Gabrielle Union’s recent revelations about her marriage to Dwyane Wade has left social media divided. During an appearance on the Black Millionaires podcast, she revealed that when it comes to her and her husband Dwyane Wade’s finances, she believes in equality.
"In this household, we split everything 50/50," she said in a clip that’s been viewed more than nine million times.
She went on to explain that she has a ‘scarcity mindset’ that dates back to her days of trying to make it in Hollywood.
"I struggle with that, still. I think I just have more responsibilities for my money,” she said. “I get nervous like, 'Oh God, that movie didn't open, you know, what does that mean? Am I going to have enough to hold everybody up?'"
For the most part, the division has been about why, as the wife of an NBA player who earned about $200 million throughout his career and is also part owner of the Utah Jazz, she feels responsible for half of the family’s finances. It’s a fair question – but there’s much to be considered.
First, there’s the Black tax. This refers to the burden placed on successful Black people who feel a responsibility to help poorer or less successful family members make ends meet – which, as a result ends up affecting their ability to make significant progress when it comes to things like saving, investing and continuing to acquire wealth. And she alludes to there being other households for which she feels responsible.
“In the other households that each of us have to support, it puts this…there’s always this gorilla on your back. Like, you better work bitch. Bitch you better work. You wanna sleep in? Somebody might not eat,” she explained.
One Twitter user cut through the noise on social media and addressed this directly in this thread, redirecting the discourse to be more about the strain on Black breadwinners.
I find it interesting that this led to a splitting bills convo and not a very real Black breadwinner strain conversation. There is a specific term for it and it is evading me.— Supernova Momma (@SupernovaMomma) May 16, 2023
However , many of us are the first or only currently to generate more than survival in our families.. https://t.co/iSXglfs8B3
“Many of us are the first or only currently to generate more than survival in our families,” she wrote. “And a responsibility of taking care of your entire family is either placed on you or you place it on yourself.”
The second thing to consider is the amount of control splitting finances in any given household allows each partner. And when you consider this couple’s past, which included a period in which Dwyane impregnated another woman as the couple was experiencing fertility issues, why would control not be important to her?
Hyper-independence among Black women is incredibly common. It’s also a trauma response – and besides the trauma she describes of not knowing whether she’d be able to provide for herself, let alone the others that were depending on her, it’s entirely feasible and justifiable that she is hyper-independent because of the trauma she experienced as a result of Dwyane’s sexual relationship with Aja Metoyer.
It seems that no matter what NBA wives do, people are going to have an opinion. If they step up, as Gabrielle has, and parent children that aren’t biologically theirs and contribute to their household finances equally, or if they instead follow in the footsteps of Savannah James, wife of LeBron James, also in the news recently over her remarks on why she’s chosen to lay low throughout the years, people will have something to say.
Savannah was recently featured in The Cut magazine as their May cover story. The focus of the story was how (and why), in a world of NBA wives making names for themselves by appearing on reality shows and becoming influencers, she chose to live a private life.
“That time, to be honest, was spent pouring into my boys,” she said. “I just really wanted to enjoy being a mom and supporting my husband. I wasn’t super-comfortable with putting myself out like that.”
When the interview was first published, the internet was again divided, suggesting that Savannah had a chip on her shoulder and was shading women like Ayesha Curry, who maintains an active social media presence. And when Gabrielle’s podcast appearance went viral, people then compared the stories of each woman, suggesting Savannah’s choice to be a stay-at-home mom was some sort of indication that she wasn’t a natural-born hustler in the way Gabrielle has proven herself to be.
There is one other marriage being talked about a lot right now – and it’s the Obamas’. Last year, I wrote a piece in response to Michelle Obama’s discussion on marriage during her press tour for her book, where she suggested that young people were giving up too easily on relationships and that they should be prepared to go through long periods of discomfort.
“People think I’m being catty by saying this — it’s like, there were 10 years where I couldn’t stand my husband. And guess when it happened? When those kids were little,” she recalled. “We’re trying to build our careers and, you know, worrying about school and who’s doing what and what, I was like, ‘Ugh, this isn’t even.’ And guess what? Marriage isn’t 50/50, ever, ever,” she said at the time on a panel.
This week, though, Barack was pressed about her remarks during an interview with CBS Mornings.
“When our girls were growing up, that was priority number one, two, three and four. And so, I did not fully appreciate, I think, as engaged of a father I was, the degree of stress and tension for her knowing that not just me and Michelle were under scrutiny and in this strange environment, but that we were raising our daughters in a kind of situation that just wasn’t normal,” he said. “Now that they’re doing good, she’s a little more forgiving of my flaws. What she’s told me is, ‘Looking back, you did OK as a dad.’ And if I passed that test, then she’ll forgive me most of my other foibles.”
I mentioned that hyper-independence is common among Black women. And in their own way, each woman has been hyper-independent. With Gabrielle, she seems adamant about paying her fair share of the household expenses. And Savannah and Michelle, with their husbands being out of the home so often, they’ve really had to carry a lot of that weight on their own. But it seems that the scales are balancing out in each of these marriages as the men in them have retired or are approaching retirement and can chip in more now.
As much as I agree that Gabrielle shows a lot of signs of being hyper-independent, at least in a financial sense, she chose to stay in that relationship with Dwyane after his indiscretion. I don’t think society fully appreciates the vulnerability that comes with staying in a relationship where there’s been infidelity of any kind – especially when you’re in a highly publicized union. Despite the muddy timelines and a lack of consensus around whether he did actually cheat during their relationship, the fact that they stayed together in the face of tabloids and nosey journalists and went on to become a power couple that leads the charge of LGBTQ+ allyship among Black families is remarkable.
And then there’s Savannah. She trusted LeBron enough to give up her own career and be a stay-at-home mom – though I’d say that is very much a career of its own. Not only did she trust him to bring home enough money and provide for their family, but she trusted him to be faithful and resist the temptations - which seem to exist for so many basketball stars - that could lead to the dissolution of their marriage. We’ve seen so many wives grow dependent on their partners to provide that should a breakup or divorce occur, their only hope at maintaining their lifestyle is alimony or child support. As much as it may be portrayed as riding on coattails when women marry men with incredible earning potential, there is a ton of sacrifice made on their part.
And then you have the Obamas. Despite Michelle’s very honest breakdown of what marriage was like for her in the early days, we’ve seen the scales balance out for this couple, with him leaving the White House and her finally stepping into her ‘me era’, writing books and doing press tours. Their daughters have grown up and she can finally turn the spotlight on herself - and it’s well-deserved.
I am currently in the life stage of carefully deliberating whether marriage is, in fact, what I want for myself. When I hear about the experiences of women like Gabrielle, who now step-parents a child born outside of her own relationship, or Michelle spending a decade doing most of the child-rearing and maintaining the home, it seems like an express ticket to a depressive state. But hearing about the rewards and the perspective that come with each couple’s commitment to seeing through the hard times helps me to understand a bit better what the appeal of marriage is for people who decide to take that step. I still feel a lot safer on the single side, but perhaps that’s my own hyper-independence speaking.
If one thing can be learned from all of these marriages – and from all the women in them, it’s an idea I’ve touted on this site many times before: it’s the importance of doing things your own way and on your own terms. And whether that’s splitting your finances, choosing to be a stay-at-home mom because that’s what’s important to you, or seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, even if it’s ten years away, so long as you are deciding what is best for you, the outside noise remains just that.