To Snoop or Not to Snoop?
We’ve all at one point or another participated in some variation of the following call from a frantic friend:
Friend: “Girl, you will never believe what (insert name) was doing! I told you I knew he was cheating on me…I’ve finally got proof!”
You: “What happened? Did he leave something lying around? How do you know?”
Friend: “Well, I waited until he got up to go to the bathroom. And then I went through his cell and saw his texts back and forth to some woman I’ve never heard him mention before. Talking about how he can’t wait to see her again…how good she smelled! I can’t wait to confront his lying behind!”
You: (In a feigned surprise tone of voice) “You did what???!!!”
A recent survey done by the computer security company Norton found that women are 52% more likely to have snooped through their partner’s email, or Facebook and other online accounts than men. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. As much as we sisters like to pretend that we’re above the behavior, many of us will resort to espionage in order to track a partner. Yeah, men snoop too, but the average brother I know would rather eat glass than admit he felt insecure enough about their relationship that they resorted to digging through their girl’s email account.
I’ve got a confession: I’ve snooped in the past. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of today, and I wasn’t proud of it then. At the time I was caught in a tailspin of fear that sent me off heading off into the land of the relationship crazies. I justified my behavior because my Spidey Sense was on high alert about my then mate’s potential for shady sexual behavior and I was searching for a way to confirm my fears. I had already confronted him about my suspicions, but like a good defense lawyer, he denied, denied, denied. So like a good prosecutor, I took matters into my own hands with his unspoken it ain’t what you know, it’s what you can prove position and snooped to prove my hypothesis.
And yes, I ended up confirming that he was up to no good. But instead of leaving, I chose to stay in the relationship anyway for another mutually mistrustful year. Why? Because I believed that once I knew the truth that I could get him to stop his cheating. This points to a larger issue behind many a snooper’s behavior, which is control - the ridiculous belief that we can change another human being by sheer willpower. Self-worth is also a factor: many of us have failed to love ourselves enough to walk away before we sacrifice our dignity.
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Is Your Job Keeping You Single?
Recently, I was having a conversation with a male friend who asked me “Do you think that being a relationship expert makes it harder for you to date?” Beyond my own relationship status, his question made me wonder if there are in fact certain careers or jobs that are more likely to create difficulty in dating and relating. (And for the record the answer is that dating can be challenging even for the “experts”).
It’s true that 69% of Blacks are unmarried (U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey: 2005-2007). It’s also true that not everyone is hankering to jump the broom. Even if nabbing a spouse isn’t on your radar, human beings are social creatures who are hard wired to mate.
There are some jobs that seem to have relationship drama built into them. Actors, professional athletes, and musicians are legendarily known for their relationship difficulties. This isn’t just because they live in the glare of the media spotlight. It’s also due in part that they tend to be more narcissistic than non-celebs. Outside of entertainment and sports, it’s also been proven that certain professions or work environments are toxic for relationships as well.
In 2009, researchers at Radford College did a study to determine if law enforcement officers had higher rates of divorce than others. During the course of the study they discovered that while police officer’s divorce rates weren’t elevated, certain occupations were indeed hazardous to marital health. The occupations with the highest divorce rates included dancers, bartenders, massage therapists and home health aides, while those with low divorce rates included optometrists, farmers, clergy and actuaries. If one’s occupation puts one at greater risk for divorce, it stands to reason that one’s job can also create issues in getting a partner as well.
Some of the reasons why some jobs are more toxic are obvious, such as the lack of accessibility or proximity of potential partners for those working in isolated environments. And others, because of values inherent to the field itself, clash loudly with the spiritual and emotional values needed to truly create healthy relationships. I mean seriously. How many happy basketball wives do you know? Before you decide to ditch your law degree and buy a pig farm in Indiana, consider this. It’s challenging to meet quality, compatible potential partners, even for pig farmers.
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How Soon is Too Soon for Sex?
Sex. Men want it…and yes, women want it too. But the reality is that you can seriously damage the long-term potential of a relationship if you do it too soon. And this isn’t just because of the unspoken Man Rule of Fast Women, which is that you’ll end up being shoved into jump off territory if you sleep with him quickly. Having sex too soon is problematic to the building of a healthy relationship because it’s difficult to establish a union of the heart (which is at the root of all good intimate relationships) when you’re leading with your groins. Nothing is more crazy making than dating someone whose actions aren’t in alignment with the level of sexual intimacy being shared.
From the dawn of time there has been an ongoing debate about the “appropriate” timing of initiating a sexual relationship. Traditional folks will cite various fire and brimstone reasons why we need to avoid sex outside of marriage. More modern types claim that as long as you engage in medically safe sex that it’s okay to do it. And there are a variety of philosophies in between.
