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Our love story isn't perfect but our love story is real

We met in our early 20s through mutual friends on Cinco De Mayo. As D casually strolled into the Mexican restaurant after a night of celebration, it was like a breath of fresh air. Instead of your standard greeting, I opted for, "Wow, You’re gorgeous!" to which he responded with equal enthusiasm, "Wow, you have a beautiful smile!"

D is a first-generation Pakistani-American. He was born in Jersey City, after his parents and older brother immigrated from Pakistan. I am African-American, born in New York City. My father is from North Carolina and my mother is from Long Island.

Before D, I had never dated anyone outside the Black community before. This time it was different though, I knew he was the "one" after the first date.

In the most loving tone, my mom once said to me, "I want you to know that a lot of people might not see it the way you do. People don't see love the way you do."

I had no idea what she meant. I blew my breath and with a defensive attitude, I said, "Please, everyone is going to love us."

The truth is, society doesn’t know how to look at us. I see Black men staring at me with disappointment, while Black women ask me, "Does he have a brother?"

My brother had done two tours in the Middle East and felt Muslim men didn’t respect women. He made me promise that I would tell him if my husband ever hit me. Like, pinky swear promise. I couldn't believe we were having that discussion but he was seriously concerned about my safety.

Despite D being Muslim, he never asked me to convert. He was even okay with me keeping my last name. But, I was naïve to think that D was as open as I was. I didn't live my life in secrets, D did. It didn’t hit me until D told me I couldn’t attend his med school graduation because his parents were going to be there. That’s when I understood what my mom meant.

As we stood at the altar, with no one but my family, he promised that "our love will warm the coldest of hearts."

Well, it's been almost 13 years, and I’ve never met his mother - or anyone in his family. I couldn't even attend his father's funeral. D's parents aren't overly religious. Ironically, his mother loves the Obamas — especially Michelle. I've come to realize that D's parents are old school and his mother had a plan for her son. I wasn't in the plan.

At first, I didn’t understand how painful the rejection would be. As I’m getting older, I feel it more. It has forced my husband to live a second life. I feel like he hasn’t fought hard enough for us. He feels like he gave up everything for us. This will always be a work in progress.

During these times, I make a selfless decision to put his family first. I believe a mother should have a healthy relationship with her son. I think she should come first. I believe it's important for him to love her without distraction. I encourage it. All of this comes from my own relationship with my mother - and it helps me understand the bigger picture.

Either way, the pain is real for both of us.

But we both know our love has a greater purpose - and we know we wouldn’t fully appreciate the deepness of our love without experiencing the pain. Our love story isn't perfect but our love story is real.

This is us.

Want to read more stories like this? This story appears in When We See Ourselves // Black x Brown Love, which you can purchase here.

Inspired by a racial uprising not witnessed since the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, When We See Ourselves is a collection of intimate short stories, reflections, and artwork providing a first-person account of Black x Brown love. These love stories transcend race, religion, culture, caste, borders and more - allowing us to reflect on stereotypes and biases within our lives and ultimately, help create a better world.

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