The Affair With Struggle Love: Part 5-How Do We Get Back?

This is not an easy question.

We as people–especially girls–have been taught that to be in love is to suffer. It is to be in pain, and then your prince or king will come. In dismantling this facade that Struggle Love gives, you have to replace and supplant what we have been taught. We do that by pulling this thread: What does healthy love look like?

Healthy love does not mean enduring to the end of something. Love is a journey, it is healing, it a source of hope! Healthy love looks like boundaries, accepting limitations and realizing what you deserve! The broken record that begins with “You have to endure until it gets better,” or “A man just gon be a man,” or “This is as good as it will ever get,” has to be broken!

I believe this teaching begins to be supplanted when we as partners or potential partners decide what we want. And what we want has be definite and defined by what we want, and will not accept! We must have a criteria, and the criteria cannot be shaken for the want of being chosen!

Struggle Love has its roots in trying to be chose!

We begin to believe that love is to be worked for, suffered to get, and worked (often one-sided) to maintain. This is not so! Healthy love, giving healthy love, starts with you, dear one. It starts with who you model yourself after! What relationships you see around you, and what you aspire to become!

I know that not everyone sees these healthy examples around them. I get that people believe abuse is love–because it’s all they know! I know people see relationships every day that seem toxic that somehow magically become healthy overnight. I assure it, it doesn’t happen overnight.

It never happens overnight.

Image may contain: text that says 'Teach your daughters loyalty isn't how much pain they can tolerate from a man.'

The Bible tells us the older women are supposed to teach the younger women. You have to understand, what I am still learning, there is a portion of my experience a younger woman might need. Even if she may need it so she knows what not to do! We as the older women must be guideposts–for our sons and daughters! We have to give them what they need–regardless of our shame!

It is our shame at this generation of children need in order to realize what love is, what love is not, and what it should never turn into! Let us normalize the word “no.” Let us normalize what manhood looks like, and men having emotions! Normalize the intuition of women: the ‘something told me‘ is your first alert system! Normalize the acceptance of something when it can no longer be repaired! Normalize peace and being alone over the desire to be chosen–by people thieves wouldn’t trust.

Normalize respect for one another.

Normalize honor–without the need to test the boundaries of it.

Normalize being together–without testing the boundaries of what it means to be together.

Normalize what it means to be in love, and give that love back.

Normalize expressing counseling, and building save spaces in your relationships.

Normalize knowing what you want–and walking away from what you don’t. Anything you have to fight to get, you will have to fight to keep. Question is what are you willing to give of yourself to keep something that might kill you?

The Affair With Struggle Love: Part 3-Bleeding Love

TW:  Domestic violence, Intimate Partner Violence

Love you shouldn’t hurt.

Yet why does it seem the culture cannot seem to think of affection or affinity between two people unless there is toxic behavior attached to it. Which is mind-boggling! Yet, it’s idolized! We as a culture idolize pain. We look at what is being torn asunder in people’s lives and retweet it! We make it sport, gossip and all matter of impossible fodder to slop the hogs whom devour suffering! One of the most striking things as it relates to struggle love is the fiasco that is Emily and the manchild Fabolous!

This boy went over to her parent’s house tripping and clowning with her, hit his her in the mouth–knocking her teeth out (and he replaced them!)—and she is still with him! Pro-tip: crazy never improves, it only worsens. Yet, we gobble it up don’t we? We idolize the struggle to be chosen so much that to be in a healthy, non-violent, relationship is considered boring. Think about that. I believe the root of this feeling, this need to be chosen–desire to be chosen–is based in self-worth! That type of trauma is toxic! Yet, we champion it! Society loves the happily ever after at all costs! We romanticize the 50, 60 year relationships that last through fire, wind and water–but we forget the stories that go along with that! And not all of them are good!

