Leave and Cleave “Your New Identity”

A big part of the transition of marriage involves developing a new identity. Not like, I’m going to be Jada and you’re going to be Will. But more like, though I love my family, YOU are now my family. This takes some obvious reframing when it comes to things like how you spend holidays and which traditions you will uphold. But I believe there is an internal reframing that must occur also; like, “Are your parents REALLY my parents? Will your siblings ever feel like MY siblings? Will you be friends with my best friend?”

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

Leaving and cleaving can be tricky. Leaving implies us literally leaving our parents, our first source of love. And cleaving instructs us to be joined together “as one” with our spouse, someone we are learning how to love. Being joined with our spouse says, “Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Leave your peeps, embrace mine, but cling to me so we can be one. I’ll embrace your family as my own and you will embrace mine as yours.” To mesh with one’s family it is important to spend time with the family. But in order to get to know your spouse, it’s important to spend time apart from others so you can acclimate as husband and wife and develop your new identity as a couple. It can almost feel like a mixed message.

Is Genesis 2:24 saying, “Separate (from your family), connect (as a couple) and build your own family? If so, what do familial relationships look like now? What if both Mother in-laws wish to host Christmas dinner and it’s equally important to husband and wife. Do you decline both invitations and celebrate alone or do you explain to both sets of parents that you’ll be alternating holidays? Both those suggestions are a fair compromise, but what is really taking place in your heart while making such decisions? Are you complying to appear like you’re a good sport, while internally resenting everybody, feeling like you’re taking one for the team? As you adjust to this new idea of becoming one with your spouse you may at times feel like you are losing your own identity in the process.

You can either view your circumstance like you are losing your identity or gaining a new one.  I’ve been married for 19 years now and although I have a healthy marriage, I just realized this year that when I chose to leave, I did not choose to cleave. My bank account, zip code, dwelling, and even my last name changed but deep within, there were hidden things that remained the same. One of which was, my Dad was my Dad. Although my Father-in-Law is a man in which I have boundless respect and honor for, he was not my Dad. I have used so many tactics over the last two decades to keep from calling him “Dad,” it’s really quite ridiculous. He’s been affectionately called, “Mr. Poplar, Grandpa, Melvin Poplar Sr. My Father-in-Law.” But not until 3 weeks ago did I refer to him as “Dad.” That might seem trivial to some, but to me it was huge. It was hard, but I did it, and I’m glad I did! (Even though it was in a text message. I felt a significant shift.)

I met my husband when I was 16. My Daddy died 9 years before. A lot takes place in a girl’s life between the ages of 7 and 16, but one thing that didn’t change for me was that I was a Daddy’s girl at heart. I was so young that my “Daddy” was just that, “Daddy.” He died before I ever reached the stage of even referring to him as “Dad.” I’m 40 something and in my mind, my Dad is still my “Daddy.” I think the little girl inside of me was not willing to relinquish the space in my heart that was reserved for my Daddy. Rather than seeing how God gave me another Father figure, the little girl inside of me felt like if I embraced my husband’s Dad, then I would be letting go of my own. Letting go of his legacy, his love, and his life.

It never dawned on me that God gave me a new family and Father so that I could receive love, embrace legacy, and celebrate life. Grief kept me from cleaving to my husband’s family, and grief is what drove me to embrace them as my own. After my Daddy died we stayed in touch with our local relatives, but we had no contact from his family in his State of origin. My Dad was the youngest of my grandfather’s children and I’m the youngest of my siblings. I have now lived in that State for the last 16 years and as we travel throughout Alabama I would often grieve the thought that I could have family in the cities we were in and not even know who they were.

I know this is going to sound all the way crazy, but the movie Black Panther heightened this grief all the more. I identified more with the supervillain, Erik Killmonger, as I felt displaced from my people and jealous of my husband’s rich cultural heritage. His family’s genealogy made me jealous because I could not trace my history past my grandfather. Part of me would take pride in the fact that my children gained this wonderful legacy, but the other part of me felt discouraged and displaced and my heart ached for something deeper.

The day after calling my Father-in-law Dad and deciding my husband’s history was my own and his people were my people, I logged on to Facebook and saw where my first cousin had posted an obituary that her brother found on a genealogy site. The person who had passed was “James Burton Sr.” from Montgomery Alabama. I started combing through the names of his family members, entering them into the Facebook search bar and noticed that I had mutual friends with one of the women that I found. I contacted that friend via text and within hours I was on the phone with my newfound family member. It was surreal. Her father who had just passed away days prior was my grandfather’s nephew. To think all these years had gone by of me fearing that cleaving to my husband’s family would lead to loss and it led to such great gain.

