Relationships: The Conver-Tation
What is a healthy relationship? How does one define that to the masses when the foundational principles for one person may not be the same for another? I sat in a crowded restaurant called the Madera on a Friday night after a work filled day. I sat with a glass of scotch (neat) nestled in my hand, one friend to my side, a few new potential friends in the making in my immediate circle, a gaggle of associates and strangers I may never meet again in my life in my distant circle…but then again…. It IS Los Angeles! Anything is possible.
The conversation (or conver-tation as I refer to it: conversation turned confrontation) was an effort to discuss the complexities, misconceptions, and diverse realities of being in a relationship and/or dating, while attempting to provide tools for those listening who are currently dating or in relationships. Unfortunately, that was what it remained; an effort and an attempt. Overall, this conver-tation lacked the guiding power of qualified skill to be able to connect to a wide ranged audience and develop useful tools that any person listening could grasp and take hold to. Why is it that so many women are often asked to carry the burden of maturity? Why are there so many men who don’t seem to be ready or willing to commit? What are the secrets that keep marriages together for more than two or three years without divorce becoming an option?
These are all great questions and ones that I’m sure the panel and its hosts thought were effectively answered or addressed. However, from where I sat, it was a lot of over talking that took the conversation and made it an awkward confrontation that the rest of us had front row seats for. Had they added some beers and some hot wings, it would have been the best ringed fight had over the discussion of love I’d ever been to.
I can’t say that it was all bad. There were some nuggets and even some buckets of knowledge that came from a select few that sat on the panel. The experienced married couple that showed what hard work and dedication can accomplish were a joy to listen to. They were able to offer a look at the work that goes into maintaining a relationship for 16 years. Albeit, a style and a string of decisions that worked for them specifically and may not have been something for everybody, they were overall enjoyable.
The single and dating woman with a great job who just wishes that the personal work could be done by both men and women and be allowed to gel in a way that is organic and natural; unforced by the voices of the many surrounding them aka The Committee. She too had some great things to say.
Then of course there is the once ex-celebrity wife who “found love on a two-way street” again and can now speak from a place of “been there; done that”. Not much said (or agreed upon for what was said) but I understood where she was coming from. She’s had (like many) a particular set of experiences that shape her reality and view on love and life in and out of relationships. She made it plain that what works for her, simply, works for her.
Then there was the newlywed husband, whose idea of marriage and love is as rose colored as ruby red lipstick; no matter how romantic, alluring, endearing, and sweet it may seem, there just wasn’t much in the way of offering insight on what you would advise NEWLY couples to do. Yes it’s beautiful to be in love with love but there were moments where he spoke to areas that in seven months of marriage, have not been tried and tested yet. A point to which the man married for 16 years replied, “talk to me after 16 more years…”
Then the two single men who didn’t have much to say outside of sharing some very poignant views on (yet again) personal experiences that work (or not) for them. One who admittedly had no idea why he was even on the panel. Apparently he was a friend of a friend and had a great network so, VOILA! Panelist he became. Then there was the internet actor of notoriety whose responses seemed hollow and unproven. Like word vomit from a nice guy who didn’t want to seem like a man whore or a jaded unready male in a sea of pouching women of maturity.
The hosts gave the audience laughs, shocks, but also (oddly enough) a bit of some uncomfortable back and forth. It seemed as though there was a bit of a pouring out from a personal space that did not truly allow for either of them to effectively moderate the conversation. I remember sitting there asking myself, What were the qualifications for those vetted to be on this panel? To discuss something so private and intimate, but yet so publicly talked about, and to only delve into self and give no solidified tools to help encourage a generation of daters and relationships left me feeling lack luster. To say the least, there seemed to have been moments where both hosts were in there bag but saved face by putting on the “Everything’s fine….we’re fine….are you fine? YES! We’re fine!” face.
