A Millennial Love Story: How An International Getaway Led This Couple To Commitment And Compromise
A conversation with Joe and Rivea.
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: Rivea Ruff | 35 | Journalist
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Him: Joe Chea | 32 | Content Creator
Relationship Status: Dating | 3 Years
In two separate friend groups on two individual vacations to Dubai were Joe and Rivea enjoying an international getaway with friends. Both crews were out at a bar one evening and by chance mutual friends crossed paths merging the two groups; that’s when Joe and Rivea first met. Then again at a yacht party, but it wasn’t until they were back stateside that they made a connection.
While away they followed one another on social media and a post by Rivea about making a supermarket run prompted Joe to invite her to make it a joint outing. She obliged but waiting on him to finish up an editing job made her tight on time so they settled for grabbing a quick dinner together instead. A few days later they finally made it out to the store where a sick Rivea struggled to gather groceries. They stopped to grab soup from the local Chinese takeout and from there the two remained in contact and continued to build a friendship that emerged into a relationship. Three years later, after some time dating on and off, Joe and Rivea reside in the Bronx where they’re comfortably committed to growing together.
What does Black love mean to the black community?
Rivea: I think it’s everything. Without love there is no Black community. That’s how we form a community, that’s how we spread our community, it’s everything.
Joe: The foundation on which the community grows. Without love everything just falls apart.
What’s the hardest part about being a millennial in a relationship in today’s society?
Joe: Our inability to focus on one thing or one person. It’s very difficult to have a successful relationship when there’s no focus. When you’re dating three people at one time you don’t have the opportunity to meet each person equally. You can like one person, the other two you don’t like as much. Maybe the initial interactions with said people aren’t as genuine as they should be because they’re nervous. Or maybe they’re coming to the forefront with their representative. Getting from the representative stage, being the person that you’re dating thinks you want to see, to actually breaking through the surface and getting to know who the person you’re dating really is, that in itself is a science. You spend, weeks, months, a year getting to know what this person is really into and who they are. So if you’re dating four, five people at a time you never really get past that representative phase. And at that point, you start forming opinions and deciding if you could see yourself with this person but it’s not really the person you know.
Rivea: I think we were one of the first generations who were taught that we were so super special so we’re always like: "I can have everything I want." We never find satisfaction and [we're] working and striving to make wherever you’re at better. That tendency among us is probably hard for fostering a long-lasting relationship because the first argument you’re like "nah he’s too argumentative so I’m going to move on."
Joe: I was born in 87, my mom was 32 my dad was 35. My dad was from Ghana he was a cook in a kitchen at a hospital. He met my mom because she was the correction officer in charge of the hospital. If it wasn’t for them being in the same place at the same time they never would have met each other. As a millennial, the world is a different place, the opportunity to see new people, and explore the world is in the palm of our hand and there are entirely too many options.
Women will be quick to say men ain’t sh*t because dudes hop from one woman to the next. But if the pool wasn’t so vast it would be easier to focus.
How did you know you were ready to commit to each other?
Rivea: You get to a point where you’re just tired of running around like that. I don’t feel like I personally have a problem focusing, I think the generation does. I was ready to commit because he was one of the first men I ever met who was ready to commit. He showed consistency, sincerity, he meant everything he said. I don’t think people realize it but that’s rare these days.
Joe: I remember when we decided to commit. We were dating on and off and it was like, you may or may not be talking to other people but that has to stop now. I’m giving you my undivided attention and I feel like I deserve the same from you and if you can’t give me that then that’s cool, we can be cool. One of my favorite books is The Four Agreements and he speaks about being intentional. I do my best to be intentional in everything I say and do.
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What representation did you have in your life to know you wanted a committed relationship?
Joe: There wasn’t one couple, I think it was seeing my mom’s relationships over the years and it was like, nah. I don’t know what it takes to be that kind of man but I know that’s not who I wanted to be. The lack of a consistent man in my household fueled my urge to be a consistent man.
Rivea: I see the teamwork of it all, I saw that growing up. You have a partner and a support system when you’re going through things and you are someone’s support system. Seeing that made me know that’s something I wanted one day.
Joe: One hand washes the other, both wash the face. I say that to her all the time. We bump heads sometimes. If I’m working an 8:30 - 5:30 today and I have a shoot from 6 - 11 and I come in the house and ain’t no food cooked I’m like, come on.
Rivea: But you’re the better cook.
Joe: But when I’m not here and you’re hungry, if I cooked you have food. It’s just like if I know she’s going to take a trip and she has work the night before I will pull out her suitcase.
How do you compromise without losing yourself?
Joe: I compromise from time to time but I’m a very selfless person. If there’s something I see or know that she needs, she doesn’t have to ask. If there’s something I’m lacking on I step up to make sure I’m holding up my end of the bargain.
Rivea: I don’t think compromise is natural for me, I have the Eartha Kitt perspective on it. Having a man around all the time everything just can’t go your way all the time. I don’t think it was really a compromise though I just had to incorporate his feelings into my routine. I was single for 6 or 7 years before I met Joe. I don’t think I’ve lost myself but compromise has helped me grow.
What are your expectations of marriage?
Joe: I know for a fact that I want children, I want 2 or 3 kids. I know I’m going to be in my children’s lives, they’re going to wake up to their dad so ain't no failing in a marriage. There’s no way to fail. It’s like life, you fail at life you’re dead. Once we make that lifelong commitment it’s genuinely going to be lifelong.
Rivea: That it will be a partnership and not that I’m a maid. In a dating situation I can grab my purse and leave and never come back but in a marriage that’s not possible.
Joe: I know that she can see a marriage without children in her future. But if there’s not at least two pairs of baby feet paddling around at some point that marriage won’t happen with me. You don’t get married to stay single, you get married to build a family.
Rivea: But you can be single with kids.
Joe: I’m very forthcoming about it, if you’re not you could have a six-year relationship with someone and finally drop money on a ring and get married and then once you’re ready to have children she will say “nah, not this body”.
Rivea: Just because I could feasibly see not having kids doesn’t mean it’s out of the question.
If you could describe love with one word what would it be and why?
Joe: Unity, at some point, for love to exist I don’t think there can not be unity. You can’t have love and not be united.
Rivea: Empathy, you do have to put yourself in someone else's shoes. You have to have a sense of that just to make anything work with another person in your life. Just like the example he gave about coming home and there’s no food. I have things to do during my day as well but I have to think about him, think about his needs. You have to think about how is what I’m doing going to affect the other person.