When Isaac Leon Archuleta and Joseph Daniel Jones reconnected after four years apart, they learned that a breakup can actually be a gift. From 2010 to 2014, they were in an on-and-off relationship, struggling with issues that could only be reconciled with time and space. Then, they broke up for good.
In the four years that followed, they learned more about themselves and worked through the personal issues that led to their separation. They then came back into each other’s lives in 2018, healed and ready for a healthy life together.
Those issues were prominent on Mr. Archuleta’s end. He grew up in a religious Christian household, and during their first four years together, he was still in the process of unraveling internalized homophobia, even going to conversion therapy from 2003 to 2009.
In 2009, he began a master’s program in mental health counseling at Denver Seminary and read psychological research on the likelihood that sexuality can change. “I just became academically convinced that I had hit my head against a wall,” Mr. Archuleta said.
At the same time, he began to explore a strange Christian culture, and he discovered a large, flourishing community. In January 2010, he began attending Highlands Church in Denver, a non-denominational evangelical church that affirms LGBTQ. That’s when he met Mr. Jones.
Mr. Jones, 37, was raised in a Catholic family in Colorado Springs and “reconnected with the church,” he said. “I missed the spiritual connection,” he added, but didn’t want to return to “a Catholic church where I couldn’t fully, openly be myself.”
Mr. Archuleta, 39, is a self-proclaimed “chatty Cathy” and the son of priests. After a Sunday service in February 2010, he stayed behind in church to talk to other queer 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: “Hello, I’m Isaac. I’m glad to meet you. Are you new to the church?”
Mr. Jones assumed he was part of a welcoming committee. “Clearly he’s being paid to be the guy to be nice to people,” he recalled thinking.
After a short conversation, Mr. Archuleta wrote his phone number on a piece of paper and handed it to him. Mr. Jones never dialed the number, but they saw each other the next weekend at Highlands 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 lunch and organized a picnic. He picked up Mr. Jones from his office on his lunch break and took him to City Park, where they snacked on meats, cheeses and San Pellegrino.
They bonded over returning to church with a refreshed mindset, surrounded by other curious Christians. “I got to know him a little bit more and understand where he was coming from, and that he wasn’t the welcoming committee and that he was actually in a very similar space to me,” Mr. Jones said. He got excited about Mr. Archuleta as a date.
“I have never been treated so nicely and looked after and served in such a special way,” Mr Jones said.
In January 2011, they moved in together to a new apartment in Denver. They were a closeted couple: romantic at home, but roommates to everyone outside. And with Mr. Archuleta still early in his self-love journey, their relationship was a painful wait to fail.
“I wanted to be out,” Mr. Archuleta said, “but also, it was like, ‘How do I throw away my ties to my family? How do I throw away all my education and my religious home?’ And I think that haunted us.”
“I absolutely loved him,” he added. “But I couldn’t let myself be fully present in that relationship because I was always afraid.”
Mr. Archuleta’s internal battle was detrimental to their relationship. A few days later, Mr. Archuleta again questioned his identity and distanced himself from Mr. Jones.
“It was really challenging for me,” Mr. Jones said, “and I think any other person probably would have walked away.”
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In December 2011, Mr. Archuleta moved out of their apartment, although they continued to see each other on and off.
“Over time, it started to become very taxing on both of us,” Mr Jones said. “We started to be off cycles, out of sync.” When Mr. Archuleta was ready to reengage, Mr. Jones would become too frustrated with his eagerness; when Mr. Jones got over his frustrations and was ready to re-engage, Mr. Archuleta would once again have doubts about his identity.
This continued until July 2014, when they went on holiday to Spain. Five days before the trip, Mr. Jones fell off a motor scooter and broke his ankle. His doctor recommended he stay in the US for surgery, but he went to Spain anyway, limping around 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 breakdown.”
The morning after they returned to Denver, Mr. Jones underwent surgery. The day after that, Mr. Archuleta came to his apartment, and they ended the relationship there. “Then there was complete radio silence,” Mr Jones said.
Three years later, in 2017, that of Mr. Archuleta nina, or godmother, died. At this point, he was out, and he was no longer hiding. He was executive director of Q Christian Fellowship, a non-profit organization that serves LGBTQ Christians. He is also the founder and clinical director of Iamclinicwhich helps LGBT people and their religious parents create healthy relationships.
