The question that always seems to get asked in relationship forums is this: Do Black men/women know what they want? It’s funny, most black men say that black women don’t and many black women argue back, “No, it’s y’all who don’t know what you want!”
I remember some years back, I talked with a successful Black man who had been a long time friend of mine. He had the great job, he owned his home, he was involved in church, he offered to pay for the meal (and we were just friends). Without fail, our catching up would invariably lead to a discussion about our dating lives. I often left our discussions puzzled however that he would list the qualities he was looking for in a woman and would ask me my opinion about things yet didn’t seem to notice that I had every single quality he was looking for.
So what’s up with that? Why is it that the people we complain to are the very ones who have what we say we are looking for but more-times-than-not we don’t see it?
I have a theory. Okay, here it is: It’s because we don’t know how to recognize it. That’s my theory. Our brains are hardwired because of our experiences in life and how we were raised or not raised to be. Have you ever talked with a girlfriend who said, “I like bad boys!” Yet, she spends all of her time trying to make him into a good boy and bellyaches that he won’t treat her with respect, care or consideration. Hello? Bad boy?
In April 2011, I posted a blog entitled “You Can’t Help Who You’re Attracted To. Oh Really?.” There, I challenged the belief that we are victims of attraction, doomed to unrequieted and unreciprocated affections. We aren’t. I’ll say it again, a little louder this time: WE AREN’T. We are not victims. We are ill-informed. We are misguided. We are a tad insane. But we are not victims. I believe that with the right information and a willingness to learn, we can retrain ourselves to be attracted to kind, warm, genuine, AVAILABLE people.
There is a difference between euphoria and anxiety. Euphoria is when our brains are saturated with pleasure hormones. We walk around in a drugged happy excited state. That’s normal in the early stages of meeting someone and initial dating. But this tossing and turning, I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, muddle-brainedness is not euphoria. It’s called anxiety. Waiting by the phone to see if he or she will call or adjusting the volume over and over again to make sure you don’t miss a call is not euphoric. It’s called compulsion. It’s anxious. It’s awful!
Merriam Webster defines compulsion this way. It’s an irresistible persistent impulse to perform an act. The Free Dictionary adds, “…regardless of the rationality of the motivation.” Compulsion has an irrational component as well as a psychiatric component. Don’t worry, you aren’t ready for the paddy wagon just yet though. Usually, compulsions can be dissuaded if the root of the anxiety is addressed. This is why dating online for me was so therapeutic. Knowing that there were thousands of men out there to choose from, one man not returning my calls was of no consequence. As the saying goes, “there are plenty of fish in the sea.”
The first step is knowing what you want in a partner, this is true. In an earlier article submission to Black Life Coaches, “Hold Your Standards and Don’t Settle For Less,” I clarified how preference differs from having a standard.
The second step is just as important: recognizing it when he or she shows up. To demonstrate this further, let’s revisit the bad boy attraction. When you peel this banana back, the allure is his confidence and his swagger. He seems to be in command of things and that is very attractive to most women. I get it and I ain’t mad at you. Being with a man whom we feel can take care of things is a legitimate standard. Some, like President Obama, wear it for all to see. Others don’t. Understanding this, I invite you to broaden your perception. There are also good men out there who have just as much command of things, but they are not as overt with it. You’ll have to be more discerning. As you observe him–not what he’s wearing, not what he looks like, not what he owns–you’ll notice it in how honorably he handles your feelings. In his consistent “show up” attitude. In how he puts your needs above his own convenience.