Making Love Last

In Feature Stories, February 2016 by Christa Gala

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Marriage is hard—even on a good day. But these local couples make it work, combining careers, raising kids, running businesses and facing whatever life throws their way. It’s not always roses and romance, but the grit and determination that comes with true love is even better.

Felicia Perry-Trujillo & Max Trujillo

Felicia Perry-Trujillo & Max Trujillo

Felicia and Max both work in businesses that feed off each other—ironically in the food industry. Felicia owns Food-Seen by Felicia Perry Photography, a marketing company, and Max is the general manager of Midtown Grille, a client of Food-Seen.

Married almost 11 years, the couple has two daughters, Alexandra, 6, and Charlotte, 3.

What’s one challenge you’ve faced together and what helped you get through it?

Balancing work and family has been one of our biggest challenges. We’re really lucky that we often work together, and we enjoy working together, but we also consciously try to carve out time for family trips, date nights and especially quality time with the kids.

How do you encourage each other and build each other up?

We talk a lot. We share our opinions, discuss the kids, our work, business…our futures. Sharing our ideas and talking about the important things in our lives helps keep us in balance, in check and on a continuing path to being the best partner, parent and professional we can be.

What is the biggest strength your spouse brings to the table?

Felicia: Max is the most loyal and caring person you’ll ever meet, which makes him an amazing father, husband and friend.

Max: Felicia is laser-focused, driven and organized. She’s the main reason I try to be a better person. The best part about her is how she can accomplish everything she does and still have time to be a warm and loving mother and wife.

How do you negotiate the stuff nobody wants to do?

We really respect each other, which has enabled us to communicate quite well most of the time. When we [nicely] communicate our needs to each other, usually the other one is pretty open to help.

Keschia & Emerson Martin

Keschia & Emerson Martin

Married for 12 years, Keschia and Emerson have a full plate—five sons in their blended family, a burgeoning business and Emerson’s struggle with a head injuries sustained playing in the NFL.

Their business, Players2Pros, helps student athletes earn scholarships and get into college and also helps older athletes.

“The organization works with former NFL players to help them transition into sports-related fields when they come out of the NFL,” says Keschia.

What’s one challenge you’ve faced together and what helped you get through it?

Dealing with the onset of my husband’s symptoms of his past brain trauma was really difficult for us both. His inability to deal with everyday life, like the loud laughter of our children or being around people for more than an hour.

Sudden mood swings, short memories and, not to mention, a back surgery, two knee surgeries and a wrist surgery. The strain it had on our marriage and the relationship with his children was almost overwhelming. But it didn’t beat us; both of us refused to let it. We hunkered down, started praying harder.

Being in worship together more, we entered marriage counseling, and he started seeing a psychologist to help himself get better. We spent more moments alone when time allowed, to talk and bring peace to his space. We communicated more and on a deeper level. We chose to hold on to God as tight as we could. When we focused on God, his promises and faithfulness outweighed anything that we could encounter.

What is the biggest strength your spouse brings to the table?

Keschia: Emerson brings me security and stability. In the moments that I have to take my “super woman” cape off, or it falls off, my husband is there with open arms and allows me to lay down all of my fears, insecurities and pain. He lets me know that he is going to stand by my side and love me in that moment and every moment to come, good or bad. I know that he absolutely has my back and that no matter what the situation may be, we are going to make it through together.

Emerson:  Keschia brings me peace. In a marriage where there are outside children and other adults to interact with, what could be a very difficult situation, Keschia makes easy. My wife sees the very best in me and my abilities, and she pushes me to be greater and to believe in myself. When the chips are down, I can always count on her to see the better road ahead.

Erica & Matthew Schnars

Erica & Matthew Schnars

Erica and Matthew have learned to rely on each other for honest feedback when some couples might be tempted to turn a blind eye or deaf ear.

“When Matthew comes home from a challenging day at the office and wants to vent, I let him,” says Erica. “When he needs advice, no matter how raw, I give it to him. I let him know that what he does matters and that people depend on him to be his best, and he does the same for me.”

“The number of times that he has told me that he believes in me is uncountable, and each time he meant it.”

Matthew is a project manager for the City of Durham, and Erica is a director at Quintiles. Married 12 years, the couple have a 4-year-old daughter.

What’s one challenge you’ve faced together and what helped you get through it?

We’re fortunate that we’ve not had to deal with any overt tragedies or significant life altering challenges during our marriage. However, Erica’s mother underwent an emergency triple bypass when our daughter was only a few months old and had to move in with us. Having a new baby and a sick relative caused some tension and strain but we got through it by remembering why we got married.

