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: Eboni Malone | 29 | Social Worker // Politics

Him: Rontel Batie | 30 | Lobbyist

Relationship Status: Engaged | 2 years

Rontel first laid eyes on Eboni at a Congressional Black Caucus event in 2016. Visiting DC from Florida, he connected with an acquaintance of his who just so happened to be her cousin and immediately asked to be introduced.

After returning home, Eboni was on his brain so he employed the modern day tactic of Instagram stalking to get another glimpse at her.

A year later, Rontel relocated to DC and by chance his roommate worked at the same firm as Eboni. After casually mentioning that he should invite Eboni and some of their friends over, Rontel’s roommate did just that. To Rontel's surprise just a few days later he came home to see the woman he’d been thinking about making vision boards with a few other friends.

Though unexpected, Rontel wasn’t caught off guard and proceeded to charm Eboni that day. Over a few months the couple built a friendship and worked through personal challenges and changes to prepare themselves for one another.

Now, living in Maryland and after two years of dating, the couple is engaged and expect marriage to bring them even closer together.

Q: What does Black love mean to the Black community?

Eboni: I think that black love means uplifting each other, supporting each other and just asking people how you’re doing. Smiling at each other, you never know what people are going through and I feel like we’re all going through the same struggles and it’s important to lift each other up when you can.

Rontel: When I hear Black love I think about it in a romantic sense, where I grew up everybody grew up in a single parent household. When I hear Black love, my theory is that it’s designed to promote two-parent households. It’s designed so that the next generation of kids don’t have to grow up the way so many of us did.

Eboni: I appreciate that because he didn’t have it he wants it, seeing that I’m like wow you’re going to be a great dad, a great husband.

Rontel: But it was a disadvantage for a very long time because I was trying to be what I thought a man should be. I was out of touch with my emotions. I was pulling it off of TV.

Q: Who do you look to as a healthy relationship to emulate?

Eboni: My parents, they’ve been married for 31 years. I have 3 siblings, I’m the oldest and we’re very close, all of us. That’s what I’ve witnessed. I’ve probably only seen them fight one time. And my friends, most of their parents are together as well so I just grew up around families.

Rontel: It took a very long time for me to find a couple that I wanted to emulate because I wasn’t surrounded by it growing up. I didn’t see it a lot in Tallahassee. I would say when Barack Obama came on the scene that was really the first example I had. I was super heavy into politics and I’m noticing this guy who had what I wanted professionally but I noticed that he also has a family who adores him. I bought all his books. He talks a lot about family. When I met her, seeing how her parents interact and the way they raised their kids. I immediately took a liking to her father, he grew up in the backwoods of Texas, I grew up in the backwoods of Florida. Her dad’s a doctor and a business owner. Me and her dad are so close and our stories are similar. He was able to go from nothing to the hills of Palos Verdes, CA.

The thing that really impressed me about him was his temperament. I carried a lot of anger and resentment for most of my college life just feeling like I’m always at a disadvantage not having a family who could invest in me. I always had to claw so hard at what other people seemed to get easily. But watching him he does it so smoothly. I’ve never seen him get angry, he treats people with the utmost respect. I strive to be as good as a father and husband as he is. That’s who I strive to be like.

Q: How did you know you were ready to commit?

Eboni: Honestly, the relationship I came out of I was giving everything I had to the wrong people. I would end up hurt or sad and try to figure out why this was not working. But when he came around, just from being friends, things were so different.

Rontel:  I was able to unlock some of the greatness that I new was inside her. I never stopped treating her like a queen. Pursuing her made me the best version of myself, pursuing her forced me to change the places I went, the people I hung out with, the things I ate, the number of times I worked out in a week. I found my life improving because I was trying to set myself up for this blessing.

Through all of this we were dating, one of the things I said to convince her to try being in a relationship with me was that "we have so much fun together, I think we would be doing ourselves a disservice by not trying being exclusive and seeing where it goes." I said, if you take this chance with me I promise you won’t regret it. I knew she wanted to be married, I wanted to be married. I could see her in that role.

I went to my pastor and said there’s this woman I’m into, I love her, but I didn’t have a father growing up, I don’t know what the next step is, can you walk me through the next steps? We talked about marriage counseling, which a lot of people do after engagement but we were newly in a relationship and we said it kinda makes sense to do it now.

