Relationship Envy

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  • Last year, Twitter was on fire after rumors spread that Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith were breaking up. You would have thought it was people’s parents, the way that folks were acting. If Jada and Will, who’ve been married since December 31, 1997, were breaking up then black love was dead as far as Twitter was concerned. While there may have been some smoke to that fire, the Smiths patched things up and have moved on past whatever troubles they might have had. Just recently they were making smiley red carpet appearances together for Will’s latest movie “Men In Black 3.” It seems like they’re cool these days. But how much stock should we really be putting into what does or doesn’t happen in other people’s relationships?

    We all love seeing wealthy, successful, good-looking black couples who appear to be really in love. But for most of us, the lifestyles of celebrities are unrealistic. Will and Jada and Jay-Z and Beyonce have one thing  that most couples don’t – ready access to financial resources, which are often the main source of strain in non-celebrity marriages. Another couple  black folks revere -The Obamas – have access to power that very few people in the world have and even they only have it for a maximum of the eight possible years Obama could be in office. And while all these couples look great in front of the cameras, we have no IDEA what’s truly behind these folks’ carefully crafted images when they’re behind closed doors. There are many famous couples who we thought were doing well only to find out years later that it was a marriage of convenience, or that domestic abuse or infidelity was involved.

    In other words, relationships among the rich and famous often have the same fault lines and problems that anyone else’s relationship does.

    Given the fractured families many of us grew up in, we’d like to believe that these golden couples are shining examples of the strength and resilience of black love. And some are. The Obamas, married for 20 years, have been forthright about their struggles when their children were young and Barack became a long-distance husband and parent. Jada and Will have said that honesty is a big part of their relationship and Jay-Z and Beyonce keep most of the intimate details of their decade-long romance to themselves, something that many think is the reason why they’ve endured.

    There are elements of what we see in these public glimpses of very private lives that we can certainly incorporate in our own – how Obama looks at his wife adoringly, how Jay-Z and Beyonce support each other’s careers and how Jada and Will make their family life a priority. But we don’t really know what happens when the cameras and makeup are off and people are sitting home in their sweats. We don’t even know the” reality” of reality TV couples because we have no idea what these relationships are like when they’re not being paid to be on camera. Many reality show relationships come to an end once the cameras leave.

    It’s great to see images of black love broadcast globally, and if there’s any lesson to learn from that, it’s that black couples and families are thriving and loving and living not just onstage and screen, but in real life. But comparing your relationship to anyone else’s is never a good idea. We don’t know everything that Beyonce and Jay and Will and Jada and Barack and Michelle go through. We don’t know the pressures and the responsibilities and the family strains on their relationship or their day-to-day issues. If Jada and Will broke up, sure, we’d feel a little sad. By all accounts they have a terrific partnership and a great family. But at the end of the day, they are two individuals navigating a marriage, not the standard bearers for love for all black people. If things don’t work out in the long run, well, that means they’re just like you and me, trying to make things works in a world where relationships are overburdened by expectations and the pace and pressures of everyday life.

    Don’t worry so much about what Jada and Will are doing, or any other couple. Worry more about what you’re doing. Are you loving? Are you nurturing your spirit as well as that of your partner? Are you communicating, practicing kindness and loving each other? Everything you do to keep up your own relationship goes out into the world. We all need a shoulder to lean on and a partner to support us so that we can truly be our best selves. If you find yourself in drama-filled relationships that injure your spirit or in dead or irrevocably damaged ones that don’t serve you, work from within to find a solution. Sometimes you have to dig in and sometimes you have to let go. Let Jada and Will handle theirs.  Just make sure you handle yours.
     

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