The scary thing about those relationships is they are shrouded in myth! They are held up as this standard–an ideal. The goal being to stay together at all costs! Staying together at all costs. The thing about that kind of belief is toxic. Yet, as jaded as the world is–we run after the happily ever after! In the joy of being together, we forget that people are human. Are petty. Can be mean and unforgiving. Ruthless in revenge when they feel they have been wronged! Yet, we tell people (mostly women!) to stay. We tell them to stay because ‘God hates divorce.’ We will tell a woman that it will be okay: “It’ll all work out! Be patient!” For all the frogs that become princes, there are frogs that become demons! There is no amount of prayer, patience or persuasion that can make someone bent on hurting you–whom has shown they have no regard for you (and whom think they know your price!)–to not hurt you. But, there go the whispers of the happily ever after. Those whispers tell you, “It’ll get better.” “They didn’t mean it!” “Your parents/grandparents (whatever list of long married people) stayed together (whatever) years! They went through stuff and they made it!”

We idolize the struggle so much that abuse is explained away. We idolize, dream of wedding dresses, big houses and the desire to build something that is ours–that we endure to get. We endure for the end to come–even if it might kill us in the middle.

The Affair With Struggle Love: Part 2-How Did We Get Here?

*-not his real name

“So many people want a wedding but no one wants to be married.”

My parents, had my father lived, would have been together 45 years this year. By the time he died, they had been together about 20, 25 years. When I think of all the things they had experienced in that time, I am overcome. I cannot help but think how my mother managed to hold herself together in the midst of what she needed to do, on top of whatever my father and her got into. It is the backdrop of their love affair, that I try to find a map and a light to all of this here.

From my mother’s recollection, she and my father met in the late 1970’s, like 1975 or so. I was born in 1981, and 2 siblings followed. In their 20-some year relationship, I had seen my mother cry over fights they had. I saw her tend to us, her extended family, and work. Somehow in there, she completed her BSN.

I still really don’t know how–until I became a working mother trying to go to school. Yet, that is another matter…

What I saw, and what I know is–my father loved my mother. He loved her with all his might! He, and how my father loved my mother, gave me the blueprint on what to expect from a man that said he loved me:

I expected to be treated well. 

I expected to be valued. 

I expected to be cared for.

I also expected to be heard, not ruled!

I expected to be given the respect of a difference of opinion! I expected to be valued beyond by ability to cook, keep house or rattle sheets! I knew that when grown folk get together, it’s not always smooth–people are different! In relationships, we can have some similarities, yes. But we were not to be the same person. I knew relationships would have disagreements, arguments, slammed doors every now and then! I knew that there would be struggles to preserve us in the midst of the chaos in the world. But, I knew relationships weren’t supposed to be more chaotic than the world outside!

Yet, I knew this one thing: that if a man hit you, you were supposed to leave. I knew that abusive behavior and addictive behaviors were not to be tolerated. I knew those things were deal breakers. And from the template of my parents, I think I can pinpoint what it means to be in ‘struggle love’, and just how one gets to any point of accepting this.

I truly believe this idea of struggle love comes from the need to be loved. The desire to be chosen, seen to be something special. From that hunger, from that want to be loved, we (men and women) will accept anything! We say to this person–through our accepting/accommodating behavior–that the want of being chosen is more important than a real working relationship!

Let me tell you about me and mine. It was this this guy named *Darius. I met Darius when I was 19. I lost three years to this man, to this relationship. After being with this man, sleeping with this man, and having an abortion after this relationship–at 22, I was hurt. I was angry. But from this vantage point of age, I can deduce why I stayed. From that, I believe you can have some idea of how it start–and continues.

I wanted to be loved. I loved Darius. I stand 5’10” and he was 6’8″. No lie. And I felt so safe when he hugged me. In the words of Toni Morrison the sex ‘was as good as it could be from never knowing any other before.’ I loved how I felt when I was with him! I was his girl! I had someone that wanted me! He was there, there for me, and after the loss of my father 2 years before? It was a nice escape to just go and be with him…and be his. No matter what time of day (or night) it was.

I wanted to be special. I wanted to show Darius how good of a woman I was. He was a dedicated weed smoker, and I would put money into my working budget to buy weed for him. I helped him take care of his son–that he barely saw! He disappeared on me twice–leaving no phone number or address. He didn’t work, and his life was a constant source of stress! I wanted him to see that life with me would be easier! I wanted him to see that I could hold him down, lift him up and be that superwoman I knew I could be to him.

Being with him, being in his life, was more important that tending to anything that I wanted. I was going to be with him, because I wanted what he said we were going to do together. Regardless of what that meant. We would make it through anything, if I would just be there.

