It's true what you've heard. The Black marriage rate has been on a steady decline since the 1960's. And we've all been told that there's a shortage of single African-American men and that the more successful you are, the lower your chances of finding Mr. Right. It's enough to make a sister want to give up on meeting The One. But these women didn't. And even though they prioritized their trip up the corporate ladder, had reached a certain age, were juggling single motherhood with dating, or had so many degrees that brothers were intimidated, these ladies still made it to "I do." Here's what helped them find love and how you can, too.
'My education intimidated men.' —Betrice Scott, 36
I have four degrees, including a masters in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech and a law degree from Emory. After law school, I became an attorney for the Atlanta Public School system and later a prosecutor in Atlanta. I didn't date much in college and graduate school—but not for lack of trying. 'Now you have how many degrees?' was a familiar question from potential suitors. I could feel the walls rising up around them.
"Many of the guys I was interested in disqualified themselves because they thought my earning potential and my smarts meant they weren't good enough for me. Even if I wasn't looking for financial support from a man, I wanted someone to have my back emotionally and spiritually. I tried to downplay my educational background, but it was still hard.
"Don, the man who became my husband, was different. He and I met in a gospel choir while I was a sophomore at Spelman and he was studying at Morehouse. For financial reasons, Don had to discontinue his studies, but we kept in touch. There was chemistry between us, but our friendship remained platonic for two years. He's a musician and an extrovert—two things I will never be—so we both brought something to the relationship. Don proposed to me while I was in my first year of law school, and we wed during my last year.
"Despite raised eyebrows from some loved ones, I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Georgia State University. Don, a pastor, took on a second job to support me through this because he realizes how important it is to me. There are financial challenges, since I'm not working and we just adopted a baby girl, Errianna, but our friendship definitely pulls us through."
'I was married to the memory of my first love.' —Debbie Gracy-Tucker, 60
After 32 years of wedlock, I lost my college sweetheart in a fatal auto accident in 1999. When he passed, I tried to take comfort in my family, and my life began to revolve around my two grown daughters, my son-in-law and my granddaughter. We all lived together in a two-family home, so every day it was 'Mom, what's going to be for dinner?' or 'Mom, can you type this paper for me?'
"But a year and a half after Eugene died, I realized I needed more. Someone to laugh with on the phone or take me out for a nice dinner on the town. At first I felt guilty, like I was taking something away from my family by seeking outside interests. Then I got scared, thinking men might see me, at 53, as an old lady or a has-been.
"A girlfriend suggested I put my picture on Blackplanet.com. I said, 'You want me to do what?' Online dating scared the bejesus out of me. I had heard stories about Internet casanovas and men with wives and a truckload of children! To get over my fear, I prayed for God to lead me in the right direction. A few days after I registered, I saw a picture of a very handsome man named Ron, and made the first move by sending him a quick note. I liked that his eyes sparkled and looked so sincere. After e-mailing for a week, we agreed to meet in a public place for lunch—which went great. That night, we talked on the phone from eight o'clock until four in the morning, just like teenagers. He proposed a year and a half later.
"Ron and I are so similar. We both have been married before, have soft hearts, and get big Kool-Aid smiles whenever we see each other. Turns out there are second chances at love."
'Mingling single parenting with a social life wasn't easy.' —Ginette Parkin, 44
After my divorce in 1991, the prospect of dating was complicated for me. At first, the heartbreak and mistrust I carried from my failed first marriage made me feel that relationships just weren't worth the risk. And with two daughters to raise, looking for love as a single mom was tough going. I was often approached by married men or guys who thought I was easy prey. They acted as though they were doing me a favor by taking me out, or they thought I would be a no-strings-attached sex partner. Then I had married girlfriends who expressed that they didn't want me around their
"Discouraged, I decided to use the time to get to know myself better. I traveled internationally, went to museum exhibits, and did things I never had a chance to do because I married at 20. You can't be miserable while you're waiting to meet Mr. Right. People will be attracted to a confident you, not a downtrodden one.
"When I met my current husband, Freddy, I wasn't looking for a relationship. I was walking down a street where he was supervising a delivery. I ignored his advances initially, but he was persistent and I relented. As we got to know each other, Freddy showered me with flowers, and I actually gained 15 pounds because we constantly ate out. I knew he was The One by the respect and admiration he gave me. He embraced my daughters as well and is a protective, caring father figure without trying to replace their biological dad. After we wed, Freddy admitted that he never wanted to marry a woman with children. I made him change his mind!"
