Years Married: 16
Location: Memphis, TN
Kids: 5 + a few we could share...four kids between us; three girls and a boy, ranging from 18-25 years old; 9-year-old godson (who just told us today he is a pre-teen) & a 17-year-old niece
Occupation: Still Dating My Spouse - a ministry we have been working on for about six years...What pays the bills - Stephon is a truck driver and a barber; Pamela has a consulting business, managing events and conferences for small businesses and corporations.
Hobbies/Interests: We do a lot of things. We’re movie buffs. We love watching movies, quoting movies, and looking for bloopers.
Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream: Stephon - Butter Pecan; Pamela - Cookies N’ Cream
Website: Still Dating My Spouse
The Little Things
Q. What are some of the little things you do together, or for each other, to express love and appreciation?
S: One of the little things, when I’m home, I cook breakfast. That is my thing.
P: He really does.
S: And I take out the trash.
Q. What do you make for breakfast?
S: Sometimes waffles, sometimes biscuits, pancakes…
P: All from scratch, at that, not off the box!
P: With it being winter-time now, one of the things that I like to do is to throw his work shirt in the dryer, so it can be warm as he heads out the door. He drinks coffee a lot while he is a truck driver, so I make sure I always have his all-special coffee in the house for him. And he has how many coffee cups? Cause he will lose them.
S: But I find them, too.
P: So I make sure he has what he needs. Being a truck driver separates him from the house for so long, that I have to make sure he has just what he needs, out on the road, so he’s not missing home as much. And so he doesn’t have to be searching for things when I can do that for him.
S: Yeah, yeah, she’s alright. She’s alright. :)
Q. Stephon, from your perspective, what are some of the little things that you do for Pamela, that make a difference for her?
S: Well, how much time do you have? Besides the breakfast, I mean, it’s kind of back and forth.
P: Yeah, we kind of fill in where the other one may need it at the moment, so those few things above are things that we definitely do. There are other things that just depend on the timing, the day, how I’m feeling, how he’s feeling, etc. We just know each other. We know when to do certain things to make the other one feel better.
S: Like, for instance, when it comes to BBQ’s and cookouts, I don’t grill! I light the grill! I stir the beans. I transfer the food. But she is the grill master. That is not my lane. It’s not...no. It doesn’t work out for me, so I stay in my lane.
P: Over the sixteen years we have been married, we have definitely learned how to complement each other. It wasn’t easy, but as Stephon said, we have definitely learned how to stay in our lane.
Q. This is your sweet spot. What does dating look like in your marriage? How has continued dating nurtured your marriage? Why is dating so vital in keeping a marriage strong?
P: Dating is important because it gives us the opportunity to really get in tune with each other. We shut out all distractions, including children (and we even did that when the kids were young). We just get in tune with each other. It is me talking with him and not at him, and him talking with me and not at me, or around me (you know how you can have conversations, but you’re really not listening...). Dating really allows you to connect with your spouse, and it allows you to talk intimately (not sexually) with each other. Then you can get to the heart, and not just stay on the surface. So, dating is important to us because it allows us to be us.
P: We’re not sister or daughter, son or brother, we’re just us. He is Stephon and I’m Pamela, and we are US.
Q. Do you two go out on a consistent date night? Do you ask each other out? How do you make it happen?
S: It doesn’t just happen. It isn’t just date night, date day, or date morning for us. We are often spontaneous. We have special spots... it used to be Waffle House, but somebody banned Waffle House (looking at Pamela). So, now it is Steak N’ Shake. That is our late night thing. We’ll go... we’ll even go through the drive through and park and sit and eat, and talk, and listen to music, watching the cars go by. We’ll say, “Hey, that’s my car!” and play the game we used to play when we were younger, calling out our cars. That is something we’ll do spur of the moment, not big hee-haw plans. We just enjoy spending time together.
P: We are just one of the rare breeds. We may have a date night seven nights a week. Only because he is a truck driver... so there may be some weeks that he’s not here. Not full weeks, though. He’s not gone from home too long. We don’t have a standard one-nighter when it comes to date night. It may be seven nights throughout the week.
