Looking For Love: Catching Is Easy, Keeping is Hard

Granny says: “Bwoy, sometimes mi cyan undastand dem people yah. Some ooman and man mi see love model inna tight clothes and expensive car. Why dem cyaan learn seh it tek more dan dat fi keep people happy inna one relationship?”

“Because we are so focused on the chase, many people don’t know how to manage the prize after the race is one. The hardest parts are either when we find out that the person we were after doesn’t match up with what we saw during the chase, or we don’t know how to keep the person once we’re with them because we expect the relationship to always be like a chase.”

 So I was at a young lady’s house a few weeks ago enjoying her company on a chill Saturday evening. As we hung out I flipped the TV on and saw something very interesting that caught my eye.

Now, I’m not usually a fan of OWN – the Oprah Winfrey Network – for a long list of reasons that I don’t want to bore folks with here. But, what caught my eye was a special program by relationship expert Iyanla Vanzant. It was called: Iyanla, Fix MY Life – Recharged.

What was so riveting about this episode was that she got about 300 single women in the audience and was talking about things that would hold them back in finding happiness in a meaningful relationship. Eventually, she brought out 50 single men and gave some of the women opportunities to both ask questions to the men that they don’t usually get a chance to, and in a few cases, for people to get together for a date after the show.

I was glued to my seat that whole hour, because she hit upon some really heavy points, many of which can apply to both genders. The first thing that struck me about the audience was that all the women were physically attractive. Yes, it was a TV show and I am sure people primped themselves JUST IN CASE they got caught on camera, but they all looked really good. Many were very successful in their careers – there was even a TV anchor that was in the audience.

It was amazing to watch Iyanla work. She brought two things that struck me the most:  vulnerability and the laundry list of expectations. There was one woman she worked with in the audience who had what felt like was a job opening to be her partner and she was the manager screening candidates. So what Iyanla did was to get her on stage and pair her with a guy from the group of men she eventually brought out. She had them standing face to face – at arm’s length – then she asked the woman to mention what her fears – NOT HER REQUIREMENTS – were. With each fear mentioned, she asked the woman to step back one pace from the guy. Iyanla did this until the woman was about 25 feet away from the guy.

That stood out to me on so many levels. The unfortunate thing that our society currently teaches us that our fears are the ones in control, and that admitting any fear to someone else means that along with the fear, that other person now has power over us. This often ties into the vulnerability that Iyanla brought up as well. It is tough out there – no question – as we all have to fight to make a life for ourselves. But having been drilled independence, self-sufficiency in our heads all this time, we were never shown in a healthy way how two self-sufficient people are to get along. Guess the current model is still dominance and submission instead of compromise. How is that working out so far?

What I took away from  that TV episode was the importance how to be vulnerable with a partner to build trust and love, not fear and disrespect and inequality in a relationship.

Many people are good at the chase – either laying themselves out as the objects of affection or the great chasers.

I’ll never forget being at one of my ex’s godmother’s wedding a few years back. My ex had one of the “hot aunts” in the family – great looking woman, good job, nice personality, yet constantly single. So it was the dancing part in the reception, my ex and I were on the dance floor, acting all stupid with our combined 4 left feet. So we started switching dance partners for a while (so my ex could go dance with other family members she was cool with) and I ended up dancing with the “hot aunt”. She was in this silver dress that fit her really nice and we were chatting and smiling while we danced. In that moment I noticed SO many things that just made me sad.

–          I could feel her charm. She has this thing that was kinda subtlety getting me to be really interested in her. I don’t think she was hitting on me per se, but it started to feel really nice dancing with her. It was this “damn, she interested in me and is interesting at the same time” type deal which I KNEW in my head was artificial, but in that moment felt plausible.

–          I looked in her eyes once and past the alluring nature, I saw an empty space and more importantly, a longing for what she was seen between me and her niece (my ex).

What I saw for that night made sense to me – I heard stories about how good the “hot aunt” was in ensnaring a man but never really could keep one…including rumors of affairs she had with one or two spouses of other family members present that night. I never took much stock into it until I danced with her, and then noticed how she was all over some of my ex’s godmother’s coworkers at the end of the night.

Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. I won’t speak for others, but I do know for me the chasing someone new all the time can get tiring. Do I have all the answers? Of course not, as I am still making my own way through the battleground that is dating in the NYC. While there is no set way to keep a partner once you’ve “caught them”, I’m certain things like respect, honesty, valuing the other person, being able to love yourself, being in touch with your own expectations and compromise are things that will go a long way to help.

After all, these are some of the ingredients the folks I talk to who have been in happy relationships for many years keep mentioning.

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