Those of us who love R&B music and spent the 1980s growing up or growing into our lives remember the song “Just The Way You Like It” by The S.O.S. Band.
Do you recall the lyrics?
“You have been single for a long time and I don’t want to cramp your style…as long as I can be your number one you can still have your fun whenever you need love, I can give it to you just the way you like it…you keep your other girls until you settle down, until you get bored, I can give it to you just the way you like it…”
Such a catchy song. I remember singing it with so much passion and confidence as a girl. I didn’t know what the lyrics truly meant and I didn’t know that they would in many ways conflict with my beliefs, values, and morals—but that there was also one principle represented in the song that would be the guiding standard I would measure all relationships, and would escape me in most.
Let me explain.
I’m a person who values monogamy, faithfulness, and loyalty in monogamous relationships. I don’t cheat and I don’t tolerate cheating—even though I stayed in relationships where men cheated on me, but that’s for another post.
I’m not going to “share” you with another person if we agreed in the beginning on “no sharing”, just so later on you can decide on your own to break the rules and go dabble in someone else’s yard.
I’m also a person that believes that if we are truly honest about our wants, needs, desires, expectations, and standards then we can maturely engage in a relationship of our shared liking.
If you want to freely date and be intimate (on whatever level) with other people, then that should be clearly articulated at the beginning and throughout the life of every relationship you form. Because I’m also a believer that open relationships are a mutually agreed upon arrangement. So we both have to agree to not be exclusive and monogamous, or to be exclusive in one area of our life but not in another area.
I’ve been involved with men where we made clear, upfront, that we are not dating exclusively, that we are dating other people, so that also means we are intimate on some level with these other people. The clear communication reduces confusion and hurt feelings. You shouldn’t be upset when you see me (or hear that I’m out) with another man because you already know that I’m not exclusively dating you. The same is true in reverse.
Well, let me clarify–I better not, or should I say, “I bet not” see a man I’m dating out on a date with another man (even though I’ve suspected at least one man I used to be involved with of doing so). We never discussed that, I never agreed to it and for me, that’s a deal breaker. For me. Whatever floats your boat, it just doesn’t float mine.
However, if “blended” relationships (in whatever context) are agreed upon between two people then there should be no reason for discord when you see the other person dating another person regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
If you and your partner are into dating and/or having sex with multiple people, multiple genders, or a blend of the two all at the same time—there are rules of engagement that should be clear and mutually agreed upon, and frequently reinforced. I’m not interested in sharing a bed with more than one person, so you can guess my answer to this request.
I strongly believe that people should be honest about their intentions, desires, wants and needs. If you want multiple wives or husbands, have no desire to marry, don’t want children (or you do), you’re bisexual, bicurious, a swinger, love the BDSM life, have fantasies of being a part of the mile high club, or you’re simply against monogamy—tell the person you’re getting to know these things upfront before feelings, emotions, labels, expectations, and roles are set.
If you are extremely conservative and only engage in relationships based on your traditional conservative upbringing, then make this clear in the beginning.
What are your dealbreakers?
State them upfront not when the person has crossed your boundary.
What does all of this have to do with the song “Just The Way You Like It“? Keep reading and you will find out.
We have more issues in relationships because we aren’t being honest and communicating fully and frequently with a depth that is required to put ‘all of our cards on the table’.
It’s not even good enough to say “let’s not complicate our relationship” because what exactly does that mean to you? It may mean something totally different to the other person. What makes something complicated or not? And doesn’t using the term “relationship” already make things feel a little weighted and intense. “Friends with benefits” doesn’t seem as intense as “relationship”. A “relationship” sounds and feels deeper, more connected and intimate. A “hookup” or “booty call” doesn’t. They sound casual.
What is the casual equivalence of “booty call” when sex is not involved? Hmmm….I suppose that would just be a friendship. Then why do we complicate and blur things by calling a sexual relationship a “friendship”?
Can you see how even the things we perceive to be “little” should be discussed and made crystal clear so that there’s no confusion and room for potential future conflict?
Imagine talk shows and “reality tv” shows if everyone was open and honest. We wouldn’t have drama, no “you’re the father” results, no need for the TV show “Cheaters”. If everyone knew where they stood and the predefined boundaries weren’t crossed, there would be no need for some of these shows. Love & Hip Hop and similar shows wouldn’t be half as appealing if no one was being cheated on. Track how much time is being dedicated to drama tied to romantic encounters.
The withholding of information, secrecy, lies, game-playing, and cheating makes for great television, and makes courts and divorce lawyers wealthier.
Keep tracking with me as I’m tying it all back to this song.
I have a personal example that I would like to share. The song made me think about my life and decisions that I’ve made.
