Will and Jada. Bey and Jay. Martin and Gina. Whitley and Dwayne. Issa and Lawrence. Last but not least, Michelle and Barack. The epitome of Black Love and all its different faces. Couples that have undoubtedly lived their struggles and triumphs for the whole world to see while screaming back “Take Notes”. Often times, you hear at least one of these couples mentioned in the same sentence as “Goals”. Let’s be clear though, these couples aren’t at all perfect and that’s what makes them real, it’s what makes the idea of what they have attainable. The thing that we forget is, people show you what they want to show you and not always does that mean what they’re showing you is real. How quick are we to say that we want a goofy love like Martin & Gina or that opposites attract like Whitley & Dwayne? What we fail to remember, however, is that they’re not real. Merely characters created to emulate what we all subconsciously desire. Even the fights between said characters, which create a quick moment of realness, are quickly dismissed with an “I love you” and some type of speech that makes almost every woman watching say “Damn.”.

The closest relationship that we have to real-life is Lawrence and Issa on Issa Rae’s Insecure and look what that did. Friendships were tested! Whole groups divided between Team Lawrence and Team Issa bashing each other every week while people were forced to look themselves in the mirror and acknowledge the little bits of themselves that they were seeing on Sunday nights—and then trying to justify it accordingly. I digress. The whole point is, now, at twenty-two, I realize more than ever how important and beautiful Black Love is and can be when handled properly. And by properly, I mean with care. How easy is it to say “I want a love like that.” or “Goals” but yet not be able to fulfill your end of the deal? As a man, are you prepared to go full-out Jay and own up to your transgressions? As a woman, are you prepared to fight and forgive him like Bey?

While appearing on The Van Jones Show, Jay-Z recently said “If you haven’t experienced love and you don’t understand it, if you don’t have the tools to move forward, then you’re going to have complications. Period.” Ooof. Let that sink in. Feels like you just went to church? I know. See, this is what’s so important about Black Love and the representations of it. Most of us, don’t know what love looks like, we’ve never seen it, we have no idea how to navigate it or what it actually means. See, love normally is like walking around blindfolded, looking a damn fool yet still managing to laugh at yourself. It’s quite disastrous but also kind of amusing when you take a second to take it in. But Black Love … it’s beautiful and inspiring because it’s so rarely seen in that kind of appealing light.

We don’t have movies like The Notebook, we have Love & Basketball. While romantic, it’s not The Notebook. Unfortunately, we’re used to seeing Black love shone under the lights of Love & Hip Hop couples or rappers talking about their “ride or dies”. But what if you’re not about that life? What if you don’t want to have to do a stint in jail or testify for your man to know that ya’ll got each other? Not noted in my list of couples: Tasha & Ghost. I won’t get into that. We see couples who’ve been together for 25+ years and we think that’s “dope”, and we see divorce and we think “another one”, then we see these situation-ships that we’ve normalized and we end up romanticizing the bare minimum. But when do we decide that we actually want a piece of the pie? When do we decide to go buy the ingredients and bake it just how we like it?

The issue is, we don’t know how. What we lack the most is communication, we haven’t fully developed the tools to effectively communicate within a relationship. It’s a part of what draws us into situation-ships if we’re honest with ourselves. We meet somebody, we like this person, we’re not exactly ready to settle down yet or are simply unsure how to do so but, we don’t want to lose them. So we drag things out and refuse to have “the talk”— then we end up hurt and confused wondering how we ended up here. If you set boundaries and intentions from the beginning then there’s nothing to be misinterpreted. And if things naturally evolve as they sometimes do, then you handle it accordingly. What I’ve learned is, Love is a really beautiful thing if you allow it to happen. But, most of us run in the opposite direction of it because all we’ve ever seen from it is hurt and pain and we try to escape it. Spoiler alert: You’re missing out if that’s your reasoning.

Most of us fail at relationships because one of the hardest things you can do is to allow someone to be who they are instead of who you want them to be. It takes a self-realization that most of us lack. Take a look at the names on the “goals” list. Even Lawrence & Issa. How do you think they became goals? Will Smith openly wrote a love letter to Jada celebrating their 20th Anniversary and one of the first things he said was “Love is Like gardening... I have learned to focus on HELPING you to BLOSSOM into what YOU want to be (into what you were born to be)... Rather than demanding that you become what my Fragile Ego needs you to be.” How many of us as women can say that we haven’t tried to change our partner to fit our idea of what they should be? Men, can you say the same?

Love is really hard work, it’s not all Instagram pictures and matching outfits. Sometimes, your s/o really annoys the hell out of you, but it’s being able to still love them even when they are that matters. Realizing that “I don’t like you right now BUT I still love you” is really important to the survival of a relationship. The last couple of months, my explore page on Instagram has decided to show me different couples under the Black Love hashtag, and I find myself on their pages curious about their story, who they are, and what they do. It gives me something to look forward to, seeing the many facets of it. There’s excitement, there’s hope.

To the men out there that are trying to get it right while breaking the cycle, refusing to become another stereotype: I see you. I appreciate you. I look forward to meeting and loving one of you someday. To the women trying to fight the inner demons that hold you back from allowing someone to love you the right way: it takes time, the right one will never stop trying. In the words of our President Barack, “Michelle’s Like Beyonce in that song, ‘Let me upgrade ya’ she upgraded me.” So … TGM family, are ya’ll ready for an upgrade?

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Beata Snelling

is Black + Dominican and reps Jersey City. Find her at @beatafrancis