Nairobi has become a place where your phone battery is likely to outlast your romantic relationship.
Actually one would be better off regarding this city as one for business and making money, not for finding love. A city where individuals find it hard to define their relationship status, and even harder to reveal their status; where even the married ones want to present themselves as single even more than the single ones.
There’s a running joke that Nairobi has become one big bedroom. You introduce a friend to a friend and the next thing you know they’ve had several sexual encounters right under your nose.
True relationships have become rare. Instead, what we have are “situationships” in which you’re romantically involved with someone free of commitment. Some call it friends with benefits, which actually has a nice ring to it, but it’s anything but nice.
It all starts with all the bells and whistles of a genuine connection, a fairytale even. You know, vibing, endless phone calls, exotic dates, gifts, and, of course, explosive sex. One can easily fall for it in the initial stages and thank the stars for finally aligning. Until…Silence! Your prince charming or princess disappears on you like a ghost. Poof!
Initially, you don’t want to admit it, but yes it has happened. You’ve been ghosted. Maybe yet again. Maybe it’s the first time it's happening to you. But that doesn’t makes it any less painful.
A million thoughts run through your mind. For the unlucky ones, the only reminder they’re left with could be a pregnancy or worse, some sexually transmitted disease. Oh, and the memories of the good times.
Situationships work for individuals who know from the outset that its fun they’re after. Nothing more. But for people looking for true love in this city, it has driven them to therapy sessions. The thing is, in any given situationship someone always gets hurt!
One balmy afternoon I decided to treat myself to an ice-cream solo date. Across from my table was this beautiful lady, let’s call her Susan. Initially, she looked composed, then out of nowhere tears started streaming down her cheeks, landing into her milkshake.
Against my better judgement, something nudged me to walk over and find out what was troubling her.
Hugging her, I asked what was wrong. With that, the tears came in torrents. Susan heaved and broke down, sobbing uncontrollably on my shoulder.
After she calmed down, she poured her heart out to me. Yes, to me. A stranger. Turns out she was yet another victim of situationships. Someone’s son had served this fine lady proper character development.
Here’s her story.
Susan met this guy on a work day while out running errands. Let’s call him Mike. He was kind, loving and exceptionally charming; he was everything she wanted in a partner. After the usual chats and whatnots, Mike eventually asked her out on a dinner date at one of the top hotels around town. The date went well, but Mike never declared his intentions. Susan figured it could be because it was too early, and they were still in the stage of getting to know each other.
To her delight, things rolled forward pretty well in the days that followed. Like any beautiful love story. Late night calls, chats during the day, and flirting became the order of the day. Random gifts would arrive at her workstation, tastefully wrapped.
Charmed, Susan finally honoured Mike’s invitation to his place. But after spending a night at his house, the energy shifted suddenly.
In the days that followed, she found herself reaching out to Mike more than he did. Her calls and chats would go unanswered, and he would only reply a couple of days later. Taking initiative, she would organise meet-ups with him to which Mike would agree, only to cancel it hours prior.
With that, the ghosting started officially and the poor lady would cry herself to sleep. What’s interesting is that despite knowing their relationship was dead in the water, she would convince herself that there was something she could still do to resuscitate it. She even believed that maybe Mike had some underlying trauma and that’s why he was non-committal. Maybe with time, he’ll come around, she figured.
"Do you know what ghosting does?" Susan asked, looking deep into my eyes. The story was starting to get to me and I couldn’t help but shed a tear.
“It leaves someone with a million questions. 'Is there someone else? Is there something wrong with me?
Why doesn’t he want me with the same energy he approached me with?'”
The thing is, if you have no understanding of ghosting, you may blame yourself and keep on chasing this ‘ghost’.
After a month of silence, Mike would appear from nowhere like the ghost that he had become and unapologetically invite her to his place.
She would gladly pack her things and go for the weekend. It was clear she was addicted to this toxic cycle, to this situationship. She would cook him his favourite meals, do house chores for him, have explosive sex and after an enjoyable weekend together, the ghosting would follow again. And on and on.
Eight months later, Susan sat herself down for some painful soul-searching.
That led to her confronting Mike: "What am I to you? What do we have between us?"
“Why should we define what we have? I enjoy what we have; let’s not label it,” was his curt reply.
Of course, these were clear red flags but, to Susan, they were heart-shaped. So she stayed and gave it time. Time, like water, can cut through a rock, can’t it? she reasoned.
So life went on.
One boring Saturday afternoon, Susan was scrolling through her social media pages and what she saw shocked her stiff. Her heart nearly stopped beating.
She was met with lovely photos of her 'boyfriend' Mike getting married.
It was his wedding day and the same friends Mike had once introduced her to, were there with him on his big day.
She tried calling one of the friends since Mike’s phone was off and the friend told her they thought she knew she was the side chic. Turns out Mike was dating a nurse and the occasional period Mike created time for Susan was when his official woman was away for work outside the country.
Her journey has not been easy ever since, she tells me, her eyes still glistening with tears. Overwhelmed by a crushing sense of betrayal, she had to enrol herself for therapy sessions.
Much as she’s on a healing journey, sometimes the pain strikes from nowhere and she can’t control herself like it happened that afternoon we met, she tells me.
What makes a situationship heartbreak worse? You feel like you have to go through the pain alone.
The thing is, you fell for someone who never had any intentions to love you back and, because whatever you two had was never exclusive, they don’t owe you anything. No apologies. No closure.
Situationships can feel a lot like wasted time.
Is there a way you can escape a situationship? Well, frankly, I feel that no matter what we do, sometimes life has a funny way of surprising even the most enlightened. One day you just find yourself in a situationship even if you did your due diligence.
Whenever it happens, don’t be too hard with yourself.
Can one get true relationship in Nairobi? Yes, but don’t allow yourself to be dumb; ask for the title of your relationship; and don’t force energy. If it’s not reciprocated, just leave.
How do these situationships start?
- You bump into a man/woman in a mall or hangout joint and when you thought it was love at first sight boom, that’s where the entire ghetto of your situationship starts.
- Workplaces have been a den of these situationships with titles of office boyfriends, office girlfriends. As you think your man or woman is busy at work you get to find out they have been having lunch dates, dinner dates and sex dates in the name of working late or having a company team building.
- Social Media – Facebook and Instagram has gone almost to the level of Tinder where guys are meeting just for sexual encounters and then coming to back to the same social media commenting under each other's photos with the name “Bestie”. If you’re truly innocent, you’ll believe they are just friends.
- Gym -- It has been the latest trend. Accompany your partners to the gym or else someone else, a 'gym mate', will help them achieve their ideal body goals. Gyms are a fertile breeding ground for a lot of situationships.
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