When Isaac Leon Archuleta and Joseph Daniel Jones reconnect after four years apart, they learn that a breakup can actually be a gift. From 2010 to 2014, they were in an on-and-off relationship, grappling with issues that could only be reconciled with time and space. Then they divorced permanently.
In the four years that followed, they learned more about themselves and worked through the personal matters that caused their breakup. Then they came back into each other’s lives in 2018, recovered and ready for a healthy life together.
Those issues were prominent on Mr. Archuleta’s end. He was raised in a devout Christian family, and during their first four years together, he was still in the process of revealing his inner homophobia, even going into conversion therapy from 2003 to 2009.
In 2009, he started a master’s program in mental health counseling at Denver College and read psychological research on the potential for transsexuality. “I became academically convinced that I was banging my head against a wall,” Mr. Archuleta said.
At the same time, he began researching queer Christian culture, and discovered a large and thriving community. In January 2010, he began attending Highlands Church in Denver, a non-denominational LGBTQ-affirming evangelical church. That’s when he met Mr. Jones.
He said Mr Jones, 37, was raised in a Catholic family in Colorado Springs and was “reconnecting with the church”. He added, “I missed the spiritual connection,” but he did not want to go back to “the Catholic Church where I can’t be fully myself.”
Mr. Archuleta, 39, is a self-proclaimed “chattery catty” and son of pastors. After Sunday mass in February 2010, he stayed at the church to talk with other gay Christians. When he saw Mr. Jones, Mr. Archuleta thought, “Wow, he’s really handsome.”
He quickly ended the conversation with the person he was talking to and approached Mr. Jones to introduce himself: “Hi, I’m Isaac. Nice to meet you. Are you new to the church?”
Mr. Jones assumed he was part of the welcoming committee. “It obviously paid him to be the right guy for people,” he recalls thinking.
After a short conversation, Mr. Archuleta wrote his phone number on a piece of paper and handed it to him. Mr. Jones never called the number, but they did see each other the following weekend at Hylands Church. After the service, they went out to lunch at Chipotle with a third friend.
Two weeks after they met, in March 2010, Mr. Archuleta asked Mr. Jones to go on a lunch date and organize a picnic. He took Mr. Jones from his office during his lunch break and drove him to City Park, where they snacked on meat and cheese and San Pellegrino.
They bonded back into church with a refreshed mindset, surrounded by other gay Christians. “I got to know him a bit more and understood where he was coming from, that he was not the welcoming committee and that he was in fact in a very similar place to me,” said Mr Jones. He was excited about Mr. Archuleta as a dating prospect.
“I have never been treated with kindness, care and service in such a special way,” Mr. Jones said.
In January 2011, they moved into a new apartment in Denver together. They were a closeted couple: romantic at home, but roommates with everyone out there. And as Mr. Archuleta continues early on on a journey of self-love, their relationship is a painful one waiting to fester.
I wanted out, but also, it was like, ‘How can I get rid of my connections with my family?'” Mr. Archuleta said. How do I get rid of all my upbringing and my religious home? And I think that haunts us.”
“I absolutely loved it,” he added. “But I couldn’t allow myself to be fully in that relationship because I was always afraid.”
Mr. Archuleta’s inner battle was detrimental to their relationship. Some days Mr. Archuleta would question his identity again and distance himself from Mr. Jones.
“It was really challenging for me,” Mr. Jones said, “and I think everyone else probably would have gone.”
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In December 2011, Mr. Archuleta moved out of their apartment, though they continued to see each other frequently.
“Over time, that started to be very taxing on both of us,” Mr. Jones said. “We’re starting to turn off the cycle, not syncing.” When Mr. Archuleta is ready to recommit, Mr. Jones is very frustrated with his desire to wash up; When Mr. Jones has overcome his frustrations and is ready to recommit, Mr. Archuleta once again has doubts about his identity.
This continued until July 2014, when they went on vacation to Spain. Five days before the trip, Mr. Jones fell off a motorcycle and broke his ankle. His doctor recommended that he stay in the United States for surgery, but he went to Spain regardless, limping across the country with a broken ankle.
“It was frustrating for everyone involved,” he said. “The broken ankle was a metaphor for the relationship in general.”
The morning after they return to Denver, Mr. Jones has surgery. The next day, Mr. Archuleta comes to his apartment, and they end the affair there. “Then there was complete silence on the radio,” said Mr. Jones.
