Unloved : The Perils of Dating as a Black Woman

All of my life, I’ve been very curious about love and relationships, about how they work and what makes them strong etc. But as I get older, I start to wonder if dating and relationship structure differs by race or if I’ll find true love as a black woman. I’ve felt some rejection and wounds as far as dating is concerned, but sadly I face the most hurt from men of my own race.

I grew up being raised by two single moms. My sister and mother. I didn’t really see them suffer in love because they were so busy trying to provide for us that they didn’t have time to date much. That always hurt me to see. There wasn’t a man in sight. I always assumed it was just because that’s the way things were, I never thought of it solely as a black woman’s struggle. That changed as I got older, smarter and formed relationships of my own.

It wasn’t until I reached my 20s that I had experienced my own perils of dating and realized that my love life wasn’t going to reflect what I saw in the latest Julia Roberts romcom. Growing up, I did, however, see how relationships played out on television regarding black women. Almost every single plot in a black movie revolved around the man messing up, disrespecting her and expecting to be back taken by a black woman.

Hence, movies like Baby Boy, Waiting To Exhale, For Colored Girls and basically every Tyler Perry movie. In all of those films, every black female character was either cheated on, raped, beaten or violated in some way and hardly EVER valued. Reality TV represents the same message to black women, endure all the scraps that men give you because, well, thats love. Don’t believe me? Just go and watch the latest episode of Marriage Boot Camp : Hip Hop Edition or Love & Hip Hop. As far as I can see, we get all of the heartache and the least amount of love. I grew up thinking that I had to put up with so much from a man in hopes that one day he would marry me and I think a lot of black women feel the same.

I used to watch Girlfriends to get motivation, inspiration, proper representation and most importantly, laughs.Then I compare to sitcoms such as ‘Friends’ where their ups and downs of dating were the polar opposite of ours. Rachel never had to worry about dating a man without financial stability, multiple baby mothers, or a criminal record. In fact, most white women don’t.

I’m not writing this to down black men, I’m just telling my story. It wasn’t until recently with my curiosity of black women and dating did I decide to do some research about what we suffer from.

According to domesticshelter.org, Approximately 4 out of every 10 non-Hispanic Black women (43.7%) have been the victim of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. The higher prevalence of intimate partner violence among ethnic minorities cannot be explained by any single factor, but seems to be related to risk factors such as substance abuse, unemployment, education, cohabitation of unmarried partners, pregnancy, income.”

Domestic violence is real and as much as you think it could never happen to you, it absolutely can. One thing I know for sure, is that love should never physically hurt.

I’ve found that while people and politicians tend to lie, statistics don’t and reading the harsh realities of what black women endure make me feel uneasy. Domestic violence is just one factor I’ve realized but then comes another dealbreaker in relationships, cheating. We’ve all been victims of an unfaithful partner, but what race cheats the most? According to a study done by Wendy Wang for the Institute for Family Studies, cheating is more common among black people. “Some 22% of ever-married blacks said that they cheated on their spouse, compared to 16% of whites and 13% of Hispanics”.

The numbers shown above in the data chart didn’t reflect black men as a whole however, black men specifically had the highest rate of every ethnicity with a whopping 28 percent of married black men had admitted to having sex with someone other than their wife compared with 22 percent of white men engaging in extra marital sex.

These numbers cease to shock me if I compare to my own relationships which have all been with black men. I had one boyfriend who just wouldn’t stop cheating on me, he was financially unstable, abusive, very cruel and he would even actively be on dating sites whilst with me. But I’m no exception to the rule. Almost every black woman I know has also been a victim of black men who are serial cheaters at one time or another during their dating career. It’s always a secret wife or a girlfriend he is trying to juggle along with his other women. I have four sisters and all of them have gone through similar situations. It is unfortunate but it is reality, our reality.

Ashley Wyatt, 23, thinks black men just don’t know how to commit.

“Many men will want all the perks that come with being in a relationship. Dates, constant phone calls/texts, flirtatious behavior, sexual interaction, etc. But don’t want to settle down and commit to one person who they are giving all their time and energy to. This leaves black women left getting the short end of the stick”

Tamura Cottrell, 37, married once before says it has a lot to do with how black men are raised:

“Black men don’t have any loyalty and lack the drive to work towards treating their woman right and no one to have taught them to do better.”

