Years Married: 5
Kids: DeLonda has an 18-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter; Darryl has an 8-year-old daughter
Occupations: Darryl is a barber by trade, but a musician by passion and calling. He also just stepped into a minister’s role at their church. DeLonda is a stay-at-home mom, who used to work in Human Resources for ten years, but came home in December 2012 due to her diagnosis with M.S. She is also the CEO and President of My Healthy Relationships.
Hobbies/Interests: They love shopping at the mall, fashion, movies, traveling and sports.
Q. How did Healthy Relationships come to be?
DeLonda: Healthy Relationships kind of started it when I got engaged to Darryl, but I’ve always had a passion for relationships and marriages. This has been part of my life since I am a pastor’s kid (and I always worked really closely with my mom with relationships, women ministries, etc.). I’ve been through some really, really rocky relationships, and so love has always been one of those things that I always wanted. When I got engaged to Darryl, I received a book at my bridal shower - 1001 Things Happy Couples Know About Marriage. When we went on our honeymoon, I took this book with me because I could not put it down. When I got back to the states, I called my girlfriend and I said, “This has got to be a bookclub.” So we decide that this is going to be a bookclub. After about six months of just me and her, I said, “Okay, maybe this isn’t working.” And I started to really do some soul searching. And literally the Lord said, “This is not what it is supposed to be.” It’s not a bookclub. It’s a ministry. There were a few other things that sparked Healthy Relationships, but I just decided to start and see what would happen. And ever since then, it has been like tremendous in terms of helping people, and it’s just a passion of mine. I love it.
The Little Things
Q. What are some of the little things you do together, or for each other, that nurture your marriage?
Darryl: DeLonda really likes me to give her my undivided attention. She likes my attention to be completely on her, whenever we are spending time together or communicating. So I try, very hard, to maintain undivided attention with her. Throughout my day, even when I’m busy, I try to call or facetime her to let her know I’m thinking about her throughout my day.
DeLonda: Darryl loves gifts. He is a big Apple fanatic, so anything that has that logo on it, he wants it. He loves the Apple Store. We did The 5 Love Languages a long time ago, and he was Receiving Gifts. He may be in his own studio space, and I’ll hear him say, “I need new gear, I need new gear.” So, whatever he says he needs around the house, I will just listen, and then I will just go get it. If it is studio headphones from Dr. Dray or software, whatever it is. Darryl also likes candy. M&M’s in particular.
Darryl: Peanut M&Ms
DeLonda: So we have these big glass candy jars in the kitchen, so I just make sure that they are filled up. He doesn’t eat them all the time, but just the fact that they are accessible to him, he likes that.
Darryl: Yeah, I like that.
Q. So, how does it make you feel, Darryl, when you know that DeLonda has recognized something (that maybe you didn’t tell her directly) and has given you some little gift?
Darryl: It definitely keeps the fire going, because I know that she is thinking about me. I may not even remember I mentioned something, so for her to then go the extra mile to make sure that I can have those things, it really makes me feel really special. Being thought about is always a good thing.
Q. And what about you DeLonda? How does it make you feel when you know he is giving you his undivided attention?
DeLonda: You know what, it really makes me feel safe. He always asks, “Why do you say safe?” And I respond, “For women, constant reassurance in a marriage is big.” It just reassures me where we are. That I’m protected, that I’m safe, that I’m a priority (which is something very big to me, I don’t ever want to be last). So it makes me feel safe, and I love that feeling that he gives me.
Q. What does date night look like for you two? How does dating nurture and bless your marriage?
DeLonda: We are avid daters. Darryl really works long hours, so on Fridays he is usually off at about 8:30pm at night. I try to stay up, but it is really hard. We have our favorite place, which is usually BW3’s, and we’ll go on Friday night and watch a game, while eating wings and fries. I look forward to that. There are times that I am really tired, because of M.S., so sometimes we can’t go all the time, but we really try to make date night a priority. Sometimes we like to do a day-date. I’m not a big breakfast eater, I’ll go with him to The Pancake HouseI’ll because he loves it. We’ll usually go there and just have conversations. We try not to talk about any issues and just take that time to connect. Our relationship started out as friends, so we just go back to that and focus on having fun.
Darryl: Any time away from the house is good. I think it sends a message to our kids, because they know that there are certain days when we go and do family things together, but then they also understand when it is “date night time,” for mom and dad. It’s refreshing to get out of the house, and like she said, we try not to talk about “house,” stuff. It’s really refreshing. I wasn’t always a big believer in dating after we got married, I always just saw it as a little excuse to go spend money. We are creative though, and we have had some of our best dates when we have spent the least amount of money.
DeLonda: I couldn’t care less if I’m eating a $2.00 hamburger, the conversation is just so great. But then again, sometimes I want that expensive date too!
Darryl: I do try and make sure that I make myself available, even when I’m tired. There are times when we’ve gone out and I’m at the table and I’m dozing off... but I’m so committed to our marriage, that I just push past it.
