February is a Black history celebration month and is also known as the month of love. Valentine’s Day is near. Twelve years ago, on Valentine’s Day, a Black man married a Black woman in the historic chapel at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi. My husband Keith and I entered into a wonderful covenant surrounded by family, friends, and lots of red and ivory. We have three incredible babies as a reverberation of February 14, 2009.
I’ve often heard, and it’s true: a good marriage is not something you find. It is something you make. My husband and I have been building for over twenty years now. We understand that forming a solid foundation is the hardest, most load-bearing part of the job (the calling, rather).
The most invaluable contributions I’ve made in my life have been toward my God-ordained relationship and marriage. I live to give my mind, body, and soul to my person because this is what focused, over-eager married folks know to do. We contribute time, energy, and resources. We invest in a patient, forgiving, faithful, selfless, and multilingual experience. I am twelve years in, and still learning how and when to show up as a friend (philia love), a lover (eros love), a spiritual anchor (agape love), and a soul collaborator (storge love).
I believe contributing consistently, in every area, is key to marital intimacy and goes a long way in conflict resolution. Often in marriage, partnership, or couplehood, we mask the fact that our foundations are unstable by directing the public to focus on more glamorous aspects of our lives; but deep down, we know it’s not well-dressed at all. It’s grimy, hard ass work.
It’s possible that the fictional couple in Malcolm and Marie, a trending Netflix film, are experiencing a single night full of anger and emotion; while many, in real life, have resolved to participate in hostile relationships that could very well endure until the end of time.
So much of the work in marriage is hinged on affirming the other person. I’ve been with my husband for twenty-one years and there is something new to love, honor, and cherish every single day. Marie wants a simple thank you— a standard honoring and acknowledgement from her mate. Instead, she gets counter-arguments peppered with egomania (OR, depending on your lens, race-based traumatic stress.) Although exaggerated due to its medium, we are not far removed from this storyline in our everyday lives.
Keith and Clinnesha are by no means Malcolm and Marie, but I’m sure we can agree that, in marriage, there are opportunities to sow hostility. Do we couples sometimes disperse that hostile, negative energy in our marriages? You bet. Does it reap love? No, because it is too busy forming attitudes, cultivating habits, and solidifying familiar-like patterns. Unlike anger, which is a transient emotion that comes and goes… hostility settles in.
One thing I know for sure when it comes to relationships: You cannot sow hostility and reap love. Hostility is no joke. It can be observed, learned, and even form new strands. It doesn’t have to be loud or malicious. It can be quiet. It can be a paid electricity bill or a neat, made-up bed. It can smell like a rich chicken tetrazzini or taste like basic ass Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
So, heads-up y’all. Pay close attention to the human being you’re immersed in life with. Give heartfelt thanks, remember love is a verb, and break every hostile chain before those things rust and ravel.
Clinnesha is a wife, mom, daughter/sister/auntie, literary artist, humanities scholar, and social entrepreneur. Her advocacy work is at the intersection of black/feminist thought, arts, culture, and community.