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Living in the past

Relationships are hard. Two people come together that have separate lives, interests, and beliefs with the expectation that they'll be able to find some common middle ground and spend copious amounts of time together. You know what makes these situations even harder?

Living in the past.

People kill relationships all the time because, even though they are with someone in the present, they are still caught up on past hurt or mistakes that they've made in the past. But why is that? Why do we give so much power and influence to things that happened in the past? It should be easy to understand that continuously carrying past issues and hurt around won't leave you with much room to accept love in the present.

And no, I'm not saying that everyone should just forget about everything that has ever happened to them. That would be ridiculous. This blog would not even be possible if I left everything that ever happened to me in my past as a memory.

What we should do, instead of living in the past, is learn from it. Learn a lesson from that situation that you experienced or from that relationship that left you heartbroken. Figure out what you could have done differently and apply it to your future endeavors. Try to understand the other person's point of view and see if you may have had anything to do with why things didn't work out.

But please, for the love of God, don't do what most of us actually tend to do. Oh, you know what I mean! That thing where you treat the other person like a criminal for doing something that they've never done or ever had any intentions of doing simply because someone else did it to you in the past. Checking your partner's text messages or Facebook, not because they're acting sneaky or suspicious, but because someone cheated on you before and you just want to make sure it's not happening again. Or constantly having your guard up because someone else was disrespectful to you in the past.

I think it's partly human nature to want to protect ourselves from re-experiencing things we've been through in the past. The sad thing about it is that this type of thinking can ruin every relationship that you get into in the future if you're constantly living in the past. How long do you think someone will want to be with you if they feel like you don't trust them, even though they've done nothing wrong? Do you really think anyone will constantly put up with you yelling at them or trying to argue simply because that's what you were used to in your past relationships?

It's definitely something to think about because you may not even know that you're still living in the past until someone points it out to you. So do me a favor, step back and take an honest look at your life and relationships and ask yourself if you're still living in the past or if you're truly living in the moment.

***I would love to hear how you feel about this in the comments below!***
My partner holds me back

If you've learned anything about me so far, you know how I am truly in favor of relationships that build up both partners. You know my stance on where I think women belong and you also know why I believe that most men are never satisfied with their relationships.

Like I said, I'm definitely a proponent of relationships where both partners are on equal footing. One thing I can't stand to see is a relationship where one or both of the people in it refuse to show support towards one another. My wife brings this fact up to me every now and again when she thinks about some of her past relationships and how I'm a lot different from what she's experienced.

My wife is a smart woman, she's ambitious, and she's hardworking. But, no matter how much she believes in herself and her abilities, she still wants and values my support. If I wanted to, I could be the type of guy that says "Why do you want to get another degree, don't you already have one?" or "Why are you trying to get promoted so quickly, aren't you fine where you are?"

It sounds crazy, but there are men who actually ask questions like that in their relationships. I swear, men are strange creatures. Some of us will say that we want a bad chick or a go getter, but then get intimidated by the fact that her goals are on par with or surpass our own by a mile and a half.

Personally, I feel like I get more excited and invested in my wife's goals than she does sometimes. I would never dream of trying to hold her back because I want us to excel through life together. What's the point of being with someone if all you want to do is control their life and prevent them from reaching their goals? If you want to control someone you should just get a dog and not waste another person's time.

Every relationship is different though. Where some say to themselves "my partner holds me back" other people say "my partner doesn't push me at all". I feel as though that can be just as damaging. If two people are together and neither of them is contributing to the growth of the other, then that is just wasted time and opportunity. I think relationships should make you better at the end of the day. If it wasn't for my partner, who would have pushed me to take every opportunity to excel at work, even if it meant more work for me in the short run? Who would have pushed me to go back to school and obtain an MBA? Who would have pushed me to even start this blog that you're reading right now?

I can truly attest to the importance of being in a supportive relationship simply from what I'm experiencing right now. It's liberating to feel that you have someone that supports your goals and it's equally fulfilling to know that you have someone else to give encouragement to. If you're reading this and you're still thinking "my partner holds me back", then I implore you to consider what your reasons are for staying in that relationship from this point on...

