Dating as a young black professional woman can be extremely challenging. For many of us, we’ve spent most of our 20’s in school chasing degrees establishing ourselves and dating hasn’t been very successful. As if dating wasn’t already hard enough, being a part of a generation where no one wants to be lonely but pretending not to care and being a “savage” is the in thing, this makes things even worse. Much like our budding careers, dating has come with many challenges that we are forced to juggle with other challenges we face day to day in the workforce as young black women. In the words of my fav India Arie, “I’ve achieved so much in life, but I’m an amateur in love, my bank account is doing just fine, but my emotions are bankrupt,” so now that our careers are intact (for the most part) and all that’s left to do is find Mr. Right, how do we navigate in this murky dating scene?
After a solid decade of dating, I’ve come up with the 7 most helpful tips for dating and maintaining healthy relationships. These 7 tips are based on my own trial and error (or what I like to call lessons and blessings), as well as observations made from the outside looking in with my friends’ relationships, and invaluable conversations with men. Now I wouldn’t be a lawyer if I didn’t disclaim that I am not in any capacity an expert at dating (if you’re looking for an actual dating expert check out my girl Annie over at www.imsickofsingle.com), but hopefully my tips help you with any of your dating frustrations and helps give you some perspective for your next relationship, because just like my girl India said, “This too shall pass.”
#1 Stop Rushing
You’re at the point in life where all is well except for finding Mr. Right, but that does not mean you need to rush and settle with whoever comes along. When you rush your mind is often clouded and you won’t know if you’re moving forward with someone because of love or loneliness. It also does not mean that when you find someone who complements you, you have to put things in overdrive. Let things flow naturally at the same time maintaining realistic expectations (because you shouldn’t be strung along either). Rushing things only complicate things and good things take time. You’re where you’re supposed to be at this moment and there’s a time and place for everything.
Do not force what is not yet there, because timing is essential. Recognize that it just may not be the time for a relationship with him, maybe it’s your year to travel and triple your earnings sis. If you’re an Alchemist fan like esquireinlove and I are, don’t get in the way of your personal legend love, let the universe do its thing. What’s meant to be will be and if there is a true connection perhaps you two may end up just where you wanted things later on down the road. Don’t rush yourself and don’t rush him.
#2 Follow Your Intuition
We have a very special superpower and it’s called “Woman Intuition.” Intuition means learning from within. It’s much more than a gut feeling, it is in fact avoiding going against your better judgment. When something feels off, it usually is. There are several times we have noticed red flags with men and ignored them as they in return haunted us. Placing a man’s potential above our own intuition is always going to have you feeling some kind of way when things go wrong, because most of the time it’s something you already knew (and felt) months ago and could have done something about. Let your intuition lead you and trust it.
#3 Maintain Your Identity + Self Love
This is something I believe we as black women struggle with the most. It is engrained in us to hold everything and everyone down. We are riders by nature, but this also has the potential to slowly drain us leaving us with nothing left for ourselves. It is very easy to form an identity as a couple and forget about maintaining your own identity. You’re excited about your man and suddenly it becomes all about pleasing him… Nah. Take care of you first. No one can love you the way you need to be loved, if you’re not in love with yourself. This means taking time to still enjoy all the things you love separate from him. Stop worrying about that baecation and go travel the world with your girls. Recognize that you and Mr. Right may have a lot in common, but chilling by yourself from time to time is important. Make sure you’re doing something small for yourself regularly to maintain a balance. Men have no problem with doing this and we often call it selfishness, but we can in fact learn a lot from it.
#4 Teach Him How to Treat You
Please be advised that you cannot even begin to understand what this means if you do not fully love yourself or know how to treat yourself. A man will only do what you allow. If you don’t have a clue on how you should be treated then you need to spend some time on yourself. Now this doesn’t mean going around acting stuck up or entitled to everything either. Many times we sit back and complain about the pain a man has caused us, but fail to realize we allowed a lot of the things that contributed to us feeling this way. We constantly ignore red flags and reward inconsistency. Most the times men are not setting out to be malicious, but how can men truly understand how to treat us if we aren’t doing a good job of showing them and they are getting away with everything? What might have been okay for his ex, may not fly at all for you. Teach him how to love YOU properly, as dating and relationships are not one size fits all.
This means shutting things down you don’t like the FIRST time it happens. Teaching is not in your words necessarily, but definitely in your actions and what you allow. Do not give your best and not require his best. Your energy should be appreciated, celebrated, and reciprocated. Men tend to go with the flow, if he’s allowed to be mediocre with you then why would he change? If a man wants to be with you he will adhere to your actions and align himself accordingly. If he doesn’t, just remember that one man’s “annoying female” is another man’s “damn baby where you been all my life.”
#5 Compromise, Communication, and Consistency
Years ago as a business student and young marketing professional I knew all about the 3 C’s of marketing. Years later, life and dating has taught me the 3 most important C’s you’ll have to master in life; Compromise, Communication, and Consistency. We all struggle with these, but the goal is to try our best at mastering them. Compromise is essential, because not everything will go your way and you need to learn to be vulnerable and sometimes place you man’s values and wants before your own for balance. Communication is perhaps the most important. Communication is not about dropping hints or randomly stating things, we’re grown.
If someone isn’t willing to sit down with you and discuss your relationship in order to make it better and create compromise to make it work, then make your exit sis (unless you enjoy arguing about the same thing over and over). Consistency is what every woman needs. No one has time for being disappointed by being so up and down in a relationship. If you find that your man is consistently inconsistent and you’re still consistent on being with him, you have no one to blame but yourself (reread #’s 2 and 4).
#6 Respect Boundaries and Don’t Over Criticize
It is very typical of Type A personalities (a lot of Lawyer Baes’) to find it hard with letting go of control. Respecting your man’s boundaries is very important to maintaining a healthy relationship. Unlike those limits we’ve pushed in our careers, boundaries in dating are not meant to be pushed, but they are to be respected. If he says work has been crazy and he doesn’t want to talk tonight… don’t show up or call anyway, give that man some space. If your man is not ready to move in the direction you want or if he requires more space than you’re use to, you have to respect his boundaries. Don’t complicate things, be ready to compromise or keep it moving. Do not force yourself on anyone.
As women we tend to criticize men a lot. Sometimes we can criticize men so much in a relationship to a point that they will stop trying. There’s a very thin line between pushing your man and pushing him away. To quote my friend Elle from an Instagram post last week, “don’t be that person that is totally comfortable with always telling people what they didn’t do or don’t do for you, or how you would have done it or how someone else did it…. how about you do that sh*t for your damn self!”
#7 Get to Know Men…
Please understand that overall you can be the woman of his dreams, this means you can be beautiful on the outside and inside to him, be good to him and great for him, he can admire your drive, and he may even picture you as his wife, BUT if he isn’t ready for you at this time in his life none of that matters. After many talks with guy friends who have shared some guy code with me over the years, I have learned that men operate completely different from us. One thing I learned is that men do not deal with confrontation well at all. Some men may need to experience certain things while being a bachelor a little longer and are just not ready for commitment. Good men need to be sure about so many other things before being sure about you. This can include finances, careers, body images, and overall confidence.
For many women who exude confidence and are on top of everything in their lives, being with you may challenge him in such a way he may have never been challenged before. Some men are up for a challenge while you may be too much for others. Confidence is essential, if they aren’t confident being with you, you can forget about it. A man’s actions are for the most part a reflection of their own insecurities and have less to do with you. Once, you understand more about how men operate you will take a lot of things less personal in your dating life and relationships.