The power of “sure”: How one word shapes relationships

handsMy husband is Senegalese. I am not. That means the beginning of our marriage was full of cultural adjustments that were tough but beneficial. Like his incredibly big and open heart. This man will give away our belonging in a minute. He’s also quick to invite people to visit… or live with us. It’s the West African way: teranga, a Wolof word that can be loosely translated as hospitality, but its far more than that. It’s not just about obligatory niceties. It’s about going above and beyond to make a person feel loved, to let them know you truly appreciate their presence. I can’t front; I was annoyed at first. Like, “Who are these people and where is all my stuff?” But my heart softened and I think I’m much kinder and more considerate because of it. Guess I developed a bit of teranga myself.

Another adjustment I had to make was hearing the word “sure” all the time. He used to say it with the cutest little accent, which has since faded. *Insert one lonely tear* Any time I’d ask him a question or to do something, he’d use that word, and I really liked it. Like most people, I was used to “yes” and “ok,” but he said sure for everything. I couldn’t really pinpoint why I liked it so much, but I did! Made me feel good. It took a while for me to realize that embedded in the word sure is the indication that not only is the person willing to meet your request, but they’re actually happy to do. Sure is teranga, hospitality of the highest order.

Think about it. Is it even possible to say sure with malice or annoyance in your voice? It’s the word we use when we’re eager to please, happy to be of service. It lets the person know, “You’re not bothering me. I want to help you.” How good does it feel when someone responds that way?

Business owners (good ones) say sure when customers ask to customize orders. Grandmothers say sure when grandchildren ask for yet another piece of candy. Fathers say sure when weary children ask to be carried. It’s a word of genuine appreciation of presence. That’s why I felt giddy when he said it. It wasn’t the accent; it was the love the word comes wrapped in, the gentle whisper of eager service. Every relationship needs that. To know your life partner wants to serve you, derives joy from serving you, produces a sense of security and respect that only pushes you to want to do the same. And so a cycle of service is created. This is where love lives and grows. The ebb and flow of marriage is still there, but the undercurrent of service always brings it back to balance. So I guess it isn’t really the word that’s magical. It’s the intentions that drive the word, the kindness behind it. So much packed into those four little letters.

It’s not just marriages that can benefit from its use. I try to use it in every relationship of value. I make a point to say sure to my children as frequently as possible. “Say ‘sure,’ mommy,” my son will say. He notices when I don’t. He hasn’t told me as much, but I think he gets the same feeling I got when I first heard his dad say it to me. He’s only five, but he’s astute enough to feel the good in it. I think we all are.

Nadirah Angail

photo credit: Wilson Sanchez

 

On Your Stuff: Saving Your Marriage From Your Emotional Issues Pt. 2

This is part 2 of a 2-part feature on emotional issues. These articles are meant to be a stepping stone to healing, but are by no means a cure-all. It is best to seek professional help to guide you on your journey.

In the first installment, we talked in general terms about becoming aware of emotional issues/themes and how they can negatively affect our thoughts and behaviors. Now it’s time to put a face and name on those themes.

A theme is a unifying or dominant idea, an overarching concept that connects and defines items in a group. In this case, the group is comprised of life events, specifically those that have greatly impacted you and shaped your worldview.

There is no finite list of emotional themes, but there are certain ones that show up frequently. Let’s examine them, shall we?

Common Emotional Themes

  • Abandonment: Perhaps the most popular of all emotional themes, abandonment is the feeling of being unfairly left behind or discarded. This theme could be rooted in a physical abandonment (someone leaving), but it can also refer to perceived abandonment that may have nothing to do with physical absence. If this is one of your primary themes, you may find that you rush into relationships or expect too much too fast (or just too much in general), which, in turn, may run the person off. Your feeling of abandonment is then itensified and the cycle continues.
  • Loss: Loss may seem very similar to abandonment, but the main difference is that loss isn’t intentional. It involves someone or something
  • Over Responsibility
  • Inferiority
  • Violation

~Nadirah Angail

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To Married Men, From Wives Everywhere: An Open Letter about Housework

to husbands everwhereDisclaimer: I am aware of (and thankful for) the fact that this doesn’t apply to all men.