*** Have any of you ever experienced either of these situations - feeling held back or on the contrary, knowing that your partner supports your goals? Let me know in the comments below! ***
How to fix a man

Contradictory to popular belief, women like to fix things more than men. Just look at Olivia Pope, she's a professional fixer for goodness sake! But unlike Ms. Pope, most women make one project their absolute favorite - men.

How many times have you heard your girlfriends say something like, "I know he doesn't always do right, but I can change him" or "He'll stop (insert negative action) if I stay with him long enough because he loves me".

This might be true in very few cases, but in most scenarios - a woman can not fix a man. Sorry. It might be hard to hear, but it is the truth. My personal experiences have helped me learn this for sure. Men are stubborn creatures and we don't always want to do the things that we should. When it comes to relationships, people always say that women mature at a faster rate than men and I somewhat believe that this is true. It sort of helps me understand why women are usually more comfortable with being in a serious relationship earlier in life and why they believe that men can meet them halfway.

The thing that I think get's forgotten in most cases is that a man is really only going to change when he wants to. No amount of pressure or convincing is going to speed the process up. He may play the part or pretend to be the person you're asking for, but he won't truly be that person until he's made the decision for himself.

I only know this because that was exactly how I lived my life for a long time. The comfort of a relationship was appealing to me but being faithful was something that I struggled with for a while. What didn't help me at the time was the fact that I was forgiven, time and time again for my wrongdoings. Honestly, I would have probably learned a better lesson if someone would have just called me out on my BS instead of giving me continuous chances to 'do better'.

In my opinion, the best way to truly fix a man that has problems with being faithful is to just leave him alone. Let him learn his lessons the hard way, but don't let those lessons come at your expense every single time.

***What do you think? Is there any real value in continuously trying to convince a man to do better in a relationship or do you agree that leaving him alone is the better option? I'd love to see your opinions in the comments below!***

*This article was originally featured on Afrochicmomprenuer.com*
Why Men Cheat

I have a theory that I have believed for a long time, that broken people help to create more broken people. What do I mean by that? I think that the act of cheating creates a vicious cycle in most cases because the person who gets cheated on will eventually go out and cheat on someone else. And sadly, this is something that I am very familiar with.

I always like to talk about the dirt that I've done in the past. When I was in high school I had my fair share of relationships and 'extra-curricular' activities. I pledged KAΨ while I was in college and this caused my social scene exposure to skyrocket. That caused a few problems for me because I was always at parties and greek events that brought me into contact with a lot of people. I had a girlfriend named Lisa, at the time, but I was never in any state of mind to actually be "faithful". I feel somewhat sorry for her because she was at a disadvantage from the very start of our relationship, but she never really knew it.

All of my earlier relationships ended because of infidelity, but it was because my girlfriends were the ones doing the cheating - yes, women cheat as well. Shocking right? You probably don't believe me so I'll give you a few examples. A girl I was with for a little while named Sonya cheated on my with my own cousin and then 3-way called me with him on the phone to confess about it. Another girl I dated, Nina, was a few years older than me and my family didn't really like her too much, but I loved her. We dated for a while until she had sex with one of her exes at a party and her friends told me about it.

My next serious relationship was with a girl named Tasha. She was kind of a special case because we dated off and on and went to different schools. I used to joke about how innocent I thought she was. She had a brief fling with a guy that I knew before we ever dated (a fling that never quite went away). And in between one of our breakups she had a very risqué rendezvous with one of my best friends. To top it all off, I ended up getting engaged to Lisa while I was in college and as life would have it, she had sex with one of her exes about 2 weeks later. Chalk that up to karma or the broken people cycle.

Whatever the case, relationships are hard enough, but I feel like we make them infinitely harder when we continue these cycles of brokenness. Broken people often seek out other broken people, and sometimes when they don't find another broken person they consciously or subconsciously create another broken person.

I was the "victim" many times in my early relationships, but at some point I decided that I would just do the cheating myself instead of waiting to get my feelings hurt, because I just knew that it would eventually happen. In hindsight, that was probably not so smart of an idea. Regardless of that fact, I think it's important for us to be open and honest with ourselves in these situations. I wish I would have convinced myself that what happened wasn't my fault and that I didn't have to be unfaithful just to protect myself.

