For weeks now, I’ve been wondering what Jada Pinkett-Smith meant when she said that she and Will no longer call themselves married—but life partners. Full disclosure, I like a lot of the things Jada has to say about a lot of the things. I feel like she’s incredibly wise. And, not for nothing, her insights remind me that, perhaps, one of the greatest benefits of being wealthy is the time it allows you to contemplate alternative ways of being. But that’s a story for another day.
In a recent interview with People, she explained.
“I needed a different form to dissolve all the expectations that I had of a marriage. I needed to do that to see Will outside of husband and see him as a human being. We have all these expectations. ‘Oh, this is what a husband is. This is what a wife is.’ I started dissolving all the ideas and expectations and labels.”
I wrote about this concept earlier this week and I mentioned the fact that other powerful Black women like Oprah and Shonda Rhimes shared similar sentiments about the expectations of marriage cramping not only their lifestyles but their contributions to the world.
Oprah talked about the expectations she and Stedman would have had for marriage and how it would have ended their entire relationship. I never understood that. After all, they seemed to live like a married couple. But now that I’m a little less than a week out from my own wedding day, I know exactly what expectations she was talking about…They’re real and real heavy.
In the year of our Lord 2018, wives are still the party who are expected to cook and clean. There are young women who talk about the importance of downplaying their power and influence to make a man feel like he’s the head of the household. Ask more than a few women and they’ll tell you there are rules and regulations to being married.
My fiancé and I have never attended the same church. He’s a musician and gets paid to be in church on Sunday mornings. I go to a church that preaches messages of love and inclusivity that align with my beliefs and experiences with God. Our churches are important to us for various reasons and throughout our dating journey, the fact that we were apart on Sunday was never an issue…until we got engaged.
Increasingly, I started thinking about how we’d resolve this church issue. I noticed that the other couples in our premarital counseling group attended church together. I started wondering what would people think about me and our relationship if they never saw us in church together as a unit. I thought about nosey church folk asking me where my husband was or him why didn’t his wife ever come to his church. I was particularly concerned about the prospect of us and our future children not being able to worship together on Sunday like my family did.
A couple of weeks ago, during our last individual marriage counseling session, I asked our facilitator what she thought about our “church issue” and what she would suggest we do in this situation? Should I continue going to my church, or go to the churches where my husband-to-be plays.
She told me that I should be with my husband. She shared this story about how in her marriage, she and her late husband shared a period where they were like ships passing in the night and how it proved to be very unhealthy for their relationship.
I sympathized but I wasn’t trying to hear that answer. And as still as I thought I was holding my face, my visage said something else.
The facilitator looked at me and said, “It seems like you don’t like my answer.”
I sighed, thinking of words that would be respectful while still telling my truth.
“No matter what happens between me and Soils, my relationship with God has to remain strong and for that to happen, I need to be in a church where I’ll be spiritually fed.”
She understood that and offered a compromise of going to the early service at my church and then going with him to his later services.
It sounded fair.
But the most interesting part was that after all of that my fiancé said, “She can go to whatever church she wants to. It doesn’t bother me.”
The “church issue” wasn’t an issue to him at all. He didn’t have any preconceived notions about married couples, their church habits and how his work on Sunday would dictate my worship practices.
In what has proven to be a pattern in our relationship, I was freaking out and Soils wasn’t tripping because more often than not, he’s content to establish his own rules for the type of life he leads.
I don’t know what the future holds for us, but the idea that we’ll get to create the type of union we want, upholding tradition when it suits us and abandoning it when it doesn’t, leaves me pretty hopeful.