And then there were two.
It’s just you and your beau; one on one.
I’m not going to lie to you folks, relationships are hard work. Hard work to start, maintain and end. You never know what each day in a relationship may throw at you; you have to expect the unexpected.
Now, while no method or approach to a relationship is fool-proof I believe that there are a few small steps that we all can take to improve our relationships. Love is key, of course. However, man cannot live on bread alone.
First of all, the key component to any relationship (not just boy-girl ones) is honesty. Honesty is such an important factor because it will be the base, the foundation if you will, of your relationship. Now some people say, “Why do I have to be honest? The only reason I lie is because I don’t want to hurt you. I lie because I love you.”
All of these people should be shot repeatedly.
No one lies to you because they love you. Honestly (pun intended) I’m not sure why people lie in their relationships. However, I do know that one should never let their partner justify their lying in any manner. There is no excuse for lying in your relationship. The only thing that lying does is create a fantasy world for the liar. And every time that first lie comes up, the liar has to slip back into that fantasy world to make up another lie to cover up their last lie. It’s a vicious cycle.
Also, another reason why you should never lie in your relationship is because once your partner finds out that you lied, that is going to make them doubt not only everything you say from that point on, but everything you’ve ever said before that. You’ll find soon after you’ve been caught in a lie that your partner will start to bring up old situations or issues that they took your word for but still felt that they were questionable events. If you don’t want to have to live in the past or you don’t want to have to keep slipping in and out of character every time your beau asks you a question, tell the truth.
The good thing about the truth is this: it never changes. You don’t have to write it on the back of your hand or memorize it like a script; it is what it is and it will always be the same.
Honesty is so important if you want to build a life-long relationship. Don’t get it twisted, just because you’re honest does not mean you will not have problems. I guarantee that if you go up to your girl and say, “Ok baby, I HONESTLY cheated on you”, she won’t say, “Thanks for the honesty, ‘preciate it!”
However, I do believe that when things are laid out on the relationship table in black and white, the issues in the relationship will be much easier to deal with; because there will be no questions. All parties involved will be thoroughly and accurately informed.
Now, in the event that you do get yourself caught up in a lie and you are genuinely sorry and want to save your relationship, you can. There are four main steps that I believe can truly help any couple overcome their “honesty issues”.
Step 1: Acknowledge- In this step you must first acknowledge that you know that you have done something wrong. It is just that simple. Let your partner know that you are fully aware of the fact that you are wrong.
Step 2: Identify- This is the most important step in righting your wrong. You must identify exactly what you did and call it by name. If you cheated, then say you did so. If you lied, then say you did so and include every, single detail. One of the main things that make couples keep coming back to the same argument that they thought they had resolved is the fact that sometimes the person apologizing has NO IDEA what they are apologizing for. They simply say they are sorry because they know they did SOMETHING wrong, but they don’t know what. Identifying what you did not only lets the person you are apologizing to know that you know what you did wrong, but it also reduces the possibility of the two of you coming back to the same argument.
Step 3: Apologize- You’ve already gotten through the hard part. In this step you simply apologize. For some that may mean buying her jewelry or buying him tickets to the football game, but a simple and genuine “I’m sorry” would really be best. Just as you can’t buy love, you can’t buy forgiveness either.
Step 4: Minimize- The situation is over. Use this step as a preventative measure. Minimize making promises you can’t keep, minimize messing around with other women or men, and minimize lying. With these four steps perhaps there will be a little less hostility in your relationship environment.
Secondly, I believe another key component in a successful relationship is having your own personal priorities straight and in order. To get even more specific on this matter, I will pinpoint a specific instance in which one’s priorities must be in order.
Let’s say that you and your man have planned a night out. You’re going to dinner and a movie; maybe even a little bowling afterwards. You go to an exquisite, private dinner. Afterwards you head to the movie theater where you and your man run into your girlfriends. It just so happens that they just left the movie that you and your beau are going to see. They tell you the ending, which basically ruins the movie. You and your beau decide to skip the movie and go straight to the bowling alley. Your girls decide that they would like to tag along. What do you do?
