Thursday, July 24, 2008

Is Marriage for White People

The CNN headliner is a good one: Is Marriage for White People?
Dionne Hill quotes statistics (I assume for 2000)
Forty-five percent of black women in America have never been married, compared with 23 percent of white women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey in 2006. . . .

I am a statistic.
She says.

A CNN video (very good) informs us that in 1910, 64 % of black men remained single compared to 48% in 2000.

Social scientists might opine, regarding this crisis, that yes, there does seem to be a sociological trend. The comparable odds for marriage for black women are less than those for white women, and fewer black men are getting married.

But so what? You are not a statistic. You are a woman. Or you are a man. You are an individual. Group statistics don't apply to individuals.

Ms. Hill continues
I am part of a generation of Americans who are choosing to postpone marriage while they pursue their careers....Among the men I have dated, there were definitely some who were ready for something a little more significant than I was willing to give. Did I drag my feet because I wasn't ready? Or was it because those men weren't right for me? It's debatable and probably a combination of the two.
How honest. How refreshing. Owning it, Dionne.

Even more illustrative are the clips in the CNN video, Black in America.

We hear poet Saul Williams tell us that the most challenging days for black families lie ahead. Men disappear into the streets. Seventy percent of all black children are born to single black female-headed households. I didn't check that statistic, but the Department of Commerce tells us that half of all children in America will spend time in a one-parent family (Zill, 1988; Bumpass, 1990). A challenge, for sure, for all of us.

And Bishop TD Jakes tells CNN that it is very difficult to get a black man to be what he has not seen. The bishop is referring to the roles of husband, father.

Black in America features a black couples counselor, Ronn Elmore (exquisite) who tells us that when a black woman thinks that there is only one perfect mate, that she will stop looking, stop putting herself out there.
Black women are raised to be independent and strong, and men (get it, are intimidated). . . When a man thinks,
She doesn't need my money.
I can't make her laugh.
I can't bring anything to this relationship
There is nothing unique and wonderful that I can bring to her life that she wouldn't have if I weren't there.

Whenever a man senses there's no opportunity (to give), a man backs away.
Read the article and go to the links. I don't do the content justice.

But statistics do refer to groups, not individuals. Divorce, beginning in 1960, rose to fifty percent, but has leveled off. The rate has stayed the same for a few decades, now. Still, no one looks at this trend quite like marriage therapists do. We're keenly aware that if half of all marriages are expected to fail, then half of them succeed, also. Half of all married couples make their relationships fly. Year, after year, after year.

Someone like me will say that therapy helps. Therapydocs talk about pre pre-marital therapy, pre-commitment commitment therapy. Understand yourself. Understand your style of communicating. Know what you need, and go after that.

See if he (she) can make you laugh. See if he (she) can add something to that already very extraordinary life of yours. Watch him (her) in those nascent stages of a relationship before sex (oh, and wait, please do, please wait for that, don't let it turn into that or that is exactly, what it will be). See whether or not you can grow together.

A baker might go with the metaphor, How good is the yeast, really? When you add the water to it, will it grow?

The obvious stumbling blocks, the stuff of that pre-marital therapy or pre pre-marital are the fears, the realizations of catastrophic, seemingly unresolvable issues. Another pair of eyes and maybe they're resolvable. Don't run from them. They'll catch up in the next relationship.

We fear commitment, we fear intimacy. We fear for our interpersonal conflict and fear raising children in a most violent, sometimes amoral society. We fear repeating the mistakes of our mothers and fathers. All good to talk about, work out.

But that being black and single thing? Sorry. It ain't necessarily so.

therapydoc

16 comments:

April said...

also consider the disproportionate number of black men in prison due certain legal policies and economic incentives. there are too many factors to name one or two as the sole cause.

anyway, who's to say married white people are doing it right anyway? there's plenty of dysfunctional people out there, married or not. getting or being married is a legal status, it says nothing about the quality of the relationship.

nashbabe said...

We have spent nearly nine years doing the bulk of care for a child who is now sixteen. (Don't ask, it's a crazy story...heaven has a sense of humor.) That child is not black, but has seen plenty of marital strife and discord in their lives. Our marriage (25 years of ups and downs like anyone else) and those of folks in the church where both we and kiddo attend are probably some of the few committed relationships that child sees. Still, even with our influence, you can see that the young person is desperate for true intimacy, but very afraid of any kind of commitment and often so skeptical where trust issues are concerned. It's not just an issue for african americans...

Isle Dance said...

Well said. As much as marriage is not for me (though I totally believe in long-term commitment and I'm holding out...waiting for...my one special guy), I also know children should be raised with both their mother and their father. I pray I witness a healthy solution for our society in my lifetime. Or maybe I just need to go to a church service or two?? :o)

pinky said...

