It’s the time of year that calls for deep reflection and even deeper self-inventory — and Codie Elaine Oliver, co-creator of the Black Lovemulti-verse, is feeling the effects, “I've been in this really deep place lately, so forgive me.” It’s a place that many of us have found ourselves in, after a pivot, a moment of self-discovery, or simply in the quiet moments of our day-to-day routines. It’s the light bulb that illuminates in our heart, almost blindingly, to reveal inward truths, “I've learned to recognize that I am tender and require tenderness from those in my life. I've learned to own it as opposed to [trying to] fit into the box of having thicker skin.”
For Codie, whose personal and work life are so intimately intertwined, these moments produce profound awareness, with lessons learned and applied both on and off the camera. In many ways, the Black Love docuseries is an extension of Codie’s lived experiences. The show’s honest portrayal of married life, the best and worst of it, was birthed out of her curiosity of “how to make it work,” stemming from her parent’s divorce when she was just 11 years old.
Photo Credit: Tommy Oliver
Into adulthood, Codie’s earnest allurement for all things love and relationships began to merge with her natural storytelling abilities. Crossed between opposing narratives of a “Black marriage crisis” and her own desires for partnership, Codie began to explore the possibility of her own Black love story, “People tell you the more degrees a Black woman has, the less likely you are to get married. I lived in LA and they tell you you can't meet anybody there,” she continues thoughtfully, “I felt like I could either accept that [marriage] was not going to happen or I could immerse myself in how possible it was.”
Instead of conceding to these disparaging narratives, Codie decided to tell a new story, thus creating the Black Love docuseries.
Cut to now, Codie, alongside her husband and co-creator, Tommy Oliver, have highlighted the journeys of over 250 couples through their docuseries, social platforms, and live events. Together, the couple is able to play off each other’s strengths; with Tommy administering the structure and Codie applying her nurturing essence to make space for transparent discourse to be exchanged and handled with care, “I love the behind the scenes, I love to bring people together. My personality makes it so that I bring authenticity and comfort out of others.”
Photo Credit: Monkeys and Peas Photography
It’s this comfort and authenticity that has, in itself, restored the hope and possibility for love in countless hearts. This points to a legacy that has not only beared fruit in her lifetime but has also planted seeds in her children to carry forward. Or as Codie shares, “the editor of Black Love, Christopher Scott Shapiro, always says, ‘Yes! Keep raising those boys with this trauma-free Blackness.’”
Knowing that you had something special with your docuseries, what were the initial steps to get in the right rooms to pitch your series to networks and eventually OWN Network?
Codie Elaine Oliver: I would say the confidence came from the fact that I just knew that I needed it, I knew my friends needed it, and I knew that I'd never seen it before. I knew there was a hole right in the “market.” That's what kept me going.
When my husband and I started this project, it was meant to be a documentary. So we went the traditional route with an independent documentary and our expectation was to raise a little money or crowdfund, to go to film festivals or maybe in theaters. But it was an independent job and there's an end date or shelf life. When we pivoted from the traditional route, we were met with a lot of pushback. A lot of white [executives] were asking questions like, is that it? What else? People had a lot of questions about traditional documentary storytelling and what we really needed, but we felt like hearing from the couple would satisfy the goal.
Tommy and I decided to make it as “foolproof” as possible; an "inevitable yes" as he would put it. We shot for two years, from 2014 to 2016, edited the first episode, wrote a treatment for the entire season, and did a sizzle for the full season. That gave potential buyers a really clear picture of what this was, the structure, what it felt like. That's how we got around the traditional structure because it's unlikely that we would have gotten it made off of a pitch and no actual video.
What have you learned overall about turning your pain points into purpose?
For me, leaning into the big questions that I've had in my life, my uncertainties, and the things that made me uncomfortable, allowed me to learn about myself and the people around me. A friend of mine recently said, “Trauma is not what happens to you, it's what happens within you.” When I think about people's trauma, I think most of us have had scenarios that may seem small to someone else, but what matters is what happens within us. When I’ve leaned into those experiences, to ask myself questions and seek answers, it’s helped me be a better person, professional, wife, and mother. And my hope is that leaning into those uncomfortable places helps others as well.
"When I’ve leaned into those experiences, to ask myself questions and seek answers, it’s helped me be a better person, professional, wife, and mother. And my hope is that leaning into those uncomfortable places helps others as well."
