I'm not on social media, so some things I miss when they are trending. Take the #HurtBae hashtag that went viral a couple of years ago. I just saw all of the videos recently. Whew. If you're not familiar with the backstory, there's a platform called Iris that featured a former couple—Kourtney and Leonard. The first six-minute-and-some-change video consisted of them discussing/processing the ending of their relationship (according to Leonard, he slept with so many other women while they were together that he lost count). The second five-minute-and-some-change video was about Kourtney talking about the first video going viral and how it literally changed her life overnight. The final a-little-over-seven-minutes video brought Kourtney and Leonard back together, a year later, to see where things stood (Leonard, Leonard, Leonard).
The reason why I'm intro'ing this particular topic by recommending that you check—or re-check—those videos out is for a few reasons. One reason is because it is one of the best examples of the kind of man you should never take back into your life—as a boyfriend or a friend (Leonard's pride was ridiculous; he was mad flippant and disrespectful too). Another reason is, if you're currently going through a break-up with someone, the year later follow-up is a hopeful reminder that time heals all wounds and 12 months can totally change your life for the better (hang in there). And finally, the video series is the opposite of what this article is about. Kourtney revisited why it was good to never reconcile with Leonard; this is about how to know if an ex truly wants you back.
Reconciling with an ex isn't always or automatically a bad—or stupid or pointless—thing. No two people are perfect. Sometimes break-ups happen so that both individuals can mature, evolve and come back together at a better, healthier and more purposeful time. But if that is indeed the case, there are certain things that should transpire first. So, before entertaining letting an ex back into your heart and life again, make sure that he does these following five things (at least).
He’ll Acknowledge His Faults—WITHOUT DEFLECTING
There's someone who really hurt my feelings this time last year. Last month, we met up. Kind of like Kourtney and Leonard, only without the cameras. Anyway, although he let me share how what he did affected me, not once did he apologize. It was more like, he listened and explained why he does what he does without really owning up to how supremely jacked up he can be when it comes to matters of the heart. In fact, there was a time in the convo when he said, "No one else in my life wants to have these kinds of conversations." (No one holds you accountable?) Oh, here was another gem—"Honestly, I'm here more for you than for me." Ohhh…you hurt me but rather than acknowledge what you did wrong, you want me to be thankful that you're even out here at all. #thisguy
You know, not too long ago, a friend of mine told me that their spouse never apologizes for anything and that is something that I might have to accept in order to salvage things with ole' boy. NOPE. An apology is an act of acknowledgement and humility. Someone who isn't willing to do that is someone who is setting you up to go through the same drama and trauma all over again. I'll pass.
So yeah, sis, if "he" really wants you back and he knows there are things that he did wrong (or that simply hurt you because that's not always the same thing as "doing wrong") in the first place, he's gonna bring up where he went wrong, apologize and share, without any prompting on your part, how he's going to do better in those areas. Because his love for you will be bigger than his pride (cue in Sade's "Love Is Stronger than Pride" right here).
He’ll Want to Know Your Needs. And Wants.
Clearly, if the both of you were getting your needs met (not just you, him too), things probably wouldn't have ended in the first place. But sometimes, when you're in the throes of a relationship, you're so busy trying to make it work that you're not always stopping to process if you both are bringing to the table what's required for the relationship to thrive in the first place. Sometimes a break-up lets you see if the love you had for each other really is enough to try and give things another shot.
If your ex comes to the conclusion that it is, he's already gonna know that it's an honor for him to even get a second chance. He's also going to be painfully aware of the fact that if things go south this time, there probably won't be another opportunity. For both of these reasons, he will be proactive about getting to know what you need in order to be fulfilled and happy this go around. He won't assume he knows. He won't be shocked if the time apart has revealed to you that some of your needs have changed. He'll need you, so what you need from him (within reason; check out "Are You in Love or Are You in Need?" to get what I mean by that) will be a top priority. Some of your wants—also within reason—will be as well.
He’ll Be a Better Version of the Man Who Left
There are three online dating series that I currently enjoy. One is called Can 2 Strangers Fall in Love with 36 Questions? It's a reminder to be intentional with truly getting to know someone on your first few dates with them (Russell and Kera and Azariah and Nikki are two of my favorite couples so far). Another is Eating with My Ex. In a particular episode, exes Jas and Ash ask each other (among others) four super-relevant questions: Why can't we let go? Are you always trying to win me back? Where do we go from here?Delete each other's number or get back together? (If you are considering getting back with an ex, I recommend asking these too!) Then there is the Snapchat series Second Chances.
