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Let’s Settle This "Black Women Don’t Get Married" Thing Once & For All

Love & Relationships

Black women have a harder time getting married than anyone else. Chile. How many times have we all heard that?


Listen, it's not like I don't see the clickbait. There are studies from highly respected sources that say divorce rates are higher for Black women than white ones and we "also have relatively high rates of marital instability." To that I say, "define instability" because stats reveal that whites and Blacks divorce at about the same rate (it's Hispanics and Asians who remain married the most; Native Americans who get divorced the most).

All of this is solid data. It's also only one side of the coin. In "The Top 4 Myths About Black Marriage," it was cited that the ever-so-popular statistic, "42 percent of Black women never marry" actually includes women who are as young as 18 years of age (people who are barely adults). If you remove the teenagers from this, the percentages drop significantly.

How often do you hear this kind of information shared about Black women and marriage?

Research also revealed that according to 2005-2009 census data, a whopping 75 percent of Black women actually DO get married before they turn 35. Also, Black women in small towns have higher marriage rates than white women who live in urban cities like New York and Los Angeles. This article also states that 70 percent of college-educated Black women are married by the age of 40.

Is it just me or is the takeaway from this info that it's not that Black women aren't getting married; it's that they are getting married later in life — once we are more established, settled, and know exactly what we want — and don't want, in a relationship or otherwise.

Personally, I think this all proves that if we're not getting married as often or quickly as the media thinks that we should (and who cares what they think?!), it's because we're more pro-healthy relationships than undesirable when it comes to saying, "I do."

On behalf of us all, I believe this is why we're OK with not rushing (or even having to) jump a broom.

We Respect Marriage.

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I don't know why this isn't brought up more, but there is an overwhelming amount of Black women who find marriage to be so serious and sacred that they don't want to do it until they can truly honor it. That requires being holistically healthy, finding the right complement in a partner, and making sure we — and our partner — are emotionally and spiritually mature enough to mean "til death parts us."

For the Christians reading this, it's kind of like in Matthew 19, when Christ broke down the expectations of marriage and the disciples said (paraphrased and modernized), "Man. If marriage takes all that, I'm good. I'll stay single."

Exactly. Some of us aren't married because until we're sure we can take on the awesome weight and responsibility of that kind of union, we'd rather leave it alone. We should be respected for thinking that highly of marriage.

We Love Singleness.

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What is the problem with singleness? Goodness. If you've read more than a couple of my articles on here, you know that I'm all for cracking open a dictionary on the regular. That said, yes, singleness does mean "not in a romantic relationship" and "in an unmarried state". You know what else it means? Unique, sincere, and undivided. Some of its synonyms include particular, special, exclusive, exceptional, rare, peerless, uncommon and unrivaled. I don't know about you, but those sound like words that need to go on somebody's T-shirt line to me!

Did I think I would be 45-in-June and still single? Absolutely not. Especially not 20 years ago. But you know what? The more time I spend counseling couples, working on and celebrating myself and enjoying my seasons as they come, and the more I watch folks try and heal from broken marriages, chile…I'm good. Better than that.

I like being exclusive, rare, and undivided. I like knowing that I love men but I'm not needy for them. I like knowing that marriage should be seen as a blessing but not some mandated life goal. And, I really like resting in the fact that if I ever do get married, it will be because it will add to my life — not fill some void.

We Refuse to Settle.

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Another informative read is "High-Achieving Black Women and Marriage: Not Choosing or Not Chosen?" It was the subtitle that really caught my attention — "Black SWANS (Strong Women Achievers, No Spouse)".

Some things that the author cited is, "There are 157 Black women for every 100 Black men while there are approximately 450 white men for every 100 white women in [the $100,000 annual income] bracket!" and "If we just count people with master's and doctoral degrees, there are 209 black women for every hundred men versus 133 white women, 101 Asian women and 173 Latinas for every hundred of those men".

Hmm. If a Black woman invested time in order to create a life where she earned multiple degrees and a six-figure salary and then decided that she wanted a partner who did the same, what's wrong with that? I'll answer for you — absolutely nothing.

As for me — a woman who doesn't fall into either category — what am I waiting on? First, I'm not waiting. I'm living my life. Second, something that I know how to do is love. I LOVE BIG too. Whenever someone asks me why I'm still single, I simply say, "Until a man can love me the way I know I love, I'm cool." When you love yourself big, you're not only able to say things like that, you're able to mean it.

Why love yourself in a healthy way and then settle for someone who won't do the same? Yeah, what the media also doesn't speak on enough is most of us are single by choice versus circumstance.

And our choice is to not settle. Point, blank, and period.

We’re in No Rush.

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The women I know who desire children (and want to be married when they have them), once they hit their mid-30s, my heart does go out to them (although women are having healthy children well into their 40s and even 50s these days). I'd venture to say that most people who are already parents would still warn against getting married just so you can have kids. That's too much pressure to put on yourself or your unborn children.

But overall, most of the single Black women I know who do want to get married someday are in no rush. They're too focused on getting degrees, starting businesses, traveling the world — doing what my mother advises to single people: "Do everything you can't compromise before getting married because marriage is all about compromise."

When your life is full of goals, plans, and adventures, you're too excited about what's already on your to-do list to be worrying about whether or not a husband is in your future. I mean, you're literally so busy that the thought doesn't have room to cross your mind as nearly as much as your mom or aunt wants it to.

So, can everyone finally stop trying to freak us Black women out about marriage?

Marriage is dope. So is singleness. When we're ready to jump a broom, you can rest assure that it will be because it will make the life we already have that much bigger — and that's some really big shoes to fill!

Until then, don't let the click bait fool you.

Trust us when we say we're doing just fine. Because we are.

All the definitions of single confirm and affirm it.

Featured image by Getty Images.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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