Relationship Timelines: Dating, Marriage, Babies…

Is it just me or does it seem like when you are in a relationship and (1) get to a certain age (between age 25-30, at least) or (2) have been dating someone for 3 or more years (past age 21), people seem to ask the same basic questions regarding your relationship?

“How long have you guys been dating?”

“When are you guys getting engaged? Have you discussed it?”

“When are you guys getting married?” 

“When are you guys planning to have kids?”

And then after one child, “When are you guys planning on having more?”

As annoying as these questions can become, I am guilty of asking my friends these questions as well.

Let’s assume these are natural questions to ask (although I am not certain of that). The problem I have is when the questioner doesn’t think my answers are sufficient and proceeds to ask more questions. This ultimately ends with me feeling like I need to defend my timeline and the strength of my relationship. “Sufficient” answers in this context is hilarious to me because sometimes we really believe we know how another person should live their life; but most times, we barely even know how to live our own.

Listen, if you are in a great relationship, you need to feel that with certainty and not allow yourself to be swayed by other people’s decisions for your life. Yes, I have a great relationship, but that doesn’t mean my timeline choices make it any less wonderful! Usually people don’t even know the reasons why you make certain timeline decisions, yet they jump to conclusions and dole out timeline suggestions that you probably never asked for.

People can be in very different places relationship-wise– some single, some in new or long-term relationships, some newly engaged, engaged for a long time, newly married, married for a few years, not interested in marriage, in positions where they cannot have children, or with someone that is not interested in marriage or children. As I talk to friends about relationships, I find myself living by and sharing the same piece of advice: “The best thing you can do for your relationship is to stop comparing the relationship and timelines to other couples.” 

Disclaimer: With that said, do not use this statement as an excuse or justification for staying in a jacked up or abusive relationship! Every couple’s relationship dynamic and timeline might be different, but love is clearly identifiable and distinguishable. Disrespect, cheating, abuse, degradation, and selfishness are not characteristics of love. While you should not compare your relationship to others in aspects of timeline and dynamic, you should look to great relationships for positive traits of love. There is no ” thin line between love and hate” in a relationship. If you feel that you love and hate a person at the same time, then it is probably a sign you need to re-evaluate that relationship– fix it or end it. Trust me, I have been there and done the love/dislike thing and my conclusion is that a relationship like that is full of cracks!

For the most part, comparing your relationship and timelines to other couples’ is not a good idea! If you have found a great life partner– which should be the ultimate goal and requires more than chemistry [I wrote a post about this]– chances are you are destined to have a life journey unique to you as a couple. I believe that’s God’s ideal plan. So, chasing another couples’ timeline/journey means that you have stepped off your path onto theirs and at some point you will either (1) discover that your shoes weren’t built to last on their road or (2) that you missed out on the many blessings your road held because you were so interested in traveling on another couple’s path. In general, people need to live according to the timelines that work for their life.

Many years ago I started witnessing couples I adored (and swore had a strong relationship) go through divorce. In most cases, everyone loved the couples together. On the outside they were the perfect couples… or so we thought! After years of marriage (ranging from 1-15 years), we all were shocked by the news that they were getting divorced. From celebrities to people we know, we all have witnessed relationships we covet fall apart. Feeling hopeless and scared for my own relationship future, I decided that I would learn from other people’s relationship successes and failures, but that in the end I would do what works best for my relationship. Here I was comparing my relationship to ones that looked great on the outside but was suffering internally. However, all the while my relationship was working for me, my life, my journey, my purpose, and my happiness. I learned that if I am going to compare my relationship to others, it might be beneficial to know the details of what is really going on behind closed doors. 

I am not a relationship or a statistics expert, but based on what I have observed throughout my life, I know that having a successful long-term relationship requires more than simply checking something off on a timeline or list (engagement, marriage, babies, house, etc.). It seems more important to work toward things that will make my relationship last long-term versus working on a timeline or checklist.

