I spent some time with a close guy friend a couple weeks ago while stateside, and a
slightly inebriated trip down relationship/situationship lane concluded with some chilling realizations and some good insights for me going forward. I thought it was time to start turning wounds into wisdom, so here goes.
The conversation began with the acknowledgement that ‘yes, there are always signs when something’s not going to work out, but we choose to ignore them- While for men, ignoring usually involves a fight between both “heads”, a woman’s fight is usually between her head and her heart. So given this fight, how does one pick up that you’re not ‘his wifey’ in order not to waste your time? Good q. For the remainder of this piece, I’ll try to recount John’s** side of the conversation in italics slash give my thoughts and list out six key findings in bold. Although these are personalized to me, they are general takeaways for everyone on how to know before you know.
In no particular order:
1. How many times did I tell you to let this one go? And not just me, how many people told you to let this one go? You put it down, you pick it up. You walk away, then turn right back around and RUN back. You let it half way heal, then with one little itch and you’re picking at it. >>> When your guy friends cry foul, it’s a problem. I know I’ve talked about this before, but I’ll reiterate it because it’s such a good test. Maybe even before ‘your man’ admits it to you or to himself, sometimes your guy friends can pick up on actions or inactions and let you know what’s really up with a guy. Listen to your guy friends when they tell you to keep it moving, especially when it’s multiple friends and said repeatedly. It’s not an exact science, but this is definitely better than listening to your girlfriends who tend to rationalize actions with you..
2. Not one? single one of his
close friends, period, knew of the existence of his and your situation. And that is all on you, boo. As a relationship blogger, you really should know better. >>> I really should. I mean, I have a blog post that even discussed this… so no excuses on this one. Let me just copy/paste what I already ‘know’: His Family and Friends not knowing about you is a problem. If you’re ‘together’ and every one of your close friends and family knows about him, but none of his close friends or family knows about your existence/relationship, it’s time to reconsider the situation. If you drop hints of loving to meet his family/friends and he evades or shuts down the conversation, it’s time to consider why. And this includes the lot of ‘I don’t tell people about my personal business’ folks. Yes, some men don’t like to gossip about who they’re fooling around with, but when he’s serious about you, he’ll want the important people in his life to know about you. And for you to know them.
3. And on that note… the ex never left the picture, so you better go take several seats, little girl. If it takes any man 6 months to break up with a chick, don’t think for a second that thing is going to die
easily >>> When the ex never leaves the picture, it’s a problem. So you did your research once the two of you started talking… Who was before, how serious was it, is she outta the picture? But it’s not always about the past, you need to also consider the present. Even if others have opinions about what their situation was/is, even if he said ‘she wasn’t wifey’…trust your gut. If things don’t feel right on more than one occasion, maybe it’s for a reason. And things not feeling right can manifest in various forms: 1. They’re still really good friends (a little too good) 2. She’s someone who never let go: Checking in… ‘Hows your mama & ’em doing?… Did your pops receive the Christmas present I sent him’ Etc.*side-eye* 3. His friends never understood why he broke up with her, and continue to believe she’s the best match for him (See #2 again) 4. The general public/ his friends and acquaintances still associate him with her in a romantic sense… Everyone pause for a moment: I actually had a conversation once with someone who referred to the person I was currently talking to as ‘oh, you mean so-and-so’s ex’… Errr yup, that’s exactly who I was referring to… *side-eye*. For this one, John was stressing that perhaps I never lost him because I never had him to lose. That perhaps he was never the one, because he was always someone else’s one. If she’s got the best friends and family on lock, you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle; just don’t be surprised if in 2, 3, 4 years even they’re back together near engaged *shrug*.
