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  • Writer's pictureDr. Speshal Walker Gautier a.k.a. Dr. Spesh

Sis, Do you want a "Soft Princess Life" or do you want a partner?

Clickbait! I might ruffle some feathers with this one but let’s talk about it. Aight so boom, a few months ago Gabrielle Union disclosed that she splits the bills with her husband and the internet lost it. I stumbled across countless negative opinions about this financial setup, with one of the major concerns being that Dwayne Wade makes significantly more money than her. It felt like the entire Black Internet had strong opinions about their finances, despite the fact that these are 2 wealthy individuals presumably making thoughtful, consensual decisions about how to approach finances in their marriage.

Now before I go any further, let me be clear on where I stand on Black women and #SoftLife. First and foremost, I believe wholeheartedly that Black women deserve to be loved, held, deeply nurtured, and cared for. I can appreciate the “soft life” as the antithesis of the emotional labor and subsequent emotional hardening bestowed upon Black women, often leaving us with the internalized belief that we have to be strong in spite of all the trials and tribulations of Black womanhood. So if “soft life” means prioritizing yourself and feeling safe enough to lean into true vulnerability to allow yourself to be cared for, then Yes! All of that Sis, love that for you! Sign all of us up.

On the flip side, I have seen variations of #SoftLife/ #SoftPrincessLife circulating that I admittedly find problematic. I read posts and hear comments along the lines of “If you are in a relationship with a man there is no way you should be going 50/50 on bills,” or “His money is my money and my money is my money” or some other derivative of these statements. While seemingly a beneficial setup for women in heterosexual dyads, these scripts are actually rooted in benevolent sexism and patriarchy. These are the systems that treat women as fragile and inferior to men, while also preventing men from expressing their emotional needs due to fear of vulnerability. This is not the foundation for deep emotional intimacy and security in relationships. When we approach relationships with rigid beliefs around roles and behaviors we rob ourselves of the opportunity to show up in authentic, vulnerable ways that allow us to get our needs met. We rob ourselves of the choice to build a team that works well for each party, a team that is dynamic and sustainable. Cognitive rigidity (or inflexible thinking) around gender roles (e.g., how you and your partner navigate finances) is a recipe for disaster. A healthy partnership allows people to discuss and negotiate what works well as a unit. It means recognizing that there is no universal way of approaching romantic relationships and therefore you have to navigate and agree on what things look like together. This is a true partnership.

Here’s the thing, I firmly believe that thinking about and talking about finances with someone you’re considering doing life with is extremely important. After all, money is one of three significant issues that come up between couples, (the other 2 being sex and family - topics for other blogs). I also believe people get to decide and choose what works well for them be it 50/50, 80/20, or some other customized fit. Making decisions that are thoughtful, consensual, and unified is the plug. So thank you Gabby for highlighting the fact that relationships are nuanced and we get to create and choose what they look like with our partners. This reminder ironically comes from an actress who has perpetually been cast as the successful, single, Black woman navigating the challenges of dating and romance. And yet there she is, Gabrielle Union, Black, beautiful, successful, and choosing what her marriage looks like.

*Dr. Spesh is an Atlanta based Clinical Psychologist, blogger, and consultant.*

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