I have a good marriage. I made a list of what I wanted before I met my husband. I believed if I didn't know what would make me happy, how would I find a person to be happy with.

My Nephew is Black. He is adopted. I hope seeing happy married people around him will affect him in a positive way.

phd in yogurtry said...

I love analytical minds that see past the journalistic headlines!

Half of all marriages make it, yes. That's an encouraging figure. Especially promising that the divorce rate has leveled off.

I often wonder what percentage of marriages are viewed as good by both spouses. Realist (pessimist?) that I may be, there is a subset of those marriages where two people spend years making each other miserable. Thankfully I do not include myself in that category.

The Christian Ranter said...

Half of all married couples make their relationships fly. Year, after year, after year.

I am wondering about the word "fly". I think you could say that 1/16 or 1/8 at most are in the fly category, but I'd also say that most of the marriages that stay together are in the "limp along" until the kids are old enough to move out stage.

Great post.

Lapa said...

I totaly agree with your very nice post.

therapydoc said...

Writing FLY was a test. I KNEW someone would call me out on it. Thanks RANTER!

Phoebe said...

I am from India living in usa.I had not seen a single divorce as a child in India.Now here in US, three of our closest indian friends got divorced.My parents recently visited us from india and were shocked by this.
If they read your blog they will completely faint!!!:)

Phoebe

therapydoc said...

Please, PHOEBE, keep your parents away from reality. We have to protect parents. I would wager the difference is that in your culture you commit to the person and the institution. We'll have to talk about this some more.

Phoebe said...

Hi there!
I hope i did not offend you in my earlier comment.I was just kidding about them fainting.

In my generation even in our culture divorce is becoming more common.

My parents are from different generation and lived in India practically all there life so their views are different too.

Phoebe.

therapydoc said...

Phoebe. It's so tempting to say that theirs was a better generation, those were better times. But we know that women of that generation (not your mother, I hope) suffered abuse in silence, didn't leave.

Lethological Gourmet said...

I think that divorce is tricky - it's important for a child to have a good example of a relationship to look at, but whether it's because their parents are married or not isn't necessarily necessary. My parents divorced when I was really young, but I saw them each equally, and they remarried happily, so I had two examples of good marriages growing up. I think more indicative of a problem than just the fact that there is a high rate of divorce is the fact that either one parent is absent or the parents bad mouth each other, which puts the kids in the middle.

I also think that this generation was raised on happy-ending movies where the music swells to a crescendo and the movie ends when everything is perfect. And so we're all looking for that fairy-tale perfection, and when it turns out we have to actually work at a relationship, well that's much harder and we don't have as many examples of that working.

phoebe said...

Hi therapydoc,

Nope ,not my mom.She earns double the money than dad and is a famous dentist in her area.She also is very vocal personality for orphans.

as for mom abusing dad....may be....she has a pretty nasty temper! ( Just kidding ok....she is alright....she does have a n asty temper though!)

apc said...

My friend and I were just talking yesterday about Will Smith, and how he and Jada Pinkett Smith have been married for a while, by Hollywood AND "real world" standards. It's not a coincidence that he grew up with a father. I think an important point in your post was the fact that it's hard for children to BE what they have not SEEN. It's certainly possible, but if you didn't grow up seeing the benefits of being married, then why would you see a necessity for it? And once any pattern is established, it takes work to break it, regardless of race or culture. It just so happens that this pattern is widespread in the Black community, and therefore will take work to re-establish a new or different pattern.

Anyway, Will was on a late night talk show discussing his marriage to Jada. He said that the most important thing about their marriage was that the option of divorce is never "on the table." I think that's crucial. Nobody ever WANTS to get divorced, but when everyone knows it's a potential (and very likely, the simplest) solution, it becomes impossible to focus ALL energies SOLELY on conflict resolution. With the possibility of divorce always in the back of the mind, any attempts to resolve issues are just that...ATTEMPTS.

apc said...

My friend and I were just talking yesterday about Will Smith, and how he and Jada Pinkett Smith have been married for a while, by Hollywood AND "real world" standards. It's not a coincidence that he grew up with a father. I think an important point in your post was the fact that it's hard for children to BE what they have not SEEN. It's certainly possible, but if you didn't grow up seeing the benefits of being married, then why would you see a necessity for it? And once any pattern is established, it takes work to break it, regardless of race or culture. It just so happens that this pattern is widespread in the Black community, and therefore will take work to re-establish a new or different pattern.

Anyway, Will was on a late night talk show discussing his marriage to Jada. He said that the most important thing about their marriage was that the option of divorce is never "on the table." I think that's crucial. Nobody ever WANTS to get divorced, but when everyone knows it's a potential (and very likely, the simplest) solution, it becomes impossible to focus ALL energies SOLELY on conflict resolution. With the possibility of divorce always in the back of the mind, any attempts to resolve issues are just that...ATTEMPTS.