UK Black History Month is almost over, and I feel compelled to give you a countdown of black couples I respect. Normally I think blind admiration of other couples is problematic as the idolisation of couples who only present mono-faceted depictions of love, generates unrealistic expectations of a relationship. Unfortunately, due to the media’s desire to deprive of healthy portrayals of black couples, – choosing to saturate us with stereotypes regarding broken homes and chronic infidelity – it’s important to see portrayal of healthy and functional relationships. Consequently, I thought I’d give you a list of what I’ve learnt from my favourite couples and why I think they’re successful.
Angela Bassett & Courtney B Vance: Friendship First
Angela Basset and Courtney B Vance are the epitome of black, grown and sexy – both are multi award winning performers who ooze black excellence. The lack of scandal and controversy in a relationship that has extended across 3 decades in an environment that’s normalised infidelity, extra-marital children and transactional marriages, is rare and inspiring. Both Angela and Courtney attribute the longevity of their relationship to the strong friendship, which they established 14 years prior to their first date. Through their friendship Angela developed an appreciation for Courtney’s consistency and empathy – appreciating his supportive, captivating and passionate personality. Courtney’s platonic relationship with Angela enabled him to develop a genuine, non-superficial interest in her, a relationship that surpassed a mutual love for drama. Their friendship enabled her to be vulnerable – providing a shoulder to lean on particularly while they were struggling to conceive. This resonated with me as there has been times in our relationship where personal problems crippled me and without the support of my boyfriend I probably wouldn’t be in this headspace. As cliché as it seems my boyfriend is my best friend. We both knew that even if our relationship never evolved into something romantic– our friendship would permanently embed him into my life. We survived a lockdown where all the physical, romantic aspects of our relationship dissipated and the only thing we had to sustain our relationship was our friendship.
Will & Jada: Independently Happy & Commitment
After a summer of entanglements memes and years of open marriage accusations, this ‘couple goal’ may be perceived as controversial and contested by some. Personally, I perceive them as relatable – anyone expecting to have a 25 year plus marriage without going through issues and contemplating a divorce is living in a dreamland. I don’t envy their problems, but I admire their strength and desire to recommit to each other. Instead of allowing themselves to be another Hollywood divorce statistic, they decided to work through their problems. The idealistic romantic in me craves one marriage that lasts forever – enduring everything that life throws at us, however the pessimist in me is aware of the statistical unlikeliness of this occurring. Divorce would have been easy as their children are grown and each family member possessing financial independence. In Will and Jada, we see a couple choosing to honour their vows, opting to invest the necessary energy and effort to work on their union and recreate the love that they had. I can empathise with this as throughout my relationship, there has been times where it would just have been easier to call it quits. Fluctuations in mental health, feeling over worked and overwhelmed, has triggered feelings of wanting to end it. No one knows exactly what ‘betrayals of the heart’ led to Will and Jada’s separation, but Jada expresses how it was love that triggered the gravitational pull back together. A self-confessed ‘ride or die’ chic, Jada describes their love as beyond traditional romantic love. I agree with their decision to separate rather than subject their children to a toxic household and admire the fact that despite their romantic issues they never let it affect their children’s wellbeing. Many struggling couples simply ‘wait out’ their marriage until the kids are mature enough to survive the logistics and emotional trauma of a divorce. Another thing that resonated with me was Jada’s emphasis of finding independent happiness and self-fulfilment – she stresses how finding ‘peace, love and joy within her heart’ provided a platform to rebuild with Will. I know there has been situations in the past where I have placed excessive energy into a relationship and where my happiness was rooted into my relationship with my partner. I recognise the importance of achieving individual goals and ensuring I have enough emotional reserve to be in a relationship.
Ciara & Russell Wilson: Healing & Trust
Russell and Ciara are the quintessential ‘couple goals’ archetype – echoing what every romantic comedy portrays as soulmates. Their shared history of duplicity and disloyalty on both a platonic and romantic level meant that this fairy tale would not have materialised if they failed to heal. Ciara’s ex-fiancé cheated on her with her close friend and stylist, while Russell Wilson’s ex-wife cheated on him with his teammate. That magnitude of betrayal and loss of trust could have adulterated future relationships due to the potential triggering of trust issues. From Ciara and Russell’s relationship I learnt the importance of healing before entering a new relationship and rebuilding external and internal trust – inherited baggage from a previous relationship can be fatal to future relationships. Despite not being the perpetuators of the disloyalty, Ciara and Russell had to rebuild the trust they had lost in themselves. Ciara had to trust in the belief that she is deserving of happiness and love, despite possessing what society deems as emotional and physical baggage. The stigma regarding black, single and unmarried mothers, with a baby father who’s renowned for his assortment of ‘baby mothers’, could have instigated a cycle of self-doubt and self-loathing. Ciara had to trust that she was making the right decision and not rushing into a relationship out of loneliness avoidance; trust Russell was going to be a good step father to little Future, trust that there would be a sexual compatibility – they abstained from pre-marital relations. The guy I dated before my current relationship ended due to infidelity. I doubted my entire decision-making capabilities – questioning how I could make such a poor decision, questioning if whether it was something I did and if it was my fault. The instinctual desire to believe it was something I did and something I would be perpetually plagued with washed over me. It took all of my therapy skills and mindful capabilities to prevent the transference of emotional baggage and scarring from that relationship into my current relationship.
Beyonce & – Jay Z: Atonement & Forgiveness
Jay Z’s infidelity and disrespect almost cost him his marriage and his twins. Despite dodging rumours of cheating for years, the confirmation of Becky with the good hair’s infiltration into ‘03 Bonnie & Clyde’ filled me with disappointment. The feminist in me wanted Beyonce to re-enact ‘me, myself and I’ with his bags packed to the left. However, Beyonce stayed and as we watch the Cardi B and Offset saga unfold, staying through cheating is valid. In Beyonce we saw a financially independent woman, who conveyed strength – not beholden to the barriers to divorce regular women are afflicted with. Financially independent and conventionally desirable, Beyonce could have divorced Jay Z, healed and entered into a new relationship. The determination of whether to leave or stay after infidelity, should be made on an individual basis – there is no blanket decision. It’s ignorant to expect every victim of adultery to leave, however if you do decide to make the relationship work, forgiveness is imperative. Without forgiveness, Beyonce would still be suffering and swimming in toxicity with each argument which would conclude with a refence to his unfaithfulness. Beyonce didn’t just have to forgive the initial infidelity, she had to forgive him for the miscarriages she attributed to the stress of his adultery, the damage imposed on her self-esteem and the self-doubt she internalised. She had to absolve herself of societal implications that infidelity is a sign of weakness and a stain on her character. Beyonce’s forgiveness coincided with Jay Z’s atonement. Jay Z had showed penance – he had to metaphorically fling himself on the alter and beg for forgiveness. Pride, ego and manipulative threats were left out the door – anything other than humility and honesty is unacceptable. Not only was he subjected to the deserved beat down from sister Solange, through the divulsion of his infidelity he consciously exposed himself to the wrath of the Beyhive. Atonement, self-flagellation and re-commitment is how Jay Z managed to keep his wife.
Who are your favourite couples & why? Let me know below!