In last week’s column, I outlined four self-defeating behaviors that women do that hurt their chances of having a healthy relationship. Men, particularly Black men, seem to catch a lot of flack nowadays for their supposed universal aversion towards love and commitment. As much as we’re led to believe that they aren’t interested in anything more than a little bump and grind, men do want and need to be loved just as much as women.
Of course, women don’t have the market cornered on fear based ways of interrelating that I like to call “Dubious Dating Behaviors." Given the expectation that a 'strong Black man' is in control of his emotions at all times, it’s no wonder that there is often a disparity between what they say and how they act. Men feel fear and anxiety just as much as women. However, due to the prevailing cultural expectation that real men “suck it up," they are often uncomfortable expressing a full range of nuanced emotions that include vulnerability or tenderness, emotions which if acknowledged could improve their overall emotional health and that of the relationship.
So in the spirit of levity, I want to offer my brothers the following four common behaviors they I’ve observed them make when dating. Again, I know that missteps aren’t limited by gender, but I’ve seen many men actively sabotage what could be an otherwise healthy relationship by taking a largely passive approach towards relating.
- Failure to plan in advance: The future isn’t guaranteed and neither are your cousin’s courtside seats to the Knicks game. Since you never know when he’ll invite you (or when your frat brothers will want to have an impromptu drinking outing at TGIFridays), make sure to keep your calendar as open as possible. Basically, don’t commit to any plans until you’re 100% certain that there’s no male bonding opportunity on the table for the day. Besides, women love, love, love the game of “Beat the Clock” that comes with getting dressed for a date with less than three hours’ notice. And it’s common knowledge that we emotionally thrive on unpredictable male behavior. Message sent: “My needs come first. Your time is less valuable than mine.”
- Keeping your relationship status a secret: There’s no need to destroy an opportunity for true love over something as changeable as relationship status. Any man with common sense knows it’s never a smart practice, in love or in business, to eliminate all your options. Plus, if she’s really “the one” she’ll forgive you for not being 100% upfront about the “roommate” whom you have been sleeping with for three years. Because if she can’t forgive you for something as small as this, Lord knows she doesn’t have what it takes to be your wife for the long haul. Message sent: “I’m too afraid of rejection to tell you the truth. My expectations of a woman’s understanding are fantasy based and unreasonable.”
- Having undefined sex as quickly as possible: Unexpressed sexual tension between two people is so, well uncomfortable. The best way to alleviate this feeling is to get it over and done with, preferably before you’ve defined the boundaries of your relationship. Being the giving, considerate lover that you are, you want to make sure that she gets what she needs out of your shared sexual experiences…after all, she might not be as responsive if she knew she wasn’t the only one. Besides, what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her and if you’re meant to be together it’ll somehow work itself out over time. Message sent: “I need immediate gratification and enjoy drama. My need for sexual variety will come before the health of our relationship.”
- Only knowing one strategy – defense: Real men know that knowledge is power, so in keeping with The 48 Laws of Power, your beloved primer on balanced and healthy human interactions, always say less than necessary because it’s a proven fact that women love to read between the lines. Real men also don’t leave anything to chance and are always prepared for the worst. So don’t say a word to her about that mental checklist you’ve been silently keeping of the 1,001 things that could go wrong between you. It’s very hard to leave a relationship without any resistance on her part when she’s had time to prepare a prosecutorial argument on her and the relationship’s behalf. Message sent: “I’m afraid you will use what you know against me. I’m more committed to protecting my position than supporting our relationship.”
I get that male and female gender roles, personality pre-dispositions and social conditioning play a large part of how a person interrelates. Regardless of gender, honesty, self-confidence, open communication, and courage are a requirement for anyone hoping to connect on deep and meaningful level with another human being.
To cite an overused idiom, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.” If you are having the same issue repeatedly in your intimate relationships, it’s probably time to stop focusing on what your partner is or isn’t doing and start looking at exactly how you’re contributing to the problem.
Sil Lai Abrams is EBONY.com’s Relationship Expert, author of No More Drama: 9 Simple Steps to Transforming a Breakdown into a Breakthrough and a board member of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. You can follow her on Twitter: @sil_lai and connect with her on Facebook. Want her advice? Email [email protected] to have your love questions answered in a future column!