Hurt people hurt people. That was the big takeaway from Monday’s episode of “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta.” While the reality show served up its normal economy-sized helping of tomfoolery (i.e., K. Michelle randomly straddling her date, Karlie’s 22-inch eyelashes in bed), it also examined Stevie J and his infidelities. As any intelligent viewer of the show (some might say that’s an oxymoron) might have suspected, the three-time Grammy Award-winning producer hasn’t just been hiding from his baby mama and side chick, he (along with so many other black men in unhealthy relationships) has been hiding from himself.

During a couple’s therapy session, Stevie J admitted to being a liar and — after some probing by psychologist Jeff Gardere, Ph.D. — shared that his mother left him when he was just 8 months old. That sure explains a lot. Maybe not why he makes all of those ridiculous faces, but likely why he’s been unfaithful to women and why he plays so many games. The moment (of clarity) seemed sincere as Stevie J, clearly uncomfortable, almost squirming in his seat, confessed that it would’ve been nice to have known his mom, but he “can’t think about it.” And it is this not “thinking about it” that has led to so many dysfunctional relationships in our community.

Let’s be honest: We all have issues.  You’re not going to be in a relationship — romantic or otherwise — with anyone who doesn’t have them.  It’s just part of the human experience. But at some point, we all have to face our demons — go to those hurtful places so that we can heal, be whole, and foster healthy relationships.  I was super proud of Steebie (sorry, I couldn’t resist) for being honest and vulnerable in front of the camera.  That took a lot of courage. While it doesn’t earn him a “get out of jail free” card for irresponsible and hurtful behavior, it does explain the type of jail he was locked in.  I really don’t think most men who are in emotional turmoil know — on a conscious level — how much they hurt the women they love. How can they?  You can’t give love (real love, at least) when you’re in such pain (anyone see DMX on “Couple’s Therapy”? Exactly.) You dish out pain because that’s what’s inside of you, what feels comfortable and familiar. It’s sometimes so ingrained in the subconscious that only therapy will reveal the unhealed wound.

It’s unfortunate that so many black men have a stigma about therapy. They seem more comfortable talking to their barbers, bartenders, mammas, and us — their women. I’ve dated a few black men who have abandonment issues or suffered traumatic events. It’s a lot to deal with and the insecurities pop up in almost every aspect of the relationship. Black women are often left to fix everything, and, quite honestly, it’s not fair, especially when we have our own bag of issues to tackle. That’s what keeps many of us (including Mimi, who admitted to being abandoned by her mother as a teenager) are in dysfunctional, co-dependent relationships.  Gardere poignantly noted that men cheat because women allow it. I’ve heard so many men say, “I need a ride or die chick; a chick who’s loyal no matter what I do.” And I often reply, that ride or die chick you love so much likely has some serious self-worth issues, too. Low self-esteem, loneliness, and fear keep us in unhealthy relationships for far too long.

I’m a big fan of therapy. Our experiences — things we’ve learned and watched — all shape our behavior and thoughts. Like the rest of us, Mimi and Stevie need to heal and work on themselves separately. Couple’s therapy only focuses on the relationship, not the individual. One of my favorite books by don Miguel Ruiz, Mastery of Love, teaches us that a relationship should be about two whole people coming together.  Each person is responsible only for their half of the relationship. We must all learn to love ourselves first. Then, and only then, can we truly love others.

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