Darling's we have been through a lot. We have been stomped on, pushed around and dragged through the mud. Many of us have done what we must to continue to survive. We have hardened our hearts, closed our mind's and tucked away our innocence. Some in hopes that better days will come and we will be able to open up and enjoy life once again, others of us have simply given up on that love thing. While still other’s have no clue what love is. We go through life making drastic decisions and claiming we made them ‘in the name of love’. We have much love for our children, our mothers, our fathers, our sisters and our brothers. But when it comes down to loving and supporting the man in our life and receiving love and support in return, we just can't seem to get it right. As African-American women, I can not stress how important it is that we remind ourselves and each other that we are an extremely intelligent, strong, proud and resourceful group. We have the power and ability to set the tone for those things we require in our lives for fulfillment physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Not only do we require love, affection, and devotion, we have a right to demand such things from those we choose to allow into our lives, and let me be the first to say, I believe we should. In this communication, I would like to cover some ways we tend to confuse the definition of love to see if we can diffuse the mystification surrounding this word. To do this, we should begin by determining what loving a man does not entail: 1. Loving a man does not mean it is acceptable to allow him to physically and mentally abuse you. Nor is it about beating him up and breaking him down. It does not mean trying to change him into something that you want him to be. In short, it does not mean trying to control him. 2. Loving a man does not mean having his children out of wedlock to prove your love. It does not consist of allowing him to come back and forth into your life wreaking havoc at every turn. It does not mean fighting other women over him to prove a false sense of loyalty. 3. Loving a man does not mean giving up your children, your house, your dreams, desires or goals. It does not mean sacrificing yourself for him. 4. Loving a man does not consist of bartering your good's for the good's he can purchase for you. In short, it's not about making a deal with the devil. I've shared with you the thing's that loving a man does not mean; now I'll share with you what it does mean: 1. Loving a man means supporting him; within reason, and helping him to reach his goals. It mean's making sure he gives you the space you need to do the things you wish. It also means giving him his space to do the things the feels he needs to do. 2. Loving a man is letting him know how strongly you feel about his responsibility to his children, the children of others; and to the community in general. 3. Loving a man is about letting him know what it is that you want out of life and getting to know what his dreams, wishes and desires are. 4. Loving a man is about putting your foot down on issues like lying, stealing, and cheating. 5. Loving a man is about making your needs known up front, so there is little room for error when the going gets tough. It’s about being truthful to both him and to yourself. 6. Loving a man is about nurturing him, not taking care of him. 7. Loving a man is about standing on your own two feet and not depending on him to save your world. 8. Loving a man is about being able to tell him the good things about him, without feeling like you have to whitewash the bad things about him out of fear of retaliation. In short, loving a man is about being strong and supportive of yourself. It’s not about letting him treat you in way’s that make you feel uncomfortable or unloved. It’s about sharing, caring, support, respect, courtesy, decency and last but not at all least, strength…your strength. You must be strong and reach back to the skills your ancestors instilled in you and empower yourself to stand firm in the face of adversity. You must be ready, willing and able to turn your back on him when you know he has done you wrong. If you fail to do this, he will continue to believe that his actions are acceptable. You must set the tone as to what you wish to have in your life and stand firm against the onslaught of societal influences of what others view as the norm. Throughout my life, I have searched long and hard and been through hell and high water, blowing in the breeze like a sheet on a clothesline bringing myself more stress than was necessary until I sat for a moment with myself, sifting through the ashes, the dirt and dust, of life’s dramas until I was able to determine what changes I needed to make in my life that would allow me to find a source of balance and peace amidst the chaos surrounding me. The one thing I was able to accomplish after years of soul searching was to set some ground rules as to what I would and would not tolerate in my life. These lessons I have shared with women of all ages that I have come in contact with. This may or may not work for you, but I have found one rule in life to live by and I stick to it: do not accept or expect anything less from anyone than what you’re willing to give yourself. 