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

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.

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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.

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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

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

Personal Growth

Don’t Allow These Five People Into Your Life

No one wants to go through life feeling paranoid and assessing people every second. Unfortunately, it is a cross we all must bear. The people you allow into your life can either make you be at peace with yourself, or they can make you question yourself endlessly. Of course, it is difficult to box all of these people into five simple categories, but I believe being able to identify these basic five can save you from  experiencing the advanced stages of the emotional whirlwind they carry with them

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 #1 The Blameless ones: We’ve all met them – those who refuse to take any responsibility whatsoever for friendships or relationships that have gone awry. They sit and tell about what X did and what Y said, but conveniently forget what role they played. These are the people you get into a relationship with and immediately begin to regret it. These are people who never admit they are wrong but will instead insist that their intentions are noble, hence, even though their actions hurt, they cannot accept any kind of blame. I could go on and on about them, but let me rather tell you the impact they could have on you. Depending on the dynamics of your relationship, if in some way they have managed to ingratiate themselves to you, you will find yourself apologising for every single thing. You may one day find yourself apologising for breathing! Save yourself the strain and just run.

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#2 The Loud-mouthed informant: There is usually that one person in every group dynamic who knows something about everyone else. That person who comes over to your crib and tells you what everyone else is dealing with, who the joker of the group is, whose boyfriend has two penises and whose breasts have gone from firm oranges to flaccid cucumbers. This person will often set his/her eyes on you when you are the new person in the group, and trust me when I say a lot of wisdom is required here. The loud-mouthed informant can easily get you into an attitude of gossip where you find yourself taking sides in an imaginary battle, and taking ownership of POVs that have absolutely nothing to do with you. Pause. Breathe. Change the subject every single time. Don’t volunteer any personal information. Don’t offer an opinion on any negative bit of information regarding anyone else. Why? The loud-mouthed informant has two things you may not be able to sustain in the long run – time to go around learning everyone’s business and of course broadcasting them, and the ability to turn the tables on you should hell break loose. My advice? Hear no evil. Make it clear you are not interested. And if you really want to piss off the loud-mouthed informant, sympathize with the negative stories. This shows you are on a different wavelength. Oh! Another name for these people? GOSSIPS

#3 The Deluded ones: I have found over the years that these people are more common than we like to admit. I met one recently and I found myself thinking ‘Do I have a stamp on my forehead that recognizes the crazy in these people and pulls them toward me?’ Fortunately for me, I have learned that the delusion of grandeur is a craft many people have mastered. They attempt to approach every friendship or relationship from an elevated point of view of … wait for it… themselves. They assume that they are better than you are, smarter, more interesting, more successful. They assume in the weirdest way that they are doing you a favor by being a part of your life. They will name-drop as often as they can, and tell you about the important things they do and have. They will pay you compliments you know are not true and will explain anything they perceive as a fault in themselves before you even recognize the fault (I can write a whole book about these people).

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But when reality hits that you have more going for you than they have going for themselves, they try to ingratiate themselves towards you. They start to offer you things that can help you ‘be better’ and ‘do better’. ISSA TRAP! Don’t even fall for it. You need to shatter their illusion by assertively declining. You should, however, be prepared for some backlash. When a deluded person finds it hard to crack you, they will pull down your image if they can. They will rather have people believe you are not good enough for them than admit that you saw straight through their BS and stopped them in their tracks. The delusion of grandeur runs deep guys. Just don’t get entangled in it.

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#4 The ‘All-eyes-on-me’ buddies: Now these people are really something. Have you ever had a friend who wanted you to be successful…. but not so successful that you end up better off than they are? I can them the contraceptive buddies. These are people who stick around in your life and appear to encourage you. However, the moment you share a vision or a dream with them, they abort it with their very glossy presentation about how many things could go wrong. If that does not work, they tell you not to get your hopes up too much. Afterall, life is unpredictable. They will support your dreams if they are smaller than theirs, but will never support a dream that will catapult you to a height they perceive they cannot reach. These buddies are not out to harm you, but they will never let anything grow in you. I don’t even need to go into details here. JUST RUN.

