Relationships

Big Girls Don’t Cry

I used to recite the last line of Fergie’s 2006 hit song every time I was hurt and overwhelmed. There were days when I locked myself in a bathroom stall at school or at work and repeated those words to myself over and over, grasping desperately at the million pieces of my heart as they fell. Of course, it did not take long for me to realize that reciting ‘big girls don’t cry’ to oneself is not the same as calling candyman in front of the mirror five times. A hook does not appear out of nowhere to wipe away your tears or replace the pain in your heart with warmth. I am not even sure if the candyman thing works, but with a Jordan Peele movie in the works, I am not about to test it.

I quickly accepted that tears were an unavoidable part of my journey and heck, they were refreshing. In the years that followed Fergie’s song release, I stopped believing I was weak whenever I cried. On several occasions, I left my desk and purposefully strolled to the bathroom to have a good cry. As tears rolled down my face, I would say words like “breathe”, “it will get better”, “this is not the end of you”, “you can do this”…. and many more affirmative phrases that could get me through difficult times. But as I grew to accept this side of me, I started to realize that the world was not ready to.

I am not supposed to cry. But I do, and I have found that not many people can understand how a strong woman like me can have meltdowns

You see, I look nothing like teary-eyed Demi who stands in front of a bathroom mirror to affirm herself. I am what the world refers to as a strong woman. When I open my mouth to speak at meetings, I speak from a point of comprehension. Except for social gatherings, I hate speaking just for the sake of speaking. I have been told that my resting face is intimidating. I am the world’s description of a strong woman. A machine. A boss lady. A woman who slays all day every day. I am not supposed to cry. But I do, and I have found that not many people can understand how a strong woman like me can have meltdowns and be heartbroken when things turn sour or are overwhelming. This perception is hurting me and women who are like me, especially when it comes from the people we love or people we expect to see us beyond our steel exterior.

I remember sitting with a love interest once and expressing my fear of the future. I was at the tail-end of my masters degree and unsure of what to do next. I told him how terrified I was and how I just felt unsure of myself. His response to the outpouring of my heart put an end to that kind of conversation between us. He said “I thought you were supposed to be a strong woman.”

Last year, I was sharing my anxious thoughts with a person I have known intimately for seven years. I was again at crossroads and on the cusp of making life-changing decisions. As a single person, I needed a sounding board, a person I could express myself to without reservation. His response took me aback and left me feeling unsure of myself. “I have seen a different side to you since this conversation started. A side that’s driven by anxiety and fear.” He didn’t say it was distasteful but his facial expression told me all I needed to know.

Recently, a friend shared how her boyfriend always said she was not confident whenever she expressed any kind of emotional response to work, life or love. “You are supposed to be confident”, he would always say.

There is a perception of strong women that the men who date them fail to look beyond. They see the steel exterior, the slay warrior, the boss lady, the machine, and they think that is all there is to her. They believe she always has life on lockdown, and often become shocked when this mean machine needs a shoulder to cry on. How can she cry? She’s supposed to be a machine!

Here’s something to bear in mind: machines, no matter how excellently they function, always need maintenance. Without consistent, top quality maintenance, machines break down. Now, I am not saying women are machines. We are not work horses who simply receive instructions and churn out outputs. What I am saying is that it is important for the men who date and marry strong women to realize that they need care, love and sometimes, cushioning from harsh realities. We don’t always have life on lockdown. Many times, we have questions that have no answers. We cry when a boss says something mean or when life does not make sense. We feel anxious when we are making big decisions and we sometimes question our approach to situations.

In these vulnerable moments, we do not want to be told we are not confident or strong. We don’t want to see or hear expressions of distaste that make us wonder if we are letting down the entire human race. We simply want to be seen for what we are – complex, multifaceted, human. Yes, we go out on some days and slay the devil to hell. On other days, we want to sit with you on the couch and cry about how horrible work is while eating a tub of salted caramel ice cream. We want the men who care about us to see the vulnerable, the unkempt and the ugly. They are the different parts that come together to make us the strong slay warriors you love.

So, next time your strong girlfriend has a meltdown and starts to open up, don’t shut her down with Fergie’s “big girls don’t cry”. Instead, be a shield and a cushion, and believe that Sia was on to something when she sang “big girls cry when their hearts are breaking.”

XOXO

Featured image: bustle.com

Relationships

Love is Enough

For years I bought into a fallacious ideology. I repeated it to myself day in, day out, telling myself it was the only explanation for the beautiful stories that turned sour. I preached it from the rooftops and did not miss an opportunity to enlighten everyone I came across. I did not want them to walk around with flowery thoughts of love, thinking it was all that they needed to feel seen and known, so I told them, with the greatest passion I could muster, that love is not enough. I argued it could never be enough, and when people seemed to be optimistic, I gave them all the reasons why it could never be enough.

