So Easy To Love

I am jealous of relationships that look easy. Then again, that’s surface level stuff. It’s like a duck on a pond. We don’t see him feverishly peddling under the water, we only see the grace and ease of him gliding above the surface. So maybe I’m not jealous of those relationships.

I am actually jealous of those couples who collectively work together to make it look easy. The ones who equal part sing their partners praise, then also help them when they fall. I am envious of the couples who also tell you “Honestly, it’s not easy. It’s work. But it’s worth it.” That’s because any relationship, is work.

We grow up with fairytales and Hollywood movies that make relationships look effortless. Correction, they make “Romance” look effortless. Romance is the scene in the movie when it’s raining and the guy is outside of the girls apartment waving to her to come down because he wants to kiss her…in the rain. Like, why? My apartment is rain free. Don’t you want to kiss me inside the house?

Relationships are different. They are complicated and messy. They have their highs and lows. Some days are perfect and some days you question why you are even with this person. You also question yourself…a lot.Relationships are work and anyone who tells you otherwise, is quite honestly, an alien…and you should run.

I had this thought a few days while enjoying one of my favorite past times, a cigar and whiskey. If I am being completely honest, my current relationship has me working harder than any other, and for a variety of reasons. I took a moment and thought about my past relationships. They were so easy. I mean, really, took very little work. Some great times, amazing times and of course some bullshit. But they were all…ALL…so much easier than where I am now.

Then I thought about the men in those relationships. Things did not end well. Two cheated and one just gave up. So what made them so easy? Why did I stay so long? What about them made me happy? What about the relationships do I miss? Ok, being super honest again, the thing I missed about a couple of them was sex. It was fun. It was silly, but there was very little intimacy. I have that now. My fiancee and I put in the work and the time to learn those things that turn us on more than just bedroom acrobatics.

So what else made those past relationships easy? There were a lot of laughs with all of them. Some more than others, but laughter was the key. I was happy on the surface, but I had no idea what was brewing underneath. I didn’t know that one partner was cheating for months, another got bored and the last never wanted to be in the relationship . How did I miss the signs? We had great times. There was laughter.

That’s where the work comes in. You have to look past the calm and the ease of it all to see if you or your partner, or both of you are feverishly peddling underneath. This is hard because in most cases, you don’t want to assume something is wrong if it isn’t. You don’t want to create a problem that isn’t there. But maybe, all you need to do is ask yourself, ask your partner what they need. Not what they need in their coffee, what do they “NEED”. Maybe they need someone to help make a path while they are paddling in that water. Maybe they need you to help them paddle, or just acknowledge that you are a rockstar wife or kick ass mom who is making it look easy.

Or maybe they just want you to be next to them in that pond, present in the tranquil moment, happy you found your duck.

You like me! you really like me!!!

Let me first start with a simple fact. I am an only child. When I tell people this, the stereotypical responses of spoiled and selfish are the first things people want to associate with me. Let me make this very clear, I am selfish…when it comes to food. And as for spoiled, I grew up with a grandfather who was raised during the Great Depression and therefore raised me as such.

But there is another common trait that us solo babies have. And that’s the strong desire to please other people. We take it on almost as a life or death challenge. For many, it’s a defense mechanism in order to protect ones self. For some, like me, it’s a wonderful way to feel validation. However, the people pleasers are sometimes the hardest and the worst when it comes to being in strong, healthy relationships. “Why” you ask?

Because we forget a cardinal rule when it comes to a partnership. Ready for your mind to be blown?

Sometimes, in a relationship…you have to be selfish, and put you FIRST.

Ok, so right now, hardcore people pleasers and only children around the world are freaking out at that statement. I get it! I’m almost shuddering at just writing it. But if I look really deep, like super duper deep in my past relationships, I very rarely put me first. And they all failed because I was so blinded by the idea of love, that I looked past my partners flaws, or because I put my emotions, desires and dreams aside for what I felt, was for the benefit of the relationship and the other person.

