For “better or worse,” “in sickness and in health,” and “for richer or poorer” have served as the bedrock for wedding vows for centuries. However during the past 30 years “for worse,” “in sickness” and “for poorer” are the vows all too often forsaken by many couples struggling in their marriage. Divorce serves as the solution for those stuck in a marriage rut; and has been particularly destructive in the African-American community.

Reports by the U.S. Census Bureau suggest that divorce has been on the decline since 1996; however civil registries and court records nationwide report the nation’s divorce rate to be hovering just north of 45 percent. Many family and relationship therapist suggest that most married couple flirting with divorce do so because they neither know how to navigate the trials of marriage dilemmas nor believe that they should, and it appears (at least on the surface) that there are few examples of couples who have.

More than 1,000 recently attended the premiere of Still Standing, a documentary that challenges the mindset that divorce is the answer and proves that there are ordinary couples who have faced and defeated the evils of hell that attacked their marriage. The March event at the Publick Playhouse in Cheverly, Md. gave attendees a chance to hear the testimonies of six African-American couples whose marriages stand firm despite their marital valleys.

Infidelity, poor communication, naysayers, blended family issues, sickness and troublesome finances are most often credited for the reasons for marital challenges. However the film served as a testament that those very challenges are manageable when ‘til death do us part’ remains the ultimate goal.

“The only way that you can know that you have unconditional love is if conditions come to test you,” explained the Rev. Rose Marie Greene. With 31 years invested, the Greene marriage was severely tested when an aggressive cancer – that doubled in size every two weeks – “invaded” her body.

Nisa Muhammad, credited with being one of the nation’s most ardent advocates for marriage in the African-American community, maintains that problems do not destroy marriages; it’s the way people deal with the issues that serve as the stimulus for those divorces. Muhammad, founder of Black Marriage Day adds, that infidelity can destroy one marriage while strengthening another.

After experiencing the distress of infidelity and separation, Jon and Carmencita Dildy, married for 7 ½ years, found the film to be cathartic. “The part of the movie that really hit home for us was the infidelity”, explained Carmencita Dildy. “We’ve been through the trials and tribulations of it and God brought us back together and wiped all of that anger I had away.”

There were a few occasions when a rain of applause revealed just how much the capacity audience enjoyed the lessons being shared – especially when the Rev. Wesley Greene told about the sacrifices he graciously made to help in his wife’s healing.

Still Standing, the fourth film (Happily Ever After – 2009; You Saved Me – 2010 and Men Ain’t Boys – 2011) in a series of documentaries created by the husband and wife duo of Lamar and Ronnie Tyler, counters the negative images often portrayed about marriage and parenting in the African-American communities. The Tylers are the founders of the Award-winning website blackandmarriedwithkids.com, and are listed by Essence and Ebony as being one of America’s most influential power couples.

“We need to address how marriage is portrayed in current day culture. Contrary to what reality TV shows us, the last time I dined at Cheesecake Factory I didn’t see any women throwing drinks in each other’s faces,” said Lamar Tyler.

According to Lamar Tyler the purpose of Still Standing was threefold:
“We hope to encourage couples there are people who have gone through what they (viewers) are facing; second to show them specifically how these couples overcame those issues, and the third thing we hope to do is to offer singles a real and transparent look at what marriage is.”
The film included the testimonies of Fatin and Aja Dantzler of Kindred and the Family Soul; Speech (of the Grammy Award winning rap group Arrested Development) and Yolanda Thomas and Dr. Sherry L. Blake – the author of The Single Married Woman and a clinical psychologist who regularly appears on Braxton Family Values.

Still Standing’s debut coincided with the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of Black Marriage Day, and proves “when the going gets rough, the tough remain together “still standing.”

For more information or to arrange a private screening contact Lamar Tyler at blackandmarriedwithkids.com.

Reginald Williams

Special to the AFRO