When this topic was posted originally, it caused quite a stir. While most 'liked', commented in agreement, and shared 'war stories' of their time as a housemate, some women felt judged and where not happy about it. As a woman who was once 'shacked up' twice, in two relationships, with two different men, both for years at a time, I understand the feeling of judgment. My experience ran deeper than the head shake society gives to unmarried women and mothers; it was religious, scary and lonely. All that I was taught as a pastor's kid had me convinced that I had a VIP, express bus ticket straight to the fiery pits of hell because I laid and stayed with a man who wasn't my husband. When I lost my religion and found my faith and spirituality, I was able to weed out the negative feelings about my trained beliefs and see the message that was buried in the judgment and fear.
My first starring role as a 'wife' was when I was 18 years old. I thought I was grown, and he was fine. He made money; he was older, I was on my own; so it was perfect, right? WRONG! I was young, broken, looking for love, validation and so much more, I just didn't know it yet. I wasn't aware that men carried their personal baggage, and I didn't know that being a live-in girlfriend came with wife responsibilities. And I certainly didn't understand the power of financial stability. He who makes the money controls the relationship! I was cooking, cleaning, asking permission to go places, and performing wife duties and task, realizing that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I was overwhelmed emotionally, physically, sexually and mentally. I was often advised about men and relationships, "Men are cheaters, and liars, who only want one thing." I wasn't given any detail about what to expect from a man emotionally or when living with one, so I was unprepared for the adult woman life I had chosen. Would I have listened anyway? I'm still unclear about that.
As women, we are natural nurturers, and we often give our all, and everything away up front, in hopes our love, loyalty and dedication will yield us that dream relationship. We then become hurt, disappointed and bitter, when we feel we have been taken advantage of. Instead of falling into this pattern, I decided to "do the work," as Iyanla Vanzant would say, and dig down deep, which made me realize I was the root of the issue for not having an awareness of my pain, not acknowledging my pain; and not seeking help for my pain. I didn't love myself because I didn't know how. Growing up in the Bronx, no one ever said "Love yourself, kid! How's your self-esteem? How's your soul doing?" Finding myself, in myself, and not in a man, for me, was much like being dropped off in a foreign country, with no map, no translator, no currency, with a small survival backpack, left to figure it out. Now as a Life Coach, I see this issue often amongst girls and women of all ages. Women compromise their intuition, reason, beliefs, and logic, all for our need to be loved, feel wanted and matter. Often this is a learned behavior; our girls are watching, learning, absorbing. As the 'OG's' we must be careful and responsible for the examples, we set for our daughters. We are teaching girls to emotionally and physically volunteer and intern for paid relationship positions.
"You're full of sh*t. It is practice for becoming a wife." Said one young woman, via comment. While I understand her theory, now, as a wife of six years, I strongly disagree. Playing house doesn't make you a wife. Good sex doesn't equal great love. Marriage is more than a piece of paper, a ring, and a ceremony. The legalities, level of commitment, stick-to-itivness, maturity, and the PHD in forgiveness one must possess to be a spouse pales in comparison to any other title that one can walk away from without seeing a lawyer or judge, in my opinion. This is not a judgment piece; this is a point a view piece. Marriage isn't for everyone, and there are many successful live-in relationships that have and will stand the test of time. But since we're not Oprah, and he's not Stedman, we have to be cautious and realistic about our own reality.
My experience may not, or will ever be yours. I will always promote doing soley what works for you. Your happiness and your choices for your life are what matters.
BLCNY is committed to removing the mask off of women's issues.
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Coach Stefanie, Life Architect
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