A few days ago I was having a chat with my uncle about an article I had written and we got to talking about marriage. I eventually showed him this whole list that I had written of the desired character of my future husband. I won’t write it down here, because it is irrelevant at this time (and also I just don’t feel like sharing). Anyways, my uncle read it and said:
“Does such a man exist? I really struggled to complete reading this message. Forget a man, how many human beings fit this description?
Turn this on it’s head, how close are you to being this person, yes, how close a woman or human being are you to fitting this description, yet, you are who you are, with a lot more self-awareness than most? A man does not come into a relationship as a finished product, more often than not, he comes into a relationship as a boy in a man’s body. It is through the relationship that he becomes a man and by seeing the miracle that you are, he begins to change into that miracle that you want to see.
First, you have to be the miracle you want to see. You have to let him grow from a boy into a man, then into a husband, then into a father, mostly in that order.
Not many men say ‘I do’, at the altar, it’s the boy that says it, it’s much later that the man fulfills the promise.
All the stuff, being described in your list is the man, after he’s grown from a boy.”
At the time my response was naturally amusement because most of what I took from it was the part about the boy saying ‘I do’ at the altar. He’d said this to me before but I still found it amusing and didn’t really think too much about what he meant by it.
So I said to him:
“Gosh uncle this sounds like stress is one now supposed to be a mother to husband?”
And his response was:
“No. Be your best self. He will sort himself out, just as you are trying and slowly sorting yourself out now. Firstly, stop looking for a spouse or a husband.
Look for a friend.
Think of your best girlfriends, by no means are they perfect. And you don’t even expect them to be perfect. But you’ll go to the ends of the world for them. I know this, you’ve worried on their behalf, you’ve prayed for them, you’ve got their backs. Woe to anyone who tries to harm or mistreat your ‘girls’. Your ‘girls’ too will probably take a baseball bat to anyone who looks you at wrongly.
That’s what friends do. They are real to one another, not the abject nonsense that comes into play the moment you move into boyfriend/ girlfriend role play.
Even your comment above? Why will your boyfriend need you to mother him, when he has his own real life mother at home or whatever.
Be yourself, let him be himself and be perfect friends to each other.”
At the time I read this, I read it very lightly because I was bummed that his response wasn’t that he was impressed with my versatile list smh. I didn’t think it was so demanding to be honest. However, something did click a little bit in my head that day and we came to a joint conclusion- #friendsFirst.
Since then I’ve been mulling over this whole idea of “look for a friend”. I mean it’s something that is quite obvious, almost to the point of being trite, but I don’t think I really thought about the implications of looking for a friend as opposed to looking for a husband. Depending on one’s approach, they could be quite different.
I don’t want to generalize, so I will use myself as an example. I’ve come to realize that I look at men, not as they are, but by how much they fit into who I want them to be. It’s a fundamental problem in any relationship- that we choose to hold people to meet our standards, instead of working on accepting and enjoying them as they are or realizing, their being as they are doesn’t allow you to be who you are in peace … and so you move on from the relationship- platonic or otherwise.
Think about it though. How many ‘ideal’ partners have we dreamt up- consciously or subconsciously? A lot of the times we graduate from a largely superficial list to one that’s balanced in terms of levels of attraction and the person’s actual character. And I’m thinking: what does this mean for the way in which we approach relationships that we hope will develop into something romantic? Apart from that, what responsibilities do we remove from ourselves and place on this person largely because all the books and movies showed the knight in shining armor, that would move heaven and earth to see a millisecond of our smile? Because surely if you are thinking so much about your expectations of someone else, you’ll have less time to think about your expectations of yourself as a human being and an individual contributing to the world and universe at large.
How much time do we spend thinking about who we want to be and actively being that person to the best of our abilities? It’s one thing to desire to be a certain way, it’s another thing to actually be that certain way. It takes effort and consistency and mindfulness, leaving no time to worry much about what you want from another person.
Yesterday I asked myself this question, I always say that I want to be the type of partner with whom my boyfriend/ husband shares stuff with. I want to be their first port of call when in trouble, when in delight and everything in between. But I then asked myself, to what extent am I that person that can be relied upon to help make a situation better? Would I expect my partner to call me for sentimental reasons .i.e because of my status as girlfriend/wife or because I can actually do something significant to help him out? Don’t get me wrong, I can't be everything to everybody. I mean I’m not going to be useful if you tell me you have a flat tire in the middle of the road (at least not right now because even my driving is still on the come up). However I’m speaking more generally about a sense of maturity and responsibility in response to situations. In such a way that, if this imagined person does call me, he doesn’t think ugh it probably would’ve been more productive/less stressful to call x, y, or z because this response isn’t helping me right now. And I don’t think I ever properly looked at it that way- who do I want to be? It’s like each time I placed all these requests on a fellow human being, I’ve been minding someone else’s business instead of facing my own.
On the other hand, consider how we make friends with people. You meet person A, person A seems cool. You hang out a couple times. You talk in the safety of your common interests and areas of agreement. You find you hang out or speak with person A a lot more and slowly you are moving from acquaintances to friends. Something happens, person A comes through or you even just realize that person A is someone you feel comfortable with, the trust builds and blah blah blah. The point is that, in meeting this person and developing this new friendship, you haven’t come to it with any preconceived notions of who this person is (well, mostly, as I realize some people do have these preconceived ideas of their relationship with others). You have very little expectations of them, beyond the normal decency that you generally expect from any other human being - stranger or not. Yes expectations do develop, but they develop as a result of the experiences you have had together, the trust that is built and the mutual understanding that has grown as a part of your budding friendship. I strongly believe this is really how it should be. Because in this way, there’s a level of acceptance and if you find in the person, things you can’t accept, you let go, but not because you expected a Knight and got average Joe, but because you met someone and in the course of the friendship, realized that the someone was just not your person. In that period, you were mostly yourself and the person too was themselves. There are no heightened expectations stemming from this and that. And thus no unwarranted disappointment or hurt feelings.
The thing is that when you meet someone that talks about themselves and you later see that the person is not so much who they think or say they are, you normally adjust your idea of the person as well as your relationship with him or her. However, with a potential partner, when you have all these expectations and ideas, you don’t really do that. You keep holding on to what they say and stay building an alternate reality based on who you want them to be. It is actually quite problematic because this person was happy in their own clothes before you started mentally forcing them into something two sizes too big or small and then felt hurt or angry or resentful when it didn’t look good or they simply refused to wear it. The mind shift is important and will go a long way to help people not end up with the wrong person.
So my takeaway is just a mental reminder to treat a prospective romantic relationship as I would treat any other. I have no prior knowledge of this person. And really, it’s not a race to get to know them. Experiences, not necessarily time, will reveal all- even things I didn’t know about myself. Who they are, you find out not so much from what they say during those calls that last till 3am, but more from what they do. And the same applies to you.
My new mindset is to find a friend and see where that goes and to focus on being who I am meanwhile, he can do the same. One day, if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll both realise that “hey, I really like this person just as he/she is. I mean I can do without the whining, but I love them all the same, and it’ll be cool to have this person as my partner of life.”
Until that day, no need to build someone else’s castles in the sky. I shall build my own mansion or cottage or condo or semi-detached duplex on a hill and let that be a testament to who I am . Some might hate it. Some might love it. Some won’t be able to imagine living anywhere else in peace and comfort while some might walk past it without even noticing it.
Whatever it is man, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day my attitude is: just be you and don’t worry about the next person. He will be him too.
When not writing she is either working (maybe?), eating chocolate and ice cream, reading some kind of story or sleeping (in that order)