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Modern heterosexual relationships are in a precarious time of transition. For quite some time, we aspired to gendered ideals that guided our expectations of our partners that made life, not necessarily easier, but a whole lot less confusing. The man provided. The woman stayed at home at took care of the house. Today, those assigned gender roles and norms are constantly changing and being challenged.

And to exacerbate all of the problems that come with change, in Black relationships, there exists unique obstacles that make this shift very difficult. Black women are beginning to feel more powerful and independent than ever before, making serious gains in higher education attainment and entering the workforce at unprecedented rates. Black men, however, are increasingly facing the harsh realities of mass-incarceration and the sky-high unemployment rates that have disallowed them access to the typical “masculine” roles– leaving them vulnerable and confused.

For that reason, sadly, some men are stuck in a state of immaturity, as they battle to come to grips with new ideas of manhood. In his mind, if not simply the provider, “the man of the house”, what is a “man”? They are looking for answers, that only they themselves will be able to provide and it’s no easy feat.

While it is true that women must be patient and allow men the support and space to grow and evolve in relationships as they begin to redefine themselves, it’s equally important that us ladies safeguard our own emotional and financial well-being.

Here are 10 tips:

Don’t try to be super woman. Yes, we have all seen the women who do everything for themselves: work a 40 hour work week, cook and clean. They are the most dependable friends, are always available when you need help, but never ask for help when they need it. Don’t be that woman in a relationship! The key to a successful relationship is mutual benefit. If you are doing everything for yourself, what exactly will he do for you?

Be clear about your expectations from the beginning. We cannot fault another person for failing to meet our expectations if they have never been expressed. For example, if when you first met and began to date a man, he never had and money and you footed all of the bills without a complaint, you cannot become irate one day and throw it in his face as if that is his failure as a man. If you expect your man to help out financially in a specific way, say so from the jump. If he was broke when you met him, don’t expect that to change overnight. Same goes for every other expectations like who does the household chores and when, to who takes care of the children and how. These are all points to agree on before beginning a relationship.

Know your worth. The vast accomplishments made by Black women today are nothing to scoff at. We have surmounted countless obstacles, survived and thrived despite some of the most dire circumstances. Do not sell yourself short, even if it seems like there are few options. The “perfect” man may not be out there waiting for you, but one who will respect you and all that you have worked hard for is.

Understand your needs as a woman, but try to separate them from gendered expectations. Today, we are dealing with a unique circumstance where we have to try to separate what we need from what we have been socialized to expect. Though everyone woman wants to be treated with love and respect; love and respect can look quite different than it did in the Disney movies and love stories we grew up entertaining. Actually sit with your partner and discuss the things that you think are important and why, and have him do the same with you. The two-carat engagement ring and $20,000 wedding reception could be a childhood fantasy come to life, but the partner who loves, cherishes and supports you is a necessity.

What is really important in your life right now? How can someone help you reach your goals? How do you need support? These are all questions you need to ask yourself to help you understand what you really need.

Have patience. Life isn’t easy and no one ever said it would be. Establishing a solid and strong foundation for a modern relationship takes time, effort and most importantly patience. We are battling ideals that have been ingrained and reinforced since childhood by society and tons of financial/economic/social obstacles, they will not disappear just because we think they should.

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