1. If a man approaches me and wants to begin a relationship, he must approach me in a responsible, respectable manner. He doesn’t have to be perfect, but he must be a gentleman. 2. He can not come to me and spend time with my child, when he does not know whether or not his own children are alive. 3. He can not come to me crying that he is homeless and expect me to allow him into my house. It is his responsibility to provide the bare essentials for himself, if he cannot do this for himself, how can I expect him to be strong enough to help me when and if I need it? 4. He can not come to me with some ****-and-bull story about being in the process of getting a divorce or separating from his wife or girlfriend. If he has not separated from them before he comes to me, he is bringing extra baggage into my life and that is unacceptable. 5. He can not come to me and tell me that he has lost his job and he is out looking for work, that he just need’s a leg up. There is plenty of work out there, it may not be what he wants, but it will pay the bills. Just ask yourself how many times you have had to contend with doing thing’s you didn’t want to do in order to be able to provide for your children and families. 6. He can not come to me telling me that he wants to be friends…and sleep together. Friend’s don’t sleep together; lovers, husbands, wives and significant other’s do. He cannot come to me telling me that he has other friend’s that he sleeps with and expect me to be in agreement with that. If that is the case, he really does not need one more friend to sleep with does he? Why should I compete with others to catch a sexually transmitted disease? 7. He can not come to me expecting to be able to walk in and out of my life when thing’s get too heavy for him to deal with. Either he is in or he is out. If he is not a help, he is a hindrance. He cannot come to me under the pretense of starting a relationship, and when things get heavy want to back off proclaiming his need for space. If it is space he needs, I give it to him. My door is closed to him…for good. 8. He can not come to me and attempt to start a relationship with me if he is not comfortable expressing himself emotionally. I don’t want to have to guess his moods. After a hard day at work and dealing with the kids, I don’t want to be forced to play a game of Charade’s. He has to be capable of, and comfortable enough with himself to verbalize his feelings. 9. He can not come to me after he has gotten caught in his game of cheating and try to tell me that it is my fault he cheated, that I have put too much pressure on him. I tell him that he has no respect for the love, time, patience, and energy I have put into our union. I tell him that he is less than a man because he is unable to accept responsibility for his own actions. I show him to the door, I have my cry, and I move on. Because I know that love is not about that kind of pain. I know that episodes like that don’t strengthen any bonds or relationships. Scene’s like that cause extra stress in my life. I refuse to wonder every time he is late, whether he is wrapped in the arms of another woman. I have entirely too much going on in my life and in my head to deal with that kind of energy drain. 10. He can not put his hands on me in a fit of anger and apologize to me and tell me after the fact, that he love’s me. How can you love me when you hurt me? I refuse to walk on eggshells in my own home, not knowing when he will raise his fist to me again. I refuse to go through life making up excuses for the black eye’s and the broken bones. All for a few lousy moments when he hold’s me and tells me that I am his world. I am not a dog and tossing me a bone every now and then, will not make me happy. I close the door on him, he is never allowed back into my life or my children’s lives. I do not want my children to grow up believing that the only way to express love is to inflict pain. 11. He can not call me whores and ******* and disrespect me by telling me that I am no good. He can not expect me to remain in a relationship with him after that. Something about me must have been good enough to attract him to me. Why should I start believing otherwise? My self-esteem, I will never hand over without a fight. I close the door on him. He and his negative energy are not allowed in my life, ever again. In short, he is not allowed to wreak havoc in my life. I have enough to contend with. Either he is with me or against me. He cannot come to me and try to change me. I will not allow it. I will not put on airs and pretend to be what I am not; because in the end, it will all come out. I am a strong, beautiful, talented, hardworking, loving, supportive and caring African-American woman and I tell him…what you see, is what you get. Don’t try to change me, don’t try to mold me into what you think you really want and need, don’t try to pull the wool over my eyes. All I ask of the man in my life is to love, respect, and support me emotionally, and I will give him the same in return. You dear Sister, should do the same.