***
Be honest with me. What do you think about cheating? Do you think people do it because it happened to them or is that just an excuse? Leave a comment below and tell me what you think!





4 things I learned from my wife's cancer scare

Marriage vows are promises that we make to our soon-to-be spouses during the wedding ceremony. Most of us say these things with all intentions of reaching 'until death do us part'... But, what happens when "in sickness and in health" becomes a relevant vow much earlier than you expected?

Do you stay or walk away?

This was the case in my marriage. 3 years ago, in 2012, when I married my best friend I didn't really expect to have many issues since we were both in our 20's and seemed to be in tip-top shape. Little did I know that about 1 year into our marriage a heart problem that my wife had a while back would decide to rear its ugly head again. A few doctor visits and an internal heart scope discovered that there was actually nothing to fear and that her heart was in great shape after all.

*Sigh of Relief*

The health scares were over...

Until one day in 2014, when she found out that she had a large nodule growing on her thyroid gland. We were told that in most cases they were harmless, but in some case they could be cancerous. I don't know about you, but "Your wife may have thyroid cancer" was not particularly high up on my list of things that I ever wanted to hear.

Over the course of another year she had to go to the hospital numerous times for painful biopsy procedures, consultations, ultrasounds, and x-rays. All of which failed to give a clear and concise diagnosis, and this meant that surgery was the only option since it was still growing. She ended up getting half of her thyroid removed in 2015 and I am happy to report that it was diagnosed as a non-cancerous mass.

I know that I told you guys that I don't love my wife, but that is beyond false. These ordeals actually helped me become a better husband and played a part in making our marriage stronger during the process. I realized that 4 simple truths helped me get through everything we experienced and I wanted to share them with you.

1. It's not their fault.
One of the first things I had to do was help my wife understand that what she was going through was not her fault. She was understandably upset a lot of the time because she didn't think it was fair that she had to experience something so serious at such a young age. She would also constantly apologize to me because she believed that she was damaged goods and that she wasn't the woman I signed up to spend the rest of my life with. To me, that sounded crazy because I knew that I loved her no matter what. There are some men out there that would leave their wives if anything was wrong with them though so I could understand her fear. I had to assure her that I was not one of those men and I would never leave her during her time of need because I meant my vows.


2. Be there for them.
I had to really dig deep and keep my wife's needs in the forefront before, during, and after her surgery. I did whatever was necessary to make sure that she was comfortable and taken care of. I handled everything around the house and didn't complain while I did it. That's important to remember, do not complain. Your spouse probably already feels bad enough that you're in the position that you have to cater to them in the first place - complaining will do nothing but make them feel worse. The last thing you want to do is make them feel as if they are a burden.

3. Be understanding.
If nothing else, I have learned that you have to develop patience very quickly within a marriage. It is all too common for partners to become frustrated with each other in the midst of extremely stressful situations. Staying level headed and showing empathy goes a long way. At the end of the day my wife really appreciated the fact that I didn't let her stress affect me in any type of way that would cause me to get frustrated with her.

4. Always be ready for anything.
I think the most valuable thing I learned was how important it is to be ready for anything. You can never predict how a relationship will turn out, and that's part of the beauty of it. I think that some people paint out a perfect picture of how things are supposed to be and if they don't happen exactly that way, they can't handle the deviation and immediately head for the exit. I chose to put my faith in God and in the belief that my wife and I could handle whatever was to come because we would work through it together. I never let myself view the health issues as her problem - it was always our problem, and now it's our story.

***
Has something similar happened in your marriage or relationship?
How did you handle that experience?

***This article was also featured on the Huffington Post***
How to deal with difficult people

In this world, there are many different types of people. One thing I've learned is that many of those types are just outright difficult to deal with. For me, the most challenging people that I have to deal with are in my workplace. We have everything from know-it-alls to the "I'm not racist" racists.

