Last week, I met up with a friend I had not seen in over twenty years – we had not seen each other since we left the boarding school we both attended in our teens. We had kept in touch over the years but it was great to see each other and catch up on life. Our conversation covered many subjects from work, money, friendships, family, relationships, travel and everything that came to mind. Naturally, our conversations turned to this blog – she wanted to know what I was planning for the future and I proceeded to excitedly let her know my plans for the blog and future projects I was working on. To be honest, I was surprised at how passionate she was about some of the topics I had covered, especially society’s expectations of women. It was through this topic that I mentioned what I was hoping to cover during the month of December. She was excited that I was brave enough to cover the topics I was thinking of but she drew my attention to how society’s expectations contributed to these topics I was hoping to cover and encouraged that I wrote about how society expect sons and daughters to find husbands and wives and no one teaches us about companionship. In sharing her own experiences, I realised that she had so much to offer and I took it all in with the hope that in the near future she and I could collaborate to explore some of these issues further.
Years ago, a friend of mine was torn between two men and she was not quite sure who to choose. The two men were not similar in any way, infact, they were polar opposites – she narrates how the first guy ticked all the boxes. This guy had a great job, came from a good family, even tempered and a great guy in general to everyone that met him – on the outside, he was the ideal guy. Then there was the other guy who worked in an industry that had many scandals attached to it and he was very liberal in how he lived – in the society that my friend and I came from, he was bad news and my friend was not sure what to do. Her family and friends were pressuring her to choose the guy that seemed ideal and my friend was torn. She was torn because, how she felt when she was with the ideal guy was nothing compared to how she felt with the not so ideal man. For her it was the little things – conversation with the guy that ticked all the boxes was always hard work – he was not a bad guy, but she realised that they had nothing to talk about and when it came to life, they were both headed in different directions. He did not see her aspirations in the same light as she did and was very concerned about keeping up appearenaces – my friend felt she was losing herself with him. But that was not the same for the other guy – their dreams were aligned and they could talk about everything. They were friends more than anything and each other’s flaws were easy to accept because they understood each other and where they had differences, they respected each other enough to work on it. She made her choice eventually based on how the second guy treated her when they were alone, it was not all the tick boxes society had moulded her to look out for but rather the notion that when the romance had fizzled out and the excitement of a new relationship had worn off, she had a companion that understood her and would support her as she went through life and she felt the same about him.
In the Ghanaian society I come from, a young woman getting married is one of the most important if not the most important achievements of her life – even if she found the cure for cancer, it would not be as important as getting married. I have on many occasions heard mothers convince their daughters to marry men they did not have anything in common with so they would not lose their youth waiting for the right man. As disturbing as this notion is, it is a common practice where people look at the accomplishment of the person as opposed to who they are. I had witnessed and heard many stories where many married people simply co exist in their relationship with no regard for the other person – some have stopped communicating completely in extreme cases. For many, they have a spouse and that is it – they simply live separate lives and do not have anything else in common apart from sharing a home and children. Most women live lonely lives in their marriages and in some instances, the men too. I have always found the narrative that paints a woman as lucky when she gets married problematic – becasue the emphasis is on getting married and not on how the marriage would play out after the wedding. So while discussing this with my school friend – she pointed out how the empahsis is always on finding someone that fits the list with little or no regard on what we need as individuals. She would go on to share how she had come across many women who were unable to even share a joke with their husbands and vice versa – and I could tell this was somehting that saddened her greatly.
Yes, I am sure these list society try to push on both men and women are there for some reason that served a purpose in the past – but I believe most will agree with me that we won’t all have the same experiences in life and we should all make our choices based on what is good for us. When I wrote about what people bring to the relationship table, I wrote that instead of bringing something to the table, people should look at building a table that supported and worked for them both without looking at someone to bring something specific to this table. This idea that a man should marry a woman who can cook, clean, be an excellent parent and the idea that expects women to marry a man that is able to provide for everything his family needs as well as be able to fix everything that breaks is not the best ideals to base a relationship on. It is these same expectations that make people think they can treat others badly in a relationship because they are not meeting their quota of what is expected of them. As I grow older, I have had to rethink many of the things I had come to expect in many areas of my life – especially relationships. I have come to rethink what was thought to me as I grew up on what to expect from a life partner – what is more important to me now is finding companionship in my partner, an interdependent relationship where we both understand each other and have a common goal in mind.
When we live according to all these checklists society imposes on us, we don’t allow ourselves to live our truth. Telling our children to pursue marriage without giving them reasons why, is part of the reasons for the many abused partners all around us. I would rather I had been told to seek out someone to do life with – a companion to build a legacy with, this would have served me better. As we enter this festive season, it is time to reflect on the year and perhaps time to also look at our relationships and the purpose they serve in our lives. Be honest with yourself in your assessment and perhaps look to realign your relationships and why you are in it. Most importantly, I truly hope everyone can find respect, integrity, honesty, openness, maturity, affection, empathy and humour with the people they are with. It is no longer enough to have a husband or wife without them being your friend and support with a common goal in mind.
Thank you for always taking time to read, like, comment and share your experiences – please continue to share your experiences so we can effect the change we need.