"'Cause he is the truth/Said he is so real/And, I love the way that he makes me feel/And, if I am a reflection of him/Then I must be fly, because his light, it shines so bright/I wouldn't lie, no"—"The Truth", India.Arie
I already know. Some of y'all probably read the title of this article, then looked at the India.Arie song lyrics and automatically thought that I am totally contradicting myself. That's fair. I'm not, though. The reason why "The Truth"—a song that continues to be one of my favorite songs ever—is totally applicable here is because time, life experience and actually reading song lyrics have taught me very valuable lesson when it comes to matters of the heart. Two actually. One, when a song totally stirs your soul, it's trying to tell you something. Two, when it happens to be a song about love—real, lasting and healthy love—it's a good idea to measure your feelings for and/or relationship with someone, just to see if what you're in measures up to what you hear.
He is the truth. Truth is "a verified or indisputable fact". The Bible also tells us that the truth will set us free (John 8:31-32). He is so real. Real is true. I love the way that he makes me feel. Love is warmth, gratitude and affection (for starters). You are a reflection of his flyness because his light shines brightly. Light illuminates. When something illuminates, it's made crystal clear.
Ladies, thank India for this song because if your man does all of this, he's good for you. If he doesn't, well, based on the breakdown, it kinda looks like you're lovin'—and by default, living—a lie. A lie is false. A lie deceives. A lie also misrepresents, distorts and even invents when necessary. A lie is dangerous. So, why do so many of us choose to love a lie? Why do we keep loving a man who ultimately isn't good for us?
Let's dig into some other truths surrounding these very questions, shall we?
Something that my mother used to say fairly often is, "Mothers mentor daughters and nurture sons while fathers mentor sons and nurture daughters." It's for this reason and, oh, about a billion more, that I never signed on to the whole "I'm the mommy and daddy" declaration that a lot of single parents tend to make. You might be a phenomenal mom or dad, but you can never fill the void that the opposite sex parent was designed to take full responsibility for your—and their—child's life.
I know this in my own world because, while I had a pretty good relationship with my late father, he still lived in another state. His total disdain for my mother and some of his other family members resulted in him never coming to where I lived (not for a graduation or anything else) and me always going to him. You know what that taught me? That in order to be in a relationship with a man, I had to do most of the initiating. Also, because my dad was an on-again-off-again substance abuser all of my life, that taught me that I was to be the hero to men. Shoot, I'm just now realizing that my father's influence was so impacting that it influenced me to do most of the work and "save men" for most of my adulthood too.
So yeah, if you're wondering why you keep selecting men who aren't the best for you, I'd start with your childhood and adolescent years. What did your parents—both parents—model to you that is still playing out, even now?
By the way, this happens to men as well. A Black guy that I know claims to be so in love with his mom, but he never dates Black women. When I challenged him to unpack why, he realized he holds some resentment towards his mom for not protecting him better while growing up. As a direct result, he doesn't trust Black women much. Childhood PTSD is a beast, y'all. Never underestimate it.
(Some good reads to check out on the topic include "Some Early Childhood Experiences Shape Adult Life, But Which Ones?", "8 Early Childhood Experiences That Continue to Affect You Even in Adulthood", "How Does Childhood Trauma Affect Adulthood?", "Effects of Divorce on Children's Future Relationships" and "6 Ways That a Rough Childhood Can Affect Adult Relationships".)
We’re Not Good to Ourselves
Whenever I'm in a counseling session, there is nothing like looking over at a woman who, I can tell, totally got into her relationship because she wanted a man to treat her better than she treated herself before meeting him. That's toxic on a lot of levels. One, if he does, you could set yourself up to make him an idol in your life which could cause you to darn near worship him; that's super unhealthy, but so is the pressure that idolizing someone does to them. Another problem with this way of thinking is, based on how low your self-esteem may be, he might only have to do a smidgen more than what you've been doing all along and, somehow, you'll think that it's wonderful. As I tell people often, "Don't mistake a 'C' for an 'A' simply because you've been used to an 'F' all this time." Another challenge is you'll start to let him define what your standards and expectations should be. I mean, since yours are already so low…why not?
A lot of us get mad at men for not treating us well without taking the time to look within and ask ourselves if we were treating our own selves any better prior to their arrival.
Hmph. If some of us were truly honest with ourselves, we'd have to say "no" because if we honored ourselves like we should, "he" would've never gotten our number, let alone our love. And that's real.
We Mistake Hope for Love
If you want to pass the offering plate around for me one time on this point, I'll happily send you my PayPal link. No question, I've got plenty of heart scars to co-sign on this particular point. Anyway, I can't tell you how many times I've been to a wedding and heard The Love Chapter in the Bible (I Corinthians 13). While the bride and groom are looking lovingly into one another's eyes while running down the list of all of the things that love is (patient, kind, etc.), it's the "IS" that I wish was given the most emphasis. Not love "could be" or "should be"; is means that it's happening right now.
