It is no lie that all over the world, women are raised to put everyone’s needs before theirs. It starts from the sacrificial mother stories where young girls learn that to be a woman means that one must always be in pain and wear that pain as a badge of honour.
What then happens is that when these young women get into relationships with men, they very often become “understanding girlfriends”. This often means that they are not intentional about getting as much as they pour into the relationship. It can also mean that they tend to be forgiving of a man’s excesses such as lying and cheating under the over-flogged age-old guise that “he would change”.
To further understand this, Urban Woman Magazine spoke to six women who explained what an Understanding Babe or Understanding Girlfriend is, the negative effects of it and how to know you may or may not be one.
To be an understanding girlfriend is to compromise your own comfort and peace for other people. Not just other people, people who don’t rate you as much.
There’s nothing wrong with [giving up some things] for those you love, it becomes a problem when it’s unwarranted, and you become a doormat.
An understanding babe is something that’s borne of people pleasing. In the long run you have nothing left to give yourself, and your recipients might not even notice or care.
It is especially important for us as women to learn to speak up for ourselves and demand better. Women are raised to be “understanding babes” by default, and this leads to dissatisfaction and underachievement. When you refuse to settle for less, they will call you a witch, but you shouldn’t fold still. It is better to be a witch than to be an understanding babe. Be intentional about going after exactly what you want, so that you can grow into who you were always meant to be and you can have everything that you want. It’s yours.
What I can say is this. A man was interested in me this year. He makes good money, like millions a week, and was honestly looking to marry. I was open to being in a relationship because we shared some values and I was genuinely impressed with how hardworking he was.
But the catch? For him, it’s like out of sight is out of mind. Calls were sparse, texts were almost nonexistent. In the first week he called me almost every evening but then that fizzled to maybe twice a week? When we had a date I had to call him and text like 3 or 4 times to confirm if we were still going out or I could carry out my other plans. He replied on the 3rd attempt I think and we went out and had a great time. I was just telling myself to be understanding because his job is demanding (which it is).
I’d call him or text to check on him because I now sorta considered him as a friend and just shrugged everything off with a ‘he’s genuinely a busy person’.
But then, the last time we ran into each other and I told him I would be leaving the area he said ‘I should call you and see you’ then switched to ‘I WILL call you and see you’. I took his word for it and decided not to reach out first.
It’s been 3 months. No word. A part of me wanted to still do ‘understanding babe’ and reach out as a friend but lmaooo if someone prioritises you, even if they’re in the hospital for months the gist go reach you. After all, we have mutual contacts.
I think for him it was a ‘make I marry wife begin get children, time don reach’. Plus he used to say ‘I love a lot but because I’m not so present my ex thought I didn’t care’. So if a man talks like that, maybe this is a clear sign you are about to enrol as a UB.
So regarding being an understanding babe…It can be easy to get sucked into the idea of being an “understanding babe” but from experience, it rarely ever ends well. You will get partners and even friends who refuse to consider your feelings.
You’re always treated as an afterthought because you understand, you give more of yourself to people who wouldn’t move an inch for you. It’s not a good thing for babes and I don’t encourage it.
To be an understanding babe or to be diagnosed with the understanding babe syndrome is to shortchange yourself in a society where you have already been cheated by virtue of your gender. When the understanding babe trend became a thing on TikTok, then gravitated to become a topic on X (Twitter), many ladies shared their stories of how they’ve been understanding babes in the past and how men took them for granted as a result.
Their stories mostly bordered around staying and building with broke men who took them for granted and showed them ‘shege’. But does being an understanding babe stop there? No! It’s everything and every action that makes you lower your standards, and show your lack of self-worth and boundaries, and all this is rooted in patriarchy. I know some will see the patriarchy in my sentence, roll their eyes and say in their heads, ‘Every time patriarchy, when will feminists let this word rest?!’.
But my dear, anything that makes men have the most crazy and obscene choices and standards in women, while women are told and forced to settle for men who are not worth it, which if they don’t settle for, would see them insulted and abused, is rooted in patriarchy.
An understanding babe is one who sticks with a cheating man because to her, men are polygamous in nature and it is normal for a man to cheat and still love you. It doesn’t matter if he gives her Sexually Transmitted Infections, because again it’s accepted and normal for men to cheat so why not??
An understanding babe will stick with a man who abuses her and make excuses for being abused, and I am not necessarily talking about physical and emotional abuse, because these types of abuse e.g emotional abuse are not that straightforward and the victims hardly know they’re being abused and find it difficult to leave their abuser.
I’m talking about abuse that involves finances; sticking with a broke man who offers you nothing and collects money from you without looking for ways to improve his life. Do you know one funny thing about this type of abuse? Women will convince themselves that broke men are better options than rich men, or that a materialistic woman is a low-budget Jezebel, that’s the lie that men and society have fed you to believe.
A man is not a good man because of his financial status. Dare I say, that the “broke” ones are the most terrible ones because their broke status influences how they see themselves, they attach their self-worth to their financial status and are very insecure. They project on women they’re dating and see any of her actions and inactions as disrespectful, they have the worst egos and will bring you down once you make more money than them or occupy higher positions in your place of work. Does what I’m saying sound familiar? Oh?
You’ve watched the movie Fair Play, haven’t you? If you’ve not, please watch it to have an idea of what I’m saying. God bless the philosopher who tweeted that it is better to be a strict babe than an idiot girl.
Because trust me, to be an understanding babe is to allow men to walk over you, it’s to be someone who lacks agency and has low self-esteem, it is to be a woman who will settle for anything a man throws her way.
And no, I’m not casting aspersions, I know it is difficult for a person to let go of something they’ve been conditioned to believe.
This is why I need women to know that they are allowed to have high standards for whom they are willing to date/marry, they are allowed to leave situations where they are not respected, and they are allowed to be materialistic. Yes! I didn’t stutter. Finally, women are allowed to want who and what they want without feeling like they’re demanding too much from a man.
If we are continuously made to feel that way, then we might as well join South Korean women in their 4B movement. May we not be diagnosed with understanding babe syndrome.
I see the social concept of ‘understanding babe’ as one of several situations in which women are, once again, taught or forced to bend themselves and accept less than they deserve. Being an understanding babe involves ‘understanding’ when emotional or physical abuse is met on a woman by her partner. This situation can be dangerous because women like these never realise when they’re being abused, or they realise but they don’t act on it.
A woman who has been taught to bend herself to understand and love despite any situation would remain with her partner even when he beats her out of frustration or abuses her emotionally, or even tries to sabotage her finances. An ‘understanding babe’ is a people pleaser who gives so much of herself because she tries to understand others, she has nothing reserved for herself at the end of the day.
A way to overcome this concept is to first recognise that abuse is being meted out to you, then take action to free yourself while reminding yourself that you have to put yourself first, even if you have not been taught to.
Being an understanding babe is mostly a phenomenon used to describe a doormat or a woman who places her partner’s needs, desires and expectations above hers.
It is the worst situation to be in, as being an understanding babe strips women of their individuality and makes them tolerate the worst from men and be satisfied with the barest minimum. It often leads to low self-esteem, resentment as well as a total disregard of her own feelings.
*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.