Monday Notes: Compromise: A Definition

Dwight enjoys watching Marvel movies. Me? Not so much. I’ve written before about how as I learned what I liked and disliked, sitting through the same superhero trope was one of the first things to go. However, Dwight values these movies and sees them as a way to introduce me to something he used to enjoy as a child—reading comic books and seeing them come to life in film. Because I recognized this, I told him I would watch one a year with him. 

This, according to Collins dictionary, is a compromise, a situation in which people accept something slightly different from what they really want, because of circumstances or because they are considering the wishes of other people.  

For the past eight years or so, I’ve been declaring that I no longer compromise in relationships, but this isn’t true*. A compromise implies that both parties get something out of an agreement. In this case, I watch fewer Marvel movies with my husband, but he knows I’m fully devoted to at least one per year. We’ve both compromised what we want to happen. 

Here’s what I actually no longer do:

Acquiesce

Collins dictionary says if you acquiesce in something, you agree to do what someone wants or accept what they do even though you may not agree with it. In my Marvel example, acquiescing would mean I say, “Alriiiight. I’ll go,” and not only watch Spider-man: No Way Home, but also Shanghai and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. That’s not a compromise; that’s giving in, and in this scenario, only Dwight would get what he wants.

Prioritize Others’ Desires over My Own

If I prioritized Dwight’s wants over my own, then I would continue watching Marvel movies even when I’d rather be reading a book or writing a new blog post. That wouldn’t be a compromise because I would be either ignoring my needs or putting my desires last (and also sending a message that what I want doesn’t matter as much as what my husband wants). Again, only Dwight would be benefitting in this situation.

ONLY Prioritize My Wants

Doing what you want, regardless of what others want implies a type of selfishness. I care about my husband, his values, and desires. If I didn’t, then I would’ve told him I’m bowing out of all Marvel movies, at the theater and at home. But sometimes he’ll say, “Hey Bay! I really think you’ll like this one,” and I’ll listen to his reason and make a decision. That’s how I ended up watching Doctor Strange in 2016. And he was right. I did like the movie and its concept. 

A Final Word

A lot of us think we’re compromising, when really we’re acquiescing to someone else’s desires or asking someone to give in to ours. Although I’ve based my example on a romantic relationship, these ideas also apply to familial relationships and friendships. For example, family members seem to think you’re supposed to prioritize their needs over your own a disproportionate number of times and innumerable ways (i.e., calling, visiting, spending time), simply because they’re family. And friends oftentimes have selfish requests where one person’s wants end up frequently prioritized with no regard for the other person’s time or circumstances. 

True compromise, however, is a win-win for all parties involved. It shouldn’t involve manipulation, selfishness, or crossing of boundaries. It should feel as if you and the other person have met in the middle. So, what do you think? Do your relationships include compromise or something else?

*Thanks to Rob over at Friends without Borders for prompting me to think about this a little deeper.


Monday Notes: Understanding L❤️VE with Will Smith, bell hooks, and Gary Chapman

Recently, I read Will Smith’s memoir, Will, bell hooks’ All about Love, and Gary Chapman’s, The 5 Love Languages. Here are three common themes each book reinforced about my understanding of love:

Love is deeper than what we’ve learned.

Each author makes clear that love is more than what we were implicitly shown and explicitly taught.  

As a Black, feminist scholar, bell hooks’ message is that what many of us have learned about love is based on the fantasies of men, which is rooted in patriarchy. Therefore, she uses a more in-depth definition from social psychologist Erich Fromm. Fromm says that love is “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” That’s deep, right?

Gary Chapman is a pastor, and much of what he writes is rooted in Christianity and scripture. For example, he alludes to Genesis 2:24, but he clarifies that “becoming one flesh … did not mean that individuals would lose their identity; it meant that they would enter into each other’s lives in a deep and intimate way.”

Pop culture icon, Will Smith describes the evolution of his relationship with Jada as something that grew to be more spiritual. They’ve publicly call each other “life partners,” which implies something more than riding off into the sunset with a beau.

As someone who’s been married for twenty-five years, the idea that love is more than what we’ve been fed resonates. My marriage to Dwight is the most transformative relationship I’ve ever had. He’s been instrumental to my self-evolution. Through our relationship, I have learned what it means to love someone and to be loved.

What you learn in your family of origin shapes how you view love.

