July 2, 2014
Posted in Marriage, Men, Romance and Relationships, Women
1. Do I love myself?
Yes. I feel confident answering this affirmatively after going through the process of healing. I have worked and sought out God’s forgiveness for my past insecurities and transgressions. Until you can answer yes to this question, you will have challenges maintaining healthy relationships. Unfortunately, there are those who will prey, not pray, on those who don’t love themselves.
2. Have I purged the hurts and pains of my past? Am I ready to trust and be vulnerable again?
Yes. I have been through, and caused, some storms in my life. However, I can look back on those situations as learning experiences that have prepared me for being able to love without holding her hostage to my past. You often have to be purged before you can be promoted.
3. Do I truly know what love is?
Yes. I have been able to hold onto my faith as the foundation for what true love looks like. Love is being able to extend the same grace and mercy God has extended to me. True love is unconditional and that’s a very important component in a healthy and prosperous marriage. I now know I can pursue this type of love.
4. Am I more excited about the event or the life experience?
Life experience. The wedding is nothing more than a celebratory pit stop en route to a lifetime relationship. I want what my parents have. I want what both sets of my grandparents had before my grandfathers passed away. Being able to develop a never-ending relationship, build a trustworthy friendship, watch a family grow and create a lifetime of memories is worth a lot more to me than the wedding event.
5. Am I interested in changing the person I am marrying?
No. I have developed a love for who Tamiko is and accept the person she has become. I know that only God can truly change someone, but I sincerely love who she is today. One of my favorite statements is “Never take someone to the altar with the expectations of altering them.”
6. Can I see the person I’m marrying being a parent to my children (for those interested in having kids)?
Yes. This is one of the aspects I truly adore about Tamiko. Watching how respectful and well-mannered her son and daughter are gives me the trust and excitement about the possibility of co-parenting with her.
7. Am I prepared to be the priest, provider and protector of the home?
Yes. I take the role of being a man very seriously. I feel as if I’ve been in training for this transition for years and look forward to continuing my growth as a husband and father. I have a relationship with Christ and know how to communicate with Him. I have a multiple stream of income mentality and am unafraid to get my hands dirty in the event times get tough. I accept the responsibility of being a protector. This means keeping outside influences from harming my family physically, spiritually and/or emotionally.
8. Is this a rebound relationship or one built on friendship and love?
Our relationship is built on friendship and love. I took years off after my previous relationships. I did so because I wanted to reflect on my failures, successes and contributions I made toward the downfall of past relationships. Bouncing from relationship to relationship is an unhealthy way to operate. You will NEVER identify what you truly need in a relationship while remaining connected to temporary placeholders.
9. Can I see myself with this person until death do us part? Do I love this person so much that I can see myself with her as either of us takes our last breath?
Yes. I can see myself with her until one of us takes our last breath. I gleaned this viewpoint from our awesome pre-marital counselors. #thatspowerful
10. Do we know how to resolve conflict?
Yes. We are able to communicate difference in opinions without raising our voices, cursing, belittling each other, etc. This was a huge factor in me being able to open my heart to Tamiko. My past has presented a number of relationships that included too much voice raising, arguing and battling until there was a victory. Not all battles are worth fighting. I HATE ARGUING!
11. Do we have the support of friends and family?
Yes. We have both received the blessings from both sides of our family. This was a huge factor with me feeling free to move forward with our courtship. I wasn’t open to moving forward without having the marriage conversation with both of our parents. Call me old school if you want, but I believe in maintaining some of the old school traditions.
12. Are our purposes complementary? Do we make each other better?
Yes. I believe that she and I together can achieve a number of purposeful things on a much greater level. I have been sharing the concept of ‘greater together’ for years and I have now found my purpose partner.
13. If we were on a deserted island together, would we be able to enjoy each other’s presence and company?
Yes. I’m sure we would find enjoyment through fun conversations, dancing to our favorite childhood songs and creating fun games. The person you marry should bring light and joy to your life without the need of superficial things. The point of this question is to identify whether you truly love the person or their resume (e.g., job, money, status, cars, etc.).
14. Do we respect each other?
Yes. Enough said! You CANNOT marry someone you don’t respect. Doing so is a surefire way to destroy a relationship.
