At 29, I have had more heartaches than I care to count in my past, and since the present man in my life is who I hope will also be my future, I can’t believe that there are still lessons I have to learn in matters of the heart. I thought I would at least get a break until I had a ring on my finger … geesh!
See, without getting too deep, I have learned a lot of lessons —often redundantly- with numerous beings of the male species. However, I am sad and yet not ashamed to admit that there have only been three men in my life whom I could really call my boyfriend. My current sweetie, William, is one of them. As I reflect on all of the steps that most healthy sources say are required before getting into a serious relationship, I proudly admit that we didn’t skip any. We were friends for years, he actually pursued me (not the other way around, which is what I was accustomed to), there has been no casual sex and we remain pretty open and honest with each other.
Check, check, and check.
However, as with the final English paper I recall working on for weeks my senior year, confident that I would get no less than an "A" because it was my favorite subject, life often gives you tests with warning signs that serve as the equivalent of the little red marks I received on that English paper. Not an "F" or even a "C" … more like a "You can do better. Make the necessary adjustments. Do over. Hand it back."
I figured that all of my "non-relationship relationships" had taught me all that I needed to know. They hadn’t. See, because I had rarely been in a mutually committed relationship, what "other people’s men" taught me was that I shouldn’t be involved with … other people’s men. I hadn’t really prepared for what I should do when I finally got "a man of my very own."
Boy, have I gotten my share of check marks now! Have you ever heard the saying "Sometimes love just ain’t enough?" Put it on a t-shirt, sport it proudly and it will save you a lot of heartache. Although your time and my tolerance will not permit us to go through every single lesson I have learned since being in my present relationship, whether you are in a serious relationship, dating, or just fantasizing about it, if there is one vital piece of advice I could give you, it would be this:
DON’T BE A WIFE TO YOUR BOYFRIEND. SAVE THAT FOR YOUR HUSBAND.
If that ends up being your current boyfriend, good, if not, that may be even better. Let me explain. I think at some point in every woman’s life, we all want to be in a romantic relationship, although I’m willing to bet that if we were polled on why, lesser than a few would provide an articulate as well as emotionally, physically and spiritually balanced response.
Don’t shoot the messenger. I recall once sending out an email questionnaire asking this very question and the responses varied from: "I need someone to love" to "I don’t want to be alone" to "My clock is ticking." Maybe one or two women said something to the effect of "I have gone as far as I can alone without a partner to take me to the next level" or "I desire to share my life with someone who shares the same values as I do, so that we can raise better versions of ourselves [children]."
And because I don’t think we spend enough time focusing on why we want something, we are not really clear on what we are supposed to do with it when it arrives. If we are looking for a relationship, even if it’s a monogamous one, who’s to say that means we should be immediately looking for, or are even ready for, a husband? If anything, a relationship is a time to see if "he" is what we want, or if he even deserves what we have to offer: a future, permanent companion in return. If not, we have every right to select, discard and move on without reservation, apology or paperwork.
So, why do we make it so complicated? Why is it when a relationship is troubled, when we are unhappy in it, when we know it’s time for it to come to an end for the sakes of all parties involved (especially ourselves), we stick it out for all it’s worth—as if we took vows, gave blood, signed on the bottom line … married them! If you were going to do all of that, you might as well have the ring, the dress and the cake, and actually go forward with the nuptials— at least there would be some perks!
Take it from me, the biggest mistake you can make when it comes to having a boyfriend is pledging your eternal and undying love under every and any circumstance, forgiving them for every transgression, finding yourself indebted to them financially, physically, professionally, emotionally and spiritually; being loyal to the very end, even when it is not promised in return, cleaning up after their messes (figuratively as well as literally) by taking on all of their problems, their bills, their strongholds, their character flaws, and their issues.
Contrary to what Hollywood, MTV or even your girlfriends may tell you, that is not what having a boyfriend is all about. No, dating, even if it is on a serious level, is a time to see if the two of you are compatible enough, focused enough, determined enough and committed enough to mutually take on such matters as the ones mentioned above. If you both can say "yes," then it’s time to say, "I do." Then, and only then is it time to take on the role of being a wife.
Perhaps that is why when you look up the word "girlfriend" in the dictionary, you see "a favored female companion/friend," and yet when you come up on the word "wife", you see "a woman joined to a man in marriage." When you are someone’s girlfriend, you are their closest female friend with a couple of perks such as extra attention and affection—no more, no less.
Sure that means you are there for them, you listen to them, you laugh and cry with them, you support them—just as you would for any other friend, but there is no "death do us part" in the deal, and for a very good reason. While you are dating, time can part you, circumstances can part you, different desires at different times can part you, and another person who may be more better suited for your life can part you. You can part you.
And that’s okay. As a matter of fact, it’s better than okay if it’s not meant to be. As I have often said while nursing my friends through an ended relationship, "Better to break up than to divorce," and it really is. I fear that one of the main reasons why we cannot get to "the one" is because we have crowned so many unworthy competitors with the title, that by the time “the one” arrives, we have lessened ourselves to the equivalent of a peasant girl, physically, emotionally and otherwise. We live like a bitter divorcee rather than a better single person as a result of our past encounters with those of the opposite sex.
But it no longer has to be that way! Take it from me. The quickest route to a disastrous dating situation is by being their wife, while they are being your boyfriend. You will feeltricked and they will feel deceived—you both deserve better.
Now remember, it is my relationship with William that has taught me this valuable lesson. So, are we still together? We most certainly are. It’s because I have actually learned this lesson, and retired from the role of wife and settled into the position of girlfriend. Now we can play fairly, because we are on a level playing field.
Finally, I am not feeling that I am getting less than what I am giving because I am not giving more than what the title requires. He is not feeling pressured by any clock because we both know that time will tell if a clock is even in our future together. And we are not so focused on what could happen that we miss what is happening. We’re getting to know each other, enjoy each other, and in doing so, we are figuring out if we are ultimately meant for each other. If we are, good, if we are not, good. Either way, we will both be the better for it and better equipped to be the wife and husband we are meant to be to whomever we destined to say those vows and make that commitment to.
Until then, I actually like the title of "favored female companion." It requires no long-term commitment other than to be honest with ourselves at all times about where we are and what we want as friends and lovers in preparation for possibly becoming husband and wife someday. Hey, don’t knock it until you try it. I’ve come to realize that it sure beats the alternative of emotionally divorcing myself from someone, who I never literally or legally married anyway … and that’s more than cool with me.
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