There have been books, movies, magazines, classes, songs, essays, etc. dedicated to showing people the way to go when it comes to romance and relationships. Many of us have sought our cues from these mediums, while some have preferred to learn their love lessons from trusted friends and family; others have made it their business to learn from their experiences alone. The majority of folks out there are wise enough to know that there isn’t one method or formula for showing love, but that doesn’t make navigating that path much easier. Wanting to be ‘good’ at loving someone enough to the point where you actively seek out tips on how to be a capable partner is a noble intention. After all, relationships are hard work and many people do not acknowledge or understand this until it’s too late.
With or without the benefit of a Huxtablean pair of parents to look at as a role model growing up, its wise to spend time observing the loving behaviors of other people, particularly our elders, so that we may learn just what love should look like. You can’t use the divorce of your parents as an excuse to suggest that you have no examples to follow; what about your great-aunt and uncle, the couple on your block that has served as the neighborhood’s surrogate grandparents or even your sister and her husband who’ve been together since middle school.
Even the examples that we’d prefer not to imitate tend to have some bearing on how we operate. It’s silly to suggest that witnessing a nasty breakup or perpetually abusive relationship wouldn’t impact us in some way. As we become adults, we have to do the work ourselves to ensure that we don’t let these negative experiences become the lens through which we views all relationships. We have to understand that people can be their at their best in love and they can be at their worst. And we have to use both sets of examples to help us choose the proper course.
Life can imitate art when it comes to love; fictionalized characters can allow us to examine the sort of things we are looking for, what actions we consider to be reprehensible and the type of scenarios we should try to avoid when it comes to love. So long as you realize that Darius Lovehall was born in someone’s imagination, its okay to recognize that the character represents certain qualities you may want in a man…just don’t be so naive as to believe there’s someone running around here exactly like that.
Women are encouraged to go out and spend time learning just how to be the best partner we can be, whereas men are get a pass for just winging it to the best of their ability and learning from their mistakes. It’s the nature of our society and while you do have plenty of reasons to want to complain about this, you can’t be terribly surprised when you whip out your copy of The Good Black Woman’s Guide to Loving, Honoring and Serving a Good Black Man, only to find that your beau wouldn’t know about the male equivalent to such a book if was published in his kitchen. Speaking of those books, as much as we may poke fun at some of them, there isn’t anything wrong with reading relationship advice from self-anointed gurus and experts; just remember to focus on those who truly respect and admire women without attempting to shame you into changing your everything to have a man.
Ultimately, much of what we learn about loving comes from doing and experiencing it. Feeling neglected by a college love can help you to understand the importance of being an attentive partner in future relationships. Recognizing the positive reception your nurturing ways got from ex-sweeties might help you to develop your romantic modus operandi, as might allowing yourself to be too giving only to have your kindness taken for granted when it was given too freely. It is from dealing with mates that you will learn the most about what you can and cannot tolerate, what you require from someone else and what it is that you have to offer.
Even if someone wrote a manual specifically dedicated to you and your pursuit of ‘happily ever after’, its virtually impossible to travel through life without making some mistakes in the romantic realm. Love is a learning process and as you continue to evolve and grow, your capacity to love and the sort of reciprocity you require in return will continue to evolve and change. You will be both challenged and inspired by the people in your environment and the experiences you have; embrace the fact that you will forever be a student of love and instead of killing yourself to be an expert, you should aspire to be an observant and attentive learner.
Clutchettes and Clutch Gents: looking back at your lives-to-date, where have you learned your most valuable love lessons? Who have been your role models and how have you learned how to love so far?