Support for TV Mistresses? Experts Suggest Millennials Place Too Much Emphasis on Love and Not Obligation

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A couples therapist and a life coach want millennials to be very realistic about what marital love is and isn’t.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on Sept. 13, 2015.

In Scandal, U.S. President Grant Fitzgerald, played by Sam Goldwyn, is having an affair with Kerry Washington’s character, Olivia Pope.

In the Starz drama Power, Jamie St. Patrick, a club owner and reluctant drug dealer played by Omari Hardwick, is having an affair with his high school sweetheart Angela Valdez, played by Lela Loren. 

Both men are, again, married and have children with their wives. But there’s the idea that both men are sincerely in love with their mistresses. 

As a result, something interesting is happening culturally with regard to how those extramarital affairs are being perceived. When you look at social media reactions to both television shows, people aren’t afraid to identify as #TeamOlivia and #TeamAngela. Fans—and, it seems, we millennials in particular—seem to support or, at the very least, are fond of the affairs. And the reason typically given is that we’re witnessing true love.

There’s a tolerance and a pinch of admiration for the affairs because they’re not seen as salacious hookups based on just sex. They’re being marketed as "the real thing." I’ve even had conversations with people who suggested that it would be OK, understandable and perhaps even just if both men, wait for it, actually left their wives to be with Olivia and Angela—the loves of their lives. 

The concept of love kept popping up over and over again in these discussions. There seems to be an unrealistic emphasis placed on love and being in love, and the role those concepts play in marriage and commitments.

The Root asked Washington, D.C.-based couples therapist Drew Joseph and New York-based life coach Pervis Taylor III to weigh in on whether it’s a bad thing that millennials hold being in love in such high regard—especially when it comes to marriages and long-term relationships. The experts also dished out advice they would give to millennials who are wrestling with how to process these extramarital affairs that they seem to empathize with. Their responses were edited for clarity and brevity.

The Root: What do you make of the support that Olivia and Angela are getting from millennials, who seem to be OK with this kind of extramarital affair? 

Drew Joseph: It totally makes sense to me. In Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book, he speaks about the concept of dreamersthe idea that we are all obsessed with this permanent happiness that we think we deserve and can achieve.

That capitalistic mindset—that you’re entitled to take what you want in order to achieve happiness—is what is at play here. There’s a profound blindness to the moral contradictions of that system. I feel that explains this weird (and disturbing) championing of the extramarital relationships in Power and Scandal by millennials. 

Simply put, there’s a way to talk about love as a practice. And yet millennials are thinking of love as something that you consume. They’re making love a commodity. 

Simply put, there’s a way to talk about love as a practice. And yet millennials are thinking of love as something that you consume

TR: How much emphasis should be placed on the importance of "being in love" with your partner when it comes to maintaining a healthy marriage?  

Drew Joseph: A lot. I think if you’re going to marry someone, it can’t only be based on calculation. We have to feel seen and wanted. We have to feel that this is someone I could allow myself to need. There has to be some feeling of aliveness. 

But we also need to ask: Is this someone I can actually communicate with? Would we both be willing to struggle when things get tough? Being married inevitably entails loss of the "in-love" experience. It forces us also to cope with feeling disappointed, alone and unwanted, too. Marital love challenges us to bear much disillusionment. If you are not willing to experience those things, you shouldn’t get married.

Pervis Taylor III: Most successful marriages are based more on friendship than eros love. If you are not friends with your significant other, then your marriage will likely not work. It’s your friend that will be willing to come back and say, "Let’s work it out." The lover aspect ebbs and flows. But the friendship usually is constant. 

 Most successful marriages are based more on friendship than eros love.

TR: Do you have any concerns about how some millennials seem to empathize with Olivia Pope and Angela Valdez?

DJ: There’s something really deceptive about the fantasties that these shows are projecting. Viewers fantasize that if we could be Olivia or Angela, we’d be happy. We are seduced into seeing Olivia and Angela as heroic role models: They have what we all want. They have the plum job. They have the house in the elite neighborhood. They have a partner who sees through their personal masks and can match their intensity. 

But real people in those situations—like Olivia and Angela—are in a great deal of pain and agony. They have to suffer the pain, the secrecy, the contradiction and the risk of … being involved with a married man. Beneath the thrills of transgression, the cheaters feel anxious, groundless and alone. Their pain is posturing as triumph. 

TR: How much emphasis should be placed on obligation and commitment when weighing if a marriage is worth saving? 

