The Biggest Relationship Cop Out and Why It’s Hurting You

2 04 2015

Change.

Such a simple word with quite a complex meaning. Webster defines it as “to give a different position, course, or direction to; to make a shift from one to another; to undergo a modification; to undergo transformation.”

But I say one of the biggest characteristics of change is its scariness. Oh you’re one of those people who don’t think change is scary? Hmmm, well I would argue that not only do a majority of us fear change, a majority of us act like we want it and will do it when we really don’t and won’t. In fact, I believe change is something a lot of us talk about in theory, but many of us rarely practice.

And it’s also where I think many of us go wrong in our dating lives.

Stop me if you’ve ever heard or said the following statement: “I can only be me, so if a man/woman doesn’t like me, then that’s his/her problem.” Or “I can’t be someone else to get a guy/girl to approach me. The person I’m supposed to be with is going to want me for me.”

Okay, now, I get the sentiment behind the statements. Yes, you have to be true to yourself, and no, no guy or girl should be looking to change you into what he/she wants you to be… but don’t most of us pride ourselves on not being who we were ten years ago? I can’t count how many times I’ve told someone “I’m not the same girl I was at 23” or 25, or 27, or hell even at 30. I also can’t count how many times folks have amen-ed and agreed with me. And yet, the same people who will swear they’ve changed for the better will turn around and say that they don’t need to make any further changes when it comes to their relationships. That this is who they are. Period.

That just can’t be!

If we are all seeking to improve ourselves at all times, why do we get caught up in the idea that it’s somehow negative or not empowering to improve ourselves to be better mates?

My theory? It’s because we’re a generation of people (mostly, not everyone) who were taught that bettering ourselves should only really be about us. We go to school to improve ourselves. We get good careers to better our lives. We travel to make ourselves more cultured.¹ And all of that is great, because it taught us independence and self – sufficiency, but what it didn’t do was teach us how to translate that bettering of ourselves into partnering with someone.

So I get it. I really do. I get the hesitation toward saying “I will figure out what my part is in the things that have gone wrong in my dating life, and I will actively focus on changing that.” It goes against everything we know. We’re supposed to change just for us. But the problem is if you’re doing the same wrong shit over and over again, and you don’t want to change it because you don’t believe you should have to, chances are you won’t have to change a thing because you won’t ever need to. And the problem with that thinking is that every happily married couple I know talks about what they had to change in their lives to get to that point.

This is why I call it a cop out. Not changing is the easy thing to do. It doesn’t take any skin. It doesn’t break you out of your comfort zone. Saying someone has to accept me “flaws and all” without any attempt at working on those flaws is the easy thing to do. It gives us a reason for those relationships not working. It puts the blame on the mystical “other.”

The harder thing to do is to take an honest assessment of yourself and say, “some of those folks just weren’t right, but sometimes, I was complicit as well.” And then to look and see what you can do differently.

I had to do that. I had to look back over my relationships for the past 8 years or so and ask myself what was my part in their undoing. And you know what I realized? I have a problem sticking around. I leave or don’t get invested in the first place so that when something even slightly uncomfortable comes up, I can leave before he does. It’s why I haven’t had someone break up with me in years. It’s also why the longest relationship I had during that time period we didn’t even actually call a relationship until it was over. And outside of that, none of them have lasted over 6 months.

That’s not good for someone who wants to eventually get married and have a family. So you know what that means? I have to change. I’ve got to do the work to make the changes that will help me a better partner for my future guy. Yes, that’s about bettering me, but it’s also about knowing that if I want to achieve that goal of eventually being happily married and having kids, I can’t be worried about how that process may not look very feminist-y or how it’s not just focused on me. I can’t afford to take the easy cop out and keep doing the same thing while expecting different results.

And if you’re feeling stuck or don’t like what you see in your dating life or relationships, you can’t either. It’s only hurting you going forward.

1 And yes, I know many of us volunteer and seek to impact change in others’ lives, but even that sometimes can be about what’s gives us “fulfillment.”