3.5. Not to belabor the point, but you took too long to decide what you wanted and then to tell him, and in general there will be less encroachment on territory if it is clearly marked. One reason someone can come back so easily into a man’s life, is when he’s not locked down. You have a window of opportunity to lock it down with a guy, once that’s gone, you can’t really do much after that. >>> When it takes too long to get commitment, it’s a problem. If you want something, decide quickly and take it. If you get hurt in the process, at least you can say you tried… But don’t allow a situation to float in the milky way undefined. One of the most eye opening lessons I’ve learned in the last year is the power of a decisive woman in a relationship. And this is all from the mouths of men too: ‘Women sometimes underestimate their influence over men (especially educated black women). A woman can have the power to make decisions for ‘us’, because sometimes we don’t know what we want or what’s best for us, and we need a woman to make a case/decision that ‘hey, we’re doing this’.’ What I’ve seen over the past year living in Ghana is that the purposeful/intentional/aggressive women be killing the game- and the laissez-faire, well…they’re not. And intentional here is not thirsty or manipulative, it’s just being straight with what you want.
4. Your values/ religion did not align, and no one backed down. Love compromises, so if yall weren’t willing to come to an understanding on this then there’s not too much you could do there >>> I know this is a dicey one. In our favorite guest post on White Women, the author called foul play on African men brought up by traditional/Christian mothers who wanted to deviate from that with their own significant others. However, to that all I can say is: It’s. Allowed. God forbid men don’t want to marry their mothers, even if they think the world of them. You’re allowed to adore your mama and not want to date/marry ‘her’ per se, or allow ‘her’ to raise your kids in the world we live in now. And I find this true for a lot of African men who’ve grown up/ spent a considerable amount of time abroad. It’s the same thing really as marrying outside your race/culture. And I am fully aware that opposites attract and there are successful inter-faith and no-faith/faith couples, however if the two of you don’t see each others values/religions as assets (or at the very least not liabilities) to the other’s character, then its a red flag. And this is more than tolerance, it’s respect and a willingness to live with the consequences of that persons values/religion… Including (if you’re to get married) how you raise your kids.
5. Count for me how many times in 3 years, you TRULY felt this boy was going H.A.M for you, as in putting in serious time and energy to make the relationship work.
1, 2, 3 times? Maybe a handful?
Actually that’s okay, you don’t have to answer.
>>> He likes you
a little less than you like him. It’s the time tested rule passed down from Grandmama that we all heard growing up: You want a man who likes you a little more than you like him. For obvious reasons… or maybe not so obvious, so I’ll explicitly say it… Men like to chase and women like to be chased. It’s like the circle of life or something *shrug*. If you as the woman are driving things, if you’re the one trying to manipulate situations to see him, speak to him scheming to make it work, it’s prob not supposed to work. If he shows unwavering commitment to his friends and family, and for you it doesn’t quite seem like he’s putting in as much dedication to show you how he feels… sooner or later, the truth always surfaces. And I’m not advocating for playing games here either… I do think women should make their feelings known, but after that if he’s not reciprocating on a similar level then keep it moving… And I realize there’s a delicate balancing act one has to do between this and #3.5.
6. WTF. Even as a man, I WAS confused of this guy’s actions. He’s in, he’s out, he’s up, he’s down. >>> Indecision is a decision. And I’ve already talked about this …. twice. Don’t necessarily equate leaving and returning as a sign that he wants to be with you… Because although he comes back, he still leaves again. If he can’t make a permanent decision about you, and it’s been more than 12 months…keep it moving – words from a man, not me. And I can’t give enough stress to #1, if your guy friends cry foul… well, you know the rest.
– – –
Well, that’s the list I
uncovered can remember with John. Perhaps he was a little hard on me, but I needed to hear it and I think many women need to as well. What’s worse than being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back, is wasting time on being with someone who truly doesn’t want to be with you, so use the 6 tests above… I think they can save you a lot some of the head heartache. The guy may like you (even care for you deeply), but the key here is that he’s not into you enough to stay permanently… Enough to tell his fam/friends about you… Enough to pass the smell test with objective guy friends. I think more than this being a therapeutic post for me, I also don’t want anyone to ever spend too much time on a one-sided love, or ever have to hear a guy say to you after three years, ‘you know, you don’t exactly fit in with my whole life situation’… *shrug* It happens.
**Name changed obvi