Who is taking care of you as you take care of others?


When you love people from a distance, it does not mean you don’t care about them.

Photo credit: Samuel Muigai | Nation Media Group

I learnt a long time ago that people do not treat you the way you want, they treat you the way you have allowed them to. Some of us are saddled with so much responsibility and find it hard to say how we really feel.

I have spoken to men who complained about the black tax, but they find it hard to extricate themselves from relatives, immediate and extended, who are making demands on them.

It has been drilled into them that this is what they are supposed to do, that a man takes care of others and does not complain, even if he is dying from the enormous weight that’s been placed on him.

These men have been lied to that making sacrifices for others and putting their needs on the backburner is what love is all about. I think we have also seen our fathers going through the same thing. Which is why we think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

What happens when we carry others’ burdens for long is that they develop some entitlement. They think it is their right, even if they are wronging us in the process. Smack in the middle of a cold July, they will demand the last coat on your back, although they are warmly dressed.

“Why don’t you love these people from a distance?” I asked one brother.

“I can’t love them from a distance,” he argued, “they are family, and I can’t do that to my family.”

“I haven’t told you to hate them. I just told you to love them from a distance, so that you can get space to work on yourself.”

I believe there is a need to redefine love for men who are caught up in such relationships. I know the people using you will guilt-trip you if you try to redefine love and set new boundaries. That comes from the classic manual of abusers. They want to twist your words and actions, to make you feel like the abuser. They want to make you feel like you’re committing a sin.

“That’s not what family does,” they will tell you because they know how much you value family.

Stand your ground. Don’t waver. While you are at it, you need to block certain phone numbers. At times, they can even be your parents or siblings. Do not reply to those text messages for help. You’re not superman. After a while, they will get the message.

When you love people from a distance, it does not mean you don’t care about them. You do care. But you must love yourself first before you love others. You’re not being selfish.

The purpose of loving people from a distance is to have a healthy relationship. I have realised that as men, we often don’t know if we are in an unhealthy relationship, especially when it comes to family. We often think that’s the way things are supposed to be because it’s what we’ve taken from them for years. 

The other purpose of loving people from a distance is to make you grow. Now is the time to use the physical and psychological resources you have been pouring on others on yourself. The third purpose of loving people from a distance is to become a better man. It may seem to you like you were a better man when you were in a relationship where you let others walk all over you. That’s not true.

I know this much is true: men become better when they take radical steps to fix themselves, regardless of the pain it causes them or others.