How does one know when one is in the “right” relationship? Sure, there are voluminous books and articles out there that point to the external signs of positive relationships. But what about the internal markers? Can we really be in wholesome, positive and productive relationships if they do not begin within us? I say no. While this is generally true for everybody, it is definitely true for us as brothers. Why? Because black men experience a greater degree of social isolation and economic deprivation than other male ethnic groups. As a result, we tend to marry less often and our life cycles are significantly shorter when compared to other male ethnic groups.
The so-called right relationship, and by extension best relationship is an inside job. Before we can give our best selves to a woman, we must give our best to ourselves. You will know that you are in right relationship with a woman when you have arrived at a “right” relationship with God, with yourself and with those whom you love. I cite love relationship here because, let’s face it, love is beautiful.
A right relationship with God is maximum. I am not endorsing a religion here; I am simply saying that, if there is no higher power than you, you essentially lack a ground of being. Unless, of course, you consider yourself to be a higher power. The fact is our most urgent need as black men is to tap into the divinity within us. God is attempting to express himself through the channel of His creation. How we move and have our being in this physical and mental environment is wholly dependent on how we see ourselves in relation to how God sees us.
Second to a right relationship with God is a right relationship with self. We have to learn to love ourselves, to accept who we are and where we are and to begin to understand our inherent power as men. Make it a practice to look into the mirror and simply say, “I love you, man.”. Why is this so effective? Because, whatever you’ve been through, you are still standing, still moving, still pulsating with hope. You’ve been through the fire; you’ve been tested and nothing can hold you down. Believe in yourself, brother!
Lastly, when we are in right relationship with God and with ourselves, we can coalesce into right relationships with those whom we love. This is where it gets sticky. We love our family. We love our friends. We love our women. But too often we attempt to exercise control when it comes to these three groups. The key to remember is that, while control is rarely possible and often comes with a heavy emotional price, influence is preferred. When we use our influence with positive intention, we are less dependent on predicting and pushing outcomes. In my life, I have adopted the mantra ‘Let______be who they are. Let (your name) grow and prosper. My perspective has not been the same since I started using this way of thinking.
When we focus on building a right relationship with God, with ourselves and with those we love, does it guarantee that we will end up ultimately in the relationship of our dreams? No. What it does mean, though, is we plant the foundation for continuous self-improvement that will lead us to our ultimate destination.