Personally, I think couples’ timelines vary based on a few factors. So, before we go judging, questioning, or pushing someone into a particular timeline, we should consider some factors:

  1. the mental/emotional readiness, finances, health, and career trajectories varies from person to person and couple to couple making it difficult to force someone into a timeline and
  2. meshing two personalities, two families, two different careers, two different sets of life experiences, and two different life purposes in order to yield a strong relationship that is built to last is not something that should be rushed or taken lightly.

Photo Credit: Jurgen Appelo

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Relationships: Chemistry and Compromise (Is There Room For Everyone? Part III)

Section 1: CHEMISTRY

Organic chemistry: The thing that everyone desires in matters of lust and love and the class everyone despises in college.

I was 16 when I had my first “official” boyfriend and it was also the first time I learned that great relationships require more than just chemistry. Well, there were three guys who wanted to date me, but I was nervous at the thought of heartbreak. In an attempt to protect me from heartbreak and teen pregnancy (I am assuming here), older women at church kept telling that “boys only wanted one thing–sex.” So, I was determined to be very careful with whom I gave my love to since I didn’t want the big bad boys to crush my heart and innocence!

Anyway, I remember being confused about which of the boys I wanted to date. I figured I should go for the one that would most likely be my husband some where down the line. I know, very naive and silly. The only problem was I couldn’t see far enough into the future to figure out which one would last that long! I had different kinds of chemistry with each one and needed advice from someone that I thought had a great marriage. So, I sought advice from one of my mentors.

Me: “I am so confused. I like them all for different reasons and I think I have a lot of chemistry with at least two… but it’s different with each one.”

Mentor: “Listen girl, don’t be confused and swept away by having chemistry with someone. Do you think that you are only going to have chemistry with one person in your lifetime? We are human! You are going to have chemistry with a lot of different people in this world– even when you are married– but don’t confuse having chemistry with meaning you are supposed to date that person, never-mind spend the rest of your life with them.  A great relationship needs to have strong organic chemistry, but it must be built on much more than that. And listen, since you are such a gorgeous girl with an amazing personality, a lot of men might likely want to have a relationship with you throughout your life. Don’t be fooled…You might feel chemistry with them, but chemistry is biological and real love and true commitment is something much deeper than chemistry.”

Ha! Well, I picked the guy I thought would be the best choice for me and it last 6 months! He was a certified player. Let’s just say I learned a lot after that and really internalized what my mentor said. Through experience, I later would come to understand exactly what true love and commitment really is and also what it is not. I would also come to realize that possible lifetime relationships could have “worked” with a lot of people, but there is a noticeable difference you find the one that works on more levels than just organic chemistry.

From dating to flirting, marriage, divorce, cheating, and everything in between, it is safe to say that “chemistry” lies at the center of it all. It is important, but it is not everything. In my opinion, there are five different kinds of chemistry: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. To some degree, a great relationship will have at least 3 or more and relationships with more “issues” will likely have fewer. I am aware that I am making a huge generalization here, but for the most part I think it is true.

Sometimes, however, once someone discovers they have “chemistry” with another person they are tempted to jump into a relationship without first considering all the other factors that make a person a good life partner. It is easy to become overly excited– or overly desperate (we have all been there)– in love and wrongfully allow “good chemistry” to make us…

  • believe the relationship is “meant to be” causing us to put large amounts of energy into something that we should not be in to begin with.
  • try to force the person to change the negative aspects of their personality into what we desire since the chemistry “is so strong it must be meant to be.”
  • sit in silence and unhappiness about ways we are treated because we don’t want to lose that “great chemistry.”

All of the above are things NOT to do simply because you feel you have “good chemistry” with another person.

Good organic chemistry is lovely and necessary, but it should not translate into anyone being in a relationship that causes them to compromise their happiness, morals, or character. So in terms of “chemistry,” there is NOT room in your heart for everyone you have “chemistry” with. 

In my opinion and experience, in order to have a great relationship one must really consider more than chemistry as important. Choosing a life partner should include more “life” related things like how the person fits into your life purpose(s), what individual goals you each have, whether you are both confident and clear on/in your own identity, both of your work ethics and resiliency, and how flexible you both are to compromising as each individual person grows and changes.


Is there room for the both of us [to be happy long-term]?

