I watched an ABC News special the other night featuring Steve Harvey, Jacque Reed, Sherri Shepherd and my homeboys Hill Harper and Jimi Izrael. The show covered a tried and true topic that is sure to get sky rocket ratings from the black community: The topic was, Why successful black women can’t find a good man. I am not going to risk bringing on the wrath of black women by saying things that some of them may not want to hear, but I have to be honest about what I saw. Let me just cut to the chase and lay the issues out one-by-one:
1) Why are black women taking relationship advice from Steve Harvey? Not to disrespect Steve’s ability to drop knowledge, but isn’t he a comedian? If we are taking relationship advice from a comedian and our relationship turns into a joke, who do we blame in the end? Bottom line – perhaps learning how to love another person means that after you put aside the book by the comedian, you should go out and buy a book by a relationship expert.
2) Most good women have little trouble getting married to decent men: One has to be skeptical of the beautiful, intelligent, fully capable woman who simply says that she can’t find a good man anywhere. Most women I know who are well-balanced and who also appreciate the idea of respecting men in the same way they would like to be respected have no trouble finding suitable mates. Sorry to break this to you, but the only constant variable in your relationships is a person called YOU. Rather than pointing the finger at the world, a bit more introspection might be called for: perhaps you have to reconsider your laundry list of expectations or wonder if you’re not doing a good job finding men who are open to commitment (it’s easy to find a man, just not easy to find a man who is willing to be with you and you only- maybe different types of men should not be held to the same standards). You may be fishing in the wrong ponds in the first place or using the wrong bait to catch the fish you’re bringing home.
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3) If you want something bad enough, take a class: There are classes on relationships and marriage out there that don’t cost much money. If you are determined to be the best mate you can possibly be, it might make sense to take a class (not just the counseling you get from your pastor) that explains all the subtleties and challenges of being married. A relationship is not about a mate filling your long and detailed list of needs and expectations. The bottom line is that if you hope to receive more, you must first fully commit yourself to giving more. Some of us are taught that we should expect the world and not offer anything in return: that’s a perfect recipe for getting dumped.
4) Big mistake – always chasing the alpha male: I know a lot of “regular guys” who are unable to find a woman that is interested in being with them. This is especially true in their mid-twenties, when everyone is single and living fancy-free, with little expectation for long-term commitment. Some of the women these ”regular guys” are interested in are not paying them much attention, mainly because the woman has become enchanted with the dream-like alpha male: the guy who fits every single portion of the checklist (height, income, education, toe nail length, swag, etc.), but who may not be available for a monogamous, long-term relationship. What many women seem to forget is that there are some men who always have room for another woman on the roster. If you’re wasting all your time with the lying, cheating, super dog, you might miss out on the chance to be with the man who will love you forever and father all of your children. He may not come in the same package, and by comparing the two without considering the differences in what each of them offers, you may be passing up on your opportunity.
5) Relationships should not be a pissing contest: One of the by-products of many black children growing up in single parent homes is that their relationships become highly contentious. I once saw a neck swinging, energized woman say, “I need a man who can handle me!” What I wanted to tell her is that your man should not have to “handle” you as if you are a wild bull with his testicles sewn together. The act of love is a process of being open, feeling and sharing, not trying to dominate one another. So, if you need to be “handled” in your relationships, realize that you are likely going to only attract men who are mean, rough and insensitive enough to handle you effectively. Fighting and domination is not the same as love – let’s not get it twisted.
6) There’s nothing wrong with a few gender roles: Sherri Shepherd, during an especially volatile segment of the ABC News show, swung her hands around in the air saying, “I don’t have time to validate you every day!” – referring to the fact that she doesn’t feel that it’s her job to make her man feel good about himself on a regular basis. What’s interesting is that most women want their man to make them feel beautiful and to feel like a woman. So, why is it not acceptable for a man to expect his wife to make him feel like a man? A man doesn’t want to marry another guy – or rather, a woman who feels that any and all gender roles are an insult to her feminine independence, who expects the man to be willing to be regularly emasculated. It’s O.K. to make your man feel like he’s THE man, a king and a leader. A good man will surely return the favor and make you feel like a beautiful woman.
7) Let’s be real- many men aren’t as excited about marriage as women: As much as we want to believe that men grow up fantasizing about their wedding day the same way that many women do, the truth is that this is not the case. Many men see marriage as a frightening commitment that will cause them to be vilified for actions they can engage in without consequence when they are single (notice the millions of dollars that Shaquille O’neal and the rapper Nas have paid to get out of their marriages – every man gets petrified when he reads these stories). A woman who gets her husband is the one who makes the man WANT to be married: she let’s him feel free, strong, needed, loved and supported. While this may seem to be a primitive concept, the reality is that the reverse is true for sex: Men and women both want it, but men know they have to work just a little bit harder to “get some.” They’ve got to buy flowers, take the woman to dinner, and make her feel comfortable. It would be silly for a man to think that a woman should buy him flowers and beg him to have sex with her. The converse is true for marriage – where getting a man to overcome his anxiety is a great way to get him to give you what you want.
I love black women: My mother, daughter and grandmother are black women and there is not a more precious group of women on the planet. But the truth is that this “woe is me, black men ain’t sh*t” attitude has to be replaced with something more constructive. If not, we’ll be having these same forums 20 years from today. I had a conversation on black women and relationships with Lola Adesioye from the Huffington Post. Click here if you’d like to listen.