Archive for May, 2010

Emotional Intellience = Relationship Success

       I remember as a kid everyone would always laud me for how smart I was, how I excelled at almost everything academically.  I did somewhat, I always read way beyond my grade level and was not the least intimidated by any sort of math problems.  However, I was almost completely clueless when it came to Social Studies or Science, which to this very day neither of which are my strong suits.  In fact, if someone calls me smart today I will emphasize that there is a difference between being smart and being “intelligent”, smart being the label I proudly accept.

     Well, Daniel Goleman also believes that there is a difference in being smart and being intelligent.  He coined the term “emotional intelligence“, distinguishing emotional competencies from the cognitive capabilities that are measured by “IQ”  or intelligence quotient.  In his book, Emotional Intelligence, which is a must read for those of us who’d like to believe we excel despite our average intelligence, Mr. Goleman defines emotional intelligence as “the ability to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations; to control impulse and delay gratification; to regulate one’s moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize and to hope“, as something that can be learned and improved upon by children.  From this perspective, it is obvious why those who succeed academically, score very high on their SAT or IQ or both, have been known to do either just ok or worse than expected.  As a matter of fact, it has been shown that IQ contributes only 20% to the factors that determine life success, while the other 80% is based on factors like emotional competence.  (from an article written by Howard Gartner.)

      The very crux of emotional intelligence  is that learning how to cope with the trials of life is much more determinant in how one succeeds in life, in love and work/career/business.  Academic intelligence merely shows that one is astute at achievement only measured by grades and/or tests.  This certainly does nothing for the man or woman who is dealing with the challenges of love, relationship or marriage, a parameter for success in life.  We all, in some form or another, look at one’s personal achievements in a myriad of arenas to determine if they are to be admired or esteemed globally, understanding that a rich but lonely businessman is not necessarily the life we would die to have .  A CEO on Wall Street, who has a successive number of failed relationships, with no family of his or her own to be proud of will not receive the same adoration as one who does well and has a solid family and home life to complement his career achievements. 

      It may take little effort on the valedictorian’s part to continue to climb the corporate ladder, while attempts to maintain even a modicum of a social or personal life escapes him.  It is often his or her’s lack of emotional intelligence that robs them of the ability to read body language or facial expressions; interact with an exchange of interest or intrigues; interject humor or wit or to even express him or herself appropriately.  Our thoughts and feelings, too, play a major role in how we perceive and handle others in personal relationships, while in business interactions these can be minimized or even ignored all together.  Men and women have very different emotional sensors and thus require a working knowledge of how to accept and appreciate these differences, a skill only an emotional intelligent person could do.  Men are never going to be the emotional managers that women are and women, at least most of them, choose not to downplay or ignore the significance of emotions in intimate relationships.  But it takes the emotionally savvy person to at least accept these differences, work within these realms and to nurture the relationship in light of it. 

      So in all reality, there may be less credence to the belief that Black professional women, particularly the ones who do exceptionally well in their careers, have a tougher time finding a mate because of the disparity in gender achievement.  Black women may need to take a page out of the emotional intelligence handbook and learn to attune themselves to all things personal, outside of the boardroom.  Giving up the rigidity of corporate America for the sensitivity of interpersonal dependence, if they truly want to succeed is not a bad idea.  Not to say trading one for the other is the key, but understanding that the conformities of the workplace is not germane to the other arenas in life could land that successful relationship that is missing.

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Is it a Cultural Thing, the Black Family That Is

A discussion came up recently about the cultural differences amongst Black Americans and Blacks from other parts of the world.  I was talking with a few of my girlfriends and we got on the topic of dating, love and relationships within the Black culture and how the perspective we have on each of these varies from region to region.  On the one hand, I could relate (because I think I dated a Black man from almost every part of the world) and noticed that there were some differences in my experience with each of them.  However, I thought about the fact that the destruction of the Black family is something that is ubiquitous, not just happening here in the United States or with Black Americans.

