Date Night with The Kolade's
Marriage is a beautiful journey but people don't have successful, life-long marriages by mistake. Every marriage that will stand the test of time takes intention, work and daily commitment. Over summer, we had the opportunity to have dinner with the beautiful blogger Finally Fiona and her awesome husband Laolu Kolade. We shared, talked and laughed about balancing work and purpose, protecting your marriage as you share your life on social media, faith and what they’ve learned in their first two years of marriage.
Ruth: So babe do you want to kick off?
Ayo: Kick off what?
Ruth: Lol the interview!
Fiona: Pressure levels are times 10 after today for Laolu moving forward!
Laolu: Yeah I think I have it easy, seeing what’s happened here, I have it easy!
Ayo: Lol if I tell you what happened today when I didn’t send my caption - I was like this woman will not kill me for Instagram.
Ruth: You have to be diligent in the small things babe.
Fiona: Hahaha can you imagine be diligent in the small things!
Ruth: So my broad themes are…
Ayo: You’re recording?
Ruth: Yes babe lol this is an interview not just dinner!
Ruth: So how did you guys get together?
Fiona: Lol there are two different versions.
Ayo: Hahaha there always are!
Fiona: So I ended up going to the same youth church as Laolu as a teenager. It was really vibrant and there were loads of young people who were involved which is something I hadn’t really seen before. And then...I met the pastor’s son! My first impressions were that he was cocky and arrogant.
Ayo: Lol like most pastor’s sons.
Ruth: Ayo is a pastor’s son too. Those guys…
Ayo: Wait, wait, wait, what do you mean ‘those guys’...?
Fiona: I just thought he was one of those guys too. I guess for me, we met when we were quite young. He said it was confidence (I thought arrogance) but I just thought I couldn’t trust him with my heart - he was good looking and I thought he was a naughty guy. The first spark between us was this youth retreat and at the end of the retreat on the coach on the way back, I went to sit with my sister and Laolu and all his friends. I just started to talk to him and we just had a good chat (Laolu was in year 11) and after then we would speak on the phone and we just kind of grew together.
Laolu: I feel like we didn’t talk after that though! We kind of stopped talking for a few years, and it wasn't until uni that we started talking properly again. I think I was then a bit serious and thought yeah I could get into a relationship but she wasn’t having it!
Fiona: I just thought he was an older guy and I thought only one thing was on the agenda. I was quite mature for my age so I'd heard from my older sister what older guys were like and I just didn’t want that.
Laolu: I think I was then in my third year of uni and then Fiona’s mum passed away and it was around that time when we re-connected.
Ruth: So were you going out at the time?
Fiona: No we’d actually fallen out a few months before. But he just turned up at the funeral and he felt that he’d kind of not been there for me. From then he really took it as his responsibility to check up on me and was really there for me during that hard season. And two months after that we started going out.
Laolu: And she really laid out the stipulations.
Fiona: I still had my guards up. None of this, none of that, don’t mess me around, I will end it asap.
Laolu: She was like do not touch me, DO.NOT.EVEN.LOOK.
Ayo: Loool, rule number 34 is...
Fiona: Yeah so we started dating in 2008 and then got married in 2015.
Ruth: Were you together that whole time?
Fiona: No, no, no (side-eye) ha - we had a big and longish break-up in the middle for almost a year.
Laolu: Yeah for about a year. I found God during that year but sadly I also lost my dad in that time too.
Fiona: At the time that was really hard. Looking back we see what God was during at that time but yeah it was very painful when it was happening.
GROWING APART, OVERCOMING TOUGH TIMES AND COMING BACK TOGETHER
Ayo: In your time apart, how did you grow individually? And do you think the time apart help to strengthen your relationship?
Laolu: My dad passing away had a massive impact on my life and all personal relationships I had at the time. Even though Fiona was fully emotionally present at the time, I became withdrawn from everything and everyone which led to a complete demise in what we had built up over the years. Previously, we had breakups, but this felt final. I battled with some demons during this phase, but God fought His way into the void that was vacant as a result of losing two important people I had held close to my heart. It was in this time of solace that I fully found God. God took me through a journey of spiritual and mental growth, and somehow, in the most organic way, our relationship was rekindled. Within a couple months of us just talking again as friends, it became very clear that Fiona was the one I was to spend the rest of my life with.