Photo Credit: James Anthony
They say relationships are like holding a mirror up to yourself. What have you personally learned about yourself through the work that you do along with co-creating with your husband?
Oh, so many things. I'm learning about myself every day. I'm learning about partnership and marriage. I'm learning about what I was always dying to know: which is what it takes to make a marriage work — and I'm learning that through our couples. The show is more than a show for us. Every time we sit down and interview a couple, it's not like we're shooting a TV show, that's not what it feels like in the room. Every time we spend time with a couple, it is an opportunity for us to learn and grow.
For me, the Black Love docu-series is this exciting and sometimes painful therapy. I'm constantly learning, but my greatest lessons have come in the form of seeking balance and peace in my life, amid the blessing of having a business that is my purpose and my passion and having a family.
You mentioned early in our conversation that you’re in a “deep place” right now. What has this time taught you about yourself?
I’ve learned that I have to set boundaries to protect my mental health. Sometimes those boundaries come in the form of difficult business decisions, canceling something, delegating things that I may be afraid to delegate.
I've also learned that I need to treat my mind and body better and speak to them more positively; feed them better, both in terms of literal food and through meditation and movement. These things are key to my personal and professional success. Too often we run all of those things into the ground: our bodies, our minds, our boundaries, our softness, to try to check boxes and meet deadlines. But it's very important to consider when and why to actually sacrifice yourself for something.
“Too often we run all of those things into the ground: our bodies, our minds, our boundaries, our softness, to try to check boxes and meet deadlines. But it's very important to consider when and why to actually sacrifice yourself for something.”
Photo Credit: Breanna Jones
What is your perspective on carrying down generational wealth through love? To your children, tribe, and community?
My biggest goal and passion — and the place where I get simultaneously excited and emotional, is passing that radical self-love to my children in every way. How can I make sure they love themselves so much so that no one can tell them they aren't good enough or attractive enough. I want them to laugh at anyone who thinks that they are not beautiful. That's one of the places where I think we have the greatest responsibility as people because our kids are looking at us. And not just the ones that come out of us; the kids are looking at us. That's where we have the responsibility to really pour into them.
The outside world is going to do what the outside world does, but how can we inflict the least amount of trauma onto our children? Where they simply love each other, and themselves deeply.
You were a 20-something navigating your career and balancing your love life all at the same time. What advice would you give to 20- and 30-something Black women who desire to have a career and family?
I would want to do away with the words, “have it all.” Or at least encourage everyone to define that for themselves and to listen to themselves as they grow and change because you don't really know what “having it all” means or what it looks like until you're juggling it all. I could not fathom what those words meant 10, 15, 20 years ago, when I was still at home, looking at grown-ups, like, “Oh, she has it all right.”
Thankfully, for our generation and those coming after me, we've become more inquisitive. We've become more thoughtful and transparent. We seek authentic candor from one another and from our parents and grandparents, we're asking questions. I hope that the notion of having it all becomes something that we discuss and question earlier; that's my biggest advice.
“Because having it all doesn't mean that I'm happy. Looking at these women that we look up to, what did they sacrifice? What is their self-care ritual? Those are the things I think about. If I can't take a 15-minute walk every day, if I can't feed myself and my soul the way that I deserve, it doesn't matter.”
I wish I could quote Tai Beauchamp, she shared something to the effect of, “It changes depending on the season, but the goal is to be able to do things that you love and still have like peace within yourself,” and that is pretty much the definition that I've adopted. Because having it all doesn't mean that I'm happy. Looking at these women that we look up to, what did they sacrifice? What is their self-care ritual? Does it exist? Those are the things I think about.
If I can't take a 15-minute walk every day, if I can't feed myself and my soul the way that I deserve, it doesn't matter.
Featured image courtesy of Codie Elaine Oliver
Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
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Not too long ago, I was having a conversation with a young woman about how hard of a time she was having with letting an ex go (check out “6 Reasons Why You STILL Can't Over Your Ex”). There was something, in particular, she said that I specifically took note of (it’s also what inspired me to pitch and write this piece): “I don’t know why it’s so hard to get over him. No other man has been this much of a struggle.”