PT: I don’t like the word "obligation." It sounds so negative. Millennials will likely choose who they marry. They’re not being assigned a spouse like how it’s done in arranged marriages. I think a better word to use would be "investment." I think the emphasis should be placed on the partnership and oneness that can come from staying married.

TR: If you’re sincerely (and deeply) in love with someone who is not your spouse, is it ever OK to explore that love? To explore the possibility of being with that person? 

DJ: I would never say it’s not OK to follow your curiosity or hope. But as a psychotherapist, I would challenge the straying person to consider what is driving the attraction to the new person? Are you avoiding something that’s happening in your primary relationship? In my experience with clients, the affair usually represents an escape. The straying person is not being honest about what they’re really thinking and feeling and wanting.

More important, they’re not being honest about that in the presence of their spouse—the person who, up until that point, has known them the best. They’re being cowards. They’re not willing to stand by the truth of what their experience is. So they don’t need a lesson on morals, but they often need help finding their courage.

More important, the straying person is not being honest about that in the presence of their spouse—the person, who up until that point, has known them the best. 

PT: Right. Because what happens when that new person no longer makes you happy? Cheating is always rooted in an unmet need. It’s important to know what that need is and address it. No, it’s not OK to explore that person. Ask yourself what’s going on in your own life. Explore that. 

It would be interesting to see how those new relationships play out if the men were to leave their wives. I guarantee you the dynamics of Jamie and Angela, and President Fitz and Olivia’s relationship, would change.

TR: What can millennials learn from the marriages that President Fitzgerald and Jamie St. Patrick are in? What can they learn about their extramarital affairs?

I think millennials are confusing love as a sensory, aesthetic experience, instead of love as a kind of practice or a labor.

DJ: I think millennials are confusing love as a sensory, aesthetic experience, instead of love as a kind of practice or a labor that’s founded on the commitment to a person, or the people that you live with. Love is working to promote the well-being of the other and intervening in a way to protect the freedom of the other.

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Why They’re Heading Out On An 11-City Wedding Engagement Tour

Antoine Kinch and Shaunte Otey in a photo shoot for their wedding-engagement tour. (TE & TOINE FACEBOOK PAGE)

Antoine Kinch and Shaunte Otey in a photo shoot for their wedding-engagement tour. (TE & TOINE FACEBOOK PAGE)

Sure, their 11-city love tour might be a tad excessive. But it’s also a reflection of a generation of African Americans who’ve truly gone global.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

An abridged version of this article was published at The Root on February 14, 2015.

Antoine Kinch hopped onto an ottoman in a swanky New York City rooftop lounge to toast his fiancee and thank their family and friends for making it out to celebrate his and Shaunte Otey’s wedding engagement. Antoine, a 37-year-old engineer, spoke giddily about how he was marrying a longtime friend and a woman whom he at times refers to as a “unicorn” because he still can’t believe that she’s, well, real. Why? Shaunte, also a 37-year-old engineer, is black and—the adjective that makes her oh so surreal—fine. 

“True”—one of Antoine’s engineer friends blurted out midtoast—“not a lot of cute, black female engineers,” he quipped, while everyone laughed. Antoine finished his speech and reminded everyone to use the hashtag #TeAndToine when sharing photos and video from the party on the InstagramTwitter and Facebook accounts specifically created for their wedding-engagement tour.

Yep, you read that right: their tour.

If you’re a friend or a relative of the soon-to-be Kinches and you missed their New York City gathering in January, no worries, you can catch the smiling duo this Valentine’s weekend celebrating with loved ones at another fabulous engagement party in Oakland. And if trekking it to the West Coast proves to be too burdensome, don’t fret, the pair are taking their love celebration overseas at the end of March, where their Italian brethren and sistren can nimble on prosciutto and olives, perhaps, at their engagement festivities in Milan. A couple of days after that, Antoine and Shaunte will be wining and dining with comrades in Munich, Germany, and then it’s off to the Czech Republic to clank beers with their acquaintances in Prague.

I hope the literary equivalent of jetlag hasn’t got you pooped because we’re not done yet. Where were we? Oh, right—Prague. After that, the newly engaged and their Parisian friends will be noshing on croquet-monsieurs, perhaps, at a fine eatery in France towards the beginning of April. And then it’s off to partake in an authentic Sichuan cuisine at wedding engagement gatherings in Beijing and Shanghai.

engagement city guide

Antoine Kinch and Shaunte Otey in signage for their wedding-engagement tour. (TE & TOINE FACEBOOK PAGE)

Sometime in May, they’ll resume the U.S. leg of their tour in the nation’s capital, a stone’s throw from where Shaunte grew up in Virginia. After Washington, D.C., the lovebirds are promising to nail down dates for tour stops in Los Angeles and Chicago.

