I was having a conversation the other day with my contractor Jose, an Ecuadorian man who has been married to the same woman for 16 years. In the midst of discussing the difference between eggshell and satin paint finishes, he asked, “Why hasn’t a nice lady like you found another husband?” I wasn’t going to get into an in-depth conversation about my relationship status with a relative stranger, so I gave him the standard “It’s hard to meet a compatible partner” spiel. Jose nodded his head, then said, “How often do you go to disco?”
“How often do I go to nightclubs? Well, never. I’m a 40-something-year-old woman with kids!”
“That is why you are single. You don’t go to disco. There are lots of men at disco.”
Now, I’m still not clear as to whether or not my traditional-minded South American friend was serious or not, but his humorous and simplistic response wasn’t so different from “solutions” given to frustrated Black men and women seeking to jump the broom.
“Think like a man!”
“Date outside your race!”
“Date an older man!”/ “Date a younger woman!”
“Join a church/mosque/sangha!”
It should be clear that marriage is not the desired or likely destination for every person. However, there are a lot of people who desire a long-term committed partnership, be it marriage or otherwise. I understand there are complex sociological factors that are contributing to the often-discussed lack of Black marriages, but even with that, I do believe there are some perspectives and choices that we make as individuals that can keep us unwillingly single.
So why are there so many attractive, reasonably intelligent brothers and sisters spending major holidays alone? In my experience, there are five key mindsets that one can have that will ensure that you DON’T ever end up in a healthy, loving, committed, long-term relationship.
1. Dating unavailable people: Unavailable as in married, cohabiting, addicted, workaholic, living in another country, etc. These relationships tend to be very future focused as in “someday when I move to your city” or “someday when I leave my husband,” etc. Being in a “relationship” with someone who is emotionally, physically, or circumstantially unavailable gives you the illusion of being connected without you having to ever deal with “real” relationship issues.
2. Choosing partners based upon superficial traits: Too many of us are picking mates based on looks or pedigree, while dismissing important factors such as shared values. If I had a nickel for every chronically single person I’ve spoken with who led their excited conversation about a new possible paramour with a laundry list of their professional or physical merits I’d be a millionaire. Healthy long-term relationships are founded on shared basic values and a genuine friendship. Not the size of one’s physical, professional or financial assets. Once the ‘wow’ factor of a new relationship fades, you’re left with someone with whom you have very little in common. Then what?
3. Failure to distinguish between romance and love: Romance is an endorphin-producing high or emotional rush that brings two sexually compatible people together to explore the possibility of sex and perhaps, love. Over time in a relationship, the feeling of romance subsides and is replaced with a much deeper love that transcends sexual chemistry. If you believe that true love means you’re always walking on cloud nine when you’re in a relationship, you’re always going to be disappointed when it eventually stops happening and in time you’ll find yourself looking around at the next person for your next romantic “fix”.
4. Avoiding commitment/committing to people who are incapable of making one themselves: If you have trouble making commitments in other parts of your life, it’s not going to change simply because you’re in love. If deciding which sandwich to order at lunch gives you mild anxiety, committing to a mate would probably provoke a full fledged panic attack. Interestingly, some people seem to have no problem making a commitment, but it’s only to people who aren’t committed to them. One-sided commitments never really test your capacity for commitment because there is a built in barrier to the relationship ever truly maturing: your non-committed partner. The reality is that people who are truly seeking a committed relationship do not spend their time trying to convert someone who’s NOT.
5: Being cynical about love: Thoughts are powerful things. Your belief system about love and relationships is emotional radar for other like-minded folk. If you believe that all women are treacherous golddiggers out to drain your bank account, or that all men are skirt-chasing hounds, you better believe that’s what you’re going to attract. Optimistic, open, and genuinely loving people tend to attract the same. If you want to change the type of person you’re attracting, start by changing your perspective.
Sil Lai Abrams is EBONY.com’s relationship expert and the author of No More Drama: 9 Simple Steps to Transforming a Breakdown into a Breakthrough and a board member of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Follow her on Twitter: @sil_lai and connect with her on Facebook.