Love Yourself Like You Love Him
I am involved in an ongoing conversation regarding what it means for a woman to be “strong.” More specifically, “What does it mean for a woman to be “strong” when it comes to intimate relationships with men? Often, it is not something that works in the woman’s favor. In the face of much adversity, even that which was deliberate, she may discover that she is expected to be everything for him and nothing for herself. Her thoughts, feelings, or life must die at the expense of being “strong” for her partner.
During my work as a domestic violence advocate, I have encountered many women who speak of having given up their hopes and dreams, sometimes their very life and dignity, in order to support someone else’s. Reciprocity by their partner is a non-factor. His behavior aside, she is constantly reminded that love “bears all things.” Whether it is adultery, lying, hitting, financial abuse, or other bum-like antics, her love covers all. She should be strong enough to maintain without any desire of wanting her partner to change. There are even some who go so far as to hold her personally responsible for her partner’s poor choices. She is required to not only be his mind reader, but she is also his fixer. She should know all, be all, and accept all- because she’s “strong.” In order to ensure her compliance, she’s praised on her strength to endure, and those who want her cooperation tend to use the “strong woman” mantra to gaslight her into complying with toxic circumstances.
Suffering is the “Christian Thing” to do.
Being a Christian, I have heard the argument couched in terms of women carrying significantly heavier relationship burdens because of the requirement to forgive. How often should we forgive someone who wrongs us? Seventy times seven we are told. However, the fact that repentance and forgiveness go hand-in-hand is frequently left out of the discussion. The need for her man to turn away from bad behavior being left out of the pulpit is one of the reasons why Christian women remain in abusive relationships. They are under the misguided belief that this suffering is the “Christian thing to do.”
At 41 years of age, I have decided to call BS on the “strong woman” label when it comes to women displaying supernatural strength in the face of her adult partner’s conscious, deliberate weakness. Moreover, instead of focusing on women permanently donning their “Captain Save ‘Em” capes, we should shift some of that energy to helping her partner learn to be better at relationships.
Finally, as a Black woman, I am keenly aware that stress is one of the leading killers of our women. We, therefore, must do everything we can within our power to stay healthy by limiting our anxiety. Thus, taking on the role of being our partner’s Wonder Woman, mom, conscience, or Baby Jesus should not be a consideration. It’s okay to take off your super hero costume. You do not have to be the “strong” one at all times. Softness is strength.
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