“So you know how on one of your Sister Talks Podcast episodes you said ‘I’m the girl before the marriage’ or whatever? It was in reference to all of your exes getting serious with the next person they found. Well, that is not necessarily a bad thing, sis. That means that you know how to help coach a boy to be a man. But the day will come that you will meet a man that does not need to be coached–I am talking about a man that is already everything you need because God has made him just for you. Do not get discouraged because all things work for the good of those who love the Lord, and sometimes God has to take a little more time on the blessings that are for the believers with favor.”
On an episode of the podcast I formerly co-hosted with my best friend/sister Alexandria, we discussed everything related to relationships. If you are interested in listening to that episode, it is still available for your listening pleasure here. In that episode, we each gave an account of what our dating life was like in the past, and I titled mine “The Girl Before the Girlfriend” or “The One That Got Away”. We recorded this episode at the beginning of 2018, and I honestly had to go back and listen to it again to see what my narrative was then in order to compare it to what it is now.
So what is the “girl before the girlfriend”, exactly? It is literally what it sounds like. Majority of my dating experience has been encounters with men who claimed they were not interested in or ready for a relationship, but shortly after our “situation” concluded (and sometimes during) they ended up in a relationship. Even as far back as high school I have literally been building men for other women. That is not a task I wanted to take on nor is it my responsibility, but it is the role I have allowed myself to play.
I have attracted males who were right on the brink of their next phase of life, males who were broken, and males who were not yet whole. Essentially, males who were lost. I opened myself and my heart and put forth my best effort to add value to them in whatever way was needed at the time. I journeyed with them from “not ready” to “ready”, but unfortunately for me this resulted in someone else reaping the benefits of my effort. They were ready, but not with me. It caused me to believe that there was something wrong with me and that I had to be doing something wrong.
So you must be wondering if this happened to me again? Surprise! Yes beloved, it did. The storyline of what happened is far less important than the lessons I learned this time, so we will focus on that and leave the rest where it is at. So the quote at the beginning of this post came in the version of a text message from my sorority sister and dear friend Shaquila. It came shortly after the situation referred to above, and it was right on time. It honestly gave me the courage to get back out into the dating world and try again.
Moment of transparency: I will admit that this situation shook me to the core. I have had my heart broken twice before, and I definitely coin this as the third. A part of me still cannot believe that here I am, again, singing the same sad song. I have questioned my self-worth over and over again, trying to figure out what is wrong with me. Am I crazy? Am I not attractive? What am I lacking? What do these other women have that I do not? It has taken a lot of emotional work to get back to a healthy, whole place. The journey is not easy, but I owe it to myself to do the work.
The biggest lesson I have learned as a result of this last experience is acceptance. I was faced with two options: either accept what type of lover I am or change who I am. I decided to go with acceptance and this has helped me tremendously. I recognize what role I have played in each relationship. I have an “all-in” approach when it comes to my relationships with other people, and I exhaust every option before I walk away. This is just who I am, and I believe this quality will make me a great partner to someone one day. I have also accepted that this approach can cause me to get hurt. Recognizing this allows me to focus my energy on how to either lessen that hurt or find ways to work through and process it better.
Next lesson: I have let go of all the rules. Society is great at telling you what a relationship should be, look, and feel like. Instagram is full of relationship experts, and you can find at least three love gurus on Twitter. Even celebrity couples will have you creating ideas and idolizing their love stories. I am no longer interested in all of that. When I am blessed with a relationship my partner and I will do whatever works for us. Focusing on what “they” say is stressful and can cause you to miss out on your blessing or deal with things that are less than you deserve.
In closing, I have learned what I want in a partner. I mean, I really know. In the past I have always had a great idea about what I was looking for, I have prayed for the type of man I want, etc. But now there is a certain conviction in my spirit and I know for sure. Refer to 1 Corinthians 13. Read the whole chapter, but verse 4 tells you what love is. I want someone who embodies all of those things. If I cannot read your name in place of the word “love” in those verses, you are not the person for me. It took me a long time to truly figure this out. In the past my therapist asked me what I want in a partner, and I could only tell her what I knew I did not want. I could never exactly verbalize anything positive. I think I was making it more complicated than I needed to. Now it is pretty simple.
Moment of transparency: One of the lowest moments in my dating life was allowing someone to stand in front of me and tell me how they did not want me. Repeatedly. And instead of walking away, I stayed and begged this person to see me. To give me a chance. To love me. I have never felt more vulnerable or small than I did in those moments. I wish I would have recognized then that the person was not my 1 Corinthians 13 and that the conversation was full of everything but love.
So here I am, still “The Girl Before the Girlfriend”, but I know this is not the life God has for me. Like Shaquila said, God has a man created just for me. A man who will see my worth from the very beginning. A man that I may have to teach a few things, but he will be a man on his own. A man that will feel like home. Love was my word for 2017 and is my word for 2018, so I am not giving up.
What is your love story? Take some time to reflect on your relationships. Focus on what they have taught you and how they have made you better. Look at how far you’ve come, regardless of your relationship status. If you are one of those people who feel like they are not “ready” for a relationship, consider this concept I talk about in the podcast episode.
In Wale’s “The Matrimony” featuring Usher, the song starts out with a dialogue about how regardless of the plans you make, you cannot truly be “ready” for marriage because it requires you to grow. As with any growth, you cannot be ready for it, because it is new. You change and become someone new. Marriage is a stage of a relationship right? Right. So the same logic applies, beloved. The right relationships will cause you to grow, whether you think you are ready or not. You cannot say “wait God, no no. I am not ready to grow.” It just happens. You can spend your whole life planning, but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and go for it. Leave the excuses behind, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.
Disclaimer: Do not get into a relationship if you have no intention of doing right by the other person. I do believe there is a necessary mental state to be in before you start dating, so please don’t “be” out here playing games. You know if you are in the right frame of mind to engage with other people. My advice is to those who think they have to have “x, y, and z” in order before they can be open to dating.
“How lit would it be to have someone to do life with?” x Anaston Jeni