Are black women to blame for the high failure rate of black marriages? By Jennifer Adams-Jones
We all know the grim statistics: Most black women are single and have never married but of the few who end up tying the knot at some point, 70 percent will be divorced in less than a decade. What is going on? Here are 10 reasons why black women may fail at marriage in such high numbers:
1. Their off the charts ambitions
Socially, black women may not be at the apex of societal pecking orders, but they are becoming increasingly ambitious everything from their quest for higher education degrees, to starting businesses and to advancing in their careers whether as school principals, teachers, nurses, pastors or public servants (and in many other professions as well). This shouldn’t be a problem normally but somehow, in black marriages, this creates a type of imbalance when husbands feel they can’t keep up. The solution is obviously not for black women to scale back to their traditional places in society and in relationships, but they need to consider that somehow their men are unable to handle all that ambition and if they want to stay married, they have to find a way to address this issue.
2. They are getting skinnier
It is not that black men prefer chunky girls, but traditionally, a “beautiful” black woman has been chunkier than a lot of black women are today. There is still a lot of obesity in the black population but there is a subset of black women who are hitting the gym, getting weight reduction plastic surgery and dieting their way to a butt-busting size six. This does not seem to fit well with a lot of black men for some strange reason. They cannot relate to the skinny black woman. They want more meat and so are more apt to go out looking if their wives are skin and bones….food for thought?
3. They are getting too educated and thus making too much money
The black woman who makes more money than her husband on account of her higher levels of education can quickly find herself on online dating sites looking for a new husband. Making more than your husband is problematic no matter what the race but in the black family, it really just doesn’t seem to work. What is the solution? Hard to say. Obviously quitting her job is not the answer but if her husband feels inadequate because he is not the main breadwinner, the marriage is not going to work.
4. They can’t seem to hold their tongues
A lot of black women seem to prefer candor to hypocrisy and this is a problem in marriage because a lot of times her husband will view this tendency as “nagging” and he will either get violent to shut her up (which ultimately leads to divorce) or he will just leave. The solution is to practice a bit more diplomacy but for many black women, this is a type of hypocrisy to which they are allergic. What can anybody do?
5. Their girlfriends are single or divorced
Most black women are single and so this is normative in black circles. A married woman therefore is going to have a lot of single or divorced girlfriends giving her “marriage advice.”How can this ever work? It cannot. Because some of that advice is tinged with projecting their own issues onto this marriage; some of it is tinged with jealousy; and some of it is tinged with incompetence (the person is not successfully married so how can they really give you marriage advice that is objective and efficacious?) The solution then would be for married black women to dump all her single and divorced friends but this obviously is impracticable, hence the problem we face.
6. They were single too long
Most black women get married years later than their non-black counterparts. The average age for first marriage for black females is probably deep into the thirties. By that time, she is set in her ways and has become very independent. She never learned to “depend” on a man for her sustenance. She never learned how to “need” a man. The downside of this is that her husband does not feel needed, and he needs to feel needed so he leaves to find a woman who needs him. The solution? Act more needy.
7. Her expectations are too high
Black women are trying to pull themselves up in a society that has historically not made it easy to be who and what they are. And as noted, there is a lot of progress that is being made. However, black men are struggling to keep up with these strides as society still is harder on black men than on other populations. This does not stop black women from demanding more of their spouse. She wants him more educated, she wants more money, a better standard of living. And he is sitting there on the couch looking at her like, “don’t you understand the pressures I am under as a black man in society?” And she is like “dude, I am a black woman in the same society and I am doing what I need to do and I need you to step up. I need you to get it together.” And so there is this struggle. Because they are both black but they cannot really relate to each other’s experience. Not really. So the marriage cracks up as a result.
8. They were never really defined by their marriages
Because of historical factors, black women were probably less inclined to be “defined” by their marriages like other groups of women because there was never certainty or stability in these relationships. A man could be snatched away at any time for any reason whether premature demise, incarceration or other reasons, like the “other woman.” Going even further back, during the days of slavery, he could be snatched away by a master who sold him to the highest bidder. So it was dangerous to become too “we” oriented for the black woman. Thus, she is very “me” and “I” oriented. This does not augur well for a long term marriage; but it is that, or her sanity, and she prefers to err on the side of her sanity than give her emotional all to the marriage.
9. They are thinking too much about the examples they set for their kids
Black women want better for their kids than they have. This is no different from women of other demographics but for the black woman it is an urgent, almost desperate need and desire. They do believe in marriage and happily ever after but if it is not working, she is going to end it for the sake of her kids as much as for herself. The notion of staying married for the kids just does not exist in her psyche. It makes more sense to get out of the bad marriage to save the children than to stay married for the children. The solution? It really depends on how she interprets her situation. Some marriages obviously should end but sometimes, maybe hanging in there a little longer could yield change for the better. Who knows?
Oprah is the ultimate symbol of the powerful, successful black woman and she has never married. She did not need a man to achieve her success and she disdains bad relationships. So for a lot of black women, if being single is good enough for Oprah, it is good enough for them. Thus, the second things are not going well in the marriage, they pull the plug.
Read more about black marriages and divorce: why is the divorce rate among blacks so high