My question of concern is why, why do black women deserve this? Before your eyebrows raise, I’m specifying black women because out of all the races who choose to intermarry, we statistically do it the least which is indication that yes, we get cheated on the most. According to blackdemographics.com, 94 percent of black women are married to a black man. “48 percent of Black women in the US have never been married and 46 percent of all women are currently married.”

There could be lots of reasons and inevitable factors that contribute to why we are the most unmarried group considering we are the most marginalized people in the US. I studied Journalism and Africana Studies in college and my discovery of our sad realities hit me like a ton of bricks. 1 in 3 black men will end up in prison at some point in his life while only 1 in 6 latino men will and 1 in 17 white men will. That’s a lot of our men being locked up. Black people only make up 13 percent of the US population but make up 40 percent of the prison population.

That leads me to my next point, if mass incarceration isn’t already putting a huge strain on black relationships then financial stability is next up. When I think about one of my girlfriends telling me about a bad date, 8 times out 10 its one of my black sisters telling me how she had to pay for majority of dates in their relationships with black men, or him casually forgetting his wallet. Or, my favorite one, he doesn’t have a car so she had to pick him up for the date. When I compare these stories to one of my White, Latina, Asian or Arabic girlfriends, it’s the exact opposite. Their dates wine and dine them and they look at me like I’m crazy when I share my experiences.

Let’s not forget, how real and prevalent the racial wage gap is in America. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, black men from ages 25 and up have the highest unemployment rate at 5.8 compared to whites at 2.8. In a study by American Progress, studies revealed that “In 2016, the median wealth for black and Hispanic families was $17,600 and $20,700, respectively, compared with white families’ median wealth of $171,000”. This also puts a strain on black relationships. It’s hard to say racism is past us in America when looking at these numbers.

Diamond Kenyan, 29, says

“Black men hold onto all the struggles they’ve had while growing up and sometimes bring that animosity, anger, depression into their relationships”

Black men are one of the most marginalized groups, they face discrimination and stereotypes every way they turn and black women are aware of that. We carry their pain and ours too. We protect them against anything that can harm them or put them behind bars, even if it hurts us in the process. My question, who comes to our aide when tragedy strikes?

Photo by : Derean Womack

The amount of black children born to unwed mothers is also alarming and contributes to the suffering of Black women. According to the US Census data on the living arrangements of children, in 2014 alone, 70.9% of births among blacks were to unmarried women compared to just 29.2% of white women. That’s a lot of black mothers doing the hardest job in the world, alone. I can only imagine bringing a child into the world, let alone have to do all the work by myself.

Cottrell also says :

“We have to face a whole lot dating black men, I think it comes from not having a father in the home to teach them how to be a man, father, husband or how to manage their finances and credit score”

We are also had a higher risk for STI’s than other ethnic groups. According to a data brief in 2018, by the National Center for Health Statistics, Black women were among the highest to be infected by herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) even though the U.S. population seen an overall decrease in HSV-2 from 1999–2000 and 2015–16. When it comes to HIV diagnoses and most affected populations, according to the HIV surveillance report, Black women had 4,008 cases compared to Latina women having 1,058 and White women having 999. These numbers only tell me one thing, our relationships that we get in with black men that we claim to be Monogamous are actually the opposite and the results hurt us severely in the end.

Cristal Dent, 24, says :

“Our options are few, the image that black men are fed by the media doesn’t help either..it’s making them think its ok to have multiple women, kids and to value material things over morals and values which forces black women to settle or to not date black men.”

My point in writing this, is not to bash anyone but to show what black women go through and have been going through for decades. I’m just writing what I know and my experience. I see us have a hard time when seeking love and relationships and I just want better for us. I have tons of multicultural close friends that I’ve known for years and I’ve noticed that even though they’ve all experienced dating woes and heartache, things seem to be changing for them for the better.

As for me and my melanin sisters, most of us in my circle are single or broken from previous relationships or just simply trying to remain as strong as everyone perceives us to be.

Looking at the numbers that I’ve shown you in this article were really hard to swallow. Going through half of the stuff I’ve stated also stings but my challenge to anyone reading this, specifically black men, is to do better by black women and women in general. This behavior is unacceptable and demeaning to so many of us. Just because you grow up seeing something, does not mean that you have to imitate it and repeat the cycle. Change always starts from within and self-reflection is one of the main keys of life.

Just writing what's in my notes and in my heart.

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