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‘We keep other people out of our marriage . . . since day one’

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BY JE’DON HOLLOWAY-TALLEY
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, please send nominations to Erica Wright ewright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.

RACHELIA AND CLEOPHUS ROBINSON 

Live: McCalla

Married: Aug. 5, 2000

Met: In 1995 at West End High School. “We had Spanish class together in [ninth grade] and used to mess with each other, but Rachelia didn’t like me, she had a boyfriend. Tenth and 11th grade came along, and even though we both still attended the same school we never saw each other again until our senior year, we ended up having biology class together and she still had a boyfriend,” Cleophus laughed. “But I came in class looking good” as opposed to kind of raggedy in ninth grade, he said. “We started messing with each other again.” But this was different. “One day she gave me a letter that said ‘don’t let this go to your head, but I kinda like you’, and of course, I still liked her.”

Rachelia doesn’t deny making the first move.

“I didn’t have a boyfriend anymore,” she laughed, “so, yeah, that’s how it started, our senior year fall 1998.”

First date: Valentine’s Day 1999, at Wildwood Movie Theater on Lakeshore Parkway. They saw ‘A Bug’s Life’.
“We was all over each other,” Cleophus said, “I can’t remember much, I just remember watching the movie and a little smooching here and there…”

Rachelia doesn’t remember watching the movie. “We did a lot of kissing… I do remember having fun, we had a real good time.”

The turn:  “In my mind, I knew he was the one, and that he would be different from other guys… My mom loved him, and my brother liked him and [her brother] didn’t like anyone, so I knew that we [she and Cleophus] would be together…,” Rachelia said.

The longer they were together, the stronger the bond, Cleophus said.

“We became best friends. I wasn’t accustomed to having a real girlfriend so she taught me a lot…and then the baby came along and that pushed everything along even further and everything came full circle,” he said.

The proposal:  The proposal was more of a conversation and a joint decision, they said. “After we found out I was pregnant and we told everyone, one of the church mother’s [at Loving God and Prosperity Ministries in Ensley] wanted Cleophus to make an honest woman out of me. And he started entertaining the idea, but I sat him down and told him that I didn’t want him to marry me just because I was having the baby. If he was going to marry me, marry me because he loves and wants to be with me because a baby can’t keep a marriage,” Rachelia said.

“A lot of people were pushing us along to go ahead and do it, but our plan was to do it one year after we had the baby. But then the church said if we decided to go ahead and get married before the baby came, they would throw us a wedding and pay for everything, so we went ahead and did it,” Cleophus said.

The wedding:  At Loving God and Prosperity Ministries in Ensley, officiated by Pastor Clinton Calhoun Sr. Their colors were navy blue, silver and white.

Most memorable for the bride was finally being able to sit down after the nuptials, and eat. “It was almost my due date, so I was hot in this big dress and all [the accessories] and all the talking and the kneeling was a lot. I was ready to sit… and I was happy when I ate, when I had my first bite of cake, I was good and pregnant,” Rachelia laughed. “They wanted to take pictures and in my head I was hoping to skip that part.”

Most memorable for the groom was the surprise he had waiting outside of the church following their nuptials.

“I had rented a Lincoln town car, my aunt took me and helped me rent it and I had it parked outside in the front and that’s what we rode off into the sunset in. It was a surprise to her,” Cleophus said.

Words of wisdom: Keeping God first should be obvious or else no marriage can last, “but for us, it’s also having the understanding that we’re best friends,” said Cleophus. “We try to remember to hold on to that boyfriend girlfriend type of love. We try to remember that we’re a team, we have four other people [the children] living in this house with us and we try to be the best example to them that we can…”

Life-changing circumstances can alter the way you prioritize your marriage, he added. In 2007, Cleophus was in a bad car accident following a disagreement with his wife. “I got up and went to work the next morning and my life was almost taken from me,” he said. “One of the most amazing things that came out of the accident was [his wife’s willingness to take care of him] and realizing that she really loved me, it reset the course of our relationship and is one of the key factors in why we’re still together today.”

Keeping their marital business to themselves has helped sustain their marriage and their bond, Rachelia said.

“We keep other people out of our marriage. That’s been our biggest thing since day one. I never believed in telling people our business, not even a parent. Most of the time, all I did was pray. And when I got away from praying about everything and got off track, we almost messed up everything that we had. God had to bring us back to where we needed to be with that accident.

“A couple weeks after the accident, we realized we were about to mess up a good relationship, and had not realized that we were kind of be-bopping along… He brought us back to where we needed to be, and we had no choice but to spend time together and remember what we had and who we had. After that, we never lost focus again. We renewed our vows in 2010,” said Rachelia.

Happily ever after: The Robinson’s share four children, daughters: Arionna, 19, Aariah, 15, Laneisha, 13, and son, Justin, 11.

Rachelia, 38, is a West End native and West End High School grad. She’s a stay-at-home mom.

Cleophus, 38, is a West End native and West End High School grad. He’s an Alabama State Trooper.

Updated on 4/22/2020 at 7:27 p.m. to correct the wedding day.