By: Karabo Matsoso
It has been exactly a month and a day since my current ex-boyfriend and I broke up and it has been so difficult because the urge to go back to him never goes away. Always haunting me. Reminding me of my loneliness. Reminding me of the beautiful memories we created. And reconsidering that maybe what he did was not so bad retrospectively, I mean love requires patience and understanding, right? But, I have been down this road before.
I know all too well that me stepping out in the name of love is the beginning of a vicious cycle. My previous ex took me down the same rabbit hole promising me that he was going to change. Promising me that he was going to be a better man. Promising me that he would stop cheating on me. Promising me that he loved me and that what we had was so special and deep. Little naïve me bought it. All of it. And so I stayed through three years, a missed miscarriage with the same vicious cycle going on until one day I decided, I deserve better.
So here I am again. I know I love my current ex and I really did see myself spending the rest of my life with him but then I reached that point again where I felt like I deserve better. That is not to say he does not love me, because I know he does. The thing is that the little voice inside of me will not stop telling me that I deserve better. So I have one of two choices. One to go back to what he has to offer and settle for that. Or, let him go and not use love as the crutch to validate my decision to settle. And so I went with the latter but it has not been a walk in the park.
Our problem as women (and I speak for myself as well) is that we believe that we have been wired to control and fix our men. We have grown so accustomed to taking whatever man comes our way and we get into “gotta take him and fix him” mode in the hopes that we can mold him into the man we want him to be and the man we have always dreamed of settling down with. And with age we are reminded that we are not getting any younger so we have to work with what we can get. According to the rule, you cannot make someone change if they are not willing to do that for themselves, no matter how good your intentions may be.
Black men have so much potential to be better, actually to be great, but we perpetuate and we allow them to be mediocre simply because we will not leave them when they do not treat us the way we deserve to be treated. We delude ourselves into thinking that “he will change if I stay in the relationship and help him get it right”. We spend time justifying his actions and behaviours and ultimately putting the blame on ourselves. We end up allowing ourselves to get used to the brokenness, the insecurities, the emotional instability and the dysfunctional behaviours that that comes with.
But with all of that does a man really ever change? We honestly need to muster up the courage to leave no matter how deep in love we think we are. I firmly believe that if women stopped tolerating men and their average offers of themselves, they will be forced to change and be better. Black men would be forced to work on being better men, better fathers, better husbands, and better leaders. But we hold them back because we think that coddling a man into changing is what will affect the necessary change in the long run. I mean we have been taught that that is what love is after all.
Unfortunately, all that happens is that they lose respect for us because we refuse to love and respect ourselves enough not to tolerate that garbage. And we continuously tell ourselves that if I love him then I should workout it out with him. We have lost all translation with what love is about. Why are we so troubled by the thought of losing a mediocre man? I am speaking for myself here, as well. We cling to average men and think that that is the best we can get.
We need to be aware that men are kings and should realize that status about themselves, for themselves. It is not, and it should not be our self-proclaimed duty to grow men up. If we can use our circumstances, good and bad, to grow up into remarkable women, mothers and wives, why can black men not do the same? We play a very big role as to why that is. For instance, mothers who stay with cheating fathers, women who stay with mediocre men who end up being mediocre fathers to potentially amazing children etc.
What do you think all of that teaches a boy at a young age about manhood? Unfortunately, the cycle is bound to continue. I come from a background where my father cheated on my mother for years and my mother stayed. She stayed because she believed we needed a father. But my parents are divorced now and I can tell you what standard that has set for my brothers. Her argument was fair, but what are the generational consequences and effect of that decision? Children need an amazing, strong and committed father (to them and his wife) to grow up into remarkable men themselves.Unfortunately, children being the creatures of imitation that they are, continue to learn manhood in this way. So then who is to blame when sons continue on the mediocre path?
So my reasons for breaking up with current ex are my hardest truths. I told him that he needed to spend time prioritizing what matters to him, he needed to spend time pursuing his dreams and ambitions for himself, he needs to grow up, he needs to surround himself with people who want the same thing and not entertain other dead beat men, he needs to be serious about what he wants in his life and he needs to make decisions now that reflect the kind of father and husband he wants to be because that is not going to happen simply from wishful thinking.
Loving him means I have to know that if I do not take the risk of letting him go now so that he can better himself, he will never be half the man that he could be. And yes he has tried all the tricks, sharing his favorite pictures of us, telling me how he will never stop loving me and how I am the person he wants to spend the rest of his life with and the list goes on. But here is the thing, men have mastered the art of words and they know that we buy into the dream selling and promises to change. And I will not lie, there were times when I would imagine all the things he was saying and take myself back to the good times.
This week he went all out and I cried. But then I reminded myself what I had been though because of how he failed himself when he could not measure up to the man I thought he was. So I snapped out of it and came back to reality. We need to change our strategy as women. I am not saying it is easy to break a vicious cycle that was there before you, but I feel proud of myself for sticking to my guns no matter how hard it was in the face of my struggle. Men. And I am not saying this like I have mastered it and I do not get urges to take him back and what if some girl wins him over and I never get him back.
It is extremely daunting to think about. I just keep reminding myself that I am worth more than what he has to offer, my children deserve an incredible father and I deserve an incredible husband so I have to stick to my guns and hope that he will actually change. But even with my feelings of missing him, missing us, our goof ball days, and my love for him, I still cannot and will not bring myself to settle. Especially when I have been through the same thing once before.
Once bitten, twice shy right? So as black women we need to take responsibility for the fact that black men will not change if we continue to make excuses and stick it out through their crap that we are largely to blame because we have taught them to think that the way that they treat us is the way we deserve to be treated. Think about it, when a man repeatedly treats you badly and he apologizes and you stay, what do you think that is really saying to him? Your actions to stay speak louder than your demands to be treated better.
When we do not leave these toxic relationships we cripple them into continuing as they do. Love isn’t about settling for crumbs, it is about knowing who you are, what you want and not letting society tell us that sticking it out is the only way to keep your man. And when you love yourself wholly (flaws and all) then you realize the kind of love you need to partner up with yours. This is not a weakness. Yes it is selfish, but once in a while you need to stand up for yourself.
You cannot afford to turn your back on yourself and your self-worth when you need yourself most. Loving yourself sets the standard and do not settle for anyone else’s view of what that means because only you know how to love yourself. When we love ourselves completely we give black men the platform to do the same but that requires us to let him go to figure it out on his own. You do not love yourself less by choosing to walk away from a weak man. So if you decide to stay, what about your self-worth? Your status as a queen?
Do you not deserve someone who will honour and respect you for the queen that you are? I know it is not easy to let go of what you have and what you have spent so much time and energy building, but where has this mentality gotten us? Where has it left black men in society today? We as women are the ones who teach black men how to treat us and how to love and treat themselves. From mother, to wife, to daughter, to sister, to friend, to girlfriend, we all play an extremely fundamental role. But it requires us to be willing to step back and not allow them to treat us less than what we deserve and less than how capable they are to treat themselves like Kings and us like Queens.
We hold the power to help black men be better, but we are afraid of the sacrifice that it comes with. If there is an answer to my final question in relation to the state of black men right now then we may carry on with life as it is. Where has our choice to entertain and stay with mediocre men gotten us?
A man who makes you undermine your self-worth is not someone who holds themselves in high regard.