5 Terrible Reasons for Getting Into a Relationship
There are plenty of great reasons to look for love, but there are also some ready shady factors that find us searching for a partner. If you fall into one of the following categories, consider finding another way to consume your time before focusing on a search for a boo…
- You’re lonely: I know, I know. Choosing to throw ourselves into a flurry of dating seems to make sense when we don’t have anyone to call our own. Nobody wants to end up as the dreaded “Cat Lady”. But the reality is that loneliness is a state of mind for most people. Before you rush out to fill a hole in the soul with a significant other, consider first the reasons why you’re lonely. A consistent feeling of loneliness may be a symptom that you need to expand your life and interests. Or that you have unresolved issues from your childhood. A partner who is chosen as an escape from inner dissatisfaction or a lack of personal meaning will inevitably fail at their job. Why? Because in a healthy relationship, your partner’s main role isn’t to provide entertainment or a warm body on lonely nights…but to complement the full life that youalready have.
- You’re broke: Let’s face it. The economy and unemployment rates of black people have placed financial consideration into the forefront of many of our choices. But choosing to date someone primarily because of the size of their wallet is a tried and true way of ending up miserable. Money can mask incompatibility or financial irresponsibility but for only so long. Finance, health, attractiveness, professional status…all these things tend to change over time, and not always for the better. Instead of trying to stabilize your finances with someone else’s cash, you might want to look at yourself to determine how you can stabilize your own finances.
- You’re horny: If your libido is one of the main reasons why you choose to date, you’re inviting drama with a capital D into your life. It doesn’t matter how sturdy the latex, there is no such thing as 100% medically safe sex. There is always a risk that one takes when you engage in sexual activity. And it’s not only the physical ones that cause the most harm. Sex is an intimate act. It is a sharing of emotions, spirit, and body. It bonds two people together with a strength that often supersedes common sense (eg. ChRihanna). Affection, commitment, communication, openness, compatibility, trust. These are the qualities that make for great sex. Show me a person, whether male or female, who is able to regularly engage in emotionally disconnected sex and I’ll show you a person who is emotionally and or spiritually out to lunch.
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The Relationship that Almost Killed Me
Here are some of the times I didn’t leave my partner: I didn’t leave him when he hit me so hard that he paralyzed my diaphragm and I couldn’t scream for help. I didn’t leave after neighbors had him arrested, or when he grabbed me by my throat and dragged me around the house, or when friends and family begged me to leave. I did not even leave when he threw me against the floor while I was six months pregnant. Did I think about it? Of course I did. I thought about it every single time he raised his hand to me. Sometimes I even did leave—for a night, for three. But I always came back, because as any battered woman can tell you, the leaving can feel harder than the abuse. Most of us carry with us a wretched crib sheet of times we should have left, and that list just keeps getting longer. Here’s the story of how I put an end to mine.
Meeting Scott* was like meeting the rest of my life. He was gorgeous, a successful male model. I was a model too, and a single parent— devoted, but also wild and a little unsettled. He came into the picture and love-bombed me, constantly telling me that I was the most beautiful woman in the world, asking to spend every waking minute together. He took on my baggage (and believe me, I had some). At that time in my life, I was convinced that I needed a husband and a father for my son, Christian. I believed that being with Scott transformed me from a statistic—another woman of color with a baby and no man—into half of a perfect couple.
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Want Love? Start by Looking at the (Wo)Man in the Mirror
Black love is in a crisis and we don’t need scholars or research to tell us this (although plenty of studies validating this statement exist). ABC News, the Washington Post, theNew York Times, hell, pretty much every news outlet that exists has reported on the relationship challenges our community is currently facing. But we don’t need research or reporters to tell us this. By simply looking around at our families, at work or church we can see what’s happening. We’re living in a culture that routinely sacrifices love on the altar of materialism. And err’one knows that there are more single Black people today than married.
While I understand that marriage is not the de facto destination of choice for everyone, I know plenty of single folks who truly desire a committed relationship but can’t seem to find the right person. There are a myriad of external forces in a person’s life that can make successful long-term coupling a challenge. And while the macro or external causes are important to know, in my experience its changing the micro reasons, or that which is within, that often produces the best outcomes. Look, I’m not saying that our circumstances don’t play a role in our ability or inability to couple up with an appropriate mate. Owning a home-based business, suffering from chronic illness, traveling 70% of the year, or working on an oil rig in the middle of the Pacific Ocean will limit your dating options. But even “home-based business owners suffering from chronic illness who travel 70% of the year whose spouse works on an oil rig” can have partners. I’m just sayin’.
More often than not, it’s not our external circumstances that keep us single (or worse, unhappily paired up) but our internal makeup and outlook on relationships. Society loves to tell us to fake it til’ we make it. That may work in business or social climbing, but it’s an impossibility to pull off in our intimate relationships.