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At 31+, My Definition of Love is So Different from 10 Years Ago

5 03 2015

On a recent trip with some friends, one of the girls brought up a list titled “6 Phrases More Important than I Love You,” which was recently featured on the Huffington Post. The list asserted that while “I love you” was very important, it wasn’t always enough, and so you needed more than love (possibly the other six items) to make a relationship work. The six phrases they mentioned all sounded great at first glance, but as much as I wanted to agree with the entire list, I just couldn’t. I did, however, agree with at least one of them (which I’ll get to later).

They were:

1. I forgive you

2. I’ll sacrifice for you

3. I respect you

4. I’ll support you

5. I’ll protect you

6. I’m committed to you

Now, my reason for not agreeing with the complete list was not because I don’t think those phrases and the ideas behind them are important. It’s that, for me, at 31 +, they are included in “I love you.” If I say to someone now that I love him, I mean I will sacrifice for him, I respect him, I’ll support him, I’ll forgive him, and I’ll protect him (as I can).

This wasn’t always the case. In my early 20s, my concept of love was completely different. I fell in love at 21, as if it was a faulty emotion I couldn’t control. Love was all about passion and desire, how fast my heart beat when I saw his name on my phone or AIM account (aging myself here). It was all about romance (unrequited or not) and whether or not he and I talked to each other all day, every day.

But now? I’m not saying those things don’t matter — because they absolutely do — but love includes all those unromantic, practical things as well. I’m not looking for someone to “complete me.” I want to be whole and for him to be whole and then we come together. Love is not something I fall into anymore. It’s a choice I make. I choose to love who I love. And much of that choice is based off of certain criteria.

Such as…

Do I trust him?

Can I be honest with him even when I don’t want to be?

Do I have a desire to support him, and does he support my dreams and efforts?

Do I forgive him, even after a big argument, not because I’m a pushover, but because it’s worth it?

Love now includes aspects like responsibility and future. And sure, I absolutely still want to smile like a Cheshire cat when I hear his name and have a desire to tear his clothes off and lick his teeth when I see him. But I equally want to think of him as someone I wholly and completely respect. Someone who pushes me to fight for better, even when he doesn’t realize it.

That’s love for me now.

So when I tell a man I love him, I’m saying most of those other phrases as well.

Now, if you couldn’t tell by this point, the last phrase is the only one I thought was separate from “I love you,” simply because you can love someone and not commit to him/her. Just like love, commitment is a choice as well, and frankly there are people in love who are not committed to each other and vice versa.

But if we’re just talking about love here, I think the more mature definition, at least for me, has to include those other concepts. Otherwise, it’s just undeniable, passionate lust. And while that’s great and there’s certainly a place for it; I’m not 21 anymore, so I know the difference.





Holiday Gift Ideas for New Relationships

16 12 2014
Photo: blog.navut.com

Photo: blog.navut.com

The other week, one of my favorite readers left the following comment: “You should talk about holiday gift ideas for men. That’s usually hard to do when it’s the first year you’re together and on a budget!”

Well, A) she’s absolutely right! It’s super hard to figure out what to get your new boo for the holidays. But also B) I was sadly mistaken that I’d already done a post about this. Nope. The horror!! And you all know how much I love a holiday blog post, so that’s kind of crazy. Alas, I’ve already talked about whether you should get a gift and things to do with your relatively new boo during the holidays and what I’d want (lol), but never suggestions on gifts for someone else.

Me: What’s a really nice watch you would suggest someone get a man for less than $600?

Friend: Oooh, let’s see: Movado (bold line), Boss, Burberry… wait, who are you buying a $600 watch for?

Me: Ummm have we met?! Not anyone anytime soon lol. This is a question from my sister.

Friend: Oh okay, just checking.

Me: Yea, she’s been in a relationship for 3 years now. So she’s bout that life. I…. have not and am not.

Friend: lol good… but back to these watches…

You see how quickly that conversation went left for a bit? It’s because my friend knows that there’s level to this ish. Y’all, please don’t think you should be out buying a $600 watch for someone you’ve been dating for 3 months. That’s not how this works. (That’s not how any of this works.)