My workplace experience has given me various encounters with difficult people. One thing that I've learned is that you really have to know when to fight your battles. Where I work, know-it-all types run rampant and try to make sure that everyone can hear each and every thing that they have to say. It's almost daily that I see someone getting into an intense "conversation" because something is said that they don't agree with and they take offense to it. When these types of conversations come my way, I'm pretty sure that I frustrate people. Why? It's simply because I've figured out the best way to shut down a know-it-all is to basically make it clear that you don't particularly care about what they think they know. I generally try to avoid conversations about money, religion, and politics - even though they tend to be the most popular they also tend to be the most controversial...

"Ain't Nobody Got Time Fo' Dat" - Kimberly "Sweet Brown" Wilkins

My career field is predominately not black. But, in case you haven't noticed, I am black. Difficulties arise from the fact that I'm college educated, speak well, write well, handle myself professionally, have goals, actually love my wife, and favor doing homework over the party scene. I have actually been told that I am "an anomaly" by some of my counterparts. I don't really understand what that is supposed to mean or how I'm supposed to respond. Like, would they prefer me to be an unruly country-boy with a GED? What the hell is a 'regular black person' anyway? I abhor that phrase. I have even had someone ask me why it's okay for black people to say the N-word and not okay for white people to say it. Seriously.That's the type of people I deal with. It's frustrating because I think to myself "Why do you even think that is an acceptable thing to ask ME?" I don't even use that word, but that's besides the point...

How do I deal with it? For one, I don't react the way they probably expect for me to. My wife always tells me that it's a blessing and a curse that I am extremely hard to get stirred up. It takes a lot of effort to really get a rise out of me. I'm sure that people in similar situations would cuss the person out, beat them up, or respond in any number of other negative ways.

For me, the best way of dealing with difficult people is by not giving them the time of day. I don't allow myself to be bothered and therefore I don't get upset with what goes on around me. By handling things this way I can keep my sanity, maintain my professionalism, and most importantly I can keep an assault charge off of my record.

***
How do you deal with the difficult people in your life? I choose to pretty much ignore their crap but I'd love to know what your tactics are. Leave a comment below and let me know!
 

Have you found the one? Are you even interested? Well, I can save you some trouble if you are currently searching - You will never find the one. Let me explain what I mean.

See, there are a lot of people actively looking for the one but they are actually willing to settle for anyone. If you ask people to describe their ideal partner, I'm almost willing to bet that it'll sound more like they are describing a car than an actual person. "I want them to be pretty, fun, exciting, etc. etc." Don't even get me started on all of the endless apps and websites that can help you in your partner search.

Let's say that you do find the one person that you think you'd want to be with for the rest of your life or you use some outside help to get you matched up. What will you do then? Will the relationship be perfect because the person matches all of the requirements you listed in your search?

My guess, is probably not.

Something I've noticed is that we tend to get so caught up in the search for the one that we forget to prepare for when we actually do find them. In order to keep this person that you've been looking for and trying to find, you have to be certain that you bring some kind of value to the relationship as well. Are you as 'pretty' as the person you said you wanted to find? Are you as fun to be around? Do you offer any non-physical attributes like goals, intelligent conversation, motivation, compassion, etc?

It's perfectly fine to have an idea of exactly what you want in a partner, but you also have to keep in mind that relationships are about both people. You have to be willing to prepare yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally to handle the relationship that you want in the future. You may get lucky and find someone that could be perfect for you, but if you haven't done your due diligence to give yourself a chance at being perfect for them as well, then you may as well prepare yourself for heartbreak later on down the road.

Honestly, I'm not trying to discourage you from looking. It's fine to look, it's actually a good idea. My point is that you have to make sure you're not so focused on the search that you forget the most important thing is making sure that you are prepared. You have to ask yourself the hard questions like: "Am I over my last relationship or am I still carrying baggage?" "Do I have anything to offer in a relationship? Do I even know what I want?"

Just think about it for a while. And hey, sometimes, the moment you stop looking for love is the very moment you'll find it. [click to tweet this quote]
Men are never satisfied

As a man, I'll tell you that we can often be a real pain when it comes to relationships. Most women probably feel like we are never satisfied, and truthfully, most of you are probably right. By nature, a lot of men are indeed difficult to be in relationships with, but luckily for you, the vast majority of us are relatively easy to figure out. 

