This has been a blog that I have been working on in my head for a really long time now and because this June marks seven years of Sean and I knowing each other (!!!), I figured that it would be a great time to finally get it all down.
I often get asked a lot of questions about our partnership and our marriage. I don't think this is because we are doing marriage better than anyone else, but I think people can feel the contentment that we have with one another. It isn't a front for the Internet; we actually really truly do like each other! I think that is an important distinction to make and once we dive deeper into this blog I think you will see why.
For folks that don't know the background into our story, let me start with that:
In 2012 a close offline friend of mine asked me to join a Facebook group that was geared towards "weird" black folks. She thought that I would enjoy connecting with some fellow black nerds. It wasn't a dating group and I absolutely wasn't looking for anything like that in my life anyhow.
Cue me joining the group and taking notice of this super cute guy who posted a lot and seemed really cool. Once again...I was totally not looking to date. I'd semi-recently gotten out of a 'situationship' and plus I was a single mom of a soon to be six year old (Nate of course!). My head space just wasn't there on that front, but something about him just kept making me notice him.
I soon found out that he was a musician who lived in Austin, Texas, and right then and there I fully admit that I generalized a little bit and assumed he must be a huge jerk who was running game on every woman in Austin.
I also soon found out that he was the polar opposite of that kind of guy, and that he was feeling drawn to me as well. We started texting in late June and talked on the phone for the first time on July 4th. I was still thinking this was super wild, but I also was feeling really happy and he was so friendly and easy to talk to. I came to look forward to his texts every day and worried that they would stop.
August rolled around and my life turned upside down. My aunt who raised me suddenly died from uterine cancer; we didn't even know she was sick until 48 hours before she died. I had to call an ambulance to our home (Nate and I had been living with her since my divorce from his dad) not knowing what was happening. The first person I called crying was Sean.
She died on August 17th, 2012. Several days later, Sean asked me if it would be okay to come visit. He knew how it sounded, that he was trying to take advantage of my grief, but he just felt a need to be here with me and sit with me in it.
I said yes, and to be honest the rest was history. From the moment he stepped off the plane and I saw him I knew he was my person.
It was a long couple of years to get to where we were at; we bridged the 1200 mile gap between us as often as we could. I'm not going to pretend like it was easy or wasn't often with tears and loneliness on both of our parts. On July 21st, 2014 Sean officially moved to Charlotte for good. We got married on December 6th, 2014.
We have been through a LOT in the last seven years; his move, our wedding, my miscarrying 20 days after our wedding, another miscarriage the next July, moving into a different home, job drama, and adding four cats and two babies to the mix.
Ultimately there is no one else I would rather have as my partner and best friend. Making the choice to do life with him every day, to raise our children, to love one another honestly and completely, is the best choice I could ever make.
Now that you all know a little about how we met, lets get into some of the questions! I crowd sourced a little bit along with taking into consideration the questions that I am generally asked and I compiled twelve of them that are kind of the 'most frequently' asked. I am going to give my answer, as well as Sean's so you have both perspectives. If you have anything else you would like to ask, feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail! <3
- Have people been judgmental about you meeting on Facebook?
Erica: Not really! I won't lie, in the beginning I used to feel kind of weird mentioning it, but now in 2019 I don't at all. Folks are meeting people on dating apps and stuff all the time, so Facebook isn't too out of the ordinary I figure. Sometimes people look surprised, but that is about it. Also we ended up having mutual friends, so I for sure did my homework on him. 😉
Sean: No, mainly for two reasons; one is that is it a lot more common than it used to be at the time. And in my own personal experience I had already met so many other people like friends, band mates, business associates on Facebook that in retrospect it was inevitable that I would meet the love of my life on the Internet.
- What was the first, "If you're going to be with me you should know..." that you shared with each other?
Erica: For sure it was letting him know that if Nate didn't jibe with him, no matter how I felt about him we weren't going to be able to let this rock. I absolutely refused to put a relationship above my son and I would never have even casually dated someone that he didn't like or get along with. When Sean first came to Charlotte, I made the decision to let Nate meet him just to see how it was and even then he met Sean as a friend and not my boyfriend; we did not get affectionate in front of him. It was an immediate connection on both of their ends, which made the decision to pursue a relationship with Sean such a natural decision. To this day, Nate absolutely loves Sean and sees him as his second father.
Sean: Aside from my identity as a musician, there was no essential fact about me that I needed her to know and accept as a non-negotiable thing. What I most wanted Erica to know was that I am a real person and a loving person and that I was looking for the same.
- Is there anything that the other person does that is super minuscule but huge to you that lets you know they love you?
Erica: I love how no matter what he texts me when he gets to work and texts me when he is on his way home. With the way my anxiety is set up, I tend to go into weird doomsday places if I don't know hes gotten to work okay or if he has left to come home. I love how he doesn't try to make me feel like something is wrong with me because of those things, he does them because he know it is important to me.
Sean: She lets me rant and rave about Guided by Voices without making me feel like a big dork! Everyone has a thing that makes them feel really excited, and I know in so many relationships that one person frowns on the other person's interest and is very vocal and public about their disinterest. It matters when you care enough about the other person's interests enough to be excited with them. It doesn't mean you have to go as hard as they do, but you enjoy it by proxy because they do and you love them.
- Any tips on keeping the magic alive after kids?
Erica: It might sound silly to some, but we always stay connected. Like we will post funny memes on each other’s Facebook wall or text inside jokes. I love that we can laugh together and I find that super sexy. I think sometimes people get caught up in sparks having to be overtly romantic or sexual but if you are connecting with each other and always staying in communication? For me that totally makes the sparks happen for sure. It especially helps when you really don’t have a lot of time because life is busy and you have kids. Just send a funny or sweet text. Share a funny meme. Don’t worry about what romance ‘should’ look like. It might not even look like this for you! Just do what works for you and your spouse.
