originally published: 11/27/18 on astoldbyaaliyah.com
Y’all, I tried to avoid writing this blog. I really did. This topic just kept resurfacing and it has been taking up real estate in my brain for over a week now. I am hoping by purging all of my thoughts on the topic, I can free up some space.
Over a week ago, an interview between Sister Circle Live hosts and Pastor John Gray set social media ablaze. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have already seen my quick rant. Whether you engaged, or just passively tapped through my story, then you know where this is going. If you missed it, let’s get into it.
Pastor John Gray was speaking with Sister Circle Live hosts about his new book and was asked by one of the hosts “What can men do to break these cycles that are generational”? After John discussed the role of his mother in his life, he then made the following comments regarding his relationship with his wife:
For context, see mark 10:50. Pastor John Gray’s comments between mark 12:04-13:04 made for the 60-second viral clip (transcribed below).
“The wife that I chose is better than the man that I am. I married a woman two sizes too big. I have to grow into Aventer. She's a coat. I still can't fit her, she's bigger than me and she's had to cover me while I grow up. I got to grow into her. She's a covering, not a lid. Because if a man marries a lid she'll stop your dream but if you marry you're covering, she'll push you to your destiny. Now I'm about to shout and tear this whole thing up. Let me tell you something, my wife has endured more pain birthing me than both of our children. She has sacrificed these last eight years uncovering the painful areas of my manhood and covering the areas that could have exposed me. She deserves anything I can give her. I'm gonna live the rest of my life to honor her because she gave me what I couldn't give myself which is a chance to heal while still seeing the God in me.”
Pastor, Imma let you finish but... this ain’t it.
I don’t know what part is more cringeworthy, the Pastor's praise of his wife in relation to her “birthing” him or the sisters gushing over his testimony. I truly believe that Gray meant no harm and judging by his statement “I’m about to shout and tear this whole thing up” he honestly thought he was doing something and the fact that he thought he was giving his wife the recognition that she deserves is the major problem.
As this clip went on, two messages were astoundingly clear:
1. His wife's tolerance for pain is being validated as her capacity to love him
2. His wife is accountable for his emotional growth and maturity
What John Gray said isn't anything new and contributes to the more overarching problematic expectation of Black women's role in relationships. Black people have a tendency to romanticize struggle love. The ride or die and superwoman trope falls under the same umbrella, with the presumption that Black women will carry the weight.
To be clear: I absolutely believe and think it is a requirement for partners to grow and mature together. Relationships will inevitably face hardships and tribulations. However, it seems that the burden of emotional strength and tolerance in relationships leans on one side- the Black woman’s.
Statements like “my wife endured more pain birthing me than our children” and “if a man marries a covering, she’ll push you to your destiny” perpetuate unhealthy and inconsiderate beliefs and behaviors. Accepting the idea that your spouse will birth and cover you, absolves you of any personal accountability.
I wonder how many Black women are actually allowed the space and privilege of being “covered” and “birthed” by their spouse. At what cost did Pastor John Gray’s wife pay to be the emotional laborer in their relationship?
Black women’s empathy is being manipulated in the name of love. We need to stop reinforcing these narratives that pain and suffering are prerequisites for long-lasting love. What if I told you that contrary to the way in which we are socialized, there actually is not a genetic trait that makes Black women more equipped to handle emotional baggage, catalyze growth, and endure pain in relationships. Black men simply have to do the work; you have to develop your own insight, hold yourself accountable and carry your own weight in the same way that Black women are required to do from birth. It should no longer be expected that Black women will “endure pain” and fix damage that she did not create.
I hope for a world that teaches both, Black men and women alike that love can exist without the displacement of pain onto another. In this ideal world, we learn that as human beings we are individually responsible for and capable of activating our own healing; independent of the support and strength received from our spouse. Once we start to accept and practice this, maybe the burden will be lifted or at the very least, equally distributed.