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He Was Never Gonna Wife You, Afua: 6 Ways to Know Before You Know

photo (3)Harsh words, but a reality… he just wasn’t that into you.

I spent some time with a close guy friend a couple weeks ago while stateside, and a slightly inebriated trip down relationship/situationship lane concluded with some chilling realizations and some good insights for me going forward. I thought it was time to start turning wounds into wisdom, so here goes.

The conversation began with the acknowledgement that ‘yes, there are always signs when something’s not going to work out, but we choose to ignore them- While for men, ignoring usually involves a fight between both “heads”, a woman’s 308551_245290692199249_127001387361514_718090_1318263351_n_largefight is usually between her head and her heart. So given this fight, how does one pick up that you’re not ‘his wifey’ in order not to waste your time? Good q. For the remainder of this piece, I’ll try to recount John’s** side of the conversation in italics slash give my thoughts and list out six key findings in bold. Although these are personalized to me, they are general takeaways for everyone on how to know before you know.

In no particular order:

1. How many times did I tell you to let this one go? And not just me, how many people told you to let this one go? You put it down, you pick it up. You walk away, then turn right back around and RUN back. You let it half way heal, then with one little itch and you’re picking at it. >>> When your guy friends cry foul, it’s a problem. I know I’ve talked about this before, but I’ll reiterate it because it’s such a good test. Maybe even before ‘your man’ admits it to you or to himself, sometimes your guy friends can pick up on actions or inactions and let you know what’s really up with a guy. Listen to your guy friends when they tell you to keep it moving, especially when it’s multiple friends and said repeatedly. It’s not an exact science, but this is definitely better than listening to your girlfriends who tend to rationalize actions with you..

2. Not one? single one of his close friends, period, knew of the existence of his and your situation. And that is all on you, boo. As a relationship blogger, you really should know better. >>> I really should. I mean, I have a blog post that even discussed this… so no excuses on this one. Let me just copy/paste what I already ‘know’: His Family and Friends not knowing about you is a problem. If you’re ‘together’ and every one of your close friends and family knows about him, but none of his close friends or family knows about your existence/relationship, it’s time to reconsider the situation. If you drop hints of loving to meet his family/friends and he evades or shuts down the conversation, it’s time to consider why. And this includes the lot of ‘I don’t tell people about my personal business’ folks. Yes, some men don’t like to gossip about who they’re fooling around with, but when he’s serious about you, he’ll want the important people in his life to know about you. And for you to know them. 

3. And on that note… the ex never left the picture, so you better go take several seats, little girl. If it takes any man 6 months to break up with a chick, don’t think for a second that thing is going to die easily >>> When the ex never leaves the picture, it’s a problem. So you did your research once the two of you started talking… Who was before, how serious was it, is she outta the picture? But it’s not always about the past, you need to also consider the present. Even if others have opinions about what their situation was/is, even if he said ‘she wasn’t wifey’…trust your gut. If things don’t feel right on more than one occasion, maybe it’s for a reason. And things not feeling right can manifest in various forms: 1. They’re still really good friends (a little too good) 2. photo 4 (1)She’s someone who never let go: Checking in… ‘Hows your mama & ’em doing?… Did your pops receive the Christmas present I sent him’ Etc.*side-eye* 3. His friends never understood why he broke up with her, and continue to believe she’s the best match for him (See #2 again) 4. The general public/ his friends and acquaintances still associate him with her in a romantic sense… Everyone pause for a moment: I actually had a conversation once with someone who referred to the person I was currently talking to as ‘oh, you mean so-and-so’s ex’… Errr yup, that’s exactly who I was referring to… *side-eye*. For this one, John was stressing that perhaps I never lost him because I never had him to lose. That perhaps he was never the one, because he was always someone else’s one. If she’s got the best friends and family on lock, you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle; just don’t be surprised if in 2, 3, 4 years even they’re back together near engaged *shrug*.

