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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

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A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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