It has been years and through no direct effort of my own, I am coming to an enlightening – an enlightening to the sufficiency of love; an awakening to how enough love is. So many times, we say love is not enough because in our human-limited minds and due to our selfish nature, we cannot fathom the idea that something as simple-sounding as love is everything. We assume love is about the butterflies in the tummy, and that when those butterflies fail to flutter, it means love has left the room. But what we fail to understand is the depth to which genuine love runs – how it fills every encounter with respect; how it empowers and releases us to be greater than we ever thought possible; how it searches deep within to reveal joyful parts of ourselves that we did not even know existed; how it takes us from a selfish stance to a position where we desire to please the one we love, not with the aim of convincing them to love us back, but with the desire to see them smile.

I have spent a lot of time in November reflecting on my beliefs and the ideologies I peddle out, and this one is one that really stuck out for me. We often say love is not enough in two situations: 1.) When love is not mutual and we are too afraid to accept this fact and 2.) when love is not genuine and to make up for this, we try to split it into many independent parts.

When love is not mutual, it hurts, and because it hurts, we say it is not enough to build anything substantial. When love is not genuine, we split it. We say love is not enough. We claim it needs respect, support and a partner who puts in the effort as accessories. But how are these things independent of love. If respect, support and effort are absent from love, is it really love? If our relationship decisions are from a selfish standpoint, to satisfy our selfish desires, can we really say it’s love?

Love is all-encompassing. It is gentle and kind even in the most heated moments. It does not give up. It sees the flaws but chooses to focus on the flawless parts. It makes us grow. It makes us feels feel seen and known. It brings us joy. Yes, even in love we are not always happy, but deep within the cloud of unhappiness, we know there is joy, genuine admiration, support, respect, and peace. Love feels like home. It’s where we give and give, but never feel like we are losing anything, because just as much as we give, we are given in return.

I have come to the conclusion that love is enough because it has everything we deeply yearn for.

Relationships

#Sexforgrades: It is that simple

A few months ago in Toronto, I had dinner with a Nigerian male colleague. As we sat to enjoy a spread of delicious Cantonese meals, our conversation drifted towards women’s rights and practices in the workplace. With glee in his eyes and admiration in his voice, this colleague told me about how young girls in his former workplace in Nigeria were often harassed by their male bosses and were at risk of losing their jobs if they did not oblige the men who owned all the power. When my face contorted in response to what he was saying, he quickly issued a disclaimer:

“These men are very gentle men. They don’t harass the women like that. They ask calmly and pay the girls a lot of money. In fact, one of my bosses gave a young lady a huge sum of money to shop for new clothes.”

“Were her clothes tattered?” I asked

He laughed. “No. He saw her in a skirt and said he preferred her in skirts so he gave her money to buy more skirts.”

My face contorted even more. He continued.

“Look this man is a married man. Everyone knows he loves his wife. He just likes to play with the girls at work but he respects his wife a lot.”

“What if the girls at work don’t want to play with him?”

“Then, they will lose their jobs. It’s that simple.” He said.

When #sexforgrades started trending, I remembered those words. I remembered the finality of his tone and in some way felt the helplessness of the women who had been told to give in to the will of tyrannous men or lose their jobs, their education, their promotions, and every other thing they worked hard for because in the minds of these rapists, the choice was just that simple. You either want to have sex with your boss or be unemployed. You either want to meet up with your lecturer in a hotel room or fail a course you are good at. In the minds of these rapists, there is no in-between where what the women want and deserve gets any attention. If the desires of the men are not fulfilled, then the women lose. If the desires of the men are fulfilled, the women still lose. As far as the men are concerned, it is that simple.

The trending hashtag on sex for grades is not exposing a new culture in Nigerian universities. If anything at all, it is exposing the historical practices of men who have an erroneous perception of ownership over women’s bodies, women’s rights and women’s access to resources. These men, who are cushioned and protected by the a strong rape culture in Nigeria believe that they are invincible, and will go to any length to ensure they conquer a headstrong female who tickles their fancy. Interestingly, they also launch attacks against young men who are friends with the women they intend to rape, sometimes saying to them “how can you a young man want to eat what the elders like to eat?” In other words, how can a young man dare to compete with a lecturer/boss for the attention of a woman the boss desires strongly to rape?

Rape, either through coercion or intimidation is a well-known practice and many can attest to the fact that it is woven into the fabric of many institutions. Yet, sexual harassment policies in Nigerian institutions are non-existent. Instead, rules are made to control what women wear. Shorts skirts are considered an invitation to be raped, and in a country where the heat from the sun is hot enough for you to cook an egg on the sidewalk, wearing camisoles to the classroom is considered an invitation to be harassed by your educator or even your male colleagues.

When women report harassment in these institutions, they are often asked to verify they did not ask for it with questions such as:

“what were you wearing?”

“why were you walking on the same side of the road as him?”

“why did you sit in front in class?”

With such questions following reports of sexual assault, it is no wonder the rape culture in Nigeria thrives gloriously. Tyrannous men are brazen in their pursuits of their prey, because they know that even if they are reported, there will always be a way to absolve themselves of taking responsibility for the heinous crimes they commit against women.

In the wake of #sexforgrades, women have been advised to avoid the lecturers who harass them by skipping classes, told not to wear makeup to class so they are not attractive to lecturers and in some tweets, women have been advised to avoid showering, wear unattractive clothing and sit at the back of the classroom so they can protect themselves from rapey lecturers whose zeal for life lie in their desire to break and humiliate the young women they have been employed to educate. As far as society is concerned, it is really that simple.

