Well y’all, we’ve made it to 2020! We have gotten through the holidays, survived ‘burn-out” January, and are now rolling right into February (shout out to Black History Month). I love the month of February for several reasons: there is much less pressure than the holidays bring; we’ve had time to budget our finances back to normalcy, and we are into Mardi Gras season, and it’s amazing festivals and celebrations (That’s for my Louisiana fam!). When I run into Wal-Mart, I see the aisles decorated with all things Mardi Gras, proof of the seasons’ broad appeal, but don’t be misled, there is another fully embraced commercial holiday in bloom, across the retail aisles, are the Valentine’s Day merchandise. *insert eye-rolling gif here*
While it may feel like we have all just leaped into the future, there are a great many things about our good ol’ millennial generation that seem to be stuck in the past. With reminded of the fast-approaching commercial holiday, my mind drifts to consider where my 20-somethings and 30-something friends and acquaintances are in their “love” lives.
To be perfectly honest about it, I think dating has become absolute ghetto. Now don’t get it twisted, I still have some active romantic genes in my bloodstream, and try to occasionally figure out how love and relationship may work their way into my day to day, so I won’t try to play the know it all adviser on how to catch a man, much less keep one, but I think I can share some sisterly advice on moving into your 2020 love life with a fresh and clean slate, and more realistic expectations. We can do better, y’all! Everyone deserves lasting, meaningful love, on our own terms, no matter how long it takes to get there. Following is food for thought, to help recognize the good, the bad, and the ugly of personal engagement as well as relationship sabotage that may sound familiar as part of your own behavior:
Comparison Kills Joy
All love a good proposal video, right? And we all have a favorite episode of Say Yes to the Dress. And there’s the undeniable and irresistible appeal of romantic movies where love conquers all. We have grown up seeing and enjoying these sorts of things, and yes they offer beautiful scripted moments. But sometimes these moments can leave us feeling as if we are lacking or missing out on our beautiful moments. Seeing someone happy and in love should not suggest that there is a lack of love in your life, sis. People receive their blessings at different times in different ways.
A real gem of insight I received in therapy involves addressing loneliness. My therapist asked, “Where do you go when you need to receive love?” I responded, “I have many different ways and places to go to receive love, it doesn’t always involve a man or even another person.” She stopped me and asked me if I heard what I just said, and told me how mature and profound of a statement I had offered.
We have to remind ourselves that while we may not have a fancy proposal to post for a bunch of likes or someone to be booed up with all the time, our life is still full of love. I can go visit my nieces and nephews, grab a drink with my girlfriends, or visit my hometown to feel loved, and embrace “beautiful moments” at will! Comparing your love life to those of others will leave you feeling lonely and questioning the beauty of your joyful moments. Feeling doubtful that love will ever come your way and even doubtful that you deserve the grand love that you imagine and so desire. I am happy to tell you that you are wrong to measure or compare your joys, and beautiful moments, and Love against anything.
Leave the “List” in the Last Decade
Let us all agree to not bringing unrealistic expectations of a relationship or a man/partner into 2020. PERIOD! We have all heard about Ciara’s prayer, and her subsequent falling in love with Russell Wilson. Now that is an undeniable grade-A manifestation of answered prayer.
While I 100% believe in the power of God to bring things to pass or to deliberately answer prayers immediately or over time, but we need to be mindful of what we seek in prayer. Writing out a list of traits or characteristics you wish to find in a partner is a relatively rationale way to consider what you are looking for. In effect, seeing it all spelled out on paper can be helpful in highlighting things that you may otherwise overlook or by some means skip over. In reviewing your list, one must keep several questions in mind, such as, Am I being realistic? Am I being too critical? Why do I want a particular trait? If the qualities you seek in a partner involve height limits, or income levels, or whether your ideal partner is willing to show you off via social media, and that’s part of your list, well, first of all, I need you to grow up and second, you need to edit that list! For example, financial stability or being financially responsible is admirable, and having a clear, direct point like that on your list is reasonable, but expecting someone to have a six-figure income or more may be a stretch.
Maybe the most reasonable consideration for your list should be to only include things that you, yourself, are bringing to the table. The goal is to be equally yoked. Better yet, make your list and trash it…… and turn to your judge of character, with an emphasis on the honesty, integrity, and spiritual foundation of an ideal mate. Without a doubt, no matter how finely tuned your list, or how well your prospective partner meets your list criteria, if they fail in possession and portrayal of honesty and integrity, you might want to be smart and reconsider your selection methodology.
