The dating mood board.
Two men I know well have been left by their wives. These are young couples, married for three and two years respectively and each have two kids. These guys both have great jobs and the women work marginally. One woman is finding her path as an artist and the other is studying psychology. Now my boys aren’t saints, they get mad and say the wrong things, or worse, nothing at all; and one of them drinks too much. But they are generally good faithful non-violent guys who stand by their women in the face of demanding in-laws, a man’s world and gravity’s attack on a woman’s waistline, boobs and self-esteem. So what is the problem? They have no idea.
I know exactly what the problem is: Each of these women is fundamentally unhappy. The first woman is trying to find herself as an artist. One minute she is a painter, next she is designing clothes, I recall a brief stint in PR and I swear if someone suggested that she could sing, I guarantee we would all be watching her first video on KissTV by Christmas. The girl works she is just, in Nairobi parlance ‘bila focus!’
The second chick is a perennial student with nary a degree in sight – law, marketing, business and now psychology and she has taken a class in IT. That kind of curiosity could be harnessed into a journalism career but that would be too much like hard work. She would actually have to finish something.
So now these women, these mothers, have left their husbands and committed to raising their kids in single parent households. For what, you may ask? Now that question I do not have the answer to. There isn’t another man in sight in either of these cases so just like their husbands, I am perplexed. It would seem to me that if you are to split your home in two, you would have a serious end-game in mind. At least something better than nothing, to replace two parents for your kids and a life partner for yourself?
A few weeks ago, Pastor S of Mavuno Church asked me to go and talk about the end of dating during a Saturday night service. While these two marriages are not a qualitative sample, they are a result of what passes for dating in Nairobi. If we call dating an interviewing process through which a man and woman establish compatibility and assess their capacity to build a life together, then these two couples failed.
Is it that we do not know how to date so we do not note signs of incompatibility? Or we do not know who we are and have not been honest with ourselves about the lives we want to live so that we cannot pick the right partners? Are we optimistic about the effect that a marriage certificate will have on our mate and his or her behaviour? Do we have unrealistic expectations of what our spouse or marriage will do in our lives? Is it that we do not get the gravity of divorce and what it does to children?
Looking at these women and their choices through the lenses provided by their angry and biased husbands, it seems that they did not know what they wanted before they ever got married. It seems like they thought marriage would fill a gap in their lives, perhaps even give them a life. All this would be fine; you never know what is available for you until you declare your desire for it. Perhaps there are men out there who would have been looking to raise a woman instead of partner with one.
So what to do? How about we take a concept that works well elsewhere and use it in the dating world? The mood board. If you walk into an ad agency and declare the desire to create a ‘brand’, you will eventually create a mood board – complete with pictures of what informs your brand, what it stands for etc. Couples ultimately want to create a brand, a family unit and the creation of a mood board when a couple become serious can highlight what it is that they have in common and what each of them thinks is a successful life.
Sure we grow and change throughout life, but this mood board would simply be the beginning of an ongoing conversation. The unit that a couple creates is a reflection of their values and a mood board will let you know if your potential partner cares about the same things you do. If my pals had created mood boards then, maybe they would never have married women who were ‘finding themselves’.