“When Stay and I met, I was dating someone else. Also, even though we had been separated for a couple of years, I had only been officially divorced for six months. Stay was in the final stages of finalizing hers. Neither of us were looking to get into a serious relationship, and we certainly were not looking to get remarried.
She had been hired at my job, and upon our first-time meeting, Stay said I looked mean and unfriendly. My first thought of her was she was cute, and I felt surprisingly drawn to her.
We spent the next couple of months sitting next to each other with me training her. We became fast friends; having frequent lunches together, talking about her plans for moving to DC and even me giving her relationship advice. Back then, I had a habit of engaging in phone calls with friends and family in Jamaican patois so my coworkers couldn’t easily eavesdrop. One of the first things I remember her saying to me was:
‘I can understand what you’re saying you know.’
As it turned out, she was raised by a Jamaican mother, and with that, my phone conversations were no longer private, but I didn’t mind because I liked that we shared a culture.
Things took a romantic turn at a company beach picnic. I found myself thinking about her all day leading up to the event. All I wanted was to see her, and once there, all I wanted to do was hang out with her. I had a feeling, but I wasn’t sure she felt the same way. Then on our way to the bathroom towards the end of the evening, she linked her pinky into mine, which was our first physical contact. That night, we made plans to go to the movies the next morning and have been together just about every day since.
I like to joke that she came over for our first date and never left. She was there so much my then 8-year-old son asked her if she was homeless. We worked together all day then spent every night together. It was a glorious time.
It wasn’t long before we were introduced to each others friends/family. We were sure about each other, but our loved ones had some justifiable concerns. She’s 12 years younger than I am, and my family wondered if she was ready for all that came with being the (step) mom of 2 special-needs children. Did she really understand what she was signing up for? Was she biting off more than she could chew?
Stay’s family was concerned she was setting herself up for heartache. I had never been in a real same sex relationship before. Was I just looking for some fun? To experiment? Would I eventually leave her and ‘go back to men’?
The truth is we were forced to make some big decisions very early into our relationship.
We knew all along Stay was only going to be at the job for the summer, and she would be moving from NJ to VA at the end of August for a better job opportunity. One day while getting an oil change she dropped ‘the question’ on me. ‘When I leave, is this over, are we going to be friends with benefits, or is this more?’ Sitting in the car that day, we made a choice to jump all in, and I’ve never regretted it. A couple of weeks later, she showed up at my front door in the middle of the night, with roses and a ring—and proposed. We planned a small wedding for the following March.
From August 2015 to March 2016, Stay lived in VA while I was still in NJ. We spent 8 months driving the 4 hours (each way) back and forth on alternating weekends. We never missed one. It was hard, but we were both committed to spending time together and to making any effort needed for us to succeed.
In the 5 years since we got married, we’ve faced some interesting challenges. With the move to Virginia, Stay took a significant pay cut with expecting it would slingshot her career and salary in the coming years. (It did.) Stay’s Grandma had some health issues, which required us to dedicate a lot of time, money, and energy to her recovery. Both myself and my younger son had broken bones and needed surgery. We even had my ex-husband (the children’s father), his current wife, and their children live with us for a few months while they waited for Covid related travel restrictions to be lifted. Can you imagine that conversation? ‘Baby, do you mind if my ex and his family move in?’
Despite our unconventional living situation for much of it, the pandemic actually brought us closer. We were fortunate we never lost our jobs, and we were able to focus on what is important: loving each other and being good parents to our sons.
Being a same sex couple, we have had some issues with other people and their prejudices. My ‘coming out’ was shocking news to most of the people in my circle, but I would say the majority took it well. My Mom and I are not really close, I haven’t spoken to my Dad in about 15 years, and the grandparents who raised me have passed away, so my lifelong friends really are my family.
So it was particularly painful when one of them said, ‘I love you, but I cannot accept this’ and basically cut me off. In that conversation, I told her as difficult as it was for me to lose her, I was sticking by my wife. I made it clear my love for her was unconditional and my door would always be open and ready for her to come walking through. For months, I would occasionally send her emails with nothing but the picture of an open door. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Stay also extended an olive branch to her in the form of a party invitation because she knew how valuable the relationship was to me. My friend surprised me and came. That was 4 years ago, and things are good now.
