I Believe in Love. I Do. I Do.

Everything we hear in the media about black women and men loving each other is negative. We hear about infidelity, domestic violence, and disputes over money that plague our relationships. We hear that our divorce rates are so much higher than other groups. We hear about black men preferring women of every race other than their own. We hear that black women are the most unmarried women of all races. We hear that black women are climbing the professional ranks and leaving black men behind. We hear staggering statistics about the number of black men in prison. We hear about angry black women and down-low black men, We hear that black men are dogs and black women are b*%#* and ho’s. To add salt to the wound, the church we sacrifice for mocks our quest for men who will love us as partners, not subordinates.

There’s a conspiracy against healthy black male-female love, or at least it feels that way. Our lack of role models and the silence about what it takes to build healthy black love have cripppled us. It keeps us fixated on all everything that’s not working. It keeps us anxious and clueless about what it takes to make relationships work. We’ve spawned a generation that wonders “why bother?,” a generation content to reduce relationships to two categories: “friend with benefits” and “friend without benefits.”

Let’s admit it: we don’t hear enough about black men and women who love each other. We don’t hear enough about how they managed to find each other and stay together despite the odds stacked against them. We don’t hear the testimony of the black man who wasn’t looking for someone to dominate. Nor the testimony of the woman who admits to having to slay the patriarchal woman within in order to love a new kind of black man. We do not hear the ways they fought society and their own pathologies to establish caring black families and a loving partnership.

We crave role models of lasting love in the black community. Even though we know better we cry when we hear news of another celebrity couple divorcing (Shaq, Jill Scott). We spend hours in beauty and barber shops speculating on what happened and who did what to whom. We devote radio programs to surveying, “Should Juanita Bynum take her husband back?” We look up to Will and Jada, Bill and Camille, Angela and Courtney, Samuel L. and LaTanya, Denzel and Paula (why are all the fantasy couples entertainers?) and snatch up copies of Ebony magazine when they are on the cover, desperate for secrets to their longevity. The church has no models to offer. It’s too busy trying to romanticize a time when “girls were girls, and men were men” (to quote Archie Bunker). Meanwhile, its clergy crumble under the weight of trying to keep up pretenses. Despite all the scandals we’re fed to discourage any lingering hope we may have in black romance, however, something in us won’t give up believing.

We believe in love. We prefer healthy love, though we’ve settled for toxic love (at least, for a while). We cling to the belief that it’s never too late for love. We pray to experience a bit of heaven here on earth by having strong, happy families. It is a testament to our strength as a people that we still believe. Despite the naysayers Even though we know better. Even though we know we should demand better of each other. We still believe. Lord, help our unbelief.

When it’s all said and done, the desire to experience satisfying love, and not just a banshee-screeching orgasm, is, I believe, holy and noble work. Love, good, nourishing love that goes the distance with you, however, doesn’t just walk up to a woman’s door and knock. It can take ages to find. I hope women never give up on finding love. Love comes sometimes when you least expect it. It may not come when you want it. Seizing it when you find it will take some daring, for sure. It takes willing yourself to give it your best shot despite the odds. I’ve seen the saved woman lose at it, and the unsaved woman win at it. And it wasn’t because one was lucky or blessed, and the other wasn’t. Romance is a gamble. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It helps to believe.

Thank God, we still believe in love, despite all that we know and despite all the mistakes we’ve made. To stop believing in love, it feels, is somehow to stop believing in God. I hope I’m not around when we stop believing in love.

17 Responses to “I Believe in Love. I Do. I Do.”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Yes you are right. In light of your call, can we presume a response? Give us the hope of knowing there are healthy, happy, loving relationships out there among thinking, believing in God people. How do you and your husband lovingly, faithfully and intelligently weather the waters of marriage? How do others do it - sharing in honest terms that cause us to look beyond the black entertainers you mention?

