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: Angelika | 29 | Stay-At-Home Mom
Him: Steve | 29 | AVP, Client Data Services
Relationship Status: Married, 3 Years
Angelika and Steve’s relationship kicked off with good ol' childhood puppy love, around 2001, when they were both in junior high. Him, in Atlanta, and her, in Alabama, their parents frequently traveled back and forth for work, which gave them the opportunity to build a friendship which grew into a relationship over the years. During those early years, they would miss each other so much every time they parted ways. To fill the void, they would write letters to each other. After a break to focus on college, Steve relocated to New York for work. When Angelika came to visit, things picked up right where they left off. The couple is now married and raising their little boy in Brooklyn.
Q: What does black love mean to the black community?
Steve: When I look at black love, I see it as being a part of the community and understanding your heritage, while being in a relationship with someone else.
Angelika: Being engaged with everyone around you. Spreading that love throughout the community so that you can learn to love someone else — and yourself.
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?
Angelika: Some of the black love in the media is like, “Why are these people together?”
Steve: When I think of it, the most prominent thing I can relate to is Hollywood. For black people, that is still emerging and evolving. I don’t think it’s represented as well as it should be. I take marriage seriously, and not to say that anyone takes false vows when they get married, but Hollywood is in and out. It’s not the true sense of marriage. You don’t want a Hollywood marriage. Being from down south, you want the rocking chair. I want to be out on the porch with you in the rocking chair, and I want to see that from early on. That creates the longevity. You hear stories about how long people have been married and what it takes to get there.
Angelika: I would say there are a few couples that represent what black love is or could be, but they’re not millennials. It is there, but like my husband said, it’s lacking. Some of the relationships, I feel like, "Oh you guys got married, but are you really in it for the marriage?" Like the whole Carmelo Anthony and Lala situation, I feel like they could work through that. They’re married, but me looking from the outside in, they’re separated. I’m rooting for that couple.
Q: What’s the hardest part about being a millennial in a relationship?
Steve: One of the hardest parts is trying to convince those who you’ve grown up with and been around that it’s really a good idea. Like, yo, bro, you should get a wife, you should do this, you should stick it out. From a dating standpoint, I truly don’t recall. The first three months of when you first start dating, those are the glory days, the honeymoon phase, everything works. I feel like we just don’t fight for it and try to see what more that person has to offer.
Angelika: What is the hardest?
Steve: Keeping these girls off me. (laughs)
Angelika: No, that’s not even the hardest. It’s figuring out what’s real and what you’re willing to sacrifice for yourself. Women now like to go for it themselves and do it themselves, so you have to be willing to compromise and say “Hey, I'm willing to compromise and do this with my mate,” or "I am willing to change some of my ways."
For example, he’s old school so he doesn’t get in the kitchen a lot, so I’m trying to get him in the position to say “It’s your time to cook.” It’s a lot of compromise. It’s a lot of give and take. I say it this way, you have to do a lot of withdrawals and a lot of deposits.
Q: Are there any individual relationship struggles that you had to overcome?
Angelika: My personal struggle was communication. I would always blow up and shut down and not say anything. I am really getting better at that, slowly, but surely.
Steve: The main struggle for me was realizing the selflessness that goes into putting a family first, at all times. Trying to make the best decision for the family. Sometimes, I’m not able to communicate that as clearly when I’m making decisions. However, it’s always for the benefit of the family. Men and women communicate differently. We started to understand more of our love languages. It’s vital. It’s a man trying to understand how to speak woman, and a woman trying to speak man. It’s learning a foreign language.
Q: Previous generations had clear and specific gender roles. How do you two define each other’s roles in your relationship, if at all?
Angelika: For our household, he always says, “You handle the inside of the house, I’ll handle the outside,” meaning, he does everything outside the house, as far as money, and anything inside is all me. With the kid, we’re trying to balance that out because he’s almost two and it gets hectic in here some days. I’m over my head when he comes home, and I just need a minute. If you’re doing that all day, you also don’t have time for your spouse, so you need that break.
Steve: In terms of gender roles, with parents and grandparents before me, I’ve always seen that a man has to make sure the house is taken care of on the outside, and a woman takes care of the inside. Marriage is truly a business. One of the things I tried to communicate early on is that, we’ve both been living by ourselves. You’ve had to do all of this, and I’ve had to do all of that. I know I enjoy these five to 10 things out of what I’ve had to do. I don’t know too many adults who enjoy laundry. When I was growing up, that was always handled by a woman. I know I don’t help out as much, right now. When it comes to assigning roles, it’s like, this is what I like to do, tell me what you like to do and if any of those overlap, let’s take turns. If you’re much better at something than I am, then I have no business doing it, unless I want to learn a little more.
Q: Do you feel pressured by your family to be with someone who looks like you?
Steve: Oddly enough, nobody in my family thought I’d marry a black woman. I’ve dated …
Angelika: ... the spectrum. Just say the spectrum.
Steve: Yeah. And honestly, there was a point when I said, “The spectrum is nice.” You get different views on life.
Q: What is it about having a black significant other that impacts you the most?
Angelika: For me, it is sharing some of the same cultural views.
Steve: To piggyback off of the culture, we have a small child, and I have nothing against mixing cultures, but knowing that we had some of the same beliefs, same foundations, it makes it more simple when it comes to raising children. I think sharing the same cultural background with my wife is an advantage.