Real love, I’m searching for a real love…
I remember singing this song with conviction when I was younger. My mom probably laughed watching me belt out every note knowing I didn’t know anything about love let alone ‘real love’. I can honestly say that 24 years later, I still don’t know much about love. Just like in the 1992 hit by Mary J. Blige, we are ALL searching for a real love. So why does it seem like real love is sooo hard to find?
After my first two relationships, I was emotionally exhausted. I didn’t want the responsibility that came with caring for someone else’s emotions and well-being. With everything I had learned, I was determined that my next relationship would be my last. So I went into a hole. I was hiding in plain sight because I knew that the more I let the world see me, the bigger the chance I would get attached to someone that would harm me. I decided to go back to church and not just go, but get involved as well. I came out of retirement and started singing on the choir of my new church. The first time I ever sung was back in the first or second grade on the youth choir (shoutout to the Junior Lights) at my home church. Our youth choir was unlike any choir you’ve ever seen. There was over 120+ kids ranging in age from 5-19. We were known for having some of the best solo singers in VA who went on to be leaders of choirs at the college level. And somehow, I became the youngest soloist at the age of 10 when I was accidentally discovered singing by our choir director (who is also my godmother).
I say all that to tell you guys that singing wasn’t just a way for me to hide in plain sight, it was my safe place. I never wanted to be famous for singing, I didn’t care about having a mic or a front spot so everyone could see me but since the first time I ever belted out a note, it seemed like all eyes were on me. And that feeling of being seen all the time was the sole reason I quit singing my junior year in high school. But here I was, three years after Tyreek, at my new church, singing, hoping that this time I could blend into the background of this choir. I hoped everyday that no one would notice me. The only people I knew on the choir was my mom and my friend PJ. He and I had met through my mom years prior when she first joined the choir. We had remained pretty good friends throughout the years and he was someone who had the same appreciation for music as I did. We both love the legendary singer/producer Ryan Leslie. We love 90s gospel more than today’s gospel. We like PJ Morton and other underground artist with lots of soul in their music. In fact, when I auditioned for the church choir, I called PJ and had him pick out the best song for me.
Quickly he became my best friend. I was living in a new city and he lived close by so if we weren’t at church singing together, we were at chipotle eating, or on the phone talking about any and everything. I honestly don’t remember what we did all day together but I remember that we were together everyday. On the phone, we would pray together, talk about God & the Bible, and go through study plans together. The best part about it was even though we were physically attracted to each other, there was no sex or talk of a relationship. Now, in the spirit of honesty there was PLENTY of flirting and a couple close calls but I enjoyed the innocence of our budding romance. It made me feel safe with him. Whenever we talked, he actually listened and showed he cared about things I was going through. He was the first person I told the entire story about my abusive father and he helped me navigate the emotions that came with my unresolved daddy issues. We knew each other (and still do) like the back of our hand. I knew that his level of anger is determined by how many times he uses the word ‘slim’. He knew that when I was on my period I needed to be held like a baby and rocked. I loved him. Before he became my boyfriend I loved him and he loved me…for a while.
It was a cold, winter night in January the first time I realized he didn’t love me anymore, I didn’t want to believe it. Neither of us did. We were so committed to the idea of us being together that we were willing to look past the bad and hold on to the potential of us. See, we had a pretty rocky relationship at the start because I am an introvert who is okay with a small group of friends and PJ is everyone’s friend. As the old people say, he never met a stranger. This caused a lot of strife because he liked to go out to bars, clubs, and social events. Eventually we came up with a compromise but only after months of arguing and fighting. On the night in January, we hadn’t argued in awhile and at first I thought it was a good thing. But as I laid in my bed Facetiming PJ while he played a video game, I realized that there was more than physical distance between us. I’m not sure where the thought came from but I immediately needed to express it out loud so it would sound crazy to the both of us and I could ease my irrational fear. “I have a feeling something bad is going to happen.” I blurted out.
“Why you say that?” He answered, distracted.
“Things are too perfect. We haven’t argued. I dunno, I just have a bad feeling.” I said looking for reassurance.