I will be the first to admit that sometimes relationships are not honeymoon phases and rose petals. If you have ever been in any kind of romantic relationship, then you know that from time to time relationships can feel like there is not enough room for both of you to be happy. Arguments, drama, misunderstandings, apologies, compromises, limited schedules, hectic jobs, and other responsibilities can make it seems like in order for one person to be happy the other needs to be unhappy. This is not true, but it can definitely feel like that sometimes. Momentarily, it feels like it is the end of the world, but typically a few good conversations yield a great compromise that makes both people walk away feeling like there is room for both of their feelings and voices to be heard.

In even the best relationships, there will never be good times all the time! I think in some weird way a good partner helps us grow, so reasonable friction is good– enough for iron to sharpen iron, but not enough for two sticks to start a fire and burn down the whole house every other week! For me, the important part was/is to never allow “there will never be good times all the time” to act as an excuse to tolerate someone’s nonsense.

There is a definitive line between understanding that no relationship is perfect and settling for foolishness. Sometimes that line is very obvious as in cases of physical and verbal abuse or clear incompatibility. In other situations, the line is blurry and can only be considered on a case by case basis. If you are questioning whether you are in the right relationship, you definitely should discuss your thoughts with someone that you can be completely honest and open with (and who has a great long-term relationship). Maybe they can help you figure out if it is time to move on, if there are some steps you might take to repair or improve the relationship, or if maybe you are just overreacting or manifesting other issues and insecurities.

Creating room in a relationship for both people to feel loved, be happy, and to have space to grow requires both people to be willing to make that a priority! And on that note, let’s just point out that the “room” in the relationship should be an equal amount for both parties. It should look and sound something like this:

“I lay down some of my baggage to make room to love you more, and you lay down an equal amount of yours to make room for me. We may not lay down the same baggage, but we are going to lay down equal amounts so that the other person has an equal chance to experience the love God created for them to receive.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a warped definition of love that the other person created for me. Please, love me the way God loves me and love me the way I need to be loved in order to become the best possible version of myself. That’s another problem: sometimes we want to love people they way we want to love them or the way we are used to loving other people (even exes). Leave it up to us and we will try to play God in people’s life and love them how we think they need to be loved, not the way God intended for them to be loved. But, I digress.

The key to creating room for people to experience the greatest love they ever will in their lifetime is quite simple yet challenging to apply. The key is to compromise in order to maintain a harmonious balance– meaning both people have equal chance to be happy in the relationship– but never compromise yourself, your character, your long-term happiness, or mostly importantly, your purpose. Love and relationships should be about two people deciding to share their love with each other and, maybe eventually, their life together (if they so chose). Making room for two people to co-exist in love together is not easy, but it also shouldn’t be overwhelming challenging.

In my opinion, healthy relationships are those that require two whole people. I can say from my experience– both personal and observed– it takes two emotionally and mentally whole individuals in order to have a great relationship. Of course, initially you may not be completely there yet, but both people must accept and be actively working on bettering themselves in order to be the best people that they can for each other and the world. Without each person being mostly whole within themselves, it makes everything in the relationship that much more complicated.

Unfortunately, sometimes we find ourselves in the rut of a series of bad compromises. I have been there and done that so I bare no judgement. However, after compromising your preferences and happiness enough times, your heart will begin telling you that it’s had enough! At that point you are faced with having to make the necessary decision to (1) come back into balance as a couple, (2) to end the relationship, or (3) to stay in a dissatisfying relationship with irreconcilable issues and unhappiness (the ultimate compromise).

I have been in all three positions: the one making the decision to leave, the one being left, and the one wanting to leave but being too weak to to follow through (until all the issues back me into a corner and I had no choice but to say goodbye). The good news is that there is a fourth position to be in: a relationship with great chemistry with someone else who knows how to make room for you and themselves without compromising the internal happiness of either party. If you have found that person, you know exactly how refreshing and awesome it feels! If you haven’t yet, trust me it is possible. So in terms of compromise in a relationship, there IS room for everyone (everyone here = only the two of you) if both people are equally committed to making equal room for each other. 

Note: This is Part III and the final post (for now) in a series around a critical question: Is There Room for Everyone? I invite you to read Part I on Race and Racial Identity and Part II on Success and Competition.

