Sunday, December 13, 2009
The way that we have come to interpret commitment is that when an expression of love is made by a partner yesterday, along with the promises of forever based upon his/her feelings in that moment, it must always and forever be that way. In a commitment, we sometimes don’t recognize how we put people in a box and hold them forever accountable for a thought or a feeling that they shared yesterday. When a person chooses to no longer engage or honor those promises, we often create our own unhappiness by labeling the person as selfish, cruel, and deceptive.
When we do this, we don’t realize how we are being unfair to them and holding ourselves hostage. We cannot grow because we are choosing to be stuck in the past. We kick and scream and fight the process because we are trying to jam our present reality into yesterday’s picture frame. It’s like putting on clothes that don’t fit anymore. Yeah, we may have liked them. They may have been flattering at one time, but when we attempt to squeeze ourselves into clothes that no longer fit, it ain’t gonna be pretty! We are going be uncomfortable, and people around us are going to be uncomfortable watching us. Yes, the clothes used to fit, but they don’t anymore. What are we going to do with that? Fuss about the fact that they don’t fit, or buy some new clothes? We have choices…
What would it look like if we defined commitment as a promise to our partners and ourselves to live in the present? What if commitment was about growth and not a promise to stay the same? What if we chose to live without the pressure of dragging our pasts into our futures? What if we could simply be a witness to our partner’s personal growth and evolution and allow them to be a witness to ours? If our only promise to our partners is to make a commitment to growth, we would see ALL of our relationships as opportunities to love without fear.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
We have all heard the stereotype of what men look for in a partner; a woman who is agreeable, doesn’t ask too many questions, doesn’t talk too much, maintains a certain physical “image”, and always, without question, has her man's back. On the surface, these may be perceived as positive traits but judging a woman solely on her ability to conform to this image does not allow a man to truly be all of who he is. When a man makes it clear to a woman that she is too much of one thing or not enough of the other, she may contort herself to fit the mold of what she thinks that man may want. But, what are the unintended consequences of creating this standard?
We believe that only seeking out these preferred traits in a woman could result in a man creating self-imposed limitations that ultimately stagnate his personal growth and stifle his ability to move beyond his comfort zones. Using the perception of lack and the belief in a shortage of “quality men” to instill fear and manipulate women into conforming to a certain standard not only causes injury to the collective self-esteem of women, but it also prevents a man from fully developing into his own manhood. When this happens, a man becomes a child to be catered to instead of a strong man that protects and supports his woman.
When a man deliberately seeks for a woman to be less than who she is, he does not allow himself to be more of who he is. By adopting these stereotypes, he is not making smart choices, as he would assume. What he is really doing is keeping himself safe from feeling vulnerable and therefore becomes a slave to his own insecurities. When a man requires that a woman be a Barbie doll character, he settles for a lie. As this deception plays itself out, he becomes more and more dissatisfied with the women that he attracts, and in turn blames the women for being fake. But, fake is as fake does. When we deny others to be fully expressed in a relationship, we deny ourselves the freedom of being accepted for who we really are.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
We found that other women were not so open to the video and dismissed everything contained within it based on the approach taken by makers of the video. But, we didn’t find ourselves to be so easily offended. In conversations about the video, we were able to clearly see how being focused on making someone else wrong (i.e. the video makers, men, society, etc.) keeps us stuck and inhibits our ability to grow. However, for us, we were able to look back at some of our experiences and relate to how being resistant to taking responsibility leads to our own dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
I have not always wanted to take responsibility for my behaviors in the past. A lot of the time, I would not even know where I was being hurtful until someone pointed it out to me. When attention was brought to my ugliness, I didn’t want to admit that I had made a mistake. I felt that admitting a mistake would have made me appear weak and would have taken away my power and authority. Now “power” and “authority” may sound like curious words within a relationship, but from an early age, I was conditioned to not allow anyone, especially a man, take advantage of me.
I remember a past relationship where I was very loved by a man that had been my friend for years prior to developing into a romantic relationship. He was funny, thoughtful, sweet, intelligent and a man of his word; his only “flaw” was that he made less money than I did at the time. I recall an incident where I accused this loving man of not living up to his potential. I cruelly exposed his weaknesses and stripped him of his dignity. Although I knew this was wrong on a human level, I felt justified because I felt that I needed to put some fire under his butt to inspire him to want to be more…
Shortly after this incident, he cheated on me with another woman. It's only in retrospect that I see myself clearly. Instead of encouraging him and pointing out his strengths, offering loving guidance and supporting his growth in HIS time, I chose to contribute to his low self-esteem, break his spirit, and reaffirm his internal belief-system that had held him captive for so long.