Here’s the thing about trying to keep the people pleaser mentality in a relationship. It never really works. You feel that what you are doing on the surface is being caring, compassionate, kind, strong and considerate for the other person. But what are you getting in return? And if you’re both people pleasers, I promise there are things you wish you could tell the other person, but you don’t. And you don’t because at least “they” are happy, and you feel that’s enough for you.

That’s not enough!

That’s a great start. But what if you can make sure your partners needs are addressed with just as much energy and passion as you would do if you took care of your own needs first? I go back to that first fact. When you meet someone who is an only child, you think they are selfish. But in their world, they are doing the one thing that is keeping them sane and helps them navigate the environment around them. They are protecting their interests by making sure that “self” is provided for, first. In theory, it is not selfish. It’s self preservation. A sibling allows you to bounce ideas, fun, tantrums, conspiracies off of each other. When it’s just you, you have to learn in very difficult ways, what is safe, fun, entertaining and most importantly, worth your time.

The emergence of the “Self Care” movement is one that I am huge fan of. But I think sometimes, we need to do the same in relationships. The next time you find you and your partner making big “WE” decisions, step back and ask yourself “Does this serve or help me in this relationship?” And answer that question honestly. Now, hear me out. I am not saying that this should be done with every decision in your relationship. There are for sure moments where you need and almost HAVE to put your partner, first. Areas of health, mental wellness, family, etc. However, in general, try to challenge yourself to ask what does that selfish little child in me need?

And don’t forget another crucial fact. Trying to please others before yourself, very rarely ever works. That whole “Love yourself, before you can love someone else” mumbo jumbo, is kind of rooted in fact. Simply put, it means: take care of those things that you love, the things that give YOU happiness and is deep in your truth, and you will in turn, find and have a partner who will work hard to make those things a reality for you.

Good luck, you selfish little brats!

Closer than Close

Every morning, shortly after I wake up, I can usually set my clock on two phone calls. One, from my best friend AKA “my sister” and the other from my mom. We chat, catch up on the previous evening, gossip about hometown news and discuss our dinner plans. Living in another state, I really appreciate these phone calls, because I can’t see either of them as often as I would like.

Then, around 5 or 6 pm, when my work day is over, I get another phone call from the Will to my Grace. We catch up on work, talk about hot boys, complain about getting old and break down the latest in politics. And even though we live in the same town, these conversations are almost a nightly ritual.

I never really thought about it, but my family and friends are very much a part of my everyday life. Which means, they are a part of my fiances life. He overhears the laughs, the cries and the screams. And while I am grateful he has a good relationship with all of the people I love, it is very clear that at times, he realizes that they are a BIG part of my life. Here’s the thing…that isn’t going to change.

As an only child, I have found that I am super close with a handful of people and they have become like family. I may not have a sister by blood, but I have one that I love as if we share blood. And my Will…well, he was in my life before any boy ever was, and our pack to grow old together and share a condo in Miami, still stands. If you’re like me, you might have those people in your life that you are extremely close to. And that’s a beautiful thing. Often times, I find they are a sounding board for my fiancee when he needs advice about us, or when he went ring shopping.

But it can lead to a tricky area of a relationship, where those people could be a bit too close for comfort. Sometimes, it’s important to remind all parties to respect distance, while at the same time, understanding that those people are an important part of your life. One of the arguments I have constantly found myself saying before in the past is “They were in my life before you and will be after you!” While this only sets you up for some epic fights, it’s not really a strong case to present to your partner.

Rather, think of your friends/family and your partner as a collective team. This came into play for me recently when I was hospitalized for over a week. My fiancee would send daily updates to my friends and call my parents just to explain how scared he was. I was so grateful that my circle was so tight. And it was moments like those, that he found an appreciation for the people that mean so much to me. This isn’t to say that at times he wishes I didn’t watch a full episode of the Real Housewives on the phone while he would much rather cuddle on the couch. What it does say is there are people who love you, in and outside of your relationship. You just have to be smart and know how to navigate and bring them all together.

Welp, 2020!

