Ron & Mark
Established- September 7th, 1987
What was your first date ever?
Ron: My first real date was in the 8th grade. I went on a hayrack ride with a girl. I was so shy, and she wanted me to kiss her, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to. She said, "Ronnie, are you going to kiss me or not?" And I said, "Well, why don't you kiss me first." And she did.
Mark: I remember in school when three girls were all vying for my attention. I kept thinking about how I wanted to get off the bus and get away from that attention. Really, I could count on one hand all the girls I dated in highschool.
2. Worst date you ever went on?
Mark: There weren't a lot of dates. We met when I was still in highschool and started dating later when I was in college. I didn't really date that much. Ron was really my first relationship
Ron: When I was in college I was in a fraternity. Of course if you went to a function there weren't same sex couples, if you didn't go you were fined. So I ask some sorority girl, I just wanted her to be shorter than me. She was a twin, I never knew if I got the girl I asked or her sister. The whole time it was just thinking, "what are we going to say to each other?" I remember looking at my watch and feeling like we both just wanted it to be over.
4. What was your “type” when you were dating?
Mark: The thing that attracted me to Ron, as far as type, was somebody who shared in my interests and that quest for knowledge. I remember asking a lot of questions and he would tirelessly answer those. Ron was my confidant.
Ron: For me it always was someone who was creative, who you could have an interesting conversation with, and definitely someone who wasn't concerned with sports. I never wanted to talk about sports. Mark and I never had to worry about that and we both loved art and wanted to talk about beautiful things.
3. What did you like about being single?
Mark: I think you liked having the down time to do your own thing with people.
Ron: Probably for me it was that I was so committed to teaching and being around students all day long. And then I had theater duties in the evenings. When the weekends came I could just relax, rather than going on dates. That was a great part of being single.
Mark: I went from the frying pan into the fire. But I don't miss anything from before that. I remember when the drinking age went from 18 to 21 right when came of age, so I missed all that. I moved in with Ron when I was 20. And living with Ron was how I was successful at college.
5. How did you meet?
Ron: Mark had been a student and I knew him that way. Then he went off to college and I hadn't thought about him. We were getting ready to do Hello Dolly at the highschool and we needed a choreographer. I ask Mark if he'd be interested in coming back on Saturdays to choreograph the show. The rest, as they say, is history.
6. How did you describe the other person to your friends before you introduced them?
Mark: That was hard.
Ron: We were keeping it quiet for a long time.
Mark: When I'd come to visit during college he'd drive over, I'd duck down in the seat and when the garage door came down we'd spend time together then. Sometimes people saw us together and thought I was his son, but we don't look anything alike. Even with my family, he was Senior for a long time.
Ron: That's one reason we've enjoyed some places we've vacationed, it was easier for same sex couples to feel comfortable.
8. Did anything about your relationship surprise you at first?
Mark: No, I think again, I wasn't really looking for a relationship, I was looking for a confidant. By the time I considered it a relationship so much had passed that surprises weren't really a thing.
Ron: As you said, it started as a mentor confidant type of thing. I always had a great deal of admiration for you and as time passed and we went through so many things together it was just there. It developed. We didn't work at it.
7. What do you remember about the “define the relationship” conversation?
Mark: As far as a defining point, it was when I moved in. I came out that summer to my parents and they wanted to fix me. Eventually we went to a nun who was a psychologist and she suggested I move out to salvage any relationship with my family. The choices were my aunt, and Ron. Since it would have put my aunt in an uncomfortable position between me and my parents, Ron was my choice. So I drove to his house and was sitting in his drive way.
Ron: His family had ask me to back away and I told them that if Mark ask me to back away I would honor that.
Mark: Ron had a feeling I needed him and left what he was doing to come home and there I was.
Ron: I was looking for a cassette and I got a strange feeling that something wasn't right at my house. I didn't buy anything I just went straight home and there Mark was. I don't know if I ever believed in that sort of thing but there it was.
9. Did you give anything up for this relationship?
Ron: I think you always give something up. When you're single it's all about you. If a relationship is going to be valid and respected, you have to respect the personality of the other person. Sometimes to do that you have to give up something of your own. The first few years we were together I was exhausted by Friday night. Mark being younger, he was ready to go out and do things, so he had to give up some of that.
Mark: Having time apart was a thing to. As I was coming into my own we were also coming into our own as a couple. Having that time to compare wasn't really there.
Ron: I probably gave up more because of the age difference, I had already gone through all those things and established myself.
Mark: Definitely, but he was so selfless about all of it.
10. What do you think the most challenging moment in your relationship was up to now?
Mark: There are a couple of challenging moments. One was definitely coming out to my parents. Another was getting ready for the wedding. Getting my family to support it and show up for the wedding.
Ron: That's probably been the hardest thing for both of us. Trying to love his family, and understand his family. It's only been in the last five years that things have changed. It's a really comforting feeling to know that they embrace us and they love us. My family, the hardest thing was just saying to my family that I was gay. I remember my sister saying, "So what, I've known for a long time." We've been very lucky to have the acceptance we've had from friends. We just try to be an example of what a good relationship can be.
11. What’s your favorite part of the relationship now?
Ron: Knowing that I have a person that loves me and supports me, who is there for me, and as I age will be a wonderful caregiver.
Mark: The same as it's been since the beginning. As experiences happen through the day I'll remember something I want to share later on. Knowing there's someone I can share that with, confide in, question that with, seek answers. Ron has always been someone, though I may not always agree with him, I can get an honest opinion from him.
12. What inspires you about your partner?
Mark: His friendliness. Even at times when it's not easy to be friendly, he'll still be up and I'm down ready to pop, and he just has tact and handles situations so eloquently.
Ron: There are a number of things. One of them is Mark's constant dedication to what he does. I don't know how he does it, but he'll spend hours working on something to make it as perfect as he wants it. Also his creativity, his mind is always creating. And then his talent, I love to watch when he's performing. It's also going to watch his kids perform at his school. That's been rewarding to me, that was my drive working in the theater, and seeing that going on with Mark through his work in the arts.
13. What advice would you give to your single selves about relationships?
Ron: To be honest, the times are so different that they were for me. If I was saying anything to someone today it would be to be true to yourself. Realize that in loving somebody that you have to be willing to give, and once you've given you have to be willing to give some more. There will be times when it's not 50/50, but the next day the roles may be reversed. That's part of loving someboday.
Mark: There's a time to talk and a time to just shut up. Let the dust settle. When feelings aren't as strong, go back and talk it through with a focus on what your feelings are. From there, the other person will come around. Often in the heat of conflict, it's just not that deep. Sometimes you just need to put your differences aside and come back to that give and take.