Obviously we can have consensual sex with anyone we want whenever we want it. But as the saying goes, “Just ‘cause you can, don’t mean you should.” It really depends upon your end game. If you’re only looking to fulfill a physical urge then it really doesn’t matter when you do it so long as you make sure to wear a raincoat before you get wet. It gets trickier when you’re actually looking to build a healthy long-term intimate relationship with a partner.
The reality is that healthy relationships don’t just “happen.” They require honesty, maturity, awareness and a real commitment from both partners. Dead end sexual relationships don’t just “happen either. They start off that way because one or both parties decided to take the “let’s just see where this goes” approach to dating. This approach while, while streamlined and efficient, usually brings a relationship to a very messy, inefficient and dramatic end.
Sexual attraction is one of the most powerful things on the planet and one of the primary reasons why we date is to mate. It’s incredibly exciting to desire someone and for the feeling to be reciprocal. But you know what’s absolutely NOT sexy? Having to ask yourself “Did that mean anything to him?” or “Is she sleeping with someone else too?” after an intensely passionate sexual encounter with a new partner.
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ChRihanna: It’s Bigger than a Remix
The news that Rihanna added her ex-boyfriend and batterer Chris Brown to the remix version of her song “Birthday Cake” is disturbing but not altogether surprising. Fame does not equal consciousness. Nor does it guarantee emotional health, self-esteem or healthy relationships.
As abhorrent as their decision was to reunite musically (and allegedly sexually), Chris and Rihanna are not relationship anti-Christs but rather a symbol of what really happens in a disproportionate number of our intimate partnerships. A victim of domestic violence will attempt to leave their abuser an average of 7 times before permanently disengaging. The reality is that ChriHanna’s dysfunctional abuse cycle was interrupted early because of their fame - they are simply continuing down a well-tread path covered in millions of other abusive relationships.
According to “sources close to the couple”, theirs was a relationship that had an increasing escalation of violence. The popular “She hit him first” excuse that a Brown defender says when justifying his battering is pretty standard blame the victim fare. This mindset is so deeply embedded in our culture that victims often have to be taught NOT to accept responsibility for her batterer’s abuse. Rihanna may be a rebellious young woman with a temper, but let’s be clear: even a “bitch” can be a victim of domestic violence, just as a promiscuous woman can be raped. Focusing on Rihanna’s alleged behavior is intended to distract from Brown’s confirmed and convicted behavior. Nobody “makes” you batter them. Anyone who says so is simply giving a batterer a pass on personal responsibility and has no understanding of the etiology of domestic violence.
Domestic violence is not about anger or a temporary lapse of control. It is about a need for control so great that a batterer will use any means in order to achieve it, often methods being emotional, financial, verbal, sexual, physical, stalking or digital abuse. When a man is finally arrested for perpetuating violence against a woman, you’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Domestic violence is never a one-time event. It is a pattern of intentionally coercive behavior that is rooted in a paradigm of thinking based on fear and loss of control over one’s partner.
To continue reading click HERE at Ebony.com.
Get Down with PPP: The Psychopath Prevention Program
For most of us, the term ‘psychopath’ brings to mind an image of a serial killer like Hannibal Lecter in the film “Silence of the Lambs.” But in fact, most of them aren’t murderers. Psychopaths (also referred to as sociopaths) aren’t as uncommon as we may want to think. It is estimated that 3% of men and 1% of women suffer from this psychological disorder. They live in our neighborhoods, sit next to us at work, teach our children, and attend our churches… some of them even lead churches.
Now, I’m not one to judge those with mental illnesses without acknowledging that these people are, in fact, ill. However, we do have to be mindful of how psycho and sociopaths can be detrimental to our lives and our well-being. These individuals can be self-serving, impulsive, cunning, manipulative, world-class liars with no concern for the consequences of their actions. The cutthroat and successful sister who lied and cheated her way to the top of her industry. The computer genius who created the virus that shut down tens of thousands of computer servers just for the rush of power it gives him. The community leader who preaches the power of uplift and “helping our folks out” during the day, while deliberately and delightfully destroying the hearts of naive women at night.
While psychopaths can be quite dangerous in the workplace or in positions of influence, it’s in their personal lives that their unconscionable behavior gets played out on a whole other level of destructiveness. Psychopaths know that most people have a desire for love and companionship and won’t hesitate to exploit this to their advantage. This is the remorseless husband who sleeps with you immediately after cheating because he secretly loves the thrill of getting away with it. She’s the girlfriend that you confided in about your IRS troubles who convinces you to sign over the deed to your house in order to protect it from the Feds, and then dumps you, sells it and keeps the cash for herself.
