For many women, dreams of love, marriage, and babies are a cluster of ever-whirling hormones, romance novels, and childhood fantasies. To these women, being the center of a family becomes more and more important as you get older – you start thinking about the future and sharing it with someone you adore and the beautiful little beasts you long to create. I am no different. I’m a 30 year old, divorced mother of one. My first marriage was great at first, but ended after his run-in with drugs. That’s all I’ll say about that. LESSON LEARNED. Now that I am older and wiser, that longing for love, marriage and motherhood tugs at my pant leg like, well, a child.
I am in a relationship of about 11 months with a man we will call T.J. T.J is a tall, tan and handsome man, with a nice butt and an even nicer smile. He’s also divorced like I am but with no children. I have made it not only clear (really, from the very beginning) that I, being 30, would not only like to not casually date and play the field, but also that I would preferably like to settle into something long-term and eventually get married and thus give in to the growling, snarling beast that is my uterus and its biological clock.
While our relationship goes through the normal gamut of relationship highs and lows, overall, we have – and are committed to building – a solid foundation for which to grow our relationship on. In my opinion, I made some very pointed mistakes in dating T.J. Now, dating him in and of itself is no mistake. I mean, I just want to take a bite outta him whenever he takes his shirt off *wipes mouth*. And, well, you’ve never seen him fix things around my house with those big ole musclebound arms, or, LORD, the forehead kisses … but I digress. I, however, as evidenced by my last story, am willing to make mistakes and learn from them so that you don’t have to! You can thank me later.
My dating and relationship life started out like everyone else’s. A series of awkward attempts to be cool and or attractive and appealing. Then, I decided to be myself. And it turns out the me I am is pretty damn hot and tempting, in case you were wondering.
As I approached 30, I reached a turning point in my dating life. Thirty is a scary number if you aren’t married and hope to be. It means time is running out for EVERYTHING. Black don’t crack (duh!), so I have at least 35 years till my looks start to make their way out the door, maybe; but va-jay-jays crack – from years of misuse, no use, throwin’ backs out and plain ole nature. They only have so many good years left and, at 30, I’d say I have about 15 years to dive back into the baby pool. (Black women tend to be fertile longer than other women–woot woot!)
Dating at 30 means two things: one, ain’t nobody got time for that, meaning there is zero time to waste on men who don’t see a future with you and who you don’t see a future with. And, two, you’re too grown for games, meaning that maybe you had time to play the stupid psychological power games men and women play in your 20s but this is a whole new ball game. No lives will be spared. So, I’ve come up with a list of things to consider as a fine, sexy, confident, black woman. (Look at you, girl!)
1. BE UP FRONT. Now, I know some women assume being up front with men will scare them away … and you are 200% correct. It WILL scare the wrong men away. Assuming you are dating men your age, older and maybe younger (but I personally wouldn’t), they too will be thinking about the future. Probably not as obsessively as you, but it will have crossed their minds a lot more than it has in earlier years. You want these guys. These are the ones who will nod attentively when you let them know that your intentions for dating are for a serious relationship in which love, marriage and children are the eventual destination. THEY WILL ACTUALLY AGREE WITH YOU.
2. YOU NEED A PERSONAL TIMELINE. This sounds messed up because you obviously can’t rush love. But you also don’t want a guy who is dilly-dallying and on the fence about his feelings for you. It don’t make no damn kinda sense to wait five, four, or even three years for some sort of commitment. Honestly, it don’t make no sort of sense to wait more than a year for a guy to know definitively that, yes, I wanna be with you and I’m with you for the long haul. However, if you find yourself wondering if he loves you after a year and a half, or wants to marry you (or talk about the idea of marriage or whether or not he wants to go down that road with you eventually and give you a specific time frame), then boo boo, he don’t want you and will never love you. Well, maybe he will (big fat ass maybe). But, do you really wanna wait that kind of time?
When I meet someone I know within a few months if they have long-term potential – i.e., marriage potential – and if they will be good fathers, etc., etc. Based on that you continue with the relationship and develop your feelings and go through the proverbial slings and arrows to see whether or not you both are even compatible. News flash: most guys know too.