Is there an area in your life in which you know you either need to leave (your family) or cleave (to your spouse)? Your circumstance might be totally different from mine but you are keenly aware that there is something that you’ve been holding back? You could be hindering the oneness God has designed for you and your spouse to experience.

Parents aren’t the only ones you may have to leave. Before marriage, you may have had friends with the opposite sex. Within marriage, it’s important to leave those friendships and foster friendship with your spouse. Your spouse should be your best friend. So in some cases, even BFFs have to renegotiate the terms of their friendship. Friendship is important, but being friends with your spouse needs to take priority. I’m not saying you can’t cultivate friendship with others, I’m just saying you can’t really fully connect with your spouse if your focus is always connecting with others.

You are no longer Single, so why live like a Single person? If you are a couple, then it’s important to leave behind Single mindsets. This isn’t something you have to announce to others, it’s an internal shift that takes place within that will be reflected in your priorities. My prayer for you is that you release what needs to be let go of so you can embrace that which will cause you to cling to your spouse. Your new identity doesn’t have to erase who you were it should enhance who you are becoming. 

 

SMS New Identity

What are some areas in which couples generally struggle when it comes to leaving and cleaving?

Have you found yourself in an identity crisis at any point along your marriage journey?

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Real Love

Our oldest daughter recently had the pleasure of attending the 35th Annual Fun-Set Social and Charity Club Beautillion Ball. She was an escort for a friend who was a beau in the ball. The Beautillion season highlights the success of young African American males.  Beaus attend seminars with a focus on spiritual, social, educational and economic growth. The annual Beautillion Ball is a culmination of educational activities and fun.

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We were honored for her to be invited, but we were even more excited to get to attend with her. My husband is a hardcore helicopter parent, so having a valid reason to be present was right up his alley. We have a great rapport with the young man who invited her and we’ve been friends with his family for over a decade. But she’s his baby girl, and he delighted in being right by her side. The way my husband assisted our daughter with her dress, watched her on the dance floor and pulled out her chair when she would sit reminded me of so many of the reasons I fell in love with him.

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Not only did Trinity look like a princess she was treated like one by both her date and her dad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently someone heard me and my husband’s testimony of secondary virginity and thought it wasn’t “real”. They weren’t implying that it was too fanciful. They were insinuating that it wasn’t “real” like, “BIG DEAL, who cares that you had sex before marriage and chose to practice abstinence while you were pregnant.” And all I could think of was, “God cares.”

Sometimes when people say things like, “I’m just being real.” What they really mean is that they are being “real” carnal. If people can’t receive from you because they don’t perceive you as being “real” don’t compromise your values, lower your standards, or remove healthy boundaries because of their opinion. The truth is, they may have a problem with your testimony because it highlights that God is real. It’s their brokenness that keeps them from celebrating how God’s REAL love has made you whole.

 

 

Real Love

 

He treats me like a princess because I’m a daughter of the King.

There’s no need for me to be stressed because I am his Good Thing.

He’s my Knight in Shining Armor the one who makes me brave.

You might wonder how he does it, it’s all because he’s Saved.

When a man is in love with The Lover of his Soul,

His love won’t leave you broken, it will only make you whole.

He can’t see you as royalty if he doesn’t seek the King.

If he does not honor God he won’t know you are a Queen.

Don’t settle for a boy when you can have a Prince.

Set your standards high and do not straddle the fence.

Boundaries keep you safe, they prevent you from a fall.

Your body is a temple protect the palace walls.

Far above rubies, more precious than silver and gold.

Why settle for lust filled fragments when real love can make you whole?

© Toya Poplar 2016

 

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Photography by Tim Gentry

If you want to hear, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” Keep doing well and stay faithful to God’s Word.

Marriage is our ministry but purity will always be our passion. If you ever need someone to share the message of how powerful purity is, connect with us. We believe that purity empowers you to plan your future without looking back at your past. And we know from experience that it’s never too late to wait.

Keep Christ First

After stating “It’s not good for man to be alone,” God created a wife as a helper for her husband. Marriage is not only for man’s accompaniment. It is also an illustration of Christ and the Church. Christ’s love and sacrifice for His bride is the greatest example of how a husband should love, cherish, and be one with his wife. Figuring out how to live as one can at times be difficult to understand, so it is vitally important to keep Christ first. A marriage built on Christ is formed on a solid foundation that can withstand the storms of life.

