Growing up in a predominantly female environment, I was taught to do everything, literally, everything by myself. My grandmother, God rest her soul, and my auntie made sure that if it had to be done, and I couldn’t do it, then why not let her do it.
So very early in my life I learnt to do things without having to look or wait for anyone to do them for me, if I could do without help. From cooking, to ironing, changing light bulbs, washing cars, anything, just anything and this included taking care of others.
But I didn’t realize until not very long ago that some men find this attitude quite upsetting.
In relationships, men like to be in charge. In fact, they like to be seen as the ‘boss’, the man and nothing else.
This is not a problem, after all, that’s how they are made. Any woman who’s been in a relationship knows too well that while we may have our own problems and moments, it’s the men who need the special care and attention.
That’s because contrary to popular belief that men are strong and can withstand anything thrown at them, the male ego screams “I’m a child, be careful how you handle me, I may just throw tantrums.”
This means that women, must just women-stand by their men when they need to- and for some men, that’s enough. Anything more than being the woman you’re expected to be will be misconstrued as wanting to take over.
And some men don’t find this pleasant at all, even when the situation is not what they think it is.
Exactly what am I talking about? Let me give you these examples.
I’ve been criticized in my previous relationships for being too domineering in certain instances. Why? Because, I offered to pay bills on many occasions. One of my boyfriends actually thought it was totally disrespectful to his person for me to offer to pay the bills when he’s around.
Another told me that offering to pay the bill, regardless of the situation literally takes away his ‘manhood’. For him the gesture was rude, demeaning and is capable of making any man angry no matter how well-meaning it is.
That was the last time I offered to pay anything. I would have shrugged him off too, as I did in my previous encounter, but subsequent occurrences, this time with some male colleagues at work made me question myself.
“Am I just full of myself, is it the case that I like to show off or I’ve just got so much money to spare?” I thought to myself one afternoon after I’d been openly turned down when I made the offer.
This is what happened. I stepped out to get some fried yam, while at the vendor’s end, a male colleague from another department stopped by to get some as well.
Since I was the lady among us, the vendor decided to serve me first and when she was done, I paid for my meal and asked that the change be used to settle my colleague’s.
But the manner in which my colleague rejected the offer surprised me. So I asked him why and he said “but you bi woman, how can you pay for me.”
So I asked again, “what is wrong with a woman paying your bill?”
“Naaah, it’s not cool, I should be the one paying. Woman dier you for allow men to do things for you.,” he said.
I looked at him in awe, because for me it really was not a big deal.
Then I remembered how an almost perfect relationship destined for marriage ended abruptly on account of the swollen ego of the man.
Edwin and Grace were so good together, almost inseparable. Their relationship was the envy of many until it emerged they had broken up. No one knew why. Several months later, Grace confided in me and I could not but understand her situation.
“Edwin had a multi million cedi contract, one that could change his life forever and mine too but he lost it and eventually lost me too all because of this silly pride,” she narrated.
For a project he needed to complete before funds were released, Grace said her boyfriend went from friend to friend looking for funds but couldn’t get any. He did not want to go to the bank, because already he was in debt in two separate banks.
Interestingly, he never mentioned to Grace that he was in need of money to undertake the project he had already mentioned to her.
Grace said she noticed, at a point, that he was worried and worn out. She inquired to know what the problem was but as usual her boyfriend pretended to be fine, and that it was nothing he couldn’t handle.
Unconvinced by his response, she spoke to a close friend of his who admitted that he was having challenges securing funds for a project he wanted to embark on. The friend said her boyfriend could lose the project, worth millions of cedis, if he did not get initial funds to start it.
Grace, furious that she had been left out of such an important part of her boyfriend’s life called to question him about why he had done that.
To her dismay, her boyfriend asked how she expected him to ask for money from her and that if she was giving him money, then what would be his use as the man.
This response baffled Grace. She told me later that “it is not that I had the money he needed, but I was prepared to talk to the manager at the bank where I worked to help us sort things out, although he already owed the bank.”
So Grace sat back and watched her boyfriend struggle without success to get funding for the project. Eventually, the project was passed on to another contractor.
“That was the end of our relationship. I left him because never in my life did I feel so insulted by a man. His response made me feel less of myself. To think that he would rather lose a life changing contract than seek help from his girlfriend was baffling. What other thing in life would he rather lose than ask help from me, his wife, if we were to get married? I cannot accept this!” Grace said.
She disclosed that although he later apologized for his behaviour, she thought it was best to find someone who truly appreciated her and would not feel bruised because she offers to help.
After all, she could not continue loving a man who she would put her burden on when in difficulty, but who will conceal his problems in the name of being a man, when he is caught in a sticky situation. What is the essence of love when it cannot be give and take?
Her story did not surprise me. I have always thought that some men have problems with their egos. Their constant need to feel tough and to appear always in control of any situation is completely unnecessary. It is absolutely fine to feel vulnerable or in need. That does not in any way take away who or what you are.
But did Grace act irrationally by ending her relationship? I remember how I felt in my yam paying episode. If something as insignificant as declining my payment for tiny slices of yam would make feel that empty and embarrassed, then a multi-million cedi contract gambled with pride should obviously make any well meaning woman angry enough to leave her relationship.
No woman wants to live with a man who cannot handle his emotions. Of course, we love our men strong and being able to stand up when they have to but they should be able to let go and allow themselves to be ‘helped’ when the need arises.
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