When I went to California in March, I was blessed to stay with two different happily married couples - one was Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and her hubby, and the other was Dan & Mike of "The Gay Vegans."
Not only are both couples lovely and gracious, but seeing their love in action inspired me to do a blog series featuring different happily married couples I'm lucky enough to know (including them!). My feeling is that we don't see enough of that in our world. I wanted to share examples of married folks thriving, and treating each other with love, kindness, and respect. On a personal level, I wanted to know it was possible to be *VERY* happily married, so I looked to the couples I knew who had created that. They truly inspire me, and I hope they do the same for you! I'll be featuring different couples throughout the next month or so - stay tuned! : )
The first couple I'm featuring is Ethan and Michael of the Vegan Mos. I first met them at Vida Vegan Con about a year ago, and I immediately knew they were something special. I've really enjoyed staying in touch and getting to know them better via social media (the upside of the digital age for sure!). They are two dedicated professionals who definitely fit the criteria of "Very Happily Married" and I'm honored to share their story. Enjoy!
Tess: How and when did you two meet?
Michael: We met on Friendster, the precursor to Facebook, through a mutual friend in June 2004. Neither of us was looking for a relationship at the time. We just met as friends and sometime during that first meeting it became a date.
Ethan: We met on June 19, 2004 after being e-introduced by a mutual friend, Tom, who we both had dated at different times in prior years. We each of decided this wasn’t a fit for us, but decided to keep him as a friend. I had moved back to New York City after a year away for a job. I had just broken up with my boyfriend a few months prior and I was merely looking to meet new people and expand my circle of friends. Tom told me about this website “Friendster” and so I joined and started picking his friends off, one by one, to meet new people. I asked him about Michael and he thought we’d hit it off, and so I shot Michael a message on Friendster and the rest was history.
Tess: When did you know it was true love?
Michael: I don’t know that there was a specific “aha” moment for me. Ethan was the first to say, “I love you,” and I was caught off guard and replied, “thank you.” I did say it back a short time later. I knew after our first date that Ethan was an incredibly special person.
Ethan: This sounds so silly, but this was completely love at first sight for me. I had this instant feeling when I met Michael that he was someone I’ve known forever. I felt instantaneously comfortable with him and I somehow (albeit irrationally) knew that this was the man I would spend my life with.
Tess: Who proposed and how did that take place? We want to hear all the gushy, romantic details!
Michael: Ethan proposed to me one night on a beach in Puerto Vallarta in November 2005. We were walking on the sand when Ethan turned to me and said those 4 magic words, “we need to talk.” I was shocked, that is how break-up conversations start. I began to panic and Ethan had no idea why. When I told him, he tried to reassure that that was not happening. Finally he said, “will you stop talking and let me finish?” I stopped talking and he proposed. At the end of the proposal he got down on one knee and produced a ring. I was shocked and thrilled.
Ethan: I proposed to Michael. I bought an engagement ring and brought it with us on a vacation to Mexico. It was our first (of many to come) vacations with Atlantis (an all-gay vacation group). I was looking for the perfect night to propose and I wanted to do it sooner than later in the vacation so we could enjoy “being engaged” during the vacation. My plans were slightly derailed when my planned romantic dinner ended up with us joining a group of New Yorkers who wanted us to dine with them. We didn’t really connect with this group and the dinner was interminable and we both couldn’t wait for it to end. Of course, I couldn’t wait for my own secret reason! After dinner, we excused ourselves to take a walk on the beach. I was nervous as I had played this out in my head so many times and now, suddenly, here I was, about to ask him to marry me. There was a warm breeze in the air on the beach and it was a star-lit night. We were talking about the dinner and I knew I needed to change the topic but I was nervous and didn’t really know how to do it so I said, “So, we need to talk…” as a segue. Before I could continue, Michael started to freak out, thinking I was going to break up with him! I honestly was so nervous that I didn’t pay attention to the words I was saying right then and there. In retrospect, this was not a great opener and for the past 10 years he continues to tease me about this! But when I calmed him down, assuring him this was not something bad at all, I got down on one knee and asked him to marry me and, thankfully, he said yes.
Tess: Do you have pet names for each other? Care to share?
Michael: I will usually call Ethan, “Hun.”