15. Is this the right time?
Yes. Although I don’t believe there is necessarily a ‘perfect’ time, I do believe there is no reason to wait once you identify the special person for you.
16. Do I know this person’s view of divorce?
Yes. We believe that divorce is off the table when it comes to our relationship. We know there will be ups and downs, but at the end of the day…we have both agreed to fight through the tough times.
17. Are we equally yoked?
Yes. Both of us are born-again, believers in Christ, who base our lives according to God’s direction. Our reference manual for life is the Bible.
18. Am I able to share the truth in love?
Yes. Tamiko and I have gone through the process of working through discussing some not-so-fun topics. Fortunately, neither one of us is combative or argumentative, which means we rarely have a disagreement. Compared to a number of my previous relationships I consider this #winning
19. Am I willingly ready to commit?
Yes. Any hesitation to this question means you’re not ready. I AM READY!
There is a twentieth question that I can’t answer by myself. Can you guess what it is? Stay tuned for the answer…
Updated as of July 2, 2014…She Said Yes!
June 19, 2014
Posted in Love & Money, Marriage, Romance and Relationships
In my previous post, I shared information regarding the 6C’s of engagement ring shopping. Well in addition to the 6C’s, you must also make a decision on the ring style that encompasses the 6C’s. I’ve had fun researching and shopping for rings; take a look at the various options that are available to choose from.
If given the choice, which ring would you choose? I’ve already made my decision…
June 16, 2014
Posted in Family, Love & Money, Marriage, Men, Romance and Relationships, Women
Over the weekend I had an opportunity to sit and chat with a number of different people and of course the topic of relationships came up. Not surprising, a number of questions were directed to me because of the transition I’m currently making from being unmarried. I don’t know why, being someone who has shared information about relationships for years, I feel even more certain about the perspectives I’m now able to share.
Allow me to set the landscape for my views.
First, I live in Atlanta, GA, which is home to many of the most beautiful, intelligent and successful women in the world. People often ask how any man can be single in this city…lol. However, I have to remind them that if those characteristics were the only ones that mattered, a lot more men (including myself) would already be married.
Secondly, after making a number of misguided choices in my younger years, I also made a MATURE decision to avoid momentary infatuation so I could pursue long-term love. I’ve learned that sometimes you have to disconnect your eyes so you can truly see people for who they really are.
Lastly, I made a commitment to advocate abstinence so sex wouldn’t become a distractor in pursuit of evaluating someone’s character. A friend of mine shared a quote and I wish I knew the source so I could provide credit.
“Sex only reveals how much someone loves sex, not how much they love YOU!”-Unknown
Now you might not necessarily agree with this quote, but sex can be a selfish act…especially when it’s not with someone you’re in covenant with. This isn’t a post about abstinence, so let me get re-focused.
Here are the 5 reasons I’m making a decision to marry:
1. I value her friendship - There is nothing more rewarding than making a decision to share your life with someone you truly value as a friend. Tamiko and I met back in 2011 and created a foundation of friendship BEFORE we ever went out on a date. I knew her sphere of influence, her values, how she treated others and what drove her purpose before asking her to Cirque du Soleil in 2012. It’s a foreign concept in today’s microwave society, but a romantic relationship without the foundation of friendship is destined to fail.
2. We have established an environment of trust - This is actually a byproduct of having become friends first. Our interaction as friends allowed me to build a level of trust and comfort to open-up to her. It also made me want to pursue her more seriously. Trust is the single most important element in making a man open-up his heart, mind and soul to you. A number of women often ask “Why don’t men communicate with me?” The answer is simple…he doesn’t trust you yet.
3. We enhance each other’s purpose - No relationship/marriage means much if it doesn’t result in a greater purpose. A number of individuals are in relationships that don’t enhance their lives, but actually restrict their lives. If your relationship feels like a weight instead of a sail, please reconsider the person you are with. I look forward to marriage because I can actually see us enhancing each other’s purpose both individually and jointly.
4. I respect her - There is something powerful about establishing a level of respect. I know her personal story of triumph and respect the woman she’s become as a result of her experiences. She is battle-tested and I know she doesn’t easily quit. I know the journey and sacrifices she’s made for her children. My respect for her is something that enhances my attraction towards her. Respect takes my attraction toward her beyond the physical beauty she possesses.