When I asked her if she had slept with any other guys before and she said one, only a couple of times, and that the sex was “meh” at best, and then I asked her if she and the guy who she was still pining over had been sexually active and she replied with, “He’s the first guy to give me an orgasm from intercourse.” I simply replied, “Hmm…and you’ve never connected those dots before?” Right then, she did.
I’ve been there — believe you me. Back in the day, I had a Gemini-to-Gemini connection that was pretty hard to shake (off) for years. In fact, when I went on my “get your heart pieces back” tour (you can read more about that here), wow, eight years ago, he and I spent hours reminiscing about it (he even called me his “crack”). Yeah, it really is wild (and a bit contradictory) how the current state of our culture tries to act like sex is “no big deal” (uh-huh, if you say so) while simultaneously chasing the highs that the act provides on a constant and almost relentless (and sometimes quite reckless) basis.
So, let’s get into it. Being that easily half of my clients (and yes, most of them are married) still have someone in their past that they can’t seem to fully get out of their system as far as sexual intimacy goes, let’s explore some pretty relevant — and hopefully helpful — reasons why it can be really difficult to get over certain folks…no matter how hard you/we try.
Let’s begin with the largest sex organ that all of us have: our brain. Although I will definitely be adding my two cents (meaning, personal opinion) to this piece, I do think that it’s important to also tackle sex from a scientific perspective too. That’s because, yes, there is hard data to back up why sex tends to have such a hold on us. As far as your mental state goes:
When a man ejaculates, the brain receives more blood flow, specifically the cerebellum, which is the part of your brain that processes a lot of your emotions. Some say that the release that comes from a “completed” sexual experience is as potent as a heroin rush.
One study says that sex and music (check out “Before You Pull Out Your Playlist, This Is How Music Affects Your Sex Life”) affect the brain in similar ways in the sense that they are both able to put you into a trance-like state (interesting, right?).
I have said many times over the years that oxytocin gets more and more underrated, even though it is literally referred to as being “the love hormone” — bottom line, it is a naturally produced hormone that causes you to bond with people you sleep with. Dopamine is another hormone that makes you feel really good during coitus.
Penetrative sex is also prone to lower stress and anxiety levels which means that intercourse can reduce your chances of experiencing stress-related illnesses like depression, heart disease, colds, cancer, and even HIV/AIDS. Also, the less stressed out you are, the more productive you will be.
Orgasms are also able to light up certain parts of the female brain; one part that it does this to is the thalamus; one article said this about it: “The thalamus helps us process information associated with movement, touch, and the recall of any sexual memories that might arise.”
SEX’S MENTAL BREAKDOWN:
Although all of these points can easily be their own article, let’s hone in on three main things here: when it comes to the man who you just can’t seem to shake — was the sex unprotected, were you listening to music while doing it (at least most of the time) and do sex-related memories tend to come up more than any other ones whenever you think about him?
A few years ago, Marriage.com published an article entitled, “Top 7 Reasons Why Kissing Is Super Important in a Relationship.” Guess what the top reason was? It literally said that kissing “builds emotional intimacy.” Because oxytocin levels increase while kissing, that is a big part of the reason why. Keeping this in mind, think about how a lot of people even process kissing when it comes to relationships.
Shoot, I can’t tell you how many men have said to me that deep kissing is only something they do if they really care about someone — whether sex is transpiring or not. So, if someone’s tongue in your mouth can be considered emotionally intimate, how much more is their penis in your vagina? Let’s just be real for a moment.
And don’t even get me started on the hormone known as kisspeptin. Very long story short, kisspeptin and your endocrine system work together to cultivate an emotional link during the act of sex. This is a part of the reason why some people can have a one-night stand with someone else and declare the next morning that they’ve met “the one” without even knowing their middle name (hey, John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen have both been open about them having sex on their first date) — the combination of the physical pleasure mixed in with the emotional “hit” from the hormones can be quite powerful.
Then there’s something else to consider. In my case, the Gemini who I mentioned earlier? He came into my life right when I lost my late fiancé. Gemini was sweet, attentive, and proactively thoughtful. So yes, I felt safe with him, and when I added that to the natural physical attraction and then some really good sex? Yeah…it was quite the bond, especially since the sentiment was mutual, and most of us know that finding someone who is as into you as you are into them, on a myriad of different levels, at the same time is pretty rare.
