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Real Talk: It's Time to Save Black Marriages

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Last week, an editor sent me a link to a(nother) story about the “failure” of marriage among African-Americans. This one, “8 Reasons for Marital Failure Amongst African-Americans” by clinical psychologist Umar Abdullah-Johnson, explained why most Black divorces occur within just two years of marriage, and (most important) offered solutions to keep folks together. Despite the (mostly) solid info, that didn’t stop my editor from quipping, “This story makes Black relationships sound like an addiction to be beat.”

To his credit, Johnson sidesteps the usual advice about women lowering expectations, adjusting standards and gets more to the heart of where some couples go wrong -- not all, it must be noted. If you read enough of these stories, you’d think no Black people get married or stay married, much less stay happy. Though the list is chopped up into eight reasons, nearly all boil down lacking self-esteem and always flawed method of searching for security outside of yourself, whether it be in the man you date or the places you shop. Oh, and the importance of finding a partner with matching values.

“Non-identical values are destroying Black families faster than fire consumes wood,” Johnson wrote, specifically noting that couples should share similar views on finances, role of God in the relationship, intimacy, and importance of family and friends. 

The gem of the article:

“You can spend a significant portion of your life trying to find love until you come to the realization that you will not be able to reciprocate the love you find if you do not ALREADY love yourself,” advises Johnson. “No matter how much another person loves you, until you love yourself, you will never be able to love them in return appropriately or effectively.”

Amongst Johnson’s advice for creating lasting marriages, is the suggestion that couples really-really get to know one another beforehand, by moving in together. “When we date we are usually selling our conscious better selves to our partner,” Johnson writes. “Like a good salesperson we tend to hide, consciously or unconsciously, the negative aspects of our character.”

He adds, “As a therapist, I am in full support, despite opposition of religious circles, that pre-marital co-habitation is a must. Only when you actually share 24 hrs a day with your mate-to-be will you truly be able to assess who they really are. It is so very easy to hide one’s negative traits behind a false façade of being the “perfect catch.”

Eh… Johnson’s partially right. A 2010 report by the National Center for Health Statistics found couples that live together before marriage and those who don’t have about the same chances at a successful union. But I agree, you really don’t know someone until you live with them, as anyone who has ever moved in with their best friend has found out the hard way. But whether you move in beforehand or not, it won’t change the odds on whether your marriage lasts.

What part of Johnson’s advice was helpful to you?

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk
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