Read more HERE at Ebony.com!
Addiction: The Stranger in the Family/The Death of Whitney Houston Reminds Us that the Addiction Struggle is Hardly Uncommon
This Saturday, I learned via a six-word text message that legendary singer Whitney Houston had died. Staring at the glowing screen of my Droid phone, my eyes filled with tears for the family who truly loved her, for her fans that still adored her, and especially for her daughter Bobbi Kristina.
The news of Houston’s death immediately brought me back to the call I received fourteen years ago this month informing me of my younger sister’s untimely death from a heroin overdose. To those of us who have been personally touched by the disease of addiction, we know all too well what it is like to watch a person commit suicide on an installment plan. Every morning you wake up wondering if this is going to be the day that you get the call that your loved one is dead. And no matter how much you try to steel yourself against what often seems like an inevitable conclusion, you are never really prepared for the worst when it occurs.
It has been reported that the medical examiner’s office has conducted Houston’s autopsy and is holding off issuing a cause of death until the results of the toxicology report come in during the next four to six weeks. Even if her death ends up being from natural causes, it is almost certain to have been at least partially attributable to Houston’s decades of drug and alcohol abuse.
As the years went by Houston spiraled into addiction and chaos, her musical gift often eclipsed by her personal demons. In her now infamous 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer, what had been whispered about for years in the entertainment industry was finally laid bare for of all of America to see. Houston’s defensive tirade, “Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let’s get that straight. Okay? We don’t do crack. We don’t do that. Crack is wack,” stunned an audience who believed that her personal purity matched the one of her voice. And in one slip of a publicist’s hand, Houston’s well-crafted image as popular music’s princess was destroyed, replaced by one marred with drug and alcohol abuse, and relationship dysfunction.
In the ten years since that interview Houston strove to reignite her career and failed, despite her best efforts. Her struggles with cocaine and alcohol are well documented, as were her attempts at sober living and repeated relapses into active addiction. Many people couldn’t understand how a woman as beautiful and talented as Houston could throw away her career for drugs and a bad marriage. Why, why couldn’t Whitney get clean and stay clean?
Addiction is a chronic disease and needs to be treated as such.
Read more HERE at Ebony.com.
Marriage IS Dead
Marriage, in the “traditional” sense, is dead. It died long before Kim Kardashian’s 72 days of “holy” matrimony to Kris Humphries and in spite of the Obamas connubial bliss shining as a beacon of marital hope from the White House.
A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 44% of Milennials, 43% of Gen Xers, and 35% of the Baby Boomers surveyed believe that traditional marriage is rapidly becoming obsolete. AndU.S. Census statistics are backing up these beliefs with increasing divorce and decreasing marriage rates that show matrimony is no longer the de facto destination for loving and committed couples.
This shift in values is also evident in what’s popular on television today. During the 80s, The Cosby Show was king…in the 90s it was theFresh Prince of Bel-Air. Sure, these shows weren’t anything like the reality of the average Black person’s lifestyle, but they at least took a loving approach in how marriage was depicted. The current Real Bad Girls Basketball Wives of Atlanta who Love Hip Hop genre makes it seem like infidelity, violence, and materialism should be tolerated as the norm in our relationships. They also promote the warped belief that getting a ring from your man should be the main objective of a woman’s life, and that ANY partner is better than none. As much as the networks try to pass off these caricatures of relationships as “reality”, these shows are nothing more than an out and out assault on Black love.
It’s true that less and less of us are seeing Clair and Cliff Huxtable’s marriage as a desired or even possible way of life. Couples are shacking up. Engaging in open marriages. Registering as domestic partners. Choosing not to have children or having them outside of wedlock. Married, but living in different cities. This openness allows us to take a more individualistic approach to love, affording greater forms of personal expression within our relationships. As varied as our lifestyles are today, it is unreasonable to expect everyone to fit into the traditional marriage construct.
Continue reading HERE at Ebony.com.
Dear Sil Lai: I’m Afraid of Marriage!
Dear Sil Lai: I’m a twenty year old man dating an 18 year old woman. Because of cultural reasons (my family is African), I feel a lot of pressure to marry her. But the reality is I’m not even sure if I believe in marriage. I’m scared because it seems that practically all of them are doomed to end in divorce (at least according to what I’m seeing in the media). Would it be horrible for me to continue in a relationship with her, even though I know I’m probably not going to stick around?