3.5. Not to belabor the point, but you took too long to decide what you wanted and then to tell him, and in general there will be less encroachment on territory if it is clearly marked. One reason someone can come back so easily into a man’s life, is when he’s not locked down. photo 1 (1)You have a window of opportunity to lock it down with a guy, once that’s gone, you can’t really do much after that. >>>  When it takes too long to get commitment, it’s a problem. If you want something, decide quickly and take it. If you get hurt in the process, at least you can say you tried… But don’t allow a situation to float in the milky way undefined. One of the most eye opening lessons I’ve learned in the last year is the power of a decisive woman in a relationship. And this is all from the mouths of men too: ‘Women sometimes underestimate their influence over men (especially educated black women). A woman can have the power to make decisions for ‘us’, because sometimes we don’t know what we want or what’s best for us, and we need a woman to make a case/decision that ‘hey, we’re doing this’.’ What I’ve seen over the past year living in Ghana is that the purposeful/intentional/aggressive women be killing the game- and the laissez-faire, well…they’re not. And intentional here is not thirsty or manipulative, it’s just being straight with what you want.

4. Your values/ religion did not align, and no one backed down. Love compromises, so if yall weren’t willing to come to an understanding on this then there’s not too much you could do there  >>> I know this is a dicey one. In our favorite guest post on White Women, the author called foul play on African men brought up by traditional/Christian mothers who wanted to deviate from that with their own significant others. However, to that all I can say is: It’s. Allowed. God forbid men don’t want to marry their mothers, even if they think the world of them. You’re allowed to adore your mama and not want to date/marry ‘her’ per se, or allow ‘her’ to raise your kids in the world we live in now. And I find this true for a lot of African men who’ve grown up/ spent a considerable amount of time abroad. It’s the same thing really as marrying outside your race/culture. And I am fully aware that opposites attract and there are successful inter-faith and no-faith/faith couples, however if the two of you don’t see each others values/religions as assets (or at the very least not liabilities) to the other’s character, then its a red flag. And this is more than tolerance, it’s respect and a willingness to live with the consequences of that persons values/religion… Including (if you’re to get married) how you raise your kids.

5. Count for me how many times in 3 years, you TRULY felt this boy was going H.A.M for you, as in putting in serious time and energy to make the relationship work.

I’ll wait.

**Deafening Silence**

1, 2, 3 times? Maybe a handful? 

**Selah**

Actually that’s okay, you don’t have to answer.

>>> He likes you a little less than you like him. It’s the time tested rule passed down from Grandmama that we all heard growing up: You want a man who likes you a little more than you like him. For obvious reasons… or maybe not so obvious, so I’ll explicitly say it… Men like to chase and women like to be chased. It’s like the circle of life or something *shrug*. If you as the woman are driving things, if you’re the one  trying to manipulate situations to see him, speak to him scheming to make it work, it’s prob not supposed to work. If he shows unwavering commitment to his friends and family, and for you it doesn’t quite seem like he’s putting in as much dedication to show you how he feels… sooner or later, the truth always surfaces. And I’m not advocating for playing games here either… I do think women should make their feelings known, but after that if he’s not reciprocating on a similar level then keep it moving…  And I realize there’s a delicate balancing act one has to do between this and #3.5. 

6. WTF. Even as a man, I WAS confused of this guy’s actions. He’s in, he’s out, he’s up, he’s down. >>> Indecision is a decision. And I’ve already talked about this …. twice. Don’t necessarily equate leaving and returning as a sign that he wants to be with you… Because although he comes back, he still leaves again. If he can’t make a permanent decision about you, and it’s been more than 12 months…keep it moving – words from a man, not me.  And I can’t give enough stress to #1, if your guy friends cry foul… well, you know the rest.

