The Gift of Stability, Loyalty and Love

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Family is what you make it: pets, pet names, and vacations on the beach.

Travis O’Neal, an account manager at Dell, and James Holder, HR Director for nFusion, a local digital agency, have 10 years of balance, compromise, fun and trust to thank for making their little family as solid as it is now. “Like a diamond,” O’Neal said, “nothing could change who we are as a couple.”

They first met at a party but hardly talked to each other. Then, a year later, for Holder’s birthday, they were reintroduced by O’Neal’s then-roommate, who promised that they’d really like one another. What an understatement—the two spent the entire weekend together. A couple of weeks later, Holder moved in with O’Neal and his roommate. “We eventually kicked her out,” O’Neal laughed. “Yeah, we wanted to nest!” Holder said, in defense of couple-dom.

For the first few years of their relationship, things were intense. They reveled in the Houston nightlife, spent weekends sailing, and came out to their respective parents two years in.

“On Travis’ birthday, we’d been sailing all day, and I felt at that moment that I’d be fine without my family if they didn’t like it,” Holder said. Luckily, and in spite of the fact that Holder’s dad is a Southern Baptist deacon, it didn’t come to that. “He’s been incredible, actually. Travis was the son he never had; I was never into cars and stuff like Travis is.” O’Neal added, laughing, “His dad told me once, ‘well, I guess it’s a good thing you’re with James, ‘cause I know you’ll keep the oil changed and air in his tires’.” Holder simply smiled and shrugged.

The easy way they are together is a product of their growing up and growing together, knowing that the respect and love they share is rare—and it’s not going anywhere. They don’t gush, exactly, but they know why they love each other. Holder shared, “We can both be ourselves together. He’s funny. We’re weird together. He’s somebody I can trust; he’s just got a solid foundation for what he wants in life.

Being together, in a committed, monogamous relationship, it can be difficult in the gay community.” For these two, their love is natural, like breathing. “He’s goofy, I love that he’s musically talented; he sings a lot. I love that he’s fully committed to me. I can go to sleep at night and know that it’s going to be that way forever,” O’Neal said.

Getting ready to celebrate their first decade together on August 31, the two aren’t afraid to talk about the future. They know that O’Neal holds the most opinions in the house and that sometimes he just loves to debate, and Holder is happy to be along for the ride. They will likely spend a few more years as just pet-parents—Holder loves his cats, but their dog-kid, Bean, is the gleam in their eyes. In a few years, however, their little family may “expand to include a human,” as O’Neal put it. “I’ve always said I want to do it when I’m 40,” he added. “I’m more analytical,” Holder countered. “When I think about the future, I think it would be nice to have a child. I just need to be prepared, knowing I don’t get to be selfish anymore. I’m not there yet.”

Family is clearly important to these two—they spend time with O’Neal’s parents in Kansas, they walk their little Bean around their north Austin neighborhood, and they know that the family they choose is just as important as the family they’re born into. They will likely be ringing in their 10-year milestone on a beach in La Jolla, California, the couple’s favorite getaway.

An added bonus is that they’ll be vacationing in a state that is home to a very special animal to them: the tortoise. When the two first got together, and it became clear that they were in it for the long haul, they discovered that tortoises mate for life. If you sneak up on them in their living room, you just might hear them call each other “Torta,” one of the best custom pet names we’ve ever heard.

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Meg Haley holds a Master of Liberal Arts from St. Edward's where she took a close look at the way stories are an integral part of our society. From the tales of a good meal to a 30-second television commercial or a wordless ad, stories are ubiquitous. She spent several years writing plays before branching out to other genre, of which writing for L Style G Style is one of her favorites. She and her partner Machin are the proud parents of Idgie and their four-leggeds Moby, Soda and George.

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