Dear Husbands,

Hey, how’s it going? It’s us, your wives. We need some help throwing something away. We’ve been trying to do it on our own, but it hasn’t been working. But first, let us just say, we’re women and we’re sensitive about our ish (in a Erykah Badu voice), so don’t receive this as attacking or bashing. We know you can’t see us, but there is no finger wagging or neck rolling. Scout’s honor.

Now, like we were saying, we need some help discarding something. What is it, you ask? Well, it’s kind of hard to put into words. I guess you could call it… expectations? Yea, that sounds about right. We’ll go with it. We need some help discarding the overwhelming expectations that have been put on us.

Many of us have jobs just like you, and those of us who don’t still have the responsibility of maintaining the home and kids. (That may sound simple, but I assure you it is NOT.) It’s a lot: cooking dinner, vacuuming rugs, brushing teeth, giving baths, cleaning bathroom, helping with homework, changing diapers, combing hair, washing clothes, pulling gum out of hair. *Sigh* It’s a lot.

We totally get that society, culture, and family history have told you it’s not your job, that’s it’s “women’s work,” but we’re too weighed down to agree. We NEED your help. Around the house and with the kids, we NEED your help. And we don’t need it in a patronizing way (i.e, “What? I took the chicken out of the freezer”). We need you to see it as your responsibility. If the kids need a bath, don’t point out to us that the kids are a little ripe. Just give them a bath. If there is a mountain of laundry that needs to be washed, don’t point out to us that you’re on your last pair of undies. Just wash the clothes.  Things need to be done in our house, so we should do it–together, as a team.

And, hey, where did that come from anyway, the idea that all things domestic and parenting related are women’s work? To be sure, there are 2 things that should be considered women’s work: birthing babies, and breastfeeding. We would never in a million years ask you to do those things, but everything else is up for negotiation. At least it should be, because here’s the thing: We really, really love you. Like, a whole lot. We love to be around you, to talk to you, to smell you, to be in your arms, to experience your peace, but it’s hard to do that when we have so much on us. It’s hard to be as loving as we should and as nice as we should when we’re drowning in a sea of housework and children.

Maybe we just haven’t asked. That’s a real possibility for some of us. We may have expected you to read our minds or expected you to simply know. Or we may have watched our mothers do everything and just felt too guilty, too inadequate, to ask for help. And maybe you watched your dad pay the bills and leave everything else to your mom. Maybe you watched how your uncles and older brothers and friends’ fathers did nothing in the way of housework. It’s not your fault. It’s not our fault. We were born into it.

But we’re grown now, with lives of our own and houses and kids to match. We have to do something differently. This right here is not working. Women are certifiably depressed over this. That could be one of our daughters one day, one of our nieces, cousins, or students. That could be one of our sons one day, unaware of the burdens their wives face. Yes, I know change is hard and it’s not always convenient, but it’s necessary–for us, your wives, and the future generations who nee to experience something different.

With nothing but sincerity,

Your Wives

P.S. Don’t be mad. You still sexy though.

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On Your Stuff: Saving Your Marriage From Your Emotional Issues Pt. 2

This is part 2 of a 2-part feature on emotional issues. These articles are meant to be a stepping stone to healing, but are by no means a cure-all. It is best to seek professional help to guide you on your journey.

In the first installment, we talked in general terms about becoming aware of emotional issues/themes and how they can negatively affect our thoughts and behaviors. Now it’s time to put a face and name on those themes.

A theme is a unifying or dominant idea, an overarching concept that connects and defines items in a group. In this case, the group is comprised of life events, specifically those that have greatly impacted you and shaped your worldview.

There is no finite list of emotional themes, but there are certain ones that show up frequently. Let’s examine them, shall we?

