Some time ago a child hood friend of mines wife asked me why I was single. My response was an instinctive “I get bored easily” and I quickly followed that up by laughing rather uncomfortably at my own response. Days later, sitting alone with my thoughts I found myself querying myself as to why I had given her that particular answer amongst all the many possible answers I could have offered up. Did I believe the answer that I gave her? That when it came to relationships perhaps I had some sort of ADD? Or was this just another lie I was telling myself. And maybe I was afraid to dig deeper and really look at myself and really analyse why my previous relationships have failed. Anyway I didn’t end up thinking about it for too long and carried on just doing me., Or maybe because I actually do have ADD.
More recently another friend I grew up with asked me to accompany him to go visit his soon to be new in laws. He wanted to initiate the process of negotiating Lobola. Lobola is a dowry/ bride price that a groom pays to the bride’s family when he marries their daughter. Traditionally this was in the form of cows, but nowadays it’s usually in the form of a cash amount that is set by the bride’s family. As such the concept of Lobola is often misconstrued by those alien to the cultural nuances as the process of purchasing a wife. It’s not. The purpose of Lobola according to Shona culture is for ‘Kuwaka hukama” which loosely translates to ‘building relations’. Lobola is meant to facilitate the creation of a bond the two families – that of the bride and grooms. When not abused it’s a great custom. Anyway on this occasion my friend asked me to accompany to go see the girl’s aunt. The Tete as the aunt is known in Shona who would act as the go between him and the bride’s family. She would also give us advice on what was expected of him when the Lobola discussions took place. All in all that visit gave me further insight into the whole process of Lobola, something I will discuss in more detail in a future post.
What I want to discuss today though is how that visit brought me back to that unresolved question on why I was single and even more so that despite all the relationships I have had I have never got to the stage where I even considered Lobola. As such I never made a conscious effort to understand it properly. I just knew of it. I think this is indicative of my lack of impetus when it comes to making long term commitments like getting married. But as more and more of friends are getting married and I find myself in the minority I have actively begun to inform myself so I can have a better understanding and ultimately forge my own path. Whatever that is. It is this that made go back to trying to understand for myself why I don’t seem to have the same urgency that my friends seem to have about settling down. Why made friends wife asked me why I was single.
I think there is some element of truth in my instinctive response that ‘I get bored easily’. I love the process of getting to know someone, revelling in the possibilities that lay ahead. But when it comes to actually going the distance I always seem to come up some way short. One of the reasons for this is that sometimes when I have found myself in the middle of that boundary defining ‘what are we’ conversation I haven’t always carried out my due diligence. It’s often been a case of not having strong enough reasons not to go into a relationship as opposed to having the right motivations to enter into one. Plus I don’t like sharing and monogamy settles that. Because I want that person to myself I sometimes end up in a relationship that I haven’t really thought through. In that way I have always sabotaged myself and it’s no surprise that I haven’t been able to go the distance.
The longest relationship I have ever had ended over four years ago. We dated for almost three years, although the last year we spent breaking up and making up more times than I care to remember. Compared to my other relationships this one I can confidently say I tried to make this one work. We both stuck around through the ups and downs. We tried to deal with our differences and disagreements maturely. It is probably the most grown up relationship I have ever had. A relationship in which I didn’t always feel like call it quits anytime there was trouble in paradise. But as meaningful and grown up as that relationship was I never completely opened up to her. I was committed but for some reason I kept my guard up, never fully letting her get to know all of me. In doing so I cheated both us from fully exploring the potential of that relationship. And even though I kept my guard up I left her to believe that I was an open book and she knew me completely.
So after two years of dating when she pressed me on what my long term plans were and whether I was part of them I buckled. Because I hadn’t fully opened up to her I was afraid she didn’t fully know me. Thinking she did know me (because that is what I left her to believe) she gave me ultimatum to give an outline of plans for our future within 6 months. And so began the slow and protracted end to our relationship. At one stage I tried to explain my hesitation to her. I remember that what she said hurt the most wasn’t that I didn’t completely share the core of who I was with her. It was that I sold her a dream. I left her to believe that she knew all of me. She rightly pointed out that it would have been better not to sell her the idea that I was an open book. “You made it your thing, that you were totally open” she said. She would have been perfectly Ok with me sharing whatever I struggled to share with her whenever I was ready if I hadn’t sold her onto the idea she already knew all of me. She said I was a pretender. Those words have haunted me ever since.
In the aftermath of that relationship I never really took the time to get to the bottom of why I couldn’t be open with her. I just knew that going forward I didn’t want to be called a pretender ever again. The question of why I couldn’t be open with her is one I am not sure I have a conclusive answer for even after all these years. I am tempted to say that maybe part of me knew that we had no long term future no matter how hard I tried to convince myself otherwise. And why that rather meek explanation?
Just based on all the relationships I have had I have noticed a trend with the breakdown of all my relationships. Issues that have remained unresolved going back to the first major fight have always turned to be deciding factors in all those break ups. So using that logic I probably knew from our first fight that we didn’t have a long term future and maybe that is why I never fully opened up to her. In my misguided efforts to make it work I inadvertently made sure that it would never work.