Why My Girlfriend And I Broke Up After 17 Years Together

Young black lesbians in love.

Written by Vanessa B.

Debra and I were best friends in high school. We were typical teenagers, hanging out and finding trouble to get into. We were both still into boys at that time. Neither of us had had any experiences with girls beyond playing house or doctor.

Shortly after graduation I attended Debra’s sister’s wedding and over the course of the evening, an attraction to her just came over me. I hadn’t felt anything like that toward her prior to that day. Needless to say, I was scared and confused. Ironically, she was my best friend, so who was I going to talk to about this attraction I was experiencing?

At first, I avoided her for about a week and a half, then invited her over to talk. She confessed that she had felt something the day of the wedding, also. It was all so surreal, and bizarre. I guess my curiosity won out and I kissed her, and she kissed me back. And that was the beginning of a 17-and-a-half year roller coaster of emotions and experiences.

We were together from our late teens until our mid-30s. For the first 11 years of our relationship, we were in the closet.

We loved each other very much. We had many up and downs and joys and pains. We were both free spirits and dreamers. This often meant talking about our hopes and dreams but unfortunately not seeing them to fruition.


We Had Different Dreams

We talked about getting married, buying a home, having a child, and traveling but we really never did anything together to make it a reality. Our personalities were such that she liked to put all her eggs in one basket and wasn’t comfortable with change and I was the total opposite. For instance, I was also a free spirit and a dreamer but I had a plan B that included college, travel, etc. She was/is a very sociable person, and a DJ with close family ties. Also, once she finished high school she was done with school forever.

So, unfortunately, we could never get on the same page about building a life together. We both lived, separately with our parents, for the first 10 years of our relationships. I eventually moved out of my Mom’s house and into my own apartment, and she moved into a house that her sister bought.


I Betrayed Her

Black woman in army unifform.

Vanessa B in her Army days.

After five years of being together I acted out, and betrayed our relationship by dating guys in order to continue the heterosexual farce. I was confused, and at the time, and I still cared about what my family and society thought. Nonetheless, what I did hurt her but we managed to get through it, or so I thought.

I was the one who left the relationship (at first, and in a way). Let me explain. I joined the Army. At that point, we had been together 15 years. I was at a loss and at a dead end in my love relationship and in my relationship with my family.

On sheer impulse, I walked into the Army recruiter’s office and signed up for a three-year stint. We both agreed that the change was what we needed in order to find ourselves. She was hurt by the drastic change and as a result there was quite a bit of passive-aggression, on her part. The military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell,” nonsense was still intact and she resented that. Also, I was no longer around or I was unable to speak to her every day. So eventually, she broke up with me, via letter, while I was in boot camp.

We somehow managed to get back together, however, I didn’t receive any care packages from her the entire time I was in the army, including the year I spent deployed to Iraq. Also, she sent me a total of about five letters over an almost three-year period. Needless to say our relationship was rocky.


Growing Apart

When I returned home I felt that after all that had occurred while I was away, we needed to really sit down and have a deep and meaningful conversation. However, she wasn’t comfortable with talking about what had transpired between us while we were apart.

She wanted to just put it all behind us and move on. The problem was that in those three years, our relationship got tested in the most fundamental of ways. With regards to things like change, communication, trust, responsibility, and maturity, we had moved in different directions and reacted in different ways.

When she suggested that I move into a bedroom (not an apartment) with her, in her sister’s house, and pay rent to her sister, it became clear I had changed but not much else had. We had both grown older but only one of us had grown up. So within a month of me returning from Iraq, we broke up.

Read part 2 to learn how I healed from the break up.


Vanessa B.Veronica B. is an entrepreneur, and a former psychotherapist. She resides in Las Vegas, where she likes to volunteer, hike, travel and write. She is an active member of the Vegas LGBTQ community. She’s currently working on projects involving social psychology, issues of religion, and empowerment for women and girls of color.

About Our Love: Phoenyx & Sweetee

Phoenyx and Sweetee were married on March 3, 2011.