S: And the fact that we’re empty nesters helps.
P: Yes, that helps. That definitely helps. When we leave you tonight, we’re going out to get something to eat. One fun thing we do sometimes is do a role play. Sometimes we’ll meet up at a bar, or a restaurant, and he’ll do a pick me up. I shoot him down a lot of times. He’s not my type (laughing).
Q. So you’ll go in separately?
P: Sometimes we drive separate cars, sometimes we drive together, and then we just pretend we don’t know each other. We always go in separately, though. We’ll meet up at the bar and he’ll do his pick up line.
Q. Let’s hear it.
S: Let me see...It’s one of those spur of the moment things. Have you tried role-playing? You need to try role-playing! It is so much fun!
Q. You two are very intentional about making time to be together. And we feel like you have learned to nurture a special friendship. How has dating helped that friendship grow?
S: I think it has been key in our whole relationship.
P: We started off talking.
S: That's right. We started off talking. We were dating the whole time, it never stopped. We were always going to the movies, or on road trips. Sometimes we would get in the car and just drive... and before we knew it, we were in the town over. So we would spend the night and come back.
P: One thing we learned early on, when we had all the kids at home, is that kids, life, career - all of that will divide you. You have the stress of being a parent, you have the stress of being the bread-winner, you have the stress of just living. And the closest person to you would get the brunt of that stress. And Stephon is the closest to me, but he meant the most to me, our kids mean a lot to us too, but he’s still here and the kids are grown. One of the things that we had to realize is that we are not each other’s enemy. Actually, he is my comfort. He is my friend that I can say, “Oh my goodness, I just want to EEEERRR (insert frustrated sound here)!” And he will understand that, because he knows where I’m coming from, because he knows who I am. And the same with him. It took us a minute to learn this, because we did bump heads at the beginning. One thing we realized is that we can’t fight each other and fight the kids and the world too. So, something had to give. So, instead of us fighting against each other, we’re going to come together and fight the world and all the stresses that come. We’ll be stronger together.
Q. With Still Dating My Spouse, do you throw out a lot of date night ideas or for couples?
P: I’ve got to get better, one time I was doing it weekly. I send it out on the text message, on our text club. Every Wednesday everyone receives a date-night tip. To join, text SDMS to 33733 (short code). We do send that out weekly in a text message, but you will catch me, sometimes on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter, sharing different tips. I’ve recently started doing an intimacy tip...Recently, we talked about the Rainex. If you spray Rainex on your mirror/window, with a special message, when your spouse gets out of the shower (from the steam) the message will be there. That is really cute. Try that!
Q. What has been one of your favorite dates?
P: I don’t know if we can say that! Give the clean version! I think one of my favorites... I took him to Panama City for his birthday and we went on a dune buggy ride, that was hilarious. That was a lot of fun. That vacation/birthday was really good. Dune buggy was my favorite.
S: Don’t let your wife drive the dune buggy.
P: You’re still here.
S: I’m still here. One of my favorite dates, I can give you this clean version... for her former job, they had a Christmas party... the ambience was going on and she had this dress on,
S: After the party we still hung out, we talked, we still danced. They pretty much put us out.They were cleaning up around us. That was my favorite date.
P: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Q. What advice would you give to younger couples for overcoming obstacles and making date night happen?
P: Our kids were very active at school, so we had softball, baseball, cheerleading, all of that. We were definitely involved parents. One of the things we did, we took our lawn chairs and our cooler, and we would have date night at their games. And so instead of being the overbearing parent on the sidelines, screaming and cheering, we were visitors. We paid to go into the game, and we sat as though we were watching NFL or NBA and we had date night there. So, it kept me from getting kicked out of games for being the parent who didn’t know how to act, and it gave us an opportunity to do something together. We would actually act like we were at a major league game. We really went there with the intentions of dating, but also being parents at the game for the kids. The kids still did their thing, and we spent time together.
