In 2019, a year after their marriage, Toni-Ann Craft, 37, and Kenneth Craft Jr., 42, moved in from their spacious residence.–from the one-bedroom apartment in Washington to the smaller, two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, where Mrs. Craft grew up.
“We wanted to feel more grounded and closer to family,” she said of their decision to relocate. But the couple “didn’t really have married friends” in Brooklyn – and didn’t get a chance to see them after arriving. Ms Craft, who received Covid in April 2020, said: “We were both starting new jobs, and suddenly the quarantine hit.
She finds herself stuck at home, with no community and a marriage that is becoming a challenge to navigate while in quarantine. “Being locked down is difficult for us,” she said. “We argue over little things. Probably because at the time, we were together 24/7.”
Ms. Craft, senior manager of brand marketing and communications at Amplify, an educational technology company in Brooklyn, has a background in marketing, communications, and membership management. She’s always wanted to start a business, but says it’s “a matter of finding that thing”. That “thing” is Friends with ringsa virtual membership network she started last year for engaged and married couples, like her and Craft, who want to build successful, healthy relationships as well as a community. diverse copper.
What inspired the idea for Friends with Rings?
Through our church in Washington, Kenneth and I are part of a group of 12 pastoral couples who meet weekly at a host’s home for dinner and forging a relationship. I lost that when we moved to Brooklyn. One night I Googled to see if there was a marriage community I could join and found nothing. I wanted to create a community and start a marriage support group, but one that is not affiliated with the church, as that could disqualify people who could benefit from this service. I want to make friends and also solve problems that couples face; Kenneth and I are having communication issues and I know that’s what other couples need.
It took a year to build the company and form a board of directors and experts dedicated to dealing with marriage and relationship issues. We launch in April 2021 with 15 people on the board and 15 coaches, mentors and experts.
How it works?
We host monthly virtual events, workshops and group coaching sessions with licensed marriage professionals and counselors. I curate a list of topics for the year by going through what my consultants and coaches specialize in and building content on that topic. There is also a private Facebook group where members support each other by posting questions and having other couples answer them.
We open our membership program twice a year, in April and October. Fees range from $35 per month, to $175 every six months, to $300 for a year, per couple. We currently have 48 combined members. Members have access to monthly events and educational resources that can help strengthen their relationships, and discounted coaching and consulting services.
What are some of the events and programs you have offered?
We’ve hosted virtual events covering topics like how to set boundaries to protect your marriage, led by relationship coaches DeVon and Danah Artis; understand your partner’s temperament to promote better communication, led by a relationship coach Keith Dent; and how to create strategies and solutions to better connect with your spouse, hosted by relationship expert Shaquan Grove, curator Coach Shaquan. Coaches and experts are found through recommendations or have a great reputation online and in the industry.
By joining the community, what do people gain?
Memberships help couples stay married while giving them the tools and tips to make it happen. Through live parts of Q. and A. in workshops and coaching sessions, couples are learning from experts and each other by having the opportunity to listen to what others are struggling with. That transparency helps create linkages. I see a community of couples supporting each other and forming relationships with each other. It’s about people actively working to build or rebuild their marriage.
What is one of the biggest lessons the members have learned?
In the Q. and A. sections, I heard couples comment on communicate. Any issue can revolve around communication, how you are sharing your information and if you are saying something at a time and in a way that your spouse can hear or absorb. it. Just because you’ve shared something doesn’t mean your partner will understand it or that you’re communicating it in a positive way.
What are couples struggling with the most today?
The pandemic forces couples to be together all the time, so they’re struggling to understand the difference between spending quality time together cultivating a marriage as opposed to just being together. They are also struggling to understand that marriage is work, but it is also working with yourself.
Many people grow up thinking that you don’t share your problems. They want to protect their marriage, but they are unhappy or feel like things are not going right. They want to create a stable, healthy relationship and home environment, but don’t know how. And they want to learn to work together and communicate better, but feel embarrassed, overwhelmed or not heard.
What are you not expecting?
We don’t have many dropouts yet, but we do have people who say they want to join and don’t. Our waiting list has 65 couples. The last time we opened it up, there were only three couples in attendance.
Many couples are driving autos with their relationship. They want things to improve, but they don’t want to finance it or put in the time and effort to make it work. They don’t want to take advantage of the tools and experts we provide. This is like a gym membership. Those who go will see results. People who show up occasionally don’t.
What have you learned about your marriage since starting Friends with Rings?
That my marriage is not perfect. That our problems are not unique to us; they happen to everyone. I think we argue more than other people; we didn’t. I learned how to let Kenneth be who he is and express his own personality. I wanted him to do things the way I did. But I do know that we were raised differently – I come from a family of two parents; he didn’t, and that we needed to create our own traditions instead of living with the people I grew up with. I’m learning to embrace our differences. We are learning to think outside of ourselves, respect each other and understand each other.
Your favorite moment since the launch of Friends with Rings?
Read the testimonials. I put a lot of effort into finding speakers, preparing for our monthly events, and coming up with our calendar. Then I wondered, ‘Is this going to help people?’ Couples email me or they message me on Instagram saying how much they got from this, that it was a breakthrough for their marriage. We had a couple who, in our bedroom conversation with a panel of three sex professionals, shared that they had been trying to conceive for 15 years. They got advice and a few months later shared a testimonial that they were expecting their first child. To know this really helps people push me forward.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/12/style/friends-with-rings-couples-relationships.html Friends with Rings Founder’s Answers Relationship Questions