Do you ever experience moments where, after the day is done, you reflect on certain conversations that came up and you're like, "How did I find myself so passionately involved in that?" Since I work in the field of relationships, while all of this is kind of an occupational hazard for me, I must admit that a recent two-plus hour discussion about the Dwayne-Whitley-Byron (you know, from A Different World) triangle was IN-TER-EST-ING. The bottom line is a guy was talking about how much Whitley would've been better off with Byron; that even Dwayne said so. Meanwhile, I was like, while their lifestyles may have complemented one another better (at least at the time of the engagement and wedding), no one should ever have to convince themselves to be with someone else and, while Whitley was dating Byron, she did that, more times than not — including the night before and day of her (attempted) nuptials to him.
If you've never seen any of what I'm talking about before, a YouTube clip of Dwayne interrupting the ceremony is here. Yet honestly, even if you are totally unaware of what I'm talking about or you're not a fan of the show (what in the world?!), all of what I'm saying is really just a backdrop of the topic that we're gonna tackle today. Because between those three and a lot of my clients, I can assure you that far too many people make it a point and practice to convince their own selves to romantically remain with someone. And if you bear with me, I'm about to share how and why that's so not a good thing. Not. At. All.
SIGN #1: You’re “Aight” Yet Not Satisfied
Listen, I will be the first to say that one of the biggest problems that a lot of people have is they worship the god of "being happy" instead of focusing on saying and doing what will make and keep them mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. I'm so resolved about this, in fact, that I recently wrote an article about it for this platform entitled, "I've Got 6 Solid Reasons To Put Being 'Healthy' Over Being 'Happy.'" Along these same lines, I also believe that many people end up sabotaging what could be really solid relationships because they spend way too much time having a "fairy tale mentality" instead of approaching things from a realistic point of view. And when it comes to this particular point, what I mean by that is it is extremely unrealistic to believe that you are going to get everything that you want from another person (or that you'll be able to provide that for them). At the same time, I'm all about folks making sure that they feel satisfied with where they are and who they are with.
Feeling satisfied isn't about every whim being met. Feeling satisfied is about feeling content and content is about being good with the way things are, having peace of mind, and being willing to fully accept the circumstances that you are in — not one of these things…all of them. Something that I tell many of my clients is if you're constantly trying to change someone, if you can't relax and be present in your relationship, and/or if you are always complaining about your situation, yet you then turn around and say your relationship is on solid ground, you are in a serious state of self-denial.
Far too many of us are out here treading in water instead of swimming, even when it comes to relationships. It really can't be said enough that satisfaction should be a state of mind that all of us should be in when it comes to who we are with. Are you?
SIGN #2: You Love…You’re Not IN LOVE
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, "Like, Love & In Love: How To Really Know The Difference." One of the points I hit on is the fact that, by definition, you can't really be "in love with" someone alone. That's because the word "in" literally means "in or into some place, position, state, relation, etc." while "with" means "accompanied by; accompanying". So yeah, for two people to be in an "in love" situation, both parties have to be on the same page.
That doesn't mean you can't love someone on your own, though. And sometimes, that love can cause us to think that we're in love; especially if the person we're with feels stronger about us than we do. Case in point. A wife that I know has been struggling in her marriage, shoot, since day one. When I asked her why she isn't more aggressive about requiring that her husband get help (there's no abuse; he's just someone in need of some therapy to get some real emotional intelligence going), she said, "I don't know. I do know that I'm in love with him, though." I challenged that by asking, "If the two of you didn't have kids together, would you stay?" and when she said, "Probably not," I said, "Most of the people I know who are in love are, come hell or high water. So, are you in love? Are you really?" She was silent after that.
I should've said in the intro of this that this article is mostly for singles (meaning if your current tax records reflect that as being your relational status) because the advice that I have for married folks on a subject like this is very different because I see that kind of relationship very differently (check out "What Should You Do If You Feel Like You Married The Wrong Person?"). What I will say, for now, is "love" is not the same as "in love" and if you have to tell yourself otherwise, you are someone who should read this article all the way through.
You know, a wife once told me that the night before her wedding, to her second husband (who is now an ex-husband), she knew she wasn't in love with him. When she told him that, he said, "I've got enough love for the both of us." Only people who are hooked on romance novels and Hallmark movies think that's romantic. The rest of us know that is a red flag like a mug. No one can make up for the love someone else doesn't have. So, if you've been trying to "fake the funk" in this lane…one way or another, a crash is up ahead. Don't say I didn't warn you. You're either loving or in love. Which is it?
SIGN #3: You Defend the Relationship More than Praise It
Some of y'all are in a ridiculous pattern and you know it. On one hand, you want your friends to totally have your back as you constantly complain about your partner and the issues within your relationship. Then, when you're over it (or you've at least convinced yourself to be that way), you want them to act like they didn't hear all of what you just said. And while you're now trying to convince them, for the umpteenth time, that things really are better than what you said that they were, just a few days ago, your homies are like, "Yeah. OK, girl."
