So I just have a question…
Ladies, how do you keep a man? Do I wear my hair a certain way? Are there “Keep A Man” clothes? Do they need special food? Specific snacks? Should my home resemble a sports bar with a bed? Do I fill my brain with motivational messages that I blurt out when he slaps me on the ass like a vending machine, giving him exactly what he needs, exactly when he needs it? How do you do it? Can you ladies in relationships help me out? Because I’ve wandered into yet another place where I thought I had some footing and it turns out I might be totally clueless. Walk with me…
I’m on Facebook, minding my business (which is part of the problem because I should have just kept doing that), and one of my longtime friends posted a meme asking women to name a way to keep a man that doesn’t involve sex, food, or money. Now, it was at this point that I really fucked up because I decided to stop scrolling and read the responses. What in the hell was I thinking? That just gets you more involved; I should have known better. I read what the ladies were writing down, and a lot of it was, quite honestly, what I expected: support him, foster his dreams, pray for him, build him up, don’t knock his ideas, and my personal favorites (sarcasm)–shut up sometimes and don’t nag him so much. I laughed a little, nodded my head thoughtfully, took a deep breath, and wrote my sure-fire foolproof method for keeping a man: nothing. That’s what I believe, so that’s what I wrote. I wrote that nothing “keeps” a man other than him wanting to stay. Period.
Now the response from my longtime friend (a guy, if you haven’t figured it out), was not agreement. He told me he disagreed and that I had answered the wrong question. Now that stumped me. Because I thought I read the question correctly. The meme didn’t say “Name ways to make your man happier,” “Name ways to cater to your man,” or even, “Name ways to keep your relationships strong.” It said to name a way you keep a man, which I interpreted as “keep him from leaving me,” and from what I’ve learned, there’s no way to do that, other than him wanting to stay. So I don’t know how it wasn’t the question being asked. Now, this is when I got smart and figured out that I didn’t want this Facebook discussion in any way, shape, form, or fashion. So I didn’t respond after he said that. I moved along. But it stayed with me, and I couldn’t move on in my mind. I even asked my Twitter timeline, that’s how confused I was. How did I not get the question right? Because I didn’t mimic the answers of those other women? Because I actually believe healthy relationships are a result of free will on the part of both people and not magic beans wrapped in condescending rhetoric like, “shut up sometimes and don’t nag him?”
Look. I don’t have a thing to say about those other women’s answers. I don’t care. Besides that, most of them probably have a man and I certainly don’t. So maybe I’m totally wrong. But it bothered me a lot that those answers were given, that those were the answers expected, and anything not in that vein was rejected as not answering the right question. I mean, support, prayer, encouragement are all par for the course in relationships, right? Why would you be in one otherwise? Those are all things that keep relationships strong, things that both partners need, things that are somewhat necessary. They’re not tips to glue a man to your side. Shutting up sometimes and listening is just good communication skills–necessary for life–not some ancient Chinese secret to keep a man. You think men are the only people who like silence? You think men are the only people who want to be left alone sometimes? But it drove me to something deeper. The idea that “keeping” him was my responsibility as his woman.
See, once you start throwing around things like, “Ladies, how do you keep your man?” you’ve just given the woman an extra job. Suddenly, it’s my duty to make him stay. Now the onus is on me to “keep” him rather than on him–a fully functioning, grown ass man–to make himself happy in whatever way that means. You’ve unbalanced the scales. You’ve moved the goalposts. Both of us working to keep our relationship strong is somehow not enough now. And you’ve given him less work. Because now, if he does in fact leave me, he can blame me. He can point to something I didn’t do, rather than just saying the relationship wasn’t right. And now he can go blameless into his next one without ever learning how to self-reflect, or self-correct. Maybe the issue is laziness. Because “maintaining your relationship,” or “keeping it strong,” implies that both people are working at it. And “Ladies, how do you keep your man?” clearly implies that only one person is. It’s entitlement. It’s unfair. And really harmful to women, I think. The idea that I have to do anything other than reciprocate what’s given to me, in order to “keep” someone who has the free will to leave anytime they want, is utterly ridiculous. And since I haven’t had the greatest luck in relationships, I can also attest that I’ve begged enough people to stay to know that it doesn’t work. A man who wants to stay will build with you, and stay–and a man who wants to leave, will leave. Nothing can keep him but his desire to stay. Let me say that again. NOTHING CAN KEEP HIM BUT HIS DESIRE TO STAY.
A friend of mine (a man) told me that part of man’s journey to do/ be better for women in this life is disabusing themselves of the notion that a woman’s love for you is assumed, but your love for her has to be earned. And I find myself wanting to ask men–is it more important that I love you, or is it more important that I earn your love for me? I wonder how many of them would have a thoughtful answer. Because in my mind, the first one is heart and the second one is ego.
Now let me not suggest that you don’t do all that stuff for your man that those other women wrote in the comments (if you want to). Of course you should support, uplift, encourage, and pray for him. Of course you should shut up sometimes and listen. But do it out of love and reciprocity, in the interest of strengthening your bond and falling deeper in love, not because you think it’s some magic glue that’s gonna hold him to your side. Because it’s all about choice. And so-called “perfect” girls get cheated on and dumped everyday, B.