A 9-Year Separation Couldn't Stand In The Way Of This Couple's True Love

How We Met

How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.

The way this generation's love life is set up, it doesn't take much for us to be done with one person and quickly onto the next. It's rare that we find two people who love and value each other so much, that no matter the distance, circumstance, or separation between the two, their love prevails everytime single time.

That's why the love story of Ellen Rice and Darnell Chever is a real life fairytale. These soon-to-be newlyweds have literally experienced it all, and are still going strong. When it comes to true love, no divorce, child, or nine-year separation could stand in their way, these college sweethearts were destined to be together since day one. Within the first glimpse of Ellen, Darnell knew he'd one day make her his wife. "I'd marry her," he told his then-roommate after seeing just one picture of her.

The two officially met at a college party and just days after their initial encounter, they were in a full blown relationship. Their love sparked quickly and allowed them to remain a couple for the next six years, experiencing a number of milestones side by side.

However, career changes left the two struggling in a long distance relationship that became too much to bear. After mutually agreeing to separate, the two went on to live their individual lives. Ellen moved on and got married to someone else and Darnell went on to have an adorable baby boy with another woman. But little did they know, destiny would soon bring these two right back together where they belong.

Over the years, Ellen's mother was in a horrific car accident, and while in her hospital bed, she urged her daughter to call Darnell and let him know her condition. Ellen obliged and soon after, Darnell was right by her side. And before they knew it they were back together, in love, and engaged. They got married, July 14, 2018. I guess there is truth to the saying "true love never dies" after all.

Here's their story:

How They Met

Ellen: October 3, 2003, one night while at a college party in Hampton Virginia at "The Legion" – a popular college party spot. I remember being on the dance floor, going off. You know when the crowd surrounds you and starts clapping?! I looked over and noticed this tall, dark and handsome guy in front of the stage. He pointed at me, gesturing for me to come over to him. I went over to him. We talked all night until the morning when he left to go do community service for his fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi. We became an official couple the next week on my birthday weekend.

Darnell: She didn't know this but one night, back in 2002, I was in my dorm room studying. In walks my roommate asking if he could sit his books on my desk for a second while he settled in. I picked up a photo album off the top of the heap and started to leaf through it. That's when it happened. Just like in the movies - fireworks, sirens, explosions, I mean it all happened! I saw a picture of Ellen and some friends. I immediately inquired as to whom she was. To this day, I can't remember what he said, but as I stared deep into the picture I replied, "I'd marry her ASAP." I knew right then and there that if I was given the opportunity, I would make her my wife.

"I knew right then and there that if given the opportunity, I would make her my wife."

First Impressions

Ellen: He seemed like Mr. Cool frat guy standing with his frat boys, but he was intriguing. He had very pretty eyes and dimples, and we talked all night at the party. I admit I snuggled up to him right there in front of the stage. The fact he spotted me specifically in a crowded room really impressed me.

Darnell: I thought, "She is way too beautiful, and classy for this party… let me go rescue her. [At the party] she initially seemed like the personification of everything that I thought I wanted in a woman. I was really wrong because she is so much more than that.

First Dates

Ellen: I remember our first date was on the campus of Hampton University. He walked me along the water. Gave me my birthday gift. It was very romantic.

Darnell: On our first date, I drove to visit her at college, I believe it was right around her birthday. We had been speaking on the phone every day at this point, so I think that we were both eager to see each other in person. With no real plans, we ended up just walking around a fountain.

Breakup to Makeup

Ellen: Once we got together, we stayed together and found ourselves as besties and lovers for six years. All of my friends were his and vice versa, and all of our family became each other's. After six years, I knew I was ready to marry this man and didn't like the distance. I made a decision...to only remain as friends. The next few years of my life had some major ups and downs.

In 2016, my mom was hit by a car which devastated me. While lying in her hospital bed, she asked me to call Darnell and tell him she was in the hospital. I never asked why, I just obliged. I know now it was the Lord. Darnell and I had a brief, but pleasant conversation and didn't talk again for several months. I'm not sure when we got back together, it seemed as though we never parted. We got engaged and bought a new house. Look at God! Now I get to marry my soulmate and best friend 15 years after we first met.

"Now I get to marry my soulmate and best friend 15 years after we first met."

Darnell: When we were 19 and 20 years young, we were inseparable. We immediately decided to become a couple after only a few weeks. We knew after only a few months that we were in love. We comfortably spoke about and made plans about marriage before graduating from college. Our friends became friends of one another, and our families merged into one. Our original plans to get married were halted due to us moving apart. I think she recognized that the distance between us was very stressful, and we decided to take a break. We took a break for a few years...a few very long years. Everyone knew I still loved Ellen and kept her in my heart. I knew then that I did not want to be away from Ellen, but I didn't realize how much until we reconnected. Once she came back, I knew I would make her my wife.

The conversation that we shared [during our reunion] had very few words… We sat there for a moment and enjoyed seeing each other again. And simultaneously opened the conversation with "I miss you!" and "Baby please take me back!"

The One

Ellen: Seeing someone nine years later and still getting the same feelings you had on Day One confirmed it. Plus, momma said call him (laughs). When I saw him and looked into his eyes, we both teared up. It was like we were talking without saying any words at all. In that moment, I realized he was my soulmate. I knew he had to be the one.

Darnell: I knew it the day I met her, and when we took a break from our relationship, every day I thought about how much she was the one for me. I began to see how natural and instinctive we were. In the sense that there are some athletes who weren't always the best but worked hard to succeed and then there are those who were just born with a gift. I believe that Ellen and I were born to be together.

"I believe that Ellen and I were born to be together."

Baggage Claim

Ellen: Step One was forgiveness. We had to forgive each other for choosing to break up instead of staying together. We also had to give each other space to heal from our past situations. We allowed each other to talk honestly to one another about what happened in the past. Remember, we hadn't spoken for years and hadn't seen in each other in nine years. When we got back together we shared our past situations with each other honestly. He allowed me to heal. We also learned to pray together. This time, we pray together and worship more together both in our home and at church. We also have a rule of no yelling in our home. We have been hurt from past relationships that involved yelling. For us, peaceful homes are very important.

Love Lessons

Ellen: My partner helped teach me how to value myself. When we got back together he kept telling me, "Your expectations are low. You deserve more." Then he gave me more. He showed me by loving me.

Darnell: I learned that there are many ways to love yourself just like there are ways to love your significant other, the key is to find ways to re-energize that love.

Common Goals

Ellen: Put God first, put family second. Be patient with one another. Remember to have fun. Partnership is key. Work together.

Darnell: Respect one another. Be fair and understanding and follow God's plan.

Best Advice

Ellen: Love is about patience and giving each other the benefit of the doubt. Always give your partner the benefit of the doubt and be patient to hear and understand their perspective. Love is also resilient. Agape love stands the test of times. Through my divorce and him becoming a single dad, our love stood the test of time. Love is not hurtful. Love doesn't seek to hurt your partner. Love seeks to uplift and encourage your partner.

"Love doesn't seek to hurt your partner. Love seeks to uplift and encourage your partner."

Darnell: Recognize that you are a valuable person with a voice and needs that matter. Love is about imparting those best qualities of you on to your loved one.

For more on their journey follow them @Ellenvincienne and @Dchever. And check out more photos from their engagement session by their photographer Keith Cephus here.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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