(The Root) — You can read this essay in its entirety — plus the thoughts of 40 other prominent African Americans from the worlds of the arts, medicine, religion and academia — in the anthology Where Did Our Love Go: Love and Relationships in the African American Community, available online and wherever books are sold. Find more about the book at wheredidrlovego.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.
Like billions of others, I have been influenced by some of the romantic concepts that have been perpetuated via fairy tales, music, cinema, literature, television shows, religious teachings, commercials from eHarmony and match.com and marital vows of happily-ever-after, till-death-do-us-part kind of love — that is, until recently. I had an epiphany that as a grown woman who still hasn't met "the man" for me, I needed to do some serious introspection about relationships. One of my best male friends tells me that he is a hopeful romantic. I commend him; however, after experiencing the ups and downs and the turnaround of love, I would describe myself as more of a realistic romantic.
Flashback to some of your past romantic relationships: Can you identify commonalities that led to their ultimate demise? What kind of lover are you? Do you construct or destruct your love foundations? Not long ago, I took some time to engage in deep reflection about the status of my previous intimate involvements and why they didn't prevail. Part of why I did this was to learn from the past to aid my future relationships' health and sustainability.
First, let me acknowledge that while I am a loving, giving, spirited woman, I am also a flawed, menopausal Afro-Rican female, subject to mood swings, sometimes carrying trunks of emotional baggage from the pain of past disappointments. Whew — with that said, I'll admit to having contributed to the unraveling of a few significant relationships with men I've loved (and with whom I had hoped to cross the finish line together). I've accepted my culpability but started not only to seriously examine my less-than-successful situations but also to consider many friends', family members' and associates' love scenarios that crumbled.
After this scrutiny, I realize that I am now more of a realistic romantic. How can we become less caught up in the fantasy, fairy-tale love concepts and be rooted in real-deal ways to cultivate substantive romantic relationships?
As I pondered various scenarios, it dawned on me that folks put their best everything forward in the beginning of the dating process. We are so consumed by the "love is blind" factor and super-duper good sex, or just don't want to be lonely, that we frequently overlook what can become major issues as the relationship progresses. Furthermore, we aren't always forthcoming about our true feelings. Case in point: Players will meet a lady and state that they aren't ready, and nor are they interested in a committed relationship. The woman will often say that's cool and proceed with an ulterior motive. In the front of her mind, she is out to claim her man, change his mind about his status and be his one and only.
People, please keep it real. Be honest about what you want, don't want, will accept and won't compromise on in your relationships in order to avert conflicts and an eventual breakup.
I recently made a joke to a girlfriend who is recovering from an abusive relationship and has dived into the deep end of the dating pool. I told her that perhaps it should be mandatory to administer Sodium Pentothal (the truth serum) and a lie-detector test, secure a medical and credit report, as well as run to check if there is a criminal record. I said this in jest, but the more I thought about it, this notion wasn't far-fetched. Maybe I should set up an agency! Seriously, not only are many people deceptive in the beginning of relationships, but in many cases, little and big lies permeate the relationship throughout and eventually lead to the erosion of trust, as well as the alienation of affection.
Dyana Williams is a seasoned award-winning broadcaster seen on TV One's Unsung music documentary series. She is also CEO and celebrity strategist with Influence Entertainment and founder of the International Association of African-American Music Foundation. She helped establish June as Black Music Month with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Kenny Gamble. She is the mother of three incredible individuals, a lover of life and a realistic romantic!