I won’t insult you by stating the obvious about 2020. What I will do is say, that we made it. I won’t even say that the dumpster fire is over. There could still be some burning embers coming to 2021. Sit your hot ass down and don’t touch anything.

But that’s not my main point either. If you’re like me, other than COVID, 2020 brought a lot of challenges and opportunities. Some of the hardest things, I had to go through this year, made me truly appreciate much of what I took for granted. I also learned to have more…what’s the word…PATIENCE. Patience in myself, my relationship and others. And I think in the learning process of this year, was where a lot of us found our strength. For some, that was learning how much work teachers TRULY do, if you had to home school a child. Or learning that a simple text to check on someone, really brightened their day. Because that was 2020 in a nutshell. Recognizing that we ALL had something to get through or go through and learning to be a bit more….wait for it…PATIENT.

So dear reader, the long and short of it, is this: it was one year. If you are fortunate…no…blessed…to see another or many more, let 2020 be the marker to remind you of what you have been through, accomplished, loved, loss, made new, learned and found….(one more time)..patience in. And treat 2021 like Drake said “Everyone dies, but not everyone lives.”

The Help You Need

The older I get, and the more serious of a relationship I find myself in, I come to a point where I feel that outside help will be a benefit to my partner and I. And I mean more than just talking to your girlfriends, your crew, co-workers or parents. I mean…professional help. I’m going to say something that may seem a bit controversial, but hear me out. “Every couple…even you…should speak to a counselor/therapist/mediator at some point in your relationship.” To be honest, I’m not sure how some couples make it without outside help.

Think of it this way. How many things do we do to prevent issues with our automobiles? It’s like preventive maintenance for your relationship. We regularly get our oil changed, tires rotated, etc. The same approach should be done with anyone that you plan or are planning to spend a substantial amount of your life with. But why? What’s the point of seeking outside help?

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Just like you shouldn’t drive a car off the lot and when it first shows issues do you take it to a shop; the same shouldn’t be done with a relationship. You can go along the road of life, hoping your relationship  runs smooth and maybe you will have one bump that requires attention. Or that one bump, because it hasn’t been treated sooner, becomes a huge front end blowing problem. You do the work to prevent bigger issues. Now, is this to say that it will work all the time? Hell no. There are some major issues that are unforeseen.

For most couples, the biggest issues usually revolve around four things: Money, Children, Sex and Communication. Some of these are issues that can be tackled before problems occur, simply by having in-depth conversations. And I mean, the conversations that may be uncomfortable. For example, I don’t want to have children. I never really did. I’ve always been very frank and open about this, early on in all of my major relationships. And with the exception of my marriage, I’ve always told my partner there is nothing they can do to change that fact. So the conversation became, “If you want to be with me, this has to be something we both agree on, or you need to be with someone else.”

That isn’t a fun conversation and it can bring up bigger issues down the road. But for me, having that talk early on, saves a lot of heartache. But what if you’re someone who is ok with say, not having kids and your partner at first feels the same way, and then over time that changes? What do you do? Well I promise you, issues will arise. The conversations will turn into disagreements, then to bickering, then to arguing or worst. That’s where getting outside help can be of benefit.

For one, it allows a neutral party to sit and listen to both sides and give counsel that doesn’t benefit that person. Whether we want to say it or not, when we ask our friends or loved ones for advice, there is always a part where it can benefit one person in the relationship more so than the other. It’s natural, they’re your friend. A third person outside of your circle can look at things truly objectively. Another reason to talk to a professional, is to shed light on any potential issues that may come down the road. “Ma’am, you’re gonna need an alignment soon.” AKA “So how do you get along with her mother?” This is a great time to openly and honestly, talk about things that may be on your mind that you fear to bring up in casual conversation. Or maybe even things, that you haven’t really thought about, but should talk about.

