Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.
February 25, 2018
After losing my mother at the tender age of fourteen, the drastic life changes that followed were much more than I could ever imagine. Of course the loss of a loved one is painful, but I found that a new environment, new routines, new teachings and new people can actually be more overwhelming and potentially compound the grief. Thinking back, I know for sure that I was depressed and truly missed my mother, but that hole translated into a craving for acceptance.
I recall meeting my first real boyfriend at fifteen, shortly after moving to China to live with my father and although the relationship was pure and innocent, it definitely was toxic. I say toxic for a few reasons and none that include pressure to do anything I was not ready for, or even verbal abuse. No, the relationship was a bandaid which worsened the emptiness I was feeling inside and started a downward cycle of needing to needed, needing to be loved. This translated into hopping from one relationship to the next soon after each breakup.
Fast forward a decade, not much had changed besides my age and physical appearance (we’ll discuss outward changes in another post, but for now I want to focus on my mental health). By twenty-two I had my Bachelor’s in International Business and Economics, moved back to Africa and had my first job lined up. Life seemed quite promising and I knew that it would only improve from there. At twenty-four I had been living in Angola for two years post graduation and had gotten into the rhythm of working and had even formed my own little circle of friends. It’s crazy to say that things were changing drastically and yet everything stayed the same…
As a fully legalised adult – in all parts of the world might I add – I jumped into yet another relationship with someone whose personality clearly clashed with mine but, as usual, I was willing to change myself to make it work. It did not matter that we could barely communicate in the same language, love is a language in itself right? I shudder just remembering how serious things got…. investing in property together, adopting a fur baby, even introducing him to my dad! We’ll stop right here so you can appreciate what that really meant for an African woman with very strict parents. First of all, you only bring someone home if he secretly proposed to you so that he can publicly propose to your family, their neighbours and their pets. I’m sure can begin to imagine the levels of commitment I had invested. Unsurprisingly, that relationship came to an end when I found someone better – (I did try I promise) and even then things did not go as expected. You would think that after over ten years of falling into the same patterns, a light bulb would have magically appeared over my head, but if you take anything from my history, just know that the hardest lessons in life never come easily.
I met my husband by chance and though his version of the story does not match mine, one thing is for sure, I had eyes on him before he knew my full name. You may have read the poem by Danielle Atkins which states that “people will come into your life for a reason, season or lifetime” – if you haven’t, please stop right here and go have a look, trust me it is brilliant! Well funny enough someone had mentioned this poem to me just a few weeks before I met Nuno and I remember thinking how random our first interaction was. I say this lightly but it really is the truth, that man was following me around the world! Just two weeks later, he appeared in a completely different country and though I was amused, it wasn’t enough to make me drool. The very next month we crossed paths again, and by then I was curious to say the least… yes, curious to know why this yummy chocolate man kept appearing at the most random of times.
By this time, not much had changed in my life, well I was earning more and traveling the world so adrenaline definitely suppressed every other emotion. Ah yes, weekend vacations, spontaneous girl trips, and lots of shopping. It’s funny that not as a mother I cannot recall the last time I went shopping for myself… Three years ago perhaps?
Looking back, I can tell you with certainty that without putting in any actual work on my inner self, the core problem did not go away and with a new muse, I was once again adamant about making him fall in love with me. All the antics that worked previously seemed to push Nuno further and further away, and yet he continued to speak to me. Part of me wondered if he was playing hard to get, so when the opportunity to fly over to South Africa (where he lived) to write my CFA exams came up, I booked a ten day vacation with the intention of spending as much time with him as possible. Little did I know that he really was not interested, so out came the shorts, tight tops and makeup. By now you can tell that this was one expensive courtship that I was willing to pursue, so when he finally told me that he had no feelings for me, embarrassment and shame hung like a dark cloud over my head. It was at this point that I realised the scary path I had been blindly dancing along.
For the first time since my mother passed, I accepted the relationship that Nuno and I had for what it was, a pure friendship – or rather the building blocks of one. We spent months speaking to each other frequently, bonding over our shared passion for fitness. With time, his trips to Angola were almost monthly and my boss had me flying to South Africa with the same frequency for trainings and exposure to a different market. It only seems fitting to say that the stars really did align and with every trip, we got closer and closer. It is in the purest of friendships that you tend to find yourself… well at least that was the case with me. And as much as Nuno was a great listener, it became apparent very quickly that all the hurt that dwelled within me was to be discussed, not transferred and by that I mean that he would not tolerate my hulk-like temper. In opening up to him, the focus quickly shifted from how life was so unfair to I could change things to move past certain issues.
It was over a year and a half after our first encounter that he finally told me he had feelings for me, and although it was what I once wanted, hearing him say it was scary to say the least. What I feared most was losing the beautiful friendship that had blossomed because, let’s face it, all of my previous relationships failed miserably… That was just how it was. It was over tea, actually, but things did not quite go as I expected them to. He told me that he really liked me, but that I needed to work on myself first if we were to date. Talk about a low blow! But that was actually one of the best things that he did for me.
Exactly one year after his confession, we were married and expecting a little girl, so once again my world was rattled. Things at work had also picked up with my short term international assignments happening more frequently and although I was living blissfully, married to a man who took his time to teach me how to deal with my emotions, I was not fixed. One thing that is very common with unstable people is a rollercoaster of emotions, temper tantrums and victimisation amounts other things. Name a problem and I most likely had it, especially with the increased hormones associated with pregnancy. I can tell you now that I would not have tolerated anyone with similar mood swings, but Nuno remained constant. For the first time in my life the ugly came out and “my person’s” actions never changed; his words were always loving, his reactions were calm and he made sure to keep me as his top priority. It makes me tear up just thinking back to how horrible I was and how loving he continued to be through everything.
Finally, I accepted his suggestion to go for therapy and I can say with certainty that it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Over two years into our marriage and about four since we met, what I can say now is that Nuno is my first true love. I say this because my understanding of love has changed, and although I do get the warm fuzzies whenever he holds me tight or kisses me gently, what we have is a friendship. There is no one in the world that I would want to tell my secrets to or share exciting news with. In fact one of the hardest things is planning surprises for him because sharing every detail of my day or thoughts with him has now become part of my DNA. As I write this, we have been in self isolation for over six weeks in an attempt to flatten the Covid-19 curve but seeing him head off to bed at night leaves me anxious for the next morning to arrive so that we can see each other again. In the four year journey that we have been on together, he has shown me that you can only truly love someone if you love yourself and for that, I am truly grateful.