The Challenge of Relationship Readiness for Black Men

Sad black husband doubting holding wedding ring in a park

The quest for love and companionship is as old as humanity itself. Yet, for many Black men, this journey intertwines with unique challenges – a blend of emotional and financial readiness entangled with societal expectations. We will explore these multifaceted issues, drawing insights from the Bible and Christian authors and weaving in perspectives from Black men themselves.

External Readiness Pressure Imposed

I have found among colleagues and friends that many Black men want to figure out their feelings and their finances before they deem themselves relationship-ready. We’re taught this, and it resonates with  Proverbs 24:27, which advises, “Establish your work outside and get your fields ready; afterward build your house.” Armon Perry, author of Black Love Matters, notes the societal focus on Black men’s provider role, a hyper focus in social policies dating back at least to the 1970s.

The double bind is this. On one hand, it echoes 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if someone does not provide for his own, especially his own family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  On the other hand, this pressure for Black men is fraught with challenges due to racial economic disparities and the lingering, generational effects of systemic racism.

This set of challenges must be acknowledged, and accounted for in the process. Financial stability is a significant factor in Black men’s sense of readiness for relationships. Many Black men strive to achieve a level of financial security that allows them to provide for a family, as culturally expected. However, this goal is often hindered by systemic barriers, affecting their self-esteem and perceived readiness for committed relationships. Support proves helpful as Black men move toward readiness, but so does spiritual insight.

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” This poignant statement highlights the struggle to find fulfillment in external circumstances, including relationships, without first seeking internal peace and spiritual grounding.

Navigating the Intersection of Race and Relationships

Racialized trauma, societal stereotypes about Black masculinity, and the pursuit of relationships within this context add layers of complexity. As Steven D. Kniffley Jr., a coordinator at a racial trauma clinic, points out, Black men often grapple with emotional disconnection due to these compounded pressures. This disconnect resonates with Romans 7:19: “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want!” It reflects the internal battle many Black men face in reconciling societal expectations with their personal experience.

Society tends to view Black men through a lens colored by stereotypes and biases, often overlooking the individual struggles they face. This societal perspective shapes the narrative around Black men’s readiness for relationships, frequently attributing their singleness to negative stereotypes rather than understanding the underlying issues. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This verse highlights the broader battle against societal and spiritual forces that influence perceptions and experiences.

Christian author John Eldredge remarked, “The story of your life is the story of the long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you could be and fears it.” Therapy and support become critical in navigating this assault, allowing Black men to redefine narratives and embrace healthier relationship dynamics.

“The story of your life is the story of the long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you could be and fears it”–John Eldredge.

 

The Transformative Safe Space

The significance of therapy and supportive social circles cannot be overstated. Both offer space for vulnerability, emotional exploration, and breaking generational patterns. Faith and community play a vital role in supporting Black men through such challenges. The church and religious institutions often provide a haven for solace, guidance, and belonging. These spaces can offer the spiritual grounding and communal support necessary to navigate the complexities of relationships and personal growth. As Galatians 6:2 urges, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ,” the Christian community is called to support and uplift one another, including in the realm of relationships.

The journey of Black men towards relationship readiness is intricate and deeply personal. It requires not just self-awareness, but societal shifts in how we perceive and support the emotional and financial endeavors of the Black men around us.

One area likely challenged in this process is the concept of masculinity that often over emphasizes strength and stoicism,  over emotional vulnerability. Some of us grow up with limited opportunities to express emotions freely, and explore these vulnerabilities without judgment. This lack of emotional expression is contrary to the Biblical encouragement found in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep,” which promotes a culture of shared emotions and empathy.

Also, some of us are also working to break generational patterns of unhealthy relationship dynamics. In the process of redefining what it means to be partners in a relationship there is required a distancing from traditional notions of masculinity and embracing more egalitarian roles. This shift requires a deep introspection and a willingness to challenge long-held beliefs, both personally and within the community.

A Journey of Self-Discovery and Growth

While navigating  these waters, the wisdom of Philippians 4:13 rings true: “I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.” It’s a reminder that amidst the complexities of life, spiritual strength and community support are invaluable.

For those outside the Black male experience, understanding and empathy are crucial. It is essential to listen to their stories, acknowledge their struggles, and offer support without judgment. This approach aligns with Colossians 3:12, which advises, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Understanding and empathy can bridge gaps and foster healthier, more meaningful relationships.

The journey to relationship readiness for Black men is intertwined with emotional, financial, and societal intricacies. It is a journey of self-discovery, growth, and often, healing. As Black men navigate this path, it is vital for both the individuals and the community to offer support, understanding, and patience. In doing so, we can help foster an environment where Black men can thrive and move toward healthy and fulfilling partnerships.

As always, we’re in this together! Keep it pure, keep it a buck, and stay true to your values. We’re in this together!

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