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I liked being married, and then I didn’t, and at some point, I went from actually wanting to cook and clean and handle the laundry and manage the family schedule and do all the things supposedly good wives do, to waking up first thing in the morning and dreaming—dreaming about what it would
be like to just… go. To be somewhere else, anywhere else, where I could just be something other than profoundly unhappy.
That’s the part that the married couples I both grew up and hung around kept to themselves, right? Like mama and the inlaws and the aintees and the “Black Love Goals” couples an’nem put on the strong face and played their roles and smiled pretty for their captive and doting audiences, but what actually goes on in marriages behind closed doors
—how women have to wring themselves like rags, trying to squeeze out every ounce of their love and labor to make the thing work—proved elusive. The truth of the matter, of what it was really like to be the chef/chauffer/laundress/house cleaner/PTA mom/freak in the sheets/moral compass/planner of all the things, ultimately felt more like 12 Years a Slave
than The Cosby Show
everybody made it out to be.
This is not me tossing out excuses for why I went back on my “’til death do us part
” promise; there’s growing amounts of research showing how stress unique to Black women is literally killing us. Cheryl L. Woods-Giscombé, Ph.D., R.N., even developed a framework, called “The Superwoman Schema,” that names the five characteristics Black women consistently employ, to the detriment of our health and well-being: a perceived obligation to present an image of strength; a perceived obligation to suppress emotions; a perceived obligation to resist help or to resist being vulnerable to others; a motivation to succeed despite limited resources; and prioritization of caregiving. In an interview
with Medical News Today
, Woods-Giscombé noted that Black women don’t just wake up and strap on our superwomen capes because we feel like it; there is historical, familial, social, racial and emotional context to why we try to do all the things, no matter how tired, annoyed, anxious or hard it is to get them done.
And this, cites a wellness toolkit
I recently downloaded from The Black Women’s Health Imperative, can lead to everything from weight gain, to sleeplessness to “weathering
,” when unchecked, chronic stress erodes our immune system, leading to serious health issues, like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, anxiety and obesity.
Now, I didn’t know all this when I was still hitched, but I felt it down to my bones. By the end of my marriage, I was just… tired. Exhausted, really. Didn’t want to wake up to piles of laundry that needed folding and the sound of someone else shitting and showering—didn’t want to think about what I’d have to cook for dinner and whether I could squeeze in more household and family chores and obligations between my frenetic writing schedule (the main source of our household income), and the volunteer work I’d signed up for (to keep an eye on what was going on with my daughters at school) and my intense struggle to hold on to the steadily deteriorating relationship with my ex and his family. It was a lot. Too much. And finally, after 22 years of marriage, I decided I needed to unlove him
and all that it took for us to stay together so that I could get down to the business of loving me.