"Ready" is a great word. Have you ever looked it up before? When you're ready to do something, it means that you are "completely prepared or in fit condition for immediate action or us". It also means that you're "duly equipped, completed, adjusted, or arranged, as for an occasion or purpose". When it comes to the question of whether or not you're ready to be in a serious relationship, where a lot of people trip up is they only focus on another definition of the word—"willing". In other words, because they want to be in one, they believe that they are completely prepared and duly equipped when oftentimes, that's not even close to being the case.
So, how can you know if you're someone who doesn't just want a serious relationship but is personally at a point and place where the Universe agrees that you are truly ready in every sense of the word? Take a moment and run down this list of seven things. If you can relate to three or more, it's probably best to remain on your own a bit longer, do some self-work and revisit a little later down the road—for the sake of you, your heart, "his" heart, and both of y'all's oh so very precious energy and time.
1. YOU’RE NOT READY IF: You Suck at Compromising
Back in the day, I knew someone who had her entire wedding planned…while she was single. I don't mean she had a cute lil' Pinterest account. I mean, she had folders, swatches, the whole nine. In short, she had, what I call, "wedding porn" (because anything done in excess can be considered porn). When I asked her, "How do you know if your husband is going to like all of this stuff?", she paused, looked at me like I was crazy and said, "I don't need his opinions. It's my day." Eventually, she did get married. Twice. The thing that both of her husbands complained about is she didn't know how to compromise. Hmph. Imagine that.
I don't know one single healthy or functional relationship that doesn't consist of daily compromise—of two people coming together to see how they can find peace and harmony, mutually so, in their relationship, even if that means they don't always get all of what they want…all of the time.
If you just read that and rolled your eyes, chances are, you struggle with compromising. And that's a HUGE sign that if you did attempt to get into something serious, you'd struggle. BIG TIME. (Think Molly and Asian Bae Andrew from this past season of Insecure.)
2. YOU’RE NOT READY IF: You’ve Got Unresolved Past Relationships (or Situationships)
One of the absolute worst things anyone can do is to use a new person to try and get over a past one. It's not fair to either one of you because, until you get your past right, you're not going to be fully present in your, well, present. I'm not just referring to rebound relationships either. I'm talking about—if you know there is someone in your past who you're still tied to in some way (check out "6 Reasons Why You STILL Can't Over Your Ex"), even if it's just because you weren't able to get closure with them at the time (check out "How To Get Closure If Your Ex Won't Give It To You"), while you might not opt to go on a heart pieces tour like I did a few years back (also check out "Why Every Woman Should Go On A 'Get Your Heart Pieces Back' Tour"), it can only benefit you to do some journaling and maybe even see a therapist about why, on some levels, you may be mentally or emotionally stuck on some levels.
Trust me, I know from very up close and personal experience that, when you don't get clear on your past relationships and/or situationships, you can go into another relationship expecting someone else to make up for what a past person has done (which isn't their fault or responsibility) or, you can find yourself constantly comparing them to your past (which isn't fair). You won't give the new relationship the kind of chance that it deserves. And that could prove to be a waste of time, both for you as well as for them.
3. YOU’RE NOT READY IF: The Thought of Exclusivity Totally Turns You Off
Yes, I know that as the world is ever-changing, the way people see relationships is shifting too. In this case, I'm speaking of a relationship that consists of two people only; two people who have mutually-agreed upon plans of turning what they've got into something long-term. That said, I know a woman who is always wondering why she's not in a serious relationship. Thing is, when I asked her about why all of her past ones haven't worked out, she admitted that she was either too flirty with other guys or too restless with the person she was in the relationship with. It was like, in theory, she wanted to be with someone but when it came to the day to day of what being exclusive required, she wasn't really interested.
Last fall, I wrote the article, "Single-Minded: So, What If You Like Dating But DON'T Desire Marriage?" because I personally don't think there is anything wrong with not being the "date to marry" kind of person. But most people, when they think of the phrase "serious relationship", exclusivity is definitely a part of the equation. If you want companionship, you can still get that from dating multiple people. But if you think a serious relationship is one you're ready for, the other guys are gonna have to go. If that doesn't sit well with you—don't get into one.