“Nah, it’ll be fine.” Although his answer was short, it spoke volumes to me. But wanting to be the girl with the happy ending, I ignored my gut and I ignored his nonchalant tone and chalked it up to being tired. As I tried to sleep that night I kept thinking about my life and how it had changed in the two years PJ and I had been together. We had been through a lot. I had lost my job and car and moved back home more than thirty minutes away. Both of us had new jobs with unstable hours which meant we were lucky to see each other at church for a few hours each week. Both of us were a leaders in our sections of the choir and were trying to figure out how to be young and serve God and be in a healthy relationship and hang out with our friends. It was a lot of pressure because we had become local celebrities. I had to get used to being at a gas station and a stranger would say, “Aren’t you the girl who dates PJ” or “Don’t you sing at that church?”. It made me feel weird. The older people would call us the love birds or the power couple. But none of them ever offered us much advice other than asking us to get married soon. It was disheartening because it seemed most people wanted us together but no one was doing anything to help us stay together.
At church, they told us don’t have sex and don’t move in together before you’re married. That was no help because after a year of being together, we already done both. My parents loved PJ but understood some of the things we were going through. They kept telling us keep your business to yourselves in public which was also no help because we had started to cover up things in private too. PJ’s parents hated (and still do) my guts so they would take any argument or failure of mine and use it as a reason he should break up with me. It was often, his dad would say things like “what kind of spell does she have on you?”. It hurt my feelings to hear those things because although I was not perfect, I loved their son and I would do anything for him. His mom knew I was diagnosed with a mental illness in my teen years and was convinced I was doing things for attention or sympathy of my disease. Instead of attempting to understand my disease she just simply thought I was crazy and inconsiderate. It felt like no matter what I did or how many times I apologized they were determined not to get to know the real me. They had written me off which in turn made me quiet and secluded when I was around them. Which they interpreted as me being inconsiderate and rude. It was a vicious cycle that didn’t have a good end.
Another thing that had drastically changed during our relationship, was our group of mutual friends. When PJ first introduced me to his group of closest friends, they were all very welcoming. Everyone seemed nice and although I was shy they made a great effort to make me feel included. They would invite me to birthday parties and say things like “I’m so glad PJ has really changed since you guys have been together.” It all made me feel good. It made me feel like I found a tribe in my new surroundings. So, even though I didn’t drink or smoke, I would hang out with them often. Now, because I’m often the quiet one, people feel comfortable talking to or around me. What most people don’t realize about being the quiet one is that after awhile of people talking around you, you get insight on a lot of things. You learn the habits of people, the true dynamic of the group, & sometimes their true intentions.
I had learned long ago that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. So, I listened more than I talked. I never said anything around them that I didn’t want a lot of people to know and I kept my head on a swivel because something wasn’t right. As I’ve said before, Woman’s Intuition is a powerful tool. And after hanging with PJ and his friends for months, my intuition was sending me danger alerts. I had quickly come to realize that the picture of success and living in God’s Will that PJ expressed to me was in great danger with this group of friends. A lot of them wanted these things for PJ but there were some who were jealous of his talent and charisma. There was ones who said they supported him but would make fun of his dreams in a way that made them appear as jokes. There were ones who secretly wanted to get me out of the picture by any means necessary. And there were ones that indulged the unsavory side of him. I have to save him. I thought.
But I couldn’t save him. It wasn’t until two months after the Facetime conversation that I realized I had failed at my mission. I sat on the phone with my mom so devastated that I couldn’t even get the words out to tell her what was wrong. She patiently waited for my sobs to slow before she asked again, “What happened Janae?” I took a deep breath and said, “PJ broke up with me.” I could hear her heart drop because, like me, she thought he was the one. She began to pray. While she prayed, I remember being so mad at her for being in South Carolina during this time. Here I was all alone at home going through the worst thing that had happened to me. For days I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat. I regularly went to work with puffy bloodshot eyes. I became known for spazzing out of my employees and customers for little to no reason. I just couldn’t wrap my head around why it ended. I replayed our last conversation over and over in my head. I heard him tell me that I was too controlling and he couldn’t deal with it. I heard him say that I had been keeping him from his friends. But how could that be true when all I wanted to do was save him? Couldn’t he see that everything I ever did was to make him better?
I asked my mom those questions and she said the most important thing I’ve ever l heard. She said, “His no does not take away your yes.” I didn’t understand it because at the time I was so wrapped up in the fact that God had showed me a vision of PJ during our initial courting that included he and I getting married. And when we broke up I felt like God lied to me. I felt like he dangled the carrot of marriage and happiness in my face and snatched it away just as I was about to grab it. I was so angry with God I couldn’t go to church and I could barely pray. Instead of doing the typical things we do to get over a break up, I found myself disappearing again. I recoiled from the world like a turtle does in its shell when it’s afraid. I had removed (or been blocked from) PJ’s social media. I took that time to self reflect. Was this a blessing in disguise? What did I do that gave the impression of a control freak?
