I was admittedly taken aback after reading about the reported split between Hollywood’s most notable black power couple, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith.  They were/are the young Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee….an accessorized version of Michelle and Barack, standing as the symbol of all that is possible in the complex world of black love and relationships.

But most of us know that all that glitters ain’t gold, and I’m sure the same rule applies to the Pinkett-Smith marriage.

I hope the reports of a pending separation aren’t true (there’s a relative stating that it’s all a bunch of nonsense), but regardless of whether the couple is going to stick it out or not, the possibility of their separation leads all of us to reflect on the nature of love and how this is supposed to work.  As a graduate student, I was able to solve some of the most complex math equations known to man, but I’ve long given up trying to solve the life-altering puzzle called L-O-V-E.

Will Smith is, without question, one of the most remarkable human beings in Hollywood.  I wasn’t surprised to hear that he’d been accepted to MIT at the age of 18(or so they say), for only a genius could parlay his career as a goofy rapper into one that allows him to be one of the most revered sex symbols in the world.  Also, his commitment to his wife and children has been commendable, for his actions appear to be a reflection of strong family values.

We also have to admire Jada Pinkett-Smith, who has bravely endured the task of managing a relationship with the man that every woman is trying to get.   She’s has always carried herself with a remarkable amount of class and elegance, hiding whatever horrors she might have been experiencing in her private life.  But then again, if they are truly getting separated, the marriage likely wasn’t a picnic for either Will or Jada….marriage almost never is.

I didn’t quite understand the Pinkett-Smith concept of an “open marriage,” where each of them agrees that it is OK for their partner to sleep with other people.  It sort of sounds like commitment without commitment, which forces us to confront two major conflicting instincts of man:  The desire to spread your seed and the need to love and provide for your family.   Most interesting is that men with the highest testosterone levels (i.e. alpha males like Will) are the ones with the greatest desire to spread their seed, and they are also the ones that women want the most.  At the same time, we all know that a large percentage of women are interested in multiple sexual partners, so perhaps I’m old fashioned by wondering if monogamy has simply gone out of style.

While “gettin jiggy” with whoever you want might seem to be a logical solution to the whole “monogamy problem,” the notion of an open marriage seems to be an invitation for every type of drama, heartache and venereal disease you can think of, as it comes off as an uncomfortably non-traditional way to do a traditional thing.  If you need to sleep with whoever you want,  some would say that you shouldn’t get married at all.  It’s odd that something as seemingly irrelevant as your sex organs should make you devoid of the rights to love and family, but misuse of the family penis has brought down many an empire.

Will Smith impressed me with something he said on television back on 1998.  He explained that during his first marriage, he realized that he can’t give 100% to his career and simultaneously run his marriage on autopilot. He understood that being successful at almost anything requires a universal commitment to giving it all you’ve got.  According to Smith, building a good marriage requires just as much focus, hard work and determination as anything else.

I strongly suspect that it was his commitment to family, love and traditional values which led to Will sticking it out in this marriage for as long as he has.  I also can’t help but wonder if it was this odd desire to have an open marriage that opened up a can of worms that may have brought poison into the Pinkett-Smith relationship.  Jealousy can be a powerful thing, and as much as we’d like to think we can overcome it, we might be fooling ourselves by trying to outsmart God and Mother Nature.  On the other hand, there are those who truly believe that monogamy isn’t natural, and with the divorce/infidelity rates in America being so high, it’s hard to argue to the contrary.

Whatever the reasons for their divorce (if they are indeed going to go through with it), the end of Will and Jada would be both symbolically painful and disappointing to millions of people.  But those who think that the end of their marriage signifies a negative blow to the existence and possibilities of genuine African American love are dead wrong.  Black love exists now as much as ever if people are serious about finding it, and the Smiths have best represented the power of black love by the fact that they’ve given it their best shot.  In other words, this couple was always “100 percent for real,” and nothing is ever going to change that.

By Dr Boyce Watkins