In an episode featuring exes Rovelt and Richelle, they broke up due to flirting and poor communication issues. As they were hashing things out and trying to figure out if they could make things work, Rovelt pulled a surprise on everyone. He not only admitted the areas where he could—and should—improve but he offered Richelle a promise ring as well. He even got on one knee.
I appreciated his effort because, to me, it was a reminder that if/when an ex wants you back, he's not just going to want to be with you again; he's going to present a better version of who he was before. You'll see growth in his character, his efforts and even his perspective. You won't have to prompt any of this to happen either. He'll do it all on his own. Because he wants to. Because he wants you.
He’ll Want the Relationship to Be More than It Was Before
This one right here, while it might seem like the same point that I just made, it actually isn't. I'd venture to say that a top reason for why a lot of relationships end is because it's reached the "piss or get off the pot" portion of the program; you know, the place when one person wants to move forward while the other either wants things to remain exactly the same (see "Love Is Patient. But Is Your Relationship Just Wasting Your Time?" and "Here's How You Know He Won't Commit to You. Like, EVER."). If this is why you and your ex are no longer a couple, I don't care how much you love him, how strong the connection is or whatever other "tempting" reason you have for entertaining going another round, if he still doesn't want what you ultimately desire, what's the point in choosing to frustrate yourself all over again?
I remember Dr. Phil once saying that when he was dating his wife, Robin, there came a point when she was like, "Listen, if you're not gonna marry me, I need to get on with my life." She did just that and moved to another city. Not too long after, he went and got her back; not to be his girlfriend but to become his wife.
Some people might find what Robin did to be an ultimatum. I'm actually not big on applying those to relationships, so I don't. She didn't say, "Marry me or else". No, what she said was, "I know the kind of relationship that I desire and I'm gonna free my heart and life up in order to get it." BIG DIFFERENCE.
There really is no point in reconciling with an ex for more of what you got, that you didn't want, before. This is probably why a lot of men can break up with a woman they love and completely leave her alone; they know this. So yeah, if your ex is truly trying to get back with you and the main reason you broke up in the first place was because the relationship wasn't bad, it was simply stagnant, he's gonna come with a plan, a purpose and a future. You can take that to the bank!
He’ll Be Thorough and Consistent
Two things that are totally underestimated when it comes to both men and women is getting with someone who is thorough and consistent. To be thorough is to be extremely attentive. To be consistent is to be constant, dependable and reliable.
A lot of men like the chase, so don't be too moved by what your ex initially does in order to capture your attention. Take things slow (intimacy included) so that you can see if he's going to call when he says he will, if he's really listening to what you communicate to him, if he's avoiding the past faux pas that were made, if he's striving to make you feel safe and secure—if he's showing that getting involved with him again isn't going to be a rerun but something very fresh and new.
If this is the kind of man who shows up, while it's wise to proceed with a bit of caution, please don't close yourself off to the thought of opening up again. Especially if deep love is there, it's OK that you want to give that man a chance. Even if he is…an ex.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic'
Recently, while in an interview, someone asked me if I think that men and women can be just friends. I didn’t even hesitate to answer; my response was immediate, “Absolutely.” What I followed that up with is what intrigued them — “Life has taught me that not a lot of male/female dynamics are ‘platonic,’ though.” When they asked me to expound, the interview ended up taking a whole ‘nother turn.
As a writer who really pays attention to word meanings, something that can be a bit frustrating about our culture is the fact that based on whatever is popular at the time, folks will just up and change the original definitions of words to suit a particular agenda or whim — and the word “platonic” 1000 percent fits into this category. And perhaps that’s why we seem to continue to go in circles about whether or not people of the opposite sex can (and should) be friends and what that even can (and should) look like.
Let’s talk about it for a bit. Because as a word-literal type of individual, while again, I absolutely believe that men and women can be friends, at the same time, I think it’s about as rare as a red diamond to truly find yourself in a friendship that is…platonic.
It’s Time (More) Folks Knew What ‘Platonic’ LITERALLY MeansGiphy
So, let's do first things first — let's define what it literally means for something to be platonic. If you go to your favorite search engine and put something along the lines of "What does platonic mean?", the first thing that you're (probably) going to see is a ton of dictionary definitions that say something along the lines of "of, relating to, or being a relationship marked by the absence of romance or sex" (Merriam-Webster), "designating or of a relationship, or love, between a man and a woman that is purely spiritual or intellectual and without sexual activity" (Your Dictionary) and, my personal favorite, "purely spiritual; free from sensual desire, especially in a relationship between two persons of different sexes" (Dictionary). Yeah, bookmark that last one; I'll be circling back.
