Make your relationship exclusive: What my wife and I
learned while dating
You like her
company. You have a lot in common. You talk a lot on chat or via text message
or via Whatsapp. You would be dead worried if she got hurt. You would punch the
guy who breaks her heart. You are fond of her. You know her very well. She
refers to you as a close friend. You probably call her your best friend, if not
you consider her to be one. Many people have asked you if you are dating. You
have fantasized about them severally. You know their phone number by heart. You
have a girlfriend. She’s not your girlfriend.
you’re courting fire.
the above hers to his and feminize all relevant masculine nouns
and pronouns. Yes, this blog is talking to women too.
When my wife and
I were in campus, we had a rule concerning our dating relationship. It was
simple: the relationship is exclusive. While it sounds obvious, the
lines of exclusivity become really blurry when a member of the opposite sex
fits herself/himself into the equation. It is as if they are squeezing
in-between a two-seater couch where you and your boyfriend/girlfriend are
seated. The seat can only accommodate two but there’s an “invited” friend who
has wedged himself or herself to participate in your lives. I say invited
because one of the partners in the relationship allowed the stranger to sit or
rather, they watched them sit and did nothing. A crowded couch is no fun. So, most
likely, one original member of the relationship left because their partner
won’t speak up to protect their intimacy in the relationship.
work best when they are exclusive. And for exclusivity to happen, those
boundaries need to be drawn clearly and intentionally by both women and men.
Don’t make her number one; make her the only one
My wife and I
have counselled a few of our dating friends concerning setting boundaries. When
the ladies complain that the men are not giving them attention, the men get
surprised when I ask them if there is another girl in their life, not to claim
infidelity but just to inquire of a close friendship with the opposite sex
other than the girlfriend. The answer most of the times is a yes. They then
respond that they still don’t understand because even with this other friend of
the opposite sex, they haven’t stopped calling, visiting, texting and
complimenting their girlfriends. I congratulate them for not stopping doing
those things but I reprimand them for doing those very things to the other girl
who is “just a friend” or a “best friend.” You cannot have a smooth
relationship with your girlfriend and still claim that the other girl seated on
the relationship couch is just your best friend. It is often hard for the
girlfriend to declare that she isn’t comfortable with your “best friend”
because in the recent past you treat the best friend like she’s your
girlfriend. You run to her rescue and it drives your girl mad if she hasn’t
told you. She
won’t, by the way; no one wants to be accused of being jealous. You
compliment your “best friend” on how cute she looks in that dress or on her
newly made hair and it drives your girl insane. Fear not though, nobody accuses
you for there is no relationship school.
However, Beloved, allow me to accuse you of being irresponsible for your
partner’s heart and feelings. You need no school to know you’re guilty of that.
She’s hurting because your relationship is not exclusive. The man needs to lead
the relationship and declare exclusivity. However, no amount of declaration
will save the day if it is not practiced. Pardon me for using the male side in
explaining. Just note that the same applies to women too.
For a very long
time, I did not know that I was hurting Turi. I didn’t necessarily have a best friend
of the opposite sex but I entertained a lot of people on the relationship couch.
I was a student leader in campus in charge of student clubs and social
activities. Because of that, I was compelled to work very closely with
students, especially those interested in student activities- most notably the
freshmen. I worked late on reports with them. I sat down with them to design club projects. I personally showed them
around school when they wanted to join clubs. Needless to say, majority of
these were ladies. I developed friendships with some of them but I did not draw
clear boundaries. So, it would come off as a shock to my girlfriend when these
ladies kissed me on the cheek to say thank you or asked to meet them for lunch
after a long morning of work. To me, I was oblivious to the issue. It persisted
and I did nothing to stop the pecks, the long hugs, the random lunch meetings
and hang out times after class. I was breaching the very rule I created. The
relationship was not exclusive.
