The Importance of Choosing Yourself When Your Partner Ain't Acting Right

by Diana Veiga

Family legend is as follows: In the early 1900's my maternal great-great grandmother, Amanda, left Alabama with her children to meet her husband, Johnny, in Florida. When Amanda arrived, Johnny was drinking heavily and seeing another woman named Sue. Amanda sat at the fire, poking the ashes (for some reason this is important to the story), and asked Johnny who he loved more—her or Sue. He said Sue. She said cool. (Or you know, the early 1900’s equivalent of cool.) Amanda told the oldest child, Lucille, to write a letter to their people back in Alabama asking them to send her some money; and three weeks later Johnny came home to an empty house.

Amanda raised her children alone with the help of her eldest son. Amanda never remarried and from what I understand she remained a pistol until her last days. Johnny returned to Alabama years later and in church one day told the pastor that Amanda still wanted him. “You a damn lie,” she shouted to him in the church.

See what I mean? Pistol.

I was reminded of this story of Amanda’s resilience after someone told me about a woman who was enduring some foolishness with her cheating husband who had brought a baby conceived from an extramarital affair into their lives. That tale of woe then reminded me of another story I heard a woman tell about how her boyfriend had cheated on her repeatedly, given her an STD, borrowed money, never paid her back, and on and on and on. And yet, this woman was debating if she should leave him.

It’s easy to shake our heads at other women’s sob stories. We think we know what we would do in those instances—run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit—but the truth is too many of us have stayed in relationships, situation-ships, and whatever-ships with men who weren’t treating us right. Maybe they weren’t doing the same bad thing that other man was doing, but they weren’t doing good. Many of us have stayed, hoping that things change.

We eventually leave, but it takes some time. Too much time.

It seems that women, Black women in particular, get told too often that there are no options for us when it comes to love/relationships. Too often Black women are told that there are no good choices, so we better take what we can get and hush. I watched Lifetime’s With This Vow recently and Regina Hall’s character was so desperate to get married, she was willing to marry her jerk ex-boyfriend as he (falsely) reminded her, “I’m all you’ve got. This is your last chance.”

Black women receive these ‘he’s all you’re going to get’ messages on a continuous loop: Relationship books and “experts,” statistics, panel discussions. And don’t even get me started on all of these social media memes about what a real woman should do to keep her man happy. Let him sleep with your homegirls. Let him have a sidechick and don’t you dare complain. Make sure you keep it looking right and tight at all times, so he doesn’t cheat on you… but he’s probably going to cheat on you anyway, and you should be OK with that.

You want him to be happy, don’t you?

As if a woman’s happiness doesn’t matter. Pssh… Our happiness does matter. Our peace of mind does matter. Our well-being does matter. And we deserve to be with partners who respect and understand this. And if they don’t, then we shouldn’t be afraid to be happy and fulfilled all by our damn selves.

It is amazing to me that my great-great grandmother—at a time when being a Black woman involved even more challenges than it does now—essentially said she could do bad all by herself and had the strength to walk away from what was not serving her well or enhancing her life.

It’s times like these that I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and ask her, “What made you so sure you could do it?” This woman born soon after the end of slavery, who was told by the entire world that she wasn’t worthy—how did she discover and cultivate her worth? Her sense of self? How did she muster the courage to even ask her husband if he loved her, knowing that the answer might not be what she wanted to hear? And once she got the answer, how did she sustain the bravery she needed to leave and raise her children by herself?

Because she knew she deserved better. Even if better meant being alone.

I will never be able to ask her these questions. I just know that her spirit was passed on from generation to generation. I know there’s a piece of Amanda that lives inside of me and helps me figure out my own, “Oh, hell no! This fool is trippin and I gotta go!” threshold point. I know her actions have left me and my women family members with powerful lessons that still resonate today.

We can always walk away from foolishness. We always have choices. We can always choose ourselves.

Photo: Shutterstock

Diana Veiga is a Spelman woman, a DC resident, and a freelance writer. Of course, she’s also on Twitter.

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