One of my favourite Twitter feminists is @SheIsBoki. Her ability to live her life as an older single woman in a country like Nigeria that is obsessed with marriage is nothing short of inspiring.
Through her, I’ve been able to realise that contrary to popular opinion, women tend to enjoy life more when we are single and especially when we take time out to be unbothered.
There is a tweet of hers which has stayed in my memory for how it succinctly captures why many women struggle to let go of emotionally unavailable men. It said: “As much as men are desperately wicked their wickedness thrives on the foolishness of women. Stay woke Queens. Self preservation is everything”.
In my understanding I interpret the “foolishness of women”, to mean how most of the time women intentionally ignore red flags and warning signs in a man.
This is especially if the man in question fits a fantasy we’ve been raised to have.
More often than not, women tend to ignore the red flags in the early stage of a relationship believing that with time he would change. Or that with time our own strong will may mould and rescue him into a better man.
For some women it may not even be that they ignore red flags because of a fantasy. It may be that they are so enamored of the fact that a man is choosing them or wants to be with them, that they deliberately make themselves unsee the negative aspects of his behaviour.
This is such that they ignore how he speaks to other women, how he communicates to people who hold low income jobs and they also ignore his sexist posts on social media. They do this because they are afraid of being alone and they do not know how to have the conversation with him because again they fear that doing so would make them without a man.
But the questions remains these: Since when did men become prizes? Do men truly change or do their bad behaviour make the woman herself become a shadow of herself? Why are women afraid of starting over and approaching men we like such that we do not wait around for just any man?
To further understand what fuels why women ignore red flags in relationships, I spoke to five women.
For writer and social media manager Anu*, she believes that lack of self awareness is a key factor that pushed her to stay in an emotionally abusive relationship.
In her words: “I think the reason why I ignored red flags in my past relationship was because I wasn’t self aware.
Personally, I believe that as a woman, there’s a level of self awareness you’ll have that would prevent you from accepting rubbish and nonsense from a man. My relationship with this guy did not benefit my in any way. As in ZERO. Yet I was in that relationship for a year and ten months.”
She went on to say: “During talking stage I saw these red flags, the subtle manipulation, the way he was controlling, but it didn’t click in my head. I was just clueless sort of and I wasn’t really sure of my feelings; I knew I liked him but the mistake I made is not realizing that liking someone isn’t a standalone reason to be in a relationship.
And I saw shege. It was really bad. In that relationship, I had severe anxiety and battled with sleep paralysis for more than a year. I don’t even know why I lasted that long in that relationship. Anyway, I’m out of it. I learned my lesson and I have become better.”
Speaking with Olufunmike, a homeschooler and parenting expert, she believes that it all boils down to the home situation women grew up in. She said: “If you’ve been raised to feel like you’re responsible for your parents’ moods and actions, you’ll tend to think you’re a fixer in relationships. Fixers ignore red flags.”
This line of thought was also echoed by Toyin, a content creator and filmmaker when she told me: “Maybe because ‘love’ and ‘relationships’ are highly romanticized. So women tend to go into it with rose tinted glasses. Right from a young age, the kind of love stories we are bombarded with has a woman changing a man because he loves her.”
When asked her thoughts on women and red flags in relationships, writer and developer Isabella had this to say: “Ignoring red flags is terrible. I had a friend who kept going back to a guy and she kept experiencing the worst. She kept telling herself she could cope, ended badly. Women do this because of their nurturing side, I think.”
She went on to say: “We tend to sometimes let our emotion cloud our thinking, so we manufacture excuses for these people. I’ve learnt it’s the same as giving men power. If you show that you can’t let a man go, it goes to their head and it pollutes their brain. They’ll test you, and keep testing you till you break. Ignoring the red flags is a no-no.”
The last woman Chioma, echoed some aspects of Isabella’s thoughts when she said: “I also think it’s the “enduring” spirit that makes women want to stay and change the man. They are always telling us to be considerate and manage but they hardly say that to men. If a woman complains about her man, they tell her to endure and believe he will change.
But men, once they complain, their friends are already telling them to end the relationship. That they shouldn’t be staying in such a relationship.”
From the stories shared by these women, it is more than evident that ignoring red flags and warning signs make a woman become a shadow of her former self.
As a society, it is imperative that we teach young girls to leave at the first instance of disrespect.
If this is not done it is inevitable that even smart and accomplished women would become doormats in their relationships due to fear and lack of strength.
*Name changed to protect identity.
Angel Nduka-Nwosu is a writer, journalist and editor. She moonlights occasionally as a podcaster on As Angel Was Sayin’. Catch her on all socials @asangelwassayin.