In my opinion, Lauryn Hill is one of the most insightful music artists of my time. Now, don’t get me wrong, there have been many before her, and a few after her (music has suffered so much since the beginning of its end in the 1990s). But her debut album dropped at a pivotal time in my life. I was navigating the stage of life at which my independence, self-discipline, personal values, and perspective were all colliding in the process of becoming an adult.
I was in a relationship that I felt was perfectly described by “Ex-Factor” which is my all time favorite Lauryn Hill cut. Who uses reciprocity in a song? (There’s that #GrammarSnob creeping up again.) It seemed that she peeled back the layers of my life and saw straight to the heart of the matter. And then, she wrote my feelings down, those things I was unable to articulate on my own, and set them to music. I had an epiphany. And I made it my mission to be clear in my communication, to leave nothing open to interpretation, even if it meant putting my heart on the line.
Communication. Language. Interaction. It can make a relationship or break a relationship. I won’t bore you with the different types of communication, or the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus ideologies. We all know that men and women communicate in different ways and receive messages and love in different forms. So the real question is whether or not you are in tune to that difference, and do you capitalize on it in your attempts to communicate with your man.
Tell him because he may not understand it
As post-liberation movement women, we are taught that Independence is our goal in life. Modern culture promotes gender equality on all levels and the traditional gender roles of the 1950s are no more. From Rosie the Riveter to Wonder Woman to Foxy Brown to Independent Women paying their own Bills, Bills, Bills, we are taught that we can do it all on our own. And we can do it just as good as, if not better than a man. We are conditioned that asking for help or seeking support is a demonstration of weakness. As an African-American woman, I find myself facing the double (minority) standard of needing to be three times as capable to be considered competent. Coupled with the stereotypical images of the aggressive Black woman, and not only am I not allowed to ask for help but if I do I am somehow rendered no longer qualified.
This is not much different from the “be a man” mantra hammered into men, young and old alike. So now, everyone is strong and mighty, and no one’s needs are actually being met. That’s unhealthy and unrealistic.
“God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” James 4:6b NASB
Tell him because he needs to hear it
Don’t be the one in the relationship that won’t communicate your needs. In marriage and relationships, it can be especially difficult to communicate one’s needs. You may be thinking, “We’ve been together for ____ years and you still don’t know this?” Let me assure, he does not understand it they way you assume he does, or he would not have to ask. The road to a healthy relationship is being able to say “I need…,” and be assured that you will be heard and every attempt to meet that need will be made.
Now, we often run into problems because of the way we choose to express our needs as the other person’s deficiency. Rarely do we say “It would really be nice if you” rather than “You’re not doing.” Or maybe we don’t say anything at all, and those other forms of communication begin to surface – primarily a shift in body language. Pride is an unduly high opinion of oneself – your issues are not always his problem. And if God opposes pride, why wouldn’t you expect your husband (or fiancee or boyfriend) to do the same?
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 NKJV
Tell him because you love him and yourself
When we humble ourselves enough to gently ask for that which we need, we are more likely to reach the heart of our mates, and get that reciprocity we seek. Men need to feel important and needed, whether they admit it not. My husband loves the fact that there is a need of mine that can only be met by him and him alone. What better way to make him feel like a man? To make him feel like your man? A provider and leader in your family? But as a woman you have to be willing to lay it on the line and trust that he loves you enough to meet your needs. Let’s evaluate how that love should look and feel.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NKJV
Lauryn Hill masterfully walks through 1 Corinthians 13 in “Tell Him” in a way that forces us to face our own personal issues in the process of communication – those lies we often tell ourselves and cover up so no one else will know about it. But the recurring motif, the refrain, the hook, the most important message of the song is to tell him. When you have a need, let down your guard, set aside your pride, open up your heart and tell him.