Phoenyx and Sweetee were married on March 3, 2011.

“True love is rare and elusive. It’s possible, you must be willing to put in the work. I always knew it existed. This world is so “me first” that it keeps some from finding love.

In this love, we have found flaws, but even greater- found the best in ourselves and each other.

We have sacrificed self at times to strengthen US! We have used every opportunity to give, which makes the reception even sweeter. Our love is one of the few things left in this lifetime that continues to grow, endure, and create. I’m a lifer and I live it! ”

The couple believes that "Marriage works!"

The couple believes that “Marriage works!”


About Our Love: Valere & Kimbrel

Kimbrel Jackson and Valere Holder recently celebrated eight years together.

“This is me and the love of my life, Kimbrel Jackson. We have been together for 8 years. I wouldn’t trade her for the world. I fell in love with her, when I first laid my eyes on her in 2007. I knew she was the one for me. I didn’t know if I was her type or not. I admit, I was nervous to say anything to her. Come to find out, she was a good-hearted person. As I got to know her, she was always honest and she doesn’t sugar coat anything. I respect her [to] the fullest.

I don’t see anyone else but her.

I think about her every minute on every hour, when I’m not with her. Our relationship is very strong. She is going to be my wife soon. I love you Kimbrel Jackson Holder! You are my soulmate. Thank you for all the love that you have given me. You are appreciated.  March 30, 2007 is a moment I wouldn’t ever forget … the day we went from friends to lovers.”

Marathon Love Spotlight: Desiree & Marisol

Desiree and Marisol, who live in Florida, have been together for 13 eyars.

Desiree and Marisol, who live in Indiana, have been together for 13 eyars.

We had to liquidate all of our assets in order to stay afloat. In the end as always, staying together is worth it!

Written by Desiree Brandon

This year marks 13 years that Marisol and I have been together 13 years this year. We’ll celebrate those 13 years by getting married on September 26! September can’t come fast enough!

It took us this long because we wanted to be settled, and she wanted to be a citizen of the United States. Once same-sex marriage became legal, we thought we should do it then, but it wasn’t legal in our state (Florida). Now that it is and she will be a citizen before then end of the year, nothing’s stopping us now!

The secret to staying together for us is knowing that we go from work TO work each day.

We know that a relationship is work and we approach ours with a level head and an open heart. We also realize that life changes so much but love never changes! We are from two different countries (she’s from Trinidad and I’m American), yet we still have so many shared interests and experiences.

I think some couples give up when things get rough. But we don’t. Since neither one of us were born with a silver spoon, we just kind of roll with the punches and it was quite difficult but also quite easy in a way.

I remember when she had to leave the country due to a job status change and we weren’t sure if she was going to be able to come back. She was gone for almost five months! I was ready to sell the house, dog and our car so I could move to the Caribbean. In the end, everything worked out and she was able to come back. We had to liquidate all of our assets in order to stay afloat, but in the end, as always, staying together is worth it!

The hardest part about her being gone at that time was that I was in a really bad car accident and just really wanted her to be there and she wasn’t. But we kept going because we knew what our end game was. We really didn’t think twice. It sucked to have had to talk to her on the phone or to only see her on the computer, but when you commit yourself to doing anything, you can accomplish it.

Life is what you make it and after that, we are stronger than ever with jobs that pay almost double what we had going previously. We finally have it all—the house, car, dogs, chickens (yeah we have 6 of them)—and the beautiful life we hustled hard for at the beginning. Now to tie the knot in September!

Marathon Love: Kelly is the Only Woman Larissa Could Ever Love

Larissa and Kelly have been together 14 years and raised two daughters together.

Larissa and Kelly have been together 14 years and raised two daughters together.


Larissa (39), an artist, art instructor and student has been with Kelley (38), who does private security and is studying sound engineering, for 14 years. This fun-loving Maryland couple graciously agreed to share their love story below:


Black Lesbian Love Lab (BL3): How did you meet? 

