Not the girl I used to be in matters of the heart

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?

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20 thoughts on “Not the girl I used to be in matters of the heart

  1. Just thought to comment because I can relate and also because I was touched. We often feel broken by life experiences but being broken or changed in some way isn’t a bad thing. In fact you will realise that you are not broken but your naïveté is. Who you were can’t function where your life is right now so she had to go. Your innocent side will spring up when the environment nurtures it so no you haven’t lost her. She just gave way for you to find your tough side because you will need both in dealing with the not so rosy parts of being married in the nearest future.

    • That was beautifully explained, my anonymous friend! Thank you so much for being touched to the point of replying. I was blessed by your reply.

  2. The biggest change I had in previous relationships before getting married is being MYSELF and don’t talk bad of your ex, simply say, things didn’t work out. A man that will love you, will do so, regardless of all your flaws.

      • Thank you for sharing, Nitty! Feeling comfortable enough to be yourself is a huge lesson to learn and I’m sure it has positively impacted your marriage. I agree with not speaking ill of one’s ex, in fact I think when one spends too much time on that it keeps them trapped and unable to move on.

        I completely agree that the right person for you will love you, flaws and all. Hugs to you!

  3. Hi Jummy,

    I’m happy to read this post, especially after asking you how things were on the relationship side. So i decided to come here to comment :). I like the advice of the pastor because hanging out with someone in a group setting will also help others to see the sides of him/her that you might be oblivious to as well. Reading relationship books has helped me to really prepare myself and understand the opposite sex better. Most of us go to school to get a degree for a job, but won’t read a single book on relationships, especially marriage.

    With regards to you scaring them away to stir things up, I think that’s a game that should be left to high school and univ students who have the time to play games. I feel at this stage, you already know what you want and don’t want. So dating should be straight forward, with no gray areas.
    I am reminded a quote that says that “you sell people what they want but give them what they need”. With everyone on fleek these days, you need to package and brand yourself really well, so you can attract the kind of person that you want. Hence why I upgraded my profile pics on my personal social media profiles. It’ s like prepping for a job interview, you tell all these elaborate stories about yourself and dress nicely just to get the job.
    It’s no different in the dating game. You package yourself nicely until marriage or until you’ve achieved your end goal.
    I’ve come to learn that there are certain things that you just can’t fight and you just accept. Packaging and branding yourself is one of them. Human psychology is another one of them.
    I’ve dabbled in LDR in the past and won’t mind trying it again, just for the fun of it. lol!

    • I appreciate your comment, Adeola, and I also appreciated you reaching out to me and asking about things on the relationship front—I still owe you a reply! :)

      The marketing analogy you shared translates well into relationships, I agree, but I find it hard to apply to my own life. I don’t want to package myself as something I’m not, just to increase my appeal. This doesn’t mean I won’t bathe or dress in clean clothing that I think makes the most of my assets, but I can’t see myself changing my style drastically, becoming high maintenance, wearing makeup daily, or wearing heels except for a few times a year. I think it would be sad to become your real self after marriage and in a way disapoint your spouse who thought (for example) that he was marrying a super social girl who likes to go out all the time, meanwhile you’re a homebody who goes out only occasionally.

      Lol maybe the reason I’ve been a the same job for 11 years is that I’m not good at selling myself! ;)

      I like your approach of educating yourself on important topics, to put yourself in the best position to excel, and I love that you’ve read lots of relationship books because it’s good to be prepared. I’ve also been reading books on marriage because I know the reality of marriage will try people in new and unexpected ways.

  4. Jummy, I am alway inspired by your courage and willingness to be vulnerable about your relationship status. As a single African/Nigerian lady in her 30’s, it really is an interesting position to be in. When you are plus size, there is an added challenge as well. I hope that I can one day have the courage to be as bold as you are to share my own experience.

    Long distance relationships are not for the faint hearted. And you are right about not knowing if a person wants you for who you are or what they can get. I think the most important thing is to be open and available to opportunities, while praying that God helps you make the right choice. Cheers!

    M.

    • Aww, Mona, thank you for the comment. I’m humbled by it because I care so much about connecting meaningfully with people through blogging and I’m always grateful to God when it clicks. One thing I remember reading that I think is important to mention is that it’s best to write about things when you’re in a better place. I wasn’t ready to write this post in late 2012/early 2013, when I was still so tender from the disappointment, so it’s that delicate balance of capturing how you felt (without necessarily giving all the gory details and leaving your readers in the depths of despair with you) and offering hope. I pray that you will have the courage to share your story too, in time, because stories connect us as humans so beautifully.

