The following spring, after soul searching and a talk one evening, the two became an item. But the two were still in the closet in 1989, so they were just an item between the two of them.
Now, more than 20 years later, BJ recalls all the times Kari came around to see her at the library, and jokes: “I married my stalker!”
Eventually, Kari and BJ did come out to their families a couple of years later when they decided to move in together. And since then, they’ve built a life together – the majority of it spent right here in Columbus. They admit they are fans! They value their relationships with their families, who are local to the area, and they work hard to keep their connections with them intact. In a lot of ways, they explain, managing all the aspects of their own relationship is easy compared to keeping their relationships with their family. “I’ve always liked Ohio,” says Kari, “and I’ve always liked Columbus. It’s very progressive, and I don’t know many other places like it… I’m a Midwestern person, and Columbus is a very progressive city.”
During the years they’ve been together, Kari and BJ have
experienced two different careers each and many ups and
downs, including a legal wedding ceremony during a trip
to Massachusetts in 2007. So what is the key to maintaining such a strong relationship for so long?
“Many would say communication,” answers BJ. “But there’s no such thing as zero tolerance. You have to be able to accept that you are two different people. No matter how much you want to redefine coupledom, you are still two different individuals; you can’t change the other person. A person will change themselves, but they will not change for you. That just doesn’t happen.”
BJ goes on to explain, “Have realistic expectations and be willing to define roles. There is no standard to our relationship. You can’t uphold a standard that this is our relationship, this is our marriage… you don’t plug yourselves into a formula. You’re in a continuum; you allow yourselves a margin of error that’s larger than life. You allow yourselves the ability to make mistakes, to be human, to go about life one day at a time, and support one another. It comes down to unconditional support, endurance, and tolerance.”
And finally, Kari notes, “We’ve behaved like a married couple for 20 plus years; we haven’t held back from friends. We’ve never behaved like we were just buddies, or just dating… We’re not in it for just the moment. We always saw ourselves being together.”