Forever, Forever Ever? (Part I)

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Thought For The Day:

“The only way to stay committed is to stop looking for the escape hatch and get on with it.”

Question For The Day:

What does marital commitment mean to you?

So, I’m starting to feel some type of way about the fact that candidates are beginning to put their bids in for the 2016 presidential election.  Though I’m well aware that the race has deeper implications, I’m going to go ahead and keep it real with y’all.  I’m going to miss seeing Barak and Michelle in the White House!  Keep calm, I’m not going to get deep and hash out the efficacy of the President’s policies today.  Yet, what I will point out is that Barak and Michelle’s presence in the White House represents hope on multiple levels, one being the positive example of Black love and marriage that the entire nation has been privy to witness during their tenure.  In a society where fifty percent of marriages fail and seventy percent of Black marriages are predicted to end in divorce, the Obamas have reminded the masses that happily married African American couples are real and not just suburban legends.  Watching Barak and Michelle cuddle, dance, and laugh together despite the crushing stress of their positions, is inspirational and validates that we as minorities can make smart choices in marriage and commit to love no matter the opposition.  My fear is that once they leave office, we will once again be starved for this example which, frankly,  the Black community desperately needs.  We used to be able to count on Cliff and Clair to give us a little hope, but everybody knows Cosby Show reruns are hard to come by nowadays (sips tea).  Most of the Black female characters on television today like Olivia Pope, Annalise Keating, Mary Jane Paul, and anybody on one of Tyler Perry’s shows, tend to represent what not to do in relationships.  So how does this drought for positive imagery impact single women aspiring to marry and married women looking to stay the course?  With so much hopelessness and confusion regarding how to achieve healthy relationships, my guess is that many people are beginning to wonder if all the effort in trying to get married and stay married is even worth it. When you are five times more likely to come across a baby daddy than a husband, it’s time to take an honest look at what has become of the institution that for my mother and grandmother’s generation represented the emotional, educational, and financial security of the family and thereby, the community.  Do we even still accept the validity of holy matrimony anymore or has it officially become old school?

With so many single-parent households and ladies successfully adapting to life as a single, it’s easy to reduce marriage down to “just a piece of paper.”   In my opinion (and possibly because I watch too much reality television), it seems people are going into marriage more for an excuse to throw themselves a huge party and be the envy of all their girlfriends for a day. With reality shows like “The Bachelor,” “Bridezillas,” and “Married at First Sight” flooding the airwaves, “getting married” seems to be all about the engagement, the ring, the dress, and the drama that drives the process of getting to the alter.  The actual ’til death do us part’ portion of the ceremony is kind of a throwaway.  Though no one will admit it, even as they party at your reception, people are secretly wondering how long it will take before there’s an invitation to the divorce party.  Rather than really expecting a couple to last, it’s much more common to wait for it to fail.

For the newly married couple of today it’s kind of like, let’s kick the idea around, give it a shot, and see what happens.  If it doesn’t work, then we’ll just call it quits and move on.  After all, life is too short, right?  When you really weigh the consequences of making a vow before God to love someone for better or for worse, richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, is that really what we mean?  If so, then why are so many people jumping ship when it gets to the worse, poor, and sick parts, seeing divorce as a quick fix and well-earned permission to upgrade to a better, richer, and healthier model.  Instead of digging in during the lean years, and putting in the work, it becomes a whole lot easier to just chuck it and try to find someone better. It’s usually during those rough years, that your well-meaning friends will even advise you to keep it moving.  “You don’t have to  put up with that” or “do you,” they’ll say and usually with the best of intentions.  But is “doing you,” really honoring your vow?  As women, are too many of us calling it quits on men that are still developing, growing, and becoming all that we want them to be?  I know “I can do bad all by myself,” but why?  I think I’d like to take a few posts to discuss this whole marriage quandary a bit further.  I guess this will be my first official series on getliftedgirl.

Of course, I couldn’t even attempt to address this issue without drawing from my personal experience.  For the record, I’ve been married now for going on fourteen years but I’ve been with my husband for a total of sixteen.  It seems whenever I tell somebody I’ve been married for that long, they are intrigued.  Unfortunately, they are not usually inquiring about what keeps the marriage together.  In fact, their questions seem more geared towards trying to figure out what’s wrong with the relationship.  If you are a Black woman, married to a Black man, then he must be cheating or ‘going upside your head.’  Maybe he’s unemployed, an addict, or a male chauvinist.  People tend to think a lot of things, but the first assumption is generally not that he might be a good man and that the marriage actually has legs.  I hope that married women who might read this post can attest to something different, but this is my experience.

So then is the truth that I’ve been married for this long because my husband is my perfect soul mate and we are madly in love all day everyday?  Was he my knight in shining armor, my Prince Charming, the James to my Florida, the George to my Wizzy, the Cliff to my Clair?  Are we a perfect match?  Does everyday with him feel like a Hallmark card in live action?  Well, let me think……  Haaayall to the no!  My husband, though a good man, is a piece of work!  Being married to him is not easy, but part of being mature enough to be married in the first place is understanding that, you too, are likely a piece of work.  We are pretty egotistical people for the most part and think that dealing with bad habits, character flaws, mistakes, shortfalls, and just plain buttholeness on occasion is something we shouldn’t have to put up with.  Why not?  None of us are perfect people.  But a lot of times, we get married with the hidden belief that we are the capable, smart, and together half of the relationship and therefore our spouse is expected to repay us for their good fortune by always making us happy.  Here’s a question to consider.  What if marriage isn’t just about making you happy?  What if it is about commitment?  There is nothing any of my children could ever do to make me turn my back on them because my commitment to them is unwavering.  But when it comes to a spouse, there are always conditions even though we vowed that there would not be.  When we say we are willing to love someone unconditionally forever, what becomes of that promise for more than half of us?  If you really want to be married for a lifetime, you have to accept that it doesn’t mean you’ll like it everyday, be happy everyday, or even be “in love” everyday.  What it means is that you will stay regardless.  This is commitment and commitment is a choice, not a feeling.  You may be hard pressed to find someone who can make you happy forever,  just like you can’t possibly make someone else happy forever.  Perhaps it’s this unrealistic expectation that can explain why, as Jasmine Sullivan sings, forever doesn’t last too long these days.  Though I can’t be responsible for anyone else’s happiness, I can choose to stand with them while they work on finding their own.  This is the only definition of marriage that makes sense to me.  When two people continue to support each other while they each find their individual happiness, there is no longer the pressure of having to make their spouse’s life complete.  This is a tall order for anyone other than God to fill.  Only a person who find’s their happiness within can have the resources to support someone fully while they do the same.  If we can be happy with ourselves unconditionally for a lifetime, loving someone else forever becomes a whole lot easier.  What do you think?

Of course, there’s always more to consider, so stay tuned for Part II!

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