Let me give you
a tip Beloved. Your girlfriend wants to be the only one to kiss your cheek. The
lipstick on the shirt is not romantic; it’s immature. Make your relationship
exclusive. Beloved sister, your man wants to be the one to take you for a lunch
date. He sees death when you’re deciding between his lunch date and your “best friend”
who just flew in from Chicago. Make your relationship exclusive if you want to
set a great foundation for your future, hopefully a marriage.
Lack of exclusiveness creates lack of respect
When you fail to
define your exclusivity, intruders will fail to respect you and your
relationship. Once, while we were dating, Turi and I attended a concert in
school. The auditorium was crowded, noisy with blasting music and there were no
empty seats. One pretty girl who was my friend walked up to where I was. She
was looking for a seat. She saw me. She was clad in a fitting short dress. She held
the hem of her dress, pulled it down a little, walked up to me and sat on my laps. She did
it so naturally and casually; I could hardly believe her audacity. Turi, who
was seated next to me, was the object of everyone’s vision; they wanted to see
her reaction. Everyone there, including the girl seated on my lap, knew that
Turi was my girlfriend. I arose from my seat and asked the girl to have my seat
instead. I stood during the concert. As I stood, I tried to process what had just
happened. Later, Turi told me that she was proud of me for not letting that
girl sit on my laps, however, I couldn’t help but think, “Doesn’t this girl
respect my relationship?” “Does she not respect me?” In retrospect I saw the
kind of friendship I entertained with this girl. I had developed a fondness for
her and she had done the same because I called her a special name. It wasn’t
anything to be ashamed of but it created an avenue to have internal jokes and
games with her yet she wasn’t my girl. When you playfully call that girl
“doll-face”, “your twin,” “your muffin,” etc, and she is not your girlfriend or
he is not your boyfriend, you will hurt your partner eventually. And don’t be
surprised if Doll-face kisses you openly in the presence of your girlfriend.
Don’t be surprised when “muffin” asks to take you for dinner and your boyfriend
is watching. You asked for the disrespect when you did not make the
relationship exclusive. And when it happens, don’t blame the intruder. You can’t
stop birds from flying over your head but you can stop them from building a
nest on you.
Be exclusive; don’t act married
When I say
exclusive, Beloved, don’t get me wrong. Some couples act married when they are
not and call it exclusive. That is not exclusivity. Acting married when you are
not can ruin great positive respectful friendships with the opposite sex because
you constantly feel threatened. A mature mark of a relationship is a healthy relationship
with other members of the opposite sex within respectful boundaries. There’s a fine line between exclusivity
and acting married; that line is called insecurity. You cannot track down every
member of the opposite sex and tell them to keep off your man. You will scare
everyone off and eventually scare your partner out of the relationship. To
avoid the insecurity that manifests itself by acting married when we were not, Turi
and I simply agreed that we would not subscribe to marriage behaviour before we
got married. Here are a few of the things we avoided to stop acting married:
We avoided getting involved sexually in any way before marriage.
We did not sleep over at each other’s places.
We did not hang out in each other’s rooms alone.
We did not handle each other’s personal money (except
during dates. She handled mine :-))
We did not access each other’s personal forms of
communication i.e. mobile phone calls, text messages, emails, Facebook,
Twitter, Myspace (yes, I’m on Myspace, lol!) etc.
We avoided exposing our nudity to each other e.g.
swimming when alone. We had friends tag along always.
These may seem
as trivial things but when unmarried folk engage in them they create a recipe
for disaster. When your relationship couch is intruded while you act married,
you most likely will end up looking like the guilty party when you speak up.
Why? Some of the things I mentioned, e.g. sexual involvement, create infinitely
deep bonds between people. When an intruder comes into the couch, there will be
no confronting them without first dealing with your own insecurities. You will
panic when he receives a call from that girl. You will be depressed when you
see him talking to her. You cannot respond to the exclusivity without
addressing your insecurity of losing a bond you should have reserved for a
marriage. If you’ve breached some of those lines, don’t be downcast. There is
no rulebook that says you cannot have a brand new start in life!
