"Relationships are a reflection of self" is some old sage advice that someone gave me as I had exited a relationship that didn't pan out. That statement struck a nerve with me because it forced me to access what I could have done better. Society tends to romanticize relationships with beloved relatives, celebrities we look up to as relatives, and sometimes just people we see on social media.
I wanted to create a space for others in relationships to give some insight into who they are as individuals and a couple. I welcome you to the "Untitled" love story series with that information. This series aims to share the experiences of various couples about how they interact with each other, how they deal with conflict, what they value as a couple, and more.
This project will span the year, but I thought it appropriate to relaunch it in February due to Valentine’s Day. Yes, you read the word “relaunch” because I attempted this before, but it fell by the wayside. However, I’ve grown as a human, a man, a husband, a father, and a photographer, and this time has allowed me to have a better perspective to tell the stories of love.
With all this being said, let’s meet Matt and Jenna!
I’m connected to Matt and Jenna through the community created at Raleigh Raw. Matt is the owner of Oak and Iron Fitness, and we forged our friendship as we co-facilitated the Raleigh Raw Book Club. We’ve had plenty of healthy conversations about perspectives gained from the books we’ve read, and I’ve personally learned the hard way that Matt is a workout warrior. Jenna, Matt’s Fiancée, is a photographer, and I’ve followed her work since 2016 when I began my photography journey. Jenna’s ability to use natural light to capture stunning images is quite remarkable. Matt and Jenna are exceptional people within their rights; however, they are also parents of young Mickey! As they are balancing how to maintain their entrepreneurial endeavors, and parenthood, while carving time out for themselves, I felt that this would be an excellent time to learn about their story of love.
So without further ado, this is the story of Matt and Jenna!
Who was Matt before Jenna?
“Jenna taught me, love, in ways I had never experienced. She challenged me and made me naturally want to be a better person, friend, son, and worker. I started to spend time getting to know myself on a more intimate level, and begin to pursue finding the best version of myself. I’ve become mindful and understand my conscious more. I’m aware that it’s an ongoing process but love the pursuit. Once I knew Mickey was coming to join us, my efforts amplified even more. I feel a purpose now, and a desire to continue to grow and impact those around me. I now understand...falling in love.”
If you had to describe your partner/spouse in one word, what would it be? Why did you choose this word?
MG: Selfless. I choose this word because Jenna is truly the only person I know who ALWAYS thinks about other people before herself. She does whatever it takes to help anyone, listen, etc.
JC: The very first word that came to mind was ‘big.’ I believe in going with my gut and this was honestly the word that came to me in an instant, no thought necessary. It can probably apply in multiple ways. Matt’s outward appearance is big. He is muscular and has a full sleeve of tattoos. You can’t miss him. His presence is big, his voice is big, his personality, etc. But what I know most about Matt is that his love is big. I am lucky to be the recipient of this everyday love but it also applies to his job, his friends, and most recently and importantly his community.
The saying goes, “opposites attract.” What are the unique differences between you and your partner/spouse?
MG: Jenna tends to think worst-case scenario and often am overly positive and think best-case scenario. It's the perfect balance of a realism approach combined with a dreamer mentality. Jenna will map through in a very what-if type mentality which helps me keep in check, while my positive outlook helps us stay adventurous.
JC: I can live with a to-do list, and Matt cant. He has to get everything done as soon as possible so that he can relax. So if the house is a wreck and there are 3 loads of laundry to put up, he needs to do EVERYTHING within an hour so he doesn't have anything else to do the rest of the day. I, on the other hand, might take 3 hours to do it or I might take 3 days. Neither of us is messy though, which is nice. Also, Matt is incredibly social. He pours into his friends whereas I pour into my family. If I have any sort of free time I want to hang out with my mom. Matt has big visions of his involvement with the community and his outreach projects and I am happy to hang out with the same 10 people for the rest of my life.
What three things do you and your partner/spouse have in common?
MG: Love for food (Her cooking, Me eating) Low Key (Homebody's heart) Music (We have been to tons of live shows together)
JC: We both had the same lifelong dream of having kids. Seriously it was our #1 goal. Having Mickey was by far the best dream come true for both of us. We like to be healthy. Whether that is working out or eating healthy, it’s important for us to take care of our bodies. We love music. It's something that definitely brought us together and created a really strong bond and foundation. Our favorite thing to do on a night out is to go to a concert. I went to 10 or 11 shows while pregnant with Mickey.