Weeks later, I was finally starting to feel a bit better. My favorite holiday, my birthday, was quickly approaching. I was making plans to have an extravagant birthday dinner with my friends. My mom asked me if I was inviting PJ, who had since apologized and wanted to work toward us getting back together. I told her no.
“Will you please, for me?” She said with puppy dog eyes. So I did. The night was wonderful, we had a great time laughing, eating and celebrating. After the dinner, I invited some of my friends back to my empty house for drinks. PJ came and decided to spend the night with me after everyone left. He and I stayed up watching TV and talking. The conversation turned serious when we started discussing where we were and if we would get back together. He was confident that we would. He told me that he wouldn’t be surprised if we got back together before the year was up. I smiled at the thought silently praying that things would turn out well. My smile quickly turned to a frown when I thought about if any other woman has laid and pillow talked with him the way we were. I already knew the answer but I had to ask. Once again, my anxiety crept up and I just needed him to calm it down with his words.
“When is the last time you had sex?” I asked bluntly. I could tell he hadn’t been expecting that question. I heard him swallow hard before he said, “You, Janae.”
“I know you’ve been hanging out with someone else. Have you slept with her?”
“No, Janae. We kissed once but that’s it.” He said. “She’s a time waster. Yes, she’s very different than you in many ways but I don’t think I could ever be with her. She’s not you.”
“What do you mean time waster?” I asked.
“I still want to marry you. Honestly, I’m scared you’ll move on & find someone else. I hang out with her to lessen the blow if you do decide to date someone else.” I should’ve ran. I should’ve ran right then. My Woman’s Intuition was in high drive, kicking me in the face, screaming at the top of her lungs to high-tail it out of there. He’s lying. She was saying. You know he is but you’re so desperate to make this happen. You stupid, stupid girl. She was right, but I thought I was right too. So I calmed my intuition down by telling her that he loves me. That once he stops looking at other women, which he’s working on, that we will be the perfect power couple. The Will to my Jada. The Cliff to my Claire. The Charles to my Barkley…I was wrong yet again.
Months later, I received a phone call that changed the way I saw him forever. PJ was having a baby. The night before I got this call, PJ and I were talking about our future and making fake wedding plans. All this rushed to my head like water smacking into a dam. I screamed so loud my lungs hurt instantly. My legs turned to jelly as I tried to jump out of the bath tub which caused me to trip. The weight of my body crashed on the floor like a brick but I couldn’t feel the pain of it all. I could only feel the pain of those words spoken over the phone. My stomach twisted up so tight I thought it would rip in two. My fingers were numb as I pounded my fist on the bathroom floor in anger. My face was hot with embarrassment and frustration. Pieces of my flesh from my skinned up knees left a trail of blood from my bathroom across the living room to my mom’s bedroom. She jumped up from the bed and grabbed me tightly. She wrapped her arms around me not knowing what was going on. She searched my naked body for the cut, bruise, or bone break that was the cause of my pain. She found none.
“Why would he do this to me?” I asked her. “What did I do that was so bad that I deserved this from anyone?”
“Janae, his no does not take away your yes.” She rocked me back and forth while I sobbed loudly.
“I’m going to call and cuss him out.” I said.
“No, you won’t.”
“I’m going to expose him on social media.”
“No, you won’t do that either.” She said. “Stay silent. Your time will come to speak. Right now is the time to cry.”
So I did. I cried for months. I cried because the PJ I knew was gone. I grieved not only for the loss of my relationship but also the loss of my best friend. Over those next couple of months, I realized that the person PJ said he was, the person he showed the world and the person he showed me were all three different people living in the same body. The lies he told began to spill out uncontrollably. The funny thing is, I wasn’t looking for them. Once, I accidentally stumbled on a folder in my Sprint app that had every text message, phone call, and picture mail that has ever been sent to PJ’s phone. Since I was the account holder, I had access to all the information on both phones. I kid you not, I stayed up for DAYS looking through every text, comparing what he told me to what I saw. I saw the flirty things he was saying to women and the things they were saying back. Worst of all, I saw the dates they were sent. Days where he was at my house texting a meet up with other women. I saw every mean thing he said about me to his friends, his family, and even people at our church. I was hurt, disgusted, & angry. I found out that not only had he been seeing a girl I knew. He was seeing many women. Women he worked with, women he insisted were just friends, and even women he told me wanted him. I saw in one text thread him asking me to loan him money for food and then use that money to pay for other womens food, flowers, & activities. I was paying for his dates.
