Preparing for the Relationship You Want

Black Woman Looking Up
Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash

I spent years having conversations with friends and my therapist and my parents about how to find a partner who was a good match. My friends and I discussed the pros and cons of online dating, dating apps, meeting someone through friends or out and about. We discussed what we wanted in our partners; the degrees we wanted them to have, the careers they were pursuing, their political and religious beliefs, and personal characteristics. We vented our frustrations about the emotional ups and downs of dating; matching with someone on a dating app, chatting for a week, getting excited about a date, only to be disappointed when meeting in person. We cried together about relationship disappointments and how we might be able to choose better next time. What strikes me now, is that through all of these conversations, rarely did we discuss how we wanted to be as partners; the question of whether or not we were ready for the type of relationships we longed for was rarely asked or addressed. When I got into my relationship with my current partner I realized that I had spent far too little time preparing for the kind of relationship I wanted and reflecting on what it would look like for me to be a good partner.

When I started dating my current partner, I was caught off guard by how honest and straightforward he was. I was pleasantly surprised that he proactively planned dates, communicated that he liked me, expressed his desire for a committed relationship, and generally did what he said he was going to do. I was so used to not getting what I wanted in relationships that I struggled to be present and just enjoy our budding relationship without looking for things that were wrong. Upon reflection, I began to understand that I had become so accustomed to working to get past partners to commit that I was not used to just relaxing into a relationship. What I have concluded after growing in this relationship for over a year is that I had not spent enough time preparing myself for the kind of relationship I really wanted. I had been overly focused on trying to find the right partner and had not spent enough time thinking about how to be the kind of partner that would enable me to have the healthy, deeply committed, and intimate relationship I was longing for.

Is my story similar to yours? Have you spent a lot of time thinking about how you can find the right partner and what you want that person to be like, while neglecting to think about how you want to be as a partner? Have you failed to consider whether you are ready for the kind of commitment and relationship you are looking for? If this feels familiar to you I hope you will find my suggestions below, about how to prepare for the relationship you want, to be helpful. One thing that I have learned over the last year and a half of my relationship is that being the kind of partner you want to be is an ongoing process. I am continuing to grow and learn about myself as a partner and to identify ways that I can be a better partner to my fiancĂ©. The suggestions below are intended to be ongoing practices that you revisit throughout your time dating and in a relationship. Continue reading “Preparing for the Relationship You Want”

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3 Common Dating Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Black Couple

As the season for summer flings winds down and people start to make choices about whom to date more seriously, I want to share my thoughts on common mistakes people make when dating and my recommendations for how to make wise choices about romantic relationships.

I have had countless conversations with girlfriends about our dating lives. We talk about what the latest person (or people) we are dating are doing. What we hope potential partnerships will be like, what we hope they will look like, the amount of money we hope they will make, etc. Recently, I’ve begun to think that we are not focusing on the most important things during these conversations. My experience as a couples therapist has helped me to understand that many people have good intentions but are unaware of important building blocks for strong, healthy, long-lasting relationships. I think a lot of us date in ways that do not help us to understand whether the people we are dating will be good long term partners for us. Essentially, I think we focus on the wrong things, which leads us to make mistakes when dating. Continue reading “3 Common Dating Mistakes & How to Avoid Them”

3 Healthy Ways to Engage in Dating

Butterfly w-FlowerThe desire to be partnered is something I felt starting when I was a teenager; at age 16 I thought I would be married by the time I was 25 (ha!). I wanted an intimate emotional connection, a relationship built on mutual support and encouragement. This desire led me to engage in a number of relationships some were good, others weren’t, and I have learned a lot along the way. As black women, we are faced with unique dating challenges. There are stereotypes about our physical appearance, our attitudes, and sexual proclivities. There are assumptions that we are desperate to be in relationships and therefore willing to tolerate inappropriate behavior from partners. There are messages from the media that make it seem like black women are not desirable marriage partners or that the reason we are single is because we are too picky. This is a lot to navigate in the search for love. Continue reading “3 Healthy Ways to Engage in Dating”