Who was Jenna before Matt?
“My 30th year was approaching and everyone around me kept telling me that it would be the best year of my life. They had been telling me for years that ‘someone will come along when you least expect it! When you aren’t looking!’ Id smile at them but inside I couldn’t have rolled my eyes harder. I was so sick of that saying. Then it happened. I turned 30 and quite literally had the best year of my life. It was like a switch went off. I had so much fun. I met 2 important people who showed me a whole new perspective on life and on manifesting your wishes, on how to view things from a place of love instead of fear, and on how to love myself first and foremost. And when I wasn’t looking, along came Matt. And he has blown me away ever since. I have never had someone love me so relentlessly and truly unconditionally.”
What is the trait your partner/spouse has that you value most?
MG: Her motherly instincts. She is such an incredible care-taker. It can be as simple as cooking comfort food, rubbing your back, and just listening after a long day.
JC: Matt never holds a grudge. Seriously. Never. It’s amazing to me. I can hold onto and be affected by things for YEARS. He truly believes in the power of letting go and not being affected by things outside of our control. It’s something that I benefit from in our relationship, though I try not to abuse it.
If you could travel to any time period with your partner/spouse, which era would you choose to live in?
MG: Difficult to question to answer. A country with our history makes it hard to highlight a previous era that I would willingly go back to. Living in the past is something I have tried to make a concerted effort to ignore.
JC: I think I would like to live in the ’50s and ’60s. When I hear stories of my mom and dad’s life growing up, I imagine a sort of fairytale where things were a little less complicated. Of course, people often tell stories remembering the good times and omitting the struggles but if it were how I imagine it I think I’d like that. A time where there were still modern comforts like hot water and air conditioning but when people sat down and had conversations face to face. A time before social media and the tech takeover. Where you had coffee after dinner and stayed up talking and telling stories for hours.
Do you remember the first date? Explain it from your perspective.
MG: I more clearly remember our FIRST WEEKEND away. We went to Asheville. We booked an Airbnb and had little agenda other than that. We went out to eat, explored the little town, did an escape room, and took it all in. That Saturday we were looking for live music, and for whatever reason, that was very little going on. The day ended up being oddly perfect in its own unique way. We watched NC State football at a bar, stumbled into some glow stick party and got our face painted in black lights, and ended up watching UFC fights (my hobby but her idea). We ate wings and she intently watched the fighting. The day went by so quickly, yet every step was so memorable. The lack of actually having a plan and thoroughly enjoying the day as it came to us will always stand out to me.
JC: I honestly don't. I think we went to Oak City Meatball? Or Raleigh Raw probably. I remember thinking that he was the most confident person I ever met. And that he knew someone everywhere we went and that everyone loved him. I also remember being a little reserved or shy at first. Skeptical maybe. He had a lot of ‘tests’ coming his way from my end.
What was the best moment in your relationship so far?
MG: Mickey's birthday will be impossible to top. Seeing how strong Jenna was through the entire process has made me forever admire her.
2nd - a trip we took to DC, we took a weekend away, and went to a concert. We danced the night away. The trip was amazing, we danced the night away and I've never felt so connected as we did at that moment. I still have pictures of that night and just looking at them brings the rush of feelings back instantly.
JC: I would say I can’t pick just one. You would think my answer would be ‘Mickey’s birth’ or ‘when Matt proposed,’ but no. Those were top moments in my life but not necessarily in our relationship. I’d say the best moments in our relationship have been when we have completely let our guard down. When we were 100% ourselves with nothing to hide.
When was the last time you had an in-depth conversation with your partner? What was it about?
MG: We routinely try to have conscious conversations with each other. I have a box of cards that has thought-provoking questions. Recently we discussed, "what advice would your younger version of yourself, give you today?". We also have had serious conversations regarding vaccinations when Mickey was born.
JC: Almost every single night. We’re planning a wedding so things come up. Also, Matt has become an avid reader in the last year and he likes to talk about life and struggles and philosophy. Our last in-depth conversation was about our relationship and how we can better communicate with each other.
I want to personally thank Matt and Jenna for sharing their insights on each other and allowing me to include them in the blog series. Stay tuned for more couples and stories throughout the year!