Alls fair in love, war and relationships
Lisa Olivia Fitch | 2/9/2011, 5 p.m.
Ah, the Valentine's weekend is upon us and a young woman's thoughts turn to love. But what is the Black woman really looking for? Why is love fleeting for some and near impossible for others? How can the Black couple keep love strong?
"One of the biggest differences between Black men and women is we, as women, still hold onto fantasies," said LaDawn Black. "We meet a man and in 15 minutes, we're gonna marry him and have his baby."
Mothers teach daughters what to look for in a mate and together, they create a long laundry list of qualifications for the perfect guy. Boys, on the other hand, aren't usually educated about love, they're just thrown out there.
"Which is better in a way," Black said. "They get to find out on their own what they like in a woman--someone who he's attracted to and who can be a partner. Men don't have a long laundry list."
Black, a native of Washington, D.C., is a relationship expert, author and radio personality. Five nights a week she is the host of Baltimore's number-one radio relationship show, "The Love Zone" on 92Q. Black is also the author of two top-selling relationship guides: "Stripped Bare: The 12 Truths That Will Help You Land the Very Best Black Man," and "Let's Get It On: 15 Hot Tips and Tricks to Spice Up Your Sex Life."
Despite these credentials, Black is the first to admit that love is not easy.
"Because we all come with baggage," she said. "Do we want to be loved, because we need to be the center of the universe? Or do we need 'when I call you, pick up?'"
When looking for love, Black suggests some alone time to get know yourself and be honest with yourself, weighing wants versus needs. But don't throw the laundry list out entirely.
"Sometimes the list keeps you out of situations that are not good for you," Black said, noting that some women take the list too far, though, and kick so many guys to the curb, because they don't meet unrealistic criteria.
"When it comes to the list, don't be so steadfast," she said. "Be willing to be open, to bend the rules a tad."
Black is an online relationship coach for match.com, blackandmarriedwithkids.com, essence.com, blackpeoplemeet.com and blackmeninamerica.com.
In addition to her own radio show, books and articles, Black has been a relationship expert for "30 Dates in 30 Days," Essence magazine's online dating show, "The Tom Joyner Morning Show," and National Public Radio. She is also the resident relationship expert for Fox Morning News in Baltimore. Her syndicated radio feature, "Relationship Workout," continues to add new markets.
"Women have to be open to men who are around them, men you come in contact with every day, but you just don't see them, because they don't fit the mode or model," Black said. "I tell women all the time that blue collar workers often make just as much money as professional women, sometimes more."
Black has been named Best Radio Personality by a Baltimore newspaper and Best Guilty Pleasure Radio Show by Baltimore magazine. She has challenged listeners to speak back to men who say hello. Just for one week. The results have surprised them.
"Men will speak to any woman," Black said. "They feel it's worth a try, and they know the numbers game. If you speak to enough women, someone's bound to speak back."
These men are not asking for phone numbers or dates, they are just saying "hello."
"So be pleasant," she added. "Say 'hi'."
A woman's laundry list should not make her a snob, but unfortunately many women are seen that way because of the fantasies they were raised with.
"We have to revisit a relationship that works for us outside of the mainstream," Rosie Milligan said. "Blacks have to realize that they are not Caucasian clones. Once we get that through our heads, we'll be better off."
Milligan, "known as Dr. Rosie," is a registered nurse, counselor/health consultant, author and Ph.D., has as her motto: "Erase no, step over can't, and move forward with life."
Milligan lectures nationally on economic empowerment, managing diversity in the workplace, and male/female relationships. She is the mother of three entrepreneurs--an M.D., a cosmetologist, and a health food store owner.
"Our issues center around money," Milligan said. "How can you expect a man to provide everything for you? It's unrealistic."
While women joke with the girls about running credit reports on men they've just met and swear they won't settle for a mate who does not have his own car, his own house and his own job, men struggle to live up to the hype, Milligan noted.
"Manhood is valued by the acquisition of land, money and power," Milligan said. "Psychologically, our men feel they can't stand as tall, if they fall short of that ideal."
While trying to impress a woman, men might splurge for a big night out, but in reality they're just putting on a show and getting deeper in debt.
"In this economy, there's nothing wrong with barely making it," Milligan said. "We have to say 'let's pull together.'"
"Women have to come to terms with reality and go Dutch or go out by themselves."
A motivational speaker and trainer, Milligan has appeared on numerous television and radio shows and she's a regular guest on KJLH Radio.
She is founder and director of "Black Writers on Tour," and hosts her own Cable TV show-Express Yourself Literary Café.
"We need to get to the nitty-gritty about this money thing," Milligan said. "Some women teach their daughters about their dates--'they've got to pay to lay'--mothers are turning their daughters into commodities."
"That is why a lot of teenage girls are in relationships with older men," she said. "How can teenage boys compete with those more mature guys? They quit school and do crazy things to get that love. It's all about the money."
But all is not lost. There is hope for romance.
"It must start by properly teaching our young people to put money in perspective," Milligan said. "We can raise a new generation; a generation that can enjoy non-hypocritical relationships without all the games."