I was in the transition phase after ending a long-term relationship and I became casually involved with a man that I met at a friend’s party. Although we sort of discussed the casualness of our interaction and that we didn’t want to “complicate it“, we immediately and over time complicated it by engaging on some levels like a couple, but since we never clearly addressed and identified our roles in each other’s life our lines were always blurred. We spoke in what I can now articulate as coded inferences, but not clear expectations and rules of engagement. Maybe it was the thought of “rules” and “boundaries” that caused us to avoid having genuine conversations about us.
As I started meeting other men I would tell him about these other men and he would give me advice at the same time jokingly make comments that seemed as though he wanted me for himself. I didn’t take serious his comments that stated his desire for what would resemble a (genuine) dating relationship with me. I assumed he was joking or just testing me because it contradicted what he initially stated as his desires to “not complicate our friendship“.
He seemed content being single even though he would sometimes say he wanted more. He even admitted to feeling awkward and jealous about the time and intensity of my relationships with other men. He didn’t feel comfortable feeling like he had to compete for my attention. He even slipped up and admitted a level of love for me, then tried to joke around to lighten its impact. He would try to make light of his declarations that I was his. I would laugh with him but would always silently wonder.
When he and I would spend time together it was passionate and there was a strong chemistry, and I’m not just speaking in sexual terms, I mean in general (but the former is also true) but you could also feel our struggle to “not complicate it” and so to keep us from spiraling I eventually suggested that we part ways. I could feel his energy and I also knew that I was developing strong feelings for him…like, you know…love.
I also knew what he told me from the beginning, he wasn’t interested in getting married again or having any more children (he had two from his previous marriage)—so I knew that there’s no way we could be a couple because I wanted children and possibly even marriage (the latter was a complicated concept at that time in my life).
We thought that these vastly different desires and outlooks would make the casualness of our arrangement easier. We could pretend on a certain level to have some of the benefits of being a couple but without the labels, and with the freedom to date other people. He could put me in a box and take me down when he wanted me. He didn’t have the pressure to bring me around family and friends, and I wasn’t pushing for those introductions and interactions. We didn’t have the pressures of celebrating holidays together because we kept those occasions separate from our world.
I found myself spending more time with another man who was showing me the level of attention that I honestly wanted from “Mr. Uncomplicated”. It was easier, in my mind, to give in to the pursuits of another male suitor (not him) than to put on my grown woman heels and tell this man who was increasingly capturing my heart, that we needed to have a grown folks talk about us and what we truly want. We didn’t want to “complicate” what we had so we were willing to part ways to protect that. It was and is as stupid as it sounds.
Our “relationship” was a walking contradiction filled with inconsistencies and complications. Maybe things would’ve been different had we said upfront “we’re gonna strictly be friends with benefits, contact me when you want to hang out or when you just want a booty call, but we’re not exclusive and are free to date, spend time, and be intimate with other people of the opposite sex“.
But then again, maybe not.
I tried that approach during and after college and each time it backfired. The men always “caught feelings” and couldn’t handle sharing me with other men; they wanted to date me exclusively—although each and every time they were the ones who proposed this “friends with benefits” arrangement.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we all share and exchange energy and the more you engage with a person, the greater the bond that is formed.
That bond now complicates a casual arrangement.
Now it’s like someone trying to play with your G.I. Joe or Barbie without your permission, you’re filled with all kinds of emotions and can’t see straight. You don’t want to share your G.I. Joe or Barbie. It doesn’t matter that you left it outside on the playground, it’s yours and you don’t want anyone else playing with it.
So months later when “Mr. Uncomplicated” contacted me and we reconnected, we further complicated our “arrangement”. My baggage mixed with his and once again we never fully communicated our desires, wants, needs, expectations and standards. We didn’t clearly outline the rules of engagement. We just foolishly restated that we didn’t want to “complicate things between us” which once again translates to two dummies about to complicate things.
Our lack of communication and our mixed signals that we sent led us to create a fence between us. His desire (seemingly) to not blur the lines meant he kept what we had in a “box” that did not mingle with the other “boxes” in his life. He attended events that I would see through pictures but never in person, and he would have to see my separate life through pictures.
My desire to make him feel like I was doing my part to keep it casual meant that I was speaking boldly in absolutes that made clear I had no interest in a relationship, although that was far from the truth. I would joke about my interests in dating other men. I would tell him the types of women he should date, which would always exclude me. I would tell him how he should cut women slack and be more open in his interactions with them, but I positioned myself to never be one of those women.
The crazy thing is we both wanted what the other provided but admitting that mean’t “complicating things”.
I recall the night I slipped and said I loved him, but didn’t think he heard me. He did. He mentioned it the next day. I was dismissive and nervously laughed through it.
Oh my goodness was I now violating our pact to not complicate things?
So what did I do to remedy this? I verbally and on many levels emotionally helped to further separate us and at some point I’m sure that I hurt or offended him, or both. He started pulling away, flaking on dates, called and texted less frequently, and when he did text it didn’t feel like I was speaking to him most of the time. It became clear that the fence between us was too high and he was no longer interested in me. The reality that he could be more interested in someone else was also a pill I had to swallow.
