Like many of you, I was shocked (and saddened) to hear that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, or “Harry and Meghan”, had decided to step back from their official royal duties. Not only that — they’re planning to move away and set up a life apart from the royals in the UK.
For those across the pond who are bombarded with daily updates on the royal family, this may have come as no surprise. For the rest of us, this bold move was unexpected and the manner in which it was announced by the couple themselves vs. official channels, was especially jarring. Certainly, there have been countless memes posted before and since the wedding regarding Meghan’s integration of the royal circle. Yet, the seemingly warm, genteel display at the ceremony and celebration following it did offer hope that maybe we had evolved and this interracial union would be embraced in this era. I felt pleasantly rewarded for waking up to witness the spectacle at 4 AM DST. <<sighs>>
Alas, things haven’t been going as swimmingly as we’d thought. Hadn’t Meghan revealed as much in the interview mere months ago? Harry, too, had been vocal about the toll the media scrutiny and family tension was taking on his bride and his young son, Archie. As he often does, Harry evoked memories of his mother’s harrowing experiences with paparazzi, and of course, her tragic and untimely death after one such encounter. He and Meghan even took legal action against media outlets for voicemail hacking, an egregious invasion of the couple’s privacy. These latest developments notwithstanding, it has taken me a minute to sort out how I feel about it.
I must confess my first thought was “Noooooooo! This doesn’t look good for Black people.” Dramatic, and selfish, I know. I was thinking Meghan had to be an example and show the world that we can play in that space if we want to. She’s of Black heritage, she’s beautiful, and smart — she belongs there and they are blessed to have her.
Not only did I want Meghan to make a strong showing “for the culture”; I wanted it for her. Though certainly an accomplished woman in her own right, I wanted to her have the title and bask in all of the royal trappings her title accorded her. In the short time she was there, she carried out her duties in an exemplary manner and looked fabulous doing it. She and Harry were among the favorites of the royal family on this side of the world, anyway. There were some murmurs of discord within the extended family, but growing pains were to be expected. Right? You got this, Sis!
Instead, the royals were now “running Meghan out of town”, Wallis Simpson-style. You’ll recall that Ms. Simpson was the American divorcee for whom King Edward VIII abdicated the throne. Suddenly, a sick feeling came over me: this is really happening, in 2020. The public had NOT really embraced her and the family had NOT made her feel welcome after all.
I could now see these actions were taken out of desperation. Following their brave attempts to “go along to get along”. They felt compelled to make a BIG move and I have come to admire them both for it.
Harry’s actions back up his proclamation as recounted here to “always protect my family, now I have a family to protect”. I admire his courage in taking this step so early in his marriage. It signifies means a break with centuries-old family traditions, causes a fissure in his relationship with his extended family, and creates questions about future access to wealth and status that was his birthright. This is BIG. As a newlywed, I remember browsing a bookstore with my husband and coming across The Little Book of Marriage. In it we found a quote that was simple yet profound, and one that would guide us over the next 25 years — “The best thing a man can do for his children is love their mother.” Harry LOVES Meghan. By taking this stance for his family now, Harry is not only protecting his family physically, but emotionally and mentally with benefits realized now and to the next generation.
We can’t know whether Harry or Meghan initiated this action or whether they came to this conclusion together, but Meghan is also to be commended. She could have decided she’d muddle through and hope for the best, and….never be rewarded for such optimism. Instead, she looked to the future and realized that she wanted something different; a different reality for Archie and any more children that she might be blessed with. She had a different vision for herself. She saw a way out of this and she took it, holding firmly to the hand of her man. Brava!
Here’s what other couples can learn from Harry and Meghan:
· Create boundaries. Marriage creates a family. Immediately; even before children are born to it. Protect it. Don’t shut extended family out, but make it clear that not everything that happens within the unit requires their approval, opinion, or concern.
· Communicate concerns EARLY. Address any issues early on, so unhealthy habits and patterns of communication don’t become set in stone. It establishes expectations and goes a long way to alleviate hurt feelings and misunderstandings.
· Respect and honor the family. Neither partner should be expected to denounce or break with their family origin unless circumstances are extremely toxic. Recognize and appreciate the love, values, and perspectives that formed your partner into the person you love today.
· Stay connected. Be interested and engaged with extended family. Visit each other and participate in family events. Hold fast to beloved traditions. Include extended family in special events. Come together in times of need.
· Be united. If there are any issues, couples should hash out the details and create solutions as a team. Make compromises where necessary. Behind closed doors. When facing extended family, speak and ACT in one accord. ALWAYS.