Sorry, But Ride-Or-Die Relationships Are Actually Super Toxic

Stop playing “Build-A-Man.”

I love love and relationships, but hear me out. There is a difference between building a man and building with him.

Ever since I was fourteen years old, I’ve been saying that relationships are the decisions to take on someone else’s stress in addition to yours. This is still how I feel.

Society expects women to build men, to be “the woman behind the man,” to put up with absolute fuckery in order to qualify as a ride or die, and to make ourselves smaller in order to fit into a man’s world because we dare not shatter their fragile masculinity.

The same is just not expected of men. No one is asking men to build a woman, to date her “potential,” or to be her ride or die. They can do it if they so please, but no one is expecting it from them or vilifying them if they’re not with it. No ma’am. They get mantras like “you can’t turn a hoe into a housewife” or “hoes don’t act right”—y’all know what I’m talking about, sing along.

Society keeps feeding women warped definitions of loyalty and commitment, which really shake out to mean slavery and stupidity.

For example:

On Empire, Cookie spent 17 years in prison for Satan’s first child, Lucious, only to have him divorce her while she sat in prison. Then, when she’s finally released, he works tirelessly to thwart her happiness, abuse her children, and give her less than she deserves, and she still loves this man and walks on water for him. This is the relationship the producers want me rooting for like it’s all good.

On Star, Hunter bitch slaps Star (his girlfriend), punches her in the face, whoops her ass one time for the one time and locks her ass in a closet, but the writers have Star giving several Scandal-esque speeches about how Hunter needs her, he loves her, she needs to “fix what his mom messed up in him,” all the while showing me Hunter-the-demon crying in order to humanize him. The intent is clearly for me to sympathize with him and almost root for this relationship. And in ways, I do.

Even while recognizing that this man is beating his girlfriend and he’s not being forced to take any accountability — his mom is being blamed for his violent issues, Star is being expected to help him as a testament to her love and commitment while she’s the one being abused — I sympathized with him because society has me all fucked up too. I’m internalizing this nonsense and it has to stop.

It’s somehow not good enough to say “Hunter, I do love you, but nah, I’m not putting up with this shit.” The choices the writers gave to her were to stay with him and try to love away his demons or come to hate him and break up with him.

But why?

Why couldn’t she love him and break up with him?

Why does love and fuck this have to be mutually exclusive?

Why can’t we say, “You’re a great guy, but you’re not doing shit with your life, and I’m not going to the trouble of being the one to change that,” without that making us a bitch?

Why does love for women have to be synonymous with “I’ll cross the ocean for you, even though I don’t know how to swim”? I’m not crossing it for you, Lance; I’m not drowning for you. No. Drown by yourself. I can love you from the shore. Why do I have to forgo practical decisions and drown for a man or the message received is that I don’t really love him? WHY DO WE HAVE TO DROWN?!

Why are women always expected to be in love and irrational or cold and practical?

Can I have sense and love you? Why do women have to take every obstacle thrown at them by a man or else her character, her ability to love, and her sense of loyalty gets called into question? Are we not allowed to love ourselves and believe in self-preservation?

Ladies, say it with me: Self-preservation is key. We need to stop buying into this idea that our job is to accept everything about and from a man, that knowing what’s best for ourselves is being “too picky” or selfish, and that we owe them unconditional commitment — even when they hurt us.

Cut it.

We can’t keep spreading this love-conquers-all ass message and then acting incredulous when women stay in bad relationships, when women financially drain themselves for men, when women accept cheating, when women don’t leave when they’re abused, when women accept “break babies,” when women just overall settle for less than they deserve and relationships that consume them.

Women not only settle for behavior and qualities in men that the very same men would never stick around and accept from them, but this is expected from us.

This is a thankless job that we are paying to work, and as a society, we are fostering this nonsense — we are responsible.

Just because you may have been dreaming about a romance like The Notebook when you told your girlfriends to do anything in the name of love and just to “stick it out” doesn’t mean the message isn’t going to apply in the toxic relationships, in the Scandal relationships, in the Mad Men relationships, and goddammit, in the Sex and the City relationships. Yeah, I said it, Carrie and Big were toxic.

I understand the appeal of an all-consuming love, that dramatic Elena and Damon love (Vampire Diaries), but ma’am, you don’t need to drown. You do not need to lose yourself and your life. And more than you don’t need to, you shouldn’t.

Dating has taught me that we often don’t need to learn these things the hard way because we know exactly what we’re not about. However, we often let society, men, friends, and romantic comedies lead us astray when we know better. Let me explain.

Ladies, how many times have you had a set of things you knew were deal-breakers and you’ve allowed someone to convince you that you should overlook it, be lenient, “not knock it till you try it,” and that you were being too picky, so you ignored your better judgment and ended up looking like boo boo the fool?

How many times have you wasted your time, money, energy, and sanity on a man because you convinced yourself he had potential or just needed a kickstart, only to wind up looking like broke-tired-single boo boo the fool?

There is a difference between helping a man with a plan and building with a man who shows some initiative versus trying to transform any old man into the dream, trying to create the plan for him, and trying to force him to see potential in himself. Just because you see the potential doesn’t mean anything. Everyone has potential, but faith without work is dead. Stop trying to manufacture the man of your dreams because you’re only setting yourself up for failure. Find a man whose goals, plans, and future you’re assisting with, not wholly creating.

If you’re reading this and you feel personally victimized right now, settle down, Ms. Norbury. No one is saying that you can’t stand by your man or sacrifice for him, whatever you so please. What I am saying is that there’s a difference between an ambitious man and a wishful man. The latter is not worth the sacrifice.

It’s not enough to just want something. We all want things, but you need a plan, you need to be actually working towards it. That’s what separates a goal from a dream. Don’t let the man without a plan drain you — help those who help themselves. You can love a man but you have to love yourself first. Put your best interest first. You have to look out for you.

Olayemi Olurin is a Public Defender and Writer in Queens, NY

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