When we remain rooted in God’s Word and refuse to let our hearts harden, our marriages not only reap rewards but reflects Christ’s unfailing love. If God is love and love never fails, neither should your marriage. Married Christians should, in fact, be experts in the department of forgiveness and reconciliation. Marriage is a relationship where we gain lots of practice in the area of forgiving which helps us understand God’s heart towards humanity. The thought that you can “so love” someone that you sacrifice your comfort for their care is an enigma. And apart from Christ’s example of the ultimate sacrifice, it makes very little sense.

Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Marriage, poses the question, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy rather than to make us happy.” Many times we enter into marriage thinking that it is our spouse’s job to make us happy, when in reality, God could be using your spouse to make you holy. Holiness is not always fun, but it will always be right. Happiness is not always holy and may cause us to walk down an erroneous path. Whether our lives are overflowing with happiness or overwhelmed by woes, keeping Christ first is the way to overcome.

 

Keep Christ First white

To build your marriage on a solid foundation work through the questions below with your spouse.

1.  Read Psalm 1:1-3  & Matthew 7:24-27, what do roots and rocks have in common?

2.  What happens when we confess our faults to our spouse?  Define “avail.

3. Read Proverbs 3:27, are you guilty of withholding good from your spouse?

4. What are some areas in which you can serve your spouse? Make a list in your phone so you can refer to it often.

5. When was the last time you and your spouse studied God’s word? Start with the bonus scriptures above. Ephesians 5:31-33 & I Corinthians 13:4-8. What spoke to your heart?

Date Night Ideas

Why date night? Because you both work hard and deserve to play hard.  Date night is a scheduled break to keep your lines of communication from breaking down. It’s a time to dream, plan, and create together. Date night is a way of saying, “You are a priority to me.” Date night can be fun, productive, romantic, or silly. But being intentional about date night is a serious matter. Why date night? Why work? Why gym? Why chores? Because they are all important to the overall health of your marriage and family.

Date nights serve several purposes but one that is most important is fostering a feeling of lasting love. Being deliberate about date night is a simple way to invest in your marriage that yields great reward. Dating your spouse is a wonderful way to decompress from stress and strengthen your commitment to one another. Date nights give you something to look forward to and are a great way to share new experiences with your spouse. Below are a few date night ideas.

 

Edit Date Night Ideas

If you don’t currently have a weekly date night here’s your chance. Grab your spouse and follow the steps below.

  1. Agree on a night of the week or day of the month to have a standing date night. 
  2. If you have small children, select another couple you could swap date nights with. (If you don’t have small children, pay it forward by offering to babysit so a couple can have a standing date night.)
  3. Create a plan by listing restaurants, local activities, and landmarks that interest you. Take turns with your spouse. Keep it handy so you are never at a loss for things to do.
  4.  Create a date night budget.
  5.  Ready, set, DATE! Be READY on time. SET boundaries with technology. (Take your date night selfie but wait to post. That way you can focus on being present and loving your spouse well.) DATE keep your word. Bear in mind that everything else you do in life like work, fitness, church activities, get done because they are standing activities. Date night is equally important.

What are some of your favorite date night ideas? Please share in the comment section below.

One of our favorites is playing the “Ungame for Couples” while waiting for dinner at a restaurant. It’s a non-competitive game that encourages listening.

 

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How to Improve Communication in Marriage

 

Sound familiar?

“Good Morning Babe, Thanks for doing a great job at falling asleep as I poured my heart out to you last night.”

“GOOD MORNING MY LOVE, OH HOW I ENJOY WAKING UP TO YOUR SARCASTIC TEXT MESSAGES. I GUESS NOW WE’RE EVEN SINCE YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME.”

“See, there you go, always taking stuff out of context and making it about you.”

“I WOULD MAKE IT ABOUT YOU BUT YOU ARE ALWAYS ON YOUR PHONE!!!”

“Maybe I would get off my phone if you would stop binge-watching crap on Netflix.”

“GOTTA FIND SOME WAY TO ENTERTAIN MYSELF. IT’S BETTER THAN LISTENING TO NAGGING AND YELLING!”

“I’ll stop yelling in real life when you STOP YELLING IN TEXT MESSAGES & EMAILS.”

“YOU’RE SO PETTY.”

“I learned from the best.”

Ouch.

How we speak to our spouse is extremely important. As you can see from the example above things can get messy real fast. What assumptions would you make about this couple? Would you think they just met or have been married for a while? Generally, communication goes well in the beginning stages of a relationship. All those warm fuzzies we get when we are getting to know each other make us feel connected. Over time familiarity starts to breed contempt, and we find ourselves taking cheap shots at someone we once handled with care.

When you are seeking to grow close you care about how you come across. This kind of caring creates a connection. And if you want that connection to be sustained you maintain a level of sensitivity in your correspondence. Connection creates an openness and sense of oneness. But somewhere along the way we get wounded, feel disrespected, or maybe even rejected and we start to withdraw. When we stop making consistent deposits of consideration and kindness our connection starts to break down and so does our communication.

