Black love

November 22, 1994|By Lisa Respers

BEING IN LOVE has never been easy for me.

It's not that I don't enjoy being in a relationship. To the contrary, I am a hopeless romantic who thrives on late-night phone calls and spending hours doodling hearts containing the initials of my beau.

But, as many "Oprah" shows have shown, these days, relationships between black men and women can be rocky for various reasons.

Personally, my romantic failures usually have come about for one of two reasons. Either I tried too hard, thereby "suffocating" the man I was with or he read my strong, independent spirit as evidence that I didn't need a man to lean on.

"Oh, you're one of those angry [expletive]," one former boyfriend said when I launched into a diatribe about his apparent lack of respect for me.

My many failed attempts at love have taught me that relationships between African-American men and women have a dynamic separate from the sugary romanticism I have been exposed to in mainstream media. I've learned that black love isn't easy.

The prevalence of this thinking is evident in the many books and newspaper and magazine articles on the subject. Two African-American psychologists say that black people are suffering a "crisis of intimacy" because of the everyday stress of being black in America.

Derek S. Hopson and Darlene Powell, husband and wife authors of a book on improving relationships between black men and women, say that, "because of the pressures we experience in general, we displace that stress on to each other."

Amen to that.

Don't get me wrong, I adore my current boyfriend. He is strong, loving, intelligent, attentive, goal-oriented, funny, attractive, employed, drug-free and spiritual. He has the qualities that many black women say the men in their lives lack.

Yet, I know when things have not gone well at the office or when his ex-wife has upset him, my boyfriend has not been a joy to be around.

Likewise, on the days that I've had disappointments at work or I have gotten stuck in traffic, I am not likely to spend 20 minutes cooing endearments to him.

The stress we both suffer just trying to keep our careers afloat, coupled with the media's constant negative portrayals of African-American life, is not always conducive to the perfect love relationship.

Instead of providing fodder for open and enlightening communication between us, I sometimes feel that we both suffer silently. True, we share our tales of day-to-day injustices and instances of overt bigotry when they occur, but more often than not we just vent and assume a "what can you do?" attitude.

There are so many questions I haven't asked him because of my other experiences with black men. For instance, I wonder if it bothers him that though he has more experience that I do, my career has taken off before his. Also, does he feel that my being a black woman has allowed me to progress faster in a corporate culture that finds black women less threatening than black males?

I haven't told him how much I admire him for standing strong in a society that so often views him and other black men as violent, dangerous creatures. Nor have I shared with him how touched I am with his desire to make ours a successful relationship, though statistically the odds are against us. Nor have I told him that I love him for all of those reasons and more.

Lisa Respers is a reporting intern with the Los Angeles Times.

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