Sean: We never really ever stop talking to each other. A lot of the things that we did at the beginning of our relationship we still do now. The methods and timing may be different because we have kids now so it’s get it in where we can fit it in. We kept doing it so the spark never got lost because someone is always fanning the flame.
- How does Sean help you cope with postpartum anxiety?
Erica: As someone who already had Generalized Anxiety Disorder before I experienced PPA, I feel as though he already was good at noticing my cues for when I was feeling really out of sorts. PPA though really threw me for a whole loop, and everything was magnified so much. It helped to know that there was something that I could be honest about what was happening in my mind, and would not shun me but encourage me and stand by my side. I truly don't know if I would still be here if it wasn't for how he was there for me during those dark days.
Sean: Some of it is just listening and recognizing that as hard and frequently irrational as anxiety seems, it’s always rooted in something. You have to be understanding of that. You have to acknowledge what could go wrong and what also is going right. And also just being around and being gentle, keeping her engaged when she wants to be engaged, and giving her space when she needs it.
- Do you ever disagree on stuff? How do you handle it?
Erica: It sounds strange and probably like a load of crap, but we don’t actually disagree often. That isn’t to say that we think the exact same or do things the same way, but we both give each other the grace to be understanding if we don’t agree. Neither of us are folks that are into confrontation for confrontations sake, but at the same time neither of us are afraid of it. We just talk stuff out.
Sean: I’m sure we do disagree on stuff, but it tends to be minor stuff that Erica ends up being right about anyway, so I just go with it.
- How do you have me time?
Erica: I make a point to ask for it and carve it out. We loosely have a schedule for each evening on who is working on their projects and when it is time for family and we don’t focus on whatever we are both working on. I am someone who very much needs alone time to recharge and I don’t feel guilty about asking for it. I also think it helps because Sean is truly an equal in parenting. He doesn’t ‘baby sit’ the kids and I don’t need nor want to micromanage him as a parent. He is just as capable as I am. Except when it comes to breastfeeding! 😛
Sean: It takes lots of scheduling and compromise. Let’s face it; if you are in a household where you are equally parenting three kids and two of them are babies, it’s virtually impossible for it to happen organically. A lot of the time when I do have me time, I almost immediately want to return to the family anyway.
- Where do your parenting styles diverge and how do you approach negotiating that?
Erica: I feel as though our parenting styles are very similar and there aren’t any differences that are glaringly apparent. I think ironically enough Sean is a bit more cautious of a parent than I am but that isn’t really a huge difference. The fundamental values about how we want to raise the kids at the same so if there was a difference about say...when we wanted to sign one up for a lesson or what time to go to bed, we would discuss it and work together to come up with a solution that is best for the kids.
Sean: They don’t really diverge because we have the same kind of goals about how we want to raise our children and what kind of people we hope for them to be.
- What is the easiest part of your relationship? The most difficult?
Erica: I feel like the easiest part is the fact that Sean is genuinely someone that I like and that I respect. I would want to be his friends even if he was not my spouse. The hardest part really isn’t about him or our relationship, it’s just managing all of the outside stress, like job stress or money stress. We really work hard to make sure that we are a team and take on the hard stuff together rather than against each other.
Sean: The easiest part of our relationship is coming back home. Also the most important part, the communication. Because I feel loved and supported in this relationship as my whole true self, then I can express what I think and feel to Erica without reservations and hopefully vice versa. The hardest thing is managing professional and financial stress, though thankfully it isn’t as much now as it has been in prior years.
- What advice do you have for other blended families?
Erica: As a single mom when I started dating Sean, I would say really vet whomever you want to introduce as a partner into your child’s life. I know a lot of folks say that kids shouldn’t ‘run your life’ but that isn’t how I choose to look at it. I wouldn’t want anyone in my child’s life that I didn’t feel like would be a good fit or someone that I didn’t feel like would be someone that would be there for the long term. Take as long as you need to figure that out; if they are really worth it, they will stick around for the long haul. Also take things slow when it comes to building relationships between kids and a partner. Sean and Nate really did bond very quickly and naturally but Sean didn’t press it or overstep his bounds when it came to the relationship. I think Nate felt that.
Sean: Always focus on what is best for the children, because as tough as it can be for adults to navigate new and complex situations, it’s even more so for children. Do whatever you can to make the children feel as loved and comfortable as possible, even if it means sacrificing your own ego or your own feelings.
- What do you like the best about each other?
Erica: So many people tell me all the time that he is the best man they know, and it really is true. He has a pureness to his spirit that is really lovely and he is so easy to get along with. Everything he does is with caring and concern for the people that he loves. Also he is the best father in the world.
Sean: I like the fact that she is actually loving; she truly does care about people and it isn’t in a Pollyanna way that doesn’t see people’s weaknesses or doesn’t check people when they need to be checked. There is no abuse or martyrdom, there is just genuine care and concern for the people she loves. Her friendships are real and her love is real. She gives the kind of love that she wants to receive and it shows in our marriage, our children, and her friendships. And that she extends that love to herself because I know that has been a process.
- When did you know that you wanted to get married?
Erica: It came honestly as a shock to me that I wanted to because I really didn’t want to get married again after my divorce. I wasn’t opposed to a long term relationship but the idea of marriage was scary. I think I realized pretty soon that with Sean I could have the kind of marriage that I really wanted, one built on mutual respect and love. That’s when I let him know what I would be open to the idea (because I had told him originally I didn’t want to, and he respected that though I knew he wanted to)!
Sean: When I first met Nate and I started building a Lego set with him. I knew before then but once that happened I knew that it was possible. It felt like the last puzzle piece was put into place.