I don’t want to hand you a checklist of what to do, or a script on what to say to improve your communication. I want to instead prompt you to ponder what is taking place in your heart. The Bible tells us, “. . . Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) The greatest reflection of what’s going on in your heart is what’s coming out of your mouth. Take our couple above. If you revisit their correspondence can you gauge from the tone of their text messages what might be taking place in their hearts?

Communication techniques are fine for therapy sessions and fun activities to participate in at marriage conferences but in the heat of an argument, they can make a person feel like a pawn in their partner’s game. Ancient wisdom says, start with the heart. Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech. Proverbs 4:24 & 25 (NLT) If you care about someone you naturally want to hear what they have to say. If you want to connect you will be slow to speak so that you can choose your words wisely. And if your ultimate goal is oneness you will won’t be so hasty to get offended. Rather than jumping to conclusions you will seek to gain an understanding.

Communication White 2018

I will offer you a list but not for the purpose of pointing your finger at your spouse. The following 5 suggestions are for YOU to be reminded that whether our communication is non-verbal, verbal, or written if we maintain a heart connection healthy communication will follow.

  1. Avoid using terminal language. Never say “never.” Don’t always use “always.” (Apologize for the use of terminal language in the past.)
  2. Be intentional. Give your spouse your undivided attention. List some areas in which you desire to improve your non-verbal communication skills with your spouse.
  3. Check your tone to preserve your home. Reflect and repent for any use of improper tones in the past. Write down Proverbs 15:1, post it in a public place in your home.
  4. Seek to deposit, not withdraw. Share 3 things you love about your spouse with your spouse. Sometimes we tell others what we appreciate about our mate and fail to tell them personally.
  5. Create a connection, avoid rejection! Look each other in the eye for at least 2 minutes daily. (Studies show that passionate eye contact coupled with stimulating conversation causes people to fall in love.)

Solid Marriage Support Proverbs 15 1

 

If you are tired of communicating about bills, work schedules and household chores with your spouse try discussing 36 Questions that lead to Love or Create a Closer Connection

Click the link above. It should take you about 1 hour to complete all 36 questions. It’s the perfect activity for a date night.

For more tips and tools like this connect with us on Facebook.

 

 

Boundaries in Marriage

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On December 17, 2018, my husband and I will celebrate 19 years of marriage. It blows me away that we have now been married for longer than we had been alive when we met. As a high school junior and senior we became besties. 25 years later we are still fostering friendship. We’ve made it our tradition to not just celebrate our anniversary, but to celebrate the covenant of marriage.

In honor of our anniversary, we use to host marriage enrichment events called “Covenant Parties.” A Covenant Party was a reception like evening filled with sharing, dancing, dining, communication games, and a vow renewal ceremony. As much as it seemed special when we first began hosting, with each passing year, the word “covenant” sounds more and more antiquated. The more old school it may sound to the masses the more meaningful it becomes to me. Modernization might be great for marketing but often diminishes meanings that we need to be reminded of.

There’s a scripture in Proverbs that says,

“Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set.” (22:28 NKJV)

This is referring to land markers which were pretty important in biblical times. A stone indicated where your property ended and where your neighbor’s started. Removing a landmark was a way of stealing property. Can you imagine what it would feel like if your neighbor changed your property line? The results could be costly and your rapport with your neighbor would be changed forever. When sacred concepts lose their meaning, I believe the enemy gains ground, and we lose territory.

Take notice of the two signs below.

PrivateProperty

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There is a big difference between private property and a public park. Private property implies that the land belongs to someone, and they have reserved it for their own private use. Public access indicates that the area is open to the public. In marriage, It is just as important for husbands and wives to have clear boundaries as it is for a landowner to have proper signage posted. My husband and I set clear boundaries early on in our relationship and the more words like “covenant” seem to have lost their meaning the more meaningful words like “boundaries” have become to us. Boundaries preserve what is good and protect from what is toxic. Affairs are not intentional, but being intentional about setting healthy boundaries can help safeguard you against an affair.

Boundaries front 2018

Early on in our marriage one of our favorite couples asked us an interesting question. They said, “Do you all love each other enough to share if you ever found yourself having feelings for someone else?” That question led to us to do 3 key things if we ever found ourselves feeling chemistry with someone other than our spouse.

  • See it

  • Say it

  • Be set free

When we confess our faults and feelings to our spouse we can expose the enemy and safeguard our marriage against temptation. Below are a few questions you and your spouse can answer to aid you in the process of setting healthy boundaries in the 5 highlighted categories. (Think of preferences, pet peeves, pitfalls, and triggers in the following areas.)

