In the hundreds of ways in which men and women interact within a relationship, there are several elements that make it work. If you ask ten couples about the single most important element of their success, you might get seven different answers. But one quality in particular is a root cause of relationship success and failure. Cooperation – the practice of pooling efforts, resources, and decision-making for the collective objective – is a key component through which no relationship survives without. And in today’s individualistic society, it’s quickly becoming an extinct quality.
I learned firsthand about such teamwork in 2010. Fresh off a stellar 2009 in which I was awarded a Bachelor’s Degree and a firstborn son, I suddenly found myself confronted by the harsh reality of baby-mama drama, unemployment, mounting pressures and a rather impressive dependence on prescription painkillers. It all crashed shortly thereafter when I was evicted and spent two harrowing months living out of my car, in the dead of winter. But my girlfriend at the time was solid as steel, she elected to forgo her warm bed in her families’ home and squeeze into my Chrysler to endure the wretched ordeal in lockstep. In her mind, my pain was OUR pain, and she wouldn’t accept anything better for herself until our collective circumstance changed. And so we passed the nights, making love and drowning sorrows, until things gradually improved. Her devotion so moved me that my car and my strap are both named after her, a namesake for the greatest example of unflinching devotion that I’ve ever seen.
A constellation is much more impressive than a single star, yet everyone is still bent on individual shine. It is clearer now than ever that when left to our own devices, we fall apart. Nevertheless, we are rapidly losing the spirit of cooperation so necessary for healthy relationships to succeed. Men and women alike struggle to wrestle control from one another, competing instead of cooperating. Parents who are no longer together hesitate to share co-parenting duties with one another, limiting access and influence as if you’re their child also. Words like ‘submit’ and ‘obey’ evoke sour reactions in a society where everyone has become aspiring gods. And in the end, we sacrifice our progress on the altar of autonomy.
People live with such a heightened suspicion of one another’s motives; it makes you not even want to try to earn their trust. It’s like you have to prove yourself AND exorcise the ghosts of negative experiences long past. Naturally, you want to protect yourself from those with ill intentions, but take care that you do not overcompensate and close yourself off from an opportunity that could change your life. Believe it or not, there are worse things that could happen to you in life than a failed attempt at love: such as never risking it.
One way to bring the teamwork back to our love is to only associate with people who’ve demonstrated consideration for your best interests. When someone seeks to assert their will over yours, you will naturally give resistance. But when you weigh their intent and find that it aligns with progression for you both, you are more apt to yield. Personally, I love a woman with the ability to see through me, the wisdom to know best, and the courage to tell the truth to me. It signals a willingness to risk hurt feelings for the overall objective of collective progression.
Align with those who show a willingness to bend for you, as well as stand firm on their beliefs. In doing so, you will respect them enough to do the same. It sounds easy, but you will only bend to people you respect. So take some time to explore what traits you respect. For some, they respect a person’s ability to generate and control wealth. Others admire a person’s ability to stick to their principles in the face of stress and adversity, or overcome extreme injustices in their lives. There are a million qualities to choose from; pick yours and begin to view people through those lenses. By doing so, you will see through false appearances that most people display, keying in on qualities that you hold in high regard.
The topic of control also skirts the larger issue of gender roles in relationships. I’ve noticed that people tend to latch onto a specific responsibility when speaking of gender roles- who is supposed to cook, clean, make the lion’s share of money, etc. When you narrow your thinking in this manner, you neglect the underlying truth that we each carry a masculine or feminine energy within us. Although we are equal, we are not identical; we must allow our partners to express the energy that they were born with. You will find that everyone you meet has a natural inclination: some want to be the protector, some want to bring peace and establish good vibes. You must first determine what your mate’s inclinations are, and then decide if you are comfortable and capable of accommodating it. It’s as simple as that.
With that said, understand that we are all in need of repair in some way. Stop eliminating people based on fixable flaws, because we all have them. You can only be so selective before you find yourself with no eligible suitors. At some point, you just have to be grateful that someone out there is willing to risk their emotional stability for you. I’m not advocating that you settle; you deserve the greatest love with the least sorrow you can find. But recognize that every endeavor will experience peaks and valleys–be it your career or your relationship. In reality, valleys are fertile places in which to grow and emerge stronger. The good teams work their way through it, turning dismal circumstances into opportunities to improve. No one knows that lesson more than I.
About the author: Jontae Grace is a 27 year old, single father of 1 son. His blog, “My $0.02″ can be found at http://jontaegrace.com, and he has a free app in the Google Play Store (search My $0.02). A graduate of the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), his literary goal is to empower people to take control of their social and romantic relationships.
