Before I get into this, I will let you in on a little secret: sometimes I feel that my art and purpose is cursed. Most of the time I don’t truly think I will make any headway telling the painful stories of women to invoke empathy and change in the actions of men. I don’t truly believe that any soft pleas or harsh realities are going to make any dents toward progression in this underlying movement. The movement? The modern black woman’s pursuit of a healthy, lasting and loving romantic relationship.
Personally, I used to be of the belief that lifelong singlehood is not only a viable option but a favorable option for most women. Loneliness is a bitch but if you love yourself and are ok with doing fun shit alone, you’ll be aiight! However pragmatic that train of thought might be, it’s not a very comforting one for women who crave lifelong companionship. For those who want relationships, it’s tough to navigate the weird culture around dating and love within the black community. No matter how accomplished black women are, it’s still difficult for us to be taken seriously if we don’t have a boyfriend or husband, when a lot of us were not modeled how to coexist harmoniously with each other– let alone a man! There is so much pressure from the culture to be coupled up that I wouldn’t be surprised if, outside of other opinions, some of us might prefer the peace of being alone. By that same token, I think that women who truly desire healthy, lifelong relationships should actively and intentionally pursue those desires while considering what it means to take personal accountability for our own dysfunctions.
Accountability is hard. Accountability is especially hard when you have experienced traumas and/or have fallen victim to someone’s nefarious intentions and are on the road to emotional recovery. I can testify that dealing with one narcissist after another can fatigue a woman into not doing the necessary work to make sure she stays accountable for her own healing and growth in future relationships. While a lot of my poetry focuses on holding men accountable for how they treat and care for women, it does not mean that I don’t expect the same from myself and other women. As much as I hate to acknowledge this; every single one of us is solely responsible for fixing our own brokenness—unfortunately, that doesn’t exclude myself or any other hurt women.
Black, White and…Pink?
Honestly, I have been in so many shitty situations I never seem to know what the hell I’m doing in any of my romantic relationships. I think a lot of us are black and white thinkers who, when we come together, create grey areas of smaller issues that no one ever wants to address or resolve. Arguments or adversity are rarely one person’s fault exclusively—and as a sensitive person, I will admit that sometimes I have a hard time deciphering if I am the one to blame and have some apologizing to do.
Pop recording artist Pink’s “Please Don’t Leave Me” is one of my go-to’s for whenever I’m unsure if I am reacting to deep-sated triggers and being the unreasonable person in a situation. In the heat of the moment all I can seem to think about are my own feelings. The song helps me to remember that just because my pain is the loudest does not mean I am the only one putting up with uncomfortable bullshit. Making the decision to constantly ask myself “Am I the asshole?” is more agonizing than any of these self-help books can even begin to describe!
I still have a hard time articulating this stuff so, in continuing with tradition, I will use the words of Pink to help guide me. Below are some of my self-sabotaging relationship behaviors and I hereby hold myself accountable… *fingers crossed behind back*
That’s What She Said
I don’t know if I can yell any louder,
How many times have I kicked you out of here
Or said something insulting?
One of my favorite things about being a writer and performer is that people assume I am a great communicator. I am not. I am an over communicator or a non-communicator; I am either a flurry of emotions and tangent stories, or I take a long time to process information and get to my point. I used to be completely treacherous with my words until an ex-boyfriend told me that the mean shit I said to him still echoed in his ears and made him feel bad about himself. I mean, a lovely superpower to have but not the sort of thing to list under “special skills” on my girlfriend resume!
Because I am a person unashamed of wearing my heart on my sleeve, it sometimes gives me the upper hand during arguments. Tears and distress can be distracting to men, so while I like the freedom to be emotional, I also like to have productive and meaningful conversations that lead to resolution. Here are some thoughts on the painstaking lessons I’m trying to learn about fair communication:
- Going for the jugular
When Bae meets you, he thinks you’re “cute” when you’re angry, but that shit wears off quick after you hit him with a couple of low blows a few arguments in. Being a smart ass may seem cute when you tell your friends how you put a nigga in his place, but it can weigh heavily on a man’s psyche and self-esteem. Probably why this is the most problematic communication issue is because many of us would never put up with a man speaking to us nastily or calling us out of our names, so it’s definitely not ok to dish out without being able to take it. Personally, I know I am capable of Olivia Pope-levels of verbal bridge burning but I’ve since been working on being more careful with my choice of words– especially during arguments—because as I work on self-compassion in my own journey it helps me to recognize when I am being unrelenting toward others.
