I used to be terrified about getting married, but after learning the things our moms wish they had known before marriage, my perspective has changed. For the first time, I believe there are happy marriages among people of Black descent, and understanding these insights can help build stronger relationships.
The idea of getting married always terrified me as a kid and into adulthood. When I was younger, I didn’t see many examples of happy marriages, so it was tough to see myself in that role. However, I’ve reached the age where many of my friends are starting families. Recently, I’ve been working on mending some of the wounds I suffered as a child, and this process has caused me to reevaluate my beliefs and expectations concerning marriage. This year, I’ve talked to several of my mothers and other maternal figures about their experiences in marriage. So, I have compiled a set of criteria that we should use to evaluate prospective spouses.
1. Be well-informed about the health and spending habits of your future in-laws.
One of the most common reasons a marriage ends is money problems. Couples often argue over money because of either unrealistic expectations or a failure to plan ahead. To avoid this problem, couples should discuss their respective financial situations freely. Also, think about how they will affect their family’s finances. In most African households, I’ve learned, when you marry your spouse, you marry their entire family. Your spouse’s family joins yours. There will be a variety of methods in which they will count on you for help.
“If you don’t approve of your in-laws during the dating stage, it is unlikely to improve after marriage,” says Roselyn Kigen, a registered marital and family therapist located in Nairobi, Kenya. You and your partner should agree in advance on how often and how much money you will be able to give to your in-laws. As your marriage develops, be sure to revisit these limits periodically. As a result, the likelihood of disappointment on both sides will decrease.
2. Before starting a family, you should think about the genetic risks you both have.
Before deciding to start a family, it’s important to consider a wide range of potential health issues, hereditary and otherwise. Yet, other problems, such as generational trauma and mental health disorders, are also handed down from parents to offspring. It is crucial to learn as much as possible about your partner’s past, including any experiences of trauma, health issues, and genetic predispositions to mental illnesses like depression. After couples recognize the generational trauma in their relationships, they can seek therapy to overcome the effects of the trauma.
After discussing their health and family history, couples are in a better position to make long-term decisions, such as whether or not they want to start a family. This makes them more able to foster an environment conducive to the development of their children’s mental and emotional wellness. My personal experience has shown me that it is unusual for African families and the greater Black community to seek professional therapy or mental health support. Yet, it’s essential for happy marriages.
According to Kigen, couples that get counseling prior to being married have a better chance of overcoming generational and personal trauma together. They help couples “bring hidden past trauma to light” and “create a healthier and more honest connection between the married pair,” she adds of the sessions.
Physical and genetic issues, like impairments, should be thoroughly explored by both partners. Before tying the knot, it’s wise to think through potential child-related issues and make plans accordingly. If one of the spouses is caught off guard by the news that one of their children has a genetic problem, it could generate tension in the marriage.
“Couples should think about going for medical checkups together before getting married to try to reveal any of these issues that may occur later in the marriage,” says Kigen.
3. Recognize that you and your partner will change as a result of becoming parents.
Being a parent requires people to take on a new identity and take on new responsibilities. If taking care of their kids becomes a parent’s top priority, it might be easy for them to put their own needs on the back burner. In the early stages, mothers and new parents may face postpartum depression, nursing challenges, and negative self-perception. It’s common for fathers and other non-birthing parents to feel helpless and powerless in these situations. In light of these shifts, parents should prioritize meeting their own needs.
They should have opportunities to pursue their own interests outside of caregiving. It’s crucial to continue pursuing your passions and interests after becoming a parent. Kigen stresses the importance of finding a life partner with whom one may share interests and activities. But, it is also important to do things that you enjoy. Maintaining interests and doing things that bring us joy after marriage and parenting are important for our sense of identity.
They must also make time to hang out and focus on growing closer to one other in love. As a social observer, I’ve seen several instances of African parents putting their kids’ needs before their own.
Spend quality time together as a couple. It’s well-deserved by your loved ones. One of the best things you can give your child is a pair of loving parents, and it will make you and your partner feel good about themselves, too, as Kigen points out.
4. In most marriages, there isn’t a true 50/50 split of responsibilities or contributions.
Many married couples wrongly believe that a balanced relationship requires equal giving and receiving from each partner. Michelle Obama said that this is completely untrue. Every family is unique and wonderful in its own way. As a result, it’s common knowledge that one is better than the other. The give-and-take ratio between spouses may shift over the course of the marriage.
The pair must realize this and provide grace to one another. Constantly re-establishing mutually understood limits and standards is equally important; this is a circumstance when direct, frank exchanges of information prove invaluable.
Maintaining a happy marriage is hard work. You can’t expect your marriage to thrive if you treat it like a machine. “Take your time getting to know one other and paying attention to the little things,” advises licensed family therapist Roselyn Kigen.
5. It’s crucial to learn your partner’s preferred mode of expression of affection.
Everyone has their own unique way of expressing and receiving love. Learning your partner’s love language and expressing affection in ways that are meaningful to them can help you both feel more appreciated and loved. If you’re more of an “Acts of Service” person and your partner is more of a “Words of Affirmation” type, they may tell you how much they love you all the time, but you may not feel loved because they never offer to help out around the house.
Learning your partner’s love language will help you value their efforts even if they fall short of your ideals for receiving affection. This will allow you to express your affection in a way they prefer, which may differ from your personal preference.
Couples need to learn each other’s “love languages” so they can communicate more effectively and deepen their bond. African-Americans and people of other African descent often turn to their married friends and family for guidance on the subject of marriage. But let’s say you compared to other couples without considering your partner’s viewpoint. Then, going outside for guidance could really make things worse.
Avoid taking the advice of other couples at face value, as Kigen advises. Anecdotes can be gleaned from one’s elders or a trusted pair. Yet copying another couple’s actions is risky business because every relationship is unique.
One thing became crystal evident to me after considering all these factors. Marriage’s rewards sometimes outweigh the challenges, though. It’s a sweet vow between two individuals who care about each other enough to stick together through difficult times. An individual’s everyday decision to love and cherish their spouse is what makes a marriage work. There will be great days and bad days. Kigen says that when you’re wondering what happened to your love, you should remember what brought you together in the first place.
I’m excited to start dating again for the first time in a long time because it’s taught me new things about marriage. I believe happy marriages are possible now that we’ve had this discussion.
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