FULL STOP. This is where the cycle of “I’ll take anything, because he is my everything starts.” RIGHT. HERE

I dealt with him not working. I dealt with him not acknowledging how hurt I was being pregnant and sneaking off to an abortion clinic. I dealt with having to pay or everything. I dealt with it, because he told me I was his soulmate. I dealt with it, because he said he loved me. It was because he loved me, and I felt special when we were together was enough.

I wanted it all to be real. I was in love with him. I loved him as best I could. And I wanted to hang on to him! I had given him my time, my body, my familial relationships–and lost a child. By the time it was over, when I really knew it was over was him being more concerned about how he was going to feel–rather than me crying while I was at work. At work. Let that sink in. I had worked all day (from 6 AM!, and wouldn’t be off until 8PM!) and he said, “How can I go the rest of the day like this?” I cannot even my remember what I said in response to this. But it was over…and I cried in a locker room. Before I had to go back to work.

I fought to make him pay back my time, my tears and my love with becoming the man I wanted him to be. I stayed with him 3 years. I endured this for three years. Three and a half, really. But what I really wanted was validation. I wanted the same love I gave him–to be given back to me! And it wasn’t happening. I stayed with him, because I wanted a return on my investment. He was my investment! Of all I gave him…I left with nothing of the woman I was before.

Nothing.

This is the price of struggle love! It costs you everything! It will convince you that to work for something that should be given to you–freely. Struggle love will always COST you something. Love is never a debt–love pays! It pays completely! I paid for this love, and was left with debt and heartbreak. I was left thinking “What is wrong with me? Why didn’t he want me?” See how crazy that is? Struggle love will have you thinking that you–the person trying to hold something together–is the problem. If you would just do something else better, sexier or faster, it would be better. Struggle love is gaslighting!

The bad thing is, once you see this happening–once you know what it is–it is often too late to redeem what you invested.

Guard your hearts, dear ones. Guard them from the world that wants to break them–or the wolves that will eat them.

The Affair With Struggle Love: Part 1-What Is “Struggle Love”?

“Every relationship has goes through ups and downs.” This is the lie we are told–especially as women!–that there are things we have to just go through in order to ‘have a relationship.’ This leads to the idea, and idolizing of this thing called ‘Struggle Love’. The best way to explain this is a relationship/potential relationship that is tumultuous, full of drama or potential abuse; the couple stays together because  they want to be together–and they believe that ‘every relationship goes through things.’ More often than not, these relationships have aspects of being domineering, full of gaslighting, and one of the participants of this relationship must continue to endure things that are painful for the sake of the relationship.

I have a friend of mine, whom makes sport of eviscerating those whom come for her with this type of insanity–and it is glorious! Case in point:  there was a man that was in her inbox who was trying to shoot his shot! Okay, nothing wrong with that (she calls these misadventures  Inbox Chronicles). But when he came to her on some ‘If you were my woman you would…” or “I wouldn’t put up with that if you were my…” My personal favorite, “You need to understand that you need to be patient with a man, y’all [I suppose this to mean women born after 1970] ain’t nothing like y’alls grandmas!” For the life of me, I have no idea what that is supposed to mean! None at all. 

I suppose I should be grateful that I don’t need my husband or father (and I have neither) to open a checking account, I can vote, have an abortion, and can go to a higher science class without my womanly assets being such a distraction. But to ask for this level of fairness in a relationship? The word egalitarian is a curse word. There is a this twisted appreciation for the women that endure. The ones that suffer in silence, give everything to everyone and has nothing left for herself! This expectation that –as a woman–you are supposed to take the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…and smile. Take the case of the relationship between Gucci Mane and his now wife, Keisha. He took this woman through the unimaginable! Just like Emily and Fabulous –he has literally hit this woman in her mouth! And she’s still with him! Why? The illusion of the happily ever after. This promise that says, “If I just put up with a little bit more, cry one more time, believe him one more time, then I’ll get my happily ever after.”