At this point, some of you are probably furrowing your eyebrows at all the pomp and circumstance of the whole shebang and wondering what possessed them to go to such lengths—literally—for the engagement. (“All he did so far was buy a ring, take a knee and y’all already taking a victory lap?,” wrote one of my editors after seeing their itinerary, which is mocked up like a faux movie poster.)

But during an interview with The Root to commemorate all things “love” this Valentine’s Day weekend, Antoine and Shaunte talked about how their endeavor is equal parts a reflection of the digital times that we live in, where social media is used to document special occasions in people’s lives; the euphoria they feel as late-30-somethings having found “the one” in each other; and, just as important, a natural extension of their lives as travel junkies.

Antoine and Shaunte are proud members of Nomadness Travel Tribe, an online resource for black travelers. The engagement tour was a perfect way to tout their identities as African-American nomads of sorts—a lifestyle that has gained a lot of recognition in recent months because of the online spaces popping up to commemorate the trend.

Shaunte Otey and Antoine Kinch (Facebook)

Shaunte Otey and Antoine Kinch (Facebook)

“Individually, we have had such lives on different coasts and friendships in different pockets,” Shaunte explained. Antoine added that since everyone they know probably won’t be able to make it to the wedding, he and Shaunte thought: “Instead of them coming to us, why don’t we go to them?”

They’ve both already shown signs of a nomadic existence, living and working in the U.S. Antoine grew up in New York and has lived in Boston; San Jose and Oakland, in California; Philadelphia; the state of Maryland; and now Raleigh, N.C. Shaunte, a Virginia native, has lived in Los Angeles and San Francisco and also has a spot in Raleigh. Their passion for traveling has taken them to Brazil, Peru, Turks and Caicos, the Netherlands, Italy, Cape Verde, India, Equatorial Guinea, Mexico and Aruba—just to name a few.

“You’re on the road too much. You travel too much. You’re not going to settle down,” well-meaning loved ones would tell Shaunte, advising her to “sit still” if she wanted to snag a man. Then she attracted her match in Antoine—a guy whom Essence named one of its most eligible bachelors in 2012.

However superfluous the tour may seem to some, it knocks down stereotypes about how black people are rigid, unadventurous and don’t travel. Plus it’s nice that Antoine and Shaunte—middle-class African-Americans from working-class roots—clearly have the coin to luxuriate and explore the world alongside fellow avid travelers.

Shaunte said she and Antoine receive messages from hopeful people who had given up on love, and people who are only now making space in their schedules to start seeing the world. But for Shaunte, as she begins her journey with Antoine, there’s no time like the present.

“It doesn’t make sense to save all of your money until you’re dead,” she said. “I want to experience all that this life has for me.”

She added: “Life isn’t promised.”

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WATCH: Why Carrie & Mr. Big Were Frightened By One Another | Episode 12

Therapists untangle the on-again, off-again shenanigans of Carrie and Mr. Big.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This is Part 1 of a 9-part analysis of Carrie and Mr. Bigs’s relationship from Sex and the City.

Experts Featured:

(1) Laurel Fay, M.S., LCMFT, is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of Laurel Fay & Associates, LLC. Ms. Fay has a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Child and Family Studies from Syracuse University, and a Masters of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Maryland at College Park. She is also an Approved Supervisor and Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).Ms. Fay is specially trained to work with couples, particularly around marital, communication and intimacy issues. Fay has given workshops on couple and family relationships for several organizations, including the Pro Bono Counseling Project; she is also a business coach for private practitioners, and is a frequent presenter on the topic of starting and growing a practice. She is the current President of the Middle Atlantic Division of the AAMFT, and she has been in private practice since 2001. Follow Laurel on Twitter at @laurelfay

(2) Drew Joseph, MA, LMFT, provides individual and couple therapy to adults in Washington, DC. His therapeutic methods are informed by psychodynamic psychology and Shambhala Buddhism. Learn more about Drew Joseph here.

