Love is patient and kind and ... complicated, according to Paul Brunson, businessman turned "Modern Day Matchmaker" and now author, who aims to explain in his new book, "It's Complicated," why it doesn't have to be.
For starters, one simple truth lies at the core of Brunson's beliefs on why our conversations about dating aren't evolving: "Establishing and maintaining a relationship is the most critical skill we can have," Brunson told The Huffington Post. "All of the elements that lead you to having a successful romantic relationship are the same elements needed to have a successful platonic relationship," he added.
In the African-American community, however, that truth is often convoluted by matters of race and the disproportionate number of single black women to men.
Here, Brunson explains why it's important to check the race talk at the door, along with the biggest hangups he's encountered in his matchmaking practice.
What do you think the biggest issues or hang-ups are among African-American men and women that are keeping this conversation from evolving?
Like many people, I'm tired of that conversation, "Why can't black women find anyone?" The reason why we're so tired of it, but why, at the same time, the conversation is evolving is [because] you have to remove the "black" out of it. Truth be told, everyone, and I mean every ethnic group, has been facing substantial changes as it relates to relationships. When you really dig down into the data and look at shear numbers … there are more white women that are single in this country than black women. That's not talked about.
When you look at another part of the conversation -- black men always dating outside the race -- [you'll find that] black men date outside of the race at lower rates than other ethnic groups, such as Asians. So part of how we get out of that conversation, and how we evolve to another level of more effective conversation, is by looking at some of the real data points outside of our ethnic group. Let's really look at our psychology. We have literally one out of three daters that are single parents. It significantly challenges how you interact with someone when you have a child. Let's talk about real substance ... real substantive points that can make you effective in your relationships.
So race aside, what are the biggest hinderances that you experience in trying to find matches for people?
I'm seeing a lot of this on our live tour. We are getting a couple hundred people to come out to all these events and even though they're in different cities ... there is a common theme. I will ask, "What are you doing differently?" The average single has not been on one date in the last two years. When you start breaking it down based on age, based on profession, a lot of professional women have not been on dates in the last five to six years. I'll ask, "Well you haven't been on a date in five years, what are you doing differently than last year? How do you expect to have the results change if you're doing the same thing?" That's the definition of insanity -- expecting a different result but doing the same thing over and over again.
We're not doing things differently and the reason why is because we are impacted by all this negative messaging from friends, blogs, and Twitter, this media hype around "black women are going to be single forever." They're letting that impact them and ultimately they're not really inspired to do things differently.
How do you get different results? You do things differently. You've never gone online before? Go online. You've never tried speed dating? Go speed dating. You try things that you've never tried before, but also focus on yourself. Do you truly know what your values are? Do you know what your personality type is? Personality is really important in terms of having a full conversation with someone. Do you know what your non-starters are, those things that you would never get into a relationship with someone who has those? If you're asthmatic [for example], and they are a smoker you'd never get into a relationship with a smoker. I don't care if it's Idris Elba, you can't get into a relationship with them. You understand these fundamental things that are really about you.
Do you talk about how to maintain a relationship once you get in it?
That's why the book is about finding and keeping love. By the time I'm coaching somebody for two to three months, they've entered one or more relationships with someone and it's about how are they maintaining this relationship. If my wife and I are fighting I talk about the importance of fighting fair. All couples fight, but do you fight fair? Relating my personal experiences -- my relationship with my wife -- to what my clients go through ... I think that's what helps so many folks.
How important is it for you to have a successful relationship yourself in order to give advice to people?
My wife and I have a son whose going to be two at the end of this month. So many people give us parenting advice, I got so frustrated I went on Twitter and said, "I'm not taking advice from anyone around parenting unless you have a child." A lot of people [agreed], but then I had this pediatrician and various therapists who do not have children but have been studying and practicing for years, who said "Hey, Paul, [we] disagree here's why." After I sat and contemplated it with them I agree. [Similarly] I think there are people who are marriage counselors, therapists, psychologists ... people who study and practice within the space of relationships and give wonderful, credible, effective advice. With my practice I'm very relational to what's happening in my life. I'm talking actively about what's happening with my life and with my clients, and at the same time I'm studying and researching. For me it's important that I do. I don't know if I would feel comfortable speaking to some of the topics that I speak to if I didn't have the relationship I have with my wife.
