How do you know whether a relationship is toxic or you’re just going through a temporary difficulty?
There is no clear-cut answer, but true love doesn’t make you suffer. When you reveal your truest vulnerability, you don’t want to have to teach Empathy 101 to your partner. You want to feel okay even in your not okayness.
Who decided that not being able to sleep, losing your appetite and not being able to concentrate meant you are falling in love? In love, out of love, nobody to love didn’t matter. When I felt like that, it meant I was anxious or obsessing about something. Love should never make you feel bad inside. I believe that society and the media has promoted a very unreal representation: if you aren’t suffering emotionally you aren’t truly in love. Love doesn’t make you lose your sensibilities. Love does not make you accept being treated poorly. Love doesn’t make you sit by the phone for hours or make you drive to her apartment in a jealous rage to see who she’s with. “Love doesn’t hurt. Love is a safe place to be.” I agree with you Oprah.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve not been the most loving or the most loveable to folks I claimed to love. I’ve blamed, shamed, accused and judged in anger. Certainly, most of my reactions and behaviors were learned. But there comes a point where you put away childish things. It’s childish to lose your temper or attack someone verbally. Proof of maturity is one’s ability to control his own tongue. His own actions. His own thoughts. Love is spiritual. It is not born of Ego.
Love is perfect. People aren’t. That’s where the suffering comes to play. People are flawed. Think about it. Loving someone doesn’t hurt. It’s when we can’t set appropriate boundaries or when we can’t let go of seeking validation from that person. It’s our need for things to be different. Perhaps even a little denial that gets us stuck. Hurt feelings. An unmet expectation. An inability to move beyond the past. The need for answers, for closure, for revenge. All these things make us suffer. I am not suggesting that we are robots. All I am saying is we need to call it what it is. Love is not what’s making us suffer. Need perhaps, but not love. India Aire is one of my favorite Neo Soul artist; however, I don’t agree with her lyrics when she sings, “Love made a fool of me. Tell me why.”
I remember a very stressful time in my life. My son was probably around 3 years old. I was a single parent, living from paycheck to paycheck. My credit card was about maxed out from taking up the slack when rent was due. I was struggling to make ends meet. Life was overwhelming! I snapped at my son if he did the slightest thing. When I did, a piece of his self esteem would fall to the floor. I felt guilty and remorseful sometimes. At others, I convinced myself that he was deserving of my actions because of what he did.
This went on longer than I think it should have. My son started saying stuff like, “I’ll be good mommy so you won’t get mad.” “I’m sorry, mommy, I’ll be good.” He was starting to blame himself for my irritability. Well, one day after I gave him a pretty severe verbal whipping, I heard a voice rise from within me. It was firm. “Don’t you apologize to him not one more time if you’re not gonna change.” Stopped me dead in my tracks. I realized that I was wrong and began to ask God to help me. That same voice said, “What can you do?” I began to consider the resources at my disposal, one being family counseling. I made the call.
I understand that it’s almost impossible to be in your 40’s or older without baggage. Whether you share a child with an ex, are caring for a sick parent, are still trying to dig yourself out post-divorce, have mounting medical issues, we got something that has to be managed. A dear friend of mine and I examined and discussed this at length. Yes, there may be external issues but there shouldn’t be internal issues. The baggage shouldn’t be emotional baggage. At some point, we have to make our peace with stuff we’ve been through.
I’ve heard single men and women ask, “where are all the good men?” “Where are all the good women?” To this I say, you have to be the change you want to see in others. How in the world do you think you are even remotely ready for a relationship when you can’t get out of your own head? “I have standards,” you might argue. I challenge this. What most folks say is their standard is nothing more than an ideal. Pure and simple. Ideals are self-serving and not grounded in what really matters. Standards, on the other hand, are substantive. They are best expressed in our values and our character. Values like love of family and country. Values like respecting womanhood or honoring manhood. Values like being a person of your word. The ideal man may be the one who wines and dines you. Standards however make you look at what’s behind his behavior. If he is only doing it to impress you or obligate you to have sex with him, then that’s manipulative. If she’s only dating you to get her light bill paid, that’s extortion.
Life is a reflection of who we are. If we can’t find a good relationship partner, then what part are we playing? I had to ask myself that. What was I doing that kept bringing me what I didn’t want? Many of us were taught that it was our ability to accommodate a man’s needs that made us marriageable. That might have worked back in the day, but men and women are in a different place now. So what if you can cook, go to church, have a great job or look good. That’s not enough to experience true love and a committed partner. Are you open and have a good spirit about you? Are you warm and genuine to those whom you date or are you a critic? Do you believe that a good man or good woman would want you? What you believe about yourself and the energy that you put out is what needs your attention not another tip on how to better market yourself. I don’t know who said it, but it is true. We attract what we believe we deserve.