Would you like me to continue this series? What other topics would you like me to write about?

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Photo Credit: Petteri Sulonen

Loving Those Closest To You

Fact: There are usually not that many people who we really share our complete-self with. Everyday we are so boldly confronted with society’s expectations of how we should behave that we learn to leave the house with a brave face, behave according to the norms set out for us by family, friends, and society, and keep most facts private for the sake of not ruining our image. If you’re a man, you have to project to the world that you are strong, confident, and ambitious. You have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders and show women, and other men, that the unbearable “weight” is as light as a feather. If you are a woman, you have to show the world that you too are strong, confident, and ambitious. You are expected to carry the portion of the world that society deems suitable for the “woman,” and in addition, be the nurturer to those men, women, and children around you bearing their own load. Thanks to these demands, after birth we quickly realize that we need to “measure up.”

In all of that chaos, it can be very hard to find trusted people to share the real vulnerable “you” with. That is not to say that the true “you” is too much to handle; it just means that the vulnerable “you” requires delicate care. Since vulnerability requires a high level of trust, trusting that individual comes with the strong sense that they will be there for you – in good times and in bad times. Then again, they understand who you really are and are able to decipher your good intentions much easier than a stranger ever can, right? Exactly. Well, it is also for those same reasons that we are usually more likely to hurt those people closest to us. We believe that if anybody in the world should accept us for who we really are, it should be them; that if you make a mistake and say something the wrong way, or in a manner that is harsher then you would intend, they should be able to decode your feelings. Then again, we spend so much time throughout the day monitoring and creating the world’s view of us that when we come home to our family, friends, and loved ones they should be able to “just get it.”

Well, in the transition between letting down our guard and taking off our armor, it is very easy to hurt those that we love. We wear this massive armor all day, fight to maintain peace and success in our lives, are so tired from facing the world that we become careless in our weariness and may become more apt to make “mistakes” with those we love.

This post is just a simple reminder that the people you love are to be cared for, loved, and cherished just as much (if not more) then strangers. They hold your most vulnerable moments within their heart and for that reason they are to be cherished and loved just as you would love yourself. It is hard at times to give any extra energy to making sure that we don’t hurt our loved ones, especially when we are facing the world all day/week. But, if we are supposed to love our neighbors as our self, how much more should we love those that are closest to us? Just think of it this way, if those closest to you decided to stop loving you it would really be you against the world.

How do you show those closest to you that you love them?

15 Ways to Not Let a Breakup Break You

We have all had our fair share of breakups. Right? Well, I can vividly remember those times in my life when I called various friends hysterically crying, barely able to form a tear-free sentence, all while gasping for air on account of a break up. In some cases, it felt like the end – like life would never be the same without that person. Despite friends telling me “you will get over this,” in those moments it was very hard to envision the future. Well, truth be told, I always “got over it,” and they were right when they told me someone better suited eventually comes along.

The key factor that always helped me move on was not allowing one unfavorable moment in my life to overshadow the rest of my life. I always moved on, learned, grew, and allowed the next wonderful person to come into my life… and boy am I glad I did. In one case, the “next wonderful person” was the same wonderful person from before, but we needed time apart to figure out that we really wanted “the one” to be each other. Sometimes relationships don’t work out simply because it is not the right timing, or in other words each person is not on the proverbial “same page.”

In my daily work, I see people – both young and old – living life paralyzed and emotionally bruised because of a breakup. Sometimes they recover and other times it emotionally stunts them from having new fulfilling relationships. In other cases, I observe people never breaking up with a person – that for various reasons they should not be with – simply because they are scared of what life might be like without that person or because they are just scared of being alone. I know many of us can relate to those two scenarios as well. Whatever the case, a breakup may bend you in all sorts of shapes, but it does not have to break you.

Here are some ideas and tips to get over a breakup without losing your mind:

1. Have confidence in yourself. If you are a beautiful person inside, in due time you will not have trouble finding someone else.

2. Understand and accept that loving someone does not mean you are supposed to be in or stay in a relationship with that person.