The idea that our families teach us how to love is not new; however, each author shares a nuanced approach to this concept.

bell hooks’ says that “to truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients—care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.” She also suggests a family’s love doesn’t always feel like love because the love we receive from family is primarily care, which is just one component. Many of us do not learn each characteristic of love from our families. Do you see how this can pose a problem for future relationships?

Gary Chapman also explains that many of us have learned how to show love based on the family in which we were raised. For example, my mother showed love by giving gifts. She expressed this love language by throwing parties. I always had two birthday parties—one on my actual birthday and another on the weekend with either family or friends. Guess what I thought love was for a very long time? Guess what my primary love language is?

Will Smith’s memoir brilliantly illustrates how we pass on generational patterns of showing love, whether they worked for us or not. His abusive father showed love through a work ethic and the result of the work ethic, making money, which provided safety and shelter. bell hooks would call this care, and Chapman would label it acts of service. Will then showed that type of love to his wife and children, and even though their family looks hella successful, it backfired; his wife and children didn’t feel loved.

Love is a choice.

Is love a choice? My experience makes me say no.

I maintain that I didn’t not choose to love Dwight any more than I choose to breathe. As soon as we met, our union was solidified. Gary Chapman found this concept so important he devoted an entire chapter to it. He calls this beginning, in-love phase “a temporary emotional high” and “on the level of instinct.” Everything after that is where he says the “real love” begins.

Cool. Chapman agrees with me. We don’t choose to be in love. But maybe we do choose everything after that, which maintains love?

bell hooks says it’s important to acknowledge love as a choice as a way to take ownership of our feelings and actions. She says, “to begin by always thinking of love as an action rather than a feeling is one way in which anyone using the word in this manner automatically assumes accountability and responsibility.”

This makes sense to me. Choosing to love or to be loving makes every act intentional, not some willy-nilly, out of control situation.

A story from Will Smith’s memoir that shows how love is a choice was about his daughter, Willow. Willow asked him this paraphrased question: Does it matter to you how I feel? He implied that every argument, every misunderstanding asks this question: Does it matter to you how I feel? He goes on to explain that we show each other the answer by our actions, by the choices we make, which reveal how we choose to love one another.

So, yep. I get it.

We can say, “I love you” a million times, but when it comes down to specific actions, are we choosing to be loving toward the person we say we love? The answer is the difference between someone feeling loved as opposed to just hearing words.  

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I know I got a little theoretical, but hey. It happens. Let me know what you think about love.


Thoughts On My 25th Wedding Anniversary

“They look like somebody made them!” That’s what one of our wedding guests said on the day we married. She’d reiterated my exact sentiments ever since the first day we’d met—someone made him just for me.

From the very beginning, we’ve had best friend vibes. Whether we were bouncing a ball around outside of his apartment or lying in the grass on campus, while staring at the clouds, once we decided we were a couple, we pretty much did everything together.

I did that thing that a lot of people do—ignored whoever was a friend at the time and poured all my attention and energy into this new relationship. We created a bubble and constantly prioritized one another.

One time, when his friends were over having drinks, one of them kept asking me to grab him another beer.

“Aye! My babe is not the maid,” he replied, while gently stopping me from leaving the couch.

He saw me as important, and in that moment, decided I wouldn’t be treated any type of way.

I felt secure.

When he graduated, leaving me to finish two years of college and creating a 140-mile long-distance relationship, we remained committed to one another. We spoke on the phone every night, until our voices turned to snores. Friday nights, he arrived on campus as soon as he finished with work; Monday mornings he arrived back home just in time to clock in.  

We. were. in. love.

The three years prior to our marriage, we spent a lot of time talking. We still do. Whether it’s the big stuff, like abortion, religion, and politics, or concepts, like veganism and over-population, there’s nothing you can ask either of us that we won’t know how to answer for the other person.

By the time Dwight asked me to marry him November 1995, I already knew I’d say, “yes.” We’d talked about it. But I still cried. The whole ordeal seemed surreal. Even when we married the following year, I floated above our heads and watched myself utter those famous two words, and ride in a horse and carriage, and eat chocolate cake, and do the hustle, and…and…and. Even for my extroverted, partying self, our wedding was very performative, and I had a nagging sense it was unnecessary.

All I ever wanted was to be with Dwight, lying in the grass, looking at the clouds.

