I apologize for flaking on the double header yesterday. I got wrapped up in doing some other things.
Let’s drop right into it-Do you watch the Black Love Documentary on OWN Network? If not, it won’t matter because the show will just be the backdrop of what I want to talk about.
Really quick: Black Love Documentary is a show on the OWN network that highlights married black couples and their journey to being one. It features different couples and their ups and downs leading to and within married life. The show is in its second season, and it does a really good job showing the reality of relationships. I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already.
I specifically want to focus my thoughts on the second episode that aired on August 17. In this episode, the couples talked about the thick of their relationships PRIOR to marriage, including dating non-exclusively, i.e. being in love but yet being on “rotation” with the person they were in love with, being ghosted for months, and baggage from previous relationships. One couple talked about how they would go out of the country together, but not even talk for six months.
I read a couple of tweets under the hashtag #blacklovedoc and there were some viewers who were turned off by this episode’s content. One tweet essentially stated that they episode highlighted “struggle love”.
Struggle love is a term used to describe the narrative that in order for an individual to get to the promise land of love they must suffer and feel hurt and pain in the process.
I totally get the arguments behind the disdain for struggle love. Many people feel that love shouldn’t be hard and being a ride or die individual could lead to more pain that what it is worth. Moreover, people feel as though struggle love is touted as a prerequisite for women in order to reach that proverbial pot of gold-and many are quite frankly sick of that narrative. I get it. I really do……
Endurance in relationships is a REALITY.
You remember when I stated in my Curious Case of Wendy Williams blog that “People are the most dishonest when it comes to relationships?” I wholeheartedly stand by that statement. The social media reactions to the couples’ truth in this episode of the Black Love Documentary are an excellent example why most people will not tell you the truth about their relationships.
The truth of the matter is that most people travel down similar roads in relationships much like the couples featured on the episode. Most people aren’t privy to what really happens-you only see what they present: highlight reels of their relationship, ie the smiles, kisses and grand gestures of love; all the things that make up the substance behind the #relationshipgoals hashtag on social media. Because people rely on what is presented, people often think that the road to marriage/long term partnership is paved with smooth streets of platinum covered in diamond dust.
This is the narrative of the IDEAL relationship path: You meet/you immediately date exclusively/that person deals with only you/you get engaged in two years after meeting/you get married and love happy every after. The narrative of the IDEAL relationship is often steeped in fairy tales.
Whether it is fear of judgement because their relationship does not fit the ideal narrative or some other reason, a person in a relationship WILL NOT TELL YOU about what they had to ENDURE in order to make that relationship work. They will only show you the end result.
Most people will not tell you if they were one of five women or men that their partner dated and they patiently waited for that person to become exclusive. They will not describe to you the pain and confusion they felt by making a decision to stick around when things were not what they wanted or envisioned.
The “ideal relationship” narrative runs amuck because people don’t like the ugliness that comes with being in a relationship. Consequently, when couples similar to the ones in the Black Love Documentary are transparent, the truth doesn’t make sweet love to the listener’s ears. As a matter of fact, since it doesn’t fit the pretty little box engineered for “right relationships”, it has to be wrong and we must reject it. These seemingly outlier relationships are deemed doomed.
Relationships have many components, but I think the spiritual component is the most important. If you are connected spiritually to a person, you KNOW whether or not you are called to walk out a journey with that person. What on the outside may look like struggle love just may be the journey you were called to walk out with the person that was ordained for your life. I respect couples who are not afraid to be transparent and give an inside look of the reality of love.
Although I do think people are dishonest when it comes to relationships, I understand why people are dishonest. Love and vulnerability are inextricably intertwined. To be honest about the reality is to expose that vulnerability and that is quite frankly scary to be that naked. Although I understand the dishonesty, I think it does a disservice to the perception of relationships, and as a result people go into relationships unprepared because their reality is shattered when they experience something different than the pretty image that has been projected. Just to be clear: I don’t think that outsiders should be privy to every nook and cranny of a couple’s journey. No one should have a ticket to view your daily walk with your partner. However, perpetuating a fairy tale narrative for the sake of privacy doesn’t really work either. Balance is key.
I am thankful for the couples are are strong enough to be open about the reality of love and partnership. It helps destroy the fairy tales built around love as well as challenge people who desire love to look at not as a one way road to happiness, but as a multifaceted journey with peaks and valleys that requires good decision making along that journey.