Ethan: I don’t think of it as a pet name but I do call him “hun” a lot. I suppose I should switch that to agave.
Tess: What are your challenges as a couple? How do you work through them?
Michael: I am not a good communicator. Expressing my thoughts and feelings is not something that comes easy to me. Ethan likes to talk things out and I prefer to process in my head. Ethan has learned that he won’t usually get too much out of me in that regard. I try my best to share my feelings, but it is still very hard for me to do. We also work together, so we had to learn how to leave home stuff at home and work stuff at work. Learning to do this required some trial and error and setting of boundaries to make sure there is no spillover, but we did it.
Ethan: Our challenges have changed over the course of our marriage as our lives have changed and shifted. The biggest challenge over the past 7 years has been balancing our work life and roles with our personal life and roles. We do just about everything together; we wake up together, we hit the same gym at the same time (though we don’t work out together), we commute to and from work together, we work in the same office together and we blog on the night and weekends together. With all of this togetherness, finding alone time and establishing boundaries for work and play have been the hardest. But we’re really respectful of each other and our different needs for space and the key is communication. We tell each other what we need and we’re always willing to give that to one another. I think that the times when we get tripped up is when we don’t effectively communicate our needs.
Tess: What do you love most about your spouse?
Michael: There isn’t just one thing I can say that I love “the most.” That may seem like a cop-out, but it is true. Ethan is one of the most passionate people I have ever met. He never does anything half-way. It is always 100% with him. He is not afraid to be a “truth teller” even when it is not easy to hear. Ethan always has time for the people he cares about and gives his thoughtful, insightful replies to help his loved ones when needed. Ethan is one of the smartest people I know, but his intelligence is surpassed by his compassion and empathy for others, human and non-human alike. Ethan is the person you want in your corner. I am so grateful to have him in mine.
Ethan: This is such a hard question because it’s not just one thing but a synthesis of different qualities that I love about him. I love his compassion and his big heart. I love that he’s always willing to do the work, whatever that might be. I love that he supports me in becoming the best version of myself and that he allows me to support him in that process for him. I could go on but that’s pretty much the core of it.
Tess: How do you keep your relationship fun and fresh? Do you have date nights or other fun things you do to stay connected?
Michael: We try to do date nights at least once a month. We make sure to take off work for our anniversaries so that we can celebrate. Even if we don’t do anything other than stay home with our dogs, we take the time for us. We love to travel and explore new places together. I do my best to make Ethan laugh, even when I know the joke is a groaner, I still go for it.
Ethan: We try to do date night every now and then but, in truth, we’re always together and our favorite date is a night at home, cooking, watching TV or a movie on the couch with our dogs. I think our biggest re-connector is our mutual love of travel and we travel quite a lot. Travel time is when we can escape our life as husbands who work together or husbands who blog together and just be Ethan and Michael, best friends who love to spend time together and explore different things, places and experiences, together.
Tess: What do you think the three most important things are in maintaining a loving relationship?
Michael: Laughter, trust, honesty (saying “please” and “thank you” go a long way too). My father once told me that relationships aren’t 50/50, they are 100/100. Both parties need to be fully committed to one another.
Ethan: I think these answers might be different for different people in different relationships. I feel like they are open communication, a willingness to listen and hear him from his unique perspective and not through the filter of my own perspective, and to do things with one another that we both enjoy and do them often. That keeps us feeling happy and laughing together is key. All these years later, Michael is still the funniest guy I know and he cracks me up daily.
Tess: Thank you for being vegan rockstars! What are you currently working on? Where can we find out more about what you do?
Michael and Ethan: We have a lot of things going on right now. We are finishing up a comprehensive travel review for "Vegan Israel" after our second trip there in a year. We'll be hosting another fundraiser for Woodstock Farm Sanctuary again this year at our home in Brooklyn on Saturday, June 24th so there's lots of prep work going into that. We're frequent guests on the Our Hen House weekly podcast and Ethan has a book review for them coming up soon. We're still working on our first cookbook while posting regularly to our blog, Vegan Mos where you can find our original recipes, reviews and thought pieces on animal rights and LGBT issues. We can also be found on Facebook,Twitter, Instagram and Pintrest all at @VeganMos.