Well, let me just start by saying it is not right for your girls to tag along. Sure, they are your best buddies and you love them to death; but tonight is your and his night. It was just supposed to be the two of you. I know what you’re thinking. How can it just be the two of you when you’re at a public bowling alley? However, there is a subtle difference. When you are at the bowling alley with your beau, it’s basically just you and him because you two came together and you are enjoying each other’s company. But, if your girlfriends tag along, he has to share and compete for your attention with them. Now, in situations like these, if your man does not mind your girls tagging along, then by all means have a great time with your beau and your girls. But, if he genuinely objects to their presence in your personal date, then you must respect that. The same thing goes for men. Men, speaking on behalf of the ladies, WE CAN NOT STAND IT WHEN YOU PUT YOUR BOYS BEFORE US. When you do it you are basically saying, “She ain’t going nowhere, I’ll get back to her when I get back to her.” It’s disrespectful.
In these situations I handle who I spend the evening with on a first-come, first-served basis. If my beau gets to me first, then he and I will enjoy the evening alone. If my girls get to me first, then we go out on the town. In some instances me and my girls and my beau and his boys would all get together and act up. Ironically enough, sometimes that’s when we had the most fun.
Another very important thing that may just help your relationship survive is communication. Let me tell you, this one is a biggie. You have to communicate within a relationship if you want it to work. There is no reason why your partner should have to hear stuff from other people that they should be hearing from you.
There’s absolutely nothing worse than hearing from your girls or even from random people that your man was somewhere he said he wasn’t or that your girl was doing something she said she wasn’t going to.
Communication within a relationship prevents the influence of outsiders from penetrating the relationship and causing unnecessary falling outs between you and your beau. I’m sure everyone has been in a relationship where you end up hearing more about your man’s whereabouts from his friends than you do from him. I’m not saying keep each other on leashes and call every time you do something or change locations. I am simply saying communicate. When you say you’re here and your beau later finds out that you were there, it looks suspect. Do yourself a favor and avoid the unnecessary conflict.
Communication is also important because it’s good to know where your beau stands on your relationship. You can be thinking long term, marriage, kids and house on the hill with a picket fence, while your beau is thinking short term, common law, dogs and cats and condo in New York. You have to know where you stand in order to determine where you’re going if you’re going to get there together.
Communication is last, but certainly not least an important component in a relationship because we are not mind readers. No one should expect their partner to just know what they’re thinking; that’s a deadly assumption.
I can’t hardly stand it when a woman wants her man to know something, but won’t tell him. And then two days later when he should have been informed, she’s mad because he’s not. And what’s the famous line that comes after that? Say it with me now, “I thought you knew.”
Question: How the hell am I supposed to know something you want me to know if you don’t tell me??? Men and women alike, never assume your beau “knows”. Tell them!
Also, when you seek to have a discussion with your beau, be sure that you are confident and ready to go to war. I am not saying enter the conversation in a hostile and violent manner. I am simply saying never go into a relationship conversation already defeated.
I do not know how many times I have heard my girlfriends or even my male friends say “I want to talk to him/her, but he/she won’t listen. There’s no point.” And with this mindset, you are correct. You already have your heart set on disappointment. Think positively. Try to recall that your beau loves you and wants your relationship to work. Remain confident and find strength in believing that your beau is equally as enthusiastic about fixing your relationship problems as you are. Go in with a strong will to be heard, not feared, shunned or ignored; never enter the conversation defeated.
What else is a good tool that can be used to successfully maintain a healthy, happy relationship? Well, from what I’ve seen it doesn’t hurt to have boundaries. That’s right folks, you want to stay together? Than divide and conquer; give each other space. We’ve all heard the saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”, right? So scram! Give each other some breathing room every once in a while. There are so many wonderful couples that don’t make it because one of the two feels like they are being “smothered” by the other. A word of advice: if you see your beau at work, at home, at school, at the mall, at the doctor, at the concert, on the toilet, then chances are you may be together just a tad bit too much. You want to be a “Will and Jada”, not a “Bobby and Whitney”.
Contrary to what people may say being up your beau’s butt twenty-four-seven doesn’t always bring you closer. In some cases it creates resentment and can become quite annoying. As humans it is natural that we crave human contact. However, it is also natural that we need our personal space. There is nothing wrong with sharing, but everyone needs something in their life that is theirs; just for them. There are times when you should say, “Hi, I’m your name here and I would like to play” and then there are times when you should say, “Hi, I’m your name here and I do not play well with others.”
