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How These ‘Black Love’ Couples Emerged From Darkness
by Jared Williams
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August 25, 2019

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How These ‘Black Love’ Couples Emerged From Darkness

BlackLove.com contributor Jared Williams learns that open and honest communication isn’t the only thing needed to get through hard times.

The day I photographed my first wedding was the day marriage was redefined for me. I sat crouched in the corner of the dance floor trying to find an angle where the soft blues and purples of the room would show the detail of her wedding dress. The soft piano keys that begin John Legend’s “So High” moved the couple into each other’s arms for their first dance. They locked eyes with each other, giggled a little while exchanging whispers (because how often do 400 people watch you dance), and spent five solid minutes enraptured in one another. 

There was something incredible about what I was watching. In the earliest hours of their marriage, the way they danced told a story. There were promises being made by the way they held one another. There were commitments being shared in their slow orbit around the floor, but the way they saw each other, so close that you can see yourself in someone’s eyes, stopped me altogether. As my camera sat rested on my knee, their eyes made a promise in three short words that changed the way I saw marriage – I got you. That was the night I knew this kind of love was a must-have for me. 

In a way, I’d always known marriage was about partnership, but maybe I never explored how deep (or how far) that partnership could take you. Having not really explored my own truth in earnest, I guess I never thought much about what kind of “marriage” I could be in (especially considering Louisiana and much of the country had yet to legalize same-sex marriage). That night was the first night I was that close to a moment like that. That close to a celebration of raw, unapologetic love that was obviously based in friendship, trust, and faith. I cried –– in part at how incredibly joyful the entire day had been, but I also found myself mourning. I was actually moved to tears at the thought that I would never find something like this. I hadn’t seen it captured outside of fictional characters to even imagine what it would look like. 

Related: Can You Build a Happy Marriage if You’ve Never Seen One

The third episode of the Black Love series, “Emerging From Darkness,”  took me back to that wedding and looking at “partnership” with fresh eyes. Wondering if on the day you take vows, you could even imagine the trials ahead of you. Episode three seemed to demonstrate that “I do,” doesn’t mean “I have a plan” as much as it means “I’m here. I’m ready.”    

“I do,” doesn’t mean “I have a plan” as much as it means “I’m here. I’m ready.”    

In this episode, I was watching couple after couple delve into the darkest times they’ve seen in their partnership thus far. I couldn’t help but notice that there was a thread that ran through each story. In part, authentic (open and honest) communication, but there’s something before that. An integral part of authentic communication is knowing what you’re communicating in the first place. A novice eye would see these stories and say, “oh it’s all about open, honest communication,” but a trained eye, an experienced one, would say that open and honest communication is fueled by open, honest self-awareness. 

Michael and Mecca

Mere months into their marriage, Michael Elliot became aware of something we all fear in some way as it relates to marriage or any big commitment – regret. 

“I felt like everything changed once we got married, and not in a good way,” Michael started. “I didn’t like how I was being treated. I didn’t like how I was being spoken to. I didn’t feel supported. I felt alone. All the things that I never expected I would feel now being married.” 

Michael’s feelings about his partnership didn’t resolve on their own, instead they festered until both he and his wife Mecca reached a breaking point. “I also was going through a lot of personal issues that I had not yet resolved,” Mecca confessed. “I was really ill and I was on a lot of medication, and so I don’t think mentally I was really able to handle what we had going on without just being mean.” Michael and Mecca had felt the devastating absence of awareness, unable to simultaneously be aware of, and communicate their experiences to, one another. Like many of the couples, The Elliots were in unchartered waters.

I don’t think mentally I was really able to handle what we had going on without just being mean.

I openly admit that marriage will be unchartered water for me when I find my #ForeverLove. Despite the years I’ve spent researching communication and the relationships around me, my love is going to look different than what I’m usually shown. It’ll be with another man who, maybe like myself, hasn’t seen marriage up close and personal. We won’t come together with the template that heterosexual couples often work from. Instead, we’ll likely come in understanding that we’re building something that we’ve never experienced or seen up close. Something that maybe no one in our family has ever experienced or seen up close. We’ll be entering into a queer, same-sex marriage in a world that didn’t know how to prepare us for it, as was the case for Quincy and Deondray. 

