Authentic Men’s Voices on Marriage and Romantic Relationships

For many of us, the holidays are a time to be close to significant others and romantic partners.  Whether we are getting cozy by a fire or meeting under the mistletoe, there is just something about the days getting shorter and the weather getting colder that makes many of us long for intimacy and companionship. Perhaps it’s the desire to Netflix and chill or maybe just watching the barrage of holiday movies on Lifetime and Hallmark that all share the same plot and always end happily ever after. Either way, it is officially cuffing season! For all of the non-Generation-Z folks out there, cuffing season is an urban colloquialism describing the phenomenon where the fall and winter months tend to coincide with people looking to be in a relationship.

However, the harsh reality is that some of them will be left out in the cold without a relationship, situation-ship, or even an entanglement. In these cases, as R&B group, “The Emotions” famously asked, What Do the Lonely Do at Christmas? You see, while cuffing season is a magical time for some, for others, it plays out like a game of musical chairs where they find themselves standing all alone with no prospects for a Boo or BAE.

When this happens, inevitably people begin to look for answers. Unfortunately, all too often, both the academic literature and the media place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Brothers (Black men). For instance, a review of the research on this topic reveals a long-standing preoccupation with Black men’s finances concluding in one of two ways. For some black men, studies have found that their inability to fulfill the traditional role of financial provider and breadwinner keeps them from being viewed as viable marriage partners. Yet for other Black men, we have been told that their low-income status makes them feel like less of a man, so they compensate by becoming hypersexual misogynists. Historically, media representations of Black men have also portrayed them in unfavorable imagery. From D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation to VH1’s Flavor of Love, Black men have been typecast as unfaithful, virile and dangerous. Although some of this has changed in recent years as music, tv and film have expanded the ways in which Black men’s masculine identities are depicted, it remains true that the overwhelming majority of media representations are problematic. The resulting combination of deficit framed research and biased media means that Black men are more likely to be implicated in discussions about what ails their families and communities than they are to be seen as assets with the capacity to uplift them.

In response, I set out to bring some balance to these discussions by using my platform as a community engaged researcher to uplift the lived experiences of real life, everyday Black men. Most recently, I have done this in my latest book, Black Love Matters: Authentic Men’s Voices on Marriage and Romantic Relationships. Black Love Matters is based on a study that followed a group of Black men from Louisville, Kentucky for over 4 years, chronicling the circumstances surrounding their marriages and romantic relationships. The book centers the men’s voices as it features first-hand accounts from the men themselves. In this way, Black Love Matters represents an important contribution to the conversation on Black men as it goes beyond previous work that only talked about Black men and actually talks to them. Highlights include discussions related to the roles that communication, sex, infidelity, intimacy, trauma, family of origin, concepts of masculinity, and environmental factors play in the men’s marriages and romantic relationships.

Although Black Love Matters fills a gap in the research on Black men and marriage, I am not claiming to be a relationship guru. Unlike the proliferation of experts who profess to have the keys to finding and keeping a good Black man, I am not pretending to have all of the answers. What I am is a Black man interested in seeing Black men and women turn to one another rather than turning on one another. What I am is a black man who understands that there are external forces working to fracture the trust that should be at the core of Black marriages and romantic relationships. What I am is a Black man interested in making sure that any and all critiques of our marriages and relationships also include critiques of the broader American institutions that have created the circumstances that threaten our ability to form sustainable unions.  What I am is a researcher who has spent hundreds of hours listening to Black men about how they love and want to be loved. 

To move this conversation forward, I am planning a series of biweekly blog posts covering topics that are addressed in Black Love Matters culminating in a virtual town hall meeting featuring presentations, a panel discussion, interviews, and an interactive conversation related to Black love, marriage and romantic relationships. The town hall is scheduled for Thursday, February 11, 2021 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm (EST).

I hope that you will respond to the blog posts and join me for the town hall. You can register by CLICKING HERE .

Armon R. Perry, Ph.D., is professor in the Kent School of Social Work at the University of Louisville. He can be reached at arperr01@louisville.edu or 502-852-3234.

To order a copy of Black Love Matters, click here. Use the code LEX30AUTH20 at checkout for a 30% discount.

Posted by Armon R. Perry, Ph.D., MSW

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