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I just read a story about Vanessa Long sharing the “storm” she survived after her husband, Eddie Long, the senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, was accused of “having relations” with five young men in the ministry.
Vanessa Long, who herself is an elder at New Birth, spoke to a group of women in the Heart to Heart Ministry at New Birth sharing that the whole experience was a very gruesome struggle but her final decision was to stay with her husband and their church.
As I read the story, I was reminded of the Monica Lewinsky scandal that put the then, First Lady Hilary Clinton, in a similar predicament. I remember being very judgmental of Mrs Clinton, at the time, in my arrogant and youthful ignorance. Now, as I approach eight years of marriage, my perspective has shifted. I am able to see that Elder long (and Mrs. Clinton) can seem like foolish women who are taking this “marriage thing” a little too far but I also see that it is not so simple.
First of all, most people who walk into marriages take vows and those vows, usually say that the couple should stand by each other through “thick and thin” and through “sickness and health” and of course that does not just mean that wives or husbands can’t walk away if their spouses get sick; it means that you vow to stay no matter what!
I will admit, I have somewhat of a bias; I was born and raised in a two parent home and in less than two years, my parents will celebrate 40 year of marriage. Through them, I have learned that if you’re committed to your marriage and the well-being of your children and the stability of your community, there really is next to nothing that can convince you to walk away from your marriage. Further more, my perspective is colored by being raised in a different country where the culture places a very high value on marriage, family and community.
The alarming rate at which people choose to end their marriages today is by far not an indicator of the exceptions of “through thick and thin” but instead an indication that the way modern day society perceives marriage is shifting and not in a good way. If you haven’t already, just spend some time talking to a psychologist or sociologist about the crippling effects of broken homes.
Of course there are exceptions; too often, we hear about battered women who stayed in abusive marriages right up until their husbands took their lives. This is an extreme example and those are the instances where divorce is almost certainly the only option.
In her conversation with the women she was speaking to, Elder Long shared that part of the reason why she stayed was because she wanted to stay with her New Birth family and also because she believed that she could use her experience to inspire and minister to other women who are going through their own “storms”.
How I interpret what she is saying is that she did not just stay because she did not want to leave Eddie Long; she stayed because she understands that her marriage serves a greater purpose than just a relationship between two people. Maybe Mrs. Long considered her three children and thought that even though they had probably suffered a great deal of embarrassment from the attention they got in the scandal, they still deserved to be with both their parents in one household. Maybe Mrs. Long thought about having to leave all the meaningful relationships she had been building for years and the standard of living that she was accustomed to and decided that Eddie Long’s alleged actions should not rob her and her children of those things. Maybe, Mrs. Long thought about the day she said “till death do us part” which meant that even though what her husband was being accused of made her vomit, understandably, he was still alive and that meant that she was still his wife.
I don’t believe that any woman can say with certainty what she would do if she were in the same position as Mrs. Long. We will never know what Mrs. Long’s conversations with God were, as she undoubtedly knelt to pray for the strength and courage to endure the “storm” that her husband had led her into. What I do know is that far more marriages end in divorce than is necessary. I believe that anyone who decides to get married should, as Dr. Phil puts it, “earn their way out” of marriage. What Dr. Phil means is that every possible option to save the marriage should be exhausted before a couple decides they want to swap out their spouse like a old pair of shoes or yesterday’s underwear.
The people who sustain their marriages understand that marriage is not to be taken lightly and it requires commitment, perseverance, sacrifice, selflessness and an understanding that marriage serves a greater purpose than two people getting together because they “love” each other.
Nomalanga helps Black Women thrive in their lives and careers. She is a Social Commentator, an Editor at Your Black World , Assistant Professor of Professional Studies and the reigning Mrs Botswana. Visit Nomalanga’s blog at successfulblackwoman.com