However, if you want to get that special someone a gift and/or you checked out the diagram I featured before on the site, and it says you should, then here are some suggestions I have for you (and just your luck, I’ve had my fair share of new relationships around the holidays):

Keep it small and cute, but show you’ve been listening

One of my first adult relationships during the holidays involved a fella who loved cookies. So what did I do? I baked some for real, from scratch homemade cookies using two ingredients I knew he liked (because he talked about them a lot): chocolate and pecans. They were a hit! They weren’t that expensive to make, but once I wrapped them up nicely, tied the plastic with a pretty a bow, and placed it in a cute cookie tin, he was absolutely gaga for them. In fact, he talked about them for years afterward. Total cost? Less than $15. Look on his face: priceless. Your idea doesn’t have to be homemade cookies, but it can be something that doesn’t cost a lot, but that he talks about often. Maybe he likes a particular cologne or a Wii game or has a favorite football team — listen out for clues and then go for that!

Go for something DIY that he would like, not you…

Okay, this is for my DIY girls like me — Pinterest can be your best friend during this time. But don’t get too fancy with it and forget who the gift is really for here. My best DIY suggestion? A coupon booklet of cheap/free activities he can ask you to do later on. A) it shows you want there to be a later on, B) it shows your creativity, and C) the items should all be things he’d want to actually do, so he’ll be excited. Possible examples include a home cooked meal, a massage, a free zirbert (yes, I put that on there lol), you rooting for his favorite team at least once (especially if you don’t normally like them), etc…

Try an activity you can both attend

Do you both like go-cart racing? Or a specific band or artist? Maybe you’ve both mentioned seeing a particular Broadway play? Why not get two tickets to whatever that activity is so that it’s a gift for him, but it’s still something you can do together. This gift is also versatile, so it can be tickets to something worth $10 each or up to like $100, depending on just how “new” the relationship is.

And if all else fails, and you’ve already introduced sex into your relationship…

Tape a big bow on you, and enjoy a different kind of present with each other.

That one is pretty self-explanatory lol.

Any other suggestions?? I hope these helped for all my newbies out there! Happy holiday shopping!





Argue with Me… #SoIKnowItsReal???

28 10 2014

There’s a scene in one of my favorite shows, Grey’s Anatomy, where Meredith and Derek get into a really heated argument. Because Meredith isn’t used to being in a relationship, she assumes that the argument is an indicator that she and Derek have broken up. So when Derek shows up at her door like normal, she’s super confused. She’s all like, “didn’t we have a heated argument today?” He says yes. She says (and I’m paraphrasing the rest because I don’t remember it verbatim), “I thought that meant we broke up.” He says, “No, it just means I didn’t like you at that moment. But we’re in a relationship. We’re going to disagree. Couples argue, Meredith. We’re a couple.”

Oop. He got her straight!

But actually, full disclosure, he got me straight too.

You see, I found myself in a similar situation earlier this year. I got into a heated “discussion” with a guy I’m dating, and before I realized what I was doing, I’d assumed that meant we were done. I was sending angry memes to my friends (because I don’t put them on social media lol) like the one that says “I tripped and fell into some feelings. I’m okay now. I brushed that shit off.”

I was all “if this is too complicated for you, just say it. Just say it!”

I mean, I was really done y’all.

And then we talked again, and I realized — wait, this dude still thinks we’re dating. I mean, I was really sitting there like, “but didn’t we just have this horrible row, how could he still think we’re dating?” And that’s when it hit me — I’d fallen into that same trap Meredith had fallen into. The one that would have you believe if you disagree, that automatically means you’re over.

Really, when you think about it, it’s kind of easy to think that. At least I can see how it happened for me. You see, for the past several years, I’ve been involved in relationships or dating situations that never lasted past the 6 month mark. Why that is the case is for another post, but what I realized about those relationships is that there was no sense of investment there. So of course if we got into a really bad argument, it was easy to just end it.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Maybe it didn’t end in that specific fight, but if it didn’t, it was pretty soon thereafter.

