On Love, Relationships, Dating, and Marriage: Why You Really Should Never Settle For Less

When you are an unmarried woman in your late twenties, you get a lot of unsolicited advice on love, marriage, and relationships. If we are being honest, if you are an unmarried woman of any age, you do get a lot of unsolicited advice on what's causing you to be so single, as if being single is a disease. When you are an unmarried woman, and if by some misfortune you are an unmarried Nigerian woman who is supposed to be married but isn't, it's a double whammy. This is interesting because a lot of Nigerian marriages are not exactly the most alluring situation that a person should want or desire. I mean, for the most part many of the wives are glorified slaves in makeshift roommate situations they call marriages (through no fault of theirs of course). But I understand that the fastest way to get some modicum of respect in Nigeria is to at least be married. Otherwise, you are not respected in your own house. But also landlords would not allow you rent their houses. People would think you have no "covering", and yes I have heard people tell me that even their friends would preface the simplest stuff with, well you're not married, so you don't understand. Fortunately for me, although I am technically an unmarried Nigerian woman, I don't have to experience most of the above listed things because I have the privilege to also be an unmarried American woman. I don't live in a society that pressures me to get married, and frankly American women are marrying later than usual. It still does not mean that unmarried American women do not get unsolicited advice from people, worrying about why they are sooo unmarried. Let me say that whether or not this concern comes from a good place does not eradicate the fact that asking why someone is so single can come across as  sounding like to be single is to have the plague.

Go out more

Put yourself out there

Your standards are too high

But you never know, he could be the one (said about the most basic guy).

A more polite  bunch of questions I tend to ask my unmarried friends is, how is the dating life? Is marriage something you're interested in? I also make sure to never ever suggest that they just are not doing enough to combat singleness. Yuck.

To marry someone is to be tethered to that person for the rest of your life. Even when you carefully make this decision, the chances of making a wrong one are still incredibly high. Human beings suck. They are unreliable. They are angry. They are badly behaved. They suck. Still a lot of us want to marry. Nay, a lot of us need to marry. We have the unfortunate luck to have been created to desire companionship. It's primal. Beyond that however, many of us need the financial strength that comes from combining your assets (or debt) with someone else's. We need to couple up. That's okay. What is not okay is to lose yourself in the process.

When I was younger, I always wondered how a couple could get divorced even when there had been no infidelity. Now I know better. Now, I know there are so many reasons to decide that you would rather die than remain married to a toxic person. This is why before even getting to the marriage stage, make sure that  no matter the advice people give you, no matter the cajoling, if you do not feel like dating a person or marrying them, do not do it. Even if your wedding is next week, do not do it. Our instincts are powerful. In Lade Tawak's newsletter this week, she mentioned a powerful essay in The Paris Review that inspired this post. The autobiographical essay by a writer and professor tells a story of the events that transpire in the author's life shortly after breaking her engagement. It also gives us a glimpse into what life was like in said relationship. Spoiler alert: it was terrible. When you read that essay, you will first agree that some people are really terrible human beings. But you'll also see how easy it is for you to lose yourself. We always think we are doing too much when we desire what we want. We don't want to hurt people, or offend them. As a woman, it is so easy to give up on standards and values that matter to you. It is so easy to convince yourself that you're overthinking it when in fact this person is treating you like trash: the truth is if you find yourself crying all the time; if you have to wonder if the person you're with loves you; if your boyfriend sleeps with your mutual friend or frankly with anyone other than you, don't be pressured into acting like it's fine so he thinks you're cool, it is not fine.

It's incredibly easy to allow people mold you into what you are not, especially if like me you have strong opinions about life and people living in it. If you are also very unlike me and have no strong opinions about anything, do not let anyone bully you into being what you are not: an opinionated, strong-willed person. Whatever you desire in a life partner is what you should demand. The double whammy of being a woman and an African (or black or person of color etc.), I realize, is that we are always afraid of being too much. Our white counterparts never are. When my Uncle recently asked me why I stopped blogging or why I sort of reduced the intensity of my blog's voice, I said I worried about being too much. I said I didn't want to be that person either among friends or on cyberspace. I didn't want to make people uncomfortable. This is BS.  The same way it is BS to cower or compromise on what you desire in a life partner, like respect, love, honor. In a lot of African homes, women are groomed for men. Maybe not explicitly, but on days you didn't do your chores or maybe didn't do it well, you're told "is that how you will behave when you're in your husband's house?" I know men were never told this. So a lot of what you do can be a result from how you're socially conditioned. If you're too bookish, if you like a good political argument, a tiny part of you starts to wonder if that would discourage a potential husband. If you don't like certain things, you start to wonder how that would seem to the man you are supposed to marry.

If you are unmarried (I am deliberate with using the term unmarried), make a list of the most important values to you. Does he have to share the same religion? Does he have to be diligent in that religion? Is it okay that you are feminist but your romantic partner thinks women don't matter? Is he a card carrying Republican who thinks black people make too much noise about "racial issues" and voted for Trump, but you are a pro-choice liberal feminist who thinks AOC is too moderate? Now that makes for a good storyline in a movie, but you won't work in real life. These shared values, lifestyle, principles are what matters, more than whether he is from a particular country or the color of his or her skin, interestingly. Of course, their background plays into aforementioned factors. And even if a person shares all of the exact values as you do, and looks exceedingly great on paper, but you just either do not find them attractive or perhaps there is just something missing, do not let people around you bully you into dating/marrying them anyway. Listen to counsel sure, but most counsel on marriage is more about getting you coupled up by all means than about a genuine concern for your romantic life.

You can extend these principles to friendships too. My father always says (I can literally start any piece of writing with my father always says or my mother always says because they literally always say haha) a friendship that is not mutual is not friendship. I am reevaluating my own relationships, and while I always struggle with trying to live as Jesus would and trying not to be too selfish,  I have started to create too much allowances for people. Yet people are fairly predictable. If you bend you back, they WILL ride against it. I think my father said that too. So yes, be a little selfish. If someone only calls on you when they need you, sometimes, don't answer them. If you think someone is treating you like trash, they probably are. And they can gaslight you from now till next year, It doesn't change the fact that they are mistreating you. This goes especially for women. Even if you are old and grey, do not let anyone blackmail you: treating you terribly but rewarding you with the promise of marriage to keep you hanging. There are so many men on God's green earth, you will find another.

And never ever be afraid or ashamed to say you desire love. That you need love. That you want love. And don't be afraid to want to be loved a particular way. If you can be loved by the Almighty God in the most glorious way, then you don't deserve mediocre love.

This is a long way to say for something so complicated, relationships can also be fairly straightforward and predictable. You are worthy of a great love, don't settle for less than that.



P.S: I think I'm really, really back to blogging. I say this a lot but I'm ready to take this seriously so watch this space, and follow the blog on Instagram. Lots and lots of contents coming your way :-) Especially long form, life essays like this one (this would be really awkward if you hated this or hate long essays haha but yes, let me know if your style is more short and simple and we can do that too!).

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