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: Lauren Grant | 35 | Entrepreneur, Event Planner and Producer
Him: Jason Grove | 35 | Policy Advisor
Relationship Status: Engaged
Lauren and Jason met on Bumble, a dating app that inverts the rules society has written about dating and requires that the woman make the first move. She noticed his profile and what stood out was his claim to be a connoisseur of barbecue and she, a southern born and raised woman, did not trust that a northerner could possibly be such. But as it turned out, he knows a thing or two.
The two connected but initially flaked on each other a few times before making it to Harlem hot spot, Barawine, for their first date. Lauren found herself more into Jason than she thought she would be. Jason’s interest was piqued when they began to discuss values, they lined up in a way that made him comfortable with her and from there the two hit the gas on their relationship.
In just under a year the couple has moved in together to create a home together in New Jersey, gotten engaged and are soon expecting a baby boy.
What does black love mean to the black community?
Lauren: Black love is what the black community stands on. Sometimes, as a generation, we lose sight of that because we’re so focused on accomplishing things, preferably on our own it feels like. Both of us were at a point in our lives where we realized it would be better with a partner because it’s hard without one. I think our generation is trying to get back to that core that has sustained us for all of these years.
Jason: For one, it’s important. For black men and women the support for each other is rooted in black love. Sometimes we feel a little salty; black women don’t feel like they get enough support, black men feel like they don’t get enough support. I feel like us finding ways to show our love to each other is important because it brings us together.
How did you get to engagement so quickly?
Jason: I was dating other women on and off and some had things I liked, some had things that I didn’t like and when I saw Lauren I saw everything I wanted and the choice was easy. People always say “when a man knows, he knows” and I felt like it was true because on the outside people will say, you just met. When you meet someone and things start to move and start to click it’s like God put you on this path and you just go, we haven’t looked back since.
Lauren: I knew when he talked about morally us connecting in a certain way and sharing values. We had our first date and I was leaving town and I remember talking to him the entire time I was gone. We hadn’t even had a second date and we hadn’t even kissed, I remember something really big happened with me and we prayed together and I remember thinking this is different.
What are your expectations of marriage?
Lauren: I expect us to continue to still pray together, and we do still pray together. It’s a really interesting perspective now that we are bringing a child into the world and the thing that we want to teach them about our beliefs, which has been a very interesting conversation. Because we are rooted in the same values and beliefs that will make that process easier. Those values for me were important and they’re not important for everybody. I remember meeting a lot of guys who were spiritual but not religious, they weren’t atheist but they have all this stipulation and I was like I just want someone who believes that they were washed in the blood. I don’t have the bandwidth to be deciphering all of this stuff. I want a man I can pray with. After a while if that wasn’t that man he just fell by the wayside, I didn’t have the same interest. Dating is hard.
Jason: Dating wasn’t bad for me, commitment was the challenge. The women I was dating wanted a commitment. Sometimes I wanted a commitment and sometimes I didn’t. I think as a man when you get to a certain point you have to decide that you’re committed. Dating was fun, but what changed all of that was having someone come into your life who leaves you at peace with the decision you made to be committed to this one person. And that’s what happened, I was at peace with it.
People make it hard, I don’t think relationships are that complicated. I think people and their stuff makes it hard. I'm easy going, there’s things she worries about and things she’s concerned about…
Lauren: They never cross his mind.
Jason: I’m just like, is the light bill paid? Is there food in the refrigerator? Then why the hell am I worried about the picture crooked on the wall? I was just telling her yesterday there’s so many people who are not as blessed as we are. I choose to focus on the things that I can control and worry about the things that are most important and that’s providing for our family, making sure we have a safe environment for our child and making sure we can take a couple vacations a year. Those are the things we care about most.
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Who do you look to as the type of relationship you want to emulate?
Lauren: We have a decent amount of successful marriages in our circle. I also think that the most amount of successful marriages in our circle are between people who got married in their 30s. At one point, a couple years ago, I had more divorced friends that I had married friends, to me that meant something. There’s this meme going around Instagram that says “Getting married in your 30s means you just skipped your first divorce” which is a really sad thing but that was a very real thing from what I observed. A lot of the weddings I was in in my 20s, a lot of them are no longer still together. Observing that and even knowing who I was in my 20s I wouldn’t have wanted to be married. I think about my parents, my mama went from her parents house to my daddy’s house. There was no liberation in between and figuring out who she is or the woman she wants to be. On the flip side of that, being 35 in a relationship we both have some bad habits.
Jason: You got bad habits, I don’t have no bad habits.
