Why We Should Stop Looking At Other Couples As #RelationshipGoals

We're so quick to label everything #relationshipgoals, but aren't aware of what's happening behind closed doors.

Her Voice

Earlier this year, as the new year rang in, my Facebook newsfeed was full of old school friends and their declarations of resolutions to do better in all aspects of life. Those who wanted to focus on improving their health made promises to fork over cash for gym memberships; most wanted to better their finances so they vowed to map out monthly budgets; others wanted stronger relationships–some wanted simply to be in a relationship. I came across a status from a friend who proclaimed she was ready to be in a relationship and after I left emoji eyes in her comment section, she proceeded to text and tell me about her wishes and someone she was interested in and what #relationshipgoals looked like to her.

We briefly delved into her love life, or lack thereof, and she admitted that she wanted something that what I had. Although this hadn't been the first time she expressed this to me, nor the first time I heard it in general, I was taken aback. My relationship was nothing to aspire to as she was vaguely familiar with my history with my partner and the rough patches that are only shared on my personal blog. Why did she want to be like us? I LOL'd at the response, but made sure to let her know that long-term and more so, life-long relationships, demand that we put in work.

I strongly believe she was smitten by recent pics and posts, but failed to comprehend the trajectory from point A to Z isn't months or years of things going well. It's arguments over bills, frustrations that promises are broken, and sacrifices that call us to be selfless, to name a few. But Instagram in its totality is a filter that presents those scrolling through with a perception that things are how they look. Throw in a few hundred likes per photo and you've got validation that what you see is what you should strive for. While couples aren't uploading their personal struggles to the 'gram, it doesn't mean the things that you wouldn't qualify as #relationshipgoals aren't happening behind the scenes. In fact, I believe that this should be the year that we stop labeling couples as goals for that very reason.

jay z beyonce GIF Giphy

Last year spawned thousands of articles that so-and-so were the prototype of perfection in relationships. If someone posted a photo sharing pizza or their last pink Starburst with their girlfriend, it was #relationshipgoals. Memes offered insight into what was consider ideal. If a couple had matching Louboutins, cars, rings–anything materialistic–it was classified as such, but in my opinion, individuals should strive for more in a relationship.

DeVon Franklin, husband to Meagan Good, offered some words that not only resonated with me and my girlfriends, but was fitting for what I believe should be the ultimate goal in a relationship.

"When you go out, and especially as women, a man wines and dines you but that could be a smokescreen. Romance can always grow out of connection but without connection, romance is a show. Everybody wants the show but everyone gets mad when the show is over, and the person you're in love with is not the person who put on the performance. Romance is fine and it's going to be there but I think real love is that consideration.
"Real love is that concern. Flowers are fine but on a day to day basis, do they care? Are they plugged in? You get so caught up in your day to day life that you can just get on autopilot in your relationship or your marriage. Just because you are with someone all of the time, you make the assumption that they're okay which is not always correct. The person right next to you, who you spend the most time with, could be going through hell and you don't know it because you haven't asked. Those small things is when you really have love and that's the foundation."

In the most recent episode of Danyel Smith and Elliott Wilson's podcast, ironically titled #RelationshipGoals, Danyel introduces a series of questions called "36 Questions on the Way to Love" that “asks basic questions to promote intimacy" early on in the relationship. Some of the questions, created by psychologist, Arthur Aron, are:

  • Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
  • What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
  • What do you value most in a friendship?
  • What is your most treasured memory?
  • What would constitute a “perfect" day for you?

Last month, she shared her thoughts on marriage with us in an interview.

“Everybody's marriage is complex regardless of how they're presenting it, but to me, it's one of the greatest relationships of life if you're lucky to have it and if it's something that you want."

In order to avoid becoming the next Tasha and Keith, it's best to moderately dig into the nitty gritty from the start so that you aren't falling for the front. Instead, we are falling for the idea of what someone could be and calling it potential because of the platforms that feed into our ideologies of what love should look like. We want a love like the Obamas, Jada and Will, Bey and Shawn, and Nicole and Boris, but when it's time to put in the effort to push through the period after the wonder years, we crack and give up because our expectations weren't met. How are can we foster healthy, long-lasting relationships with people when we compare our lives to others and pray for someone else's fairy tale?

Black And White Love GIF Giphy

There are hundreds of sites that offer listicles on couples who define “relationship goals" or what constitutes things that everyday couples should strive for, but what some have forgotten is what works for some may not work for others. I once told a friend what I do to keep my man, may be how she loses hers, and vice versa. We're so quick to label everything #relationshipgoals, but aren't aware of what's happening behind closed doors. There are a plethora of celebs who live private lives and understandably so. We have so much access to the lives of others, we lose sight of the things that matter most, like that connection Franklin spoke about or the answers to those questions Danyel mentioned. We take things for face value and aren't willing to dig beneath the surface because what we may uncover could shatter our dreams of what a quality relationship is.

But I don't want a relationship built on the foundation of a Sex and the City quote or formed from my perceptions of someone else's marriage. I love what many of our favorite celeb couples represent (“Black love"), disproving beliefs that our relationships are merely rooted in baby mama/daddy issues wrapped in dysfunction, but I don't know what it took to get to 20 years of marriage, or to the White House, or to power couple status. I just want to figure out my own relationship as the road to happiness for us has had its own share of flaws. I can admit that. Picking up the pieces of someone else's bond and making it my own is just a recipe for disaster, not relationship goals.

Featured image by Sky Cinema / Shutterstock.com

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
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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