Little Miss Independent

I have always been fiercely independent. I have never liked being told what to do or how to do it. Even as a child, when an adult would tell me not to do something because of X, Y or Z, I would do it anyway just to see if X, Y or Z actually happened. Call me skeptical, call me suspicious, call me whatever you want, but the fact remains that I have always liked to figure things out by on my own. 

I left my house when I was 17-years old and started making a life for myself. I was told that it was "tough out there," but I wanted to see it with my own two eyes. I admittedly stumbled quite a few times along the way, but by the time I was 24, I had graduated college (in 3 years) and bought my own home. Everything I owned in the way of property and life experience, I had earned by myself, without help from anyone.

This personality trait frequently caused problems for me in romantic relationships. I hated letting men pay for me when we'd go out on dates. I couldn't stand giving up custody of the television remote. I loathed being expected to cook or clean just because I had a set of ovaries. Okay, so maybe it's more of a control thing than an independence thing. Nevertheless, those were the types of things that would really grind my gears and keep me from giving all of myself in a relationship. Basically, I was a selfish control freak and wanted everything to be done my way, where and when I wanted it. If things got too serious and a man would assert his will on me, I'd usually high-tail it emotionally if not altogether. If he threatened my independence or individuality, I'd retreat into myself where he couldn't find me.

Now that I've had a couple years to reflect on "Danielle in Failed Relationships," I've come to realize that I was not ready to be in a mature, adult liaison. The only relationship I was really ever interested in was the one I had with myself; we were happy together and had no interest in inviting another person in our union. The only expectations I was ready to deal with were the ones I had imposed on myself. I made my own career, made my own money, owned my own home and didn't think I needed to answer to anyone. My Golden Rule: "The one with the money makes the rules."

Over the past two years, a light bulb went off in my head. I finally understand the definition of a relationship: a partnership between two people who have mutual respect for and trust in one another. It's a state of connectedness (especially emotional connectedness) between two individuals. People in healthy relationships are not annoyed by the responsibilities they have to their partner and  definitely don't look at those responsibilities as brands of weakness and submission. 

It's amazing how my approach to relationships changed when I started dating Wil. He, himself, is driven, confident, independent and established; that I saw so much of myself in him, made it easier for me to let my guard down and allow him to take the lead. From day one, all he's wanted to do is take care of me...and I've let him. I never struggled against it. I never fought it. I simply just let it happen. At this point, we know each other's strengths and weaknesses. We both know when to fall back and let the other take control and feel confident that the right decision for both of us will be made. If you don't already know, let me tell you: it feels good to not have control over everything. It feels good to be able to trust someone enough to know that he has your best interest in mind and will make the right decisions for you.

I've been struggling with this post for a couple of days because I don't really know how to articulate the other personal change I went through once Wil and I became a couple. Please bear with me while I try to get this out; these next paragraphs may be a bit bumpier than usual.

I mentioned earlier that I always resisted assuming the quintessential female societal role. Well, that's different now. I don't really know why I underwent such a dramatic change and I can't pinpoint a single incident that triggered my metamorphosis. If I had to assign reason to it, I'd say that being in a healthy relationship, free from judgments and criticisms, is part of the answer. That, and the fact that Wil is such a man...the quintessential man, even! He is a provider, a protector. It makes him truly happy to know that he can take care of me and provide for our family of two. His comfort in and confidence at being a "man" makes me want to be a better "woman." Does that make sense? Ugh, I told you this was going to be rough.

Let me put it this way: seeing him so happy and content being "the man of the house" makes me feel the same way about being "the woman of the house." I love making his lunch. I love ironing his clothes. I love making our bed. I love having dinner waiting for him on the table when he comes home from work. I love doing the laundry. He provides the house and I make the home. But what makes it work is that we do not expect these things of each other. We both serve each other, one way or another, out of love, devotion and respect. There are no demands. We give ourselves blindly, unconditionally and freely, trusting that neither of us will take advantage of nor exploit what the other brings to the relationship. We appreciate what we give each other and view it as a blessing. We are equals. We are one. 

I don't know if any of this makes sense, but I tried my best to explain my transition from independent woman to whatever it is I am now. We're symbiotic, Wil and I. We depend on one another for survival and if you ask me, that's the ultimate state of connectedness. Getting married is not the end of me, but the beginning of us; I get that now and I'm not scared or threatened or annoyed. I think Fabolous said it best: "I'm a movement by myself, but I'm a force when we're together." Say word.

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