SEX’S EMOTIONAL BREAKDOWN:
No matter what society says, science says that sex is designed to be somewhat of an emotional experience. So, if you’ve had sex with someone to who you were already emotionally attached, that can create an even tighter emotional bond when it comes to being open with them, trusting them (more), and feeling confident enough to share even more of you — both in and out of the bedroom.
There is nothing like naturally being sexually in sync — and a big part of what makes that happen is sexual compatibility (check out “What Exactly Does It Mean To Be Sexually Compatible?”). You know, back in 2011, NPR published a feature entitled “Lazy In America: An Incomplete Social History.” It stated that, as a nation, we are continuing to work less and “goof off” more.
Another study revealed that 50 percent of college students and 20 percent of the American population, in general, consider themselves to be chronic procrastinators (which is oftentimes a form of laziness). And yet another study shared that, thanks (or perhaps maybe “no thanks” in this instance) to technology, 41 percent of people are more impatient than ever; that far too many of us are consumed with instant gratification.
My point? Don’t get me started on how many of my clients want to call it quits, not due to anything like abuse or infidelity; it’s simply because they don’t want to work at anything. And you know what? People can be the same way on the sexual tip. I have heard countless stories of individuals who had a great connection with someone and yet ended things, all because their first time having sex with them didn’t — pardon the pun — rise to the occasion; some didn’t even give that person a second chance to redeem themselves.
And y’all can’t tell me that laziness and instant gratification didn’t play a role for many of those individuals. Even when it comes to sex, a lot of people don’t want to try and make things better (or customize sex with someone to their personal liking). I think it’s important for all of this to go on record because sexual compatibility isn’t just about if he turned you out on the first round.
It’s about if you have similar drives, similar desires, and similar needs. It’s about, even if you didn’t “see the mountain” the first few tries, there is still something incomparable between the two of you and how sex makes you feel when the two of you are together that you know that, eventually, the fireworks will come.
One of my past partners? He still goes down as being super memorable — not because I felt the earth shake all of the time; it was because 1) I really liked his body, 2) his kisses were extraordinary, 3) our bodies fit really well together, 4) he was the perfect size (to/for me), and 5) I always felt very desired and secure in his presence. Even though the emotional and spiritual elements were nothing to write home about, the physical component was top-notch.
Then there’s another side to sexual physicality. My second sex partner was the first guy to ever go down on me. Although sex itself was just alright (in comparison to others), of course, he stays forever on my mind in this lane because of what he did — and how, when, and where he did it. It should go without saying that the physical side of sex can make its own imprint too.
SEX’S PHYSICAL BREAKDOWN:
If there’s a “him” that’s hard to get off of your mind, how much does sexual compatibility play a role in it all? Was there a powerful physical attraction? Did it seem like the two of you were always on the same page sexually? Did sexual pleasure require very little effort most, if not all, of the time? Maybe he gave you your first orgasm, taught you something that you didn’t know before, or experienced something with you that was truly unforgettable. All of these things are valid. VERY.
Personally, I will forever die on the hill that the West (side of the world) makes it its mission to pervert whatever the East does. Don’t believe me? Although Christianity (Bible), Judaism (Torah), and the Muslim faith (Quran) are all different religions, one thing that they have in common is the fact that their holy books are eastern-cultured — and yes, things are done very differently over there. Also yes? This side of the ocean finds every way to manipulate all three books to justify…all kinds of stuff.
Let me stay focused, though. The reason why I’m even bringing this up is that all three holy books basically see sex in the same way: it’s a profoundly sacred act that’s meant for two people who are in a long-term covenant. Why? This Scripture expresses their line of thinking pretty well right here:
“There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, ‘The two become one.’ Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never ‘become one.’ There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for ‘becoming one’ with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.” — I Corinthians 6:16-20(Message)
Although all of this is more than a mouthful, the part that I want you to hone in on the most is the first three sentences: sex is not just physical, there are spiritual mysteries that happen during sex, and sex has the ability to make two people one. Okay, so what is a “spiritual mystery”? Let’s break down both words and see.
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “What's The Difference Between Being 'Religious' And Being 'Spiritual', Anyway?”. One of the things that I touched on is even evil is spiritual, so to merely say that “you aren’t religious, you are spiritual”, that probably needs more clarifying because, again, “spiritual” doesn’t automatically mean good. At the end of the day, spirituality is about doing things that pertain to your spirit or soul (check out “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul”) — good or bad.