'We dated for eight years and were raising two children together.' —India Potts, 30
I met my husband, Ahmeid, during our sophomore year of college in 1996. I knew he liked me. He would help me with laundry and buy me food so I wouldn't have to eat in the campus cafeteria. The following year, we were living together off campus. And the summer before our senior year, I learned I was pregnant.
"I didn't push marriage. Our daughter, Amina, was a huge responsibility as it was. Instead, we focused on graduating on time, despite heavy course loads and midnight feedings. After graduation, I was a stay-at-home mom for five years. But when our son, Kasson, was born in 2003, I knew I had to work to help with the cash flow.
"Trying to maintain our household kept our hands full, so planning a wedding was on the back burner. I felt, If it ain't broke, why fix it? We should focus on getting our finances straight and ignore the family members with disapproving comments. Little did I know that marriage was on Ahmeid's mind. He responded to an advertisement for 'Marry Your Baby Daddy Day,' a mass wedding initiative for unwed couples with children. Women shouldn't get married just because they have children. They should make their decision based on their and their partner's readiness. But when Ahmeid told me that he loved me and he felt good about us getting married, that was all I needed to hear. On September 29, 2005, we jumped the broom with nine other couples. Tying the knot gave us a stronger sense of responsibility to each other than we had as boyfriend and girlfriend. Getting married completed our circle."
'I was married to my career.' —Pinkie Dent Mayfield, 40
At 30, I was a senior executive at the Washington Post Co. and had wedded myself to my job. It was a great relationship: We flew all over the country, stayed up together into the wee hours of the night, and attended exclusive invite-only engagements, like the Inaugural Ball to honor the incoming president. Jokes aside, I was okay with being single. And I had enough nieces and nephews to keep me occupied so I didn't yearn for children. It wasn't until all my girlfriends started to get married that I felt pressure to settle down. Couples hang out with other couples. I was beginning to feel left out.
"When I met men, they were always attracted to the high-power female executive thing and the hard-to-get party invites—at first. But eventually they would start to resent it. They wanted to be the one with all the connections or the star in the relationship. Soon I began to feel like I had to tone myself down to be with someone. One guy told me, 'You might be running things at the Post, but I'm running things in this relationship.'
"In 2002 I was at a gala and a colleague introduced me to Carl, the best man at his wedding. Carl was so enamored with me he was literally speechless. Two weeks later, we bumped into each other at another event. This time, Carl had more to say. We talked about everything—God, politics, world affairs—until the party was over, then headed for a nearby café and talked some more. Three months later, he told me he had loved me the minute he met me. A year and a half later, he proposed. With Carl, a senior executive at a private equity firm, I don't ever feel like I need to be anything other than who I am. And in our home, God is first, family is second, friends and loved ones are third, and careers follow."
'I was over 40 when I met Mr. Right.' —Krista Riddley, 44
After ten years of working in Africa, developing micro-credit and health programs, I returned to the United States in 2001 with a new mission: finding an African-American man to marry. I was 37, and though my life was exciting and fulfilling, I was not getting any closer to my longtime goal of settling down with a life partner and having a companion to share my experiences with.
"I'd heard stories and reports that said it was harder for a woman over 35 to get married, but I refused to buy into the hype about there not being enough Black men to go around because they are dead, gay or in jail. I was one woman looking for one man; I was not a statistic. I believed my soul mate was out there somewhere, and I continually prayed for him to show up. Through good dates and bad, I maintained a willingness to meet new people. I befriended them at parties and professional gatherings. Once I even strolled into a weekly staff meeting with my colleagues and my boss to announce, 'I want all of you to know that I am looking for a husband.'
"After two years of looking, I registered with Match.com. I met several people on the site and dated two seriously before I met Wayne in 2005. He sent me an email introducing himself. I liked that he was athletic and enjoyed traveling like me. We met up for coffee after e-mailing for a few months. A year later, he proposed on a gondola ride in Phoenix.
"If you're looking for the love of your life, you have to be proactive, just not to the point where you appear desperate. Take charge of your life and you'll find happiness."