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Getting Dumped with Dignity
Almost everyone has been in a situation where a relationship ended before we were ready to let go. As painful as a breakup can be when we’re the one pulling the plug, it’s usually twice as hard on the “dumpee.” I don’t know if it’s because I’m a forty-something-year-old woman (or if it’s because I work in and around the media/entertainment industry), but it seems like there’s an epidemic of divorces and breakups going on. Part of this hyperawareness probably springs from the fact that we’re living in a digital age. What a person buys, where they dine, who goes out with whom is splattered across the internet like paint on a Jackson Pollock canvas. Maybe my perspective is being shaped because we live in a time when the idea of personal privacy is becoming a relic of the past like a hardback book. Regardless of what the reasons may be, it’s pretty hard to dispute that at any given time there are as many people breaking up as there are getting together.
There are few things that are more agonizing than realizing that there is no way of bridging the chasm between you—-no matter how much you love them. Over the past year, at least half a dozen people in my immediate social circle have gone/are going through a breakup. I’ve seen some walk away with the dignity of a saint. And I’ve seen others who give new meaning to the saying “hell hath no fury.”
No matter what the reasons may be for a relationship’s demise…no matter how upset either party may be, it is possible to end the relationship with dignity and respect. Even if your ex is incapable of doing the same. And even if you’re so pissed that your favorite revenge fantasy is stuck on repeat in your head.
We all get to choose how we respond to the challenges we face. Just because they cut off your cell phone doesn’t mean that you are entitled to key their car. Get a new phone line and put a password on the account so they can’t hack in. And keep it moving. Meeting anger with anger won’t even the score. It will however keep you emotionally stuck.
Getting your ex’s face tattooed on your calf isn’t going to bring her home. Sending subliminals to your ex via social media isn’t going to change his mind. Refusing to respond to divorce papers isn’t showing your ex that your love is strong. It’s showing that you’re not listening to what they’re saying. It shows that you feel your feelings are more important than theirs. Desperate public appeals do not come across as romantic…they come across as, well, desperate.
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Redefining the ‘Ride or Die Chick’
Anyone who’s read some of my past columns knows that I’m an outspoken critic of the ‘Real Bad Girls Basketball Wives of Atlanta who Love Hip Hop’ reality show genre. While I personally can’t stand the straight up coonery that is passing for “entertainment” on cable today, I’ve discovered that the real entertainment is in the comments section of online articles about these shows. By reading them, I’m discovering much more about our community’s perspectives on relationships than I’d ever learn about hair pulling, bottle breaking or conspicuous consumption. A surprising lesson learned via Chad Johnson & Evelyn Lozada’s short lived and ill-fated marriage is how so many of us are still buying into the ridiculous “Ride or Die Chick” meme.
In popular culture, the “Ride or Die Chick” is lifted up as the ideal personification of a supportive and loving mate. From some of the comments I’ve seen, Evelyn’s greatest sin wasn’t her materialism or constant striving for attention. It wasn’t being a volatile bully. It wasn’t even marrying a serial cheater with a propensity towards referring to himself in the third-person – a lot. No, her biggest character flaw was leaving a man who allegedly head butted her. It’s true that Evelyn isn’t the most likeable or sympathetic character on reality TV, but why does leaving Chad make her even more unlikeable? Why should any woman be expected to repeatedly sacrifice their dignity and health for the sake of her intimate relationship?
Let’s face it: a married woman has more intrinsic value in our society than a single one. From the time we are girls, women are conditioned to define our value first and foremost through our relationships. This all consuming need to be someone’s - hell anyone’s woman - is killing our sisters, both literally and figuratively. A few years ago I did an empowerment workshop at a women’s correctional facility in Manhattan. Curious to know what they considered the underlying cause of their incarceration, I asked the fourteen participants why they were in prison. Eleven raised their hand and said they were there as a direct result of choices they made while trying to maintain a relationship. It’s a tragedy beyond comprehension that a woman’s decision to put her relationship before her (and her children’s) well-being can end up costing her the very family and relationship they sought to protect.
Children learn more from what they see than they ever do by what we say. Standing by a man no matter what teaches our children male entitlement and privilege. It also sends a very clear message that it is primarily the woman’s responsibility to keep her family intact. By lifting the “Ride or Die Chick” meme as some sort of ideal we tell our boys and girls that a “good” woman is one that accepts behaviors from her mate that he would never tolerate for a nanosecond. Turning a blind eye on your partner’s illegal activities, chronic cheating or economic leeching keeps a family intact at the expense of you and your children’s spiritual, emotional and physical health.
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Is the Black Woman Behind Love & Hip Hop Atlanta Responsible for Its Stereotypes?
