I love hearing stories of how people met and build their relationship. Today, I am interviewing Mark and Balenda. I met them through the Beyond Black and White Facebook page. You are in for a treat!
What are your names?
M and B: We are Mark and Balenda.
How did you meet?
M and B: We met on the dating website Zoosk.
Did either of you find the dating process challenging?
M: For me not so much. I think it is definitely harder for women.
What are your cultural/ethnic backgrounds?
M and B: Mark is White and Balenda is Black
Given the current political climate, was dating interracially challenging? Did you find that your political leanings were a barrier at all?
M and B: For us, not at all. We live in a very liberal-minded area. We have only gotten looks when we have traveled to the south and to upstate New York.
For the lady, did you ever find that you had a dry spell in the dating process? If so, how did you get yourself out there again?
B: Yes, I definitely experienced a dry spell. I was not meeting anyone the regular way and I was tired of going back to old boyfriends. I decided to try online dating. I had met a few men on Match.com and Zoosk and had gone out on a few dates. I had actually met a guy before I met Mark. Convinced this was going to be the relationship I had been looking for, I closed my Zoosk membership.
B: After about a month, we had broken up. I was about give up altogether when I saw a five emailed messages from Mark. I noticed that he sent the last one being on my birthday. I reopened my membership to read Mark’s messages. He asked me about my interest in traveling. I became interested and wanted to get to know him. We started communicating and met in person. Well, four years later, we were married this past July 4th , 2019, after 4 years of dating.
For the lady, do you feel that your skin tone made it challenging to date as a whole? If so, how did you overcome that?
B: No, not really. I found that being curvier often presented more of an issue than skin tone. A lot of men like dark skinned Black women, especially those of us who do not wear a lot of makeup. When I was online I would always include at least one full body shot among my assortment of pictures because I wanted to be honest about my body type. I would never hide my fuller body. That way, the men who liked fluffier girls would contact me and those men who like slender women would just scroll right pass me. Like Wendy Williams says, ”Not everything is for everyone.”
When did you know it was going somewhere?
M and B: When we’d met each other’s families and friends.
If you live in the US, which region or state do you live in?
M and B: We live in the northeast region of the United States – New York State, specifically.
Do you feel that your location is really welcoming of interracial couples?
M and B: Yes, downstate New York seems to be more welcoming than upstate New York.
What is your ideal date?
M and B: We love going out to a restaurant and then doing something fun, like a movie, a piano bar, or museum.
What is the best thing that you like about each other?
B: I love the way Mark treats me. He has treated me better than anyone has.
M: I love her openness and loving heart. She is nonjudgmental and very personable.
What is your favourite shared memory?
M and B: Our favourite shared memory is second date, which was dinner in Nyack, we went to the Edward Hopper Museum and then to lightscapes at Van Cortland Manor in Westchester, NY.
What is the best part about being together?
M and B: We complement each other very well. We respect each other. We are both extroverts and have many things in common so being together is easy.
What challenges have you faced?
M and B: We mainly faced money issues from Mark’s end. As college instructor, when his college closed in 2017, finding full-time employment has been difficult. Our second biggest challenge has been that Mark is a Miami Dolphins fan and Balenda is a NY Jets fan.
How do you deal with difficult times?
M and B: We talk and compromise in difficult times. We do fight over football for sure, but we try not to bust each others chops too much.
How have you adjusted to life together?
M: Living together has been easy, except that Balenda has a lot more things, like shoes and clothes, so fitting them in our condo has been a challenge. At our age, we do not get upset over little things.
What kind of boundaries protect your relationship?
M and B: If boundaries are pushed, say sexual or lifestyle we talk and compromise. We support each other and always try to keep our lines of communication open. Relationships are about compromise (usually).
How has your family reacted?
M and B: Our families have welcomed both of us with open arms.
M: My parents have passed on, but my kids fell in love with Balenda, as did whatever cousins I have.
B: They love Mark very much.
How have your friends reacted?
M and B: Oddly enough, all our friends have gotten along and accepted our relationship. We have done things with both sets of friends on several occasions like having a Christmas party or going to a wine tasting.
How are things now with friends and family? Are they supportive or are there any outstanding issues?
M and B: Everything has been great.
Is this a new dynamic for you?
M: Not for me as I dated interracially for 10 years.
B: The racial part isn’t really an issue. It’s more living together and in a new place.
What are some of the expectations you had before your relationship?
M and B: We both had expectations of having a serious relationship.
Looking back on some of those expectations, how have they changed now?
M and B: We decided on getting married and taking it to the next level.
What are some of the things you do to keep your relationship growing?
M and B: We make time for each other, and go on dates. We look for opportunities to do things together, like traveling or doing new things.
Do you have a blog or YouTube channel?
M and B: Yes, we have YouTube channel, but we haven’t updated it in a while. It’s called Mark and Balenda Take On.
If so, do you share about your family? If so, you feel that your channel provide representation for you and couples like you?
M and B: It definitely represents couples like us very well. We call our channel “Take On” because it shows us doing things together and sharing our experiences.
What advice would you give to others?
M and B: Talk and be honest. Compromise is important, but don’t give up who you are. If your fighting all the time then that relationship probably isn’t going to work. Give each other space, but balance it with just YOU time.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
M and B: We have more in common than we think. Don’t JUDGE, relax and enjoy the differences.
Thank you so much for reading Mark and Balenda’s story. We have reached the end of this week’s Couples Spotlight. Please feel free to leave a comment below; I would love to read it and reply, If you are interested in participating in a couples or singles feature, please leave a comment below, email me at [email protected], or connect with Christelyn Karazin.