Indiana natives Lia and Ashell, both 26, met in college in 2009. They officially got together about three years ago then moved to Baltimore for school. They now reside in York, Pa. When they first moved to Baltimore, they got an apartment together to save money and were soon faced with the daily realities of maintaining their relationship. Below they share how they managed to keep their love strong over the years:
Black Lesbian Love Lab (BL3): How did you two meet?
Ashell: We worked together in Indiana [at a retail store]. I was training Lia.
Lia: But she didn’t like me. When we first met, she thought I was somebody else.
Ashell: I did not like her at all. At the time I was with a guy who cheated on me, and she looked just like the girl he cheated with. I soon realize she wasn’t [that] person.
BL3: Was this your first relationship with a woman?
Ashell: She was my first relationship with a woman. I started liking girls in high school, but I never acted on it. I came from a Christian background, but in college I started noticing the attraction more and that’s when I met Lia.
Lia: Before Ashell I had been with one other woman. But I didn’t really [have to] convince her to date me. She actually came on to me! I didn’t really know what to think. I could tell she was flirting with me, but didn’t think she was serious. Because she had been in a relationship with a guy, I figured she wasn’t really interested in me like that. I tried to keep it like cool and not force anything.
Ashell: Yeah, I pursued her heavily. Lia was not interested at all (both laugh). She’s really quiet so I kinda had to force her to talk. We were the only two black people at work and said, “Come on you have to talk to me.” I gave her my number for “work purposes.” The first time she contacted me it was about work. She texted me and we just kept talking and we went from that to crushing on each other and then started having girls’ nights out.
BL3: What is the secret to why your relationship has lasted this long?
Lia: We’ve been through a lot to get to where we are now. It’s definitely not easy. We continue to work at our relationship and learn from each other.
Ashell: When you first fall in love, you don’t really see each other for who you are. You only see the good side. We clashed a lot, but never broke up. It took a lot of patience and learning who each other are.
Lia: We learned to work together. I feel like I saw potential in our relationship and what could be. When we first got together, we were happy all the time and once we started living together and seeing each other for who we are, there were some ups and downs.
Ashell: I held on knowing that this is the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. In my head, we were already married and I didn’t believe in divorce.
BL3: What was one of the challenges you dealt with?
Ashell: I came out through the church first but feel like I came out twice, because I was out but partner wasn’t. As soon as I realized I was with her, I started telling people, but she wasn’t ready. So trying to be respectful of [her] was a struggle even though it would have been easier to do together. It’s a different process for everybody.
BL3: What other tools did you two use to work on your relationship?
Lia: We went to counseling together and separately. I think that helped both of us become aware of ourselves. And then after awhile, we just kind of got it.