- Stonewalling/clamming up
I am an enforcer of the silent treatment—not always out of malice but because it takes me forever to process my thoughts and when I am in the midst of emotion: I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO YOUR DUMB ASS! Ok, so maybe I struggle with clamming up because when I’m angry my affection freezes and I need to stew in my negative feelings. I am super annoyed to find that this is not only terrible to do, it’s also an insidious form of emotional abuse (boooooo!) I realize I am so used to stuffing down my feelings in other aspects of my life that I do it in relationships, too. Seething in anger is almost ALWAYS the easiest thing to do over expressing grievances and emotions to a dude who may dump my ass anyway. The problem is, I assume men have zero skills to deal with my emotions in the first place so I don’t bother letting them in, but that’s clearly a “ME” issue. Right now I am working on the balance between recognizing when I need a moment to cool off and process thoughts or whether I just want to flee from conflict and freeze the other person out because I hate them and their stupid wrong ass point of view! I recognize that uncomfortable conversations are unavoidable if you wish to resolve conflict, have an individual voice and a peace of mind in your own relationship. Pushing past the desire to hold back necessary communication out of anxiety, fear or anger is 100% worth the therapy sessions it is taking to break me of the habit.
- Direct communication
If Bae were a mind-reader life would be boring, and you wouldn’t want him! If we agree that all humans are different, that women are from Mars and men are from Keisha’s DMs (or however that saying goes), then we agree to the idea that direct and clear communication between the sexes is a must. Hinting around or being indirect is a bad idea because it’s an example of poor management of your own expectations. If you leave communication up to vague hints, code language or clues then you leave yourself open to ambiguity and disappointment. Tell that nigga what the fuck you want and what the fuck you mean so miscommunication can never be the reason anything goes wrong. The more I practice sorting through my thoughts and making the effort to be a direct communicator the less energy I have to put toward the frustrating cycle of cleverly hinting about what I want and being massively disappointed when I don’t get what I want. I recognize that I sometimes choose to be vague in my communications because I am afraid to ask for what I need. It is worth it to push past that fear!
- Bringing up old shit
Once you forgive for something you don’t have to forget but you do have to shut the fuck up about it. The more I practice self-compassion the more I open my eyes to how harsh and unforgiving I can be towards other people. It helps me to put myself in the other person’s shoes to come to the realization that if I am forgiven for a fuck up it would be embarrassing to have it constantly brought up and thrown in my face time and time again, so why do it to another person? As I work through this toxic habit, I see how on the front end of an issue I can take the time to be more intentional about engaging in full, uncomfortable conversations about the transgression at hand to determine whether I am actually able to forgive, let it go and never bring out as ammunition for an argument again. It is completely unproductive to continuously weave an old transgression into a new disagreement, it throws the playing field off balance!
Manipulation and Emotional Abuse
I can be so mean when I wanna be,
I am capable of really anything,
I can cut you into pieces,
When my heart is broken
These days, staying in touch with my own feminine energy has been a focus and I love to see other women on the same journey. One thing I have become aware of is how society often gets to dictate what femininity is and, in my mind, there are two behaviors I used to chalk up to regular ass feminine wiles, but now that I am hip to the symptoms of my own abandonment issues I don’t look at these behaviors in the same light. Those are:
The Damsel in Distress
I do think it’s true that men want to feel needed in relationships, but I don’t think it’s up to women to make up scenarios to be rescued in response to that need. This is not a personal issue of mine per se, because I have trouble showing any vulnerability and asking for help. However, as I work through my mental health issues I have a deeper need to feel understood which has made me emotionally clingy. The way the fantasy plays out in my head I am able to share all of my past traumas in a way that ignites a man’s love to fill the holes of abandonment in heart—or insert something equally ridiculous and unrealistic here! However, practicality dicates that I need to leave the trauma for my therapist and learn what it is to lean into romantic relationships for emotional support as I work through trauma, not as a means of rescue from trauma.
The Constant Chase
While I have never been high maintenance when it comes to material things, I have been known to make men jump through hoops to gain and keep my attention. I have always been the type of woman who wanted a man to fight for me, even though I realized early on that average niggas are not in the habit of pulling Rom Com moves to win over my affections. Expecting a little razzle dazzle excitement during the courting phase is normal, but to continue to require a man to find ways to constantly keep you on your toes is unrealistic and can be exhausting for everyone involved.
