What you need to know:
- These are women who make their own money, pay their own bills, and smash cockroaches without screaming for a man to save them.
- The question many successful women today ask is, "What value do you bring to my life?"
As the old script goes, a woman met a man, went on several dates, assessed his breadwinner potential, and figured out if he was ready to bring forth and care for their babies, before he put the ring on it.
But this narrative is somewhat faulty today. More so for women who are achieved, single, and most likely have children.
The question high-achieving women, who have gone through life ask is, "What do you bring to the table?" "Where is your value?"
These are women who make their own money, pay their own bills, and smash cockroaches without screaming for a man to save them. They are capable of filling their calendars even if it means staying in on a Friday night with Netflix, pizza, and some wine. These women are ambitious and don't feel like they should change who they are to fit someone else's ideal, and God forbid crush their opinions and restrain their thoughts to massage someone's ego.
In relationships, they have been there and done that. They have gone through the phases; committed relationships, break-ups, hook-ups, and many in-betweens liaisons.
So what does this woman want? Companionship. This is a relationship where there's no "have to's" – but just time shared where they feel bonded and content.
Been there done that
Take Naomi Wamaitha's case. Three years ago she came off a long-term relationship, with two children. At 41, she is a business executive in a blue-chip company and is financially steady. After being alone for some time, she began to feel exceedingly lonely.
"Something was missing. I hadn't even realised how long it had been since I had been intimate. I had not been with anyone for three years. In 2019, through a dating app, I met a lot of people who showed interest in me, but the thought of bringing any of them into our lives didn't exactly sit right with me. That, and the fact that none of them felt like the right person for me."
Yearning for physical satisfaction, from the dating site, Wamaitha decided she could settle for a "tension reliever", without really getting involved or entangled emotionally.
"I thought this was a brilliant way of dealing with that need at that point in my life. You know, live from one day to the next? Things were purely physical. Casual...," says Wamaitha who says she even got a little adventurous and decided to sample several offerings.
"But there was no emotional connection. We would meet for the business at hand and I would often leave the venue feeling unfulfilled. What I'd intended to be a tension reliever for me would end up causing more emotional turmoil," she says. " I knew the other parties too didn't feel anything beyond the sexual for me.... Already though, I was feeling like 'I didn't sign up for this!'"
She had had enough of the trysts and wanted a meaningful connection. It was time to end the hookups.
Wamaitha decided this time to try something different—seek out a like-minded male with whom she could have intelligent conversations, for company. And what better place to try than a golf club.
"I wanted to meet someone that I could just connect with at my level," she explains. "I realised that beyond my bodily desires I needed someone with whom I share some basic philosophies of life, someone that I can connect with...talk to occasionally."
Wamaitha got just what she was looking for in Macharia four months into joining the club—an intimate connection without there being any promises or commitment. "But you know there are no hard lines. You know you guys aren't exactly together to get married. He lives at his house; I live at mine...there are no plans of moving in together.... just the occasional meetups, and the checking up on each other, and we're both happy that way."
"He is 54. He is separated. So he's also been through his own set of ups and downs. It started as the polite camaraderie of golfers on the course and what made me sit down at his table one evening for a drink was his humour on the course. We really are just partners in crime. We love playing together as we chat and then sitting down to an evening of light-hearted conversation. We've been on road drives together, and that is just what it is. Someone with whom I spend my free time or keeps me company."
She explains that they both have spoken about it and understand that they are a potentially lifelong companion without any "strings" attached.
Need for trust
Trust is an essential ingredient of companionship and trust is essential for good sex. Companionship is a closeness or familiarity, a true fellowship among two people who for whatever reasons have truly connected. Its purpose is founded on keeping each other company rather than the traditional marriage functionalities of raising children, gaining financial support, or having security.
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey is a poster child for this sort of relationship. The celebrity has had a longtime partner Stedman Graham for almost 35 years but, like several celebrity couples, they have never married. The two have said that tying the knot would only complicate things, going as far as to say that if they had married, their relationship wouldn't have lasted.
When you consider the top reasons that people get into a relationship today, love is likely to stand out. Most notably romantic love. We are likely to picture two people full of passion and desire for each other who thrive on public display of affection—read Insta #couplegoals. Companionship, which is not to be equated with a loveless union, thrives on mutual understanding and respect.
One of the reasons people commit to a romantic relationship, is they think it's the only way they'll end up with a companion they can trust and have fun with regularly.
"But they mustn't. Anybody can decide all they want is a compeer," says Relationship, Marriage and Family therapist, Prof Catherine Gachutha.
Is there really a way to have a great friendship with someone without things needing to develop further? Can you have an opposite-sex companion without tying yourself up in marriage?
Marriage and Relationship expert Dayan Masinde, says no matter how accomplished someone is, the human need for emotional connection lingers. This sort of relationship as far as he is concerned minimizes the risks, expectations, and responsibilities that come with marriage.
