If you've been following me on Instagram, then you know that in honor of Black History Month and Valentine’s Day, I’ve been asking whether or not some of the most loved tv relationships that I remember watching on TV growing up were relationship goals or nah. So far we’ve talked about: Harriet and Carl, Dwayne and Whitley, Quincy and Monica, and Gina and Martin. And I’ve been thinking a lot about Phil and Vivian(the original one),the couples on Living Single, and Dre and Rainbow. I’ve just been thinking about the countless celebrity couples and TV shows that we watch and use to deem what we consider to be #relationshipgoals, which is the inspiration for this blog post.
ALL THAT GLITTERS AIN’T GOLD
When we talk about Black love and we talk about #relationshipgoals, I don't know that we're actually being careful. I can’t help but to question it, that’s just the therapist in me. Y’all know that I'm a sex and relationship therapist in the D.C. area, so part of the work that I do, whether it’s with individuals or couples, is to have them go through and name all the relationships that they think are wonderful, whether it's real life love or not. I usually have them pick someone that we both know and explain to me why they think that relationship is so great. This gives me an idea of where their relationship mapping comes from. I want to know where they get their expectations of what a relationship is supposed to look like, what it’s supposed to feel like, what words they think they’re supposed to say and even hear. Because in order to help them have healthy romantic relationships moving forward,they have to think about what influences the way they think relationships should go.
Oftentimes, whether or not we want to have it this way or even if we think it's silly, we get a lot of our ideas from TV. We form our thoughts about our ideal relationship from the various places that we see relationships happen, including the media. For example, if you grew up in a single parent household and you never really saw your custodial parent dating, then it’s likely that you turned to TV, celebrities, friends, and other family members to get an idea of what relationships should look like, feel like, and how they should go.
We also take in what our parents are doing, what they're saying and the things that they're not saying. And this is usually where I tell people to be careful. All that glitters ain't gold. Just because you saw a couple smiling whenever you were around doesn’t mean everything was all good. When you are looking at other people's relationships, it’s important to remember that you are on the outside looking in, which can have you thinking that everything they’re doing is the right thing to do within the context of a relationship. That can lead to modeling yourself after these relationships, good, bad and ugly.
Now I know I just told you that this is an exercise that I sometimes have my clients do and you're probably reading this post like, what? Why would you have them list off their favorite couples if you just said everything that glitters ain’t gold?
Well, I do that because we bring in purpose and intentionality when looking at what it is that we already are taking in. So, I'll have clients take a look and name their relationship goals, and tell me which celebrity or TV couples they tend to want to model after. Some of the ones that have been the favorites that I remember, in the context of therapy, have been Dre and Rainbow, people really seem to love a little bit of that Quincy and Monica love, and believe it or not, people love Dwayne and Whitley.
Pause: As a side note, I want you to notice that all of these relationships were darker skinned men choosing lighter skinned women. You might not think that's a big deal because I'm asking you to think about relationship goals. But, it is a big deal because it often speaks to how a person values themselves and the type of relationship they think they deserve. And I’ve got to be clear, a lot of TV from the 90s and even some now, usually show lighter skinned women or racially ambiguous women with dark skin men as though these light-skinned women are the only prize. So, it should also come as no surprise that many of my clients are also talking about how they don't feel loved and appreciated in their dark skin.
But, that’s a blog topic for another day and for another site. If you want to talk more about that aspect, head on over to my Cocoa Butter and Hair Grease site.
TAKING A CLOSER LOOK
Now back to what we're talking about - when we choose who we think our relationship should mimic, we've got to be careful. We've got to be intentional. We have to talk about exactly what it is that we like, and look at the full breadth and depth of what we're seeing. So many people talk about Dwayne and Whitley, their love and that powerful declaration of “will you marry me, baby, please?” I don't know if you’ve seen it, but it’s the episode where Whitley was about to get married to Byron and Dwayne stands up at the wedding and makes it known that he wants to be with her. After that episode it seemed like they became relationship goals for every Black woman. But, I was sitting there like really?? Y’all want struggle love? Because that's what I saw.
Even if we don't take it back to the very beginning of the series, and we just take it from that season and the season before, Dwayne didn't appreciate Whitley, and he was doing everything in his power to change her. He didn't like the type of woman that she was. He wanted her to change certain behaviors and to be something she wasn’t. AND even though she gave him every opportunity to step up and proclaim his love for her before she committed to Byron, he didn't take those opportunities. Instead he decided that he was going to cause emotional upheaval and turmoil, the day before her wedding. And then disrupt her wedding with feelings that he could have said something about the night before, or could have said months, even weeks leading up to her wedding to this other man.
I don’t know, but that shit don't seem all that healthy to me. And we didn’t even talk about the fact that because Whitley wasn’t changing into the woman he wanted, that he decided to talk to someone else and broke Whitley’s trust. Every single permutation in their relationship when she was walking away to something else (like going to New York or to Byron) and he decided that she was what he wanted and disrupted her flow.
Tell me where the health is in that.
But see, when we say relationship goals, we're not thinking about that piece of it. We're not thinking about how that plays out in everyday life. We don't think about how unhealthy these relationships actually are and the emotional turmoil that takes place. We don't think about how that causes the butterflies--Butterflies which are often seen as a sign of love but I think of as just a form of beautiful anxiety related to the person that you love and your uncertainty of whether or not they're actually going to commit to you. I used to think that when the butterflies went away in my relationship that it meant that something was wrong. Until I realized that I am so fucking secure in my relationship that the butterflies or rather anxiety was 100% unnecessary, but I digress.
Now, I just used Dwayne and Whitley as one of the primary examples, but when you think about
-Harriett and Carl
-Quincy and Monica
-Gina and Martin
-Dre and Rainbow
-Aunt Viv and Phil
-Kadija and Scooter
-Regine and the rich Black man she married at the end of the series
- Sinclair and Overton
- Kyle and Max
When you think about all these fictional couples that you saw in these relationships, I'm asking you to take heed. That is all I'm asking you to do. I'm asking you to consider what it is you actually like about their relationship. Ask yourself what made you like that relationship and be critical enough to also say what you don't like about the relationship and what would be not okay for you.
So sound off below. Let's talk about this in the comments and on Instagram & Facebook. Let's talk about:
- Who has been your relationship goals?
- What you liked about them and that relationship?
- Why you've liked it?--dig into the root
- And finally, if you've ever experienced that thing you’ve liked in the relationship.
Talking about these things can let you know what you solidly want. Sometimes we want the things that we see, but we don't actually like the shit in practice, you know? Like as a child, I loved mail, I liked the idea of getting mail. As an adult I'm like, keep your shit out my mailbox unless it is a check, because I'm tired of seeing these bills. LOL
So again, sound off in the comments and let's talk about how we can be more careful and intentional about who we deem to be #relationshipgoals.