What Makes a Black Man Say "I Do"

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With more than 1.2 million followers on social media, Tony Gaskins, Jr., has built an international audience for his no-nonsense advice on life and love. The author and husband reveals what fellas look for before making the ultimate commitment.

"I do" is an action statement. It means that I will continuously work on myself and love you. Sometimes when a man says "I do," he really means "I might," or it turns into "I did." I wake up and say "I do" every day.

Since the age of 16, I was looking for a wife. I felt a woman brought stability and balance to a man's life, and I had to have order before I could have success. Of course I'd seen men make money without a wife, but I'd never seen money buy peace or happiness. I wanted both. I didn't know what a good wife looked like, but I knew I would know when I met her. I went through so much pain on this journey to "I do." I know women can be healers and nurturers by nature. And yet I was encountering mostly women who had lost those instincts and the essence of who they were. I knew that they'd been through so much pain that together we wouldn't work. I needed a woman's stability because she would be the backbone of the relationship.

At 21 years old, I met Sheri. By the age of 23 I was married to her. It was so clear she was The One that I didn't have to wait until I was 30 to figure it out. We talked for hours on our first date and when we parted, I knew she was my wife. I couldn't afford a wedding, so Sheri married me in the courthouse. I'm sure that wasn't her first choice, but she didn't make a big deal of it. The ring I put on her finger cost $69. We married for love, not for the ring and not for the wedding. Here are the qualities I saw in my wife, and what many of my clients have shared that make a man get on bended knee.

SHE IS WHOLE. My wife wasn't asking or expecting me to complete her. She wanted me to complement her. She had been hurt in the past and lived through a lot of pain, but she didn't dump it on me. She shared her path and worked on healing herself and allowed me to help where I could. She didn't let her past make her bitter in the present.

SHE IS CONFIDENT. She wasn't perfect, but she didn't let it make her insecure to put guards up or attack me.

SHE ISN'T CONFRONTATIONAL. Our first conversation was six hours long. Not once did she try to debate me about my thoughts. She respected my truth and my beliefs, and if she didn't agree she didn't try to argue with me.

SHE IS AUTHENTIC. When I met my wife she didn't have a weave or artificial eyelashes. She didn't wear a waist trainer. She didn't even have on makeup. She had taken the necessary steps to enhance what God gave her.

SHE IS DRIVEN. She knew who she was, where she wanted to go and how she would get there. She wasn't wasting time looking for a man to rescue her. She wasn't chasing fantasies or seeking approval from men.

SHE ISN'T EASY. She respected and valued her body. She wouldn't let me sleep with her on the first night, first week or first month like every other woman I'd met until that point. She valued her body and knew if she was going to share herself, it would have to be something real.

SHE IS ALIGNED. She knew God and they had a relationship. She knew what she believed in and she was adamant in her faith.

All those things and more made her a wife. She was set apart and I could see her value right away. The beauty was that she knew her value too. I realized that even if a man wasn't ready, he would get ready for the right woman. I learned that if a woman doesn't compromise her values and morals she is more attractive to a man. I learned that a man only appreciates what he has to work for. I said "I do" to say "I will forever love and respect you." A man finds a wife when a wife finds herself.

This article was originally published in the February 2015 issue of ESSENCE Magazine, on newsstands now!

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Filed under: Love & Sex