I was watching Tyrese and Rev. Run's new TV show It's Not You, It's Men on OWN the other day and they were discussing relationships and independent women. Tyrese went as far as to say, "Don't independence yourself into loneliness." Although there have been numerous songs produced that celebrate the independent woman (by both men and women), unfortunately some men lack the understanding of our independence.
[easy-tweet tweet="Don't independence yourself into loneliness - @tyrese"]
Personally, I think it's a great discussion and I don't think they were bashing women by having this conversation. However, there are some guys who have a tendency to bash those of us who instinctively, and sometimes unknowingly, rely so heavily on our independence without fully comprehending the rationale for our actions. Furthermore, some of them fail to acknowledge their unwillingness to uphold their responsibilities as a man, which has ultimately forced so many of us into the independent role. But that’s a whole other topic.
Nonetheless, it made me think about my personal experience as a single, independent woman and then my transition as a wife. As someone who was raised in a single-parent home, like many other women I know, it wasn't a surprise that I practically gained the personality and mindset of the infamous lady known as “Miss Independent.” When you've been raised without a prominent father figure in the home or in your life, quite naturally you often become self-sufficient and tend to lack the knowledge, let alone need, for what it means to depend on a man for anything.
When Miss Independent and the Mrs. Meet
I remember watching the movie Think Like a Man and seeing glimpses of myself in Taraji P. Henson’s character. She was strong, outspoken, successful in her own right and she was all about girl power. She was the epitome of “Miss Independent.” When I was single, this was perfect for me because it was exactly that power, drive and my faith in God that has and continues to push me to pursue my goals and aspirations.
However, it wasn’t until I started dating my husband, and soon after we got married, when I realized how my independence was causing conflict within our relationship. I always knew I wanted a strong, black man, but I didn’t realize what that really meant, let alone what it truly means to be "one" in marriage. It was difficult at times to transition from “Miss Independent” to “Mrs.” because it was all so new to me (Side note: I use the term "transition" very loosely because I can't say that it's something that ever truly goes away). Quite honestly, I wasn’t used to having a man around who actually wanted to do certain things for me.
Sometimes, it was as simple as opening the door or even carrying the groceries for me. For so long, I was used to doing these things for myself simply because I had to. Now, there was someone who was actually trying to help me. However, when my husband tried to do these things for me I responded in a negative way like, “I can open my own door,” or “I can carry my own groceries,” or "I can do it myself." My tone would come off as condescending or disrespectful and I was unaware of how offensive this was to my husband. There were other times when I didn't have to even say anything because I said enough through my actions or body language.
My aha moment: I didn't realize the need to do things on my own was causing my man to feel as if I didn't need (or want) him.
I heard at a conference once before, “Men interpret lack of need for lack of respect." I didn't want my husband to think I didn't respect him. Nevertheless, it was important for us to discuss this so he could gain a better understanding of why I was "wired" the way I was and why I was constantly trying to do everything myself.
It's interesting because we say we want a man who does certain things, but I couldn't on one hand say, "I want a good man who does this and that for me," and then later have an attitude like, “I don’t need a man to do what I can do for myself." Instead, it's about acknowledging the good men who are willing to step up to the plate, and allowing them to be the man they want and need to be to us and for us.
The more we talked, the deeper I looked within myself and the more I dealt with my "daddy issues," I realized my whole concept of family and children was heavily influenced by my independence and abandonment issues. For example, when we started talking more and more about having children, it was obvious that I wanted to wait but my husband didn't seem to understand why I was so hesitant. I had to be honest with him and myself and admit that I actually saw children as a burden rather than a blessing and unbeknownst to me, I was scared of having to raise them on my own.
It's funny because even though I was married, there was a part of me that thought "But what if he leaves me to raise these children by myself? How will I do all of this alone?" My independent mindset and abandonment issues had kicked in yet again, only later realizing that it was stifling my growth as a woman and a wife. I feared a future potential blessing because of a past burden.
[Tweet "I feared a future potential blessing because of a past burden."]
Nevertheless, with the help of my husband's reassurance, loyalty, a lot of patience and his commitment to be a good husband and father, I've learned to look at things quite differently as it relates to my husband, marriage and our potential future family. Unlike the seasons in my life when I had no choice but to be independent because I didn't have an earthly father or male figure, things are different now. I don't have to go at this alone. I can depend on him to be there and be a good father if and when that time comes to have a family.
I Still Have Independent Tendencies But I Depend on My Man Too
As a woman, it’s not like I can just flip a switch and turn off my independence completely. As I said earlier, the experiences and qualities I gained as an independent woman led me to become the woman I am today, and some of those characteristics are quite naturally still a part of me. Besides, had I been overly needy and unable to do anything on my own, my husband wouldn't have wanted to be with me anyway. As I like to put it, be the woman a man needs, not a needy woman.
Now, more than ever, I am more cognizant of how my independent tendencies can impact my marriage and how they can potentially overpower the relationship and isolate me from my husband. Instead of rejecting his assistance and trying to do everything on my own, I'm learning how to adjust and have a healthy balance. He, too, is learning how to adjust and make changes on his end as well with certain things.
It's important to show our men not only how much we love them, but how much we respect them. Simply put, we have to let a man be a man. Although there are guys who aren't willing to step up to the plate and be a man, there are still mature, responsible men who desire to be real men to real women.