Which brings me back to the fight earlier this year. Because of all those other experiences, I believed the same thing was happening then too. And like Meredith, I had to reconfigure my mindset to allow for disagreements that don’t mean the end. Because Derek was right, couples do argue.

It’s like this saying I used to hear growing up – you know you’re in a real relationship when you have your first fight and you make it through it. Now I understand. Of course, you shouldn’t fight all the time. And it shouldn’t be with the intent to hurt the other person, but disagreements are bound to happen between two individuals who have their own beliefs and their own experiences.

It’s just a matter of how you react to the fight that tells you whether or not you think the relationship is worth continuing.





From Vacation Passes to Pregnancy Ones?

23 10 2014

First there was the vacation pass — you know, the leeway some couples give each other to do as they please on vacation with friends without repercussions.

Then there was the celebrity pass — the game couples play where they list the 1 or 2 celebrities the significant other could get with without any repercussions.

And now there’s… the pregnancy pass?? The allowance some women give their husbands to have sex with other women while they are pregnant (without repercussions to the relationship).

What???

Does anyone find this as disturbing as I do?

Now I’m not going to lie, I’ve jokingly discussed the celebrity pass with a boyfriend or two. And I guess it seems a bit “safer” since the likelihood of your boo meeting his/her celebrity crush is a lot slimmer than them seeing a random cute girl in Brazil. But truthfully, even that’s dangerous in this day and age where everyone is a social media account away. And I would have been quite upset if it had actually happened.

This pregnancy pass thing, though? It just seems to me folks are trying to find any way possible to have open relationships without calling it that. And if that’s what you want, I’m saying — just own that ish. Don’t be carrying on like you’re in a monogamous relationship, but you just happen to be open to the idea of your husband having carte blanche for 10 months.

Naw.

Now I get that there are some factors in play here. Some women think they won’t be in the mood to have sex while pregnant. Some men think they won’t find ol’ girl attractive or that they’ll be too scared to hurt the baby and all that jazz. And to those concerns, I say to all parties — man up.

When you are in a relationship, especially a marriage, you make a commitment to fulfilling the needs of your partner (sexual and otherwise). That doesn’t mean you let someone else fulfill those needs while you’re on sabbatical for ten months, and it certainly doesn’t mean you drop your wife for almost a year because her belly is almost as big as her boobs. Besides, from the pregnant women I’ve talked to (and the ladies on The Real), pregnant women are typically “ret to go” any time, any place. So you might as well take advantage of the situation. No?

What do you all think, though? Did you have the same “naw” reaction as me upon hearing of the pregnancy pass? Or do you think it’s a legitimate suggestion? And have you heard of or participating in any other types of relationship passes? I promise — this will be a no judge zone.





Lost for Words

14 10 2014

“When I try to explain it, I be sounding insane. The words don’t ever come out right. I get all tongue-tied and twisted. I can’t explain what I’m feeling. And I say baby, baby, baby, baby I… what I’m trying to say is you’re my everything, baby. But every time I try to say it, words, they only complicate it.” ~ Ariana Grande

Have you ever been so in like that you find yourself tongue-tied sometimes when it comes to expressing that to said person?

I know I have. On more occasions that I care to admit, especially for someone who manipulates words for a living.

I’ll find myself babbling on for minutes when a simple “you make me smile” would have sufficed. Or end up saying really lofty and dramatic statements like “my whole being feels safe when I’m around you,” when I really just wanted to say that I’m comfortable around him but not in a way that makes me complacent — just in a “this feels natural type of way.”

What’s amazing is that I can write this out fairly succinctly for the blog, but just as with Ariana G – when I’d try to say it to the guy, I’d get all flustered and suddenly be at a loss for words. All at once, I’d begin to doubt the words coming out of my mouth (as I was saying them!!), so I’d try to switch course and end up sounding like a crazy person.

Am I the only one who has experienced this? I feel like I’m not, but because it’s happened so often for me, I have of course attempted to figure out why.

