The results of a new poll that sheds light on black relationships are raising eyebrows.
Earlier this week, NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health released the findings of a new survey that asked black men and women between 18 and 49 years old who were divorced, widowed or never married if they were currently seeking a long-term romantic commitment, among other quality of life questions.
Roughly half of the men said yes.
Just a quarter of the women said the same.
Do black men really want marriage more?
The results of the poll fly in the face of everything most people have always thought about relationships, which is loosely that men want to avoid commitment and enjoy the single life for as long as possible, and women are itching to marry practically from birth.
In NPR’s initial story about the poll, one woman, upon hearing the results, accurately summed up what I bet is the majority’s incredulous reaction, saying, “Shut the front door!”
Women aren’t the only ones baffled by the results. I e-mailed the NPR story to a group of 50 men I’ve long referred to as my Male Mind Squad. They candidly fill me in on the male perspective on all manner of issues, especially relationships.
Black men weigh in on these findings
The first guy to respond called BS on the survey. “They got that survey from Family Feud,” he joked. “I have never met a handful, let alone 50 percent, of any group of men complaining that they want to settle down, but women are playing games.”
Oddly enough the results of the NPR survey are consistent with other recent surveys that find men (of all colors) desire committed relationships while women appear to be ambivalent. In 2011, dating site Match.com published the results of a survey on singles that found men were just as eager to marry, if not moreso than women. The same study found women were less likely to desire a committed relationship and value their independence more than ever.
Similarly, a 2012 survey by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Foundation found that many black women have concluded “happiness does not require a mate.” In fact, just forty percent of black women surveyed for the Post/Kaiser study said getting married is very important.
Black women: Opting out of love
The explanation for this outlook was summed up by a successful woman who was quoted in The Post’s story. “I can be successful. I can make money. I can have a career. That is in my power to control,” she said. “Finding a husband — that would be great, but that’s not in my power to control.”
Her outlook resonated with another guy friend I shared the results of the NPR study with who actually wasn’t shocked by the findings. “Many women saying they don’t want a relationships is the reflection of many women delaying marriage and kids to, a) advance their career, and b) avoid heartache. Eschewing relationships is a way of taking a ‘lead’ position by setting the terms by which they will be courted.”
Black men: Possibly maturing, but time will tell
He also hoped the NPR survey was a sign maybe (finally?) that guys were maturing. “Many men are realizing that if they want to be taken seriously, they need to man up, put their childish ways aside and be serious about relationships,” he said.
Another guy friend found that outlook, as well as all the survey results about men desiring commitment more than women, laughable. “Mannnnnn, listen…,” his email began. “Men, myself included, are in love with the notion of being in a committed relationship, but many of us are ill equipped for one, much less [to] do what’s necessary to maintain one. Look at the facts! Adultery and divorce are at an all-time high!”
“There’s only one way to accurately judge what ideal men are committed to,” he continued. “By their actions, not their words.”
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk.