Building a Sisterhood at GMU: Session 3
By Krystal Marie Thomas
What’s your relationship status? It seems like the question on everyone’s mind. From Facebook posts about break ups, make-ups, hook-ups, and it’s just complicated, it all boils down to whether you’re single or not. I was watching television the other day and there were numerous commercials about online dating. I noticed they’re pretty targeted. There are dating sites for religious affiliation, race, and age preference. I mean, there’s dating sites just for farmers!
These sites act as an antidote to rid you of the “disease” known as loneliness. This is not to say that a person should not be in a relationship, but there is a deeper social meaning in these advertisements. It’s as if checking the box next to single implies a person is defective. Being single is sometimes seen as something to be pitied and avoided at all costs. This is really prevalent in advertising; whether it’s whitening toothpaste, make-up, or a sexy new outfit, the objective is to be “chosen.” And if this is not your objective? Hello to the many years of reading romance novels and feeding your numerous cats…
In session 3, we talked about the pros and cons of being in a relationship versus being single.
What are the benefits of being in a relationship?
The room was silent. Now I knew most of the ladies were single, but there were women present who were in long-term relationships as well. After a few moments, the women in relationships started talking about the benefits.
- “You have another person to confide in along with your friends. There are some things that you don’t want to tell your friends.”
- “You have someone else in your corner. More of a support system.”
- “Prepares for the family or life you want to have. If you cannot bring your significant other home, there’s not point!”
- “Sometimes when you’re having a bad day, you can’t always go to your friends. Sometimes they’re busy or going through their own things. But being in a romantic relationship means that you’re that person’s number one.”
Our responses practically fit the definition of a sappy love song. Everyone was filled with reminiscing over past romances. With my next question, however, the whole room shifted.
What are the disadvantages of being in a relationship?
Before I even finished the question, one of the women in a relationship said “relationships can sometimes be a distraction. Sometimes people in a relationship forget about themselves. They don’t know themselves well enough and depend on other people to make them happy.” Another said, “It’s a problem when you lose who you are in the other person.” This idea about going into a relationship for the wrong reasons – to avoid being lonely, for example – is something many people don’t like to think about.
“You’re that other person’s number one, but that can also be stressful sometimes,” said one. “You cannot fix everything, but they rely so strongly on you.” Other women mentioned the difficulty in finding someone with whom they are compatible. Many of these women viewed potential partners as people they intend to be with long-term. It wasn’t like middle school where a simple I like you would suffice. These women were looking for their future spouse. Important factors such as religion, political affiliation and differences in upbringing start to carry significant weight. And when your future plans do not match, what does one do?
Other women talked about the risk of heartbreak. Many, myself included, have a history of heartache. However, it is through those moments of pain that we are able to find out more about ourselves. Let me tell you ladies, you are more interesting than you think! You will be surprised at the amazingly strong woman you uncover. My only advice before we move on is that you don’t let the fear of experiencing heartache close you off entirely from being willing to start another romantic relationship. You are stronger than you think. Don’t live your life being afraid.
What are the benefits of being single?
Everyone in the room screamed “FREEDOM!!!” I sat there slightly shocked. I didn’t expect everyone to respond the same or so quickly. I asked the group to elaborate. “I don’t have to answer to anyone else.” “I am not tied down. And I get to make my own decisions.” “I get to know myself. Being single is not really a bad thing.” One response made me laugh, “I get to focus on ME!” To some, this might sound selfish, but there is something so rewarding about being able to live for oneself. Even the women in relationships commented on that aspect of freedom.
As we grow older, the types of relationships we’re choosing has also changed. As the women spoke, they mentioned how their world had to coincide with their partner’s world. It was like having another perspective to consider. And although I am a single woman who very much likes making decisions on my own, I do believe that a romantic relationship, at least one I envision for myself, is a partnership. There is give and take, but the other’s input must be considered. Whether you choose to follow their decision, however, is an entirely different story.
What are the disadvantages of being single?
All of the sudden, the room got cold. Women shifted uncomfortably in their seats. One woman curled into a ball and started looking at the ceiling. I asked her to describe how she was feeling. She was frustrated with the overall concept of relationships. So far she has not been in romantic relationship. She felt like she was missing out. When will it be my turn?
Three words summed up the emotions of the group: loneliness, bitterness, and envy. One participant talked about experiencing a sense of loneliness because she felt like she had to do everything on her own. There was really no one for her to rely on. Or, in other words, someone who could be strong when she was weak and vice versa. She longed for the companionship.
Bitterness. Now that was a loaded word. Let’s paint a picture for you. Say you log into Facebook and it feels like all you see are posts from friends who are engaged or in long-term relationships. It feels like you’ve become everyone’s single friend. They start to send you on blind dates, or you start to feel like they’re pitying you from afar. Your inner response is somewhere along the lines of a string of profanities as you start to wonder if maybe your love life is really as pathetic as you think. Then again, there are always those dating sites…
The focus becomes finding someone, anyone rather than finding the right person.
As for Envy, there are so many things that can be said. One of the women, in relation to her friend who just got into a new relationship, said “I am genuinely happy for them and I know that they are happy too. But will it ever be my turn? When will I be happy?”
Several women who contributed to my research felt there was a hierarchy of women when it came to dating, and Black women were at the bottom. Many told stories of how Black male relatives stated openly that they had no intention of marrying or dating a Black woman. Just type Black Women into YouTube and see the results you get.
Black women are often not depicted as independent and strong, but rather as angry, bitter, and emasculating. Similarly, an overly romanticized concept of relationships – as shown in pop culture – also sets unrealistic expectations. We all agreed that alternative messaging was needed, so our Group came up with several points:
1. Appreciate the stage that you’re currently in. The grass can sometimes seem greener no matter if you’re single or in a relationship, making it easier to want what you don’t have. Enjoy the blessings life has given you in the moment. For all my single ladies, “Do not awaken love before it so desires.” It will come, when it’s time.
2. If you are ready for a relationship focus on having a healthy one. The group mentioned the movie Enough with Jennifer Lopez. Her husband was extremely controlling and abusive. He had control over the finances and everything was made out in his name. She made the decision to leave and learn how to do everything on her own. This idea of seeing a controlling partner as endearing needs to stay solely in the movies and novels. Your partner needs to be someone who supports your growth. You are your own person ladies, just like your partner is another being. Be strong together. You both have unique qualities to put into the relationship. And each person should be respected and cherished. For both men and women: if your partner does not treat you as the prized possession you are, they are do not deserve you. That is not you being cold or mean. That is you holding out for the person you’re meant to be with.
3. There needs to be more positive emphasis on being single in the media. The women mentioned the lack of single role models in the media today. One woman in particular discussed this issue in Tyler Perry’s movies. Black women are portrayed as bitter and angry, and it’s through a man that they start to find themselves and become soft and loving. Relationships are back to back without any time for the woman to actually process what has happened. Why is her only savior prince charming on a horse?
[Editor’s Note: revamp Living Single?]
4. To the media, black women will go see movies and watch tv shows that revolve around non-romantic plot lines. Being single is not a curse and there are many single women following their dreams and passions. That also deserves to be praised and acknowledged. The same can be said to friends and family. Do not focus on one aspect of your single friend’s/loved one’s life. They’re more than their relationship status. They’re complicated 😉
Want to keep the discussion going? Leave your comments below! We love to talk about it.