4. YOU’RE NOT READY IF: You’re Impatient AF
I dig a lot of quotes from the poet and theologian Rumi. When it comes to the topic of how to make a relationship work and last, one of my favorites is, "Patience is not sitting and waiting, it is foreseeing. It is looking at the thorn and seeing the rose, looking at the night and seeing the day. Lovers are patient and know that the moon needs time to become full." I try and say this as often as possible because, if you want a relationship to work, it's important that you know that patience isn't just about waiting. It's also about putting up with some things that you probably would prefer not to—like stuff that irritates, provokes or annoys you—without doing a lot of complaining, freaking out or threatening to end the relationship.
One way to know if you're this kind of individual is to ask your friends for their insight. If they tell you that you tend to be impatient with them, or even if you're someone who struggles with waiting calmly in a grocery line or you can't go a day without screaming at a car in front of you when you're in a traffic jam—while this doesn't totally mean that a serious relationship isn't what you need right now, it can reveal that you're gonna be triggered, A LOT, if you don't master some patience before getting into one.
5. YOU’RE NOT READY IF: You’re a Low-Key Love Addict
This might seem like a bit of a curveball because, how can you really want to be in a relationship, to the point where you're basically consumed by the thought of it, and it be a sign that a relationship is the last thing that you need to be in? I say it often that, one of my favorite quotes is by Voltaire. He once said, "The excess of a virtue is a vice". This basically means, anything, done in excess, isn't good for you. And yes, even when it comes to love, it's not healthy to be addicted to it (check out "6 Signs You're A Love Addict"). If you're pressed for time and you want to know what some telling indications of love addiction are without actually reading the article I just referenced—you get into relationships too quickly; you overly romanticize connections; you always choose emotionally-unavailable people; you're codependent; you're needy AF; you lead with sex and every failed situation ends up totally devastating you.
Now that you see what some telling signs of love addiction are, you might have a clearer picture of why being a love addict made this list. Someone who struggles in this way doesn't need a relationship; what they need is to learn how to love themselves—first. Otherwise, they'll constantly be in relationships with people who aren't right for them which could end up harming and jading them to the point where they can never get healthy and right for the man who truly deserves them. Does this actually apply to you?
6. YOU’RE NOT READY IF: You Can’t Remember the Last Time You Were by Yourself for Six Months Straight
Kind of on the heels of the point I just made, another telling sign that you're not ready for a serious relationship is if you can't remember the last time you weren't involved in something—dating someone, in a relationship with someone, just sleeping with someone, getting over someone— for at least six months. Does that sound drastic? I promise you that it only does if you're an individual who has never been intentional about not being involved with a guy, for a semi-long period of time, before. Take it from me, if you never take the time to enjoy 1) dating yourself; 2) fully healing from your past, and 3) even being abstinent for a while, all of the "residue" from the men who you've already been involved with can "taint" your perspective on what you truly want and, more importantly, what you really need. As a result, you could end up in a serious relationship that doesn't really serve you; one that ultimately ends up being a waste of your valuable and precious time.
There is nothing like being so whole and clear within yourself that you don't need a man; you simply would like to be with someone if they complement you and your life. It's so much easier to determine the difference between the two if you spend some time—at least six months—alone before considering getting into a serious relationship.
7. YOU’RE NOT READY IF: You Have Absolutely No Idea WHY You Want Something Long-Term
I don't care what the issue or scenario might be, if you want to get down to the root of what your motive is for doing anything in life, figure out your "why". Remember when I referenced journaling earlier? If you really and truly feel like you're ready for a serious relationship, take out a pen, open up your journal and jot down why. If answers come up along the lines of, because everyone else is in one, you're lonely or your clock is ticking—while those reasons are valid (because all feelings are), they aren't the best kind to prompt you to get into anything serious.
Contrary to what pop culture likes to shove down our throats, two halves don't make a whole and a relationship doesn't miraculously fix the internal voids or fears that we have. In order for a serious relationship to truly thrive, it's best that both individuals love themselves and find inner peace before getting together.
That way, not only does the relationship have the potential to go the distance, but it can be a healthy and happy one too. It's when you really and truly get this that you can determine if you're ready for a serious relationship—or not. So, take a deep breath and get really real with yourself…are you?
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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…truly platonic.
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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