On Easter Sunday, actor Mekhi Phifer got married for the second time to his girlfriend Rachelet Barnes. It must have been a bittersweet day for his first wife Malinda Williams and his ex-fiancee/baby mama, Oni Souratha, as both of them had the chance for a “forever love” with Phifer but one marriage didn’t last and the other didn’t happen. Casting aside for a moment whether or not these ladies actually dodged a bullet and are better off, what’s interesting is that in these scenarios, our first question is always what the women did wrong. Although Phifer appears thus far unable to sustain a committed relationship (hopefully this is the one) Williams has also been married twice – to Phifer with whom she has a son – and to rapper/deejay Derrick “D-Nice” Jones who she was married to less than a year. That was after their wedding was prominently featured on Essence.com, where at least it looked like a well-thought out, grown folks’ relationship. Yet a year later, Jones and Williams were divorced and Jones had a child with someone else.
Why do we bemoan the lack of successful commitment in our communities and spend endless blog posts and speculation about what’s wrong with Black love?
It’s because we realize that a successful relationship is at the core of a successful community. If we can achieve harmony in our homes, especially if we have children, we can better achieve healthy, happy kids who become positive, productive adults. So if relationships are so important, how do we keep them healthy and stable? Religion is certainly an answer, but let’s face it – in the modern world, it’s not the answer for every couple. And even religious folks have their issues as thrice-married gospel singer Yolanda Adams can attest to. Maybe we need to look at marriage and relationships from a whole ‘nother perspective.
Here are 5 reasons why you didn’t get or didn’t stay married:
1. You were incompatible from the beginning.
Some people have no idea what it is that they truly need in a committed relationship. As outlined in books like “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, everyone doesn’t give or receive love the same way. Or maybe lust was the impetus that got you into the relationship, but when the smoke cleared you realized that sexual chemistry was all you had in common. Or at the end of the day, while you both had attractive qualities, you just didn’t value what the other offered. A good guide for relationships: Chemistry is overrated and compatibility is underrated. You need both to make a great relationship work. And, duh, you have to like the person, not just want something from them like a ring, a home, pretty kids or VIP access to that big booty.
2. You couldn’t make your relationship and rearing your children work together.
Some people are meant to bring children in the world together, but they are not meant to raise them together. Take Usher and Tameka Raymond. Aside from the obvious issues of celebrity romance and both of their own personal issues, one of the things Usher has said about the relationship is that they couldn’t agree on child-rearing. When the strains of raising kids are impacting the relationship adversely it may be that you are that couple. Women with multiple kids by a man wonder why he’ll move on to the next chick that has no kids or even has kids by someone else. It could because raising kids together, which his HARD WORK, made existing issues in the relationship more apparent. It funny how sometimes, when a couple separate they are much better able to agree on raising their kids.
3. One person wasn’t marriage material.
Everyone is just not meant to be married. Some people are much better living alone and dealing with the issues that come with that than they are living with someone else and dealing with the issues that come with that. And the someone is not always male. Some women are looking to be married for social cachet, so they don’t have to be tagged with the “baby mama” label or because they need security or validation. Whether you’re male or female ask yourself the hard question – do you really want to be married and deal with the compromises it entails? Are you caught up in fantasies that have little do to with who you and your partner are? You can be in a committed relationship without marriage. You can be partnered without a ring. You can live a happy life as a single. Figure out who you are and where you stand before you take that walk down the aisle. As anyone married can tell you, it’s easier to get in than to get out.
4. You didn’t have the support you needed to make it through the rough times.
Every relationship has its rough times. Things happen, people grow and change and no one escapes family drama. You don’t have to and probably shouldn’t share every detail of your intimate relationship with others, but when the going gets really tough, who can you confide in who isn’t judgmental and has no ulterior motive or hidden agendas? (This is for those of you who share your relationship issues with exes. Probably not the best idea.) Whether its your pastor, your mother, your sister or ideally a trusted couple who model a happy, healthy relationship, sometimes you need another perspective on marital woes. That support can help you get over the hump of the inevitable challenges.
5. You were in love with the idea of marriage but not the reality.
You thought that putting a ring on it was going to make your life a magical fairy tale. You thought that providing the ring meant that your “baby” would never change and that you had found the perfect soul mate that would love you unconditionally. Ummm, no. That’s not how it works. Some folks want the wedding. Some folks believe in a fantasy of happily ever after. Some folks think that behavior that they couldn’t stand or problems that they didn’t resolve before the wedding will magically be solved by a diamond and a white dress. If you are thinking along those lines, be prepared to add to a divorce lawyer’s children’s college tuition fund because chances are, this trip down the aisle is one you’ll end up regretting.