Struggle love always has outlandish requirements–these requirements are often met by the need of one person to be needed and wanted, doing all in their power to appease someone that is (clearly) abusive. Struggle love tells us that love is earned, not given. Struggle love tells us if we just hang on–all rewards will be ours. Even if  we die along the way. Struggle love is what most women have been taught! In this teaching it makes women the mules of the world–not deserving of someone unless they can ‘prove’ they love us; or we must suffer in order to be loved. Love–with God being love—gives it to all of us lavishly, so why do I have to prove I love someone else–by how much I will put up with, cry over, or forgive?

Don’t worry–I’ll wait.  

That Conversation-Week 2: The Wisdom Of Better Men

(This is an intimate letter to the Kings that inhabit this Queedom. Read and share.)

Kings of this Queedom:

Toxic masculinity is described as follows:

noun. a cultural concept of manliness that glorifies stoicism, strength, virility, and dominance, and that is socially maladaptive or harmful to mental health: Men and women both suffer when toxic masculinity perpetuates expectations that are restrictive and traumatizing.

Let me make this appeal simple for the men of this Queendom:  I need you to raise better sons. I need you to understand being a man is more than phallus antics. It is more than killing bugs. It is more than sporting events, being physically strong and ‘being a man.’ I need you all to understand your sons need to be able to be attentive, perceptive, and be taught to care for women.

Let me say this again:  be taught to care for women. 

Caring for a woman is more than buying her things. It is more than providing orgasms, or masturbating with her body (oh, it’s a thing)! Caring for a woman means that you have to be able to be what she needs, provide support (outside of material things), and have some empathy.

I need you to understand the world is scary, and women don’t always have the ability to ensure they will be okay. With that, what I also must impress upon you is toxic masculinity is not what grows a relationship. You exerting control over a woman, claiming that it’s what men do, is not the healthiest space to be in.

I need you to be mindful of the women in your life whom need you. I need you to check the men in your life who demean women, whom participate in street harassment, or are unable to handle the most dangerous word a woman can say:  “No.” I need you all to understand your manhood, the idea of manhood, is not determined by what the world may think of you. I need you to understand your worth as a man is beyond the mastery of your emotions. The ability as a man to control your emotions, does not mean they do not exist.

Give your son, the young men in your life, permission to emote. To cry. To be human more than once! I want you to affirm your sons in the non-athletic things they do. Dearest Kings of this Queedom,  I want you to give your son the permission to possess all of their personhood. This means being able to be the young men whom will help shape the world. Let them cry, let them draw, let them play football and paint or play trumpet. Remind them that manhood is both collective and individualistic. Collective as they are not the only men in the world, and somethings are just common to the sex. Individualistic because they are, will be, unique to the world; such things are to be special.

What is needed now, what is needed for future generations of daughters is men (and women) whom are able to value all of their person; beyond sexual antics. I need the men of this Queendom to understand women are not possessions to hoard, or projects to critique, but people. I need you all to understand that as a man, you have the unique responsibility of instructing and modeling for your son, and instilling that model for your daughter.

She will need your strength to let her know what reasonable expectations of a partner. Your daughter will need your help to navigate these spaces that require her to be astute as well as charming. She will need your wisdom to set reasonable expectations, how to avoid crazy situations, and to know what love looks like.

Can you do that for her? For her sake, I pray you can.

For the sake of all the world, teach the Princes how to be Kings.

Let’s Talk About It: Tiny & T.I.

Image result for tiny and ti

TW:  struggle love, pain before love, toxic patriarchy

This week, the entire internet is a blaze over Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk. I did my best to stay away from this because I think this is a conversation is overdue. I also am aware of the cultural implications of this conversation.  I knew that the moment I, as a divorced Black woman with two children from a failed marriage, all the hounds of Hotepean Hell would come after me. But yet. this is what I do here. I speak. This will be no different.

I know women like Tameka Dianne “Tiny” Harris.  I have been a woman like Tameka Dianne “Tiny” Harris. Everyday I am graced to walk towards 40, the more perceptive I have become. I see the things at 38, that I could never have seen at 18 or even 28. I see life as the gift that is, and value whom I want to keep in mine. So, when I saw this Red Table Talk with Clifford and Tameka? It was like looking into a mirror.

The one thing I do like about Red Table Talk is Jada Pinkett Smith as allowed, held space to have hard conversations. However, here? With this one? I think she missed something. Too often in African American/Black communities, Black women and girls are prized and chosen, seated as wives or queens due to how much we can bare. How hard we can work. How much we can hide the depth of our pain, cover our own rage with make up, a clean house and healthy children.