– – –

Well, that’s the list I uncovered can remember with John. Perhaps he was a little hard on me, but I needed to hear it and I think many women need to as well. What’s worse than being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back, is wasting time on being with someone who truly doesn’t want to be with you, so use the 6 tests above… I think they can save you a lot some of the head heartache. The guy may like you (even care for you deeply), but the key here is that he’s not into you enough to stay permanently… Enough to tell his fam/friends about you… Enough to pass the smell test with objective guy friends. I think more than this being a therapeutic post for me, I also don’t want anyone to ever spend too much time on a one-sided love, or ever have to hear a guy say to you after three years, ‘you know, you don’t exactly fit in with my whole life situation’… *shrug* It happens.

**Name changed obvi

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Tall, Milk Chocolate & Handsome.

I had a lot of fun writing this piece for the folks over at DustAccra. We, at Bandeka, have some-what of a crush on these guys and gals. Great people doing a great job over in Accra! Make sure to check their site, and download the entire Edition HERE or here:  Dust-Magazine-March-2012-bandeka. If you can’t see the piece clearly, just click on the picture. Enjoy!

Do You Have Something to Say About African Love? Guest Blog for Bandeka!

I was thinking the other day that I want to spice things up on this blog, and I can only imagine just hearing from me can become quite boring, so I want to hear from you all! I know a lot of you have things to say, so share it with the entire bandeka family. Send your submissions to afua@bandeka.com. I’m quite open to blog topics: dating, relationships, networking with Africans (abroad and on the continent), things related to the Diaspora in general. Submissions must be your original work! Please keep them to 500 words, and please please proof read before sending :-).

We look forward to reading your entries!!

Western Ideals: A Positive or Negative Influence on African Marriages

I must say, after seeing this video: http://www.businessinsider.com/sheryl-sandberg-husband-2011-12  I couldn’t wait to write this post. In the short clip, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg describes her work/life balance, and how her and her husband operate in a marriage that is 50/50.

Key highlights from the clip (you should watch the whole thing, it’s only 4min):

Can you have it all?

“The data also shows very clearly that men assume that they can have it all- meaning they can have a great career and a great family- and women do not. And that is largely true, because we don’t have an even split in the home.”

“If we would get to an even division of labor in the home, more women can have it all. And really I think it’s more about choice.”

“I have an awesome husband. We are at 50/50.”

“As a family, we prioritize both of our careers, not just his…not just mine. As a family, we prioritize our kids.”

“I tell young women the most important [decision] you’ll make is who your life partner is. It is more important than anything else, because everything else is more easily changeable.”

“When it is a woman who is succeeding, people say to the husband, [“Are you okay?”]. That’s the problem…the problem is we demand and expect professional success for men. It is optional for women, and potentially threatening.”

I was speaking to one of my guy friends, and I think some of his comments regarding the clip were spot on.

Guy: Her comments make sense, but there are so many more variables to consider.

Me: Yup. Especially because she’s white, works for an awesome company, and has money, and is educated.

Guy: I definitely think $$ is the biggest factor, which includes many of the other [factors] (white + education, etc.)

Guy: It takes a special type of man…but I see it as 1000x harder in the black professional circles. [Having] two aggressively aspiring professionals [in a relationship]- those 2 A-type personalities sometimes don’t gel well together when it is time to make sacrifices, neither wants to “lose”…[And] to be honest I don’t know too many Africans that fit that bill.

“We discussed some of this at the DC-Bandeka event…I heard the men say they wanted this and would accept that, but they still have very strong traditional roles set in their DNA.

Me: Not just that, but what will your family say- your parents…African friends.

Guy: Yep, the men weren’t budging on traditional roles. But then the women didn’t help either, because they had the ‘what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is ours’ attitude… Men [are] supposed to be the “Provider”… Women had the whole we “should” be equal mentality, but then they also said that a man is supposed to be the “Provider”. Both sexes are stuck in traditional roles mentality.

Me: True. We don’t know what we want.

