A significant proportion of unhealthy relationships are the result of the failure to differentiate between a man, who is merely an adult male, and a Grown man. Sadly, too many men were never taught how to be Grown (or worse, had role models who taught them anything but Grown manhood), and too many women don’t know one when they see or meet one—or are too willing to settle for less, at least as a “placeholder.”
One result is that many women fail to set a healthy, self-loving standard for relationships, instead accepting the best of the men available to them and trying to motivate, bribe, guilt or coerce them (using sex, affection, money and even procreation) into Grown manhood. The theory: If I love him right (or enough, or however he wants it, or more than anyone else has or can), then I can change him into the man he was meant/I want him/I need him to be.
The reality: You can’t. Living in the Grown Zone means recognizing that it is not your responsibility, nor is it within your power, to change, fix or control the behavior of another person with your love. (And if you’re counting on sex, even if you can put it on him better than anyone else can, that will not change established habits; it can only reward existing—including unwanted—behavior. Sex is a form of approval, not correction.)
A man who is not Grown can’t change for you. And a man who is Grown will only change for himself, out of a commitment to his own personal growth and who he chooses to be, not who you want him to be. By the way, attempting to manipulate a Grown man will result in his distrust, resentment and, ultimately rejection of you. So forget what you may have been taught, by your girlfriends, movies, books and even your mother, about using sex, money or emotional blackmail to get, keep and control a good man.
So rather than trying to take a “piece of man” and somehow make a whole one out of him, better to learn to differentiate between a Grown man and merely an adult male right from jump, before you even consider relationship options. First, take your time. How much time? As much time as it takes. Until you confirm that a man is a Grown man, it’s best, as an act of self-love, to assume he’s not. (And if you can’t stand to wait, that’s a sign that you still have some personal growth work to do.)
At first glance, there is little apparent difference between a man (merely an adult male) and a Grown man. Don’t go by appearances; go by behavior over time (before you give access to your body, money, heart or home), during which you should be both observing and investigating his character, habits and track record. This is not an all-inclusive, exhaustive list, but he’s not Grown if:
- He does not hold himself accountable for the outcomes of his choices, but blames others and refuses to share responsibility. He’s not Grown if he sees himself as a victim: of women, of his upbringing, of discrimination, of society, whatever. Watch out for the man who has nothing good to say about his family, his exes, other women, other men or “them,” and constantly talks about what “they” did or are doing to him.
A Grown man understands that it’s not everyone else’s fault. He blames no one (not even himself), but shares responsibility and is personally accountable for the outcomes of his choices, learning from and using them to make better decisions, fuel his personal growth and expand his capacity to bring value (love) to the lives of others.
- He views violence as an acceptable and even desirable form of human interaction. This is not limited to those who engage in physical abuse, but also those who practice verbal and emotional violence, saying and doing things specifically aimed at controlling, hurting and/or punishing others. In extreme cases, not only is violence a less-than-Grown man’s preferred means of dealing with conflict, but he actually seeks conflict in order to create opportunities for verbal, emotional and even physical violence. When a man is always getting into arguments and fights—at work, with his family, at the club—that’s a bad sign. And if you find that acceptable—or even attractive—that’s an even bigger red flag.
A Grown man is skilled at avoiding conflict and adept at resolving it without resorting to violence. He is committed to creating and maintaining safe (including emotionally), secure, peaceful and healthy environments for himself and others, especially women and children. It’s not that a Grown man won’t or can’t handle physical confrontation. (Great examples are professional football players who engage in controlled physical violence for a living, but would never think of it as an acceptable form of conflict resolution away from the game.) It’s just that he rarely—if ever—has to, and certainly takes no pleasure in doing so.
- He is unable to control himself—or worse, sees no reason to. A man that does not control the urges of his own body cannot be trusted to honor, esteem and respect yours. (Those of you who think he’ll treat you differently because you are the one he really loves/not like those other “hoes”/a Woman of GOD, think again.)
In the Grown Zone, we describe such lack of self-control, when expressed in sexual terms, as “penis-led.” But it also applies to an inability or unwillingness to exercise self-discipline in other areas of his life, ranging from getting to work on time, to managing his finances, to controlling his temper. If a man’s conversations and track record are full of “what had happened was” and “but it wasn’t my fault” stories, he is not Grown.