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Learning To Stop Being A Wife To A Boyfriend Led Me To My Ring

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Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

If I'm being honest, I never truly grasped the truth behind that phrase until my most recent relationship.


There, I invested laughs, blood, sweat, tears, and years. And now, as I stare at my ring-less hand, I question not only my relationship, but myself. I know I'm not Beyonce, but if Jay-Z can put a ring on it, my Jay (yep, twinning with the names) could too, right? Wrong. You see, the "milk" in question is giving yourself to someone with or without demanding the respect and commitment necessary while being with them. Why rush to solidify anything that is already being received? For me, it was doing all of the things that a wife should do for her husband without being a wife. If I was real with myself, why would he ask me to marry him if he was already reaping the benefits?

There was no sense of urgency to gain what he technically already had.

Truth be told, it's difficult finding that balance. The line between being a girlfriend wanting to show the "wifey" side and actually becoming one is so fine.

When I first met him, the thought of us dating was absolutely out of the question and never crossed my mind. On the one hand, he was a breath of fresh air, hilarious, and we connected very well. We'd talk daily (several times a day at that), and things were blossoming into that rather interesting lustful phase. I was a single mother of one and freshly out of a relationship (or lack thereof). That was the first problem. Looking back, I'm not sure that I ever gave myself a chance to love me the way I needed to love myself before attaching myself to someone else. If only life came with an instruction manual, right?

To spice things up, I had a no-kids rule despite having one of my own. It was just something I chose not to accept or deal with because I didn't have time for the "baby mama drama." Well, what I failed to divulge until this moment is that he had one child under the age of one and another on the way. Red flag, much? Certainly.

But once you have a taste of "what can be," those red flags start to appear more of a faded red color, an almost pink hue.

So, choosing to swallow my pride and ignoring the questions inside, we continued what we started. I ended up briefly experiencing the aforementioned drama after all, learned what it meant to step outside of my comfort zone, and familiarized myself with his family who were indeed nothing like my own (so many funny stories behind this statement). I was welcoming it all with open arms and a year later, we were having our first child together and living in our first place. At that moment, everything felt right in our relationship, but perhaps for all of the wrong reasons.

From his infidelity to our financial instability, and simply being two people in "young love," we struggled.

There were times when I couldn't imagine life without him, but on the other hand, there were times when I questioned living life with him.

I remember moments where he'd come home and have such a cold demeanor towards me that I'd need to wrap up just to stay warm. I can recall moments where I questioned myself and wondered if I was enough. It had to be something about me that kept him from giving me what I wanted and needed, right? But then I'd think of the moments where he made me feel like I was the only woman his heart beat for.

It was Valentine's Day, 2009. He took me to eat, we went to play laser tag, and I came home to a riddle at the door. One riddle led to another to another, and eventually to a promise ring. Did this really mean that he was "promising" to make me his wife one day? Yes! Come through hopefulness! Let's face it, many of us have our weddings planned at the age of five or at least know that it's in life's ultimate plan.

Cut to three years later, in 2012, we were still going through the motions, have our second child together, and issues between us were becoming more common than not. I didn't notice it back then, but my love for him meant undervaluing myself and overvaluing him. I never thought to ask myself if I could even see myself marrying someone that didn't always appreciate what he had. After all of the time that passed, I continued to believe that if I gave him what he needed and was showing my extraordinary "wife-like" abilities, I'd still be blessed with the title.

I was guilty.

I was guilty of wanting to be a wife so bad that I allowed way too much. I'm guilty of letting social media dictate my life. I'm guilty of letting a relationship with him outweigh my sense of self worth. You see, what I failed to realize through all of this is that I was giving too much of myself with too little to offer. I was too available, too accessible, and too naive to notice. You hear the saying often, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"

And to that I pose a different question, "Why didn't I add a dollar sign to my milk?"

Why had I not realized that with so many of us being wives to our boyfriends, that that's all we'd ever be.

It really goes back to that notion of self-love, which is something I didn't have for so long. Without self-love, you tend to be more accepting of even the most hurtful things all for the desire to be loved by someone else. I constantly strived to fill that void, no matter how much it hurt me to do so.

However, there's a light at the end of this tunnel.

It didn't happen overnight, but I started valuing myself more. I began to stand for certain things instead of falling for everything. It took open dialogue, honest communication, and truly letting go of the past to work on our present and future. I remained firm in where I stood and made it simple - either love me the right way or leave me alone.

This new sense of self-worth and choosing to no longer accept crumbs where I needed meals prompted a change in him. After nearly years since we first started dating, the bad times became a distant memory and ultimately went out of the door. He started working harder at being my support system, friend, partner, and rebuilding the trust between us. He learned how to talk through his concerns, as did I.

We addressed what we felt was lacking and truly worked toward a common goal - making US work.

After all was said and done, he got his ish together and proposed in October 2017. Reflecting on it all, I realize that my situation may not work for others, but it certainly worked for me. I had to learn how to love me the way I wanted to be loved. During that time, I simply put my "milk" back on the shelf until I was ready to add a price tag. Not to get too religious, but God will never bless any of us with what we aren't ready for. He wasn't ready, and neither was I.

It took time and effort for both of us to see the bigger picture, but once we saw it, it was beautiful work of art with a unique story behind it.

Would I have done things differently, if given the opportunity to do it all over again?

Absolutely. I would've added a dollar sign to my worth from jump.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissons@xonecole.com

Featured image by Alekon pictures on Unsplash

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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