“Are you okay?” my father asked as he drove us to the airport for our honeymoon.

I always wondered if he saw the dream state in my eyes, the awe that any of this was happening.

“I’m fine,” I said.

Life buzzed by and we met the expectations of a husband and wife:

✅ 2 kids

✅ house

✅ dog

✅ bills

And the couple who used to walk in the rain, hand-in-hand, just because ceased to exist. Handwritten love notes attached to roses dissipated. Instead, we were replaced with society’s version of love and marriage. The world calls it “growing up,” but I call it a factory-model rendition of love.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and I want to be clear. You can be in a committed relationship and never marry. You can marry and never have children. You can have children, be in a committed relationship, and never marry. I’ll stop here.

On our 25th wedding anniversary, I finally realized we could’ve done this love thing however we wanted. We can do this love thing however we want. Whether it’s walking in the Cloud Forest in Costa Rica or biking on a trail at the beach, I hope we’ll spend the next twenty-five years making up ways to be in love…in whatever way best suits us.



Monday Notes: 3 Ways Unresolved Trauma Showed Up In My 25-Year Marriage

Dwight and I met in 1993, four years after my mother died and three years after my father agreed to give up his parental rights. We married three years later. I’ve spent the last seven years deconstructing how these events (and others) impacted how I’ve functioned in relationship. Now, I’m ready to share some of it with you.

#1: I married out of fear. When I married Dwight, I legitimately believed no one else in the world was going to love me. NO ONE! Given my history of abandonment by all primary caregivers (i.e., biological and adoptive parents), this is not strange. I had a sense that if my parents couldn’t even stick around, then why would anyone else? I (unconsciously) thought that if this man, who I perceived as perfect, wanted to marry me, then I’d better say yes and speed to my “happily ever after.” This isn’t to say I didn’t love him. It’s just that I had a feeling that this was my last chance ever at being loved. I entered our marriage as a scared little girl, and I maintained that fear for at least eighteen years.

#2: I thought being married could replace the love I should’ve had for myself. My husband once said, “I love you more than you love yourself.” That’s deep. I didn’t even know what he was talking about. It sounded ridiculous. But he was right. My self-worth was so low that I (unconsciously) thought marrying him would solve my abandonment issues. I thought marriage could save me from that bottom-of-the-barrel feeling. Life doesn’t work that way, though. If you feel sad and dejected, once you get married, then you’ll just feel sad and dejected with a partner alongside you. And even though misery loves company, the company doesn’t love misery, especially when he didn’t ask for it. The only way to improve self-worth is to acknowledge your importance sans external validation. Worth doesn’t have to be earned. Self-worth is a birthright.

#3: I thought being married meant melding identities. I wrote about this here, but it’s worth reiterating. When Dwight and I were first in relationship, I was already dealing with the common identity issues associated with being an adoptee. I’d dissolved this already shaky sense of self and replaced it with his likes and desires. I thought I had to be someone else to maintain my husband’s love. This is unhealthy. It’s important for two people to have a clear sense of who they are and what they like prior to becoming a union. And afterwards, it’s just as important to maintain separate identities. At this point, I remind people that my husband and I are not Bobbsey twins; we do not do everything together. If you see me out and about by myself, it’s because that’s what I preferred at the time. Our separate actions have nothing to do with the love we share or the years we have.

There is a difference between how my personal issues affected our marriage and how much I love Dwight. One has nothing to do with the other. When we first met, there was an undeniable sense that we were supposed to be together. We both felt and still feel it; it’s kind of like a magnetic pull. It’s just that when you don’t resolve trauma prior to marrying, then you end up resolving it while you’re married. It’s not an impossible feat, but there will be negative consequences for one or both people.

Seek therapy. Get to know yourself. Then, commit. In an ideal world, that’s how healthy relationships would be created and maintained. But I also know we’re far from living in an idyllic society. And if we each waited for perfect wholeness in ourselves or another being, we’d probably remain by ourselves forever. Sounds contradictory, right? It is. Ultimately, I’d advise new couples to do their best to be healthy versions of themselves, while holding space for the one another to grow. That’s what we ended up doing, and we’ve been married for twenty-five years.



Post-script: I’ve got 3 more ways, but I gotta leave material for the memoir 💁🏽‍♀️

Monday Notes: Relationships, Love, and Such

More often than not, I have a little bit to say about a lot of things. I thought I’d share a few with you.

