The idea of growth is one that I’m still helplessly navigating- it’s a concept that seems so abstract but yet very concrete. In relationships, when the conversation pertaining to growth arises – it almost never includes emotional or mental health, emotional intelligence, self-awareness that results in self-reflection, unlearning abusive and unhealthy life patterns etc. It almost always includes attaining ‘x’ amount of degrees, cars, houses, or a certain amount of liquid assets, and while financial stability is imperative – self-work is just as or even more necessary.
So why do some men only know of growth after they’ve inflicted hurt and pain? Why is society so fixated on the woman’s role in a man’s life after he’s done the latter? Have we normalized these patterns? These are not questions I often ask myself, but they are important nonetheless, and I apologize in advance for my scattered thoughts.
In our society, we teach boys to be men before they are men, we teach boys to suppress their emotions or respond with violence, aggression and/ or silence, instead of identifying with the appropriate emotion. While most women are taught to be soft, timid, and “emotional”, obviously these behaviors are not innate. The seeming detachment that some men have from their emotions is not only harmful to their lovers, but most importantly – themselves. I’ve heard so many men refer to women as over- emotional and “illogical”- I’m not saying that such a thing does not exist. However, this phrase is often weaponized and used when a drop of emotion is present. The ability to adequately identify and process your emotions and feelings, plus that of others is not “a woman’s thing” – it’s emotional intelligence.
The notion that suggests that a woman’s strength is measured by how much emotional and mental trauma she endures from her partner is unfair, illogical, and quite annoying. The mindset that is centered on a woman “building her man up” is unhealthy for so many reasons. Firstly, it places a majority of the emotional labor on the woman and it also pushes another idea that women have to be “finished products” and still accept a man who doesn’t even know that there’s growth to be made, let alone the initiation of that process. It essentially indulges men into thinking that emotional immaturity and unintelligence, infidelity, and such, are acceptable and part of the test for a woman’s worth. It also subconsciously convinces women that they have to settle for such a partner.
In a partnership, I think fidelity or the lack thereof has become salient in most because society has made a privilege out of honesty and respect. However, to introduce accountability- its 2017, so we expect folks to continuously challenge what they’ve been taught. I’ve heard so many women say “a man will cheat regardless, so just pick one” but I refuse to accept that distorted reality where respect, accountability, and honesty are nonexistent. Also, accepting that reality would mean that NO man possesses the capacity to love, and be completely honest with and respectful of his partner.
In dealing with toxic lovers in the past, I had to tap into my self worth, self respect and self love- this was all I needed to leave. If I don’t treat myself like that, why should I stay with a lover who does? Why should I subject myself to unnecessary pain and damage that might take a lifetime to unlearn? Most importantly, is this the love that I deserve?
Essentially- what does my love look like? And this is where self- work comes in, because in order to answer that question and live by it, I simply believe that you have to know and understand the answer. Ironically, I don’t know what my love looks like; I think love is something I’ll leave undefined, because I constantly meet people who reconstruct what I thought it was, so I never want to limit myself in that area…However, I know what my love does not look like- and that’s my saving grace.
I believe love and partnership is beautiful and equal. It is not perfect, it is work but it doesn’t leave you damaged and broken. I firmly believe in pouring the love into myself first, in order to pour into my family and friends, and lover. I’m definitely not a “ride or die”- I’ll leave the moment I sense toxicity, as I’m unapologetically selfish in that aspect.
I love myself way too much to sit through unnecessary pain and trauma that is disguised as love and I’m also surrounded by so much love that it makes it difficult to settle for someone who thinks my worth lies within my ability to stay through bullshit.
I understand that some women are “ride or dies” and others- like me, are not…so to each her own.
For the women who want so much more out of love – I hope you understand that the resumption of a relationship does not validate forgiveness, as it’s for self first. Forgiveness is something like freedom because it has more to do with self than anything else. Keep choosing you; keep your discernment, as your desires are normal and very realistic.
By: Bianca Onwukwe
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