Common Emotional Themes

  • Abandonment: Perhaps the most talked about of all emotional themes, abandonment is the feeling of being unfairly left behind or discarded. This theme can be rooted in a physical abandonment (an absent parent), but it can also refer to perceived abandonment that may have nothing to do with physical absence. If this is one of your primary themes, you may find that you rush into relationships or expect too much too fast (or just too much in general), which, in turn, may run the person off. Your feeling of abandonment is then intensified and the cycle continues.
  • Loss: Loss may seem very similar to abandonment, but the main difference is that loss doesn’t involve something being withheld intentionally. It comes from complications with dealing with someone or something being taken away unexpectedly (ie death, natural disaster, house fire, etc.). If loss is one of your primary themes, you may have trouble forming secure and comfortable attachments with people because, in the back of your mind, you suspect that they may be taken away too. Others may describe you as “distant,” “aloof” or “detached.” You may find that others doubt your commitment in relationships, which causes them to dissolve. People who have a theme of loss may also have trouble progressing in their careers.
  • Over Responsibility: If this is your theme, you probably feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. People with this theme often come to believe at a young age that the outcomes of those around them are dependent on them. (What a burden!) These people are often quite dependable and can usually be described as “fixers.” In relationships, though, they seem to gravitate towards those who need fixing (people with problems, be they financial, emotional or physical). These relationships can be very taxing because of the fixer’s efforts to fix something that truly is not their issue.
  • Inferiority: This theme presents in a myriad of ways, but it boils down to feeling that you are not as valuable or as deserving as others. People with this theme may give themselves an artificial confidence boost by dating/marrying people they feel are even less deserving than they are. If you feel you have a penchant for absolute losers, inferiority may be your primary theme. This theme can also encourage people to sabotage perfectly healthy relationships because they don’t feel deserving of or comfortable with a good relationship.
  • Violation: To be violated is to be acted up against your will, to have your rights stolen and disrespected. This theme is often found in people who have suffered physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. People dealing with a theme of violation may be easily angered and may also become violators in their own right. (Note: This violation may not always match the type of violation the person experienced at the hands of another.) Control is often a big issue for those with a theme of violation. They may (but not necessarily) find it easiest to regain their control by giving it away before someone else can take it.
  • Injustice/Unfairness: When one feels they’ve been treated unfairly on a grand scale, that feeling of injustice can develop into their primary theme. If you’re dealing with this feeling, you may be hypersensitive to issues of fairness. You may feel like you’re constantly getting “the short end of the stick” and that others aren’t giving you your fair share. Others may find it hard to please you or understand your frustrations with them.
  • Anger: It is important to note that anger is NOT an emotional theme. It is a common emotion that is expressed as a result of the feeling associated with emotional themes. Most often, anger is a cover-up emotion that masks the true, more vulnerable, emotion underneath. For example, when people display anger, they may actually be feeling sadness, anxiety, confusion, shame, etc.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive, and themes can and do overlap, but hopefully this helps to put a face on some of the issues you might not have even known you were dealing with. Whether or not someone can completely eliminate these issues is debatable, but it is possible to get them under control by recognizing and interrupting your disruptive patterns.

Many of us go through life simply reacting, allowing our knee-jerk reactions and emotions to guide our thoughts and behaviors. That’s how these themes thrive and grow. Instead of simply reacting, we should thoughtfully respond. Take a step back and question ourselves about our feelings, particularly those that are very strong. Did a person just make you extremely angry? Did a new guy completely sweep you off your feet? Don’t just go along with it. Pause and ask yourself why you’re so upset, why he seems so wonderful. You may find that the only thing the other person did wrong is inadvertently activate one of your themes. And the guy may be appealing for that same reason.

Confronting emotional themes is definitely easier said than done, but it can be done. It takes patience and a willingness to get really uncomfortable with yourself. Not everyone is ready to take this step. Perhaps you aren’t, but if you are, I pray this information has been useful.

~Nadirah Angail

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On Your Stuff: Saving Your Marriage From Your Emotional Issues Pt. 1

This is part 1 of a 2-part feature on emotional issues. These articles are meant to be a stepping stone to healing, but are by no means a cure-all. It is best to seek professional help to guide you on your journey.

Face it: We’ve all got stuff– emotional hangups, unresolved traumas, complicated grief. It’s all there. It starts accumulating when we’re young and it builds as we age. Some of us have a lot, others have a little, but we’ve all got it. And if we’re not careful, it will destroy our lives! *Cue thunder and lightening strike and evil diabolical laugh*.  Okay, I admit that was dramatic, but so are you when you let your stuff cloud your thoughts and actions.