See, the media will lead you to believe that all a man wants is a woman that can cook, clean, and do a good job in the bedroom. I don't know about most men, but what I desire in a woman has evolved far beyond the characteristics of the common "housewife". I think that the media contributes to this notion that women should try to attain a certain look or physique in order to get the men they want and they even go as far as saying women should cater to every need or whim of a man. Listen, guys do enjoy being catered to, but you have to understand the type of man you're dealing with before you decide to take that route. Have you ever heard the phrase "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free"? I think that a lot of relationships suffer from this problem when they first start out because some women feel like they need to do everything for their man from the very beginning. If you aren't dealing with the right type of guy, you will eventually find yourself pouring all of your energy into someone with no plans of returning the same effort. And most of these types of men will eventually gain a false sense of security that will cause them to do something stupid. 

And yes, by stupid, I do mean cheat.

How do I know that? I used to be one of the very guys that I'm talking about. I constantly see women getting their feelings hurt because they feel that they are at fault because they got cheated on. They wonder how they can do everything right and still get the short end of the stick at the end of the day. I would say that 99% of the time the guy is to blame but that other 1% definitely falls on the woman. It falls on her because she chose to direct all of her efforts towards the wrong person.

So how do you know if this guy is actually worth your effort? Well, you have to determine whether or not he does anything for you. I'm not talking about things like taking you out to nice dinners, buying you flowers, and getting you expensive gifts. Honestly, most of that stuff is just game and doesn't mean much. Regardless of whether or not those may be nice gestures, here are some things that you really need to pay attention to:

Does he build you up and push you to be better in a constructive way or does he just criticize you?
Does he support your dreams or does he put them down and make them seem insignificant?
Is he considerate of your needs or only his own?
Is he interested in knowing you personally or is he only concerned with knowing you in the bedroom?

Answering these questions honestly may save you a lot of wasted energy if you'll commit to keeping yourself on the straight and narrow. I agree that us men-folk can be a bit of a handful, but a woman that can accurately spot a troublemaker will save herself a great deal of heartache in the long run!

This was an original guest post for Afrochimompreneur.com

4 Things I Want My Future Daughter To Know

Hello sweetheart, 

I hope you don't think it's odd that I'm writing this for you and you aren't even born yet. I was going through my website and came across the very first post that I published, Games that Men Play, and it made me think of you. It made me think about the future possibility that you might have your heartbroken because of some guy and I will have to hold you in my arms and tell you that everything will be okay. And I started thinking of all the things I would say and how it would make me feel and how I would hope the guy moves far away so that I can't get to him.

Most importantly, it made me think about the things I can share with you now that might still be relevant once you actually get here. Sweetheart, you have to understand that the world we live in now is pretty broken. People don't normally treat each other like mommy and daddy treat each other. They don't place value in their relationships, trust each other, or even treat each other with respect. And I'm afraid that you will experience this for yourself at some point in your life. Hopefully these things I am about to share with you can help guide you towards more fulfilling relationships and steer you away from many crap experiences.

1. Your worth is NOT determined by what a man says about you (or anyone else for that matter).
If you learn nothing else, you have to understand that your worth is not determined by anyone but God. You are on this earth for a purpose and no person can tell you otherwise. I have seen many men that try to belittle the woman they are with because of their own insecurities or because they want to have control over her. Be encouraged that you are a smart, beautiful, and courageous young woman (just like your mother) and no one can take that away from you. You will come across people who will try, because there are people who will always try to tear down a person that they see greatness in. They will say things, they will do things, and they will hurt. The most important thing for you to know is that you will be stronger because of it and they will only be more upset that you didn't entertain their opinions of you.

2. As long as you believe in yourself, no one can stop you.
There is only one person that can determine how far you can go in life - You. Always remember that what you tell yourself and believe about yourself will be the truth. You might experience a setback (or a few), but that doesn't make you a failure. You might get scars, but that won't make you any less beautiful. You may have your heartbroken, but that won't mean you aren't worthy of love. Always remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be and no one will be able to keep you from being you.
 