Three years later, in 2017, Mr. Archuleta Nina, or godmother, is dead. At this point, he was outside and no longer hiding. He was the Executive Director of Q Christian Fellowship, a nonprofit organization serving LGBTQ Christians. He is also the founder and clinical director of the iamclinicwhich helps LGBT people and their religious parents create healthy relationships.
“I was in this season of focusing on my life again,” he said. At that moment, I said, ‘Who do I want in my life?’ I am not willing to lose anyone like this again. “
He was planning to get to Mr. Jones. On Thanksgiving, his niece, Madison, sped up the process when she got his phone and texted Mr. Jones: “Hi, Happy Thanksgiving.” She was 8 years old at the time, and had known Mr. Jones when they were in a relationship.
Mr. Jones immediately replied: “Happy Thanksgiving, I hope you are well.”
The next morning, Mr. Archuleta realizes what has happened and apologizes, explaining that his niece had sent the text. Mr. Jones replied, “I’m not comfortable with texting. I think we need to email for a while.” They emailed from November 2017 to February 2018 catching up and easing back into each other’s lives.
In February 2018, they went on their second first date — eight years after their first date. They dined at Osteria Marco in Denver, then went to an arcade. “I was incredibly nervous,” said Mr. Jones. “How many times can one person put his heart on the line only to have it broken?” Remember thinking.
But they soon became comfortable with each other again, holding hands in the hallways, and gradually fell in love again over the subsequent weeks.
“We were two kids, playful and bouncing around Denver enjoying each other’s company,” said Mr. Archuleta.
In April, Mr. Jones moves into Mr. Archuleta’s apartment. And in October 2020, they bought their first home together.
Mr. Archuleta graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a BA in Psychology. Mr. Jones is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communications at Auraria’s campus in Denver. He is an executive assistant at KeyBank.
In July 2022, Mr. Archuleta proposed to Mr. Jones in Cheesman Park in Denver, under a tree with limbs touching the ground, forming an umbrella-like structure. There, Mr. Archuleta sets up a TV screen showing a video he made of their relationship. He got down on one knee, and 15 of Mr. Jones’ closest friends and family members emerged from hiding, screaming, screaming, and scaring Mr. Jones “half to death,” Archuleta said.
A month later, Mr. Jones proposed a rose gold ring made from scrap copper from the Statue of Liberty plus some of the ashes of Mr. Archuleta’s godmother. Mr. Jones has Mr. Archuleta’s friends and family together at Union Station. Mr. Archuleta was on a train to that station, and when the train reached the station, everyone fired cannons of confetti.
“The whole hall was covered in blues and pinks,” Mr. Archuleta said. They ate brunch afterwards, and then the couple went straight to the airport for a flight to New York for Archuleta’s 39th birthday weekend.
On May 6, the couple were married at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm in Albuquerque by Miranda Odom, an ordained minister in the Universal Church of America who was also Mr. Archuleta’s middle school teacher.
“There was this huge part of my life where the way I loved was the source of self-loathing,” Mr. Archuleta said. The theme in my heart that day was: ‘We made it here.’ We did it.'”
On this day
when May 6, 2023
where Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm, Albuquerque
“Can you imagine getting married here?” The couple stopped halfway at the place each time they drove from Denver to Mr. Archuleta’s sister’s house in Arizona. “It’s a very special place,” said Mr. Archuleta. “I was always telling jokes: ‘Can you imagine getting married here?'” Mr. Jones secretly entered a marriage lottery at the resort, and managed to win a slot.
something blue Mr. Archuleta’s godmother died six weeks before the wedding. His sisters gave Mr. Archuleta his watch, the face of which was blue. “for me Nina Mr. Archuleta said.
Silent procession During the ceremony, all 40 guests join the couple in their procession while Mr. Jones’ father, Tony Jones, tells the story of their relationship. (Mr. Archuleta’s mother, Deborah Archuleta, who had come to accept and support her son’s identity, was also present, as was Mr. Jones’ mother, Helen Amborn-Jones.) A break of four years, they all walked into the garden in silence. The guests took their seats, and the couple walked to the altar. Then Mr. Jones’ father resumed the story. “It was reminiscent of a party you might see during Easter symbolizing our history,” said Mr. Archuleta.