Okay y’all, this is the last rant about relationships and the like. And I am going to close it down in grand style! I have been running off at the mouth about what I think and what I believe, and it hit me – am I right? The answer, of course, is yes. But I wanted validation. So I chose several of my good male friends – REAL men, by any definition – and asked them all the same batch of questions. These men are all happily married. YES! They do exist!! Men, if you want to be happy and whole in a relationship, ask the experts – the guys who are where you want to be. And these men are reformed players, nerds, militants, politicos, geeks, corporate executives, divorcees and more. The history is different but the story is the same.
Here is the panel interview:
So when you first met your wife, did you know she was special?
With my wife, for the first time in my life, I KNEW I wanted to be with her forever, and I also KNEW (at the same time) that she wanted to be with me. Relationships before that always seemed to be more one sided or another (meaning one of us was really thinking it was the right thing, but the other one wasn’t).
My wife and I were like two peas in a pod when we first got together.
The best word I can use to describe when we first got together is easy. No game playing. No wondering and waffling about if I should do this/say that… We talked about what we wanted in life and in a relationship as a part of our normal early discussions. So as we grew closer together, we just knew it was right.
I met her at a club. 1 of 3 I met that night… She was the only one of the three that I wanted to call. We went out twice and it was on from there as far as I was concerned…
Did she make you chase her? Did she play hard to get or anything like that?
I don’t think she made me chase her (and she agrees with that.) Not that she was easy, or that neither one of us made a few mistakes along the way early on, but I think we both knew that relationships take work, and are not always going to be easy going, so you have to get past the small stuff and focus on making sure that the person you are with is going to be able to give you the important things (whatever those are for you.)
She did not make me chase her. In fact, she approached me.
There was no chasing involved. We both really enjoyed each other’s company. I can’t believe that any dude who really wants to find a good woman to settle down with would be a dude who gets caught up in the chase. The focus is completely different. I understand the pull of the chase..it can be exciting..but I got over that a long time ago.
We rarely had disagreements. Our eyes were open the whole courtship because we weren’t confusing love and lust.
Were there any moments or times when you thought that things might not work out? Did you ever question the relationship?
We had a few arguments along the way, and there was one night that she gave back her engagement ring (not for very long, and I couldn’t even tell you what the fight was about). But I don’t think I ever really doubted the relationship, and I don’t think she did either.
There was a time that I freaked out…but it had more to do with the complications of an interracial relationship than it had to do with the actual relationship.
I think anybody that says they don’t question the commitment they make when they get married, unless they are older, is a bald faced liar.
I didn’t freak out or question the relationship at any point. As w/any couple getting together, there are going to be some bumps in the road. So we talk about issues to get them out in the open and made the relationship better. But I never had any serious thought about breaking off anything.
I never thought I made a mistake or got freaked out or questioned our relationship. Our roughest patch happened in our first 6 months of marriage. We were co-habiting and getting used to each other and it wasn’t much fun. Growing pains, if you will. We discovered that we didn’t communicate well face to face… We went to marital counseling and after about 4 sessions we knew what we had to fix. We wanted the same things but didn’t know how to communicate that to each other. It was like she wanted Chinese food and I wanted Chinese food, but instead we kept getting Italian because we didn’t understand each other. We learned to talk to each other the way we needed to be talked to in order to properly translate what we want and need from each other… Smooth sailing ever since.
I always knew that we were gonna have to work through something and I had made a thoughtful, committed decision to spend the rest of my life making her happy. But I didn’t realize it was so simple. It also helped that we were both complete when we met. We didn’t have any baggage lying around to trip us up… That is very, very important.
Any words of advice you have for the guys (and girls) out there looking? (I didn’t ask this question outright, but there were other things that they said that need repeating.)
Effective interpersonal communication is the key. It’s not enough to just talk to a person. You have to put to them the way they need to understand it… Just like that love language thing… You have to love someone the way they need to be loved and not the way you want to love them. And learn to pick your battles… Some things you just have to let go…
We were happy being single and we were very honest and upfront about what we wanted in a relationship.
We were able to integrate and not compromise to be together.
My wife is growing with me. She reads. She tries new things. She’s open to change. [My first wife] was stagnant and so we grew apart.
She bought into my vision for our family and took ownership of it with me… That way, there’s no blame passing or power tripping if a decision doesn’t work out…
Completion + Communication + Commitment = Win. Love is a thoughtful, committed decision.
