I Don’t Respect Girlfriends

“Hey, he has a girlfriend, you know”… “And, so what?”

photo (3)Wow. This week my cousin and I have been discussing the idea that a lot of Ghana girls do not respect the girlfriend of a man, ie. it doesn’t matter that a man has a girlfriend, he’s still fair game unless he’s married. I came to the realization that this is not just the thinking of, let’s say, ladies with no respect for themselves, but that some educated modern women also share this sentiment. The above quote was part of an exchange that I had with one of my best friends here in Ghana. So when SHE was unmoved by some guy’s girlfriend, it really made me sit up. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up here, or because I don’t fully understand how relationships work here yet, but my views on this couldn’t be any further from hers.

Here’s my take: I agree you’re NOT official until you have TWO rings on your finger, however I DO respect girlfriends. I think it’s wrong to go after a man in a relationship, or allow him to go after you. One. You would hate it if someone did that to you, and Two. Karma is a b*%#! It’s one thing if two people are just ‘talking’, but with relationships, I’m not touching that. And honestly, even folks that are ‘in limbo’/ ‘dating’/ ‘friends with benefits’…I dunno, I just need you to clean up your mess wipe your slate clean before we can talk properly. I remember once, I didn’t engage heavily with a guy for like 3 months because he was still sorting out a situation: ‘Well you go ahead and sort yourself out and I’ll continue on with my life; if when you’re sorted, I’m still single, you know where to find me and we can talk.’

I’m not gonna say I’ve never made a mistake slip-up before, but as a general rule boyfriends are a no-go for me. Why would you want that kind of headache? And doesn’t that also give you an indicator of how this man approaches commitment?


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What I find peculiar about the whole thing is that when I first got to Ghana, all the girls I met would tell me some rendition of

“Amma, do not mess around with these Ghana Guys. Tell us their first and last names so we can do a full background check on them. You know some of them have wives in Aburi while living in Takoradi with their college aged girlfriends. Guys here are sus.”

I am ever a skeptic so naturally I preferred to navigate it without those set of blinders… but then what gets me is that the girlfriend knows the man has a wife. The girlfriend is also hoping to get wifed… so who is really the triflin’ one in the situation? To me, if you are a (wo)man who is interested in a (wo)man who is already dating someone and you carry on some sort of dalliance with them… what happens when you reach that point where you want them to commit to you? And what happens when they do commit to you? What happens if they marry you? Do either of you now magically switch off this tendency to court other people? And if you have that magic power… are they selling it at a local MaxMart or market corridor where it can be purchased?! (I ask only for the Hillary Clintons and Lordina Mahama’s of the world). Whats that quote about thoughts becoming actions, actions becoming habits, and habits becoming character? So I mean, if you make a habit of stepping to committed men… even non-married commitments, why wouldn’t this just translate into your character? And if this becomes your character, then it defines you in moments of silence and opacity. When no one is watching, you will in fact do these backwards things like pursuing someone else’s man… even if they are not married yet. It always disturbs me that men are painted as these sex-crazed polyamorous infidels because I really have to ask… well who are they philandering with exactly? And are those women equally sex-crazed whoremongers? Would I be wrong to judge? All these soul shattering questions that lead me really to one conclusion: Do unto others…

photoThat mindset that ‘Oh we are dating but we should still be looking’ is so problematic because if you are dividing attention between your actual relationship and your pursuit of better ones, all of them must suffer. It is just the way it must be. And in the midst of your crumbling episode of Things Fall Apart I hope you realize that, as Afua said, Karma SUCKS. In this world you put into the world the kind of things you would want to come back. Thing is, I have met many a man in a relationship and thought, “you’ll leave her. And want me. So I don’t care. I don’t care’. But I cannot say I actively pursued these men, because I would not want any woman doing that to my man. Unless they finally bottle and patent that magic Switch-Off-Infidelity-Potion… then… well… *shrugs* anything is possible.
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In order to better understand how others feel, I spoke more in depth with my friend (from the quote above). However, instead of re-telling you her piece, I will quote memorable quotes from our discussion:

‘Adultery is in marriage. Once they’re not married, it is not a sin [to cheat] so it’s all fair game…’

‘If I like him, I’ll take him away from his girl; and if he likes her enough, he won’t be led astray.’

‘I wouldn’t do it if the girl was my friend or if the couple was one step away from being engaged, but everything else is fair game.’

