This piece is part of a 28-day series celebrating modern black love among millennials. It was created by Chuck Marcus and Michelle Nance, exclusively distributed by Blavity.
Her: Christina | 31 | Brand Strategy Supervisor
Him: Bryon | 31 | Photographer, Creative Content Manager
Relationship Status: Engaged, 2 Years
Christina and Bryon were long-time friends before their relationship sparked. Now, the two are parents to a baby girl and take pride in holding each other down while mutually contributing to their family's foundation. If black love is the ultimate goal, a fairytale, they're happy to be living in it.
Q: What does black love mean to the black community?
Christina: Black love is almost like a fairytale in our community. It’s idolized, and I think that’s because a lot of us come from broken homes or situations where we may not have any relationship with one or both of our parents. It’s unfortunate, but that’s why I think conversations like the one we're having now are so important, not just for our community and the children within our community, but for people outside looking in. Black love is a thing and it exists. I think the more that we highlight it and talk about it, the stronger we will be as a community.
Byron: It’s a necessity. The community can’t grow without love.
Q: Do you think there’s sufficient/significant representation of black love in media? Are you encouraged or discouraged by those you see in real life or in media?
Christina: When I first heard this question, I equated it to just relationships. I’ve been exposed to a ton of black relationships, but if I'm really thinking about it, I can only categorize a handful under ‘“black love.” When I think of black love in the media, I think of couples like the Obamas, Will and Jada, Ayesha and Steph, Lebron and Savannah. This is sort of a wide spectrum, but it’s about a love that’s lasting and unconditional. There’s not enough of that portrayed, even in my own family.
I think if you are young and impressionable, it can be discouraging to not see people who look like you really be in love and committed to each other while raising a family. On the flip side, I think if it’s something that you want for yourself, whenever or wherever you do see it, it can be encouraging. Like, "Yes, they’re doing it. So, it can be done!" All hope is not lost.
Bryon: I don’t think there is enough representation of black love in media. The first image that comes to mind when I think about black couples in the media is Love & Hip Hop or one of those housewives shows. That definitely does not reflect the black love that I’ve experienced. I think a good representation will be diverse. We shouldn’t be able to count on one hand the couples that represent our relationship goals.
Q: What’s the hardest part about being a millennial in a relationship?
Christina: Most of us are glued to our phones. It’s become a part of who we are. So, social media plays a huge part in every aspect of our lives. It’s no different when it comes to relationships. You see couples in the social space and feel like you should be doing this or that at this stage in your life, and if you aren’t, it can be difficult for some. But I’ve learned that everything isn’t meant for everybody and what God has for you is unique to you.
Although Bryon and I have known each other for close to nine years, we really just started dating in 2016 and now have a six-month old baby girl. So, not only are we millennials in a relationship, but we’re parents. While a lot of our couple friends who are not parents are taking flights and traveling every other month, which we both absolutely love to do, we have other priorities now. Add to that us wanting to be successful in our careers and supporting each other through that, it’s a lot to juggle and get used to. However we aren’t afraid of change. We aren’t opposed to making the necessary adjustments to make sure that we’re making the right decisions for not only our relationship, but for our daughter.
Bryon: The hardest thing about being a millennial in a relationship is the outside noise. Previous generations have their opinions on how to provide for your family. We’re also very much intertwined with social media, which can be a platform for disaster if you don’t pull back sometimes. It’s way too easy to fall into a "keeping up with the Joneses" rabbit hole.
Q: Previous generations had clear and specific gender roles. How do you two define each other’s roles in your relationship, if at all?
Christina: We don’t have them. We lean on each other to get done what needs to get done. We both cook, we both clean, we have a separate account that we contribute to for our bills, we both come home and watch ESPN or This is Us or Sesame Street, and we both parent. I must admit that Bryon is more of the car guy, making sure it’s clean, has had whatever oil changes or whatever is needed and that it stays gassed up. I’m still nursing which is obviously not a responsibility that we can share, but other than that, it’s gender neutrality up in here.
Bryon: We don’t really abide by the gender roles of our parents' era. If I’m hungry and she’s not home I still have to eat and feed my daughter. Truth be told, if I hit the lotto, I’d be a stay-at-home dad.
Q: Do you feel pressured by your family to be with someone who looks like you?
Christina: I don’t feel pressured at all. Although I have never brought home anyone of another race, if I had, I believe I would be supported either way. I have family members who are in interracial marriages and relationships and we welcome everyone like they are a part of the family. That’s just the way my family operates and I’m grateful for that.
Bryon: There was never any real pressure to date someone who looks like me. Funny enough, black people can look like almost any race on the planet, so it would actually be funny if I really did bring home someone who looked like me.
Q: Are there any individual relationship struggles that you had to overcome?
Christina: I’m my mom’s only child, so I grew up doing a lot of things for and by myself. When I met Bryon, even during our friendship, before we started dating, there were certain things that he always made sure he did. Bryon’s dad is king chivalry, so he was raised that way. He did things like opening a door or carrying bags, or making sure he walks in between me and the cars on the street. It made me a little uncomfortable in the beginning, but I realized that's who he is, so I have to let him be that guy. I don’t think it’s a gender role type of thing. I think it’s just a chivalry thing. I still tell him, “no, I’m good” or “I got it” sometimes just because it’s what I’m used to, but I allow him to do his thing more nowadays. I don’t want to be too independent to where he feels like he’s not needed in this thing. He definitely is.
Bryon: I honestly can’t think of a legitimate struggle that we’ve had so far. We’ve been friends for years before a romantic relationship was a discussion, so a lot of the hard "getting to know you" stuff was already done.
Q: What is it about having a black significant other that impacts you the most?
Christina: Given the current climate in this country and how thoughtless our “leaders” are when it comes to topics or situations dealing with race relations, it’s nice to be able to come home and talk to someone that understands my frustrations and, more than likely, feels the way that I do. It’s comforting.
Bryon: We have similar life experiences. When we first started dating, it was really easy because we both love music, art and sports, and come from similar neighborhoods and large families. Deeper than English, we speak the same languages. We don’t have to explain anything, it’s just understood.