A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Everything I Know About Relationships, I Learned First From My Mother
By Gwen Jimmere

“Pain is not love.”

Practically all of America has seen the film adaptation of He’s Just Not That Into You?and the opening scene couldn’t be more spot on. As little girls, we are often taught that when a boy pushes us off the swing during recess and wipes his boogers in our hair during snack time, it means he likes us. And don’t let him steal our favorite blanket during nap time—that means he really digs us.

Innocent enough, sure...if you’re into falling face first into the dirt and picking nose slime out of your flowing locks. But come on, we were just kids, right? Maybe so. However, these early lessons in romance lay the groundwork for many of the unfavorable behaviors we subconsciously learn to accept as we mature into women.

As adults, too many things we know should be intolerable end up being the very things we end up inadvertently condoning in our intimate relationships.

Well, I’m here to tell you that pain is, most definitely, not love. Love does not intentionally hurt, and those who love us certainly don’t continue to do things they know will cause us pain—emotional or otherwise.

We don’t always get what we want, but we will certainly get what we expect. We all want to be treated well by our partners. However, if we expect others to treat us like trash, we will settle for relationships where we are treated as such. If we expect others to treat us well, we will only enter into relationships with people who treat us accordingly.

I know. I’ve been there. My mother taught me self-respect and self-love from an early age. She had high expectations in regard to her interactions with my father. Through their example, I knew what was to be tolerated in intimate relationships and what was not acceptable. Which battles were worth fighting and which ones weren’t worth the energy. What behaviors were copacetic and which ones needed to be addressed.

As a teen, I, too, had high expectations of my boyfriends. If someone decided he wanted to cheat, I’d kiss him off instantly with a warning to not let the door hit him where the good Lord split him. Verbal, physical, and emotional abuse were absolute no-no’s. I refused to be pressured for sex. And chivalry was definitely not dead. As a result, never once did I receive a broken heart, much less a wounded ego. Rarely did I have what one would call a “bad” relationship, and the only time I shed a tear over a guy was at the airport when I waved goodbye to my 12th grade boyfriend as he departed for military duty.

During and after college, I somehow developed a different set of expectations, a far cry from the tried and true ones learned from my parents. Bad relationships ended up becoming the norm. Emotional abuse was rampant and a broken heart seemed to be the status quo. I began to expect volatility in my relationships. Therefore, I settled for argumentative situations, controlling individuals and disrespectful partners.

During one of these relationships, I cried so much and so often that I ended up with swollen tear ducts. Similarly, thousands of people are in awful situations and aren’t fully aware of how detrimental these relationships are to their personal well-being. Even worse, millions have inner issues that must be dealt with before they can expect to enter into healthy, meaningful, long-term relationships. In order to fix the problems, we must first decide to explore where the roots of the problems lie. Only then can we repair them. As I’ve discovered, no one can be in a bad relationship unless they allow themselves to be in such a situation.

I know that within each and every one of us lies the ability and desire to be an entirely beautiful person inside and out. You have the drive and passion required to be independent and wise about the decisions you make for yourself— emotionally and otherwise.

It is my belief that we all simply need someone, to help us focus on how to achieve this status every now and again, to let us know the many problems and pitfalls to be wary of, and to help us realize that we must acknowledge and address these issues when things are going awry so we can fix them. Someone like my mother.

Engage, absorb, and enlighten yourselves.

Excerpt from ‘If It Walks Like a Duck…And Other Truths My Mother Taught Me”. Copyright 2009 by Gwen Jimmere

Gwen is a freelance writer, as well as an award-winning filmmaker and editor who, after years of majoring in Poor Personal Relationship Choices at the world-renowned School of Hard Knocks, decided it was high time to put all those years of hands-on training to good use. Through her upcoming book debut, If It Walks Like a Duck…and Other Truths My Mother Taught Me, and her blog, TheDuckWalk.com, she provides realistic, optimistic, and rational advice on personal accountability and intimate relationships. In her spare time (what is that?) she can be found playing with her three awesome nephews, sneaking a 1/2 pint of ice cream past her trainer, and of course, praying for world peace.