When Lynda Lee Osborne and Nyveek Nuel-Bey (né Kevin Lomax) first met through a mutual business contact back in 1999, the attraction was immediate and their chemistry was intense. “He had this electric energy about him. He was a good looking guy, but that wasn’t what got me interested,” recalls 43-year-old Lynda. It was Nyveek’s “intelligence and sense of humor” that Lynda found stimulating. “I really enjoyed our first conversation. I thought he was very interesting and he seemed to love life,” she adds.

Nyveek was equally smitten with Lynda, but he admits surprise that she showed any interest in him. “I thought, ‘She wants to talk to me?’ She was so intelligent and she just seemed [so much] more well-rounded and educated than me that I did not anticipate her seeing any of that in me. The fact that she saw the God in me made me very appreciative,” shares 49-year-old Nyveek, an entertainment broker.

By all accounts, their relationship sparked off very quickly.

Within a year of dating, Lynda gave birth to their son, Solomon. “It all may have been fast, but at the time it was right,” says Nyveek. And while Lynda and Nyveek may have shared some fundamental core values—such as living a life of truth and laughing in the face of life’s struggles—their views on what constitutes a family unit would find them at odds.

“Kevin is a free spirit, and I, from a relationship standpoint, am definitely the more traditional one. That’s not who Kevin was, and I wanted to get married,” explains Lynda, who’s an adjunct professor, researcher and consultant specializing in issues of diversity and the exploration of how language and conversation impact student thinking, reasoning and problem solving. (Lynda will earn her Ph.D in educational psychology in 2015.)

Nyveek, who grew up in non-conventional family raised by his mother, grandparents, two uncles and an aunt, says that although he’s always been family-oriented, he never felt he had to abide by society’s longstanding definition of what constitutes a family unit. “We just didn’t realize that we weren’t as compatible as we wished we would have been. I’m all about family and that’s how I was raised, but I don’t follow traditional values. I march to the beat of my own drum. I am honest and comfortable in who I am. What came out of our relationship was a beautiful and loving son,” he clarifies.

The two separated when Solomon was 6.

It took some time for Lynda to come to terms with her new alternative family structure. “I love family, but Kevin and I wanted different things. I wasn’t going to force him to do it my way, because in the end, that wouldn’t be good for any of us,” she says. Growing up, Lynda was all too familiar with the tension that comes living with parents who don’t see eye to eye; her parents divorced when she was 13. “I don’t believe in unhealthy relationships. I felt their separation was for the best when I was younger,” says Lynda.

Wallowing in the loss of her relationship wasn’t an option for Lynda. “My mother kept going after the divorce. Maybe there were moments of sadness, but she never let me see that. What I saw was a woman who kept going, and I was determined to do the same,” she says. “It was a very difficult time, because family means everything to me. I don’t take being a family lightly, I take it very seriously. We had to make the best out of the situation for Solomon,” says Nyveek.

The two made a conscious decision that they weren’t going to allow their separation to impact Solomon in a negative way. Both Lynda and Nyveek put all their energy and focus into making sure their son felt loved and supported during their breakup.

“It’s very important for us to maintain peace so Solomon’s perception of us is one of love rather than anger and stress,” says Lynda, who lives in Atlanta with Solomon while Nyveek lives in Los Angeles. Solomon and his dad speak on the phone on a regular basis. There have been many trips to California for Solomon and Lynda. Nyveek has also made trips back to Atlanta to spend time with his son.

Nyveek’s move to California was hard on Solomon when he was younger. “I’m always here for Solomon. I don’t see myself as being far. I’m a plane ride away. I may not be present physically every day for him, but I am always here mentally. I am out in California trying to provide a living for myself so I’m able to provide for him,” shares Nyveek, who stresses that his in-depth conversations with Solomon on the phone are crucial to their relationship.

“One important decision I made was to never ever shut down the lines of communication between Kevin and I,” Lynda shares. “Communication is crucial if we are going to be successful at raising Solomon even though we aren’t together.” The close friendship bond Lynda and Nyveek developed before Solomon’s birth is a big reason why the transition from lovers to co-parents was possible. The family will travel together to Madrid in the spring to celebrate Lynda earning her Ph.D. and Solomon graduating.

“Even though we weren’t married, our relationship did not last and our love may not grow, it will never diminish. We are kindred spirits, and that’s why we have no problems raising our son,” says Nyveek.

There has been endless discourse about the precarious state of children raised by separated or divorced parents in our community. But Nyveek and Lynda are proof that there is no one blueprint for healthy families. For them, the guiding tenants that have allowed their family unit to prosper include mutual respect, friendship, an open line of communication and the ability to compromise. “Solomon is an honor student who loves to play soccer. Our situation hasn’t hurt him because we do everything to make sure he has what he needs to thrive,” says Nyveek.

Sure, there are disagreements. But Lynda and Nyveek always circle back to what matters most: and that’s Solomon. “I want people to know that it is both possible and rewarding to raise a son as two loving parents who may not be together as a couple, but remain a family who collectively care immeasurably about the plight of their progeny,” shares Lynda.

The Coolest Black Family in America is an EBONY.com original series: an ongoing look at the intricacies, layers and compelling beauty of African-American family life. Of course, The Coolest Black Family is not one family but many. In fact, we’ve found that there are as many Coolest Black Families as there are versions of cool. Also consider: family doesn’t always mean mother + father + kids. What defines family is connected hearts and supported souls. Ride with us weekly as we crisscross the country in search of kinfolk whose cool is so palpable and real, it comes second only to their love. Think your cool fam qualifies? Email us at [email protected] (with Coolest Black Family in the subject line)!

Alexandra Phanor-Faury is a Haitian-American writer living in Brooklyn, New York with a slight (OK, major) addiction to fashion and pop culture. When she’s not up in the middle of the night filling her online shopping carts and catching up on style blogs, she’s writing about fashion and entertainment for a number of websites and magazines. Check out her work and blog at AlexandraPhanor.com.