Devale and Khadeen Ellis are a married couple you can relate to and learn from. Down to earth, transparent, and together for 20 years, the pair doesn’t hold back when talking about Black love on their wildly popular podcast, Dead Ass with Khadeen and Devale Ellis. On it, they delve into all things sex, love, and marriage – drawing their listeners in with real-life stories and examples from their journey.
While the couple has established themselves as internet sensations by openly sharing the trials and tribulations of daily married life on social media, they are taking their storytelling to a whole new level with a new book (now available), in addition to a book tour, a podcast tour, and the expansion of their podcast Dead Ass on Patreon. These opportunities will allow the couple to share more intimate moments and insights.
The Ellises book, We Over Me: The Counterintuitive Approach to Getting Everything You Want From Your Relationship, offers a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to succeed as a unit and also support one another’s individual purpose while growing in a marriage. Still, the couple wants to make clear that the work is not just some relationship advice book. Instead, they aim to provide guidance by sharing their own experiences over the years.
In We Over Me, the Ellises discuss family, parenting, sex and intimacy, finances, and commitment. After 12 years of marriage, 20 years together, and four kids, the couple has been through a lot as a pair and individually that they’ve overcome, including a long-distance relationship, Khadeen’s near-death birthing experience, and coming close to divorce. The couple has deep experience navigating major highs and lows and, therefore, is qualified to share their relationship expertise with others who need to hear it.
Ahead of their book launch, ESSENCE caught up with the couple to discuss their relationship journey and their approach to writing We Over Me.
ESSENCE: You both talk about the trials and tribulations of married life and parenting on your podcast. But how are you furthering that conversation within your new book?
Devale: In the book, there are events that we’ve never spoken of. For example, Khadeen and I had to deal with an unexpected pregnancy in college. We wanted to discuss this topic because of everything in the world with women’s rights and the government’s ability to control women’s reproductive organs.
After sharing our story with our families and hearing similar experiences from the people who never told their stories, we realized that discussion needs to happen.
Khadeen: It was a natural move for us to do the book. We’re excited for people to get it in their hands to read a little bit more about our Brooklyn love story. And, you know, learn about how we came to be who we are today.
So what was the process when creating the book?
Devale: I shied away from the idea of doing a book in the beginning because it seemed like a daunting task. But when we investigated the process, we first sought out a writer who we felt could authentically tell our story. Every few weeks, we would just sit with her on the phone for about an hour and discuss our relationship journey. I’m glad we didn’t decline the opportunity because it ended up being nice to do and develop, and I can also just pull on all these memories that we just forgot might have happened, or we never spoke about. The book revealed many emotions we didn’t know we had buried. The process was almost like a therapy session for us.
How did you all agree on the topics shared in the book?
Devale: After many discussions, Khadeen and I sat down and reflected on every memory. Before we agreed to put it in the book, we decided what we wanted to talk about and what we didn’t want to talk about. And we wanted to discuss our love story in totality. The stories are about friendship and how we worked together through specific trials that could have torn us apart.
Khadeen: It was important to unpack how we both felt in those moments and add things we’ve learned along the way. We frequently get asked, “Is this book for married people? What can a single person gain from this?” We’re hoping that people who read this book, regardless of their relationship status or even desire to want to be in a marriage, you’ll learn a story of how two individuals were able to grow together and stay together through the growth process, which can be difficult for most people.
So what’s your favorite passage or chapter in the book?
Devale: My favorite chapter is the one where we discuss our dreams. This story is about how two people have found love and kept their relationship fresh by wanting the other to succeed in their journeys. This book is called The Counterintuitive Approach because everybody who discusses relationships these days is focused on what they can receive from a relationship. I found in my relationship my greatest pleasure is being of service to my wife. So in this chapter, we talk about how Khadeen has her dreams and how I helped Khadeen get in front of the camera because that’s what she wanted to do.
Khadeen: I want to say that my favorite passage or moment in the book is when I told my mom I was having sex for the first time. And it was just, in general, my childhood, my parents, and how they shaped who I was. Nowadays, as millennials, we tend to harp on things our parents didn’t do. But I look at the woman I am today and who I’ve become, and I know it’s all because of my parents.
As a millennial, we receive much feedback and pressure about marriage. What do you think about the current state of marriage for our generation? As you know, many people say they are opting out of traditional relationships.
Devale: Our generation is changing the narrative about what a marriage looks like. For the first time in my life, we’re hearing people talking about different types of marriage. It’s about making your marriage the way you want it to be and having fun doing it, and you’ll be able to succeed.
Do you feel like many people are giving up on love too quickly? When is it time to give up on a relationship?
Devale: I don’t think people give up on love too quickly. People are now discussing boundaries more and understanding that your happiness is on you to find. So before you even find love, how about you find peace and happiness within yourself? How about you heal from your own personal traumas first? And that also takes time.
Khadeen: We live in a society where everyone wants that instant gratification. If it doesn’t work right now in this space and this time, then it’s not worth it. So one thing that Devale and I have had throughout our relationship was perseverance and the desire to want to see things through and the desire to want to work through any problems that we might have had or disagreements. I think some people sometimes don’t give it a fair shot.
What’s next for the Ellises? Is there a reality show in the works?
Devale: It depends. We have turned down many opportunities to do a reality show because we were unwilling to sign away what our story would look like to other people. We wanted to be an executive producer, to create it, and to decide what would be on the editing floor. And we chose to wait. I know one thing, though, you will get an additional book.
A book series?
Devale: There is no way to include everything in one book. And we had to find the sweet spot and where to end, knowing that we could branch off into other books after this one. We’re excited about the possibility of that as well.
How will this book help your audiences?
Devale: It’s a unique perspective about pouring into your partner instead of making a list of what you require from them and how to show up in relationships. And it’s not just for married couples. The book is for anybody who says, “You know what? I just want to show up in my relationships better.”
We Over Me: The Counterintuitive Approach to Getting Everything You Want From Your Relationship is now available wherever books are sold.