The question is likely to crop up whenever single sisters get together: Why won’t brothers commit? To many of us, the answer sounds very much like the familiar refrain, “Men are playas.” When asked, “Why are some brothers scared to commit?” more than half of ESSENCE.com visitors (53 percent) answered that men would rather play around.
But freedom to date many women isn’t the only factor, ESSENCE.com visitors believe. Some think brothers may be blocked by their fears. Twenty-seven percent of those polled said that men avoid commitment because they fear being vulnerable, and 20 percent say they think it’s because men don’t want to get hurt.
Whether they stem from personal experience, from watching a girlfriend get burned or from casual observation, sisters’ assumptions about men’s behavior suggest a lack of trust that could affect their relationships.
The player’s club
“Most men will talk a big game and say ‘Oh, you’re the only one,'” says Stephanie Miller, 23, who works in sales and marketing for an entertainment company in New York City. “But they will show that this is the furthest from the truth by their infidelity or through actions that demonstrate that they’re not ready.”
April Silver, 33, owner of Akila Worksongs, an arts and entertainment agency in Brooklyn, says men avoid commitment simply because they can. “The reason they don’t want commitment,” April says, “is because they’re getting all their needs and desires met without having to be in a committed relationship. Women are the ones who are making it okay for men to be players. We have not set high standards for either side to abide by.”
By steering clear of commitment, brothers also demonstrate their power over us, says Joannitte Rodriguez, 25, a sales assistant for the NBA. “I don’t think their feeling vulnerable has a lot to do with it,” she says. “(Men) have the mindset that they’re invincible and that we’re supposed to do what they want us to do.”
What’s a sister to do?
Philadelphia-based psychologist Marlene F. Watson, Ph.D., says Black men and women must look beyond the stereotypes, and even back to slavery, to understand the root causes of commitment phobia. “Black men have to understand the loss and abandonment that stems from slavery,” she explains. “They become players to hide vulnerability. They fear they won’t be adequate.”
Sisters also need to recognize that our perceptions of men’s behavior may not only stem from societal images but from our own baggage as well. “Women tend to generalize when we have bad experiences,” she explains. “Because of the embedded stereotypes about Black men that we have internalized, we often don’t stop and critically evaluate their behavior.” This tendency can jeopardize potential relationships. “Women expect men to behave poorly,” Watson notes. “And they unconsciously, or sometimes consciously, engage in behavior that brings out the very [conduct] they believe.”
But how do women deal with truly indecisive brothers? Joanitte, who’s been burned by infidelity, says brothas will do what we let them get away with doing. “You don’t tolerate it, they won’t do it,” she suggests.
Dr. Watkins agrees. “We have to stop allowing them to milk the cow for free,” she notes. “We have to reorient our pysche to realize our own value. There will be a learning curve; we might have to do without. But at some point, we have to demand more for ourselves and expect more from men. Sisters have to stop feeling as if they are caught and not give in to desperation.”
In other words, regardless of our perceptions of men’s commitment issues, sisters must remain committed to ourselves and our dreams of loving, committed relationships.