#5 The Frozen: I have learned recently that no matter how great you are at something, or how well you are doing, there are people who will not clap for you out loud, nor will they ever pay you a compliment out loud. They will rather burst into tiny feathers than say “Hey! You are doing so well”. It is as though they are frozen. They will rather point out everything you are doing wrong (no matter how insignificant they are) than tell you everything you are doing right. And if they cannot find anything you are doing wrong, they will manufacture something (It does not take long; the factories are in their heads). They will look for something that dims your shine and makes you feel insignificant. Avoid these people, especially when you are feeling down and out. Avoid them when you are on top of your game, or on your way uphill. They will never see anything good in any step you take. Don’t waste your energy. Preserve it for pursuing your success whether they clap or not.

Do check out my YouTube channel. Search Demi Fayemiwo on YouTube

XOXO

Relationships

Men Are Victims Of Society Too

Feminism is becoming more popular as more women and men fight for the equal rights of both sexes. As a result, more and more opponents to the feminist cause keep rising in a bid to champion the status quo that has persisted over the years and favoured men. For many of these opponents, feminism is absolute nonsense. Men and women are not equal; hence they cannot have equal social and economic rights. Many men are against the feminist movement as it makes women ‘undateable’. Someone on twitter recently said, “women are unhappy in their marriages because they don’t want to give up complete control to their men”. A guy on a TV show said he chose to marry from a different country because the women in his country were feminists who had not learned to rely on the ability of men to control the relationship (I really hate that word ‘control’ by the way). His choice of a bride was however very interesting – a woman who threw major tantrums, cancelled his flight via his email and even cleaned out his iPhone because he failed to get her a designer purse. It made me realise two things: 1. Many men do not understand what feminism or who a feminist is, and 2. men are victims of society as much as women have been.

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Growing up in an African society, it was normal to hear the phrase “Be a man” whenever a man was facing a situation that drove him to tears. The phrase was meant to remind him of the fallacy that real men don’t shed tears. Real men take every pain in stride and move on like nothing ever happened. It was also common to hear elderly men tell younger men “you must show her you are the man” when giving relationship advice. The idea behind such advice was to urge the man to make sure the woman in his life did whatever he wanted, the way he wanted it. Even when these men were unfaithful to their partners, these elders told younger men to show themselves as men and not mind the painful groaning of their wives.Afterall, they are men!

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I got to realise now that the feminist movement has exposed the fragile parts of masculinity that men have been raised to believe they are not men except they are able to control another person’s life, subject another person to pain and make decisions whose weight they don’t necessarily have to carry alone.

Society has victimised men by giving them power that they have not earned and by letting them ride on the insecurity wave that presents itself as security. Many men would not live with a woman who makes decisions regarding her career and her heart’s desires, not because she does not value their input, but because they are not in control of the situation. Many men would not marry women who are as educated as they are because they believe women who are ‘too educated’ (by the way, there is no such thing as too much education) are hard to control. Many men who marry educated women make it a point of duty to ‘clip their wings’ just so they can show them who’s boss. And interestingly, in all of this,  these men consider themselves secure in their identity and individuality. Well, guess what? They are not. If anything at all, society has sown the ultimate seed of insecurity in men, telling them that they are not enough as they are, except someone is enslaved by them.

That is why feminism is regarded as a problem, rather than progress. That is why men don’t want women with vision but will happily put up with a woman who has no direction or plans for her life. It is the reason men will detest a woman who has her life together and will celebrate a woman who is unaware her brain is in her head. This is why submission is still a word in relationships and power is necessary to make the man feel good. It is why words like leverage are thrown around in discussions with their partners, and the term head of the home is more important than anything else. It is why many men are afraid of genuine love because it is too carefree, too happy, too free. It cannot be controlled; hence they let it fo (post for another day).

It is so difficult to be a man, but the added pressure from society to prove that masculinity adds a whole different dimension to that difficulty. Society has raised men to be narcissistic and self-destructive. They are not raised to choose the partners that uplift them; they are raised to choose the partners they can subdue. As a matter of fact, they are not raised to choose partners, they are raised to choose disciples and robotic elements who agree with everything they do, do everything they say, and say everything they want them to say at the time they want them to say it. With time, these men get bored and begin to feel like they are hibernating in life. In spite of that, they would not be caught dead with a woman who has an opinion, a vision or plans for her life. Of course, this spills over into other aspects of their lives. I have heard of men who refuse to rent houses owned by women, find it hard to take instructions from a female boss at work, and even disrespect women they barely know on the street because they have someone like her at home *sigh.

