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: Antoinette Thomas | 33 | HR
Him: Dewayne Thomas | 37 | Fashion
Relationship Status: Married
When Antoinette met Dewayne she was at home in New York for the summer between her sophomore and junior years of college. She was working a summer gig that her mother helped her land while he was also working a temp-job at the same location. One day, Dewayne approached her making a off-hand comment to get her attention and break the ice, to his surprise it worked. They planned to meet for lunch and then proceeded to have lunch together everyday for the duration of the summer. Antoinette likens it to the summer love between Sandy and Danny in the movie Grease, except theirs didn’t end when summer came to a close.
Antoinette went back to campus in Virginia and the two continued to build their friendship which grew into a relationship. Dewayne would visit every other week making it his business to spend time with her in person.
After 13 years of friendship, seven of those spent together romantically and just a few months into marriage the couple still see one another as friends and think that’s truly the most magical part of their love.
How did you know you were ready to commit?
Dewayne: After 13 years it just like, come on.
Antoinette: We lived together for seven years in Harlem. But what made you want to propose?
Dewayne: You were my heart, I knew that from the first day but as time went on the trials and tribulations, death in my family and you always being there by my side.
Antoinette: I was always committed, you don’t spend 13 years with someone and seven years living with them without having that in your head that this is your person and who you’re meant to be with, this is it. I think we both have had our fair share of dating people. You don’t spend that much time with someone and then leave it all.
What are your expectations of marriage?
Dewayne: Our situation is a little different because we’ve known each other for 13 years and been with each other for seven, it’s not like marrying someone after three years.
Antoinette: I feel like we’re still like boyfriend and girlfriend but with an eye towards building a family.
Dewayne: Marriage was the next step towards building a family.
Why is that?
Antoinette: His parents aren’t married, so that was important to him, that foundation. My parents were married but by dad passed away when I was young and then my mother got remarried and divorced so I think we’re just trying to make sure we build that foundation for family. We also know a lot of people who have kids and there’s no solid foundation, no roots. Not that marriage is going to fix all of that but at least that’s a step toward being mature, being committed and having that foundation. I know for sure that my kids are going to have his last name and that we are going to be a unit.
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What is the hardest part about being a millennial in a relationship today?
Dewayne: I don’t think it’s hard at all if you’re smart and you know what’s going on in the world as far as politics and religion. Right now we’re two people who know what’s going on in the world and it’s like let’s get together and build off of this. We’re black, so we just have to build a very good foundation for our children.
Antoinette: I would say it’s not hard, we’ve had our challenges. If you wanna talk about social media and all of that also knowing each other for so long there are pros and cons. We basically grew up together, and more so him seeing me grow up because I am younger than he is. He’s known me from basically an infant to now. We’ve had our challenges but we grew up really fast too, we’ve experienced a lot. He says it all the time, I’ve done everything.
Even last night we were talking about the fact that instagram is becoming so stale, it’s the same images and the same content over and over again so it doesn’t really do anything as far as being a distraction. I feel like we’ve lived so we’re able to come to a calm place.
Who do you look to for representation of the type of couple you want to emulate?
Dewayne: My aunt and uncle, I lived with them for about three years and they got married. Just to see them with the kids, cooking, cleaning, it was different from my mother and father. If I didn’t have that then I wouldn’t know the concept of marriage at all.
Antoinette: Up until my mother and step-father got divorced that was the foundation I saw. My step-father was very much charismatic to my mom and I saw that. Also me not being his biological kid he brought me in and made sure I was good. We would cook on Saturdays and he would take us out and go on dates even though I was there and I was the kid, if they were going to have drinks then I would have a Shirley Temple. He was showing us stuff and learning things.
I think that was interesting, whoever is going to be my partner I’m going to have to learn stuff from and when I met him my brain exploded because we just had these dialogues that we continue to have now. So that example that I got from my step-dad and mom wasn’t exactly like this but it did get me thinking about who I want to be with.
Also, we went to marriage counseling before we got married.
Dewayne: A lot of people don’t do that. We got married through church and a lot of people don’t get married through church.
Antoinette: We did group therapy and then we did individual. In the group sessions the first question they asked us was “what were your examples of marriage”.
How do you continue to build a love that lasts?
Dewayne: Everyday has to be treated as the first day y’all met. No matter how long you’ve been together. If you can do that, it’s easy.
Antoinette: I believe in that too. Just earlier I was at Shoprite and I told him he has to come help me with the bags, and the way he smiled at me as if he’s just meeting me for the first time is like everything. That image is always in my head. People always say that, the way he looks at you is like you’ve never seen each other before. I think also that friendship, that bond, we continue to have conversations that are hours long and we respect each other's opinions. We still want to have fun. It’s not like oh we’re married and we’re gonna be home.
You also gotta be an individual too, that comes with time and experience. I think when I was younger in the relationship I was like “oh we don’t spend time together”.There’s certain things we still need to do to be respectful of one another and we’re aware of that but, I’m still gonna come in at ten o'clock because I went out and had drinks with my friends or you’re going to come with us.
We’re still friends, we talk to each other as if we’re not married. I still learn new things about him all the time. 24-year-old Dewayne is different from 37-year-old Dewayne. Even though I’m seeing him everyday through the years, him as an individual going through his own life process is evolving.
Do you think your relationship inspires others, if so, how?
Antoinette: Totally, I think we saw that when we were getting married. His best friend cried and this is a thug, a hood person who cried! The day after our wedding called him in full on tears. The whole hood was crying. Just to know that we had that impact on people. Then everyone at our wedding has known that we’ve been together for 13 years. It was a genuine inspiration around, they’ve seen us through good bad, ugly, worse, indifferent, young, mature and y’all still the same.
How do you compromise without losing yourself?
Dewayne: I used to be a little playboy and having a lot of women around. I had to compromise by realizing that she is an instrumental part of my life and she wasn’t comfortable with that. I cut those people off to build something bigger.
Antoinette: I can say on the converse trying to process that, I think he’s cute but someone else could think he’s cute too. Also, not trying to change someone so much that they lose themselves. In a way that they don’t feel like they’re themselves anymore. You’re not going to be a playboy around me, but you’re a social person and I can’t take that away from you. I’m a social person too. Understanding that I can’t police everybody, and I have to be comfortable and know that he loves me.
If you could describe love in one word, what would it be and why?
Dewayne:Unconditional, everything has to be unconditional no matter what this person has done in the past or what they may do in the future. If you’re going to be bound to this person by love then it has to be unconditional.
Antoinette: I would say understanding is love. Just understanding yourself and being able to bring that into a partnership I think that’s super critical. One thing has been good for our relationship is to grow together and understand that you’re a different individual than you were ten years ago and you have different wants and needs and you have to give the other person a moment to get to your same point as well as understand where they are at.
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