What is a healthy example of love? If you really think about it, how was love shown to you growing up? Do you even know how much your childhood affected your love life as an adult? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves because, let's face it, we all want that love story we've seen on TV or in the movies—even if we aren't saying it out loud. But who's to say we are making the right moves to find not just a relationship, but a healthy one?
Whether you are team Love Jones or team Martin and Gina, how we perceive a healthy love can be based on so many things. And that is not excluding our upbringing. While love can look different for so many people, as long as we can all acknowledge that love should not feel like a challenge, then, we are on the right track. With the right person, love should be beneficial for both partners physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Periodt.
I recently chatted with someone who believes he grew up with healthy examples of love, which has helped him with how he approaches love and dating today. And that person, my friends, is actor Arlen Escarpeta. Arlen was born in Belize and moved to the United States at an early age with his mother. He pursued his acting career after college and landed his first movie role in Playaz Court in 2000. After that, he secured several TV roles including one in the legal series Boston Public, as well as police dramas The Shield and Boomtown. He also starred as Bobby Brown in the Lifetime original film Whitney.
Image courtesy of Shamayim
His most recent role is on OWN's coming-of-age drama series David Makes Man, a show created by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight). The drama centers around a teenaged prodigy named David who lives in the projects but tries to navigate his way between his neighborhood and his prestigious school. A newcomer to the series, Arlen plays JG, David's brother, who brings grounding to the young man. He's a rising businessman facing an opportunity that will change him and his community forever. (If you haven't checked out this OWN series, you should. It's so good!)
For this second season, Arlen's bringing the jokes and realness, and he's making the audience feel all the feels. At the same time, in his personal life, Arlen is making sure that he is making time in his love life to be the best human he can be and exude that healthy example of love he learned about while growing up.
xoNecole: In 'David Makes Man,' we see a time-lapse between younger versions of the characters and the older version. If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be and why?
Arlen Escarpeta: Well, something I have learned over the years is that procrastination is not the way to go. I am still learning that now. I consider myself a healthy procrastinator. I recognize the faults of it now whereas before, I would just tell myself I have more time. Since then, I have learned I can get a lot more done when I give myself enough time in the upfront to get things accomplished. When you realize that procrastinating is not the way to go, the better off you'll be.
When you were growing up, who was the most influential person in your life and why?
It sounds so cliche and I am sure a lot of men say this, but it is definitely my mother. My father died when I was very young and my mother moved from Belize to the States. Growing up, my mom was the sole provider and she kept the whole family above water. Her tenacity, drive, faith, and her whole spirit is intertwined in everything that I do.
Do you believe that societal pressures of what a man is supposed to be have affected how men and women date nowadays?
I think the pressures of social media have definitely affected the way people approach one another when it comes to dating. Back in the day, the guy that had the best pickup line got the girl. Nowadays it's about sliding in someone's DM and hopefully, you get a response. Even though things have changed, I still believe people are still looking for that real connection with someone. It's just wrapped in a different package.
"Back in the day, the guy that had the best pickup line got the girl. Nowadays it's about sliding in someone's DM and hopefully, you get a response. Even though things have changed, I still believe people are still looking for that real connection with someone. It's just wrapped in a different package."
Did you have healthy examples of love growing up? If so, what did you learn about love that you apply to your own relationships?
I think I had plenty of healthy examples around me growing up. I am a hopeless romantic. I was influenced by TV too and would see all these romantic gestures. I'm the type of guy that will go out and get you flowers just because. I want my girl to feel special. But what I have learned about gestures is that the simple ones are just as important as the big ones. It doesn't have to be a grand scale gesture all the time. Something as simple as loading the dishwasher can be received and appreciated the same as a bouquet of flowers. My current partner taught me this as well. Love can be simple.
Another thing I have learned from healthy examples of love is knowing when to walk away in a relationship. I learned that from my mother. When my mother divorced my stepdad, she knew that she deserved more. And now she has more. It is about setting boundaries for yourself and knowing when letting go of a person is better than just holding on. You have to do what makes you happy and [know] what is a better situation for the both of you.
Is it important for you to feel safe within your own relationship? If so, what does feeling safe look like for you?
It is absolutely important to feel safe in a relationship. Feeling safe for me is me being able to say whatever I want to say and trust that my partner hears and understands me. Feeling safe is having effective communication. I know we are going to bump heads sometimes. So being able to have a disagreement with my partner one moment, talk it out, and still be able to kiss them on the forehead, later on, is healthy to me. I honestly believe that if you are not having those uncomfortable discussions in your relationship, then you are not growing.
"Feeling safe is having effective communication. Being able to have a disagreement with my partner one moment, talk it out, and still be able to kiss them on the forehead, later on, is healthy to me. I honestly believe that if you are not having those uncomfortable discussions in your relationship, then you are not growing."
Image courtesy of Shamayim
What is one thing you think a man should work on for himself before he's ready to be in a relationship?
Having accountability. Men are not always held to the highest standards and can get away with some things sometimes. So, while we are quick to judge others, we really have to look at ourselves and call out some of the things that we do. I think accountability can help men receive what they want to receive and communicate better what's on their mind when they enter a relationship.
What advice do you have for single women who may overthink what it means to impress a guy in dating?
If I am speaking just to women, single or in relationships, I would say that it is important to not misrepresent yourself and let it lead the way. What I mean is, that mask that you put on in the beginning, you are going to have to keep that up. The longer you keep that mask on, the less the man is able to really know you. I know we put on masks mainly to protect ourselves. But when you are comfortable with yourself, it is easier to be comfortable with a potential partner. So you are better off being honest and allowing them to like you/love you for who you really are.
In your opinion, what are your three best qualities that you bring to a relationship?
Just three?! I mean I have a long list! Well, I know I mentioned accountability earlier but I think it is a very important quality to have in a relationship—like being aware of what your flaws are. The other quality I have is to be able to trust. You have to trust your partner and you have to be able to trust yourself. For the third quality, I would have to say I am passionate. You need to have passion in a relationship to keep it going. Passion helps keep the spark alive.
What is one thing that people do not notice about you right away that you wish they did when it comes to love and relationships?
I come across as a "glass full" type person. But honestly, I can be a big old baby. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I don't think a lot of people know that about me.
What would you say is your biggest fear about relationships?
Because I am a hopeless romantic, God forbid the relationship ends and my partner no longer views me as a good person. I ask myself, 'Are we able to be friends afterward, or do they see me as the bad guy in the end?' I never want to be the bad guy.
Even when you try to do everything right, there are still circumstances that you have no control over that could lead to a relationship ending. So, with this fear of mine, I try to remind myself it's not about being the good guy or the bad guy. It is about staying true to yourself and putting your best foot forward.
To learn more about Arlen, follow him on Instagram.
Featured image courtesy of Shamayim