Proverbs in downtown Atlanta. Photo: Kiyah C. Photography
It was Monday, October 26, 2015 at 4:00pmPST when I decided to search seriously for a husband. As a full-time youth and young adult pastor in Vallejo, CA, I didn’t have much free time (nor viable suitor options). I thought, “Surely, my mate is across the bridge,” but, in San Francisco I was exoticized and in Oakland I was revered (and not in the cute “he’s fawning over me” kinda way—the “he’s obsessed with my complexion because he’s a hotep” kind of way *eye roll emoji*).
For the previous 7 months, I had been on OKCupid, looking for viable partnerships. I “talked to” men in New York, Atlanta, ad even Paris. And then...I met Anthony.
Brothaman was 35, worked in finance, and towered at 6’6”. He was chocolate with luscious locs and a killer smile; owned a condo, a BMW, and worked in finance. On paper, he. was. IT, y’all. We we had been enjoying witty banter (*swoon*) via text for a week, when I noticed I hadn’t heard from him in a few days...
I texted him:
“hey, Anthony! i hope all is well with you. i just wanted to check in and say hi!”
Anthony lived in Washington, DC and neither of us had plans to move cross-country any time soon:
“Hey, Lyvonne. I just gotta let you know. If you were here, I’d be all over you! But you’re not. I’m ready to start a family and I don’t want to do long-distance.”
Damn...DAMN...DAMNNNNN! The Brotha *wanted* an exclusive, committed lifelong partnership that included little chocolate babies (and was honest and upfront about it with me)...and I was 2,777 miles away. *tired emoji*
After I picked my bottom lip up off the floor, I decided to change my search settings on OKCupid. Instead of “anywhere,” I put “within 500 miles.” I figured that if *I* wanted to start a family, I should at least look within the state of California!
On my 3rd algorithmically generated profile, I peeped a brown-skinned cutie with waist-length brotherlocs, a silver tie clip, and leather loafers with his ankles out. “Lawd, he’s standing in front of Cole Haan!” *weary emoji*
As I devoured his profile, I felt like I was reading my own. He mentioned pizza, young adult ministry, art. I “starred” him (OKCupid’s way of letting someone know you really like her or his profile). Once I was notified that we “liked” each other, it was a wrap! Turkey. And. SWISS!
We messaged back and forth a few times before he (very politely) asked if he could call me around 9pm. He called me (right on time) and, after 3 hours, asked if we could FaceTime.
That was Monday going into Tuesday. On Friday, at 1:10pm, I was standing in the dressing room at a tailor shop in downtown Vallejo. I had just gotten off the phone with B and knew that he was already at the Cole Haan store he managed. So when I saw his name and face pop up on my iPhone, I thought something was wrong:
B: I’m calling to see if I can officially court you.
What in the what? WHO? I had NEVER been asked to be courted before. And, I gotta admit...it felt nice. Intentionality is extremely sexy.
Within four days, we were officially together and we hadn’t even met in-person yet. It was one of those when you know, you know moments. And when B moved from LA—the only place he had ever lived in his entire 29 years, to a small town in Northern California to be with me, well, that was all she wrote. After all, intentionality is so. Damn. SEXY.
It sounds cliché, but there were warning flags early on. Whether it was the vastly different ways we looked at money or opposite sex friendships, love languages or astrology, there were clear signs that we had stark differences.
But the thing about relationships is, sometimes, when the train has left the station, you think you have to stay on it until its final destination. Even though we agreed on a lot of the big things: faith, family, legacy, we disagreed on a lot of the little things. And little things add up to become huge things over time and overshadow the big things that brought you together! It was the little things that derailed us.
When I started to express my dismay to people about my current marriage woes, I got truly unexpected responses. I had a nationally known Black woman religious leader tell me, “just give it two years.” I had another Sista tell me, “just give it five years.” I was dumbfounded. Is that what married folks were doing? Just waiting ‘til the next anniversary? Just making it to the next decade? Just tolerating each other until the kids were grown?
Life is too short to be miserable. Life is too short to just “just.”