      Girl, you know I can talk forever about adding “plus-sized” to the mix! It’s a complicated topic that we have a lot to say about and maybe it’s time that we discuss it again!

      “I think the most important thing is to be open and available to opportunities, while praying that God helps you make the right choice.”—well said, my friend, and Amen!

  5. Thanks for sharing as usual. My biggest challenge after relationships ended was moving on too fast. It’s complicated to explain in detail, but it has affected my life choices and even my marriage. I have been quick to break up/walk away at the first sign of anything i perceive to be negative. But humans are not perfect; including me apparently lol. I wish I had worked on some things in the past, like being more selfless, more compromising, patient, kinder. As far as how you present yourself, it is good to present your true self but not in an all or none way, in my opinion. For example, things like being make up free, aren’t they more superficial? Wouldn’t it be more important to emphasize your values like love for family, work ethic, faith etc? Because years from now, what’s to stop you from evolving from still not liking a full face of foundation, eye make up but liking just a bit of lip gloss or lipstick daily (lol that’s my example because that’s how I started)?

    • I always appreciate your perspective, Neuyogi! Thanks for sharing your answer to the question; it isn’t easy to examine one’s decisions objectively.

      Lol, that fact that I’m not perfect either is something that I’m smacked with constantly. I had started learning that in 2010 with the relationship I mentioned in this post; those close to gave me props for being more patient and and less inclined to walk away at the first irritation as I normally would, but after things ended I questioned whether I had been too willing to work on things. It’s a delicate balance, for sure.

      Now I look at how a man handles conflicts or differences of opinion. Sure, some people can hide certain aspects of their character for a while but not forever and the imperfect person who shows a willingness to work on a particularly thorny issue is worth far more than the one who tries to always appear perfect, but then you find out their true colours later. And the good thing with most Nigerian men is they aren’t usually shy about expressing how they feel, especially when it comes to superficial things. One guy told me that my name was too old fashioned, and he suggested a hipper nickname for me to go by. Does that mean he’d be a terrible husband? No, but it does tell me a little something about his values.

      Now I’m ready to work with someone, understanding that there will be aspects of my personality or character that he won’t appreciate and vice versa, but it’s nothing that we can’t work through.

      I agree with you regarding placing the emphasis on values over superficial things and I try to be that person. Unfortunately, we live in a world where an inordinate amount of emphasis is placed on appearance as if it has any bearing on a person’s character. Lol, I would not mind at all if I were to develop an interest in all things girly in the future (I love the idea of looking better with age!).

      • Thanks. P/S one thing I love about you is how you always take the time to respond to comments. It makes us your readers feel appreciated and connected. And anyone who says something negative about another person’s name to their face (something they had no choice over), is a straight up bully. I disapprove of that guy oh…lol

        • Aww; thank you, Neuyogi: I know how easy it is these days to not leave a comment so it’s an honour to respond!

          Thanks jare re: name bully. He’s well in my past!

  6. Enjoyed your blog! Stumbled into it & read till late last night & it was uber interesting.
    I’ve learnt from experience that we are often hobbled in our relationships by our past unpleasant experiences & the tale of woes others told us.
    To free one self from these requires encouragement from others and also the willingness to change for the better.

    • Thanmk you, El Haj: I appreciate you stopping by.

      You’re 100% right: I tend to do the work of freeing myself alone, but maybe it would go faster if I enlisted help. Have a great weekend!

    • Thank you, Esther—it really is well! The fact that I can talk about these things now is a sign that I’m in a better place than I was in when they were happening.

  7. I can definitely relate with this post! Just a few hours ago, I watched a lovely series about a newly married young couple and for a moment it made me wistful… I was thinking how much more relaxed and ‘fun’ I might have been if I had gotten married earlier!

    I have also sometimes felt that I miss the care-free me before all the things that relationship break-ups have taught me and in some way modified my behaviour!

    Like you, I’m hoping it won’t be there when I meet my husband and when I get married. I really hope that I haven’t been ‘mutated’ to the extent of no return!

    Thank you for being so refreshingly real and honest. God bless you xxxxxx

    • Ayo, thanks for being vulnerable and sharing your experience—I can definitely relate! I’m believing that the version of ourselves that we are when we meet our spouse will be the right version for that time and we may not remain that person for long as we experience married life and what that brings. Hugs to you and God bless you too!

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