‘In a relationship, there are no vows in front of God… I respect marriage, not relationships’

‘If I really like a guy, do you think I won’t go after him? Kai! His girlfriend and I will fight for him and the best woman will win’

‘I don’t think this is a Ghanaian women thing, all women think like this, we’re competitive’

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So I guess the big question is: why should you deny yourself the opportunity to find love, just because he’s in a relationship? What if he is the one, but needs to get to know you small before he realizes he wants to be with you and not his current girl??

Good question.

Amma, perhaps our ‘ones’ are trapped up in relationships, and we need to go pry them out eh…


Let’s Not Complicate Things With Labels

A friend and I were chatting the other day, and he was amazed at the differences between dating in the US and in Ghana. ‘Dating in Ghana is simple’, he said. I beg to differ on that statement (particularly as more Ghanaians who have lived a Western-style of life move back), but where he was coming from was understandable. Our conversation had begun with us talking about a mutual friend, and me telling him that me and our mutual friend had dated in the past. ‘Oh, really? We’re not the closest of friends, but I think I would have known if he had a girlfriend.’ Clearly, I had to revise my statement: ‘I never said I was his girlfriend, I said we dated.’

He turned over to me with confusion, ‘I don’t understand.’ From that, I knew that our definitions were way off so I went on to explain what I refer to as dating. ‘Mr. x and I hung out a decent amount, but we weren’t exclusive.’ ‘So the difference between dating and going out is exclusivity?’ <- errmmm yes, and no. You can be dating exclusively (ie. neither party is seeing anyone else in that capacity), however if you haven’t had a discussion about being exclusive, then you’re not in a relationship. It’s not something that just happens, you both have to know what kind of relationship you are in. My friend turned over to me still in disbelief. Honestly was this something he’d never heard before?! ‘Is this like an American thing?’ …I don’t think so. In fact, I know it’s not an ‘American’ thing because I dated this guy IN Ghana. But this got me thinking, have we complicated the simplicity of ‘boy meets girl (or girl meets boy), they like each other’s company and get along really well, and they enter into an exclusive relationship’? I didn’t go into more detail with my friend, because I don’t think he could have handled me defining other dating terms like ‘talking’, ‘seeing each other’, ‘friends with benefits’ (see HERE for a more comprehensive dating terms list).  I wanted to explore this issue with another friend of mine, a female living in South Africa. Although she wasn’t as dumbfounded at the idea of dating, she did say that in her experience things are much simpler in Africa, “to me, after we’ve gone on about 3 dates, I’m considering you my boyfriend.” I laughed at that, ‘That’s presumptuous much. I’ve dated guys for over a year without ever considering them my boyfriend.’ ‘Ya, but why would you continue to see someone for a long period of time without being exclusive.’ …I had to think about it, I’ve really never had to explain this concept to someone before:

“Dating can be less messy/stressful/time-consuming/ and just less work than being in a real relationship, and perhaps you’re not ready for such a commitment, or the timing is off, or you live in different cities, but you both still like spending time with each other. I had to add a cautionary statement with my explanation: dating can also be MORE messy/stressful/time-consuming/ and generally more work than being in a committed relationship. It’s the best of both worlds (no commitment, but still companionship) when both parties are fully aware of what is going on. And it gives you a chance to get to know other people in the same way (yes, people do date multiple people at the same time).”

Of course at some point casual dating stops- it’s not cute to be dating multiple people after a certain age (you fill in the blank when that is). But how do you know when you need to stop? How do you know when you’re being too picky? Well according to Peter Todd, a Professor of Informatics and Cognitive Science*:

“In the face of this conundrum, the best strategy for picking a mate is to date enough people to establish some baseline standards, then settle down with the next person you meet who exceeds the bar.”

In Todd’s research, he found 12 to be that magic number when it comes to finding out what you want in a relationship. 12. Is that high? Low? And what if you generally don’t date much? Todd says that, “After dating 12 people, most people have enough information to determine what qualities they’re looking for in a long-term partner. Statistically speaking, that’s the point when people who want to settle down should basically end their search and settle with the next person they date who meets (or surpasses!) these expectations.” Sometimes too much choice can be a negative thing, so:

  • If you’ve dated fewer than 12 people, feel free to keep looking (AND dating)
  • If you’ve dated, say, 30 people, you’re probably being too picky

I don’t know about this science to figure out the right number of relationships situationships you need to be in before knowing when it’s time to bow out of the game (the author himself states, “some people find [love] on their first try, while others find it on their fourth marriage”); however, at least this provides some type of ‘numerical baseline’, eh?

So what’s your dating/relationship number? And what are your thoughts about my take on ‘dating’ on African vs. Western terms?