If you think society victimised only women, observe men and think again. As we liberate women, we must liberate men too! We are all victims of sick societal values that foster insecurity. XOXO

Relationships

Men And Women Are Not Equal In Marriage

If you are smart with the hope of building a successful relationship in the nearest future, this is a truth you should let sink into your head.

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Wait… Of course I wouldn’t say that. No one is holding a gun to my head so you can breathe easy. It is interesting however that this is the popular opinion of many people including the president of Nigeria. In his opinion, women belong in the kitchen, the living room and what he called “the other room” (Lord knows what the other room is or what happens there). But this post is not about pointing out the shortcomings of a president who advertised his misogyny in front of a female prime minister. No.

This post is about that  ubiquitous term ‘submission’, and how women and man “can never be equal in the home” (according to yet another man who is obsessed with the title “head of the home” and the finality that comes with it). Bear in mind many women share this perspective too.

I was ‘educated’ to understand that letting a woman make decisions in the home would result in her getting ‘carried away’ with the power given to her, causing her to dominate her husband. Hence, it is important that the husband does not bow to his wife, but rather she needs to let him know he is the head of the family so he can be his possible best. Furthermore, a woman is “just a supporter. She is by no means equal to a man”. (Please don’t ask me where I meet all these people. I also don’t know how they find me.

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I am all for ego massaging because I need my own ego to be massaged every now and then too so I don’t have any problems with offering words of reassurance. What I have an issue with is the belief that being the head of the home comes with a finality that cannot be questioned by ‘a supporter’. That sure gives an insight into why marriages are failing, why people are unhappy, why marriage feels more like work….

I’ll share my opinion on this in simple number points:

1.) Men and women are equal in the eyes of God; hence they are equal in marriage. However, they are not similar. This is what we need to understand. Equality is not the same as similarity. Men and women do not have the same strengths or weaknesses, which is why marriage is a partnership. One person’s strength is the other’s weakness, and we need to cover each other. This is why the dynamics of families differ. Some men are better at handling physically-straining tasks within the home but are terrible at managing money. This is typical of most families so it’s probably not the best example to highlight the point. But imagine if the man got so intoxicated with being the head of the family that he wanted to exert authority over the family’s finances?

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Mutual dependence means mutual respect, mutual love, mutual submission to a greater authority which is God.

2.) Submission in marriage is not preached for women only. Every Christian misogynist I’ve met referred to Ephesian 5:22-24. No one ever talks about verse 25 that instructs husband to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. Gave himself for the church. Christ is the head of the Church but he gave himself for the church; he submitted himself to the will of God and sacrificed his life for the church. That is the ultimate act of submission. So bear in mind that marriage is not about the submission or domination of one party. It is about mutual submission. Abraham and Sarah are very good examples of this – Sarah followed Abraham when he left home. Abraham took Sarah’s suggestion when they got desperate for a child.

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Don’t engage a potential partner in the subject of submission. It is not a discussion you should be having!

3.) If you genuinely love your partner, you will not seek to dominate him/her or even bring up the subject of what anyone’s place or position should be. That already suggests an intoxication with domination, and delusions of grandeur that you may never be able to fulfill. Remember no person is able to do everything on their own. You need a partner that covers the bases you can’t, and you need to let him/her do so with confidence and of course your input.

4.) A woman is equal to a man even though she is his help-meet or just a supporter as some people say. A man is however also his wife’s supporter which is why it is important for couples to match each other in every possible way. Remember your support cannot hold you up if it cannot take your weight. If you are looking for a woman you can dominate, i.e. a weaker woman, expect the dismay of free-falling when things get rocky. She just can’t hold you or the home up.

5.) The head of the home is God and God alone. Both husband and wife should be fully yielded to God. Ladies, it’s only a man who is not yielded to God that obsesses over his position and the need to feel he is in charge. A man who has God’s word tattooed across his heart knows that he is a steward of God’s precious creations – his wife, his children, his belongings (note that you are not classified as a belonging). Men, only a woman who is not yielded to God becomes intoxicated with power or position and seeks to dominate her husband. A woman who is fully yielded to God knows that she can be her feminine self, maintain the elegance of a feminine demeanor and still give her opinions and make decisions without seeking domination (Read about Deborah, Jael and Esther in the bible).