  2. Anonymous Says:

    i know this couple in their 70’s where the husband is a retired fedex worker and his wife is a high profile high school principal and they make it work. the husband belives the sun rises and sets in his wife’s eyes and she goes to bed believing he set the stars in the sky just for her. they have an AMAZING LOVE….and for all of us who come from broken-homes, they show us love’s possibilities. as a matter of fact they actually that we come in from the bitter cold and simply return to love.

    thanks renita!

  3. Anonymous Says:

    We’re not entertainers, my husband and I, but we do entertain each other from time to time. It hasn’t been an easy 22 years but we are friends. We’re both professionals and work at our faith in God most of the time. Sometimes we merely go through the motions of love until the feeling comes back. He feels good when I cook, which I do almost everyday and I feel good when he rubs my back and feet, which he does almost everyday.Sometimes we don’t do either.Sometimes we don’t talk much.Sometimes we argue and deeply get on each other’s nerves. Sometimes we laugh at things no one else can find humor in.We support and challenge each other.We love and care for our kids together…he does alot of the important physical things with them that I don’t have the physical strength to do because of health challenges;I do much of the emotional work with them that he doesn’t like to dwell in;it seems to be working much of the time. We’re friends who took vows but instead of being committed only to the vows, over the years we’re becoming committed to each other..mutuality in “submission” and friendship. I think it works.

  4. rjweems Says:

    Hmmmm….Perhaps this is the gift that we can give here in this comment section, testimonials such as these of what real love, what real family, real mutuality look like and cost when you’re trying hard to keep believing it’s worth it.

  5. Fal Says:

    When you are a 25 year-old black woman, what does love and commitment look like?

    For me, the answer is elusive at best cloudy.

    I think I know what want from a partnership. I want love . . . the type of love that legends are made of for a lack of a better cliché. I want unconventionality and passion for helping people. I want this brother to walk on water like Jesus and taste like dark chocolate rain in the morning (just kidding about him walking on water). I don’t want Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now; I want Mr. Unconventional, Mr. Untraditional, but most importantly Mr. Himself loving Himself. I want him to look pass my breast, body, arms, and lips and see me for who I am . . . opinions, passions, and contradictions. More importantly, I want this brother to respect all my many selves, even when he finds it difficult to love my many selves. I want a healthy partnership . . . . love, commitment, and fidelity . . .

    But, I’m jaded and I’m discovering that this type of fidelity is best left to bedtime stories than to actual real life. I wish I could sound more hopeful and idealistic about this issue of partnership, but I would be lying to myself if I said I believed in such stories.

    For those who have mutual and unconventional relationships I am elated for you. However, I have come to find that for me a young black woman who’s getting her PhD, who’s a black feminist, who’s woman centered, who’s creatively dissident, mutual partnerships with Black men has been an arduous process because they find amusement in my creative abilities and dissenting opinions, but eventually that wanes and it becomes about me embodying more feminine and passive attributes.

    What does love and commitment look like? For me, the answer is elusive at best cloudy.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Have any of you thought about love outside your ethnic group?

  7. Fal Says:

    good question

  8. Anonymous Says:

    When I look at love I look at my folks. My parents are the perfect example of love - not the gooey, gushy stuff, but the with you in the heart of the storm stuff, even when that storm is YOU kinda love. That is WHY I still believe in love.

    Do I consider love from another ethnic group? Yes. But black love, when it is genuine and real is so beautfiul to behold. I want to share in that. I know that I have no control over what man God may send my way, but I do know that I admire and appreciate black love when I see it. I see it on the daily with my folks and it is so very beautiful.

    Nikita

  9. Content Black Woman Says:

    I am still wrestling with my belief in love. Interestingly enough, I just did a post I put up by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) where Jakes and his wife Serita do an interview on the whole Bynum/White crisis and admonishes readers not to give up on love.

    I’m not sure if I’ve given up, however, I sure am indifferent and have learned to embrace the possibility that I may not find love. I’m through being mad with God and feeling bewildered and asking what’s wrong with me, etc.

    There is so much to enjoy in life as a single woman as well as a single mother. I thank God for these previously ignored joys in my ardent quest for the infamous “soul mate.”