Larissa: On an online chat site. I think Kel approached me first. I was venting about a problem I was having and she offered to talk.


BL3: What attracted you to each other?

Larissa: I was immediately attracted to Kel’s personality. She was easy to talk to and offered me good advice. She also sounded really good over the phone.


Kelly: I was attracted to Larissa’s personality; she was soo funny. She made me laugh and it made for interesting conversation.

BL3: When did you first know you were in love with each other?

Larissa: She had come to visit me and we were headed back home on the metro rail from being at the museums all day. It was her last day and she had mentioned she had to pack and get ready to leave the next day. I just broke down on the train like someone ran over my dog. I did not want her to leave. She came over and sat next to me, hugged me, and said she wasn’t going anywhere. I knew then I couldn’t let her go. I didn’t just love her, I was in love with her.

Kelly: I knew when I first came to see Larissa; she was my breath of fresh air. She had all the qualities I was looking for and more, it was when I was gearing to go back home to New York that I knew I belonged with that woman and I would be a damn fool to leave her miles away. That was the moment I realized she was my future and I loved her.

BL3: Who said the words first?

Larissa: I think she did … so long ago, wow!

Kelly: She did.

BL3: What do you love about each other?

Larrisa: I love the fact that Kel is a genuine and loving person. She will always be true to herself and strong for others and she doesn’t feel like she has to put on a front for anybody. She is the only woman I think I could ever love, and if I tried to love another, my heart would be hers forever.

Kelly: Her strength and will power. She inspires me to be greater than great, and always remain true to who I am. She loves so hard and I’m happy she can give me that. She makes me feel secure and loved.

BL3: When did you first know that you were a lesbian?

Larissa: I was about 16 but I didn’t define as me being a lesbian. I just knew I had a long and growing interest in females that got stronger as I got older. I didn’t use the term “lesbian” until I was in my early twenties.

Kelly: I had an idea when I was very young that I was “different.” One afternoon I saw a commercial on television about homosexuals. That’s when I was able to identify who I was. That was around the age of 10.

BL3: How did you handle that knowledge?

Larissa: I didn’t really think too much of it. It didn’t freak me out or make me depressed. As I got older and I became more informed about sexuality, I was able to define my own more and learn to accept it as just a part of who I am.

Kelly: At first, I had an ocean of emotions. I didn’t want to be “different,” but I knew how to be no one but Kelly. I spent my teen years wanting to jump off the nearest curb, lol. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I became confident and began my “lesbian puberty.” Lol.

BL3: How did your families first react to your relationship?

Larissa: My family was cool with it. My mom said, “Just don’t hurt my daughter and you are alright with me.”

Kelly: My family has never supported me being a lesbian, so it’s no surprise they didn’t and still don’t support my relationship with Larissa. They’re very religious individuals.

BL3: Are you religious?

Larissa: Neither of us are religious.

First Same-Sex Couple to Be Married in D.C. Featured in Photo Book

Barbara Proud photographed Sinjoyla and Angelisa for her new book, First Comes Love.

Barbara Proud photographed Sinjoyla and Angelisa for her new book, First Comes Love.

Sinjoyla and Angelisa, who have been together for 17 years, are among several same-sex couples featured in a new book of photographs celebrating long-term LGBT relationships. The book, called First Comes Love, is by Barbara Proud and will be available September 26. The book is important of course because it is another way to document and give voice to our relationships.

Sinjoyla and Angelisa’ story is especially interesting because they were the first same-sex couple to be married in the nation’s capital. They met in 1997 in a Constitutional Law class and grew closer while working on class projects together. Angelisa bristles at the term “same-sex” marriage. A traditionalist at heart with great respect for the institution of marriage, she prefers to think of it as “human beings” getting married. “I just want the same rights that my brothers and sisters have. I don’t want anything extra so you don’t have to put ‘same-sex’ in front of it. No extra words. No extra anything. I just want to be able to live in a union that has been sanctioned by law.”