1.  What boundaries would you like to see your spouse have at work?

2. What boundaries would you like to enforce amongst friends?

3. What are some ways to set physical boundaries?

4. What are some necessary emotional boundaries? (Guard your heart.)

5. What are some boundaries to implement with strangers?

This year we will celebrate our covenant by sharing tips, tools, and testimonies that will help you build your marriage on a solid foundation, nurture lasting love and connect with other couples. We hope you find this information useful. If you like it share it with your friends and invite them to connect with us on Facebook

 

Revisit Your Vows 18 Questions for you and your spouse

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Dear Reader,

Wow, yesterday was the day we said, “I do.” 18 years ago. The last 18 years have flown by seemingly as fast as the last 18 days. On a cold day in 1999, we pulled into the parking lot of the Davidson County Courthouse, a few minutes before close and said to one another, “Divorce is not an option.” Over and over we said those words like actors determined to memorize their lines. We stood before the judge as 2 starry-eyed college students and walked away one because of the words we recited.

Words are mighty enough to make 2 become 1 and formidable enough to rip an entire family apart. It’s hard to imagine that the same mouth that kisses a bride and declares “til death do us part” can also decree,

“I want to separate, disconnect, divide, dissociate, detach, isolate, and alienate myself from you.”

Words have the power to build us up one minute and break us down the next. Over the last 18 days, we have revisited our vows in hopes that some discouraged couple will be diverted from divorce. We are well aware that the same mouth that declared, “I do.” Can decide, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

In a world in which people are getting divorced faster than you can plan a wedding, we thought the greatest anniversary gift we could offer is hope. If you are hoping to be reconciled go and re-read about the Boddie’s, McDonalds, Moores, Waddells, or Carters. If you are facing a tough battle with sickness, check out The Smiths, Friths, Friends, Faughts, Wilsons, Epps, Williams, Shocklees, Herseys or Popes. Our prayer is that you can revisit your vows, glean from our victories, and grow from our mistakes.

As we reviewed the statistics for each blog, we realized that the couples who may have once felt like they messed up their story received the highest number of views. Keep that in mind along your marriage journey. Couples who may have once been forgotten are hailed heroes when they choose forgiveness.

To every couple who shared your story, we honor you. To every reader who carved out time to read and share our words on social media, we value you. To every single in search of real love, you are in the right place to hear from real couples, who have faced real issues and overcame by the grace of a real God. Thank you for joining us on this journey!

Marriage is work, but it is well worth it. Here’s to 18 years!

 

Melvin & Toya Poplar

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Trivia: The first subscriber to answer our “Revisiting Our Vows” trivia question will win an autographed copy of Patricia & Willie Moore Jr.s book, “Happily After All.”

(Note only subscribers are eligible to win. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click follow to subscribe)

*Tell us how many years total have all the couples in this series been married?

We are currently in the Bahamas celebrating our anniversary. Your comments will be approved and prize will be awarded upon our return, December 22, 2017

Thanks for your patience and participation!

 

Questioning Your Vows

(18 questions, 18 couples, 18 days)

 

I, [name], take you [name], to be my [husband/wife], to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

 

LADIES FIRST (Answer questions 1-11, 17 & 18)

  1. What trait does your husband “HAVE” that makes him uniquely yours? (Tendency, quality, quirk).

 

  1. In 3 words describe what takes place on the inside when your husband HOLDs you?

 

  1. What is something both you and your husband would benefit from doing BETTER in your marriage?

 

  1. What do you consider the WORST year of your marriage? If you don’t mind, tell us about it.

 

  1. In what area do you consider your marriage RICH in?

   Laughter

   Long-suffering

   Friendship

   Understanding

   Faith

   Intimacy

   All the above

   Fill in the blank _________________

 

  1. What happens when there is POOR communication between you and your husband?

 

  1. Talk about a time in which you walked through SICKNESS in your marriage. Whether it was caring for your husband/parents/grandparents/in-laws/children/grandchildren, etc.

 

  1. How do you maintain the HEALTH of your marriage?

 

  1. How is your perception of LOVE different after marriage than it was before you married?

 

  1. “CHERISH” means “to build up.” How does your spouse build you up?

 

  1. (With DEATH being the only way we part…)Talk about how the thought of death makes you appreciate your spouse.

 

Marriage Vows for Blog (6)

 

ADVICE FROM HUSBANDS (Men answer 12,13, 14, 15, 16 & 18)

Share words of advice from the categories below.