Stay has been out with her family for years and for the most part they’re welcoming—now. But there was a rough patch between herself and her mom in the beginning. In conversations with my MIL, she’s told me she always knew she’d love and support her daughter and she only ever wanted her daughter to be happy. She did admit it took some time for her to fully come to terms with this thing, which was out of her comfort zone. ‘I knew certain people in my family would not be accepting,’ she said, ‘and while I never cared much about what people thought, I wanted Stay to be sure of what she was doing before going down that road.’
Stay’s Mom has had to confront family who were talking about Stay behind her back, and Stay has had some emotional conversations with family members who struggled to accept her. As my MIL says though, ‘Being happy and real is more important than being kept prisoner in the cage of someone else’s expectations for your life.’ It is hard though when the people who say they love you all of a sudden stop seeing you or treating you the same way just because of who you love. My MIL and I agree talking helps.
I know I have been lucky, and it could have been much worse regarding everyone accepting me. Jamaica has earned a bad reputation where LGBT rights are concerned. Fortunately, we have been there together several times and have not had any issues. I was a little nervous the first time we hung out with my friends from high school, but they have been so accepting. There were some people who I noticed unfriended me on Facebook after I began posting pictures of Stay, but those were not people I cared about anyway. Some people only comment or react to my posts about the kids or myself; not any with Stay. Again, I don’t consider those people my real friends and I don’t let it bother me. I leave them to their bigotry. Others have called my actual friends to ask questions or just to gossip, but my friends shut it down.
Stay and I do still see Facebook posts by some in our families spreading anti-gay messages. The ones that are particularly painful are the ones saying we should not be allowed to raise children. It hurts because these are people who know us and our children and will comment on our posts giving us compliments about the good job we’re doing of raising the boys. I have decided not engaging with those people is in my best interest.
I am happy to say my children have not been negatively affected by my marriage to another woman. Since the beginning, they accepted Stay for who she is and what she adds to our family. To them, her being a girl is irrelevant. Although, there was one time early on when my younger son asked, ‘You’re a girl. Right?’ She chuckled and confirmed. They have also asked how it would work if we wanted a baby. We have always taken the approach of being open and honest with them and explaining things at an age-appropriate level. I do not get uncomfortable having those conversations with them and they know they can ask either one of us anything they want.
Anti-gay people claim to be worried about the kids, but my kids’ reactions and those of their friends goes to show kids are not the problem. Especially if we show them a variety of families at a young age. Recently, my now 13-year-old saw gay characters in a cartoon and said, ‘I haven’t seen that before. I think it’s good. So kids will know it’s normal.’ Then he asked for a snack.
Ultimately, I am so proud of us. Through it all, we never lost sight of our goals. We laugh a lot, we respect each other and each one knows the other has their best interest at heart.
Online we share snippets of our life because we want people to see us and families like ours in a positive light. We’re not scary or evil. We do all the same things they do. We pay taxes, shuffle kids to activities, go to concerts, travel to exotic locations, and host game nights. We also argue about laundry, what we are going to have for dinner, and who is the better driver. We have all the same worries as everyone else too. Our kids’ futures, bills, health, safety, finding time for self-care. And we work hard. Stay is 2 classes away from earning her MBA, we’re 2 weeks away from closing on our first house together, and I’m studying for my CPA License. We have talked about having more kids, but I think we’re probably happy with the 2 we have and will focus on spoiling our nieces.
Our hope is, as a family unit, we represent well for all our communities. Black, LGBT+, Immigrant, Female, Male, Disability, American. We hope being open/visible encourages those who could use it because we know everyone is not as lucky as we are. Stay and I want those who need it to see us as a safe place to land and for those who are still learning to see us as humans who are just as deserving of full rights/protection/celebration/love as anyone else.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nadine (aka Deenie) of Fredericksburg, Virginia. You can follow her journey on Instagram, and you can follow her wife, Stay, on Instagram as well. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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