Updated: Aug 7, 2019
Marriage is defined as a state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law. As children, we create an imageof marriage asa life full of bliss.Through our fairytale lenses we get to live happily ever after. In 2008, that fairytale ideal marriage was emblazoned in our hearts and psyche as we witnessed with pride the Obama’s get introduced to our nation through his historic run for President of the United States. African American excellence had made it to the mainstream. Barack and Michelle both Ivy League educated lawyers who were intelligent, articulate, beautiful and powerful and possessed that extra swag. This image was certainly the epitome of a fairytale couple. This form ofnaivetéshields us from the reality of the work that is needed to engage in ahealthy and successful relationship.
A successful marriageis comprised of hard work including the ability to effectively communicate, establish trust, share values and build a healthy friendship. These qualitiesare rare and almost nonexistent.The reality isthe institution of marriage is declining in the Black community. Approximately, 78% of African American couples were married in 1950’s compared to 29% in 2016. Marriage is a choice that is madebetween individuals. Thisability to chooseor not to choose is significantly impactingour community. Most people who choose to marry, partner with a like-mindedindividual with the purpose ofestablishinga family. This plan is created by each partners ownindividual thoughtsand they work together on creating amodel of the marriage and what is expected in relationship. These images and modelsof marriageare usually formed from previous relationshipexperiences, a family history or marriage and how each individual couple envisions their ideal marriage.
Society has provided its own image of marriag and we can often view these images through media outlets and television being one of the most common.As societal influences shape our thinking on the depiction of marriage, the Black community has had limited opportunities to view healthy relationships. The Huxtables, the Jefferson’s, and the Evan’shasprovidedan opportunity to envisiona blissful marriage. As young woman, we often fantasize about a fairy tale wedding in all white, being carried across the thresholdand saying “I Do”. As the fantasy continues, the dream of living in a brick house, with a huge outdoor spacesurrounded by a white picketfence,is overwhelmingly appealing. Not often do we envision the reality, and the complexities that comes with being married.
Good Times with James and Florida Evans gave us a reality check and a clear depiction of what it was like to struggle in a familial environment. James and Florida raised three children in the Public Housing apartment of Chicago. James, the husband and father was responsible for caring for the family. He was the sole provider and disciplinarian. Floridawas a homemaker and nurturer ofthe family. They worked as a team, providing for the family. James expressed his love for Florida by kissing herbefore his departurefor workand giving her love taps.Each episode provided an opportunityto envision the struggle of living in poverty, parenting and marriage.
We then moved to the Jefferson’s.George & Louise Jefferson lived in another type of high-rise, a luxurious apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. George an entrepreneur, owning a chain of dry cleaning businesses and his wife Louise was too a stay at home Mom, volunteering at the neighborhood Help Center while supporting her husband as a typical cosmopolitan homemaker. These images of marriage established a sense of security.
George provided Louise with financial security, allowing her the opportunity to use her expertise in a helping manner by being a resource to the community.Years later, we meet the Huxtables, Cliff and Claire. Cliff a gynecologistand Claire a lawyer. Their relationship was considered an anomaly in the Black community and itinspired us. This vision of a Black couple with their own careers, being supportive and workingas a team to effectively parent their children while living comfortably in their NewYork Brownstone with their five children. Not only did we see the success of their marriage, we witnessed, Black excellence at its finest. We watched the grandparents who too were in healthy relationships andsupported Claire and Cliff in raring the children andactively engaging as a family unit while building and maintaining thefamilystructure of using the village for raising children.The sanctity of marriage provided usan opportunity of hope.
Knowing that we could work together to establish a healthy relationship, create a sense of normalcy while creating a family.No matter, what the circumstance, or how difficult the problem, we could work through it. Today we are taintedby realityof shows,which often depict the negative aspects of marriage. Blackish with the Johnson family seems to be the only televisionshow on todaythat depicts a marriage with real struggles, sharing their views on societal influences and an opportunity to process the complexity of relationships. Marriage is still a choice but is not an easy commitment. In making a decision to marry, it is important to consider, the individual experience, the couple’s relationship, financial responsibility, and the opportunity of becoming parents. It ismy recommendation to seek couples counseling from a trained clinical counselor to assist with expressing thoughts and concerns about marriage.
Marriage can be a rewarding experience that has the ability to last a lifetime. In making the choice to commit to marriage, consider the impact your choice will have on the success in strengthening the Black community.