No one knows whether he would have cheated or not if I had been secure enough in myself to focus more on his intense love for me, his integrity and his positive work ethic, rather than how I felt about HIS life choices. What I do know is that if at the time, I had been less focused on how he was wrong for cheating and more concerned about my role in making him feel like less than a man, I would have become more of a woman sooner.
For me, I see how easy it is for women to evade personal responsibility for our actions in relationships. After all, society supports us in our victimization. No matter what we do, it seems that we can always fall back on the same response, “if he hadn’t done X, I wouldn’t have done Y” or “it’s his fault!” But what is the cost for us using this excuse? The cost is a loss of power, dignity and integrity. It causes us to place our self-esteem and emotional well-being in someone else’s hands and it causes us to look outside ourselves for the truth the resides within each of us.
As I look back on each of my past relationships, I can acknowledge how very clearly I saw my partners for who they were. My “issue” was that I judged them according to the story of who I thought they should be and became offended or made them wrong whenever they couldn’t meet those standards. Therefore, for me at that time, I was quick to jump to the conclusion that it was their fault when we encountered problems in the relationship.
I do not know how long those relationships would have lasted if I had made myself responsible for what I knew from the beginning instead of waiting for them to magically turn into my “ideal man”. But, what I do know is that I would have avoided suffering had I only lived in the truth of what I had always known them to be. I would not have ignored those attributes that inspired me or would have allowed me to appreciate the love that they unselfishly gave; even though it may not have looked the way that I thought that it should have. Today, I am friends with my exes. Not because of who they should be, but because of who they are. My love for them is unconditional, period.
When we look at videos like RIP Black America2, we can choose to take what is true for us and discard the rest. When we are immediately offended by the delivery of a message, it can distract us from hearing the parts of the message that can propel us toward our own personal growth. Through our experiences, we have come to realize that we owe it to ourselves and our partners to be responsible for our choices and the actions that we take as a result of those choices. Focusing on someone else's shortcomings does nothing to bring us to a common understanding in our relationships. Instead, it only further alienates our partners and causes them to withdraw from being emotionally available to us. When we become stuck in the story of "It's not my fault!", NOBODY wins.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
While watching the video RIP Black America2, we were both struck by the narrator’s use of the statement, “You can’t handle a strong black woman,” to describe our denial and inability to take responsibility for who we have become in our relationships. He brutally describes black women as “egotistical children” that have resorted to petty power, bullying and tricks to get our men and/or develop relationships. He says that all the black woman has is an “ego” and a constant need to be told how great she is. While this is clearly a bitter pill to swallow, we asked ourselves “uhh, does he have a point?” :-/
Many times as black women we have been vulnerable in situations where we have allowed ourselves to be stripped of our self-esteem. From that, we have equated being vulnerable with being diminished, or made powerless. As a result, we find ourselves walking around at a ‘tea party’ with boxing gloves on; on-guard against attack. We don’t see how we’re contributing to the gap that has been created between black men and women.
The distinction that we see is between demanding respect and commanding respect. When we demand respect, we do look like “egotistical children” that need to resort to “petty power” to get what we want. Instead, when we rely on our authentic power as women to nurture, and to lead, and to hold things together, we are naturally positioned to command respect from a person that is willing and able to respond to our best selves.
What do you think, have black women replaced “authentic power” with “petty power”?
Sunday, November 1, 2009
And so it goes, a never-ending cycle of believing that once we get to our next level, our happiness will show up. As children we had defined timelines to progress in life and we used these milestones as a measurement of our success. This practice became a habit that as adults we now carry and we rarely stop to ask ourselves why we continue to race toward where we think we want to be. Often, we compare ourselves to others and feel anxiety if we see ourselves as losing in the race to getting "bigger."
As women, we learn early on that part of winning our race includes the magical day when some man makes us his wife. There is a timeline embedded in this milestone, as well. As single women, we gauge how on-track we are in life compared to members of our peer group that are married or in a relationship. We tend to create our own suffering when we conclude that we are not worthy, or desirable, or that something is wrong with us because we are single.
What's the hurry? We thought we'd be happy when we were old enough to be out on our own. We thought we'd be happy when we could make enough money to buy the things that we thought we should have. But, the more milestones we achieve, the more we feel we need to achieve and the more anxious we become.