If we treated our girlfriends half as well as we do men, then women relationships might improve. Three years ago, I visited a friend in Sarasota. After the four-hour drive, I did as I sometimes do, stopped by her home first to pick her up for lunch. When I got there, she’d just finished her workout.

“Are you about to take a shower?” I asked, giving her athletic gear a once over.

“No! All I did was walk,” she said.

“If I was a man, you’d take a shower,” I replied.

She agreed but didn’t shower, and the above thought was born.

Why do we (sometimes) get all dolled up for the opposite sex but show up any type of way with our girlfriends? Is it comfort? Value? Societal teachings? For me, how I arrive depends on the event, not necessarily the company I keep, but in general, I show up freshly washed, with a nice outfit no matter if it’s the love of my life or a good friend.


If you love someone, then you’re implicitly saying you accept who they are. You can have acceptance without love, but you cannot have love without acceptance. For example, Dwight fully loves and accepts who I am. He encourages me to be myself, even if that means as he says it, “cussin’ a —- out” because he knows I’m fully capable of that behavior. But that doesn’t stop him from loving me.

People mistake how love and acceptance can show up, though. I have a cousin who lives with a mental illness. I love her like a sister, and I accept this part of her, but because I know her mental health can be overwhelming, I carefully choose when and how I will interact and be with her. Sometimes we forget we can choose how to be in people’s lives, and these choices have nothing to do with how much we love or accept someone.


Why is it we want our partners to have character traits we don’t? Why is that? I know people who desire vulnerability but have trust issues. I have friends who want a specific level of intimacy but don’t seem to know how to cuddle, show affection, or open up. I wonder if, when we seek a romantic partner, we’re seeking to fill a void of something we think we don’t have.

When Dwight and I first met, I wasn’t as self-aware, and consequently, I didn’t know how to be myself. He, on the other hand, seemed very confident in who he was and clear about what he would and wouldn’t do. Did I unconsciously seek someone who possessed the very things I needed to develop? I also wonder if helping one another to grow is more of the point of relationships, as opposed to racking up and celebrating years of companionship…like a prize. Maybe our friends and romantic partners are there to mirror who we are and to reflect who we can be.

Maybe our friends and romantic partners are there to mirror who we are and to reflect who we can be.

Let me know what you think.

Mental Health Matters: How to Establish 4 Types of Boundaries

A couple weeks ago, I shared how developing self-worth has helped me be less codependent. This week, I’ll discuss how maintaining four types of boundaries has been useful:

Relationship: Relationship boundaries seem to be the most common. This kind of boundary is mostly discussed within romantic relationships, but over the past five years or so, I’ve developed relationship boundaries with existing friendships. The BFF breakup I recently re-blogged, where I realized I didn’t like to be my friend’s therapist, is a great example. To avoid slipping into a psychologist’s role, I rarely give others advice when asked. Instead, my go-to answer is you know what you should do. Not only does this answer embody my firmly held belief that most of us do have the internal guidance required to live, it also keeps me from establishing relationships where folks constantly lean on me to help them solve their problems.

Time: The next type of boundary isn’t discussed as frequently, and I suspect it’s because people in relationship feel entitled to copious amounts of one another’s time. Take phone conversations, for example. They aren’t really my thing, but I recognize them as something many people enjoy as a way to preserve relationships. However, seldom do I want to talk on the phone, and even when I want to, most days, my lifestyle doesn’t allow for lengthy dialogue. So, friends get a time boundary. Sometimes this looks telling the person ahead of the call that I will only have X number of minutes to speak. Other days, it’s someone asking me if I have ten minutes to answer a question or hear a story. Either way, time boundaries are set, and friendships are intact.

Personal: Personal boundaries are my favorite because they’re unique to each of us. An example of this occurred three years ago. My grandmother wanted visit. My answer was no. I didn’t offer her a reason, but for blogging purposes, here’s why: It was August. My semester begins in August. My oldest daughter was moving to another city. My youngest daughter was beginning her second year of high school. Dwight and I were looking for a house every Saturday and Sunday. There was too much going on and I’d just begun understanding that when life is too much, anxiety kicks in. The last thing I needed was my then 90-year-old Grannie wanting to be involved in all of the things and asking 1,999 questions while doing so. Nope. That’s what a personal boundary is: personal based on your needs.