When the topic is raised be it by discussion, in the news, etc., many experts, philosophers, or anyone who has an opinion, state that the destruction of the American Black family is really based on our slave history and thus is a plight that non-American Blacks cannot necessarily relate to.  Not that I don’t agree with American slavery having a significant impact on the state of the Black family, or the Black community in general, but I don’t think that that is the sole basis for what we are experiencing.  Not to mention, Americans are not the only ones who went the horrific experience of slavery, being mentally and spiritually broken down for centuries by it.  Blacks in the Caribbean, Europe and South America (not to mention African countries where many slaves were captured from) were also traumatized by the brutality of slavery.  Ironically, though, Black families are not being annihilated in many of these other countries as they are here in the United States.  For instance, in South African although the number of out-of-wedlock births have increased, the nuclear family still remains intact on a large scale with the father being the patriarch.  (Read, http://family.jrank.org/pages/1613/South-Africa-Family-Life-in-Black-Communities.html)

I will say that economics, urbanization, employment, religion and education, all have a profound effect on the composite of the Black family since these influences vary amongst different Black cultures.  In Third World countries, for example, the Black family is more likely to remain intact in order to sustain, relying on each of its member to contribute financially to their existence.    So essentially, it may be circumstances in the varying regions that causes the incongruity among Black  as far as family is concerned.  Unfortunately, there is very little comprehensive data on the number of intact families amongst Blacks in other countries, particularly the countries that make up a substantial portion of that country’s population.  However, living in a diverse city like New York, one can certainly get a feel for their beliefs and ideals from merely interacting with other Black nationalities within the city.

Family dynamics and composition are inevitably impacted by heritage, but I don’t think that is the end all.  We all know someone who has migrated to this country and has become “Americanized” to the extent that they no longer acquiesce when their mate engage in behaviors that used to be culturally acceptable to them when they were in their country.   I guess depending on your stance on the topic, you can make the argument either way based on this observation alone.

“Just Wright”, Almost Got it Right

I talked my SO into seeing this movie particularly because as soon as saw the trailer he said “Yeah right, like anyone is gonna buy a big girl like Queen being the love interest of someone like Common (his character)”.  And although I had seen the trailer several times prior, not one time did I even think that.     Maybe it is the hopeless romantic in me or me being ever the optimist, but I did not even give that a second of my thoughts.   I did think that it has been a minute since we have seen some positive images on the big screen and I was anticipating the movie’s release.  But I was not mad at him, I just wanted him to see how we can all buy into something positive if it is portrayed right.

Well, as for the movie I did not care much for the writing or the directing, but I did appreciate the messages.  Let’s start with the family, Queen’s character had parents who were still together and she had a Daddy-daughter relationship many of us are remiss of…..long overdue!  Then we had an athlete that did not have all the negative stereotypes being played out, i.e. speaking ebonics, hanging with a slew of his “boyz” on the social scene, sleeping around, yada, yada, yada.  Next, I loved the fact that the thicker, around-the-way girl won out to the lighted skin, svelte, beautiful arm piece that many of them (athletes) fawn over, even though Common’s character initially fell for the okey doke himself.  And finally, I love the fact that there was love, Black love, as the theme of the movie…that gets all the accolades itself.  When is the last time we saw many of these images in the theater, let alone all of them in the same movie?  I saw how any Black man could fall for a girl like “Leslie”, since she was honest, had goals and ideals and “cool”.  I have several friends who possess the same traits, but for their shape, size or skin tone, they would have a line out the door of prospects.  I accept that men are physical, and so they need to have their taste for beauty satsified from the onset.  But I encourage my brothas (and sistahs) to see past that and maybe your relationship can survive past the honeymoon phase.

It is crucial that we support such movies, nevermind it’s lack of substance as far as the characters are concerned, the images that are portrayed are what is important.  I mean we don’t even recognize how we are all buying into the negative stereotypes that have been shoved down our throats, not until we see the complete opposite.  This is unacceptable to me and should be denounced by each of us.  One by one we will all label Black women who are not thin enough, light enough, pretty enough to being the girls that a sane Black man would not even blink an eye at.   This is how it started, the images led to the brainwashing, and the brainwashing became our reality, we have to change that.  Go see the movie, encourage others to go and see it and so on and so on and so on.

So kudos to Queen, well Flava Unit, for being on the right course.

Materialism, A Contributor to the Destruction of the Black Family

      On the way home from my family’s Mother’s Day celebration my SO and I had a brief discussion about teen violence and the root causes.  He seems to think that societal norms and the family structure, or lack thereof, equally contributes to the surge in Black on Black crimes.  Not that I disagree, but I did include the fact that many of these young people have their priorities all screwed up, they are so caught up in acquiring material things that they are willing to give up their freedom in their pursuit of them.  We were watching Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane, don’t ask me why it was a short lapse in judgment, and Kimora surprised her young girls with a bedroom that had to have cost close to (if not) $100,000.  I was mortified by it because all I thought about was the ideals she is instilling in those girls.  I mean they will have no realistic means of appreciating the important things in life if she continues to encourage ostentation. 