Acceptance is a very large part of a healthy relationship. Everyone wants to be accepted, wanted and desired. In your relationship you must be sure to show your beau that they will never stop piquing your interest. It is SO important to keep that fire going because we all know that eventually the same ol’, same ol’ gets very boring. There has to be a spark in the relationship that keeps it going; a wow-factor. With such short attention spans in this day and age we must find something that keeps us engaged; something that keeps your beau coming back for more.
What are some “wow-factors” that can keep your beau coming back for more you may ask? Well, there are a number of things that you and your beau can do together, as well as a number of things you can do for each other. For instance, you can take pictures. We all associate taking pictures with memories and commemoration of special events. Taking professional pictures every couple of months or even just messing around with your very own digital camera at home can be a very special way that you and your beau show your love for one another. Another thing you can do is have special date nights. My parents (bless their precious hearts) would always have a date night every Friday night. They would go out to dinner and then they would go to Wal-Mart or Lowe’s or something. I’m not too sure about the Wal-Mart and Lowe’s part, but that worked for my parents. They both engaged in activities that they both enjoyed and that keep them connected. Not to mention it gave them time to talk and catch up on each other’s lives; because let’s face it, even when you’re married you may not have the time to spend every waking moment with your beau. People have jobs, responsibilities and lives. We cannot expect to just “chill” all the time. So, setting aside a little one on one time may help maintain that “wow-factor” in your relationship. There are a lot of other activities you could participate in to keep your relationship interesting, but I will leave those things to you imagination. It’s all a question of what interests you and your beau. Notice I said you AND your beau. Which means if you like watching basketball all the time and your beau doesn’t, than that is not “quality time”; that is “you watching the game while I watch you time”. Be fair and rotate the activities if you must, but do not make “quality time” “me” time. Me time is a completely different concept.
Now, while “me” time is a different concept, it is also an equally healthy one. Be sure to make time for yourself, just as you make time for each other. Go to a movie with friends, go play a little basketball with your boys, or go out to lunch with your girlfriends. There’s nothing wrong with a little good-natured play-date. However, be sure that your time spent alone or with friends and your time spent with your beau balance out. You don’t want to crowd each other, but you don’t want to grow apart either.
Now, one bad relationship habit you want to look out for is mental infidelity or mental cheating. Ladies, do you have a male friend that loves shopping and gardening just as you do? Fellas, do you have a female friend that loves football and basketball just as much, if not more than you do? If you answered yes to one of these questions, then you may be guilty of mental infidelity.
Mental infidelity is basically when you have a friend of the opposite sex that you enjoy spending time with and doing things that your beau won’t do with you or things that your beau doesn’t like. This aspect of infidelity may not apply to all relationships; it really depends on the individuals involved as to if they are or are not offended by these opposite sex friendships.
Ladies, when you spend more time with your “man friend” than you do with your beau, but there is no physical attraction only mental connection (similar likes, dislikes, tastes, and hobbies) than you are basically sharing information, memories and time that you should be spending with your beau with your “man friend”.
Fellas, when you go out and play ball with your “lady friend” or invite her over to the house with the rest of the boys to watch the game, you basically invited her to take the spot that you have excluded your beau from filling.
The bottom line with mental infidelity is that you don’t want to offend your partner. If your man can handle you shopping with Bob or your woman can handle you watching the game with Cathy, than by all means, enjoy. But, if they tend to get jealous or defensive you may want to look into it. People usually never want to be apart of a certain aspect in your life unless you blatantly exclude them and put another person in their place.
However, ladies and gentlemen, please beware- DO NOT LET YOUR OPTIONS FOOL YOU. When I say this I mean do not let the fact that you have how ever many other men or women trying to talk to you make you leave a good and healthy relationship. A lot of people have been in good relationships and instead of trying to make it through the tough times and make the relationship work, they end up leaving the relationship to start a new one that they feel may be a lot less complicated.
NEWSFLASH: there is no such thing as an uncomplicated relationship.
Whether the complications are good or bad, there will always be some kind of obstacle. So, instead of bailing on a relationship that you think may not be worth the fight, think about what you may be leaving behind. Never leave the one you love for the one you like, because the one you like will one day leave you for the one that they love.
