The longer I live, the more deeply I learn that love- whether we call it friendship or family or romance- is the work of mirroring and magnifying each other’s light. Gentle work. Steadfast work. Life-saving work in those moments when life and shame and sorrow occlude our own light from our view, but there is still a clear-eyed loving person to beam it back. In our best moments, we are that person for another. - James Baldwin
Is it really a coincidence that Valentine’s Day falls right in the middle of Black History Month? Well, regardless, we can’t think of a better time to talk about Black Love.
Sure the phrase “Black Love” might first bring up the image of two Black people in a romantic relationship, but it starts with our very first relationship: Our relationship with ourselves.
Black Love is an invitation to look at the negative and positive aspects of being yourself in the world. It’s an invitation to help your partner figure out which events happening around them are teaching moments worth contemplation, which ones are to discard, and which are triggering, unhealthy behaviors from the past that need to be worked on.
The above is inspired by our conversation with Jeanine Primm Jones, who is a relationship therapist helping her clients discover their true selves through intense and positive behavior change therapy. Her work involves helping the people who seek her counseling face painful thoughts and unhealthy behaviors head-on, to make better decisions in their lives and in their relationships.
Jones’ decades-long experience with clients, ranging from celebrities to college students, has brought her to some unlikely places as a relationship expert, like the NBA and NFL. She also expresses her creativity as a portrait artist.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, we’re fortunate to have Jones answer some questions about her unique career, Black Love, and more.
How did you begin this work as a relationship therapist?
I located, informed, counseled Sexually Transmitted Infected (STD/STI) partners in their homes in NYC during the start of the HIV epidemic.
What’s the defining difference between relationship health work with individuals and couples counseling?
Trying to help an increased number of hearts, voices, ears, brains and egos at once.
What was the most frequent advice you found yourself giving when working with single men?
In therapy?: Be accountable and compassionate to yourself and potential partners / In Seminars: “1st time with a woman? Don’t enter her from behind, don’t push her head downtown.”
What are two important ways for Black people to express self-love, whether they’re in a romantic relationship or not?
1.Be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say slowly 3 x, “I love you”
2.Find out how to get out of your own way (to personal success)
How do you see black social media, current Black films, TV and music impacting how people view dating?
Portrayals of Black Love have gotten more nuanced, depicting a new raw reality. I see beautiful sensitivity, respect for and acceptance of differences, but I also see that self-focused behavior/ sensational drama is normalized; In real life, you can “do you” without being demanding or selfish or abusive. Real life single folks aren’t easily able to get fulfilling dates, so they tend to get discouraged and impatient with reality. Be patient. Find a way to “fellowship” in general. He/ she /they will come!
With the people you’ve helped who are in relationships, what do the long lasting relationships have in common?
They have similar values, are able to listen, show compassion, and pay attention to the way their partner wants to be loved (when reasonable).
What’s one way you use humor in your counseling?
When my client says, “I don’t fucking care” I’ve said, “How is that working for you?” ; )
What’s the most important sign that a single person is ready to be in a relationship?
You are secure enough to answer to someone else, their needs and wants, without losing your power/self-esteem.
Do you feel like dating apps have more so helped or hurt the landscape of dating and relationships?
Both, while the dating pool is bigger, some have a fear of dating strangers and endure a higher anxiety level, especially women.
As a therapist what’s one thing you miss from seeing clients virtually instead of in-person?
Seeing “stature”…How tall/short they are can affect their worldview.
What are 3 things someone should ask themselves before getting into a relationship?
Ask yourself: Am I self-obsessed? Am I hurt/angry? Am I drama-free or drama filled?
How do you know when you have met “the one”?
It’s all about “the hang”.....(you would choose them to be alone with you on a deserted island for 48+hours, no music/ no phone/ no food).
When you first met, how did your husband feel about you being a relationship therapist?
He says “Unlike other women, she’s not afraid to admit she is wrong” ….(I can’t front)
How would a woman know it is healthy to move forward or to stay in a relationship?
They BOTH enjoy shared pleasure, intellectual stimulation, closeness/emotional intimacy, support in time of need, and a sexual relationship they can trust! If not, get some help!
What are your 3 favorite R&B slow jams?
“Adore” by Prince,“Angel” by Anita Baker/cover Lala Hathaway, and “Valentine” by Michael Henderson (When nasty/naughty?- “#!*@ you tonight” Notorious B.I.G. feat. R.Relationship Unhealthy Kelly)
What’s your favorite date night restaurant?
Alex’s Bar and Grille, 577 N. Broadway, White Plains NY
We know as a therapist you keep it unapologetically blunt. What’s your favorite curse word/phrase?
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
Do you see your portrait art as a form of self-care?
“Art is therapeutic” is my brand! When I find time to paint portraits in watercolor, I feel less anxiety/more peace, once it looks like a real person.