And what I’ve come up with — at least for now, is that I’m thinking it’s less about not being able to find the right words and more about worrying what those words mean to me that gets me stuck. Like if I say out loud that dude is one of the reasons I’m happy, it makes it more real, harder to take back, and let’s be honest — gives it much more power. I know we’re not supposed to talk about that side of liking someone — the scary, what does this mean for me, how does this change me side. But it’s there.

Anytime you start thinking “we” and not just “I,” it’s there.

And I think that scary factor or the concern that I sound insane is what makes the words then become so complicated. At least for me. At least when I try to express them to dude.¹

And it ends up sounding like, “Baby, baby… baby, baby I…” LOL.

What about you all? Do you have any stories of times when your words came out like a crazy person while you were trying to express your feelings to someone?

1 Not as much anymore, because I’m getting more comfortable with just letting my feelings be what they are, but you know, I’m a work in progress, so sometimes, it’s still like that.





Love Jones Thoughts Part 4: In the End, Darius was Wrong

9 10 2014

love jones2

Remember the final scene of the movie, where Nina and Darius meet in the rain, after they haven’t seen each other in a while? Right before they start kissing and before he admits that his love for her is urgent like a motherf-cker?

Remember how she tells him that as usual his timing couldn’t be worse? And after he declares his love, she asks him that all important question, “How do we do this?” She lives in New York, as you might recall. And he… he lives in Chicago. Do you remember what he says in response? Of course you do — that’s an iconic scene. It’s something that anyone who loves that movie can quote to you. He tells her that he doesn’t care about where they live, and basically that it doesn’t matter.

Unfortunately,  Darius (in that moment) is really really wrong.

Well maybe wrong is harsh. His statement is super over-simplified though, because if there’s anything I’ve learned over the past year is that it absolutely matters when the person you want to be with doesn’t live in the same city as you.

I didn’t always believe that. As a matter of fact, in my younger days, I had a number of long distance relationships that I tried. All were fairly brief (5 months or less), and all probably wouldn’t have worked even if the guy lived in my city. Therefore, I found myself believing that it wasn’t the distance per se that broke us up, rather it was the distance that exaggerated the things that would have broken us up anyway.

And yes, to some extent that was true. I look back on those relationships now, and while for the most part, those men were good guys — they definitely were more lesson learning opportunities for me than potential for lifelong partners. That’s not to put all the onus on them. I still had a lot of growing to do as well, but I think because I knew deep down they were temporary,  I gave long distance a pass. An excuse.

I’d eventually end up viewing one guy as a coward for not wanting to try it, not because he didn’t want to be with me, but because he claimed he did. And I felt like, at the time,  that he was either a liar mcliarson and didn’t really want to be with me or he didn’t have the fortitude to deal with a little difficulty. I mean, all these other guys were willing to do it (and by all, I mean like 3 — let’s not get crazy here), so what was his deal?

Well. Y’all. I’ve been trying to date long distance recently, and…

I know something different now.

Long distance is hard.

And it’s not just that it exaggerates the problems you may have. The constant scheduling is also extremely exhausting. The fact that you can’t see the guy you like on a random Tuesday is frustrating. The desire to disconnect is an ever present little nag in your side. The reality that you’re not really in that person’s life on a normal basis is a bit defeating. The difference between length of time you’ve been dating and actual real times you’ve been with each other is jarring. It’s just… hard.

That’s not to say I don’t think you should do it. Obviously, I’m doing it (or trying to do it or something, I don’t know y’all lol). Or that I don’t believe it can work. It just means that I think being realistic about the difficulties involved in it may give you a better chance at surviving it. Digging your head in the sand and acting as if it’s a natural thing to do surely isn’t the way. That I know. Which is why when I hear Darius say he doesn’t care about where they live, I know he’s not thinking past that moment.

And that sounds really romantic.

But it’s not long-lasting.

Maybe that’s why the movie had to end on that scene. Seeing them try to navigate life together in a long distance relationship would have killed all the positive vibes we all had at the end.