Ese Atakpu: Did You Choose Your Partner for Passion or For Security?

As an unmarried Nigerian woman, most of the advice I have received on choosing the right spouse revolves around one central point: make sure to choose a man that loves you more than you love him.

I have been repeatedly warned not to marry for passion or love. Let him be the passionate one, blinded by affection. They say marrying for love is how women end up with wife-beaters and serial cheaters, that love blinds us to telltale signs of a latent abuser. And in a country where nearly 3 in 10 women have experienced gender-based violence by the age of 15, this is not an unfounded fear. This advice is usually punctuated by anecdotes of women who married charming men and ended up bitterly regretting it.

So that is the rule: do not marry for physical attraction. If possible, do not get married to someone you find physically attractive. That way, you can be sure of entering into marriage with eyes clear and senses alert.

Despite the obvious flaw in this rule (men cheat in spite of and not because of their looks), I fully internalized it and prepared myself for a reasonable marriage to a ‘safe and just presenting’ man. You might have done the same.

But remember this…

Choosing safety over passion does not guarantee safety. When it comes to another human being, you are never really sure. People change, and Mr. Safe can too. Are you ready to spend the rest of your life resenting your spouse for somehow deceiving you into settling for him? Are you ready to spend forever resenting yourself for allowing fear to push you into settling for a man you don’t love? Because the truth is, you don’t love him, not romantically at least. If you did, being with him would not feel like settling for the safer option.

One could argue that since every man is a potential cheat or abuser, it might be better to settle for safety. That way, if he hurts you, it will be easier to walk away. Because abuse from someone you never really loved won’t hurt as badly as abuse from someone you love with all your heart. But you know this is not true, don’t you?

In any case, let’s say Mr. Safe remains safe, what then? After years of marriage to Mr. Safe, love will come. Love as an accompaniment to gratitude for his treatment of you. You will love him because he first loved you and because he is the perfect husband (and father). Although not passionate, this love will be steadfast and rooted in feelings of security. And it will be just as valid as the love you could have had with the man that lit your soul up.

So where lies true love? Security or passion? I conducted a poll on Twitter and the general consensus seems to be passion.

Getting married to the love of your life is true bliss, getting married to Mr. Safe and eventually growing to love him is also bliss – of a different kind. But if there is a possibility of experiencing true bliss from the beginning of your marriage, why settle for anything less? Regardless of the option you pick, safety is never truly guaranteed. Life will hurt you, why give it a head-start on that hurt?

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