Committed in College Series: A UK Perspective

By: Ms Tomilola

I remember starting university so vividly, it was my first time away from home and I was sure that I would meet my husband. I mean wouldn’t that be the perfect love story? Well its nearly eight years since I finished university and I can tell you that my experience was very different to my expectations. I’ll provide you with some context, so officially I started university in a relationship however within a few weeks I had chosen to end that relationship. For the purposes of this post I’ll refer to him as John. I met John when I was 14 years old and we had been in an on and off relationship for years. To cut a long story short, he had a toddler by the time I started university and at the tender age of 18, I knew that I was too young to become second place to a child. Also, I would never ask him to choose between me and his son. I honestly believed that our paths would cross again and that we would make it this time, being older and wiser. However, John was just for a season and ultimately, we outgrew each other.

So now I was single and ready to mingle, but not in the sense you might think. I’ve always hated dating and would rather just commit to one person and put all my time and energy into them. I had various crushes whilst in my first year of university, but nothing became of this. I then begun my second year and if I’m honest I was struggling with being single, especially as those around me seemed to be successful in securing relationships. Then I met HIM. It was Spring 2008, and we met through a friend’s boyfriend. This quickly turned into a relationship and I was sprung. This relationship continued throughout the rest of my university days and for a year and a half after that.

My relationship with him lasted three years in total and only a few years after our break up did I accept that this relationship was also only for a season. My plan was to be married at 24 and therefore being newly single at 22 was very daunting. I was struggling to see my future outside of the relationship because I had attached all my future plans to him and now he had left me. This relationship taught me many valuable lessons that I wish to share with you all. When you start dating in university, you have more time to cultivate your relationship because you’re not quite a fully-fledged adult yet. I used to spend so much time with him, I craved his presence. The amount of time we spent together meant that we were pretty much playing house and I was showcasing my ability to be a good “wife”. We travelled together both within the UK and abroad, celebrated anniversaries and pretty much did all the romantic things most girls want.

I had visions of telling our children how we met at university and how our love stood the test of time. Sometimes the thought of what you want can keep you in a position that is not where you will thrive. Even after graduating from university, I would spend most weekends with him and would stay in his family home. We would even have date nights during the week, despite being employed. Due to our commitment to the relationship, we were very proactive about ensuring we saw each other on a weekly basis. I finished university before he did and he was a very proud man which meant that he struggled to accept support from me. I became quite consumed in ensuring his happiness, by doing all the things that I thought a good girlfriend did, at the expense of looking after myself.

The thing about dating young is that you don’t really know who you are yet. I remember being on a date with him and discussing our future. Due to not wanting to be the centre of attention, he was telling me that he would rather elope than have the usual big traditional Nigerian wedding. He also went on to say that he would rather have children first than get married. I remember this day vividly because this was the day I started to compromise to sustain my relationship. I am a Christian woman who had never considered cohabitating with her boyfriend until him (yes, I know we played house whilst at university but now I was considering renting with him and making it official). I also was quite adamant that I wanted children after marriage, something I was now considering abandoning to make him happy.

As we were both of Nigerian heritage, we were often met with comments about marriage from various family members. Halfway through our relationship this became too much for him and he broke up with me citing that the pressure was too much. This was our first break up and despite him initiating it, he was not quite ready to let me go and this suited me just fine. Until one day my therapist at the time, asked me a series of questions which made me realise that he was still receiving all the benefits of our relationship whilst having removed my title of “girlfriend”. Well as you can imagine that didn’t last for too long and he was faced with an ultimatum which ended up in him returning my title. At the time, I felt that I made the right decision by taking him back. However, in retrospect I could have made him work harder to prove his commitment to US.

I remember when we did decide to get back together, I was too scared to tell any of my friends. Not because they would perhaps disapprove but because I felt that I had no part to play in the first break up other than being a good girlfriend to him. Despite this, the pressure he felt from outside of the relationship and his growing affection for me made him take a few steps back and hurt me by ending our relationship. Therefore, I was mindful that I was not going to go through that pain again and wanted to take my time. Our friends and family naturally found out that we were back together, no big announcement. Just 1+1=2.  It only took another year and a half for us to break up permanently. Did we just delay the inevitable? His reason for the second break up was that he needed to “find himself”. Well within a few months he managed to find himself hooking up with a new girl. To this day, he still maintains that this was a legitimate reason whilst I have accepted that it was just an excuse.   

Towards the end of our relationship, I must admit that I wasn’t happy. I no longer was willing to accept limiting my happiness for the sake of love. A few months before he broke up with me, I was considering taking a break from our relationship but due to not believing in “breaks” I decided against it. I was loved by his family and very much now included in all family events, something that I loved to be honest. I mean who doesn’t want a positive relationship with their in-laws to be? This played a huge part in how we managed our break up. I went against the advice of many friends and did not cut my ties with his family. I felt that I had built strong relationships with his friends and family, through my affection for him but it had now gone beyond that. What kind of a person would I be if I suddenly stopped talking to them because our relationship had ended? This would reflect badly on me as an individual and therefore I maintained the relationships whilst trying to remain respectful of his feelings. What happened next is an entirely new post on its own, but one thing that I learned through this relationship is that you need to know who you are before you begin to build with someone. There were a lot of things I saw reflected at me, through the mirror of that relationship and I can say that it has helped me grow into the 28-year-old woman I am today. I am grateful for the season of that relationship, as it taught me to always believe in love and when you’re in God’s will you will know. There will be no confusion. 

Lessons Learnt:

  • Don’t try to run before you can walk. If you do manage to meet the one at university you have all the time in the world to develop your relationship. Slow down.
  • Take time to figure out who you are outside of your relationship. What do you want from life? Don’t plan your whole life around your relationship forgetting what you want in the process.
  • Do not push your beliefs to the side in favour of your partners own values.
  • Don’t play house! You are not auditioning for a role.
  • Do not settle. Believe that whenever you meet the one for you, your perfect love story will begin.
  • Let your relationship develop naturally, you should only be in competition with yourselves.
  • Take time to heal from any previous relationships and any break ups that occur in the relationship.
  •  If he/she is indecisive about wanting to commit to you, make the decision for them. Walk away, yes it will be hard but you won’t die from a broken heart. I promise.
  • You can do all the romantic things in the world with your partner but that is no substitute for figuring out whether you can accept this person’s flaws for the rest of your life.
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