Google Play Store (free app): My $0.02
I have to say this is wone of the best and most inspirational posts I've ever read. A ton of this I can relate to as a 25 year old Father of 1 (a girl:
"People live with such a heightened suspicion of one another’s motives; it makes you not even want to try to earn their trust. It’s like you have to prove yourself AND exorcise the ghosts of negative experiences long past. Naturally, you want to protect yourself from those with ill intentions, but take care that you do not overcompensate and close yourself off from an opportunity that could change your life. Believe it or not, there are worse things that could happen to you in life than a failed attempt at love: such as never risking; I love a woman with the ability to see through me, the wisdom to know best, and the courage to tell the truth to me. It signals a willingness to risk hurt feelings for the overall objective of collective progression"
I long for days like thiat from my Ex-Fiancee of 6 years. Keep up the great work of Wise Words of Wisdom. Love the blog as well
IMO teamwork works best when there isn't dependency. Trust, patience and respect are all great and allow someone to be themselves. But there's a fine line between cooperation and being needy/dependent on someone for your happiness and upliftment. And I hope people who read this blog don't take that the wrong way.
A lot of us get into relationships and try to burden our partner with our problems. As a man that is a recipe for disaster, because I don't feel like my girl should be entitled or responsible for my issues. That's great if she wants to help, but that's her decision. By being self aware, and continuing to improve your own character, I think you'll be okay.
Laslty, i don't think it's healthy for someone to believe they are always in need of repair. Nothing is wrong with you, there are only things that we'd like to improve upon or do better.
I concur with that. Depression is not something that Men- espcially Black Men- speak on with Family or Friends. The LAST thing I feel us Men want to do is Burden our S/Os with it, and at the same time Keep them at a Distance and make them feel Unwanted or Useless.
Outside of that, the Small Quirks that make us Men are the things that we need to Work On frequently
J, thanks for your kind words about this piece Bro. Any way that I can help uplift and educate Brothas on how real this life can get, I will. Even if that means sharing aspects of my life that are hard to share.
I feel the same way as you. I cared less about being down in the mud myself, I was more worried about dragging my queen down there with me. That gave me an added boost of determination to get it together and change the situation. When a man has a woman who is down for him, he will do almost anything to shield her from the miseries of life – especially the ones he causes.
The part about depression and sadness is true too. Sometimes the drawback to being a male is that we are expected to take hits in silence. From childhood on, we are told that expressing our pain is unmanly, feminine, a sign of weakness. And Black People as a whole are reluctant to visit doctors, so many of us won't even allow ourselves to seek professional help, even when faced with the harshest circumstances. I hope it changes one day.
Peace and Blessings to you and your lil princess.
My recent post The Ex Factor: How to Detox and Recover
Too $hort, thank you for reading. You have raised some very valid points, and I will definitely take them into consideration.
When I think of repair, I think of two things: us as a people, and us as a family/community. We have faced some very real setbacks in our history, from slavery and racism, to broken families and the chaos we inflict upon each other in the present day. To me, we all have a little PTSD when it comes to our experiences as Black People in America. I tend to take a holistic approach, and I believe that everything we've gone through affects us, right down to our one-on-one relationships. Viewed this way, maybe it makes more sense when I say that we need repair. We need Iyanlas in every community, because the things we have overcome have also scarred us (IMO).
My recent post Cooperation: The Only Way Forward
Well let me just say that your story is great and the lady that was by your side I take my hat off to as well. Your story can help many, it did something for me.
Thanks Bro, 'preciate it.
My recent post Cooperation: The Only Way Forward
Great Post. Post it everywhere that more people can get the wisdom.
The two C's I call them if you use these chances are your sailing will be smoother more often than not
cooperation and compromise
If the two of you are willing to do it
My recent post 7 Myths About Women That Men Really Hate
Co-operation. Good to hear something like this comming from the male side. It give you hope that lasting relationships is not a myth yet. This was seemingly found out the hard way. Any relationship is 100% from both. Most people forget that when you enter into a relationship that it is when the hard work realy begin. This is a daily thing. Not just when you encounter problems. If you don’t work on your relationship whatever is coming your way and keep at it you can forget it and relationships will become a myth. We are willing to put everything into our careers to reach our goals why not our relationships.
Wow, your story has really touched me and I did enjoy every bit of it. Thanks so much for sharing such an amazing post. I believe so many will be touched and inspired by this post.
My recent post How To Get Over Your Ex