“A relationship is an association between people. In essence, a relationship such as a love association leading to commitment should involve clear thought. This requires mature thought and a concise mind.”
Following the launch of the first edition of The Counsel-ling Magazine in April-June 2021, we have received numerous letters, emails and phone calls regarding relationships and how to handle various aspects. We wish to humbly refer our readers to three major articles that were critical: ‘relationship choices and decision-making: seeking a fulfilling love relationship’; ‘loving and living a lovely fulfilling love life: love and finding meaning in a relationship’; and ‘the language of love.’ This is to assist us all to understand the concept, as well as the depth of a relationship, including dating, enhanced relationship, association and connections and the overall commitment to marriage.
It is important to seek help in a relationship, especially when there is an utmost concern as evidenced in the above and other similar or related cases; it is much more significant to understand what is involved in a relationship. A relationship is an association between two or more people, such as a couple, family or community. We have noted that various readers keep writing and complaining that their relationships are too monotonous if not ridiculous. Yes, but without a shared responsibility, or collective bargaining, you really have no relationship. And, this is exactly why the above persons and many others end up saying or implying: ‘I don’t love him /her,’ ‘I want out’, ‘I did not love him/ her,’ ’I only married her because she was pregnant,’ ‘I only married her because she was pregnant and desperate.’ We do not want to say these are excuses, but it is important that we go to the depth of love, and as such, we will then be careful with both our emotions (and hence actions) and be wary of such sentiments because they are not primarily good indicators of thriving relationships.
A relationship involves clear thought. You cannot keep saying, ‘I am in love’, yet you are not sure of what you mean; love involves feelings, thoughts and actions. As a man, you cannot simply say that you had sexual intercourse with a lady and claim you are not aware of your actions – this is the height of utter irresponsibility. Similarly, a lady cannot simply say, ‘I got pregnant.’ Sex involves emotions yes, but it has an accountability component as well. In fact, that is why psychologists, in particular, insist that persons should be mature before they engage in sexual activity. In addition, relationship and love involve a high level of self-disclosure, the extent to which a person reveals his or her thoughts, feelings and behaviours to a potential partner. These feelings and thoughts would usually be kept private. But with an increased feeling of intimacy, the person lets this out, or better still shares it with his or her loved one.
Self-disclosure in an intimate relationship refers to the extent to which a person reveals their thoughts, feelings and behaviours to a potential partner. These feelings and thoughts would usually be kept private. But with an increased feeling of intimacy, the person lets this out, or better still shares it with their loved one.
As a matter of fact, sex has social and psychological (emotional) implications. Indeed, some people will add the spiritual (faith) dimension to the cognitive and physiological perspectives. Additionally, psychologists will talk about liking someone, falling in love, dating, association and marriage. Similarly, we talk about lust and infatuation. Several outcomes emerge out of all these, particularly the craze signified by longingness and passion. First is sex. Sex may be with or without protection, sex for the sake of romance, once or several times. Secondly, arising out of the sex is an unplanned pregnancy (majorly for the purpose of this discussion, we will skip out other consequences such as STIs and HIV/AIDS and feelings of guilt and betrayal). Thirdly, arising out of the unplanned pregnancy is what to do with the baby (unborn, or after birth). This is why many people end up with unfortunate abortions, failed abortions, frustrations, disappointments and depression, and of course, the finest product, a baby, which is a big blessing from God. Fourth in that line is a parent and parenting (family if you may want to conclude so). Now, both parents may have to live with the baby (married – like several cases such as above and others), or unmarried, leading to single parenthood, happy or unhappy, as illustrated in several letters on this interesting topic. But the bottom line is that choices have consequences!
Disillusionment and Deception: Torn and in Turmoil.
All the above persons and many others may turn out to be their own victims, and not necessarily their partners. They may be disillusioned because they could have deceived themselves that they are in relationships, but at the same time, they wanted to ‘skip’ responsibility. That is perhaps why they are torn and in turmoil. We are careful here because rarely does anyone take time to tell us about relationships and how they affect us, especially at the tender ages before we make serious decisions. Although we will revisit love and relationship in our subsequent editions and in a special edition, it is important to emphasize the need to begin a relationship by meeting your partner and understanding him or her. Similarly, you cannot abandon a girl or woman after impregnating her and argue that you no longer love her. The child or children are yours; they are the results of your actions. You must therefore accept responsibility.
A man cannot abandon a girl or woman after impregnating her and argue that they no longer love her. The child or children are yours; they are the results of your actions; they are your responsibility.
Let me revisit the purpose of dating briefly. It is important to understand your partner’s character. This is the same person you are planning to spend the rest of your life with. Therefore, you must take ample time to know each other well before you commit to each other. Then, while at it, you make other decisions like sex and pregnancy and living together. Sex, pregnancy and living together are not per-chance; they are decisions made by individuals. The two persons discuss together, and then their feelings become actions, not emotions. Unfortunately, many people rush to date and end up living together; in the end, you find out you don’t like where you are, or you are uncomfortable with your spouse. This becomes difficult and leads to pain and turmoil.
Moving on – picking the broken-down pieces and fixing them.
Our first suggestion is that we all need to learn more about relational knowledge. A relationship must be meaningful to you and your spouse. Do not just jump into a relationship hurriedly. Instead, take time, discuss with your spouse and, if possible, agree on your life together. At all costs, avoid premature sexual relationships. This is because such relationships are often based on desire or covetousness (sex or money, or a conviction to myself I can keep him or her). They are also used for manipulation purposes, such as a woman getting pregnant to be married or the man ‘capturing’ her. Always aim for a meaningful relationship with your spouse.
Our second suggestion, arising from the first one is to reconsider the relationship. This is applicable to most people, including those who have written to us through the letters sampled earlier. It is important that you talk to your spouse. You are a father or mother, family and parents. It is acceptable that you may have gotten into your situation in unusual or unexpected ways, but now you are where you are. Nevertheless, parenting comes with duties and responsibilities. We notice the feelings of anger and resentment. We have also noticed the regret, frustration and disappointment. This takes us to another stage in this development, which you can also explore with a counsellor.
Thirdly, we are not sure how many of you are Christians or have a spiritual philosophy. Yet, faith and spiritualism are significant in that they guide our lives in precise ways. A religious orientation can assist you in your relationship. You and your partner can interpret your relationship in religious terms to find more meaning in your life, the relationship, marriage and family. This includes finding out our value of humanity and acknowledging that God created us in His own image and likeness. Such an understanding further enables us to understand God’s purpose in our lives. This reflection is positive or appropriate and takes us to the conclusion.
Lastly, we need to talk about and review our values: what values do we hold as individuals, couples and as a family? For instance, do we love and care about ourselves and others? Are we concerned and sincere, responsible and committed? This enables you to seek whom you are by searching your soul. Some people will extend this to the nation as well as global values, in addition to specifics such as the values we esteem in a family. What values do we hold as people? Subsequently, we can compressively discuss pertinent issues such as why it is that our parent/s should or must approve your spouse (is it the person or his/her values)? Must your wife/ husband succeed in business or at work? What are they best at? What have we imposed? What is natural? What have we nurtured?
Those who need additional help and assurance should seek further assistance. This can be provided at an individual level, as a couple or as a family by a counsellor, family therapist or your religious leader.
“A relationship must be meaningful to you and your spouse.”