Lauren: Okay, that’s fine I’ll claim my bad habits and I’mma pray on his.
Jason: I very seldom look outside of my family for representation of love and marriage. I have a lot of family examples of successful relationships and unsuccessful relationships. My dad was a very interesting guy, he has some successful relationships and some unsuccessful ones. I’ve learned from those experiences. I look at my brother and his marriage a lot. There’s eight of us, five boys, I don’t have to look far in terms of marriage and relationships and what is successful. I receive a lot of guidance there.
Lauren: When you’re in your 30s getting married, what I have seen, is my friends are a lot more purposeful and deliberate about entering into the union of marriage so they are approaching it from a different perspective than my friends did in their 20s. So because of that, I am very aware that they have spent time and invested time going to the marriage counseling and doing the other type of counseling and going to their pastor and praying about it and figuring out how this is gonna work. I’m sure they’ve done some due diligence that I’m not sure my friends who were getting married in their 20s did. I see examples that work and I want to model our marriage on the fact that they went into this very purposefully.
How do you keep your partner happy and avoid losing yourself in the process?
Jason: Something I talk to Lauren about all the time, I say “let’s just pick and choose our battles”. Everything isn’t a compromise, there’s some things I’ve learned about Lauren and I respect those things and I respect where she is and they may not always be to my liking but that’s her. They’re not big enough for me to draw a line in the sand and say this or nothing. If we need to have a real conversation about something I’m very upfront and I’ll let her know that this is where I’m at and I’m not budging on this belief.
Lauren: We see eye to eye on most things.
Jason: Now that we’re bringing a child into the world I would say that we’re discovering more and more about how we want to raise our child and what values we want to instill. Our biggest argument right now is to play football or not to play football.
Lauren: I think the not losing ourselves is what we’re figuring out. He knows this area, grew up in this area; I spent 10 years living in Harlem so it’s been a little bit of a transition for me going from city life to suburbia.
I think the transition is timely, this is what we want, I am enjoying this new life, this space and the cheaper rent and waking up next to him everyday. All of these things are things that I want. The transition happened in a different way than I thought it would but doesn’t make it less sweet. I would say my biggest thing in not losing myself is finding our groove. And when the baby comes we’ll have to find our groove all over again. I think the commitment to that part is worth much more than the engagement. We’re committed to finding our groove with each other. We’re committed to this child. We’re committed to figuring it out.
Jason: And the things I said I was gonna do, my life goals, those things aren’t changing because I’m getting married or having a kid. My goals haven’t changed, if anything I’ve just added more of them.
Lauren: Which is something, I think, can be attributed to our age, we know that we don’t have to lose one part to gain another. This can all be one big pot of goals and ambitions.
Jason: For me that was a condition of being in a relationship. These are my goals and things I want to do, this is where I’m at and if you’re not with these things or you’re not supporting me in these things I can’t be with you.
Lauren: And I was like, why would I ever not support you? But that’s real, he has his goals and then I’m an entrepreneur, it’s really hard being with an entrepreneur. In the very, very beginning some of that was a challenge. I was traveling a lot and it was like I don’t know how this is going to work. He was so confused by it, he had never dated somebody who had that kind of life. He had to kind of get there and now he’s like I found a contract you need to go after, apply!
Knowing that he believes in me and he sees the contribution that I make to our household even if it doesn’t look like what someone else’s would. And the fact that I may only be able to take two months maternity leave because my busy season starts. I think the commitment to figuring it out is what keeps us.
Jason: That’s one of those things you just accept when you’re in a relationship, who a person is and what their passions are. Those are things I would never want her to compromise. I appreciate her hustle and drive, if anything I want to be more like her. My game is politics and I’ve been involved in that and focused on that. She’s an example to me and I appreciate her for that, a woman with hustle is attractive and I wanted to build with a person like that.
If you could describe love in one word, what would it be and why?
Jason:Patience, because I don't’ like her everyday. Love is a choice, and I choose to love her everyday and those days when she’s like do the dishes or why didn’t you take out the garbage or hang this picture, I don’t like her because I’m doing something else and she’s disrupting what I’m doing. None of those things ever challenge my love for her, but it does challenge my patience.
Lauren: I think love is grace, giving people the grace you want to have and you accepting that grace from others. Everyday isn’t going to be great, and we’re gonna mess up. That’s just a fact. So as we go through this journey, mess up and figure it out, and we come back together and realize the mess up we thought was a mess up isn’t that big of a deal, you want to know that the person you’re in this with is giving you grace and you’re giving them grace.
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