Struggle Love

Published on 20 October 2021 at 11:18

Over the last few weeks, I have had more time to write, observe, and even watch a little television. When I really need to relax and detach from real life, I watch reality television. I could not tell you what day these shows come on because I watch everything on-demand. But, while catching up on shows, I started noticing a theme that was starting to glare at me. Why were there so many shows centering around struggling relationships or marriages?

You have Marriage Boot Camp (any version, but more so the Hip Hop one), Put a Ring On It, Family or Fiance, and others. The premise of most of these shows is to work through issues in relationships or marriages that may seem impossible to tackle without professional help. While I do like the fact that there is professional counseling, you have to wonder why dysfunction, aka “Struggle Love,” is presented increasingly as the norm. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would believe that there was a plan to kill off Black Love through misrepresentation. It is everywhere. Even on dating shows, there is drama (most often played up for the viewers). I never really thought about how this affects people in real-time until I watched one of the shows with some young people at my house.

We were watching Marriage Boot Camp (the current season airing). I was a bit thrown off by the couple’s behavior on the first day. It was the young man who came out on Love and Hip Hop and his girlfriend. While their names escape me, their behavior cannot. The young lady watching with us mentioned that she liked how the young woman on the show doesn’t let her boyfriend get away with anything. I asked a simple question, “What did the guy do? They just got there.”

After watching a little more, the guy was annoying. But so was EVERYONE else on the show. Even the older, more stable couples were aggravating. There were four couples this season: one was struggling with previous and probably current infidelity, another dealing with trust and past baggage, the third is enduring alcoholism and narcissism, and lastly, the fourth is coping poorly with a clash in expectation versus tradition (Nore is also a jerk, a likable one but still a jerk). While getting to know all the couples, the young folks in my house mostly remarked on the level of drinking by one of the cast members, but they noted how they know many people who drink like that and how it is relatively normal these days. I was floored. Why, if you are not married to this person and cannot come to a sustainable medium, would you continue? Why inflict this level of unhappiness on each other?

I am starting to notice a theme in these shows, and it makes me think twice about relationships. I know this is “television” and that most is only semi-reality, but it gives you pause about how people treat each other. I am not okay with treating someone else wrong because they don’t understand my needs. It is a child-like manifestation of a grown-up relationship. You get a mate, but don’t get held to any accountability or responsibility along with the journey. You are supposed to grow with your person in your relationship. Whether it is together or apart is determined along the way, but that is par for the course.

These reality shows make it seem like an obligation to fix it regardless of the inflicted emotional damage. When the recommendation should be to walk away from each other and leave it alone, the couples usually get told to try harder to see it another way. My personal opinion is that struggle love is a no-go for me. I can struggle by myself. When I say struggle, I am not speaking only financially. Overcoming emotional, career-based, mental, and other types of struggles should not require ignoring red flags. The young lady with the drinking problem on the television show is a prime example. While this is a relationship show, nothing will get accomplished through counseling when the subject is consistently crying drunk. Once alcoholism was identified, the young lady should have been counseled on her addiction and recommended in-patient alcohol cessation treatment.

While this specific piece may be all over the place, I said all that to say that we are not doing any generation of any community justice by showing them how to stay in broken and painful spaces and relationships. We should be teaching them a lot more about themselves and how to find accomplishment. The thought should always be if you are complete as a single person, you will compliment someone else. The goal should be to be someone’s compliment, not their completion, and vice versa.

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