“I’ve been in this season of really centering my life again,” he said. “At that moment, I said, ‘Who do I want in my life?’ I don’t want to lose someone like that again.’”
He planned to contact Mr. Jones. On Thanksgiving, his niece, Madison, sped up the process when she got hold of his phone and texted Mr. Jones: “Hi, happy Thanksgiving.” She was 8 years old at the time, and she knew Mr. Jones when they were in a relationship.
Mr. Jones immediately replied: “Happy Thanksgiving, hope you are well.”
The next morning, Mr. Archuleta realized what had happened and apologized, explaining that his niece had sent the text. Mr Jones replied: “I’m not comfortable with texts. I think we need to email for a while.” They emailed from November 2017 to February 2018, catching up and settling into each other’s lives.
In February 2018, they went on their second first date – eight years after their first. They had dinner at Osteria Marco in Denver, and then went to an arcade. “I was incredibly nervous,” Mr Jones said. “How many times can one man put his heart on the line only to be beaten?” he remembered thinking.
But they quickly became comfortable with each other again, holding hands at the arcade, and gradually fell in love again over the following weeks.
“We were childish, playful and jumping around Denver enjoying each other’s company,” Mr. Archuleta said.
In April, Mr. Jones moved into Mr. Archuleta’s apartment. And in October 2020, they bought their first house together.
Mr. Archuleta graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Mr. Jones is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in organizational communications at Auraria Campus in Denver. He is an executive assistant at KeyBank.
In July 2022, Mr. Archuleta proposed to Mr. Jones at Cheesman Park in Denver, under a tree with limbs that touch the ground, forming a canopy-like structure. There, Mr. Archuleta set up a television screen that played a video he made of their relationship. He got down on his knees, and 15 of Mr. Jones’ closest friends and family members came out of hiding, yelling, screaming and scaring Mr. Jones “half to death,” Mr. Archuleta said.
A month later, Mr. Jones proposed with a rose-gold ring that was made from a copper shard from the Statue of Liberty as well as some of the ashes of Mr. Archuleta’s godmother. Mr. Jones gathered Mr. Archuleta’s friends and family at Union Station. Mr. Archuleta was on a train going to that station, and when the train pulled into the station, everyone shot cannons of confetti.
“The whole terminal was covered in blue and pink,” Mr Archuleta said. They had brunch afterward, and then the couple headed straight to the airport for a trip to New York for Mr. Archuleta’s 39th birthday weekend.
On May 6, the couple was married at Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm in Albuquerque by Miranda Odom, an ordained minister of the Universalist Church of America who was also Mr. Archuleta’s high school teacher.
“There was just this huge part of my life where the way I loved was the source of my self-loathing,” Mr. Archuleta said. “The theme in my heart that day was, ‘We made it here. We made it.'”
On This Day
when 6 May 2023
where Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm, Albuquerque
‘Can You Imagine Getting Married Here?’ The couple made a midway stop at the site every time they drove from Denver to Mr. Archuleta’s sister’s home in Arizona. “It’s a very, very special place,” Mr. Archuleta said. “I would always tell jokes: ‘Can you imagine getting married here?'” Mr Jones secretly entered a lottery to get married at the resort, and he managed to win a slot.
Something Blue The son of Mr. Archuleta’s godmother died six weeks before the wedding. His sisters gave Mr. Archuleta his watch, which had a blue face. “Mine nina was in my ring and my cousin was on my wrist,” Mr. Archuleta said.
Silent Procession During the ceremony, all 40 guests joined the couple in their procession as Mr Jones’ father, Tony Jones, told the story of their relationship. (Mr. Archuleta’s mother, Deborah Archuleta, who accepted and supported her son’s identity, was also present, as was Mr. Jones’s mother, Helen Amburn-Jones.) At some point he reached the point in the story where the couple had a four-year break, they all walked to the garden in silence. Guests were seated, and the couple walked to the altar. Mr. Jones’ father then resumed the story. “It was reminiscent of a ceremony you might see during Easter to symbolize our history,” Mr Archuleta said.