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.
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