Stuff Awareness

We’ve all met people who say things like, “I can’t help it. I’ve got issues, okay?” or, “Sure, I could use a therapist or three.” These comments are usually made in jest, but behind them is an awareness that 1.) they’ve got stuff and 2.) there is enough of it that it causes problems in their everyday lives.  This realization is wonderful if it is followed by action (an attempt to examine and manage the stuff), but it usually isn’t. Most people stop at the realization, assuming that merely knowing somehow makes it okay, or at least less impactful.

Not true. Knowing is just that: knowing. It is the first step in “stuff recovery,” but it is powerless by itself. In fact, when unaided by action, knowing can actually make things worse because it encourages you to feel entitled to and justified in your skewed thoughts and actions.  “Yea, I poured bleach all over his clothes! So what! I got anger issues!”

And that’s one way our stuff takes over our lives. It convinces us that we’re supposed to be thinking and behaving that way. Because we were hurt, shamed, abandoned,  discarded, angered, mistreated, and/or lied to, we now have the irrevocable right to behave this way, and anything less would be uncivilized (said in a most proper British accent).

Well, you got me. You definitely do have the right to your thoughts and behaviors (as long as they don’t break the law), but you also have the right to happiness and healthy relationships. You have the right to break old patterns and to step into a new light. You’re not going to do that if you stay where you are. To experience something different (and better), you must do something different. Take it or leave it. No way around it.

Stuff Unawareness

If you’re the type that’s good (like, really good) at picking up on other people’s issues, but never has a word to say about your own, you’re probably unaware of your stuff. People who are unaware usually have an “other” focus. They see the problems in their lives through a lens of finger pointing and blame.  “He did it.” “It’s his fault.” “He’s the crazy one (not me).”

People who are unaware often think quite highly of themselves but can’t figure out why everyone they get in a relationship with turns out to be so WRONG. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. If I had to choose, I’d say there are far more people in the unaware group than the aware group. Then there are those floaters, the people who are aware of certain issues and unaware of others.  Truth moment? I think I fit in there. I admit that  for two reasons:

1.)I want be real and relatable. (Aint no Photoshopping and airbrushing up in here!) and

2.)It is important to note that there is always work to be done, even if you’ve already done a lot.

Stuff Work

So, how can you go from not knowing to knowing? And if you’ve already done that, how can you move on? First, you’ve got to uncover what your issues are.  Look back over your life (your childhood, relationship with your parents and other important figures, insecurities, romantic involvements etc.) and look for overarching themes. You shouldn’t be too concerned with actual events. It’s more about the themes those events represent. You may have many different themes, but the ones that are most prevalent should be your primary focus. Most likely, these are the ones interfering with your interactions and thinking.

In the next installment, we’ll discuss common themes and what they mean.

~Nadirah Angail

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On Speaking Your Mind Without Nagging (Him to Death) Pt. 3

So far, we’ve learned the difference between talking to our men and our girlfriends, and how to handle difficult discussions/arguments. Now you’re ready for the kicker, the finale. This one is life changing.

  •   Know when to shut the hell up!

I cannot tell you how important this is. Ladies, we don’t have to keep a tally of all the things he does wrong. It’s like we have a mental notepad full of every grievance from “left the toilet seat up” to “didn’t tell me I look pretty in my new dress.” Yes, these things are annoying, but guess what? So are you.

Every time I’m ready to complain about something (especially something dumb, and in hindsight most things are dumb), I think to myself, “He can probably say the same thing about you.” I am sooo not perfect, and I’m certain no one knows that better than my dear husband. Marriage brings out your best and your worst qualities, so who am I to harp on his “need work” areas when I’m in the exact same boat? I’m always working to improve and become more aware of my flaws, but I need help,  encouragement. I need someone to  sternly, but lovingly, call me out when necessary and hold me to a higher standard than I could ever hold myself. Thankfully, he does that, but I have to the same. It would be criminal to do otherwise.

