I recently had a conversation at a friend’s birthday get-together that I felt I just had to share. It started when one of the women there responded to a compliment on her outfit by saying, “Well, that’s one of the perks of having a cheating boyfriend.”
As you could imagine, I was curious to know why she would say something like that. She said that her boyfriend was a serial cheater, but his six-figure income and lavish gifts helped her look past his indiscretions. While she admitted that she had also been unfaithful, she certainly didn’t seem satisfied with her situation and talked about her desire to be in a relationship with someone who actually treated her the way she felt she should be treated. Her statement didn’t come as a surprise, but that entire conversation revealed something about her that is true of many people who say they want to be in a relationship: She. Was. Not. Ready.
Our culture suggests that relationship-readiness is determined by some combination of education, job security, and physical attractiveness. Those factors are indeed important, but they are only one piece of the puzzle. There are many other aspects to being ready for a relationship, and I believe every person should ask themself the following four questions to determine whether they are really ready.
What Would I Bring To A Relationship?
People are naturally inclined to look out for their own interests, but relationships can’t flourish if we consistently act out of selfish motives. Therefore, it is important for us to be just as clear about what we can give to a relationship as we are about what we’re looking to get from one. Love expresses itself through giving (e.g., time, resources, etc.). Too often, however, our actions are driven and influenced by lust, which is more concerned with fulfilling our own desires. Healthy relationships often require us to put the needs of someone else ahead of our own. This is hard to do if our only concern is what someone else can do for us. Before you make a commitment to someone be sure you at least know what you can offer a potential mate emotionally, socially, financially, and spiritually. You’re probably not ready for a relationship if you only want to spend time when it’s convenient for you or only think about gifts when you’re receiving them.
Am I Available?
Another indication of readiness is when we are in a position (physically, emotionally, socially) to give and receive love fully. Many people aren’t able to do this because they are 1) currently in a relationship, 2) carrying the dead weight of emotional baggage, and/or 3) unable to commit the time and energy necessary for sustaining a good relationship. Oftentimes receiving love can be just as difficult as giving it because so many of us have become accustomed to dysfunctional relationships. Our perspectives become so skewed that poor treatment, unmet needs, and the cycle of relationship drama seem normal. Getting rid of dead weight relationships is also important. Sometimes the fear of loneliness causes us to hold on to a person we know would be an unsuitable partner, but giving that person access to our time, energy, and emotions leaves us in a poor position to meet or actively engage someone who actually wants to love us fully.
What Are My Standards?
Contrary to the opinions of some, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having standards. While this is not gender specific, oftentimes women, especially black women, are made to feel that their standards are too high. This is due in part to a society that constantly reinforces the notion that there is a shortage of eligible men. The key is not eliminating standards, however, but focusing them on the things that matter most. A person’s “list” should be composed of traits that are absolute necessities, leaving room for flexibility in areas that are “nice-to-haves.” Being firm with standards comes after a person knows who they are (identity) and what they want out of life (purpose). A person who lacks those two elements is vulnerable to settling for trash and convincing themself it’s treasure. There’s only one caveat regarding standards. There is an inverse relationship between the number of non-negotiables and the number of potential mates, so there will be a lot fewer people to choose from if you have 100 than if you have 10.
Can I Be Faithful?
Let me make this perfectly clear: a person should not be in a relationship if they cannot, or will not, be faithful. This is something that seems obvious but it clearly isn’t something that everyone adheres to. We have all seen examples of the damage that infidelity does to relationships. It is the ultimate act of selfishness in a relationship. Unfaithfulness erodes the foundation of any relationship, breaks trust, and often does irreparable harm to attempts at building intimacy. That is why it is critically important to evaluate our ability to be faithful before entering into a committed relationship.
Got Your Answers? Then Read On
It’s important to know the answers to these questions because relationships require mutual giving and selflessness, physical, social, and emotional availability, boundaries, and faithfulness. Too often people only want to be in relationships for their own benefit. This type of mindset is a perfect recipe for disaster. The few minutes I spent talking to the woman at the party reminded me that simply wanting a healthy relationship is easy. The hard part is putting yourself in the position to actually be in one. Desiring a healthy, loving relationship is great but it matters little if our paths are not in sync with our intentions. We do ourselves a disservice when we say we’re ready for a relationship but remain selfish, unavailable, unclear about our standards, and unwilling to be faithful. It takes a great deal of introspection and honesty to tell whether we’re on the right path but it’s worth doing what it takes to get on the road of readiness.
BMWK, how do you know you’re ready to be in a relationship? Have you ever gotten into a relationship before you were ready? How did it turn out?