Picture it. Brooklyn, 2016.
A young man and woman discuss ideas for a potential date and the conversation goes something like this:
Girl: Glad you’re enjoying the new cookbook you bought me.
Guy: I am! I’m learning a lot. I think we should make something from it. I’ll pick the recipe and get the groceries and bring them over.
Girl: I’ll get the groceries. You live far and the grocery store is right around the corner from me.
Guy: *deep sigh*
Guy: Stop trying to control everything.
Girl: I’m not controlling, just helping. You live far, the grocery store is right here so it’s just easier.
Guy: *annoyed tone* No. I didn’t ask for help. I can do it. Let me do something.
Girl: *shrinks in confused put in place silence*
Now, if you’ve got a case of helperitis like I do, you’ll see absolutely nothing wrong with my suggestion, but ask your man, father, uncle, male third cousin or a reformed Aibileen, and they’ll see the problem crystal clear. I wish I could say this is the first time this issue has come up in my relationships; hell I wish I could say it was the first time in this one. However, it wasn’t until I heard and saw his beyond obvious frustration with my behavior that I realized how bad it was.
By nature, I’m a helper and a planner, and I swear it comes from a good place. If I notice a place where my time and skills can be used, I offer to help. Seems simple to me. In this case he lives two hours and two train rides away. Why should he carry groceries all that way when I can buy them around the corner and have them waiting? This is the very question I asked my friend Christen when I vented to her the next day. Her response? “You’re doing too much.” As a reformed member of The Help Squad she pointed out that he knows how far he lives, he knows I could do it….but he didn’t ask. He was trying to plan a date for us, he was trying to initiate and lead, and I was coming in and telling him how to do it…and “better.” It never occurred to me that this could be how Mr. Magic and men from my past could’ve heard my offers of assistance.
I always saw myself as making life easier for everyone. If I’m honest, I also do it because I’m so used to doing things myself that I naturally rally and take charge when something needs to be done. When you’re a single lady, you’re head of operations and anything occurring in your world gets planned and organized by you. So it can be a little hard to let someone come in and take charge when you’re used to doing it all. You see it as “helping,” but this ain’t a movie and you’re not an assistant or a maid, and if you’ve got a man’s man you’re definitely not his boss. You’re a partner. As a woman one of my prayers is to find a man that will lead and take charge so that I don’t have to bear the entire load, then I find one and I “help” him into the passenger seat. When I think of a partnership, I want to be someone he leans on and someone that works alongside my guy to progress each other and our relationship. Clearly my actions have been doing quite the opposite. I want to give him the opportunity to lead (Not into a ditch though because daddy ain’t raise no fool) and be the man he and I both desire him to be.
I’m not going to pretend to know exactly how to fix this mindset; it’s definitely going to take some time. However I have said that this time around, no matter how it ends, I was going to make an effort to stop doing all the things that clearly didn’t work for me before. I want to do better. My first step is that I’ve decided to assist, not help, when asked. It might drive me crazy to know he’s carrying groceries on the subway (silent scream), but instead of focusing on how he’s not doing it my way, I’m going to focus on the fact that he was dope enough to buy a cookbook that I really wanted and took the initiative to plan something sweet, romantic and interactive for us. I’m going to focus on the experience and all the fun we’re going to have. For once in my dating life, I’m going to stop trying to help someone else, and help myself first.
Danielle T. Pointdujour is a Brooklynite living the passport life to the fullest. With over 70 countries under her belt, you can always find Danielle traveling the globe in search of new experiences and the hottest luxury hotels. You can follow her writing, musings and global adventures on her blog Hotel Whisperer and on Twitter and Instagram.