“Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional,” says Judge Faith Jenkins. It’s one of many lessons she’s learned in life about love, and it’s a message she’s sending in her first book, Sis, Don’t Settle: How to Stay Smart in Matters of the Heart, out now. The inspiration for the work came from both her personal and professional experiences.
“It started with family court in New York and then on my show Judge Faith and now on Divorce Court,” she tells ESSENCE. “I just became acutely aware of where so many women make mistakes when it comes to a lot of the choices that we make when we’re on this path to attracting the love that we really want.”
Professionally, the biggest misstep she has seen in courtrooms is a common thread in most dysfunctional relationships.
“People who want to marry potential while dating somebody’s reality. That’s what I see all the time,” she says. “They come in and say, ‘I love this person but I want them to change.’ You can’t change someone who doesn’t see an issue with their actions.”
In regards to the personal, the book covers the many things Jenkins knows now that she wishes she would have been aware of back when she was dating. It touches on communication dos and don’ts, navigating breakups, the importance of forgiveness and among many other things, dealing with triggering questions from people around you about your relationship status — or lack thereof. With the latter, those inquiries can push many of us to run into the arms of the wrong guy to say that we have one. Jenkins can relate to that pressure, including from fans who watched her on TV and used to ask her why she was single.
“I embraced the fact that I was living my journey and no one else’s,” she says. “There are almost eight billion people on this planet. We can’t all be doing the same thing at the same time.”
She adds, “I wasn’t going to let anyone make me feel like because I wasn’t married by a certain age that there was something wrong with me or that I was off on some timeline of life,” she says.
She was on her own timeline. During her 30s, living in NYC, Jenkins wasn’t concerned about marriage, but in her 40s, living in LA, as she picked up the pieces following a major breakup, she decided to figure out what she really wanted for herself at that stage of her life, and marriage was one of those things. Instead of rushing to make that happen, she chose to manifest it for herself.
“I sat down, I got clear, I wrote down what I wanted and decided that how I was going to think and how I was going to believe would change,” she says. “‘You will not hold onto a relationship when it’s time for it to end. You will let go. You will radically accept the end of this relationship’ — separating my feelings from the facts. ‘The fact is this door is being closed because obviously a bigger, better door is opening for me. I will accept that and that’s exactly what’s going to happen for me.'”
“I said, ‘I will meet my husband,'” she adds, “and six months later, I met my husband.”
That husband is crooner Kenny Lattimore. Taking a chance and not allowing fear of rejection to halt her (more on that in the book), she met him on a blind date orchestrated by a friend. She was charmed by his maturity, his take on his experiences with love and marriage, which were genuinely positive despite a past divorce, and the great things people in his life had to say about him.
“I just knew he was different from anyone else I’d ever met,” she says.
The pair would marry in March 2020, pre-pandemic, a year and eight months ago. The then 42-year-old would say “I do” at the right time, not on anyone else’s preferred schedule, to the man of her dreams.
“People used to tell me my standards were too high and that was why I was still single. Then I met the man who exceeded them,” she says. “My marriage is even better than what I thought marriage would be. I didn’t settle for less than I really wanted. That’s why I wanted to share this book and all the principles in it because I don’t think it’s just something special and unique that happened to me. I went through all of these steps in the entire process and I’ve seen and heard all of these stories from other women and I thought, these are the keys to manifesting this love and this is what makes it work.”