Six years ago, I thought I’d met the guy I was going to marry: he was in Nigeria while I was in Canada but with God on our side and what I thought was a clever plan to bring us together again, I was sure it would work. I was 31 and ready for marriage, I thought. I started a new blog that was specific to that blossoming relationship; the blog was password-protected and I gave my closest friends access to it. Our story, to my ears, sounded like a romantic comedy, and the comments the blog posts received affirmed that. But things didn’t go the way I hoped, and the lessons learned over two-and-a-bit years is captured in my Love and Learn series. Six years later, my non-Nigerian friends still remember his name; I guess they heard it a lot!
After things went south with that relationship, I tried again with another Nigeria-based man who I also met in person. I was optimistic again because some of the challenges from the previous relationship weren’t present in this relationship, but there were other issues that caused things to end.
A few years went by and this year, a well-meaning friend tried his hand at matchmaking. Again with a Nigerian man, but he wasn’t based in Nigeria. Nope: he was in South Africa! Things were intense before fizzling maybe a month later.
If you’re the blaming type, you might have figured out that the common denominator in all these situations was me. I take full responsibility for the part I played in things not working out. But as I look back on things, I realize that they all changed me. The woman who entered into the second relationship wasn’t the same woman in the first relationship, and the woman who was getting to know Bachelor #3 was different still. Over the years, I’ve become more cautious, more suspicious. I’ve grown less patient. I’m more outspoken, less inclined to pretend that I’m anything other than who I am, partly because I’m trying to drive men away before my emotions get involved, and partly because I like the idea of under-promising and over-delivering. For example, I love saying that I can’t cook, just to stir things up and see the response. I also like to make it emphatically clear that I’m on Team Abstinence, Team No Makeup, and Team Low-key.
Some of these changes are good but I miss the girl from 2010 who was so optimistic, so willing to work at things. That girl didn’t see red flags, but this girl makes up red flags. That girl was naive but this girl is a tough nut to crack. That girl threw herself into the relationship but this girl is more inclined to hold a bit of herself back, to say “Oh well” if things don’t work out. This girl is loving but tries to be a bit cold. She’s often got one foot out the door. She assumes the new guy will be like the previous guy or the one before. She questions what is told to her and flip-flops between belief and “Here we go again!”. I feel bad that my future husband may not get to see sides of me that right now feel like they’re gone forever, but maybe they’ll resurface after the wedding when I’ll finally decide it’s safe to let my guard down, or maybe traces of the old me will resurface sooner if I do the work. I don’t want to be the girl from 2010 but I want to regain the best parts of her.
I went to a singles conference this summer, one that I had attended before and vowed not to attend again because I was always the oldest single person in attendance, usually by a good 10 years. But this year it was a joint singles and married conference and the rest of my family was going so I decided to join them. Once again I sat there as high school and university students asked the wonderful pastor assigned to us singles questions such as how a girl can know if a guy likes her. It was ok though because I wasn’t expecting to get anything out of the conference.
However, I really liked the advice that the pastor gave regarding getting to know someone. She suggested we get to know members of the opposite sex in a group setting as much as possible because it gives you the opportunity to observe the person and get a good grasp on their character. Most of us want to spend as much time alone with our crush as soon as possible but that can sometimes cause us to focus on regularly ensuring that we have chemistry (ahem) rather than focusing on whether this person wants the same things you want, and shares your core values. For those of us without the advantage of group hangouts offered readily by a university setting, a long-distance relationship can allow you to get to know someone without the physical getting in the way, but ideally, the decision to enter into a long-distance relationship would come after an in-person meeting.
Although I’m not the girl I used to be, I choose to love who I am right now and make the best of things, remaining optimistic about the future. I’ve been wanting to write about where my head is with regard to relationships for a while; thank God it came together now.
What’s the biggest change you’ve experienced following the end of a relationship?