As diversity goes, the panel was a gorgeous array of chocolate skinned men and women who had great insight on personal experience and what they thought the foundations of a relationship should be. Great and wonderful right? Well, not so much. I didn’t see or hear or find anything that promoted this event as a “black” event. I was under the impression that it was a conversation about the very broad subject of what it means to foster healthy dating relationships. So where was that diversity in that? Where were the white panelists? The Latin panelists? The Asian panelists? The LGBTQ panelists? I found that, with such a universal conversation, there wasn’t much of a universal representation. It seemed (high level overview) a cultural dissection of how black people date in Los Angeles.
It all ended with fun and dancing, which was great! However, I didn’t spend these first 1,055 words to describe the event and not weigh in on what I think about the subject at hand. Relationships are like human beings (go figure). Different, ever evolving, and subjective to those actually in it; experiencing it. There is no universal answer as to what does and doesn’t cause a relationship to work. There is, however, proven ways to enhance and promote a relationship that is universally healthy and constantly projecting forward in the life cycle we live.
Healthy, Effective Communication
The ability to communicate in a way that is respectful, honest, transparent, and with love (even in heated moments) is an effective tool in fostering a healthy relationship. Communication is one of the foundational keys to any relationship; be it romantic, platonic, parental, or familial. It is the opportunity to express and understand before defending and being understood. It is the chance for two human beings to discuss the weaknesses and strengths of the relationship and figure out a way to better the relationship or make an adult decision to cut the losses and move forward as amicably as possible. I don’t have to agree with someone to move forward. However, if we are to stay in a relationship, we do have to commit to being able to communicate effectively for the healthy well being of both parties involved. A give and take. A compromise. Every healthy choice begins with a healthy, effective conversation. Conversely, every unhealthy choice begins with the lack thereof.
Granted, I believe that trust has to be earned. I also believe once it’s earned, you either have it or you don’t. Open trust is not an easy concept, I get that. It is the ability to trust without condition post trust being earned in the first place. Trust is not a pie concept. It is not something that you slice and hand out in pieces. It is more like an expensive piece of jewelry. Something that is given as a whole. Would you take a diamond and cut it into pieces to hand to someone until they’ve learned to earn each shard? Or would you simply determine that you trust them enough to hand them the diamond and expect them to handle it with care? Open trust allows for us to do that with our hearts. It is both a difficult yet liberating thing to be able to do. To find someone that you are able to release trust to is invaluable in and of itself.
However, the harsh reality is, that the most hurtful and detrimental of occurrences is when that trust is broken. It is because of broken trust that we often subscribe to the Trust Pie theory not realizing that it never really works and always keeps us (in some way) in a corner of jadedness. Broken trust should be looked at as teaching opportunities. The ability to move forward and recognize the signs and symbols of those who do not deserve to be handed your Trust Jewel. It should be a lesson in how to refine our discernment and choice making abilities. It should not be a moment we carry within us to cause us to feel as though no one ever again is worthy of our trust.
If you are in a relationship that you say you have trust in, but are constantly going through phones, pictures, drawers, and following your mate around behind hats, glasses and bushes…..Odds are, you DON’T trust that person! And if you do not trust someone then there is no reason for you to oblige a relationship for relationship sake.
The most unspoken of tools is time. As cliched as the adage is, things worth having do, in fact, take time. You can’t rush a relationship any more than you can rush for a cake to be properly baked or a masterful piece of artwork to be completed. Relationships are strong, valuable, and amazing. In turn, they also can fragile, deemed worthless, and stressful given the time put into it. We often talk about how time can heal all wounds, but never do we really view that statement in reverse. Time CAN heal all wounds, but time can also prevent wounds that need to be healed when the appropriate amount of time is taken.
Overall the event had it’s ups and down, as do relationships right? But I found myself in the company of confirmation that even as a single and searching man of color and culture, the topic of love, relationships, and dating is something I know a little better than others claim to. It was a moment of clarity that the people whom I pull close to me, also under and “over-stand” these same principles and values. Furthermore, it was confirmed that this conversation is something that not everyone can discuss objectively…or at very least professionally. Kudos to those who put together this event, hopefully moving forward they have panelists a bit more qualified to speak on the subject and moderate the mixed emotions that arise.
In the grand scheme of things….I had a good stiff drink, a great dancing partner and lots of laughs from observed interactions!