Another important tip that may help the relationship grow (it may help the individual more than the couple itself) is to make sure that you NEVER base your happiness around your partner. When I say that I mean never let how your relationship fluctuates dictate how you live your life. It is an unwise choice to plan your life around someone that you are not entirely sure will be around very long. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with making long term plans with someone that you have been with for the past three years. However, if you have been with someone for three DAYS, it would be a little ambitious to go ahead and start planning your honeymoon. One must have other things in one’s life that makes them happy such as friends, hobbies, family, a career; healthy things that one may fall back on when a relationship goes through its ups and downs. It is unhealthy to turn to eating, smoking, drinking and things of the sort when your relationship disappoints you and fails to meet your expectations of greatness and longevity. Also, make sure that you don’t have any “unfinished business” in any previous relationships. Make sure that you and your “previous beau” have thorough and complete closure on your relationship so that you (and they) will be able to move on without looking back every ten minutes. It’s impossible to move forward if you’re not watching where you’re going because you’re looking back and paying more attention to where you’ve been. Never leave things undone when leaving a relationship and entering into a new one; trust me, it will only create hostility in the relationship and make your beau a lot more hesitant when it comes to trusting you.
Couples should also never be afraid to compliment each other. Let your beau know how wonderful and spectacular you think they are every chance you get; there’s nothing wrong with a little good-natured compliment. Some relationships lose their luster because the two individuals are afraid to compliment and acknowledge one another’s attributes and flattering traits out of fear that if their partner finds out just how phenomenal and wonderful they are, they might leave them. But, if your beau decides to leave and see if they can do better, then God has greater things for you. Besides, they will realize what they lost once it is no longer theirs.
The strength of one’s family life also has a great deal to do with one’s ability to maintain strong and healthy relationships. Speaking from personal experience, my parents have taught me to have the highest self esteem and self efficacy. I have always been told by my parents that I should be treated as nothing less than a princess. And although I have received that message of confidence from both of my parents, I believe that the roots of that mentality find their greatest level of strength in the relationship that I had with my father.
A woman’s ability to have healthy relationships no doubt stems from the relationship she has with her father, the first and most prominent male figure in her life. Now, I am not saying that women who have bad relationships with their father’s will never have successful relationships otherwise; I am simply saying that the correlation between having a good father/daughter relationship and having good romantic relationships is more than just a hallucination.
The relationship that I had with my father taught me that there is no excuse for me to allow anyone, male or female, to treat me any kind of way. I was taught that I am an intelligent, articulate and beautiful young lady that should be treated as such. My body is my temple and if I let just anybody dwell there, there will not be much room for God, let alone myself. I was taught by my father that not just ANY man is good enough for me, because I don’t deserve “average”, I deserve “exceptional”. And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, my father always said he loved me. He told me that way when some man would come along and try to hit me with the “okie doke” and expect me to grovel at his feet by saying he loved me I could say, “My daddy tells me that ALL the time, tell me something I DON’T know.”
Friendships, contrary to popular belief are also very important and life changing relationships as well. No one wants to be alone. However, some people feel as though when they are apart of groups they lose themselves in the process. Life is about being apart of a group; being one fraction of the whole. The feeling one gets from knowing that they are apart of something much bigger than they are makes one feel accepted and needed. All of these feelings are normal; we all want to belong to something and be apart of something that is great and wonderful. We all want to be apart of something that we can look at at the end of the day and say, “That is me. I helped do that.”
However, acceptance is not as easy as it may sound. Before anyone else accepts you, you must first accept yourself. That swagger thing plays a big role in whether one is able to become apart of a group. When you seem as though you doubt yourself and your ability it is much harder for people to gravitate towards you. When you look unsure of yourself people think, “Why should I like you? YOU don’t even know if you like you.”
And who could blame them for thinking such things? Who knows you better than you (besides a few close friends maybe)? If you feel as though you are incapable you must take the chance to see whether or not you really are. I’m not saying join ten clubs and ignore all of them. I am simply saying be apart of something; a club, a church, a group, a family. Whatever you do, don’t go at this life alone. You don’t have to.