P: The other thing about kids and dating and marriage, that couples have to understand, is that you have to put the kids on a schedule. You have to train them to respect date night, even at a young age. We have our godson, he is with us tonight, but you do not see him. Because this is our date-night time. He is doing his thing upstairs and we are downstairs doing whatever we’re doing. You have to train them. If you train them, they will automatically say, “Mom, you and Dad aren’t going anywhere tonight?” They will understand it or ask, “What are you guys doing tonight?” Don’t use them as an excuse! Use them as a tool to really strengthen your creativity. There is a whole lot you can do. If they are young, you’re going to give them a bath and some warm milk and they are going to be asleep. Then you know that you have at least two hours to do whatever you need to do! Make a pallet on the floor and have a picnic. Or ball up some aluminum foil and get some sticks and play golf on the floor, or whatever. There are all kinds of things you can do while you are still at home being parents.
Q. What does intimacy in your marriage look like?
S: Intimacy, for my part, means being attentive. And really listening, not just hearing. Really listening. Like she said earlier, I already know what she is going to want before she wants it. It’s just little things like that. That is what intimacy looks like to me. Being attentive and understanding.
P: I like that.
Q. How do you cultivate intimacy in marriage? How do you create that?
P: It’s all about dying to self. I don’t try to meet my needs first by me. My job is to serve him. If I’m serving him, and his job is to serve me, then both our needs are being met. But if I’m serving me and he’s serving me, then his needs aren’t being met. If couples really look at it as service, then everybody’s needs will be met.
Q. What other things help you nurture that intimate relationship? What things help you to have that closeness and that trust and that healthy intimate relationship?
P: We have an individual relationship with our Heavenly Father. We also have a marital relationship with Him. Meaning that we both approach Him together. Knowing whose we are and what our role is, definitely plays a part in it. And just making sure that we are operating the way we are supposed to operate. Because what I do for my husband may be different from what you do for yours, but we are operating in the role that they need. It is so important to really know your spouse and that means getting quiet, paying attention, and asking the right questions. There are sometimes that you can see something is wrong with your spouse, but nothing needs to be said. Then there are other times when you can feel it, and you may need to ask the right questions. “How are you doing?” is not the right question. “What happened at work today?” will pull out a little bit more from him than me asking him how is he doing.
Q. For both of you, what advice would you give to a couple that is having a hard time relating to each other physically? What advice would you give?
S: I would honestly have to say they would need to have an honest talk about what turns them on...the do’s and the don’ts, and the wills and the won’ts. Start there. Men and women go into sex differently. Men are more visual...Little things like that. Going back to understanding your partner...you’ve got to be open and honest about it. “You know, I don’t really do that, but I will try…” and “Oh, that’s a no-no,” or “Yeah, that works.”
P: I think it also goes back to understanding their previous sexual history. I don’t need to know everything that you did, if you were all of that, but if there is some hindrance there, it may be something that happened in the past. If the person was traumatized sexually, you would need to know that. Because just coming up to them a certain way, could really send them over the edge. As Stephon said, a couple really needs to have an open, transparent conversation that will not be used against them later.
Q. How do you share and show physical affection throughout the day?
P: Physical, it cannot be throughout the full day physically, because of Stephon’s job. We are intimate mentally throughout the day. We share different things through text message or a voice message. We are good about sharing subliminal messages on Facebook, that only we know. It’s our thing. He is a music fanatic, so he is good about sending me links to music and he’ll say, “Listen to it at 1:03,” and it means something special. When I hear that I think, “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, that is so sweet of him.” With him being a truck driver, we have to be creative. There are some days that he doesn’t come home, but I want him to feel that closeness to me, so we have really mastered voice memos, we have mastered text messaging. Nothing long and elaborate. Just very to the point and it just connects us really well. So, when we are not able to really touch (he is a really touchy-touchy person), we are still able to touch each other’s heart and mind.
Routines & Rituals
Q. How have you put in place rituals that keep you connected, especially with travel involved?
P: He gets on my nerves. I don’t want people to think that we are always happy, because we’re not. We’re human. Even when he is traveling he can get on my nerves.