Speaking of Twitter, on the back of the book you have these four questions. Could you respond to those like you would to your Twitter followers -- 140 characters or less?
Is marriage right for my personality type?
Marriage isn't for everyone.
Do the rules of chivalry still apply?
How can I date more than one person without hurting feelings?
By keeping it real.
What is the best mode of communication for asking someone out?
Read an excerpt from "It's Complicated" below:
Chapter 1 - Marriage Isn’t for Everyone
She had a list. And it was long.
He had to be tall, dark and handsome, educated, with money and masculine, yet still maintain the sort of sensitivity where he’d let her have her way in the ways she wanted it to be her way.
But he couldn’t be a pushover.
He needed to be a traditionalist, who was a breadwinner and gentlemanly, but she had no interest in keeping a house or washing dishes. She had a career after all, and that was the priority. Children were a must, although it was apparent from the conversation she hadn’t thought much deeper about future progeny than what outfits they would wear and what names she would give them.
But like so many of us, she wanted it all. Yet, where was he? Somehow in her myopic focus on school and work and the acquiring of things, he had not materialized. It seemed so strange — living in a time where you could Google any answer, order groceries to be delivered to your house and balance your checkbooks, send a text and talk to your mother all at the same time on the same smartphone. It just seemed like finding a husband should be easier. Wasn’t there an app for that?
And it wasn’t just her.
It was him too. He who had focused on degree after degree, designer suit after designer suit, party after party, and every latest electronic gadget. He always has so much fun with his boys, but he thought maybe it was time to settle down. So he looked for her “everywhere.” The golf club. The country club. The dance club. Even five-cent wing night at the night club. And while he’d met some very attractive women, he hadn’t met any that shared his values of honesty and dependability.
But everyone told him he was in the “prime of his life” and “so good looking” and “could get any woman he wanted.” And finding women was so easy for him. But finding the woman he actually wanted to spend more than one night with was a whole other ordeal. But why hadn’t he found her? After all, he was dating the most attractive women he could find. They were all so young and pretty, yet none seemed to care about the things he cared about. They had nothing to talk about. They had nothing in common.
They were so pretty and everyone said he should have been happy with that.
Yet, he wasn’t.
And yet, he wanted a wife. Or, at least he liked the idea of one. Especially one who was never any trouble, never complained, never wanted anything, was loving, supportive and happy, drama-free and drop-dead gorgeous.
Was that so much to ask? Was it so bad to want the “perfect” girl?
And I asked them all, my clients . . . “So you want to get married?”
And their eyes blinked and their mouths smiled, and many nodded in the affirmative that, yes, someday— hether five years or five minutes from now— hey desired “instant spouse.” Could I deliver?
But could they?
You say you want to get married. And that’s quaint. But do you even know what you’re really asking for? Do you even know what marriage is?
Many people want to get married. More than two million people in the United States get married every year. And about one million people every year get divorced.
Some people think the divorce rate is about the decay of society or gender equality, but I tend to think the divorce rate is high because people are told they’re supposed to get married, and not everyone is ready for it. People are told to get married, but don’t know what marriage is. People are told to get married, but marry the wrong people.
Divorce was low in the past because once upon a time it was socially unacceptable to divorce, and if you married within a church, the church wouldn’t grant it. People didn’t get worse. They were always this bad. There have always been people incapable of being monogamous. There have always been people who probably would have been better off single. There have always been people for whom marriage was not a viable option. Only now people get a divorce rather than spend a lifetime in a marriage that is a bad fit, unhealthy or just an honest mistake.
But despite the gift (and burden) of choice, many of us have great misconceptions about marriage and those misconceptions are what drive our divorce rates and marital disasters. Our misunderstanding of what marriage is causes us to make bad decisions about it — bout whether it’s right for us or if we are ready for it.
It starts with these skewed and much abused notions about marriage:
- Being single is a sign of failure.
- You’re supposed to get married.
- Your spouse is your “soul mate” and the primary key to your emotional well- being and happiness.
- Marriage is the only answer to your “problem” of being single.
Reprinted from It’s Complicated by Paul Carrick Brunson by arrangement with Gotham Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright © 2012 by Paul Carrick Brunson