And now the coup de grace: The story of my parents, who were married for 42 years (until my mother’s passing) as told by my father, Mr. Charles Robert Stephens:
Dear daughter, I hope this will be an interesting short story. Your mom and dad were fortunate to have several friends that knew us both very well. They in fact decided that we would be very compatible before we were introduced. We actually met at an arranged dinner party by this group. I had already decided that this was probably the girl I would marry just based on mutual friends’ description and explanation. When I met her, she was beautiful, very intelligent, had a great sense of humor and she was a professional lady. She was independent and very self reliant. Sparks did not fly right away mainly because I was, well, let’s just say I was a true bachelor and she had never left home. Our relationship started off kind of cool, but we gravitated toward each other fairly quickly. She came from two good people, her parents that grew to love me as much as her. My in-laws did not like losing their only child at first, but soon decided they had gained a son. I did not know anything about her relationships before me and would not let anyone discuss that with me. One of her cousins, a male, told her I was too much of a player and she would never be able to control me. We were married 42 years and he has been married 4 times. Go figure.
I really was impressed with her attitude toward our relationship. It was always obvious that she did not need me or any man to define or validate her as a woman. She was completely satisfied with herself and who she was.
“He’s my brother, he ain’t heavy”, does not apply in romantic relationships. When you start to lean on your mate too much, hovering, covering, smothering, being demanding, and helpless, the relationship will soon be adversely affected. We gave each other space; there was trust. I had her understand that I was ultimately responsible for the overall well being of the family. There were disagreements. There were negotiations, but when you both seek the best conclusion for the family, all you have to do is listen to each other and take the best part of each other’s position, and table the rest for a while. Sometimes you have to table a disagreement forever. And it’s funny that as time goes by, it all loses its importance. We never accused each other of infidelity. We always said that it was pointless unless you had absolute proof.
Now Joy, about some other ladies I dated. Some were good, just not good enough. Some were too anxious. After a couple dates, then came the question: Do you ever think about getting married? What kind of definitive answer is required for that question? That would be the last date.
Then there were the beggars! It starts like this: I say “you seem a little out of it today, what’s wrong?” Response: “Oh, nothing really.” Now there’s the catch word: really. But I’d say “you’re not having a nice time and you seem depressed about something, want to talk about it?” Response: “Well, I hate to say anything; I just don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent this weekend.” Paying someone’s rent is not a part of courtship, sorry.
One lady had the nerve to tell me I should give her money because her time was worth money. So I suggested she spend more of her time at Macy’s. See what they’d give her for it.
One lady was such an intellectual she though ordinary everyday things should not be expected of her. Such as knowing how to cook or grocery shop. House cleaning was completely out of the question. She said that if I ever wanted cornbread, I should try and find a Lubys. In addition, she drank too much!
Here’s another story about me and your mother. Early in our marriage, she couldn’t cook anything. And it took me by surprise because I had eaten plenty of meals at her parent’s house. (Your grandmother told me that it really was all her fault that her child couldn’t cook.) But one day she asked me if I wanted salmon croquettes for dinner. Well sure, I’d be glad to eat anything she cooked. And then for dinner, she came out with this platter of about 25 – 30 croquettes. I wondered why so many… But then I bit into one. It was…impossible…to eat. She had mixed a can of salmon with an entire bag of corn meal. I couldn’t eat them, and she got offended. She said she would just take them to her parent’s house and let her dog eat them. She did, too – but the dog wouldn’t eat them either. She was so hurt. But she kept trying and learning and eventually she became a great cook, and passed those skills on to you and your sister. But early on, all she could make was toast. So she would ask me if I wanted toast and coffee. I didn’t drink coffee, but I would drink it with her, because it was something we could do together and she was proud that she could make that. I still drink coffee with breakfast to this day.
Once, we were in New Orleans for a bowling tournament. Actually, I was just passing through from a trip to Florida on business. When I got to the bowling alley, there was a real cute little curly headed New Orleans guy that was smitten by my mate. I just stood in the background and watched the bowling, I was not worried. Finally after she finished bowling, she told him it was nice meeting him but her husband had come for her. He turned blood red but I just smiled at him.
This speaks to the confidence a man needs to be in a healthy relationship. Sometimes ladies dislike such confidence, but let me warn you: A man without confidence is a potential danger. Let me quickly explain. A man without confidence cannot accept his success with women. It’s easy for him to believe that whatever he can accomplish, any other man could have had that same success. Therefore there is no uniqueness in his stature with his mate. Now here comes the jealousy and accusations. Then maybe possessiveness. Some men will break things off with you, just to beat you to it.
Now, let me explain the ladies’ dislike for a man with confidence. Sometimes a lady thinks she wants a man she can control. She has an arsenal of weapons to exert this kind of pressure. But when she gains that ultimate control, it renders him spineless, hopeless and downright disgusting. Her feelings start to change. First, he is boring, then she develops a dislike for him, then she can’t stand him, then she hates him.
So guys, your mate wants you to “be the man in her life”, and if you can’t, move over and let a better man have at it, please!