One of the best groups I ever had the privilege to be apart of was my high school step team, the North Stafford High School Wolverine Thunder Step Team. I don’t want to sound boastful or arrogant, but we were the best step team in the state of Virginia; as well as in the region according to our first place regional competition trophy. That team was my heart and soul for all four years I spent in high school. I joined my freshman year and was blessed to be chosen as captain my senior year. We had practices, sleepovers, and parties; and sometimes we would gather for practice, but instead we’d just order pizza and shoot the breeze. On that team I built lifelong friendships and bonds with some of the strongest and most wonderful people I had ever had the privilege to work with, compete with and share quality time with. When you apart of something so great it doesn’t fade away as easily as a temporary commitment does. I wouldn’t trade those four years or the people I encountered during that time for anything in this world.
I would also like to touch on the subject of domestic abuse. Now, contrary to popular belief, domestic abuse is not only physical; it is also mental, emotional and verbal. Some people feel as though these less hands-on forms of abuse are not abuse at all, however, think about how you would feel if someone you loved and cherished was constantly speaking down to you, treating you as if you were stupid, or cursing and using profane language toward you for no particular reason. It is incredible how one can acquire a severe case of learned helplessness when placed in a domestically abusive situation. The individual is as a child; looking to this idolized person for guidance, acceptance and approval and love. They will do whatever they must and put up with whatever they have to in order to earn those things.
It is simply unfair to make a person feel as though they are beneath deserving to be spoken to as an intelligent and capable adult. For this reason, it would be an outstanding rule of thumb to refrain from using curse words and profanity and especially name calling when having a dispute with your beau. It is a sign of respect and love and decency to speak to your loved one as you would have them speak to you. Not to mention the lack of enraging and negative words will ensure that your argument, not your anger, is heard. This way it will be much less hostility in your conversation.
Now, despite one’s attempts to avoid falling out of love, if the event is inevitable and seems to be the healthiest conclusion for both parties, then don’t fight it. So many people have missed out on the chance of a lifetime to be with their soul mates because they were so hung up on not having a “failed” relationship. But, everyone makes mistakes and just because your previous relationship did not work out, doesn’t mean your next one won’t. However, you have to decide whether or not the relationship is actually worth fighting for before you make the decision to call it quits.
The worse thing you can do when deciding whether or not to end a relationship is continue the relationship in hopes that you will eventually change your beau and/or receive the affection, physical or material gratification you have been waiting for from day one. For example, if your beau has always been a free loading, un-ambitious and less than goal-oriented individual, it is not wise to simply stick around in a relationship with them because “in the event that they get their life together”, you want to be there to reap the benefits. This is not a wise reason to stay in a dysfunctional relationship. Not only are you staying in the relationship for the wrong reasons in general, but you are also awaiting a conclusion that may never come. If love is not what’s keeping you in your relationship, chances are you do not need to be there.
There is a very distinct difference between “needing” someone and “wanting” someone.
When you “need” someone, it is implied that there is some degree of dependency involved. It’s almost more of a more nurturing relationship, such as between a child and a parent. If you need your beau, it is implied that it is not your choice to have them around; it’s as if you have no control over your innate dependency upon their presence, love and approval. However, when you “want” someone, it is your choice. You choose to have someone in your life and there is an implied interdependence where there is an exchange of responsibility, love and approval. When you want someone, as opposed to needing them, the relationship is much more mutual and balanced.
Balance is also a key component of a healthy relationship; balance of responsibility, attentiveness, care and love. There is nothing worse than being in a relationship where there is absolutely no reciprocity. There are some relationships where one person is on the giving end and one is on the receiving end and there is no exchange of positions. I know that I, personally, have been guilty of sometimes putting my beau a little too far ahead of myself. I am an innately nurturing person and even in my friendships, let alone my relationships, I have been guilty of thinking that other people sometimes need me more than I need myself. However, as my needs would fluctuate I often thought to myself and encourage others like me to think to themselves and even say to your semi or severely selfish beau, “If you’re thinking and caring about you and I’m thinking and caring about you, then WHO is thinking and caring about me?” Honestly, ask yourself that question. It is a hard lesson to learn for us empathetic thinkers, but you cannot constantly put your needs on the back-burner for other people. Eventually, you need to be taken care of as well. We sometimes get so caught up in other factors of life that we forget or neglect to do the things we know we should be doing because they are things we do out of common sense. It’s kind of like the stop, drop and roll method; it’s drilled into our minds from childhood that in the event that we somehow are set on fire or engulfed in flames we are to stop where we are, drop down to the ground and roll around on the floor to smother the flames. Such common sense goes out the window when you are in the middle of a crisis. Impulse rather than intuition takes over.
