I wrote this article for ThisDay in July of 2008. Felt the need to republish it after realizing that a lot of guys around me would still relate to it today.
The world was recently thrown into some sort of emotional drama when the government of the American State of Texas, raided a West Texas compound and took custody of 416 children after receiving a phone call from a 16 year old girl who claimed to have been forcibly married to a 50 year old man and was being sexually abused. Polygamy is against the law in America but certain religions allow and still practice it even if unofficially. This compound in Texas was one of such as men were allowed to marry as many women as they wanted and there were even cases of wife sharing and underage pregnancies. The state claimed they did what they did so as to protect the kids and stop them from growing up in an abusive and non functional home. But the mothers headed for the court and got back custody of their kids after the court ordered that the state returned the kids to their West Texas home. Officials of the State of Texas have vowed to fight on.
Such a story would not be as dramatic in Nigeria considering our traditional polygamist nature. Before religions like Christianity came, polygamy was alive and well in our communities and still is acceptable in a lot of towns till date. Also Islam, one of the two main religions in the country does allow for men to marry more than one wife; as long as they can love and provide for each of them equally!
But one recurring phenomenon amongst the male (and female of course) folk that seems to be universal regardless of race, religion and culture is cheating. Women cannot live with it and a lot of men cannot live without it. Some women would rather live with their husbands and a second wife than a mistress or girlfriend. There is just everything wrong about it and women rightfully do not condone it. But what happens when they do not even know that they are being cheated on?
I met Andrew some three years ago and we became quite close after several hang out sessions and over time, just found out that we had a lot of things in common. A lot of things, until his love life or lives started unraveling. He first introduced me to Katherine in the year we met, as his girlfriend. He loved her in as much as most of his more long term friends thought she was bad news. He bought her everything she had only dreamt of considering she was from a lower middle class family and a polygamous one at that with lots of children to take care of. All the expensive things from Louis Vuitton bags to Baby Phat Jeans to Jimmy Choo’s, were gotten for Katherine and the beauty of it all was that it did not have to be her birthday or St. Valentine’s Day. The only complaint Andrew had was the fact that she was a bit too suspicious. She always wanted to see his text messages and take his calls but he never let her. They were going on strong and I always thought that it would all end up in marriage seeing how strong they were waxing.
Then one morning, some four months later Andrew called me and while we were talking he goes; “I’ll call you later. My wife is calling me on my other line.” I said okay and innocently asked that he send my regards to Katherine. Then he started laughing. I wondered why he was laughing and he replied; “I’m not talking about Katherine o! It’s my real love Ann.” I was confused but in my usual non inquisitive way I just smiled and hung up. Then I started seeing Ann almost on a daily basis just as I saw Katherine. It was almost as if they had a daily or sometimes hourly roaster on when to be with Andrew and when to leave. He would show them the exact same amount of love and give them the same amount of attention. He would buy each of them David and Victoria Beckham (DVB) Jeans, take them separately on weekends away and even give them money to furnish their apartments. At a point I got a bit worried and so I had to call him and ask if these two knew (of) each other and he looked at me with that stare that asked me; “Ebuka, are you for real?”
He replied; “Of course not. They live in separate neighbourhoods (thanks to the chaos called Lagos) and they almost have no reason to cross each other’s paths. Each one of them thinks that they are the only one even though they seem to get the feeling sometimes that I’m not very faithful.” I wondered why he was doing that and putting himself through the emotional and heavy financial burden but he replied me in what looked like a very very sincere manner; “Ebuka, I love these two girls and I love them equally. I don’t want to lose anyone.”
Over time, even I kind of became tired of asking him to make up his mind as both girls seemed very happy and looked like they had both settled into their various shifts unconsciously. They still didn’t know of each other yet each one still seemed to be spending enough time with Andrew. He was almost always there to give emotional and financial support to each girl and their fallouts seemed to be only as a result of what would seem like normal issues with monogamous relationships. Andrew was handling everything well and a lot of his friends marveled at his guts and ability to hold up thus far. Two years and counting and still these girls were there as equals without the one knowing of the other. Then, while we were still in awe of the daily drama, things got even more interesting.
