ATTENTION LADIES: we have been tricked.

Attention ladies: we have been tricked. Bamboozled. Deceived.

Our entire lives we’ve been taught that love is some sort of fairy tale. At a certain age, we become smart enough to know that there’s no such thing as Prince Charming…no man is going to come and sweep us off of our feet and ride away with us into the sunset. But from the moment we’re old enough to understand, we’re lied to about the reality of relationships.

It’s hard growing up and only being told that a man should treat you like a princess and if he loves you he’ll act right and that’s it. No one tells us that that’s not real life, or that men look at things and value things completely differently, or that there are different stages of growth in relationships or none of that shit.

For those of us with parents who are still in at least relatively happy, healthy relationships, we admire how our dads treat our moms, and some of us even tell ourselves “I’ll never settle for a man who doesn’t treat me how Daddy treats Mommy”. But Mommy never told us that when they were dating, she dropped Daddy for 6 months ’cause he didn’t know how to act right. She never told us that his beeper used to be blowing up at all hours of the night. She never explained all of the struggles and sacrifices that she (they) went through to have the happy picture that they have 20 something years later. And Daddy damn sure didn’t tell us all the stuff Mommy doesn’t even know. And from what I’ve learned from my friends whose parents aren’t together, they don’t receive the best lessons either. While they’re still taught that a man should treat a woman like a princess, sometimes they have no tangible examples of what that really means.

I’ve had a couple of dysfunctional relationships, and I’m forever grateful for everything that I’ve learned being in them. In my last relationship, I thought I had it. On the surface, it was everything that I was taught a relationship should be. He treated me like a “princess”. He did any and everything I wanted and needed, most of the time without me ever having to ask. He showed me off, put me on the gram, came home to meet my family and flew me out to Cali to meet his. He made plenty of sacrifices, especially as a man in his first year in college…he skipped parties to spend nights with me, spent the little bit of money he did have on flowers, presents, and food for me, and regardless of where he was when I called him, he would drop what he was doing and find a way to be where I was at. This all sounds great, but he wasn’t doing the things he was doing because he wanted to. He was doing them because he felt obligated to. As my boyfriend, he felt that it was his responsibility to do these things. Obviously in relationships, you have to make some sacrifices and do some things you don’t necessarily want to do. But the vast majority of things that you do should be because that is exactly what you want to do. For example, you should post your girl on the gram because you want to, you feel comfortable with it, and you want to show her to the world. Not because of the pressure of a hashtag, or because she made you, or because that’s “just what boyfriends do”. When you do things because you’re “just supposed to” and not because you genuinely want to, all you end up with resentment.

By basically being at my beck and call, he enabled my selfishness and sacrificed his happiness. He didn’t even get to experience being a fine single man out of the house on his own for the first time and fully enjoy all the benefits that come with that, especially at a school like Howard. I mean he was still a nigga…he lied, he cheated (I was no angel either).

In the long run we were both very unhappy. We stopped talking for days at a time because we couldn’t have a conversation without it turning into an argument. I didn’t want to let go though. We had this image that I wanted to upkeep and this fantasy that I wanted to manifest. College sweethearts who dated all four years and end up married happily ever after. I had already put two years of work into it…I was supposed to just give that all up?

I thought that I was learning and growing in the relationship, but really, the majority of my lessons and growth came after the break up. While we both genuinely cared about each other…it wasn’t real. Looking back on it, we barely even knew each other. I mean, we knew facts about each other. We knew basic likes and dislikes. But we didn’t even begin to pull each other apart and know the real. It was all about playing a role because that was what we were supposed to do.

But how can you treat someone like they mean everything to you when you don’t even know them? Honestly, do you even know yourself? A relationship is a growth process. You have to let your man grow, and you have to do some growing of own.

Men are going to be men. They’re going to explore and experience. Regardless of if they like you, care about you, or even love you, they’re going to do what they want to do, until what they want to do is be faithful to you. There’s no way to force someone to be with you. YOU CAN’T CHANGE A NIGGA. If you force a man into a relationship, I guarantee you he’s cheating on you. If you gave him an ultimatum, he’s ultimately gonna break your heart. I don’t care if you go through his phone and don’t see the texts. I don’t care if he throws you on the gram every Wednesday, and everyone knows about your relationship. If he has not grown to the point where he has made the conscious decision to be with you because that’s what he genuinely wants to do, he’s still doing whatever it is that he really wants to do.

