When we talk about the challenges that face women, we’d be remiss if we did not discuss relationships and the adhesiveness of the Black family structure. Recently, I sat down with Dr. Oliver Reid to discuss the challenges today’s Black families face and what we can do to overcome them.

Why are relationships in the Black community facing so many challenges?

“To answer that question, we must first look at the history of our culture. During slavery, they brought black men to breeding areas. These were places where they took men to sleep with as many women as he could in order to create powerful families. They then separated him from the family and left the mother there to nurse the child until the child was of age to work in the field. While this may seem like ancient history, this mentality that a man’s role was to father children, and the mother is the one that provides the nurturing and fundamental teaching has carried through the years.”

Do you believe society plays a role in the challenges facing the Black family?

“Besides the lack of examples for the Black family, society is also encouraging roles to be interchangeable. Many people have not seen a sense of a traditional family structure in our culture, and this definitely has caused harm to our families.”

What other things have you observed are holding Black families back?

“In our community Black families are hesitant to get help for their challenges, and this is especially the case when those challenges are in the family. People don’t go to relationship counseling until the brink of divorce rather than seeking counseling in the between years to avoid divorce. We still struggle to see therapy and counseling as a resource for the entire health of the family.

Another thing that creates a challenge is the lack of mentors that can model intimate behavior. In my example, my mother operated as a single parent. Later in life, I struggled with understanding what my role in the home should be. Even though I’d had good men in the community as mentors, I didn’t observe them in intimate settings. I didn’t understand how to exhibit love and intimacy because I’d never seen it modeled.”

What advice would you give to Black women who have also grown up seeing strong single moms in the home and model that behavior, even though there is a man in the home?

“Awareness is Key. Understand the power of your words and how they may affect him. Also, understand the emotional phase he may be in. Physically he may be 40 years old, but he may be emotionally dealing with issues from when he was the age of 5. You aren’t responsible for his actions, however, you can be observant to his actions and his body language when you say certain things or when you use a specific tone. Men will say what they don’t feel and feel what they don’t say, so observe how he reacts even if he isn’t speaking.

I always remind women, it’s not your job to make him a King or to make him something that he is not. It is your job to remind him of what he is. Understand that everyone, including himself, may tell him he is valueless, as his partner remind him of his value.”

What advice would you give to men?

“The biggest advice to men is you have to learn to be comfortable expressing your truth and vulnerability. Be willing to ask for help and express where you are lacking to your partner.”

What last advice would you like to give to the Black family?

“One important message for families is to recognize that happiness shouldn’t come from the other person, the other person should only enhance it. That’s too much pressure to make one person responsible for your happiness and can also build resentment. In addition, we have to learn how to invest in the relationship itself. You can’t demand something out of what you haven’t put into it. Ask yourselves, ‘What am I putting in my relationship?’ The more you invest in anything, the harder it is to walk away from it. Use this same formula in your relationships because you will only get out what you put in.”

Dr. Oliver T. Reid is a multi-bestselling and award-winning author, motivational speaker and the founder & president of I Am a Solution Consulting Firm, LLC; a human development organization providing specialized relationship consulting and coaching services. Known as “The Writing  Coach”, he uses cutting edge writing coaching techniques to help Entrepreneurs, Speakers, and Coaches , while leading them to live into their highest potential.

In addition, he is the creator of the revolutionary interactive card game for singles and couples, The InnerView™. Within the past seven years, Dr. Reid has published 20 bestselling books, contributed to 10 anthologies, and has won multiple awards for his literary work, including the 2016 IALA Distinction of Excellence Legendary Honoree and NAACP  2016-2017 Black Men Image Award. Dr. Reid has been featured on HuffPostBlack EnterpriseABCCBSFOXNBC and other international media outlets.

As a Woman…is a weekly column discussing the unique challenges and solutions in health, wealth, finance and relationships. If you would like to share in the conversation email, lharlem@pwperspective.