Many years ago, Oprah Winfrey joked on her show that she would go find a man, clean him up and make him a good one. Clearly, she was joking. Unfortunately, I know too many women who in relationships on the same mission trying to make their men “good.” This is impossible, ladies.
Over the holidays, I spent some time comforting a sister-friend who was going through a bitter breakup with a guy she’d been dating for three years. It was no surprise to me that they were breaking up; it was more of a surprise that it took so long. Almost immediately, she had problems with him; unemployment, infidelity and mental abuse. It was so bad that it even had a negative effect on our friendship because I grew tired of hearing her repetitive stories of his increasingly disappointing behavior.
My frustration with my sister-friend came to a head when she allowed him to move into her apartment over a year ago. It made no sense because her boyfriend was chronically unemployed and rarely had any resources to contribute to their relationship, let alone her household. In fact, the reason he had to move in with her to begin with was because his mother had kicked him out. (Yes, really.)
“If his momma doesn’t want him living with her what makes you think it’s a good idea that he live with you?” I asked. Needless to say, my position on the matter was not well received and our bond grew tense. Part of me felt sorry for my friend because I knew she was not strong enough to do what she knew was right. Moreover, her desire to have a man overruled her good sense.
Before you or I can judge my sister-friend, it is important to note that this was a behavior she’d learned from her mother. Similarly, while my sister-friend was growing up, her mother maintained unhealthy relationships with good-for-nothing men. And, although my sister-friend knew better, it was a pattern that she was repeating and finding difficult to break.
In her mind, all she needed to do was be strong for her boyfriend and “help him be a better man.” She felt that was her role as a black woman and his girlfriend. She tirelessly made an effort to help him better himself across the board. All the while forgetting that she wasn’t his mother, he was grown and she was not going to be able to re-raise him. He’d learned this behavior long before he met her and no matter what she did, she was not going to be able to change it. He alone was responsible for changing his behavior and by enabling him with her unyielding support she was not doing him any favors.
I hate to say I was right in this situation, but I’m happy to say that my sister-friend finally came to her senses. She kicked him out of her house and her life. Now, she has the time and space in her life for one of the good man out there (and there are plenty of them) who doesn’t need her to give him life support. Sadly, my sister-friend’s story is not unique. There are too many women out there trying to make their men good. If you’re one of them, I hope you realize sooner rather than later that you just can’t make a man be good, he is has to be a man on his own first.
Wishing you love and ceaseless joy!
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Nathan’s book INSPIRATION: Profiles of Black Women Changing Our World is available now.