When A "Good Man" Isn't Good Enough

How often have I heard “But he’s a good man,” “Girl, it could be worse,” and “You just better be thankful that . . .” and how often have I caught myself saying these things?

I, too, was bamboozled into thinking that because he was “good,” I had to be perfect, and being perfect meant you were a "cool girlfriend" and "cool girlfriends" never “nagged,” never had an opinion, lied, and were passive. In truth, he never made me feel like I had to be this way, but years of listening to older and other women had convinced me that sacrificing my full satisfaction was a small price to pay. Listening to these women and hearing their stories had also convinced me that being unfulfilled would be easy to live with because he was “so good,” and “good black men” were a commodity, a rarity--men that didn’t come easy, and black women were supposed to do everything they had to do to keep them.

What they had failed to tell me, though, was that there would inevitably come a time when “so good” just wouldn’t do it. They failed to tell me that settling and holding my tongue when I wasn’t satisfied would become unbearable, and that there would be an eventual war between “the cool girlfriend” and myself. There of course, had been battles between “the cool girlfriend” and I –countless heart to hearts and moments where I had attempted to voice my dissatisfaction, but eventually succumbed to the same pattern of letting “mistakes” go unnoticed, without rebuke, and feeling like I shouldn’t say anything because he was rare, and we were good together.

My family loved him, my baby cousins adored him, and we never had to have conversations of “who are you texting so late?” “You stood me up,” “why don’t you call?” and “why don’t we date?” In essence, I thought, compared to other women I had it “good” but I wanted great, and I didn’t want to feel bad for saying so and demanding it.

Incidentally, we couldn’t be as great as I wanted because I never required that he give me what I wanted and he never required me to speak. This does not mean he neglected to give me material things, in fact, receiving material things was never a problem. He gave even when I didn’t ask and these things were beautiful, much appreciated, and I was proud to wear them and proud to say that they were all from him, but when it came to the things I actually wanted like: “Baby, this person really makes me uncomfortable, here’s why, can you do something about this?” my wants were never handled. Instead I would get things, and I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved that he loved to give, but it seemed that he only loved to give the things he wanted to give, and never the things I asked for. What I wanted required him to trust me, what I wanted required me to trust him, what I wanted forced him out of his comfort zone, required some prioritizing, hurting a few feelings, and standing up for me, and although his unwillingness to comply resulted in my dissatisfaction, he was not the only villain. My passive suggestion was not the same thing as requiring, and how could I expect my partner to react actively if I didn’t? The truth was “the cool girlfriend” never required because it was not in her character. “The cool girlfriend” settled because the rare black man commodity mattered more than she did. However, the day had finally come where I had to make a choice. I could either be “the cool girlfriend” who didn’t require anything, or I could be myself and speak of my needs, trust him, trust that he would not leave, but be okay if he did. Needless to say, “the cool girlfriend” lost, and I won. The decision to be me and step out of the comfort and facade of "the cool girlfriend's" success filled me with joy, but it also infuriated me.

It had finally hit me that not only had I put up with a lot of shit for a long time but he did as well. My belief in his rareness and my belief that it was my duty to treasure this rareness and endure, no matter what, left me actively disliking myself and left me unable to actively love myself. I was also angry because he let me actively dislike myself and let me actively not love myself, and I let him let me. He was my friend and he did not hold me accountable, he did not make sure I was being great to myself even when I refused to, and he did not make sure that I was being great to him. Was he really accepting me how I was? Broken, silent, and swayed by other women's stories? In my anger I realized that I was ashamed that after all of the years of comparison, I was just like those women all women swear we’ll never be; and I had spent so much time pretending that I had begun to believe the hype surrounding living a lie.

Aware of the work needed to be done, for my sanity, and the survival of our relationship we both had to write out our non-negotiables (our what we need from each other to believe that we are loved, respected, and cared for) and after hearing these non-negotiables we had to decide if we could live and deliver these needs or if we had to walk away. This conversation was going to be different than passive suggestion, this conversation was going to be chock-full of “I never want to have to say this again,” and “hold me accountable and I’ll hold you accountable.” And it worked.

Against common belief in our women circles, we do not have to settle just to get a ring or to be promised life-long partnership. I am happy my now fiance did not propose to “the cool girlfriend,” I am happy that by the time he got on his knee, I was Randie, and happy that we both knew how to love, protect, and speak on our requirements. Randie is opinionated, strong, vulnerable, loving, complex, and in love. “The cool girlfriend” is none of these things, “the cool girlfriend” is a puppet, and unable to have the much need conversations.

Women, we do not have to sacrifice ourselves for our partners. It is possible and imperative that we recognize that we can love someone else and fully love ourselves at the same time. We do not have to choose. So, let’s be aggressive in our desires and requirements. Let’s stop giving our partners mediocre version of ourselves because of our insecurities and our fears. Let’s stop expecting them to read our minds. Let’s stop being afraid. Men aren’t afraid. Men rarely repeat themselves and it’s because they know their worth, and we as women have to realize that we are just as worthy, and that we do not have to be or settle for just “good.”

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

 Randie Henderson is a Gates Millennium Scholar and recent college grad. She is driven to write, read, learn, and educate about ways to dismantle oppression in America and globally because she is passionate about people and justice. You can find her on randiejourney.tumblr.com and Black Women's Blueprint on Facebook.

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