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‘No one forgives your partner the way that you do’

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By Anita Debro
Special to the Birmingham Times

“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone who would, please send nominations to Erica Wright at ewright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.

ANKREHAH “KRE” AND JAY JOHNSON

Live: Trussville

Married: September 1, 2012

Met: Kre and Jay, graduates of Spelman College and Morehouse College, respectively, had friends in common but had never met before October 2004.  Kre’s best friend urged the two to meet. So Jay, a native of Atlanta, invited Kre, who is from Marion, Ala., to a date night at Agatha’s Dinner Theater in his hometown. The mystery dinner theater included a five-course meal. Kre said she remembers being struck by Jay’s confidence that night. “He spent a lot of money on that first date,” she said. Jay said he wanted to impress Kre and ended up spending over $100 — a steep figure for recent college grads. “I just knew I wanted to do something different and I wanted to make a good first impression,” he said of that night. “I thought she was pretty and cool and super country,” he joked.  Shortly after that date, Kre moved to Kansas City for medical school and Jay moved to Louisiana so the two lost touch until around 2008.

Second date: Kre had moved to Birmingham to complete her medical school residency when she came across a familiar face on her MySpace social media page. It was Jay. She sent him a message. “I asked him if he wanted to take a starving medical student out on a date . . . and he said ‘no,’” she recalled. “I told her I would cook for her instead,” he chimed in.  The date was set for the two to meet up for a home cooked meal and on the day of, Jay had to cancel. He said his roommate had hurt himself; Kre said she was skeptical and even offered to tag along to the doctor with the two of them. Jay insists his roommate really was injured so he rescheduled with Kre and about one week later he came to her house to cook.  The date went so well that for the couple’s third date, Jay ended up meeting Kre’s family at her housewarming party.

Third times the charm: That third date when Jay met Kre’s family clarified for both the idea that the relationship was serious. “I was the only one [at the housewarming] who was not in the family,” he said. “I felt special.” But Jay would have to move to South Carolina while Kre remained in Birmingham.  They spent the next two years in a long distance romance.

The proposal: Jay eventually returned to Birmingham to stay.  In January 2012 he invited Kre to a dinner at the former La Dolce Vita Italian restaurant in Hoover.  Jay stealthily invited a few friends and family members to witness what would be the couple’s engagement. “I had already asked her parent’s permission to marry her,” he said. Kre said she had no idea that the dinner was anything more than a fancy date night. We went to eat and when it was time for the dessert, one of our closest friends came out dressed as a waiter and delivered the ring on a platter,” she said. “I am not quite sure what was said I just remember saying ‘yes.’”

The wedding: The wedding was at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. “Birmingham is neither of our home towns but we were making it our home,” Kre said. “So we wanted to give our 200 guests a taste of Birmingham and what better place than Sixteenth Street.” She initially wanted an outdoor wedding but Jay pushed for the church and she said she was happy he did.  “We wanted our guests to have a true historic look at Alabama,” he said. The reception was at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. “We had the entire museum rented out,” Jay recalled. The Rev. Mike Moore of Faith Chapel Christian Center married the couple and chef Michael Glenn catered the reception. Kre said she remembers the look on Jay’s face when she walked down the aisle.  “It was truly unforgettable,” she said. Jay said he fondly remembers hanging out with his groomsmen on that day and being in awe of his bride, but he admits mostly everything else is a blur. “Everything happened so fast,” he said. “We even forgot to eat.”  The couple honeymooned in Antigua.  

Words of Wisdom: Attending couple’s counseling during challenging times has provided the best advice for keeping their marriage strong, both said. “The best advice given to me was to keep everyone out of your darkest hours because no one forgives your partner the way that you do… family may accept you but they keep tally and may even hold grudges,” Kre said. “My advice to other couples would be that marriage is hard and each day we make a couple of decisions: One, to stay; two, come home every day; three, expend a lot of grace and remember if you messed up today tomorrow makes for a chance to try again and to get it right.”

Jay offered additional insight from couple’s counseling: “We each handle issues with our (respective) families,” he said. “So if the problem is with my side of the family then I handle that and if the issue is with a family member from her side, then she will talk to them. Things are easier received from family.”  Jay added that he and Kre share everything and they encourage one another to express any issues that come up. “We respect each other’s feelings and we talk about them.”

Happily ever after: Jay, an independent college admissions advisor with College Prep U, and Kre, a doctor with a thriving family practice, Brownstone Healthcare, enjoy traveling and bingeing on Netflix shows.  They have a five-year-old daughter, Zoe. They look forward to watching their daughter grow up and also watching their business enterprises grow.