3. Instead of spending all your time focused on “getting over” that person, focus on accepting that it probably would not have worked out anyway if you stay with that person. Better now than later.

4. Surrender and trust in time. Either it might work out some day if in time both parties grow and mature, or “time” will help you move on (if you allow it to, of course). Time may not heal all wounds, but it sure gives them new perspective. All you have to do is get there. You may not understand everything about the breakup, but in time it will not hurt as much. So go to sleep (figuratively) and know that eventually one morning you will be at peace with it.

5. Accept that having “chemistry” does not mean that person is “the one.”

6. Allow yourself to feel the “hurt,” but don’t let it consume or paralyze you.

7. Don’t obsess about finding a reason why it didn’t work out.

8. Learn the lessons. Identify those things you ignored or put up with that you should not have and learn from it. All relationships reveal something about you too.

9. Prepare for Second-Guessing. One moment you might feel like you’ve moved on and then… BOOM you start questioning everything again. Once you start wavering too much, all it takes is a sweet word, hot body, or random text to get you right back in a relationship that you probably should not be in. If time has passed and you feel that the reasons you broke it off were minor – and they have been resolved within yourself or the other person – than it is up to you to decide if you want to resume/restart the relationship. But, if the reasons were MAJOR, keep it moving forward, not backwards. Remember, loving someone does not mean you have to be in a relationship with them. Also, blaming yourself for playing a major role in the breakup does not mean you have to go back and “make it right” or give it another chance. You live and you learn.

10. Whatever you neglected while you were with that person, go focus on that. Don’t just sit around. An idle mind will find something to occupy it. Therefore, it will usually be filled with thoughts of the other person. If you want to “get over” them, sitting around is one of the worst things you can do.

11. Depression is a real thing. Some of the “pain” or broken-heartedness you feel might be depression which is natural and induced by chemicals in your body. Don’t go killing yourself because you “can’t get over it.” Talk to someone you trust or go see a therapist.

12. Sometimes the hardest thing is imagining the other person being with someone else. Truth is, you may not even want to be with that person anymore but the thought of them being with someone else still makes you feel strange. So instead, think about YOU being with someone else and envision all the lovely memories and experiences you will have someday with someone new and amazing.

13. Don’t be so quick to give away your forever. Sometimes people are in ill-fitted relationships that repeatedly end in breakups because they are too eager to date, settle down, and get married. I understand that no one wants to be alone, but the rest of your life is a long time (hopefully). Take your time. Grow. Let your life unfold in the timing meant for your life.

14. Forgive them. Then, forgive yourself.

15. Create new memories to replace the old ones. Go to new places; do new things with the people you love and in due time you will see that your life doesn’t end when you go through a breakup. More importantly, you will start to see that your purpose in life is much more than one relationship with one person.

If you need advice or just someone to talk to, comment below!

A Guide to Becoming Whole: An Essential Part of Success and Successful Relationships

And we wonder why our lives feel like a glass filled with holes in which happiness and people dissolve faster than we can really enjoy them? It is much easier to feel incomplete, empty, and lonely in this world than to believe that within ourselves lies the capacity to be whole. Two is supposed to be better than one, so how can we hope that half of us and half of another person will ever equal a dynamic duo. Ultimately, we either believe that as human beings we are born whole, but become pierced and broken over time, or we believe that we are born as weak, broken, empty persons expected to find fullness throughout our lifetime.

Regardless of personal philosophies, at one or more times in our life, circumstance, experience, fear or poor self-image causes most of us to succumb to the feeling of inadequacy. It sucks because we are told that the foundation of successful relationships (of any kind) is built by bricks of individuality and completeness. After loss, hurt, and disappointment, we are admonished that healing is essential to regain our wholeness. But how? How can we fill voids that we often are not aware we even have? Moreover, if we knew how to fill these voids, we would not have them to begin with. They are unique as the pieces of a puzzle, certain to make everyone’s journey to discovering and understanding how to become whole a very individual one. Ultimately, no one can make you whole because no one understands your complete picture like you and God.

