Define Your Relationship Before You Get Serious

| August 7, 2012

When did this Become Part of our Culture?

I decided to tackle the above issue this month because it is one that has (and continues to) plagued Ghanaian women in the Diaspora whether we are aware of it or not. In conversations with girlfriends, readers and acquaintances, it seems that along with our acquired cultural adaptations to life abroad, we have succeeded in picking up parts of our foreign cultures that benefit us in no way whatsoever. One such practice or culture is the “undefined relationship.” I myself have fallen victim to this plague, and so have many other smart, professional women I know. We pride ourselves on being intelligent, capable and independent women who were brought up with values that include respecting ourselves, but yet when it comes to our relationships with the opposite sex we are settling for less than we deserve.

I had a conversation with a close friend the other day that left me quite disturbed. Sarah has been seeing Alfred for about three months now. They visit each other and talk on the phone a lot. As far as Sarah knows, he is not seeing anyone else, he is not married and he lives alone. She calls him her boyfriend when we talk. Although Sarah has not divulged this information to me, I assume there is a sexual relationship as well. They live about thirty minutes apart from each other, and Sarah is known to occasionally spend weekends over at his place.

Armed with these facts, I found Sarah’s revelation that she was unsure of how to define their relationship somewhat confusing. She came to me because she wanted to know whether it was wise to have the “talk” with Kwame. She said the two of them have never talked about the status of their relationship in terms of defining it. This is the state of many relationships today!

So, day in and day out, Sarah walks around with an air of uncertainty hanging around her and I know from personal experience exactly what she’s going through. It’s an uncomfortable feeling that breeds insecurity in a relationship. Unfortunately, Sarah is not alone in this trend of undefined relationships. More and more Ghanaian women are settling for the “let’s take things slow” kind of relationships that do them more harm than good. We have allowed ourselves to be led into thinking that we don’t need to ask questions and that we should settle for what we can get in a market that is rather quite competitive.

Taking a relationship slow or as they say “just seeing where it goes” is not a Ghanaian thing – at least it wasn’t in Ghana when I was growing up. When a boy approached a girl or a man approached a woman, you knew by the time the conversation was over whether you were his girlfriend or not. It didn’t take years of uncertainty and no definitions. He was forced to come to your house to ask for permission from your parents to take you out. He didn’t get to be a mystery to those around you. Everyone knew who Kojo was – even if they didn’t like him – and they knew where to find him on the University campus in case you came up missing for days.

Many times I wonder what’s so wrong with us women. We can be the smartest in our chosen fields and careers and yet do the dumbest things when it comes to protecting our hearts and our integrity.

Relationships are not built on uncertainties, and should never be. Our culture is such that a man must express his intentions before things can go any further. To understand why Ghanaian women abroad have chosen to adopt a culture that does us no favors is beyond my understanding. Many of us are dabbling in the myths of sexual liberation to our own demise, and many of us do not like what we see when we look in the mirror day in and day out, with each man who comes and goes.

We are slowly losing a piece of ourselves whether we acknowledge it or not. We must reclaim our dignity and our substance as women – even if it means asking hard questions and setting strict standards and requirements. Always remember that the unanswered questions are the ones that hinder our ability to function as secure, trustworthy, respectable and appreciated participants in any relationship. Thinking you can just go with the flow without losing your sanity is as simple as living in a fool’s paradise and it’s about time we went back to our roots!

Re-edited from April 2011 issue

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