Broken Relationships & The Broken Land

                   by Dear Sis Dudu

i love South Afrikan men. i really do, as i believe that they are the best suited mates for a South Afrikan woman, in the context of dating within the borders of this continent. But more often i have to constantly defend them when my fellow Afrikan sisters, especially South Afrikan women, often take a stab at their character. It’s not rare to hear our ladies complain and utter statements such as “but South Afrikan men are bluff, stingy and do not know how to treat their women well”

It is always interesting how when my South Afrikan sisters attribute their inability to form meaningful and long term relationships with the men they so speak ill of, somehow nothing in them triggers a thought as to how they might also be part of the problem. If your nostrils are flaring as you are reading my above statement, i ask you to take a few deep breaths and give the rest of this article a chance, as i will explain my position in paragraphs to come.

#MenAreTrash  and the apartheid legacy.

For the benefit of those who are not familiar with our history, let’s look at how Apartheid has contributed massively if not entirely (even though one might argue that HIV has played a key role) to fractured families that many South Afrikans stem from. One important factor to take into account regarding the situation of ‘men in crisis’ in South Afrika is the long-term effects of the migrant labour system, to which Afrikans were subjected to. Men had to come into cities and towns to seek work, separated from their families, who were forced to stay behind in homeland areas. The hostel system has an adverse effect on the health and well-being of its occupants and this also resulted in stress and strain as the lack of privacy meant that, if a wife came to stay, there was very limited accommodation for her. Hostel life further estranged the husband from his family.

As a result of the displacement of the family, you now had the lonely wife, the anxious mother and the insecure child. South Afrika has many single-parent household and research conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) on the effect fathers have on their children’s development suggests that the presence of a father can contribute to cognitive development, intellectual functioning, and school achievement. Children growing up without fathers are more likely to experience emotional disturbances and depression.

Girls who grow up with their fathers are more likely to have higher self-esteem, lower levels of risky sexual behavior, and fewer difficulties in forming and maintaining romantic relationships later in life. They have less likelihood of having an early pregnancy, bearing children outside marriage, marrying early, or getting divorced. Boys growing up in absent father households are more likely to display ‘hyper masculine’ behavior.

Absence from home resulted in strain and stress on the women left behind. An absent father meant the wife had to take up the position of heading up the household, and had to be strong to keep her family together. Wives left behind had higher autonomy, independence, and decision-making authority that gave birth to the strong Black woman. As much as the concert of this type of woman is celebrated, this has also played its fair share in de-feminising the Afrikan girl.

On becoming the good partner.

Single-parent households are the norm in South Afrika, with the majority of children growing up with one parent — most likely the mother. Many fathers are absent, and a ‘crisis of men’ in South Afrika seems to be perpetuating patterns of abuse and this will most likely continue with future generations. Many men ‘die’ as parents and husbands by indulging alcohol, drugs, or becoming unresponsive to their families. 

Furthermore, we are seeing more and more divorces as people no longer value or respect the institute of marriage and these trends seem to be on the increase. How our society views parental responsibility, commitment to relationships and matters regarding casual sex is somehow skewed? A caller on a radio show once described what i have just inferred to by saying “our society now rewards bad behavior, and hence we find ourselves in the moral crisis we are in”.

Children growing up in fractured families are more likely to have dysfunctional families themselves and this is quite evident in the dating scene. Many South Afrikan women and men do not how to be good partners because they have never seen it. Mom told her daughters to never depend on a man, because her husband had either opted out of fatherhood or was an absent lover. This was all done in good will at least she thought, as she was trying to protect them by making them self-sufficient. Instead she turned them into suspicious and sometimes angry young women who do not know how to relate with a man on a romantic level. Children do what you do, not what you say. Thus if the gospel at home was that men can’t be trusted and should never be held at high esteem, the mother’s speech at her daughter’s wedding where she warns her daughter not to embarrass her at her in-laws and do as she was taught is absolutely useless if she grew up around an angry mother.

Same applies to men. My friend once said there is a difference between a man who grew up with a father and that which did not. Men who grew up with no father do not know what is to be accountable to a woman. Therefore, how do you expect these men to be accountable to their partners, since no one has ever required this of them and they certainly have never seen it growing up? To add to this, men generally fall in love by doing and not necessarily by receiving, something most women tend to not understand. Thus women raised by strong Black women have been taught to take charge of their lives and careers, and often struggle to allow the man to take the lead on certain matters. This is all as a result of the greater decision-making, management duties, and autonomy their mothers had as a result of being partnered with male labour migrants.

Conclusion

There is a reason why when people come together it’s called a relationship, because it’s all about how they relate. You can never relate well to a person if you don’t know what makes them vulnerable and where their strengths and short comings stem from. And it’s the same with our men, not trying to excuse bad behaviour, but i urge my fellow sisters to at least stop and try to understand where these men come from before they make grand statements about how useless they are.

Dudu Nhlabathi is a South Afrikan dating coach known by her followers as Dear Sis Dudu. After re-entering the dating world in 2010, she started documenting her dating trials and tribulations. This ultimately led to her establishing a strong brand presence on FB and also doing some TV and radio stints. Dudu is busy with her first book titled “Why Some Women are Updatable”. The 12 chapter book talks about her experience with men, love and dating, in an attempt to help all her single sisters put some things into perspective. She wants single women to look at singlehood different from what society has made it out to be; a waiting period, a time withered with uncertainty and a thing to be dreaded.

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