Guy: Exposure to non-African ideas is good and harmful, it seems… Good to change the thought process for the future, but bad because there is a generation caught in the grind of change [between] trying to be traditional and progressive…Men and Women need to realize what they say is not really what they believe.

I’ll get a little personal here… when I look at men that I’ve been involved with and the things that have most attracted me to them, their respect and support for my professional interests and goals has always been at the top of the list. When I also look at the highly successful African women in my life (who ARE married to African men), they all have supportive husbands. And not supportive in name only, but these are men who take action to support their wives, whether it is giving their wife resources to grow her business first rather than using them for their own business (like my uncle did for my aunt), or it is assuming responsibility for the kids school activities and functions (like my father did for many years). Each of the men I am thinking of are also very successful in their own right, however their wife’s success is not in competition with their own. So I think my own opinion on this is quite set.

Recall the piece I wrote earlier where I discussed an article written by TJ O’Kara, a young African man who believed that everything outside of the traditional roles for an African woman is ‘extra’. There’s his school of thought, there’s the more Western-leaning school of thought (where I find myself), and then for others in our generation, there’s a genuine struggle between traditional ideals and Western ones. Should we try to adopt more Western styles of marriage? And have you noticed this struggle in our generation of well-educated Africans?

Why Women Should Listen To The Advice of Men

We have some really interesting features coming up on www.bandeka.com, and I would encourage you to email us at talktous@bandeka.com if you’re currently not on the site. This weekend I was having a chat with the co-founders of Bandeka and they were telling me how frustrating it is when women ask for relationship advice, but then don’t believe them when they tell them the honest truth. A common exchange being: “Well, how do you know? He’s different…” “….aaaa, I know. I’M A GUY!” I think it’s true that a lot of women don’t take advice from men in their lives, because honestly the truth hurts. Women like to think their situation is different, but men think very similarly, and unfortunately “he’s different” is rarely the case. When I look back at times when I was confused about a guy or situation, the majority of the time consultation with a guy friend ended up being spot on (whether I listened or not).

In this Clutch article, the author Felicia Pride writes about receiving advice from her dad about why her most recent relationship just fizzled – and particularly why this scenario keeps repeating itself.

“For the first time in my 30+ years, I asked my father for advice about relationships, and gasp, men. Call me desperate. I was. But I figured, after 64 years on the planet, he knew something about what makes his kind tick. And well, we’ve developed a relationship over the years where sugarcoating is unnecessary. I knew he was going to give it to me straight.

His advice is probably spot on with what most men would say to a woman in Felicia’s situation:

Act like you don’t give a sh*t.

Felicia’s response is also spot on with how most women in her situation would react:

“That’s not how I am,” I pleaded with my father. “If I like someone, I like him. I don’t want to play games.”

The next sequence of events may differ from woman to woman, but I would bet Felicia’s first reaction is also spot on with most women in her situation:

1. Originally, I dismissed my father’s advice. 2. Until, as part of an attempt to demystify my love life, I asked my ex-boyfriend why he broke up with me: “You were too accessible,” he said… 3. I took in his words. Listened. No judgment. Just tried to learn.

Since then, Felicia has gone against her instincts and taken the advice of her father to become less available in her dating life: “I [call] back when I [call] back. I [respond] to texts when I [get] around to it. I [hang] out with guys occasionally, when the mood [hits].” And according to her, “As much as I hate to admit this, there [is] a power in it all. I [am] in control of my feelings instead of the other way around.”

So are you going to start taking the advice of the men in your life? Make sure to check out www.bandeka.com! We are going to start addressing some of your burning relationship questions, bandeka-style 🙂

Is It Better to Be Alone, or to Settle?