Ready? Something that love and hope have in common is they are positive and assuring emotions. Still, they are not one in the same; not by a long shot. When someone loves us, there's a true friendship there. When someone loves us, they are warm and affectionate towards us (not some of the time; consistently so). When someone loves us, they are nurturing and faithful.
And, if a man is as in love with us as we are with him, he's not gonna let us get away.
Unfortunately, a part of the reason why some of us fall for men who aren't good for us is because we mistake the feeling that hope provides with love. Well, let me back up a bit. First, a lot of us don't know what hope means, but if we do, we mistake it for love. Hope doesn't just mean that we can have what we want. Hope also means that if things don't go our way, they will still work out for the best. Working out for our best doesn't always or necessarily mean that it will go the way we want it to or think it should.
So yeah, if you love a man and you're hoping that he loves you too, sometimes that hope can be so overpowering that it makes you needy; you're so focused on believing that you can have him—whether now or someday—that you're not even paying attention to the clear signs that he doesn't truly love you. He may like you a lot or enjoy the time (or sex) that you have together, but he's not in love. Not even close. Hoping that he will doesn't mean it's gonna go your way either. Sometimes, the best thing to do is let him go and hope—meaning trust—that things will work out for the best. Even if that means being without him.
We Confuse Potential with Reality
Let me first say that I don't knock potential. Back in my 20s, I showed a lot of potential that I would become the woman that I am today. However, hindsight wisdom has also revealed to me that the things that I wanted back then? I wasn't good for them, and they weren't good for me. Why? Because I wasn't a healthier and more mature individual at the time. I was the literal definition of potential—"possible, as opposed to actual".
It is an epidemic, the amount of people who put up with more crap than they ever should in their relationship with someone because they think that possible is actual. I've dated men who could possibly become emotionally available but at the time we were together, they actually weren't. I've dated men who possibly would spiritually elevate but at the time we were together, they actually weren't. I've been head over heels about men who would possibly propose, but actually didn't. And while I was sitting over here waiting on a possibly to turn into an actually, time was melting away.
Out of all of the things that you have to offer, time is one of the most precious. In part, because it is something that you can never truly get back.
Sometimes a man is no good for us, for no other reason than they have absolutely no problem staying parked at what could potentially happen while totally wasting our time in the process. We have to own our part in that, but a guy who knows this and doesn't care? He ultimately means us no good.
Love Is Drawn to the “Unlovable”
My final point is one that I personally think doesn't get the credit that it deserves. A wise person once said, "Real love is knowing someone's weaknesses and not taking advantage of them. It's knowing their flaws and accepting who they are." Amen.
The people who have truly loved me, they have seen me at my worst and loved me through it. They've done that because two things that love is designed to do is support and heal. If someone didn't need those two things, love wouldn't be as impactful in their lives. And so, sometimes we love men who are no good for us because love is drawn to want to help others. But here's the kicker—self-love knows that we should help those who want to be helped.
I liken it to a stray dog. When you see one all skinny and starving, if you've got any kind of sympathy at all, there's probably a part of you that wants to help s/he out. Problem is, some dogs have been hurt or abandoned for so long that they can't decipher good help when they see it. So, rather than letting you pet or feed them, they go on the attack instead.
I am the kind of woman who actually loathes when women refer to men as dogs (I'm not big on us referring to ourselves as "bitches" either; somebody cue in Queen Latifah's "U.N.I.T.Y", please); however, the analogy is fitting. Some of us love men who aren't any good for us, not because we are in a broken state, but because we are compassionate. At the same time, just like a dog will show signs that he doesn't want to be helped, men tend to show red flags too. He'll talk crazy on a date. He'll be a bona fide narcissist. He may be a commitment-phobe or show signs of some of the current dating no-no trends. His relationships with others may suck. Or your relationship with him may be going absolutely nowhere.
The thing about compassion is it's not designed to be forced on someone or something; it's available to those who embrace it. Love is for the unlovable, but when you are getting attacked (or dismissed) for giving it, that's when you're headed towards abuse—abuse from them and, should you stay, self-abuse too. There ain't nothin' loving about that.
Are these all of the reasons why we love men who are not good for us? No. But I'm hoping that if you listen to India.Arie's song, read over these (again) and then reflect, you may see why you've done it in the past or, if you're currently doing it, why you deserve so much better.
Because the song "The Truth" also said, "There ain't no substitute for the truth/Either it is or isn't/You see the truth, it needs no proof/Either it is or it isn't /And, you know the truth by the way it feels, Lord". And that? That'll preach a billion sermons and save a ton of lives, if we just take it all in.
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Feature image by Giphy.