 

  1. Something OLD School (Old school advice)
  2. Something NEW School (New School Advice)
  3. Something BORROWED (Marriage quote or advice that impacted you strongly.)
  4. Something BLUE (Something extra just for fun!)

 

  1. What is a question you would like for your wife to answer?
  2. What is a question you would like for your husband to answer?

 

  1. FOR THE COUPLE

If you had the chance to do it all over again what would you do differently?

 

FOR THE READER

(of the blog post)

 

What question would you like to ask this couple?

 

     CHECKLIST

  1. Attach a current photo.
  2. Attach an image of you on your wedding day.
  3. Let me know how many years you’ve been married.
  4. Email responses to ToyaPoplar@gmail.com to be considered for our “Couple of the Quarter.”

 

Thanks so much for your time and transparency!

Be sure to visit Marriage More Abundantly on facebook so that you can join us for a FUN night or bi-monthly marriage workshop.

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Melvin & Toya Poplar Revisit Their Vows

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To Have

Though he is a rapper and an alpha male, Toya sees her husband Melvin as a nerdy guy who talks to himself. He is always “dadgineering” some brilliant new idea. He has a particular way that he prefers things to be done. She is well aware that his idiosyncrasies would drive most women crazy but she thinks they’re cute and finds herself more attracted to him because of he of his uniqueness. His quirks confirm that Melvin Poplar Jr. is the perfect guy for her.

 

To Hold

These high school and college sweethearts have been married now for 18 years.  When Melvin holds Toya in his arms she says she experiences healing from life’s hurts, safety from life’s harms, and comfort from life’s crazy. Toya considers herself to be a good wife but is always seeking to be a better helpmeet. One area she would like to “do better in” is to not take any phone calls when he is home. Life is short and time is precious. The Poplars want their home to be a sacred space for them to reconnect, recalibrate, and renew their love for one another, daily.

 

For Better or for Worse

“2011 was the worst year of our marriage, but the best year for our family. It was the year we opened our home and heart to adoption,” said Toya. Their boys are a blessing, but meeting their needs the first year was the heaviest burden they had ever carried. Imagine adopting a 1, 2, and 3, year old, when you already have 3 children ages 9, 11, and 13. Melvin started working a second job to offset adoption expenses. So his wife recalls that even when he was present, he was a “sleep-deprived” version of himself. Additionally, he was renovating their kitchen and if you’ve ever renovated a kitchen, you can only imagine how stressful that must’ve been for a family of 8. Their boys came to live with them in September. By November 11, Toya’s doctor told her she was a “walking heart attack.”

 

For Richer

The Poplars admit that their marriage is rich in laughter, long-suffering, friendship, understanding, faith, intimacy, and forgiveness. Some of the ways they maintain the health of their marriage is through having a date night every Tuesday. One of their favorite marriage maintenance routines is attending monthly marriage workshops with a local group called, Marriage More Abundantly. They try their best to both staycation (local hotel stays) and vacation often. They believe that communication is essential to maintaining the health of a marriage. The Poplars are aware that health is wealth so they try to eat pretty clean, workout often, play in the yard with their kids, go hiking, dance, reminisce, occasionally watch TV, and pray together daily.

For Poorer

When there is poor communication between this couple before they do anything they pray first and ask God to keep the enemy from twisting their words. Then they revisit everything that led up to the communication breakdown… Thoroughly discussing how and when things went awry so they can reconcile and reconnect.

 

Through Sickness and In Health

The Poplars have been through a lot. Toya has had some surgeries and had to overcome a few health concerns over the years. In 2010 she had double foot surgery. Her husband literally and figuratively carried her for 6 weeks. Imagine being totally dependent on someone for all your basic needs. He did everything from going to the bathroom to assisting her with bathing. The way he cared for her was unlike anything she had ever witnessed. She saw the perfect picture of what it looks like for a husband to love his wife like Christ loves His bride.

 

To Love

Before they were married Toya had fanciful ideas of love and marriage. In high school and college, they had a long distance relationship so much of their time spent together was over vacations and holidays. In Toya’s mind, she thought marriage would consist of constant surprises, continual romance, and perpetual fun. In hindsight, she sees that as a conditional perception of love. She now knows that love is far more in-depth than that. She says, “Love is more like everything around you is going wrong but you know somehow, someway that everything is going to be all right.”

 

To Cherish

The word “cherish” means to build up. Melvin builds his wife up by telling her she’s smart when she feels stupid, convincing her that she is strong when the enemy amplifies her weakness and seeing her as lovely when she feels like a hot mess. When doubt fills her heart and she is drowning in darkness, her husband sees her light and reminds her that she is enough. Each day he sends their family text messages that contain scripture and an encouraging word. Each album he has recorded contains a song that he has dedicated to his wife. Every morning he prays for her and each night he holds her close. She says, “His love lifts me. Daily he works hard to support our family so I don’t have to.”