Related: What Living Out Loud Taught Me About Self Love and Heritage

Quincy and Deondray

“You grow up with an image of at least the guidelines of how a woman and a man are supposed to treat each other, and how you’re supposed to love each other, respect each other…” Quincy said describing the waters he and Deondray found themselves in. “But as two gay guys, you don’t have that so you’re like making it up as you go.” Quincy and Deondray had previously opened up about how they found themselves in love with one another unexpectedly. Quincy himself admitting that he just didn’t think this kind of love was possible between men before he met his husband. The deeper they got into their relationship, the more they faced the challenges of partnership. It was altogether different and yet strikingly similar to the experiences being laid out by straight couples. For Quincy and Deondray, their challenges showed up through big arguments about small things.  Deondray hit the nail on the head as it relates to the need for awareness in your communication – “The argument is never about the one thing.” 

I thought when I started therapy that I was in a pretty good spot. I wasn’t necessarily “in crisis,” but if I’m being honest I didn’t even have a concept of what “crisis” was to compare. It took me three sessions or so to learn that what I saw as a pretty good spot was actually just surviving. I was aware of myself, my emotions, and my experiences just enough to be functioning. Needless to say, I’m sure my therapist wasn’t surprised when I chose to focus my sessions on building long-term relationships. I was mostly aware of the root cause of a feeling or behavior, but even then was unsure how to resolve it or move past it. Worse yet, I didn’t know me or all of who I was, and that definitely didn’t stop it from being carried into my relationships. Quincy related:

“The weird thing is all of these things that you thought you never were or that you were trying not to be, that you grew up apart of, suddenly started coming up, and that scared me because I saw that really angry side of me coming up that I didn’t know I was capable of…” 

Right there Quincy was pointing to the blindspot that makes self-awareness so crucial: the idea of who you are, or more directly, who all of your life experiences (good and bad) have shaped you to be in moments of conflict. It’s fine to keep a cool head and fight fair and not go to sleep mad when you’ve got a cool head, feel like fighting fair, and get over it before you go to sleep. It’s when you don’t that matters. It’s when you don’t say “I need a minute to think about this” that you’re more prone to escalating something. It’s when you don’t know how to say “this is triggering an insecurity of mine” that you’re more likely to hit below the belt.  

All of it was so reassuring to me. It brought me some relief to see these couples share such painful experiences in a way that brought humanity to the often romanticized work of a marriage. What every story led me to was the understanding that no one knew it all. No one did it perfectly. No one had the perfect strategy to be happy and loving and good 24/7. If anything, they were admitting that in these unforeseen times of crisis, they had no idea what to do. What they learned in those moments was to get back to a place of authentic communication by hitting the reset button on themselves and what they had committed to do. 

What they learned in those moments was to get back to a place of authentic communication by hitting the reset button on themselves and what they had committed to do.

For Mecca Elliot, it started within.

“I had an autoimmune disease. My body was deteriorating so I was holding on to a lot of things that I was unaware of that were affecting me internally and my external relationships, friendships, business. It all came to a head, so I was searching and seeking something to heal and get clarity and to…live. And I found meditation.” That meditation changed the way Mecca saw herself, and in turn, how she saw her relationship. 

For Deondray and Quincy, getting back to authentic communication meant realizing that doing it on their own wasn’t actually resolving the root issues they were talking around. “If we’re making the commitment to be in each others’ lives because we do love each other and we can’t picture and imagine ourselves anywhere else, we have to make some changes…” So they committed to couples therapy. 

Related: LeToya Luckett Talks Marriage, Prayer, and Therapy

Rebecca and Terry

It was Rebecca Crews, however, that showed me the undeniable power of hitting reset by following your soul.

Working to rebuild after learning of her husband’s infidelity, Rebecca realized one day that she felt a pull. “About three days into this separation I heard God say ‘Call your husband.’ I said, ‘You just told me to kick him out!’ He said, ‘He’s very broken Rebecca. He’s ready.’ ” It was then that Rebecca picked up the phone and let her heart speak for her. She started to sing:

“Lights will guide you home

And ignite your bones

And I will try…[to fix you]”

– Fix You, Coldplay

Marriage will always be the greatest form of commitment to me. Two people coming together of their own free will to enter a lifelong partnership. Promising to ride this thing out through the highs and lows. Sacrificing the selfishness they were granted before to gracefully (or not) bow out of a situation when things got too sticky. This was the basis of every story. Every couple came back to open, honest communication by coming back to themselves. Every individual came back to being aware of themselves before coming back to their partner. No matter their sexuality, no matter their challenges, they came to see the test within the test – awareness. 

At the end of the day, every marriage is starting from scratch. Every marriage consists of two individuals coming together to learn what serves the partnership and unlearn what doesn’t. In the words of one of the greatest inspirations, “Love is never any better than the lover.” – Toni Morrison

Be sure to tune in to Black Love on Saturdays at 9/8c on OWN! Also, binge watch seasons 1 and 2 on Amazon and Urban Movie Channel.

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