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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  • Shenequa

    This is nothing short of gospel, right here! Clear, straight to the point, elegant writing!

    I was on the phone with my best friend and we both stopped mid-sentence to see Stevie J finally admit to his hurt. While it was very big of Steven J to even go there, a lot of people-men and women-mask their insecurity in such clever ways, it leaves the other person wondering “What am I not doing right?” or “What’s wrong with me?” Shout out to both Steven J and Mimmie, but I can’t rock with him. Not after all the foolery.

  • 726

    “Gardere poignantly noted that men cheat because women allow it.”

    No accountability whatsoever.

    • Candi

      I agree.

    • When those words came out of his mouth I had a ‘pause’ moment, like “he didn’t just say that”. Men don’t cheat “because women allow it”, they cheat because they have issues with themselves and lack self control. I’m really disgusted with that train of thought, people who believe it but even more so I’m disgusted that a therapist would actually sit there and blame Stevie for what he has done/ failed to do.

    • Lady85

      agreed, that comment frustrated me too. men cheat because they want to. now if you continually allow him back into a relationship with you…you’re crazy,but his body is controlled by him. not the woman. other than that great article.

    • Nikki

      I actually agree with the statement. I think Gardere was talking about when people repeatedly cheat. If a man (or woman) is continuously cheating and you don’t leave then you are essentially condoning it. Both people have to be held accountable in a relationship. If it was the first time and he made that statement I would be like “whoa hold up” but that’s not the case here. This dude has been stepping out on her for years and yet still she stays. She’s allowing herself to continue being victimized by this smurf. Is it right what he’s doing? Absolutely not, but she hasn’t left so why would he stop? Hence the reason why I never give a man more than one chance to make a fool out of me. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. My ex husband found that out the hard way.

  • Candi

    This article is on-point. I wish more of us would seek therapy rather than assuming we’re strong enough (or “man enough”) to hold it all in. I wish we also valued taking care of our mental health as much as our physical health.

    Also, Stevie J has some deep rooted issues that needs to be worked out in individual therapy. His mom left him, he chooses women with little self-esteem, then manipulates the hell out of them. He probably hates women (maybe not enough to beat women, but nevertheless) it is clear he feels some sort of resentment. His mother leaving him is no excuse for his behavior, but his internalized anger is manifesting itself in his “relationships” and his desire for dominance and control.


  • Lady P

    Th^s — “Hurt people hurt people.” Until we realize this, therapy is needed to rectify the known problems and to re discover the unresolved issues.

    Great Article!

  • LOVE this post! You say it so eloquently and so purely. We attract WHAT we are and if that can penetrate on any deep level, that will be a start to having better relationships. When you want better for yourself (love), then the natural order of things is love and love really does conquer a multitude of sins. The level of healing at the micro level that occurs is immediate and permanent. Maybe that’s the purpose of this show after all *shrugs* #WishfulThinking :)