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African American Marriages and Relationships Need a Lifeline

Historically the African American community has struggled with sustaining longevity and commitment to marriage. It's dutifully noted in numerous writings and teachings that slavery embedded a crippling blow to the African American community, a crack so precipitous that the African American family is faintly progressing, if at all. African American relationships need a lifeline.

Recent studies state Black women, in sum, are less likely to marry, stay married, and remarry. Those who marry do so at an older age than do whites. The differences between blacks and whites are greater than they were a generation ago. As a result, black women spend far less of their life in a marriage than do white women. White women now can expect to spend less than half of their lives married. But among black women, the corresponding figure has plunged from 40 percent to 22 percent - about the same proportion of life that the average college-educated person spends attending school. Marriage has become just a temporary stage of life for blacks, preceded by a lengthening period of single-hood and followed by a long period of living without a spouse. For blacks, even more so than for whites, a long, stable marriage is the exception rather than the rule. (Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage).

Why is it that more African American couples do not seek external support to salvage or improve their marriages or relationships? As resilient as African Americans are, there is often little resilience in regard to protecting and developing a marriage. Often other cultures will survive marital struggles and relationship conflict due to the practice and support of counseling, coaching, or even therapy if necessary. Arguably, other cultures seem to understand the value of open mindedness and the benefits of utilizing external avenues of support to assist with sustaining a healthy marriage, and relationship enhancement.

African American couples far too often rely on the "church" for direction and advice regarding marital and relationship support. Couples seeking support from the church is a positive option indeed, however, the church often offers a one dimensional view of "working things out" and often this support mostly prayer and scripture prayer. Well, prayer is good, but along with prayer there needs to be reinforcement and direction on various key elements of a relationship i.e., such as stronger and more effective communication between two people. In addition, there should be a re-evaluation of values and belief systems of the two committed individuals to determine if these values and beliefs are still in alignment or if they ever were.

Failure to understand your partner's beliefs and values is the key contributor to conflict in relationships. Prayer is ineffective without action to compliment it. Couples must understand what these actions entail and what steps can be taken as a unit, to effectively achieve each step in which will lead them to their shared goals within their relationship. Yes, prayer does change things but, the right actions helps things stay changed.

Lastly, the African American male has to step down from his egotistical thrown and stop believing that he or his relationship does not need the support of progressive tools and services that are in place to enhance him and his relationship. The notion of "I'm a man and I don't need anyone to tell me how to run my house" needs to be relinquished. Coaching, neither Counseling nor Therapy is services designed to neither deduce the authority of any man or woman nor dictate how a household should be run. These services are in place for positive and progressive growth and personal development individually as well as with a partner. This egotistical mindset is apart of the stifling problem that continues to cripple and contribute to the increasing percentages of divorce in the African-American community, increasing percentages of single black women, and the disparity of what an appropriate vision of black marriage should look like.
I'm not saying that this is the soul reason for the break down in relationships in the African American community. However, I am arguing that the African-American community as it pertains to marriage and relationships needs a lifeline. There are a variety of support services that are available to African Americans just as these services are available to other ethnicity as well. The difference is the other cultures exercise them regularly and often successfully. It is baffling to understand how the mental and physical energy easily dedicated towards various miscellaneous activities and tangible material things can be exerted effortlessly and without a second guess in the African-American household. However, often when the opportunity for personal growth is realized or if a marriage is on the brink of separation or divorce, it is effortlessly released without the same mental and physical energy or passion that is exuded towards other matters. The greatest investment is the investment in self; arguably this "investment" holds little value in the African-American home.

African American marriages and relationships need a lifeline; please share your services, your knowledge and wisdom with as many people as you can. Do not just attempt to "sell" them a service or product- offer them the value of personal development, stronger unity and the vision of a better future for themselves and their families.

Shelby Hill

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