I truly love, respect and embrace my Nigerian roots but I discovered that many of the standards I was going by, in regards to dating, were not my own. This discovery led me to do a lot of "unpacking" in order to get to the root of why I chose the "type" of men that I chose in the past as well as why I valued certain attributes over another. As a result, this unpacking caused me to discern, challenge and re-learn who I was and what I really wanted. In addition, it coerced me to explore the power and impact of projection when trying to navigate dating as a Nigerian 31 year old woman.
In many African homes, there is a considerable amount of pressure to pursue careers in medicine, law or business. While those are all honorable fields, there has been little room and conversations about success coming in various forms. Often times, success is projected in a limited scope. As a result, people who explore careers in arts, music, teaching, activism and more are sometimes looked down upon. Although the intentions behind the projection of certain careers being deemed as "good" can derive from an innocent place, it can actually be hindering on an individual.
Projection is when one's ideas, values and beliefs is put onto another person. Projection can impact a individual's career choice, school selection, lifestyle, and even dating standards.
How projection navigated my dating preference
Projected beliefs did impact my views towards dating and relationships. I would navigate my preferences based on "taboo theories" such as, "dating a man with kids" is "bad". There was once time that I would care less about the heart of a man once I found out that he had kids. See, it is one thing to have a preference based on personal conviction versus having it based on someone's opinion.
It is important to keep in mind that warning from others can be for your own good and can actually prevent you from dealing with certain behaviors and circumstances that the individual endured in themselves. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are some "warnings" from others that stem from fear, shame, embarrassment, and judgement. With this in mind, it is paramount that you understand that whatever relationship YOU choose to be in, YOU and that person, along with God, are the ones in that relationship. "Becky's" judgmental opinions is not what is going to sustain that relationship, it will be YOU and that individual.
I spent more time, trying to get to know certain men that would make my family "proud" that I had no idea what I wanted. That is why it is vital that you use your singleness to discover your values as it relates to your non-negotiable. You can check out my previous blog, The Case of the Non-Negotiable, HERE to get a better understanding of the benefits of dating based on your non-negotiable.
So back to my revelation, I recognized that I preferred a man with no kids but I realized that it was not my personal non-negotiable (make or break moment). This discovery took me a lot of guts to admit because I know that if men with kids were projected unto me as being a taboo, I probably would have had better dating experiences. Instead, I limited my own dating pool due to my concern with following cultural trends.
None of this discovery would have taken place if I had not done the following 3 things:
Spoke to my therapist about my dating habits
I remember when my therapist had a keep it real moment with me. She said to me, "Joy you need to begin to date and choose who YOU want for YOU because YOU are the person who will be with that person. Not your mom, not your dad, not your sister, not your family members or close friends and not your culture. YOU!". Now it takes a lot for me to be speechless but this was surely a moment that I had no response because she was right! Every now and then, you need a neutral individual to wake your butt off with the hard core truth, out of love of course, to help you recognize and process your decision making habits.
Spoke with close friends who could relate to my upbringing
If it was not for the conversations with close friends who understood the "unspoken pressure" of living up to the cultural expectations of an African woman, I would have probably lost my mind or worse; settled! Some of my close friends grew up in similar cultures where marriage, children, and a man who fit a "certain requirement" were attached to a woman's value. Having a safe space to communicate openly, without the fear of being judged, about my views towards dating was liberating. The conversations were constant reminders that it was okay to go against the cultural norm of dating a guy without a degree or dating a guy who worked in a certain field and more.
The conversations challenged my views on certain things. For instance, I use to say that dating a man without a bachelor degree is a huge no in my book and when asked why, I would be mute. Now, from personal experience, I can give a genuine response to my reasoning however, a man without a degree is no longer something that I am 100% against if the man possesses the actual qualities that I value.
Had a real conversation with my momma
I am very close with my mother, so it brought me great joy to have an honest conversation with her about my views towards dating standards. I felt relieved when I boldly stated (of course in a polite way because Nigerian mothers do not play) that I cannot date based on the standards of others. After the conversation, I felt a sense of peace and after hearing her response, I felt relieved. My mother agreed and added that her advice comes from a mother's love for her daughter but she knows that God's choice (in regards to who I end up with) may completely go against my family's standards. I have no idea why it took me so long to admit that to her but I believe it was because I had to admit and believe that first for myself.
I encourage you to take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself if your preferences are actually YOUR preferences and not your mother's, aunt's, cousin's, grandmother's god mother's or best friend's. For some, you are all set in this area but for the rest, you may have to go back to the drawing board to discover your values, likes, and dislikes, that makes up you. So I challenge you to speak with your close friends, family members and even a therapist to unpack some of the ideas and beliefs that may not be resonating with you.