Updated: Jul 4, 2020

By Demi Akingbe

Original photograph: Studio Volta Photo, Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso ©Ibrahim Sanlé Sory

I want to unlearn the feeling of not feeling accomplished or successful if I have not been romantically successful.

I recently spoke to my sister about this issue of feeling unaccomplished as a result of being unsuccessful romantically. Her response was that it was a biological feeling, brought about by a biological desire to procreate and to have companionship. What's funny, is that I have no desire to procreate. Have you seen the world? I barely want to be in it, so why would I subject another human being to this? And in the matter of companionship, I already have lots of companions. There is a friend (male and female) for every occasion, every emotion, and every event. So to me, the need to have a companion is sorted.

However....I feel like there is a space that has not been filled and sometimes, I find myself welling up whenever I see an ex-lover that I once cared for, in a new and healthy relationship. Regardless of the fact that I am happy for him, that I do not miss him, that although I may miss the shared experiences but would never want to get back together with anyone from my past, my chest still feels tight whenever I look at pictures of him with his new boo. So what is it really?  Do I want a relationship

I have had many “relationships” with men. Out of the many, only one became conventionally serious. We took cute pictures together, we would cook together, and whenever I was done with work, I more than likely could be found at his place. It was a super cute relationship at the time and yeah...I loved it. But there were problems. I had to deal with his insecurities, his control issues, his ego, and the idea that he had in his head of what a girlfriend should be (and I was not it). It was exhausting and I would often think “is this really it or have I got a dud?” It was so bad that it completely turned me off romantic relationships.

I would eventually meet a guy, that I liked enough to revisit the idea of romantic relationships and this time, this one had all the best parts, you know - your best friend, amazing sex, banter, cuddles, deep conversations, similar points of views - without all the exhausting parts. The only downside was that, after a year he did not want to commit or change what we currently had (even though we were in love (or what I thought was love)). It worked for him because he was still dating around and seeing other girls, but I on the other hand, was not interested in sharing him.

I have since searched for that same feeling but with someone interested in commitment. This doesn’t do me any good as it has left me feeling like something is missing. How come everyone else can find "it" but I cannot? It is a strange feeling to have because at the same time, I am wise enough to not covert what others have, knowing that relationships could seem amazing from the outside but be hell on the inside. I know friends that have been physically and sexually abused, but make their relationships look perfect and seem amazing on social media. I’ve had to ask myself, based on my experience and the experience of friends, do I really want a relationship or just the nice frilly parts you see on social media?

And I think I know the answer. I want the nice frilly parts.

I began asking myself difficult questions about relationships. For example, since other humans come with a lot of baggage and I can barely handle my own baggage, why do I want to carry someone else’s? Also, can a casual relationship (not necessarily a string of casual flings, but a situation with zero pressure and parties who have mutual respect for each other) which transforms into something really amazing ( the love grows organically and is steady and equal) really be the blueprint?

Then comes this internal struggle. You see, I may be fairly liberated and free but I still have a lot to unlearn about sexuality and a woman’s right to be free with her body. Like most people, I really enjoy sex. I like having it and I want to have lots of it. There really is so much about sex that I want to learn and explore. In another world where there are no consequences for how many people you sleep with, I would do it freely and with whoever I wanted to. But because my reality doesn't allow for this, I am left still feeling ashamed whenever I think of the number of guys I have been with...even though the number is relatively small. So a part of me wants a relationship because then, I can do all the crazy and naughty things in relative peace because it is with one person and there is a commitment between us. 

So do I only want to be in a relationship so I can be sexually liberated in a safe space, with no judgement from people because it is my boyfriend and not a string of random guys? YES

Without the title, “relationship”, I feel unprotected as I explore my sexuality. The shame comes from being called loose or a hoe because I am a woman that likes sex. The shame comes from guys talking about you like you’re an object and just another notch on someone's belt. The shame comes from meeting a new guy that judges you or turns you down because he knows another guy that has been with you (this happened to me before, and it really hurt). The shame comes from people still believing that guys will sleep with you, happily, but never make it serious because that is the only way they see you (this also happened to me). Some men will see you as not relationship worthy because as a woman, you should not want to "give it up so easily" as if they themselves aren't doing the exact same thing. I sometimes wonder if the reason the guy from earlier didn’t want to commit was because I was just as interested in sex as he was.

I don’t want people to talk about who I am involved with, I want my business to be private. I also do not want to be anyone's secret like they are ashamed to have me around (another terrible experience). All these unfortunate experiences are reasons why I want to be in a committed relationship with someone. Like “ha ha see, I knew I could do it” … but then I remember that I have existed in one before and that it did not make me feel any better. I felt sad, controlled and still objectified. 

So really, it appears that it is the label I want, and not necessarily a relationship (which I think is what most people want) and that in itself is performative. It is CRAZY because I KNOW this is bullshit. I know that any guy that will judge you for your sexual freedom and for living your life on your own terms is patriarchy’s foot stool. I know all of this. As a feminist, I scream everyday for my girls to be free and live life on their own terms - if you want to be the BDSM queen or the stay-at-home-mum queen, you can be whichever one as long as it is YOUR OWN CHOICE.

Yet here I am, unable to live my own life because of the fear of being judged....even though no one around me will, because we technically all have the same views. This fear leaves me wondering whether I would judge my fellow woman, and fearful that the women around me will judge me. We all say our feminist statements out loud but rarely practice what we preach because deep down we have not truly unlearnt anything we think we have, because we have not been tested. And here I am being tested and consistently failing to pick myself over the conditioning of the patriarchy.

I know society has used the appeal of having a relationship to keep women begging for the attention of men. I dislike the need to prove to people that I am worthy of the title “girlfriend” or using the title as license to be sexually free and adventurous. It ultimately leaves me feeling sad. I had no problem with any of my past experiences with any of the guys I had been with, but other people’s opinions have changed my opinion about these experiences. 

I am an intelligent woman who has practiced at the best firm in the country, and has been accepted into an amazing master's program. My relationships with friends and family are successful. I know I am desired and I know I am beautiful, my self-esteem is slowly growing and is much better than where it was a few years ago. I have no desire to procreate nor do I need someone to protect me or cover my expenses, so there really is no reason to feel unaccomplished or like I am behind anyone because I have not found a life partner.

What I truly desire is freedom.

I want to move out and live alone and be myself and learn about myself and grow into the woman I am destined to be. Free of proving everyday that I am a well brought up girl and that I care about people or family members that drain me. Free to do, dress, smell, eat, drink, act however the fuck I want to.

Often, we women go from our father's houses where we are not free, to our husband's house, where we are also not free.

At no point are we simply on our own to be free. I often think, if I can just find a man that ticks the boxes I can move out and be free. LMFAO! My dream would be to move to a place where no one knows me, so I can do what I want and not care about the opinions of others because they are not part of my community. Truth is, I need to learn how to be free, regardless of where I am. I need to make the rules on how I want to live my life so I can be happy with my decisions and never feel ashamed of what anyone has to say about me.

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