Fiona: As an individual, the area in which I saw the most growth was in my faith. The time apart during our last break up allowed me to become conscious of the fact that God had not been the focal point of my life for a very long time. I replaced the emptiness I felt during the breakup with time spent with God, and when the time came for us to get back together, I felt like the woman I was bringing to the table was a greater value and substance than she was before.
SHARING YOUR LIFE ONLINE
Fiona: You know when kids go out and they misbehave with other people? I feel like that, I’m in my zone. I’m taking a selfie and I don’t feel self-conscious as I’m with Ruth another blogger!
Ayo: I’m not like that!
Fiona: Lol you’re involved.
Ayo: Laolu do you not like the Instagram stuff?
Fiona: When I’m doing my boomerang of drinks, Laolu will be like 'it’s just drinks for goodness sake!'
Ruth: Hahaha - our poor guys!
Ayo: Man Laolu I feel your pain! Ruth will be like - 'babe you need to share your life more, you need to be on stories' - lol this life.
Ruth: Laolu what’s your feeling on sharing your life and marriage online?
Laolu: Naturally, I'm a private person and I tend to listen more than I speak. The moments in my life where I've been inspired to share my personal journey, have been when mentoring people at work or when sharing my faith or the Bible at church. My motivation for sharing is to give people insight into my personal successes and failures, so that they can use this as foresight into their own personal journey.
Ruth: I do get though that it’s hard and there's a balance. Because once you do open and share your life with people, it’s natural that people will feel like they can have a say.
Ayo: You can say that again!
Ruth: Fiona - do you ever feel the pressure or feel a tension between wanting to share and inspire people but also protect your marriage and keep it private?
Fiona: It’s true you have to expect people commenting on your life. I definitely do. I pride myself in sharing elements of my life online with hopes of inspiring others. But at the same time, I believe a certain level of privacy has to be maintained in a marriage so that as a couple you have special memories that remain amongst just the two of you. On top of that, I believe as you said, the more you share the more entitled people feel to commenting on how you ‘do things’ or should not do things in your marriage, and that’s where I draw the line. I don’t believe that everyone needs to know or see everything about your relationship.
SUPPORTING EACH OTHER IN LIFE, LOVE AND FAITH
Ruth: How do you practically support each other in your pursuits?
Laolu: Fiona thinks creatively and I think logically, naturally this would be an area of conflict, and initially it was, however the journey of planning our wedding showed us what can be achieved when we combine our different perspectives in unison. In relation to Fiona’s pursuits, social media is a platform I have never really embraced, as it can often be quite superficial and pretentious. Watching Fiona’s path and growth has made me fully understand similar to most things in life, social media is a gift and a curse, and I’m learning to open up more by featuring in the occasional Instagram post or Youtube video!
Fiona: On a practical level I would say a lot of support comes in the form of affirmations, especially in areas where one of us has little to no interest. Laolu is a huge fan of politics and quite honestly I am not, however I took an online course on the UK parliamentary structure during the recent elections in order to be able to engage in politics focused conversations with him. In the same way he also takes the occasional photo with me for social media use because he is passionate about supporting me even if he isn’t so pro social media.
LESSONS LEARNED IN MARRIAGE
Ruth: So what’s marriage been like?
Laolu: It’s been great!
Ruth: Loooool - what does that mean?
Fiona: See when we first got married - we went to a family party and someone asked Laolu how have you found marriage? Laolu was like wellllll, it’s been good but. Lol so since that time he gets the look every time we get asked that question!
Laolu: Seriously though it’s been great. I feel like because we’ve known each other for a long time, that has really helped. There’s been that level of respect and we really just muck around and have fun.
Ruth: So why is it that people always say their first year of marriage has been the hardest?
Fiona: I think it was because we’d been through such big storms together it brought us together in a close way beforehand.
Ruth: Did you find setting a culture and boundaries in your marriage was helpful at the start?
Fiona: It even still helps today. I think the main thing is being on the same page
Laolu: It has to be agreed. Whenever things change and evolve, you know what you agreed.