Keeping this in mind (and please do), where does the word "platonic" actually come from? From what I've researched, the philosopher Plato once penned something entitled "Symposium." In it, he addressed the topic of two people sharing the kind of love that is free of any type of sensual desire, one that is based on divine love alone. An author from the 1800s broke it down this way: "Platonic love meant ideal sympathy; it now means the love of a sentimental young gentleman for a woman he cannot or will not marry." A write-up on Merriam-Webster's site stated that "The term platonic was initially used to mock non-sexual relationships, as it was considered ridiculous to separate love and sex, but eventually this connotation faded away leaving us with today's notion of close friendships." Yeah, we used to live in a culture where love and sex were not separated. Hmph, that's another article for another time, though (check out "We Should Really Rethink The Term' Casual Sex'").
Anyway, as with many things (especially in our culture), the word "platonic" is kind of used in "broad strokes" these days (bromances, female friendships, etc.). However, because there continues to be this forever discussion — and oftentimes debate — about whether or not men and women can be "just friends," I'm going to tackle this topic strictly from that angle — from the place where platonic actually originated.
Yes, Men and Women Can Be Just Friends. But…Giphy
At this stage in my life, I'm pretty sure that I have more male friends than female ones. There are layers of reasons why, yet I think a huge one is because I like the balance that masculinity brings to my femininity (especially as I'm learning to embrace different aspects of my femininity, intentionally even more). And while every single one of my male friends is respectful and is a super safe space in my world on every single level that I can imagine (and have been for years now), there are probably only a couple who I would say 100 percent qualify as being…trulyplatonic.
Why would I say that? Well, I'll illustrate this point with something that one of my male friends once said to me. He's super cute. He can sing his ass off (and definitely has one of my favorite speaking voices). People see us out together often, and some have told us that they assume that we've had something going on at some point. Anyway, after hearing someone share their theory about us, I told it to him.
Me: "I told him, 'He's my brother. We would never mess around.'"
My Friend: "Correction, you are like a sister. You are not my sister, though. Under the right conditions, you could still get it."
When I shared that exchange with another male friend of mine, he basically cosigned on the sentiment: "Shellie, I have never approached you like that because I really respect you. I want to be good for you for the rest of our lives." (That reminds me: check out "Question: Is The Man In Your Life Good 'TO' You? Good 'FOR' You? Or...Both?" when you get a chance.)
Then I went to one more guy homie and ran both statements by him: "Girl, yeah. If I didn't want to keep you in my life long-term, I would've tried to holla a long time ago!" And he and I have been friends for almost 20 years at this point. When did he get around to telling me this? Eh, maybe two years ago. LOL.
So, my takeaway from all of these "for real?!" exchanges is even though men and women can be just friends, there is a certain level of intention, self-control, and ability to see into the future (on some level) that must go into account — because, just because something more-than-friends-like may not have gone down, that doesn't mean there isn't a "dormant seed" lying around somewhere…whether it's one-sided or on both sides of the friendship dynamic.
As you can see, I just provided you with three instances where the male friends in my life; we've had nothing sexual or even physically intimate beyond a hug when we greet each other in nature — although things aren't exactly platonic if there is some sort of attraction or sexual/romantic curiosity that simply never got explored. Because again, according to Plato, a platonic relationship is free from all of that kind of…tension — or possibilities. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
And now you probably get why I entitled this article in the way that I did…right? I mean, just think about it — out of your male friendships, where is there NO sensual desire or dormant romantic interest…on your side and/or on his? If you're not sure about "his"…have you ever asked him? Or them? Because again, once I really let the definition of platonic sink in, I think maybe two guys in my life totally fit the bill.
This brings me to my next point.
Are You Platonic? Or Are You Friend-Zoning?Giphy
Now that you know that probably 70 percent of the people you know (both online and off) have been using the true meaning of platonic all the way wrong, let’s go about deeper: when it comes to your friendships with men, are they genuinely platonic or…is it more like you’re friend-zoning them?
A few years ago, I penned an article on the topic entitled, “Before You 'Friend Zone' Someone, Read This.” If you’re skimming this on your lunch break, I’ll summarize friend-zoning as knowing that a guy has so-much-more-than-platonic feelings for you, yet because you basically want to keep the benefits of the friendship or even his emotions around, you will string him along on some level.
Personally, I can’t stand friend-zoning. I think it’s selfish, with some sprinkles of manipulation and wasting someone’s time. Don’t agree? How would you feel if a guy was friend-zoning you? (Yeah…exactly.)
