all the 90s r&b songs about unconditional love were wrong. your boundaries matter

February 7, 2017

I recently saw a pic on my girl’s Instagram that said “Trying to decide which one of my 12 hoes I’m gonna make feel special on Valentines Day.” People thought it was really funny. And accurate. These days, most of us get more advice about our love lives from memes than we do from couples whose relationships have stood the test of time. And we wonder why we find it easier to juggle 12 hoes than to have happiness with one partner.

I know a woman who has been married for over 25 years. She and her husband own a beautiful home, they have an awesome son who is about to finish college, and they still enjoy each other’s company. When I recently asked her if she is truly happy in her marriage, she said yes. But when I asked if she believes in unconditional love, she said “Hell no.” She told me “When we fall in love, we have a tendency to want to lay our heart down, to just put it in somebody else’s hands. But no. You have to always be the guardian of your own heart.”

By Nikki Lynette*, AFROPUNK contributor

Many so-called “experts” on love would argue that unconditional love is the key to long-lasting relationships. Their logic is when someone knows that you will stand by them no matter what, they are more capable of opening up and committing to their partner. But isn’t that kinda dangerous? Essentially, telling someone you love them unconditionally means “I love you regardless of what you do.” It erases the importance of your partner respecting your boundaries. It teaches them that they can keep you without actually caring about your needs. It creates space for you to be treated like a doormat. Do you know what that means? It means that all the 90s R&B songs that praised unconditional love were wrong. I have never felt so betrayed in my life.

A few years ago, I totally would have been the chick posting funny memes about which guys I was gonna let feel special on Valentines Day. I released songs about my lack of desire for intimacy. I drew pictures that illustrated the extent to which I don’t love these hoes. Back then, love wasn’t really important to me. It was some far off, distant thing that I figured I would attain “one day,” sorta like how people say they wanna go see the pyramids “one day” or will make an appointment to see the dentist “one day.” Now that I have experienced loving someone unconditionally, I’m not drawing pics of my joy. I draw my pain. I strongly believe that it is extremely important for people to make a commitment to themselves to love with conditions. Because being that open and committed to someone who does not deserve it will result in your life being so painful that it can make death seem like a vacation compared to the hell you are living in.

So if we can’t trust 90s R&B and blindly lay our hearts in another person’s hands, then what are reasonable conditions to have? Well, here’s a good place to start:

  • You and the one you love should not do things that damage each other’s self-esteem and make you feel insecure.
  • You and your partner should listen to each other, communicate regularly, and be open to working on developing those skills if you don’t already have them.
  • You and the person you love should be willing to express things that hurt you or concern you, and be open to listening to each other when you need to express those kinds of things.
  • You and your partner should be willing to change behavior that one of you finds disrespectful and be careful not to violate each other’s boundaries.
  • You and the one you love should have a healthy self-image, and if you don’t you should be actively working on developing your self-esteem, because if you don’t love yourself you can not love someone.
  • A partner should acknowledge the differences between the two of you and embrace them instead of tying to control you, make you feel bad for being different, or make you be more like them.
  • You and your partner have to have the ability to forgive as well as the ability to do the work to repair things you have done to hurt each other.
  • You and the person you love should never withhold communication, love, sex, or any other thing you need as a way of punishing each other or controlling the relationship.
  • You and the person you love must have the ability to show compassion and have each other’s back when you are going through hard times in your life.

All of these things seem pretty standard, right? But think about it… how many times have you let one or two of these things slide? How many times have you encountered people who don’t meet ANY of these standards and consider you to be uppity just for having them? Refusing to love unconditionally doesn’t make you cold or heartless, it makes you a person who loves your self. It means if someone wants to have you in their life then they have to show it. Love is respect. And anyone who does not respect your needs, boundaries, and standards does not feel 90s R&B love for you. They feel 2017 Trap love for you. And personally, if I have to settle for that, I would rather have no love at all.

*Nikki Lynette is a rapper, singer, producer, writer, visual artist, and on-air personality. And a goddess with real locs. Follow her on Twitter & Instagram @NikkiLynette