3. You don't need to sacrifice your dreams and success for anyone.
You can be and achieve anything you put your mind to. If you want to be an astronaut, we'll send you to space camp. If you want to be a sports star, we'll help you practice. If you want to be a computer programming genius, well, we might have to call someone else to help you with that. What you need to know is that no matter what it is you want to do, make sure you don't sacrifice those dreams for anyone else. At some point, someone will probably try to convince you that a woman should give up her dreams in order to be with the man she wants. That is an outright lie. People will also say that they only took certain paths in order to please their parents and I want you to know that you never have to do that for us. We will be proud of whatever you decide to become because we know that you will be the best you can be at it and that's what matters. You chase your dreams and the right people will support your path to success, not block it.

4. You don't have to settle for less.
Your mom always likes to tell this story about a time from our first year of marriage. She really wanted an M&M ice cream sandwich one night, so I took her to the gas station near our house to find one. The price was about a dollar higher than she expected, and I know you see how frugal she is now, so she decided she would just get something different. As she reached for another option, I grabbed her hand and told her "You never have to settle for less". For some reason that really stuck with her and I want it to stick with you. Relationships should be fulfilling, they should grow you, and add value to your life. If there are people in your life that hold you back, belittle you, or make you feel like less than the angel you are - get rid of them. Your mother has the art of cutting people off down to a science and I have learned a great deal from her. There will always be opportunities for new friends, new boyfriends, etc. Never allow yourself to settle for bad relationships with people simply because they are there.

I don't know how old you will be when you first read this but I want you to know that your mother and I love you very much and we always will. We want you to have the best of what life has to offer and we want to see you succeed at everything you do. We will share whatever advice we can with you to help you learn from our past mistakes and hopefully you'll listen so that you don't have to experience them all for yourself.

With love forever,

Daddy.




Relationships can be like a poorly cooked steak: Beautiful on the exterior but a disgusting disaster if you take a peek on the inside. There are people that will immediately leave the table, those that will eat it anyway because it's all they have, and then there are those that will take the necessary time to make it what they want.
 
I was standing in one of the infinitely long lines at WalMart a few days ago, casually minding my own business when a guy and his female friend took their own places behind me and struck up a pretty interesting conversation with each other. I was standing with my mother-in-law (mom-in-love is what she prefers to be called) and even though I generally try to avoid eavesdropping I couldn't really help but feel like I was a part of their conversation anyway.

The guy was basically complaining to his friend about the fact that his girlfriend was a real piece of work and never seemed to be satisfied with anything he did for her (this was on Valentine's Day none the less). He claimed that she always seemed to take interest in other people and never really appreciated him for being the person that is always there for her at the end of the day. I had a hard time really keeping up with his rambling but it seemed like he thought she was immature, oblivious to the effort required to make a relationship work, and was only worth the trouble because she was pretty.

Now, I'll be honest, I really wanted to just turn around and tell this dude to stop whining because he sounded pretty annoying. But there's a real teaching moment buried within his narrow minded view of his relationship: Most people will dine and dash on their relationships and some others will sit until the restaurant closes and never ask for the check.

I get it, relationships are work...sometimes they are hard work, but that's something you have to be willing to understand when you decide to put two people together and expect them to make their lives mesh. I'm coming up on 3 years of marriage this month and I'll be the first to admit that it's not always sunshine and rainbows, but that's a part of the fun. Conflict is how you grow and the mistakes that you make can lead to valuable lessons, but you have to be willing to learn from them. I think that most of my generation falls victim to a microwave mentality because they can basically find a partner with the push of a button (Tinder, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) but the moment things start to require a little work, they lose interest and give up. And I'm not knocking that method of starting a relationship, it just illustrates the point I'm making.

Sometimes people get so caught up in wanting a relationship that they don't actually think about the work that will be involved to make it last. If you're not ready for the commitment, you'll probably make your exit sooner than later. On the flip side, some people want a relationship so desperately that they are willing to stay in the worst situations just to say that they have someone. Neither of these scenarios are particularly desirable.

But I digress, you have to know and be honest about your own situation at the end of the day or you just might find yourself asking:

"Am I about to run for the door or am I still sitting in the dark waiting for the check?"