There are many simple approaches we could take to sexual harassment in Nigerian institutions. The government could prioritize the development of a sexual harassment policy; there could be weighty consequences for people who are reported for harassment; there could be disciplinary action against those who support and protect the culture of harassment. There could be many simple approaches that will ensure women are not treated as mere objects or game caught in the midst of several traps.

But instead, many seek to justify harassment and in cases where there is proof beyond doubt, women are asked to forgive and let God judge. Why?

Because in a country where rape is culture, it is difficult to draw the line between normalcy and sexual harassment. It is difficult to understand why women are so angry that their bodies are considered fair game. It is difficult to see why they feel humiliated after they are raped, coerced and harassed. While it may be clear-cut in regions where women’s rights are a priority, in Nigeria, it is not just that simple.

Featured image: from harassed.com

Relationships

Mills and Boon – A First Introduction to Toxic Love

The first time I fell in love with the idea of falling in love, I had a mills and boon novel in my hands. These books depicted what perfect love looked like. They made me, and almost every girl I knew who read them warm and fuzzy inside. It was an introduction to a world we were too young to experience, yet impressionable enough to look forward to. The happy endings were all that mattered as I raced through every story to the end of the novel. I wanted to read about the declaration of love, the moment it happened and the acceptance of it. But I did not know that for most of my teenage years, these books would inform my approach to relationships.

A couple of weeks ago, I was speaking with a friend about my teenage life, expectations and relationships, and somehow, mills and boon books popped up in our conversation. With nostalgia in my tone, I shared how these books were perfect for old soul romantics who love chivalry and a good dose of thoughtful romance. I shared about how these books inspired me to seek romantic relationships and helped me develop love interests as a teenager. As I write this now, I realize that in itself was probably problematic but at the time of this conversation, the idea that these books inspired a teenager to actively seek romantic relationships was not the thought that stopped me in my tracks.

Something unexpected dawned on me as I dreamily rambled on about these books, and it did not have the nostalgic, exciting effect I had when the conversation first started. If anything, I was scared as the realization hit me. Mills and Boon did not just arouse the desire for romantic relationships in me and many other young girls I knew. It aroused the desire for toxic romantic relationships.

Think about it. In all the mills and boon novels I read, there was always a charming handsome man with a well-built body, blue or green eyes and a dose of arrogance to go with his looks. Then there was the woman – the object of his desire – innocent, naive and in many instances powerless in the face of his charm. They meet, and even though the attraction is clear from the start, there is a considerable amount of effort put into concealing this. The story goes on until perhaps the first kiss or maybe even sexual encounter. It is magical, everything she has ever dreamed of. It is a moment full of hope for the relationship she is now looking forward to. And this is where the stories often take a sad turn. He ‘disappears’.

He stops making contact, stops answering the phone and makes it a mission to walk past her when he bumps into her in public. She starts to question herself, starts to wonder if she read his emotions wrongly when they kissed or had sex. Eventually, she accepts that he is not into her and starts to hate him for making her fall in love with him. But…just at the time when she starts to hate him, he resurfaces, apologizes for his actions and opens up about his battle with personal demons. He confesses his love for her, explaining that the strong emotions provoked by this love made him ignore her, and somehow, they end up happily ever after. Not too shabby for a romantic story right?

But should this be how romantic stories go?

As I spoke with my friend two weeks ago, I realized that these books may have conditioned many women, including me, into believing toxic relationships where men pay a lot of attention on one day, and totally ignore our presence the next day is normal. They have planted seeds in the minds of women to make them believe that men who act aloof or ignore them after an encounter are simply battling their emotions and are not good at expressing what they feel to the women they desire. It creates the idea, in the minds of impressionable young girls that being ignored by a man who seemed to desire them is not enough reason to let go of him. A man who ignores you after leading you on is not a man you should cut off. Instead, the man is painted as one who is fighting personal demons when in reality, that is not the case. Many men who lead women on only to ignore them later are really not fighting any demons to be with said women. They are simply uninterested and in some cases, have moved on to new pursuits.

But, due to conditioning, which I do not place solely on the shoulders on mills and boon novels, many women tend to believe these men will be back. They await the day he is vulnerable with them and the tears-inducing declaration of love that will lead them to happily ever after. Sadly, for many, those days never come.

Did mills and boon novels influence your idea of relationships when you were young? Would love to read your experiences in the comments!

Post credits: featured image from notsalmon.com

Relationships

A hairdresser’s guide to keeping a man

For two weeks, I have been walking around like a woman who does not care much for appearance. With my hair undone and my eyebrows ‘unwaxed’, dressed in my joggers and a dowdy blue sweater, I have scared many people at the grocery store and on one occasion, scared myself as I walked past the mirror in my closet. While I don’t have any explanation for my choice of outfit these past couple of weeks, walking around with my super-coiled mass of hair boiled down to my lack of cornrow skills. If I knew how to cornrow my hair, my looks would have easily been sorted with a crotchet needle. But asking me to cornrow my own hair is equivalent to asking me to pee while walking – difficult and to be honest, unnecessary. Besides, I cherish the few times I am able to visit a salon to have my hair done.

