Love is Patient
If you ask a group of young black men what qualities they seek most in a woman, many would agree on loyalty and patience. Traits deemed to be desirable in an ideal partner. The uncommunicated expectation behind those descriptors, patience and loyalty, has morphed into an unhealthy and problematic narrative.
Loyalty is paired with the expectation that a woman will “be down” and stick with her man through dysfunction, chaos and sinking sand. Patience is defined as, please wait for me while I grow and develop into a man who knows what he wants, and hopefully at the end of that growth period what he wants is you.
“A lady with patience, yeah. I did crazy things and she still waited on me.” — PARTYNEXTDOOR, Peace of Mind
I remember hearing those lyrics in Peace of Mind, by rapper and singerPARTYNEXTDOOR, and feeling hot and peeved, likely because I was triggered. I’ve heard words all too similar on more than one occasion from more than one partner. I am sure many of us have heard some variety of, “I just need you to be patient with me.” Patience is awesome and a necessary character trait in a relationship when considering our partner’s differences and desires. When patience is expressed as tolerance of irresponsible and dangerous behavior, we are crossing over into troublesome space.
I remember feeling proud that my partner described me as loyal and patient when reflecting on the trials of our relationship, trials that I alone had to endure. I tried to embody these words at the steep cost of my worth. I would give in to soft apologies coupled with empty promises to do better. I recall being flattered that he thought I was too good for him and admissions that he didn’t deserve me. Never occurring to me that was the blaring red sign indicating this was not a space deserving of my loyalty or patience.
Sometimes our nurturing nature and vast hearts lead us to take on the role of healer and we take our love salve and slather it on men who prefer to ignore their wounds rather than have them healed. And while we are strong and have healed generations, our strength does not grow exponentially with our suffering. There is no award or trophy for that suffering. We should not be martyrs for the hearts of others.
To some degree, popular culture and music feeds into this narrative of the Black woman who held her man down through years of hurt to finally reap the reward of his love. It is hard to choose different for ourselves or believe that better is even possible in a patriarchal society that does not require accountability from men in their treatment of women.
We all tuned in when Beyonce’s Lemonade was released and revealed some of the cracks in her marriage to Jay Z, a relationship we’ve all probably seen described as #goals. Lemonade was a powerful expression of the truth and pain of Black womanhood. The honest exploration of betrayal resonated with women spanning different generations. It was our collective story of sacrifice and suffering in the name of intersecting identities and Black love.
“With every tear came redemption, and my torturer became my remedy.” — Beyonce, All Night
We have suffered and loved and wept and bent our hearts, minds and bodies into shapes we were never meant to be. We have scooped out the very best of ourselves, placed it in a bowl, dressed it in extra fixin’s, brought it to the table we set, picked up the spoon, dipped it into that sweet churned love, lifted it to his parted lips, watched it pass through his throat, wiped the residue from his mouth, and cleaned the bowl. This indulgent offering fumbled and shattered into shards strewn about. And who cleans it up?
“That was your 21st birthday, you mature faster than me. I wasn’t ready, so I apologize.” — Jay Z, 4:44
Jay Z’s 4:44 album has been interpreted as a response to Lemonade and he shares his perspective on his missteps in love and manhood. It repeats an account of the patient woman who tolerates his transgressions at the expense of her own emotional wellbeing.
I was once the woman who endured manipulation, dishonesty and betrayal in hopes that he would recognize his offenses and reciprocate the love I thought I modeled. It took years of disappointment before I was able to take accountability for the behavior I was choosing to keep in my life. Once I accepted that I was choosing a connection that did not align with what I wanted, the petals of truth unfolded before me. I began to do the work to know and love myself unconditionally.
My hope is that we, as women, learn to set healthy boundaries in our relationships. That we do not suffer for the sake of love. That we do not use suffering as a metric of strength. That is not love. Love must create a safe space for two imperfect people to unfold together, reshape their understanding, and give equally of themselves. While love is patient, love does not call us to wade through toxic waters hoping not to be poisoned and taken under in the process.
Let us choose ourselves and the people, places and things that align with our highest and true self. Let that love for self be the guiding light as you navigate your choices in relationships.