So, after spending countless hours of my early years assuming that I was incomplete without particular people, relationships, and other “things,” and after many failed Google searches, internal conversations, broken-hearted moments, failures, and struggles with self-image, somewhere along the way, I started to become whole, or maybe I just started to believe in my already existent wholeness. Let this guide save you time and emotions. Friends, it is time to pick up the pieces, fill in the gaps, and become whole.

1. Acknowledge the areas in which you feel incomplete and inadequate. This may take some digging or honesty with yourself, but it is an important step. As in the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, “admission is the first step to recover.” You may not be an alcoholic, but most people sure are addicted to the negativity that keeps them feeling less than whole. According to Leonard Noel, “acceptance does not mean that we agree with what is happening or that we believe it must continue… Acceptance means that we are able to gaze into the face of the present and say, ’You are in front of me, and I acknowledge you are here.'”

2. Uncover the experiences that started creating “voids” in your life. Once you acknowledge the areas in which you feel there are a voids, you also need to start the process of understanding how they got there so that you can forgive whomever needs to be forgiven, and then forgive yourself. In reality, no one has that much control over you to permanently create a void in your life, unless you allow it. You just might need to take back that piece of yourself that you gave away. 

3. Identify the behaviors and negative coping you have used to deal with and cover up the voids or hurts. Often, we do not even notice that we are not whole or that we are broken because we are so good at telling ourselves that we are okay. Sometimes it is by examining our behaviors that we see that we are overcompensating for the incompleteness that we feel.

4. Consider your self-image. In order to become whole, or accept the fact that we are whole beings separate from others, we must believe that we are capable of and strong enough to be whole. Of course we all have imperfections, and might always have them, but imperfections do not always equal inadequacy. Think positive, be positive, and then have a positive self-image.

5. Accept your uniqueness. Most times we do not feel whole because we feel inadequate in some way. It is critical to accept and find peace in the fact that we are different and were created to be different. We typically strive to be different, but spend more time comparing ourselves to others than working on being unique. If we always look to complete ourselves with what other people are, we will never be whole. Someone else’s uniqueness was never meant for you.

6. Understand your reasons for wanting that relationship. I am inserting this here because being whole is important for having good relationships with other people, especially relationships with “significant others” or spouses. However, many people chase relationships instead of wholeness all because Jerry Maguire said “you complete me.” No. They should make you better, not make you.

7. Understand that people’s behaviors are not always your fault. Most of our feelings of inadequacy come as a results of what other people have said and done to us. They do or say something. We blame ourselves. They support and echo the blame. We try to change ourselves to “fix it.” Then, they find something else or become a prick about another thing. Maybe sometimes it is your fault, but in other cases, they are the sole issue and source of the problem. Do not internalize and degrade yourself for something that is not even your issue. Some people have major issues and their behaviors originate out of those screwed up issues.

8. Don’t let society make you feel incomplete. Now this is a hard one. The images and norms that bombard us make it difficult to not feel empty or inadequate. I don’t know about you, but some of what the Joneses, celebrities, and other people have is quite attractive. But, we must be careful not to judge ourselves against another man’s standard which will likely change in the next five years. In many ways, society is warped. Trying not to internalize every thought and image it shoves in your face will be essential to feeling whole. Have or have not, maybe physiological voids at times, but you are still a whole soul.

9. Maintain your wholeness. Arriving at a place where you feel whole does not mean you will feel that way forever. It is important to maintain a positive self-image and constantly keep your mind polished. Things that go untouched accumulate debris. Such will become your feeling of being whole if you do not maintain it. Be willing and committed to investing in YOU.

10. Protect your wholeness. Inevitably, there will be times when you will lose people that were intricately woven into your life. In many ways, they might have been crucial in helping you maintain the feeling of being whole. It is in those times that you have to try your hardest to accept the loss, find some piece of closure, or heal. Be careful not to fall into the trap of quickly “replacing” them because subconsciously you feel lost and incomplete with them. This might be hard. In other situations, protecting your wholeness will be less about who you lost and more about who you choice to add or allow in your life.

Hopefully, you found something in this post that has helped you become more whole as a person. Now that you are whole, go out and help someone else get there, but be patient and remember that it did not happen for you overnight.