 

Til Death Do Us Part

“The thought of death makes me appreciate how Melvin pours out his life for our family. Our oldest son recently made the statement, “Dad is the glue that holds us all together. If something happened to him, I don’t know what we would do.”” Toya shares, the same sentiments as their 19-year-old son. The thought of death motivates her to savor every second in her husband’s presence and honor him so strongly that he would love her long after she is gone.

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Something Old Something New

Mr. Poplar’s old-school advice to husbands is, “If mommy is happy, everyone is happy.” And likewise the inverse… “If mommy is unhappy everyone is unhappy.” When asked to share some new school advice on marriage Melvin simply states, “happy wife, happy life.” One of the most endearing aspects of The Poplar’s relationship is that they met so young (16 & 17 years old)  they have shared many first time experiences. Melvin advises young couples is to enjoy their “firsts” together.

 

Something Borrowed Something Blue

A marriage quote that has greatly impacted Melvin over the years is “try to out serve one another.” His primary love language is acts of service so this advice is something he practices daily. When asked, “What is a question you would like for your husband to answer?” Toya’s response was, “What do you think of when you see me, from across the room?” When Melvin was asked, “What question would you like for your wife to answer?” He declined to answer because he said his response was too X-rated. After 18 years the Poplars are still going strong. If they had the chance to do it all over again Melvin says, he wouldn’t change a thing. Toya shares that she would want to, “Watch more sunrises and sunsets together.”

 

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Ali & Dionne Carter Revisit Their Vows

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To Have and To Hold
The characteristic that makes Dionne’s husband Ali uniquely hers is the fact that he is not afraid to unapologetically be himself. “Ali is so put together and clean cut in appearance, but he can get real Southside Chicago if he has to, and still be totally earthy and laid back. I love that balance.”

When prompted to use 3 words to describe what takes place when she is in her husband’s arms she confidently responds, “I feel protected.

For Better or for Worse

One of the areas that the Carters admit they could do better is by being more attentive to one another’s unique needs. They would like to develop a deep understanding and ability to nurture those things for one another.

2016, was the worst year of the Carters marriage. “Last year we seriously considered divorce. It was horrible for me and the children.” Dionne explained. “It’s still hard sometimes to talk about. There are still triggers. It sometimes still feels like a fresh wound. She admits that taking the time to pause and ponder the interview questions was tough. “In 2016, we stop being on the same team.”
For Richer or for Poorer

The Carters consider their marriage to be rich in laughter, long-suffering, friendship, understanding, faith, intimacy, and support. When there is poor communication between them, Dionne says, “Everything falls apart, and we lose sight of being on the same team.”

Through Sickness and in Health

In response to the question of how sickness has impacted their marriage Dionne shares, “I have horrible pregnancies. Like straight- shut down, hermit, out-of-commission, ill. I have to say, my husband has always stepped up and took care of me and our family when I physically and mentally was just completely unavailable.”

The Carters have grown in the area of maintaining their marriage. “We’re learning to actively listen. And to be more attentive, yielding to one another.”

To Love & to Cherish

Dionne’s current perception of love is different now than it was before she married. “I once thought that love was the only required ingredient for a lasting marriage. Love is not just about the fairy tale and the warm fuzzy stuff. Love is patience, support, physical touch, perseverance, uncomfortable conversations, growing pains, and brokenness. The willingness to continue to love in spite of all that.” Ali builds his wife up by being her biggest cheerleader. “He challenges me to be my best self. Reminds me that I’m dope, all the time…”
Til Death Do Us Part

When Mrs. Carter was asked how the thought of death makes her appreciate her spouse she shares, “The thought of physically losing my husband makes me sad and ill. His presence is so big and robust. There would truly be a great void in my life. There are days when I wouldn’t even eat if it weren’t for my husband. I am so grateful for everything he brings to my life and our family. Most of the time, I can think out loud with him, and that’s a blessing.”

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    Something Old Something New

    Mr. Carter’s old school advice is, “If you want to be the man, then be the man.” (The marriage begins and ends with you.) His new school advice is, “Communication before marriage is key (Know her do’s and don’ts and her will and won’ts.)

    Example:

    She never wants to own a big dog. She never wants to live in a high rise.
    She is allergic to cats.
    She doesn’t like cold weather.
    She hates washing dishes.
    She wants to be a stay at home mom, etc…”

Something Borrowed Something Blue

Mr. Carter believes that the popular phrase “Happy wife, Happy Life” is some “BS” he feels that the complexities of marriage can’t be reduced to such a trite expression. “The key to a successful marriage is not that simple.”
Ali goes on to say, “The marriage started with the two of you and it will end with the two of you.”