In balanced relationships, power is not an issue. Power tussles do not exist. Each person’s strength is known as well as their weaknesses, and they seek to cover each other’s weaknesses. Men who are obsessed with the position of ‘head of the home’ cannot find partners. They marry followers. They end up tearing down their wives with the finality of their decisions. They end up making decisions for their wives without considering the impact their decisions would have. They are more concerned with exerting their position that they are with the well-being of the women in their lives. Women who are obsessed with not being dominated end up acting out and unknowingly tear down the men in their lives.

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Celebrate your partner’s successes. Cover them where they are weak. That is what being a partner (male or female) is about.

Don’t be obsessed with power or domination. Be caught up in genuine love! Be caught up in genuine mutual respect. Be caught up with genuinely sharing yourself with your partner, with being vulnerable, with expressing your strengths and weaknesses. Be obsessed with covering your partner’s weaknesses and letting him or her express their strengths while you celebrate them. Be caught in the awesomeness that comes with equality and dissimilarity. That’s the beauty of your relationship. XOXO.

Relationships

Here’s What Happens When You Settle For Less

Settling for less especially in relationships is the new cool it seems. If no one has ever advised you to drop your standards and make do with the available, then one of two things are at play 1.) You don’t talk to people or 2.) You have really amazing friends who believe in ‘high heels and high standards’. Many people often testify to how they settled for less and still managed to win at this thing called love. In their words “things are not rosy or perfect; he sometimes feels I am trying to control him or she sometimes feel I am trying to change her into what she is not, so I’ve learnt to keep quiet on sensitive issues”. While I listen with rapt attention, I keep wondering how long they intend to keep quiet for. Like…

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I don’t know if this ‘settling for less’ in a relationship is for everyone. Just last week, my baby (aka my heart throb on four wheels) taught me a good lesson about settling for less.

Image result for woman crying behind the wheel gif Ever since my baby and I found each other, I have always fed her the right food (i.e octane 95) as specified by the manufacturer, just as the corner of her mouth. I often heard some people with the same specification feed their babies with octane 93 when 95 is out of supply but I never had any reason to try until last week Monday. I arrived at the filling station as per my weekly routine and asked for octane 95. “Ma’am, we are out of 95 due to delays from the coast; we only have 93. I was hesitant and started considering using the Gautrain when a tall handsome man nearby said “Just get the 93; it’s not like it’s that big a difference.” He had a point. Many people who were meant to feed their babies octane 95 fed them 93 anyway, why was I being fussy.

We are more likely to lose whatever we compromise ourselves to keep.

I filled my tank with 93 and headed off to the highway. Needless to say last week was the scariest week my baby and I experienced. It was an excruciating experience that I swore I would NEVER EVER allow to happen again. My baby first started with coughing sounds as the cylinders tried to identify this strange food that was trying to power the engine. Forget all my formula one moves on the highway, and the ease with which I scaled the highs and lows of the Johannesburg N1. Instead I was struggling to accelerate my baby to her full potential and I was praying fervently. Did someone say “prayer cannot avert the consequences of a bad decision”? They are absolutely right.

The same thing goes for settling for less or should I say for the wrong person in a relationship. Many people do it and they are unaffected; then they ask you to do it and you think ‘well what could possibly go wrong?’ – lots and lots of things, but I’ll only mention three.

#1 Chances of slowing down your life to stay in tune with this person are really high. You have to quit pulling formula one moves and move at the pace of someone who does not understand, and has no intention to understand what your journey in life is about.

#2 You will find yourself struggling to settle into this lower level of intellectual, emotional, spiritual and yes even financial exchange. You might be very adaptable with friends you see every once in a while who make you question the existence of maturity but can you pull it for a lifetime in the wrong relationship? Probably not.

#3 You will never reach your potential because the person you have settled for will keep pulling you down. This is a fact many people often choose to ignore. I tell every young man and woman I mentor this: ” the friends you keep, the man or woman you date, the colleagues you spend the most time with, are all leading you somewhere.” It is up to you to know if the direction they are headed is the same direction you as an individual would like to go. I often tell my friends “before you agree to be in a relationship with a man, you gotta ask yourself “who will I become with this man in my life? Where will he possibly take me?” The answers should be your guide; the same applies to men. My baby could not reach her actual potential because I bonded her with the wrong type of fuel. Settling for the wrong person can have the same effect on your life.