     I belive children should understand and appreciate the importance of hard work, should be grounded with things that matter most and should have some direction, not exuding pomposity and arrogance merely because they happen to be part of the “haves” as opposed to the “have nots”.  If nothing else, the recent recession we are experiencing should be a wake up call for all of us, that a lifestyle of opulence is temporary and thus should be a thing of the past.  Especially Blacks, we are experiencing unemployment in the double digits, have material wealth that is still way below the national average and are completely financially unprepared for retirement according to a recent BusinessWeek article.  Blacks’ spending power is estimated to be more than $1 trillion by 2012, (http://www.magazine.org/content/files/market_profile_black.pdf),  this is astronomical considering our lack of substantive economic resources.  I mean almost 25% of the Black population lives in poverty, the median income has been reported to be somewhere around $35,000, almost 50% less than that of Whites (according to reports by Mediamark Research and Intelligence) and the average wealth for the Black family has been reported to be as much as half that of their White counterparts.  This is clearly an example of our over consumption and overspending. 

      Our children do what we do, not necessarily what we say do.  So if they are misguided about what is important, then they are certainly destined to put emphasis on tangible things, the “instant gratification” mindset that is rampant in today’s society.  It is vital that we teach them that the satisfaction of having things is ephemeral, they can be taken away, broken or become obsolete very quick.  Although the violence that occurs amongst our young people today is primarily gang related, there is a substantial amount of Blacks involved in violent crimes like robbery, burglary and theft.  It is alarming to me how many young people wind up in Family Court for delinquency proceedings because they attempted to take someone else’s cell phone, ipod or other similar device.  And to be honest with you, many times it is the kid whose family can afford to buy him or her these things but choose not to for a number of reasons.

    I say we get back to basics, less spending and more saving.  Let’s show our young people how important it is to prepare for our future, putting less emphasis on satisfying that urge and acquiring things today.  The Black family is being annihilated, we have to take a collective look at everything that affects it.

For All the Single Mothers, Please Don’t Leave Daddy Out

      I celebrate all the mothers, Happy Mother’s Day.  But I especially laud the single mothers out there.  I don’t have any children yet but I know that once I do my life will metamorphose into something I cannot fathom right now.  I watch my family, friends and clients perform this most challenging task and am often amazed by their ability to remain sane even in the most crucial circumstances.  I rebuke anyone who minimizes what mothers endure on a day-to-day basis, especially single mothers who hold it down with little or no help from the fathers of their child(ren).  But…..I don’t condone the single mothers who consciously, and without cause, choose to alienate the fathers.  For the life of me, I cannot understand why a man is good enough to share the intimacies of your existence but cannot cut the muster of being a part of his child(ren)’s life.

      My readers from my law practice blog know where I stand on this issue, which we refer to as parental alienation (see my post on the topic http://www.traceyabloodsaw.com/blog/2008/violation-of-court-ordered-child-visitation-its-meaning-and-its-implications/), and thus have some understanding on my position on the topic.   Although Black men have been highly noted for having children out-of-wedlock, choosing to absent themselves from their families or preferring cohabitation over marriage,  which all contribute to the destruction of the Black family, in most cases economics is the culprit, not personal or moral choice.   Don’t get me wrong, I do understand that having a child out-of-wedlock is a choice, whether conscious or unconscious, and can be avoided in most cases.   However, not being a part of the family dynamics is, in many cases, a consequence of a Black man’s societal and particularly, economic status.  I am not making any excuses for the man who plant seeds all over the place, leaving the single mother, the extended family or the government to take care of his responsibilities, that man deserves all the berating he gets.  I am referring to the Black man that makes every attempt to take an active role in his child’s life but is constantly met with contention and discord from the child’s mother.

     Little Black boys and little Black girls desperately need to have both parents in their lives, in some form or another.   There are mounds of research out there that indicate that fatherless children have increased suicide rates, are more likely to become delinquents and thus imprisoned, drop out of school at higher rates, become teen mothers, amongst a slew of others dysfunctions.  (Go to www.center.americanvalues.org for research and data on the topic.)  And  although the research is just about equal with regards to fatherless boys and fatherless girls, Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu’s book Raising Black Boys, the message is clear about just how imperative it is that Black mothers acknowledge the need for Black boys to have their fathers in their lives.  Again, we all commend those single mothers who are doing a phenomenal job without the father, but the ones who have that option available to them should certainly consider exercising it. 

