By Keka Araujo

With the release of Jay-Z’s 4:44 album, talk about relationships between black men and women have been put front and center. While Beyonce’s thought-provoking Lemonade album allowed sisters to explore our own pain and  joy, Jigga’s ubiquitous influence appears to be initiating heartfelt conversations between brothers—the kinds of conversations that may have existed solely in closed spaces. Honestly, these conversations were long overdue.

A disconnect between black men and women continues to impede any type of progress we hope to make. Click To Tweet

Black women have been communicating what we need in our relationships for forever, but it hasn’t worked. Our pleas for loyalty, honesty and love go unheard—not necessarily due to brothers’ lack of trying. Their lack of critical listening skills is much more complex than that.

From a sister’s standpoint, I understand how frustrating that may be. We invest our bodies, time and effort into showing our value to brothers so they can see why they should choose us, right?  So much precious time is spent displaying what makes us “a good catch” that we completely miss important cues that warn why we should move on. It’s like there’s some trigger that makes us believe we have to devote our time and energy to unworthy people.

We built this big, beautiful mansion of a relationship that wasn’t totally built on the 100 percent… Click To Tweet

Yes, we live inside these mansions with walls made of  shoddy promises and broken foundations, often trapped in our own hell because leaving would mean we gave up. And right when he may have juuuuust been starting to change…

We black women have a responsibility to hold ourselves accountable for that. We teach our children that everyone isn’t for them. Why won’t we heed our own advice? By the time we realize this, we are shattered. We blame black men for not loving us back and for hurting us when the sad reality is, we didn’t love ourselves enough to do better. This transcends class, status and education, and hearing those words in that way hurts like hell. Our self-worth shouldn’t be reduced to accepting unhealthy relationships as the price for wanting to save everyone, and we shouldn’t throw ourselves into our children because we don’t like the women we’ve become. Doing so only ends up costing us everything, making us bitter and committed to loveless marriages we stick with for financial stability and not much else.

No, sis. This is devastating in the long run.

In Jay-Z’s candid admission he stated,

“This is my real life. I just ran into this place and we built this big, beautiful mansion of a relationship that wasn’t totally built on the 100 percent truth and it starts cracking. Things start happening that the public can see..”

“Then we had to get to a point of ‘Okay, tear this down and let’s start from the beginning … It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

STOP. Full pause.

What’s most interesting is that he admits what many men won’t say out loud: being with a woman, taking her as his wife and having babies aren’t contingent on loving her, especially if she is the creme de la creme of sisters. Hell, it doesn’t even require some black men to be whole people. But really, which one of them is going to give up all of that?

In looking back at Jay-Z’s discography, I can’t recall him rapping with tenderness about his wife. She was repped more like a prized pitbull than someone whom he chose to spend his life with based on love. And I’m not saying he didn’t love her. I am saying men like him often have their own agendas when choosing a spouse or even starting a relationship and it can ultimately be a love that’s toxic.  I am aware that men love differently. Keenly aware. I also acknowledge that most black men want to do right by their relationships, even if they have no idea how to do it. But I also think that Black men haven’t been completely honest with us about their intentions. Hell, they’re not even keeping it “100” with themselves.

Black men have a responsibility to be transparent: stop playing the game when you know women are prone to get emotionally attached. You all know the dopeness of black women; it isn’t fair to start something you aren’t even sure you want to see through, and it’s especially foul to add babies and bills to that uncertainty.

Get on that grown man shit. Be honest with yourself and with her. Sometimes loving her means letting her go. That takes courage. It takes an incredible sense of self-awareness. It’s the pinnacle of loving someone.

Even as my own marriage ends, I find myself reflecting on conversations that I’ve had with my husband since his affair. I understand this is probably the realest shit he’s ever spoken to me and that probably wasn’t easy.  I’ve also said and done things for which I need to accept responsibility.  And we are both still hurting. I did humiliate him publicly. This is the first time I’ve stated that out loud.  I don’t know how I feel about that. I don’t necessarily feel remorseful but I could have never imagined that I would be so willing to hurt him.

He doesn’t get a pass, but if I’m being real about accountability, we have to walk the walk on both sides. I hope that as we all continue to dissect Jay-Z’s words and apply them to our own lives and relationships, we get that clarity and learn how to really do the work to build relationships meant to last.

* * *

Keka Araujo is Chief Content Creator of “Negra With Tumbao” and a contributor at “The Urban Twist.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

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