3. TALK ABOUT KIDS. EARLY!! If you want children, you need to speak up. I’m not saying pop out a bunch of them real quick, or even tell him you want kids from him immediately. I am saying you need to talk to him about if this thing you got going on lasts whether you two are going to be childless or nah. Talk about whether or not both of you want them, and how many. Talk about careers and if both or one of you will work in this hypothetical situation.
4. KNOW WHAT YOU WILL AND WILL NOT PUT UP WITH AND FOR HOW LONG YOU WILL PUT UP WITH UNDESIRABLE BEHAVIOR. As I mentioned in “Never Settle for Secrecy”, only you can choose what you will and won’t put up with. But my advice is to never settle for less than respect. Every relationship is different with it’s own unique set of circumstances. Just as well, every person is different and has different tolerance levels. You need to understand the difference between patience, tolerance and plain ole disrespect because patience and tolerance are often in the grey area. For example, in my relationship, T.J has OCD issues and I have some ADHD issues that add a layer of complication to our situation. We have to work at being patient about the small stuff like dishes in the sink or the way in which we say things to each other because of these issues. I’ve been able to be patient and conversely have also learned to be firm and assertive about the things that just will not work for me in terms of the level of disrespect I am able to put up with (zero). Some things he cannot help, but he DOES actively work at changing those he CAN.
5. YOU CANNOT CHANGE HIM. Women love projects. Redecorating, making an old dresser into a shabby, chic new shoe rack, updating your old rose garden, redoing your comic book collection AND fixing men! Ladies, ladies, ladies, ladies. Men do not change until or unless they actually want to change. Sometimes (and I’ve been guilty of this), we think because we are nice, beautiful, with flawless bedroom game and bodies that are bangin’ like a screen door in the Bible Belt South, that he will do what we want him to do, love us like we want him to love us and that we can fix whatever personality flaws he has because we are on fire and we know it. That’s simply not true. A guy can like you, maybe even care for you, but unless he ACTUALLY loves you AND wants to be a better man – not just for you but for himself – then there is really nothing you can do but wave your hanky at him as he eases on down the road (The Wiz Style).
I’ve actually been in this situation with my current boyfriend. We’ve broken up and gone on a break three times in the 11 months we’ve been together. During that time, I’ve been pretty freakin’ stellar if I do say so myself. However, he really had some soul searching to do. In all honesty, I think initially he wasn’t ready for the awesomeness that is me, in the same way a woman whose previous relationship was horrible is often scared and weary of a man who treats her wonderfully. In situations like that, you need to do some soul searching as well because trying to love someone who isn’t ready to love you can be damaging to your self-esteem and to your general well-being. Revel in the fact that you are a wonderful person and nothing that you did made this person unprepared for your love and companionship. Also, this is a good time to know when to walk away. Sometimes a person JUST ISN’T READY and will not be ready for a looooooooong time. If that ends up being the case, take it as a lesson learned and move on. Thankfully, the last break up with T.J. gave me some perspective and I realized that due to that pesky grey area, I would need to toughen up my standards and boundaries. And, because T.J. was ready to change and work on his issues stemming from divorce and life and general hooplah, we were able to grow and get stronger.
6. DON’T KID YOURSELF BUT ALSO DON’T BE A DUMBASS. Okay, so I know I’ve been telling you to peace out a lot, which is a good piece of advice for most situations. But certainly not for all. Don’t kid yourself into staying in a relationship in which there is no future and no mutual respect. If the relationship is one-sided and you’ve addressed the issue with no results, it’s time to go. But also, don’t be a dumbass. At the ripe old age of 30 I’ve seen women make tons of mistakes. I’ve made a TON myself. But there is no reason to keep making the same ones. Keep your standards doable. A man should not have to be Clark Kent/Superman & Bill Gates too. Don’t expect anything of a man that you aren’t also willing to bring to the table. You want him to make six figures? You better be making at least six figures too – or damn near close to it. You want him to be physically fit? Well, hop on that treadmill, girl. You want him to have a job? I sure hope you have one too. Anything you expect out of a man but don’t have the means to bring to the table as well will only come back to haunt you in the form of resentment later on. I’m not saying you can’t be a stay-at-home mom and let him take care of you. I AM saying, have the means, the smarts and/or the resources to add to what he brings to the table. Let’s say he gets in an accident or little Bobby needs surgery and hubby can’t take care of it on his own and you need to go back to work. Will you be working at McDonald’s, or will you be back at a skill, trade or profession? When a man is thinking about the future he most DEFINITELY thinks in “what ifs”. If the “what ifs” are overwhelmingly negative, don’t expect it to last.