-Shook One, Atlanta GA
I don’t blame you for being scared about getting married! The divorce rates are enough to send anyone running for the hills. Based upon the statistics that have been dominating the media for the past few years, it’s no wonder that many folks believe that getting married will doom you to your own real life Tyler Perry inspired dramedy (minus the poor writing and implausible plot lines, of course).
Many traditional African cultures view marriage as a sacred spiritual contract between two people and their families. It’s a hallmark of maturity that increases one’s social position and brings prestige to both man and wife. The pressure that someone such as yourself faces coming from a society where marriage is revered as one of the most defining points in one’s life can be daunting, to say the least. The fact that you’ve got enough courage to look at the reality of marriage in the face of what must be tremendous pressure from your family is a testimony to your increasing self-awareness and maturity.
The marriage and divorce statistics, while sobering, do not prove that marriage is bad, or not for the young, or even not for Blacks. But what they undeniably show is that marriage is a more serious commitment than most are prepared to make for the long-term.
Continue reading HERE at Ebony.com.
A Woman’s Desire…A Single Mother’s Choice
It’s 10:53 on a hot and humid summer night and you’re in a cab riding home with your not-so-new-ish boyfriend after a wonderful date. Warm air is steadily blowing through the window as you hold hands and the city skyline recedes as you ride down the expressway. It feels like a scene straight out of the movie “Love Jones” and there is nothing more that you want than for as Luther Vandross would say “the night to stay.”
As you look into each others eyes, you become painfully aware of the dizzying heat between you. The tension is undeniable. He’s feeling it. You’re feeling it too as you hold your breath when he leans in for a gentle, lingering kiss.
You’ve pulled up in front of your building and as the cab’s engine idles, your blood begins to race. Suddenly your mutual hypnosis is interrupted when the driver impatiently asks “Where’s the next stop?” Heart pounding, you pull away from each other and your man asks the inevitable question “Do you want me to come inside?”
The woman in you is wants to exclaim “Yes!” but the mother in you wrestles with the bigger picture. So as much as it pains you to do so, you exit the cab with a longing glance backward as your beloved heads off into the night. You head into your apartment. Alone. For as much as you want him to come upstairs, as a mother you know your children’s emotional well-being first.
Almost every single parent has experienced some variation of the scenario just described. Many of us are struggling with how to integrate our sexuality into a lifestyle that is by its nature antithetical to free sexual expression. As a single mom I’ve done my share of dating and one thing’s for sure: navigating a new intimate relationship ain’t an easy thing to do while raising kids.
Continue reading HERE at Ebony.com
Disappearing Acts: Inside the Mind of a Relationship Magician
Of all the maladies that afflict our relationships, commitment-phobia, or the fear of commitment is one that consistently wreaks havoc on our ability to have healthy unions. The reasons cited for why men don’t commit are what we’ve (cue Sunshine Anderson) “heard it all before”:
“I only want to get married once…I don’t want to make a mistake.”
“I’m too focused on my career right now to even think about the next step.”
“Why you gotta rock the boat? Things are good between us…can’t you leave well enough alone?”
There are a million variations of this theme song, but at the root there is one basic emotion: fear.
People like to blame our low marriage rates on socioeconomic factors such as the high number of incarcerated Black men or the educational disparity between Black men and women. But could the real reason be more emotionally driven? When I speak to many of my male friends, from where they’re sitting, there is absolutely no real incentive for them to settle down. Most have told me that aside from their desire to raise their kids in a two-parent home, there is no real upside to putting yourself in a position to lose half of your hard earned cash if your marriage ends (which according to the census has at least a 50% probability of happening). And even that, as the prevalence of single parent homes headed by Black women shows, isn’t enough to get a man to jump the broom.
It’s not just men who struggle with commitment issues. Women do as well, but we are by and large much more willing to settle down than our male counterparts. It’s true that getting to the altar isn’t the goal for everyone, but most people desire to have some sort of continuity in their intimate relationships. Many men will work through their commitment fears enough to be able to make some sort of long-term relationship choice. But for a hard core commitment-phobe, the thought of “forever after” gives him a sensation similar to what someone with a fear of small spaces would feel if they were crammed into a crate secured with a padlock.
Some men are upfront will say straight out that they have no plans of committing to you or anyone else. Others won’t come out and say it. Instead, they’ll try to provoke you into breaking it off with them by engaging in crappy behavior like nitpicking at you constantly or letting you find out that they slept with your best friend. (I like to call this the Breakup by Proxy). Another tried and true method is to slowly back out until there is nothing left between you but texts and the occasional call. It’s like they’re there, but not there.
And then there is what I like to call “The Relationship Magician.”
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