The very first thing we did, we had to take a compatibility assessment that analyzes everything from fiance to communication, intimacy and sex. The pastor gets the results and come to find we were the most compatible couple he ever counseled. After each session we would go out to dinner and talk about it and we found ourselves more and more in love with each other.

Eboni: He made me feel really comfortable, he was consistent, and he was a true southern gentleman. He did things I’ve never seen before. He was opening doors all the time and everything I’ve always dreamed of. I used to tell him all the time that I felt this was too good to be true. I started falling in love with him as a friend, we weren’t even dating yet but I said to myself “I could marry him”.

Rontel: Thank God for my grandmother raising me because she was impressed by things that I thought were standard.

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Q: What’s the hardest part about being a millennial in a relationship in today’s climate?

Eboni: People you used to hang out with can’t really wrap their mind around you settling down already. They’re not ready for you to take this next step so you have to start hanging out with new people. A lot of my really close friends who are married are in other states. I don’t have that DC close circle of people who are married or engaged who can understand the stuff we’re on now. It’s just trying to find people who can relate to you and won’t pull you back into old ways. I’m trying to grow, I want to be an entrepreneur, I’m trying to have a family.

Rontel: Adjusting to how my circle responded, there were some people who were ecstatic, some who cried because they knew where I came from and how this would change the trajectory of my family. Then there were others who were mad because the Rontel who used to throw happy hours and get chicks to come through, that guy was gone. It’s not that she doesn’t let me go out or discourages me, I’ve grown out of it.

Also, millennials are very career driven and I think that personal professional pursuits can get in the way. We had a test when I was in Florida running for congress and she was still here working on Capitol Hill, we had 1100 miles of distance between us that could have ended us prematurely but it brought us closer. There wasn’t a day that went by on the campaign trail that I wasn’t like, I gotta propose to this girl, so much so that I proposed to her while on the campaign trial. I wanted her to know that I want her to be with me for the rest of my life.

Q: What were some of your challenges?

Eboni: A lot of it was in the very beginning. I was very anti relationship. I didn't want to be in a relationship again, I’d been there and done that. He wasn’t seeing wifey qualities at the time because I was still out with my friends.

Rontel: She was a trip. What’s the first thing you want to do when you get out of a relationship? You wanna let loose and have fun! We were friends and we kinda trying to date and she’s spending a lot of time with her girls going to the club and going to happy hours. She was just always out. Nothing wrong with that, but it was coming to a point where I just wasn’t seeing a lot of the qualities people said she had because she was just out all the time. I was like is this really the woman who y’all say is ready to settle down?

So at one point, I started taking chicks on dates. I was like, if it pushes her further away we weren’t meant to be anyway.

Then she started stalking me. Like how I stalked her on the ‘gram. She would call me and I would send it to voicemail. For me, that was the first time I saw what my value was to her, up until then I couldn’t tell if she wanted to build anything with me because the recreational time she had she spent doing single girl stuff.

Q: What are your expectations of marriage?

Rontel: I expect to unlock more of the love she has inside of her, because every time I think I’ve tapped out of what she has to give she’ll pour more in my cup. Growing from being a girlfriend to being a fiance, to putting myself out there professional, to taking Ls, to being sick, she continues. I can’t wait to see what she’s like as a wife. Starting a family is something that excites the hell out of me right now. I can’t wait to see how she is with our children especially seeing the way she was raised.

Ever since we came together our lives have increased in ways outside of the relationship; we start projects like “The Cuffing Season” podcast [and] she recently started a company. You get with the right person and you just grow in all these different ways that I can only assume we’ll continue to grow as people.

Eboni: For me, it’s also seeing him turn into an amazing father because he’s so excited to have a family. I feel like he’s such a great person that I feel like him being a husband will unlock a whole other level. Him being a fiance he’s already started to grow that way. We’re going to be learning together and doing a lot of changing together. Supporting each other and communicating, it’s not always going to be pretty but, we’ll stick by each other and people around us will feel the love, always.

Q: If you could describe love in one word what would it be and why?

Rontel: Compromise, because when you love someone nothing is off the table. Nothing.

Eboni: God, because when you are really in-tune with your spiritual side and being a Christian, when you love God everything else is uplifted through that. Everything's better when you put God first and keep him in your relationship.