Also, we have experienced the normal juggling acts of career changes and the struggle of work/life balance once we had our daughter; however, our ability to work as a team, respect and love for each other and not taking ourselves so seriously made those normal life challenges less difficult.

What is the biggest strength your spouse brings to the table?

Erica: Matthew is kind, caring, ethical and humble. He is able to see things from all perspectives and is fair. Matthew is the type of person who truly gives without expecting anything in return. He is an extremely passionate and hardworking man.

Matthew: Erica is an extremely hard-working and passionate woman who dedicates an enormous amount of her time and energy to making sure others are happy and feel loved. She is the backbone of our family.

How do you encourage each other and build each other up?

Mainly it’s the little things. The brief calls throughout the day just to say hello or to say hang in there. Also, we can’t discount the general compliment or smile or the way that you say, “I love you,” “I am proud of you” or “I believe in you.”

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a couple considering marriage.

Please understand that every day is not going to be love and romance. Most of the time the days are just regular because the normal day-to-day things still have to occur. There are lunches to be made, the commute to work, doctor appointments, ballet practice, homework, dinner time and someone still has to take out the trash. But the quiet moments at the end of the day when you look at each other and smile and sigh makes the drudgery worth it.

How do you negotiate the stuff nobody wants to do?

It’s strange, but I don’t ever think it was negotiated or that we even had a discussion. The decision of who does what just happened. There are chores that I just loathe and he knows what those are; they happen to be the chores that he doesn’t mind doing such as emptying the dishwasher, cleaning the litter box and putting away laundry. Matthew doesn’t like to grocery shop, figure out the bills, clean the kitchen or make appointments for car maintenance or service work around the house so I handle those things. When our daughter is sick, it’s a shared duty, and we each pitch in because as we all know nursing a sick child is about the most heartbreaking and tiring job there is.

Marriage is hard work. What’s the one thing that keeps yours going?

A sense of humor and humility. But honestly, we are each other’s complements and best friends. We laugh a lot! When something good, bad, strange or even mundane happens, he is first person that I think of telling.

Melissa & Marshall Rich

Melissa & Marshall Rich

Melissa and Marshall Rich are dual entrepreneurs, which gives them both challenges and flexibility that other couples don’t experience.

They met as students at UNC-Chapel Hill and married nearly 15 years ago. Marshall founded Rich Realty Group, and Melissa owns Raleigh Tutoring.

Daughters Annalise, 8, and Alaina, 6, keep them busy. Marshall is a Y Guide for his daughters, and Melissa coaches the girls’ cheerleading squad and teaches Sunday school.

What’s one challenge you’ve faced together and what helped you get through it?

Work/life balance. Both being owners of small businesses creates challenges with our time and resources.  We have to be intentional about  scheduling time with family, time as a couple, time to give back and time to pursue individual hobbies and interests. 

What’s the biggest strength your spouse brings to the table?

Melissa: Marshall has great integrity and is a wonderful father and husband.  He also always keeps us laughing.   

Marshall: Melissa’s biggest strength is that she is a good friend.  She is not only my loving and supportive wife; she is also my best friend.

How do you encourage each other and build each other up?

After we put our girls to bed at night, we spend time connecting and talking about our days.  Sometimes the conversations are serious, and sometimes we relax on the back porch and sing songs while Marshall plays guitar.

Marriage is hard work. What’s the one thing that keeps yours going?

We love each other, and we have fun together. 

Jeff & Robin Roberts

Jeff & Robin Roberts

Working as a pastor at Trinity Baptist Church, Jeff Roberts is often under a spotlight, but it doesn’t faze him and his wife Robin. Married 32 years with two grown kids and full careers, they’re in lockstep. They married so young, Robin jokes they raised each other.

What is the biggest strength your spouse brings to the table?

Jeff: Robin is a great encourager and optimist. She always believes one can achieve what they set their mind on.  She never sees the negative but only the positive in situations. She is a lifelong learner and encourages me to be the same.

Robin: Jeff brings discernment and a sense of humor to our relationship and to life in general. He has a wisdom that I can fully trust, which has provided a sense of security as we have navigated the decisions and challenges of life. His sense of humor brings laughter to the day and joy to life. He also loves me deeply.

What’s one challenge you faced together and what helped you get through it?

After 32 years of marriage we have faced many challenges such as unexpected tragedies, care for and loss of parents, multiple moves and the daily challenges that so many face. Throughout our marriage, we have learned to respect the other’s response to challenges, bowed to each other’s strengths, and relied on our faith to find perspective, peace and guidance. 

How do you build each other up?

We grant each other the freedom to pursue interests as well as explore new activities and interests together. We are willing to put our own wants aside if it means the other can pursue their goals. We believe in each other’s abilities and strengths and encourage one another to stretch.