S: Why don’t you just tell them how you’re feeling, dear?
P: But even with that, that has a limit to it. We don’t carry the madness for days, weeks, months, etc. We have agreed to allow each other to be angry. But the good thing about this one right here (Stephon) is that he doesn’t know how to be angry! So he’ll send me something and I’m thinking, “Doesn’t he know I’m mad at him...oh, that is so sweet!” It’s only because we know that this is it for us. I can’t stay mad at him, because he is my protector. He is my support. I am his support system and his helpmate. If he can’t rely on me, or if he is upset with me, or doesn’t know how to tell me something, then everything breaks down. What we really try to do is talk. We ask open and frank questions all the time. “How are you doing? What did you eat? What happened at the job? What’s on your mind?” Those are routine questions we go through. But, by me knowing him or him knowing me, we know how to add more questions into it. I can pretty much say, “So, which child called you and said what?”
S: Or “Who said something to you?” She can read my face.
P: It’s important to get to know your spouse, because the non-verbal communication plays a big part in connecting. There will be times that he can’t say anything. When we first got together. I always wanted to ask, “Why? Why? Explain to it me!” Now, I’m to the point that with the way the world is going on, I just watch him. I just watch his body language. I just pay attention to his body language, and it speaks a lot to me. The same for him as well.
Q. What routines do you have in place around the goings and comings of the day, and the morning and evening rituals?
S: I always kiss her good-bye and I always kiss her hello. And then I go to sleep. No matter if I’m leaving to go to the store - if I walk out that door, I kiss her. When I walk in, I kiss her.
P: Right. That is our routine.
Q. How does that nurture and strengthen your marriage?
P: For one, when you kiss someone, you really can’t be mad at them. And when you kiss someone, you are really connecting with them. A peck is a kiss for a few seconds, and it really helps us to connect.
P: We really try. Things happen. I don’t ever want the last conversation that we have to not have been positive. That is one of our routines. You say you love me, right?
S: Yes, I love you dear. My sun wouldn’t shine without you, dear.
P: Oh, please!
S: Stay in your lane, know your spouse, be a good listener, be attentive.
Q. Can you briefly explain how you do anniversaries, Valentines Days and birthdays? What do you do to make it special for each other?
S: I’ll let you handle this one, dear. I’ll sit over here, on the bench.
P: Birthdays, to me, should take precedence over anniversaries. I’m a big-birthday type of girl. We celebrate the whole month of each other’s birthdays. It’s little things leading up to the big day. It’s not every day, but every week at least, leading up to the birthday, there is something. And then there is always a big-birthday celebration. Even if it is just going out to eat, or having friends over. When it is the big milestones, we have big to-do’s. Valentine’s Day, we don’t really play into it. Only because it’s not a genuine love day. People are looking more for the gifts, more for the candy and flowers. People are sending roses to themselves at work! We don’t really get into Valentine’s Day as much. I will go to the store on the 15th and buy all the candy, though!
P: Anniversaries...we always take an anniversary trip. It doesn’t matter what is going on, it doesn’t matter if we have a lot of money. We are leaving the house and going somewhere, even if it is the city over. Just because anniversaries are supposed to be about us. If we stay here, that means the kids, the people, the phone. We don’t really get a chance to reflect on the 365 days prior. So when we get away, then we can get set up for the 365 that is coming up.
Values to Live By
Q. What are some of the qualities and characteristics that you see in each other that really nurture your marriage?
S: Her heart. Her nurturing spirit.
P: (teasing) You mean how I'm always getting new children?!
S: I love the children, but goodness, her and Sally Sruthers man, I’ve never seen a woman that loves children more! It’s like, “You found another child? Whose child is this? Are they staying long?” We have four. We have three grand-babies. But we have so many adopted children, our kid's friends, that oh my! What was the question? Her nurturing spirit, and honesty.