Today, my baby got filled with octane 95 and guess who’s happy? Both of us! You are more likely to be happy in a relationship with someone who you connect with on the same level, than with someone you have to lessen yourself for. Sure you can do everything necessary to make the relationship work, but guess what it won’t. We are more likely to lose whatever we compromise ourselves to keep. And prayers will not take away the scary, potential-truncating, dream-destroying consequences that will arise as a result. Standards? Keep them high. You deserve the best when you bring the best to the table. Stay 100. XOXO

Relationships

Here’s Why You’ll Keep Choosing the Wrong Partner

The saddest thing I have ever heard anyone say is “we don’t always marry the ones we love”. First time I heard it, I was taken aback. How do you love a person but go ahead to marry someone else? Is it some kind of calculated strategy to keep your heart from bursting from all the love and happiness you’ll enjoy? Or is this a result of deep-seated issues many people have swept beneath the carpets of their hearts? I did not understand it then, and till now, I am struggling. Why are we accepting that it is OK to marry those we do not love? Why are we accepting that it is OK to punish ourselves, our unloved choices and our loved ones who keep tugging at the strings of our hearts? I may have the answer…

It is becoming clearer to me as the days go by that many people feel they should be with the partners they deserve, and not the partners they love. Some people feel they have had it good so they need to have some form of pain in their lives so they can level with everyone else (crazy I know), and some people really just don’t feel good enough to be with the person their hearts truly yearn for. They keep asking themselves questions like “will I be good enough for her?” “Will I be able to make him happy?” Here’s my question: Can you please stop torturing yourself and just take a step in the actual right direction i.e. towards the person you genuinely love? There are many reasons holding you back but I’ll just share three here. If you would like to know more, please send me a request in the comments section of this post

Reason #1 You think the person you love deserves better: Please if this thought has been residing in your head, it is time to raise the rent and kick it out. I’ll share a secret I have gleaned from conversations with happily married couples – there is no such thing as the partner you deserve. People don’t end up happy together because they deserve each other. People end up happy together because they are willing to become the best they can be for each other. People end up together because they know they are imperfect, and they are willing to bring their strengths an weaknesses to the table, unedited and work together to make each other better. That is why they say love makes you a better person. It’s not because cupid waves a wand at you and says “Abracadabra!” It’s because love makes you decide to be who your partner deserves and even more. Love makes you take action in the right direction not just to make your partner feel good but also to grow into who you are truly meant to be. When you think the person you love deserves better than you, it is your mind indirectly telling you that a.) you are not good enough and b.) even if you tried, you still wouldn’t be good enough. Both of these are lies you should not entertain.

Reason #2 You are worried about who you are and what you have to offer: The reason you can’t make the decision to be with the one you love and be a better  person for him/her is because you are too hung up on what you are not. You’re too busy seeking out your flaws and imperfections to realize someone loves you just as you are. Your obsession with your shortcomings will make you wonder why this person loves you. You will even ask what it is they see in you that makes them feel you are so special, and truly, they will have no answer for you that will be good enough. My advice? Don’t let your shortcomings hold you back from genuine love and happiness. Everyone has shortcomings; you just seem to be looking at yours through a concave mirror while others are using a microscope to view theirs. Sometimes, these shortcomings are actually not existent, and is just your mind’s way of telling you you have not earned the love you are enjoying so you start to seek ways to sabotage it. Shortcomings can evolve into strengths when you let yourself enjoy genuine love, and sometimes, they can fade away and you’ll find yourself saying “I used to be such a douchebag but for some reason I can’t explain, I stopped”… yea love works that way. Stop worrying about what you have to offer and bring yourself to the table. You are more than enough, and the person who genuinely loves you will see that.

