Finding your soul mate is tricky enough. Add the pressures of racism and the famous shortage of black men, and black-on-black love can be a mighty challenge. But trust us, it’s possible. Just ask our relationship experts and array of cuddly couples.
1. SAY WHAT YOU FEEL
After 23 years together, 17 of them in a marriage, Christina and Kevin Harris of Philadelphia know how to push each other’s buttons. Christina, age 47, a quiet sales manager at a Crowne Plaza Hotel, gets riled by her husband’s spending habits and neglected household chores. Kevin, 50, an extroverted engineer who works for the city, complains about her sheepish nature. But these two take a communicative approach to their disputes. “We don’t let it sit,” says Christina. “We keep working until we come to a common understanding.”
It’s not easy to let your loved one know exactly how you feel, especially if you’re afraid of causing pain or you’re too angry to say what’s really on your mind. It can be uncomfortable, but relationship experts recommend doing it anyway—and making a point of listening carefully to each other. “Allow each person to express their feelings without being judged as to whether they should or should not feel a certain way,” advises Rosie Milligan, a California psychologist who specializes in premarital and couples counseling. “Don’t ask for truth and honesty and get angry when you get it!”
Adds New York relationship coach Yvonne Chase, “Speak your truth with lots of love. Be nice even though what you have to say might not be so nice."
2. MEET IN THE MIDDLE
Disagreement and misunderstandings happen in every relationship. Because it involves sacrifice, compromise, says Chase, is essential to protecting and nurturing love. “It makes a person feel special when his or her mate is willing to make one,” she says “and it makes you want to do more special things for them.”
Chip McAllister, 47
Kim McAllister, 44
Hometown: Coto de Caza, Calif.
Callings: Winners of the fifth season of CBS’s global-travel reality competition The Amazing Race. They want to host a television show that helps other couples stay hitched and happy.
Star signs: As devout Christians, “the sign of the cross.”
Love stats: Married for 20 years, together for almost 26. “After spending so much time together, we became the best of friends,” says Kim. “She played hard-to-get for a long time,” adds Chip. The couple have three children: Elon, 23; Chip Jr., 19; Kristen, 17.
First met: At a disco in 1978. “Le Freak” by Chic was playing, and Kim was wearing a pair of tight Jordache jeans. “She was the finest woman I’d ever seen,” recalls Chip.
Pet peeves: “I can’t think of anything I don’t like about Chip,” says Kim. And Chip’s only complaint is that his wife no longer cooks for him. “Restaurant food is making me fat.”
Why it works: “We work together as one,” says Chip. “If you looked at The Amazing Race, you could see that I was weak by myself, and Kim was weak by herself. But when you put us together, we’re super strong.”
Tony Mitchell, 37
Brenda Mitchell, 38
Hometown: Silver Spring, Md.
Callings: Government auditor; stay-at-home mom
Star signs: Cancer; Virgo
Love stats: Married for six years
First met: “I left my temp job early every day for six weeks to catch him on the subway platform,” Brenda recalls. A year later, still no sign. “I thought, either he’s not attracted, he’s married, or he’s gay.” Undeterred, Brenda attached her number to his car windshield. The rest is history.
Pet peeves: She says, “He leaves crumbs on the kitchen counter.” He says, “She leaves dishes in the sink.”
Why it works: “He’s very laidback and believes in resolving conflict,” says Brenda. “I’m less petty because of him.”
Future plans: They have a 3-year-old daughter, Krista, and with a second daughter due this month, the Mitchells plan on buying a new home.
Advice to others: “Marry your friend,” Tony says.
* * *
Single and Lovin’ It
Not everyone is jonesing for a long-term hookup.
GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN
“People think I should be on the hunt for a husband. But I’ve decided to embrace being single—I explore things for fun, like yoga and learning French.”
—Chandra McQueen, 32, Brooklyn
NO MORE DRAMA
“Being single saves you from all the emotional crap that messes up relationships. There is nothing in my life that I can’t walk away from in 30 seconds or less.”
—Arana Lynch, 29, Cleveland
I BELIEVE I CAN FLY
“As I develop into a full-time writer, being alone allows me to take risks, both personal and financial, that I wouldn’t take if I were married with children.”
—Korby Marks, 32, Los Angeles
YOU BETTER SHOP AROUND
“I look younger, so I’m constantly approached by men in their early twenties. I believe in going out on dates with many people until you find your match.”
—Janine Horton, 35, Jersey City, NJ