P: I love Stephon because he stuck around seventeen years with my personality. Not saying I’m crazy, but you know, with women there is an up time and a down time during the month, and he has stuck with me through it all. We’ve had some true challenges in our marriage, and any other man, I would assume, probably would have run off. I have a big family, made of nothing but women, and he has been the only man for about thirteen years. For him...
S: It’s a lonely road.
P: For him to be able to withstand all of these strong personalities says a lot about him. I would also say, that...
S: Take your time, take your time.
P: That he has allowed me to grow into the person that I am today. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know where, what, who, or what I would be doing, because he really did allow me to grow into this woman that I am. It is because of him. I know because of him being the stronghold and being my support system, I was able to be where I am today. I definitely commend him for that. It wasn’t easy, I know it wasn’t.
Q. How have you handled the challenges that have come in your marriage?
S: Our faith in God. We’ve gone through some things.
P: Oh, yeah.
S: Honestly, it has been God that has kept us still here. Some things you would think, “Oh no, have mercy! There is no way in the world…”
P: When we got married in 1998, there were four sets of our friends that got married and we are the only ones who are still married. I’m not bragging. I’m not saying we haven’t had any challenges, but one of the things that helped us is that we have faced the challenges together. We realized that I’m stressed, and he is stressed, but we don’t have to be stressed alone. So we really understood, or understand, that he is going to have hiccups and I’m going to have hiccups, we as a unit are going to have hiccups, and if we don’t swallow the water together to get rid of those hiccups, then we won’t be able to function because we’ll be fighting with each other. So, it’s so important that couples realize that their spouse is not the enemy. It’s important to figure out what the problem is, because the problem is the enemy. The person that you married is still in there, but there is something you guys need to work on to bring that person back or to bring you back.
S: Don’t let things fester, like Pamela said earlier. If you are arguing about something, get your time, get your space, cool down, you know, somebody has to know when to say, “This is getting out of hand, we’re not getting anywhere, we need to take a break.”
S: So, take an hour or two...go for a walk, go on the treadmill, go watch a movie. Cool down. Calm down, but then come together again. Say something like, “Okay, well, baby, I felt like this so and so, and such and such, and this is how I reacted...and when you said a,b, c & d, this is how I felt. This is what I heard you say when you said this, that, and the other.”
P: Right. It’s important to just come together. It’s really important... I can’t stress it enough, to have a safe zone. Because I am going to tell him that he snores way too loud. And he should be able to receive that without saying, “No, I do not!” You know... “Yes, you do! Stop it!”
S: I don’t care!
P: Honestly, it should be a safe zone. It needs to be a safe zone where you can share your intimate feelings with your spouse, without them negating how you’re feeling. Because they are supposed to be your safety, your support. They are supposed to be your helper. Right? You’re supposed to carry me...oh...right...oh, you’re not going to carry me (laughing)?
Q. When there is an issue where you don’t see eye-to-eye, how do you go about working through that?
S: Definitely take a time out. You’re not always going to agree. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree. We are two different people. We aren’t going to see things the same way all the time, that is just impossible. Somebody’s lying. If somebody is always agreeing with you, somebody is always lying.
P: Someone is unhappy.
S: It can’t be one-sided.
P: When you’re not seeing eye-to-eye, it’s okay to say, “We’re just not going to agree. Let’s table it, cause we have a whole lot of stuff on our table, that we haven’t agreed on. And it’s still there, but when we’re ready to talk about it like adults, we’ll pull it off of the table and talk about. But until then, it’s there." And then there are times where you just have to say, “Okay, babe, we’re just going to do it your way.” Even if I already know his way isn’t the right way, I may just have to do that sometimes. And even if my way was the right way, I still can’t say, “I told you so!”, even though I want to say it! That is the worst thing to say!
Q. You are still married. What is your secret to a happy marriage?
S: Great sex.
S: (correcting himself in a teasing manner) I’m sorry, great intimacy.
P: I think definitely sex, but also laughter. We have fun together. We can have fun wherever we are. And it’s so important to be able to laugh, so that those times when we need to cry together, we can. Spend time together laughing and having a good time - and go on dates!
"There is properly no history; only biography."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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