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Reason #3 You are used to the status quo – chaos, uncertainty, instability, aimless relationships from the past: You are afraid to choose love because you are secretly yearning for chaos. Love is very stable… yes butterflies might flutter and passion might be fiery but one standard characteristic of love is that it is stable. It feels like home, and for some people, that kind of stability is unnerving. There is a yearning for the drama; a yearning for instability; a yearning for uncertainty. Why? Because that is what you are used to. Perhaps you were raised in an environment where uncertainty ruled the day…where you did not know what to expect whenever you arrived home, and you sort of built your life around that; hence the thought of a stable love that is genuine is just nerve racking and scary. Perhaps all your past relationships have been uncertain and ‘directionless’ and even though you claim you want something different, your mind instinctively keeps yearning for it. My advice: cut yourself loose form the ties of the past by telling yourself constantly that you deserve better. Deliberately choose someone completely different from the kind of people you’ve been with. Deliberately choose someone who feels like home. Deliberately choose someone who is stable and happy. You deserve stability; you deserve genuine love; don’t stress about the anxiety you’ll feel around that stability in the beginning. Just like you learned to build your life around instability, you will be able to build it around this new stability that will make you a better person too.

Do share your thoughts. XOXO

Relationships

Ladies, Just Started Dating? Here are Five Ground Rules For You

I wrote this post for the covenant relationship blog, and I just had to share it here as well with followers of motivation springs.

People say there are no rules regarding relationships, hence couples are free to decide what they want in their relationship and how they want their interactions to play out. While that is a very nice disposition to have as it helps you avoid being swept away by society’s wave of how relationships should play out, it is important to know that you can only get to that stage if you follow some well-defined ground rules.

Usually, when people start a new relationship, they tend to throw caution to the wind and allow a lot of misdeeds in order to avoid coming across as ‘too complicated’. This is very common with women who are often so excited to be in a relationship, they will do anything to make sure it works. Before you set out to do anything to make your relationship work, here are five ground rules you may want to consider.

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#1 Don’t Lay Down Your Insecurities: Many people in a bid to come across as real, and quit beating around the bush often start their relationships by listing out all the things they are insecure about. “I feel like my complexion is uneven”, “Sorry my apartment is not halfway as fancy as yours”, “I wonder if you’ll leave me for someone who’s more educated later on”…. These are the different insecurities people express at the beginning of  a relationship that immediately reduce their worth in the eyes of their new partner. Oh yes, it sounds like that partner is  a jerk, but truly, your vague expressions of what you lack show that you value yourself based on what you have, and by expressing them, you are teaching your partner to value you the same way too. Some women have believe this will make them closer to their new partner quicker and he can immediately assume his role as prince charming. Free advice from me? It does not work.

#2 Don’t Accept Everything: Some people are really desperate to be in relationships, even more desperate than they would like to admit. These are the people who accept all kinds of disrespectful behavior just so they can tell others they are with someone. You are better off on your own than being with a person who cheats on you, compares you to other people or gets irritated by you for being yourself, and feels the need to change you. Believe me when I tell you whatever you compromise yourself to keep, you will eventually lose.

#3 Don’t Play a Role; Play yourself! A role suggests that you are taking on an identity you have read about somewhere. Many women are guilty of this. The moment they start dating a guy, they switch to wife and mother mode. This is because women have been told they have to prove they are worth the commitment of marriage. They go to his home to cook and clean. They do his laundry, rearrange his closet, and try to establish their place in his life by acting like the madam of the house. It is not your duty to crown yourself as the madam of his home when he hasn’t even mentioned his intentions to marry you. It is not your duty to push him to propose either. It is his duty to establish your place in his life, and if he can’t do that, never forget you can use the door.

Rather than aiming to play a role,

aim to have loads of fun!

#4 Don’t be in a haste to do the deed: There is a lot more satisfaction that comes from delayed gratification, and there is nothing that brings more confusion and hurt than unripe sexual gratification in a new relationship. Take your time, what’s the rush? Showing him early on that you are a hybrid of Jackie Chan and Nicki Minaj in bed does not guarantee anything. He might even end up marrying someone who’s a nun compared to you, so take your time.

#5 Don’t apologize for the way you live your life: Yes, there are certain compromises that need to be made in order to make a relationship work, but they should not be compromises that will make you feel like you are being abused, used or forced to adopt a new way of life. Many people don’t know who they are anymore because they are always adapting themselves to whoever they are dating. If you are one of those people, here’s  a harsh truth you should know: Many people who often say they want a very particular type of person are usually unhappy with you when you change to become that person. So what is the point really? Be yourself! Flaws can be gently tweaked, and excesses can be curbed but your individuality should never be at stake during the process. Love who you are, accept it and DO NOT EVER APOLOGIZE FOR IT. XOXO