We give students grades to evaluate their mastery of the subject matter. Employees receive evaluations to review their work performance. Throughout society we are consistently measuring and grading someone’s achievements. Yet, we tend not to do the same when it comes to relationships, and I’m thinking maybe that should change.
My sister-friend and I were speaking the other day about what we thought of ourselves in relationships. Both of us thought we were pretty good, but of course we would. I then asked, “Have you ever asked one of your exes how you were in the relationship?” She had not, and neither had I. So, I challenged both of us to ask one or more of our exes what they thought about us as partners.
My sister-friend is far more courageous than I am, and she beat me to the punch. She called me yesterday to tell me about the conversation she had with her last boyfriend. They’d been friends for a long time before they became romantic and remained friends afterward. She dated him for four years and they lived together for two of those years. She felt safe calling him up to ask our challenge question.
“When we first sat down, he was very complimentary as he always has been,” she said. “He told me that I was consistent and reliable, which is what he loved most about me. Although I enjoy hearing great things about myself I stopped and told him to give it to me straight. And, boy did he!”
My sister-friend’s ex-boyfriend went on to explain that one of his major issues with her was that she was a bit cold and not romantic. It didn’t surprise me because my sister-friend is a no-nonsense, straight-shooting corporate attorney. He said that this didn’t allow him to truly show his emotions in the relationship because, as the man, he felt she would look at him as being weak because he was emotional. “He was right, I would have,” she admitted. He said he felt as if she never really opened up to him about her true feelings about their relationship. In his words, she “treated it like a job and not like love.” It forced him to withdraw and ultimately for them to grow apart. He then asked her the same question and she gave it to him straight. “It was a revealing and healing experience for both of us,” my sister-friend told me.
As long as I have been talking about relationships this is something I never thought of doing before now. I’m definitely going to do it to since my sister-friend’s experience went so well. Clearly, you must do this with someone who you know will be honest, but also considerate of your feelings. It is definitely not an exercise you want to do with a bitter ex. But, if you’re wondering what being in a relationship with you is like, your strengths and your weaknesses, you should go to the source – your ex. I challenge you, ladies. Will you try it and tell me how it went?
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Nathan’s book INSPIRATION: Profiles of Black Women Changing Our World is available now.