Companionship can come with or without a sexual aspect, but it goes much deeper than "friends with benefits."
And according to him, technology has made it easier to connect with anyone around the world.
"Because the dating scene has largely been chaotic leading to many broken hearts, a lot of people will not mind bonding with someone with no promise for the future as a way of protecting oneself. It is a protective measure for some, a fear of commitment for others, and others simply just get bored with having someone always in their life so they want someone special to be with, in small doses - when the need to bond arises.
Connection on demand if we may call it. This is not just mere friendship because feelings and intimate conversations are involved," he explains of this new trend.
Being financially independent, according to Relationship, Marriage and Family therapist, Prof Catherine Gachutha, means the woman of today has attained a freeing of the mind on what pertains to a good relationship.
"More women today can take care of themselves. They are financially independent; they have learnt to secure their spaces more with time and today's woman is a highly self-directed person. Today's woman is living life on her terms. And if she is divorced, separated, or single and does not want to get married again, she may opt to get a companion who will ease her loneliness?" says Prof Gachutha.
With gender roles having evolved, couple relationships—both marital and non-marital ones—are becoming more fragile, and with women no longer dependent on men to provide for them, today's generation of women are turning the tables. They are defining what a relationship with a partner of the opposite sex should look like and that it should work to her benefit. This independence has opened up new ways for women and men to relate away from the patriarchal confines that defined relationships.
38-year-old Bancy Akinyi is categorical she wants companionship first in a man.
"I don't need to depend on a man from a financial point of view. And, it is a nice feeling....it is freeing. I am not forced to remain in a marital arrangement that does not suit me just because I'm wholly reliant on this other person for sustenance," Akinyi says.
"All I want in this other person is company. We don't ask each other for money or stuff, all I want from him is the cozy fireside chumminess that comes with having him around. He accords me the same level of respect that I do him.... we're equal in the alliance...I feel taken more seriously," she adds.
Having been through a few bad relationships, Akinyi sees no likelihood of ever settling down in the traditional marriage. She says for now she is enjoying the companionship of a longtime male friend.
In her 20s and early 30s, Akinyi found herself in what she calls "strained" relationships. "These are relationships that weren't turning out to be what I was looking for. Things were always so lopsided. I didn't feel like I had a lot of say. We were not equal partners and had zero mutual respect. Eventually, things got complicated and we drifted apart and, in the end, everybody went their separate ways."
Anxious, she shunned dating altogether.
"Like many young and independent Kenyans, I felt the pressure to have casual sex and fell into the hook-up culture. I mean that's how easy things have become. Today you are hooking up with someone and tomorrow it will be someone else. This makes you lose all the specialness....it left me dissatisfied. I needed a deeper connection. I needed a person with whom I could have deep conversations. And I found that."
She loves the respect accorded to her in the arrangement. "I mean we have no expectations of each other. Everybody leads their own life, the only thing that binds us together is this deep concern for one another. We have sex too, but we don't restrict each other over what to do out there. I live and let live."
According to Masinde, the complications that define today's dating scene are making many women reconsider what they want from romantic relationships. He says women are getting together with male partners to alleviate loneliness instead of just sex. These shifts, according to his analysis, reveal a desire for companionship, and not flitting hookups which have been a common trend, but yet, substantially, not for married-oriented betrothal in mind.
He says with their accomplishments and busy lives women today, especially those who don't want a man who drags them back, are empowered enough and not afraid to do something to kill that loneliness. According to him "done right", it can include passion as well.
"So, if a man or even men show up and give the woman a space to vent, confide in, have a good time, do special hobbies, talk heart to heart with—she will most likely take it; even if it means there's no clear promise for the future. She wants her emotional needs met in the here and now," Masinde says.
But there is a challenge. What if you want something more over time?
"Make sure you are on the same page... if one of you sees this as just an emotional connection on-demand with no promise of family and future but the other wants more than just quality time but a full-on commitment - you two will clash and become frustrated," he cautions.
But also, he adds, if you end up investing in each other to such depths, "Don't be afraid to commit and do life together when you find yourselves deeply attached."
Here's how to get a potential companion
- Intentionally engage more in the things that you enjoy doing for leisure such as hiking, mountain climbing, cycling, playing musical instruments, watching movies, dancing, reading (join book clubs) which will put you in spaces where you are more likely to meet people with similar shared interests.
- You could also branch out and do things you wouldn't ordinarily do. This way you increase your chances of meeting all kinds of people outside of your usual circles. You could meet the perfect companion in the strangest of places, in the most unexpected of circumstances.
- Social media platforms and dating apps are the new age socialisation hubs and arguably one of today's most likely places for connecting with others across the globe. Such platforms have 'interest groups' one can join, with a high likelihood of meeting people with similar interests.
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