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Caged in the singles trap

By | September 5th 2009

Are you among countless unmarried men and women groping in the dark for lasting love? Author and marital therapist Andrew G Marshall says a change of tactics will free you. KIUNDU WAWERU shows you how

Simon, 36, and an IT manager in a blue chip company in Nairobi is the archetypal eligible bachelor — good job, smart dresser, intelligent, tall, witty and handsome. And even though a lot of women flock his path, Simon is lonely. He just cannot find the perfect match.

Outgoing, independent and warm-hearted 34-year-old Jennie, is also faced with a similar dilemma. She cannot find lasting love. A lawyer in private practise, she hit the ground running soon after completing college and soon ascended the corporate ladder. Problem is, dating progressively became an alien concept. Today, she is single, childless, lonely and still searching.

An increasing number of singletons are bothered by the million-dollar relationship question: where do I find my soul mate? And because they keep visions of their picture-perfect future husbands or wives, they spend their lives ticking and "Xing" every one they meet.

For women, the preference is dark, tall, handsome and perhaps, with abs, for good measure. While most men prefer light, curvaceous, bootilicious and big-busted women, a few would rather stick to the model- like, trim figures. Anyone who falls short of this picture, is swiftly brushed of.

Just an illusion

But Jane Orlago a counselling psychiatrist at Nairobi Women’s Hospital disparages the notion of a perfect mate, terming it as an illusion created on television screens and romance novels.

"It is why many men and women in their prime are still unmarried. Although it is healthy to have expectations, they should be realistic. One cannot expect their spouse to completely resemble their fantasy in deeds and in words".

Her idea of basic realistic qualities include respectful, a compromising nature, faithfulness and friendship.

Trapped in singlehood

In his book, The Single Trap: The Two-Step Guide to Escaping it and Finding Lasting Love, marital therapist Andrew G Marshall portends that being single is no longer a natural phase between the end of one relationship and the beginning of another but somewhere many unattached men and women have become trapped. However, he is persuaded that love is possible.

He says most people knew each other casually, or even distantly, before dating. "The key advantage of meeting casually is that all the defences are down. You are not meeting a potential life partner, but chatting for 30 seconds waiting for the lift. The stakes are so low there is no need for game-playing and you are more likely to be yourself".

Thus, Mr or Mrs Right could be one of your everyday acquaintances — someone you talk and share jokes with or perhaps attended the same school with. His or her number could even be lying dormant in your phonebook. In deed, a research conducted in the UK found 29 per cent of married people had their spouse’s number stored in their mobile for some time before they began dating; and that a third of us will end up with an ex-workmate or schoolmate, whose phone number we are currently storing.

Surrounded by love

Catherine, a marketer in Nairobi tied the knot a year ago. To date, she is still perplexed by her decision to marry John, an accountant. They met in nursery school and remained classmates all the way to Standard Eight, then attended separate high schools in the same area. "One day, John’s school was among those invited for science congress to her school. I vaguely remember him saying hi but I ignored him".

Many years later, Catherine met John at a bus station in Nairobi. They exchanged a few words and parted ways. Two years later they sat next to each other in a matatu, caught on each other’s lives and had several dates later. "We discovered we had a lot in common and one day, just like that, he proposed". Writes Marshall: "You are six degrees of separation from everyone in the world, and probably only one degree away from the person you will end up with".

Josphat, a sous- chef at a five star hotel in Nairobi, attests to this. One day, a girl named Triza arrived at the kitchen for internship. The kitchen was a hive of activity and Triza was very slow. "She irked me no less! Too often, I screamed orders at her".

Triza returned to college and several years later, got employed at the same hotel in the housekeeping department.

Hate turned to love

She says: "I never set foot in the kitchen because I hated Josephat with a passion. One day we bumped into each other at the reception, he looked me over and with a smile, introduced himself. I was disgusted and I brushed him off".

This left Josephat quite confused. "Why a stranger would be incensed by a mere greeting was perplexing". But one thing was certain — he was attracted to her.

Says Josephat: "It was a colleague who reminded me who she was. I was dumbfounded and immediately apologised — now look at us," he says as he dangles an arm around Triza, his fiancÈe.

So how do you break free from the singles trap? Marshall recommends a return to the basics of dating, instead of wildly dating, with a rigid ‘perfect man’ checklist. "Remember University and school, you didn’t ‘date, you hung around with people and paired off. That’s what you need to do now: hang out, mix and take another look at people you already know. At parties, it’s not looking for a partner but for an interesting conversation, which might lead to a recommendation for an art exhibition and getting talking to someone else at the gallery. It’s about joining a poetry class, not to find a potential date, but because you love words and then going to a classmate’s coffee-shop performance and being introduced to someone from his or her workplace".

He sums it up thus: "The first step is to take a fresh look at yourself. The second step involves changing the way that we search for love, to become more open-minded, learning the art of mixing and making more fulfilling emotional connections".

Additional reporting by Shirley Genga.

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