Are you his foster girlfriend?

A young couple on a date. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

What you need to know:

  • Break ups are hard especially in this age of social media when you are trying to forget your ex but you can’t because he is in your face.
  • According to a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal relationships, when a person commits too quickly after the end of a relationship, it is an indicator of low satisfaction levels in the former relationship.

As their three-year relationship was ending, he told her that he was the problem and not her. He said he was letting her go because he just was not ready for the kind of serious commitment she deserved. It didn’t make her feel better but she believed him. Now, imagine her horror when just a few months later, as she was stalking him on social media, she came across a picture of him smiling, another woman in his arms, and the unmistakable shinny engagement ring on her finger.

“It’s frustrating and hurtful. I felt so insignificant,” shares Joy Ndei, 34.

She followed her first instinct, called him and gave him an earful about lying about not being ready to commit. Then followed months of bitterness. You see, when they met, this man was penniless and living with his parents. She saw his ‘potential’ and encouraged him to pursue a business idea he had been nursing for years. He succeeded at it, moved out of home and even bought land. All this while, he dangled the promise of marriage and a future together to her. Then it all came to an abrupt end.

“I think I had a right to be bitter. I refined him, turned his ass into a great man and now another woman gets to enjoy my hard work,” she says.

Joy, a tours and travel agent, is a foster girlfriend. Urban dictionary describes the foster girlfriend as a woman a man dates until he finds his forever partner. Now that she has the benefit of hindsight, she can see a pattern. All the three men she’s had serious relationships with committed to other women pretty quickly after their break up. Also, all of them were broken, one was a recovering addict, the other was just coming out of an abusive relationship and the last was childish and unmotivated.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

“It’s like I’m a magnet for strays who leave me when they get better,” she says.

As usually happens when a relationship ends, the people she confided in told her that she must be doing something wrong in her relationships. In his book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, American author and relationship counselor John Gray is of the view that for women like Joy, the only mistake they make in relationships is the choice of men they choose.

There is no such thing as a right woman but the right timing, he writes. This means that when a woman, from her own inadequacies, seeks out and helps heal broken men, it becomes a cycle. He will be with her because she is available; she will help rebuild his confidence, sense of self-worth until he feels confident enough to go after the woman he actually wants to be with. The only way to win at this would be making a conscious effort to get with a man who is able and willing to commit at the same time as you.

When the mind-games don’t work

“The last five years have been a total waste for me relationship wise. The only thing I have gained is trust issues,” says Vera Muindi, 31.

FAST-PACED ROMANCE

Like most heartbreaks, Vera Muindi’s story with her ex began with a fast-paced romance. She wasn’t really looking when they met but he fit right in, said all the right things and gave her those butterflies in the stomach.

“He told me he loved me, that I was the woman of his dreams,” the Nairobi based banker says.

Somewhere along the way, this relationship stagnated and he even began seeing someone else but she didn’t even know about it until after they broke up. Their break up was one of those nasty ones where she cried, begged him, blackmailed him and finally prayed that he would see the light and come back to her. He didn’t. Instead, he took the woman he was dating behind her back to meet his moved in with her.

“My first question was ‘Why not me? I like to think I’m good looking, I have a good job and I cook and clean,” she says. “When he moved in with her, I thought he was making an emotional decision, that he was trying to prove something to me but obviously, I was wrong.”

Vera blames relationship literature for her woes. She began seriously dating during a time when relationship literature was popular with adult women. She particularly loved Steve Harvey’s Think like a Man, Act like a Lady.

“I was reading a different book every week. They said to wait for x number of days before I had sex with a man, to wait for him to call x number of times before I picked up his call. It was always this mind game or the other. It was stupid, now that I think about it,” she says.

Could these games have ruined everything? According to author John Molloy whose book Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others, a man will marry one woman and not the other because each woman treats him different.

Vera wanted to play mind games so her ex stayed with her until he was ready to commit to someone else who wasn’t playing.

Could you be giving off the wrong vibe?

Break ups are hard especially in this age of social media when you are trying to forget your ex but you can’t because he is in your face. Now imagine dating, for more than a year a man who seems disinterested, who communicates only sporadically and whose idea of a date is Netflix and chill. Imagine him breaking up with you, only to turn around and see him become the dream boyfriend to the first woman he meets after your break up?

Liz Mungai, a 20-year-old videographer from Kiambu believes some women inspire this reaction in men while others do not. Her elder sister, she says, brings out this attentive and thoughtful side in every man she dates.

Michelle Mawia, 32, on the other hand thinks it’s part of the foster girlfriend syndrome.

“I would have to nag him to do things for me but with her, he is the epitome of a romantic, thoughtful, boyfriend,’ Michelle says of the man she last dated.

How about her other boyfriends? Where are they now? She pauses to think. Each has moved on to a committed relationship, some faster than others. She is still unattached.

FITNESS JOURNEY

“I have been working on my career and my fitness journey so I have never really dated seriously. When I met my ex, I liked him a lot and actually saw a future with him but I also felt a lot of pressure not to be clingy so I made an effort not to call him all the time or want to go with him everywhere on the weekends. Instead of wanting me more, he seemed not to care.”

According to a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal relationships, when a person commits too quickly after the end of a relationship, it is an indicator of low satisfaction levels in the former relationship.

Michelle’s attempt to be chill and her not making an effort was misread as her not being invested in the relationship. They say that we receive the energy we give off to the world. If you act disinterested in a relationship, your partner will reciprocate.

If you want to be in a relationship, then it appears wise to actively play the part. Pay attention to how you look when you go on a date and communicate effectively.

It looks like the kind of men she dates and the attitude a woman takes into a relationship, determine whether she becomes the foster girlfriend or the girlfriend who gets the commitment.

Sometimes though, a man will marry her and not you simply because to him, the grass is just greener on the other side. In this case, there is nothing you can do about it.

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