan, "If you don't propose by my birthday, we got to keep it moving." Keep it moving was clearly the last thing Jonathan wanted to do. A few days before her 25th birthday, Jonathan popped the question and the rest was history. In this installment of Our First Year, Ijeoma and Jonathan sat down with xoNecole and gave us all the details on their struggle with communication, loosening family ties, and the best advice they received during their first year of marriage. Here's what they had to say:
*Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Ijeoma: I don't know if there was an exact moment [when I knew he was the one]. Maybe after the second year of being long-distance. I was living in New York, and I had other options. I kind of felt like if I was willing to do this long-distance with this guy who's so far away in Nigeria at the time, then I must really care for him. I think that's when I knew he was the one. It was during that long-distance process.
Jonathan: When we started dating in college, marriage wasn't really on my radar. As we continued dating and things were working out well, it was pretty natural just to fall deeper into the relationship. Until Ijeoma said, "If you don't propose by my birthday we have to keep it moving." I was just about to graduate. I was trying to picture myself down the road. I was trying to figure out life. She made me see that it was the right time. For me, it was natural with a bit of encouragement. We were dating, we kept dating, and it was going well.
Courtesy of Jonathan & Ijeoma
"I was trying to figure out life. She made me see that it was the right time. For me, it was natural with a bit of encouragement. We were dating, we kept dating, and it was going well."
Meet Me At The Altar
Ijeoma: After his first year of business school, which I think was the summer of 2015, he was in school in California. We were doing long-distance. He did an internship in New York, so we lived together for that summer. In general, I am not comfortable living together before marriage, but we decided to do it because of financial reasons. That process of living together made me feel I wasn't going to shack up with somebody who wasn't trying to marry me. So, I think us living together in that summer, at least from a time perspective, made me feel like marriage was the next thing that we needed to do if we wanted to spend so much time together. If we wanted to be together all day and create a shared space together, then we should get married. Emotionally, I was probably there before then, but I think from a practical perspective it was after that summer. I was like, oh no, we need to get married if you trying to be with me all day.
Jonathan: I think for me knowing that I could spend the rest of my life with Ijeoma in a relationship was one thing, but taking the steps to get married and formalizing that was a different thing. You can feel one way toward somebody, but still feel like in your mind this isn't the right moment to get married. It was just a natural progression for me. She was exhibiting all the right things I liked like being caring, loving, sweet and I just enjoyed spending time with her. Those are things that reveal themselves over time, but they all add up to that feeling of okay, this is the one.
Courtesy of Jonathan & Ijeoma
"It was just a natural progression for me. She was exhibiting all the right things I liked like being caring, loving, sweet and I just enjoyed spending time with her. Those are things that reveal themselves over time, but they all add up to that feeling of okay, this is the one."
Overcoming Fears In Marriage
Ijeoma: Before getting married, I would talk to my mom about everything. So, something I believed would have to change if I wanted my marriage to be successful [was that there would have to be] things that I talk about with my husband that I don't share with the outside world because it's just between us. I have to train my mind to remember he is my family now. Sharing goods new with him is sufficient, and I don't need to go talk to my mom. Even when I'm looking for advice, it's okay for things just to be between him and I. I think that is what I was most worried about--whether I would be able to keep my mouth shut and not reveal all our business to my parents and to my other friends. I'm doing an okay job.
Jonathan: My biggest fear going into marriage was probably my biggest default--that was my trajectory. In my mind, from day one when I left Kenya, I thought I was going to move back and get a job. When you meet someone and make a commitment, all that stuff kind of goes out the window. In my mind, all those things that I wanted to do, I had to reevaluate. That was scary. Then I realized, marriage is two people coming together and being able to bring different goals and perspectives and trying to make it workable for both. I think it's something we are still working on, and we are taking short-term steps to see how we work. I think it is one of those challenges you face in marriage to become one.
Ijeoma: For me, similarly, it's communication but on the opposite side of the spectrum. Growing up, I saw from my mom interestingly, not even from my dad, but my mom's style of communication to anyone was pretty abrasive when she is upset. Early on, I would raise my voice. Which would only be exaggerated when he would close the door, and go somewhere and not talk to me for three hours. I had to unlearn saying exactly how I felt at that moment. Although that might work for me and make me feel good, that might not be what the other person is ready to hear. Our unlearning goes hand in hand because they come from such different sides of the spectrum of conflict resolution and communication.
Jonathan: Whenever I'm pissed off, my initial reaction is not to tell her why I am pissed off. I just like to scowl at her for a couple of hours. It's not a good thing and I recognize that. That's one area where I'm trying to be better. Getting over things more quickly.
Courtesy of Jonathan & Ijeoma
"I had to unlearn saying exactly how I felt at that moment. Our unlearning goes hand in hand because they come from such different sides of the spectrum of conflict resolution and communication."
Important Lessons In Marriage
Ijeoma: I actually learned a lot about myself. Loving him has taught me that I am capable of doing things I didn't think I was capable of doing. He has supported me through my Ph.D. journey. I wanted to quit so, so, so many times, and he really was my rock on numerous occasions. He encouraged me endlessly, and also gave me the freedom to feel I can do it in my own way. The only reason I was able to finish is because I was able to let go of the traditional understanding of getting a Ph.D., going to conferences, and writing papers. He encouraged me to look beyond the typical traditional task and forge my own path, and do it in a way that would make me happy and fulfill my needs. That was the only way I was able to get it done. His support showed me that I am really, really strong and I can do a lot of things.