This is a most curious type of auction block.

Everything that can be quantified to us as women. You must be esthetically pleasing. Tall, but not taller than him. You must be able to work as hard as a man, be satisfied with less, be able to clean house, have kids and have your breasts, your ass and belly look unaffected. Everything has to snatch back, and ready to still sate every ache in a phallus! Now, by no means am I, will I say, these attitudes are present solely in African-American homes and communities. They aren’t, I assure you. But I can attest is my personal experiences, failures and realizations. It is through those realizations, I make my case and give my empathy.

Image result for wedding ring images

There is something in Tameka that I have seen in myself in the grip of an abusive relationship. This breaking and holding together, is done in cycles. Where you believe so much in a man, so much, that it kills you. This is not an exaggeration! My girlfriends have a name for this:  struggle love. 

This is the love that we idolized, and told is inevitable as a women and girl-children. This type of love, we are told, is based on this scripture, 1 Corinthians 13:7:

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

It is this scripture that allows women to stay after it’s time to leave!

Those of you that follow me, know that I am a women of faith. This piece is not an assail or assault on Christianity. What I want you all to see is, struggle love–this love that prizes the ability to suffer greatly first and always–is not God. And I am tired of being told, or hearing women say that it is! There is no part in scripture that prizes the inflection of pain on another person as a way to prove that you love them. When pain is found is scripture it is due to, or a part of, a process which has an end!

Suffering is not supposed to be prized! It is a tool to reach, remind and instruct! It is not a prize!

My ability to endure the insufferable doesn’t make me a prize. It makes me a mammie! My ability to be consistently uncomfortable does not quantify me as a woman to be prized above all others! Can we stop doing this? Can we free our daughters from the chains of believing someone the love has to hurt them, that life, that relationships, have to try you with volcanic fire in order for to be considered as girl friend or wife? I understand that relationships have ebb and flow; relationships are constructed of and between two people trying to make a life together. Each valuing something different or wanting something more. The idea being that what they feel for one another should be support, strength and refuge. Suffering can be a part of that due to the fallen, selfish nature of human beings. However, my ability to suffer should not be the factor that makes me a desirable partner. Do not intentionally inflict harm upon me to see how fast I will heal!

I am worthy of love, of care, and of respect. I am worthy to be seen, to be valued and cared for. I deserve a relationship that will hold me to account, assure me of my safety and grant me space to grow and to become. I am worthy to be loved; that love is not proved through how badly I can be hurt.

Through the podcast Expeditiously, Tameka said something that startled me, and confirmed one reason as to why she may stay. She said an aunt once told her to “Marry for security, not for love.” When I heard this, I almost screamed. I understand the reason why her aunt said this. I get it:  men are taught to be protectors and providers. Money is a tool which allows both. Yet, with everything this man has done in the course of their relationship, can this protection and provision be so comfortable that she will endure it? Love that makes you suffer to attain it is manipulation. God loves you no matter what you do. In that relationship, love is first and love is paramount–and He is present no matter what and where you are.

Love is first. Healthy love is first!

There are things in this life which are more important than financial security. We have moved beyond the point in society where women need men for social acceptance, and financial security. Do I believe that relationships can become better, the people in them change for the better? I do. I believe people have the ability to do better, especially for the people they love. I believe that if two people are willing to make something broken work, it can. This comes from accountability, recognition of what was lost or broken. And that takes work.

Struggle love is greedy, one-sided and viciously selfish. It takes from you, and is enraged when there is no more to take; angry when the willing well is empty–having drank all from it. Struggle love is narcissistic, seeing and feeding all it wants. Even when Tameka spoke on the podcast, he cut her off. As a writer, she sounded what can only be described as ‘backed up.’ On the show, she vacillated between being over it, wishing her husband would be honest and accountable; to stoic–just letting him express himself.

When I told my first husband our relationship was over, he seemed shocked.  I had done all I could do to love him, honor him, and be the dutiful wife even while he refused to be a husband to me. It is not wisdom to say in these situations. He refused all avenues which would help us fix what was wrong and he refused. But yet, he still wanted to be with me: ‘I want my family’. he said. Yet, he was unwilling to anything which would care for it. I had no more, of me to give to him, to fix the us.