Ruth: Was the marriage prep course you did helpful?
Laolu: Yeah we did 7-8 sessions. Spiritually it was helpful but practically, people can tell you things but it’s not till you experience that you can really learn.
Ruth: Have you found it an adjustment from being quite independent to being married?
Fiona: In the beginning definitely. I think we respect each other’s quiet time now though. We might be in each other’s presence but we respect each other’s personal time and priorities.
Laolu: Ruth why are you laughing?
Ruth: I love being with Ayo alllll the time.
Ayo: Babe did you just hear what Fiona said lol? Respecting each other’s Q-U-I-E-T T-I-M-E.
Fiona: I have to say though at this stage I think I hug his presence quite a lot though. I think I’m in your space a lot more..?
Ruth: Hahahaha Laolu is like YEAH DEFINITELY!
Fiona: But yeah it was a transition at first to begin with so it did take some adjusting - even having your own personal space.
Ayo: You guys really seem to be on the same page, how do you do it?
Laolu: Pep talks!
Laolu: On a serious note though, I think we spend a lot of time together in comparison to say some other couples. Friday night is always date night and if I try to change that, there’s always beef if I try and do something else!
Ayo: Why are you looking at me lol?
Ruth: We need to re-instate our weekly date-nights.
Ayo: See what you guys have caused lol!
Laolu: Wednesday and Sunday night are relationship nights.
Fiona: Which are like our discussion time.
Laolu: Ayo is like where’s the time for this?!
Ayo: Hahahaha, it’s like you clocked my face, the cogs were actually turning in my head.
Fiona: Lol it’s a lot easier when you’re married and living together...
Laolu: So we spend a lot of time investing in our marriage. We read this really practical book called His Needs, Her Needs: Building an affair-proof marriage.
Fiona: And the guy who wrote it said he’s been married for decades because he’s invested so much in his marriage. I think that’s the thing about being intentional in making an effort.
Ruth: What are the 3 things you would advise any soon to be married, newly married couple to work on to help in the first season of marriage?
Laolu: The first year of marriage for us was a bit of a breeze. For some reason, I thought it would be a lot harder than it turned out to be. I believe there were three things that made it easy; active love, respect, and a sense of humour. Love is a noun and a verb, 90% of our first year required us to act on the verbal elements of love. It’s this 90% that will get you through the wide variety of challenges that arise. Our time apart before we got married gave us a new level of respect for each other, and this followed through right from our engagement till now. I often advise people, if you don’t respect the person you are with prior to marriage, your first year of marriage will be an uphill battle. Sharing a sense of humour with your partner can diffuse and heal issues in the early days of your marriage. The ability to make fun of each other even in the most precarious situation will always help in the long run!
Fiona: One - keep on dating! As a couple we dedicate 15 hours a week to ‘us time’. This includes our Friday date night, two hours doing an activity for instance reading together or painting. As we said discussion time on a Wednesday evening and the same on a Sunday evening. Even though we have been together for nine years there is still so much we can learn about each other. Our commitment to ‘us time’ has helped us strengthen our bond and even develop as individuals. Two - pray together – prayer is an excellent healer and makes it hard to remain annoyed at each other for too long. It helps to keep our relationship grounded and reminds us that we are not in it alone. Three - as Laolu said, laugh a lot! One of my favourite things about our marriage is how playful we are and how much we laugh and tease one another. Life is too short to be super serious about everything, get messy, jump around, make noise… just have fun!
Ayo: Why are you so intentional - even now that you're married - in learning about marriage and each other?
Laolu: Preparation is everything to me. Life experiences have taught me that preparation and success are very synonymous. A lot of people go into marriage with high expectations but low preparation. Before we got married, we were already studying and reading practical marriage books together. What drives me to make our marriage successful is legacy. I’ve seen the positive impact my parents marriage had on our family. If I could replicate at least half of what they have built, I’ll leave this world a very happy man, knowing that my duty and vows to my wife, my children and the world around was achieved.
Fiona: I’m intentional because this relationship is my life. It’s my legacy and it’s also a blessing from God. I can’t afford not to give it my all and do what it takes to better it. So many people long for a love like ours and I refuse to take this blessing for granted.