Black Male-Female Relationships: How Do We Heal Our Pain?

BY: - 5 Nov '09 | Home

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by Shane Perrault, Ph.D.,

Founder of AfricanAmericanMarriageCounseling.com

I. In my last Blog post, I talked about the Civil War between Black males and females. I must admit your responses were overwhelming passionate, insightful, clever and thoughtful. I thank all of you who read, tweeted, commented and otherwise joined in.

With few exceptions, Black males and females alike felt “United We Stand; Divided We Fall.” In addition, there was a groundswell of concern about what specifically we can do to get past the pain. I agree we need specifics and not more rhetoric.

(Before we go any further, in the picture above who did you assume hurt who? Did he hurt her or vice-versa? Your response may have more to do with your gender and the collective pain you have toward the opposite sex, than the picture itself. It was selected because it is neutral, and could be interpreted in countless ways. For example, did he just tell her he has another woman pregnant, or was on the “down-low”; or did he just bust her out for cheating; or find out he failed the paternity test.

Your initial interpretation may unwittingly reveal just how alive your pain is, and how it colors your experiences with the opposite sex. This picture is kind of like a “projective” inkblot test psychology has made famous. They teach us that feedback tells us more about the observer than what is actually observed. Try and be mindful of what your initial conclusion tells you about yourself, and how that might be impacting your relationships with the opposite sex.)

II. This blog post will talk about some specific things you can do to start the process of dousing the pain that fuels the fire destroying black male-female relationships. You are also called to get involved, as your responses to the last blog post and to the picture above clearly demonstrate it is going to take a Village to save Black Relationships.

Before we introduce specific steps, I challenge us all to really look in the mirror.

Is there anyone out there that hasn’t hurt someone else? God knows, a bolt of lightening would come through the ceiling if I tried to say I never hurt anyone. I have lied, cheated, manipulated; and have definitely passed over a good-one to get to a bad-one cause her skirt was tighter. (And those are the things I can say in public. Believe me, I’m not proud of any of this; just being real about it.)

Am I alone here?

Doubt it! So let’s move on. Working at a Methadone clinic for heroine addicts, I came to realize that there are few pure victims in the world — or perpetrators for that matter. Victims are blameless; Perpetrators are solely to blame. I went into the clinic thinking these addicts were perpetrators ““ and frequently they were; after hearing their stories I discovered they had frequently been victims, too. In reality, they were both, or what I refer as “survivors”: that is, they have been hurt, and have hurt others.

The term “survivor” represents the notion that most people are both victims and perpetrators. To promote long term healing and healthier relationships it is crucial that we shift to the “survivor” paradigm.

You might be wondering aloud but what does being a “survivor” have to do with him/her doing me wrong? Directly, very little! However, when it comes to how we view each other in a collective fashion, it makes a huge difference. (Consider how you viewed the picture above.) Thinking of ourselves as both survivors shifts us from the reactive, blaming mode, to a proactive, accountability taking mode. This paradigm shift represents a process that will ultimately empower us to move forward.

It is much easier to forgive a “survivor” than a perpetrator.

Shifting to the “survivor” paradigm represents a revolution in thinking, and this revolution is a prerequisite for sustainable change. It’s hard to start casting stones at the entire opposite gender, if you truly take responsibility for having done wrong yourself. This change also positions us to truly start to forgive each other and ourselves.

I am confident that if you reflect on personal experiences, that you will recognize it necessary to forgive a real or perceived transgressor to respect and love them. No the first step is not easy. In contrast, being a psychologist has taught me it is doggone impossible to do. However, to start the healing process for black relationships, we must make this paradigm shift.

As you become more comfortable with this concept, I challenge you to start promoting it in your conversations.

III. Here are some specific steps for you to take to help end the Civil War between Black Males-Female Relationships:

  1. Seek a Higher power. Pray that you can forgive and be forgiven. I also recommend the CD, “101 Ways to Transform Your Life,” by Dr. Wayne Dyer.

  2. Start taking responsibility, become a survivor. If you need too see a therapist, then get one. You will have to get past the stigma that talking to a psychologist like myself is somehow reserved for crazy people. Crazy people are inpatients on psychiatric wards, and don’t come and see psychologists, therapists or counselors.

  3. Start educating and, yes, correcting each other. If you see your boy/girl about to choose the cruddiest partner ever check them.