When we let go of comparisons and instead appreciate each season of our journey, we release ourselves from the anxiety that is attached to a defined outcome. If being a grown up is about freedom, then let's stop following the cookie-cutter habits we established as children and start creating our own rules.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
But, daytime television would not be the same without all of the Court TV shows filled with cases of "I got you, Boo" gone wrong. Funny, how all of our good intentions and selflessness go out of the window when we perceive that our actions are not appreciated. When we are in the depths of a relationship, and it looks like things may go our way, we extend ourselves to keep the good feelings going by doing, doing, doing, for our men. However, when a man does not show the proper amount of appreciation for our efforts, we judge him as being bad for taking advantage of our willingness to make life easier for him.
What would it look like if we focused primarily on what we gained from the relationship that offered us such valuable practice? Practice at becoming a better cook, a more patient person, a sensual lover, or how to better relate to and communicate with men. Yet, we often choose to play the victim and focus only on what someone has taken from us. We feel taken advantage of when the truth is; we've offered ourselves not for the sake of being generous, but to enhance our image in someone else's eyes.
Can you recall a time when you may have given of yourself in a relationship to enhance your image and now realize that you missed an opportunity to appreciate who you have become as a result of the experience?
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Anonymous' Comment: "...I in no way feel satisfaction in making my mate unhappy. The satisfaction comes when they are happy to make me happy and vice versa. Sometimes that means making sacrifices. Aren't relationships all about making sacrifices/compromises?"
I am motivated by the desire to make someone happy. When a person has captured my interest, I want them to have something within them that causes me to want to step outside of myself and give more. But, I also want them to see something in me that will cause them to do the same. I recognize that there is a breakdown in that thinking. A person should not have to do something or be some way in order for me to be more of who I am.
"The satisfaction comes when they are happy to make me happy..." Hmmm...what exactly does this mean? Once we peel back the layers of the "story" about what relationships should be and eliminate all of the romantic notions about what it means to make someone happy, an undeniable truth remains. Someone cannot make us happy, they can only share in our happiness.
When we want someone to want to make us happy, we still want what we want; we just want them to be happy doing it. This thinking has nothing to do with having consideration for the other person; rather it is about us wanting them to want something for our own selfish gratification. Some would argue that they are not asking for something that they are not willing to give, but this is bartering.
This kind of quid pro quo can constitute a relationship, but is it love? Love in its purest form is giving without the expectation of getting something in return. At the moment that we expect something from love, we are no longer in a place of being loving. The concept that we have of love can be used as a tool to help us achieve what we want, or to feel a certain way, but love as a simple way of being requires nothing. Ironically, when we are loving, people around us are naturally inspired to share in the things that we appreciate.
In love relationships, how do we recognize when we are using love as a tool to get what we want? How do we begin to recognize in ourselves when we have turned the corner and have gone outside of love?
Sunday, September 20, 2009
For a number of us women, one way that love and commitment are measured is by a man's willingness to do something that we want him to do even when it is clear to us that he doesn't want to do it. We get some kind of satisfaction in knowing that he has made himself unhappy to make us happy. Now this may not necessarily be the intention, but if we were to take away all of the superficial reasons behind why we have made his compliance meaningful, we would see how in some way our self-worth is tied to a story about how we maintain power in the relationship.
Of course, in love, there is sacrifice, but the distinction here is choice. The difference is in the person choosing how to express their love and commitment and our ability to accept that without making judgments about whether or not it is "good enough."
Where did the belief "if you love me, you'll do what I want you to do, even though you don't want to do it..." come from and why do we buy into it?
Why do we get tricked into thinking that sacrifice, as we narrowly define it, enhances the relationship? What role does obligation and sacrifice play in making the relationship "good?"
Sunday, September 13, 2009
We spend our time looking for an actor to play the part and it doesn't matter who he is, or what he does, what his beliefs are or even what his expectations are for the relationship. You see...we believe that all men should follow our script. And, when he doesn't we ask ourselves "what's wrong with him?"
But more than that, we like this script, this script comforts us and when he doesn't follow it we think "what's the point?" The whole point of the script is to follow the script. He is supposed to sweep us off our feet, love us unconditionally and know exactly what we need and what to say at the right moments...
But then we figured out that we had bought into a story and we started to question ourselves, we began challenging ourselves and challenging each other asking:
Oh, really? And how realistic is that? Who made up this story and why have we adopted it as our own? If we look around at other people's relationships...I mean really look, do we see this fairytale story playing itself out according to our expectations? How many people follow a script that other people write for them?
And we asked ourselves "did we?" Do you?