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Miata Vaughn, as told to S. Tia Brown

I dated for forty years.

It wasn’t because I was scared, scarred or scandalous; in hindsight, I simply couldn’t deal with more. Many of us are fooled into thinking we can control life’s timetables and our accomplishments. We can’t. God’s divine time and order has nothing to do with what we want; it’s about what She knows we can handle.

I come from a family where women stayed with men regardless of the circumstance. Growing up, I had the wonderful opportunity to see love demonstrated everyday through commitment and sacrifice that was guided by a strong belief in God. Sadly, I also witnessed behavior that I perceived to be unjust. My parents had five children; my father worked and my mother stayed home. As the sole provider, my dad never short-changed us, but he was hard. He required much from all us, especially my mom. She took his caustic criticism–even in public–with a smile. When I complained I was chided and told that I couldn’t see the good times. She was right.

As a teen I decided that my mother’s plight would not be my own. I molded myself into what I perceived to be a strong woman: everything had to be 50/50 in my relationships. Whether it was money or household duties, my significant other needed to pull his own weight; I’d handle mine. After years of failed relationships I turned to God. What was wrong? I was beautiful. I was a successful Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I was loving. I cooked. I cleaned. Still nothing. After some self-reflection–I’m talking months and years, not days–I realized that God was chiseling me.

First, I had to learn that my plan could not supplant God’s; my relationship with Her had to come first.  Second, the love I exuded in a healthy relationship, whether with girlfriends or a mate, had to mirror the devotion I have for God. I had to be faithful, patient and understanding. No friendship is equal at all times, because we don’t always have 100% to give. With that in mind, I surrounded with people who I value and have proven they care for me through well-timed reciprocity: when I’m weak, they’re strong and vice versa. Lastly, all relationships have to be nurtured. Though I could proudly walk by my mate’s side or take the lead, I had to learn how to hold my head up when I needed to walk behind him–or sit at his feet.

When God knew I was ready, She answered my prayers. In February I married a man who can be that lion, but is also gentle. He thinks in advance about my needs, so I don’t have to. My parents’ experience no longer makes me resort to extremes; instead my marriage is a medley of everything I’ve learned, but on my terms. I fulfill my husband’s needs and he does the same. And I when problems arise I don’t have to be right; because I want to make sure we always win.