5. She has the ‘it’ factor - The ‘it’ factor is often ignored. There’s something about being so in synch with someone that you’re able to communicate without saying a single word. Being able to anticipate someone’s needs is something you can’t place a value on. The ‘it’ factor can’t be manufactured, either a person has ‘it’ or they don’t. There are a number of women who might have better resumes than Tamiko. However, her ‘it’ factor is a lot more valuable to me for the life I envision for me and my family.
Making a decision to marry goes a lot deeper than what restaurant you go to on the first date, who picks-up the tab or what gift you receive on Christmas. After sitting down with my parents, who have celebrated 40+ years of marriage, they shared two pieces of advice. Learn how to communicate. Learn how to sacrifice. Yep…my 5 reasons make me want to do both for her.
June 13, 2014
Posted in Finance, Love & Money, Marriage, Romance and Relationships
Over the past couple of months I’ve learned far more about engagement rings than I ever wanted to learn. Being the financially conservative (frugal) person I am, I took the engagement ring purchase process way deeper than others would. However, my experience will serve as an educational tool for a lot of you guys out there going through the same thing.
Let me get this out of the way before I proceed, SIZE IS NOT THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS WHEN CHOOSING AN ENGAGEMENT RING!
I’ve previously written about this topic for BlackEnterprise.com (http://www.blackenterprise.com/money/the-engagement-ring-a-gift-from-the-heart-or-jewel-for-the-ego/), but have a new-found respect for the process now that I’ve immersed myself in the details.
Most people refer to engagement ring decisions as the 4C’s, but I’ve added two to the list. Here is a brief summary of each C, along with how it impacts your overall decision…
1. Cut – A diamond’s cut is the measure of a diamond’s light performance, better known as sparkle. No other characteristic has a greater impact on a diamond’s appearance. If you want a diamond that blings, please don’t take for granted the importance of a diamond’s cut. Try to avoid anything less than a good cut, but opt preferably for very good or excellent if your budget permits. You can buy a huge diamond, but if it doesn’t shine, its value is diminished.
2. Clarity – Measure of the number and size of tiny inclusions (imperfections) that exist in almost all diamonds. These are also referred to as flaws. Most inclusions aren’t visible to the naked eye. However, magnifying glasses will allow you to view the size and number of inclusions within a diamond. Since many of the inclusions are microscopic, they generally don’t affect a diamond’s value. However, if you can visibly see the inclusions, you should avoid purchasing that diamond.
Here is a breakdown of the categories:
- FL (Flawless): Very rare diamond with no flaws.
- VVS1, VVS2 (Very, Very Slightly Included): Very difficult to see the inclusions even when magnified. An excellent quality diamond.
- VS1, VS2 (Very Slightly Included):Imperfections are not typically visible to the naked eye. Less costly than VVS1 and VVS2 diamonds.
- SI1, SI2 (Slightly Included): Usually requires magnification to see inclusions. This grade level provides good diamond value.
- I1, I2, I3 (Included/Imperfect):This grade of diamonds will have minor inclusions that may be visible to the naked eye.
3. Color – Refers to a diamond’s lack of color, grading the whiteness of a diamond. The range is from D (highest possible grade) to Z (lowest possible grade). After cut, color is typically considered the second most important characteristic when selecting a diamond. What this means to you…most eyes identify the sparkle first, and color second.
4. Carat – Probably the most overemphasized component of a diamond. Now don’t get me wrong, carat weight has a place in the process of purchasing a diamond. However, it’s very challenging to see the difference between a 2 carat ring versus a 1.75 carat ring. Not to mention, you’ll see a noticeable price increase every .5 carat or so. If given the choice for value, I recommend dropping just below the .5 carat limit to avoid the price bump. (examples, buy a 2.49 carat diamond instead of a 2.5 carat diamond, buy a 1.9 carat diamond instead of a 2.0 carat diamond, buy a 1.4 carat diamond instead of a 1.5 carat diamond).