And what kind of help should you seek? I’m not going to tell you that you need to see a licensed therapist/counselor or a minister or even a doctor. Find someone who works for both of you. It could be any of the aforementioned professionals. Most importantly, it should be someone that you both trust and can speak openly with. The important thing to remember, is that this a process. I’m not also telling you that you should speak to someone weekly or monthly. But that you should give it a try. Maybe you will find that like a tune up, it’s something you do every few months. Either way, there is no harm in lifting the hood of your relationship and see how things are running. In the end, it will truly help it perhaps run a little smoother.

That is…unless you’re planning on an upgrade! (lol)

I Messed Up

During this unprecedented time of social distancing and self quarantine, you may have found like many of us, that you are spending more time with your partner. They say the true test of any couple is to see how well they travel together. I say, sharing the same space for days and not wanting to throw a pillow at them on an hourly basis after the third hand of UNO, is also just as important of a test.

But if you’re like me, this time has proven extra difficult because you have nothing but time. Time to think and re-think and question. Question not only yourself, but your role in the relationship and your partners intent. True story: I messed up. I’m not proud to admit that, but I did. Months ago I did something that made my partner question and doubt my love. I did not cheat on him with another man, but I did break his trust. During the subsequent months, we have tried to move past it. And I’m not gonna lie, it’s been hard AF.

When you break the trust of someone you love, the process to regain it is a constant challenge and battle. It’s one that requires work on BOTH ends. That work revolves around two key factors, trust and time. If you’re like me and you were the person who broke that line of trust, you have to understand that the path to moving on is going to take time. And then more time….and perhaps a bit more time after that. It’s not a quick fix, and it’s not something that can be erased over night. So during this time, you have to sit and wait and be patient. You have to be PATIENT. (As an only child, this is the most difficult thing for me to do in the world!)

Standing away from each other

For those who were hurt, it’s going to take trust. It seems ironic that the thing that was broken, is the one thing that you will need to relay on the most. You will need to come to a new level of trust that makes you work together on the issue. Notice I said “together”. As much as the transgression might have been done by one person, the two of you have to work in tandem in order to move on. A big part of that is getting to a point where you begin to trust your partner is making an effort to make amends and move on. This level of trust is not easy to come by and will take…time.

In the end, this is a long and winding road that will involve both parties putting in serious work. It involves no judgement, releasing the past, looking forward to the future and most of all, forgiveness. This will not be easy, but if the relationship is worth it, if your partner is worth it, anything is worth the fight.

Love’s Soundtrack

I am very protective of a few things in dating relationships. For one, you must love football, and if you don’t, you must understand and be ok with the fact that from August through February, you aren’t dating me as much as observing my madness into College and Professional Football. Two, you must show some form of passion in your life. Whether it’s your job or your family or your love of Kitesurfing. Show me that there’s something that fuels your soul and gives you a thirst to wake up everyday.

I  have that kind of passion for one thing…music. For me, the soundtrack of a relationship is just as much a part of my dating life, as the other persons preference in whiskey. I can almost point with clarity, any particular part of my past significant relationships to a song. Or a soundtrack, or movie theme, or angsty 90’s rock ballad.

For a while, certain songs I held so sacred, to not tie them to a particular guy. That’s the power of music. The beauty in a love song. The joy in a rock anthem. The soundtrack of any relationship consists of four main components.

  1. The Song That Started It All
  2. The Song That Made You Fall In Love
  3. Pain
  4. The Immortal Classic

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The first, the Song That Started It All. If you’re like me, sometimes this song is as random as the circumstances around first hearing it . This isn’t nesscarily the song that played on your first date. Or even your first kiss. Sometimes it’s the song that plays on the way to the first date. The song that you hype yourself over to remind you that you need to get back out in the dating pool. Or maybe the song that was playing at the bar when you met with your closest girlfriends to talk about the date the night prior. Whatever it is, it’s the song the kickstarted the romantical hot mess that you’re about to enter

Number 2, The Song That Made You Fall In Love. For me, these are best left to fate. The melody that randomly pops in your head when you’re both out for brunch. You later wonder, what was the cause for the tune to just magically appear in your head, and why at that time? It makes no sense. Maybe just as much since for a football loving whiskey girl to end up with a baseball fanatic tequila drinker. Either way, this is the song that makes you smile because it later becomes “Our Song”. I love when I meet couples and I find out that they buck tradition for a more obscure romantic hit. This song should speak to who you are as a couple and what you both bring to the relationship.