So this week, when I finally admitted to myself that I could not continue to look like I had given up on my life, I went in search of a salon in the area. I dreaded the idea of going to the salon I tried a few months ago, where the hairdresser had insisted on how her hands can grow hair, yet left me with traction alopecia after my first plait. The other salon which is closest to my home has the most unfriendly set of faces I have ever seen. Every time I walk past, I wonder if they are gathered for mourning. I decided to check the high street and was lucky to find a well-located yet almost empty salon. The stylist greeted me with a warm smile, drawing me in with the assurance of her ability to cornrow my hair without inflicting pain on my scalp.

I felt assured and took a seat in front of the mirror. As she combed out my hair, she asked me the usual questions most people did. “Where are you from? How long have you lived in Johannesburg? How often do you go home?” I answered them as briefly as I could and was about to stick my nose in my cellphone when she asked me an unexpected question:

“How do you keep a man happy?”

Erm… Was this my moment to act like an expert on the subject of men and offer my own perspective of them as a woman? Nah. I told her I knew nothing about men and how to keep them happy but I wanted to know why she was asking.

“Well”, she began, “they have been teaching us in church about how to keep a man happy. We have a group where we exchange ideas and thoughts to help people build good relationships”

“Oh” I responded. “Is there a similar group for the men?”

She laughed “My sister, no. You know the responsibility of keeping the relationship alive falls on the woman.”

I tried to smile and failed. I could see in the mirror that what I had managed was more of a grimace than a smile. She continued speaking.

“There are three secrets we have learned to keep a man happy. The first is to make sure you are his peace. When he comes home, you need to be in a calm state of mind, ensure that the home is clean and the food is ready. The second is to learn what he likes and do it for him all the time. For example, my husband loves wrestling so I watch with him even though I don’t like it.”

She looked at my face, saw I had no intention to speak and continued.

“The third secret is to make sure you respect him. We women just need love, men need respect. That is why the bible says we should submit. So to keep a man happy, you must learn not to talk back during arguments and to just let him express himself. If you are a humble and quiet woman, even a bad man will change for you.”

I raised my eyebrows.

“Sister, you don’t believe me? Some men can go out and cheat but when they remember they have a good woman at home, they say ‘no, she does not deserve this’ and they return home.”

I almost chuckled but I didn’t. I was really interested in hearing more so I let her talk some more.

“For example, my husband does not watch Telemundo with me, while I am watching, he sends me on an errand and changes it to Africa Magic because that is what he likes – those movies where fire flies out of trees to strike people.”

Me: Why doesn’t he respect the fact that you like Telemundo?

Her:He thinks Telemundo is silly and unintelligent.

Me (in my head): but movies about crying trees unleashing balls of fire on unsuspecting villagers are not? What a wonder!

“So what do you do when he changes the channel before you return from the errand?” (the part about being sent on an errand was something I was still trying to understand)

“I go into the room to sleep. There is nothing else I can do. I can’t force him to like what I like, and though they have advised us in church to watch TV with our husbands, I just can’t stand those movies.”

“But you watch wrestling with him. Why not those movies?” I asked

“Ah! I can’t stand them. I watch the wrestling so he can know I at least have an interest in what he likes.”

“Shouldn’t he show an interest in what you like?”

“Sister! You know these men can easily find another woman that will do what you are not willing to do so you need to be ready to sacrifice.”

For the rest of my time in the salon, she shared many tips of how to keep a man – all of which centered around keeping the house clean so he returns to a place that feels like home with you as his peace, not talking back and doing only the things he likes so he does not feel tempted to go elsewhere.

As she plaited the end of the last row and I got up to leave, I turned to her and asked “do you really think these tips will help you keep your husband?”

She looked at me and for a few seconds seemed to be deep in thought before she shrugged “I don’t know my sister. Sometimes I think the people in this church group are just playing games with us.”

Credits: featured image from racked.com

Relationships

Why You’re Likely to Stay in a Bad Relationship

Have you ever wondered what the chances are that you’d stay in a bad relationship? Probably not. I never gave it much thought myself until I read an interesting article about how we as humans are likely to view investments. I can’t remember where I read the article or who the author was but I remember something stuck out to me about the way that he/she explained a person’s disposition to investments using the following scenario:

Let’s assume you go to the cinema to watch a movie. After scanning through available options, you settle on the one you think would be interesting. You pay for your ticket, grab your popcorn and head to the hall excitedly. A few minutes into the movie, you realize that it’s not along the lines of anything you like or it’s just really boring. What would you do?

There are two possibilities that may immediately come to mind:

  1. To sit through the movie and bear the boredom; afterall, you already paid for it. OR
  2. To leave the cinema hall the moment you realize the movie is not what you hoped it would be, and either pay for another movie that would give you what you need, or go elsewhere to have a good time.

According to the author of that article, most people are likely to choose option 1, i.e sit through a movie they do not like or are not likely to enjoy rather than leave the hall to choose a different movie or go do something else.

