What you need to know:
- When he flirts with you or makes that first phone call, most women automatically assume they are in a relationship.
Soni Kanake talks to women and men on these 'assumed relationships', and a psychologist who demystifies this phenomenon.
Kate and Tony, both in their 40s, started dating after he met her in a social forum and sought her number. "I was excited because he seemed a good man and when he invited me for coffee, I did not decline," says Kate.
She said he loved spending his free time with her and naturally, she assumed they were dating and would post their happy moments on social media.
Tony on the other hand never shared any of their photos on public forums and had even adjusted his Facebook settings so that he would be alerted first before anyone posting any photos of him and tagged him. But in hindsight, she admits it was more of a ‘situationship’ than a relationship.
“Every time I brought us up, he was always evasive.”
"We had consummated our relationship and I had introduced him to my family," confesses Kate. Whenever she asked him where the relationship was headed, Tony said he liked her but was not ready for anything serious.
Their relationship became rocky and they argued a lot, with Tony claiming he was feeling suffocated.
“You need to get a life outside me,” he once told Kate who could not understand why he did not want to settle down with her yet they were both mature.
Eight months into their relationship, he disappeared.
Anita’s story is not much different. In hindsight the 31-year-old teacher confesses that she was in the relationship alone and admitted to doing all the heavy lifting.
“We met on Facebook and one thing led to another and soon enough we were dating… or so I thought.
The sleepovers were mostly at my place. He claimed to be the firstborn and lived with his younger brother and it would be disrespectful to spend with a girl,” explains Anita.
She remembers the red flags that glared in her face during their relationship but says she was too blinded by love.
“I remember once when he asked me to accompany him to his friends ‘ruracio’ (dowry down-payment) in Limuru where he was the transport coordinator.
He left me behind to help transport some people to the main road but he never came back to pick me up.
He then switched off his phone. He resurfaced the following Monday with cake and chocolate saying he was involved in an accident,” she narrates.
In her defense, Anita says she was young and naïve and even on the day she insisted on visiting his house and found female clothes, he managed to convince her they belonged to his sister.
“When I think about it today, I was in it alone. I loved him but he never once told me he did though he always tagged me along. He always made sure that we were in talking terms and came to see me when it suited him. His phone though was always on flight mode whenever he was at my place,” she notes.
Anita’s Prince Charming disappeared as he had appeared. He ghosted on her on Valentine’s Day when she was expecting a surprise from him.
But had the couple agreed to exclusive dating, one wonders?
“We never did. We just went out for a few dates and soon enough we were sharing a bed. To me he was my boyfriend. Now that I think about it. We never talked about the future or named any imaginary babies. I referred to him as my best friend,” she says.
Raymond, an advocate in his mid 30s says most women assume they are in a relationship once a man shows an interest in them.
Women, he says, have the tendency to stick like glue even from a tender age and cites an incident when he was 16.
"I'd gone for jam session (a day-time dance) on a Sunday when I met a girl around my age. We liked each other and we danced and I bought her a soda," explains Raymond.
"When we were parting, we kissed and I went home. Less than an hour later, my friend was at our gate... with the girl I had danced with. Her excuse was that she wanted to come and visit as I was her boyfriend. I was shocked and had to threaten her never to come to my house again as my mother was already calling me inside," he narrates.
Raymond said the trend of women 'forcing' themselves on men got worse when he joined campus and after.
"I remember this girl I met in campus and after intimacy she started calling me enquiring why I wasn't calling her. I too asked why she wasn't calling me and she told me that, 'as my man, you should call me'. But women should know by now that consensual sex between two adult parties does not mean we are in a relationship," he explains.
"Relationship status should be defined from the onset not after intimacy. In cases where it isn't, the default setting should not be 'because we have exchanged bodily fluids we are in a relationship'," says Raymond. Often times women feel the need to attach themselves to any man who shows a little interest who might just be looking for a casual relationship, he says. "As a man I can pursue a woman on a daily basis just for sex and not necessarily a relationship," confesses Raymond.
Musa a businessman echoes Raymond’s words. “I will never understand why a woman wants to start discussing marriage when I barely know her. Intimacy is not equal to love,” he says.
“I once dated this girl who was a complete psycho. Within the first week, she had changed her relationship status on Facebook from ‘single’ to ‘in a relationship’. I liked Brenda in the beginning but she was in too much of a rush and kept asking me where we were headed. She was 29 then and it seemed like she had a deadline to beat. I had to disappear and change my phone number when she started calling my mum.” confesses Musa.
Your biological clock is ticking but…
Dr Margaret Kagwe, a counselling psychologist and senior consultant at Esteem Counselling Services, says that when a couple comes together, there should be clarity of expectations from the on-set because a relationship should be based on mutual understanding.
She shares some nuggets to avoid getting on the wrong side of relationships.
What leads to ‘assumed relationships’?
When there is no clear communication on the type of relationship, either party can assume a deeper attachment depending on their needs. For instance, a woman who is under pressure to get married may assume they are dating even without overtly discussing the issue with the partner.
Women tend to expect more and usually push for relationships. Why is that so?
Women are often aware that their biological clock is always ticking and are more likely to push for serious dating than men.
The desire to belong and to commit is what drives a woman to make it known they are in a relationship.
If the lady also deeply adores the man and is afraid of losing him, she may rush things and assume dating is going on even after a few meet ups.
A woman may also assume they are dating if she has not overcome any prior break-ups and is trying to fill a void.
Often times women end up getting hurt as a result of expecting they are dating while he thinks otherwise. Women are naturally nurturing beings and emotional.
They, therefore, easily invest more emotionally in a relationship than men and they are likely to rush things while men generally assume a ‘wait and see’ attitude before emotional investment. That is why women appear to hurt more after a break-up.
Men on the other hand prefer to take time before acknowledging a relationship because they also take time to trust and commit.
A man who gets into a relationship without intending to commit is likely to think that the lady is psycho.
Women easily express themselves and trust easily.
What is the risk of being too available?
Men tend to pursue women who are hard to get and they tend to be suspicious of those who give in easily.
Traditionally it was the role of the male to pursue the female in most African cultures and this phenomenon still highly influences relationship developments.
A man may reach out to a woman to explore possibilities of a relationship but the behaviour of the lady may put him off, especially if she does not meet his expectations.
Therefore, there is need for familiarisation phase before dating so that both parties may have an opportunity to evaluate their feelings about the relationship to avoid either of the parties feeling used.
Importance of working on your self-worth?
Relationships should not be just about men choosing whom to marry, women too should be bold enough to decline such requests if the man does not meet her expectations.
This can only be possible if she has high self-esteem.
Ladies should be self-aware so that they work on their self-worth before attempting to attach to anyone.
Being self-aware enables them to work on being the best versions of themselves and they will not need to validated by others to feel good about themselves.
Is physical intimacy an indicator of an exclusive relationship?
Women assume that physical intimacy is an indicator of relationship because to them such intimacy breaks boundaries that exist in casual relationships while men may regard such intimacy as a sign of weakness on the side of the lady or a deserved favour from a friend.
The culture of casual sex has greatly worked against women as it puts undue pressure to give in before marriage.
Unlike old days where marriage ushered in accessibility to sexual relations, today sex is no longer a motivation to marry and a man may just want a relationship for companionship only whereas they lady expects more.
However, emotional intimacy unlike physical intimacy may have a different impact on a young relationship.
If a couple is able to have emotional intimacy where they can easily share feelings and help each other offload emotional baggage, the relationship is likely to deepen for both individuals.