5. Certification – I won’t spend too much time focusing on this area, but be aware of the certification types. The two major certification systems are GIA and EGL. I’ll refer you to google and other diamond education sites in order to assess which system(s) they use. Just be aware that you want to purchase a diamond that’s certified because it protects a buyer from unscrupulous jewelers who may not have the buyer’s best interest in mind.
6. Cost – Let us not forget that money is a major factor in trying to determine what kind of ring to purchase. There are two aspects to consider, the diamond itself along with the setting to mount the diamond. Please be careful on how you allocate your budget. There are a number of different settings to select from. I’ll be honest…this is where I truly became overwhelmed during the process. A setting can significantly impact your budget if you’re not careful. My advice is to set your budget, spend the core on the diamond and complete the purchase with a setting that keeps you within your budget.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to purchase a ring solely based on carats.You could find yourself with a huge, unattractive diamond. Focus on cut and color first, then turn your attention to carat and clarity. I also recommend seeking out a diamond jeweler who provides the best value. I scoured the internet doing research and found there are a number of options to consider.
1. Online Jeweler – BlueNile.com is the online source I recommend because they specialize in providing high-quality diamonds without the overhead that many traditional retailers have.
2. Retail Jeweler – Solomon Brothers and Luxor Jewelers provided me with a great experience when shopping at their showrooms. All of their sales people were very knowledgeable and were able to answer ALL of my questions. Having an opportunity to see the diamonds in-person is an added benefit that online sources can’t offer.
3. Private Jeweler – Some people opt to use private jewelers. They typically specialize in diamonds and can offer you wholesale prices. You have to be careful though, because you could be taken advantage of if you aren’t careful. Be willing to have the diamond appraised prior to finalizing the purchase.
There is so much more I could write about this process. However, at the end of the day, don’t get too intimidated by the 6C’s of the ring process. Set a budget, focus on a quality diamond, select a setting and prepare to present it to your future bride.
Remember…the ring is the external symbol of the inner commitment you’re making to your future bride. You can buy the most expensive ring in the store, if the commitment isn’t present…the marriage will eventually fail!
June 10, 2014
Posted in Life, Love & Money, Marriage, Romance and Relationships
As I continue my transition from single to married, I’m trying to cover all of the foundational items before saying “I do!” One of the areas people sometimes neglect is the topic of family. No matter the love that exists between two people, it’s still VERY important to understand where a person comes from, along with the potential challenges associated with their upbringing. As I have mentioned many times, marriage is merging the histories of two individuals. This includes their goals, dreams, desires, appearance, health, finances, credit, debt, spiritual beliefs, children, nightmares, educational level, character, accountability and more.
When it comes to family, you get a chance to see the DNA of the person you say you love so much. This includes both the good AND the bad. You have to ask yourself the difficult questions like…
1. If the person I claim to love turns out like his/her mother/father, will I be okay with it?
2. Has the person I desire to be with learned from the negative experiences of his/her past?
It’s important to take a look at these questions because you don’t take someone to the altar with the intent of altering him/her. The reality is the person you marry will most likely remain who he/she is at the core, and there isn’t anything you can do to modify him/her. To make it clear…we call that unconditional love, something that is missing from a lot of today’s marriages. I digress!
Tamiko and I have had pretty deep conversations about family including both the good and the bad experiences. We both realize that our family foundations are totally different. She has documented some of her life’s challenges in her book Wounds to Wisdom…I’m Still Standing. I appreciate her so much for addressing the challenges of her past and expressing an intentional desire to provide something different for her family. I truly see manifestation of her desires in her children Destiny and Michael. They are awesome young adults who have respect for adults, love for their mother and desires for their future. This is one of the many reasons why I learned to love Tamiko so much.
Also, I had to be honest with myself when it came to my family. I grew up in a two-parent household that was pretty conservative and filled with structure. Many see this as a positive experience, which is true. However, I had to ask myself if there is anything I would do differently? My answer…be flexible and not rely solely on the basis of MY experiences. I believe we all have something to learn in life and family and must be open to the ideas of others.
Marriage isn’t the process of imposing YOUR will upon the life of your spouse. It’s about creating a foundation and environment that is in the best interest of your family.
No matter what people tell you…family matters when it comes to understanding your spouse/future spouse.
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