I’ve been sent this article by a few people, and after reading it I still don’t know what to think. For those of you who haven’t seen Kate Bolick’s ‘All the Single Ladies’ article or some form of commentary about it, here’s a quick summary of her main point, as neatly provided by one of the co-founders of Bandeka:

“People go round looking for Mr. Right/ Ms. Perfect (often times getting out of relationships because “something doesn’t add up” or “it just doesn’t feel right” or some such without some real concrete issue and if concrete issue, often minor and reconcilable) especially in their mid to late 20s, early 30s. Then when they’re mature and older and lonelier (either divorced from the stud they married or the hot chick they went after and married within a year), they realize the nerd from back when they were 28 was really the best person… but then it’s too late.”

In essence, the grass isn’t always greener post-breakup. Bolick shares her own story in the piece as she speaks about her regret of breaking up with her boyfriend of 3 years at age 28 (for no good reason) – “he was (and remains) an exceptional person, intelligent, good-looking, loyal, kind.” Explaining her behavior, Bolick says she had “two intangible yet undeniable convictions: something was missing; [and] I wasn’t ready to settle down.” But now hitting 40, she is realizing that that breakup could have been the biggest mistake of her life:

Today I am 39, with too many ex-boyfriends to count and, I am told, two grim-seeming options to face down: either stay single or settle for a “good enough” mate. At this point, certainly, falling in love and getting married may be less a matter of choice than a stroke of wild great luck. A decade ago, luck didn’t even cross my mind. I’d been in love before, and I’d be in love again. This wasn’t hubris so much as naïveté; I’d had serious, long-term boyfriends since my freshman year of high school, and simply couldn’t envision my life any differently.

In her article, Bolick explains that her story is not uncommon among women today. She attributes many reasons, including unrealistic expectations of marriage, and a desire for two incompatible states of being- autonomy and intimacy, among other things. She also discusses how men these days have more choices to choose from and this decreases their desire to commit:

“… the more successful a man is (or thinks he is), the less interested he is in commitment.”

She recalls her discussion regarding black men with Professor Richard Banks of ‘Is Marriage for White People?’:

“If you’re a successful black man in New York City, one of the most appealing and sought-after men around, your options are plentiful,” Banks told me. “Why marry if you don’t have to?” (Or, as he quotes one black man in his book, “If you have four quality women you’re dating and they’re in a rotation, who’s going to rush into a marriage?”)

She also points out that in 2010, The New York Times ran a much-discussed article chronicling this phenomenon among college-aged men. “If a guy is not getting what he wants, he can quickly and abruptly go to the next one, because there are so many [women available].”

The blame isn’t solely on men however, as the evolution of a woman’s freedom and independence has played a major role in this particular outcome. I’m not sure what to make of Bolick’s article, honestly. What do you think? Is settling the only alternative for women who desire to be married by a certain age? Before you start firing off, the ‘desire to be married by a certain age’ is key here. Take our poll below- even if you are a guy!

What a Black Woman Has to Say About Submission… You Might Be Surprised.

I think one of the most dreaded words for an independent woman is ‘submit’. I don’t need to go into much detail as to why some independent women dread this word/concept within the context of a committed relationship, but I want you to take a look at the short video below and see how you feel about Shanel Cooper’s take on submission. Is there really power in being submissive as a woman?

In the clip below, the author of ‘Stilettos in the Kitchen’ lays out the traditional roles of women and men as follows:

Traditional roles of womanhood: taking care of home, cooking, taking care of your children, nurturing, teaching, loving, uplifting, taking care of your man.

Traditional roles of manhood: Protect, provide, conquer, be strong, provide a home for a woman to nurture and love.

Is there something to say about the traditional roles of men and women in a relationship, or have we moved past that in the 21st century? Can men and women have successful relationships with altered roles, or are the traditional roles just the way things are supposed to be?

A rhetorical question was posed in this BellaNaija article* that I thought I would pose to you as well: “How is it that after I have had the same job shift as my husband I am meant to come home to the cooking and cleaning and he comes home to the sofa and latest Manchester United scores?”

**Pay close attention to 2:08-3:17

* If the article doesn’t open at first, refresh the page.