What happens when someone who is overly empathetic to the detriment of themselves gets together with someone who is solely focused on self- preservation?
Growing up, my examples of romantic relationships came from movies, TV, and reality shows. My own personal home was not a source of information because my dad worked a lot and my mom never really talked about those kinds of relationships.
It’s so problematic to learn from movies; romantic comedies, for instance, focus on “boy meets girl”, a montage of happy “dating/getting to know you phase”, big conflict, resolution and “happy ever after” (even the ones that are supposed to be going against the grain like “Trainwreck”).
Comedic TV shows focus on daily mundane life in relationships, inside jokes, and fairly lighthearted instances of marriage and dating – think “how I met your mother”. Lastly, reality shows tell us about the most dysfunctional aspects of relationships and the messiness of it all, think Kardashians, basketball wives, Jersey shore, and the likes. What’s crazy is that, those are all set in the American context…… don’t get me started on what Nollywood romance did to my psyche.
**Nollywood – the Nigerian film industry, the second biggest movie industry after Bollywood, it's even larger than Hollywood. Of course, this is just in terms of film production lol, they produce about 1000 movies a year. Fun fact for you!
What I learned from those places was that if there was no drama, no one was yelling at anyone, no signs of physical or mental abuse then your relationship was GREAT. I never realized that silence and constant disappointment could hurt just as bad and can sometimes leave you heartbroken. I didn’t have examples in pop culture, the bible doesn’t really talk about dating and breakups (at least to my knowledge) so I didn’t have the words to analyze and process it, so I didn’t. I simply broke off the situation because I knew I was sad AND because I “got over it” rather quickly, I thought that I was good and peachy. Lo and behold, it’s been 4 years and I am JUST now coming to terms with some of that pain…. Thank you COVID19 for the added layer of introspection. I know what you’re probably thinking, it’s been 4 years you should be over it by now, but really it was “boy meets girl”—well boy already knows girl through family friends, boy pursues girl, the girl becomes infatuated, the boy goes silent, girls ends it. Boy re-surfaces months later to say he wants to try again, the girl agrees and the cycle of “let’s try again and disappointment” begins and lasts for the next 3 years.
I think another realization that is hard to accept is that I might be BASIC and just plain human….hear me out - I always thought, it’s me - Ibiyemi I know my worth, I don’t just bring great things to the table, I am the entire table 🤣 🤣 I can’t really get "hurt" in a relationship, I am so self-aware and in control of the situation BOOOOOY was I so very wrong. It definitely was a blow to my ego. I’ve always known that my sense of self-worth comes from God because he has told me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, that he knit me in my mother’s womb before I was born and that he has a plan for my life….and although all of that is true, the bible also says “GUARD YOUR HEART” for a reason. It means to set boundaries, connect with the holy spirit, be wise, seek Godly counsel, etc….. I think I misappropriated the idea of building intimacy and being vulnerable in relationships (good) with not setting emotional boundaries and building infatuation (not so good).
On a side note, let’s quickly talk about Infatuation; before I started dating, I had never heard of this word, I didn’t even know it had a part to play…but infatuation is basically the kinder twin sister of lust. We’ve all heard about lust right, the bible calls it a sin against yourself, pop culture calls its “intense passion and desire” and millennials just know it as “Netflix and chill”. Well, what about infatuation?? According to the internet “Infatuation or being smitten is the state of being carried away by an unreasoned passion, usually towards another person for whom one has developed strong romantic or platonic feelings. That’s just love’s version of lust!…. another definition says, “infatuation is "a feeling of foolish or obsessively strong love for, admiration for, or interest in someone or something." To all my ladies, that say things like “I just looooove love or I just really neeeeeed to get married because I looooove love”. I think you might love the idea of being in love, the idea of a boyfriend so you can be #couplegoals, and the idea of a husband to dote on you BUT do you know what it takes??
At the risk of sounding bitter, this was me 😔 😔 and I didn’t even know it. You value the “feeling” of love or being desired rather than the “person” providing the love…..which is why you put up with A LOT because at least “I’m in love”. My dear, it has taken me a lot of unlearning and most importantly forgiveness to move past this.
I learned from my friends Muyiwa and Oghale in their “before marriage 21” YouTube page about moving on from your past relationships. In their video “2 tips to ensure your current relationship doesn’t end like your last one”, they said if you want to move forward you have to forgive them and then you have to forgive yourself…..so in the spirit of vulnerability, #adulting, #growth, here is my list of things to forgive him for and forgive myself for.
I need to forgive him for:
For being oblivious and emotionally unavailable and in turn, hurting me from that place – hurt people, hurt people, right?
For breaking my trust over and over again by NOT showing up, in words, actions, or even explanations/excuses to justify himself.
For disrespecting my time on many occasions, which I have since learned might be a reflection of him not valuing his own time
For not respecting my emotional boundaries
For treating me as an option when I should have been the goal
For never once calling me your girlfriend in public or private but still telling me that I was going to be your wife and the dissonance that created.
I need to forgive myself even more for:
Trying to “fix” a person’s emotionally unavailable state by carrying all the emotional labour and neglecting my own feelings about 100% of the time
For shutting down my thoughts even when he had shown me over and over again that he could not be trusted, and I shouldn’t have believed his words
For making excuses for him when he disrespected my time because whatever he was doing was more important than me and for placing myself less than in those moments
For not setting any emotional boundaries and not guarding my heart
For not speaking up to share what I wanted and what I was feeling because I didn’t want to ruffle feathers on the “crumbs of facetime”, I had with him.
For investing so much in a relationship that did not return the investment which in turn devalued the original investment.
For accepting less than what I wanted all for the sake of being in love.
WOW! That was A LOT for me to share, but I do so in the hopes that someone will read this and can relate to it BUT also to reconcile my thoughts out LOUD. I just truly want to MOVE on and BE HEALED from this. In my current state, I am getting closer to forgiving him, I’m probably like 76% of the way. However, I am sooooooo far away from forgiving myself, but I’m praying every day and leaning into “uncomfortable” conversations in my current dating life because I really want to value the person rather than the “idea of the person”.
Side note….I first learned about the concept of “infatuation” in the book by Megan Good and Devon Franklin called “The wait”. It talks about delaying instant gratification in work, relationships, and life to truly assess what is right for you while building patience, peace, and experiencing your healing. I recommend it to everyone! FYI It is written in a Christian context.
Well, that’s all, I hope you were able to learn something from my experience.