by Nisa Muhammad
Special to GroupTrails.
Marriage is the best environment for a woman to be all she can be. She doesn’t have to parent and provide by herself. She has the help and support she needs to be the best wife, mother and anything else she desires to be. Regrettably too few Black women are making this choice. While other young women are thinking about marriage and family in high school or chanting, “Get the ring before spring” on college campuses, Black girls are being reared for work and career. She’s focused on being an independent, strong Black woman. Kind of like it was during slavery when work was the only option because marriage and family was outlawed.
In fact our out of wedlock child birth rates today are nearly as high (70%) as they were during slavery when close to 100 percent of our children were born outside of marriage because it was illegal for slaves. Isn’t it interesting that the Black woman is the only woman touting her strength with pride? Why doesn’t the Latino woman have to be strong? Where is the strong Asian woman? What about the strong Caucasian woman? Why does the Black woman have to be strong? Why can’t she just be a woman?
This is the unnatural circumstance that the Black woman finds herself in. She learns as a child that she will grow up and get a job, sometimes even a career. She starts working many times as a teen. A good job and or getting a college education is more important than finding the right husband. Along the way, she is more willing to give a man a baby than her hand in marriage. The cultural cues that once guided us to marriage like family values, literature and media now guide us toward sexual relationships without responsibility.
We tend to be the losers in this, left with one child after another trying to do the best we can with only half of what’s required. It is not natural for a woman to have or even yearn to rear children by herself. It’s not natural for men to have to figure out how to get involved in the lives of his children or to be told how or when he can. But this is what happens when marriage is only seen as just a piece of paper.
The formula to avoid poverty is simple; graduate from high school, seek higher education (vocational, trade school or college), followed by a job or career, marriage and then and only then have children. We unwittingly sentence our families to hardships and trials instead of the enormous benefits of marriage like greater wealth, better health, higher achieving children, better lovemaking and stronger communities. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that it’s never too late to get it straight.
As the Executive Director of Wedded Bliss Foundation, I work with couples all over the country in various stages of their relationships. People like you who want to get it right and avoid the pain, hurt plus heartache of a failed union. Men and women who sincerely want to increase the benefits of marriage while decreasing the drama. Most couples are clueless how to achieve wedded bliss. Some know more than others. That may be you too. It becomes an elongated exercise in hit or miss with more misses than hits. So I offer five tidbits from our curriculum Basic Training for Couples that was featured on CNN’s Black in America 2. I recommend going to a class, workshop, retreat or seminar to really work on your relationship but in the absence of being able to do that using these tips can help.
1. People gravitate towards the applause in life. Be your spouse’s most profound cheerleader, the enthusiastic president of their fan club and greatest and most devoted supporter. Many times jobs, children, hobbies and other things affirm people instead of the closest person to them, their spouse. Be that affirmation, be that applause and they’ll come running home to you everyday. In addition, each spouse wants to know when it’s all said and done that there is at least one person that is on their side, one person that loves them unconditionally. That person should be you.
2. Be What You Want to See. If you want better communication be the best communicator in the relationship. Become a model for what you want and show your spouse how it’s done. If you want more romance, be the romantic in your relationship first. If you want more tenderness show the most tenderness. Asking for what you are unwilling to give doesn’t work. Work to be first in everything of good in your relationship and last in everything bad. Don’t wait for your spouse to do, lead the way. Be what you want to see and you can see incredible results.
3. Advance your point, build your relationship with understanding. In your communication with your spouse have two points in mind, how can I advance my point in the best manner with the best language and how can I build my relationship by understanding my spouse. These are sometimes easier said than done. Your spouse deserves the best you have to offer, your best care, your best concern, your best consideration, and your best conversation. Think carefully before you speak, think carefully as you understand. Give your spouse what’s right and everyone else what’s left.
4. What Can I Do To Make This Better? Don’t fight fire with fire. It only makes a bigger fire. Fight fire with water. In the heat of an argument in a soft, loving voice just say, “Honey, what can I do to make this better?” It is a disarming way to focus the discussion on solutions rather than problems. Listen to what’s said, move forward and “keep it loving”. Show you are interested in changing the tone and tenor of the relationship and making things better. In conflict it’s important to advance your point and build the relationship with understanding. Don’t continue arguing and fussing when just asking how you can make it better can add lots of love to a difficult situation. According to researchers what separates those that get divorced from those that don’t are not their problems. For every couple that divorces because of money, another one solves the problems and stays together. For every couple that divorces because of adultery, another couple works it out and stays together. The difference is each couples ability to manage the conflict that comes. Either you manage the conflict or the conflict will manage you.
5. Lastly, make the decision to love the one you’re with. It’s a mindset about commitment. Decide that you are going to love your spouse. We are often with people that we say we love but we go about it halfheartedly waiting for the straw to break the camel’s back and end it. We have one foot in and one foot out. We’re saying, “I Do” while thinking about how, “We don’t”. It will never work that way. Enter the room of holy matrimony and lock the door. No exits, no windows, just you and your boo. Whatever happens, work it out and “keep it loving”. You do yourself and your spouse a disservice when you operate with a plan B in mind. You enter with your eye on the exit. Your marriage is doomed for failure from the start. Give it your all and then give it some more. Love is not a 50/50 proposition. No one wants just 50 percent of the one they love. Everyone wants 100 percent and more if they can get it.
There you have it, five of the many ways to achieve wedded bliss. A great marriage is never guaranteed but what is guaranteed is that if you work at it and work hard you are guaranteed to be on your way to Wedded Bliss.
Nisa Muhammad is the founder of Wedded Bliss Foundation, a community-based organization that helps teens, singles and couples create healthy relationships and marriages. She is the creator of Black Marriage Day, a holiday occurring on the fourth Sunday in March, giving communities an opportunity to celebrate Black marriage.