With that being said, it would be wise for you to watch out for certain people that you allow to come into your life. My pastor at our college chapel at Hampton university once gave us a sermon that was based on the three types of people you d and do not need in your life. He used a metaphor that compared the three needed and unneeded people to parts of the human body. The first body part that was needed was the head. The head holds your brain. It makes you smart. He advised us to surround ourselves by people that are smarter than us so that we can absorb the knowledge they have to offer. The second body part that was needed was the hand. The hand represents manual work. After we learn from the HEADS in our life, we need to get some people that are like our hands. These people help us take the things we learn and put them into practice. The third body part needed was the heart. The heart represents love. There is no need to use our HEAD to learn and our HANDS to work if we have no HEART to love something or someone. The heart teaches us to be compassionate, kind, and loving towards others.
The first body part that was not needed was the tonsils. The tonsils are useless. While in the womb the tonsils provide a means for T-cells to reach our body; however, after we are born they are useless. They serve no purpose. And sometimes they become infected. And NOTICE that the doctor does not try to fix your tonsils; he simply REMOVES THEM. People who are like the TONSILS are fine when we are young, but eventually they become infectious with bad influence and negative impact; and then they must be REMOVED in order for us to be healthy and grow. The second body part that was not needed was the appendix. The appendix is a minimal helper. Sure, for a while it provides our bodies with nutrients that help us stay healthy, but sometimes it too becomes infected and then instead of GIVING us nutrients, it becomes a sponge and begins to TAKE nutrients away from us. And like the tonsils, the doctor does not try to fix it, he simply REMOVES it. People who are like the APPENDIX are sneaky. They seem giving and helpful, but sometimes they turn on us and began to SPONGE off of us and all they do is TAKE. The third and final body part that was not needed was the wisdom tooth. The wisdom tooth is tricky. Sure, it sounds good. “The WISDOM tooth”; it sounds like it’s the best tooth in our mouth. However, the wisdom tooth does things on the sneak tip. When it comes in, it usually comes in LATE. And when it comes in late, it has the nerve to come in CROOKED. And when it comes in crooked it throws all of our other teeth off and messes up their alignment. People that are like the WISDOM TOOTH are sneaky. They usually are late when you need them the most. When they finally show up, they show up crooked with an ulterior motive, and by showing up crooked, they end up throwing off everything we have planned for our lives. The pastor making these comparisons helped many of us in the congregation realize that we had some people in our lives that were helping us grow and mature and some people in our lives that we had to let go because they were extremely detrimental to our growth. Sometimes one really must evaluate their life and do a human inventory. Eventually you have to let people go and appreciate those who deserve your appreciation more.
Now, I know it may seem as if we’ve covered a lot of ground, but there is one more relationship tip that I personally believe may help your relationship stay a-float: never make your current partner pay for a past partner’s mistakes.
Maybe you’ve been hurt a few times; cheated on or mistreated in other ways. I understand your pain and hesitation to trust people. However, how dare you ask your woman or man to pay for another woman’s or man’s mistakes?
Your last man cheated and you left him; that’s good. But, how dare you transfer all the anger and interrogation you put on your last man to your new man who has done nothing to deserve such accusations? When you do that you’re basically saying, “Ok, my last man committed the crime, but he got away. So, since you’re here you’re going to have to pay his debt to society.” Don’t run off a good man because of your past “man problems”.
Men and women alike, never allow a past hurt or bad encounter to stop you from having the good, healthy and long lasting relationships that you deserve. You’re only cheating yourself.
Also, if you’ve been hurt or cheated on, never give up on the opposite sex and start doing to them as others have done to you. Cheating is not cool. If you know what it feels like to be cheated on and mistreated, then why would you want to make somebody else feel that way; especially if they don’t deserve it? It’s understandable that misery loves company and hurt people, hurt people; but in the long run all you’re really doing is joining in on the vicious cycle that corrupted you to begin with. And by doing that, you’re corrupting others. And that folks, is STRICTLY MY OPINION.