Andrew was at a friends’ get together sometime last year when a female guest walked in. She was in the same mould as Katherine and Ann; tall, very curvy, pretty and somewhat high maintenance. He could not get his eyes off her and immediately walked up to her. She introduced herself as Judith and she was just moving back to the country after a few years living and working abroad. They exchanged numbers and a couple of weeks later I got introduced to Judith in these exact words; “Ebuka meet my girlfriend…” I smiled and shook her hand and she started on about how much Andrew had made her movement back to Nigeria a lot easier. He had given her a good time and she felt really loved. He had taken her to the best restaurants around and she could not be happier.
Now just in case you are wondering, Katherine and Ann were still very much in the picture at this stage and while both of them still had no idea that the other existed, neither had a clue that there was now a Judith and vice versa. Valentine’s Day 2008 came and I made sure I stayed miles away from Andrew as I did not want to be caught in the web but I came back and found out that he had somehow spent the day satisfying each one of his three girlfriends without any problems.
It is July 2008 now and for almost a year now Andrew has had three very serious girlfriends and he claims that he loves each one equally (which appears very true seeing how he treats them at every given time) and does not want to lose any of them. While I am still fascinated at how he has managed to keep each one happy without them knowing about one another, his mum has come into the picture. She found out what was going on when she visited him recently and has now threatened to call each one of the girls if he does not settle down with one of them or a completely new girl, soonest. She took their numbers and we are all waiting for her deadline on him to expire.
But then, there are other breeds of men who also love to be with as many women as possible but seem to have a different strategy.
I met Thomas in 2002 and we have been very good friends ever since, brought together mostly because of our love for the brew and football. He was doing his NYSC at the time while I was still in the university. Yet, some of the most memorable parts of our friendship have been that in the six years that I have known Thomas, he has been in upwards of 16 very serious relationships each one independent of the other with one ending before another one starts. In what became like a ritual every 4 to 6 months, Thomas would come up to me with a new girl and say; “This is my girlfriend.”
He would then tell me privately that he loved the said girl and was seriously considering marrying her. But a couple of months down the line; I would hear the same line again but this time with a different girl. Then he would tell me how the last girl was not working anymore. He fell in love easily but seemed to fall out of it even more easily. One thing I noticed through all of this was that almost every single girl he dated was different from the other. He did not seem to have a type.
I always find it interesting when his enthusiasm for each girl dies off especially as he seems to have covered all possible reasons for breaking up; ranging from one not taking proper care of her hair, through another who was a bit too talkative, to another who was too quiet to yet another who apparently cheated on him, there always seemed to be a reason for him to move on so quickly. Of course I have started becoming suspect as things never end(ed) because of him. He always seemed to be right and never did or does any wrong. After telling him that he should check himself a little more as he could be the problem, I told him about the term ‘serial monogamy’ (always feeling the need to be in a relationship with one person at a time while also feeling the compulsive need to equally get out of it so as to move on to another) and his eyes lit up!
Yeah, I know you must now be wondering what sort of friends I have and keep. But that is besides the point. I just think it is important that guys check themselves a little more closely to see whether they could be the problem with relationships. I believe that if you want to be a polygamist, then go ahead, as long as the ladies are aware and you can handle it. The same goes for the very many serial monogamists amongst us who seem to think that they just have not found their soul mate. Well, you might just have but simply failed to notice as a result of your compulsive dating cycle. You might not be a cheater seeing that you date one at a time. But the heart break caused the ladies are almost in equal measure at the end of the day.
I hope my two friends (whose names I changed of course) do get their acts together as they are adults and the best I can do is advice. But while we wait on Andrew’s mother to act and Thomas to finally get married, I’d really like to know from the ladies; if the world were filled with only 2 types of men; serial monogamists and loving cheats, who would you rather be with?
*UPDATE* Three years later, Both Andrew and Thomas are now HAPPILY married with kids.