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How Marriage Is Teaching Me A New Form Of Self-Care

I don't know how to be taken care of. It hurts to write this, but I need to let it sink in.

Her Voice

At the end of August 2020, I quit my job and took a leap of faith to pursue my creative passions of writing and connecting Christian women. This wasn't an easy decision for me because 1) I have worked since the age of 15. With the exception of my freshman year of college, I don't know what it's like to not have a steady income. And 2) I worked for a very prestigious government agency and had accomplished a lot during my time there. I wasn't walking away from a small thing; this was security, especially in a time where many experienced unstable employment.


However, my husband had just graduated from dental school and got a job in Dallas, TX. I truly believed God had shown me that this was the perfect time to transition. And although I knew the unknown wouldn't be easy (new city, new experience of defining work for myself), I could've never imagined just how difficult this change would be.

I've read a lot of inspirational blog posts about leaving your 9-to-5 and pursuing your passions, entrepreneurship, and #blackgirlbosses. They usually tell us to push fear aside, chase after our dreams, and be OK with failing because the process is worth it in the end. But in all my reading, I've never seen anyone talk about the other struggle that comes with entrepreneurship, specifically that of an independent black woman.

You see, when I left my job, I didn't have a set plan. I had just launched a blog with an idea to parlay that into a larger business, but the logistics weren't there. So, I used the first few months of unemployment to seek God and gain clarity and direction for my vision. Then, I began to work toward it: writing blog posts, promoting content on social media accounts, adding in YouTube videos, and creating a monthly newsletter. And all the while, my income remained at zero. Sure, I had a few final checks roll in from my previous job, but after they were deposited, it was nada.

For the first time in a very long time, I didn't have an income.

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And I quickly realized that this was challenging for my independent self.

But, I know you're thinking, you mentioned that your husband graduated from dental school, right? Yes, my husband is a dentist, which is another reason why the timing of the transition worked out. He was now going to have an income to support us both, so I truly had the opportunity to not work traditionally or be concerned about making money so that I could focus on starting my business.

You would assume that provision would put me at ease, but I have to be honest: it did the opposite. I know there are many women who would love for a man to fully provide for them, and although I understood that it was a blessing, I wouldn't quite say my feelings toward it were joyous.

I continued battling with these feelings one evening as my husband and I talked. I was discouraged by the different expenses that came along with starting my own business and even more so by the fact that I needed to keep spending without contributing financially to our household. Now, this type of conversation wasn't new for us. I'd cry about my no-income insecurities and my husband would remind me that although he's working, it's our money; I am working toward something greater that will benefit us in the future, and I contribute in so many ways beyond the finances. And even though, mentally, I knew all these things were true, emotionally my heart couldn't accept them.

"Maybe I'll get a real job," tears filled my eyes as I spoke. "That way I can bring money in and not feel like a leech." My husband looked at me lovingly and asked, "Babe, why can't you just let me take care of you?"

It was at that moment that I realized a profound but sad truth: I didn't know how.

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I don't know how to be taken care of. It hurts to write this, but I need to let it sink in.

I'm newly married and now in a position to be taken care of, but I don't know how to allow my husband to do that.

And I realized it's because throughout my life, I have rarely had that luxury. When I was younger, I used to love singing along with Ne-Yo to "She Got Her Own". It wasn't until I got older that I realized she had no other choice.

How many black women are independent because they've had to be? Because as a child, you saw your single mother struggling to raise you and your siblings, so you made it a point to take the pressure off her, at least when it came to providing for you? In my hometown, we could start working at age 15 and a half, and six months after my 15th birthday, I had my first job at Kroger. Of course, I didn't make much, but I was able to use my little paychecks to buy my school clothes and take a small burden off my mother.

In college, I saw those around me receive financial help from their parents, yet I was solely responsible for all my expenses. I applied for every scholarship available to help pay my tuition, bought a used car with my refund check, and worked multiple internships to pay my rent and cover books, food, and gas. I had no other choice.

And not only have I continued providing for myself, but I am also the one who usually financially supports my family. So, it makes sense that being a "receiver" is foreign to me when I've been used to my "giver" role—marriage included. When my husband and I first got married in 2018, he was in dental school while I worked. Although he contributed financially from his tutoring gigs or DoorDash runs (bless his heart), I was the real breadwinner for the first two years of our marriage.

Although my husband constantly reminds me that I supported us then so that now he can, it's still so easy for me to feel uncomfortable in this position.

There is a sense of comfort that comes with knowing you're fully taken care of and you don't need to hustle and grind to make ends meet. Many black women have given themselves that comfort because they didn't have other dependable options.

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I have prided myself on being an independent black woman. I'm proud that I was able to take care of myself and still can if need be. But, I am coming to realize that if left unchecked, this self-sufficiency can hinder me from experiencing a different type of freedom.

There is so much power in having a choice, and for so long, my only choice was to depend on myself. But this season is teaching me that I can provide for myself in a new and much-needed way: by allowing someone else to support me.

Working so much to provide for my financial needs caused me to neglect many personal aspirations. But now I am able to support a different part of myself because I'm choosing to receive.

Accepting support is a form of self-care, something even the most Destiny's Child-esque independent women need. And it's more than OK to embrace this option when you're blessed to have that choice—sometimes it's the best way to truly look out for you.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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