A Millennial’s Dating Framework — Friends with Benefits and Beyond

Growing up in the 90s shaped my early conceptions of how boys should be with girls. We learned early not to explore or express the wide spectrum of feelings drumming up on the inside of us. Emotional awareness was not encouraged amongst the boys in the environment that I grew up in. These early beliefs and attitudes shaped us as young men coming into high school and on to college as we continue to work through consciousness, socialization and identity. For me, the number of women one could capture, deceive, manipulate and even dominate were markers of supreme masculinity. We actually kept a running score between friends and bragged to one another about the game. If you loved hip-hop the way I did and grew up with a macho father, your notion of male-female interaction were becoming increasingly more solidified. Flash-forward to graduation, your first job, your first place, discretionary income and….wait for it….ONLINE DATING and now you have a perfect storm for bachelor heaven right? Maybe but not quite.

As young men in pursuit of true, lasting companionship, where does one reconcile this type of conditioning with the emotional fluency required to build a meaningful connection? We need to revisit some of our core assumptions on masculinity, sexuality and strength.

I married the Love of my Life on December 15, 2018 in Nimo, Anambra, Nigeria (Google “remote African village” for a reference point). I spent the last year in dedicated solitude reflecting on who I have become, where I have come from and where I intend to go next. Dating (insert meeting many many women)had by far become my greatest and costliest pre-occupation. After regular bouts of self-deception, I concluded that there was one woman that makes the most sense for me to go back to. Timing and circumstance worked in my favor! She was available and I made a commitment to her. We met in 2014 on what initially felt like just another date. In retrospect, that initial meeting on 39th and Broadway would later prove to be a major turning point in my life. Our chemistry was instant and we moved really really fast mostly driven by my initiatives. In predictable fashion and in short order, she expressed desire for security in the form of a commitment to her exclusively (duh right?that is what you do when you like someone). Exclusive commitment meant boundaries, responsibility and discipline from me. All of these were things that I was absolutely uninterested in. I wasn’t clear on it at the time but what I wanted were all of the benefits of female companionship and intimacy and none of the obligations or costs associated with such a relationship. Due to my insecurities, fears and distorted conceptions of manhood — I ran away from something quite beautiful and very valuable. I proceeded to date some more amazing women facilitated by Tinder, unlimited house parties, co-working socials , street festivals and endless amounts of urban fun— NYC is full of amazing, ambitious and beautiful women for anyone looking. I found myself in a perpetual cycle of running away from exceptional women at the height of my vulnerability, at the very peak of shared intimacy. What was I really looking for? What exactly was I so afraid of?

My dating philosophy was underpinned by the following beliefs:

  • I have time and should be patient and thorough in my exploration
  • I have choices and should explore all possibilities before making a hasty life-impacting decision
  • I need a lot of money before making a commitment to any one woman

My favorite photo from our wedding

These were all very practical motivators for me. Smart dating for me involves using your head and following your heart at the same time. I think there may be a sweet spot between the rational and the emotional when it comes to finding a mate. When I proposed to my fiancé (now turned wife) earlier this year, it was amazing to me how many friends brought all manners of questions to me concerning dating, love and commitment! What do I know?? I am far from a relationship guru but I figured I would share some thoughts on what I considered in the quest to identifying a partner.

Insert *black man shrugging shoulders* emoji

 I believe the core questions worth exploring before seriously dating are as follows — Who am I? Where do I want to go? What do I want to build? What do I need from another? What can I offer another?Without spending some time working through these — you may waste a lot of your time, waste the time of others and maximize emotional injury for all parties involved.

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My Millenial Dating Framework:

  • Shared Values — We have to see the world (reality) in compatible and complimentary ways. This should extend beyond religion and or organized faith. Faith systems inform values but because so few millennials have actually read the Holy books that they sort of kind of subscribe to, determining what our actual values are has become so tricky! How do you approach the day-to-day problem of life? How do you process reality? How do you make decisions?
  • Timing/Availability — We have to be “on time” for one another for commitment to happen. Timing for me happened to be the profound realization of readiness being a function of my willingness to be vulnerable, honest and receptive to the responsibility of another.
  • Financial Preparedness — We have to have resources to build and design their desired lifestyle. We are bound by a moneyed reality. Cash Rules Everything Around Me (C.R.E.AM) Get the money! Dollar — Dollar Bills….What are your beliefs about money? What is your current financial position? What is your future financial plan?
  • Common Vision — We have to share a lifestyle design that will lead them to a mutually fulfilling and satisfying life. What are your dreams? Is there alignment?
  • Emotional Intelligence, Maturity and Availability: We are feeling, meaning-seeking beings. To deny this aspect of ourselves is to commit a very costly mistake that will continually impede your ability to build a meaningful relationship with women. Given the aforementioned conditioning described, deciding on who is worth the risk of vulnerability is the greatest obstacle to overcome in your quest for connection.
  • Undeniable Attraction — We have to passionately desire one another. This is usually the easiest. Its biological and fairly straight-forward to feel out. I went through a period of undermining this. If you don’t feel it all the way initially, I think you should pay attention to that.

These are some guiding principles that would have helped me be more intentional in my dating.You may be asking yourself, “What does love got to do with it?” or “Where is the love in all of this?” I very deliberated avoided the use of the word love because I am convinced that we misuse the word as a culture. We quite likely overemphasize love prematurely as we explore compatibility, one with the other. I think love is more rational than we are willing to recognize. We choose love and then our ability to regularly commit to that choice sustains the love that we chose. I am still very much exploring the meaning of love. From what I have read, there have been many who have come before me searching for that same truth! I hope you found this helpful. Presently on a quest to find older couples who have been married (in excess of 25 years) and also older couples who have married, divorced and re-married. I am conducting a study that I believe could help millenials better think through the prospect of marriage for themselves. Someone who I am convinced has figured this stuff out considerably is Pastor A.R. Bernard. Take a peek at his book here.Oprah did a cool interview with here if you want the spark notes for Four Things that Women want from a Man!

Issa Rae — That look says it all!

The cold, hard truth. How can we be better than this?

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