When misery routinely outweighs joy, you have to know when to call it. And, yes, I know that every relationship has its rough patches. I remember when Trace Ellis Ross directed a few episodes of black-ish and they all explored the chaotic discord when a married couple is out of sync. Sidebar: I promise you I would’ve boycotted ABC if the Johnsons had gotten a divorce! *Spoiler Alert* Same for Beth and Randall on This is Us!)
One of my college friends recently dm’ed me on Instagram asking me how’s married life:
her: I feel you. I am still dating/courting my boyfriend. It will be four years in October...What’s your advice to me?
me: make sure your values are aligned
get in individual and couples therapy
and talk about everything even if it seems frivolous. if you feel some type of way about something, bring it up as calmly and quickly as you can
and be gracious with each other. remember that you’re on the same team
and if at any point in time you are sacrificing who you are to be in the relationship, don’t be afraid to separate
She couldn’t tell then, but B and I are no longer together (we separated in February 2019). In fact, most people wished him and me well on “our” new adventure in Atlanta, GA, but...I transitioned solo. I told folks as I deemed necessary; and there were an exceptional few who already knew before I even opened my mouth. They just sensed it.
Atlanta has been one of my happy places for a long time. “The A” (as it is affectionately known) feels like home to me. It’s still 52% Black and the cost of living is much more forgiving here than in the Bay Area.
It’s much easier to grieve the dissolution of your marriage when you don’t have to work multiple jobs just to pay the rent. *flushed emoji*
It has gotten easier to share the news as I own my truth. This hasn’t always been the case. I felt a lot of shame around separating from my spouse. We had a very public engagement both within my church and on social media. An Auntie in ministry told me that I was a symbol of hope for older, single, educated Black women ministers (no pressure!). From “power couple,” to “but y’all we’re so cute together” to (common) girlfriends asking “are we still speaking to him?” (#RealOnes), the responses have run the gamut. But, I’ve discovered, the response that is most important is the one I have myself. My Self-talk. My perception of Self.
As a person who has struggled with merit-based worthiness, our divorce felt like another hit on my resume *and* my character. A deficiency. But, thanks to my intuitive coach and my therapist, I now comprehend that getting a divorce doesn’t make me a failure. In fact, it makes me a Surthrivor in a different sense. I am proud of myself for being courageous enough to make the decision to leave a marriage that was no longer serving me.
Often we don’t make moves on difficult decisions because we feel we will be judged for them. But, honestly, we got a 53% divorce rate in america...i’m not that special, LOL!
And as I continue to be brave and share my story with Sistas, they don’t gasp and gawk as if I’ve just shared that I eat newborn babies steeped in monkey poo. No, quite the contrary. Married women ask, “how did you know?” or, as if relieved to finally share, acknowledge, “actually...I’VE been thinking...”
I’m not the first person to get a divorce and I won’t be the last. Especially as Black men and women continue to live in a racist, sexist, xenophobic society designed to abolish us. Trauma is real. Stress is real. Poor theology is real.
Disney-fied expectations are unreal. Engagement photo shoots without engaging premarital counsel is unreal. Courting in a vacuum without the wisdom of your community is unreal.
We have to be real. With the Divine, with ourselves, and with each other. There is no law that says you *have* to stay on this train. There are so many destinations in the world—it’s alright to change your mind. If you are happy (most days), and feel unconditionally loved and supported, more power, love, joy, and peace to you.
But if you feel like you have to shrink yourself or you’re not a priority, get off the train, Sis. Don’t hang on to a piece of possibility due to a mentality of lack and scarcity. There is an abundance of future baes and limitless potential for life-giving Love.
Don’t delay your liberation because you’re afraid of the “D.”
Our divorce won’t be official until September 25, 2019, but, I already know...there is life on the other side.
Pastor Lyvonne Proverbs, a New York City native, is a body and sex-positive preacher, transformational speaker, poet, educator, and creative social entrepreneur working to end #ChurchToo. An Emmy-award-winning media producer, Pastor Lyvonne is the founder of beautiful scars (@WereSurthrivors), an online storytelling agency focused on trauma, healing, and resiliency. She is committed to eradicating childhood sexual abuse in and beyond Black religious spaces. Pastor Lyvonne has been featured in ESSENCE and Cosmopolitan and Sojourners named her one of “11 Women Shaping the Church.” She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and currently based in Atlanta, GA.