This all needs to go on record because, knowing that a guy wants to “take it there” with you (whether sexually or romantically), you not full-on addressing it and/or giving him just enough hope to take you out, listen to all of your stories about other men and give you the attention that you need knowing that he doesn’t have a shot in hell — that is NOT a platonic friendship and honestly, you’re not being a good friend at all. Friends protect each other’s hearts, not abuse them.
A platonic friendship means that you both have no interest in each other, and, as Plato put it, while you may have a strong and solid bond, it’s spiritual love that connects you. And what exactly does that mean? Spiritual love also deserves its own article, yet the gist would be that you recognize there is a purpose in your friendship, yet it’s about wanting what’s best for one another and even helping each other to get there.
For instance, a platonic friend of yours may know that you desire to be married one day, so he has no problem setting you up with a good guy in his life. And if things go well, he would have no problem standing up as your own best man (without feeling like he’s dying inside) because he never saw you beyond anything but a friend. A guy in the friend zone doesn’t move like this; he likes you too much to help you move on with someone else. See the difference?
Why Relationships Should Start Off As NON-PLATONIC FriendshipsGiphy
Before I end this with some tips on how to properly care for the few platonic friendships you may actually have, since the use of the word may require a bit of mental reprogramming, I do think we should also address that if you've got a good guy in your life, who right now is a friend and either you've never thought of him in that way or the topic has never come up — he's someone that you may not want to brush off.
What I mean by that is, it's one thing for there to be absolutely no interest in someone vs. never considering it before — and the reason why you might want to give it some thought is because, ask any healthy married couple who's been together for more than five years and I'll bet you my next rent check that they will say that the best relationships are birthed out of friendship (check out "Are You Sure You're Actually FRIENDS With Your Spouse?").
Yeah, just because you've filed someone in the "I see him as a good guy" category, that doesn't automatically mean that y'all's friendship is platonic. For instance, I have a male friend who is fine and I adore on many levels, yet the reason why it would never work on my end is because there are certain relational standards that I have that he does not meet. However, don't get it twisted — I've considered him because, on so many levels, we "fit." So, the mere fact that I ever seriously thought about him on that level means that we are "good friends," yet it's not exactly platonic.
I'm not free of potential sensual desire…I just choose not to act on it. Yet because I get the value of having friendship as the foundation for my own future marriage (should life play out that way), I am wise enough to know that I would've been a fool to not at least…ponder him and the possibilities.
So yeah, if there is a male friend in your life that the thought of dating or having sex with him doesn't make you want to throw up in your mouth, there's a pretty good chance that it's not a classic platonic dynamic — and you might want to consider if it could/should go to the next level — if not immediately, eventually. Because there's a pretty good chance that if you are thinking that way, he probably is as well.
Protect Your Genuine Platonic Friendship(s) At All CostsGiphy
Let me end this with how one of my platonic friendships rolls. We both think that the other is attractive, yet neither of us is attracted. We both give each other opposite-sex insights. We both have said that the mere thought of dating each other makes our noses turn up like there’s an odor in the air. And even when I try to imagine us together, my mind goes blank. I love, love, LOVE this man — oh, but it is absolutely nothing more than platonic — and he feels the same way. It’s as close to familial love without being blood relationships. It’s a rare dynamic, and that is what makes it so special. There is definitely a spiritual type of love there; no more, no less.
If you’ve got someone in your life who you feel the same way about (again, it’s got to be mutual; he must feel that way, too), you’ve got a gem of a situation going on because there is nothing like having the kind of friendship where you and a guy can hang out, exchange perspectives and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, knowing that’s all it is and will ever be. Things will never get weird. No one’s feelings are gonna get hurt (from the whole friend-zoning thing). You don’t have to walk on eggshells. You can just be.
And that’s why I’m all for platonic friendships. And listen, if you’re blessed enough to have even one in your lifetime, be fiercely protective of it. Don’t take it for granted. Nurture it in a way that your male friend needs (because it probably won’t be the exact same as your female friendships). Y’all, platonic friendships are so bomb because, if it’s honored and protected correctly, it’s the one male friend that you can probably keep for life because even your romantic partner will not find it to be a (true) threat — hell, they honestly could probably end up becoming (some level of) friends with your platonic homie as well.
I hope that I broke this all down enough to where, when you decide to use a word to describe your opposite-sex friendships, perhaps you will pause and ask yourself, “Wait, is this a platonic friend or a good or close friend?” Because the clearer you are on the differences, the easier it will be to know how to maintain your friendship — and feel about your friend. Feel me? Cool.
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