BlackLove.com contributor Jared Williams doesn’t want a lifetime membership to the “single and mingling” club, but how does he know when to turn in his card?
As someone who isn’t interested in a lifetime membership to the “single and mingling” club, Black Love has always been a kind of North Star illustrating the kind of love I aspire to. Although I’m not married, although I’m not straight, and although I might still have time to find “the one,” I still have more questions than answers when it comes to navigating love. “In the Beginning,” the premiere episode to season 3 of Black Love, managed to demonstrate once again that while there may be differences in what our love looks like and even differences in how we love, there are an infinite number of experiences that our Black community shares when it comes to love and relationships.
“In the Beginning” brings one of the most common relationship questions to the forefront of this season: “How do you know when you’ve found the ONE?” See, this right here is the kind of content I signed up for. I’m still at an age where dating is the advised pathway to relationships. “You should date now. It’ll teach you what you like and don’t like.” “You’re still young. date and figure out what you want in a relationship.” “Oh, you can love ‘em and leave ‘em chile. You got time.”
“I’m young and dating and that’s fine, but what if I get too comfortable in this part?”
See, here’s the thing, I know I have time. I know that for as long as I’m intentional, things will work out. What I don’t quite know is HOW. At the start of my last session, my therapist started us off with the usual, “So what’s on your therapy brain?” And it actually happened to be exactly this. “I’m young and dating and that’s fine, but Doc, what if I get too comfortable in this part? What if I don’t know when it’s time to turn off the love ‘em and leave ‘em mentality? How do I know when it’s time to clear the bench and call the game?!” Black Love episode one picked up the ball up right here.
Tainted Trial and Error
So much of dating is consumed by what we think we should want rather than being open to learning what we might need. As a single individual, this leads to so much confusion. It feels like an endless road of “Maybe you’re the right one? Or maybe him? Oh definitely not him! But I think it might be him?” It’s trial and error that just starts to strain your mind and your heart.
Black Love cast member LeToya Luckett was there too. Prior to meeting her husband Tommi, she was over relationships to the point that she got down and surrendered the journey to God. “I was like God,” she said sitting next to her husband Tommi, “I can’t pick for myself. Imma need you to do this for me. Imma step aside, get out of the driver’s seat, because I’m about to crash this thing.” It was about two months later when a mutual friend connected LeToya and Tommi and they began getting to know each other.
Now when you’re a single someone who is looking forward to marriage and a family there is a clock that seems to tick louder and louder in the back of your mind. Surrendering the very process that gets you there can be uncomfortable, because, to not devote your time and energy to it feels like you’re wasting time at best, and giving up at worst. LeToya felt the same way and admitted that surrendering your love life is easier said than done, but sometimes we need to move out of our own way to welcome something different into our lives.
Writing Your Own Way
Just watching this episode, I caught myself thinking back to past relationships and thinking ahead to relationships that have yet to start, imagining “What will our story be?” It’s a question that seems so innocent on its face, but usually builds momentum into expectations that blind us to anything that doesn’t appear the way we think it should. If anything, this episode showed me that love is where you find it and where you feel it. Yes, these stories are inspiring and beautiful, not because couples entered them prepared to act out something that was already written, but because they were willing to create something new that was vulnerable and authentic.
These stories are inspiring and beautiful, not because couples entered them prepared to act out something that was already written, but because they were willing to create something new that was vulnerable and authentic.
So often, I find myself interpreting my own emotional reactions in relationships, looking for signs that this isn’t it because it doesn’t fit the template. I meet every conflict and challenge with the cavalier “oh well, we both have time to find someone better,” closing myself off to the possibility of what these couples are describing – they didn’t just find this love walking around, they built it together because they chose to.
Terry Crews mentioned of the first time he met his wife Rebecca, he wasn’t sure if he was ready to take on the responsibility of a child when he had so little to give. At the same time, Rebecca confessed that she was so used to disappointment that she was always ready to beat it to the punch. Both of them stepped out on faith in some way and chose to build their story together. Deondray and Quincy admitted that they didn’t hit it off at first, but were open to exploring friendship. Through that friendship, they chose to build a story that would redefine for themselves how two men love one another. In every couple’s story in this episode, there were underlying themes; their needs were met in some way they hadn’t been before, and they were both willing to choose one another.
More importantly, however, Black Love elevates the personal work that I need to be doing within myself to be prepared for that kind of partnership. When I say I saw these couples “choosing” one another, I don’t mean the facades they put up, or in Terry’s case the lack of “game” his wife described. I mean each couple described how their authenticity got them to where they are. The ability and space to be themselves with one another created the conditions they needed to explore something as vulnerable as love.
Whether it was Rebecca giving Terry permission to relax on the dance floor on their first date, or Kandi making her intentions known with Todd, or Chris proposing to Mattie in a way that shows me their love is **definitely** real, the love started with the authenticity – allowing themselves to be truly seen by the other person mattered more than saying the right thing at the right time or tiptoeing around the other to keep the peace. They created a friendship that would later ground their marriage.
Personally, this is a relief to someone who still goes on first dates, exchanging questions like currency, waiting for the one answer that confirms your negative expectations. Whether I like it or not, this kind of connection is going to take some time. Maybe a little, maybe more than a little. This kind of love requires vulnerability, it requires authenticity, and, as Quincy and Deondray demonstrated, it don’t always go down like that on a first date.
Surrendering to Love
The first episode of this season elevated one of my ongoing challenges – compromise, or the idea of trusting someone enough to let go of who I’VE been to be open to who WE could be. In single speak, it often translates into the fear of sacrificing my independence or losing myself, but I appreciated Salli’s version much more. After a year apart, she talked about how important it was that she be willing to bend on some of the mindsets she needed pre-Dondre. “Imma do it on my own. I don’t need you,” she said, then continued, “And I have to be softer. I have to allow him to be a man.” She had to elevate the ways she herself had to surrender and place trust in their relationship.
In my journey to finding the kind of love so confidently displayed on this premiere, I’m reminded that I have work to do to prepare myself for partnership. I need to get clear on what I need in a relationship and be willing to surrender that search when my own efforts fail me. I need to have faith that, for as long as I’m intentional about the love I give, I might be shown something unexpected if I’m open to it. Most importantly, in order for me to build the type of love I saw within each of these couples, I need to understand that there is always going to be something I need to let go of to make that happen. Something that needs to be pruned to allow myself to flourish – personally, and with the right person. As shown in “In the Beginning,” this kind of love begins and is found where you make the conscious decision to build it.