The bottom line is: a man shouldn’t always be presented with the task of fighting for you. How can anyone rest when they are constantly being challenged with proving their love and affection? “Be his peace,” sounds like an antiquated charge based on misogyny and lack of awareness of how much control we have over someone’s internal environment, but the sentiment makes sense if you take pride out of it and simplify the concept. You do not have to be his peace, both partners are responsible and should be working toward collective peace. To become peace in a relationship is to cultivate a safe space atmosphere that benefits everyone, not just him. Personally, I know that when I practice gratitude and allow myself to appreciate my nigga in small moments I’m less likely to pick apart the relationship during moments of neuroses, resulting in giving him a hard time out of nowhere because my emotions are unstable. Picking fights, being purposely difficult, provocative or emotionally withdrawn to force some exciting conflict into the relationship is a sign of insecurity that can only be resolved within. This is not the coy give and take of a consensual chase; this is how you exhaust your nigga!
Other forms of emotional manipulation and abuse:
- Entitlement is what forms when we view relationships as tit for tat and feel as if we are not getting enough tit for our tat! Honestly, my toxic trait is that I feel entitled to extraordinary treatment and groveling gratitude after I martyr myself in the relationship by doting on a nigga when… he has not asked me to. Entitlement is almost always a detriment to a relationship because teams cannot operate when one of its members is always feeling slighted and deserving of more. Gratitude and contentment are what keep any relationship alive but because of my insecurities my default behavior is usually to act entitled.
- Sexually Insatiable
- I will admit that up until about yesterday, I believed that men were walking hard dicks including thoughts and the occasional opinion. Honestly, most of my younger relationships were so driven by sex it never occurred to me that all men are, apparently, not interested in sex all the time. If you land yourself a hard-working man who respects you as a woman and has a fair amount of other interests and hobbies; he will not want to have sex all the time. And I hate even typing it because it reads like a blow to my womanhood. (My vagina clutched her pearls and exclaimed, “Tuh, EXCUSE ME!”…but alas, it’s true). Younger me was taught that sex is the only way to feel connected and appreciated because I spent time with men who also didn’t know of other ways to channel their passions and emotions. Now that I am 36 and my back hurts, I realize that the constant desire for sexual release can be satisfied in other ways that don’t make my partner feel like a piece of meat. The more I overcome my intimacy issues that cause me to verbally clam up and have difficulty with non-sexual physical affection, the more it calms my hyper-sexual expectation that a man always be ready for sex and OFTEN!
- Breaking Up
- I hate this about me. I truly hate that my abandonment issues run so deep that I am always one foot out the door of any relationship so when I get scared, I break up. Do I want the relationship to be over? No, but I also don’t want to be dumped or deal with the aftershock of a big argument, so I tend to jump the gun and end things because being alone feels safer than allowing someone entry into my life with the option of leaving me at any time. All of that is fancy phrasing for my own cowardice. Relationships are not easy! I don’t care how in love and connected you feel to a person—that person is a stranger that has layers and layers of thoughts, beliefs and personality traits about them that you have yet to unlock. You WILL fight and, no matter the outcome, you WILL survive it. Relationship conflict is an opportunity to fix shit and although the conversation might get ugly, I have to make sure my thoughts don’t turn ugly and that I don’t do the easy and immature thing: prematurely breaking up out of hurt and fear. I’m too old for the runaround and the niggas I date are too old— none of our nervous systems can handle these hot/cold behaviors!
Ideally I would like to plow through this topic with one painful rip of the band-aid but I need a BREAK! I can’t stress enough that growth, healing and accountability are messy, ugly things before we even have a chance get to the good part of functioning and feeling better. All of this work is worth it toward the ultimate goal which is the pursuit of a purposeful life, full of meaningful, healthy and authentic relationships. How am I doing so far? Ladies, anything you see here in yourself? For the men, are there any major accountability points I missed?
For the Part 2 post I want to get real with women about relationship anxiety, co-dependency and how self-compassion can help us get through the rocky points of adjusting to healthy interpersonal relationships. Because I have personally struggled with my platonic and romantic emotional connections I will attempt to write a little more broadly to make sure it can apply to platonic relationships, as well as leave some resources for books that have helped me along the way!
Unlearning unhealthy behaviors is easier said than done, however sometimes all it takes is the right message at the right time to spark a seed of change and growth. Hopefully, by sharing the snags on my journey I am helping others to know they are not alone. In the coming months I plan to release a video healing series that shares more about my deep healing and accountability work complete with new poetry and accompanying writing projects on the effort. To find out more about how you can support and receive exclusive access to this new endeavor please visit: www.patreon.com/whiskeygirldc.
If you want to show your black man some LOVE or find ways to do so every single day, follow my homegirl’s movement: Dear Black Men , for daily posts and live discussions.
Stay tuned for part 2!