Jonathan: For me, [I've learned] everything is a choice. The way you respond to things is a choice. Sometimes I'm just stubborn. The sun will shine the next day and life will go on. Bad behaviors that build up over time can become very toxic. Just in the state of giving good vibes and good energy, it's the little small choices that can bring the right energy. It's healthier, and you grow from it.
Courtesy of Jonathan & Ijeoma
"He has supported me through my Ph.D. journey. I wanted to quit so, so, so many times, and he really was my rock on numerous occasions. He encouraged me endlessly, and also gave me the freedom to feel I can do it in my own way."
Ijeoma: With me, it's about trying all the love languages and seeing what sticks that day. Jonathan is pretty simple when it comes to love language. For him, acts of service and quality time are the top two. We spend a lot of time together. We are very fortunate to spend a lot of time together. I'm quite messy, so I try to do things I know will make him happy or will take a load off him. I will often take on things I know he has to do or forgot to do. We took the test before we got married which definitely helped us.
Jonathan: Some people switch up their love language. They'll tell you it's one thing, but it's another. Sometimes you just have to do all five.
Ijeoma: A couple of weeks before we got married, we took a weekend trip and wrote out our marriage mission statement and our marriage values. It was Jonathan's idea. I don't know where he got it from. It was actually really good! It helped set a foundation for us. Our goal in marriage is to love one another the way that God loves us and to use our marriage as a way to share God's love and light with other people.
Jonathan: I wouldn't change anything she said. I want to amplify one point. It's really about making sure both of us are fulfilled and happy. As for goals, it just has to fit in the context of our marriage. If my individual goals don't fit into the context of our marriage, then I can't do it. At the end of the day, that's what's important.
Courtesy of Jonathan & Ijeoma
"Our goal in marriage is to love one another the way that God loves us and to use our marriage as a way to share God's love and light with other people."
Ijeoma: There was a time where I was on the phone with my mom, I was cooking and Jonathan had just come home from work. I had her on speakerphone, she asked, "Is that your husband?" I said, "Yes." She said, "Okay then, bye." I told her it's okay Jonathan doesn't mind, we can keep on talking. She said, "No, your husband is home. It's now time for you to be with him and spend time with him. You and I can talk some other time." That was a super-powerful moment because as I said earlier, that was something I had to work on--prioritizing my relationship with my husband as my first earthly relationship. Once we are back in the same space, it doesn't matter who you are on the phone with, what you're doing, stop and take time for each other and spend a little bit of time together.
Jonathan: The most memorable piece of advice I got was from a cousin who said, "Whenever I travel somewhere, I should bring back something small for my wife." Whether it's a hat or makeup bag, just something random. It's such a small gesture but it goes a long way.
Soon they'll will have to make time and space for their first bundle of joy. Congratulations are in order as Ijeoma and Jonathan welcome their first child! To learn how Ijeoma broke the news to Jonathan, watch the video below. Stay up to date as they navigate marriage and parenthood by subscribing to Ijeoma's YouTube channel.
The Kola Family Is Expanding! Pregnancy Q&Awww.youtube.com
- We Got Married Five Days After He Proposed - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- Our First Year: Dr. Carjie and Dr. Kerwin Scott - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- Our First Year: Ray & Roslyn Singleton, Marriage - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
There’s people who perform songs, and then there’s performers, and let me tell you something: Victoria Monét is a PERFORMER. I first fell in love with her as an artist after hearing her hit song “Moment,” and then when her album JAGUAR was released in 2020, I was hooked. JAGUAR was one of those albums that I kept on repeat as I and the rest of the world were going through the motions of being in a pandemic. I remember watching her perform her single “Jaguar” from the album on her YouTube channel, and the way she performed so effortlessly with such confidence, I knew I had to see her live.
Luckily, I got the opportunity. Along with dropping JAGUAR II, which features the viral single “On My Mama,” Victoria also announced The Jaguar Tour, and as soon as the tickets dropped, it quickly sold out. I attended her Atlanta show at the Buckhead Theatre, and besides being met with a sea of concertgoers from wall to wall, my ears were immediately hit with a beautiful voice from none other than Alex Vaughn, who opened for the mother of one. Once Alex finished her set, it was time for the main event.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images
As soon as Victoria stepped on stage, it was hers. She commanded the room with her sultry voice and hypnotic dance moves, performing songs from albums JAGUAR I and II and previous projects such as Life After Love, Pt. 1. Fans were singing her songs word for word to the point where, at times, you no longer heard her singing. However, it was clear that she was in a room filled with love and support, and she also showed it back on stage. The singer rarely took breaks in between songs and dazzled fans with her smooth moves that is reminiscent of the legendary Janet Jackson.
One of my favorite moments was when she performed “Cadillac (A Pimp’s Anthem).” She dressed in a trench coat and fedora, complete with her pimp cane, and another big moment was when she performed “Stop (Askin’ Me 4Shyt)”. Overall, it was nice to vibe out to live performances of some of my personal faves like “Ass Like That,” “How Does It Make You Feel,” “Alright,” and “Big Boss.” In a recent cover story for Galore, Victoria revealed what she hopes concert attendees walk away with.
“On tour, I really wanna give people the best version of Victoria on stage, better than I’ve ever been before. I’m hoping people have the time of their life at the show,” she said. After working behind the scenes as a songwriter for so long, the California native now has all eyes on her, and it’s clear she was ready for this moment.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image by Paras Griffin/Getty Images