Saying ‘I Love You’ on The 3rd Date to Now: Here’s Their Happy Story

Credit: Humberto Martinez

When you feel it, you know. That’s the case for adorable duo Nick Clark-Spear and Mark Badum who said the “L” word to each other early in their dating life which eventually led to them having a wonderfully happy relationship with one another. 

The talented singer and children’s book author/illustrator are the latest to be featured in Instinct Magazine’s ongoing Couple Series. Their love for one another is evident without being forced, sweet without being pretentious, and admirable without causing a hint of jealousy (at least for me).

It hasn’t always been easy, especially during 2020 which was a heartbreaking year for them due to the personal tragedies they suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. They had each other throughout it all though, and were able to get through those difficult things all while having supportive loved ones who kept a smile on their faces as the months passed.

Check out more about these delightful men below. 

Credit: Ben Clark-Spear

How did you two initially meet and was it love at first sight?

Nick: We actually first met at a party in college but were both dating other people and living in different states. We kept in touch and after we graduated, Mark moved to New York and we met up again. We had our first date, and first great conversation, in the little park on Christopher Street outside of Stonewall. As he walked up, I was very conspicuously reading a copy of Blink by Malcom Gladwell, which I had already finished, but I wanted Mark to think I was smart enough to keep around. So far the ruse appears to have worked. 

Mark: I find using a book as an accessory very, very attractive. After reconnecting, it became quickly apparent that we were going to be together for a very long time. I had a weird sense that us being together was just, completely out of my hands. Like I couldn’t resist it even if I wanted to -it was the first and only time I’ve ever felt that. We said I love you to each other on a rooftop in Brooklyn on our third date, and haven’t stopped saying it since.

What is your favorite thing to love about each other? 

Mark
: Nick is brilliant and the sweetest person I have ever met. He’s kind, optimistic, and encouraging to everyone he meets. I remember when we first started dating, we would talk on the phone until the wee hours of the night. The conversation was effortless and Nick is so charming. I think I first fell in love with his brain- his quick sense of humor and razor sharp wit. He has strong passions and is always teaching himself something new. He’s an incredible chef and a wildly talented singer -his voice is like velvet. If I had made a list of what I wanted in a partner before we met, Nick would hit every line. And he’s so handsome and adorable. There are times he glances over to me and I just get lost in his big brown eyes.

Nick: Mark has an incredible ability to make his dreams real. I think part of it is his being an artist, but I’ve seen it over and over again, in all sorts of aspects of his life, and it’s just a really beautiful and magical thing to have a front row seat to. It doesn’t hurt that he’s very attractive, warm, intelligent, witty, kind, and funny. But it’s the magic of him making his life real that I love the most. 

Credit: Sarah Putnam

 
Are you monogamous or in an open relationship? How do you make either work?

I feel like COVID has kind of answered this question for everyone, right? Wouldn’t it be hard to have an open relationship from six feet apart? We just feel privileged that we get to be with each other, especially when so many people are having to cope with extreme loneliness during such a stressful time. We have always prioritized open and honest communication about what makes us happy. Making each other happy is the driving force in pretty much everything we do. That’s looked like different things at different points over the years, but it works well for us.

What has COVID been like for the two of you? Has it brought you closer together?

Nick: It’s been a trip! We were unexpectedly up in Connecticut when things first got bad because Mark’s Mom was going through some non-COVID related health issues. What had initially been planned as a three day stay in the country ended up lasting from March until July. At the start of the pandemic, Mark and I actually quarantined away from each other for nearly a month because he had been in and out of the hospital with his Mom and he was so worried about getting me and my parents sick. Unexpectedly moving back in with my parents with my husband for a few months was not what I had planned for 2020. They live in an old farm house up in the woods and we felt super privileged that we had such a beautiful place to hide out. We felt very lucky that the planets had aligned to keep us out of the city during the worst of things in the spring, and we were glad that we could keep ourselves and our parents safely isolated.

It’s been a tough year. We lost several friends to COVID. Mark’s beloved grandmother who helped raise him passed. Our very old and wonderful family dog, Fang, also passed. Having each other through all of the loss has been an incredible blessing. It’s been a time of great pain, but also great growth, and we’ve gotten to see just how resilient the other is, and that’s absolutely brought us closer together.

Mark: This year has brought us closer together. I was working a full-time job as a toy designer while also trying to get a career going as an artist and children’s book maker. My nom de plume is Bats Langley. I was burning my candle at both ends. The company that I had been working for shut down, but I thankfully have been able to sustain myself so far, working as a full-time artist, which was always a lifelong dream of mine. I’ve gotten to work on some fun bigger pieces this year, and a few really interesting new projects that I would have never had time for working a full time gig.

No one would want to be locked down, but, I also know it’s been a lot easier for me cause I’ve gotten to spend a lot more time with Nick. The one thing that’s been a really happy surprise has been seeing just how strong and flexible we both are in the face of great upheaval. We lost some dear friends and family, and I lost a best friend, my grandmother. You always hope that the person you pick to share your life with is going to be good in your darker days, and it’s really comforting to know that they are. It’s been a hard and scary year but I’m looking forward to us both getting vaccinated and to a brighter 2021. 

Has the topic of adopting or having kids via surrogate ever come up?

Mark
: I think someday we may find a way to have kids, I’m just not sure when it will be. Having the opportunity to illustrate children’s books has let me work and talk to kids during book events and school visits. I know Nick would make a phenomenal Dad. I’ve seen the way he has been with kids and the values and morals he has would make him an exceptional parent.

Nick: The topic has been brought up several times by my Mom actually -when I came out to her, she looked me in the eye, took my hand and said, “I love you, and I’m very happy you shared this with me. But don’t think being gay is a get out of grandchildren free card, cause it’s not.” I know Mark would be an excellent father, but at least for now, we’re not quite ready for kids. I have immense respect for my friends who are raising kids through such a wild time.

What is the best advice you would give to anyone who is looking for love out there but hasn’t found it?

As trite as it sounds, we think the best advice would be to be yourself. Not in some airy fairy way, but as very literal advice. You’re not going to trick someone into falling in love with you by hiding who you are. It might work in the short term, but it isn’t a solid foundation for a life with someone. One of the things that makes us very lucky as gay men is there’s less of a stigma attached to being up front with what makes you happy. Have the awkward conversations about whatever it is that makes you truly happy. If you hide parts of yourself, you won’t look like yourself. The right person is looking for someone who looks like you. The right person will look at the parts of you that you don’t like, and the parts of you that you need to work on, and still see someone they can’t possibly live without. 

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