I had no more of me, to give to him, to fix the us. 

I refused to die with a man that would not build his life with me. 

I have been where Tameka has been, more than once. I have seen the people in my life–men and women!–having to sit where she did on the promise of ‘it’ll get better.’ Sometimes the better is the day you decide you can do no more. God hates divorce, yes. He also provides a way of escape to things which overwhelm, threatening to kill whom He loves.

Don’t die with life still in you, believing better will come. Better sometimes, sometimes God shows up, the universe makes itself known when you listen to the inner self that tells you in the still small voice, ” I have done all I can, with all resources given and acquired. I will trust in what will come after this ends which will grant me what I deserve. This ain’t it. It cannot be it, and I must go.”

I simply must go.

In the words of my sister, the beloved Kelly Heflin, “Don’t tell me to struggle for love, and tell your daughter something different.”

 

[image from Facebook Watch]

 

 

 

 

 

For My Daughters-Lesson 5: Struggle Love Is Not Love

 

Babygirls-

I want to you to know one crucial thing:

You cannot make someone love you. 

Here’s another one for free:

You should not have to make someone love you. 

 

If I can have you understand just how precious you are, and how amazing you will become–I think I will have done half of my job as your mother. Knowing these two irrefutable things about yourself as women–as Black women–this will allow you to be dynamic. Also, rendering you immune to the thirst to be chose!

There is this concept a friend of mine came up with. Honestly, she may not have invented the term, but for the case, I’ll say she did. She called it: struggle love.

What is this, you  ask?

This is the type of love that is toxic, dear ones. It is this promoting of the idea if you ‘just hang in there’ it’ll be better–when there is no reasonable hope of such! Now, don’t get me wrong:  every relationship has bad patches! Every relationship has moments (moments!) where you don’t like or can’t stand each other. In those temporal moments, you may have the choice to ride out the bad, knowing, seeing where the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not dark all the time! But dark times should not be ongoing! Those moments should be few and far between.

There were men that I chased, hoping they would see how beautiful and capable I was. There were relationships that I stayed in far too long, hoping it would get better. But better never came. See, what people don’t tell you is that ‘struggle love’ takes from you. It saps your youth, strength and focus. It takes or sabotages opportunities! This is what I heard from a man that  tried to keep, that it took over three years to leave:

“I don’t want you to go out of town for school, because I would miss you so much.”

And I listened. The thing behind that? He didn’t want me to be far from him, because he was insecure. And sometimes insecurity in the wrong man leads to controlling behaviors. Or to be clingy and manipulative.

Another man I tried to date wanted to change who I was. Hated how smart I was, that I kept myself up, and that I was ambitious. It was odd:  the same thing that drew him to me, was the very thing that made him hate me.

Struggle love props up this idea of the happily ever after at all cost! It promotes this idea that everything that makes you valuable as a woman is wrapped in being with man! While doing whatever it takes to keep him! It involves ignoring or tolerating outrageous, abusive behavior because ‘he’s my man, and you just don’t understand.’ No!

If you have any inkling; any type of ‘something told me’, any funny feeling? Believe it. This is the Almighty protecting you, warning you, from something that can hurt or trap you. The thing is, my loves, a hurt is something you can be be mended or healed from. A trap? That takes a while to get out of, and may leave scars or residue. With that residue, along with the hurt? This may make you susceptible to evil, manipulative people.

My dearest ones, my heartbeat in two places, I want better for this for you! I want you to remember you are a Queen. You are entitled to be both beautiful and ambitious. You are allowed to manifest your own destiny! You have the right to tell a man ‘no’! And that is a complete sentence! You are allowed to possess all pieces that make you formidable and feminine. Change for no one. Change for no man. Saying ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t fix something, or everything! You are entitled to leave any relationship when you believe that you had done all you can. It does not make you less than a woman to be single or walk away from what no longer suits you! Own your power and person, my loves.

You have the right to have healthy, lasting love. You do not, will not, have to give your body to boy, a man (or another woman) not be valid, valued or loved. Love is not a struggle. It is given. That which can be given, and given freely, is never a struggle.

I love you beyond the stars, to the moon and back.

Always,

Mommy