The other day on my Twitter feed I saw a snippet of a quote from Mona Scott-Young, executive producer of the Love & Hip Hop reality show franchise on the VH1 network. Scott-Young is a self-made businesswoman and respected player in the entertainment industry who is widely credited with creating the show. According to various sources posted on the Internet however, L&HH was actually created by a white VH1 executive named Jim Ackerman; it’s inaugural executive production team was comprised of Ackerman, Stefan Springman, Toby Barroud, and Kenny Hull – four white men, plus Scott-Young.
One doesn’t need an MBA to recognize that it’s much easier to market what many perceive as a blatantly racist and misogynistic television show to a black female audience when it’s allegedly been created and produced by an entrepreneurial black woman, rather than white men acting alone. So it’s no surprise that in the latest promotional materials, Scott-Young was given the title “Creator,” while Ackerman was relegated to an executive producer role.
As a spokesperson for the production, Scott-Young has been repeatedly challenged to explain how she, a black woman, could be a purveyor of media that promotes such a negative stereotype of her sisters. The L&HH shows are known for their violence, and their portrayal of black women as manipulative materialists, among other horrific qualities. Scott-Young recently sat down with MTV’s host Sway Calloway on Rap Fix Live to (again) justify the social relevance of the show, stating: “(They) have every right to tell their stories. I think they’re valid stories, and judging by the numbers, they’re stories that people want to see and hear about.”
As much as I hate to concur, she has a point — but only to a degree. Since the debut of Love & Hip Hop in 2010 (which was followed by Love & Hip Hop 2 in 2011 and Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta in 2012), the franchise has grown into a ratings monster, consistently pulling in numbers that make it one the five most popular shows on cable TV. According to Nielsen ratings, Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta is the most watched show among black women in the 18 to 49 age demographic. It debuted as the highest rated program on VH1 since January 2012, with 3.6 million viewers tuning in weekly to watch a group of black women whose behavior makes NeNe Leakes and her sisteren on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta look like candidates for Links membership. Yes, people love their “stories,” but Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta takes ratchetness to an entirely new level.
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Domestic Violence 101
Few things in our community are as controversial as the ongoing debate on what exactly constitutes domestic violence…well, maybe colorism, interracial dating, and hair…but I digress. Every time a notable Black man is charged with assaulting a woman, it becomes abundantly clear that when it comes to domestic violence, there is a whole lot of division and confusion on the issue.
The most recent high profile DV incident happened a couple of weeks ago when football player Chad Johnson was arrested for allegedly head butting his wife Evelyn Lozada during a heated argument around his purported infidelity. Online commentary showed that many feel that violence is a normal occurrence in intimate relationships and to be expected when things get heated. There were a few who said that any sort of violence was unacceptable. Then, you have a whole lot of people who fall somewhere in between these two camps.
As a survivor of domestic violence, it is mind boggling to consider how many Black people are active supporters of the use of violence in relationships. In the Digital Court of Black Public Opinion, Evelyn Lozada got what she deserved when Chad Johnson (allegedly) head butted her because she has hit other women in the past. When Evelyn subsequently spoke out against domestic violence, folks became even more incensed. How in the hell could this woman have the nerve to stand up and say domestic violence is bad when she herself is on tape attacking other women?
As I watch the insults grow, it seems crystal clear: most people have absolutely no idea about what domestic violence actually is.
Domestic violence is a term that is used today to describe any violence in an intimate relationship. However, not all acts of violence are considered battering (also known as “intimate partner terrorism”). Famous depictions of battering include Ike & Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It and Celie & Mister in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.
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Chad, Evelyn and Blaming the Victim
Most people with an internet connection know by know that NFL player Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson was arrested over the weekend and jailed overnight for allegedly head-butting his new wife, reality star Evelyn Lozada. The details of what happened between the two seem to be well-documented (reports say that the altercation ensued when Lozada found a reciept for condoms purchased by her husband; 911 audio can be heard here) and honestly, not surprising given their histories. Both have been known to engage in violent behavior in the past. Lozada’s bullying, hitting and bottle breaking with female castmates on Vh1’s Basketball Wives is legendary. And Johnson was arrested, convicted and sentenced to probation and mandatory anger management classes for assaulting his then-college girlfriend. Both are arrogant, bombastic, and more than likely narcissistic, as evidenced by their mutually violent, egomaniacal and attention-seeking behavior.
As of press time, Johnson has been released from his contract with the Miami Dolphins (who later made a statement implying that the one-day-after-the-incident move had nothing to do with the player’s arrest) and Vh1 has stated that “due to the seriousness of the allegations,” the upcoming reality series Ev and Ocho is no longer on the network’s schedule.