  4. Fathers, and, yes, mothers if you haven’t seen your kid, go see them. They don’t care if you’re broke, down or up, or whatever, they just need to see you care. Mothers, if you child’s father wants to see his child and he’s not abusive, a stalker or otherwise certifiable let him. (I know this last comment will strike a nerve, as we do have some trifling brothers out there, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I’ve seen some good, stand-up brothers come out on the short end of the stick in the system.)

  5. Start holding viewing parties of “Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage.” Get the DVD, and start some dialogue. We hold parties for every other reason under the sun. Hill Harper’s book, “The Conversation” is also a good read, and would be nice for any book club.

  6. Lastly, I challenge you to get involved. I am having a contest to discover more ways we can promote the “survivor” paradigm shift. The top five ideas will be included in the next Blog post. Keep in mind this site currently has thousands of fans, so you can really help a whole lot of folk ““ and be seen too. It’s going to take a Village to Make Black Relationships work, and your help is appreciated.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to reading the comments you post on this blog.

Dr. Shane

Founder of AfricanAmericanMarriageCounseling.com

About the author

Lamar Tyler wrote 2227 articles on this blog.

Lamar Tyler is co-creator BlackandMarriedWithKids.com. He also is the co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing.

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7 WordPress comments on “Black Male-Female Relationships: How Do We Heal Our Pain?

  1. Anne Lyken-Garner

    I definitely agree with you on this one. I especially liked the factor of ‘responsibility’ you mentioned. If we all go about our lives thinking that we can get away with disloyal behaviour just because (fill in the blanks) no one is ever going to heal.

    Taking these steps is a vital action towards helping, especially our boys, to become better husbands and dedicated fathers when they get older. If it will take a generation, what better time to start than now?

  2. Harriet

    To respond to your ink blot question, I laughed at myself when I looked at the picture. Initially when I saw it, I didn’t think ANYONE had been hurt. LOL

    The man has a serious look on his face. The woman is covering her mouth, which is what I typically do when I’m concentrating or doting on a deed well done by another.

    I thought the two of them had just completed a kind of “where do we go from here?” type of discussion, that the woman was content at that point to follow a man whose focus had shifted from just himself to the future of his family/marriage. Her look was a look of relief and gratefulness.

    Crazy, huh? LOL

  3. Thuso

    I am becoming more and more aware of the “Civil War” that is going on arond us (me and my wife and family). I ahve always been awae that married couples have problems — we certainly have worked through our share in 43 years of marriage. What astounds me is the casualty rate.

    Of my 3 siblings, I am the only one still married to the first wife or husband. Interestingly, most of our friends are people with long term marriages. Perhaps that is why we haven’t seen the extent of the devastation to the Black family outside of our circles.

    What is so revealing is that the widespread devastation has shifted the dialog to “healing strategies” away from “building strategies.” The advice we received as a young couple about how to build a strong family didn’t begin with how to heal from pain and hurt and infidelity. It began with trust and support and love and commitment.

    While I certainly appreciate the reference to “survivors” and “perpetrators,” it is frightening to me that the dominant conversation treats the mass of us as if we must recover from something before we can have a chance of a successful relationship. Working on bliss and joy and happiness and mutual esteem seem to be far off in the distance. I heard a marriage counselor say to a group recently that “we are all in recovery or denial.” My wife and I looked at each with the same thought, “What are we missing? Is there something you aren’t telling me? Are we blissfully ignorant, or genuinely happy?”

    Of course we were married young — at age 20. Maybe in today’s society hwere marriage is put off or avoided for so long, each party arrives at the decision with a lot of baggage.

    Whatever the case, I just want to put in a plug for those with doubt. It is possible to grow old together and become happier with each passing year. The woman I am married to after 43 years is not the girl I married at age 20. We have both “invested all we have” in helping each other to become the best at what we wanted individually.

    I am overjoyed at how the invest has payed off. She is not the person I wanted her to be, as I foolishly compared her to others early in our mariage. She is the fully developed person that my heart knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. The result of her investment in me is an older, wiser, confident, and secure man who know he has the total and full support of his wife for life.

    We need to paint more pictures of this reality for those with trepidations about calling a truce in the Civil War, and changing our approach from a negotiated settlement to an “all-in investement.”

