LeVar & Reanne Harris On How Travel Keeps The Love Alive In Their First Year

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.

A couple that travels together, stays together.

The sentiment couldn't ring truer for newlyweds LeVar Harris and Reanne Swafford-Harris. The couple are fresh off of commemorating their second-year wedding anniversary with a trip to Santorini, Greece. Among bleach white houses and bright blue roofs synonomous with Santorini, the two indulged in a private tour and access to some remote areas of the island and the village of Oia.

Photo Credit: @miltoskaraiskakis_photography

“It was a beautiful experience and we couldn't be happier with the photos we have to commemorate our time there," Reanne said. “In fact, Santorini is the first island we unanimously decided we would come back to with our future babies."

When LeVar, 28, met Reanne, 27, it was nearly a decade ago and deeply fated. The setting was a holiday social LeVar's fraternity was hosting for their annual Miss Black & Gold scholarship pageant. On that particular night, Reanne was a woman on a mission, having laid eyes on LeVar before then and letting his best friend know that of all the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha, she wished to be paired up with him. Little did they know, in that moment, they were walking into the rest of their lives together.

From afar, LeVar had known Reanne as the cute track girl, but as they grew closer, he quickly became captivated by her drive, her focus, and her discipline. For Reanne, she always felt secure in his presence. The couple quickly found love through each other, a shared love of Christ, and adventure. And after five beautiful years together, the two exchanged vows and solidified their union on September 5, 2015.

Photo Credit: @miltoskaraiskakis_photography

This is their journey.

The One

LeVar Harris: I knew she was the one when I saw how she treated her friends and family, and how they interacted with her. Goals and ambitions are cool, but how your loved ones view you will eventually pour into your future family. After I saw how she cooked for, housed, and took care of her friends and track teammates in college, I knew she was the total package. I knew that my next girlfriend was going to be my future wife - which is why I was so selective - so marriage was definitely imminent.

I love my wife's tenacity, drive, and ambition.

I've always admired how Reanne is someone who is very goal-oriented and how she stops at nothing to make sure she achieves those goals. In the same breath, she pushes those around her to do better. You can't help but want to run right next to her. That's also what makes our relationship so much fun.

Not only will she ride shotgun with me, but also, she isn't afraid to drive right next to me. She's a true teammate and partner.

Reanne Swafford-Harris: I knew he was the one when I realized how closely his relationship with Christ mirrored my own. He was the first boyfriend I had to ever make me question if I was doing enough to seek out God. Was I in my word daily? Was I holding myself accountable for unforgiveness in my heart? Did people look at me and see Christ the same way I saw the Lord's favor over LeVar's life? I instantly realized he challenged me in the only way that mattered, and what truly sealed the deal for me was when he broached the topic of celibacy before I did. That gave me the upmost security in knowing I had been matched with someone equally yoked, someone who desired to live for God in word and deed for their own righteousness, and not in order to impress or win me over.

I instantly realized he challenged me in the only way that mattered.

I love his wisdom, how he seeks God first, and how even-tempered he is. LeVar is my peace. I can definitely be a storm (laughs), but when I enter our home, it's always a peaceful environment awaiting me and that's because my husband is consistent about thinking of ways to make life easy for me, and that's really something we try to do for each other.

The Best Part

LeVar: I think the concept of experiencing new things together is something we've shared from our first international trip together for my wife's 23rd birthday. I just remember how fun it was to embark on this new side of the world we had never seen before. The trip really opened our eyes to not only how amazing all-inclusive resorts are (laughs), but more importantly, it showed how far we can go with each other.

Reanne: My husband and I value uninterrupted time together in general, and traveling is an activity that really lends itself to that, be it a road trip to Vegas for my 21st, or our recent getaway to Greece to celebrate our second wedding anniversary. But I would say I am the more adventurous one, and I am definitely the creator of our travel itineraries. Luckily, my husband is really a go with the flow kind of guy, and always appreciates the effort I put into researching new countries and planning activities for us upon arrival. I see my time spent planning as an act of service to him, and because he enjoys indulging me, I typically don't get too much push back budget-wise (laughs).

Love Conquers All

Photo Credit: @miltoskaraiskakis_photography

LeVar: When Reanne graduated from law school, she got an offer from a law firm in San Francisco. We had been dating for a while, but I knew I wasn't interested in a long-distance relationship. I was very comfortable in Southern California with my own house and stable job, but knew if Reanne was going to be my future spouse, some sort of official commitment had to be made. I took it up with God, and prayed hard for a good two months, and then He gave me the confirmation I needed.

Reanne: Like my husband said, when I accepted a job offer in a city seven hours away, I knew this would either break us or make us. My husband had truly offered all the support I could have asked for in helping me make this decision. At the time, I, of course, wanted him to come with me, but I didn't feel I had the right to ask him to give up his home, career, and proximity to his family as his girlfriend. Although women are expected to uproot themselves in any stage of their relationship for a man, that same expectation is oftentimes unmet. I am still so grateful that I met and married a man who treats me as his equal.

Baggage Claim

LeVar: I personally didn't have any major baggage, maybe just a little carry on (laughs), but Reanne had some stemming from her past relationships we had to overcome. I personally never took it to heart because I understood the cause and she acknowledged it, but instead of complaining about it and making her feel bad, I just made the decision to stick my chest out and push through it. I literally made it a goal of mine to be the guy she didn't think existed. It worked.

I literally made it a goal of mine to be the guy she didn't think existed.

In terms of bad behaviors, I definitely had to unlearn being single and everything that came with it because I was single for so long prior. The going out without telling anyone, and being flirty unintentionally was something I didn't even realize I did until Reanne brought it to my attention.

Reanne: I had a lot of control issues, and I never realized how selfish I was until I was challenged with putting someone first. Prior to meeting my husband, I was a serial dater in the sense that as soon as I got out of one long-term relationship, I was quick to jump into another without every analyzing myself or the type of men I was allowing to date me. Although I never had a prolonged season of “singleness," I was still a newly 20-year-old with no concept of what a healthy relationship looked like, so for me checking your significant other's text messages before bed was as routine as me removing my makeup and brushing my teeth …so yeah, I had a lot to unlearn with respect to boundaries and trust.

The fortunate thing about meeting so young was that we had a little over 4 ½ years of dating to navigate these behaviors, and we attended premarital counseling through our church prior to getting married, so we did not bring any baggage into our marriage. A lot of me unlearning bad behavior simply came with aging and the maturity that followed, and of course my husband being consistent with how he demonstrated his love for me, even at such a young age, was pivotal.

Conflict Resolutions

LeVar: As with any relationship, there will be friction, but we always addressed it head on by communicating with one another. We always took the time to understand what each of our intentions was, and then figured out a happy medium.

Reanne: Overall, our first year was surprisingly smooth, and we definitely saw more highs than lows. But 2016 did present some difficult emotional challenges with a family death and my husband's career transition. I am not an outwardly emotional person when it comes to expressing sadness, so it was a challenge for me to comfort him in a way that communicated my empathy when my inner being wanted to shut down into a reclusive state. I am very fortunate though that my husband has always been adamant about us extending the benefit of the doubt to one another.

For more, keep up with the Harrises on Instagram @ladyharris_esq and @lv14degrees.

Know of any couples that epitomize black love goals to you? Whether married or unmarried, send us a note at submissions@xonecole.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming Our First Year or How We Met feature.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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