Adulting comes with a wave of things and one of those things is relationships especially the romantic kind. From committed ones, casual ones, situationships, and entanglements, it is a whirlwind of emotion navigating this space. All too often the term love has been used to misname some of the encounters we find ourselves in. The definitions of love I have become fond of are “Love is a verb” and also one by M. Scott Peck in his book The Road Less Travelled, “The will to extend one’s self to nurture one’s own or another’s spiritual growth”.
I have a friend with whom we usually ask “Love or Lessons?” when we (individually) find ourselves in encounters. I always say lessons for two reasons; I am not very optimistic and everything we go through is meant to teach us. I have got caught in the crossfire several times thus here are my lessons in love.
This has been one of the biggest lessons for me and it has taken several heartbreaks to know that I have been letting in the big bad wolf and not little red riding hood, younahmean! Most days I catch myself wondering what the hell I was doing letting someone who I was incompatible with into my space. Sadly I gave into the trapping of “let me give it sometime and I’ll discover what those things are”, it never happened. I can tell you for free, you’ll know when you know, whatever your process is; whether it’s observing the person or listening to what they say. Deep within you, you just know. I implore you to not compromise your sanity, your peace, and your soul by picking that puzzle piece that you have assessed and known doesn’t match you, you will suffer.
Do your inner work for yourself
Some of us are seated pretty waiting on another child of God to come into their lives and do inner work that we should be doing for ourselves. By inner work, I am talking about self-love,self-care, self-compassion, and all that good jazz. Never will someone’s love and care and compassion be enough to make you whole. Take on that duty for yourself, by yourself. Is it any wonder we hear cases of people in and out of relationships because they seek things outside of themselves? Do not burden someone with the task of fixing you up and if they leave what will happen to your poor soul? Ensure you do your inner works to ensure you remain you even when you get rejected or abandoned by your partner.
Believe people’s deeds
As the old adage says, “Actions speak louder than words”. If there is a hill I will die on it is that people are liars. In Mark Manson’s book, Everything is F*cked: A book about hope, he talks of something we know to be true but we often ignore, we are all liars. We lie about crucial and inconsequential things. However, deeds do not lie. So if there are disconnects between someone’s actions and their “professions of love” please spare yourself the shame and heartbreak. These disconnects are what is infamously known as (drum rolls…) Red Flags. Please don’t be like the bull that knows better than to run toward the red flag and still does it.
I believe this is an important aspect to consider before allowing someone into your life. Values are simply the things you believe are important as per your judgment of life. For example, if you think honesty is vital then it constitutes your values and part of your character. All hell breaks loose when you compromise your values for someone who doesn’t match them. Not only are you always at loggerheads but also you will feel the vibe you share is one of strife and not of harmony. Choose a partner whose values match yours. In as much as values attribute to positive things, there are those of us who value negative things as per your judgment, so if you happen to fall in this category select a partner with the same sense. For example, if you value vanity please go for someone as vain as you na mkae kwa amani, if you are a thief find a thief like you and be happy together counting down your 40 days. Don’t choose a partner with an opposite view hoping for something harmonious or worse still for them to change you. It doesn’t work that way (see the point on doing inner work).
Trust your intuition
As sentient beings, we were given intuition to guide us through our experiences. It occurs in various situations like when you are hungry; you trust your intuition enough to find something to eat to satiate the hunger. As powerful as your intuition is, why do you doubt yourself when it tells you someone is moving funny? Why don’t you trust it when it tells you your time with this person has expired? Why don’t you trust it when it tells you you’re with someone abusive? The incessant voice or feeling in you is there for a reason, please learn to trust it and move accordingly. No one is worth compromising yourself for.
Society has conditioned people to love struggling so much so some things have become accepted as part of the struggle that is adored. Sadly, abuse is one of such things included in the much-revered struggle. Listen, we are not on this earth to struggle our way into suffering. Like Timaya sings, “This life I cannot kill myself oh”. Don’t kill yourself by remaining in an abusive relationship where you are gaslight, manipulated, verbally abused, mistreated, and worse physically abused. Save yourself, darling. What is particularly sad is how women especially have been conditioned to accept this. In Bell Hook’s book All about love: New Visions, she talks about how women are socialized into seeing cruelty as a test and that they need to endure it to prove their love. She advocates for a healthier approach to cruelty which is taking you out of that negative space. Cheating is not part of ups and downs, my friend, it is abuse. Spare yourself and do not settle for mediocrity, we are still young and proper love will find you.
As grim as the aforementioned lessons have been (pardon my cynicism), what I have learned most is to be patient. Being single can get lonely however if you shift your mindset a bit and see it as solitude it becomes enjoyable. Henri Nouwen in his book Reaching Out says, “Instead of running away from our loneliness and trying to forget or deny it, we have to protect it and turn it into fruitful solitude”. To quote Bell Hooks in All About Love: New Visions she writes so beautifully, “Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape”. If some of your love life’s touched Christ’s hem (mine included), you’d still be single and that too is a miracle. Solitude has a way of initiating growth and maybe the ‘God When’ mentality will decrease because you have faith that in time it shall happen for you.
If you have been lucky enough to find love then thank God because it is so rare in our modern society where we blame a poor capital city for our failures in character.
Wherever else you are on the spectrum of encounters remember to put yourself first and also to wrap it up.
P.S: Share your lessons in love with us; we’d love to hear from you.
M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled, Simon and Schuster, 1978
Mark Manson, Everything is F*cked: A book about hope, Harper-Brothers, 2019
Bell Hooks, All About Love, Harper-Brothers, 1999
Henri Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love, Doubleday, 1996