Conversational: Finally, it is important to set boundaries around what you will and will not discuss. Though it may seem as if there is no topic I won’t share via blog, believe it or not, conversational boundaries exist in this space. Ya’ll can’t know everything. Similarly, I have conversational boundaries with my in-real-life friends, depending on the person. I’ve learned not to talk about anything too serious with a friend I’ve known since senior year, because when I do, he jokes about the subject and never follows-up to see if or how it was resolved. We’re friends, but he’s demonstrated he doesn’t want to hear all that. I only have one or two people with whom I’ll talk about my marriage. Everyone else has proven they can’t handle anything perceived as negativity about Dwight, whom they believe to be an unflawed human being. Conversational boundaries ensure I avoid what feels like toxicity and instead include love and support from the appropriate person. This is not to say I avoid hard conversations, but rather, all topics are not for all relationships.

Relationship, time, personal, and conversational boundaries have supported healthier ways for me to be in relationship with others. Relationship boundaries help me to define how I want to be someone’s friend of family member. Time boundaries ensure I’m not giving too much of myself or asking others to unfairly give of themselves. Personal boundaries allow me to know when to prioritize my needs, and conversational ones help me to not share topics with those who do not have the capacity to deal, while also allowing me to know with whom I can engage.

I hope exemplifying these boundaries helps. Let me know if anything resonates with you.

3 Ways to Develop Self-Worth

No More People Pleasing!

Virtual Book Reading: Video and Update

Last Saturday, we held a successful virtual book reading via Zoom and FB Live. About 40 people floated in and out and we are very appreciative.

Also, y’all know I’m always writing about relationships and how we can do a better job with relating to one another, so I gotta say THANK YOU to my grannie and aunt and sister-friends from all walks of life who showed up. Sending gratitude to the following bloggers who also made a way to pop in from Nigeria, the New England area, Oregon, and Georgia:

Omo Ackin

E

Lady G

Pam

Kim

If you missed it, here’s the 2-hour recording:

 

Monday Notes: Talking About Women Behind Their Backs and Women’s Empowerment

Where does talking about women behind their backs fit into women’s empowerment? I was faced with answering this question for myself after three different circumstances occurred over the course of two months.

talking_people2Situation #1 is a combination of many experiences. It usually starts in a group DM. One person may say, “Hey, did you know that Sally did blah, blah, blah?” And because we all know Sally, but Sally’s not in the group, a conversation and judgments about her may ensue. I have been known to either start this type of dialogue, participate in the conversation, or throw in an lol or appropriate gif.

Situation #2 is also a common one I’ve found myself in. Two women don’t know each other, but for some reason have crossed one another’s paths. I associate with both women. Sally does something Sue doesn’t like and because I know both, I’m listening to each share their dislikes. I may also interfere by throwing in a, “Hey why don’t you think about it this way” because I feel a sense of loyalty to both and I’m equally associated.

teaSituation #3 surfaces every now and then. Again, it begins with my knowing two women, who also may know one another, but aren’t necessarily friends. Sue asks me a question about Sally. Just for the sake of example, it could be something like, “Why does she always wear her pants backwards?” Because I know Sally and I have insight into why her pants are always backwards, I answer. I never tell Sally; however, I do secretly continue this defense of her and her backwards-pants wearing.

I’ve decided participating in any future, similar conversations is wrong. Here’s why.

Many of you know my overall goal is to raise women’s consciousness; however, how can I be raising women’s consciousness in one breath, while talking about women behind their backs in another?

I can’t. It’s out of alignment. And I won’t be doing it anymore.

From here on out, I will not be discussing other women in the confines of text messages, DMs, or lunch dates. I also won’t be listening to other women discuss and judge women I know (or don’t know). My new direct phrase will be: Let’s talk about all the amazing things going on in your life and what you’re doing (or something similar). And finally, if someone wants to know why Sally always wears her pants backwards, I’m going to suggest that they pick up the phone and ask Sally.

Women’s empowerment is about more than writing, blogging, or speaking engagements, where women share their wounds and heal. It’s about not creating more cuts for someone we each refer to as “sis.” It’s about the way we carry ourselves when no one’s looking. This includes private conversations.

Let me know what you think, if you can relate to either of these situations, or if you have another one to share.