How do you negotiate the stuff no one wants to do?

Over the years, we’ve found a rhythm to the chores and responsibilities of life. As we have raised children, grown in our careers and taken on responsibilities of caring for family, we’ve recognized the strengths of the other, taken on responsibilities that seem to be the best fit and have been willing to jump in and help when necessary.

Marriage is hard work. What’s the one thing that keeps you going?

Commitment: As Christians, we made a commitment to each other and to God to love, honor and cherish. This includes putting the other’s needs and wants above our own. Our commitment to one another supersedes any challenges, or hard work, that we encounter in our marriage. We are not suggesting that marriage does not take work, but we’ve discovered by living into our commitment, our marriage is more joyful than hard.

Anya & Arthur Gordon

Anya & Arthur Gordon

Married almost 18 years with three grown sons between them, these co-owners of Irregardless Café in Raleigh not only focus on keeping a Raleigh tradition going strong, they’ve also recently taken on a new business venture—The Glenwood Club.

What’s one challenge you’ve faced together and what helped you get through it?

Taking on the Glenwood Club.   We did know about how to run a restaurant and off-site catering business—how to source, prepare and serve delicious meals, and we thought that taking on The Glenwood Club would be easy since everything would be on-site.  Big surprise, we had the challenge of learning how to run an event venue. It’s keeping us young!

Perseverance and trial and error have gotten us through—analyzing the challenge and breaking it down into individual sections that we solve.   Solving the little challenges helps us solve the bigger challenge.

How do you encourage and build each other up?

Appreciating how many blessings we do have. Although the problems are more apparent—and get our attention—acknowledging how much is working, and appreciating this, helps us encourage each other.

What is the biggest strength your spouse brings to the table?

Arthur: Anya is as an organizer and pays attention to the details.

Anya: Arthur is a charming visionary with financial acumen.

Marriage is hard. What keeps yours going?

The blessing is having a true partner.  Appreciating each other’s magnificence.  There is no fun in working a business by one’s self; we’re doing it together—and to support our family and community.

Mandy & Brian Hoyle

Mandy & Brian Hoyle

If you combine hot air ballooning and business journalism, that’s a day in the life of Mandy and Brian Hoyle. Mandy works at the Triangle Business Journal, and Brian owns Hot Air Marketing, which specializes in hot air balloon campaigns.

The couple have a 6-year-old daughter.

What’s one challenge you’ve faced together and what helped you get through it?

The death of our sister-in-law at a young age (47) in 2013. Her passing compelled us to help Brian’s brother and two young children. It was an emotional time for everyone in the family, especially in that first year.  Praying together and being able to honestly talk with each other about what we were experiencing were critical to coming out of it stronger. No emotion was out of bounds.

What is the biggest strength your spouse brings to the table?

Brian: Mandy has an amazingly good heart, and she greets the world with a smile. While we can all work on the work-family balancing act, Mandy is better at that part of life than I am.  She manages an amazing, deadline-intensive work load, but we never feel like we (our family) is second place to work.

Mandy: Brian is the creative genius and technology guru in our family, as well as the support system that holds us all together. He has a strong self-awareness of both his strengths and weaknesses and how to use each to make a big plan come together. Plus, he has an amazing heart for his family, his friends and his community. Life in the Hoyle household is never boring.

How do you encourage each other and build each other up?

We talk about what the best things are that happen in the family each day.  We claim the little victories. We thank each other a lot for the little things – even if it’s just emptying the dishwasher. Then, if we have time, we can talk about the things that frustrate.  If we start with the positive, it usually makes the negatives seem much more manageable, smaller in a sense.

How do you negotiate the stuff nobody wants to do?

We have developed a family rhythm for certain chores. Brian cooks, Mandy is on laundry; errands are shared depending upon proximity and schedules of the day.

Marriage is hard work. What’s the one thing that keeps yours going?

We really like and respect each other enough to put the other one first in the relationship. We’re truly best friends.

Sherry & Courtney Humphrey

Sherry & Courtney Humphrey

They’re “bigwigs” in the business world, but at home Sherry and Courtney are outnumbered by kids—three under the age of 6.

Courtney is the CEO of Opex Technologies, and Sherry works at Cisco; they have a 5-year-old daughter and 17-month-old boy-girl twins. There’s never a dull moment in their house.

What’s one challenge you’ve faced together and what helped you get through it? 

Our oldest daughter was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect that required open heart surgery when she was 18 months old. The support of our family, friends, faith and each other were all instrumental in getting us through that difficult time.  We traveled to multiple hospitals and met with top surgeons to ensure she would have the best care and outcome. She had surgery at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and continues to have annual check-ups at Duke Children’s Hospital. Today she’s a happy, healthy and very busy 5-year- old. 

