How much of what you read or hear about other people’s romantic partnerships do you actually believe? Considering that there are only two people who know the whole truth about any relationship – the two people in it – is it really wise, or fair, to make assumptions or draw conclusions?
If you read my previous post on Whitney Houston, you know I have a great deal of respect for the late songstress and diva. In that blog, I honored her courage to be authentic and to chart her own course, such as when she married “bad-boy” Bobby Brown. Some readers/viewers responded less than positively to my thoughts about her marriage. They insisted that Bobby controlled Whitney and that he made her a drug addict. While I understand their reaction, I have to wonder how anyone could be so certain, when we only know what we have heard. And even first-hand accounts have been contradictory.
Consider this: During a 2009 interview with Oprah, Whitney sounded like the ultimate victim. She claimed that Bobby was unfaithful and jealous of her, and that he had spit on her. Whitney’s comments were particularly interesting because they were showcased by Oprah, who, I have heard, often avoids hosting guests known for being abusive. But in a 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer, Whitney said that though Bobby never hit her, she had hit him … in anger. I am the first to say that neither hitting nor spitting is a nice way to treat a spouse or anyone else, but by her own account, Whitney appears to have been a bit aggressive herself. I wonder why he spit on her. Was it right after she punched him in the face? It certainly begs the question. Yet, Oprah, and probably many viewers, seemed to sympathize with her. The double-standard for how we think about abuse seems to put men at an automatic disadvantage when it comes to public opinion.
Whitney told Oprah that Bobby was jealous of her success. But she told Diane Sawyer that, while shooting The Bodyguard, “I’d wake up in the morning and I’d go, ‘I can’t do this. This is too much for me, Bobby. I’m going to quit today.’ He said, “No way are you going to do that. If you quit now, you are going to blame me for the rest of my life. You are going to do this movie and you are going to do it well. You can’t quit now.'”
Whitney told Oprah that Bobby was unfaithful. But Bobby had children with two other women before he married Whitney and had a reputation as a “ladies’ man.” I certainly wouldn’t have bet a penny on his being monogamous. I am not judging the man, only pointing out that Whitney knew his patterns going into the relationship. And we don’t know if they ever even agreed to monogamy. There have also been rumors that Whitney was a lesbian and Bobby was her cover. Don’t know what to believe? Me neither. That’s why I mind my own business when it comes to other people’s sex lives.
Fast forward to Oprah’s recent interview with Whitney’s brother and his wife, Patricia Houston, who was also Whitney’s manager. When Oprah asked the brother about Whitney’s marriage, he noted, “Bobby was a good guy.”
When she asked Patricia about Bobby introducing Whitney to drugs, she responded, “I don’t think that’s true.” She also noted, “Bobby and I had a good relationship. [Whitney] would always tell me, ‘You are always trying to protect him.’ I said, ‘No, I am protecting truth. You are wrong right now for what you are saying and what you are doing.'”
Over the years, both Bobby and Whitney have gotten plenty of bad press. But this entry is not really about either of them. It’s about how we perceive them. How do you typically digest stories you hear about marital discord? Do you slant more towards the man or the woman? The loudest or the quietest? Do you avoid judgment? Or do you presume to “know” more than you can confirm?
Remember the old adage: “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.” But how many of us act on this wisdom? Consider what you believed about Whitney and Bobby. I cannot reasonably draw any conclusions about their marriage. I don’t have enough reliable information. And if you only know what you’ve seen on television, I doubt you do either. But many people drew conclusions that were harsh, and judging by what we have heard from the people closest to Whitney, possibly incorrect.
When we examine other people’s relationships and what we believe about them, we have a rich opportunity to grow clearer about our biases, our own ways of filling in stories without clear information and details. It’s not easy to avoid the temptation of assuming. But you can do it. You’re Powerful.
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