    If or when love comes, I will welcome it whole-heartedly although I will proceed with extreme caution initially.

    With all that I’ve been through, I found it is much easier to stay in a mode of gratitude for the blessings I already have. This approach to love has brought me peace of mind for a subject that had once left me frustrated and confused.

    For me, nothing is more valuable than my peace.

    CBW

  10. Anonymous Says:

    There is no fear in love…we all read this from the good book.i don’t know that there is a formula for love.i guess it’s difficult to have a formula for love and committment when these (committment and love) like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder. to have someone love your many sides is to have to love someone else’s many sides, some of which are demons.love is risky. it makes us vulnerable to hurt, but we do have to decide if it’s worth the pain.

  11. KBW Says:

    Dr. Weems: your photo illustrations to go with this blog are quite lovely. It helps show that black love does indeed thrive.

    When I really want to be inspired by love, I always draw on ANCESTRAL MEMORY. Let’s not hang our heads down about what is not possible. If our people can survive the Middle Passage and build families in a new land that we did not ask to come to, then we can continue to build healthy relationships.

    In some ways, I believe things are a lot easier than they were then.

    Want to be inspired about love and the survival of healthy relationships? Pick up these four books: Together for Good by Revs.Henry and Ella Mitchell; Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories from the Underground Railroad by Betty De Ramus; Standing The Test of Time by Julie Rainbow and A Love No Less: Two Centuries of African American Love Letters by Pamela Newkirk.

    Be Encouraged, KBW.

  12. Fal Says:

    Maybe, I do believe in love, but it’s a tortuous relationship. When I hear certain songs about love, I think I do believe in love . . . just a little.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjMRf4egAyA

  13. k Says:

    KBW,

    Thanks so much for the suggested reading because I need to ingest a few more real life love stories.

  14. Manchild Says:

    Hello Dr. Weems,

    My wife and I have been married for seven years now. I’ve learned that marriage is a ministry that transcends the boundaries of a mutually agreed up commitment.

    When I look at little children, I see love. Our 3-year old daughter has taught me so much about the love that’s described, with specificity, in 1 Corinthians 13.

    Can it be that Jesus left broken-hearted grown folk — who’ve lost the courage to love one another — a clue in Matthew 18:3 NIV that we cannot enter God’s kingdom unless we change and become as little children again?

    Respectfully,

    Manchild

  15. Ananda Says:

    blessings sistalove. i just discovered your blog and have been reading your posts. this one really hit home for me. i think all of us can begin right where we are by choosing to see love in the small places of our days…. we water those small places with praises, sharing with others, and opening ourselves to larger places where love exists. i also think that those of us who write, create art, preach, make music, dance, speak in public like the radio or tv, and live at levels where folks see and hear us more … should make an effort to represent healthy love in our work. love and light, ananda

    ps: all of your books have healed me in many ways.

  16. Iakes Says:

    My 2cents is a tome/dissertation:

    Yes, you are right. It’s good to believe in love. And I do believe in love. That’s why I don’t fornicate, sleep around, or date non-believers. (But I’m thinking maybe I should as the Christian brothers seem to have another agenda). And I don’t want to be alone all my life. Though I’ve been alone and sometimes lonely for 1/2 my life.

    To speak of believing in love is a true and an encouraging word. But since I live in conflict as my spirituality dictates celibacy until married and yet I’m emotionally a die-heart romantic. Alas, this is not fun. So, I “betta git myself some mo’s of JESUS, some therapy, or some serious make-over ’cause I have been lost in the church for decades and can’t get the brothers to ask me out. This is the similar stated experience of many of my peers (early 20’s to late 40’s professional women in large urban area in the northeast). It’s very frustrating because the non-Christian men ask us out all the time, and we decline, sometimes reluctantly. But we love God. Yet, we hate being single for so long.

