Our dominant ideas of romance are more abusive than most of us would like to admit... I've always come away with more traumas than lessons.

-Sherronda J. Brown

Admitting that I might want to have some form of partnership in my life is hard to do. To be more specific, admitting to this as a consciously single, intentionally childfree, marriage-averse Black woman approaching thirty is hard for me to do.

The words themselves aren’t necessarily hard for me to say or write. I would like to share a healthy, ethical, fulfilling, queerplatonic or maybe even romantic connection and intentional relationship with someone or someones at some point in my future. I haven’t always wanted this, because “this” is something I didn’t even know was possible until I began decolonizing romance, dating, relationships, and the ideas and images of toxic monogamy I’ve been receiving since childhood.

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Our dominant ideas of romance are more abusive than most of us would like to admit. Many will recognize larger red flags of possessiveness and codependency, but accept smaller iterations of these behaviors as normal or even necessary parts of romantic entanglements.

For a lot people, dating and relationships are and always have been a necessary part of their lives, and that’s valid. But for me, past attempts—infrequent and short-lived as they were—have felt wholly foreign and often like an impossible concept to grasp, triggering many of my anxieties. I’ve always come away with more traumas than lessons.

I know there were various things contributing to my negative experience with these things, but the common denominator has always been a fundamental misalignment in our understandings of what our relationship to each other and to the rest of the world should look like in the first place.

A reciprocal and mutually beneficial partnership is not the same as a transactional one. Admitting to your faults isn’t enough when you do nothing to work towards properly addressing them. I have no interest in following a “girlfriend script” or dimming my shine or being more feminine and less “intimidating”—whatever that means. I have no desire to fulfill a fantasy of who someone thinks I should be. I will not let anyone else dictate how I approach my friendships or who I spend time with. My mental illness doesn’t make me a burden. My fatness doesn’t make me undesirable. No one owns me. Jealousy ain’t cute. Oh, and Micro-cheating doesn’t fucking exist. These are my truths, but past suitors and prospects have always disagreed.

A lot of us need a social intervention to re-evaluate what we think romance is and what dating and relationships should look like. A lot of us need to interrogate the behaviors, expectations, and permissions that have become normalized, especially those which are gendered, and even racialized.

I know all too well the heteropatriarchal social expectations for someone who looks like me. I know I’m expected to compromise and sacrifice in ways that a male or masc partner would never be asked to. I know I’m expected to be both mother and lover to the same person. Therapy, triage, rehab. A covering, a coat, a rib. A Strong Black Woman™ who is also a willing submissive, both in and out of the bedroom. A masochist for them to whip. A canvas to paint their frustrations on. A receptacle to dump their shit into.

That’s why this is hard to admit. It’s hard because it means that I might understand why some people choose partnerships that look something like what I just described, because they got tired of being lonely after a while.

Because we normalize only certain forms of affection, intimacy, and emotional support. Because we tell ourselves they are only appropriate and acceptable in romantic relationships, even when they are layered with normalized abuses.

Because lonely can become too much for you to brave on your own, and because people who look like me get shamed and humiliated for being alone and lonely for too long when we don’t want to be. They paint us as unworthy, pathetic, difficult. Tell us our standards are unfair, unrealistic, impossible. We’re emasculating bitches, Jezebels, Sapphires, and Welfare Queens. That’s why we can’t keep anyone, and that’s why we can’t get chosen.

We get “That’s why you’re single” lectures we never asked for and shitty advice, always heteronormative, always cisnormative, always directed at Black women, on how to get chosen. We get threats of “No one will want you” as the world is constantly vying for control of our emotionality, our appearance, our sexual expression.

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What’s hard about admitting I might get tired of lonely soon is it feels like I might also be admitting they’re right, even though I know they’re not. Just like I know larger social pressures to be partnered are a lie. Our society constructs romantic relationships as inherently superior, more necessary, more valuable than non-romantic ones, and I know this is a lie.

There is a widespread assumption that we will all ultimately be better off if we are in an exclusive, long-term, coupled relationship that culminates in marriage and children, and I know this is a damn lie. I know that I am not inadequate without these things, but it gets hard to beat back the voices who keep trying to convince me of this fiction.

I guess I’m also admitting that I might just have to get used to lonely if I finally go searching for partnership and find that all I’m presented with is the opportunity to be someone else’s therapy. Because right now, it seems like that’s all the world thinks of me, and that is frightening, too. Because I know I’m worthy of more.