We live in a world where far too many women are raised without the awareness of what they deserve.
Before I met my husband, I had a really bad habit of finding myself in relationships with men who didn't know how to do the things that make a woman want to stay. (Well, some didn't know and some just didn't care.)
But it all came down to the same thing in the end: Months or years of me trying and pleading, pretending and then finally leaving, sometimes with angry protests echoing in my ears, sometimes with icy silence building a wall before I'd even closed the door.
We live in a world where far too many men are raised without awareness about what it truly means to love a woman, and where far too many women are raised without the awareness of what they deserve.
I had no idea there were so many things I didn't have to put up with or accept as "ugh, men." I never realized that how things were in my tiny corner of life wasn't representative of how they were the wide world over.
With time, maturity, and an entire tribe of older women to guide me in the ways of respecting myself and honoring my own truth, I finally figured it out. I finally freed myself from the false expectations we often place on our partners — and what I learned was not so much what a man will do to keep the woman he loves, but what he WON'T do.
He WON'T have an invested interest in you.
Your hobbies will be borderline annoyances. Your friends will be barely tolerated. Your interests will be ignored at best. All the big and little things that make you so uniquely you will be side-eyed and side-stepped until you feel as thin and unseen as a shadow on the wall.
He WON'T listen to you; he'll just wait for his turn to talk.
Your words will be empty air. Your stories will float past his head, unwanted balloons tangled in trees and power lines. Your feelings and fears will fall on deaf ears, and eventually you'll stop saying anything that means something since it's all wasted breath anyway.
He WON'T be there for you in any of the ways that really matter.
He'll make your victories feel hollow and your tragedies insignificant. The bed you share will be a wilderness with no fire to warm you up. Your dinners will taste like silence. You'll learn that loneliness can happen even when you're holding someone's hand, that togetherness can be desolation — and those are on the days he's trying.
He WON'T look at you like you're everything...
Like your face is air and his head just broke the surface, like your body is art, a gift he never dared hope to open. He won't notice the new dress and the new hair. The hours you spent showering and shaving, exfoliating and moisturizing, straightening and making up will be an aggravation, not an appreciation. You could be the most beautiful girl in the world, but he will look right through you because he doesn't know how to see your shine.
He WON'T encourage or support you and your dreams.
Your greatest ambition will make him feel insecure. The thing you wish for when your throw a penny in the fountain is an imposition on his idea that he's all you'll ever need. He would pull each feather out of the wings your burning passions give you in your sleep, determined to keep you earthbound, insistent on silencing anything louder than the love you're supposed to have for him.
Look for a guy who doesn't fit this bill. Pay attention to the ways he pays attention to you and don't be afraid to set off in new directions if you find he's trying to block your path with his idea of who you are.
Knowing all the things a man wouldn't do to keep me meant I could make room in my heart and my head for one who would do anything to make me stay. Make a checklist with these words and when you find a man who has a blank beside every single item, know he's worth at least a chance.