When my wife and I were in campus, we had a rule concerning our dating relationship. It was simple: the relationship is exclusive.
While it sounds obvious, the lines of exclusivity become really blurry when a member of the opposite sex fits herself/himself into the equation. It is as if they are squeezing in-between a two-seater couch where you and your boyfriend/girlfriend are seated.
The seat can only accommodate two but there’s an “invited” friend who has wedged himself or herself to participate in your lives. A crowded couch is no fun.
Relationships work best when they are exclusive. And for exclusivity to happen, those boundaries need to be drawn clearly and intentionally by both women and men.
Don’t make her number one; make her the only one
My wife and I have counselled a few of our dating friends concerning setting boundaries. When the ladies complain that the men are not giving them attention, the men get surprised when I ask them if there is another girl in their life, not to claim infidelity but just to inquire of a close friendship with the opposite sex other than the girlfriend.
The answer most of the times is a yes. They then respond that they still don’t understand because even with this other friend of the opposite sex, they haven’t stopped calling, visiting, texting and complimenting their girlfriends.
I congratulate them for not stopping doing those things but I reprimand them for doing those very things to the other girl who is “just a friend” or a “best friend.” You cannot have a smooth relationship with your girlfriend and still claim that the other girl seated on the relationship couch is just your best friend.
It is often hard for the girlfriend to declare that she isn’t comfortable with your “best friend” because in the recent past you treat the best friend like she’s your girlfriend. You run to her rescue and it drives your girl mad if she hasn’t told you. She won’t, by the way; no one wants to be accused of being jealous.
You compliment your “best friend” on how cute she looks in that dress or on her newly made hair and it drives your girl insane.
Allow me to accuse you of being irresponsible for your partner’s heart and feelings. She’s hurting because your relationship is not exclusive.
The man needs to lead the relationship and declare exclusivity. However, no amount of declaration will save the day if it is not practiced.
Lack of exclusiveness creates lack of respect
Once, while we were dating, Turi and I attended a concert in school. The auditorium was crowded, noisy with blasting music and there were no empty seats.
One pretty girl who was my friend walked up to where I was. She was looking for a seat. She saw me. She was clad in a fitting short dress. She held the hem of her dress, pulled it down a little, walked up to me and sat on my laps. She did it so naturally and casually despite the fact that my girlfriend was seated next to me.
All of a sudden, all eyes were fixed on Turi. Everyone wanted to see her reaction to the girl’s audacious action. I rose from my seat and asked the girl to have my chair instead..
Later, Turi told me that she was proud of me for not letting that girl sit on my laps, however, I couldn’t help but think, “Doesn’t this girl respect my relationship?” “Does she not respect me?”
In retrospect I saw the kind of friendship I entertained with this girl. I had developed a fondness for her and she had done the same because I called her a special name. It wasn’t anything to be ashamed of but it created an avenue to have internal jokes and games with her yet she wasn’t my girl.
When you playfully call that girl “doll-face”, “your twin,” “your muffin,” etc, and she is not your girlfriend or he is not your boyfriend, you will hurt your partner eventually.
And don’t be surprised if Doll-face kisses you openly in the presence of your girlfriend. Don’t be surprised when “muffin” asks to take you for dinner and your boyfriend is watching.
And when it happens, don’t blame the intruder. You can’t stop birds from flying over your head but you can stop them from building a nest on you. You asked for the disrespect when you did not make the relationship exclusive.
Be exclusive; don’t act married
Some couples act married when they are not and call it exclusive. There’s a fine line between exclusivity and acting married; that line is called insecurity.
You cannot track down every member of the opposite sex and tell them to keep off your man. You will scare everyone off and eventually scare your partner out of the relationship.
To avoid the insecurity that manifests itself by acting married when we were not, Turi and I simply agreed that we would not subscribe to marriage behaviour before we got married. Here are a few of the things we avoided to stop acting married:
- We avoided getting involved sexually in any way before marriage.
- We did not sleep over at each other’s places.
- We did not hang out in each other’s rooms alone.
- We did not handle each other’s personal money (except during dates. She handled mine :-))
- We did not access each other’s personal forms of communication i.e. mobile phone calls, text messages, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace (yes, I’m on Myspace, lol!) etc.
- We avoided exposing our nudity to each other e.g. swimming when alone. We had friends tag along always.
These may seem as trivial things but when unmarried folk engage in them they create a recipe for disaster. Some of the things I mentioned, e.g. sexual involvement, create infinitely deep bonds between people.
When an intruder comes into the couch, there will be no confronting them without first dealing with your own insecurities. You will panic when he receives a call from that girl. You will be depressed when you see him talking to her.
Dealing with Insecurity
Turi and I also drew our security deeply from having a personal relationship with Christ Jesus. She and I knew that even if you don’t do all the things I mentioned in the list, you could still act married and be insecure if your identity is in your relationship.
We got insecure severally and we chose to deal with it permanently. We chose NOT to have our relationship define us. Instead Christ’s love for us defined us.
We would choose Christ over each other on any day, even today. We cultivated our personal relationships with Christ so that by living for Him, we pleased each other consequently.
Because Christ was first in our priorities, He enabled us to relate well in our other areas. It wasn’t perfect though. I grew jealous once in a while. She grew envious too at times, but Christ was the north-point we defaulted to every time our insecurity threatened to rise and consume us.
Confront threats to exclusivity!
If your exclusivity in your relationship is threatened, confront it! Don’t assume it will go away. Don’t pretend it does not exist. Don’t simmer in anger and silence. Don’t assume your partner knows.
I thank God for Turi, because she confronted me about my lack of exclusivity. Turi’s confrontation was clear as day; she wasn’t going to share my heart. If the girls on the overcrowded couch did not leave, she wasn’t going to stay.
When I saw the possibility of a break-up, I knew that it was time to make the relationship exclusive. I apologised to Turi and made the wrongs right. I asked the other girls in my life to respect my relationship, and I cut ties with those who did not.
Turi and I experienced a renewal in the relationship. I noticed that the girls respected me when I drew the boundaries. They respected Turi more
No relationship is disrespect-proof
The hard truth is that someone somewhere doesn’t care about what you have. Someone somewhere still has the audacity to try flirt with your significant other even in your presence.
Marriage made our relationship more exclusive but it didn’t stop intruders from trying to squeeze for a place on the two-seater couch. It didn’t stop a few girls from getting excited over our special memories more than we did.
It didn’t stop a few guys from thinking they would get exclusive time with my wife even after we were married. But it stopped them from doing it a second time when we put up a united front and declared the relationship exclusive in speech, conduct and action.
The couch in now a two-seater with only two seated and there is room to stretch; I advise you to make yours the same.
Ernest Wamboye is a husband, author, thespian and origami artist. He is the author of two books: The Human Temple, a fictional novel about spiritual warfare and Lust and the City – a guide on sexual purity. Ernest is married to his beautiful wife, Waturi, and they live in Nairobi, Kenya. You can keep up with Ernest on his blog, Pen Strokes (www.ernestwamboye.blogspot.com)