    Yes, we must be forgiving and repentant. And then move on to building a relationship that will withstand the storms of life. Most importantly, we need to demonstrate “stable role models” for our children. Perhaps many children approaching adulthood today decide against marriage based on what they have witnessed. If all they see is “survivors and perpetrators” they are not encouraged to invest in happiness, but rather invest in protection against pain.

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  5. AnonyMiss

    When I read the title of this post it made me tear up immediately.I’ve really been struggling with my trust issues and my daddy issues and it hasn’t been easy. They say your father is your first boyfriend and how he treats you will affect how you perceive your future boyfriend/husband and how you treat (and thus how you are treated by) men. Well, my father broke my heart multiple times and about two years ago he just tore it apart when he told me he didn’t want me in his life anymore. When it happened, I was in denial. I said I didn’t care…but I did. And it showed in how I acted with men. It always showed but I never realized. I used to not even be able to talk to black males. If one came around I would just shut down emotionally. And if I did somehow think they were ok enough to be friends with, the moment they showed any sign of interest, I was out. I stopped talking to basically all of my black male guy friends and I didn’t know why. I convinced myself it just “happened” but I drove them away because I was scared. I’m still scared but I’ve gotten SOOOOOOOOOOOOO much better. I’m more open now and I’m healing.

    I’m not so sad about my situation. I know one day I’ll be able to love freely and not fear so much. But I am sad because now that i’m aware of my “problem” I’ve now also become painfully aware that so many black men and women share my story in some way. Something has lead them to fear love and to be mistrustful of others and that’s just sad. I feel like we all want to love each other…. I know I do…. but we just…can’t. It’s not even that we’re scared… some of us just don’t know how to accept love and some don’t know how to love others…. I’m 18 and so many of my peers say they’re never getting married and they don’t believe in love and it just makes me so sad…. when I hear that I just think that they have lost all hope. In the Bible its pretty clear that God is love and I just wonder if people stopped believing in love does that mean they stopped believing in God too?

  6. nona

    I agree with Thuso. My uncle used a similiar phrase. Marriage is an investment. I believe in building together. I’ve been married for 10 years. Before we were married, we talked about how we pictured an ideal family to be and discussed finances and children, everything. And still do. We may not agree on everything, but we accept the others opinion. We have had our share of problems, but have always worked through them and don’t look back on it. It pays to have positive married couples in your life – you know people who actually want to be to grow older together ’til death do you part.

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Usher's New Single, “Papers,” Rubs Me The Wrong Way

BY: - 5 Nov '09 | Home

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by Tara Pringle Jefferson

I’ve been a big Usher fan since his “My Way” days. I was excited to see him get married and have his face plastered all over Essence magazine declaring his love for his wife and his son. I thought it was beautiful.

But now that things have gone south in their marriage and divorce is imminent, Usher released “Papers” as his comeback single and I ain’t feeling it. Not at all.

With lyrics like, “I know it’s you I love, but then I also know it’s you I don’t like,” and a lackluster melody, the song just rubs me the wrong way. A song that takes one of the most gut-wrenching situations a person can go through and makes it fit a beat for entertainment purposes. Makes me squirm a little, like I’m overhearing a private conversation between Usher and Tameka.

Now, I realize, with a 50% divorce rate (I really want to see the source of that oft-quoted statistic), that there are a lot of people who might feel comforted by the song, who are nodding their heads in agreement saying, “It’s about damn time we had someone looking out for us!”

But regardless of what it means to the public at large, what about his kids? Yes, you can argue that the lyrics aren’t necessarily autobiographical, but what do you think his kids will think hearing the song a little later on, knowing the circumstances surrounding the studio sessions?

And I know Usher’s not the first artist to use his personal tribulations to propel his career forward, but for something that’s so raw and so recent, it seems odd.

What do you think? Should “Papers” become the new anthem for people mid-divorce? Is it too soon to be singing about signing papers when the ink isn’t even on the papers yet?

Tara Pringle Jefferson is a freelance writer living in Ohio with her husband and two children. Visit her blog, www.theyoungmommylife.com, to read more of her observations about life, motherhood and love.

About the author

Lamar Tyler wrote 2227 articles on this blog.

Lamar Tyler is co-creator BlackandMarriedWithKids.com. He also is the co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing.

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