This got me thinking about why people stay in bad relationships. Why do people resort to sticking with unhappy relationships, abusive relationships, stuck-and-heading-nowhere relationships? Think about it: there are many people who say “we’ve been together for xx years so we just have to make it work” even though they know that their relationships are filled with bitterness, anger and resentment. There are people who prioritize the duration of their relationships over the quality of it and tend to focus on prolonging the duration rather than improving the quality.

This is because people worry about how much they have invested in a bad decision (in terms of time and money) and become obsessed with making it work. This kind of thinking continuously looks backwards and regurgitates the investments that have been made into the relationship rather than the returns on those investments. It’s a way of life that prevents many people from taking risks and daring to seek new possibilities. It’s a way of life many people have adapted to.

So here’s a challenge for you: Look back on your relationship and ask yourself if you have received returns on your investments? Please bear in mind that these returns should not include children. You do not need to invest your heart in a relationship to get a child so focus on other things like: are you respected? are you treated with love? Do you feel, in spite of the bumpy days that your partner will consistently support and care for you like you do for him/her? Are you confident, in spite of the turbulence you might face that your relationship is headed for a happy ending? That your relationship is filled with substance and not just symbols?

For once, forget about the investments you have made and ask yourself if you are happy in your partnership.

Because the truth is it does not matter how long you have been investng if you have been investing wrongly. It is equivalent to pouring water into a basket but refusing to stop because you have been at it for a very long time. The basket will never fill up and you will never stop pouring. So do what’s good for you.

XOXO

Relationships

Why Are We PREPARING for Bad Marriages?

If there is one thing that exhausts me on social media, it is the volume of opinions that are rammed down people’s throats as facts. There are so many opinions on social media these days that the thought of even logging onto facebook exhausts me. Even Twitter, my favourite social media app is becoming toxic by the day. And while Instagram is not that bad, I fail to understand the need to post pictures of my life so people can like them to feed my self-esteem.

Drained as I may be though, I am not one to sit around and leave people to believe erroneous opinions simply because I don’t want to be bothered. Nope… the thought of sitting around while people go on and on about how their opinions are facts is a bother on its own. Forget being a bother; it is a crime – one that relationship social media is constantly engaging in.

Image result for women in bad marriages
Source: MSU Today

For some time now, I have seen people post all kinds of advice about relationships. A few days ago, a lady on Twitter posted what she called a “survival kit” for young wives. She went to highlight that she had been married for 13 years, had three kids and had survived the damage she faced in her marriage. She went on to indicate that women who are preparing for marriage should be prepared to be “really really damaged” because that was a rite of passage of some sort. The post had many retweets, many nods, many agreements and a few outliers like myself who just did not agree.

You see, growing up, marriage was never packaged as a good thing to have, yet it was communicated as something that must be desired. Mothers and aunties often said in my language, “ile oko, ile eko” meaning a husband’s house is like a school. Now, if you attended the same schools in Nigeria that I did, you’d understand why this was certainly not something to look forward to. Marriage was packaged as a war front where your only chance of survival as a woman was to surrender yourself to some form of education and societally acceptable behaviour that would not in any way bring reproach to your husband. Some aunties went as far as highlighting that men could do whatever they wanted in marriage and it is your duty as a woman to build your home, lest you be regarded as foolish. Unfortunately, a bible verse was even used to further drive the message home:

“The wise woman builds her house; but with her own hands, the foolish one tears hers down” – Proverbs 14:1

And so I spent most of my childhood watching women scurry around to save their homes so they would not be regarded as foolish. Women stopped talking to their friends because their husbands did not want them to have friends. Women stopped working because their husbands did not like their line of work. Many women looked and still look the other way whenever their husbands chased women with shorter skirts and longer weaves…“At least he is not bringing them home”, they said. And as they built, some of their husbands tore down, leaving these women in the endless cycle of building and restoring. But that is not the worst of it. The worst thing is these women became mentors. They became the council of advisors for many women. They taught and still teach many young women to prepare for bad marriages.

“After one year, you will see changes in him”

“Once you hit ten years, the marriage becomes really tough” 

“The ups and downs get worse with time but you will be stronger because you will be used to him by then.”

Oh wow! Sign me up real quick for the forecasted suffering, will you?

I’m being sarcastic but many women do sign up. I remember seeing an advert for a book about getting rid of the other woman in your marriage and a young lady wrote a comment along the lines of “Where can I get a copy? I don’t have a man yet but I need to be prepared.”

Why are we constantly preparing for bad marriages? Why are we accepting the experiences of others as the status quo and hoping for their suffering to become our reality? Why are women romanticizing the idea of having a “survival kit” for a lifetime commitment like marriage? I have so many whys but you already get the gist. Women are constantly bending over backwards to reiterate the gloomy forecast of marriage, and do you know why?

Many women do not dare to demand better for themselves. I find in this social media age, that the more retweets an opinion has, the more likely it is to be regarded as fact. Many people out there believe that the reality of others is bound to be theirs so they buy into damaging opinions really quickly and begin to prepare for the gloomy days ahead. Many people believe that if X is giving marriage advice and has been married for 15 years, then that advice is the gospel. LOL. So let’s say I work as a cleaner at a bank for years, does that qualify me to give you advice on investments?

