I’m supposed to be the relationship expert. But there is one particular issue that keeps coming up in my inbox or when I lead forums that had me stumped for awhile. I have been bound and determined to get some answers because, I too, have experienced this very phenomenon.
The Generation X Factor
As a single woman dating in my late 30s, I have had a hard time understanding why we (men and women alike) are expected to settle for mediocre relationships and accept mediocre treatment in silence. God forbid we speak up and ask for what we want. Very rarely have I been able to say to a man… “This is what I desire”, and without incident, he simply says “I got you.” And yet, I would make it a point to accommodate his needs in a heartbeat. From a woman’s perspective, I have quite often asked myself where the chivalry has gone. And I am sure the good men out there are asking similar questions about the women they’re meeting.
My research (and heck, my personal experiences) tells me that in my age dating bracket (37-49), we are carrying so much more baggage than in years past. We’re not dating the same kind of people we dated in our early 20s. We are now dating people who have been married and divorced (or who are still married), people with kids, people who have had custody battles, people who regret their careers, people who are displeased with where they are in life. And all of this baggage has birthed an entire generation of unprecedented bitterness. And mistrust. And self-preservation.
Unprecedented because we are the first generation to liberate ourselves from marriages we no longer want to be in, to choose to pursue our careers before having children, to have children without a partner, and to learn that the promise of a college education alone does not necessarily lead to more money and security- we still have to hustle to make it! No judgment here. I am fully a part of this group of divorcees, single parents, and hustlers. But the result is that many of us who are single and dating are consumed with freezing our eggs, fighting custody battles, co-parenting, trying to make ends meet, and balancing life with ex-spouses.
And this is how we step into the dating world. On guard. Vowing never to love again. Making declarations that marriage is a sham. Deciding to just “do ourselves” and to heck with anyone else. All while consigning on popular social media quotes and “inspirational” sayings that generalize men and women, have no depth, and truly make no sense. You’ve seen them. They only feed the bitterness. And yet, we consume them as if they are feeding our souls, when actually, our souls are being depleted.
We don’t trust each other. We don’t love each other. And we sure as hell don’t respect each other. We have resorted to playing games with each other and trying to figure each other out, rather than working to first figure ourselves out. We have become each other’s enemies instead of ride or die for each other.
Remember when we believed in love? Those excited nerves we felt just before the very first kiss? How great it felt to sit on the phone at all hours of the night? Yes, we used to believe in love. We used to embrace it and go after it wholeheartedly. We used to be proud of being in love. It was a badge of honor, a rite of passage, a risk worth taking.
And then life happened. We gave up. We became fed up. We closed up. And this closed state of mind is doing nothing more than serving as a self-fulfilled prophesy. We believe we will be let down, so we let others down. We believe we won’t find someone who is real, so we run off the ones who seem too good to be true. We don’t want to be cheated on, so we cheat. We believe marriage is a farce, so we get married with conditions. And then love goes sour, because we inserted our sour beliefs rather than going in wholeheartedly.
Time for a Revolution
Now, here’s the hard part. Fixing this would take a revolution. A revolution that I am not sure can even happen all at once. Not because I am a pessimist or because I have lost hope, but because we have forgotten how to show a unified front for anything and because we are afraid to deal with ourselves. I mean, truly deal with ourselves.
This revolution is not about what the next man or woman needs to do. It’s about what YOU need to do and what I need to do. It means a willingness to be vulnerable, the strength to leave fears created from previous relationships at the door when entering a new one. It means taking the time to date and have fun without ulterior motives. And it means walking in faith, hope and love rather than fear, indifference and defeat.
The best executed revolutions take all of us. But really, we could begin a revolution with just two. If two people decided that they would walk together in faith, hope, and love; that they would take the time to date each other and have fun, that they would leave their fears at the door and allow themselves to be vulnerable- if two people decided to do this together, they would be their own revolution. They would change the world as they know it, and by their ripple effect, they would effectively change the world of those around them.
Love exists. There are plenty of happily married and dating couples out there to attest to that. We just have to choose to step out of our baggage bubbles, out of our comfort zones, and into a willingness to return to a belief in love. I call it “reloving.” Let’s get excited about love again. Write love notes to someone who makes you smile. Tell someone who has had your back that you appreciate them. Give someone a well-deserved hug. Cook an amazing meal. Bring home a flower.
But most importantly, to borrow the words of my cousin and fellow life coach, Penny Arrington, give someone “your best you”. That’s where the revolution starts. With you. No matter how deeply or how many times you’ve been hurt, insist on loving your life anyway- not just by “doing you,” but also by giving other people a real chance to love you too.
To learn more about reloving, check out Letters to the Brokenhearted: Woman to Woman Advice About Refocusing, Rebuilding, and Reloving. Also, find other works from Dr. Pamela on Amazon.
Pamela Antoinette, Ph.D.
Educator, Award-Winning Author, Certified Life Coach, Radio Host