Black is optimistic about the outlook on our relationships saying, "as far as the current status of Black relationships, I would say they are on the rise, because we are giving our own meanings to the word "relationships." Marriages may be down, but more of us are choosing to cohabitate and build families, date long-term or simply keep things casual and fluid. I find that we are more bold now in making relationships meet our needs and beliefs instead of feeling that we have to fit one mold."
Males: Lack of communication
By Stan Thomas
Relationships. It's an age-old discussion. How do we make them work? How can we keep them from falling apart? What do Black men really think about Black women, and vice versa?
If a group of brothers is sitting around the big screen watching the game, the conversation almost invariably will turn to women. The testosterone in the room will fuel an animated discussion on the topic. And that conversation will most likely either objectify our sisters or revolve around how some woman has "done me wrong."
No new revelation has been made here. When Black men get together in a group, the dialogue about relationships with Black women in most cases will be negative. But what happens when Black men and Black women deal with each other one on one?
Communication always emerges as the number-one problem in relationships. Comedian D. L. Hughley told audiences during one of his routines that he tried to have an intelligent conversation with his wife. "That was my first mistake," quipped Hughley.
All joking aside, at least he tried to communicate.
Ronald C. Moore agrees that "communication is an issue." Moore is a licensed associate clinical social worker. He is the founder of Coexisting 101 and its series of seminars and workshops. Moore works with singles and couples to help them build healthy relationships. Through his more than 20 years experience in the field, Moore has worked with many Black couples.
"Mis or the lack of communication is the number-one problem" in relationships," he said. "The woman may say, 'I thought we were in a committed relationship.' Meanwhile, the man is going along, playing the field, thinking the situation is a casual dating scene. Most brothers are reluctant to talk about such things, but not discussing where each partner stands leads to problems and eventually to breakups. Those issues, or breakups, will be talked about next time the brothers get together.
"Clear boundaries need to be set," Moore pointed out. If boundaries are not established at the beginning of the relationship that can lead to problems.
Hand in hand with boundaries are expectations. Moore describes three stages of a relationship:
The first stage is when a man and woman see each other as friends.
Moving on to the next stage, one or both partners look to be in a committed relationship.
The third and final stage is when both are in and want to be in a committed relationship.
Here, Moore explained, if one partner is at a different stage, that can lead to trouble. This can be resolved by discussing with the partner what stage each feels the relationship is in, and any time one partner has the desire to move to the next stage.
African American men have long complained that too many of our sisters are dating outside of their race. Moore has observed a growing trend in this area. Ignoring the obvious goose-and-gander analogy, Moore sees this as the result of two related factors:
One is that there are fewer and fewer Black males in college. If a Black woman is looking to date while in college, the campus today may not have many prospects. Mirroring the college campus is the white-collar workforce. The second factor is that there is a "dwindling pool" of Black men. The reasons for this are well publicized. (An 2003 Ebony article stated that "nearly 45 percent of Black men have never married and 42 percent of Black women have never married. More to the point, an increasing number of Black women will never get married.")
There are things Black men can do to improve themselves. Moore encourages Black men to "step up," but he wonders what will happen to Black relationships in the future. More and more Black women are going to college while fewer and fewer Black men are. What will happen if this trend keeps up? What will the "typical" Black couple look like?
One of the main reasons why some Black men date outside their race is because they have been hurt by a Black woman. Not just slightly hurt, but a brother "got his heart broke." Now he has sworn off women of his own race. Every eligible sister from now on must pay the price for what happened in that relationship. Moore wonders whenever he encounters cases like this, what was it that was so bad that it would cause a Black man to shun all Black women. In instances where the relationship has turned sour, Black couples tend to hang on "until the relationship becomes toxic," said Moore. For a Black man that toxicity has so poisoned his mind that there is no antidote.
Do the media offer good portrayals of Black relationships? Moore noted that older shows like "The Cosby Show" and "Good Times" did an excellent job of showing positive, healthy Black relationships. "Good Times," added Moore, showed that the family "had each other's back." Nowadays television programs "glorify cheating and lying."
What Moore would like to see more of on the silver screen is Black men playing positive leading roles. He would also like to see more healthy relationships as opposed to unhealthy ones. By the same token, he cautioned that just because you see African American relationships shown on television or in the movies does not mean that relationships function that way in real life.
One area where young Black men are missing out is having positive role models to provide living examples of what a healthy relationship should be. Recent government statistics show that 72 percent of Black babies born in the U.S. are born to unwed mothers. Though the report does not break down whether or not the father is in the picture, stats like this do illuminate how difficult it is for African-American males to see a steady, stable male-female relationship modeled while growing up. Moore cited one example of a mentoring trip he was involved with: out of 45 boys, only three had both parents living in the home.
Solving the relationship problem is not an easy one. But a lot of the issues that arise in them can be resolved or even avoided. Moore suggested that many relationships fail because partners don't ask the right questions.
What he would like to see are Black couples who have been in a committed relationship for 30, 40 or 50 years or more get more attention. "Those are the people that need to be heard," said Moore. Those are the types of role models Black men need, regardless of age, to show what a good Black male-female relationship should look like.