Pain. Pain is number 3. I know it seems odd to think that “Pain” should find a place on a relationship soundtrack. But let’s be honest, pain and love go hand and hand. You can’t have one without the other. I think every relationship has that moment where you can stick it out, or you just cut your losses and run. When this pivotal part of courtship happens, it’s usually faced with a song that sums of the fear, pain, heartache and sometimes resentment, that comes with consensual monogamy. Pain for me is usually a classic R&B, B-side melody, that only plays on the radio on the artist death day. Whatever it is, Track Pain brings meaning to a relationship just like the love behind Track 1.

Number 4 is The Immortal Classic. Whether this relationship is “The One” or the one for now, this song is the track that lives on past both of you, and the gooey center of perfection that was your romance. Sometimes, this song is one that is recommened by outside forces. Friends, who mention it to you in passing and it seems to play out of the blue every time you’re out together. Or an undiscovered classic told to you by a parent. Either way, this is the song that at the relationships end, will forever hold that place of equal cherished hit and regretful melody.

No matter what the songs are in the 4 components, they should be songs that touch your soul. They should make you feel more than just the meaning behind the lyrics. They should bring joy and love, heartache and romance. Songs that remind you that the person is worth the fight, or worth their nasty habits to look past and see their big heart. No song is perfect, no love is perfect and perfect is an ideal that doesn’t really exist. What does, is a great melody, soul changing lyrics and a body of work that can bring two people in love like nothing else in this world can.

 

 

 

How to Fight Fair

I have noticed that with age, comes a sense of clarity and patience. Who knew? You can actually “grow up” when you grow up. This point became very clear to me a few days ago when I was having an argument with my boyfriend. One of the things I remember doing a lot when I was in my 20s and early 30s in an argument, was, to be honest…a lot of screaming. I wanted to be the loud, agressive person in the conversation. Because everyone knows, the louder you are, the easier it will be to get your point across.

I also had a nasty habit of saying hurtful things. I even took pride in it. My ex-husband pointed this fact out to me one evening when we were fighting. “Just because you have a degree in Rhetoric, doesn’t mean you can just win the argument all the time!”, he said. But in my head, that’s exactly what I thought. I took classes in college about oration and arguments, and would use that knowledge to my advantage. And applying “Pathos”, I knew exactly what to say, that would cross the line, silence my partner and make my point, thus causing me to “win” the argument.

Fast forward to more than 10 years later. A marriage and several long term relationships later and I noticed one huge difference, I fight like a grown up. What does that mean? Early in our dating lives, the only fights we have experience in, are those related to our youth and adolescence. There’s a lot of name calling, maybe some throwing, some screaming and talking with no point of accuracy but more so to hear who can be the loudest. Whether we were fighting with our siblings, our parents or friends, these were the only real arguments we had that we drew experience from when it came to fighting when we started dating. But then one magical day, you grow up. Or at least, I hope you do.

Arguing couple

And what you realize is profound. A fight between a couple should never be about who will win. It shouldn’t be who can say the most hurtful thing or whos blow is the lowest. It shouldn’t be about pulling up past pain and hurt, to make a point in the present. To fight fair, and I think, to fight smart boils down to one word. Ready?

Silence.

Now I understand that sometimes this tactic can scare men. They have programmed in their relationship DNA, that when a woman is silent, she is at her most dangerous. And to be completely honest, you’re right. However, there is a way to be silent and engaging in an argument that won’t elicit fear in your partner. A few days ago, this point struck me while in mid-argument. My boyfriend was trying to make a point, which my immediate thought was “Well, that’s dumb, and I know I’m right.” But rather than act on that impulse, I took a moment and sat in silence. I remember looking at him and thinking “Don’t talk, just listen.”