Q. What has been one of your favorite dates?
DeLonda: One, in particular, was when we were celebrating our first wedding anniversary and we planned to go to Vegas. Darryl planned it, so I didn’t know what was going on, but I just knew that I needed to get dressed up. He had a limousine ready for us, and we had a little ride - a complete tour of Vegas, the old Vegas, the strip, etc - and then we went to the Eiffel Tower restaurant. The table was set up all romantically, and he had flowers there, and the perfect view of the Bellagio, so I could see the water works show. It was just the most romantic date, EVER. It was so thoughtful, because I love scenery, I love views, and it was the best seat in the house! I just loved it.
Darryl: And I specifically asked for that seat. I don’t want to sound bias, but that was definitely my favorite date as well. Our first year of marriage was tough, because we got married (which was a big adjustment) and then I had to learn how to be a husband, all while learning to be a full-time dad to her children, because my daughter doesn’t live here. And then the Lord had led me to another ministry, here in our city, where we were elevated to worship pastors,
DeLonda: Like literally, within a month.
Darryl: So we had to learn to be husband and wife, parents to each other’s children, and figure out how to work in in ministry together. So, when we finally made it to that year, I wanted to make it special. So I got all the stops. I got the memo. I got the flowers. I got roses. I really tried to make it big, because it was a really big thing.
Q. What does it mean to both of you to have an intimate relationship with your spouse?
DeLonda: Intimacy is not just physical. Intimacy means being able to share the very inner most parts of myself. It means being vulnerable, letting my guard down, and letting him see me - my fears, hope, dreams, goals, everything.
Darryl: Most men, when they hear the word intimacy, think sex. And so, and you know, I don’t neglect that part, because it’s very important. However, I’m 38 now, and it’s so weird because now I take value in some of the things that are so non-sexual. One of my mentors told me, years ago, “Sex is just a physical part of intimacy, but making love is mental.” So if you can do something to a woman’s mind, sex is just easy. Nothing’s hard. And so I really try to really blow my wife’s mind. I really like to make her day. For example, some days when I’m coming home early, I’ll have her thinking I’m going to be home late, and then I’ll just pop up in the house and then she runs to the door and hugs me. Those non-sexual things really, really mean a lot now. And it makes the sex, the physical part so much better, and so much easier. It takes the stress off of pleasing each other, because it is really easy, once you’re captivated in your mind, then the physical part is just easy.
Q. What is your best advice for couples, regarding sex?
DeLonda: Sex is not a chore. It should never be a chore. It should only be a pleasure. It should be your responsibility to meet the desires of your spouse. It should never be a chore. His desires are my desires.
Darryl: A woman’s need to communicate is just as strong as a man’s need to have sex. You can’t just listen to your wife and not really have an open ear, because you wouldn’t want her to have sex with you and not really enjoy it. So enjoy what she is saying. Enjoy the conversation...because she needs that, just like you need the physical. That is something I try to live by.
Values to Live By
Q. What are the characteristics and traits that you see in each other, that nurture your marriage?
Darryl: I think the number one thing, as far as character traits, that really stands out is DeLonda’s strength, she is a really strong woman - to watch a completely outgoing, vibrant woman, be diagnosed with a debilitating illness like MS and watch her fight every day to still present herself in a way that is still attractive, is so inspiring. She is a strong woman. To see her fight every day and push past how she feels physically, to still be a mom, to still be a wife. I know there are days when she doesn’t feel like being intimate, or cooking a meal, or cleaning the house or doing the laundry, but she still pushes herself to be all that she can be and to really honor her responsibilities. It is such a strength to me, and I just think that is so valuable in our relationship. And it keeps me going.
DeLonda: For me, one of Darryl’s biggest traits has always been consistency, for me. I don’t have time to go through my life story, but there has been a lot of inconsistency relationship- wise. So consistency and trust were really big for me. And even as friends, I waited for him to change, he never did. He just stayed the same. He’s pretty much still the same guy. He is really STABLE. He is really consistent, and I love that about him.
Routines & Rituals
Q. What things do you do day-to-day to stay connected?
Darryl: Every day, if I’m leaving and she is still home, DeLonda says, “Drive safe.” And it keeps me conscious. That little thing is like a ritual, but it’s not, and it means the world to me. And if she doesn’t say it, I’m like, “Hey, you didn’t say, “Drive safe!”
DeLonda: And I love you. We make sure and say we love each other every day.
Q. Do you have any special traditions around holidays or anniversaries or birthdays?
DeLonda: We have this healthy competition, where we try and out-do each other. He does all of these big things for me for my birthday, and when it comes to his birthday, he says, “I don’t want a party.” And I’m like, “This is like the fifth year in a row! How could you not want a party? What kind of person are you? Who wouldn’t want a party?” And he says, “Um, pick me.”
Darryl: A great birthday present for me, and it could be this way every year, because we are both married, I can say this. I want sex. Maybe a gift, but the evening has to end with sex. Just put me to sleep at night with sex.
DeLonda: That’s a given. I’m talking about an actual party!
