Over the weekend, The Washington Post ran a very interesting story that asked, “Is it a Good Time to Be a Black Woman?” The answer: Yes, according to nearly three-fourths of Black women who participated in a new nationwide survey conducted by the newspaper and the Kaiser Family Foundation. The poll, which surveyed more than 800 African-American women, covers a lot of terrain — racism, religion, Michelle Obama, etc. — but one of the many topics that stood out to me is where Black women stand on marriage.
“Even in this ‘age of Michelle Obama,’ Black women are rethinking the meaning of success and fulfillment,” wrote the Post’s Krissah Thompson. “Many are concluding that self-empowerment is the road to happiness, and happiness does not require a mate.”
Contrary to what all those news stories about being Black and single would have you believe, not all Black women are obsessed with walking down the aisle. Just 40 percent of Black women said getting married is very important. Another 26 percent said they only were “somewhat” interested in marriage.
Those on-the-fence ladies were the ones that caught my attention.
No, a woman does not need a man to be happy. But I do find many women — seemingly much more than 40 percent, in my experience as a life coach and author of a dating advice book — want one and the family life that comes along with him. Many of my clients fall into the purgatory of “I dunno” when it comes to marriage. And once I dig below the surface of what they say, I find that many of them — but not all — do want to be married, but they downplay it because they’re afraid that the desire to have a partner makes them sound weak, or that the desire to want a partner and not have one makes them inadequate.
Other women who seek my counsel about relationships express a sense of frustration. There are very real headaches that can come with dating — lack of reciprocity or respect; infidelity; dishonesty; poor communication, etc.— and the headaches of the journey are enough to make a woman to rethink getting to the destination. For many accomplished women — again, not all — who’ve been able to conveniently plan reaching other goals, being unable to easily meet a good match brings up an uncomfortable sense of powerless in her life that she’d rather ignore by throwing herself into other areas.
It’s a sentiment that came up in Thompson’s Post article as well. Jennifer Smith, a college senior, relayed that “many” of her female friends are reluctant to express the truth about their love lives, or lack thereof. “You have these driven Black women here,” Smith said. “And sometimes… you really don’t want to talk about, ‘Oh, I haven’t had a boyfriend since high school.’ It makes you seem weak.”
Have you ever downplayed your desire for a relationship?
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