By Joseph Kayira
Issues to do with love can be subjective. They can also be quite straightforward. Imagine a situation where you bump into your very good friend’s girlfriend in the hands of a stranger. You are together in college with your friend and your good cousin – a banker drives over to take you out for dinner – of course without your friend who is also busy with his stuff, probably assignments. You saunter into this beautifully-lit restaurant. It’s a newly opened eating-place in Blantyre and it is teeming with people. As you settle at the table you see this quite familiar girl walking in – in the company of a man.
Immediately you realize the girl is Maggie – your friend’s girlfriend. Just last night, your friend was all over the place boasting about how he and Maggie love each other; and that there is no other man like him in Maggie’s life. All that remained was the moment they would tie the knot – after college.
You also know that your friend cannot go to bed without calling this girl he usually calls “the woman of my life”. Your cousin, who brought you over here, to this new eating-place, is very much unaware of the struggle within you. He is telling you he has become very fond of this new place. Your cousin says the last time he came here he ordered beef stew and rice – and oh! The food was tasty, really nice place here he tells you. You mumble something like “yeah yeah” and you barely are following the conversation!
Finally when the food is served you eat absent-mindedly. Your night has been spoiled. The presence of Maggie who is in the company of this man – possibly in his mid 50s pisses you off. He could be a middle manager or an entrepreneur somewhere in town. He looks ‘moneyed’. The man is displaying a moneyed lifestyle. They order expensive wine and seem to enjoy their dinner as well. It is obvious they have been here before. You can see that. They are an item, you conclude. And you could be right.
Maggie happens to have recognized your presence and expects you to ‘behave’. She gives you a “mind your business” look. And you kind of acknowledge. She can choose whom to chill out with. It is the message that comes across. You reluctantly agree but the whole thing is weighing heavily on your conscience.
What if you go back to the dormitories and meet your friend Manuel? Are you going to tell him that his girlfriend Maggie is ‘loose’? Are you going to tell Manuel that you just bumped into her in the company of another man – and that they looked like an item? By telling him what you came across are you trying to be a good and caring friend or it is some kind of emotional release on your part? Do you have facts that what you saw was indeed something worth telling Manuel? That indeed he should confront the girlfriend because what she did was ‘immoral’?
‘Let us be cautious’
A second year student from The Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi who only wanted to be identified as Christina said Malawians should learn to stay away from “business that does not concern them.”
“Look, people come at the college to take girls out for dinner or a drink. It does not mean that they are loose. As for me I have a boyfriend all right and we have agreed to lead a civilized life. Whoever I choose to chill out with should not be his business. At least I try to inform him that I am going out. He should be aware of my whereabouts but he should not be a control freak,” says the Polytechnic student.
She adds that most of the college girls are grooming themselves to become future independent women and that “most of the boys I have come across have problems to accept the fact that educated ladies, especially those that are in college, really do rock.”
It is the reasoning that cuts across a number of colleges. Another female student from a technical school in Lilongwe is in total agreement with this line of thought. She prefers to be called Thoko. She wonders why someone should be going about town “telling everyone, and my boyfriend in particular, that I was spotted in town with a stranger drinking or enjoying dinner.”
“It could be an admirer; it could be someone who just likes me. Should my boyfriend be so upset that I was on a night out with someone who just likes me? Guys we are living in the 21st Century,” Thoko says.
A number of boys we interviewed on this controversial topic said they would actually tell their friend if they bumped into their fiancé on a night out with a stranger. Most were of the view that no sane man would let their girlfriend to go out with another man in the name of civilization or modernization.
Charles (not real name), a Malawi College of Accountancy student living in Lilongwe says he once told his friend about his philandering girlfriend and the reaction was disastrous. He knew both of them from their primary school days.
“The first problem was that my friend was head over hills with the girl. He did not believe a thing about what I told him about his girlfriend cheating on him with older men. The second problem was that the girlfriend told him that actually I had made advances at her. That is how our friendship of more than ten years unceremoniously ended,” Charles says.
Regardless of what happened Charles says he would still tell a friend about a cheating partner “because principally and morally I feel compelled that my friend should know what is happening around his life. I am not the type that says ‘I knew’ when things go wrong and it it is too late to make reparations.”
“At least I should be able to say I told you so when they come back to me sobbing,” Charles says.
As Mark D. White, Ph.D, at Psychology Today explains, you’re going to feel caught between wanting to do the “best” thing, like finding a way to help your friend and protect your friendship and the “right” thing, like telling them straight away.
The problem is, doing the “right” thing can be handled poorly. And doing the “best” thing might mitigate some of the damage, but it can also cause problems of its own since it requires a little more time and thought.
“Keep in mind that you’re not a bad friend for carefully weighing all of your options here. In fact, taking the time to find the ideal way to approach or not approach this parti-cular situation makes you a better friend,” he says.
So, if you blow the whistle you must also realize that you are “introducing a drama landmine into the relationship.” Sometimes, you are better off zipping your mouth because you are probably avoiding a situation that would be difficult to handle just because you talked. After all its none of your business.