(3) Sylvia E. Rosario, M.Ed,  is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of her private practice based in Washington D.C. as a practicing psychotherapist and specialist in Marriage and Family therapy. She is committed to working with individuals, couples and families who are seeking to enhance and improve the quality of their lives. Mrs. Rosario was appointed to the District of Columbia, Board of Marriage and Family Therapy on December 7, 2012 , her term to expire January 3, 2015. You can learn more about her here.

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WATCH: Couples Therapists Cringe at Martin’s Lofty Expectations of Himself | Episode 6

Martin should go easy on the inflated expectations he has for himself as a man and as a romantic partner because they are smothering both him and Gina.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This is Part 1 of a 6-part analysis of Martin and Gina’s relationship. 

Krystal Stanley explains that because Martin doesn’t see himself fitting the bill for what a man is and because he has very explicit ideas about how a boyfriend should provide for his girlfriend, those insecurities emerge in unhealthy ways. His famed “I’m a man!” chant was cute and funny for prime time, but in real life, men would suffocate their Ginas with that kind of behavior.

Experts Featured:

(1) Laurel Fay, M.S., LCMFT, is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of Laurel Fay & Associates, LLC. Ms. Fay has a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Child and Family Studies from Syracuse University, and a Masters of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Maryland at College Park. She is also an Approved Supervisor and Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).Ms. Fay is specially trained to work with couples, particularly around marital, communication and intimacy issues. Fay has given workshops on couple and family relationships for several organizations, including the Pro Bono Counseling Project; she is also a business coach for private practitioners, and is a frequent presenter on the topic of starting and growing a practice. She is the current President of the Middle Atlantic Division of the AAMFT, and she has been in private practice since 2001. Follow Laurel on Twitter at @laurelfay

(2) Sylvia E. Rosario, M.Ed, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of her private practice based in Washington D.C. as a practicing psychotherapist and specialist in Marriage and Family therapy. She is committed to working with individuals, couples and families who are seeking to enhance and improve the quality of their lives. Mrs. Rosario was appointed to the District of Columbia, Board of Marriage and Family Therapy on December 7, 2012 , her term to expire January 3, 2015. You can learn more about her here.

(3) Dr. Krystal Stanley, Ph.D. is a licensed Psychologist and owner of Re-New Psychological Services, LLC, based in Washington D.C. Dr. Stanley provides individual, couples, and group therapy to adults and has experience working with clients in university counseling centers, community mental health centers, public and charter schools, and non-profit/community based counseling centers. Dr. Stanley also provides clinical supervision to the therapists at Re-New who are pursuing licensure in their respective fields of study. Follow Dr. Stanley on Twitter at @ReNewPsych

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Episode 5: Couples Therapy for Martin and Gina

Wait! Watch the revised and updated, bite-size segments, Episode 6 – Episode 11, instead!

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

Martin and Gina’s journey to the altar played out hilariously, and at times uncomfortably, right before our very eyes. Marriage therapists reveal how they think this relationship would have fared in real life, and what viewers can learn from this dynamic pair.


Experts Featured:


(1) Laurel Fay, M.S., LCMFT, is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of Laurel Fay & Associates, LLC. Ms. Fay has a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Child and Family Studies from Syracuse University, and a Masters of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Maryland at College Park. She is also an Approved Supervisor and Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).Ms. Fay is specially trained to work with couples, particularly around marital, communication and intimacy issues. Fay has given workshops on couple and family relationships for several organizations, including the Pro Bono Counseling Project; she is also a business coach for private practitioners, and is a frequent presenter on the topic of starting and growing a practice. She is the current President of the Middle Atlantic Division of the AAMFT, and she has been in private practice since 2001. Follow Laurel on Twitter at @laurelfay

(2) Sylvia E. Rosario, M.Ed, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of her private practice based in Washington D.C. as a practicing psychotherapist and specialist in Marriage and Family therapy. She is committed to working with individuals, couples and families who are seeking to enhance and improve the quality of their lives. Mrs. Rosario was appointed to the District of Columbia, Board of Marriage and Family Therapy on December 7, 2012 , her term to expire January 3, 2015. You can learn more about her here.

(3) Dr. Krystal Stanley, Ph.D. is a licensed Psychologist and owner of Re-New Psychological Services, LLC, based in Washington D.C. Dr. Stanley provides individual, couples, and group therapy to adults and has experience working with clients in university counseling centers, community mental health centers, public and charter schools, and non-profit/community based counseling centers. Dr. Stanley also provides clinical supervision to the therapists at Re-New who are pursuing licensure in their respective fields of study. Follow Dr. Stanley on Twitter at @ReNewPsych

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