The fact that a person has been married for years does not mean they had a substantial relationship with their spouse. Heck, people are married for years and live like strangers in the same home. People are married for years in abusive relationships. People are married for years to other people who do not want to have sex with them or even touch their skin…. yet we tend to believe the duration is equal to positive experience? Nope, it is not. It will never be. And you need to start telling yourself that if you want to stop preparing for a bad marriage.

Image result for women in bad marriages

Instead of listening to the survival kit gang, the ‘I’ve been married for xx years’ gang or the ‘your man will cheat or change’ or whatever kind of evil they’ve been stewing in for years gang, take a deep breath and ask yourself what you really want. Do you want the status quo of pain and unnecessary education? Or do you want a marriage where the ups and downs do not include cheating, abuse and alienation?

Dare to demand better. Life on its own is tough. Rather than prepare for a bad marriage, be kind to yourself and aim for a good one. If you prepare for a bad marriage, anyone who proposes marriage will do. But if you dare to demand better for yourself, you might just be the exception to the status quo. XOXO.

Relationships

On the Issue of Users and the Power of Time

You probably think this post is about how time heals all wounds even though it doesn’t erase any scars. Sorry to disappoint you, but it is not.

In recent relations with people, I have discovered that time is a gift. A gift many of us are unaware of. A gift that can literally save us from all the heartache we complain about on social media. Time is a precious gift, not just because we can’t get it back once it is wasted, but because it is a teacher.

Have you learned to give people, things, dreams, ideas, visions time? That is one thing I learned this year. Especially when it comes to people.

Image result for time

“Time reveals all things”.

This is no ordinary cliche. It is a life motto. It is a lifesaver. It is an open secret. Time reveals who people are. Time reveals the truth in relationships. Time reveals the cracks people hide underneath well-crafted masks designed to deceive and emotionally bankrupt.

It is so easy to be swept off by the initial aura of a person. It is easy to believe people are who they say they are, especially when they have the whole good person act together. It is easy to fall for the non-existent good in people who have perfected the art of ‘appearing to be’ as opposed to ‘actually being’.

Just because people are Christian or appear to be religious, it does not mean they are not users. Let us get this straight and not get carried away with the misconceptions of their appearance or even their words. There are many bible-quoting, demon-chasing, tongue-speaking people who are out to use others to their advantage without caring about the emotional or psychological bankruptcy they will leave behind. These people put on the garment of humility in order to connect with your good nature, because they know that nothing in you will relate with arrogance. But wait. Take a deep breath. Listen closely and watch carefully. Observe earnestly the faux humility that’s laced with entitlement and ask yourself if humility can truly co-exist with an entitled nature. If you are struggling with the answer to that one, it’s NO. The two cannot co-exist.

But being the good-natured person that you are, you avoid jumping to conclusions the first time of entitlement rears its head. You ascribe it to a difficult phase in their life, a need you’ve been chosen to fulfill, and you even hope that your good nature will change them, because you know exemplary conduct has the power to change a person.

Can I just put a pin in your bubble? Oops! Not waiting for a response to that one. Here goes:

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You cannot change a user. Your good nature can’t. Your sacrifices can’t. Your words of encouragement can’t. If anything at all, users view you as a more viable candidate for their selfish ends the more you try to change them. They will spur you on with encouraging words regarding your self-sacrifice. If they are callous enough, they will go the emotional route, and confess non-existent feelings for you – confessions that negate their actions or even perceptions of you. They will ‘lovingly’ discourage you from pursuing any goal that antagonizes what they can get out of you because they are focused on the end goal – to use your good nature, skills and influence to their advantage, after which they will suddenly come up with a list of your faults and explain why they have oh so patient with your excesses. 

How do you prevent yourself from falling into this? Give people time. Don’t jump into emotional confessions just because they put pressure on you. Oh yes! they will do this in order to cement the foundation of their faux humility and entitlement and to implement the modus operandi of your emotional and psychological bankruptcy. Don’t be quick to jump onboard their bandwagon, cheering them on in dreams where you are the support ATM where no deposits are made. Don’t think it’s awkward not to say “I love you” back when they have said it a million times. Don’t feel the need to tell them you miss them because it seems unbalanced that they seem to miss you more. Give them time.

Time to reveal their true nature and their perceptions of you. Time to show that they are truly who they are they are, or not. Give them time to reveal their real intentions, because with the power of time, users get frustrated and everything bubbles up to the surface. Give them time, not to prove you wrong (because you are not to form negative perceptions prior to engaging with them), but to show you in actions the kind of relationship they are hoping to build with you. Yes, it may seem like you are overly cautious; but rather be that than have another piece of yourself stolen away by an emotionally-unavailable user whose feelings for you were based solely on what they can get from you. You might even feel like you’re losing out on some people with your cautiousness, but guess what? genuine people always stand the test of time.

Use time to your advantage. Let it teach you. let it show you. Let it reveal all things. Time is power. Start using it right.

PS: This post does not mean you should not be kind to people. By all means, be kind. But don’t be roped into an emotional investment with a person whose end goal is to use you.

