CINCINNATI -- Tonya Banks loves a good love story. She’s enamored by couples with staying power, those who’ve survived decades of marriage and all the ups and downs that come with it. She loves those stories so much that she’s made it her quest to capture and share as many of them as she can with the public.
Through her Facebook page, Suga in the City, Banks shares the sweet side of marriage through intimate interviews with couples who’ve not only survived but thrived in their relationships. Some have been together a decade, but most have been reveling in wedded bliss for much longer.
Among the stories Banks has shared is the love story of Cincinnati civil rights activist and former vice president of Cincinnati City Council Marian Spencer and her late husband, Donald, who were married for “70 good years.”
Though now widowed, Spencer’s love for her husband is still evident in Banks’ story in which she tells of the couple’s whirlwind courtship – he proposed on their second date – and the seven decades they spent working together on their relationship and family.
“I started out with the intention to interview couples on what sustains their relationships,” said Banks. “For Marian and Donald, their model was to never go to bed angry. But when I talked to Greg and Sarah Landsman, his motto is to go to bed angry. He says, ‘Go to bed and wake up refreshed, because it’s best to communicate when you’ve had a good night’s rest.’
“Different things work for different people.”
During each interview with a happy couple, Banks asks about the good and the bad, what they love about one another and how they deal with life’s struggles. She also asks them to share advice for other couples. Former NFL linebacker Joe Kelly and his wife, Tiffany, offered three tips. First: When you find your soulmate, the work in a marriage is worth it. Second: A marriage consists of two individuals; keep other people out of your marriage. Third: Always communicate.
The Kellys’ love story, which appeared on the Suga in the City page in November, received much praise from followers.
“This is a beautiful love story, about the expectations highs in lows in a relationship. I appreciate you sharing this because it is inspiration of finding your soul mate, when the opportunity knocks at the door,” wrote Tammy Merritts.
Each story is shared in a written article as well as a short video in which Banks tries to incorporate the couple’s favorite song and images of where they met. Though the final stories are meant for her followers, the trip down memory lane has been met with much appreciation from the couples already featured.
Banks didn’t find her happily ever after in her own marriage, which lasted seven years, five of which she calls “tumultuous.” When the couple divorced, she left with her children and the nickname her ex-husband had given her, Suga.
Despite her own relationship issues, Banks never gave up on the idea of love and marriage. Instead, she set out to learn more about what makes relationships work and share with others what a successful marriage can look like.
A 1991 graduate of Woodward High School, Banks worked in various supporting roles, from radiology clerk to political campaign manager, before graduating from Xavier University in 2013. Each role left her unfulfilled and looking for something better suited to what she calls her “spiritual gift of service.” She feels that she’s found that with Suga in the City.
“This fulfills me. It fulfills my desire to see people happy. When they remember and smile, it fulfills me. I know this is what I’m supposed to do,” she said. “Everything I do, I want to give it with love.”
Banks has also found love of her own with fiance Lee Ross, but the couple are in no hurry to wed. They, instead, are waiting until the time feels right to blend their families.
“I think I was prepared the first time,” she said with a small giggle. “I am prepared. It’s scary because I know the work part that goes into a marriage. It takes work, and you can’t walk away. I’m mature enough to handle the pressure that comes with a marriage.”
In the meantime, she will continue to write about the love stories of Cincinnati and the couples who make marriage look appealing. She asks that anyone wanting to share their own love story contact her through the Suga in the City page.