When I was about thirteen years old, my mother told me, “Surround yourself with people you want to be like.” Later on in life, my guru, Oprah Winfrey, was known for saying, “Surround yourself with people who lift you higher.” At the core, they are the same concept and one that I believe has been fundamental to my success. However, I have not always surrounded myself with people who support me being in a stable relationship. My guess is that many of us are members of personal communities that are unsupportive of our relationships.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think most people intentionally do things to sabotage relationships. But, I do believe that many people can’t see past the shortcomings of their own relationships – past and present – to be the kind of support you need in your own. In plain English, we have all put our own baggage and mess on someone else’s situation. Just because your husband cheated doesn’t mean hers will too, and so forth.
For this reason, here are five ways that I believe will help ensure that the community around you is supportive of a healthy, long-lasting relationship:
1. Choose Your Friends Wisely. Many of the people that you hung out with when you were single aren’t good for the partnered you. There is a marked difference between a “road dawg” and a friend. Often times, those “road dawgs,” especially the ones that are still single, don’t want to see the change in your behavior that is necessary to maintain a relationship. Know the difference.
2. Keep Your Bedroom Private. No one should know what goes on in your bedroom except for you and your partner. If it’s good, keep it to yourself. If it’s bad, keep it to yourself. Period.
3. Befriend Other Couples. Finding other couples that are compatible with you and your partner’s tastes can be a great thing for fun double dates and outings.
4. Consider the Source. When you’re getting advice from someone, consider the messenger’s relationship background and any ulterior motives in the advice given.
5. Please Keep It Cute. By all means, do not let your family or friends say negative things about your partner. Even if you bring up a situation of concern, your friends should know the limit to what can and cannot be said. You should never tolerate or accept anyone talking badly about your partner.
I have seen too many couples fall apart because of the actions of the people around them. Conversely, I have seen marriages and relationships saved because of a strong support network that is encouraging. Truly, it is up to you to set the ground rules with your family and friends about respecting your partner and your relationship. Creating a healthy community in which your relationship can exist is a much better recipe for success.
Wishing you love and ceaseless joy!
Nathan’s book INSPIRATION: Profiles of Black Women Changing Our World is available now.