What had we done? How did we get here? Why did we reunite just to damage something that was special to us? To me?
Strange how that can happen with something as casual as “let’s not complicate this”. Now two people are hurt and offended.
I never got the chance to openly and honestly tell him what I wanted, needed, expected, and what I would be willing to give in return. I never got the chance to tell him how I felt about him and how I felt about spending time with him.
I would’ve enjoyed dating him and having the freedom to date others.
I would’ve also enjoyed dating him exclusively.
We wasted so much time sending clues and signals, dropping hints, playing games of avoidance (so not to appear “sprung”)—but never being mature enough to sit down as two adults and have an honest conversation about what mattered most to us.
I enjoyed our friendship. I enjoyed spending time with him, going out to dinner, sampling his food (yes he can cook), watching and talking about sports, planning trips and excursions together (although things ended before we had a chance to travel together). I enjoyed our phone calls and the random text messages.
I enjoyed the steps of falling…
…in love with him….
I loved how I felt when I was with him, how he looked at me, how he held my hand or when he would reach across the table to touch my hand or arm. His energy shot through me. Just like one of his magnetic kisses. So intense. So telling. Yet we said nothing.
I loved how he said my name and how he would call me out for being judgmental. I loved his voice, his eyes, his smile, how he walked, and his laugh. I loved how thoughtful he was and how he would stop by my apartment and bring me food. He would check on me when I wasn’t feeling well. He would also check to make sure I was eating since I can go hours forgetting to eat and then I’m left starving.
I loved that we are both diehard fans of the LA Lakers. I loved that he never genuinely badmouthed my Dallas Cowboys like I would his beloved team. He would even cheer for my team when they weren’t playing his.
I loved how passionate he is about life, his family, his career, and the organizations and activities that he’s involved with. Being a family-person myself, his love of family was what really attracted me to him. Of course his hot looks clearly mesmerized me, but even the sexiest of people can grow to look ugly on the outside if what’s in the inside is ugly. So for me this was a bonus—a man who puts God first, family second, and career third. Oh yeah he’s a winner in my book!
But we messed up because although we thought we clearly communicated what our arrangement was and wasn’t, what our relationship was and wasn’t—we didn’t. We threw gum on the wall and hoped it stuck. We hoped the other knew what we meant when we said or did something. We struggled with honestly expressing our feelings and desires, out of fear that our declaration would “complicate things”. We avoided confronting what was staring us both in the face.
It’s sad because we could have had a healthy relationship on our terms, built the way that we saw fit—as casual or formal as we wanted. We never got to travel together. We missed some of the events, concerts, and venues we planned to attend together. We never danced together. Not once. And we both love to dance.
We made plans but never kept them. We disconnected because what held us together wasn’t meant for “complicated” and we clearly were complicated.
So now FINALLY…back to the song “Just The Way You Like It“…
Do you know what makes this song work for the singer/writer?
Clear and honest communication.
She knows that this man has been single for years and is showing no signs of settling down into a committed and monogamous relationship anytime soon. She also knows that it is his decision, not hers or anyone else’s, as to when he chooses monogamy or not.
You can’t force a person to pick you or to be monogamous to you. It’s their decision. They have to have a desire to be with you and only you. If they don’t, there’s nothing that you can do or say to change that.
The songstress in “Just The Way You Like It” is mature enough to know this fact. She tells the man to keep doing his thing, keep dating and having sex with other women, but she has one request—she wants to be his number one; she wants to be the one he calls when he’s tired of the others; she wants to be the one he chooses when he decides he’s indeed 100% ready to be in a monogamous relationship. For her, she’s okay with the casualness of their interaction, their relationship. She knows what she wants and needs from him and she states it boldly.
Interesting enough she never says that she too will be free to date and be intimate with other men (or women, or both), so we’re left to wonder if she’s the woman that just waits to receive whatever he has left to give (which repulses many women)—or if she’s the woman empowered to say, “you get yours because I’m gonna get mine, and when you’re ready to make this just a you-and-me thing then let me know because I will be ready…” which can freak out a lot of men.
We’re left with questions.
You could always attempt to piece together where she stands by listening to the rest of The S.O.S. Band’s album.
After reading this super long post I leave you with these questions…
1) What are your expectations and standards about love, sex and intimacy, and relationships?
2) To what extent will you go to clearly articulate these things to others?
3) Do you honestly believe it’s possible to have casual relationships without complicating them with the attributes of a more formal, “traditional” relationship? Why?
Honest, open, and full communication is key. Plain and simple. That way you can have things just the way you like it!
Copyright 2018. Natasha L. Foreman/Natasha Foreman Bryant. All Rights Reserved.