Nowadays, men don’t have to do much to get what they want from a girl. Think about it. Be honest. How long did it take you before you gave it up? Before you started cooking for him? Before you started trying to prove that you were “wifey-type”? As my friend Khalil so gracefully put it, “Women get involved with men & instantly begin catering to the man he could be, not the one he actually is”. And it’s all because we want that fairy tale. We find a man who appears to have everything that we want. We want to be the one to change him. We want that man to be the one who buys us flowers, that shows us off, that’s focused on us and no one else. You want to be the one that made him change his ways. So you do everything to prove to him that you’re worth it, that you’re the one…wholetime you don’t even know if he’s the one for you.

We’re always taught that we’re worth it, and trust me, we are. But #1: You don’t need to prove your worth. If you stay focused on yourself and do what you’re supposed to do in all aspects of your life, your worth will radiate in everything that you say and do. And #2: Your worth does not mean that you have the power to change a man.

What I’ve learned is that relationships are less of an instant fairytale and more of a mutual growth process. Like I said, men are going to be men. And men and women process things differently, especially when it comes to relationships.

As women, we think “If he likes me, he’ll treat me how I treat him”. That’s it. Men, however think “I like her, so I’m gonna do more for her than I do for everyone else”. As I stated earlier, men don’t have to do much to get what they want from women. So to him, spending time with you, sharing his feelings with you, checking up on you throughout the day, bringing you around his friends — that’s showing he cares. More than a read text or an Uber ride that the other girls get. But you want the title. You want the WCW. You want everything you’ve been told a man will do if he cares about you. He’s doing way more than what he’s used to, which is a huge step for him, but in your eyes, he’s treating you like way less than you deserve. The levels are crazy.

The worst part about the fairy tale that we’ve been told is that it leaves us with an almost intangible set of expectations. I was with a group of friends the other day, and one of the guys asked the girls,

“What is a lot to you?”

I sat there, kind of stuck. My friend started rolling off characteristics: “Well consistency…consistency is a lot to me. Honesty…loyalty…”

Then he asked the guys. And immediately, they started rattling off.

“Kissing someone on the mouth is a lot for me. Texting someone all day is a lot, that’s hard work. I really have to want to put it work. Having raw sex, that’s A LOT.”

See, because of what we’re taught, we as women are looking for all of these intangible things in a relationship. We have ideas of how we want to be loved and how we want to be treated, but let someone ask you “how do you want me to love you?”. What would your answer be? Would you give them a list of all the things you like, and tell them if they loved you, they would do it? Would you use examples of what you see other couples do? Because of social media, we often create expectations of our relationships based on the images of others. The problem with that is, one: if you told your nigga “Well Charles loves Gabby and he buys her roses and teddy bears and posts her on Instagram every Wednesday, so if you loved me you would do that for me”, you would sound crazy. And two, that’s probably not how Charles treats Gabby. Only on camera. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that every couple who has a cute Instagram relationship has no real substance or that any man that spoils his woman is cheating behind her back. But from my own personal experiences and a collection of the many experiences of my peers, I’ve learned a few things. I’m simply trying to share my view and share the lessons I take from all of this, just incase it pertains to you too.

So this has to be confusing to niggas, right? We know how we want them to treat us, but we can’t necessarily give them concrete action items. It’s a vision that we can’t even put into words. Now, I’m not saying that we’re wrong in feeing like this, by any means. Respect, honesty, consistency, loyalty are all a part of a healthy and happy relationship. But that’s why relationships are a process. Because you have to know yourself, learn your partner, and develop what each of those concepts mean for your relationship and what the tangible things are that you and your partner do to show each other that those are the things you value.

If I’m ever blessed with a daughter, I don’t want to feed her a fairytale. I will always make sure that she knows that she deserves to be treated with respect, and that she knows her worth. But I refuse to let her believe for twenty years that a man will be perfect to her instantly, and then force her to go through a world of hurt, disappointment, and confusion when she faces reality. She will understand, to the best of my ability, the concepts of growth and compromise. Of course, she will still have her own experiences and make her own mistakes. She will fall for the wrong one, fall for the wrong one again, and maybe fall for the wrong one a third time. She will grow on her own and develop for herself what she wants the dynamic of her relationship to be. But she will not be tricked. She will not be bamboozled. She will not be deceived.

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