What is the biggest strength your spouse brings to the table?

Sherry: Courtney has many strengths; however, I would say one the one that stands out is his outgoing and fun-loving personality.  No matter what life brings, he always sees the positive viewpoint in any situation.

Courtney: Sherry is organized and structured, and it’s great to have that quality in our home. Having three small children and demanding jobs requires a significant amount of multi-tasking and juggling of schedules.  Sherry stays on top of everyone’s schedule and daily needs so that each day goes off without a hitch.

How do you encourage each other and build each other up? 

Finding the positive and focusing on the other person’s strengths versus trying to change them. 

How do you negotiate the stuff nobody wants to do?

We definitely divide and conquer. We leverage each other’s strengths to determine who takes the lead for our family. There is always something that needs to be done, and we try our best to make sure our “to do” lists are complete before we go to bed, so that we can start the next day fresh.

Marriage is hard work. What’s the one thing that keeps yours going?

We make sure that we make quality time for each other.  One night a week we designate as date night and go to dinner, a movie, or out with friends.

Julie & Van Daughtry

Julie & Van Daughtry

Married for nine years, Julie and Van faced some serious challenges early in their marriage that have inspired the couple to get involved in instituting change nationwide.

The couple has two daughters. The oldest, 6, has Phelan-McDermid Syndrome, a rare disease that causes intellectual disability and autism; their younger daughter, 3, is undergoing treatment for brain cancer.

Van sits on the Board of Directors for the Phelan-McDermid Syndrome Foundation and is also a board member of the newly-formed North Carolina Rare Disease Coalition.

Both are busy professionals; Van owns a Jackson Hewitt Tax Service franchise with 20 offices in North Carolina and Tennessee, and Julie works at IBM as senior counsel.

What’s helped you get through some of these challenges?

I think that what gets us through is our sense of humor during adversity.  We try to remain level-headed during a crisis and stay on the same page about the day-to-day decisions we have to make.

Where do you get your strength?

We draw strength from our four “F” words – Faith, Family, Friends and Fellowship. 

How do you negotiate the stuff nobody wants to do?

Van has more flexibility due to being his own boss, so he often deals with last-minute issues like kids getting sick.  For other things, we try to play to each other’s strengths.  For example, Van would rather do laundry and vacuum.  I would rather cook.  I’m also better in the early morning, and Van is better in the evening.  So I’m more likely to get the kids ready in the morning, and he is more likely to clean up the kitchen after dinner.

What is the biggest strength your spouse brings to the table?

Julie: Van is a great partner who always thinks about what is best for the entire family.

Van: Julie is organized and keeps the family moving in the right direction.

Marriage is hard work. What’s the one thing that keeps yours going? 

We go out at least once a week and do something we enjoy like seeing a play or listening to live music.

Cynthia Christian & Timothy Daye, Sr.

Cynthia Christian & Timothy Daye, Sr.

Cynthia and Timothy will marry May 21. Introduced by a mutual friend, Timothy says she’s an answer to a prayer.

“I realized Cindy was the one after first praying to God to lead me to the woman He would have for me and then hearing the affirmations we’d constantly receive from others about the love they see between us,” says Timothy.

These two have definitely been hit by Cupid.

Cynthia says, “Timothy is a compassionate, honorable man—an answer to prayer for me, too.” They’re a blended family, too, with one son, 19.

What’s one challenge  you’ve faced together and what helped you get through it? 

Choosing where we would live when we are married.  We prayed often for God to direct us to where he would have us to live, being mindful of our commitments to family, church and work. 

What is the biggest strength your spouse brings to the table?

Timothy: Cindy’s biggest strength is her relationship with God and the spirituality she brings to the relationship; her reliance upon that relationship when facing challenges and the joy she has in praising Him during celebratory moments, too.

Cindy: Timothy’s strong sense of family and his dedication to our friends and community is admirable; a thoughtful, trustworthy man.

How do you encourage each other and build each other up? 

We encourage one another through our commitment to building a spiritually based relationship. A spiritual relationship keeps us focused on The Creator and the most important aspects of life. We consciously consider each other in all that we say and do…. knowing that we are at our best when we are both at our best.

How will you negotiate the stuff nobody wants to do?

We are very considerate of each other’s time and schedules; we realize that there are times that we will have to “Just Do It!”

Relationships are hard work. What’s the one thing that keeps yours going?   

We have relied on a strong work ethic to build productive careers and deep friendships —that same level of dedication is what we share in our relationship. Daily prayer and devotions support our effort to love and respect one another.

 

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