"The stakes are much higher in marriage."
"You never know what you can take until you have to take it. Until you want to take it." - Neil Brown, Jr.
Over the last few weeks as I watched OWN's Black Love Doc with the rest of Black America, I've revisited how I've found and tripped in love. But this week on the series the couples talked about how they straight up fell on their faces, and barely made it back up again. They were all Donnie McClurkin songs in the flesh. From drug deals, forged papers and jail house weddings to pregnant mistresses and lost sons, episode three's couples fell and fell hard.
Even though I sat staring at my television screen with Wee-Bey meme face for the entire hour, I appreciated each couple's raw honesty. Even through the jokes that often popped up, you could tell it came after years of never thinking they'd get to a place of laughter ever again. They kept it all the way real (I mean who seriously admits they forged divorce papers on national television?) and let viewers into a darkness that many watching could relate to.
The standout issues naturally involved cheating, and as Insecure star Neil Brown, Jr. pointed out, while many would say they would never stand for cheating, there are just as many that choose to stay after infidelity. Personally, I've been the woman that stayed after one (or one too many) indiscretions. I've also been the woman who left because I knew I deserved better. However, those were boyfriends. Regardless of how many years we were together, there was nothing really keeping us together. Whether they cheated or not, I always had the option to walk away if I felt like it.
As an unmarried person, it sounds easy to me in theory to say 'If my husband/wife cheats...I'm out!" But marriage is not playing house with your little bae from the DMs. Kids are at stake. Property and businesses are at stake. Blended lives, hopes and dreams are at stake. Your vows are at stake. You're legally bound to this person who you vowed to stay with through the good and the bad, and doesn't cheating fall into the bad category? One of the issues plaguing marriages today is that people always want to dip when the bad rears its ugly head. When the money is funny. When the sex stops. When the outfits aren't as sexy and the date nights become non-existent. When feelings are hurt. When egos are bruised or affairs are had.
How many times have you heard of people checking out of their relationships and cheating for one or all of the aforementioned reasons? How many times have you heard men say "She stopped being sexy and paid more attention to the kids, but the mistress was fun," or heard a woman say "He's never home, he stopped taking me out, but this guy made me feel special?" Something went wrong and much like some of the couples in the episode, they gave up and checked out. The bad was too much work. They strayed because it was easier than talking, easier than being vulnerable, easier than growing up. The love was still there, but their choice to throw in the towel when faced with more bad than good made things worse.
Of course you can look at their decisions to stay as 'settling' or 'not knowing their worth,' etc. Or, you could look at is as a choice to finally grow up, stand in their truths and fight through the bad to the good they both deserve, just like they vowed to on their wedding days. I mean marriages are work, and ish will undoubtedly get hard and sometimes get bad. The vows don't say you get to stick with it, but only for selected days and issues (obviously certain issues like fearing for you life override this). Marriage doesn't come with blackout days like a Groupon. You've got to be all in, till death do you part. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying someone has to stand for disrespect and infidelity simply because they are married. There definitely needs to be lines in the sand (Personally babies - looking at you Warryn Campbell - is mine) and married or not we all deserve a partner who can provide unwavering love and fidelity. But we also know that love is never that black and white. And if there was ever a time to give second chances and push your capacity for love, I'd think marriage would be it.