A mystery is defined as being “anything that is kept secret or remains unexplained or unknown” and “any affair, thing, or person that presents features or qualities so obscure as to arouse curiosity or speculation.”
So, if we put all of this together, according to Scripture, sex is something that definitely affects your spirit and soul, oftentimes in ways that are hard to understand. Not only that, but sometimes through sex, mysteries can be revealed.
My takeaway? No matter how much people might want to act like sex is just a surface layer event, a part of the reason why the act can have a profound effect on them, even years later, is partly because it has influenced and impacted their spirit and soul in ways that are literally a mystery to them.
And if you factor in all of the other ways that sex can affect you, no wonder why not being able to get over certain people due to how they “touched your spirit” is so baffling, confusing, or mind-blowing. Yeah, sex is nothing to play with, y’all. It really isn’t.
SEX’S SPIRITUAL BREAKDOWN:
Has someone seemed to get to you in a way that you almost can’t seem to find the words for? Has the experience with them totally changed your psyche or your approach to life? Chances are, you had some sort of a deep spiritual experience — again, good or bad.
Y’all ready to get “ouch-ed out” a bit? Have you ever stopped to ponder the fact that while so many people claim that casual sex isn’t a big deal, body counts don’t matter, and waiting to have sex with people we are in some sort of serious relationship with, at the same time, the moment that someone cheats on them, they are on the verge of a nervous breakdown? How could that be if the act of sex is…no biggie? Hmm.
So, either it IS a big deal, and they’re lying to themselves to deflect from their actions, or their ego got bruised when they found out that their partner chose to be with someone other than them — or it’s both. Yeah, I personally don’t get how someone putting a part of their body into yours or even doing an act that could potentially result in another person ending up on the planet isn’t a monumental event, yet my (main) point here is that sometimes we can’t get past certain people and it’s all because of the kind of relationship that we had with them on top of the sex that transpired.
Someone in my world is back dealing with an ex as we speak. And although she has been quick to admit that he was her best ever, what got her to “recycle” him, all these years later is that they both had some unresolved relational issues. On one hand, it has made “reunited sex” that much more intense yet, because she’s finally getting some of the answers that she’s been looking for (and they haven’t really been the best ones), the fire (i.e., longing and curiosity) that had been dormant all of these years is finally burning out. In other words, some loose ends had her holding onto the feelings of the sex.
Now, the sex isn’t wanted — or even esteemed — like it used to be (funny how that works).
SEX’S RELATIONAL BREAKDOWN:
The lesson here? If there’s someone you can’t get over sexually — are you sure that it’s actually about the sex? Is it more about grieving (or perhaps even still wanting) the relationship? Is it about romanticizing the sex due to the bond that you once shared? Is it about holding onto the sex because you haven’t been able to get the answers and/or closure that you desire or seek (y’all be careful with that so-called closure sex, ya here?
Sometimes it’s more like a spider web than anything else)? Thinking that your relationship and the sex that you had with the person you were in the relationship with are one and the same (they aren’t) can be another reason why it can be hard to finally and completely let someone go.
Oh, I already know. A lot was certainly said here, yet a lot needed to be because, when it comes to sex and trying to get over certain people who you had sex with, there are many layers to unpack and process.
The good news is, now that some layers have been presented to you — perhaps in a way that you’ve never thought about before — you can break things down into categories in order to get some revelations and, hopefully, some clarity and finality.
Did I about my (well, the) Gemini? I did. He’s still fine. And although he comes to my mind less and less, when he does, I must admit that a tingly sensation comes over me from time to time. Yet in this season of our lives, it would never work (I wrote and said that to him during my tour). I know that I am over him because I am happy that he’s happy, I know that there is nothing else to talk about, and I actually feel like our time together was a billion years ago — almost as if it were an erotic dream — than anything that could realistically be now.
Plus, I sense that I could actually “top us” at some point — and I’m up to the challenge. #wink
And sis, guess what? With the help of reading this article one more time (maybe three) and doing some sex journaling, I’m confident that you can get past your “can’t get over” too.
Sex is powerful. You are more powerful. If you want to move past him and it…all things are possible. I am living proof. Hallelujah!
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