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Read Letter

The Maku Matter

My dear Jil, I’m a bit worried and concerned about this relationship. I think you’re laying yourself open to disappointment if you accept the premises under which it’s being prosecuted. The problem sometimes is, we so want to be in love, to be in a relationship that we jump into approximations of our desires. 
Caution is required with a guy who is practically dating you but claims otherwise on grounds he’s still praying about it. He’s been praying for so long… over a year now! Yet he keeps enjoying the benefits of an exclusive relationship. I think some people are just not sincere. This guy is not telling you the truth. He can’t tell you what’s going on in his head, ‘cause he doesn’t want to lose the benefits of your relationship. There’s something about you he can’t fully accept. He likes you, wants you, but there’s that one thing. And he can’t afford to lose you yet because your substitute hasn’t arrived. He wants to keep eating his cake and having it. He’s secretly waiting, hoping someone will turn up who is a combination of you and those extras he wants. And so he continues to demand the benefits of relationship from you – you continue to call, text and be there for him. But he doesn’t want to commit to you while reaping benefits. That’s how he gets to eat his cake and have it. If you ask me, this relationship is a long shot. And a very risky bet for you. You’re in a relationship but not in a relationship. You’re hoping for a commitment that may never come.

You work in a consulting firm so let me use corporate analogy for you, just to help you grasp the issues. Imagine a potential client calling you to make a presentation on a project. You go for the pitch and it’s obvious they like your ideas, and they like you. And so they want you on the project. But instead of engaging your firm they keep calling you to make presentations. Every time an issue comes up they call you to make a presentation, always with a view to engaging your firm. Initially, you think they’re trying to make up their mind and your presentations constitute the means. But you soon notice something: every time they call you they furiously jot down notes from your presentation. And they keep seeking insight and clarification on business challenges. This goes on for a whole year. No formal contract, no engagement letter, no discussion on fees. Nothing. But you keep presenting ideas to them, presenting solutions to different problems. And they keep jotting down notes.

At some point you’ll realise you’re being used. And that’s exactly what’s going on in this relationship. You’re being used. You’re delivering on a contract of marriage without formal relationship and no commitment. When he wants to go to the movies he calls you. When he feels lonely on Friday evenings he calls you. When he needs to bounce off an idea he calls you. When he feels like home-cooked meals he calls you. When he needs a hug or cuddle, he calls you. When he wants companionship he calls you. Even when he’s thinking of buying a present for a female colleague in the office he calls you. And yet he claims he’s still praying, waiting on God to tell him if you’re the right woman for him. Why doesn’t he call off enjoyment of the benefits until he’s very clear about you? That will seem fair!

The problem is that this state of affair can go on indefinitely. And it will go on until your substitute arrives. And he has plausible deniability if he chooses another babe. He already told you he wasn’t sure about you. He sounds like the kind of guy who’ll even call you to help him plan a wedding to another woman. As if he never knew you had feelings for him. And you’ll receive a toast at the reception. He’ll thank his “best friend, Jil.” I’m wondering how he’ll react if you stop picking his calls, stop texting, quit going out with him. How would things be? The irony about this non-relationship is that to the outsider, you’re dating. That probably keeps real prospects away.

You have to understand the makeup of a man. He assuages his loneliness with a complementary paradigm. He needs a woman who’ll complement him, fulfill his emotional needs, adapt to him, go out with him. But he won’t proceed to marriage unless he deems the woman “suitable” to his conception of himself. Unless he’s forced by circumstances, in which case the marriage is a potential arbiter of unhappiness and disaster. You have demonstrated adaptability to him by your willingness to drop things and cancel events to attend to him. You are also complementary. You make up for his lack. He finds emotional sustenance in you.

I suspect what he’s struggling with is your social suitability. That’s not an objective thing, it’s subjective. It’s about what he thinks of you and what he thinks of himself – how he sees himself relative to you. Of course he can’t tell you. How’s he going to phrase such a talk: I like you but you’re not my class and taste? He may be worried about your taste in fashion, or your weight, or your background. He may not consider you chic enough for him. And that may be relative to his friends’ girlfriends. He may be worried about the economic class of your parents, the schools you attended, where you live. In other words, he may be wondering if you meet certain social and cultural standards. If a man is worried about all this about you I doubt he’ll appreciate you, or fully accept you. He won’t be proud of you. You can’t satisfy him. How are you going to change your parentage, or the schools you already attended?

What is my take on the state of the union? I think you should force a resolution. I think you should ask him what’s going on, where all this is going. Tell him you want a definition of what exactly the “relationship” is. What are you to each other? If he says it’s just friendship, tell him you hope he won’t mind you going out with another guy. And then do. It’s sometimes dangerous to assume a relationship where there’s no express declaration of status. I suspect the challenge he has is that he’s met women he finds socially suitable but emotionally uncomplementary. The ladies are not amenable to doing for him what you readily do without question or hesitation. Unlike you they won’t drop everything to go to the movies with him. When he calls they’re “busy”, so he calls you instead. If he has his way he’d rather go out with those other girls. Only they lack your kindness, amenability and heart.

There are times we force discussions in a relationship. It allows us to locate ourselves in a scheme, know our prospects. Trying to avoid discussion of the issue at stake is mere postponement of the inevitable. As the proverb says, “Igbawo ni maku oniku” – meaning Mr. Maku will eventually die, why keep avoiding the topic of mortality. You’re not getting younger. He needs to make up his mind. Force a discussion.

Your mentor, LA

© Leke Alder |

Tags : Commitment, Defining the relationship, Leading on

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