While the stories of how love begins and even the stories of how couples reconnect after years of being apart before marriage, this by far was my favorite episode of Black Love. Couples and singles need to see the reality of one of the many elements we often don’t talk enough about- mental health. Having conversations about finances, children, etc. are what we expect to address in the dating stage when things get serious. Still, we don’t often ask questions such as “How does your childhood trauma show up?” “Have you ever battled depression?” “Have you been diagnosed with mental illness?” Or “Have you ever seen a psychiatrist and if so, are you on medication?”
While these questions might initially seem invasive, there’s so much beauty in finding someone who you feel safe enough to share these truths with. These couples were brave enough to share their stories, and there are many takeaways to learn from their experiences when you feel a nudge within you to reveal more of yourself to your partner. Here’s what I learned from each of them.
Ariana and Brian
Find Someone Who Can Be Your Safe Space
I loved Brian and Ariana because he considered her a “safe space,” which led to his comfortability of telling her that he was depressed. Throughout the episode, it was clear that she was proactive in every step of his healing process. From taking walks outside to helping him stay active, being a source of encouragement as he decided to take medication (and consulting a trusted friend who had a similar experience), and even taking it a step further with healthy eating.
Depression can be one of those things where the people in your life don’t necessarily know how to be there for you. You can be functioning according to the world’s standards, experiencing pockets of happiness, and still very much depressed. Ariana, walking in love with her husband on his journey, showed that you can make it to the other side with your spouse if you lead with that. In tandem, what stood out most to me was the care she took in choosing her words in arguments, as to not trigger him to think of the painful moments of his childhood that played a role in his depression.
BlackLove.com Related Articles:
Meet the Couples of ‘Black Love’ Season 4: Brian & Ariana
Here’s How ‘Black Love’ is Helping Me on My Road to Happily Ever After
Meet the Couples of ‘Black Love’ Season 4: Tracci & Tony
Leslie and Joe
It’s Okay, Not to Be Okay
Joe and Leslie were both very transparent in their experience of having the police raid their home and their recovery process. Through every detail of that day, they took the viewers through a dark moment of their lives with them, and much happier moments like their 10th wedding anniversary where he cried thanking Leslie for her support and love. However, it was clear through Joe’s hesitation about therapy that he still had deep healing to complete, but he didn’t feel he had the space to do so (or to even tell his family what had occurred because as she shared, they were shocked to even see him cry) as a Black man.
There are many stigmas surrounding therapy and vulnerability in general for Black people, but Black men are often the hardest to agree with moving forward in seeking professional help. As a people, we carry so much collective trauma and often come into relationships unknowingly bleeding internally from our experiences and lacking the ability to communicate.
What I gathered from the couple is while they have made it to the other side of that painful moment, Joe still needs a space to process those emotions outside of Leslie. I hope that their journey is a teachable moment for Black men to know that they can explore therapy, and know that vulnerability is the greatest strength you can ever possess. It will not only better you, but your entire family.
Tracci and Tony
Don’t Take Your Partners Responses to Trauma Personal
Tony had an immense amount of childhood trauma from losing his sisters in the 1976 Jonestown massacre, and in the years to follow the death of his mother. Tony shared that he was never the same after experiencing so many tremendous losses and confessed when he felt happy; he also felt guilty for his happiness – something Psychology Today defines as survivor’s guilt. As he worked through his immense grief and loss, Tracci said something that I found to be very profound. She reminded herself not to take his responses to things personal because he was processing things beyond her. Things that took place long before she was his spouse.
Jazmyn and Dulè
Even if You Don’t Understand, Show Up
Jazmyn possessed so much bravery when she discussed her hyperemesis battle throughout her pregnancy. Hyperemesis is a “condition characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance.” You hear so many horror stories of how traumatic pregnancy and birth experiences can be for Black women, but Jazmyn’s experience shook me to my core. As someone who wants children, these aren’t things that you think about, until it happens to you.
While it saddened me to hear her recount her pregnancy, and thoughts of suicide, I was filled as I heard her express that her husband, Dulè, or anyone else around her, including her doctor, didn’t diminish the validity of her experience. As Jazmyn spoke of the severe pain, she emphasized that no matter what, she always knew Dulè was there for her, even if he was out of town working.
Hearing him reiterate his unwavering support through something that he could never understand or feel was very refreshing to witness and it leaned into an even greater conversation that the world is currently having of the need to support Black women.
Relationships and the experience of Black Love, I believe, are one of the greatest gifts that we can receive in this life, but even the greatest of gifts require care and maintenance. May we all remember that our trauma does not define us, mental health issues do not weaken us, and may we find people that love us enough to stand with us in love, as we work through it.