Black queer love is utterly beautiful. As one of the most marginalized communities in the U.S., Black queer people’s relationships are about more than just romance. Love is essential to our survival, and therefore, it can also be revolutionary. It has the power to heal — to transform. I personally believe that Black queer love will save the world.
There are so few depictions of Black lesbian couples in the media, let alone happy, functional ones. Lesbian and queer representation tends to skew white, while Black representation tends to skew cisheterosexual. When we so rarely see stories about us in loving relationships, it can be easy to forget or lose faith or to never even imagine a love-filled future for ourselves in the first place.
That’s why visibility is so important. There’s nothing quite like that moment when I’m minding my business, stressing out about life, and then an adorable Black lesbian couple comes onto my radar, loving up on each other, knowing each other inside and out. In that moment, my pessimism lifts. I remember that there is love, companionship, and a place to call home for people who look like me and love like me.
But relationships are hard. It’s easy to glamorize things from the outside, especially if you’ve been single for so long that you’re starting to wonder if “girlfriends” are a myth made up by the lesbian industrial complex. Still, the reality of relationship life never quite matches the fantasy. Girlfriends are real, and they must reckon with bills, chores, mental health issues, communication problems, and more.
So, how? How do you keep Black queer love going for years to come?
Here, seven Black queer and lesbian couples share their best advice on how to keep a relationship healthy. With a combined total of over three decades of relationship experience, they definitely know a thing or two about love.
Ken, 31 and Ren, 27 — Together for 7 years, married for 5 months
Newlyweds Ken and Ren have one vital piece of relationship advice: “COMMUNICATE.” To break that down into more concrete terms, there are four topics that this married couple tends to discuss most often. The first is sex. The second is “love and fear.”
“One thing we’ve been working on is love languages — Ken likes words of affirmation, and Ren likes quality time (with a dash of physical touch),” the couple tells GO Mag. “We think it’s equally important to know each other’s fears as well. Knowing what your partner likes and doesn’t like helps you avoid A LOT of bad situations, or you can better understand how to help them during one.”
It’s also important to figure out which roles you both play in the relationship. “We were dating maybe two years when we realized Ren was better at laundry and Ken was better at cooking. Talking about even the trivial stuff (i.e., who’s washing dishes, who’s making plates at the cookout, who’s taking out the trash, etc.) is important. You may say ‘Hey, we’re a team, and we’ll do it together,’ but that doesn’t work all the time. Trust us.”
Lastly, Ken and Ren recommend being intentional about where you have important conversations. “If you’re going to communicate and ask questions, it’s important to make sure you’re creating a space conducive for vulnerability and change if necessary,” they say. “Ask your partner how ya’ll can create a judgment-free zone.”
Jennifer, 32 and Michelle, 28 — Together for 2 years
Jennifer and Michelle are a dual military couple, and they, too, emphasized COMMUNICATION (in all-caps) as the most important relationship advice of all.
“Being a dual military couple, we go through long separation periods where communication is ALL we have to connect with one another, whether it be via email, telephone, or instant messenger, so ensuring we are communicating often and listening to each other is paramount,” they tell GO.
“Communication is a two-way street. You have to be able to listen and digest the good and bad just as you need to be able to verbalize your opinion and emotions in a way that YOUR partner can understand. Remember, everyone is different in the way they communicate. Your biggest task is learning how YOUR partner communicates.”
These two are also parents to an 11-year-old and a 6-year-old, so they know how important it is to keep the passion alive. Never stop dating and wooing each other, they say!
M. Shelly, 43 and Tiffany, 38 — Together for 4 years
M. Shelly and her wife Tiffany very wisely say that “It’s much easier to maintain a relationship than repair it.”
“That means continuously communicating, dating and checking in with yourself, [your] partner, and the relationship,” they tell GO.
There’s that word again: “communication.” Hmm, it seems like communication is maybe… really important for long-term relationships?!
Devisha, 30 and Brianna, 29 — Together for one year and 3 months
For Devisha and Brianna, building an intentional friendship before dating was paramount. “The reason for this is, oftentimes people hop into relationships, then after the ‘honeymoon’ phase ends, they realize that they aren’t really compatible,” they explain. “It also relieves some of the pressure when communicating.”
Speaking of communication — Devisha and Brianna also emphasized the importance of it (are you sensing a theme here?).
“We took time to learn each other’s triggers in order to understand how to enter into certain conversations and communicate properly,” they say. “For example, Brianna’s trigger is being misunderstood.” So Devisha works on “hearing her out and acknowledging her opinion, even if I don’t agree.” Meanwhile, Devisha’s trigger is being yelled at. “So whenever conversations begin to feel too heated, we take a breath or take a moment to reset the tone.”
Lastly, they also make sure to always root for each other and keep the physical connection alive.
Rhounay, 32 and Shaniqua, 30 — Together for 5 and a half years
Shaniqua and Rhounay have two kids, ages 5 and 9. Their advice includes — yes — communication. “That means talk even when you don’t want to talk about things,” Rhounay tells GO.
Also, self-care first! “Make time for yourself, because self-care will contribute to you becoming the best version of yourself in order to give your partner and family love and support,” Rhounay says. “We had a difficult first year, because we were trying to fix each other before fixing ourselves instead of just allowing the other person to be who they are and adding to that.”
“Happiness is the goal. We came to such a great space where we are now, and we are super excited about the next chapter in our relationship.”
Jamelia, 32 and Kewanda, 37 — Together for 9 years, married for 4 years
Jamelia and Kewanda have been together for almost a decade and just had a baby, so they’re definitely experienced in the art of commitment. Their best advice is — you guessed it — communication! “‘Communication is key’ may sound cliche, but it definitely works,” they say. “Talk out everything: your likes, dislikes, if there’s something that’s hurting you or not. Your partner won’t know what’s going on with you unless you tell them. Don’t let your pride hold you back from having a needed conversation with your spouse.”
They also emphasize not giving up when things get tough. “Marriage or any relationship is work, so don’t give up or throw in the towel so fast,” they say. “You have to build on it and learn each other like you’re learning a new skill.”
Jas, 21 and Mary, 21 — Together for one and a half years
Jas and Mary, a long-distance couple in the U.K., say “open communication” is “so important,” which by now, you should know by heart. But in addition to that, they also say it’s important not to take things too seriously at first. As a young and growing couple, they know they have plenty of time to get more serious over time.
“With lesbians, there is this stereotype of moving in on the second date and getting settled down really quickly,” Mary says.
“We would fulfill that stereotype if we could afford to!” Jas admitted.
“Yeah, when we realized that, we realized it’s probably best to take things a bit slower instead of rushing into it. We know where we want to be headed, so we can take our time and still allow ourselves to enjoy our individuality and pace ourselves. We plan on being together forever, so we have enough years ahead for that,” Mary says.