How To Love

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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?

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  • paul

    What an absolutely lovely “black couple in love” pose.

    A welcome but too rare image of WHOLE and wholesome blackness on this kind of website.

    Image saved to hard drive. na na – na na na

  • kaybee

    It’s hard to learn how to love when there isn’t much in your household growing up. I don’t think parents really think about this. It needs to be shown more and that’s hard with single parent households.

  • MommieDearest

    I didn’t have any examples of a stable marriage in my immediate family growing up. I guess I learned by the “what NOT to do” method at home (LOL!) and from positive examples of marriages in my church and community. Right now my husband and I are trying to be the best example we can for our son. We want him to know what a loving, healthy relationship is and what it looks like so that he can make the best decisions for himself when the time comes.

  • talaktochoba

    love only comes with complete giving;

    until both the man and woman give themselves completely to each other without reservation or even thought of themselves first, it is only lust;

    the Huxtables were a TV buppie fantasy where white characters were simply interchanged with black ones, living June and Ward Cleaver perfect lives on Primrose Lane with perfect children and so perfect problems–which may go far to explain why the show was the most popular one in apartheid South Africa;

    a FAR more accurate depiction was “Good Times” when James Amos was the father character–but we all know what happened to that…

    as for a more accurate middle class depiction, “Frank’s Place” comes readily to mind, but that lasted less time than John Amos did, and for precisely the same reasons;

    there’s been little to nothing since to match the latter to programmes for demonstrative black love and family;

    even today, in 2013, “black love” is depicted as rejecting the black suitor for anything white a black jezebel can find to crawl under each thursday on the “Sally Hemmings Show”;

    small wonder we are confused, and so our children are confused mores…