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Why We Love Men Who Are Absolutely No Good For Us

Love & Relationships

"'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?

Childhood PTSD

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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

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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

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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

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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”

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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.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Why You Should Be Grateful 'He' Didn't Choose You

Why You're Always The One Who Prepares A Man For His Wife

Why You Need To Grieve Your Past Relationship

If He REALLY Wants You Back, He'll Do This.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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