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‘People look for relationships to be perfect… that’s our first mistake’

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BY SYDNEY MELSON
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.

ANITA AND MICHAEL WATKINS

Live: McCalla

Married: November 8, 2008

Met: Anita and Michael grew up together in the same church – Faith Apostolic in West End. Both were musicians and sang together in the church choir, so the two saw each other in rehearsals and later hung out together with friends in high school (she attended Ramsay in Birmingham and he attended Jess Lanier in Bessemer) and their early college days at Lawson State Community College.

“We dated when we were 16 as well, [Anita’s] mom and my aunt were good friends. So they would visit at my aunt’s house and I would always try to go over there to see [Anita],” Michael said. “We’ve always been great friends. She knew my parents and grandparents, I knew hers. We were familiar with each other.”

Anita and Michael did not date throughout their childhood, however. They dated as teens and then took a break. “We both understood we needed time away from each other to explore and consider other people and different things, but we were always friends. We were still members of the same church and saw each other weekly… But we always had this chemistry,” Anita said. “He made me feel so comfortable with him, and I could always be myself. I think that’s what made me come back to him.”

Though their relationship did not continue, they stayed in touch. “I even went to his prom because we were still friends. I went to his and he went to mine. We dated other people, but everything just turned back around to us getting back together. It came full circle, like we were made for each other,” Anita said.

First date: February 14, 2007 at John’s City Diner in downtown Birmingham. “We were looking at each other more seriously, like ‘is this something we really want to do?’ So we were considering the future,” Michael said.

Anita said Michael made the first date memorable for her. “He planned the whole date. He put together this card, and on the card he wrote out his feelings to me, but he used pieces of candy to replace words he wanted to use, like ‘Snickers’,” Anita said. “It was such a euphoria. I felt like he cherished me.”

“I was already considering marrying her by then,” Michael said. “I was sure about her.”

The proposal: March 3, 2008, P.F. Chang’s in Birmingham.

“He had already told the waiter what he was going to do. So we go in and start eating, talking and laughing like we normally do. Then the waiter comes back, almost on cue to let [Michael know] ‘it’s time.’ Michael gets down on one knee and proposes. Of course I said ‘yes’, and everybody in the restaurant was paying attention to us. Somebody hollered out, ‘What did she say?’ and someone else yells ‘She said yes!’ and they’re all clapping. It was such a beautiful moment,” Anita said.

Michael said his nerves were working him the entire day. “Everything nerve-wracking happened that night,” including trouble with his car, he said. “It threw my whole schedule off. Honestly the car made me wonder if it was a sign that I should wait, but I talked to my dad the night before. His approval gave me some peace of mind and got me through it,” he said.

When they got to P.F. Chang’s, Michael said he did cue the waiter, but the waiter initially forgot. “I guess he was busy, but I didn’t get bothered because they had a lot going on. Then when he came I was like, ‘it’s now or nothing’. When I got out of the booth to do it, my heart was racing. Everybody started cheering and [Anita] was so happy . . . when I looked into her eyes, I could tell she was caught off guard and that’s what made it magical to me,” Michael said.

The wedding: Their hometown church – Faith Apostolic in West End. The colors were ivory, truffle brown and burnt orange with gold accents. The wedding was officiated by the late Bishop Heron Johnson.

Most memorable for the bride was when she forgot her bouquet. “When they called me in to walk with my dad, I had my bouquet and I put it down. Someone came in afterward to bring it to me after [Michael] sang to me, but when I walked down the aisle I was waving like I was Miss America,” Anita joked.

“Before the wedding though, something I always kept in mind is Michael took me to Homewood Park where they had these concrete bleachers. He dared me to run up to the top we’d both shout ‘We’re in love!’. When he said that, I ran up there with him and we both screamed to a park full of people that we were in love. That gave me such a peace and security to let me know, it’s all about Mike and Anita,” she said.

Most memorable for the groom was when the marriage really set in. “I was trying to keep her calm and focused on the wedding, because everyone was showing up late to get their fittings for tuxedos and dresses. The night before the wedding, I told her if people aren’t in place, or are slow and dragging, let it be. The only thing that matters is if you show up and I show up.

For the honeymoon, the two went to Gatlinburg, Tennessee and stayed a week, visited a skylift park, went to museums and rode go-karts.

Words of wisdom: “When you understand that you have two people coming together who will not remain the same because you two are forever evolving, it helps you prepare for life’s transitions. It helps better your marriage. The two of you are not perfect, give yourselves that leeway for the disappointments, things that go wrong, because life is going to happen,” Anita said.

Michael said, “You don’t have to mask who you are because you’re both aligned. There will be times when you disagree and see things differently, but it’s all about the commitment. And that’s in any relationship, whether it’s with your siblings or with your parents. People look for relationships to be perfect and that’s our first mistake. Look for compatibility, and that will create longevity in a relationship rather than giving up and looking for something else,” Michael said.

Happily ever after: The Watkins have three children – eight-year-old Amani Michael, and five-year-old twins Miles Alexander and Aiden Mark.

Anita, 35, is a Birmingham native and attended Lawson State Community College. She is a hairstylist and life coach, and recently published Live Your Best Wife Life: How to Put Yourself First and Still Be An Amazing Wife and Mom.

Michael, 35, is a Birmingham native who also attended Lawson State. He currently works as a coal miner and a life coach and sings solo as a gospel artist as well as background for artists that come to Birmingham, such as Ruben Studdard and India Arie.