Darryl: I always have to say it, “It doesn’t cost a dime, it’s just takes a little time.”
Q. You two have faced challenges that not every couple deals with. When you’re blending a family, and then adding M.S. into the mix - that is a huge challenge to deal with. How has working through those challenges strengthened your married?
Darryl: My new relationship with my wife now is so strongly founded on God and the word of God, that that has been our support when doctors say there is nothing we can do to treat her MS. It isn’t easy to watch your wife go through all of these different changes in her body - to be in so much pain, and to not being to get out of bed some days. It can be very depressing. I have given my life, at this point, to ensuring that my relationship with God is strong. And it keeps us grounded. It keeps us motivated. And I remember that my response to her pleases God when it is done the right way. That might mean that I have to massage her back a little longer, or take work off, or reschedule a studio session, to go with her to an appointment - I’ll do whatever it takes. I really understand now, the second time around, what “for better and worse, in sickness and health,” really means.
DeLonda: It was really, it was so hard to just wrap my mind around the diagnosis of MS. We were newlyweds. It just seemed so unfair, and I felt so alone. Not that he made me feel alone, it’s just one of those diseases, where you feel like nobody understands. And so you’re just in this bubble. However, there were times when he would just breakdown and cry, and then I realized, “I’m really not in this alone. He is hurting, too.” So instead of me just being in the corner, saying, “This is all about me,” now we’re like, “We’re going to fight together.” I refuse to let this disease take away my quality of life.
Darryl: And whatever adjustments we have to make, we make them. We don’t look at MS as a disease, or as something that is trying to destroy us, we look at it and just say, “Okay, we’ve just got to adjust.” If we go to Vegas, it might mean we can’t walk as much. Cool. We just don’t walk as much. If we go to the mall, we’ll take breaks, or I’ll park close to her favorite stores. We just make adjustments and we don’t let it beat us.
Q. What are your suggestions for successfully dealing with conflict and not letting it pull you apart?
DeLonda: Be careful of your words. Do not speak when you are angry, because words hurt and they are very lasting. I used to be emotional early on, and Darryl would always say, “If you can just take your emotions out of it for just a moment, let’s let it breathe, let’s let it breathe, and we can come back and revisit it.” Be respectful of how the other person deals with conflict. If they need to step away and revisit the issue, then respect that. I use this little term, sometimes, it’s “I’m not happy with you right now.” And that doesn’t mean, “I can’t stand my marriage,” it means, “You did something that didn’t feel right.” And he’ll say, “What did I do?” The timing of what we say is important, and so is our tone.
Darryl: Never let your frustrations speak louder than your love. And sometimes we are so angry or so frustrated with whatever the issue is, that we forget how to really communicate, “I love you.” And so I always want that to be the loudest voice she hears.
Q. What principles or practical suggestions on how you manage your finances?
DeLonda: When we first got married, it was a very sensitive topic, because I was very independent. I had my two children, and I was a single parent for twelve years, so I was good. I’m good. His thinking was, “We need to come together as a team.” And I’m like, “We can be a team! But I can take care of my kids and you can take care of your daughter.” We’re good. And that was totally, of course, not the right thinking. I had forgotten that everything about this marriage was a team, even with money. And so, the only thing that I would say is to have open dialogue. You have to communicate.
Darryl: Now that DeLonda has been at home, due to MS, is that even though she doesn’t contribute financially as much as I do, everything that comes into the house is ours. And having a mindset that even though she isn’t working and I’m the breadwinner, she is still contributing. I always make sure we pay every bill through her account. Just so she can feel included. When we first found out that she had MS and that she couldn’t work anymore, one of the biggest issues for her was, “How am I contributing to the family?” If it wasn’t financial, she didn’t see it as anything. I had to reassure and show her, not just tell her, that “Your input is valued, that we need it.”
DeLonda: Don’t have secret accounts. If you have private accounts, be accountable to each other about them. Have a budget. Knowing each other’s weaknesses and strong points. Respect your spouse and be okay submitting to each other in regards to finances. You can’t be two hotheads when it comes to finances, or you will have no money.
Darryl: We’ve been able to really overcome some hurdles, in regards to our finances, by staying very open and communicating.
Q. You are still married, what is your secret to a happy marriage?
Darryl: Prayer, communication and sex. The three great components. Prayer covers your spiritual basis, your foundation; communication about any and everything - conflict resolution, finances, children; and then sex, don’t forget to enjoy each other! Don’t forget that part, because a lot of people don’t have sex.
DeLonda: Don’t sweat the small stuff. That’s awful cliche, but the small stuff really doesn’t matter. The intangibles that you really need in a marriage - you need listening, you need to be kind, and considerate, all those intangibles are really what matters, so don’t sweat the small stuff. Be friends, enjoy each other, life is really short and precious, and what you’re yelling and screaming and arguing about, someone else is praying to have that. So don’t take each other for granted. Just enjoy each other and enjoy life. Put each other first. You’re on the same team.
"There is properly no history; only biography."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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