Earlier in the year, I almost ruined my relationship. I screwed up. Badly. I violated my boyfriend’s trust and when he found out (I told him), he was angry. No, I didn’t cheat, but what I did was really hurtful. There are more ways to betray your lover than to sleep with someone else. There are a thousand ways to ruin a good thing…
Anyway, in the midst of our argument I found myself outraged by his anger. He’d made it clear that he couldn’t trust me and wanted to end our relationship.
“You have to forgive me?” I yelled into the phone one night. My voice was strong, and there were no tears. I was certain of my position. “You just have to!!”
“Do I?” he responded. “Why?”
The truth is I didn’t have an answer.
As a single black woman
of good grooming and bad taste I’ve spent much of my life making excuses for bad boyfriends. I’ve prided myself on being forgiving and compassionate, but my ability to forgive comes with arrogance, an unspoken acknowledgment that I must be better for my ability to let go of pain.
When asked why my boyfriend should’ve forgiven me, I wanted to say: because I’ve forgiven you, and I forgave all the men that came before you. I wanted to point to the past and point to the future, but in the present one thing was certain. I’d effed up. I’d potentially ruined the foundation we were working hard to build. I wasn’t the victim or the person treated poorly. I was on the other side of the conflict.
Men don’t have the monopoly on f**king up.
Recently, Wisdom is Misery wrote a dope post called Women Don’t Have a Monopoly on Heartbreak. He’s absolutely right, but as he mentions, since men don’t talk about their pain, some of us ladies are left with the impression that we are the only ones who hurt. Intellectually we know that’s not true, but a man’s perceived heartlessness informs how we act in relationships.
I’d like to sadly testify that men can be hurt, and I’d add to W.I.M’s post that women do, indeed, screw up. Even those of us who don’t cheat or act crazy make seemingly small choices that undermine the men we love.
Here are three relationship ‘eff ups’ I’ve been guilty of myself:
- I’ve talked sh*t with my friends: My friends are permanent fixtures in my life. They’ve nursed me through break ups and embarrassing mistakes. They are the foundation on which I’m able to bounce back from heartache and pain. Thus, I often assume that because I trust my friends with personal info, I have a right to trust my friends with my man’s personal info. In doing that, I unknowingly undermine my relationship. The story he told you about his childhood or a seemingly harmless comment about his past has the ability to damage the bonds built in a relationship. It’s evidence that, perhaps, you can’t be trusted.
- I’ve failed to accept my partner as he is: I recently heard a story about women who are actively planning their weddings before they’ve met their partners. While I’m all about positive thinking, this seems a bit extreme. In my own way, I have been guilty of plugging a man into the role of “boyfriend” without really knowing what that means to him. I am learning to let go of ideas and expectations in an effort to enjoy the person that is in front of me. While it is important to know what you want; it’s equally important to know and enjoy what you have.
- I’ve misinterpreted the facts: I’m guilty of interpreting the facts to suit my own neurosis. Sometimes, in my mind, a missed call means infidelity. A perplexed frown means the relationship is doomed. Our interpretations can cause tensions. They can lead to unwarranted fights and actions that damage bonds. I am learning not to interpret something without checking my facts. I’m learning that I have to trust in ordered to truly love.
Man or woman, we all fall in love. We all get hurt. We all, at some point, have to stand in the mercy of others. After days of demanding forgiveness from him, I gave up because I knew I was wrong. I stood in the truth that I can hurt the man I love, and I listened while he told me how he felt. When I didn’t protest, or try to diminish his pain – I left the room so he could do what I thought I do so well – I left the room so that he could choose to forgive me.
When love is involved, monopolies don’t exist. We’re all human and grasping for a little peace of mind. Remembering that will help us all keep the love we’re cultivating.
Ladies and gents, what relationship eff ups can you share?
Patia Braithwaite is a Brooklyn-based relationship writer. Her work has been featured on Yahoo.com, The Huffington Post, Florida InsideOut Magazine, and BounceBack.com. She’s currently working on a non-fiction book that explores the various ways men see God and how these views impact their romantic relationships. Check out her musings and more at www.menmyselfandgod.com