Relationships

What River Rafting Taught Me About Relationships

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know I spent last weekend at the Girl Ignite Africa Summit where I was a mentor with seven other amazing individuals. We all got along from the moment we met and spent so much time laughing together, you would have sworn we’ve known each other for years. This connection and positive energy gave us so much optimism, we decided at some point during the weekend to go river rafting.

Now if you know me personally, you already know that I have an irrational fear of being inside water, especially if my feet can’t touch the ground. You might also know that when I am unsure of something I am about to do, I get all the information I can about it, just to make sure I don’t fail. Yes, I took that whole “Be prepared” mantra from my High School Girls Scouts pretty seriously.

So, before I agreed to go river rafting, I already had all the information I needed. I’d never paddled in a bathtub, not to mention a boat, but I was ready to put everything I learned through observation to practice. Afterall, I learned many other things through observation – driving, cooking, playing volleyball…somewhere in my head, the rules of lawn tennis lay dormant and will be awoken very soon. I digress.

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Four of us got into the raft – four ladies who were super-excited and who got along well the entire weekend. The guys by the shore told us “Get in, it’s easy” and so we got in. The raft was pushed into the water, and the task to move in a desired direction fell on our shoulders. We were alone and we had to paddle. And that was when we realized this was no easy task. Some of us believed we had to paddle backwards to move forward while others thought the opposite. Some of us paddled stronger than others, making the raft turn around in circles over and over again (I blame the river current partly for that one). And I believe some of us were so obsessed with making sure everything ran smoothly, that we could not help but speak loudly and tell everyone what to do.

But that was not the only problem we faced. As we waddled on the river, speaking at the top of our voices, trying to figure things out, those on the shore of the river kept yelling out instructions. “Paddle backwards!” “Count to three and paddle together!” “Move the raft forward!” “Turn around”…. The instructions we did not get before we left the shore were now being released in dozens of screams. Mixed with the cacophony of our own voices, we were soon stuck and frustrated, sitting on a raft in the middle of a river, rather unhappy with the fact that we could not hear each other or figure out how to move in the direction we desired.

And in the midst of all that, I had an epiphany that made me laugh.

 Isn’t this how relationships work?

In the beginning, it is so great to connect with a person who just gets you, makes you laugh and thinks you are the brightest, most amazing person ever. And the observers of this chemistry will very often encourage both of you to get into the boat. “He is such a sweet young man, I have no doubt he will treat you with dignity, respect, and love.” “She is such a loving young girl. I have no doubt she will make you happy”. And excitedly, we get into the boat, believing that chemistry is all that is required to row the boat forward. That’s until we get the shock of our lives when we realize there’s that little factor called communication.

downloadI guess you’re thinking “Oh please communication is easy”. Well, I used to think so too until I found myself sitting in that raft, trying to just paddle back to shore so I could get out and mourn our failure. And then it dawned on me… Communication is easy when you are not in a difficult, sticky, or in our case, a wet, lost situation. You cannot claim to be an excellent communicator if you have only been in rosy situations where you did not have to make an effort to communicate. You cannot claim to be an excellent communicator if you pay more attention to those screaming instructions from the shore than you do to the person you are in the boat with.

This is perhaps the real reason many relationships crash when they face difficulty. Sometimes, in the rocky phases of our relationships, we pay a lot of attention to what others have to say based on their own personal experiences. We trust the perceptions others have of our partners more than we trust our own perceptions. We trust the biased opinions others have of our situation rather than listen to the person we are in the boat with. We spend more time communicating with the outside world than we spend relating with the person in the ship. This applies not just to romantic relationships but also to our relationship with God but this is a post for another day). We tend to speak more to others about our situation and our partners than we speak to our partners. And maybe sometimes, we speak to our partners, but we do this so loudly, that we deafen them with our ‘megaphonorious’ (this is not a word) opinions.

Sometimes, our over-zealous optimism tends to ruin our relationships more than build them. Many of us go into relationships with pre-conceived notions of how they should work. We believe relationships have a universal framework they are based on, and we go in with the notion that the person we are with knows how the framework is structured. We don’t realize that while we may have a framework in mind, we must never forget that the person we are with is not a robot who responds to the buttons we push. That person is human with a different perception of relationships. And unless we let them be themselves, we will never move the ship of relation forward. Like we were going around in circles on that river, relationships where expectations are based on pre-conceived notions rather than an in-depth understanding of individual qualities, expectations, and perceptions, often end up going around in circles till one person gets tired of the ‘not-so-merry-go-round’ and decides to leave the boat.

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But leaving is not the answer to communication and perception problems. I know we live in an age where people cut other people off the moment those people piss them off because they are on some “I don’t allow negativity in my space”. Honeypie, a person who disagrees with you without subjugating you or belittling your dreams is not negative. You are just bad at communicating. Rather than leave, learn the skill of effective communication.

That was another epiphany that hit me as I fought the desire to just get back to shore and leave the boat. I had no right to leave. The fact that my over-zealous optimism was not working, was not enough reason to quit. I had to take deep breaths and listen to what the others in the boat thought. I had to communicate what I knew in a different manner. I had to take what I could from the shore and ignore what was not necessary. Most importantly, I had to realize that it was not about me. It was about me AND the people in the boat with me. It was about their expectations, understanding their intentions and realizing that they had the same goal I did – rowing the boat forward.