I stayed silent through it all. I stayed silent as the same ‘friends’ I had warned PJ about threw shade on social media. Some of them unfollowed me, others stayed so they could keep track of my movements. One even messaged me and told me some foul things PJ had been saying behind my back, I stayed silent. Even when some of his homeboys hopped into my DMs ready to jump into my pants. They told me that PJ wasn’t man enough for me. They told me he was dumb to let a woman like me go. I didn’t take any of what they said as a compliment. To be honest, I hoped it was all just a joke or a ploy to see if I would do it. But it was further proof that I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t controlling, these people were not his friends. I thought about taking revenge and hurting him by being with one of his friends. How funny would it be if I showed up to a gathering with one of his friends? But, I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I still had an urge to be a wife one day. So, I stayed silent while all the ones I suspected of being jealous, of secretly wanting his downfall all showed their true selves.
What surprised me was that after all that, I was still left wondering, who are his friends? Since I’m not around anymore, who did he tell his secrets to now? Who made sure he was reading his Bible? Who knew how to calm him down when he was angry or fighting with his parents? I was worried about him. The answer was, he only had MAYBE one other true friend. And that made me sad for him. I shared these concerns with one of my best friends and she said, “Pray for him.” But I couldn’t do that. I could barely pray for myself because I was so angry with God. She typed me up a prayer and sent it to me. The prayer asked God for His protection, for His deliverance, for good health and wealth for PJ. I repeated the prayer over and over again, everyday. It got easier to do it. Soon I was able to pray for myself. I was able to pray for his child and its mother. I was able to pray for all his ‘friends’. I asked God to bring him some real friends of valor. I prayed so much that God began to take the hatred out of my heart and begin to heal me. I’m not going to lie to you guys, sometimes that hatred did creep up. Even writing this I’m thinking about all the foul things that I can’t tell you guys about and it makes me angry. There were still times I was so mad at him and myself that I wanted to hurt somebody. I even prayed a couple times to God to move him out of Virginia so I wouldn’t have to see him again.
But God gave me empathy for him when I should’ve been sad for me. He gave me strength to be able to start going to church again. He alone would take care of the desires of my heart. He reminded me that He put a need for family and love in my heart because he plans to give it to me. I still believe that God intended on blessing me with a husband. And I do believe that God intended that husband to be PJ. But the thing I learned about God’s blessings are that we have the option to say no. God is a gentleman, he does not force himself or his gifts on us. So when PJ said no to God’s blessing it did not change the vision He gave me. That’s what my mom meant when she said that PJ’s no did not take away my yes. She was saying that God still plans to give me a husband, it’s just not going to be the one I expected. So on the day of my mom’s funeral, I asked PJ to stand next to me as I gave my speech about what my mom means to me. And as I stood there talking to 300+ people in the audience I smiled because this was my way of showing my mom that I took her advice. I stayed silent I let the truth be revealed organically and here I was with no hate in my heart for the man I once loved. I showed my mom and myself that I had forgiven PJ and showed her that THIS was NOT my time to cry it was finally my time to speak!
When you ask God for something, he’s going to give you one of three answers:
- Not yet
When we hear the third answer, we want to ask God when. Or we give him a time frame and say, “Well if he didn’t give it to me by age 30 then it’s never gonna come.” But God never said that. He does not look at our timeline and rush himself. No, He waits until we give him our yes, our trust, and our patience. If we are missing one of those things, it will be us who feels unsatisfied or betrayed. That is why we worry about things we cannot control. That is why we are scared of change. It is us who need to slow down and match the pace of God’s grace. Some of these life lessons were supposed to only be a quick speed bump but we turn them into full blown detours when we don’t take a second to listen. Also, you cannot make do something they do not want to do even if it is what’s best for them. I learned all of this during my last relationship. So if I had to give out any piece of advice and wrap up what real love means to me… I’d say:
When you don’t have God in the center of a relationship you will never experience true, real love.
So if you are out there looking for love. If you aren’t doing it with God’s intentions you’re wasting your time and effort. Even if he ordained something for you, the second you kick him out of it. It will fail.
k, good talk
*Some names have been changed to protect identities
SN: Here’s a playlist I made for all those going through a BREAKUP!