How A Constant Search For Love Can Ironically Bring Heartache

One of my favourite poetry collections is Questions for Ada by the Nigerian poet and speaker Ijeoma Umebinyuo. 

It is a collection that speaks on issues like singleness, immigration from a woman’s perspective, motherhood and the ties that bind mothers and daughters. The collection is one that I return to each time I need a reminder of my worth in and out of my relationship status.

In one of the poems titled Alone, Ms. Umebinyuo wrote about a woman who searched endlessly for a husband, thought of bleaching her skin and began her morning ritual by praying to God to send her a man who will change her last name. Without giving several spoilers in the poem, the woman in question did get a man to marry her but the marriage was super unhappy, characterised by cheating and the woman was more or less alone and lonely in the marriage.

I read that poem when I was eighteen and it laid a very fundamental foundation in my becoming as a feminist. Six years on and the words from it still ring true. Even more, they force us to ask and interrogate the numerous ways a constant search for love can bring heartache to us as women. It forces us to ask why women often look to mostly emotionally unintelligent men as those whose love will act as therapy and heal us of childhood insecurities.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying wanting romantic love is a bad thing. Wanting love, companionship, care and a feeling of safety from a partner and even a man is not a bad thing. It is perfectly normal and okay.

We however must ask ourselves how to draw a thin line between a healthy desire, going after we want and a desperation for just anyone to fill a void that stems out of a discomfort with one’s company and being alone.

It is even more imperative that women as a group learn to actively remove a constant search for romantic love especially given the state of most men’s behaviours. Yes, some may argue that one can still get her heartbroken even when not actively searching. That is true. That is a very valid response. 

However, a woman who has made “finding the one” a priority will find it harder to take a break and heal compared to the woman who is not on an active search. This is because the woman who is not on an active search for love will most likely date for the pleasure of it and will have a fuller interesting life that she can go back to even if a partner in question leaves her.

One often observes that women who constantly search for love tend to make that their only priority because they are looking to be healed and to have a childhood fantasy of romance achieved. They also tend to not totally develop and nourish other forms of support such that when they experience negativity, they hardly know who to turn to because they made the man the beginning and end of their life.

And why is that? Why can’t we teach women that while it is okay to want love, we must never want it at the expense of self erasure and annihilation? That we must always prioritise healthy relationships and sexual lives as opposed to being with just anyone for social media adoration or any toxic person with a promise of an orgasm?

Speaking with Jovita Omoike, she says that her last relationship almost had her suicidal when it ended due to him being at the center.

In her words: “My last relationship ended and almost had me suicidal. I was in love with a guy who wanted to remain a boy and I was ready to wait till he “manned” up, just so he chooses me.

I finished school five years before he did and I refused to better myself because I didn’t want him to feel a certain type of way. I wanted to protect his dignity as a man 😂😂😂

I gave myself away. There was nothing left for me to go back to at the end of each day.

If he didn’t call, it felt like I was going to die. Of course he all of these and he leveraged on it everytime.”

She went on to say: “When we had arguments, caused by his nonchalant attitude, he’d never call to apologize. I always did, he’d gaslight me and turn the tables to think it was my fault. He cheated and it was my fault. 

Eventually, he broke up with me because ‘I was too good’ and I wanted to die.

It took a whole year for me to find myself again, I was empty. Unconsciously, I had dropped my hobbies, friends, things that made me happy because of him and I had to struggle to get them back.

It was tough but I overcame. I know better now. I matter first, I come first in whatever relationship I am in now. I am independent and while people say ‘Oh, you’re too self reliant’, I don’t mind because I am all I’ve got in this world.”

For Maryam Serene, she says that there is indeed a thin line between desiring love and searching for love in a desperate manner.

To quote her: “I hundred percent think that there is a thin line between looking for the one and opening yourself to heartache and being desperate. There’s a very very thin line. I say this because for the longest time I was basically looking for the one and at some point I had to sit down with myself and basically reflect on my choices. Especially with men. 

Because what I saw was happening was that when I meet a potential romantic partner, I’m imagining okay this is the person who both of us will be in love. So I’m already thinking ahead and too far ahead. This is such that I will be entering that relationship with a fully open mind and heart. I’m willing to see the good and the bad in the person and just acknowledge the bad but not fixate on it.”

Maryam went on to say: “I realised that it left me open to manipulative men. Men who once they meet you, are asking you questions just to guage where your mind is at. And then these men will tailor their activities to align with your expectations even though that is not what they really want. At the end of the day, what I found that was happening, was that I was letting myself be used and not necessarily sexually. 

This was more like mentally. There is a way that I don’t want a man to use me. I don’t want a man to use me to soothe his ego. To make him feel like he’s some sort of “big man” because he has some woman salivating after him. 

So, I had to withdraw. Like I literally had to withdraw and I removed myself from the dating scene. I removed myself from everybody that I might have had a thing or two with and I just alienated everybody. I did this because I realised that if you are not coming correct, you are not giving me that vibe of ‘the one”, then you don’t need to be getting the privileges and so I pulled out. I left the entire scene and saved myself a ton of heartache. I had already experienced heartache but it was just like this eureka moment for me that you need to pull out and not let these men use you to stoke their egos and to build themselves up. Don’t allow that and so I left. So I started looking for romance in a much more logical way. It became business because the same way I’ll approach business using logic and think if one plus one doesn’t equal two I’m out, that same way applied to romance.”

The reality is that while wanting love, companionship and romance are perfectly normal and human desires, in a sexist world, desiring love at the expense of other relationships can see a woman manipulated and left high and dry.

It is therefore important to teach women and girls to nurture other forms of love even as we desire romantic partnership.

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