I loved this man the minute I laid eyes on him. He was perfect to me: from his intriguing stare to his delicious stature, I was hooked. I wanted him to be mine. And he was.
Fast forward by years, easy, pressure-free years: we are still together. We are about to make the ultimate commitment to each other. I have already held my first meeting with my bridesmaids, attended so many bridal expos I have lost count of possible vendors I could use for my big day. Everyone is so happy for me, so happy. My mother cannot believe one of her girls is jumping the broom. My coworkers are constantly asking me about details. I am constantly looking for color swatches, fabric samples, cake samples, business contacts, but where is my groom? Between work and home, I cannot put my finger on what is happening, but there is definitely something brewing in the atmosphere. We live together at this point, but he isn't always home. We have different work schedules, but even on his days off, he is M.I.A. I speak on the phone with him more than I see him. I find myself asking for more time, AGAIN. Didn't we deal with this before? Whenever we argued about this in the past, he always gave me the same response: his mind was always on the dollar. He was concerned about making money. For him, the dollar was in the club life. He loved the party life. Three to four days a week, he was in somebody's lounge or club. He loved parties. Period. Me? I rarely partied. My idea of a "party" included potato chips and my students reading their essays. We were growing apart. My concerns become nagging, constant nagging. Why couldn't I understand that he was getting paid for doing what he loved? Why did his partying bother me when I knew he was coming home to me? Why was I complaining about time when he was just doing him? When was I going to fall back, just let him do what he did to make ends meet and enjoy whatever days with me he could pencil in? I found myself doing just that; I would build a schedule around him.
Girls-night-outs were cancelled if he wanted me to be in the house, I begin to see my family less, and my life revolved around work and him (and in that order). No one protests. According to everyone else, I am a happy bride-to-be, a girl so smitten, so in love, that she wanted to be around her man constantly. Behind closed doors, we argued more. Bickering became full-blown shouting verbal drag-outs. We would make up for a little while, but we were back at it in no time. Arguments would then lead to him threatening to leave, and me practically begging him to "fight for us," to work it out with me. I tried lingerie, dressing up, being sexier. I would cook food I knew he would enjoy. I would apologize for hanging out with my friends, for staying out late, knowing that just the other night, he came home from partying at six in the morning reeking of liquor without so much as a hello. I would turn everything wrong back on me. If I would just stop nagging him, then maybe he would want to be home more.
We as women are almost trained from birth to be focused on the ultimate goal: to get married and become someone's wife. As girls, we get kitchen sets and baby-dolls that cry and pee for Christmas. We have tea parties, we do each other's hair and nails, we talk and look pretty while doing it. We wear enough pink to put any Barbie to shame. We grow into these ultra-expressive, empathetic, nurturing and caring women, generally speaking. We want to talk about our feelings. We want to tell our friends about the stupid thing he did last night and we expect them to "Oh no he didn't" us back. We want to seduce him into submission, cook for him to show him what he's gaining, agree with everything he's saying. We want to meet his mother and make her love us. We want to be the one he surprises with flowers for V-Day, the one he makes love to so good we are bouncing around at work the next day. We want him to gush about us to his boys. We want them all to secretly wish we had a sister. We want him to think about being with us forever. We want to be his forever. We wish that he would hop down to Tiffany's with our best friend, swear her to secrecy while he puts the first of three payments on a nicely-sized ring that seals our forever place in his life. We want him to propose in front of our congregation, the patrons in our favorite restaurant, in a quiet park, on a Central Park carriage, on the steps of our building, wherever, just as long as he does it. We want to be the beautiful fiance he can't wait to introduce to his Southern kin. We want to wear his name and bear his children, all ten of them, however many he wants. We imagine cooking for him every night, whatever he wants. We imagine seducing him like he's never been seduced before, the way we think he would like it. Then the bad comes, and we wake up. We realize that none of this has come to fruition, and we are lost. If you are anything like me, you are confused, because you no longer know who you are. You lost yourself a long time ago. When did compromise become a total sacrifice?
Relationship 101: Compromise with your mate, and life is guaranteed to be perfect for you. Reality hurts: Where is this perfect life? Did it get lost in the compromising? Who am I? Is this what I want, or am I settling out of fear that I won't find better?
Congratulations from friends and family turned to "I'm sorry" and embarrassed chuckles, sympathetic hugs and "If you need someone to talk to" offerings. I was no longer someone people were allowed to be happy for. Now, people grieved for me, mourned the death of my relationship for me, sat shiva (I'm not even Jewish) while I battled my own insecurities and regret demons. Did I make a mistake? Did I just pass up the love of my life? What if he was really meant for me?
Then, one day, I cry. I cry so loud in my empty apartment, so long and hard that my throat is sore. I can't speak. I can barely breathe. I can only think of Naomi from the Bible, the woman who lost her husband and two sons. I am Naomi, and it is my fault. I cry for her and for me. I lost it all. Then, out of nowhere months later, I reflect on that painful day when I cried like a motherless child. I realized that I got through it. I pray, and thank Him for the strength. Then, I start making a list of things I refuse to settle for in a relationship. "Lack of quality time" is at the top of my list.
We don't ever have to settle. Man and woman are not meant to be alone, but that doesn't mean we have to allow ourselves to be unhappy. Any man I fall for needs to have my best interests-my heart and my happiness, my friendship-at heart. Loving for us, generally speaking, is first-nature. We love, and we love good and hard. Any man who deserves our love needs to actually earn it.
Compromise in any relationship makes it work. Two people are not going to always be in agreement, so some compromise has to be in order in order to make the love work for both. When is compromise becoming a total sacrifice? When we are risking our own happiness, when we are allowing someone to make us second-guess our own desires, we are giving up too much. It is a condition we have to allow ourselves to have. Human love is never unconditional; only Jesus and His Father have that type of love for us. And you won't see me hanging on anyone's cross anytime soon. We are supposed to love each other like Christ loves us, but we also need to consider the fact that human love is full of fallacies and setbacks. If Adam loved Eve, or vice-versa, why would either one allow the other to get caught up in temptation? Neither one of them were perfect. Both fell short, and so do we. The goal is to love each other the best way we can. And the best way to love each other is without making the other unhappy.
Forgive me for the length of this post. Its has been two weeks, I was focused on an entirely different topic until yet another friend talked about yet another compromise that sounded like yet another woman risking her happiness to please yet another partner. Sometimes we have to learn how to say no, learn how to walk away, especially when our sanity and serenity are at risk. Love is free and produces endorphins, yet we indulge in painful and harmful relationships for the sake of having someone.
We are priceless. We carry the world on our shoulders, yet we bear the future in our bellies. Our nectar soothes the most stressed man after a long day, our words caress a child's heart as she or he grows and continues our lineage. We are more valuable than we feel. Take advantage.
I'm out. Melanie Fiona's album is giving me life right now, so I'm going to get into a good book. Until next time, folks. Don't kill me for this long post. It just needed to be said sometime, right?