Exclusivity creates respect
I am forever
grateful for a wife like Turi. She gathered courage, bit the bullet, and
confronted me squarely about how she felt. When you are exclusive without
acting married, you retain a mind of your own concerning things that affect you
and you earn the respect of your partner. I respected Turi for the
confrontation. I respected her even more when she declared that her sexual
expression was for her marital bed and her husband. I respected her more when
she chose not to answer my phone even when I wasn’t around.
Turi and I also
drew our security deeply from having a personal relationship with Christ Jesus.
She and I knew that even if you don’t do all the things I mentioned in the
list, you could still act married and be insecure if your identity is in your
relationship. We got insecure severally and we chose to deal with it permanently.
We chose NOT to have our relationship define us. Instead Christ’s love
for us defined us. We would choose Christ over each other on any day, even
today. We cultivated our personal relationships with Christ so that by living
for Him, we pleased each other consequently. Because Christ was first in our
priorities, He enabled us to relate well in our other areas. It wasn’t perfect
though. I grew jealous once in a while. She grew envious too at times, but
Christ was the north-point we defaulted to every time our insecurity threatened
to rise and consume us.
Confront threats to exclusivity!
exclusivity in your relationship is threatened, confront it! Don’t assume it
will go away. Don’t pretend it does not exist. Don’t simmer in anger and
silence. Don’t assume your partner knows. You have a will power; exercise it;
confront it. Turi’s confrontation was clear as day; she wasn’t going to share
my heart. If the girls on the overcrowded couch did not leave, she wasn’t going
to stay. Respect your partner for that courage. There are few things that hurt a
human heart when love is not reciprocated, especially after you agree mutually
on a standard. Before you call him/her jealous, hear their heart out. I foresaw
the possibility of a break-up because I loved the egotistical sound of ladies
saying they wished they had a boyfriend like me, because in lust I did not
protest the several kisses on the cheek, because in folly I forgot that I loved
Turi, because in the pride of life, I wanted to be “the man.” I bit the dust
because all these things I was pursuing and putting up a false front of “we’re
just friends” were not giving me the satisfaction I hoped they would. It was
time to live up to my words. It was time to make the relationship exclusive. I
prayed to God to grant me the strength to do so and He did. Making the promise
did not make me capable; it made me accountable.
Make the wrongs right
I apologised to
I asked the
girls not to peck me.
I stopped them
pecking me if they didn’t listen even if it meant embarrassing them.
late-night/intimate chats with the opposite sex.
I took Turi out
on more dates.
I deleted some
of the girls’ phone numbers.
I began to
notice Turi’s beauty…again.
No relationship is disrespect-proof
Turi and I
experienced a renewal in the relationship. I noticed that the girls respected
me when I drew the boundaries. They respected Turi more. Even still, no
relationship is disrespect-proof. Someone somewhere doesn’t care about what you have.
Someone somewhere still has the audacity to try flirt with your significant
other even in your presence. When
that happened, Turi and I wouldn’t not let the offense separate us. We stood together. I wouldn’t get angry
and ask why the intruder was calling her on our honeymoon (and he was by the
way). Instead, I became her partner and helped fight the intruder. We fought it
together. I picked up her phone on our honeymoon and the not-so-gentleman on
the receiving end was surprised that the husband picked up. Once you say “I do!”,
you can act married. Those who noticed you didn’t act married while you were
dating may be shocked that your phone can be picked by your partner. Marriage
made our relationship more exclusive but it didn’t stop intruders from trying
to squeeze for a place on the two-seater couch. It didn’t stop a few girls from
getting excited over our special memories more than we did. It didn’t stop a
few guys from thinking they would get exclusive time with my wife even after we
were married. But it stopped them from doing it a second time when we put up a
united front and declared the relationship exclusive in speech, conduct and
action. The couch in now a two-seater with only two seated and there is room to
stretch; I advise you to make yours the same.