Denise and Gabriel have been married for 29 years and will celebrate their 30th anniversary September 1st this year! Denise is a certified counselor, trainer, a life and relationship coach and motivational speaker. Denise and Charles live in the Caribbean on the beautiful island of Barbados.
Denise, how did you and Gabriel first meet?
We met at church when I was just a teen.
What was your first date and what encouraged you to keep dating?
Our first date was a visit to a “book-ship”. It was a ship called The Dulous, where young people got to travel the world and serve and it also sold all types of books; it was like a large floating book store. We were always fans of books, reading and pursuing knowledge so it was an interesting first date. What was memorable about it was that on my way into the ship, I tripped and fell and was super embarrassed but my boyfriend then, now husband, took it all in stride and helped me up. We still joke about it today. Afterwards we went to the local fast food outlet to grab a bite and surprisingly, I can’t remember what I actually ate. I remember feeling quite shy but I was already smitten.
What was your best date ever and what made it so outstanding?
Actually, I’ve thought over this question long and hard and can’t think of any single “best” date. My husband and I have regular date nights which are far easier to navigate now that our children are grown. When they were younger, we found time, at least once a month, when we went out without them to a special couple’s group meeting. In the early years of my marriage I valued those times away when we could connect as a couple, as well as interact with other couples; we learned a lot yet had time to be romantic. But I would have to say that these days we love dining out together and then driving late into the night as we listen to romantic music. When those times involve close dancing, then that seals the deal for me.
How do people describe you as a couple?
When people see us, they usually mention how often they see us together because we’re just one of those couples who spend loads of time together. We can be seen together at the mall, supermarket shopping, having ice-cream, enjoying a game of cricket or just hanging out in one of my favorite spots beach-watching. I enjoy watching the surf as we sit and talk.
What’s one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a couple and how has that challenge affected your marriage?
One of our greatest challenges was a period in our marriage when my husband was unemployed for quite some time and we had basically lost a bit of money. Things were very hard financially and my husband was depressed and emotionally taxed by his inability to provide for his family. I felt very burdened by the financial responsibility which fell on me at the time but we held it together. During that time, I never said anything to my husband to imply that he didn’t have my love, support and loyalty. That time taught us about resilience, about having each other’s back and about recognizing that we are on the same team.
How would you encourage other couples that may be facing this challenge?
I would want to encourage other couples to see their relationship as a partnership and not a competition. It means that we must strengthen each other when we are going through personal lows as opposed to pointing the finger in blame. Having a mindset where we love in spite of each other’s weaknesses, mistakes or foibles sends a positive message to our children and even to our peers about the enduring nature of true love.
What is something you are most proud to have created together?
Apart from our three very creative, artistic sons, we are the Co-Founders and Co-Directors of Better Blends Relationship Institute; a registered counseling and training entity and an on-line forum which deals with issues of love, sex, relationships, family and personal development. We enjoy counselling together and doing workshops/seminars with couples and groups. We have also enjoyed building relationships with and informally mentoring other couples over the years. Our passion is to influence others positively to encourage personal change and couple-growth.
What are some marriage resources that have helped you build a better marriage?
Definitely books; we have been avid readers over the years from Tim and Beverly LeHaye to Gary Smalley, Bill Hybels, Stephen Arterburn, Douglas Weiss, Myles Munroe, T.D Jakes and a host of magazine articles and video resources produced by couples for couples.
(Denise has produced some great resources herself and is author of How To Have Mind Blowing Sex Without Losing Your Brain and Your Baby Is Coming Now Push)
Tell us about an “Aha!” moment that you have had in your marriage and how that has helped you become a better spouse.
I can’t recall having any such singular moment but I can say that starting our relationship institute and getting more closely involved in working with individuals and couples has made me more accountable in my own relationship. One thing I prize highly is authenticity so I have no desire to “preach” something I am unable to practice. As a result, I am constantly reflecting on what I need to do to make myself a better spouse in all areas.
When you think about your future together, what are you most excited about?
I am most excited about the prospect of us having a chance to continue to grow together physically, emotionally and spiritually; about us having a chance to see our children’s children and leaving with them a legacy of love (I’ve already put in my order for three kids each, from each of my sons). Whenever I hear the lines from that song “starting forever with you baby, you are the only one I want to give forever to, love for a lifetime for you . . .” I think of my husband and of our marriage and of how real this is to us. We want to continue to live our “forever” together; despite the challenges we have faced we really do enjoy being together.
What is your idea of the ideal date?
The ideal date for me would be a wonderful dress up night at one of our best luxury resorts in Barbados, starting with fine wine, continuing with Mediterranean or Italian cuisine and ending with great slow dancing to some 80’s and 90’s music, in a luxury suite with a plunge pool. Yes, all in a wonderful room with a view of the Atlantic Ocean and wide sprawling balconies to be enjoyed of course with my husband, lover and friend Gabriel.
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