Authentic Men’s Voices on Marriage and Romantic Relationships
By Armon R. Perry
Muhammad Ali once said that the man who views the world at 50 the same way he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life. Put another way, he was suggesting that we needed to be in a constant state of growth and evolution in order to be good stewards of our time here on Earth. Although Ali was not speaking specifically about romantic relationships, I’m sure that he would have agreed that our relationships and marriages present unique opportunities for reflection and improvement.
The start of the new year is an ideal time for couples to set goals aimed at charting the future course for their relationships. For some, enhancing the quality and quantity of their communication is desirable. For others, getting better at resolving conflicts represents an area for growth. And of course, as with many couples, improving their financial health can be a top priority. Although each couple’s relationship is unique and their goals should be tailored to match their situation, perhaps the experiences of the men in my new book Black Love Matters can be instructive to couples looking to set #relationshipgoals.
In Black Love Matters, I followed a group of Black men for 4 years in order to chronicle the ups and downs in their relationships. Over the course of the study, I found that several of the men maintained stable marriages or romantic relationships across the full 4 years. In these cases, I was interested to learn more about what the men thought was the key to their relationship’s stability. Most often, the men’s responses revolved around the emphasis that they and their partner placed on their core values. In other words, many of the men with long lasting relationships highlighted the consistency between the things that they and their partners felt were important. As a result, this meant that the men and their partners were usually on the same page. Maybe even more importantly, when the couples had tough times, staying focused on their common core values helped them to work through their challenges to get back on track.
In some cases, faith and religiosity anchored couples. In others, prioritizing family time kept couples tethered. In one of the more interesting examples, a study participant shared how he and his partner choosing to respect each other’s individuality brought them closer together. To describe the unifying effect of common core values, one of the men made his relationship with his wife analogous to an isosceles triangle with him on one side, his wife on the other and their core values at the tip. As he explained, as long as both he and his wife were behaving in a manner that was consistent with their core values, which he described as moving up the side of the triangle, they were also simultaneously getting closer to one another.
So as you take the time to reflect on your relationship and begin considering areas for improvement, taking the time to think through and discuss your core values with your partner is also in order. If you have a partner and have not had this discussion, it may be well overdue. However, even for those who have had this talk with their partner in the past, stopping to pause and discuss where you and your partner currently are with regard to your priorities can help to ensure that you are still on the same page. After all, as the G.O.A.T reminds us, the only constant in life is change and romantic relationships are journeys that have many twists and turns. Taking the time to regularly check-in regarding your top priorities can help to ensure that you and your partner are not only headed to the same destination, but also agree on the route that you take long the way.
Stay tuned for more blog posts covering topics that are addressed in Black Love Matters, as well as topics that you identify as important in the comment section. As we move this dialogue forward, we will continue to examine these issues, 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 https://www.fathersincorporated.com/moynihan-institute/.
Armon R. Perry, Ph.D., is professor in the Kent School of Social Work at the University of Louisville. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 502-852-3234.
To order a copy of Black Love Matters, click here. Use the code LEX30AUTH20 at checkout for a 30% discount.