New England Same-Sex Couples Share Tips on Lasting Love for Valentine’s Day

Jamaal Crone and Oz Esquivel, together for seven years, were engaged on Christmas.
Photo: Courtesy of Jamaal Crone and Oz Esquivel

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Jen and Kendra Bauer with their three children.  Photo: Courtesy of Jen and Kendra Bauer

Jen and Kendra Bauer with their three children.
Photo: Courtesy of Jen and Kendra Bauer

By: Lauren Walleser/ TRT Assistant Editor—

In 2013, marriage equality became legal in all New England states, as it has been in Massachusetts for some time. Still, the media lags in representation of LGBTQ couples compared with those of heterosexuals. For this year’s Valentine’s issue, The Rainbow Times interviewed local New England couples who have been together for 5 years or more, married or not, and asked them to share their tips for a long-lasting, healthy relationship.

Lois H. Johnson and Sheri Barden on their wedding day, standing in front of Johnson’s Real Estate office where she has worked for 34 years.  Photo: Courtesy of Lois H. Johnson and Sheri Barden

Lois H. Johnson and Sheri Barden on their wedding day, standing in front of Johnson’s Real Estate office where she has worked for 34 years.
Photo: Courtesy of Lois H. Johnson and Sheri Barden

Lois H. Johnson and Sheri Barden, Boston, MA

Lois H. Johnson and Sheri Barden will celebrate 50 years together February 8, 2014 and were married March 27, 2008. Mutual friends introduced the couple. Barden said she knew they would always be together the first night they went to a party and Johnson sat down at the piano and played Brahms.

“Because Valentine’s Day coincides with our anniversary of February eighth, we would always go out for a romantic dinner,” the couple shared. “As we’ve grown older, we’ve wanted to share our special day and Valentine’s Day with friends, especially with all the new friends we have met through the LGBT Aging Project.”

Some of the tips they shared for a lasting relationship included having a sense of humor, shared interests, a willingness to talk about differences or problems, learning not to harbor resentment but talk it out instead, trying not to go to bed angry and upset, forgiving one another, enjoying life, and being grateful for your love.

Fifty years ago, when Johnson asked Barden on a date, Barden asked herself “Oh my God, what are we going to talk about?” The two said “We started on that first date and haven’t stopped talking since.”

Jamaal Crone and Ronald “Oz” Esquivel, Boston, MA

Jamaal Crone and Oz Esquivel, together for seven years, were engaged on Christmas.  Photo: Courtesy of Jamaal Crone and Oz Esquivel

Jamaal Crone and Oz Esquivel, together for seven years, were engaged on Christmas.
Photo: Courtesy of Jamaal Crone and Oz Esquivel

Jamaal Crone and Oz Esquivel will celebrate their seventh anniversary together in April. Crone is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with a Master of Arts in Religion and is currently obtaining licensure for Mental Health Counseling through Cambridge College. He works as a Substance Abuse and Mental Health clinician for Pine Street Inn. Esquivel is a Psychology and Sociology major at UMass Boston and works as a Program Manager for Massachusetts Association for the Blind. Crone shared that he and Esquivel, who is from Guatemala City, Guatemala, both moved to Boston in the same year.

“The story of how we got together is quite amazing in my eyes,” said Crone. “He and I actually first met through our friend ‘Craigslist’ while I was completing my second year of seminary. What’s cool about the story is that we did not actually ‘hookup’ as planned; we cuddled and fell asleep. We began dating, and through many trials and tribulations, are here now.”

Crone, who shared that the two were engaged on Christmas this year, said they have learned much throughout their relationship.

“Perhaps the most important [thing we’ve learned] is understanding, forgiveness, patience, and vulnerability with one another,” Crone said. “Our unwillingness and inability to be vulnerable about our life, romantic desires and goals led us through some pretty tough times and dark places. Fortunately, we learned to create a culture of openness, forgiveness, understanding, and patience in our relationship that continues to allow our love to grow. We have shed many tears together and shared many laughs together. We are not only romantic partners, but also best friends. We learned that to continue growing as a couple while growing as individuals means that we sometimes have to accept mistakes for what they are, process them, forgive them, and move on. Oz and I have learned to keep our relationship active by scheduling weekly time to read together, work out together, and have discussions about the world around us. We will even sit with my guitar and worship together at times. We try to live the biblical notion of ‘be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.’ Of course, this is a daily struggle, as with most relationships. The awesome thing is that Oz and I begin each day with a kiss and this principle in our hearts. In the six-plus years together, we’ve understood that our most fervent growth comes as we trim and prune ‘those things’ that have proved to be devastating—to any relationship—and enrich our lives with an unconditional positive regard for one another. Great sex helps too!” [pullquote]“Learn to laugh with each other,” the couple said. “At the most ridiculous times, when everything has gone wrong, we know we can look at each other and just laugh.[/pullquote]

Crone said that while it’s Esquivel’s year to make Valentine’s Day plans, he has hinted that he would enjoy dinner at a steakhouse.

“I’m not one for bells and whistles, but I’m sure whatever we end up doing will be amazing,” said Crone.

Jen and Kendra Bauer, North Andover, MA (photo shown above)

Jen and Kendra Bauer, who met through a mutual friend, have dated for nine years and have been married for seven. Jen, a digital media teacher, and Kendra, an English teacher, are now the mothers of a three-year-old and five-month-old twins. They both shared their tips for a healthy relationship and family.

“Learn to laugh with each other,” the couple said. “At the most ridiculous times, when everything has gone wrong, we know we can look at each other and just laugh. We let each other know how much we appreciate the other, acknowledging and saying thanks for even simple things like cleaning the kitchen or changing a poopy diaper. Make time for each other: date nights, family time and intimate evenings. We share a love of adventure, whether going on a hike, cross-country road trip, or backpacking in Europe.”

The two blog about their experiences on adventurousmoms.com, sharing everything from details about their travels and outdoor adventures, to parenting tips, the process of conceiving, and product and book reviews.

As for their Valentine’s Day plans,this year the couple said they will be ordering takeout and spending time with their kids.