Do you feel like you always have to be a strong black woman? Truth be told, “Strong Black Woman Baggage” is a thing. It’s a thing that makes it difficult for a black woman to let go and have a more intimate marriage. If you don’t know what it looks like, consider the following questions:
- Do you feel the weight of other people depending on you to always have the answer?
- Are you feeling tired, exhausted, or maybe even depressed or anxious because of this?
- Are you feeling overwhelmed with lists upon lists upon to-do lists to complete?
- Do you have this nagging feeling that something needs to change, but you have been avoiding that thought?
- Are you numbing yourself either through social media, shopping, eating, watching Netflix, working or hustling so much so you’ve looked up and there are hours that have gone by?
- Do you have a hard time depending on other people to get things done?
- Do you ever feel like if you want it done right you have to do it yourself, so you don’t ask for help or allow others to help you?
- Has this ever gotten in the way of you being intimate with your husband?
These questions above are signs that you may be accepting the label of Superwoman or The Strong Black Woman. If you are feeling as though being a wife, mother, and living your life has become a burden, then you may be dealing with the pressures of being a strong black woman.
Yes, I know at times this is a good thing! I know that this can be helpful when you need to get things done or if there is no one around that you can depend on to help. I get it. But what about the times when it’s not a good thing? What about the times when being a strong woman is impacting your relationships, including your marriage?
Women, specifically black women, have shouldered many of the burdens in the home. Maybe because being a strong woman is the expectation of what being a wife and mother looks like. Or perhaps they lack clear boundaries. Others become that way out of necessity. Women can play tapes in their heads about what has to happen in order for their household to function properly. Unfortunately, some of those tapes can get in the way of having a happier more balanced life.
“The Strong Black Woman Syndrome” continues to come up in my therapy practice repeatedly with women who come in suffering from stress, depression, anxiety, issues with balance or perfectionism, and issues in their relationships. The pressure that black women feel can cause an inordinate amount of stress and impact their health. Chronic stress has been associated with high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, ongoing physical ailments, and mental illness. These things not only impact how you show up for your spouse, but how you show up for yourself.
To address some of the common issues that strong black women face in their relationships I have included 7 tips below.
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- Don’t allow the inner critic to take over your internal conversation. This means don’t allow the critical inner voice that we all have to take over what you tell yourself about who you are and about who your spouse is.
- Effectively communicate your needs and wants without a shield of protection around you.
- Let down your guard with your husband. Some examples of being guarded include: always being defensive or appearing angry; punishing your husband when he does not complete a task the way you believe it should have been done; trying to control all the aspects of your life and his; acting like you are not bothered when he does not speak to you in your love language.
- Be vulnerable. This is probably the toughest one. Many of us were raised to know how to take care of ourselves regardless of if we are married or not. Others were raised in a home where they had to be strong in order to survive and that mentality has seeped over into your relationship. Being in survival mode keeps you in a state of stress, a state of fight or flight, where you are either fighting to take care of yourself or running away. This can come up in times of conflict over how to parent, finances, sex… if you feel threatened you will resort to the habit or behavior that is most comfortable for you in the moment even if it is not the most beneficial.
- Stop judging yourself. Give yourself some grace. Becoming strong did not happen overnight so becoming more vulnerable won’t either. Seek support and help to make this possible. You may need professional help with this especially if you have a past that didn’t allow you to be vulnerable because you had to be strong to protect yourself or for survival.
- Be present in the moment with your husband. Let go of the past things that may have hurt you and that you can get over. Keeping score only builds up resentment which can lead to contempt. Contempt is the leading cause of divorce.
- Allow your husband to love you. I know that may seem obvious, but sometimes strong women get in the way of others loving them. Ask for what you need, allow your husband to fulfill it, and show your appreciation for it whether he hits the nail on the head or not. If he doesn’t, give him some grace and communicate your appreciation and then share what you truly desired. If he knocked it out of the park, reciprocate with appreciating him in his love language. Create a cycle of giving and vulnerability. Allow yourself to lean into his love and support for you and keep the cycle going.
Letting go of some of the messages and tapes that can play in your head about being a strong black woman is hard, but learning to balance and appreciate where you are. It is a gift not only to you but to your husband.
BMWK, are you ready to shed the “strong black woman baggage” for a more intimate marriage?
About the Author: Alisha Curry Walker is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Coach in an online private practice in Georgia. She has been a therapist for 20 years and is one-half of The Marriage Coaches. She has created Killing Superwoman: 5 Strategies to Release the Burdens of the Strong Black Woman, an online course with practical actionable tips to slay the burdens of the strong black woman. You can find out more information and register for the course here.