So it really wasn’t surprising that their mutually exploitive relationship exploded into physical violence. It’s not uncommon for people to repeat the mistakes of their past, especially if they’ve never received any successful treatment for their issues. ChaVelyn is a cautionary tale of what often happens when two very broken souls come together and try to work out their unresolved emotional issues through their relationship-without realizing that it will be impossible for them to have a healthy relationship with each other until those issues are first resolved within themselves.
Another thing that is not surprising, though quite disturbing, is the reaction to the incident that has played out on social media. I couldn’t help but to think back to the Tweets and blog posts that said Rihanna deserved to be beaten up by Chris Brown because she, like Evelyn, “don’t act right.”
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FOR THE MEN: 4 Behaviors that Kill Your Chance of Having a Healthy Relationship
In last week’s column, I outlined four self-defeating behaviors that women do that hurt their chances of having a healthy relationship. Men, particularly Black men, seem to catch a lot of flack nowadays for their supposed universal aversion towards love and commitment. As much as we’re led to believe that they aren’t interested in anything more than a little bump and grind, men do want and need to be loved just as much as women.
Of course, women don’t have the market cornered on fear based ways of interrelating that I like to call “Dubious Dating Behaviors.” Given the expectation that a ‘strong Black man’ is in control of his emotions at all times, it’s no wonder that there is often a disparity between what they say and how they act. Men feel fear and anxiety just as much as women. However, due to the prevailing cultural expectation that real men “suck it up,” they are often uncomfortable expressing a full range of nuanced emotions that include vulnerability or tenderness, emotions which if acknowledged could improve their overall emotional health and that of the relationship.
So in the spirit of levity, I want to offer my brothers the following four common behaviors they I’ve observed them make when dating. Again, I know that missteps aren’t limited by gender, but I’ve seen many men actively sabotage what could be an otherwise healthy relationship by taking a largely passive approach towards relating.
- Failure to plan in advance: The future isn’t guaranteed and neither are your cousin’s courtside seats to the Knicks game. Since you never know when he’ll invite you (or when your frat brothers will want to have an impromptu drinking outing at TGIFridays), make sure to keep your calendar as open as possible. Basically, don’t commit to any plans until you’re 100% certain that there’s no male bonding opportunity on the table for the day. Besides, women love, love, love the game of “Beat the Clock” that comes with getting dressed for a date with less than three hours’ notice. And it’s common knowledge that we emotionally thrive on unpredictable male behavior. Message sent: “My needs come first. Your time is less valuable than mine.”
- Keeping your relationship status a secret: There’s no need to destroy an opportunity for true love over something as changeable as relationship status. Any man with common sense knows it’s never a smart practice, in love or in business, to eliminate all your options. Plus, if she’s really “the one” she’ll forgive you for not being 100% upfront about the “roommate” whom you have been sleeping with for three years. Because if she can’t forgive you for something as small as this, Lord knows she doesn’t have what it takes to be your wife for the long haul. Message sent: “I’m too afraid of rejection to tell you the truth. My expectations of a woman’s understanding are fantasy based and unreasonable.”
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FOR THE LADIES: 4 Behaviors that Kill Your Chance of Having a Healthy Relationship
Ever wonder why some women seem to have an easier time in relationships than others? Sometimes it’s plain as day why a woman’s love life repeatedly play out like a version of an over the top reality show. After all, there’s no way you can have a healthy relationship with an active addict, as their primary connection is to their “drug” of choice (be it alcohol, sex, work, etc). Or, if you can only afford to shop at Mandee or Old Navy and believe that a man should buy you Gucci or Prada, it’s safe to say that your selection process in a potential mate will be somewhat skewed - to put it lightly.
Almost everyone I know says they want to love and be loved. And almost everyone has struggled at some point in their lives to achieve this seemingly basic need. More often than not, the reason why relationships fail is based upon the individual unresolved issues that play out in the way a couple interrelates.And while some of us have very real emotional issues that prevent us from successfully partnering, from what I’ve seen, many of the problems women face in their relationships with men come from the way we position ourselves in the beginning. It’s common knowledge that people treat you the way you let them. This may be a trite saying, but it’s a timeless truth. It’s impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone else until or unless we love ourselves first.
So in the spirit of levity, I want to offer my sisters the following four common mistakes we make when dating. I know that missteps aren’t limited by gender, but the following are behaviors I’ve seen repeatedly in women who “love too much.” (Or shall I say, love others first):
1. Being Too Available: When he phones, answer. As a matter of fact, keep it with you at all times (even when you’re in the shower) and be sure to not let it ring more than twice. You wouldn’t want him to think you’re with someone else, do you? Also, never turn down any of his invites to spend time together. You can get your taxes done another time. After all, that’s what extensions are for. Message sent: “The most important thing to me is being available to you. My personal life is disposable and runs second to our relationship.”
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