Jonathon Todd and Dale Huggins make it look easy. They have made a home for themselves in a cozy neighborhood in Round Rock, within walking distance of where Huggins grew up. His dad founded Action Pawn in the late 1970s, and now Huggins and his brother-in-law run the shops. Todd works for his partner’s sister in the same office, and at the end of the day they unwind with a glass of wine, sometimes with a neighbor or two. From a sister and her family living around the corner, to holiday spreads and vacations with close friends, these guys are focused on family. For them, it’s never been about how their relationship is distinct from those that surround them; rather, it’s how much all successful and loving couples are alike.
JT: It was December 11, just before my 23rd birthday, and I was at Oil Can’s for drinks with friends. I went to the bar to order, and he walked by. I reached out and grabbed him and told him he had a really nice shirt. To this day we can’t figure out what shirt he was wearing, but it made me stop him.
DH: There was a lady at the corner of the bar who told us we were the cutest couple and asked how long we’d been to- gether. I put my arm around Jon and told her we were about
to celebrate our third anniversary. I texted him later and told him he’d better get me a great anniversary present. We met up that next Friday in San Marcos (Todd was attending Texas State) because I was going to do all my Christmas shopping there. So I went shopping during the day, and then, after his classes—did I go to your apartment?
JT: I had already missed you, but I told you there was traffic in Austin, so you should probably just turn around. And we went to dinner at the River Pub and had that horrible sangria that they remade three times.
What’s the secret to a strong, long-term relationship?
JT: Working hard to make sure the other person’s happy. There can’t be any selfishness. We want each other to be happy.
DH: I had a crazy schedule up until this past August with a swim team of 150 kids. I was up at 4:45 a.m., working all day, going to coach and then getting home at 8:00 p.m. almost ev- ery day; weekends were swim meets all over the state. It was pretty stressful. All the neighbors had a night of the week they’d come see Jon. But even then, at least once a week we’d have a time for us.
Tell me about your marriage ceremony. DH: We did it at Umlauf Sculpture Gardens and had Analea Rawson from the Unity Church officiate. We designed our rings. The Nash Hernandez Orchestra played—this 12-piece orchestra. It was really awesome.
JT: 34th Street Café catered and the Flower Bucket did the arrangements. They’re both businesses owned by gay men, but they’d never done a gay wedding before.
Why get married in Texas?
DH: I think it’s important to not only have a commitment between you and your partner, but to share your commitment with everybody, with your friends who are going to support your life and your future. I think that’s why marriage is so important for our community; we need that accountability. It helps make that commitment stronger.
Do you plan to be legally married elsewhere? DH: We were going to, actually. We were in New York and the law had literally just passed, but we didn’t have all the documentation.
JT: I would like to go back and do it there. Since we got engaged in New York, it would be fun to have a Manhattan marriage license.
I know your anniversary is around the corner. How will you celebrate?
DH: We went to the Grammys last month; that was our anniversary present to each other. We did it up: We took our two best friends from Houston, stayed at the W, got limo service, and went to the after-party. It was a crazy weekend; it was so fun.
JT: On our actual anniversary, we’re keeping it pretty low key. We’ll go to dinner with the two friends we took to the Grammys and go see the King Tut exhibit.
What’s your favorite place to visit as a couple?
JT: Santa Fe is my favorite. That’s where we’ve gone for a few of our anniversaries. It’s the best place to go to recharge.
DH: It’s so relaxing; nothing’s fast-paced there.
What do you love most about your partner’s personality?
JT: Dale can make anybody laugh, and he has a great laugh. Everyone really likes just being around him. If I’m going to visit my family in New England and he can’t make it, everyone’s extremely disappointed. DH: Jon takes care of me, no matter what. He fixes things when they’re not right, even when it’s not in his control most of the time. I just know he loves me so much.
Do you have any gay couple role models?
JT: There aren’t any other gay couples in either of our families, so it’s not like we knew aunts or uncles grow- ing up or anything. But at the same time it was no big deal for either of our families.
DH: It was a nonissue. I’ve always admired my parents’ relationship. My parents are complete opposite personalities. I still to this day cannot figure out how that happened. My dad loves to joke, to make people laugh, be spontaneous. My mom is just all about love; everything in the world is about loving one another. She loves good energy and she makes you feel good. She genuinely cares about everyone she meets.
What’s something readers should know about you?
JT: When we tell people we live in Round Rock, they say, “Oh my God, how can you do that?” Dale built this house when he was 26 and has never had any problems. The neighbors just see us as the couple across the street or next door.
DH: I’m not sure I’ve ever felt that being gay was an issue. I don’t feel that we’re different. And nobody treats us like we’re different. I think that’s how it should be.
What does the word “family” mean to you?
JT: It doesn’t end with people we’re related to. We have friends we’re extremely close to that we consider family.
DH: It means everything. We’ll have close to 30 people at our house for Thanksgiving. Christmas Eve we spend with my family, and Christmas Day we drive down to Houston to be with his family. Both of our families cherish the time that we all have together. We’re deeply rooted with our family.