(Mybrotha.COM) - Once discussed in a much publicized feature on ABC's Nightline, black actors, actresses and relationship gurus talked about the issues surrounding black relationships and the difficulties some successful black women have finding a suitable mate. In the seventh installment of ABC's Face-Off series, Sherri Shepherd, co-host of ABC's "The View," and Jacque Reid, star of VH1's "Let's Talk About Pep," squared off against author and "CSI" star Hill Harper, and Jimi Izrael, author of "The Denzel Principle" on why many successful black women cannot find a man. Are black women's expectations too high? Who's to blame, black women or black men?
As you might expect, there's always plenty of blame to go around. But, this isn't a case where either party is at fault. The successful black woman's predicament is socially complex and solutions have been hard to find.
Before focusing on the dilemmas of successful black women, let's take a look at the bigger picture: It would be foolish to target a single reason for the strains we see in black relationships. There are dozens of reasons. Some black women choose low-quality men, while other women may have unreasonable expectations. For black men, many lack the necessary communication skills to be successful in a relationship, and others are financially and emotionally irresponsible. Both men and women can have self-esteem and self-worth issues, which may lead to some very interesting relationship choices.
One of the most controversial reasons for relationship difficulty--which has become a hotbed of discussion--is the proliferation of successful, assertive, independent women. Yes, you read it correctly. The notion of a highly successful black woman is a legitimate reason why the number of "man-less" black women is increasing.
The problem isn't the black woman. The disconnect has occurred because of our traditions, circumstances, expectations, and definition of roles. These lines have become fuzzier over the decades and any attempts to redraw those lines are often met with fierce resistance.
When we explore the reasons why an independent black woman--who seemingly has it all--can't find a deserving black man, the answer is both simple and startling. Most black men are not looking for a woman who has it all. In fact, men are less comfortable with the brazen woman who wants to be on top of the world, and more comfortable with the laid back woman who looks for a leader.
"It's a turn-off in many ways," says Travis Luxon, an environmental engineer from Lansing, Michigan. "I definitely support a black woman doing her thing, but I don't think it's natural for a man to desire that. When a black man sees a woman like that, we immediately think she's high-maintenance."
Black men, like men of most ethnicities, are conditioned to be leaders and providers. From hustling in the streets, to managing a corporate meeting, a responsible man will do what it takes to provide for his family. Finding ways to provide physical and financial security for a wife and family has always been the goal of men. It may sound like an oversimplification of roles, but almost everything a man strives for in life--career, money, status, power--is based on his desire to keep a wife and support a family. Even in its simplicity, this is how a man shows love.
Among the many discomforts a man encounters when he finds a successful woman, is not knowing how to express his love. She already has a $300,000 home; a high-powered career; financial stability; and all the material things she might want. Stir in a dynamic personality and some attitude, and the guy is really in for a challenge.
Similar to Luxon--who once dated a black woman with a salary more than twice his own--many men expect successful women to demand an excessive amount of relationship work. "She already has all the stuff a man is programmed to provide, so she must want something I'm not accustomed to providing," Luxon said. "Instead of showing her how I can love her, I had to work hard to be a communicator, confidant, and supporter. Men can do those things, but that's not our primary instinct in relationships."
None of this should stir black women to "dumb down" in order to appease the male psyche. Women will always want a piece of the success pie, and they deserve every slice. A black woman should never feel like she has to sacrifice a quality relationship in order to be financially, materially and emotionally prosperous.
So what, if anything, can a man bring to a successful woman's table?
In addition to being a companion, protector, lover and friend, every affluent, "already-taken-care-of," black woman has her own needs and expectations. Part of a man's responsibility is to learn what those needs and expectations are, and what they are not.