For one, silence gives you the chance to listen actively. Take a moment to register and process what your partner is saying. It also prevents you from blurting out your first initial thought, which in some cases, can be hurtful. Silence also affords you time. Time to think about their point, think about your point, and evaluate if the argument is really worth the energy. I’m not going to lie, this is hard. It’s like some Jedi level mind trickery of the dating world. Especially for a black woman. We can’t just sit back and be quiet. But I will say, that the older I have become, the more I have sat in the moment of silence to listen, really listen. And I have been amazed at the results. Fewer fights, laughter in the middle of an argument and mostly importantly, fewer hurt feelings.

So the next time you find yourself in an argument with your partner, and you KNOW your points are valid, take a moment to surrender to the silence. Really listen to what they have to say, and before reacting, pause. Remember that the way you are feeling in the moment is just temporary, and you have just as much power as your partner, to change the outcome.

What makes me so special?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my dating past. I am a firm believer that your dating past brings you exactly what your present and future can be, as long as you learn from it. Meaning, are you making the same mistakes and getting the same results, while at the same time, blaming your dating partners? Have you ever wondered what makes you so special? And why would someone want to be with you?

A friend of mine is in a new relationship that seems to be blossoming. She’s one of these women that for years I wonder, why the heck guys don’t see how amazing she is. In a lot of ways, she reminds me of me. Loud, funny, highly career focused, no kids, lover of booze. For a while, I was afraid all those things held me back from finding a great guy. And again, I found myself wondering, “What makes me so special?”

Over the years, the question of finding someone who makes you feel special, was always one that I tried to answer. I need a man to treat me like the goddess that I am. The older I became, however, I realized that I need to tap into my own blend of special, and love and appreciate that, before anyone else can. Believe it or not, our moms were right. “You have to love yourself, before anyone else can love you.” Who knew?!

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All you can hope, is that the next person, your person, that you end up with, sees something magical in you, that no other partner ever has. At the end of the day, that’s what makes that relationship “The One”. And a lot of that, comes from not only loving the  things that make you “special”, but the bad, the ugly, the insecure, the annoying, the flatulence. So here’s to finding and loving what makes you special. Here’s to first appreciating it on your own and the beautiful dating process, that will lead you to find someone else, who will think that you’re not only special, but pretty darn groovy, too!

Partners in Love & Life

Sometimes when I think of my favorite couples, I think about the characteristics that I love about their relationship. One couple that I love spending time with, playfully give each other a hard time, but openly are each others biggest cheerleaders. Another, put God above everything. One couple are big sports fans, and their love and life revolve around how their team is doing at any particular time in the season.

I like to think that what makes a great couple are a variety of little things. But one big thing that I noticed in some of the most stable and lasting relationships, are couples that are true partners. Partners in life and in love is actually something I feel some relationships lack. If I look back at majority of mine for example, we had chemistry, similarities and fun, but few of them made me feel as if I had a partner. Someone who was on the same page as me and someone who saw the relationship for more than just an answer to loneliness.

What makes having a real partner in love so important is that, that person sees not only the good and the bad, but they can see and react to your needs, sometimes before you even mention them. A partner anticipates, hears your words and responds to your actions. You both flow and work together as one, as a unit. Not that I ever want to use “Twilight” as an example, but there is a line said in the second move that I love. When Bella brings Edward to meet her mom, her mother said “You two act like magnets. You move, he moves.” At first, I thought that was a bit creepy. And slightly teen age angsty. Then it dawned on me, Edward was her partner in every since of the word. He moved, she moved. He had a need, she fufilled it. And it was more than lust, or chemistry, or laughs or support. It was someone who added balance and wholeness to the relationship.

I think the older I become, the more the idea of having a real partner becomes something  of vital importance to me. Of course I want all the other things that are crucial to a great relationship: passion, humor, loyalty, trust, patience, love, Bourbon. But now, when I think of “The One”, I want him to be the person who literally has my back, because I will have him. He’s not my better half and I’m not his, we are each others equal. He is my partner in life and love.

 

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