If I fall, you’re going down with me

The Dixie Chicks have a song called “If I fall”, that I love. It’s a ballsy up tempo song in that the woman forewarns her lover that if she falls for him, “you’re going down with me…you’re going down with me, baby heart and all.” Girl, I get it! But in real life it doesn’t go down like this and it would behoove us all to get the memo. Namely us women. 

As I’ve matured and gained more experience in love and relationships I had to face some facts. I guess somewhere there still exists this myth that women are demure and are more susceptible to being dominated by our male counterparts.  False! What is true is that we can cry and render men defenseless; we can manipulate situations through our anger; quick wit/comeback and legendary ability to be relentless about getting what we want. Men are known to be controlling but being controlling is by no means gender specific.  When we want and need to be, no one holds more power than a woman.  

This post is not about gender or workplace equality; there are still huge disparties in salaries between how much women earn versus our male counterparts.  The misogyny in music, film and literture is alive and well. It’s shameful and I acknowledge that.  But I’m not writing about these topics at length in this post.  This post is my reality and hindsight revelations of what I have learned about life, love and romantic relationships. 

I would have saved myself a lot of pain and suffering; would have never had certain “boyfriends” if I only knew that I could not make a man love me.  Despite having sex with him; doing everything that the magazines, TV shows and soap operas suggested I should, I eventually learned otherwise.  There was nothing that I could do to influence his feelings. Lord knows that I tried. I did/have not tried everything and was not going to then or now. I am not willing to do things that don’t make me feel good about myself afterwards. I try to live my life having few regrets.  Regret governs my boundaries and why I don’t do things that I really want to do.  One primary example is children. 

I want to have my own biological children one day. I also want them to have a different experience than I did, than my Mom did, and her Mother.  I don’t think that I am better than you; than any of the women in my family. I have just learned from other people’s experiences and have chosen not to repeat behaviors that didn’t make sense to me.  I am intelligent to know that there are individual circumstances and reasons for why or how things happen. It is the truth that there are three sides to every story. The average girl who is raised in a single-parent household is only exposed to one side of the story.  She learns vicariously through the rise and fall of her parents relationship in such situations.  If Dad is a formidable opponent in that he remains undeterred, he will insist on his paternal rights.  In many cases, the mother is vigilant about securing child support, however, many fathers are not as vigilant about establishing a visitation order to accompany the child support order.   Many girls grow to become women “looking for father figures” or desperately try to secure that allusive male energy that she never really had.  I believe this is when and where a young lady learns how to “chase” men. Due to no fault of her own, a man is missing in her life and somehow it becomes her unspoken, innate mission to find what she has “lost.” 

 I’ve learned to act responsibly when having sex. Just like we are cautioned to do when consuming alcohol, this is also applicable to agreeing to share our bodies with other people. With the exception of rape and incest, we choose with whom we will have sex with. I’ll say it again. It is a choice.  Negotiations regarding the terms of sex should commence  before the act, not after. If you have the balls to have sex with a man outside of having a real commitment with you, that is your choice.  All choices have consequences, positive or negative. 

And if it so happens that the man you’ve been intimate with is later proven to be unfaithful, he made a choice; you and only you get to decide what you should do next for you, so that you can continue to honor yourself.  It’s not about him. If he lacks integrity; is a cheater, a liar or whoever he reveals himself to be, you have to decide if being with someone like him makes you feel good about you when you’re with him. We get stuck on how we feel about him. How much does it cost your self-esteem and self-respect to give something so precious as your body and your time to an individual(s) who have no means to appraise your value? No matter how you try to convince yourself of otherwise, this does not feel good to you.  You can lie to everyone else, become defensive because you have been triggered; that’s perfectly fine. You only hurt you when you refuse to honor your truth.   

I used to lack patience inside of a relationship.  My Mother used to tell me when I was growing up, “never let a man waste your youth.”  She said this because she allowed my father who was much older than her and as she viewed it in hindsight, waste her youth.  This advice almost became a mantra for me and applied to every guy that I felt serious feelings for.  I was on the clock and so was he! No commitment after a timeframe in which I deemed to be reasonable…I was out! If we couldn’t nail this thing down in a matter of several months or whatever, I was willing to become a distant memory…to him. And no, this wasn’t the me today who is very close to kissing her 30s goodbye; this was the young lady in her 20s and early 30s! 

The bottom line is love takes time and no matter what anyone says, most people in a relationship don’t fall in love at the same time.  One person always wants it a little more than the other person, especially in the beginning.  Or you both know you feel strongly for each other, but one person needs a little more time to “start it up.”  And it’s cool. Someone once called dating the “discovery phase” and I find this to be an accurate phrase to describe what should be happening as two people get to know each other. Specifically, as it relates to whether this is your forever life-partner, spouse or whether this is someone who is only going to be in your life on a temporary basis. Women who grew up without their fathers, we are very insecure about the prospect of investing time with a temporary partner.  We perceive this as a risky, one-sided benefit for the man; he gets to get our “girlfriend experience”, try it on and see if he likes it.  If not, what the heck…let’s see what this other chick is talking about. 

Like many women, I didn’t always see the benefits of the “discovery phase” of a new dating experience. I didn’t know how to think about myself. I’m here falling all over myself, trying to impress him and influence his decision to pick me. I was barely paying attention to whether he was making an unsolicited effort to prove himself to me.  I was also inexperienced when it boiled down to understanding the difference between having similar interests and values.  I have had boyfriends who I had so much in common with it; we had so much fun together.  And because he was a man and I am woman; we have some sexual attraction or chemistry…that settles it…you’re my boyfriend! YAY!!!!!! I had no idea how immature (or under developed) my rationale was at the time.  But I am so thankful for these lessons; I am not embarrassed in the least bit. These experiences were like vitamins …like a B12 shot…they made me better! 

Similar values are the foundation of any good relationship. Today, I don’t care if my boyfriend isn’t a fan of Joan Jett; I do care if he is a good father, is financially and emotionally responsible. Whether he values commitment; whether his actions match his words.  I can find anyone to go to a Joan Jett concert…anyone can’t be my husband and father to my child(ren).  I want to take sufficient time to get to know a man; especially someone who I may spend as Dr. Laura refers to it, “between now and dead” with.  I think you know a sufficient amount of information about a person between 1-2 years of being in a committed relationship; relative to whether you have a real future together. Beyond this timeframe there is no real new information to be obtained about the other person, honestly. It is what it is at this point; deal or no deal. Only you know what “happily ever after” looks like for you.  If you are with the right partner, you both share a similar vision. 

You don’t have to force him, trap him or manipulate the situation. If you fall in love with him, you don’t have to threaten him to go down with you.  To fall with or for you. He’ll already be there firmly and voluntarily in place to catch you and to return and cherish your beautiful love.  

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