We cannot row relationships on our own, no matter how efficient we are. We cannot let our over-zealous optimism and over-efficiency make others seem inadequate. We cannot let a little frustration push us into giving up. Sometimes, all we really need to do in those rocky times is to breathe, shut up, listen to what the other person has to say, and ensure that when we do share what we know, we share it in a manner that is helpful, constructive and encouraging.

With this in mind, we finally rowed the boat forward and it was great to have that victory and learn that lesson. Below is a picture of us as we arrived back at shore, happy, ‘unfrustrated’ (this again is not a word) and educated in what I now believe is a communication masterclass masked as a fun activity.

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 Have you done any activity that taught you lessons in communication? Please share.

XOXO

Relationships

Perhaps This Is Why Some Marriages Break Down

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Source: The Daily Beast

Maybe….just maybe… marriages break down for one simple reason no one is paying attention to.

I had an interesting epiphany as I conversed with a friend last night. It was not a Eureka! moment, nor did the word Voila! come to heart. It was a theory that formed as the conversation progressed, highlighting what I believe may be the reason marriages go from “I can’t get enough of you” to “It feels like we just live together”.

In this age of information, there are so many ideologies and notions about marriage that are passed on to people via all information platforms, especially social media. If you are an African woman, the list might be along the lines of:

  • Submit to your husband at all times
  • Learn the art of silence
  • Know his favourite meal and cook it all the time
  • Learn the best sex moves you can and impress him every time
  • Wash his clothes – it’s a sign of love (Just in case you have been looking for the recipe to keep a traditional man happy, this is it).

The list for men is pretty short

  • Provide (Yep that about sums it up. You want to be a man now, don’t you?)

But there are no guarantees that all of these things will be sufficient to keep your marriage afloat. As a matter of fact, many of these marriages which are built on efficiency still somehow find a way to fall apart. And of course, many of us these days are so disappointed in the institution, we are beginning to view it as a burden. But what if we start to do some things differently?

You see, in my many years of relating with people and being a ‘life coach’ for romantic relationships (I should get that business card printed now), I have learned one very important lesson.

It is not your efficiency in the fulfilment of your ‘expected obligations’ that keeps your partner happy, interested or committed.

If it was that, then so many marriages will be happy considering the Voltron mode many women assume once the ring touches the finger. It is not about how much you get done or how well you get everything done. It is not about how early you rise in the morning to ‘do something around the house’ or how dinner is ready at 6pm everyday. It is not about how you sort out the bills or get the children ready with little or no help. It is not about how skilled you are at ironing your husband’s shirts or how well you have mastered the art of handwashing his pocket squares.

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These are all activities that keep you busy and for some, come with the territory of marriage. But maybe, just maybe these activities keep you so busy you ignore the most important thing you should be doing.

You stop learning about your partner.

We all hear of the couples who drift apart and settle for divorce in the end. We see those who live like flatmates even though they try to present rosy romance on Instagram. We know them, we’ve heard their stories. Yet, for some reason my brain cannot grasp, we repeat their patterns, assuming erroneously that Sally at the office was the reason hubby left or Ben the gardener was the reason Mrs Simpson no longer found pleasure in her husband.

I’ll tell you my theory: Maybe Sally at the office was paying hubby so much attention and learning his new interests that he felt like his dreams were valid again. Perhaps, Ben the gardener noticed the new hairdo every week and the change of nail colour that made Mrs. Simpson feel visible again.

Perhaps, people are too busy trying to efficiently run their marriages like an operations managers runs a fleet of deliveries, that they forget to communicate with the person who makes the marriage.. (I mean, you can’t exactly be in a marriage with yourself now, can you?).

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Perhaps people are too tired from the 101% level efficiency they have to be on, that they forget to sit and crack jokes with their partners, listen to new music, try out food, and learn a new dance together. Perhaps people just get so involved with the symbol of the marriage, they forget the substance of it – a relationship – a ship where two people should relate. Sure, the ambiance in the ship is not always endearing but perhaps, there will be more days of love than days of heated words. But even heated words show some form of relationship, and they definitely beat days of silence- not silence from anger or pain, but silence because the fire has fizzled out and no one is willing to light another match.

I put it to you that this efficiency mode of running your marriage is not even for the survival of your marriage. Deep down, it’s for your ego. You view marriage as a cotton field and you want to be the best cotton picker who always exceeds the quota for the day. You want to say you earned it, and pride yourself as you tell people it’s hard work to be married and oh well, you just know how to keep it together. You focus so much on doing the work that you forget to relate with your partner.

So the point? You are more likely to keep your marriage alive if you don’t get up in the efficiency of maintaining the symbol more than you get caught up in discovering more about your partner and relating endearingly.

Advice: Know you can’t do everything. What technology can do, let it. What money can sort out, let it. What a third party can do, let them. Get excited about spending quality time with your partner and discovering more about them. Take every chance you get to peel another layer of partner and marvel at the pleasant surprise (well, not all the time) you will find. XOXO