And here’s the cool thing about shutting the hell up: it’s so much easier to just be happy and peaceful. You only get 24 hours in a day, and most couples spend a majority of that in their own separate worlds. If you’re lucky, you get a hour or so of quality time, and you gon’ spend that talking about the socks he left in the floor? Girl, you better pick those socks up and go cuddle with your man!

Don’t  misunderstand. I’m not saying be a maid or a push-over (and if he’s treating you like one, you need to go back and read part 2 again to figure out how to address that), but I am saying loosen up and spend more time focusing on what’s right instead of meticulously searching for what’s wrong.

Another benefit of being quiet is that you get more time to examine the issue. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve misinterpreted things my husband said or did. There I was,  stewing in my own rage, when the truth was the complete opposite of what I’d perceived. Hindsight really is 20/20, and I see the truth of that statement daily.

We all know being a woman is a lot of work, but so is being a man. They have a lot of responsibility and pressure on their shoulders. For many of them, they’re constantly bombarded with people making requests and pointing out their mistakes. They don’t need to come home to more of the same.  Home should be a retreat, a place to recharge, so it’s my job as a wife and partner to temper the effects of the world he’s retreating from. In countless ways, he makes my life easier and better. Giving him some peace and quiet is my way of doing the same thing.

~Nadirah Angail

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On Speaking Your Mind Without Nagging (Him to Death) Pt. 2

In part 1, we talked about knowing who you’re talking to and what that means, but what now?  If we have a problem, how do we approach it? I’ll tell you how: with your mind. Your heart, sweet as it is, is not the weapon you want to bring with you to a difficult conversation. Hearts are just so…emotional. They lack the stability you need in this type of scenario, and while the fickleness of the heart is actually a necessity (because it allows you, for example, to go from being angry to brimming with joy just because he sent you a sweet text message), its not an asset in this type of situation.

  • Plan your approach rationally, and always remember the bottom line 

Ladies, why is it that when we get upset, we sometimes let our good sense leave us? We start letting our anger talk us into doing all kinds of things we wouldn’t normally do, like bad-mouthing him to a friend, or starting arguments with him in front of other people, or going Jazmine Sullivan on his car windows. We all know we shouldn’t do these things, but when that heart gets hurt, it can coax a dark side out of us we never knew we had. That’s why we’ve got to lead with the mind. It’s sensible, practical, reliable.

I know what you’re thinking. “Yeah, sure,  all that sounds great, but when I get mad, there is no leading with the mind.” That’s when the issue of self control comes in. Sometimes, you have to put on your big girl panties and realize you aren’t a little kid anymore. No more tantrums in the grocery store.  You have to stay focused on the bottom line, which is that you’ve got a good man, one you’d like to continue to be with.  So, go scream into a pillow if you have to, but do not approach him until you know you’ve calmed down.  If that takes hours or even days, so be it, but keep in mind that the whole point of the conversation is to get back to a place of peace and balance. You’ll probably have a really hard time doing that when you’re angry. Remember, no matter how upset you are, everything you say is either adding to the problem or helping to solve it. Choose your words (and timing) wisely.

And once you’ve calmed down and you think your ready to go have a nice, calm, sophisticated conversation, sit back down. You’re still not ready. Love and commitment ain’t no joke. It takes a lot of work to make a relationship last, so before you can have your discussion, you have to first figure out what it is you want to get out of it.

It’s easy to be sad and angry and hurt, but can you verbalize what you want him to do about that? Can you clearly and succinctly explain the problem and what you’d like him to do differently? And can you handle the negotiations that may be necessary if your expectations are too high?

That’s a biggie: negotiating our expectations. Thanks to unbalanced notions of love and romance, many of us come into relationships expecting our men to be our everything, to fill our holes. We want him to give us never ending happiness and to be the consummate comforter. No man can do that. No person can do that. Expecting your man to fill your bottomless cup is the perfect way to tire him out and push him away. So, maybe that means doing a little soul searching to see why you require so much. Maybe that means examining your ideas of love and what you think that should look like. Or maybe that means slowing down, taking a deep breath and exploring the idea that he’s not the only one that needs to make some changes.

Part 3 will be posted tomorrow morning. See ya soon!

~Nadirah Angail

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