In response to the question “If you had the chance to do it all over again, what would you do differently?” Dionne shares, “I would take more time to put us first before the children came. To just nurture and further explore the man, the individual. Take the opportunity to have him all to myself a little longer. We began our relationship with children. That’s the only thing I would have wanted more of because everything else we’ve been through has gotten us here today. I have a greater respect, and appreciation for my husband and myself as a woman and wife because of what we’ve overcome.  Ali shares, “I would honestly have waited a little longer to try and get more established career wise so that we were more stable financially.”

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Emanuel & Karol Waddell Revisit Their Vows

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To Have and To Hold

The characteristic that makes Karol’s husband Emanuel uniquely hers is,”His unwavering devotion to us and his quirky sense of humor.” When Karol is in her husband’s arms, she feels calm and lovingly reassured. 

For Better or For Worse

The Waddells share that if there is an area they could benefit from doing better in their marriage, it would be communication.  “While our ability to effectively communicate our needs and wants to each other has improved considerably over the years, there is always room for improvement.  When asked about the worst year of their marriage, Karol responds, “I can’t honestly pinpoint a worst year. We’ve had challenging seasons in our marriage that eroded our trust in one another and caused us to question our commitment to the relationship. When faced with the decision of what our next step would be as a couple, we both chose to get real with ourselves and each other about how we got to that place and rededicated ourselves to the relationship. It took a lot of time, patience, determination and honest dialogue to rebuild the lost trust and repair the marriage slowly.”

For Richer or For Poorer

Karol and Emanuel have a marriage that is rich in long-suffering, friendship, understanding, faith, intimacy, and intention. When there is poor communication between the two of them, they become disconnected and distant. We stop being friends and lovers and become inconvenient roommates.”

Through Sickness and in Health

When asked to share about sickness Karol shares, “Three years ago, I had surgery and was in bed for two months. I appreciate the way my husband always steps up to take care of me and the house when I am out of commission. However, another sickness fueled by poor communication was threatening our marriage during this time, and we ended up having several soul-searching conversations to start healing our marriage as my body healed.”

The Waddells maintain the health of their marriage through remembering that marriage is 100/100, not 50/50. “Maintaining a healthy marriage requires a 100% commitment by both parties. That doesn’t mean that both parties give an A+ effort everyday. It does mean that each person makes an effort; recognizes and appreciates the spouse’s efforts; picks up each other’s slack; apologizes when they come up short, and does better next time. It’s also important that each person practices good self-care. This makes it easier to be at your best for each other.” 

To Love and to Cherish

Before marriage, Karol thought love had defined rules and boundaries. “I now understand that true LOVE is dynamic and infinite. Our LOVE grows and deepens as we grow in our understanding, trust, and appreciation of each other.

Emanuel cherishes his wife by doing little things like making sure she eats breakfast; bringing home her favorite candy bar, or turning on the heater in the bedroom so it will be warm when she goes to bed. “It’s the simple acts of kindness that remind me that he is invested in our love and that my health, well-being, and comfort are important to him.”

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Til Death Do Us Part

When asked how does the thought of death make her appreciate her spouse Karol responds, “I am very fortunate to have a loving husband who gives me his best everyday. When I think about EVERYTHING he does for me and our family and the fact that death will separate us one day, I’m reminded to be more attentive and intentional about making sure he knows how grateful I am for him. And I thank God, that he chose, and continues to choose, me “to have and to hold until death do us part”!”

Something Old Something New

Some old school advice that has greatly impacted Emanuel is, “There is always an opportunity for growth. Growth occurs individually and as a couple.” When asked to share some new school advice Emanuel responded, There is nothing new under the sun. Simply because something is shiny and glittery does not mean it is new. In many instances only the packaging is different. Marriage is about patience, persistence, more patience, and more persistence. “

Something Borrowed Something Blue

Emanuel’s borrowed advice is a quote by Alexander Pope, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” His bonus advice for husbands is, “Always start with the man in the mirror” When asked to offer a question to ask his wife Emanuel responded, “Hopefully, there are no questions unasked.” Karol’s question for her husband that she feels all spouses should ask periodically is, ” “Are you happy?” It’s very important to KNOW –not assume– that both are spouses are comfortable and happy in the marriage regardless of what anyone else says or thinks.” When asked if they had the chance to do it all over again would they the Waddells shared that they would, “Be deliberate and intentional about engaging in meaningful conversation and keeping the romance alive on a more consistent basis.”

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