Chris Brown may lament “these hoes ain’t loyal,” but the truth goes a whole lot deeper.
As a single woman in her thirties, the dynamics of dating in the new urban scene are confusing. By mid to late thirties, most of us who date and live in diverse urban cities are pretty self-aware and financially independent. Yet we continue to date casually, while insisting we are genuinely looking for a partner who is marriage material. The truth is, we find refuge from vulnerability in casual, undefined relationships that boast no expectations, yet in our deeper desire to know and be known by another, we unfairly apply rules of commitment to casual romances. We want honesty without making promises; we want respect without integrity and we want loyalty without commitment.
To our credit, at least we know what we want. Having a clear understanding of what you’re looking for in a partner is a good foundation for building a relationship, but assessing important characteristics of a person while casually dating is almost impossible. Even Chris Brown is struggling to make sense of it. He wants loyalty in a woman, but is disappointed to find “these hoes ain’t loyal.” His frustration sets the stage for a much deeper conversation about how we go about finding qualities in a person that can ultimately sustain a relationship. Because, why should a “hoe” be loyal when there’s no commitment?
By definition, loyalty is “to be faithful or devoted to someone or something.” Casual dating, then, can’t possibly provide a healthy framework for a woman to be loyal to a man, or vice versa. Loyalty implies that some commitment to being faithful or devoted has been established.
Loyalty has different implications in our new urban context. It has become synonymous with “having somebody’s back.” In the early 2000’s when Beyoncé dropped her first solo single, Crazy in Love featuring her now husband, Jay-Z, they became the proto-type for the new urban love story and her album aptly entitled “Dangerously in Love” redefined our ideas about what it means for a woman to have a man’s back in urban culture. Beyoncé was America’s pop sweetheart who fell for the king of the streets, and became the ultimate “Ride or Die chick.” She was strong, independent, and proved that now even good suburban-bred girls could or should be loyal to the game. Hip-hop introduced inner city culture to the dating game.
Even if the streets didn’t “make you,” if you’re in your thirties today, hip-hop music most certainly shaped you. The “new urban” is very often much like Beyoncé, never having seen the streets a day in her life, but influenced by their values nonetheless. Nevertheless, the realities and conditions of urban living in your thirties are tough, and you didn’t have to grow up in the inner city to feel the burden. There’s a scarcity, always the threat of insecurity. Loyalty isn’t just about being devoted to someone; it’s about somebody being for you when everybody and everything is seemingly against you. The new urban man wants loyalty and trust, the way the new urban woman wants love and affection. We withhold from one another the very things we desire the most.
When a man says he’s looking for a woman who has his back, he’s expressing the desire to be supported unconditionally, to know that a woman sees his potential, even if he’s not fully living up to it in the moment. He has a desire to know that his partner is willing to sacrifice for him and wants a woman who will enhance his life, for the better. He wants a woman committed to being loyal to him, even when no one else will be. He wants commitment.
Which brings us back to the original question – how do we practice loyalty towards one another when we’re not committing to being in faithful, devoted relationships?
Here are my suggestions based on my experience observing and participating in the new urban dating game.
#1 – Retire the phrase “these hoes ain’t loyal.”
You cannot make a case for or against a woman’s display of loyalty towards you unless you’ve asked for her loyalty. No self-respecting woman of honor or substance should ever pledge her loyalty and allegiance to a man exclusively who hasn’t asked her to.
#2 – Play fair.
If you ignore the first suggestion, at least understand that the desire for a woman to be loyal to you is an expectation. And if you have expectations of a woman, she’s going to have expectations of you and you have to be willing to honor her expectations in return.
#3 – Look for other ways your potential partner exhibits loyalty in her life.
Is she faithful to God, family, friends, work? Which means you actually have to get to know her outside of a bed and outside of just the two of you going out together in your world. You have to enter into her world and see how she functions in other relationships and settings. If you want her loyalty someday at least commit to making your presence in her life known sometimes.
#4 – No testing.
If you’re withholding commitment and keeping a woman under an evaluation period until she proves her worth to you, that’s called a test. And if you aren’t clear with her about what you’re testing her on, that’s actually more like a pop quiz. Nobody liked pop quizzes in high school, nobody needs them in dating.
#5 – Dating for love or loyalty is not a street game.
No “one wrong move and she gets wacked.” This isn’t Scarface. You can’t expect unconditional love from a woman without practicing it yourself. Your mistakes don’t make you a failure. Hers don’t either.
#6 – No woman is flawless.
Not even Beyoncé. I’m sure she gets on Jay’s nerves sometimes too. It’s sweet that men like to praise and compliment women, but it also delays reality. If you approach a woman expecting to meet her flaws, you’ll be less disappointed when they show up, and you’ll probably find you still like her anyway.
#7 – No risk, no reward.
Love is risky business. Because women are human — just like other humans you know; your mother, your father, your brother, your cousins — they will disappoint you at one time or another. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t loyal. It means they have issues, just like you. As we get older, and experience more rejection and let downs in love, willingly setting ourselves up for taking that risk again for love takes great courage.
#8 – Trust your instincts.
If you like a woman a lot, see potential in her, it’s clear she has a good heart, just ask her to give you a chance. It worked in high school, didn’t it? You ask, she says yes or no. Worst-case scenario, you break up one day. But at least you had a great time with a great girl, and most likely you’ve become a better man for the next woman who comes along.
We can’t turn back the clock. Mainstream radio isn’t playing R&B music anymore. The game has influenced the way we date. And if you’re in your thirties, single and dating in urban culture, chances are you’re looking for somebody who can show you they’re down for you no matter what. The irony of it all is that commitment and the vows of marriage are actually what bond us together to offer the very security that we seek when it comes to matters of loyalty. But for most of us, victims of the game and all the trust and intimacy issues that come with it, marriage is off the table. For now.
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