Good afternoon Dr. Buckingham,
I have a relationship question to ask you. I am a 34 yr. old single, African American female. I have a master’s degree in public administration and work in the public sector. I have done fairly well career-wise, but regarding relationships, I have struggled quite a bit. Due to financial issues, and trying to save to purchase a home, I have been living with my mom since I graduated from grad school a few years ago. My mom and I have a good relationship, but she can be rather controlling at times and very overprotective, as she has been most of my life, probably because she was a single parent. I never knew my dad and was raised by my mom, with help from my grandmother and aunt as well.
My mom isn’t the most loving or affectionate person in the world and I believe that a lot of that has rubbed off on me as well. Throughout my life, it has always been hard for me to really connect with people in general, which made it hard for me to make friends throughout school and college. Even as an adult, I don’t have many friends, at least, not really close friendships like I would like to have.
My dating life is even worse, I haven’t been on an actual date in many years and I feel like men just pass me by, and so I don’t really take the initiative to approach them. I would imagine that not having my father around when I was growing up probably hasn’t made the situation any easier, and has resulted in me not having the best self-esteem, even today. I was wondering what steps you feel I could take to start moving in the right direction, not just in terms of dating, but developing more healthy relationships as a whole. What Steps Can a Single Woman Take to Develop Healthy Relationships?
Thanks, Single & Questioning
Dear Single & Questioning,
Your story and struggle is familiar to many African Americans, including mine. In order to begin the process of developing healthy relationships, you should consider taking the following five steps: 1) Explore your childhood experiences and/or family observations to better understand what you believe to be a healthy relationship; 2) Examine previous relationship experiences; 3) Pay attention to societal perceptions about was constitutes a healthy relationship; 4) Establish a relationship with God and 5) Apply the Golden Rule.
1. Explore Your Child Experiences and/or Family Observations. We are all by-products of our total life experiences, including childhood experiences. Too often, children are taught directly or indirectly about the nature of relationships. Through direct involvement or observation we learn certain skills and habits, including how to interact with and express love toward others. Regardless of the method, we initially develop love styles from our family members. Most individuals would like to think they love the way they do based on personal experiences alone, but this is not true. We have all been impacted by family experiences in some form or fashion.
Children who grew up in households where love was expressed freely and without hesitation are likely to become adults who express love freely and without hesitation. The process of learning how to develop, give and receive love, is strongly influenced by the adults in a child’s life. For example, if a child witnessed his or her parent express love when he or she was pleased or happy, the child may have learned that love is shared only under pleasant conditions or circumstances. On the other hand, if a child witnessed his or her parent express love when he or she was dissatisfied or unhappy, the child may have learned that love is shared regardless of conditions or circumstances.