Cut him some slack, and if he is willing to change a few deal-breakers to be with you cut him even more. Give him time to change. People don’t change overnight, just like Rome wasn’t built in a day. So, you’ve found the perfect man but he has a few issues that he has vowed he would like to work on for the sake of himself, his happiness and the success of your relationship. AWESOME. But don’t expect that change to come quick and don’t think he isn’t improving because you don’t see this 360 turnaround. Change should be gradual, not immediate and if it’s immediate, he’s probably showing you what you wanna see and telling you what you wanna hear to get in them drawers – or back in them drawers – and your good graces. Period. Point blank.
I’m a firm believer in working at love and working at relationships. The fairy tale stories you read about when you were young that told you that two people lock eyes and magically fall in love are NOT TRUE. Love is a choice. Relationships are a choice. When you make the choice to love someone, you decide that this person is overwhelmingly worth risking heartbreak for. When you choose to be in a relationship, you decide that you like this person so much that the thought of them being with anyone else makes you want to scream. Both take work, time and effort. Which also means that no love and no relationship is perfect. If you cannot deal with the situational turmoil of your love and/or relationship, then I’m sorry but marriage is probably not for you. Once those papers are signed, “for better or for worse” means for better or for worse. Think of your relationships at age 30 and up as a dress rehearsal for marriage. Be the type of woman you want to be within the confines of a marriage: loving, kind, honest, understanding, patient, but also firm and confident.
7. DO YOU HAVE CHILDREN FROM ANOTHER RELATIONSHIP/MARRIAGE AND/OR DOES HE? Some guys are just plain terrified of kids. I can’t date a guy who isn’t good with kids. I certainly can’t date one who isn’t good with my kid. Typically, my rule for guys meeting children is a few months’ wait. I say this because no one wants a billion guys in and out of their children’s lives while they search for the right one. Be smart, ladies. Use your own judgement. Also, I pay close attention to how someone is with my child. Do they treat your child how they treat you? In my opinion, my child is an extension of me. If you aren’t treating her as well as, or better than, you are treating me, then you can’t sit with us (Mean Girls reference) . I also look at how he interacts with my child as evidence for the type of father he will be. Now, PUMP THE BREAKS!!! I am not saying you need to be lookin’ for a father for your child. My daughter has a father and he is there for her. I AM saying how he relates and acts with your child will be how he acts around his own children. And if it isn’t, that’s a red flag because you don’t want a man who treats his biological children better or worse than your child.
If he has children, you should treat them how you treat your own. How scary and awkward must it be to meet and interact with your dad’s new girlfriend? Why complicate that and make it scarier by being rude or standoffish or uncaring to a child that had no choice in you being with their father, or vice versa? Be nice, be kind, and be empathetic. If you can’t, then you really need to reevaluate being with the father because you will only be traumatizing his child and that’s not fair to him or the child.
8. SELFISH MEN. Everyone gets a little selfish sometimes. EVERYONE. But some men are selfish most of the the time or even more than you’d like. Here is my take on that: I can’t do it. It’s a turn off. A guy only gets so many chances at selfishness with me. I am not an overwhelmingly selfish person. I’m a single mom, so nothing has been mine OR about me for about 5+ years now. I suggest you figure out how much selfishness you can take.
Relationships should be fun and fulfilling and full of love and laughter. At 30, your priorities are a bit different and hopefully more mature than they were at 20 or even 25. My rules are by no means meant to substitute your own judgement, but they ARE more or less common sense. There are certain things that I yearn for at my age; marriage and children are at the top of that list. So, there is no reason for me to be dabbling in the affairs of men who do not also want those things or are on the fence about those things. Know your limits and remember that people will only treat you the way you let them treat you. Far too often, black women do not have the actions to back up the attitude. Relationships past 30 are DEFINITELY the point at which you stop BSing and put your money where your mouth is. HAPPY DATING 30+ SWIRLERS!!