“My father used to say: ‘If a woman reaches 21 and she’s not married, something must be wrong with her!’”
It sounds like an old-fashioned sentiment. But when you consider that the father in question was born in Jamaica in 1919, the thinking is perhaps understandable.
Sharing further recollections with Dates4Us, 57-year-old Shirley Johnson says her father’s traditional views on marriage weren’t dissimilar to those of other black parents of his generation.
“Expecting a woman to be married by the age of 21 sounds very old-fashioned by today’s standards, but many women of my generation were certainly married in their 20s,” Johnson recalled.
“I was married at the age of 26 and most of my black friends were also married in their 20s,” the mother-of-two continued. “I guess it was the done thing at the time; it was expected that you’d get married and then start a family. That’s what our parents and grandparents had done and we were expected to follow suit.”
To say that times have changed would be an understatement. While such traditional values are still upheld by many in the black community, there are many others who are far less stringent in their views about marriage.
A recent post here on the Dates4Us WordPress page about actress Tempestt Bledsoe being unwed, despite being with her partner Darryl M. Bell for over 20 years – read the post here: http://bit.ly/1qVyxzG – sparked a very interesting online debate about marriage in the black community.
We posed the question: ‘Would you be happy being in a long-term relationship and not getting wed?’ Those in support of marriage were surprisingly in the minority.
“I think being married kinda puts a twist to it [the relationship] and makes some peeps feel like they’re tied down, which screws things up,” one commenter posted, while another said: “As long as the relationship is secure and they are comfortable with each other, I don’t see what a piece of paper would achieve.”
There was further indifference on marriage from one commenter, who said: “I’m not sure I would be fussed if it was me either. If we’re happy, being married would make no difference to me.” And another posted: “Marriage isn’t important to me, so it wouldn’t bother me.”
One organisation that is intrigued by the black British experience when it comes to relationships is UK-based social enterprise Words of Colour. Earlier this year, the company launched a unique online survey in a bid to uncover what black Britons really think about love, dating and relationships in the 21st century.
Speaking to Dates4Us, Patsy Antoine, co-creator of the Black Briton Dating, Relationship and Sex Survey said: “One of the reasons we launched our survey was to really pinpoint what we, as a community, were thinking and feeling about sex, dating and relationships.
“That includes our experiences of our parents’ marriages, what we learned and how we’ve carried those lessons into our own adult lives.”
Considering the apparent changing attitudes towards marriage in the black community, Antoine said: “Views on marriage have changed on a societal level. This much we know from higher divorce rates and partners now happy to cohabit due to changing laws, so it will be interesting to reflect on our survey findings once our research comes to a close.
“Personally, I’d like to think that we continue to respect the institution of marriage and believe in its values and its ability to offer a stable foundation. The only difference now is that maybe it’s been made all too easy to walk away from.”
In a bid to further examine why many modern day black Brits no longer see it as a priority to get married, we asked a number of unmarried black couples, who had been in their relationships for over 5 years, why they hadn’t tied the knot.
Some said that seeing their parents get divorced put them off marriage; others said they were happy in their relationships and saw no benefit to a ‘piece of paper’; and some said getting married is simply too expensive. “There’s no sense in us spending a minimum of £5,000 to give our family and friends a great party because when the dance is over, we’ll still have bills to pay,” one participant told Dates4Us.
Meanwhile, others suggested that the seemingly flippant attitude towards getting wed in celebrity culture has made a mockery of the union, thereby making marriage undervalued in modern day society. And others with children admitted that being ‘single’ in the eyes of the government is more viable due to the financial benefits single parents receive.
So what do you think? Is it a shame that so many in our once traditional community aren’t interested in getting married? Or is tying the knot simply not that important? Tell us what you think!
If you’re looking for new love, join http://www.dates4us.com today
If you’d like to take part in Words of Colour’s Black Briton Dating, Relationship and Sex Survey, click here: http://svy.mk/KPL2sD
Other celebrity couples that aren’t married