     Remember family is what you make it and how you define it.  The unemployed father who is willing to pick up the slack by babysitting or playing taxi driver, the father in another relationship who tries to blend families, the father who lives in another state who tries to stay in touch via technology, the father who just wants to be a father to his child deserves the chance to do just that.  I have represented them all in one or many legal proceedings, and find that more often than not fathers just want to be included.  Many acknowledge that they don’t feel adequate because of their financial predicaments but would welcome the opportunity to spend more time with their child if the mother allowed them to.  It is a travesty how many women confuse financial support with emotional and psychological support.  Although a parent should be there to support their child in every sense, the inability to provide one should not automatically bar a parent from providing in other ways.  In fact, in most courts (certainly in New York Family Courts) a father’s inability to provide for his child financially does not absolve him of his right to access to his child.  Conversely, if a mother willfully and maliciously interferes with a father’s access to his child, the judge may suspend child support  until she does. 

      Again, when I champion fathers being active in their child’s life, I am not referring to the abusive, neglectful or deadbeat dads.  I am speaking for the ones that do the right thing but is constantly met with resistance, confrontation and deliberate interference from the mother.   So you single mothers, being a good mother means doing what is right for your child, while your own interests take a back seat.  Seeking vengeance, being malicious and so-called “protecting” your child serves no one any purpose, certainly not that model citizen you are attempting to raise.

The “Good” Wife, What is That

     One of my favorite actresses has been all over the tabloids about the infidelities in her marriage, well really that of her wandering husband who has been cheating with several women.   Sandra Bullock has had her name splattered in headlines all over the place because of her husband’s philandering with skeeves that consciously chose to disregard her union and slept with her husband.   Well, while her name was being spewed from the tongues of many, she went about her business, keeping hush about her plan of attack (or not attack.).  I love that about her, we share the same birthday as a matter of fact born under Leo, the fact that she did not succumb to the pressures of the media, the public and whomever else had an opinion about matters of her heart.  Although she ultimately decided to divorce him when it was all said and done, I believe her decision had nothing to do with what everyone else thought she should do.  On the contrary, the lioness has her own will, she does not take too kindly to anyone else trying to lead her or influence her when it comes to handling her own business. 

     For many, a cheating man is a deal breaker while for others they conveniently turn a blind eye, what we lawyers call “willful blindness”.   Eldren decided to open her marriage woes up to the public, which in the end broke the deal for Tiger, while Sandra (like many paramours of politicians do) chose to lament in private.   Either way, I think it is important that we choose to do what is in our hearts.  I do not condone cheating, but I will say that when my SO asked me what would be a deal breaker for us, the first thing that rolled off my lips had nothing to do with him straying from home.  He does understand how I feel about cheating however, but it has more to do with my disdain for lying and deception than anything else.   And choosing to stay with a man, or woman for that matter, after finding out about that were cheating is a personal choice.   There are some inherent cultural, religious and spiritual convictions that are factored into the choice, something I believe should be respected from outsiders.   Not to mention, what works for one couple may not work for another and so to state that there is an implicit rule is asinine.

      To many, a woman who chooses to stay is an indication of low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, desperation, etc. and although there are instances where that may be the case, the reality is that it is still her decision to make.  I have been practising matrimonial law for almost a decade now and I tell you, more often than not, the women who files for divorce because of her husband’s cheating only do so after the cheating has interrupted their family structure or dynamics in some way.  In other words, many of these women tell me that they knew or had some suspicion that their husband was “stepping out” and that they could handle that.  The problem became unbearable once the cheating led to a long-term affair, bore a child outside of the marriage or something to that degree.   The bottom line is they cherished what they were getting from the union, appreciated the vows they took or merely did not feel remiss because of the creeping.   I never judge, I understand that how a man makes a woman feel is paramount to sustaining a nurturing marriage, and to some this is regardless of him sharing this feeling with another.  

     I don’t know if a “good” wife sits by and lets her man “sow his wild oats” while she stays at home and waits patiently.  Again, that is left to the wife to decide.  I do know that it irks me when someone else has a strong opinion about another’s relationship, I don’t care who it is.  My friends all understand that while I appreciate their input, at the end of the day the decision is mine to make.  As I remind them regularly, there are things in the next relationship that we may insist we cannot or will not tolerate, but we cannot be too sure until we are in that position which rarely happens because we are all different.  I only care about my friends’ happiness, so if they choose to stay while their spirit is dying or their self-esteem is diminishing then I may intervene but otherwise it is my full support they get.  Black love is complicated enough without all the input from external forces, we don’t need to compound the issues with our prejudicial and pejorative comments.