By Lauren R.D. Fox

A few Saturdays ago, New York City found itself with a mild temperature and the Sun gleaming upon it. So, I took that as an opportunity to go to my aqua cycling class. While I journeyed there, I scrolled on Instagram to see what people were up to on The Internets.

As I scrolled the million and one posts about drunk brunches and #LazySaturdays, I saw Ciara posted a 58-second clip from a 50-minute sermon Pastor John Gray orated. The main quote from the sermon that ruffled my and many other women’s feathers was: “Too many women want to be married but you’re walking in the spirit of “girlfriend.” On cue, I rolled my eyes as one thought zoomed back and forth in my mind: “What the f—k does that mean?”

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In an interview with journalist Jacque Reid, Pastor Gray explained that the thesis of his sermon was about women gaining validation from themselves and God, not men. “The premise is that you carry yourself with a level of integrity and with a level of strength and with a level of grace that says, ‘I actually don’t need to be found, to be validated,” he explained.

“A woman who is confident in who she is, she’s connected to God, she’s connected to her source so she doesn’t need validation from a man, she’s got it from God.”

And although I understood his explanation, again, I silently asked in my mind: What the f—k does that mean?

I asked that question because his response to Reid, in my opinion, is problematic. However, I understood his sermon’s intention because I was raised in a Christian household. However, what happens to the women who: A) weren’t raised in the Christian Church B) are agnostic, atheists, demisexual, homosexual, trans or C) identify as Christian but choose to dismantle the ideology of what it means to be a wife? Will we never be married because we don’t fit the iconic Proverbs 31 mold?

Growing up, my Guyanese mother (and other female family members) often related my disobedience, lack of enthusiastically waking up early or not cleaning something immediately to not satisfying a future imaginary husband who I could care less about. With their constant suggestions piling up, my future husband seemed like he had relentless needs and would be extremely annoying. I often questioned my mother and aunts about this: if I am performing wifely duties at such a perfect and high rate what will my husband be doing? To me, he sounded lazy, unwilling and non-committal to making any house a home.

My inquisitive reasoning about this imaginary husband grew when I began to attend Missionettes (think Girl Scouts learning evangelical lessons). My teachers would teach me and other girls about what they thought was the right way to carry yourself as a woman and what was appropriate dating behavior. My childhood friend Tiffany attended these classes with me and we would often debate our teachers about these topics to the point of us asking if the boys in the church were receiving the same advice and/or lessons.

Our teachers couldn’t give us an answer.

When I asked millennial women what they thought about the suffocating relationship advice or guidance they’ve received, they told me that it’s usually based on fiction, pressure, and lack of boundaries. Author and journalist Megan Braden-Perry told me advice is no longer needed when a woman reaches a certain age because she’ll know that no two men are the same so it’s better to trust your intuition than navigate dating with rigid circumstantial advice.

Married Health professional Crystal Anderson
said the best advice she received was from people who simply
shared their personal experiences instead of shoving their ideals onto her.
Though she has had friends who’ve experienced the opposite, she believes this
issue is rooted in lack of boundaries.

Two marketing interns who recently graduated
college shared that they were over being told to be “the best version of
themselves” on first dates because that usually meant to be extremely polished
and aligned with their date’s wants and needs.

Truth be told, what is void in the
dating/self-help world for women is the lesson of free will, a topic that
doesn’t focus on looks, education, religion or sexual orientation but rather on
choices.

Free will is about behaving without heavily relying on the beliefs of fate and destiny. Instead of thinking that a Higher Power will manifest circumstances the way you believe they should, you use your own power to get what you want or what you think you deserve. It’s not socializing a gender of people to
constantly consult with their families, pastors, prayer partner, astrologer,
tarot reader, life coach and therapist about how to make an exclusive,
committed, healthy and functioning relationship happen.

It’s not about unnerving dating apps or
unavailable men who may make women feel like a relationship is a pot of gold to
be found after they go through the maze of murky emotional lows. It doesn’t
mean you’re not ready to be in a relationship just because the object of your
affection is not coming at you with lightning-bolt speed to make you his
person. And it doesn’t mean that you didn’t do enough spiritual work to attain
such a blessing or that your vagina doesn’t have the right tightness, taste or
smell.

When we became romantically involved, my
boyfriend told me he wasn’t interested in pursuing a relationship with anyone.
As much as I felt butterflies for him and loved soaking up the insatiable sex
he provided I wasn’t about to play the “Lauren Isn’t Enough” game that I played
too many times to admit. I used the opportunity to get to know other men who
may have been more aligned with what I wanted. Though, I never received the
opportunity to find out if magic could happen with the latter because my
boyfriend changed his mind and asked if we can commit to each other and not
anyone else. And although our relationship is reminiscent of our favorite
Aaliyah song, “Hot Like Fire,” I know my boyfriend (or myself) may change our
minds with time; leading us more in love or out of it. But one thing is for
certain, those free will choices will probably never have anything to do with
how many times I’ve been to church or cooked for him, the moments I hate myself
or how many times I find myself curving my back and perching my ass on the
dance floor.

Do you use prayer as your main source to finding and maintaining a relationship?

Lauren R.D. Fox is a Guyanese-American pop culture/beauty editor and writer who has an undying love for soca fetes, poulorri, New Orleans and deep conditioners. After graduating from SUNY Geneseo with a dual concentration in American and Black Studies, she became a journalist and social media manager. Lauren has previously written for MadameNoire, Mayvenn Hair, Wetpaint, Enstarz, Her Agenda, Zora Magazine and B.Couleur Magazine. Follow her at @LOLOTHEFOX.

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