Technology vs Connection
You are a social media fiend like many of us, you know all about thirst-trapping, sliding in the DM’s, and so on. As an unattached single person, these are day-to-day activities on social media, but things are different when you use social media while involved in a relationship. Of course, the feeling of being “Facebook official” is a special high better than most any drug. The feeling of being claimed publicly, online, by someone you love? Oh yeah, it’s great. But, sometimes we can find ourselves forcing our relationships into overall “goals” online. Not so great. We can all appreciate a noble “relationship goal” couple on the ‘gram, but please, from 2020 on, let’s recognize and respect that nothing is as good as it seems.
Some people really may be in classic love and truly enjoy sharing photos of one another with cute captions, but on the flip side, some people make a habit of sharing impressions of their significant other as a means of seeking validation – validation from others who like or comment on the photo, which in turn offers a sense of validation of them.
I love using social media, as my love language involves sending memes to someone multiple times a day. But I have come to feel extremely hesitant to share someone I’m dating online, it’s just not my thing to go public with my personal affections. We are well-served to remember that social media was designed to bring people closer together, and it offers a great opportunity in this vain, but if you find that it drives a wedge in your relationship, either drop the partner or drop the app because such wedges are difficult to impossible to heal. Your choice.
Doing the Work
Season (or two) of singleness can be such a blessing. It gives you time to reflect and prepare for the relationships and connections to come in the future. The phrase “Doing the work” comes from Iyanla, Save My Life! In the intro of the show, Iyanla Vanzant talks about doing the work — which is confronting issues, healing, and preparing for what is to come next—which, is undeniably a lot of work! In this decade, we must commit ourselves to NOT go into romantic relationship broken. We are speaking about personal healing. Growth. Change. We are bettering ourselves and breaking generational curses on the way!
“Doing the work” may involve many things, such as going to therapy, abstaining from dating or sexual intimacy, or simply taking time to learn more about oneself.
“Doing the work” can also include visiting places mentally and internally that are difficult and unwelcoming. Revisiting unpleasant childhood experiences, your relationship with your parents, dating experiences and many other factors may affect the way we approach relationships without us even knowing. To have those breakthroughs and see the light on the other side, you have to be prepared to get a little dirty.
Often, you will need to dig deep and address some things in your life before you can dive into a new relationship. Being honest and pragmatic with yourself may be the most meaningful and important attributes you will bring into the relationship. You may bring the best you to the relationship, but how do you inspire the best of your partner? It is important to understand that the wellbeing of your partner is just as crucial to the relationship as your own. At time even more important, as they have to deal with your shortcomings!
Patience, perseverance, courage, and discernment rooted in a sincere desire for a fruitful relationship are required for a successful outcome. It is all part of “Doing the work”! Let’s unwrap the requirement for discernment, the purposeful application of the knowledge and wisdom from your past. You can’t see the future, but you have a 20/20 view of the past! Fear, passion, and desire have a way of blinding us to what lies before our eyes. If it works, work it, but if you see disaster, compartmentalize the relationship and redirect. Remember your list?
Maybe you need a new one to remind you what you think you want and apply the courage to choose the proper course. Accept the fact that relationships entail risk! From acquaintances to friends, lovers, and partners, it all entails risk, and our response to risk is anxiety and ultimately fear. Mature adults who have “Done the Work” learn to recognize their risk response and appropriately manage it to avoid the shut-down and sabotage that too often accompanies our feelings of anxiety in the face of uncertainty. …..
Celebrate being Single!
Single does not mean you are alone. Read that sentence again. Anything is what you make it. Being single can be the greatest adventure of your life if you want it to be. This is a time for exploration, creating connections, and new experiences. Spending Valentine’s Day as a single person can be a reason to celebrate yourself. Valentine’s Day is a day for celebrating love right? Well, how about celebrating self-love? The love of your close friends? Your family’s love? All these avenues of affection are worthy of a celebration, it doesn’t have to be limited to romantic love.
Single on Valentine’s Day leaves you open to whatever you may wish to pursue. Romance, friendship, platonic dating, or whatever. The romantic notions we have come to enjoy in movies and social media posts are not the rule anymore. They are entertaining and quite appealing to some but I have come to see it as scripted to prompt a response. I like to keep my own counsel and play it by ear when I can. No expectations and perfectly fine doing it alone. I like to have options in all I do, and approaching Valentine’s Day as a single adult offers a wealth of options, to chill or seek adventure, making the most and getting the most out of the day!
Courtney D. Johnson is a fashion industry professional, or “pro-fashion-al” as she likes to call it, a freelance stylist, and writer. She is a published and award-winning fashion scholar and researcher, and a proud HBCU alumna. Courtney loves to research and write about Black beauty, style, and culture, as well as being an advocate for mental health. She is a proud auntie who loves to spend time with her nieces and nephews, friends, and family as much as she can. Courtney currently resides in the greatest city in the world, New Orleans, LA. Follow her on Instagram @_xoxocourtney
Featured photo: Unknown
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