    I’m definitely not saying to stop believing? But, I’m asking, what’s a sista to do?
    Does believing counterbalance what I feel is the dilemma of some believing women, including myself? The culture of the black churches I’ve attended is still so male-dominated and so religious-oriented. Church singles groups where adults are not given time to talk or socialize. It seems men posture as not needing women. (I wish there was a structure in place that supported men and women meeting and marrying as in many other cultures: Jewish, Islam, etc. Yes, I know they have problems, but … The honest woman who acknowledges she wants to be married should not be seen as a plague from which men run? I’m not talking about the woman who announces loudly, “God told me you’re my mate” and other such extreme behaviors that scare guys off. I’m talking about the woman who practices Christian principles of modesty, virtue, and celibacy. I think some of our brothers are getting sex in various ways (men, women, perverse manners) and don’t “need” the Chrisitan celibate woman, while they posture to be in ministry or waiting on God. Most times they may be waiting on someone to decorate their side vs. a real woman with morality, love to give, and desiring a relationship that is authentic and deep.

  17. Fefeta Says:

    Wow, what a great subject! I believe by faith and pray to God that my marriage of four years will continue to be the blessing it has been in this short time. What I’d like to talk about though is giving up patriarchy within our relationship, which, I think, is a huge barrier to maintaining a loving relationship.

    On my end, I have found, in spite of myself, that there is a fantasy of what I expected marriage to be and what it is. There is a part of me that feels guilty about letting him shovel all alone, when I used to do it without him as a single, but this is one of the ways he shows that he loves me and he knows I hate the cold. At the same time, while I was one of the types that imagined that I would never (fill in the blank with any stereo -typical wifely behavior) …knowing how happy it makes him, I don’t mind serving him dinner in front of the football game every once in while. Sometimes, no conversation, or one sided monlogues, and simple relaxation and instead, really can set the stage for a great conversation later on).
    But, even more amazingly, we are humbled to discover that there is a lot of space within our marriage for us to make decisions about how we want things to be different from images we have seen, and what is the bigger challenge is that we don’t always take advantage of that space. Those tapes, scripts, and antiquated expectations are hard to abandon.

    A major struggle and gift has been reconciling the choice we made to delay having children in order to focus on our schooling. Since being married, we will have both supported each other to pursue a bachelor’s degree, two Masters, and soon a Doctorate, we pray. It has been interesting to watch each other grow and to devote our energy to these efforts and to watch the reactions we get from our African and African-American family members who often see it as unusual to be married “for so long” without having a child. But, even relative strangers feel that it is okay to comment on this area of our lives.
    Well, I bring up this example because this situation reminds me that it is so important to come to an agreement about who you are and what you believe as a couple. We do feel pressure to do many things in a certain way, but we try our best to talk about what is really working for us. That way its that mutual commitment to submitting in the small things and recognizing: How important is this anyway? And when its important, we do keep a score card of sorts (sorry Corinthians). We might have to advocate for our side, and sometimes we mighthave to recognize who has been submitting more on the bigger issues lately and talk about that openly. It reinforces our commitment to sacraficing when we are reminded that it goes both ways.

    It has meant that (barring extenuating circumstances) we decided that out of town visit’s to one particular side of the family will be no more than two dats at a time. It has meant that we left one church where the doctrine and dogma was clearly and increasingly misogynist.On the positive side, it has meant that we do most of our service at Church together. Whether praying before the service, where we take turns together, or cooking and cleaning during a church banquet, you will typically see us working together. Now, by no means do we do everything together, but we try to literally support each other’s gifts and to encourage each other.
    I can only imagine how having children might further complicate all of this, but for now, we try to intentionally spend a lot of energy spoiling each other the way we wished me might have been spoiled in the past. We don’t believe in mind reading, and so we try to make sure to communicate what makes each of us happy so that the other person has a fair chance of hitting the mark. We both believe in rewards and showing appreciation both verbally and demonstrably. We also believe in fighting fairly and we’ve had to have many conversations about what that means. Well, I could go on, but what is most important is that I now am very eager to have a child one day since I think we are becoming more secure in knowing who we are independent of what we know will be a huge commitment and responsibility. We pray that the conflict resolution skills we are trying to develop now will kick in later on.

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