A part of what comes with being a good friend is supporting your tribe. No doubt. A part of what comes with being a mature human being is truly getting that relationships have ups and downs, no doubt about it. Still, if your peeps are really paying attention, they are going to take note of how much you are complaining and then defending your relationship as opposed to singing the praises of your guy and how things are going. And listen, if the split tends to consistently be 60/40 in the favor of complaining and defending, you already know that I'm gonna say that that ain't good. In fact, the defending that you're doing is alerting you to the fact that you're not as fulfilled as should be. Please don't ignore that.
SIGN #4: You’re Turning into a “Time Fighter”
A movie that I've watched, Lawd, who knows how many times isPrime (Meryl Streep, Uma Thurman, Bryan Greenberg). Anyway, when the main guy character's best friend finds out that he's dating a significantly older woman, he calls her a "time fighter." Now, before some of y'all get triggered to high hell, his reference has some validity to it. Sometimes, when an older woman is dating a younger man, the challenge can be that they are in two very different seasons of life. Because of that, she can end up trying to push him, manipulate him, or CONVINCE HIM to move into marriage or children before he is ready. Why? Because she doesn't have the same kind of time that he does to play around.
Another example of "time-fighting" is you have a one-, two- or five-year plan that causes you to treat your partner like an "add water and stir" type of thing. What I mean by that is, it's not so much that you think "he's" the best match for you…you simply don't want to start over and so you decide to make — and by "make", I mean force — it to work, so that you can avoid the fear of having to start all over again.
If there's one thing that you should definitely avoid, it's trying to rush time. Whether it's a marriage timeline, your biological clock (check out "Tick Tock: How To Get Over The Fear Of Your Biological Clock"), an upcoming opportunity that could require you to move out of state, or anything else that's got you feeling like you're in a race against the clock, time flying by is not a good enough reason to stay with someone or pressure them because there are many married people who will vouch for the fact that rushing to the altar can sometimes result in time standing completely still, miserably so, after saying "I do" (check out "7 Men & 7 Women Tell Me Why They Think Their Marriage Ended").
SIGN #5: You Continually Overlook That “Gut Feeling”
Gut instincts. Yes, there is something to be said for their accuracy. There is also something to be said for people who mistake "their gut" for actual projecting based on past experiences or unresolved issues (check out "When You Should Trust Your Gut & When You Shouldn't" and "So, Experts Have Something To Say About Your Intuition's Accuracy"). With that being said, I once had a boyfriend who I definitely convinced myself to be with. I wasn't attracted to him. He didn't have any money. We were good as friends yet didn't really gel so well beyond that. Yet I stayed for years because I ignored my gut saying, "He's a good guy just not my good guy" and tried to make it work because of the first part of that sentence. Then, as the whispers in my mind kept getting ignored, one day someone in my family said, "There are two things I know about [insert name here]. One, he's a really nice guy. The other is he's not for you."
I don't know what it is that causes us to want to tell our conscience or gut that it doesn't know what it's talking about because if everything was copacetic, neither would have much to say. You know, I once heard a mental health expert define our gut instinct as "having an immediate understanding of something". If you know that you've been arguing with your understanding of what you need vs. what you're settling for or what is doable vs. what is best, WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT? Your gut is trying to get you to realize what would be a better option. Respect it enough to silence your "pushback" and actually listen.
SIGN #6: Deep Down, You Know You’re Making Too Many Concessions
Something else that I'm a firm believer of is if a person is selfish, stubborn, unforgiving, controlling, or inflexible, they are far better off not being in a serious dynamic because, if there's one thing that a relationship requires, it's a semi-constant compromise — and sometimes, that compromise requires making some concessions. At the end of the day, all a concession means is you're willing to yield and all yielding is about is giving in…being flexible. While on the surface, this is all well and good, what you have to stay on top of is a quote by the late philanthropist Howard Hughes — "Once you consent to some concession, you can never cancel it and put things back the way they are."
As it applies to this particular topic, if you keep yielding either 1) without your partner doing the same on some level or 2) beyond your better judgment, you could find yourself bending to the point of literally breaking down. Because, after all, making concessions should be about doing what is needed in order to benefit the relationship overall — not damn near killing yourself, just so your partner can be happy.
I don't know any better way to close this out than with this point. If you are making so many concessions that you are losing yourself, you aren't even really at peace in your relationship or you can't remember your own wants anymore, that's another pretty telltale sign that you are convincing yourself to remain with him — and when you are losing yourself or your needs in order to keep a man, how is that possibly worth it? Like…ever? Helpful hint: IT AIN'T.
Yeah. All of that energy that you're putting yourself into convincing yourself to stay with ole' boy? How about redirecting it towards convincing yourself that you shouldn't have to do all of that. Relationships require an effort but it shouldn't be to constantly talk yourself to stay with someone. So, why are you doing it? Straight up, sis.
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